Fabulous Fall, Amazing Autumn

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ― Albert Camus

I’m back after a week off. Not “off,” really, but last week all of my spare time went into getting my manuscript, Shear Murder, book four in the Melanie Hogan mystery series, finished and off to the editor.

And now for this week’s post…

Whether you call it “Fall” or “Autumn,” the message is the same…

Beyond Beautiful!

When I first moved to Colorado from Minnesota 22 years ago, I’d heard so many exclaim about the beauty of the Golden Aspens of Colorado. I have to admit, I was sorely disappointed. The autumn colors in Minnesota (yellow, purple, red, fire orange, pink, browns that are beautiful, gold…you name it) are unlike anything else I’ve experienced.

However, I now see the beauty of the Golden Aspens and, yes, it takes my breath away. And there are other colors, as well. But I think the real beauty comes from the bluest skies I’ve ever seen and the majestic mountains along with the Golden Aspens. The beauty in Colorado has captivated and caught me in its grasp. Below are some photos of Colorado’s beauty. Enjoy!

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Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.
― Lauren DeStefano, Wither

Diverse, Unique Taos

 

Beautiful Taos

Last week I shared photos of old cemeteries we visited in Taos. This week I want to share some photos from our time there that are not cemetery related. I am enamored with this city of all things art. However, working in the law enforcement arena, I chose to research the crime rate. While I was there, no less.

Yup, I just had to go there, because that’s how I roll. And I was totally shocked.

Neighborhood Scout shows that across communities of all sizes, the violent crime rate is one of the highest in the nation. By “violent crimes,” they’re including rape, murder, manslaughter, robbery, and assault. Property crime is even higher. To put things in perspective, they state that the chances of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime is 1 in 11. Ninety-eight percent of the communities in New Mexico have a lower crime rate than Taos. Yikes!

Bestplaces.net ranks crime from 1 to 100, the higher the number, the higher the crime. Below is where they rank Taos:

Taos County violent crime is 53.9. (The US average is 31.1)
Taos County property crime is 49.9. (The US average is 38.1

Yet with that all being said, and noted, I still can’t help but love the place. It’s filled with art, diversity, culture, and character, like no other place I’ve visited thus far. Below (and above) are some photos of the beauty.

The below two photos are of the Bed and Breakfast where we stayed. Every afternoon they have Tea Time when they serve just that–tea–and so many delightful goodies! The 2nd photo is the dining area where they serve breakfasts that are out of this world!

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The next two photos are of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Just a tad frightening. But the beauty was breathtaking.

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After looking at the next two, you can guess that I love to photograph doors. I’m not sure if there’s more to that than I’m aware of or not. 🙂

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Below is a trail we hiked in Carson National Forest, named after Kit Carson.

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Below is a stream that ran along one of the shops in Taos Ski Valley, followed by a photo of some low-hanging clouds on mountains colored with golden Aspen trees. The scenery there is stunning!

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As you grow older, you learn a few things. One of them is to actually take the time you’ve allotted for vacation.  –John Battelle

 

 

A Grave Interest

My husband and I went on our first vacation in three years (other than visiting family). Destination? Taos, New Mexico. Between the arts and the history, it fed both of our interests. Of note was how often they go hand in hand.

Something I’ve taken a particular interest in is old cemeteries. I love the architecture, carvings, and creativity in the headstones. I enjoy reading the names and any identifying information written there–or lack thereof. Taos had several cemeteries to feed this interest of mine.

With Taos known as the art community it is, I was elated to discover the grave of the woman who helped establish it as such. This particular cemetery is very old, as can be seen in several of the other photos, but it’s apparent that Ms. Luhan has had many recent visitors.

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Kit Carson’s headstone (below). He’s buried next to his third wife, Josefa Jaramillo, with whom he had eight of his ten children.

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The headstone below was a little confusing. Given the fact Kit Carson had been married three times and had ten children in all, I spent some time trying to figure out why it said he only had one grandson. Until I realized the correct message is “Only Grandson Serving WWI and WWII.” Now that made a lot more sense!

Of special interest is the different opinions people there hold of Kit Carson, whether he was good or bad. I personally believe it’s not that black and white and that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

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The grave below, neglected as it is, saddened me. It made me wonder if their extended family even knows they’re buried here.

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In the photo below, notice the urn sitting on top of the ground, the thin slab of marble simply leaning against the tree.

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This was perhaps the most unique headstone. Unfortunately, the engraving was too faded to read.

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The simple crosses were eerily poignant. Many of the burial sites were bordered with concrete or individual fences.

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Any other Cemetery Tourists out there?

The richest person in the cemetery is the one who left the most happy memories.
― Matshona Dhliwayo

 

 

Welcoming in September

Happy September!

I’ve always loved the months of September and October. Not because I want summer to end, but because those particular months carry with it evenings fit for hoodies, vibrant colors, the beginning of a new school year, renewed energy, fall decorations including the warm glow of orange lights, and all things pumpkin flavored!

My home office is decorated with a fall theme all year long, and it’s there I hibernate when I need a reprieve from the chaos of life.

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Thursday, September 6th begins a 4-day writing conference, Colorado Gold, which is a writer’s paradise. So much learning, connecting with other writers, and networking, that by the time conference is over, my head is usually so packed with information that I’m ready to once again retreat to my home office and put what I’ve learned to the page.

Mid-September my husband and I are taking a trip to Taos, NM, one of my favorite places to visit. It’s an artsy town where I feel completely at home. Last time we visited there, author Natalie Goldberg made an appearance at the bookstore. Quite the treat!

And finally, at the end of September is a 3-day conference I’m attending for work in beautiful Breckinridge, Colorado, a town at the base of the Rocky Mountains’ Tenmile Range.

What about you. Any plans for the beautiful fall months? What is your favorite season of the year and why?

Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.
― Lauren DeStefano, Wither

I can smell autumn dancing in the breeze.
The sweet chill of pumpkin and crisp sunburnt leaves.
~Ann Drake, 2013

 

Compassion

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For those who have followed my blog for a while you know I have three sponsor kids from Africa: Alex from Tanzania, Amede from Togo, and Mamounata from Burkina Faso. These kids have enriched my life in more ways that I ever could have imagined when I first started sponsoring them.

A couple of weeks ago I worked at an event for Compassion International called the Compassion Experience. This experience allows participants to see how children in third-world countries live too frequently. While it’s heartbreaking, it prompts one to want to make a difference.

During the Compassion Experience, each participant is equipped with head phones and an iPhone that leads them through a realistic look into the lives of two real children. In the one I volunteered for, those children were Kiwi from the Philippines and Jey from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Before I began my shift, I walked through Jey’s life (you can listen to it for yourself here) so I could adequately represent it to those I would be helping with the experience. Let me tell you it was eye opening!

Jey didn’t have a father and they didn’t have food or money. He grew up on the streets begging for money and food. When he couldn’t get anything to eat or drink, he began stealing.

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At just 9 years of age, Jey was arrested and found himself in jail. His cell looked like this. Could you imagine the fear he must have felt? Jey admits to not fearing death, as that was the only way he saw that he could get out. And worse, as a mother, could you imagine knowing your child was in this place?

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The above photo is of Jey’s grandmother’s place where numerous family members shared a tiny space. There was one bed, the one shown here, for everyone to share.

 

 

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The above two photos are areas in the slum neighborhoods where children were often found begging and trying to make money for food.

When Jey got out of jail he went back to the same poverty stricken environment. His mother didn’t have any means to provide for her kids. Jey thought he would have to go back to the streets again to beg and probably die. At that point in his life is when Compassion International came in.

The two photos below are of the school in the Compassion Project that gave Jey hope.

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Jey finally had a place to go where he received food, learned music, and a new way of thinking. That’s when things started turning around for him. The first time Jey heard “I Love You” was from his sponsor. He was told he was special, and that we was going to end up to be somebody. Words that forever changed him.

Today Jey is a DJ and a youth minister. But even more importantly, today Jey is free from prison, hunger, poverty, and destruction.

Jey’s is just one of so many heart wrenching stories. As a mother, I couldn’t imagine a horror so great as watching my child starve or be put in jail as a result of trying to get food or drink.

Tonight as you tuck your children into bed for the night, or you get that phone call from one of your children needing help or just calling to say “Hi, Mom/Dad,” or you pass by your teenager’s messy room, offer up thanks for having a healthy, happy child. Be grateful that you have the means to support them. And give thanks for the freedom and government programs we all have here in our country. Freedom and government programs children in third-world countries don’t have.

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.
― Mother Teresa

God’s Splendor

My husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary this past weekend in Estes Park, CO. Below are some of the breathtaking views from a hike we took at 11,500 feet above sea level, as well as a few other memorable sights.

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This was my little guy’s (Roscoe) first hike. He did so well!

One picture I didn’t get on camera is the bear that ran mere feet in front of our hot tub Monday morning. While we were in it! Beautiful, but a wee bit scary!

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. -John Muir

 

 

The Bucket List

Bucket List Post

How many of you have a bucket list? The movie, The Bucket List, with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson is one of my all-time favorites. It’s a 2007 movie in which two terminally ill men (Freeman and Nicholson) set out to accomplish a list of things they want to experience before they “kick the bucket.” I guess I took that movie to heart. Why wait until we’re dying to experience life? Each day we’re all one day closer to the end of our days. And at the risk of being cliché, not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow. That shouldn’t be a depressing or distressing thought, but rather one that inspires you to truly live.

I recently reviewed my bucket list and realized how few of them I’ve accomplished, much less remembered. I updated it, removing things that no longer held interest, adding some items that have piqued my interest over the past couple of years.

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years – Abraham Lincoln

Some of them I’m especially passionate about, namely:

  • Ride on a train,
  • Travel the New England coastline,
  • Perform a random act of kindness every day for a month,
  • Get to know 10 people from different countries.

While I’m an advocate for kindness by everyone, toward everyone, I’ll admit I’m not consistent in consciously looking for ways in which to practice acts of kindness. Work keeps me busy and preoccupied, life gets in the way, the lure of the television set and electronics, and…well, practicing acts of kindness gets placed on the back burner. Until I review my bucket list and remember.

Riding on a train and traveling the New England coastline are dreams that require minimal planning to make come true and are affordable. So there really is no excuse. Except, as with random acts of kindness, life happens and they become a “someday” item on the agenda, if I remember them at all.

And getting to know 10 people from different countries? That one I’m especially passionate about. Not simply meet, but with whom to share life. And, yet…yup, you guessed it…without the reminder, the effort falls to the wayside. So making an effort to meet and get to know people outside of the those that I stumble upon as I go through each day doesn’t happen.

My dream is to prove that love can cross any boundary, physical or otherwise. Nothing can stop love except unloving people. And this past year, with so many issues demonstrating anything but love, it’s especially important. There’s so much hatred, judgement, and intolerance in the world today, that it’s frightening. I want to be part of the movement to bring back love, compassion, kindness, and acceptance. It occurred to me this past weekend that while criminals in our country are considered innocent until proven guilty, those from other countries and nationalities or different race and religion than our own are often not afforded the same benefit. Instead they’re forced to prove their innocence. Where’s the fairness and justice in that? Why have we as a nation gone so far astray by separating “us” and “them.” Why can’t it just be “we?” “All” innocent first.

It’s all about Love. Acceptance. Kindness. Compassion.

I have three sponsor kiddos through Compassion International who I treasure, all three from different countries in Africa: Burkina Faso, Tanzania, and Togo. That’s a start. And I’ll be printing my bucket list and keeping it handy to view frequently, reminding me in the midst of the chaos and busyness of life, what’s truly important.

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When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves. William Arthur Ward

Unique Boulder

We had family visiting from Minnesota this past week. With all the snow Minnesota has had this spring, my husband and I thought we would treat them to new sites. And the sites don’t get any better–or crazier–than Boulder, Colorado. In fact, Boulder is like it’s own little state. Comments like “Only in Boulder,” “That’s something you’d see in Boulder,” “Of course that happened—it’s Boulder!” And the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder is the cream of the crop.

However, that being said, Boulder is the best place to escape. It’s in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and home to University of Colorado Boulder, so it’s populated with full-of-life college students. It’s home to people who are comfortable being themselves, free from the chains of what society expects us to be. It’s a city that celebrates art and all walks of life, embracing human uniqueness, and holds no discrimination. It’s pure human freedom.

Below is a sampling. The gardening along the Pearl Street Mall was breathtaking, and the rest of the photos–well, there aren’t even words to explain. The pictures say it all.

Enjoy!

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And here’s a little shot of beauty with which to end.  And in the end, I’m all too happy to get home, where I’m free to be me. There’s nowhere like the quiet beauty of home.

And now it’s back off to Camp NaNo to finish up my writing goal.

Have a beautiful week!

Being different gives the world color.  Nelsan Ellis