family memories

For My Sons About a Grandmother, They Never Really Knew.

Today marks one year to the day that I lost my mother, Veda Maxine Lowrey, June 20th 2019. It has been a turbulent year not just because I faced a future without her, but because of all the changes that have happened in the world.  I can’t remember a year in my life that has been so full of worries and changes. I have never cried more in my life.

 

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Veda M Lowrey, Jolynn Lowrey Powers, and Cody A Powers. Summer of 1991

 

 

I wanted to take a moment to tell you about my mother, your Grandmother, and more about my childhood. My mother was born into a large farm family on the eastern side of the Colorado Rockies. In a small community on the edge of Boulder County, Co. called Hygiene in 1930. There were 6 living children and two that passed away before reaching adulthood. She was the youngest living child. They were not wealthy people but the family was close and loving. My mother attended school and graduated from Boulder High School in Boulder County Co. where she met my father. They first met at a school dance. He had moved to  Boulder with his older brother to find a better life from the small town of Dalhart, TX. They married in 1948 and had 4 children. I am the youngest of the four and the one that gave her the most gray in her hair. I am 15 years younger then my next sibling.

 

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Veda Lowrey and Jolynn Lowrey in front of Bill Lowrey’s  house in Broomfield Co

 

 

Your GrandMother was a stay at mother until the unexpected death of my father in 1973. I was 5 years old and nothing can prepare you for the death of your father as a child. But my mother stood true through the storm that rocked our family. My brothers and sister were older attending  High School and College when the even occurred and I am sure that they were more devastated then even I was at the time. The end result was that my mother, the heart and soul of my world, would have to leave her home to work to support me and my siblings. From somewhere down deep she was able to find the courage and support to move forward in her life. Your Grandmother did not drive when your Grandfather died. That all changed very quickly at the time. My Uncle Bob and Aunt Corky (Cordella her sister), supported her through the changes that would come. My uncle took my then 43- year old mother out on a dirt road, out past the Boulder Resivore, and taught her to drive. We had three cars at the time (one was an old Packard 4 door sedan, a Dodge van, and a Plymouth 4 door sedan) and she could not drive any of them; how frustrating that had to be. My Aunt helped her get her name on all the legal documents. Her name was not on our house or cars because she did not have an income… How times have changed. Today, it is expected that I’m on everything your father and I own, working of not!  She was able to get a job at the same plant my Dad and Uncle worked at on the outskirts of Boulder.

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Veda M Lowrey age 84 Rolla Missouri with grandson Christopher Powers

 

Rocky Flats (later Dow Chemical) was a nuclear bomb parts plant creating plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads during the years of the Cold War. My father was a welder at the plant and my Uncle Bob was an inspector. My mother’s first adult job was a cook in the plant’s cafeteria. She would go on to work in the foodservice industry for the remainder of her life. At one point owning her own cafe in the chemical engineering building at the University of Colorado.

 

Veda Lowrey with children Vernon, Bill and Jolynn with grandson Christopher june2017

Veda M Lowrey with sons William Lowrey, Vernon Lowrey daughter JoLynn Lowrey Powers and Grand Son Christopher Powers 2017

 

 

I spent many summers with her at the cafe stocking and cleaning. Spending other time roaming the campus alone. I remember her cooking meals and desserts at home so she could be home with me after school. She only worked from 6 am to 3 pm and headed home by 3:30 pm. I never remember missing dinner with her because of work. She made it a priority to work early mornings. She would often fall asleep in her beloved recliner at 4:30 after a long night and early morning at work. We would make 6 or 8 trays of brownies at least once a week, to sell to the professors on campus.

Sometimes I would help cook the main dishes for the next day’s special. I vividly remember making chicken enchiladas with her rolling the chicken and chilies into the very hot fried corn tortillas then watching her pour the red sauce over them and covering them with foil. The trays were loaded with 50 enchiladas that she would transport to the cafe’ the next day and heat in the oven.

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JoLynn Lowrey Powers eating whipped cream in moms kitchen 

 

She loved to travel to see her sister in Oregon, where we spent 4 or 5 summers. She loved to spend time near the ocean and reading in a camp chair on the campgrounds we stayed in. We had many fun times in the woods whether it was camping with my Aunt and Uncle, taking a picnic near a creek, or in a park. She loved to be outdoors but was not an outdoorswoman. (I totally feel the same way) We often took car trips to mountain towns like Ward, Central City, and Black Hawk before they were gambling towns. She loved to shop at the stores in Estas Park and we rode the train at George Town. You both now have ridden the train.

My time with my mom as a kid was mostly peaceful and quiet. She loved to read and listen to music. She did not seem to mind cooking at home and would often host the whole family to our home for holiday dinners. I remember having 10 and 12 people at a table for birthdays for her and her sisters.

 

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A very happy Veda Lowrey 2017

 

Your Grandmother loved flowers and our yard always had something blooming. She had the most wonderful roses that bloomed all summer. Her favorite was a giant wild yellow rose bush that my father dug up along a road somewhere. The bush grew to well over 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide and was covered in thousands of thorns. She had to a velvety red rose that smelled so sweet. Mom would battle them every year pruning them into shape and enjoying the flowers on our dining table.  She loved to take care of her yard and trees. It was something she got pride from, being alone in a house, in a good part of town, and taking care of it the best she could. I was proud of it too.

 

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Wild Yellow roses. 

 

She loved her Broncos and along with my brothers was a life long fan. I remember the noise that she would make even alone in the living room stopping her feet, whooping, and hollering during the games. She rarely would cuss, but when one of the Broncos receivers missed a pass, it was not past her to say “SHIT” or “DAM” if the ball was dropped.

 

My brother Bill, once told me that my mother was a shy person, reserved and quiet, I had no idea. Because at home she was chatty and loved to talk to her sisters either by phone or in person. She had a few friends that she would see regularly and attend events at school like all parents. She was so open at home I would have never told a friend that she was shy.

 

As I grew up, Mom and I loved and hated each other equally. I was a terrible teenager and she was tired of raising kids. I often felt alone even with her in my life. She could not fill the loss that my father left in me and those feelings were compounded as my brother and sister married and moved away. I was an angry and lonely young woman. We fought and she was harsh and I was a “runner” and spent many years running away from home, staying with friends, or getting kicked out. She could be critical and judgmental and I was hurt often. It took effort for me and her to be close but we tried to find a middle ground. As you age you try to make friends with your parents and I did.

 

We would never see the world the same way but we could share in reading books, loving flowers, listening to all kinds of music and food! We always had food!

Your Grandmother once told me why she never remarried. She said,”It was because she never wanted to be told what to do ever again. She had one boss and that was enough for her.” I often think about her life and see that she never really needed a man. She was content with herself and her family. She was not worried about what other people thought or did. She had what made her happy and that was family and a big dinner table.

 

I often wonder what she would think if she could see us now? Would she laugh that I work in construction surrounded by men, working in dirty clothes, and being my own boss? I think she would!!  I was always playing in the dirt with the boys and she called me bossy more than once. I don’t think she would understand my need for social life and my passion for community development. But, she would support me in taking on the problems in my community. She raised us kids to be strongly opinionated people just like her. To be true to what we thought was right and to work hard to succeed in finding peace in solitude and a loving family.

Veda Maxine Lowrey age 21

Veda Maxine Lowrey age 21

I miss her and often, wishing I could talk to her about the last book I read or how the kids are doing in school. I wish she could have been proud of you boys like I am and known that her love continues to grow in our family like that wild yellow rose bush that she loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: About me, ageing, Boulder Colorado, childhood memories, Family, family memories, grandmother, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

2020 is Giving Us a Hell of a Ride

I guess everyone feels like these last few months have been like riding in the back of your Dad’s pickup. No seatbelts, no cab, just a bouncy ride in the open air with nothing to restrict or restrain you. Depending on the speed of the ride, it can be a joyful experience or a terrifying one.  It can be smooth and the wind just whips your hair into the corners of your mouth or it can be steep and bumpy where you hold on for dear life trying to keep yourself from bouncing out of the truck altogether. The resounding memory of my rides in those old truck beds is how cold and hard they are. Just like those hard steel  pickup beds, life is just hard right now!

 

During the Pandemic I finished my second trip through 5th grade, I hope all of you are impressed that Christopher and I received straight A’s. It was a team effort and it was hard.

School for Christopher ended the 25th of May, 2020 and I was still working at least 35 hours a week during the shutdown. I worked remotely for one portion of my contract and on a construction site doing punch-out work and painting at a second site the other part of the time. I was also helping Christopher with his remote learning and trying with all my heart to keep him from getting behind on his reading and math. Some days were good and others were terrible. I brought him to tears once and the pandemic brought me to tears a couple of times.

 

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One of 13 rooms with a wall of conduit that I painted before the office is reopened.

 

I also had my hardworking husband home for two solid weeks, working from home and then every evening for the last two months. Let us just say that is was fun and funny at times.

So, the new normal became, feed three people, three meals a day, every day possible. Go to the construction site and paint for two days, then work from home for two days, building a website. along with my projects, I helped Christopher do 5 days of homework over about 4 days. Then try to write my blog and paint on my downtime with whatever that was left.  Friday was my shop with my mask on, use hand sanitizer at the grocery store day, making it the most stressful day of the week. Saturday and Sundays were the days we worked on the remodeling project we started while we were home instead of out in the world  …… Yea,… I’m enjoying all this time off and am feeling bored… aaaaa…”NO!”. We made daily trips to Lowe’s. Some days I would go to bed so tired that at 8 am the next morning I was still tired and I didn’t feel like getting up and doing it again.

 

We actually finished about 85% of that remodeling project in three weeks. We are still working on it, just like we are still social distancing and wearing our masks in the store. We have new work tables to install this weekend.

 

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Tom sanding the hardwood floors of what was the formal living room and turning it into a workspace for both of us. 

 

I am glad school is over and Christopher is allowed to just play in the neighborhood with his friends again. It is so important that they are not totally isolated. This way he has a chance to have some good times during this hard time of staying at home. The kids play the same games we played as kids which makes me smile. They run and scream through the yards playing games of hide and seek after dark and kickball. We all enjoyed a bonfire this weekend from a tree that fell in our yard earlier in the spring.

As I was sitting looking into the flames,(Flames that I know are burning all over America because of the untimely death of George Floyd.) I remembered that life will get back to some kind of normal eventually. We just have to take the time to heal. We need to heal our bodies from the pandemic and our minds from the violence that has taken over our country. We need to take time to heal our countries broken spirit. Today I realize, WE ARE A COUNTRY WITH A BROKEN DREAM, THAT ALL MEN ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL IN AMERICA. It is time to set the broken bones of our country no matter how painful so we can grow and heal and become strong again.

  

Now  West Virginia prepares for the 1.5 to 2.o million Cicadas hatching out over the next few weeks. It makes us wonder if 2020 was the year that everything was supposed to fall apart. Maybe this is our chance to change to grow as people. We can do better to make things better for the little kid bouncing around in the back of that old pick up truck.

Categories: childhood memories, Covid-19, family memories, fires, Graduation, Truck, Uncategorized, work | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

The MLK Public Art Project, Charleston, W.V.

I love to paint, I love murals and I love Dr. Martin Luther King and his message of equality. So, when I found the Facebook post about an open to the public mural painting in our Capital City of Charleston, I knew Christopher and I were going to be there to paint too.

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Painting of Dr. Marting Luther King Jr. 

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Jeff Peirson Scaling the painting to size on the wall. Photo from The Office of Public Art Charleston WV Facebook page. 

This event was so wonderful as an Artist, a Mother, and West Virginian. I am so proud that the work of 60 volunteers will grace the skyline of Charleston for the next couple of decades and will remind people of the ongoing work we have to do in this world to fight for Beauty, Fairness, Love, and Equality.

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Christopher and I work on a section of Martin Luther King’s eye and nose. 

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Some of the volunteers that came to help with the mural and the man who I got paint all over. 

The mural was painted by volunteers in about 4 or 5 hours at the Martin Luther King  Jr. Community Center in downtown Charleston. The image will represent our diversity. The image uses diverse colors, is painted by diverse age groups, colors, shapes, and sexes of people from our state. It will rest on the roof of the community center and display the faces of 1000 diverse individuals in the background.  Each face is a self-portrait of one volunteer that helped to make it come to life.

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Jeff Peirson Director of The Office for Public Art explains how the project will be constructed. 

Under the direction of Jeff Peirson the director of  The Office for Public Art in Charleston, West Virginia. A painting of Dr. King has been blown up and traced onto large sheets of plastic canvas for volunteers to paint on. Using special paint the volunteers filled in numbers sections of the mural, much like a paint by number, but on a huge scale.  Christopher and I painted light purple and some orange over the course of the afternoon. It was amazing to paint an eyeball that was the size of a basketball and a nose that was almost as big as Christopher is tall.

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pieces of the mural displayed together to dry and adding the final coats of paint. From The Office of Public Art Charleston, WV Facebook page. 

 

Then when the sections were left to dry we were encouraged to paint a self-portrait in monochrome shades of purple. Each volunteer tried to paint what they thought they looked like. Christopher was quite unhappy with my drawing and said it looked nothing like me. He explained later that my hair was not right in the drawing or painting.  I did have my hair up and the only hair I had was waving wildly aroung my face, So it only showed part of my hair.

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My pencil self-portrait with hair up. Christopher says it needs more hair.   

Then that evening the large pieces were assembled and the overall look started to come together. There will be a blending of the colors with more paint next. Then about 800 school children will make a self-portrait on the canvas like material to create the background before the final installation is put up in late Aug. The mural should last about 15 years with no need for repairs.

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Christopher with his new friend Mayor of Charleston Amy Shuler Goodwin. 

While Christopher and I  painted we had the pleasure of working on the mural with the Mayor of Charleston, Amy Shuler Goodwin, who spent quite a while talking with Christopher about our state and why we drove 2 hours just to be part of the event. She told me she was so happy to have us come and help make our capital city a more beautiful place.

I loved meeting the people from the community and the Mayor, some were families, some were single men and women, and some were children but most lived nearby.  I even accidentally painted a man’s hand as we crisscrossed the canvas with our brushes and we laughed for several minutes. Christopher made instant friends and played and visited with about 6 other kids his age. It is my hope that sharing these kinds of experiences with him will encourage him to want to be part of a creative community when he grows up.

As the painting time ended we headed back to my car for a picknick near the MLK Jr. Community Center. We talked about how much fun we had and how important it is to share time with new people and how important Dr. King was to all Americans. This day was what Dr. King was teach us all those years ago. A day where all colors and ages come together to share in the joy of being American and creating a better place for us all.

On Aug 21st I am looking forward to the drive down I-64 to finally see our hard work come to life from way above the community center. It was a day I will not forget anytime soon and I hope Christopher has wonderful memories of our painting Dr. King together.

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Categories: Charleston West Virginia, Community Art, community service, Creative Place Making, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., family fun, family memories, Martin Luther King Jr., murals, Painting, The Office of Public Art, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Gravedigger and Big Pharmaceuticals

 

I met a gravedigger today but didn’t get his name. We met along the side of the road where he had just finished toping a grave with January clods of mud. We talked about the newly departed, at 31 years of age this man was too young for the darkness of the grave. He informed me that the 1885 cemetery was full and bursting at the seams. “Drugs,” the Gravedigger said, “We can’t fill the seats in the church anymore but we fill the cemetery to overflowing.”

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Mt Olive Church Cemetery Philippi, WV

As I walked along the road past the tiny white church and cemetery, down the curving hill to town, I found more signs of the true plague of Appalachia. The results of a generation who knew nothing of the risks, destruction, and power that a Poppy flower could have.

Along the graveled berm of the road near a hospital, I found the waded remains of a blue latex glove and the unsealed foil wrapper of prescription medication. Suboxone printed clearly in bright blue letters on the label of the wrapper. I knew the name and its use; I had heard it many times on the local news. Even members of my own family have sat at the dining table discussing if this was the answer.

Conversations about heroin, death and opioid addiction are an everyday thing. The statistics flood the television and the internet. We are in a state of addiction and all the struggles that come with it. I take photos of the hospital, the glove and the wrapper and walk back to my car.

 

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Wrapper from the medication Suboxone.

The Gravedigger has finished his job and sits in the cab of his blue pickup as I walk up to his window. I tell him about the trash that I found and he nods his broad heavy head. “No needles this time?” He asks. “No…. not this time”, I say looking at the gravel-covered ground. I think about the needles I have found on the street. I never need to find more. I think about the young man I watched shoot up and about the families I know who have lost parents to the Gravediggers shovel. I finally look back up at the Gravedigger and say “Well, maybe this one will get clean.” The Gravedigger and I both know what I said is a lie. It is false hope about the future of this town.

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Mt Olive Church circ. 1885 Philippi, WV 2020.

He looks up at the little white church through the windshield of the truck and says to me, “It was the faith in God that got our ancestors here, it was faith the kept them in these hills and it is faith that will get them through this, there is no other hope.” I nod my head and say goodbye.

Driving down the hill away from the Church I pass the little hospital. A beautiful new and clean facility where every day they fight for our lives. Where every day they fight this plague with millions less than the Pharmaceutical companies that planted this rotting plague in our mountains.

By the end of the day, I hear on the news that the CEO of a large Pharmaceutical Company gets sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for bribery of doctors to prescribe a killer Opioid. 5 years… 5 years, is what the courts thought fit to sentence a man who has not only destroyed one life but also hundreds of thousands of lives. Where is the justice for the fatherless children I know?

He and men like him have drained every county in Appalachia of funds because each dose of Narcan is $150 dollars and each county has to pay for the medication to save hundreds of lives. He has drained my state of families who can raise their own children. We are now the #1 state in the country with grandparents raising their grandchildren. He has brought more crime to small towns as addicts steal to fuel their addiction. He and his company are draining the churches and filling the cemeteries of Appalachia with the young men and women who were supposed to be our leaders. Too many of them ended up meeting the Gravedigger I met today.

There are no easy answers and no easy solutions for the people who live in one of the highest Opioid addicted states. It is one of the problems that each of us who chooses to live here thinks about and wants to change. It is something that I worry about when I think about my 11-year-old and how will we handle his future. It is something my company talks about when they can’t hire a clean and sober employee. It is what the preachers in all the churches preach against and it is what is killing not only the young but the very state I live in. Today was just another day in Appalachia.

 

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A filtered photo of the Mt Olive Church in Philippi WV 2020.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Cemetaries, drug addicition, family memories, grave digger, Mt Olive Church and Cemetry Barbour County WV, Opiod use, state wide struggle, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Trail of Icicles at Audra State Park

 

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Christopher eating an icicle from the overhanging rocks at the Alum Cave Trail at Audra State Park 2019.

Early snows came to West Virginia this year. But this week at Audra State Park we found the perfect day to go hiking on a warm sunny 49-degree day. What we found was magical and my photos do not do justice to the beauty of the thousands of Icicles that form along the Alum Cave Trail in the wintertime.

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icicles forming over the boardwalk at Audra State Park Winter 2019.  

 

I had seen a photo once of the park in wintertime and had always wanted to do a hike along the river after a light snow. With Christopher off from school for the holiday, we headed out without any expectations of what we would find. We waited until about noon to start our hike in one of the state’s smallest parks. Audra State Park borders two counties(Barbour and Upshur) and includes several miles of the Middle Fork River. The park has several picknick sites, two pavilions and offers 67 campsites for guests to enjoy. There are just a few trails that cover the 355 acres of the park. The most popular and most photographed is the boardwalk that passes along the river bank and under a very large and long rock overhang along the Alum Cave Trail. The trip from the parking area to the trailhead and around the small loop is maybe 2.0 miles and is easy except for the very steep staircase that is attached to the boardwalk. There is a larger loop trail that takes you along the river bank for a nice walk of 3.2 miles of easy hiking. Both trails intersect at the boardwalk and return you to the picknick area.

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the very steep staircase to the boardwalk at Audra State Park. 

Christopher and I had not explored much of Audra State Park in the past and the weather was perfect for wandering and taking photos. We hoped to see maybe just a few icicles at the cave that day but were astonished at the amount of ice we came across. We tried the typical route for the hike following the signage at the first fork, we took the lower trail to the boardwalk. As we reached the head of the boardwalk we were met with a huge ice slick that was 15 feet wide and 20 or 25 feet tall. Water was coming over the top of the mountain where the sun was shining and rolling over to the shaded side. This created several layers of thick ice. It was like a small frozen waterfall except across the trail and down to the river. No Crossing Here! We stopped and enjoyed the water and river below for a few minutes, knowing we would have to go around to see the boardwalk.

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Christopher looking at the ice covering the Alum Cave Trail at Audra State Park.

We backtracked and took the upper fork of the trail to the other end of the boardwalk. We often watched the Middle Fork River rumble by and enjoyed the quiet solitude of an empty park. Finally arriving at the top of the very steep staircase at the boardwalk. I was so relieved to see the stairs were not covered in ice. As we descended the steps the ice began to appear….. everywhere. The ice had somehow not gotten on the staircase but flowed all around it. The sidewalls were covered, some of the boardwalk and handrails were covered, the rock faces were covered, the trees and bushes below were covered. Icicles hung from the roof of the cave and froze to the ground all around us. Water gushed from a spring in the back of the cave and water splashed and froze everything but us.

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Middle Fork River at Audra State Park. 

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Ice covers the landing and ramp to the cave portion of the Alum Cave Trail. 

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looking back up the boardwalk ramp to the landing. We had to slide down this portion of the boardwalk at Audra State Park. 

 

Christopher was so amazed at the ice formations that all I can remember him saying the entire time was, “This is AWESOME!…. this is so awesome… can we come back again, Please?” At 11 years old shimmying across the ice-covered boardwalk was fun and exciting, at 51 it was tricky. The handrails along the boardwalk were much-needed support for me to cross the 12-foot sheet of ice going downhill into the cave/rock overhang. It was breathtaking to see the sunshine gleaming through the ice. I loved watching the dripping water drop 20 feet above me. It was one of those moments where you find beauty in nature beyond your imagination.  I just could not capture it adequately with my camera, I am not skilled enough to take backlit photos efficiently. We walked to the spot where the ice flow had blocked our passage and laughed. Then slowly enjoying every minute turned and walked back across the boardwalk.  The return up the ramp to the landing was also one of those moments where you just wonder what you have gotten yourself into. Christopher headed up the ramp first. I figured if he came sliding back down the ramp to me I could stop him, maybe? He made it with no problem. The ice was ruff and dry at this point of the day. So I took a deep breath and started to walk with both hands on the handrail up the ice-covered ramp. Slowly and carefully I walked right up the ramp without a hitch and stepped into the sun on the landing and about slipped. My heart stopped for a minute I am sure. Then we climbed back up that steep staircase to the gravel at the top. I stopped and looked back down at everything we had seen and felt like I was given a gift.

We then headed to the other end of the park and spent some time on the beach section of the river and walked on the frozen sand. Which sounded like a good idea at the time but got very scary very fast. The water makes the sand mushy close to the edge. I didn’t realize this for some reason and just about ended up in the ice-cold river as the sand gave way under the thin frozen crust. My feet sank about a foot before I dragged them free and away from the river’s edge.

Christopher and I headed home about three hours later and stopped for a drink. We talked about when we wanted to go back and made plans to see the rhododendrons in bloom in May. Overall the hike is very easy, the scenery is beautiful and the water is clear. I am not sure I would have enjoyed this as much if we had been surrounded by a lot of people. The trail is very narrow and not level, not graveled or maintained very well. You hike across what seems like a creek bed for several hundred yards on rolled stones so you need some room to move on and off the trail. Otherwise, for a relaxing afternoon in late Dec. I could not think of a better place to spend the day.

 

Categories: Audra State Park, Barbour County, Camping, family fun, family memories, hiking, ice, photo review, State Park activities, Uncategorized, Upshur County West Virginia, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Polar Express Travels the Hills of West Virginia

For children of all ages, there is a deep and never-changing love for trains and for stories that give us hope. The story of the Polar Express captivated my two sons’ hearts and mine over 22 years ago when the book was first released and I stumbled on to the book at the local book store. Cody my oldest son, got the book and his first of many silver sleigh bells as a Christmas gift while he was in Kindergarten. We read the book over and over that holiday season. After he returned to school he told everyone about the book. For years after that first Christmas, I was asked to come to his elementary school to read out loud the book that had captured the heart of my oldest son and every child who heard the story of a boy and his lost bell.polar express book

 

Then 17 years later Christopher was born and the tradition of The Polar Express continued with the same book and a small boy. Somewhere along the way, others fell in the love with the story and the movie was made that almost every child today has heard of. I was again asked to come to the elementary school and read allowed the worn and dog eared pages to the children. Soon after the release of the movie, an idea came into the mind of a group of avid train people in Elkins, West Virginia and The Polar Express became a live stage show on the rails in the mountains. With last year’s count of riders being over 30,000 who come each year to spend a couple hours on the train to have a short visit with Santa and be reminded that even the oldest of us can still believe in the spirit of Christmas.

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Christopher and Paige ready to board the Polar Express 2019

This year we were lucky enough to get tickets to take my youngest son and my granddaughter for a ride on the Durbin & Greenbrier Valleys Railroads licensed version of The Polar Express. The tickets sell out around April so it takes a little planning to get them before the Holiday Season. We were encouraged to ride the 7pm train just after dark so the kids could see the holiday lights at the North Pole. the Durbin & Greenbrier runs three trains on most nights one at 5pm one at 7pm and one at 9pm with the later two running in the dark.

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Welcome Center Depot at Elkins West Virginia

The experience is geared so that riders are entertained on the way out to the North Pole (45 mins) with the dancing, singing chefs from the book who serve cookies, and hot chocolate to every passenger. The return trip ( 45mins) is filled with meetings with the Hobo that rides on the roof of the train and a visit with Santa and several elves. Each passenger has their Gold Train ticket punched and is gifted a silver sleigh bell imprinted with the words The Polar Express. The evening ends with the Chefs telling jokes and tossing snowballs around the train car and making fake snow.

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crowds board the Polar Express

Dancing Chef on Polar Express

One of the twenty or so Dancing Chefs

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Tom and Christopher Powers aboard the Polar Express 2019

This trip was a gift to my Granddaughter and it was a special experience that we shared together and will never forget. As we left the train and walked in the dark back to our truck, I realized that my cheeks hurt from all the smiling I had done over the two hours. That I was happy about the holidays for the first time in several years. That I had actually gotten a few precious hours of my childhood back and was so thankful to Santa for my very own silver sleigh bell. At 50 I think I needed to remember that there is always hope and a reason to believe.

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Paige Powers tossing snowballs around train car on the Polar Express

Christopher with santa on the polar express

Christopher talking with Santa on the Polar Express

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My first  Sleighbell  from Santa on the Polar Express 2019

The night ended with two very happy young people who drank hot chocolate ate cookies and met the Santa for maybe the last time before they reach their teens. They bought ornaments to take home and snuggled up together in the back seat laughing and smiling about what they saw and how they could do the whole trip again. Tom and I held hands on the way home, at peace and with happiness in our hearts. It was as if Christmas had come back to us too.

I will always be thankful to author Chris Van Allsburg for his skill in writing and drawing. His story has filled my adult life over and over again with hundreds of wonder-filled children who sat patiently to hear about the train ride to the North Pole. His story has helped to revitalize a small mountain town in West Virginia that had a train, the snow and the wilderness of his story. But most of all he has filled my middle age with memories of happy children and my first silver sleigh bell….. maybe if I am still lucky I will hear it ring for many more years to come.

 

Categories: Chris Van Allsburg, Christmas, Christopher, Elkins West Virginia, Family, family fun, family memories, family traditions, Holidays, Polar Express, trains, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beverly Heritage Center Lantern Tours

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Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love to attend events like the Beverly Heritage Center’s Lantern Tours. Every mid-October the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly, West Virginia has two evenings of living history storytelling tours. You spend a little over an hour walking the main streets hearing ghost stories of real events that happened in the town. Tour guides take visitors back in time to the frontier days, to the Civil War, and the beginning of the turn of the century.

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Karl Mulac tour guide for the Lantern Tours at the Beverly Heritage Center.                       

At each major stop on the tour, guests walk the streets with lanterns to the front porch of a building where you hear a little history about the building. Then a narration is given by a living history actor telling a ghost story about those who have died in the area.  Included in the tour is a stop at The Logan House where civil war doctor John Huff performed the 2nd amputation of the Civil War. A stop at the historic Randolph County Jail where you hear Stella Collett tell about a strange shooting and trial. Then visitors stop at the local antique shop, The Goff House, where you hear about its use as a Civil War hospital and the boneyard.  The tour then crosses the main street to stop at Laura Jackson Arnold’s house ( sister to Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson) where you hear about her son being drafted into the civil war and his fight to come home.  Then everyone gathers at a settler’s log cabin owned by Jacob Stalnaker and meets his son Adam. Here Adam shares about how he unknowingly built his own coffin and was killed by Indians. Then finally you head to Bosworth’s store (now the Randolph County Historical Societies Museum) where you hear about a young woman falling to her death from a second-story window.  In between each stop Karl, our tour guide, shares other interesting information about many of the buildings located along the main streets. 

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A local actor is telling the story of Dr. Huff saving a Civil War soldier’s life who had a leg amputated in the house.

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Visitors watch Stella Collett tell the story of a murder on Elliott Ridge. 

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View of the Randolph County Jail as the sunset.

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Visitors stop at the Laura Jackson Arnold house to hear a story told by her son Thomas Arnold. 

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 Actor portraying Adam Stalnaker who unknowingly built his own coffin. 

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Lantern on the porch of the Stalnaker Log Cabin in Beverly, West Virginia.

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV, Bank, Courthouse, Store and home

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV,  where the tours begin. 

Beverly is a unique place filled with history and wonderful stories. The fall lantern tours not only give visitors the chance to share spooky ghost stories but support the preservation of these buildings and the history of the area. With a small four-block downtown, the tour is accessible to just about everyone. The Heritage Center can make accommodations for those who need wheelchair access.

My son who was 11 on our visit was overwhelmed with excitement to be allowed to roam the streets of a small town by nothing but lantern light. Then at the end of the tour, he asked if we could come back again next year. He really liked hearing the tails told by the actors and it opened a door to West Virginia history in a way he had never experienced before. So we plan to do the tour again next year with my older son, daughter in law and granddaughter. So they can also walk the cool dark streets and hear the tails of a haunted Beverly.

Events like these give kids a new way of looking at important figures and places in our past. Unlike the museum experiences, you become part of the story if only for an hour.  For a very reasonable $10 dollar entry fee, we spent an evening with ghosts, learned a lot about the history of Randolph County and helped to provide income to Beverly Heritage Center for the future.

Categories: Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly West Virginia, family fun, family memories, ghost stories, Haunted House, historic locations, Historic Preservation, Uncategorized, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Visting with Ghosts (1650 miles from WV to CO and back)

My trip home to attend my mother’s internment in my home town of Boulder Co. was like no other trip I have ever made. Returning to the mountains in Colorado, I not only said goodbye to someone I loved, but I spent much of my time revisiting childhood friends and reliving memories. I am not sure if everyone goes through similar feelings of joy and comfort when they experience a lifetime of memories and nostalgia but this trip was about visiting with the ghosts of my past and those of Colorado’s wild west history.

I am lucky to have found a man who also enjoys the history of the west, folk tails, museums, old houses, cemeteries and old friends. This trip was planned to incorporate visits to “Doc” Holiday’s, Kid Cassidy’s, Buffalo Bill’s, My Ex-inlaws and my mother and father’s graves and cemeteries. We road historic railways, we became silver miners for a day, we hiked to cemeteries, we toured historic homes, eat spicy Mexican food and laughed at stories of our youth. Several times I felt that we were in a movie about growing up in the 1980s when the only music on the radio was from my generation and faces from high school filled a table at a local pub.

Tom and I Colorado River

Tom and I resting on the shore of the Colorado River, Glenwood Springs, Co.

Somewhere between the kind words said about my mother at a toast in her honor, I floated away to a quiet place of sweetness and memories. A happy place where she was healthy, young and had a huge smile on her face. I like that image of her best, smiling and hugging me. Her ghost was there at the table with us, she was finally part of the parties that I was always going to in high school. She was the honored guest this time and took time to lean over each guest to let them know that they were always welcome to visit her as she played hostess like she always did in our home. Her ghost was happy and free and that night and so was I. The evening turned into a beautiful blending of the past and the present I will never forget how much love I felt in that pub that night! Thank you to everyone who took the time to come and those who sent well wishes during this challenging time.

Friends at Mikeoshea's

Some of my high school family. We are missing a few faces in the photo but I have never felt better about who I have called my friends over the years.

Memories and ghosts were tangible at the cemetery the next day. I looked for and found the family plots of my first husband, my aunt, uncle, and other extended family members all buried within yards of my parents.  It was nice to settle a debt that I had owed to them for the years that they all supported me through youth. It was wonderful to say thank you and place flowers and stones on their graves. Even the memories of my first marriage had less sting and more forgiveness for things that were never in my control. I said a prayer of peace to the crowd of ghosts that sounded me and the funeral of my mother. I knew I was surrounded by the love of my family and friends.

Family together at hotel

The Lowrey clan gathered together after my Mother’s internment.

During the service, my family joined together to say some wonderful things about my mom. We all shared memories of things we remembered about her. We placed things in her cremation box that meant something to us and sent her remains into the ground covered in her favorite flower, the yellow rose. It was not hard to let her go, it was the very best send off a woman who was trapped in a broken body tortured by Alzheimer’s could get. The relief we all felt about her transfiguration spilled into joy, laughter, and sweet storytelling.  It was the perfect afternoon with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild. We chatted as her spirit looked over our shoulders at photo albums and scrapbooks, she held her great-grandson on her lap and enjoyed his laughter. I even think I heard her laugh out loud at one of my brother’s corny jokes.  I hated to see her fade away as we walked to our truck after the gathering. With armloads of memories stuffed in overfull boxes, I stopped to say goodbye to my family. Fully knowing that the matriarch of my family, the roots, that kept us together, was gone and we could possibly scatter like leaves in the wind. I felt something shift and knew that I wanted to be sure that did not happen. She had worked too hard to watch the family get distant.

The following day we traveled to Georgetown Co. in search of silver mines and train rides. The day was full of historical adventures, Christopher got to spend time on the Georgetown Loop train and take an extended tour in the Lebanon Silver Mine. The Georgetown Loop was completed in 1884 as a way for miners and their cargo to move up and down the 2 miles of steep incline between Georgetown and Silverplume Co. In the end, the train travels 3 miles of track to reach its final destination only 2 miles away, with a short trip around the loop over the canyon and Clear Creek river. In between the two depots, there are two historic silver mines that visitors can tour to learn more about the lives of miners at the turn of the century. So this was a welcome cool spot on a 99-degree day in Denver.

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Georgetown Loop Train

High bridge of Georgetown loop

The high bridge over clear creek river Georgetown Co

We even learned about Tommyknockers and Dragon’s Blood, which were often found in mines.  Tommyknockers may very well be the spirits of dead miners looking out for living miners with their tricks. Christopher believes he heard one on our tour… poping and cracking the roof of the silver mine. We also found what miners called Dragons Blood. Where silver ore tarnishes and leaches through the walls. It is said that if you fallow the Dragon’s Blood it would lead you to his guarded treasure. In fact, the myth is somewhat true because often where there was silver tarnish leaking through the walls you would find a silver seam in the mine. It also meant that you might pay with your life if you tried to take the Dragon’s Treasure.

We also learned the average life expectancy of a silver miner in Colorado in the late 1890s was 36 years old….Let that one sink in for a minute…. My husband would have been dead almost 20 years by now. Leaving many woman widows before they even turned 40. What sad dark lives the Welsh immigrants lived to come to American and start a new life for their children.

That evening and the next two days we spent in Glenwood Springs, Co. hunting down the grave and museum of “Doc” Holliday my favorite dentist, gunman, and gambler. It was a nice hike to the Linwood Cemetery averaging about and 1 and 1/4 miles all uphill. ( I thought I was going to die, not enough oxygen at about 5,800 ft above sea level).  With beautiful views of the town of Glenwood Springs and the Colorado River. The cemetery is old for Colorado standards many of the graves are from the late 1800s and many are miners. TheDoc Holliday’s gravesite is covered with coins, cards, cigars, and roses, making a testament to his popularity even today.

The only disappointment was the paid entry to what is called the Doc Holliday museum. With only one item that might have belonged to him (a derringer pistol), it was not worth the $5 dollars to see in my opinion. The rest of the room in filled with other information and items from the same time period. So we did read new articles written about him and see other guns from the time period but sadly nothing that really struck me as impressive.

While in town we did stop at a local history museum in a 1905 downtown home. We enjoyed looking at the antiques from the turn of the century and learning about local history. The Frontier History Museum of Glenwood Springs has a wonderful collection of items including one of President Teddy Roosevelt’s saddles that he used bear hunting in Colorado.

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Christopher and Tom look at the gravesite of William F Cody AKA Buffalo Bill. 

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Close up of grave of Buffalo Bill Cody

 

Then we headed to Golden Co. to visit with longtime friends and to see the gravesite of Buffalo Bill Cody and his museum. The collection of items here is huge and very complete for the same $5 dollars you get ten times the exhibits and information then at the Doc Holliday Museum. You also can walk to a Jefferson County Nature Center and visit the Boettcher Mansion. A 1917  Craftsman/ Tudor style home that is often open to the public and free. Where they rent the building for weddings and other large events.

The gravesite of William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) is on the top of Lookout Mountain in Golden, Co. It allows you a wide panorama view of not only Golden and Denver, but East into the grasslands of Colorado, and West to the peaks of Breckenridge and others ( my camera freaked out and I lost all the shots I took from the observation area of Lookout Mountain). The grave is part of a large poured cement patio with a grave covered in raw white quartz. Very traditional in the area to decorate an ugly cement topped graves with local stone and a granite headstone. My grandmothers’ cemetery has a couple graves marked this way. Buffalo Bill’s grave is usually covered in coins, most often a buffalo nickel. We added nickels without buffalos and a penny to the collection saying a prayer for Buffalo Bill and the cities of Boulder and Denver and those that surround the mountain for peace and prosperity.

By the end of our trip up Lookout Mountain, it was time to meet up with a friend for lunch. The amount of traffic and regional construction change made me wonder if I had ever lived in Golden at all. I was lost and thought we would never find our restaurant. Finally finding the El Amigo restaurant, I fell back into a time and place of wondering through memories and felt at ease. Laughter came easy and the warmth of my friend made me relax. I had worried that somehow I would be judged after all these years. I was in some way still being the scared high school girl that I had left behind 3 decades ago. The discovery was that I was not being judged at all but again supported in my dreams and passions was the most comforting thing I have ever experienced.

Nick and I

Nick Plumber and I out to lunch and sharing stories. 

I put to rest, so many worries, fears, and uncertainties, on this trip that I know that I will never be the same. I am better for knowing each and everyone one of my high school friends. I am healthier because I have a wonderful family, who supported me on this adventure of healing. I am stronger for letting go of the people and things I don’t need anymore. I am freer because I have finally become the person I worked for all these years to become.

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Jolynn Powers in front of a huge sagebrush plant. Glenwood Springs Co. 

So when I am asked if It was hard and sad to go home for my mother’s funeral I have to honestly say “NO!, it was a wonderful time. It was the best gift she has ever given me and I am so happy she is free!” I just wait for the confused look on the face of people who do not understand that I like visiting with ghosts and smile broadly.

 

Categories: About me, ageing, Buffalo Bill, Change, Christopher, Death, Doc Holliday, Family, family memories, Healing, historic locations, Home, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Veteran friendly 4th of July Traditions

In 28 years of marriage, my husband has never attended a fireworks display. I have taken the boys to the events alone and have enjoyed spending many holidays with my older son, his wife and my Granddaughter. With my husband staying home alone. I have often wanted to share the day and festivities with him also, but the noise and crowds are too much for my Persian Gulf War Vet.  He never complains about skipping some family events and I never pressure him. I understand that staying home is better for him then feeling stressed, but this year that all changed for the better.

On a whim, I bought Asian Sky Lanterns thinking that the kids could enjoy taking them out to the local lake over the holiday weekend and send them off into the sky. I had no idea how much fun and joy a paper lantern would bring to my husband, me and the little ones. It was a simple moment of peace, quiet and beauty that my husband could enjoy.

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Paige, Christopher, and Tom filling lanterns with hot air.

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Christopher watching his released lanterns.

These lanterns are rather large and take several minutes to fill completely up with hot air so they will float away. These were easy to light and there is no frame inside the lanterns. The lanterns are made from tissue paper and cardboard so this does increase the risk that someone would either get burnt or the lantern would catch on fire. We did lose one to fire and we just tossed it in the trash on the way home. They are not expensive I paid $3.00 each for the 4 lanterns. When doing further research you can get around 12 small lanterns for about $10.00 dollars and large ones for 6 for $8.oo dollars. Much cheaper than the 40 or more dollars I have spent on sparklers and snakes in the past.

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Sending messages to the heavens.

It was a wonderful sight to see my husband helping the little ones get the lanterns lit and filled with hot air. Then as they ballooned out with hot air he helped them launch them over the water. Within a minute or two they would rise and float to the ridge top before slowly floating back down onto the water in a very quiet, peaceful way. After the tissue paper gets wet it will deteriorate and the fuel is burnt away and sits on a small cardboard square that is burnt up when the lantern falls from the sky.

As we loaded everyone back in the truck and headed to get ice cream my husband asked if we could do it again with smaller lanterns. I was pleased that he had enjoyed himself and the kids loved it. It was a perfect way to end our 4th of July and be able to have my husband be part of the events. I feel like this is a great option for families that have sound sensitive children or adults. It is pretty and colorful without the crowds or noise. With adult supervision, this is a  great way for families to spend time together and included everyone.

So I hope whatever you did for the 4th of July holiday, I hope you spent it with friends, family and made wonderful memories. We now have a new family tradition that we can share on holidays and while camping if we want to. It was so wonderful for me to find a way to include my husband in our celebration. Happy Independence Day!

 

Categories: 4th of July, Asian Lantern, family fun, family memories, Uncategorized, veterans | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Leaving Life Behind

So I have avoided this post long enough. I have spent a little over a week trying to figure out how to write about losing someone I love deeply. My conclusion is there is no easy way. The fact that this love is the root of everything that I am, makes losing my mother all the more complicated. It is similar to the feeling I have when I speak about my father. It is a void, an emptiness, loneliness, and “A Hole in My Soul” as the band Aerosmith put it.  You carry the emptiness with you forever.

Veda M Lowrey age 84

Veda M Lowrey age 84 Rolla Missouri

So the death of my mother was unexpended but not surprising. She lived 89 wonderful years, loved deeply, lived truthfully and honestly. She worked harder than just about anyone I have ever known and gave everything to her family. Her children and brothers and sisters were everything to her and she enjoyed spending as much time as she could with all of them. She was loving, stubborn and strong and you always knew where you stood and usually, that was under her grace.  I have often wondered how she ever spent 40 years alone as a single parent raising 4 kids after the death of my father. Now at 50 with two sons of my own, I understand that it was the best thing for her and us kids. I remember how proud she was when I graduated from college and disappointed she was when I got a divorce. How she warned me about not burning the candle at both ends and tried to teach me how to slow down and enjoy the ride. Lessons that I don’t ever think I learned, but I do try to remember them when life wears me out or people try to grind me down.

Veda Maxine Lowrey age 21

Veda Maxine Lowrey age 21

I am my mothers’ daughter for better or worse and I know she is still here with me looking after me and kids. I share her passion for reading, flowers, and peaceful quiet homes where you feel safe and loved. It was a pleasant life she made for me and my siblings and we knew we were lucky to have her.

Old age is not a beauty pageant. Nothing about it is pretty,  slick or shiny. Being smart, rich or kind, will not save you from the ravages of time. The process is painful, dirty, slow and humiliating. You lose everything you worked for and often the very people that you love most. It is not meant for the weak and to live 89 years means she was a fighter and wanted what was left in this world for her. I love that about her and only hope to be the same strong fighter in my future.

photo of Boulder Colorado and the front range by Alex Smits

Photo of Boulder Co by Alex Smits used with permission

Rest in peace mom, I will think of you often as I plant my flowers, when I find a good book that I just can’t put down, and when we are eating a well-cooked meal at home with the table full of laughter and wonderful memories. Gods speed on your journey and take my love with you.

I will be returning home to Colorado in a few weeks to place my mother by my father’s side in my home town of Boulder, Co. I will be spending lots of time with family, friends and working on what the future will be like without her. Forgive me if my writing is sporadic for a couple of months. I am not sure what I will be writing about or how often, but I know I  will be posting about our trip and the revelations I make as I search for my roots. 

 

 

Categories: Colorado, Death, Family, family memories, Healing, old age, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

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