A Blogging Award!

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that jeandayfriday nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award!  It is my first award for blogging and I’m very pleased that my New Year’s promise to write and promote my blog more this year has produced a positive result.

I have a few friends who are contemplating starting a blog.  I’ve advised them to do what I have started doing this year:

  • Write regular posts.
  • Read and follow other blogs.
  • Like and comment on the blogs you read.  It’s like “bread cast upon the water.”  This active participation includes you in a special blogging community.
  • Use WordPress.org!  I have been very pleased with the ease of using the WordPress platform, as well as the quality of blogs I’ve found here.

Thank you,  jeandayfriday, for awarding my blog the Versatile Blogger Award.  It has been a pleasure following your blog and I appreciate you recognizing mine.

The rules for this reward can be found at the Versatile Blogger Award blog.   The first rule is to share seven facts about myself that may not be known to people who follow my blog.  Hmmmm…  That might be hard to do since family members, as well as online-only friends, read my blog, but let’s see what I can come up with…

  1.  I was a girly-girl when I was little.  I loved all my dolls, stuffed toys and wind-up toys that, in those days, required a detachable key.  My sister and I kept track of all the keys in a special can.  My first doll was named Lima Bean because I loved that particular legume.  I used to drag her around by her hair.
  2. I am a Denver, Colorado native.  That may not astound people who do not know this state, but it is comes up often in conversations.  Just yesterday the dental tech brushing my teeth asked me if I was a Denver native.  I answered, “ys ilnk ws bne hrjghj,” because her buzzing toothbrush was in my mouth.
  3. When I was a teenager, I decided I wanted to become a translator at the U.N. I began with Latin in junior high and took it for four more years. I started Russian in high school, followed by German the next year.  I continued with German and Russian for another year in college.  Once I was asked to speak the modern languages, not just read and write them, I figured out I wouldn’t become a translator.  I was way too shy and self-conscious!
  4. I taught Air Force Effective Writing at Bitburg AFB in Germany when I was 22 years old and wife of a sergeant.  The class was designed to help Air Force personnel write performance reports and other written communication with good grammar and appropriate language.  I was given a slide projector, a carousel full of slides and a cassette player with the dialog that accompanied the slides and expected to fill two hours a day for two weeks.  The class included staff sergeants to colonels, every one of them older than I was at the time.  Some of them had master’s degrees—while I had just graduated from college a year before with a degree in elementary education.  Let’s just say, I earned every penny I was paid, which was about $300.00.
  5. The townhouse my husband and I have lived in for over fifteen years is the longest either of us lived anywhere (house-wise that is) in our entire lives.
  6. I have owned 11 cats in my life.  Two of them are in my household right now.  There have been 6 male cats and 5 females over the years.  In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a cat fancier—but I’m not crazy and I don’t take the magazine [Cat Fancy].
  7. I LOVE British costume dramas!  I can’t get enough of them, including DOWNTOWN ABBEY.

The next rule asks that I nominate new awardees with the Versatile Blogger Award.    I hope that I have picked bloggers who have not already been recognized!

50 Things Before I Turn 50           Much more than a bucket list.

Before Morning Breaks               Chuckles, giggles and laughs!

The Nature of Things                    Great photography and writing

For the Love of Pete                      Flash Fiction, Vintage-Themed Stories, Photos

Going the Distance                        Family, Faith, Healing

Older Eyes                                     Creativity, Writing, Aging

Stories I Share With Friends           Writing, History, Reflections, Happiness

the single cell                                  Writing, Opinion, Humor

Thoughts, Ideas, Words                  Family, Aging, Genealogy

Pam’s Planet                                  Change, Family, Loss

These Are Days                              Life, Change, Photography

Granny1947’s  Blog                        Humor, Photography, Aging

Stories About My Life                      Memoir/Blog, Nostalgia

Seasweetie’s Pages                        Change, Photography, Gratitude

Thanks to jeandayfriday and a recommendation to read/follow any, or all, of these blogs!

Wanna-Be Cowboys

Today my younger daughter, Jennifer, and my three grandchildren are visiting the National Western Stock Show .  I guess I should have been more diligent about taking my daughters, Jennifer and Julianne, to the Stock Show every January when they were young since Jen considers it a yearly event for her daughter.  She values the experience for her child and enjoys it enough to take her two nephews as well on a rare day off.

Julia, Andrew and Beck at the National Western Stock Show. 16 Jan 12

I remember my own visits to the Stock Show while growing up in Denver.  We went to the rodeo several times.  It is always held indoors, since this is Denver, Colorado in January!  There are three venues near what used to be the stockyards.

I think I got my fill, though, as a teacher of second graders for six years.  The National Western Stock Show was a regular field trip for that grade in the Denver Public Schools.   We had guides who helped us lead 30 or so youngsters through the throngs of visitors and around the cattle, sheep and horses.  Still, I always worried about those children who lagged behind or wandered off.  There’s always one!  The children I taught didn’t usually attend the Stock Show with their families, so this field trip was a good educational experience for them.  Even though they always held their noses with the first whiff of the animal droppings, they came back to the school very excited about the animals and cowboys, trailing an earthy stock show fragrance.

National Western Stock Show Parade - 17th Stre...

Herding longhorns down 17th Street Denver National Western Stock Show Image via Wikipedia

English: Downtown skyscrapers in Denver, Colorado.

Denver SkylineImage via Wikipedia

My sister-in-law has visited Dave and me in Denver several times.  She lives in Evanston, Illinois, just outside of Chicago.  On one of those trips she mentioned her surprise that people from Denver consider themselves Westerners.  When Dave told me that, I was surprised.  Of course we consider ourselves part of the West—the Wild West even—although throughout my lifetime Denver has been trying to be considered MORE than a “cow town.”  Anyone who visits Denver today will see a city that has grown beyond the “cow town” image.  Maybe that’s why Connie was surprised that Denver’s citizens consider themselves Western, not Midwestern!

My mother’s family came to Denver from Columbus, Ohio in 1920.  My grandmother’s younger brother, Edwin, had moved to Denver for a job opportunity selling mining equipment.  My grandparents and family followed a few years later.  Eventually, the entire Horne/Rockfield side of the family had settled in Denver.   The legends and myths of “The West” were clear in their minds, as you can see by these pictures.

My Ohio to Denver family saw themselves as pioneers when they moved to Colorado. This is taken in about 1925 in Indian Hills, a mountain community outside of Denver. It is almost in the suburbs now.

My mother (the tall "Indian") with her cousins, parents and sister at their cabin in Indian Hills. circa 1925 They look rather grumpy here. A fascination with western lore, the many westerns on TV in the 1950s and early 1960s, influenced Baby Boomers around the country. When I visit antique stores and look at old pictures, people in cowboy clothing prevail.

World War II brought my father to Denver.  Lowry Field, as it was called in those days, provided technical training for the Army Air Forces involved with armaments, i.e. gun sites and the loading and dropping of bombs from the air.  He fell in love with my mother, Denver and the mountains and returned here after 3 years as a Bombardment Officer in the Mediterranean Theater.  This is where I was born and my love of Denver began.

English: Lowry Field, Denver, Colorado

Lowry Field Denver, CO World War II era Image via Wikipedia

A fascination with western lore, the many westerns on TV in the 1950s and early 1960s, influenced Baby Boomers around the country.  When I visit antique stores and look at old pictures, people in cowboy clothing prevail.

Aunt Emily visiting from Illinois, with my sister Beth (pointing the gun) and me, Mary Julia 1954

Last year I wrote a post titled The Code of the West in which I referred to a set of principles developed for a curriculum unit in a local school district.  I believe this code applies to our lives today as well in the past, whether we live in the west, the east, the north or the south.  These are universal principles.

The Code of the West
▪   Live each day with courage
▪   Take pride in your work
▪   Always finish what you start
▪   Do what has to be done
▪   Be tough but fair
▪   When you make a promise, keep it
 ▪   Ride for the brand
▪   Talk less and say mor
▪   Remember that some things aren’t for sale
▪   Know where to draw the line

                                                                                                                 Happy trails to you!

I’m Remembering A Sunny Christmas: Redux

English: A Christmas tree lit and decorated, s...

Image via Wikipedia

Today I’m reposting a blog entry from last year.  It was one of my early posts, but I think it bears repeating because I didn’t have many followers back thenThis year we had a sunny Christmas too, but it was also a white Christmas—that is, there was significant snow on the ground.  Our Christmas was different this year for other reasons as well.  Our grandson Andrew was sick with the stomach flu for several days, including Christmas Eve.  My daughter, Julianne, did not know how this was all going to turn out and didn’t want to expose us to the lingering germs.  She texted us about 9:30 p.m. on the 24th with the news that Christmas was off for the following day.

 As it turned out, we are having our feast and gift exchange today, December 27th, with everyone well  and my other daughter and her family back from Omaha and able to join in all the fun.  We will have an extended Christmas season in 2011.  That’s fine with us!

Andrew, Christmas Day 2011, with new skateboard

REPOST: I’m Remembering A Sunny Christmas (2010)

Andrew skateboarding on a snowy Xmas day 2011

 On this sunny day with no snow on the ground, we still enjoy Christmas.  Everyone thinks Colorado is perpetually covered in snow, but that isn’t true in Denver.  Some years, maybe–but I don’t have nostalgic memories of snowy Christmas days from my childhood.  Yes, I am a Denver native and I grew up here!

The persistent rumor that Denver is like the mountains isn’t true.  We are high, dry and sunny most of the time.  The Christmas days I remember when I was a child include running around outside without a coat, wondering what to do with the sled stored in the garage.

When I was a child, we spent Christmas time driving to different people’s houses to visit, admiring the gifts spread under the tree and eating tasty snacks.  When we were young we enjoyed a big dinner with all the old relatives coming over.  Eventually they didn’t travel, so we went to them on Christmas Eve day.

When I had young children at home, my parents came to our house.  My daughters and stepsons would watch out the window until they arrived, then jump up and fly out the door, crying, “Grandma, Grandpa!”

We unwrapped gifts for hours it seemed, since there were eight people sitting around the family room.  No ripping into gifts for us!  Everyone watched the person opening the gift, waiting for that pleased look of happiness and surprise.  The wrappings were neatly disposed of, the presents set in each family member’s personal pile.  Then the next person would unwrap.  The youngest person in the family always handed out the gifts.

Some years my mother brought the turkey, all cooked and cut up, while I prepared everything else.  I usually concocted a fancy dessert.  My specialty was Baked Alaska, created several days ahead of time, with the finishing touches done just before eating,

After we finished dinner, my parents and I would sit around the table and talk. The kids would drift away to play, but mother, dad and I would reminisce about the old days.  The candles would burn down to stubs, leaving wax on the tablecloth.   The short winter day dimmed to dusk.  This ritual is what I miss most at Christmas, especially since both my parents died around Christmas time, many years ago.

Christmas is nostalgic for many folks.  Maybe that hint of nostalgia makes the holidays that much richer.   A few tears for those who are gone–mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, children…

They exist in other places and times, maybe in another city or state or country.  They may be only a memory, their bones in a grave under a headstone,  or their ashes blown away by the wind.  However, for as long as we live,  they are the beloved wisps of memory around our Christmas tree.

I have worked for years on a poem about the losses time brings.  I end  my 2010 Christmas thoughts with this work, dedicated to my parents.

Mary Elizabeth Rockfield Harris                 16 Sep 1915-4 Jan 1990

Roy David Harris                                  25 Aug 1911-14 Dec 1997

THERE WILL NEVER BE AGAIN

“sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt”

“these are the tears of things, and our mortality cuts to the heart”

Virgil, The Aeneid

Little did I know of time,

when wishing for tomorrows,

these moments I was living in

would never be again.

There would never be again an

hour when growing shadows

dimmed every dear face

gathered near, the candles

weeping their demise

upon  the white linen.

There would never be again a

time when sunlight streaked the

faded carpet, while you sat beside

me, dust motes between us

swirling to the rhythm of our words.

The  hope of our tomorrows lost,

too soon today becoming yesterday;

Sunt lacrimae rerum–

these are tears for all those things

that will never be again.

©2010 M. J.

Remembering Roy D. Harris–On His 100th Birthday August 25, 1911-December 14, 1997

This post is abstracted from the Preface of my as of yet unpublished book Uncommon Valor.  I have used information from an unpublished autobiography of Marshall Harris and a biographical sketch written by Roy Harris.

Roy David Harris Memorial Album

My father, Roy David Taylor Harris, was born in Pindall, Arkansas, on August 25, 1911, 100 years ago.   His two middle names honored his paternal grandfather, a Methodist preacher from southern Illinois.  He was the oldest of two sons and one daughter born to William and Julia Harris.

When William Harris found steady employment with the Great Northern Railroad, his small family lived in a boxcar while he worked as an expert cement finisher on a bridge construction crew.  The boxcar was fitted out as living quarters that had to be packed up tightly whenever it relocated to a new job site up or down the tracks from Illinois to North Dakota.  In spite of how well Julia packed the cabinets, inevitably some dishes flew out of the cupboards and crashed onto the floor.  Roy recalled playing alongside and inside the railroad tracks as a toddler.  In fact, this was his earliest memory.  The boxcar home became more crowded when Marshall Fields Harris was born in 1913.  A sister, Emily Ruth, was born in 1924, after the family had settled down to farming.

Once Roy and Marshall were school age, William and Julia realized that their gypsy lifestyle had to end.  After renting several small farms in southern Illinois, they bought their own farm in Dorchester, Illinois, near the state’s border with Missouri.  This farm was surrounded by six acres of rich, fertile soil.  William loved gardening, so he established a large garden that provided vegetables, berries and peanuts.  They had a cow for milk and dairy products, chickens for their eggs and fried chicken dinners, and hogs for meat and sausage.  William also raised bees and Julia raised parakeets.  To subsidize the farm’s income, William returned to work for the Great Northern, this time laboring in their coalmines.  Once the brothers were old enough, they also helped on the farm and hired themselves out to work for other farmers.  Although the Harris family had little disposable income, and only a small savings account, their farm kept them well fed, even during the Great Depression.

Recalling his childhood, Roy remembered camping trips with his family.  In those days cars were unreliable and cranky, so trips on undeveloped and dangerous roads included several unexpected stops along the way to fix the car.  Nevertheless, Roy spoke fondly and humorously about these adventures, as well as the campfires and the stories told under the stars.

He also recounted tales of the mischief the two brothers dreamed up.  One of those stories involved catching unwary drivers in a hole the two of them enlarged in the road after a rainstorm.  The boys would hide, waiting for someone driving too fast or not paying attention, to become stuck in the hole.  The boys would conveniently appear, offering to help free the frustrated driver.   Invariably, the grateful victim would give them a few cents as a reward for helping.  As soon as the car was out of the way, they would hide again, awaiting the next unlucky automobile.  A day spent as “Good Samaritans” could net some candy money at least!  Eventually word traveled into town about the “helpful boys” and the hole in the road.  Their Dad immediately ended this profitable enterprise.  In addition to adventures and misadventures, the horses, geese, cows, barn cats and dogs provided tales of a pleasant and loving rural Illinois farm life.

With a large extended family in and around Dorchester, Shipman and Bunker Hill, as well as an active church life, relatives and friends socialized a lot.  Cousins became best friends, and there were several good neighbors on the nearby farms.  Roy knew a number of immigrant families during his childhood in the southern Illinois.  Many of them were not new immigrants, but they still spoke their native languages at home.   He remembered that the local Methodist church offered German language services while he was a child.  A search of the census records reveals surnames from Italy, Bohemia and Scandinavia. Besides the Methodist church, there was a busy Catholic church as well.

Roy and Marshall began school together due to the years spent in the boxcar.  Despite their 23-month age difference, they remained in the same class throughout their public school days.  Since they attended a small country school with several grades mixed together, wide age differences were not uncommon.

Julia and William recognized that a good education would broaden their opportunities, so they provided some financial help to their sons when they enrolled at McKendree College, a small Methodist school in Lebanon, Illinois.   It took them over six years to graduate from college because they had to take time off in order to earn additional money for their books, room and board.  Gerald Harris, their cousin and the assistant pastor of a St. Louis Methodist church, was also the administrator of Goodwill Industries in the St. Louis, Missouri area.  Besides helping Gerald set up the church for services, teaching Sunday school and providing janitorial services, the Harris brothers worked as solicitors for Goodwill.  This required traveling to other states in the summer to arrange for and collect donations.

After college graduation, Roy and Marshall headed to St. Louis.  While Marshall started work in a bank, Roy followed his interest in electronics and machinery.  He found a job as a motor tester with Emerson Electrics until the factory had a labor cutback and he was laid off.   During visits back home, several people approached Roy about becoming a teacher and principal of a small two-room school in a nearby town.  He accepted the job, attending Southern Illinois University in the summers to obtain necessary teaching credentials.

In 1940 Marshall Harris married and joined the Navy, moving to San Diego.  In 1941, after a few years of teaching, Roy decided that he would not renew his contract when it ended.  The world was changing.  Hitler was marching unimpeded throughout Europe while draft notices were arriving in young American men’s mailboxes.  Expecting a draft notice, Roy

a choice about his branch of service.  After investigating the training possibilities, he chose the Army Air Corps because they assured him he would be assigned to Scott Field in Illinois.  They also promised him training in radio communication, one of his great interests.  Rumors of a girl friend in his hometown may have influenced his desire to stay nearby.  However, the promise of remaining in Illinois proved to be untrue, as did the radio training, when he was notified just a few days after signing his enlistment papers, that he would be sent to Lowry Field in Denver, Colorado.  Roy’s disappointment with his reassignment faded as he first viewed the Rocky Mountain backdrop from the train window.  The sudden appearance of the mountain range rising up from the plains captured his heart and never let go.

There was another benefit of this new training field–Roy discovered how interesting armaments could be.  The classes involved both manual and hands-on learning with generators, bomb racks, propellers and machine guns.  Roy was very successful during the training and graduated at the top of his class.  He also demonstrated leadership skills and was asked to become an instructor of the power turrets class.  Because power turrets were a new invention, Roy and the other instructors had to design the course of study and test questions from manuals and their own experiences during training.  The intellectual challenge was stimulating, and the opportunity to work with new machinery and technology exciting, so Roy was pleased with this new adventure.

There were many advantages to becoming an instructor.  He liked the teaching, he was now a sergeant with a technical degree and his pay was better than what he had been making as a civilian.  Additionally, he was not subject to bed checks, K.P. or any other duties—and he had Sundays off!  On his first free Sunday, he headed right to the place where he felt most at home, the nearest Methodist Church.

Within a few weeks, Roy met Betty Rockfield, an elementary school teacher and the woman who would become his wife.  Their “official” introduction occurred at a special Halloween party Betty planned for military men and other young adults attending Warren Methodist Church.  Before the night was over, Roy asked her out on a bowling date.  By St. Valentine’s Day they were engaged.  They were married in a hurry-up formal wedding on 9 May 1942, just before Roy was shipped off to Officer Candidates’ School in Miami Beach.

Betty followed Roy to Miami Beach when the school year ended in June.  The officer candidates’ wives were billeted in luxury hotels along the beach and were able to see their husbands on weekends.   Betty spent her time getting to know the wives and exchanging recipes with them, playing bridge and ironing Roy’s shirts.  By early September 1942 she was back home and teaching again.

Roy and his fellow officers shipped out to England, then Scotland and on to North Africa.  Roy spent World War II serving in the Mediterranean Theater as an armament officer for a light bombardment group.  He moved from North Africa to Sicily, Corsica and Italy.  He also spent time in France and Germany during the Battle of the Bulge.  Roy and Betty did not see each other again until July 1945.

Roy and Betty had two daughters, Mary Julia and Elizabeth Ann, born fourteen months apart (1947 and 1948).  The family lived in Denver, Colorado.  Betty was a teacher and school administrator.  Roy searched a while before settling on a career as purchasing agent for American Smelting & Refining Company.  In 1964 he was offered a job as head of purchasing for the entire company, requiring a move to New York City, but turned it down.  The war had drained Roy of his early ambitions.  He wanted a dependable family life, regular hours and a routine.  His Denver ASARCO job suited his post-war lifestyle choices and his orderly nature.

Besides his work, Roy enjoyed a routine in his private life.  He played volleyball every Tuesday night and exercised at a local gym two nights a week.  He loved following his favorite baseball teams (the St. Louis Cardinals and a local AAA minor league team) and football teams  (the Denver Broncos and the University of Colorado) on radio and television, sometimes using both media at the same time!  His interests also included keeping up with the latest technological advancements in radio, television and phonograph equipment.  He loved cars, keeping the family automobiles in tip-top condition.  Whenever he traded in a car, the dealership never had to clean it or tune it up.  In quieter moments, when the lawn had been cared for, household repairs made and other duties accomplished, my father would sit down with the daily newspaper, which he read cover to cover, or the most recent The Reader’s Digest.  He loved jokes, comics, word puzzles and sports stories.   He also solved the daily crossword puzzle.

Roy’s steady habits were a good antidote to Betty’s frenetic pace.  His structured days, neat habits and bookkeeping skills continued into his retirement and the years after Betty’s  1990 death. On a personal level, I found his apartment a sanctuary from my harried days of work, children and a difficult second marriage.  We drank Diet Seven-Up from glasses filled with ice, placed on neatly folded napkins and arranged on snack trays.  Around his reading lamp, with soft drinks in hand, we often discussed my mother.

All the time that he seemed to be neutral in our lives, Daddy was lending moral and emotional support to his beloved Betty.  I found evidence of his devotion in little notes and cards my mother saved throughout the years.  After she was gone, he would say, “Poor Betty, she always put making her mother proud before anything else.  She was never really happy.”  By that time I had also decided that my mother’s lifelong pattern of preoccupation with tasks outside of her domestic life had driven her into a corner from which she couldn’t escape.

During these special times with my father, politics, religion, television programs, my teenage daughters and my disintegrating marriage were also discussed and dissected.   It was then that he paid me a high compliment after my second divorce.  “Mary Julia, there is no man smart enough or good enough for you.”  I still cherish that assessment, although I did eventually find someone who met these criteria.  By the time I met and married Dave, my father had slipped into dementia.  When he died in December 1997 at the age of 86, I became a 50-year-old orphan.

I feel privileged to have spent quality time with my dad during the seven years between my mother’s and his death.  When she was alive, he seemed to sit apart from my sister and me.  Once she was gone, he established special relationships with his two daughters.  I treasure the discoveries I made about my father–his kindness, keen insights and the similarities of our values, politics and personalities.  My husband, who never knew my mother, told me that I looked much more like my dad than my mom. While searching for pictures to scan, I could see this clearly.  My sister has his wide smile.

I’m grateful for those few precious years and all that I learned about my modest, sweet and caring dad.  Finally my father stepped out of the shadows so we could become friends as well as father and daughter.

The Third Time Is A Charm

 

Dave and Mary Xmas 1994

When I told my husband that I was writing a blog post about him, he dismissed the news with, “That’s going to be very boring.  Why would anyone want to read about me?”  He liked the title, but thought a good alternative would be, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”  I have to say, that is fitting as well.

Although I’ve written several posts during the 18 months I have kept this blog, I don’t think I have given proper due to Dave Oliver.  He definitely deserves credit for everything does everyday to show his love, attention and thoughtfulness.  He sees to all the little things that make the difference—grocery shopping, vacuuming and mopping the floors, cooking and CLEANING OUR CATS’ LITTER BOXES.  Dave also steps up to help my daughters, their spouses and our grandchildren.

I mentioned in my last post [Time Tunnel] that I have been married three times.  The first marriage was in November 1968, lasting until we divorced in June 1978.   My second marriage was on the rebound.  We met at Parents Without Partners and blended our families with a wedding in June 1979.  We were not the Brady Bunch, although each of us doubled our families, including the cats!  My younger stepson described my cat as his “step-cat,” which seemed quite humorous at the time.  My second husband had two boys and I had two girls.  That marriage withstood many ups and downs, finally ending in September 1992.

I was in my middle forties in 1992, with 23 years of marital experience stretching between two marriages.  Some of my friends were also divorced by then, one of those failing at a second marriage too.  I was in psychotherapy with a skilled psychiatrist who guided me through this divorce, its aftermath and my years of self-discovery.  My daughters were happy that I was on my own, having witnessed the chaos and darkness of the past 13 years.  When they both left for college, I was living by myself for the first time in my life.   I expanded as an autonomous being—missing my children, but savoring time as my own best friend.

David Oliver and I met in November 1993 at a weekly singles group listed in the Denver Free University newsletter.  It was called The Sunday Night Club [SNC].  I enrolled in this activity along with a writing class titled “Writing the Wild Woman.”

The members of the SNC got together for activities and networking.   Like-minded people organized outings to local theater productions, salsa dancing, wine tastings, board games nights, etc.  Dave and I connected through a breakout group that loved going to the movies.  The first movie we scheduled was The Piano on the following Tuesday night at an art theater near downtown.

As luck would have it, this theater was located in the Governor’s Park neighborhood of Denver, where I had bought a condo in January 1993.

A heavy snowstorm blew in early in the afternoon, but I decided to drive to the theater and see the movie anyway, even if no one else showed up.  Three other people did arrive—Dave and a couple in a relationship.

Dave and I became a couple from that evening on because we didn’t want the conversation to end.   We set another movie date for the next Tuesday, followed by a Friday night date a few days later.  A routine quickly developed–our Tuesday movie nights, dinner with a rented movie on Friday nights, a dinner we cooked together on Saturday nights and a Sunday afternoon walk around the historic neighborhoods we shared.  We talked on the phone every night we weren’t together. This kind of friendly romance was new to me.

Dave is an architect and he taught me lots of architectural terms as we picked our favorite houses along the streets we explored.  Since I am a Denver native, I knew historic details that enhanced our growing familiarity with the beautiful old homes we admired.  My mother had grown up in this same area of Denver, so the stories she had told me became wonderful nuggets to embellish what we were learning.

Dave at Beck's birthday party July 2011

Dave and I were fortunate to live close to each other, each of us in corner condos on the ninth floor of our buildings facing west.  Dave’s condo sat on the edge of beautiful old Cheesman Park and mine overlooked the Governor’s Mansion and other notable mansions and grounds that I could see from my balcony.  We have been talking and loving movies ever since, as well as reading and discussing mysteries and history, poetry, music, our previous relationships and marriages.  In addition, we have traveled to cities all over the country to visit plantations, estates and famous homes.

For the first time in my life,  I was spending time with a man who was also a friend—who loved to talk and shared many interests with me. We had the same attitudes about politics and religion, and we agreed on ethical and moral standards–all the basics that create a strong relational foundation.  He even listened to NPR—the first of my friends who did!  He was also a Democrat!  Another plus.

My daughters loved him and he loved my daughters and their boyfriends.  He even grew to love my cats!   Eventually we decided to marry and picked the date of September 20, 1996.

When I was a young girl, I never envisioned myself in  “serial” marriages.   Although my sister’s first marriage also failed, she remained content in her second union.   By the time Dave and I married, I understood my previous failures. Both of us worked through our problems separately in therapy, combining the techniques and strategies we had learned to build a strong relational foundation.

I overheard fellow teachers at school whispering comments about me when my third wedding became public, including snickers about my name changes.   I chose to view these as sign posts denoting my growth as a human being.   I didn’t plan to explain myself and no one asked.  Only one person told me that it took courage to marry again.  Smiling, I replied that was a tribute to my extreme optimism.We have never regretted our leap of faith. Our goal is to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in 2021.  Hope all of you are there to celebrate!

The Code of the West

My family in 1925 in the mountain community of Indian Hills, outside of Denver. They shared a cabin there when they weren't in their Denver homes.

Last week I finally got my desk sorted–again, although it isn’t cleaned yet.  Eraser shreds, dust from the open windows, crumbs, cat hair, cottonwood fluff, bits of yarn, all still linger here.  What really bothered me was the stacks of paper everywhere–print outs, receipts, folders that I kept moving from place to place.  After the garage sale bust of last weekend–never again!–there was even more stuff to be sorted, stored or given away.   All this organization took time, but it was purging!  Now I know where everything is again as well as what needs to be accomplished.
One benefit was finding a folder where I stuffed newspaper clippings that I wanted to think about.  One of them was a profile about the granddaughter of a Colorado pioneer family who had just turned 100.  She was a truly amazing woman…I say was, because just the day before I had read her obituary in the newspaper.  She died at 101.  Synchronicity!  Another article I found inspired the title of this blog posting.

The Code of the West has inspired a curriculum unit developed by the Ann Moore of Cherry Creek High School and is available from the Cherry Creek School District, a suburban district in the Denver Metro area where my children and one son-in-law attended school, my grandchildren attend now and my other son-in-law teaches.  The curriculum is titled, “Making a Difference: Cowboy Ethics in the Classroom.”  It is intended for middle school and high school students.

The key principles are good for life on the range, in business and on Wall Street.  After watching several documentaries about the recent financial collapse around the world, including the Bernie Madoff debacle, maybe the code has worldwide applications!   See what you think.  It’s very simple:

  • Live each day with courage
  • Take pride in your work
  • Always finish what you start
  • Do what has to be done
  • Be tough but fair
  • When you make a promise, keep it
  • Ride for the brand
  • Talk less and say more
  • Remember that some things aren’t for sale
  • Know where to draw the line

Happy trails to you!

I’m Remembering A Sunny Christmas

Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000187 EndHTML:0000028011 StartFragment:0000002561 EndFragment:0000027975 SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/maryoliver/Documents/25%20Dec%202010%20blog.doc @font-face { font-family: “Times New Roman”; }@font-face { font-family: “Cambria”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }table.MsoNormalTable { font-size: 10pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }

On this sunny day with no snow on the ground, we still enjoy Christmas.  Everyone thinks Colorado is perpetually covered in snow, but that isn’t true in Denver.  Some years, maybe–but I don’t have nostalgic memories of snowy Christmas days from my childhood.  Yes, I am a Denver native and I grew up here!

The persistent rumor that Denver is like the mountains isn’t true.  We are high, dry and sunny most of the time.  The Christmas days I remember when I was a child include running around outside without a coat, wondering what to do with the sled stored in the garage.

When I was a child, we spent Christmas time driving to different people’s houses to visit, admiring the gifts spread under the tree and eating tasty snacks.  When we were young we enjoyed a big dinner with all the old relatives coming over.  Eventually they didn’t travel, so we went to them on Christmas Eve day.

When I had young children at home, my parents came to our house.  My daughters and stepsons would watch out the window until they arrived, then jump up and fly out the door, crying, “Grandma, Grandpa!”

We unwrapped gifts for hours it seemed, since there were eight people sitting around the family room.  No ripping into gifts for us!  Everyone watched the person opening the gift, waiting for that pleased look of happiness and surprise.  The wrappings were neatly disposed of, the presents set in each family member’s personal pile.  Then the next person would unwrap.  The youngest person in the family always handed out the gifts.

Some years my mother brought the turkey, all cooked and cut up, while I prepared everything else.  I usually concocted a fancy dessert.  My specialty was Baked Alaska, created several days ahead of time, with the finishing touches done just before eating,

After we finished dinner, my parents and I would sit around the table and talk. The kids would drift away to play, but mother, dad and I would reminisce about the old days.  The candles would burn down to stubs, leaving wax on the tablecloth.   The short winter day dimmed to dusk.  This ritual is what I miss most at Christmas, especially since both my parents died around Christmas time, many years ago.

Christmas is nostalgic for many folks.  Maybe that hint of nostalgia makes the holidays that much richer.   A few tears for those who are gone–mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, children…

They exist in other places and times, maybe in another city or state or country.  They may be only a memory, their bones in a grave under a headstone,  or their ashes blown away by the wind.  However, for as long as we live,  they are the beloved wisps of memory around our Christmas tree.

I have worked for years on a poem about the losses time brings.  I end  my 2010 Christmas thoughts  with this work, dedicated to my parents.

Mary Elizabeth Rockfield Harris        16 Sep 1915-4 Jan 1990

Roy David Harris                                  25 Aug 1911-14 Dec 1997

THERE WILL NEVER BE AGAIN

“sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt”

“these are the tears of things, and our mortality cuts to the heart”

Virgil, The Aeneid

Little did I know of time,

when wishing for tomorrows,

these moments I was living in

would never be again.

 

There would never be again an

hour when growing shadows

dimmed every dear face

gathered near, the candles

weeping their demise

upon  the white linen.

There would never be again a

time when sunlight streaked the

faded carpet, while you sat beside

me, dust motes between us

swirling to the rhythm of our words.

The  hope of our tomorrows lost,

too soon today becoming yesterday;

Sunt lacrimae rerum–

these are tears for all those things

that will never be again.

©2010 M. J. Oliver

Powered by ScribeFire.