My Kid Has Lost His Mother to a Sleep Number Bed

First, the history: I have slept on the floors of friends’ apartments where smells of cats past were strikingly fresh. I have slept on hotel room floors (I’m gagging thinking about it now) and pull-out couches (those springs can hurt like a mother dog) and non-pull-out-couches (there’s a joke in there somewhere) and even, once, a blow-up pool raft (tequila helped). I have slept on the cold, hard, bumpy ground in Yellowstone National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park and a few hundred other campsites from Central Texas to Montana. And for the last nearly 20 years, in my own home, I’ve slept on a mattress that was so old and misshapen that it required special gymnast moves just to get out of it in the mornings. True story. But I didn’t really mind all that much. Gymnast moves keep you young.

But then I hit the mid-40s. And my body became sore from things like, say, unpacking groceries.

I started to make those legit moaning sounds when I would get up from sitting on the floor after playing Hot Wheels with the kid for a long time. I began to hear unnatural creaking sounds in joint areas where I’m pretty sure there should be cartilage. And then, after 14 years of manual snow removal without one injury to my name, I hurt my lower back tossing a big shovel-full of heavy snow over our deck railing. As in, “ummm … holy hell, I may not be able to walk now, or ever again” kind of hurt. And then, several days later, during an epic snowball fight (turns out I could walk again – hallelujah!), I landed smack-dab on my hip, on a bank of concrete-ice.

Suddenly, what I slept on kind of mattered.

And suddenly, the evil advertising gods told me that Sleep Number was having a sale.

And then, I found myself strolling unknowingly into a Sleep Number store to test out their product and witness my body’s pressure points with their whole heat-sensor technology thing.

I was a goner once that remote hit 55.

I’m still a little worried about what that salesman was thinking when I let out a When Harry Met Sally-kind of reaction. (You know the scene.)

Granted, in the week between purchase and delivery, I mourned the impending loss of my dilapidated BeautyRest. After all, I brought my baby home to that bed, and we did the whole family bed thing until he was 4 years old, like the good hippies we aspired to be. I’ve snuggled with hoodlum puppies and held aging, sick old dogs next to me in that bed. My husband and I have had some pretty fun times in that bed (reading and talking and laughing, of course! What were you thinking?). I wrote a lot of my second novel propped up in that bed, writing by the light of the laptop. That bed has spent many a night dragged in front of the woodstove in our log-cabin great room when the power went out for days and we needed to sleep near the flickering warmth. And that bed was where I spent a lot of time last year recovering from some seriously bad flu/pneumonia/liver and kidney failure juju. That bed served me well.

But now, the Sleep Number P5 has entered my life.

I have changed.

I used to make the family pancakes or migas or biscuits and gravy on the weekends. Now, the kiddo’s eating cold cereal and, most probably, Cheetos. I don’t really know because I’m still in bed.

I used to lay down with him in his bed as he fell asleep each evening. Now, I tend to just yell “good night!” from the comfort of my Sleep Number.

I used to get up early to take the dogs for sunrise walks. Now they’re constantly giving me these accusatory looks, as if they are puppy-mill-level neglected.

I used to read in the great room, near my family as they did other things. Now, they can usually find me curled into that P5 like a kangaroo baby in a mama’s pouch.

My husband and I actually joke that we may never, errrr, talk and laugh in bed again because once you sink into the glory of this new mattress, you don’t really want to move unless the house is on fire or something.

In fact, when the dogs go bark-shit crazy (I’m trademarking that phrase) at 3 a.m., instead of going to reassure them and get them settled down to avert internal damage to our home, we nudge each other, then ignore each other, and then simply hope they don’t tear down the back door to get to the mountain lion before morning.

I’m sure one day I’ll reclaim the life I was once led. My son will get his mother back. My dogs will get another sunrise walk.

Until then, I plan to celebrate a lower back that doesn’t ache, a once-injured hip that feels young again, and the fact that I no longer need professional climbing gear to remove myself from the prone position each day.

P.S. Sleep Number didn’t pay me jack-anything for writing this. Which only proves I’m not smart enough to figure out how to ask them. #blogfail #bigmoneyfail

 

This is a Sleep Number bed. It is not my Sleep Number bed because taking a picture of my bed would be weird.

This is a Sleep Number bed. It is not my Sleep Number bed because taking a picture of my bed would be weird.

Glimpses of a Colorado Life … on One Summer Evening

I live in Colorado. On a mountain. In a forest. Winters are harsh and beautiful here. But summer? Summer is every word I can’t seem to find … and every cliche (paradise, bliss) that I try not to use. It’s 70 degrees, blue skies, and a light breeze that rustles the aspen leaves around you. It’s brief afternoon rain, cold as ice on your skin, as storms move over the Divide. It’s wildflowers thick as blankets. It’s the call of a Stellar Jay. The howl of a coyote. The sunlight streaming through tall pines.

It’s abundance. And yet, it’s more.

This evening, as we do most days, my husband and son and I took the dogs for a long walk around the neighborhood. I tried to capture some of the beauty and magic around us in the following photos. I don’t think a lens can capture what it feels like, but perhaps it can at least capture a little of what we see.

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A Million Ways to Die in Texas

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Two weekends ago, the husband and I saw the Seth MacFarlane comedy-western movie, A Million Ways to Die in the West. It’s all about how completely batshit crazy-dangerous it was to live on the Western Frontier in the 1800s. Basically, if a gunfight didn’t kill you, cholera would. It was good for a few laughs … but mostly just a great excuse to sit in the air-conditioned theater and eat buttered popcorn. (Real butter, people! Thank you, Alamo Drafthouse.)

It got me thinking, though, about my beloved (sometimes) home state of Texas. Because let’s face it. It’s not that much different than the Wild West, even in 2014.

Now, I won’t list the full million ways to kick the proverbial bucket in Texas, because I do have a life. (And I won’t even go into the whole open-carry, everyone-ought-to-have-an-AK47 gun thing because I prefer not to get hate emails.)

But here’s a start:

  1. You could be killed by one of the 15 different kinds of poisonous snakes that make Texas their home. Seriously, there are 15 … and 10 of those are rattlesnakes. There are also three kinds of copperheads. And then there’s the cottonmouth water moccasin and the coral snake. Basically, if you go outside in the summer, whether on dry land or near a body of water, and you’re not wearing boots, you’re dead.
  2. You could succumb to heat stroke. Texas is a huge state, but one thing is pretty consistent whether you’re in North, South, East or West Texas: It gets damn hot. As in hitting 95 degrees in February and staying above 100 degrees for most of the summer. You can actually get five-degree burns on the bottom half of your ass (I made that up; the degrees only go to three) just by sitting on a tailgate in shorts in August.
  3. If you choose to lie down for a nap in the cool (ha) green grass, you might never recover from the fire ant stings. We used to lose more baby calves to fire ants than to coyotes. And if you do get stung by a thousand fire ants, and you don’t die, you’ll likely wish you had. So it’s a wash.
  4. Should I also mention spiders? There are FIVE different kinds of brown recluse spiders and all of them live and love the Motherland of Texas, and also the dark interiors of boots. Of course, there are also effing black widows. BLACK WIDOWS EVERYWHERE. There are jumping spiders and also tarantulas. And while those last two aren’t really all that venomous, if they take aim and jump at you, you will probably die of a heart attack. (To those people who say that jumping tarantulas are a myth, I say you are wrong. I have witnessed it myself, and the only reason I didn’t die of Freaking Out Syndrome is that I was 10 and my heart was still strong.)
  5. Here’s one not many people think of: You could get hit in the head with a rodeo belt buckle. These are large, heavy metal objects that, when sent flying through the air, can be lethal in a severing-a-major-artery kind of way. Please don’t ask me how I know this. Also you may be asking yourself, “How often does a belt buckle go flying through the air?” Doesn’t matter. Only takes once.
  6. One phrase: The Mexican drug cartel.
  7. If you’re allergic to dust, oak pollen, cedar, scorpions or bee stings, and you don’t have an inhaler or epinephrine injection handy, you might as well kiss breathing goodbye.
  8. Finally, drowning’s big in Texas, too. From flash floods or being drunk on a boat on a lake, or simply playing in the Guadalupe River with its magical sink holes and mystery vortexes that suck you under in Gonzales and spit you out in the Gulf of Mexico, your odds of going down are pretty high.

I could go on, but I’m getting homesick.

Texas friends, what would you add?

And Colorado friends, should we make a list of our own for this fine state? I think there may be even more than Texas: blizzards, mudslides, I-70 in the winter, hypothermia, mountain lions …

What about other states? Come on, it’s morbid fun.

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 Despite its content, this blog post was not brought to you by the Texas Tourism Board.

 

A Walk and a Talk in the Mountains

I had the day off from work on Friday, and even though my husband and I were both still feeling sick from a Colorado Super Bug going around, I announced I was heading up to our cabin on the mountain. I needed to be there, to take one of my old walks that I took daily for more than a decade. It’s the same way I feel about Texas about twice a year, too. That driving need to be back in touch with some basic part of who I am.

My husband has been up to the cabin several times since we’ve moved, but I have stayed away. I knew I’d likely tie myself to a pine tree and he’d have to peel my arms away or chop down the tree to get me to leave. And frankly, it played out kind of just like that.

On our walk, we talked about moving back. It’s a tough thing, marriage. And parenting. You just never know for sure what the right move is. You can guess, and you can hope to high heaven you’re making the best choices. And then you can pick up the pieces and put them back together when they turn out to be the wrong ones.

I’m still not sure what we’ll do. I want to do what’s best for our son. His needs come first. But it’s all so murky, that determining what’s best.

Yes, it’s dangerous to live and drive up there on the mountain. The drive to school alone would be trying … about 50 minutes one way. And yet, I have to also believe that living in such a raw, untamed area would feed his soul, too. Right?

And let’s not forget his newfound love, or obsession, with fishing. At our cabin, he could walk out the back door and fish in a beautiful creek within minutes. And there are three private stocked lakes, too. He could be ice-fishing within 5 minutes during the winter. And doesn’t the opportunity to witness bears and moose and mountain lions and stellar jays and golden eagles in your back yard have profound educational value?

I’m not completely crazy, by the way. I know life on the mountain is tougher. The elements (wind, cold, blizzards) demand that you develop survival intelligence, that you respect Mother Nature in all her greatness. That you learn the value of hard work, like chopping wood, that ends up keeping you warm all winter. You learn that life isn’t just one big easy paved suburban street. You learn that sometimes the power can go out for days, but that’s okay because you kick ass at Scrabble and keeping a fire going 24 hours a day.

But are those lessons he really needs to learn in today’s society? Shouldn’t I be trying to create the easiest life for him? So that his biggest worries are doing well in school and making friends with kids, not foxes?

Or maybe we should just forget the mountain for now and instead live abroad for a year or two. Let a foreign country shape the kiddo instead of life at 10,500 ft. Maybe then my unsettled feeling would be replaced by excitement for a new adventure. Of course, there’s that little problem called money to fund such a thing, and let’s face it … we don’t exactly have Eat, Pray, Love kind of reserves going on.

I don’t have all the answers yet. But I’ll leave you with a few photos I took while we were on our walk … showcasing the Colorado Rockies in transition. The gorgeous aspen leaves are all gone, but the lake isn’t completely frozen over. The snow is on the mountain and some of the trails, but water is still trickling through the waterfalls. Paradise to me.

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My One-Year Report on Living Like Normal People

07-james-peakIt’s been over a year now since we moved from our cozy log cabin, located at the top of a mountain in the Colorado Rockies, at 10,500 ft. above sea level, down to a mere 6,800 ft. in the foothills southwest of Denver.

This was supposed to be a one-year experiment with living without the dangerous driving conditions, the 5-ft. snowstorms, the year-round shoveling, the need for professional gear to take a walk around the neighborhood in February. It was intended to be a glimpse into things most people take for granted, things like a garage, trash service, newspaper delivery, a grocery store and gas station nearby, the certainty of running water and electricity. (Read about the move here.)

And it appeared to be the perfect compromise: Still living in a log-cabin-ish house, in a pine forest, with views of the Continental Divide if you squint to the west from our deck.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

For a normal person maybe.

For me, it’s been hell. I mean, don’t get me wrong … it’s an easy hell. A pretty comfortable hell. (Turns out, it’s no big deal to run out of toilet tissue down here. And the snow — get this — melts after a storm!) And my garden was lush and productive this year, unlike even our year we had a greenhouse up on the mountain, before the bear tore it down.

And yet, I’ve been in mourning.

It’s hard to put it into words, sometimes. Because it’s more than the hiking trails that were out my door, and the snow and the mountain view and the high-summer days that hit 75 at their warmest. (Did y’all know it gets damn hot down here in July? Especially with no air conditioning in a house?)

I miss the solitude and seclusion of my mountain. I miss neighbors that keep their distance and don’t freak about a dog that barks at herds of deer on occasion. (I’m particularly bitter about that one. See previous post. Animal Control and several certain people who live near here with their panties in a perpetual wad can kiss my aspens!)

Oh yeah. I miss the sound of aspen leaves shaking in the wind before they fall. And the silence. I miss that you can lie awake at night up there and not hear anything but your own breathing and maybe the stars moving up above. I miss how the raw world up there influenced my writing in ways foothills living just doesn’t do.

I miss the challenges of seemingly easy things, like getting to your front door in January after being gone all day and oh by the way there’s now 3 feet of snow there.

I miss how life at 10,500 ft. pushed me, every day, in new ways. I miss how alive that fresh, thin air up there makes me feel. I miss the creek and the lakes — they felt like ours alone. I miss evening walks when you didn’t have to worry about cars hitting you (only mountain lions out for dinner. And I can deal with mountain lions better than humans, most days.)

I even miss the nights when the electricity was out and it got so cold that we had to sleep in the great room by the woodstove, to make sure it kept burning all night so the pipes wouldn’t freeze.

If it were up to just me, we’d be back up on the mountain right now, enjoying the beginning of winter. But it’s not up to just me anymore. My husband likes it down here. My son misses the mountain, but he’s found a little tribe of friends down here at this neighborhood school, and his smiles are priceless. The commute to my new job from the old house would be painful. And let’s face it, moving is expensive.

So we’re staying through next summer at least. In the meantime, I have writer’s block when it comes to fiction writing, and the liquor store is only a few minutes away. Is this how Hemingway became an alcoholic?

Don’t answer that.

 

 

Free Kindle Promotion for A Good Kind of Knowing

cover A Good kind of knowingMy latest novel, A Good Kind of Knowing, has been out now since October (in ebook, since December in paperback), and this is the first time it’s been offered free as an ebook via Amazon. It’s a free promotion in advance of my blog tour, which begins next week.

If you’d like to try the novel, risk-free, this is when to download! The promotion goes from April 4 through April 7.

 

 

Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009V3G93O

The book currently has 35 reader reviews on Amazon and a 4.5-star average rating. (Thank you, readers, who have offered your heartfelt reviews!) A friend recently told me that it was the most moving book she’s read in a long time. Wow. Just. Wow. So pleased with that kind of response to my work.

Feel free to share this information with friends. For every download, I hope that person enjoys the story enough to tell a friend.

Oh, and you don’t have to have a Kindle to get the free download. You just need to add the Kindle app to your iPad, android tablet, iPhone, desktop computer, whatever. You can get the free app here.

Thanks, always, for the support!

 

 

 

Sledding Fail … With a Texas Accent

Like most moms of six-year-olds, I am constantly laughing at the things my son does and says. I feel like I should be following him around with a video camera every day just to capture and preserve all of the funny antics. (Perhaps to pull out and remember how cute he was when he’s a teenager and testing my last nerve.)

Luckily, my husband is a video-ing nut case and often DOES film our son. Such was the case this past weekend when a great snowstorm dumped a ton of fresh powder, and the kiddo decided to go sledding in the back yard.

The following video was the last take of many, where the kiddo was performing in his own version of the X Games, complete with commentary after each sled run. In this last run, he catches some air. But what’s even funnier is his Texas accent when he’s talking to his viewers afterward.

Have I mentioned this kid visits Texas quite a lot but has been raised in the Colorado mountains? I don’t know where he gets this drawl from.

This Serenity Break Is Brought to You by the Beauty of Colorado

5photoSo many of my friends back home always ask when I’m moving back. “Don’t you miss Texas?” they ask. And yep, I do. I miss many things about where I grew up. But here in Colorado, I can breathe. That’s the best way to explain it, and it has little to do with the air quality and everything to do with my need for this kind of beauty. (photos taken at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs last weekend).

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Valentine’s Day in Colorado vs. Valentine’s Day in Texas

Valentine’s Day in Colorado:
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Skiing Couples Wed Atop Colorado's Loveland Ski Area

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day in Texas:

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Both are pretty darn good, eh?

THIS Is 40, or You Are the Wind Beneath my Bat Wings

There are a lot of things people never tell you about hitting age 40 and beyond.

A blog just isn’t legitimate until there’s a picture of the Ropers in it.

Sure, I knew about the wrinkles and gray hair coming my way. I knew my eyesight would begin to worsen and I’d be shopping for Mrs. Roper-style-hanging-around-my-neck drugstore glasses at some point. And my doctor kept warning me about the “belly roll” that would collect and be hard to get rid of in my 40s. (Can’t they come up with another term for it? Like Lower Abdomen Memory Foam?)

But here’s what they don’t tell you. They don’t tell you that the pimples of your high school years will start coming back and your chin is gonna start to look like your freshman yearbook picture. For no apparent reason. They don’t tell you that your joints will start making sounds reminiscent of old, haunted-house hardwood floors. And it’s scary. Really scary.

This is what came up in an image search on Google for a “complicated outfit.”

They don’t tell you that those ads you used to laugh at that targeted women with a “sudden urge to urinate” might one day not be so funny, especially when you happen to be wearing an awesome, complicated outfit that, well, takes a while to remove.

And yes, they may have told me that my skin would one day fight back from the years of baby-oil tanning, but they sure as hell did not tell me that the fight would include having strange-looking skin tags frozen off my body in a dermatologist office once a year. Seriously, no one EVER mentioned the freezing machine. That thing burns like a mother.

But mostly, they didn’t tell me about bat wings.

Listen, I’ve never been especially proud of my arms, but they weren’t hideous before. A few scars and red scales, but fairly firm, I would say. After all, I can hold my own tossing cattle feed bags and I’m a master snow-shoveler. We’re talking heavy, wet spring mountain snow, too. Not any of this dry powdery two-inch stuff down here in the foothills. (Mountain snob alert.)

These are not my bat wings. Mine are way sexier.

Regardless, something has changed. I now have a layer of bonafide flab hanging down on each arm, flapping in the wind like sheets on a clothes line. And as sexy as that sounds, it’s upsetting.

The first time I noticed them I was putting my hair in a ponytail in front of a mirror and actually looked behind me to see if someone else was possibly standing there with their own bat wings. No such luck.

Of course, my first course of action was to look online to see if I was the only one that this was happening to so early in life. I mean, I thought bat wings were for women in their 60s. Turns out, they indeed start in your 40s, as “middle-aged skin is like cotton with less snap,” causing sagging.

First of all, WebMD, don’t call me middle-aged. And secondly, I want Spandex arms back.

Experts say you can do boot-camp-style tricep exercises to help, but not completely solve the problem. Which does not in any way sound encouraging or appealing. Plus, as Sweet Brown says, ain’t nobody got time for that.

You can also have upper-arm liposuction. But if I’m not going under the knife for the aforementioned lower abdomen memory foam, I’m not risking my life for my breeze-making upper arms.

I tell my son that I love my muffin top (which he so generously pointed out to me after seeing a weight-loss commercial one day. It’s a good thing he’s cute.). I tell him that it’s a souvenir from lots of good food and good times. But these bat wings? I don’t know that they represent anything but old age and the lack of funds and courage to hire Jillian Michaels to yell at me.

By the way (ATTENTION: stop reading here if you are easily offended!) when I googled “bat wings” during my research, I came upon a horrible discovery. Apparently, according to Urban Dictionary, there are other slang definitions for bat wings that have nothing to do with arms. They include but are not limited to:

  •  A woman’s large vaginal skin
  • The spreading and sticking of a man’s testicles to his inner thigh. This usually happens at random in summer and is caused by perspiration and must be physically unstuck.
  • When a female neglects grooming in the pubic region and wears a bikini.
  • One that I just cannot bring myself to type right now.

Nothing like a little Urban Dictionary to make you 1) gag and 2) feel even older than 40. You’re welcome.

And …. now … I don’t feel so bad about my arms for some reason. Maybe I’ll just buy me some Mrs. Roper tunics. You know you want some, too.