Saying Goodbye to My Dream, or the One-Year Experiment with Normal Living

Dear cabin, I’ll miss you.

It’s difficult for me to even type these words, but here it goes: This is the last week of life at 10,500 feet above sea level for me. [insert sobbing noises]

At least for a year.

That’s right. We are conducting a grand experiment that involves moving from our beautiful log cabin at the top of a mountain, along the Continental Divide, to a larger home at a much lower altitude.

In other words, we’re trading crazy for how regular people must live. And I’m not sure I can survive it.

I’ve done a whole lot of writing and relaxing on this deck in the summer.

Why the move? A lot of reasons, I guess. My husband has given me 10+ years of living in a raw, often brutal climate. That’s pretty darn good considering I gave him three months when we first moved up here. He was a suburban boy who’d never used a chainsaw back then, a guy who practically lived in movie theaters. Now, thanks mostly to Netflix and heavy drinking (kidding), he’s adapted quite well. But he’s tired of the drive, which can be about as dangerous as it gets in the winter, i.e., nine months out of the year. He’s tired of the snow. (When Denver gets a foot of snow, we get three.) He’s tired of the hardships of mountain living, which can range from temperatures that hit 50 below for days on end, 90 mile-an-hour winds and mountain lions on the prowl for snacks like our son and dogs, to days without power and weeks without water. And I’ll admit these things wear on me, too, some days.

So the answer: We’re testing the lower-altitude waters by renting a home in the foothills west of Denver. At a whopping 6,500 feet. That’s 4,000 feet and two ecosystems lower than where we live now.

At the new place, we’ll have things we’ve learned to live without for over a decade. (A decade!) Things like a garage. Trash pickup. Newspaper delivery. The opportunity to grow things in the spring and fall. The ability to take a walk in the winter without putting on professional snow gear. The capacity to not have a week’s worth of blizzard supplies in your car at all times just in case you careen off the side of a mountain on your morning commute. It’ll be a whole new world for us.

So what’s not to like about the move? Why am I so grumpy I had to warn my family to stay away from me while we packed boxes this past weekend?

My neighborhood.

Because this was my dream. When I moved to Colorado, I knew I wanted to experience true mountain living, with all of its ups and downs. I didn’t want comfort; I wanted adventure. I wanted an authentic log cabin. I wanted to heat with wood that I cut with my own hands. I wanted to write in total peace and quiet, and thrive under the watchful eye of a golden eagle and the supervision of tall pine trees and groves of golden aspens.

Besides, I like the challenges this life presents to me. I like that I can’t get complacent here; Nature keeps me on my toes. I like that the air up here feels unlike any other air I’ve ever breathed. I like that the blue sky here is so crisp and so exquisite that it can make you literally gasp from the pureness of it all. I like that on a clear night, the dark sky is like a field of a million diamonds above me, stars so close you think you could really touch them if you tried. I like that I can walk to our meadow and see wildlife every time, because bears, deer, moose, elk, coyotes and foxes are our closest (and best) neighbors. I like that I can trout-fish in our creek or mountain lakes with my son all summer long and never have the same experience twice. I like that I don’t have to drive to get to hiking trails; amazing ones are outside my door. I like that I can snow-shoe or cross-country ski on my lunch hour when I work from home in the winter. I like that the summer wildflowers can be so breathtakingly beautiful that there really are no words to describe them.

Mostly, I think, I like that not just anyone can make it up here. I like that it makes me different. And frankly, I like what it says about me: I’m strong. I’m resourceful. I’m fearless.

I’m basically bad-ass.

And yet. Did I mention there was a garage at the new place?

So, I have promised to give this a chance. I will embrace my 2.5 bathrooms and the fact that I can now recycle at the end of my driveway. And I’ll try really hard not to get progressively meaner when fall and winter settle in, and I’m living in complete and utter comfort, with not a carnivore predator or a four-foot blizzard in sight.

I’ll also try to remember this quote from Winston Churchill: “We shape our dwellings, and then our dwellings shape us.”

After all, the mountain has shaped me in so many ways. But there are things the new place can teach me, too.


At least this way I’ll be closer to Texas Roadhouse and a good liquor store.

If you want to read more of my writing, I send out the occasional newsletter. Sign up here:

Two Things I Miss Most About South Texas in the Spring

My book tour in Texas is coming up the week of March 26 (see details on the events here), and I’m so looking forward to not only the book events themselves, but just being in Texas in the spring.

This time of year is actually when I miss home the most. Where I’m at (high in the Colorado mountains west of Denver), we’re still very much in winter mode. March and April are our two snowiest months of the year. The huge blizzard of 2003 when we got 9 feet of snow — not a typo, that’s 9 feet — occurred in March. We just had windchills that were near 20 below in the past week. Our doors were frozen shut.

So, the thought of being in that warm, albeit humid, Texas air is exciting right now. I’m bringing my flip-flops, y’all! (I don’t think my mother will let me wear them to the book signings, though. And I’m pretty sure my ankle surgeon would not approve.)

Two more things I miss about home this time of year?

Spring in Texas. Photo credit: CC license 2.0

First, the wildflowers. The fields of bluebonnets that look like a sea of blue. The red paintbrushes (we always called them Indian Blankets). The pink buttercups. The list goes on. There’s nothing quite like a drive down a rural Texas highway in March and seeing the beautiful colors lining the roadways and dotting the pastures along the way. Our wildflower season at 10,500 feet above sea level is in late June and early July, so this trip in two weeks is going to be a real treat.

Secondly, and most importantly, I miss my mom’s lemon icebox pie. She always makes a double recipe for Easter Sunday. (Well, because we love it so much, she’s now starting making it at Christmas, Thanksgiving or anytime my son will be around! Spoiled kid.) I’ve tried making it up here a dozen times and it never tastes as good as hers. She uses the organic lemons that she and my dad grow there in Gonzales, Texas, which probably makes all the difference in the world.

I hope she doesn’t mind that I share her recipe below.

These things are seriously good. And since they are baked, I take it to mean I can eat the whole bag.

In other very exciting news, Blue Straggler is now on an bestseller list!  It hit the top 20 best sellers in ebooks/comic fiction on Friday. That meant, of course, that I celebrated all weekend. (Send vodka replenishment and those Snappea Crisp things.)

Mom’s Lemon Icebox Pie

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Beat the above ingredients until smooth. Pour into a 9-inch graham cracker pie shell. Spread whipped topping (or make your own whipped cream!) over the top of the pie.

Chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours before serving.

If you want to read more of my writing, I send out the occasional newsletter. Sign up here:

A Land-locked Girl’s Memories of the Coast

This is the resort we stayed at in Cancun. Swanky!

My husband and I just got back from a few days in Cancun. (Note to Mom: We were not attacked by, nor did we see, one armed bandito, which was a little disappointing after all the hype.) We did manage, though, to successfully escape two snowstorms and windchills below zero here on the mountain.

Overall, it was a good time that included a large quantity of unlimited, top-shelf alcohol, some fun-loving friends and hours spent catching up on some great novels on my Kindle. (By the way, ever heard of a Tequila Boom-Boom shot? I have now. If I could go back and rewrite Blue Straggler, the main character Bailey would definitely be drinking those.)

Now, let me be clear: I am not a beach girl. I do not long to surf or own a long board. My skin’s typically so pale all I have to do is look at the ocean and I’m burned. I never, not once, wanted to be a mermaid. (I wanted legs, dammit!) I couldn’t sail a boat to save my life. I am not one of those women who look good in a bikini, tankini or ini of any kind. Sea water stings my eyes. I don’t particularly care for mold. I don’t like being shark bait. The constant sound of those waves gets to me after a while. And I will never, ever look good with that whole wind-blown hair thing. If given the choice, I would much rather be standing at the top of a 12,000 ft. peak than floating in any ocean, no matter how turquoise the water.

However, every now and then, I need the sea and a break from All Things Mountain. Plus, I do enjoy sea kayaking, snorkeling, building sand castles, shell hunting and a Jimmy Buffet song or two.

Colorado, of course, offers none of that. (Jimmy B., does come to town every five years to play huge stadium concerts, though. Land-locked parrot heads, rejoice!)

This is a lovely shot of Port Aransas, courtesy of Creative Commons/Flickr.

During my childhood in South Texas, we often headed to what we simply called “the coast.” Port Aransas, located on the Texas Gulf of Mexico, was only a few hours away from my  hometown, so my parents could drive us all down in our 1970s-era custom party van with the swivel seats and curtains in the back, spend the day on the beach, and drive back that evening.

I distinctly remember that every day trip to the coast involved a great deal of pre-weather anxiety for us kids: My parents would nix the trip if the forecast called for more than a 10 percent chance of rain. We’d all hover around the kitchen radio the evening before, listening to the local radio station, KCTI, for the latest.

More memory snapshots: Getting to buy a new beach towel at Kmart in Seguin every summer. Feeding large flocks of aggressive seagulls that would swoop down to take bread out of my hands. Floating on large black inner tubes (the kind we’d use to float in the Guadalupe River, too) out in the waves. Keeping constant watch for jellyfish, which were not only in the water but all along the beach. My mom looking so glamorous in her swimsuit and sunglasses. My dad drinking Pearl beerunder the blue tarp we’d put up for shade. Eating summer sausage and blocks of cheddar cheese and greasy bargain potato chips and drinking ice-cold Dr Pepper out of glass bottles from the well-stocked cooler. Being completely unaware of my body and how it might look to others, concentrating only on jumping into the big waves as they tumbled to shore. Feeling the strong undertow grab me and buckets of sand, drawing us quickly out into the surf. A sense of pseudo-panic when I’d take a momentary break from swimming and playing in the water to realize I had drifted so much that the blue tarp and the custom party van were becoming far too small in the distance. Resting on those plastic-tube folding lounge chairs with hinges that got more and more rusted each year. And of course, after we got back home, those large gobs of Noxzema cream we’d all have to apply to our beet-red, sunburned skin.

Remember these?

We may not have had perfect, white-sand beaches or round-the-clock waiters bringing us drinks called Purple Rain and Superman under the shade of coconut trees, or Elvis impersonators as the evening resort entertainment , but we did have fun back then. Too bad there won’t be time for a run to Port A when I’m in Texas in March for my book signing tour.

What are your favorite beach memories? Please share below! I’d love to hear about them.

Random Texas music note: The Court Yard Hounds, wrote and recorded a tribute song to the Texas coast. Listen to it here.

If you want to read more of my writing, I send out the occasional newsletter. Sign up here: