Posts Tagged With: Thanksgiving

Thankful, 2020

In June of 2019 I was apartment hunting in Austin, Texas, trying to find something affordable closer to the Tech Ridge area where Luke and I were working. Our lease was set to expire in mid-August and we wanted to upgrade to a nicer neighborhood, something that wasn’t right next to a noisy freeway. When I couldn’t find anything in the price range I was looking for, I reached out to an apartment-finder service.

The agent I spoke to took down our information…and then advised us to stay where we were. It was at that moment I realized that not only did I not want to stay in our current apartment, I did not even want to stay in Texas.

Our general situation at the time was stable and upwardly mobile. Luke and I had found decent-paying jobs with plenty of opportunity for advancement. Elizabeth was content with her service industry gig. With three incomes and frugal habits, money wasn’t really a concern. But we had never found our community – our interests and lifestyle did not mesh well with the Texas zeitgeist, even in blue Austin.

I suggested to Luke and Elizabeth that we renew our current apartment lease for one more year and start making plans to move to a different state. They were instantly on board; the only debate was about where to go. The finalists were Colorado or somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Colorado won out, because it was closer and because I like sunshine.

We made a list of things we wanted to do and see in Texas before we left. These are the kinds of things that are more fun with a group of friends, but since we had no adventure-sharing friends there, we just did them by ourselves. We explored Palo Duro Canyon, summited Guadalupe Peak, and took a three-day road trip along the Gulf Coast. Our last year in Texas turned out to be the most enjoyable, but it also reinforced our desire to live someplace more compatible with our interests and values.

The kids would not commit to any city without seeing it firsthand, so in May we drove up along the front range of the Rockies to choose our Colorado destination. Our rough-draft plan was to look for a nice neighborhood in the Boulder area. The arrival of Covid was a complication, but we were very careful and wore masks and socially distanced from the locals. Our first stop was in Pueblo, which we liked more than we thought we would. Then we stopped in Colorado Springs, which we liked even better. Then we stopped in Denver, and absolutely fell in love. Then we continued on to Boulder, and to our surprise we didn’t like it at all. Too rich for our working-class blood. Our unanimous and enthusiastic vote was for Denver.

Covid complicated everything. Our Austin jobs were essential and fairly secure, but we couldn’t be sure of finding work in Colorado. We applied for jobs, but no one wanted to look at resumes with an out-of-state address in the middle of a pandemic. The best we got was a few “Get in touch after you get here and we’ll see if we have anything for you” offers. But apartment managers want to see an existing job or a solid job offer before they will offer a lease. It looked like we might have to go the AirBnB route just to get a Denver address so we could find local work.

We reached out to a couple of Denver apartment-finder services. One said they couldn’t help us. The other found a couple of apartment options that do not verify income. On the income line we all put our current Austin incomes, and that was good enough. We opted to sign a short three-month lease on a one-bedroom apartment and then find a better place after we found work.

I’d never in my adult life quit a job without having another job lined up. In July 2020 all three of us did just that. It was one of the leapiest, faithiest leaps of faith I’ve ever taken. In August 2020 we packed our belongings into a UHaul and left Texas behind.

And it all worked out. The apartment was comically tiny for three adults, but otherwise nice. Luke and I found work right away. Elizabeth decided to wait until we’d found a long-term rental and live off her savings in the meantime. Then I found a better job, got Mahogany shipped out, and we nabbed a good deal on a bigger apartment in a better location. We love Denver. It’s a very welcoming culture, full of interesting and friendly people. I don’t think we’ll ever run out of things to do here.

2020 has been an objectively terrible year. But for us it was a marvelous year, full of good changes and adventures. From Elizabeth’s trip to Nepal in January to this first Thanksgiving in Colorado, 2020 has been generous with its blessings. In an apocalyptic year of plague and economic unraveling, we are very thankful to be where we are.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may there be better years ahead.

Categories: Celebrations, environment, Family, Holidays, Life, Road trip, Travel | Tags: | Leave a comment

Thankful, 2016

The kids and I explored the trails at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano earlier this month when the weather cooled down for fall.



It’s one of the nicest parks we’ve seen so far, but we caught it in the evening rush, so it was bustling with people out walking their dogs and unwinding after work. We even had to park in a shopping center up the street because the regular parking lot was full.

Arbor Hills has miles of woodsy trails and a pretty overlook with a nice view of the surrounding area.






I am thankful to live in a place with so many beautiful spaces to explore.

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Luke’s robotic’s team took a respectable third place in a field of nine teams at a competition in Dallas.






It was a fun experience. I am thankful that Luke and Elizabeth have so many opportunities here to develop their creativity and talents.

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Bass Hall hosted a free screening of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” to promote their stage production. Elizabeth had to work that day, but Luke and I went and had a great time. The Hall was decorated for the holidays and offered Christmas-themed gifts for sale. I was ridiculously excited to find an ornament-sized replica of the angels from the Grand Facade.


After the show, Luke and I walked around a bit.




I am thankful to live so close to two beautiful cities that enrich our lives in so many large and small ways.

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An unexpected car repair put my plan to buy a treeless saddle on hold and added a scary level of uncertainty to my holiday budget. Elizabeth responded to this by, quietly and with no fuss, doubling the amount of money she contributes to the household each week from her paychecks. She did this on her own initiative, without being asked – in fact, I assured her that she should not feel at all obligated to cover my debts –  for four weeks, until we knew that I would be able to pay the repair bill and still get the saddle. I am so thankful to have such a kind and gracious daughter. I am thankful for both of my children, they are the joy of my life.

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The first time I rode Mahogany in her new treeless saddle, I could feel the relief in her whole body. For that first test drive we stayed in the arena, just walking and trotting in big, easy loops while Mahogany gradually relaxed and her movements got freer and more confident. The saddle is supremely comfortable for both of us. We are still getting used to the new dynamic, and I may end up buying a different saddle pad to solve a few minor issues, but overall we both love this saddle and I wish I had bought one years ago. Yesterday we had a nice cruise out on the backroads, and Mahogany was so happy and responsive.



I am thankful that this seems to be the answer to so many of the problems that we have been struggling with.

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Happy Thanksgiving to all!


Categories: A Plethora of Parks, Animals, Artwork, environment, Family, Horses, kids, Life, Love, trail rides, trees, Weather | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Thankful For: A New Perspective

This year’s Thanksgiving post is dedicated to my job, which is itself kind of an unexpected plot twist. If someone had told me last Thanksgiving that I would soon be working full time in retail AND enjoying the experience, they would have gotten my Skeptical Face. But I hired on part time about nine months ago and happily transitioned to a full time Lead position less than two months later, and while the job is not always easy or fun, it’s been incredibly educational and I’m thankful to have it.

It didn’t come naturally to me, that’s for sure. I remember at one point grumbling to my work supervisor, “There has to be a way to thrive in retail without selling my soul.” It was maybe not the most tactful thing I could have said, considering that he and his fellow managers are doing fine in retail, presumably with their souls more-or-less intact. I was having a bad day.

As melodramatic as it must have sounded, I was serious. I’d been working there for maybe four or five months at the time, and retail still felt like an alien world to me. I was also still working through some personal issues that I had brought with me out of my Anza experiences. When I looked back at the four-and-a-half decades of my life up to that point, it seemed like one long struggle to hold onto my personal integrity while most of the people I was supposed to trust self-destructed and tried to take me down with them. I had worked out a basic life philosophy in which there are two kinds of people: the we’re-all-in-this-together types, and the every-man-for-himself types. I had it firmly in my mind that the latter type is universally destructive to themselves and to the fabric of society.

Here’s the thing: retail tends to attract the every-man-for-himself types.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job right from the start. I liked the physical exertion and the mental stimulation and the social interaction. I liked most of the people I worked with. But I didn’t trust any of them. Sometimes I felt incredibly frustrated by the lack of supportive communication and by the “sink or swim” management style. Because I really do like my workmates, I wanted them to be more like my own artistically-inclined circle of friends. Us artistic types are all about sharing our feelings and discussing our deep, profound philosophies. Try that in retail and you get coolly and politely rebuffed. Sometime they’re not even polite about it. Sometimes that bothers me more than it should. To be honest, most of the retail people that I’ve worked with are not especially “nice” in the traditional sense of the word. They’re not mean-spirited or anything, they just don’t, you know, overburden themselves with concern for other people’s feelings.

And holy crap, these people hoard information like they’re charged by the word. Fortunately we recently got a new Store Manager, and the new guy is all about the communication. Let me tell you, it is SO MUCH easier to do your job when you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time an unfamiliar situation comes up, or have to call for someone who will use their own wheel to fix the problem but not give you one or tell you how to make your own. Yeah, I could probably come up with a better analogy than the wheel thing, but whatever, my point is that it’s been an adventure.

I’ve had two major epiphanies since I started working there. The first was three or four months ago, when I actually began to notice that, despite being The Wrong Type Of People, those managers, most of them anyway, were not actually self-destructing at all. In fact, they were navigating the retail world much more effectively than I was. It occurred to me that maybe there was a middle ground here that I did not yet understand, and that maybe these folks had some useful perspectives that I would benefit from acquiring. To use another descriptive analogy, because us artistic types love those, it was kind of like I had moved from France to Italy and then spent the next five months feeling aggravated by the fact that everyone around me was speaking Italian instead of French. While making no effort to learn Italian myself, because that would be the first step down the path of corrupt self-destruction.

Yeah, no. As soon I started really watching the other managers, without the judgy filter in place, I gained a new appreciation for each of their leadership styles. I realized that in a way, it’s a form of respect to let a person sink or swim on their own merits. And it’s way less exhausting than constantly trying to carry someone who doesn’t really want to be in the pool in the first place. Most of my job-related frustrations evaporated almost overnight when I stopped trying hold the retail system to the standards of the artistic community. I started choosing the traits I wanted to incorporate into my own management style. I was finally able to pick up the reins and start being a more effective Lead without feeling like the corporate villain in all of those Occupy political cartoons. I still freely share all of my wheels with anyone who needs them though, because I like working with knowledgeable, competent people. I never fix an associate’s problem without explaining to them how they can fix it for themselves next time.

My second epihany was more recent. Like, last week. Suddenly and with perfect clarity, I understood the fundamental underlying Truth of retail that had been eluding me since I hired on. The First Rule, the one that retail people instinctively follow but no one will tell you about or even admit to. It applies to every aspect of the business, from everyday job performance to the presentation of merchandise and everything in between.

I’m not going to reveal the First Rule of Retail here, because when you come right out and say it, it sounds kind of terrible, and I’m not looking to lose my job. But the nice part is that now that I’m aware of this rule, I can follow it perfectly without sacrificing any of my personal integrity. I have finally figured out the trick to thriving in retail without selling my soul.

And that’s just the big stuff. I’ve also learned a million and one smaller lessons in the past nine months, and gained some insights into human nature that throw my past experiences into a clearer light. I have a way to go yet and lots more to learn, but I’m incredibly thankful to be where I am. As another of my bosses said a few weeks ago, “Isn’t it funny how life puts you right where you need to be?”

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and may the path always take you where you need to be.

Categories: Friends, Life, Work Life | Tags: | Leave a comment


The list of things I’m thankful for is a mile long this year. Rather than trying to include everything, I’ll just dedicate this year’s Thanksgiving post to the people I’m thankful for.

(There are folks who apparently have nothing better to do than to cause trouble for people I mention by name on my blog, so I won’t do that, but my friends know who they are.)

So to begin: I’m thankful for the friends who supported and encouraged me during last year’s legal ordeal and put in a good word for me to the custody evaluator. They helped keep me grounded and functional.

I’m thankful for the Texas friends who offered the kids and me a place in their home when we made the decision to leave California. They made it possible for us to make a fresh start in a much better place, and have given us a wonderful “acclimation buffer.” This move would have been a vastly different experience without their generosity.

I’m thankful for the friends who agreed to store some belongings that we didn’t want to let go of but couldn’t take with us right away. The relocation would have been so much harder, especially for Luke and Elizabeth, if we had been forced to leave those sentimental treasures behind forever.

I’m thankful for the then-strangers, now-friends who adopted Gericault and Brodie and gave them a happy and loving home. We could not bring the dogs with us to DFW and no one else could take them. The fact that strangers were willing to take in two large, active, middle-aged dogs with unknown breeding and a penchant for infighting seems like nothing short of a miracle to me. You guys rock.

I’m thankful for the friend who took good care of Mahogany for me until I could find a place for her here. It was very hard for me to drive away from my horse and trust that she would make it safely through the complicated procedures involved in transporting a horse across state lines. I can’t say it was a smooth process, but it was all handled beautifully by my friend and by the vet who did the Coggins test and health cert. This same friend also took in three kittens who were orphaned by their mostly-feral mother shortly before we moved. We found them under our porch and bottle-fed them, but we couldn’t bring them with us. Now they have a wonderful home.

I’m thankful for the relative who came and helped us pack, and rented, loaded and drove a U-Haul truck from California to Texas. There are no words for what that meant to us.

Thank you, every one of you. You make the world a better place with your good works.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Categories: Animals, Cats, Dogs, Family, Friends, Horses, kids, Life, Love, Travel | Tags: , | Leave a comment


I can’t remember a Thanksgiving that I’ve greeted with as much joyful gratitude as I do this one.

There have been happy Thanksgivings, hopeful Thanksgivings, and always, always many things to be thankful for, but this year is so different on every level. I feel like I’ve been lifted out of a dark, tangled mire of pointless struggle and set in a warm sunshiny place where life is peaceful and beautiful and shining with happy possibilities. That heady sense of a wide-open future…how long has it been since I’ve felt real pleasure at the thought of whatever may lie ahead? I can’t even remember. I’m an optimist by nature, but it’s been a long time since life has felt like the grand adventure it should be. Now it feels that way again.

So very much to be thankful for right now. First and foremost, for God’s infinite love and grace. There were moments in the past eight months when my own reserves of strength and courage ran completely dry, and the only thing that got me through was prayer. I have felt His comfort and guidance and providence so vividly through all of this, and my gratitude is boundless.

I’m so thankful for Luke and Elizabeth. They are the cure for loneliness, the antidote to self-pity, the opposite of dreariness. They keep me from getting lost in my own head for too long, and their laughter and creativity fill our house with life and light.

I am thankful for my home. Especially in light of the current economic meltdown, with people losing their homes and their jobs and their pensions all over the place, I am so incredibly grateful to be in this place of relative security that allows me time and space to parent my children and grow healthful food and enjoy the quiet beauty of nature. This is such an enormous blessing.

I am thankful to all the people who have offered their friendship, their company, or even just an exchange of stories for the span of one conversation in a supermarket. In the first dark days of the separation my need to verbalize my pain and confusion was almost desperately compulsive, and I’m so grateful to all the kind and patient souls who understood and listened and advised and bore with me while I struggled to make sense of it all.

I’m very thankful to the people, some of whom I barely know, who have brought me firewood simply because they heard that I needed it. What an incredible feeling of being part of a caring community.

I’m thankful for the half-a-steer that came to my freezer last Sunday. And I’m thankful for this week’s rain, which makes it possible for me to continue to raise my own beef for that much longer. I could never afford to buy hay for my half of the herd; if the pasture goes my cows will have to go too. So I thank God for every drop of rain that falls.

I’m thankful for Mrs. Mouthy’s Pear & Gorgonzola Pizza recipe, which I just tried for the first time last week and it was crazy good and Elizabeth had three slices for supper and two more for breakfast and she doesn’t even normally LIKE pizza, and I think that’s the only kind I’m ever going to make again.

I’m thankful for…um…this year’s amazing bumper crop of pinecones. They’re so pretty and they make the best kindling.

I could go on, but I’ll stop now. Happy Love Thursday everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving, and may the spirit of thankfulness remain in all our hearts long after the last of the turkey and cranberries are gone.

Categories: Family, Friends, kids, Life, Love, Love Thursday, NaBloPoMo | Tags: | 3 Comments

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