Photos of building passive solar in Colorado in the winter: Deck the roof, not the halls!

My intuition told me to go back and look at some previous photos from six years ago, when we were building our passive solar home in the foothills of southern Colorado. Sure enough, December 17th six years ago was the day we put decking on our roof.

Unless you’ve built something yourself, you may not appreciate the idea of “drying in” your structure, but this is major, especially in the middle of winter in Colorado.

I remember when we drove up here, there were workmen all over the top of our house in very cold weather, working their asses off! Our contractor brought all his friends over to work on a Saturday to get this done. What was amazing was how comfortable they all seemed up on that roof! A snow storm came in later that day…

But the roof got covered and we were halfway to being dried in.

We got so excited about the smallest progress back then, after taking five months just to get approval from the county and our slab poured properly for passive solar heating! They forgot the insulation for the slab at first, but Mike got on them for that!

The windows came next! It was finally looking & feeling like a home!

But there were still a million more details to work out…

but we got her done and moved in on the first of August 2015.

Then we rested while staring out at our spectacular view, for months, none stop! We cannot get enough of this even years later. The silence is magnificent!

Leaving the city behind for a new, rural lifestyle – My Colorado experience

Six years after leaving the suburbs of Fort Collins (50 miles from the Wyoming border), for a new lifestyle west of Walsenburg (50 miles from the New Mexico border), I feel I have a good sense of what that kind of major change feels like.

The first thing you must do if you are considering a similar change is to let go of any idealized illusions you may have about finding pastoral perfection. You may eventually find it, but it will take some work!

Think of this move as a complete ‘leap of faith” That’s what it felt like to me! And in case you didn’t get the memo yet, in this lifetime, perfection is a mirage… I didn’t have any delusions of grandeur, I was just plain scared. What if I hated it??? It was definitely a precipitous move on my part. I just didn’t know what to expect. On the other hand, Mike was certain this was the right move for us. So we did it anyway, with all of my anxieties and fears fully intact…

When we arrived in Walsenburg with our full-to-the-brim U-Haul truck, we moved into a century-old miner’s home, the only ‘decent’ rental in Walsenburg or La Veta in June 2014, and yes, it was as dirty and disgusting as it sounds. Then we started to work on finding an architect and a blueprint for the passive solar home we had been planning in our heads for years. We had already bought a few acres of land twelve miles west of town on a hill overlooking the Spanish Peaks. But because there was only one building inspector for the WHOLE COUNTY…

it took over five months just to get a proper heat-absorbing slab on our land.

But after ONLY eight more months, our 1,400 square foot passive solar home was completed! Building in this rural area is DIFFICULT and agonizingly slow! Did this surprise us? Somewhat. Timing was the source of much of our frustration and stress.

Our view of the Spanish Peaks the day they put up our roof!

But we (and our relationship!) survived, and the final product was as close to perfection as I have ever experienced. We joked around about the following cartoon before we moved down here:

But, as it turns out, this is actually true for us. For months after we moved in we would sit and stare at the mountains right outside our windows, drinking in complete silence and serenity every time we looked out.

It felt like we had moved into a deluxe foothills retreat as nice as anywhere we had ever stayed before. Almost daily I experienced inexplicable fear that the resort management would be coming around soon to kick us out!

With Mount Mestas to the west.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Looking to learn more about our big move to rural Colorado experience?

Check out my memoir here!

Send me an e-mail and I’ll give you a great price on a copy of your own: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Hip Hip Hooray! There’s joy in everyday!

Spending time with my parents last week was a timely reminder to me that I must work to find joy everywhere, in spite of physical limitations. Yes, there are a number of irritations in life that must be dealt with, but be sure and find the joy too, or before long it will all seem like a pain in the butt!

For example, the double rainbow last evening!

One thing I always notice when I visit other people’s home is that their windows and views of nature are so limited compared to ours. We have a passive solar home so our south-facing windows cover the wall. I am constantly looking outside here. That is where the action is…

Sometimes a Road Runner will amble up to look in!

Our sky garden is always a good place to observe birds, lizards and occasional deer coming up for water…

and the clouds around here always present something new and interesting!

Find the joy & gratitude YOU need to keep going! That’s what life is all about!

The BIG Decision: Retirement Options

Should I stay or I should I go? — The Clash

For many, the decision of how to handle the freedom from having a specific job in a specific place can be daunting. For one thing, most of us have never faced such freedom. Most of us have lived where our job was for decades and made do. Perhaps we came to love our home, our neighbors or our general situation. Perhaps we dislike major life changes. That wasn’t us. Mike and I had been thinking about getting out of the city for decades when the opportunity arose to do just that.

Home Sweet Home before the move

That is not to say the choice was simple. There are so many factors to consider. Closeness to family and friends, expenses, how much we like or dislike the unhealthy aspects of city life. Besides the unhealthy air for someone with COPD, I discovered as we thought about it, that I did not want to spend another minute sitting at stoplights when I had so little life left. I hate wasting time! Yes, the decision probably won’t be easy, but it must be made either way.

My own uncertainty five years ago at this time, as we prepared our lovely suburban home for sale, did create great stress in my life. About this time the end of May 2014 we had a buyer set up for mid-June, but no place to move to in Walsenburg! Yikes! Remember, once you make that tough decision, you need to accept all the major stressors that come your way after that. And we were also preparing to build a new home in a rural area where good workers are hard to find.

Our view today!

Yes, I remember it all just like it was yesterday. At the time it often felt like too much to bear. And yet, the rewards have been so worth it. Now I’m certain we made the right choice for us, but there were many times I doubted every decision we made. So much easier to stay in the same home and hope for the best, but then you will never know the rewards of moving on and choosing something completely different!

In the summer of 2014, Mike and I sold our nice house in Fort Collins to move temporarily into an old miner’s home in Walsenburg, while constructing a passive solar home near the top of Navajo Ranch Estates west of Walsenburg Colorado. To learn more about downsizing to a tiny town and then living in the Colorado countryside, consider reading my book: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado available from Amazon or directly from me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Dirt Work and Family

Early morning pastel in Spanish Peaks County…

It’s been all dirt work around our home lately! My brother John, a self-described ‘dirt guy,’ came in Sunday and he has truly spruced up our sky garden area.

After proper leveling, provided by John, we added pavers and gravel to the lower-level of the garden to give it an even finished look. More plants to come in soon around the bird bath…And so many native plants are just starting to bloom after that big snow last week! We also put in a few new trees. Perfect time for my parents to visit today.

John is a man of very few words. He always has been, but even more so since he lives alone along Oak Creek near Sedona. When I asked him this morning why he likes to work in the dirt, he answered: “It’s organic.”

How Personal Crisis Can Help Us Focus On Our Purpose Going Forward

JackieSpeierI just heard Jackie Speier, a Congresswoman from California, talk about surviving the horror of the Jonestown fact finding mission in November 1978, and how that formative moment changed her. She was an attorney on the staff of Congressman Leo Ryan at that time, investigating human rights abuses by Jim Jones, the leader of the Peoples Temple cult in Guyana, when she was shot five times by Jones’ followers. While she survived, over 900 members of the cult did not, victims of a mass murder-suicide. This caused me to explore further how my own crisis, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in May of 2008, helped me to crystallize what I needed to do with my own life going forward.

The first few months after my TBI I could barely think or write anything. Important connections had been broken in my brain. Only time would help repair them. I also had a severe rib injury which made it impossible for me to drive for months. Without any doubt this was a life-changing experience for me.

Midlife Magic coverIn 2006 I began a new career as a freelance writer, but my heart wasn’t in it. After my TBI I wrote up a story for the Seal Press, about my recent divorce, for their upcoming book: Ask Me About My Divorce. They said they would pay me for the piece, but it struck me for the first time, that all I really have are my own stories. Why sell them to someone else? I turned that story into a book full of humorous essays called: Midlife Magic: Becoming The Person You Are Inside! published in late 2008. Then I began doing some serious research into midlife change and the psychological history of this concept. I found that intensive research and writing helped to heal my brain.

Find Your Reason Cover smallThat first book was the beginning of ten years of research to fully understand the importance of seizing onto midlife as a unique opportunity to catch up to who you are now. The result of this research was my 2011 book: Find Your Reason To Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife (2011). One interesting and unexpected outcome of my brain injury was that as my brain healed, it created a new decisiveness within me. I no longer doubted my strong feelings about what I believed in and who I would spend time with in my future. One result was the erasing of my ex-husband from my life. Ever since our divorce in 2001, I had allowed my ex-husband to continue to put me down verbally, because we shared custody of our dogs. In August of 2008 I told him to go away, permanently. I would take no more abuse from him ever again.

I also decided that I really wanted a new puppy to share my life with and got one for Christmas that year. All of these decisions came from a place of knowing that I would not be here forever, so I had better take matters into my own hands and get what I want NOW!

NICE view of sunflowers in garden and Spanish Peaks summer 2017

And then there is our most recent dramatic decision to change lifestyles by moving to a rural part of Colorado. This one really did throw me for a loop in every way possible. I had NO certainty at the beginning of this move in 2014, and it was an all-in decision, since we could not afford to run back to the suburbs if things didn’t work out. Luckily, after our passive solar home was finished in 2015, we loved it. Who knew I was such a nature lover? Who knew living in nature would change me so much?

close up of my books on bed 2017 (2)

Now the only thing I feel strongly about as far as my writings go, is that more might benefit from what I have learned about the midlife change process. I would say to my older friends, please share with your children the wisdom I have gathered by suffering through so much midlife discovery and change. We don’t all need to re-invent the wheel over and over again. The wisdom is there. Why not read about it first, and then find your own wisdom within that process?

To purchase copies please e-mail me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

E-book and some paperback versions are available through Amazon