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.”

Photography by Laura Lee!

Let me begin by saying, I never thought of myself as a “photographer.” What does that even mean? We all write but few of us are “writers.” When I began writing professionally I had no definition of “writer.” Then I read an article in a writing magazine that said, a writer is someone who sits down everyday and writes. That was me.

Now I find I am constantly taking photos from our foothills ridge simply because they need to be taken.


I mean how can you watch scenes like these everyday and not want to preserve them for others to see?

Since I started taking photos like this, I have posted quite a few on my Facebook page. Yes, everyone seems to love them, and a few have encouraged me to begin selling them so others can enjoy…


the views we enjoy everyday.

So here I am, launching myself into a whole new area of endeavor. I have so much to learn about lens and filters and everything else, I’ll admit that.

The East Peak through the lilac trees!

But life is for learning, right?

What’s growing in my southern Colorado Foothills Garden?

Walker’s Low Catmint does great here, and so far no rodents have eaten it!

I have been establishing a rock flower garden with both native plants and local varieties for the past few years. I don’t dare raise vegetables and fruit here, mostly because of the extreme winds we get sitting here on the side of a ridge at 7,000 feet. It is not unusual for us to receive westerly winds over 60 mph. But in the summer the winds usually calm down and we are left with long, lovely warm days.

Rocky Mountain Penstemon around our birdbath, and BTW the birds really do bath in there!

I have had great luck also with Rocky Mountain Penstemon and Knautia Red Knight. They are both just about to bloom in spite of some very cool weather this spring. Last year the deer ate some of the blooms off so this year I will be patrolling the area!

A couple different types of Gallardia and Yarrow with some Lavender of course!

I’m trying out a few different colors and types of yarrow this spring. I have heard so many different things about the animals only liking one color of flower, so now I have yellow, red, and pink coming up, a veritable smorgasbord of deer food! I should also mention Blue Mist Spirea. It’s a small bush that seems to love it here. It’s a woody plant so no deer nibbles there. I heard a new theory recently, that animals don’t like to eat plants that give off a strong odor like herbs. Have you found this to be true?

This spring I went out and realized I had almost all purple flowers, so I’m making an effort to add new colors. I added a beautiful red Sunrose, some red Jupiter’s Beard, some cinquefoil and other yellow varieties. I’ll let you know how they do…

Finally, I added a new solar water fountain to my garden. What a great idea to let the sun keep it running, but you do have to add water everyday. We are amazed at how sensitive it is! The second you come between the sensor and the sun the pump stops.

We see everything from the largest raven to the tiniest hummingbird coming by everyday. We feed the birds and they do come!

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

A trip up north to the land of cities

For my birthday this year, I decided to go up to Fort Collins and Denver to spend time with family and friends. I had a wonderful time feeling special, but am always shocked by the culture shock of returning to city life. The first thing I always notice is how bad the air begins to smell just north of Pueblo, because the air does not “smell” down here. That is also where the highway driving suddenly switches from a casual, comfortable feel to what I call “Get the hell out of my way!” driving. Luckily we missed any major traffic jams up north, but the only way I can explain it, from the perspective of one who never needs to sit at stop lights is, the roads are INTENSE up there! The cars are so close together on the roads and it feels scary.

The other culture shock for me is that up there we see so many young people! We don’t have a lot of them down here. The average age down here by the New Mexico border is around 54. Everything feels a lot more rushed and modern up there. There are of course hundreds of restaurants and shopping options compared to our county, where you can count the total restaurants on ten fingers.

Yes, we moved from one of the riches counties in Colorado to one of the poorest five years ago. My Dad (age 90) asked me how I was feeling now about that choice while we were up there and I had to think. As he pointed out, I had never lived in a place like this before. I have been cursed my whole life with the ability to see both sides of everything, and that can be truly exhausting. However, after a few days up north, I have to say I love not smelling the air or hearing traffic all the time. Our solar foothills home was the perfect temperature when we got back here, with no heat running the whole time we were gone. It felt wonderful to just walk in the door!

Sitting in my bed this morning, gazing out at the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, that’s a tough act to follow. The silence down here is perfection for me now.

A Genuine Colorado Country Christmas

First I saw the funniest FB announcement yesterday! On our community bulletin board it said:

“Has anybody lost this chicken?” with a picture and everything.

You’ve just got to love living rural. And the chicken did find his way home too!

fresh Christmas tree 2018

Then we went out to cut our own tree! Pretty nice huh?

Bright Sahara Christmas Tree 2018

We decorated last night…

IMGP7685

…and this morning we had a new coat of six inches of snow!

It feels just like Christmas!

We have fallen in love with living in tune with the sun and seasons, waking up each day amazed to find ourselves in such a beautiful, quiet, natural place…

memoir of retirement 2016

Are you ready to follow your dreams? Here’s how we found ours!

Please feel free to contact me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com to order any of my books as Christmas gifts for family & friends who are struggling with midlife mayhem!

& Please follow us on TWITTER!

Autumn in the shadow of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

We are having a warm lovely fall here in southern Colorado! We had our first snow in the Sangre de Cristos south of us a couple weeks ago, and then some weather in the 60s settled in to warm our winter-fearing souls.

The 60s are my favorite temperature, just right for sitting outside and observing the  many birds and quadrupeds that happen by our home. We have seen herds of deer and a couple coyotes walking by recently…

and the Road Runners come right up to our glass doors.

Unfortunately that first hard freeze did a number on my first crop of lavender.

We have had such a strange summer season this year. The winter and spring, which are usually super wet, were quite dry through June, when the Spring Creek Fire hit this area, destroying over 108,000 acres and over 140 homes and other structures.

This was my first view of the fire as it emerged south of Mount Mestas on June 27th.

Fortunately in July the rains finally came, saving our area from complete devastation, but still for the 2017 – 2018 water year we received less than half of average precipitation.

My brand new foothills garden did not like these ever changing conditions. It died way back in June, but made a phenomenal comeback with the 3.35 inches of rain we received in July! My garden is perpetually a work in progress. We are now waiting to get a bunch of red pavers to place in the lower level around the bird bath.

It gives me great joy to wander around outside and think about how Mike and my brother John worked so hard to help me realize this lifelong dream!

Do beliefs about climate change depend on how old you are, your education level or “groupthink”?

I will never forget a discussion I had over ten years ago with a woman in her eighties at the Senior Center in Fort Collins. She said climate change was bull and I said just wait. Then I realized and said to her, “Of course you’re not as concerned about climate change. You won’t be around to see what happens, but what about your children and grandchildren?” I’m certain that woman is dead now.

UN report on climate change 2018

SOURCES FOR THE NEW UNITED NATION REPORT ON GLOBAL WARMING

UN Climate change report-october 2018-Today I did the research on this topic. Please go check out this survey that describes concerns about climate change in the United States between 2015 and 2018, by age group. During this period, over 51 percent of adults between 18 and 34 years of age agreed that global climate change will pose a serious threat. Of those over 55, less than one third felt climate change was a serious concern in their future.  Now let’s ask the thousands of victims of Hurricane Michael. Why was this the first storm to hit this area in decades and why did it’s intensity increase when it headed out over the land?

Further research suggests:

“Climate change believers are generally younger, more educated, have more money, and are non-white (which means skeptics are generally older, less educated, and white). But all these factors are only weakly associated with climate change beliefs… Instead, political affiliation – Democrat, Independent, or Republican – strongly predicted climate change belief, such that Democrats are more likely to believe in climate change than Republicans…

This might suggest that groupthink, the psychological effect of similar thinking to maintain conformity to a group, guides climate change attitudes, not just ideology alone.” “Understanding Climate Change Skeptics” in Nature Education

Louis L’Amour and Golden Aspen, Autumn in Southern Colorado!

I’ve been enjoying a Louis L’Amour novel this fall, while also indulging myself in some amazing quaking aspens.

aspen 2018 near Blanca Peak

Up above Cuchara near Cordova Pass…

back of Blanca Peak with golden aspen 2018

and up by Blanca Peak! Now is the BEST TIME to see these beauties!

Have you ever read the novel Conagher? A friend bought me a copy and said I had to read it, so I did. She said it reminded her of her dilemma since she moved here a few years ago. She loves the silence and isolation of her new life in the mountains, but sometimes craves companionship with someone special.

Conagher book

I thought Mr. L’Amour only wrote about the men of the West, but this novel is about a lonely female settler in rural New Mexico in the late 1800s who finds an ingenious way to connect with lonely cowboys. She even finally finds love way out in the middle of nowhere and just by chance. I love Mr. L’Amour’s descriptions of the beautiful but lonely West. Here’s a few lines from the main character Evie:

“She never tired of the morning and evenings here, the soft lights, the changing colors of sunlight and cloud upon the hills, the stirring of wind in the grass. Out here there was no escaping the sky or the plains, and Evie knew that until she came west she had never really known distance.”

I find it interesting how this character somehow captures my own feelings after just a year or so of living here, giving a marvelous explanation of how one adjusts to the silence and beauty of this powerful and yet desolate landscape:

Sunrise through snowy trees January 2018

“Evie Teale suddenly became aware of something else. For the first time she was at peace here, really at peace. She had believed the land was her enemy, and she had struggled against it, but you could not make war against a land any more than you could against the sea. One had to learn to live with it, to belong to it, to fit into its seasons and its ways…”

How does change & trauma help us grow?

Less than 2 years ago I wrote this about my own life goals.  Back then, I didn’t mean what needs to happen in the next year or two, but what needs to happen for me to feel satisfied in the long run. I wanted more love, acceptance, appreciation, access to pure silence and to be surrounded with solar warmth,  natural beauty, music, wildflowers, peace, contentment with ever increasing relief from guilt and shame.

So what’s different now? I would say my greatest achievement has been acknowledging how much built-in shame and guilt I have lived with for years, and also how clarity and awareness can help me let that go. I used to think I was probably stuck with this feeling, and unable to free myself from its grip. But with time and introspection (and much encouragement from Mike!) I have found my way out of most of my guilt about just enjoying my life and feeling good. I do whatever I choose everyday now, and that my friend is a gift.

To what do I attribute so many changes in my internal dialogue?

brain puzzleI spent years studying the way our minds work, both through personal counseling and graduate-level training at Naropa University. What a gift to understand so much about the human behavior we are surrounded with everyday. Nothing like a higher level of “people skills” to help you understand the true motivations of yourself and others. I would add that my traumatic brain injury in 2008 has played a role. Shaking up so many brain connections really does change you, and it takes a few years to fully experience and get comfortable with your mind’s new openness.

Sunflowers on a county road

With a major change in lifestyle from city busy to rural quiet, I have changed immeasurably. Now, with the luxury of so much more time to myself in nature and the quiet, I continue to learn more about myself and my apparently endless capacity to learn and grow. Moving out of the city was key to seeing beyond the limitations of urban life. City life can keep you so busy worrying about the next thing, that you don’t have time to be present with anything that’s happening right in front of you. I had to leave the city to learn about living in the present.

first view of Spring Fire Wed. towards Mt Mestas on June 27th

I am still processing the results of our recent trauma here in southern Colorado, when some complete idiot one county west started the Spring Fire, which consumed over 107,000 acres near us. The evacuation was shocking. Talk about a sudden life event that makes you consider all of your past decisions and future plans! The randomness of it all confounds you. Is it really simply weather and wind direction determining whether I have a house still? I found there came a time when I lost all composure. I could no longer pretend this was not happening to me and my home. This experience I did not choose, offered me new opportunities to explore deeper levels of that old “illusion of control” we think we maintain over our life.

NICE view of sunflowers in garden and Spanish Peaks summer 2017

I have been transfixed by a quote from Arthur Rosenfeld recently.

Perhaps you will also find his words insightful:

“…we all know how this ends, so rushing through life is senseless. As our inner life grows ever more luminous, the chatter of the speed-and-greed world slowly fades, leaving us with greater peace, tranquility, quiet and contentment.”