A trip to Abiquiu New Mexico, May 2022

In what seems like ancient history now, soon after we met I took Mike down to Abiquiu, a tiny town in northern New Mexico. I loved it there and hoped he would feel the same…

This is the land of red rocks, cacti and Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch…

When we visited in 2007 we decided to look for some land and start thinking about living there in our future. We even choose a piece of land, but then decided to reconsider.

Eventually, on one of our many trips over to see my brother in Durango, we decided we like it better up here in southern Colorado, with its wonderful open skies and spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristos. It’s certainly more moist here too!

On this trip I found the area around Abiquiu so dry and dessicated. We were both glad we didn’t choose to move there. The climate in this area is certainly changing. It is getting drier every year. Glad we chose a cooler, wetter place to put down roots for the last time.

In spite of smoke coming up from the New Mexican wildfires, our new Rocky Mountain Bluebird family seems to agree!

Spring Gardening in the Colorado Foothills

I truly do pity those who don’t have a garden to observe in the spring! Every new day is an adventure out there. I put in new perennials every year and so I must then remember where I put what, and go out and see what made it through the winter. Sometimes very subtle signs at first!

My earliest bloomer this spring were some miniature irises. Regular irises to bloom later in May or early June…

The irises even beat the tiny creeping thyme flowers (Turkish Veronica) this year!

We had a small but wonderful rain last night and so all the plants look refreshed and ready to thrive...

…and the rain also cleared the smoke out of our skies for a lovely view of the Sangre de Cristos this morning!

Mike’s been busy with his new welder too. He made a cute, little wiener dog puppy for me yesterday!

Aging & Accepting New Limits…

I am ever amazed at the distance between knowing how much my health has changed and accepting those new limits. In the past seven years I have gone from a healthy 60-year-old to one who needs supplemental oxygen to breath and help with balance and stability while walking. My highest priority now is to not fall again and suffer another head injury. I’ve already had one traumatic brain injury and several serious concussions.

Acceptance releases everything to be what it already is.

On my birthday this year I learned in no uncertain terms that I cannot walk more than a few blocks, and that is with balance assistance at all times. I have been an avid walker my whole life. I would love to know how many miles I have walked in my 65+ years. I was inspired by Thoreau’s essay on “The fine art of sauntering.”

Walking was always my best way to contemplate my doubts and troubles. If I was upset I would go for a long walk along the Big Thompson River in Loveland, or around my neighborhood in Fort Collins. There I worked things out in my mind.

This is not an option now. I fell down in my garden a couple years ago and split my upper lip badly. Even short walks are out of the question, even if Mike is there to help. I am depressed and frustrated with this change in my lifestyle, and acceptance has never been my forte. I am one stubborn person!

However, I heard something the other day which stuck with me. It was about how we may decide to focus and go deeper into our spirituality when our physical abilities wane. This has already happened to some extent, because I’m that kind of person and I am stuck inside most of the time.

Luckily I have a phenomenal view from my bed, an 180 degree view of the Sangre de Cristos!

OK, I guess I can live with this.

The rewards are in the journey!

I only wish I would have known long before I did, that the more interesting life you lead, the more fun you will have remembering it in your 60s. To celebrate my birthday this year, I have decided to share with you a few of the crazy adventures I have had through the years. These are the things I enjoy thinking about today. Sometimes it feels a bit like reading someone else’s tales, but I’m not making any of this up!

Early in my time at Colorado College, a few of us decided to go backpacking in Canyonlands in southern Utah in August of 1973. BTW, it’s super hot and dry there in August! Showing further bad judgment, we decided to split up into three separate groups.

My friend Margie and I decided to follow a trail that led to Peek-a-boo Springs and near there we found a cave with some amazing artifacts in it! We camped there for a couple days and then headed back to meet up with the other two groups, but they never arrived. We decided to talk to the rangers who were quite concerned because of the heat and extreme lack of water at that time of year. We ended up flying over the entire Salt Creek Canyon in a helicopter searching for our friends. In the meantime, the rangers got confused and called my parents to report that I was lost in Canyonlands. It all ended up fine. The one friend ran into a rattlesnake and decided to turn around. The other two hiked the whole Salt Creek Canyon and came out the other end none too worse for wear.

Then there was the time a friend and I joined up with her boyfriend and another guy who said they were being paid to move a sailboat from the west end of Puerto Rico (Mayaguez) all the way to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. For future reference, this is NOT a good plan. We were going against the wind the whole time and only made it as far as Ponce before we decided it was basically an impossible task. But three of us still wanted to see Tortola so we took a flight there for a week. We stayed on Cane Garden Bay and loved every minute of it! There were very few tourists because Hurricane Hugo had come through in September 1989, so we had the place to ourselves.

To tell you the truth, building this rural passive solar home in southern Colorado was also more of an adventure than either Mike or I were looking for. Being new here, we had no idea what we were up against, like only one building inspector for the entire county, and it just went on and on with an amazing number of major obstacles and delays. Sometimes it felt like a hopeless battle just finishing it, because our builder kept putting us off. Finally we dead-lined him with, “We’re not paying you until it’s finished.” and “We need to move out of our rental the end of July.” Finally something worked!

All in all I feel super lucky with how my life has gone. So many of the circumstances seemed like that old Chinese tale about deciding too soon that an apparent misfortune is in fact a blessing in disguise. I loved all of my river trips, backpacking trips, adventures abroad, various chance meetings and romantic liaisons, because they led me to this exact moment in this tremendously beautiful place with the love of my life. I am quite content with that.

Shoot me an e-mail if you would like to learn more about our decision to move south and our experience with building a solar home west of Walsenburg. My book: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado.

Contact me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Find A Healing Environment For Retirement

In my last post I wrote about healing relationships, relationships that truly saved my life. But I have not yet shared one of the most important transitions I have gone through in the past eight years. I hear so much these days about Boomers who are trying to find the best place to retire. Of course, that will be different for each of us, but for me, retiring as close to nature as possible has transformed me. And the irony is that I was not certain at all whether I wanted to come here in the first place.

Eight years ago at this time, Mike and I was crazy busy preparing to sell our beautiful home in the Fort Collins suburbs so we could build a passive solar home on three acres west of Walsenburg, Colorado. Mike was always convinced that this was his ideal retirement plan. I was not so sure. Still surprised that I would even be able to retire by age 60, our options still hadn’t struck me. Then, after we moved into a rundown old miner’s home in town while we built our new home 13 miles west of there, I became really worried. I could not figure out where I was for a while. You try moving from a big cosmopolitan city to a tired old town of less than 3,000 souls, then you tell me if you don’t feel a whole lot of culture shock.

Our first year down here was difficult. So many disappointments and worker slow downs in construction, not to mention health concerns. But we did prevail and moved into our brand new home a little over one year later…

Oh, did I mention the view of the Spanish Peaks and the Sangre de Cristo Range from our new home?

When we first moved in, nothing seemed real. I felt like I had moved into a fancy foothills resort and the management would be coming soon to kick us out. After living in cities and suburbia for most of my life, this felt a bit like make-believe. To finally live in a naturally warm, energy-saving home that we had designed specifically for our needs and up to our standards with a view like that? Wow! But the best was yet to come.

The escape from the frenetic energy of cities was the best! I don’t know that I can properly describe exactly how peaceful this place felt after living with all of that crowding and traffic my whole life. The silence was astounding! I loved to go out in the morning, sit down and just soak it all in; the sunrises, the bird songs, the trees, the mountains. How did I end up here?

In the years since, my love of this place has grown and grown along with my sky garden, dedicated to my brother. How was I ever so lucky? With many new health challenges including head injuries and the need for permanent supplemental oxygen, I still feel so content to watch the sunrise each morning and look out over that tremendous view, knowing that I have finally found the place I belong.

In June 2014 we packed up or got rid of most of our worldly goods, sold our home in Fort Collins, and took off for an ancient rental in Walsenburg, Colorado. It was then we named ourselves the “NEW Old Farts” because we were barely 60 years old. I have been sharing our retirement story here on this blog since October 2014; the year long passive solar construction wins and losses, the big move in and our gradual adjustment to life in rural Colorado. 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. Good luck choosing the perfect place to make your own retirement dreams come true!

Please contact me at MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com to purchase copies of any of my books. Thanks!

The Power of Healing Relationships

In my past work, many asked me if I believed that we can change emotionally or are we just stuck with our upbringing and personality traits. Can we change? Yes, but two factors were essential. The feeling of hitting bottom with little left to lose, and access to healing relationships.

I have been lucky in my adult life. I have had a number of positive experiences with truly healing relationships. The first came in my early thirties when I finally met a therapist I could learn to trust and rely on to have my best interests at heart. I know now that I would have had a very different life if I had not met this woman when I did. It took a few years, but I eventually found her completely trustworthy. I let her re-parent me in a caring, loving way, showing me that some people are worth trusting. Later I learned that she had taught me quite a lot about providing my own self-counseling in difficult situations by teaching skills of self-analysis and motive.

A few years later I studied for a M.A. degree in counseling psychology where I learned even more about trusting the wisdom of my own intuition. Your gut has decades of experience in choosing what is good for you and those ideas and people to avoid. Trust it.

All of these tools are not useful, however, if you are still second-guessing yourself, like I did with my first marriage. I knew marrying that man was a mistake, but I did it anyway. Of course, that did not end well, so by the time I hit 49 I was divorced, jobless and depressed as hell. Living on unemployment and severance provided the time and space I needed to re-imagine and re-frame my life. I spent months writing, reading my old journals and other books on self-esteem. What was next for me?

I decided that the only thing that meant anything to me at that point was to find love. Unless there was a loyal, trustworthy, generous love for me in this world, I wasn’t sure if I was interested in living the rest of my life. My priorities were clear. I started my own local, non-internet-based dating service to prove to myself and others that love was an “intriguing possibility” for all of us, even over age 50 or 60. Thus began my own proof of something I completely believe in:

“What you focus on grows!”

And, sure enough, I soon met the partner I had always dreamt of, except he certainly didn’t come in the package I had imagined! Mike was an engineer and electrical technician, not a university type at all. He wanted to learn how everything worked and fix it, plus he was also a sculptor and artist. On paper we did not match at all, but in real life we were so well-matched and happy!

After our marriage at age 50, he subsidized my search for an alternative career and then supported my new work as a free-lance writer. He gave me what we all need at some point in our lives, someone who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. Believing in myself as a writer was difficult for me in spite of fact that I had always been an avid reader and writer. I had been a university librarian for decades with three M.A. degrees at that point, and yet I needed a lot of support to become a research writer.

One factor which I’m sure has played an important role in our relationship over the years is that both of us have suffered from chronic illnesses, him when I met him, and me recently. This experience teaches us compassion for self and others, because that is the only way to survive the daily challenges of an illness that others can’t understand or cure. I often think now about how easy it used to be to walk everywhere without supplemental oxygen, and go just about anywhere I wanted to. Remember, your health will not last forever.

Since we met, over seventeen years ago, Mike has played a gigantic role in my own self-love and self-healing process. I am so grateful for his love. He shows me everyday how smart, strong and worthy of love I am. He is my best cheerleader.

To me, now, that is just about as much as we can ask from life or love!