Moving and finding good services

I feel like I have moved a million times in my life. One of the most memorable was in junior high. I got so stressed out on my first day of school I actually started crying in gym class. The stress was just too much when I couldn’t find my next classroom, and everyone else seemed to know exactly where they were going.

That’s one of the reasons why I am so glad my final move is finally behind me. How do I know? Because after two years here, I have finally found someone who can cut my hair properly.

Yes, one of the toughest parts of moving is lining up all the service people you will need in your new area to make you feel comfortable doing things like buying the foods you love, grooming your dog, getting a great massage, and loving your new haircut.

In a combination of two tiny towns with a total of less than 4,000 people, good services can be hard to find. That was one of my original reasons for trying to make friends here, for good referrals! Since we only have two grocery stores and one dog groomer in the entire county, that search was easy. But I had to try three different hair stylists to find one I really like.

Medical services have been much more complicated. One of the reasons we thought this area was a good choice was because there is an emergency room, a small hospital and a nursing home nearby. Come to find out the service is very good at these places, but the financial end of things is completely screwed up, to the point where many will not go there simply because they mess up the billing so badly.

If you receive a bill ever, it is usually far more than six months later, so you can’t even remember what you went to the doctor for, and they always mess up the insurance payments. We’ve started driving 40 minutes to Colorado City or even as far as Pueblo for medical care, mainly because things are too messed up here! Alas, the many things you don’t find out until after you move somewhere new.

shoulder-massageI still haven’t found a good massage therapist around here, and I really need one! I had the most incredible one up in Loveland. She was such a good friend and master masseuse. No one else can even come close!

How did I end up here, feeling so fortunate?

It’s a long story, one I can now share with you in my new memoir!

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Getting used to something so right…

I was singing along with that old Paul Simon song, “Can’t get used to something so right…” this morning, and realized sometimes I have that problem myself.

After over two years in the brand new world (for me) of rural southern Colorado, I would say I’m just beginning to settle in.

This adventure started back in mid-June of 2014, and I can assure you I wasn’t sure at all about this place. It all seemed so backward, slow and poor to me after living in Loveland and Fort Collins for years. People kept asking me why we moved here, and I wasn’t so sure myself. Luckily my husband is an “eyes-on-the prize” kind of man. He knew exactly why he was here!

My first year here was not good. Between feeling like a fish out of water myself, and the extremely challenging feat of building a custom solar home out in the foothills, my best description is STRESS CITY!

But once we moved out of Walsenburg and settled into our new home, life improved dramatically. After so much stress and our second move in a year, we spent weeks doing very little but enjoying our marvelous new environment…

AMAZING sunrise over the Spanish Peaks January 2018

OK, we spent most of our first winter here doing that!

One thing you need to know about this part of the country, things really do slow down here in the winter. I can remember days last winter when I went into La Veta, and it looked like a deserted ghost town.

In the spring things liven up quite a bit. The tourists start coming down here and clogging up Main Street in Walsenburg. This past spring I started taking a yoga class and walking around La Veta in the mornings. I also started making a few friends and feeling more like I belong here.

Laura standing at build site before slab 2014

Just yesterday I realized how right this place feels to me now. I love living in the country, I have a wonderful husband and home, I have new friends who care, and I rarely have to deal with all the things I hated in the city.

Life is good and getting better. Mission accomplished!

Want to learn more about the experience of moving from the city to the country to live a quiet, relaxed life? Check it out here!

How Living Close To Nature Can Change You

NICE view of sunflowers in garden and Spanish Peaks summer 2017

just finished my memoir about what it feels like to move from the cities in the front range to rural Colorado. In 2014 we moved from Fort Collins, with the 6th largest county population in Colorado (333,577), to the least populated, Huerfano at about 6,500 souls.

The Huerfano means orphan in Spanish, and so many of us here are orphans, because we are elders. We lived in the town of Walsenburg (pop. 3,000) for our first year here, while building a custom passive solar home to the west. As we complete our first full year of living in the foothills, close to nature, I find those who live in cities to be busy, always busy. What is that doing to their soul?

I feel I have learned so much on this topic by living close to nature for the past year. Getting far from any city has been a reawakening for me, and living here permanently is a wonder. I love to experience those unique emotional experiences which defy our habitual way of thinking. Living here has been all about defying my previous limited state of mind. I called myself “metrofied” before I moved here, but I had no idea how horribly stuck I was in “city think.”

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It is so soothing to observe how cities change us, and then leave, transitioning to a slower, calmer way of being. In my first year here I became aware of the constant anxiety level I maintained by living in cities. Then I slowly let it go. When I feel anxious now, I quickly see there is truly no reason for this feeling. Now, only when I get impatient or angry do I realize that I used to feel that way so much of the time back in Fort Collins, where the traffic was horrendous, and everyone was some form of tense.

The true change for me is the awareness that I can now live in the present. I have been seeking this experience for most of my life. Instead of worrying about the past or demanding more in my future, I can just be here now, loving my life. The down side to this new way of being? Great difficulties going back into cities! I don’t want to waste one more moment of my limited lifespan sitting in traffic and breathing city air.

I am filled with gratitude that I can now live in nature forever…

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”  —   Henry David Thoreau

Laura and rasta close up

Want to learn more about moving from a good-sized city to the outback? Then check out my book: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado 

Share this information with your friends, and please feel free to contact me directly to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

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My Brother John is a blessing!

IMGP5231We had a very welcome visitor this July. My brother John came up from Sedona Arizona to visit for three weeks. Why was he so welcome? Well, besides the fact that I hadn’t spent any time with him in years, he spent most of his time here working around our property in the hot summer sun.

See, John has been a  “dirt guy”  his whole life. He understands how to prepare ground in a very level way so that concrete can be laid and drain effectively. There is so much more to know than I ever imagined about preparing soil properly so your home doesn’t wash away!

patio before concrete Comanche drive

We were in need of a lot of dirt work to prepare for a new concrete patio on the south side of our home. John did all of that work by hand, and then proceeded to fix our driveway, so it drained properly and nobody was tempted to run over the drains and ruin them. He also shared lots of good information about weather patterns, clouds, etc.

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We kept telling him to relax more, but he said this was nothing compared to the work he is used to down in Arizona. And as an added bonus he played beautiful acoustic guitar outside my window each night as I was going to sleep.

Now that’s one great brother…

It was so fun hanging out with him. Who else remembers all the crazy things we used to say and do as kids? Who else can still sing along with Frank Zappa’s Mother-mania album, the one our Mom really hated?

So wonderful to spend time with my big brother again!

High in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains: Foothills versus Mountain Living in Southern Colorado

Yesterday was so interesting! We visited some new friends who have lived up above 8,000 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains west of here for the past few years. Loved hearing their stories about living up high.

I know many have romantic visions of life up in those beautiful mountains, but remember this too:

Manuel's snow tractor

The approach to their house is a windy, dirt road off of a major highway, a road they and their few neighbors must maintain, unlike the county road we live off of, 15 miles west of Walsenburg. Once they came home a few years ago and there was 6 feet of snow on this road. They couldn’t go home!

We heard stories about when the deep snows come, and the big state highway snowplows plow their road closed! That’s why they need to maintain snow-moving equipment themselves….imagine that!

snow over the windows

I asked them how deep the snow gets up there, and they decided one picture was worth a thousand words!

WOW! We have had a few snows of a foot or so, but nothing like this! They told us stories of  a few snowstorms where they shoveled for eight hours straight. If they didn’t have heavy equipment they wouldn’t be able to get out for weeks!

Their property includes an old straw-bale cabin on a mine site plus 100 acres. Their water comes from a spring nearby, and what delicious water it is! They heat with a large wood stove, which requires a great amount of log splitting to prepare for the winter cold. They have electric service, mainly because the costs of returning renewal energy back to the grid here requires outrageous fees and insurance requirements, and going off grid presents other problems with reliability and initial  installation costs. We are stuck here until better energy storage solutions are developed worldwide.

The natural beauty of their landscape is beyond words and, did I mention, they have no water or heating bills… They maintain a number of wildlife cameras and see so many different animals around their home. Bears are so commonplace that they have named a few of them! It’s a wonderful place that requires a lot of work to maintain.

We recently built a passive solar home right at 7,000 feet and are told by our new friends that we are really saving a lot of money in the winter by absorbing the sun’s heat directly into our insulated slab, which helps to hold the daily sun’s heat within our home overnight.

solar water tubesWe hope to add a few of these solar thermal water tubes to our home soon to increase our thermal mass and help to moderate temperature swings both in the winter and summer. Beyond solar, we depend on Cadet forced-air electric wall heaters on thermostats for all of our winter heating needs. They usual turn themselves on during the night and turn off soon after the sun comes up most days. In the summer, the positioning and excellent insulation in our new home keeps us cooler than most without the need for air conditioning. We have ceiling fans in every room.

We have rarely been “snowed in” this past winter, but we did purchase a Subaru and love how well it works on steep snowy roads. Overall, we’re glad we chose a lower elevation. I can’t breathe any higher! We’re doing great right where we are!

memoir of retirement 2016We are newcomers to rural Colorado, so after two years I compiled a book about the total experience of moving here to build passive solar  in the foothills:  A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado Please feel free to contact me directly for copies of any of my books! MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

A Few Lifestyle Differences Between City and Rural Folks in Colorado

After 60 years of living in cities, I moved to rural Colorado 2 years ago. Here are some of the differences I have observed between those who choose to live in or near cities, and those who seek out the rural areas of our country.

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The most obvious difference is a love of silence and nature. We had my brother John here for the past few weeks and he spent almost all of his waking hours sitting outside observing the birds, the plants, the bugs, the clouds and the weather. I told you before that I call him “Mother Nature’s Son” and for good reason. Rural America is only for those who greatly prefer a natural setting to high stress, traffic, noise, hustle and bustle and an incredible array of shopping options.

Our sense of time and relaxation is different here. Sure there are lots of hard-working people in the outback, but time takes on a different meaning here. The only people here who are in a great hurry are the outsiders, the locals live on a more relaxed schedule. No hurry to get on to the next task, take your time and do it right. As I mentioned previously when I wrote about the only time we went back to Fort Collins in our two years here:

“I saw people everywhere waiting for something, a place to park, a place to sit in a restaurant, a chance to go through the next stop light, an opportunity to pay for their purchase.” 

Sunflowers on a county road

My commute to La Veta….

Even today, I still find myself sometimes getting anxious when I’m preparing to go somewhere in town. Will it be crowded? Will I be able to get in? And then I arrive and there is hardly anybody there. It takes time to adjust to little traffic and no big rush.

One wonderful, interesting result of no longer sitting in traffic with my foot on the brake constantly, no more right knee pain! I injured that knee in a ski accident in high school, and was planning on treating the long-term pain with surgery before I moved here. Now, my knee is fine.

One discovery for me has been how important religion is out here in the country. I have found one of the great delineators between people is what church you attend, or if you are even religious. In discussions with new people, church almost always comes up. My religion is nature and the earth is my church. Some here can understand that perspective and many cannot. They would prefer that I come to their church.

The other important issue locally seems to be whether you smoke marijuana or not. In some cases I have begun friendships only to find them backing away when the subject of marijuana comes up.

As far as new friendships go, I would say rural people are more hesitant to welcome newcomers into their life. I have heard that they like to wait a few years to see if you will be sticking around before actually becoming friends. And then there are those who came here for the purpose of being alone permanently.

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Overall I am surprised at how different rural living can be. It has certainly changed me in so many good ways. I have so much less anxiety and stress, that I almost cannot tolerate how bad I feel when I go to even small cities. I feel my anxiety level rising immediately…

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I now fully embrace my love of silence and nature, so I will continue my quest for like-minded souls in this area.

 

Laura and Rasta on insulation 2014 (2)I’m new to southern Colorado. After two years I decided to compile a book about the ups and downs of moving from Fort Collins Colorado to west of Walsenburg to build a passive solar retirement home:  A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please contact me directly to order your own signed copies of any of my books!   Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

Oh, the lives that could have been…

Isn’t it fun to fantasize about the other lives you might have had if your mind had been more open, and you had known yourself better in your 20’s, when you chose your first career?

Flower Arrangement

I love working with living things and color!

Rooting and transplanting different kinds of plants and succulents is one of my favorite pastimes now, and I love growing all sorts of plants!

I see only now how much more fun I would have had if I had found some kind of work in some artistic field like floral design or gardening. I feel I could have expressed my full being through a job like that.

It seems to me now, that I was so pre-programmed to work in universities. I do completely enjoy reading, thinking and the freedom of my own intellect. I love intellectual exchanges with others. But I also love the beauty and freedom of light and color.

 harpPerhaps I could have been a painter in another life or a musician. I have fantasies of playing the harp lately.                 No, not something practical like the guitar, the harp!               What does that mean? Perhaps I’m headed for heaven? Or is hell looking for a harpist.

marijuana leafOf course, there’s still time. It seems like everyone presently moving to this rural Colorado county wants to become a ‘grower.’ Perhaps I can still run a greenhouse eventually, and put my green thumb to good use. At least I can plan how glorious my new gardens will be here, after we get our patio done!

It’s never too late to find out who you might have been!

I am filled with gratitude that I can now live like this forever.  Please go learn more about our move from Fort Collins to here in my new memoir!