Enjoying a Celebration of Never Moving Again!

moving Day June 2014Today marks two years since we left our perfectly nice home in suburbia for the adventure of a lifetime. It may not sound like such a big deal to move to small town USA to build a custom solar home in the southern Colorado foothills, but it was for us at age 60!

We moved to Walsenburg on June 17th 2014, to sleep on the floor of this hundred-year-old rental, moving in the next day and staying there for 13 months while our new home was forming far too SLOWLY 20 minutes west of town at 7,000 feet. Mike worked as the contractor and purchaser of all things when we found the builder was not taking competitive bids, but just hiring his local friends.

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Then on July 30th, 2015 we moved into our new home, HOME AT LAST!

For weeks after that move we just sat and stared out the window, mesmerized with the awesome views out our front windows, too exhausted to do anything else. We finally made it to our goal after many, many challenges and so many days of absolute stress.

Why did we do it? Our trip to Pueblo yesterday answers that question quickly. Being in cities always ruins my day. We need to go there occasionally to buy certain things, but the stress, the heat, the traffic, the bad air and bad manners of other drivers always convinces us we will never live there again!

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We have no patience with cities anymore, and why should we when we have a magnificent place where we can escape them?

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Today we will drink a toast to surviving all these many changes and challenges, and also to never moving again! Instead we will try to get our patio finished this summer, enjoy the great wildflower displays everywhere, the cool mountain breezes each evening, and offer encouragement to others who have found their new home in this small slice of heaven.

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

With the best of intentions, change can still be hell! Trust me, I know…

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“Even in seemingly dormant times, we are in transition. Losses and gains are in constant play. We are the change-agent, and we are changed. Even without toil, we transform. So, wisdom advises us to open our hearts to transition; to honor fully what is passing, to learn from all that unfolds, and to welcome what arrives at our door each day with courage and curiosity.”

As all who have been reading this blog for the past year or so know, I have had many doubts about this big, dramatic move Mike and I started on two years ago. Especially when we first moved to Walsenburg, and I basically hated it.

front view Deer Creek house

But then if you took anyone from a beautiful, suburban home in Fort Collins, and moved them into a tiny, dirty 100-year-old house in a sad, rundown town an hour away from any decent sized city, the shock would be total, and it was!

The challenges we have faced in the past two years have been daunting for both of us. For me the biggest challenge was simply adjusting to such a different world than I was used to. For Mike it was the many extra expenses, frustrations, and delays in building a passive solar home in a rural environment.

I am now quite happy that we made this choice, while Mike says he wouldn’t have done it if he had known how unhappy I would be in the process of adjusting to something so different.

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In retrospect I wish I had not worried so much about everything and trusted more in Mike’s vision for us, because this place is heaven. I fully appreciate how much courage and vision it took for Mike to push this whole project through to completion.

Now we live in a beautiful home that is supremely quiet, with fantastic views in every direction, and our direct-gain passive solar is working great! Plus I now feel like I’m making a few friends and slowly starting to feel like I belong here.

In summary: This place is perfect, but change can still be hell!  

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How did this happen? 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

Best of Boomer Blogs – May Day Edition

May basketsI love to remember May Day when I was a kid. We lived in a small town in Iowa where kids made simple paper May baskets, filled them with flowers, and then hung them on our neighbor’s front doors. Spring May basketsWhat FUN! Then at school we would do the Maypole dance. Such great spring singing programs! Remember “Spring is busting out all over!?”

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Unfortunately the weather is NOT cooperating here today. We are stuck in our second four day snowstorm in TWO WEEKS in southern Colorado. The good news? Over 4 inches of moisture in April! That’s my rain gauge out there…

Luckily we have a few great blog posts from some great boomer bloggers to entertain us today! First up is Carol Cassara:

Invisibility super-power.Visibility seems to be EVERYTHING in today’s intrusive social media environment–and some of the most awful influences on kids and grandkids are way too visible. Carol’s asking what you think parents (and grandparents) can do to combat the influence of negative role models in social media? At the same time, she’s lucky enough to have a nephew who appreciates the wisdom of age.

Meryl Baer of Six Decades and Counting says the pharmaceutical industry is dear to the hearts of most Americans. We buy lots of drugs, but the industry wants us to buy more. Advertisements ply us with information about all kinds of maladies and the pills that will cure them. Meryl spends too much time listening to ads, as she explains in her post:  On Becoming a Hypochondriac. 

Tom Sightings says, they’ve been talking about it for a few years now, ever since the last of their children left home. It’s a crossroads most of us must face as we retire. So navigate over to “Guess What We’re Doing?” to find out what he’s talking about — and what they’re doing.

Over at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about a new study that found working longer can extend your life. Researchers found that healthy adults who retired one year past age 65 had an 11 percent lower risk of death from all causes, even when taking into account demographic, lifestyle, and health issues.

Too bad so many us do have health issues which prevent us from working longer, or chronic unemployment. It’s also very sad thousands of midlife Americans are committing suicide at an alarming rate.

 

 

Why we love snowstorms in Colorado!

We’ve been sitting in a snowstorm here at 7,000 feet in southern Colorado for the past four days. I loved it! I wrote about this and it seemed like everyone responded with, “That sounds horrible to me!”

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This is exactly how horrible it is. When the snow clears and the Sangre de Cristo peaks emerge from the clouds, we are surrounded by incredible beauty. This is our view to the south today.

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This is our view to the west as Mount Mestas emerges from the storm.

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Besides the stunning views following a storm, we have now received two and a half inches of precipitation, about one-sixth of our total annual rainfall, leading to fields of spring flowers like Indian paintbrush, lupines, penstemon, or these lovely wild iris:

IMGP3670I took these photos last June, west of here in a high mountain meadow. The same can be said of the photo in the header of this blog, an amazing spread of spring flowers which only appear when we get some hardy spring snowstorms!

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In conclusion: If you want the rainbow, you must have the rain…

What’s not to like about living in Walsenburg and rural southern Colorado

Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of negatives in moving from a city to a rural area, so much so that I often wondered why we did it after we moved here in June 2014.

(Postscript July 2018: I forgot to mention wildfires that burn up half the county!)

We first rented a 100-year-old home in Walsenburg, while building our rural home. At the time, this was the only decent rental available in the whole area! Yes, during that first year I had many doubts about whether this area was the best choice for me.

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Our rental in Walsenburg for one year…

Driving through Walsenburg, you will see a sad little town that has certainly seen better days. To quote the city of Walsenburg page:

“Incorporated on June 16, 1873, Walsenburg was the first statutory city and seventh incorporated municipality in the Territory of Colorado. Walsenburg, an irregular plateau broken by numerous narrow fertile valleys in the east, rising to the Culebra Range of the Sangre de Cristo in the west and the Spanish Peaks in the south. Elevation is 6,126 feet. Average annual precipitation is 15.8 inches. 300+ days of sunshine.” 

The town enjoyed its highest population numbers (around 5,000 souls) in the 1930s through the 60s when coal mining was king. It now has fallen below 3,000. We do have two grocery stores, a few motels, three fast food places, and a few good restaurants. Two highlights are the La Plaza Inn, built in 1907, and the historic Fox Movie Theater. 

In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t worried so much about enjoying my new life here. Sure it is inconvenient to have to drive to larger towns for certain things and some medical care, but the real point is that living here is good for my health. It took a while, but I eventually understood the subtle and not so subtle effects of stress on my body, spirit, and mind. It was only after living without city stress for a while, that I saw what a toll it was taking on me. Only in this quiet, natural setting have I learned to be present with this moment, a goal I have held for years.

It’s true I didn’t enjoy living in Walsenburg. I found the town depressing. But now that we live in the foothills west of there, I like going into town. It no longer bums me out. I just needed to realize that we have traded the many conveniences of living in a city for incredible natural beauty and glorious silence in a world with so little of that.

When I consider the negatives of where we live now, the worst is the terrible wind storms we can have, with fine dust blowing everywhere. This is a semi-arid climate so it dries out everything including your skin.

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Springtime in the Rockies!

We have to be ever mindful of the seasonal moisture here and plant only plants native to this area. The wildflowers can be beautiful down here, (please see the yellow flowers on the header of this blog), but it all depends on the rain and snow cycles.

Laura and rasta close upI’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado   Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!   –Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

Wins and losses when moving from Fort Collins to the southern Colorado foothills

We moved from Fort Collins to here in June of 2014 to build a direct gain passive solar home in the foothills west of Walsenburg. We rented a hundred-year-old house in town for 13 months while building our own version of a retirement dream home. There would be few surprises when we finally arrived in our new home, but moving to Walsenburg was the greatest culture shock.

When you decide to move to a very small town after living in the city most of your life, false assumptions can be made. After all, you really don’t know exactly what to expect, because you have never lived in such a tiny town before.

The first mistake we made was assuming that rentals would be available in both La Veta and Walsenburg in June. We discovered the end of May there were none we would even consider living in, and we were closing on our house the middle of June! We quickly made friends with Susie, the primary realtor in Walsenburg, and offered her a hefty bonus if she would find us something quick.

We also assumed utilities would be much cheaper in a small town, but we were wrong about that too. We did call the utility departments for both La Veta and Walsenburg before renting, and quickly discovered that only propane heating was available in La Veta. That would add up quite quickly in this cold part of the country, so we began leaning more towards Walsenburg in our selection process.

One thing we never would have guessed is that city water in Walsenburg would cost over $60 a month BEFORE you figured in how much you used that month! This town has lost about a third of its population in the past decade, so their water capacity is far larger than they need or can pay for, one reason why they are welcoming marijuana grow operations at present.

We did find a decent house to rent just in time, but it was so small we had to find additional storage for some of our furniture. The local realtor helped us with that too.

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Work finally began on our new passive solar home in December 2014!

One total win for us was how friendly and welcoming our new landlord Bob was. He helped us whenever he could, and even provided new music for us to listen to as we explored our new home county. He then invited us up to his commune home near Gardner, where he has lived since the 1970s. The people who live in the communes in the northern part of Huerfano county have been so friendly and welcoming!

Another total win has been the quiet beauty of this part of Colorado. The views are phenomenal down here, and the weather is just a bit milder than up north. We love it! It’s definitely big sky country!

Most of the people we have met here have been friendly at least at first, although most seem hesitant to truly welcome new people. Most don’t seem to want to be friends. I’m still trying to figure that one out. I have heard a few interesting explanations so far!

I wrote quite a bit about making friends here in my journal, which then turned into a published memoir. When asked whether it was OK to write about how others have treated me here, I turn to Anne Lamott:

“Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

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Sunrises are outrageous at 7,000 feet with no neighbors!

It’s been a long & winding road to this wonderful home in the foothills below those beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains, one I’d love to share with you!