The Wildlife in My Wild Life – Photo Essay

Since I live in Colorado, I’m always on the lookout for wildlife. I’ve spotted them on hikes, while skiing, or through a car window. Prehistoric porcupines, bear, elk, common deer, bighorn sheep, you name it. But this year, my wild life has gotten wilder. Several otherwise elusive creatures have made appearances in the most unlikely of places: My home.

Bullsnakes have made their way into my home twice. A newborn made its way through a light fixture since I found it on top of my flat file. It became a pet for the winter. The kids released it the following summer. The other must have pushed its way through the doggie door. I thought it was one of the rubber snakes from downstairs carried by our Bichon, Roxy. Nope! I put it in an aquarium until the weather warmed up and then let it go. The one in the picture was full grown (about four feet long) when I found in the garage. I picked it up and released it into the garden.

bull snake in yard

Several families of owls love to perch on and around my house. As the sun sets every night, I can hear a couple hoo-hooting to each other.

owl hanging out on roof

Two weeks ago, something hit a window. I rushed to my back door to see. A baby owl sat on the stoop. I waited until he flew away to be sure he didn’t become dinner for one of several hungry predators who lurk in our yard at night.

Last week, I heard the most annoying screeching sound. When the dog went nuts, I ran to the window. A huge owl stood on a planter screeching, “Good morning.” Ha! Worst sound ever.

Click to see the video –

While in Europe after a disastrous water leak from a demon washing machine, our wood floor guy, Nick took pictures of a lynx! Yes, this is our deck.

IMG_2653

According to my neighbor, two bobcats hung out at the front door while we were gone. Make yourself at home, why don’t ya? Of course, I never saw them after returning from our trip. Gah!

IMG_2654

In April, an enormous gold “housecat” walked around the pond. Later, I found out a young cougar has made our neighborhood its hangout. Unlike the lynx in the photo above, its tail is long. It’s a yearling and still pretty small, but the doggie door is shut until further notice. Poor Roxy.

Remember Roxy and the Coywolf? I don’t trust that she’s learned her lesson. She got lucky when that beast laughed and released her from its jaws in 2015. This time too.

Roxy in the window

As I’m typing this, I’m at a desk in the window being totally distracted by the backyard view. You never know what might take a shortcut through our property…

Our family had an unexpected visit last Sunday up in Breckenridge. I’ve seen them at Brainard Lake, at the bottom of Peak 7, but not in my neighborhood!

My husband, Danny, rushed toward me as I walked out of the kitchen. He had an insane look on his face. My first thought was whatever he would say next would be completely sarcastic. “There’s a moose in the driveway!” he screamed. Yes. SCREAMED!

Stained glass windows flank the front door. I saw a massive black shadow beyond. Instead of running for my camera, I rushed downstairs and shouted to my son who talked with his girlfriend on the phone.

He ran upstairs and used Facetime to show her the incredible sight. Right outside our picture window stood a full-grown male moose complete with wicked cool antlers. A yearling grazed nearby. We trapped the dogs in the basement to keep them from frightening the pair.

When my wild life meets wildlife

Click to see the video –

After taking a few photos, we caught our breath. Minutes later, another shadow graced our front doorway. The cow brought up the rear of the little family.

Incredible!

As the sun sinks lower in the sky, I’m still waiting for my glimpse of the elusive wildcats. It’s 4:30 and owls have begun their hooting chant. Another just landed on our roof. The raccoons will scout and a pack of coyotes may send out an eerie cry.

I love where I live. There’s plenty of room for all of us.

Click for more of my Wild Ride.

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Taking It to New Heights – A snake encounter…

Have you seen any unusual wildlife? Has your life gotten wilder lately?

10 Life Hacks in Time for the Holidays!

Most of us look forward to the holidays, but not the stress that comes with them. I have learned several life hacks the hard way through trial and many errors. My family has four birthday celebrations between November and December so I had to learn how to stay chill and enjoy myself while hosting and organizing these events. Believe me.  I love it when everyone is together and want to be my best self. So how the heck do I do that?

10 Life Hacks in Time for the Holidays

Take care of yourself first.

Stress causes the build-up of cortisol which in turn makes fat. Sugar intake rises for most of us this time of year too. No one wants to gain weight over the holidays. Keep moving. Exercise gets those endorphins surging. It feels good.

Take a break from the hubbub. Walk your dog. Walk your neighbor’s dog. Do you have company? Ask them to join you for a walk. You may start a new holiday tradition!

The family on Thanksgiving day

Take the time to sit down and eat well. Drink lots of water. Turn off the TV and Internet an hour before bed to sleep better. I covered up the LED lights in my bedroom and it made a huge difference.

Recognize your limitations.

I could never figure out why I got so stressed out when others offered to help or to keep me company in the kitchen while I cooked. It would take twice as long and I missed out on a lot of the festivities. I finally realized I’m ADD and can’t concentrate. I’m so much happier in my own little world. I make a lot fewer mistakes too!

Have the opposite problem? Delegate. Ask for help. Give everyone a job. They’ll all feel like they contributed and you’ll have a lot more time to hang out together.

My son and daughter both cooked for Friendsgiving this year. Their secret is out. I will engage their expertise this year.

Lower your expectations.

No matter how you envision holidays, they are never what you expect. We are surrounded by images of perfect families, especially on Facebook. REALITY CHECK: There is no such thing. We’re human, remember?

Instead of using the time envisioning the perfect holidays, be productive…

Stop the constant updates on social media. Be in the moment instead.

Are you a Facebook or Instagram fanatic? Stop. I still can’t figure out why everyone is so obsessed with wanting to look at everyone’s personal photos. Think about it.

Would you go to a friend’s house to spend an evening perusing their photo albums?

Not me. It becomes addicting when posting to see how many people like them. I’m a blogger. I get that. But I a little goes a long way to connect with friends and family.

Have phone-free zones.

Have you ever looked around a restaurant and seen dozens of people with their noses in their phones? It’s terrible. Our population has grown exponentially, but we are more isolated than ever. Communicate the old-fashioned way. Face to face.

 

Purchase gifts online.

This is a no-brainer, but I still spent hours shopping for my husband a week ago. Why??? Looking back, I could have easily bought everything in a half hour and had it shipped to my door. Lesson learned.

Ask for links when getting loved one’s Christmas lists. My daughter is the bomb at this. She gets exactly what she wants.

Create some Hygge moments.

Hygge is a Scandinavian lifestyle. My previous post listed some Hygge moments to slow down and relax. Time is fleeting. Soon it will be January. Find ways to add comfort and joy to your holiday season. That last sentence seems so familiar…

Be thankful.

This may seem trite until you actually sit down and write a gratitude list. After my brother died in March, writing in a gratitude journal helped me through some rough patches by focusing on the most positive moments of each day. Before going to sleep, make a list of three good things that happened. It works!

Meditate.

Do you have five minutes? I bet you do. Go to Insight Timer or another one of hundreds of meditation apps. Listen to one and tune out the noise. Feel better. It will also help with focus. That’s something in short supply for me during the holidays. I’m like an ADD Tazmanian Devil. Yep. Slowing down for me is a challenge.

Stay organized – Make a bullet point journal.

This really blew up this year. When I first saw blog titles with that name, I shrugged. I already was a list maker. My super simple bullet point journaling is very different!

bullet point journaling tools

It really helps me to keep habits like meditating or entering in my gratitude journal. Filling in the bubbles is a rush. I’m all about endorphin rushes.

I’m sure there’s a ton more to add, but the holidays are almost upon us and my list is long. I hope you have a fabulous holiday season this year!

Do you have any suggestions to add to the list? Which one can you relate to most?

Click for more adventure on the Wild Ride!

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Super Easy Bullet Point Journaling for the Holidays

How to Have a Hygge Life!

Dear Holiday Diary, Mistakes were made.

How to Have a Hygge Life!

When I learned about Hygge and what it meant, I wanted to add more to my life here in Colorado.

Hygge is a Scandinavian word, pronounced hue-gah, used to describe an extraordinary moment during an otherwise ordinary day by being aware of the feeling of coziness and charm in order to slow our fast-paced life.

The word blew up in 2016 and was soon added to American dictionaries. Life has become more stressful for a lot of people. Hygge focuses on what makes you comfortable and happy. As the northern hemisphere slides into winter, I am all about Hygge moments.

Hygge can be experienced through a solitary or group activity. I’ve seen many examples, from wearing pajamas while sipping hot chocolate and reading a book, to small gatherings with friends.

Hygge’s definition depends on your unique lifestyle. Colorado is known for its active people.  When I’m not tapping away on my computer, I’m looking for outdoor adventures. I tend to shoot through life in hyperdrive. It’s important to slow down and enjoy its simplicity.

It’s snowing here in the mountains and I’m having a Hygge moment right now!

How to add Hygge to your lifestyle

My Colorado Hygge moments:

Some of my Hygge moments could be enjoyed by anyone in the world, others not so much.

Spend time with friends.

October Haunted book club at my house included eating appetizers in my living room. See the ghost, (Wendi) on the couch? Cooking dinner ran late so we had extra time to catch up! Our group has been together for more than fifteen years.

Haunted book club

Stop to enjoy the view.

No matter where you live, you can find and appreciate beauty. Instead of rushing down the sidewalk, check out a building’s architecture, the nature that surrounds you, or the clouds that scud across the sky. Embrace life when you can.

On the way back down from the mountains last weekend, my husband, Danny, and I drove to Echo Lake located below a 14,000-foot peak, called Mount Evans. As the sun set behind the mountains, the thin ice proved reflective and breath-taking in its texture.

Echo Lake, Colorado

Do what makes you happy like decorate for the holidays.

I have boxes filled with Halloween and Christmas decor and unpack them whether we entertain or not. Being surrounded by my favorite decorations makes me feel warm and happy.

Take time to make a meal.

Instead of inhaling food, it’s important to sit down and enjoy meals. I can smell the bacon sizzling in the pan. Okay, I’m really salivating now…

Mountain breakfast

Take a break.

To warm up and rest my muscles when I ski, I pour a hot chocolate and relax in the lodge. I prefer to sit near a window while enjoying the sweet concoction.

A Hygge Day in Colorado

Watch Memories on my iPhone.

I discovered a great new way to embrace special moments. I may be the last person to find “Memories” at the bottom of Moments in my iPhone’s photos. It’s a slideshow that includes snippets of video. Now I realize how important it is to delete pictures of my feet since it sometimes includes them. Ha!

Take a bubble bath in or outdoors.

I had a tough workout last Wednesday and took a hot tub to silence the screams of my minuscule muscles. The hum of the motor and the rush of water always soothes me.  I love watching birds flit from tree to tree and always watch for wildlife. A mountain lion and lynx have been spotted recently. Whoa!

Sometimes a friend joins me. So, I know hot tubs are no place for dogs, but she jumped in and finally lost her curiosity. Ha!

A friend in the hot tub

Light a candle or stoke up a fire.

In Colorado, most fireplaces are gas since we have a problem when heat inversions which trap pollution in the atmosphere. I love to flip the switch on my gas fireplace and mellow out in pajamas while watching the flicker of the flames. Or if the fire danger is low, have a bonfire with friends or family. Tell a ghost story or two. Surely you will experience a Hygge moment when you cuddle in a blanket and a shiver ripples up your spine.

bonfire

Meditate.

Insight Timer is a terrific app for tuning out the world to center and release stress. You can choose from guided and unguided meditations. It is good for the body and the soul. Find a warm, comfy space and peace-out for ten minutes. Enjoy your Hygge moment!

Create.

When our brains unlock creative flow while writing, painting, drawing, or when engaging in any other arts or craft activity, a sense of peace is released. Embrace this amazing feeling. Be aware of what you accomplished!

NOTE TO SELF: Start on this year’s Christmas card. Tick, tock…

illustrated christmas cards

Bake!

Ever since my kids went to college, I’ve baked a lot less. Making cookies and cakes for two can be hazardous to one’s waistline. Now that the weather is colder and the holidays approach, I yearn to bake bread and rolls. There’s nothing like the accomplishment of creating while the heavenly scent rises from the oven. Yum!

 

Cooling on the racks.

Spend time with family.

Since my son lives in California and my mom lives in Wisconsin, the moments we share are precious. Being an empty-nester, I truly cherish the time when everyone is home. I try slow down and live in the present moment, like this one.

Courtney, Grandma, and Kelly

Last night, I took a long hot shower. While wearing my favorite fleece pajamas, I made a cup of Sleepytime tea. I flipped the switch on the gas fireplace and slipped under the covers to read a book. Roxy cuddled next to me and kept me warm. After my Hygge moment, I slept really well!

I can’t wait to celebrate our family birthdays and holidays in November and December.

Lots of Hygge moments ahead! Onto that Christmas card…

 

Had you heard of Hygge? What are your favorite ways to bring a sense of comfort and coziness to your life?

Click for more adventures on the Wild Ride!

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Viewing the Eclipse by Looking Down!

While everyone else looked up in the sky, I looked down and made an amazing discovery.

When I learned the total eclipse could be experienced by traveling for under three hours to Wyoming, I mapped it out. Predicted traffic woes changed my view. I decided to stay in my own backyard. Experts explained that even with 94% of the sun blocked out, 6% would be enough to ruin the blackout effect. They were right and yet I discovered something else by looking down.

First I setup my camera since I wanted to record anything weird that happened, like a freak migration of owls or a coyote stampede. When that didn’t happen, I slacklined during the beginning of the eclipse.

FullSizeRender (56)

I couldn’t view anything in those black lenses, so I kept my head up for once.

Note to Self: Wear blackout shades when slacklining from now on.

The scientists were right and the eclipse dimmed the light and cooled the temperature, but it wasn’t super dark.

But this discovery really excited me. I looked down and viewed thousands of eclipses. They danced upon my patio!

eclipse leaf patterns from tree

Click below to watch them dance: Continue reading

A Day in London with Charles Dickens: Photo Essay

A day in London exploring Charles Dickens and his haunts.

A visit with Charles Dickens made the top of my list as I traveled by train from Gatwick to London. So far, the trip to Europe had exceeded anything in my crazy imagination. I brought comfy shoes and planned to walk everywhere. After recent terror attacks, I hoped it would be enjoyable and police presence wouldn’t spoil the mood. Quite the opposite happened. I discussed how Londoners fight terrorism. So very simple, isn’t it? (Adopting the English manner of speaking to get you in the mood.) Instead, the city was filled with families enjoying the day. Any sort of trepidation melted away in the London sunshine.

The Grange Wellington Hotel, chosen by the crew from the Bloggers Bash, proved to be a great location for sightseeing. Many tourist attractions were located nearby.

First stop: Buckingham Palace.

The timing couldn’t have been better. As my husband, Danny, and I approached the Palace, the Changing of the Guard began. I didn’t know they had a marching band too. Very cool! I walked by the gate and snapped a photo while security kept me moving.

I wonder what that little boy is thinking. Did toilet paper stick to my shoe?

This photo needs a caption: Continue reading

A Gym Where Nobody Knows My Name

Chances are, you’ve been a member of a gym or fitness club sometime in your life. You probably made some friends and they helped motivate you to work out. What do you do when you burn out even though everyone knows your name?

My gym experience started in an auspicious way. I snuck into Vic Tanny – the first fitness chain in the US – a few times with a friend to use the hot tub for my notorious knee injury in the 80’s. One day, I got busted. I threw up my hands and signed up. Best thing I ever did. I’ve continued to belong to fitness clubs ever since. I joined the last one to meet others from my neighborhood. I played competitive tennis as a member until diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer and subsequent double boobectomies in 2013, but it was a partial knee replacement a year later that really slowed me down. I tried physical therapy, fitness classes, and yoga, but nothing made the impact I needed to get back into fighting shape.

Typical day in 2016:

“Come on, let’s go to class,” I said to myself.

“But I’m in the middle of writing,” myself countered.

“You’re always writing,” I said.

“In a minute.” I adjusted my focus back on the computer and another day passed.

In January, I set reasonable goals for myself. All are within my own control. Priority #1 is to become fit and strong once again. How would I accomplish my goals if I couldn’t motivate? After being a member for sixteen years, I needed a change.

My kids are members of 24 Hour Fitness, so I checked it out. I looked forward to a gym where nobody knows my name. It would be fun to start fresh and meet new people. Maybe I’d learn something new.

During a three day trial, I checked out a few classes including yoga. The gym filled with Boulderites. I rolled out my mat between a middle-aged woman who had a lot of plastic surgery and a cross-dresser complete with blond wig. I had found my people!

My membership came with a free hour of personal training. After a wicked session with TRX, (straps used by Navy Seals when stationed on ships), free weights, and dead lifts, my muscles groaned. But it felt good to wake up with sore muscles. I hadn’t considered weight training, but remembered hearing how it strengthens bone. My anti-cancer medication, Anastrozole, obliterates estrogen which is what my cancer ate, but also dissolves bone. I don’t want to become shrinky dinky because of skeletal fractures. That would not be good, at all. I’m short enough at 5’4″.

With the help of Brian, the fitness manager, and Sam, a personal trainer, I am officially locked and loaded with sessions bought through a package. Soon, they’ll set me loose to train on my own. Oh, wow… That’s coming up soon. Scheduling me for gym time started a new habit. Endorphin addiction will keep me going.

In the meantime, I’m learning all kinds of torture chamber methods to wake up my minuscule muscles. I trained today and can feel them crying out for mercy. They are total wimps and woosies.

“Pipe down,” I said to my whiny muscles, “You need to be exercised. It’s good for you! We can try new adventures again knowing that I won’t hurt myself because of your puniness.”

“All right. You don’t have to yell.”

I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, two people know my name at my new gym and that’s A-okay.

Clowning around at 24 Hour Fitness

Do you belong to a gym? Do people know your name? Are you a gym rat or a occasional user? I’m striving for the rat category.

When Destiny Packs Your Bags

ducks in a row

Doesn’t it always seem when you get your proverbial ducklings to trot single file, Destiny senses your achievement and watches like a lurking bully? Just as you hit your stride it jumps from the bushes and scatters them. Yup. Big D loves to mess with us. We can’t predict what life has in store for us, EVER!

“You think you’re in control of things? Ha!” says Big D, “You crack me up, Susie Lindau.” Destiny always has other plans in order to teach us life lessons.

This was the year I wanted to hunker down to finish projects, enter contests and get into super shape. Most important to me was to start a regular routine to balance my life and accomplish more in less time. Destiny buckled over it laughed so hard.

When my brother, Joe, died in March, shock pulled more than five weeks from my stellar equation to reach 2017’s goals. During that time I shelved most of my writing, but made some positive changes. I write in a gratitude journal every night and refocused my goals after finally learning about the fragility of life. You’d think breast cancer would have taught me that.

Destiny crosses its arms and shakes its head.

But Destiny also taught me to take opportunities presented NOW. I won’t wait for a better time in the future. You never know what’s ahead. Since adventure’s my thing, I decided I wanted to travel a lot more, but I wasn’t sure how I would balance that with hunkering down. I figured once things settled down after the funeral, I could get a ton done and plan an adventure sometime next fall. Ha! In hindsight, Destiny and I both share a laugh over that naive thought.

My husband and I returned home between Joe’s death and the funeral and discovered water pouring through the ceiling of our house from my demon washing machine. I took it as a cosmic joke and cliché moment about how life goes on and most of the setbacks are fixable. I figured we would patch up the ceiling and move on.

“Gotcha, Destiny.” I clucked my tongue and winked.

Big D shook its head. It had other plans.

So we’ve been inundated with workers since March 14th. Driers, contractors, drywallers, painters and soon the wood floors will be redone. My routine has been blown to hell. Instead, I carve out a few hours each day while workers come and go.

Then we heard from our insurance company. Are you sitting down? Because the water leaked out of the room into the hall, ALL of the wood floors on our first floor will be refinished along with my son’s room. The furniture has to be moved out. I threw up my hands and shook my fist at the Destiny. “Quit screwing with us, Destiny!”

My stomach has been knotted while waiting to get back to a normal life.

Then I discovered we need to move out of the house for almost THREE WEEKS! Another setback. We planned to drive to Breckenridge and stay at our second home. That’s cool, I guess.

One night, we picked up where we left off with Outlander. I had been so inspired when we started watching the historical fantasy about a woman who travels back in time to the 1740’s. My 100% Irish dad shocked us a few years ago when he said he had a Scottish grandmother. I did some research and she immigrated to America from the Melville Castle area. I wondered if my love for fish tropical in tanks and of the edible variety had anything to do with a connection to Herman?

“Wait a minute,” I said to my husband, Danny, after turning off a gruesome episode where a duke becomes headless, “See if there’s anything available in Scotland!” We bought a dinky timeshare unit in a lodge at the bottom of Peak 7 in Breck to use the amenities and park our car. We always forget to trade it and are about to lose two weeks.

After Danny researched availability, he came out of his office, smiling. “There’s a place in Dailly, Scotland.”

“What?” my eyebrows rose to my hairline and I took a look at his computer. We couldn’t find a trade in the US. It must be destiny.

A small smile curled in the corners of The Big D’s mouth as it peered over my shoulder.

That weekend, I caught up with a few blogs before skiing. Sacha Black announced the Bloggers Bash in London. One of our goals is to travel around and meet my virtual friends. “We could meet my friends!” I said.

I bought two tickets to the Bash and Danny booked our stay in Scotland for a week. We still needed to book the second week.

Why don’t we go to Paris the second week?”

“Really?”

“We can go anywhere, but that’s your favorite place, right?”

I would let it sink in over the weekend.

I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference and had several mind blown moments thanks to Donald Maass and several other knowledgeable writers. Between classes, I spoke to my son, Kelly. “If you want to visit me this quarter, you should come out next weekend,” he said. “I have to work hard the last few weeks of school.” He’s attending Icon Collective Music Production School in Burbank. He graduates in June.

I LOVE visiting Kelly in California, but I would come home late Sunday evening and would have to repack to fly out again. Thing is, my mom comes for a ten day visit over Mother’s Day. Would I ever have time to do revisions after those mind blown moments? I remembered my new thoughts about opportunity and booked flights for early Friday morning. With the pressure of a trip, I wrote a brand new, much better first chapter and revised the second. Maybe cramming in writing between workers coming to the house was a good thing.

Monday morning I checked AirBnB’s in Paris surprised at how many lovely apartments near the heart of Paris only cost around $100 per night. I made a list of favorites. Then I noticed the walls in the Parisian apartment photos. I needed to pick a color for the bathroom that had been damaged. Most of the French rooms depicted neutrals in gray, taupe and tans. We have a very French house and I was sick of the green paint in the bathroom.

I drove to the paint store and picked out a few colors, then asked the decorator, “Is gray still a popular color?”

“It is,” she said, brown curls bouncing as she walked toward me from her desk.

“I was thinking about warm gray,” I said. “Something with a little brown in it.”

She pulled a few colors from a new line of paint. They all looked pretty much alike. When I returned home with a fist full of paint chips, I selected a taupey color called “Quicksand” and called the painter.

Destiny chuckled in the background.

I didn’t pay attention to its giggle.

Another cosmic joke came the next day. The house filled with painters. They spent the day painting the guest bedroom and the adjacent back sink area and bathroom.

After they left, I checked out the rooms. “Are you kidding me???” The walls were a light shade of green. It made the tumbled marble tile look pink. I screamed. “No!” Then I checked the code for the paint on the chip against the can. Exactly the same. How? How?

I figured this had to happen to other people and spoke the contractor. Nope. This NEVER happens.

At this rate, workers will be around for a while. I predict a lot of travel in my future. Quit scattering my ducks, Destiny!

Related posts:

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I Celebrated a Birthday, but Failed to Save a Life

When Death Sits on My Face

My Demon Washing Machine is Haunted