Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Celebrating With Old Friends

Saturday evening we had a great time visiting with old friends and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of St. Gabriel the Archangel Episcopal Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado. The celebration was something we planned our travels around this year and we weren't disappointed with that decision.

For nearly six years, late 1991 to mid-1997, John was rector of that parish, which was organized in the Denver suburbs in 1960. During our time there we formed close relationships with numerous people and were honored to be a part of the lives of many more. It was a rewarding period of ministry for both of us. The church grew in both numbers and commitment during those years.

One of many people John talked to during the evening.

This anniversary gave us the opportunity to reconnect with many of the people we knew during that time. We were able to share memories, as well as catch up on what has happened in all our lives during the past 13 years. The evening included a social hour and dinner for 170 people, filling the parish hall to capacity. It was followed by a beautiful service of Evensong.

Mariachi singers entertaining during the social hour.

The colorful parish hall.

Our time at St. Gabriel's was possibly the high point of John's ordained ministry. We have missed seeing the people we knew there and had a wonderful time meeting with them again. The congregation has continued to develop and we all could celebrate our time together and what they have done since we left. Retirement gives us the time and the freedom to look back and appreciate what we have done in the past.

During our three weeks in the Denver area, we have worshiped two Sundays at that church, attending once at the 10:15 service and once at the 8, and this week we went out to breakfast with friends from the congregation after the service.

Now we are headed south out of Colorado--although slowly because it is still way too hot in Arizona to go there. We have had a fun, rewarding and productive three weeks here in the Denver area.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jury Duty

I have always wanted to be on jury duty--at least until we received our mail last March while we were in Coolidge, Arizona, and I found a jury summons for the coming week. I was able to postpone the jury service to a time we were planning to be in Colorado, which meant last week. Almost invariably when I told someone I had jury duty, they groaned and said they hoped I was dismissed the first day. But I was still looking forward to it. I am glad a live in a country where people accused of a crime are tried by their peers, ordinary people from the community. And my experience left me still feeling that way.

That is not to say it is convenient to take time out from your everyday life to sit in a courtroom and hear accusations about things someone has done wrong. But I am retired. On the jury of 13 people, including one alternate, two of us were retired. All the others had families and jobs. Poor me, I had to go home at 5 pm and fix dinner. But I didn't have to go back to work till midnight to keep up, or take the kids to swim practice, then cook dinner. I didn't have to pick up papers from school and grade tests during down times in the jury room.

We ranged in age from 26 to 70 or over. There were teachers, a retired teacher, office workers, construction workers, a college student, and two retired folks. I imagine the experience could be really awful if there was even one jerk on the jury. But everyone on this jury was nice. In fact, we had a really good time when we were just waiting for something to happen. We laughed and joked, ate (because some people brought doughnuts, candy and pretzels). It may have sounded bad to people in the courtroom, but we didn't have anything else to do while we waited, so we had a good time. I also finished a 300 page book during the week.

Jury service isn't for people who are impatient or in a hurry. We reported at 8:30 am Monday. The 13 of us were finally seated about 4:30 pm. Tuesday we went in, only to find out the prosecutor was in the hospital for tests. Finally, about 11 am, we were sent home for the day. At the end of the day we learned we wouldn't need to report till noon the next day. On Friday, after both the prosecution and defense rested their cases, we were sent out for a two and a half hour lunch while the judge and attorneys agreed on instructions to the jury. After lunch we heard closing arguments, then retired to the jury room for our deliberations at about 3:30 pm. By 4:15 we had reached our verdict, guilty on six of the eight felony counts.

It wasn't an easy trial to sit through. The defendant was charged with felony sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust and incest. In addition to these terrible charges, the victim was a deaf girl. We were told jurors should bring their life experiences to the trial, but not our biases or prejudices. That wasn't easy.

The judge was very considerate of the jury members. He made sure we knew about how long each session would last. One day, we watched a video of the victim being questioned by a forensic interviewer. He told us how long the session would last. He also said, if someone needed a break before the video was over, we should ask and he would give us that break. One juror had back problems and he was told he could stand up during the court session if he needed to.

I really believe every member of the jury took his or her responsibility seriously. Each person was able to speak of their issues and concerns. From the start of deliberations, 10 of us felt the defendant was guilty, two had doubts. They were able to voice those doubts, then listen to what the rest of us felt. It was very helpful to hear how others reached their decision and what factors mattered most to them. One of the jurors had closely observed the defendant and was able to tell us how he reacted to various parts of the testimony. Others talked about different parts of the testimony that especially impacted their belief that the defendant was guilty. Listening to what they had heard and what it meant to them helped affirm my decision. The two who weren't sure they could vote for a guilty verdict were mainly concerned with how serious our responsibility was and what "reasonable doubt" meant. In the end, I think each one of us truly felt we were making the right decisions and we reached a unanimous verdict.

Without a doubt, it is terribly serious to find a man guilty of sexual assault and incest. He will go to prison for quite some time and be labeled as a sex offender for the rest of his life. But letting him go if he is a sex offender is just as serious. None of us made our decision lightly or flippantly.

If you are called for jury duty, I hope you will see it as a privilege to participate in our judicial system and find it as a difficult but rewarding civic duty. We live in a great country. We can each help keep it that way by being informed and serious voters and willing, open minded jurors. If we don't do these things to keep our country free and fair, who will?

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's a Winner!

In late August we rode a photographers special train trip of the San Luis and Rio Grande Railroad. At that time I blogged about the trip and about the photographers. There were many professional and semi-professional photographers on the trip. Everyone was invited to submit photos for a contest. Twenty winners would receive annual passes on the railroad for the 2011 season and their photos will be used for railroad promotion.

Many of the photographers had very large and sophisticated cameras.

John was using a small 10 megapixel camera.

We submitted 11 of the photos we took to the contest and last week we learned that one of John's had been named a winner! He still finds it surprising. The camera is so small, he tends to think of it as a toy. But it really takes great photos.

This is his winning picture.

I wouldn't be surprised to hear him giggle every time he takes a photo for weeks to come. He has been doing that often since we learned he won. And you know I will be blogging about a lot of train trips next year.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

What? you ask. A day with both family and trains. A week ago, after attending Kylie's soccer game, we went to the Colorado Railroad Museum. It was A Day with Thomas the Tank. Kylie and John had their picture taken on the cow catcher of engine 191.

The museum restores and displays lots of old railroad cars, like these.

There are both steam and diesel engines.

In addition to trains, there was a petting zoo that the kids enjoyed.

Here Kylie and John are trying to figure out how to make this hand cart or speeder go.

They also pretended to ride this Galloping Goose. What, you don't know what that is? Check this out. By the way, we also know where the honky tonk is.

Engine 40 is another of the cars on display at the museum.

Papa helped John, age 5, try to move the turntable that enables moving engines into different bays of the round house.

Kylie, at 11, tried it all by herself. The turntable works so smoothly, one person really can make it rotate.

Before we boarded the Thomas the Tank train, John had his picture taken with Sir Topham Hatt, the head of the railway where Thomas and other friendly engines operate.

Finally, it was time to ride the train. One of the volunteers took a picture of our whole party before the train started moving.

This outing was our last for this visit to the Denver area. We try to cram as much family time in as possible during our short times here. Not seeing family more often is the only downside of being on the road full-time.

We did get to say a final goodbye yesterday when Liz made some hot turkey sandwiches and they brought lunch to out campsite. We had fun and the food was excellent. We were sad to see them drive off.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Week Off

I'd like to blog about the great time we had with family on Saturday. But there isn't time. I am sitting on a criminal trial jury for a trial that will last all week. It is exhausting. Check back after Friday to learn what is going on.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Zoo Day

Friday John and Kylie only had a half-day of school, but Eric and Liz had to be at their schools all day. Kylie was invited to a birthday party and we got to spend the afternoon with John. We were there when he got off the school bus and I heard him yell "Papa" as he started to run toward us.

How do you like the Daffy Duck hat Papa gave John?

We hadn't been to the Denver Zoo for many years, but John knew his way around and knew what animals he wanted to see. Of course, we visited the giraffes.

As we were having an after-school snack of hot dogs and ice cream, we watched a woman work with Gidget, the sea lion.

Many things have changed at the zoo since we were there last and they have a huge construction project going on to provide new space for the elephants and other Asian species. John had to take a look.

Here are Papa and John posing in front of the current elephant compound.

John told us there was a train we could ride at the zoo. I think he knew his Papa would never pass up a train ride. After the trip, Papa showed John all the parts of the engine.

We think John's favorite animals were the penguins. We began searching for them as soon as we came in the gates. Finally we found their pool and we had a great time watching them swim and pose for us.

There were so many things to see at the zoo that this little boy just pooped out and went to sleep.

John had somewhere else to go Friday afternoon, as well. I helped him get dressed in his Taekwando uniform and we drove him to the class he takes with his dad. Doesn't he look sharp? And notice the face painting of a dragon on his right cheek. He was careful to sleep only on the left side of his face Thursday night so it would last for at least two days. John really loves dinosaurs. We were sorry we couldn't find any at the zoo.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Family and Friends

We almost never go out to eat. But this week we ate out both Tuesday and Wednesday so we could spend time with friends and family. Tuesday we drove to the TNT Country Kitchen in Morrison, just west of Red Rocks Amphitheater, to meet Larry and Betty, friends we have known since the mid-1960s when John and Larry worked together on the Boulder Police Department.

When we walked into the restaurant we were surprised (and delighted) to see they had brought along another couple, Paul and Betty. Paul also had worked with John and Larry. When I got up to take a picture of the group, a waitress offered to do the honors so I could be in the picture, too.

We have been so busy since we arrived in the Denver area just over a week ago, we have grabbed a quick lunch at restaurants two other times, as well. When things settle down a little, we will have to double the exercise to work off all these calories!

Almost as soon as we sat down, the three guys started sharing stories of the experiences they had. But not before comments were made about a turkey John and I tried to grill one evening when we invited Paul and Betty over, way back then. My reaction was, "Oh, that was awful." I only need to tell you that we didn't eat till at least 10 pm and I'm not sure it was turkey I served.

As the fellows shared memories, the three wives talked about family, travel and other subjects. There was so much to talk about, we finally got up to leave only because the we were about to reach the end of the three-hour limit on our parking spot.

It is amazing how friendships can endure for over 40 years. John's first job out of college was with the Boulder Police Department and he worked there for over nine years. It is good to remember those years. And it was important to get a photo of just the three friends and co-workers.

Wednesday we were off to another restaurant, Panera Bread in the Aspen Grove Shopping Center, to meet our niece and her husband, Kim and Andy. Again, we talked forever--mainly about travel. We also let them know how much we enjoyed seeing their mountain home last month. I wrote about it then.

We have been so busy since we arrived in the Denver area a little over a week ago, we have grabbed lunch from restaurants two other times, as well. When things settle down, we will have to double the exercise to burn off all the extra calories we've eaten here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fun Family Weekend

We did more this weekend than just de-stuff. We had a great day with our family on Saturday. As we drove out of Chatfield State Park, where we are staying for two weeks, we saw some hot air balloons going up. They are so colorful and we love to look at them.

On close examination, we discovered these didn't have baskets hanging down. We could see a person's legs and realized they were something like ultra-lite planes, accommodating only one person.

We must be on the same time schedule as someone else near the park. Both Saturday and Sunday when we pulled out onto the highway, we spotted "Doowop2."

He must have fun driving this little car around.

After all the furniture was moved on Saturday, we drove across town to watch Kylie's soccer game. She is #72 in the white uniform. Boy does she do a lot of running during the game! All the girls really kick up their heels as they race across the field.

Here Kylie is racing a girl from the other team for the ball.

I wonder if this St. Bernard was interested in the game or the bagels?

In the evening, we went to Eric and Liz's for dinner to celebrate the birthdays and Father's and Mother's Days that we hadn't been together because we live on the road. It was a beautiful evening and we had so much fun with our family. John spent a lot of time wrestling with grandson John.

This is the dessert tray Kylie served us. The bottom plate is full of sweets they bought at Tony's Market, the specialty food store we love and the supplier of the tender rib eye steaks we had for dinner. The top plate has Kylie's creation--chocolate roll-ups. They were really good and we hope she makes them for us again.


When we went on the road full-time 19 months ago, we got rid of a lot of our "stuff." But we also kept a lot--way too much, as a matter of fact. So several months ago we decided we needed to do a little de-stuffing. Before we left Lathrop State Park, we went through everything in the RV and, if we hadn't used it in a year, we got rid of it.

In our stick house, we had two rooms full of old family furniture--the dining room and our bedroom. We asked both sons if they wanted the furniture. Doug said no, but Eric said yes. So we de-stuffed by stuffing his house.

Friday we went to the facility where five crates of our "stuff" are stored. See the stacks of wooden crates--called vaults. Hill Moving and Storage knows right where every one is and who it belongs to. So many people have "stuff" they have to store. In addition to the vaults, you can see sofas wrapped and placed on racks up to the ceiling.

Chris, the warehouse manager, had to move about six vaults out of a row before he got to ours. He would drive down the narrow space between two stacks of vaults, bringing out crates one after the other. Finally he started bringing five of them to the front where we could go through them to find the items we wanted to remove.

See that tightly packed wooden box? Tony is just beginning the process of pulling out boxes and furniture so we could find what we wanted. This man is really amazing. He has been doing this kind of work for 20 years and reports he doesn't have back problems. He also said he sleeps well at night.

Here you can see Tony and Jimmy moving something else out of a crate. That stack of flattened cardboard boxes isn't from our "stuff." We didn't even try looking through boxes. But can you believe even our garage sale sign had gone into storage? What were we thinking on January 29, 2009?

One of the crates hadn't been packed correctly. When Tony took off the front panel, everything began to fall. Jimmy is valiantly trying to hold back the avalanche, while hollering for Paul to come help. Tony it reaching for a box to remove it and John is also trying to help.

You know those little stickers they place on your furniture when it goes into a moving van? Each sticker is linked to a line on an inventory sheet. So, as we removed items from storage, Jimmy and Tony had to find the sticker, then check off it's number on another sheet of paper. That way, they can remind us why those items are no longer in storage when we finally decide to clean everything out.

Here John and Tony are surrounded by all the stuff we are taking out of storage. Tony is explaining how our bill will be figured. There is a charge for time while we searched through everything. But we ended up removing half of all we had in storage--saving us $45 each month for each of the two vaults we emptied. That will help. Now that we know we like being full-time RVers, we regret keeping so much stuff. As we looked at what is there, we decided we had been fairly uncertain if we would enjoy this life style when we moved out of the house. So many things we haven't used in a year and a half and don't want now. But sorting and giving away, selling, or whatever is a daunting task. We will put it off for a long time probably--and pay each month for that convenience.


Here is another view of what we took out. We had even stored the vacuum cleaner!

So, what did we do with all that "stuff" we took out of storage? Well, we stuffed it in our son Eric's house. Granted, he wants all of it.

Saturday morning Paul guided Tony into Eric and Liz's driveway.

There it all is. Can you believe they unloaded all of that in under an hour and took most of it into various rooms of the house? Thank heavens they had to do all the lifting.

Here they are squeezing the dining room table through the front door.

As Paul worked at unwrapping furniture, Tony told us a story.

Among the pieces of bedroom furniture was this stool for the dressing table. Our cat Partner used to sleep on that stool. Since Liz is allergic to cats, our grandson John is using some tape to clean off the cat hair.

Kylie and John couldn't resist the chance to get in the truck with their papa, while Paul and Tony were carrying something into the house.

Here the dresser goes up stairs to the bedroom. Man did those guys work, both Friday and Saturday.

And the hutch is moved into the dining room.

In the end, Eric and Liz had a chance to de-stuff. We had several pieces of furniture we didn't want, nor did Eric and Liz. And they had some furniture they didn't need because they were taking our things. It turns our that over two days Jimmy, Tony and Paul all could used some of that furniture. So they took it away and we had only one small pickup load to take to Goodwill. Here a drop leaf table goes from Eric's house into the truck for Paul.

By 10 a.m., the whole job was done and the only thing left was to pay for all the hard work these three guys and their company had done for us.

We are still a little appalled by all the "stuff" we packed into boxes early last year. But we feel so good about all we gave away this weekend. We are a little lighter, a little freer than we were before. Yea!

We are so grateful for all the hard work and great care from Tony, Jimmy and Paul. And we are so pleased that the furniture we have loved and enjoyed using will now be used by Eric, Liz, Kylie and John.