Saturday, September 10, 2016

Kale - It's Lovely

In Memory of my friend Lesley Swirhun

When Lesley said the word Kale, I instantly wanted to go out, buy some, and chow down.  You know what?  I absolutely hate Kale!  I’ve actually tried it three times, just because Lesley would say the word and explain how she prepared it.   Kale is bitter, super good for you and makes you strong. 

She had the same effect on me when she said the word Lovely.  It literally made me happier.  Rather than a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down, she was able to say Kale and it sounded lovely enough to convince you it really is good for you. 

Just like Kale, there are some pretty bitter things we all have to work through, whether it’s at work, in life or as a parent.  Lesley was able to show the silver lining and the holes in any situation.  By working through the situation with her, it was Lovely, you were stronger and a better person.

I can only hope that I can continue her legacy of being thorough at work and an awesome mom.  When I first met her when working on a design for the County, I would think, “She’s so frustrating with all her details, but she is sooo right.”  She certainly made me a better engineer and I can confidently say we were partners in crime when it came to ruffling feathers.  She thought through nearly every angle and I’m not too far behind her.

When it came to parenting, she was just as thoughtful and I will cherish her words of advice; Put big red shirts on for easy cleanup on spaghetti night, stand like a starfish and let someone else pull your child off you when they have a death grip hold and establish family only time. Lesley said that doing the unpredictable can help get a kids’ attention; leave a full grocery cart at the store if they become screaming monsters or walk home (if within a reasonable distance) when they won’t keep buckled up in the car.  It leaves your kids in shock and thinking, I can’t believe she did that.

Lesley was my best friend, dad, mom, sister, coworker, confidant and counselor all wrapped into one Lovely package.  I think there are hundreds of people that felt this same way.  She made my life and so many others’ lives better simply by her presence.   

Kale may be bitter but it can be made Lovely with a little bit of heart, ruffling of feathers and little bit of unpredictability.


Lesley, I told you a quote once, “You and I are more than friends.  We’re like a really small gang.”  You’ll always be “Pest 1” to my “Pest 2”.  Thank you for letting me know it’s okay to rock the boat.  I will miss you.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Keys: A tribute to my Dad

Prologue:  As my Dad asked me what I wanted of his, I really didn’t have much that I could think of that I would want.  Out of nowhere, I remembered a box of keys.  The next day, I thought of how they relate to what he has done for me, my brother and others.

A Tribute to my Dad.

My Dad loves to collect things, and keep them.  Part of his collection is contained in dozens of old Dutch Masters cigar boxes.  You may remember these boxes, they have an image of six men that look like pilgrims, otherwise known as Rembrandt’s painting, The Syndics of the Drapers' Guild.  Who knew Dad would have something so sophisticated!?  Each of these boxes has a piece of tape at the bottom that was fashioned into a pull-tab and each box is meticulously labeled.

I pulled out one of those boxes once and asked Dad why he needed all of the keys in it.  He said to me, “You never know, one of them may open up that door.”  Indeed, my Dad opened many doors.

Dad took my brother and I skiing at an early age and we quickly learned to love skiing.  My brother replaced skiing with snowboarding and now he’s teaching his own sons how to snowboard.  Dad’s skiing trips took us many places including our first trip to Colorado.  I fell in love in Colorado and I am now happy to call it home. 

My brother and I spent quite a bit of time with Dad in the basement working on random woodworking projects.  I made a crib for my Little Ponies.  My brother and sister-in-law made a crib that Conner, Reece, Zachary and Wyatt have all slept in. 

I think I somehow absorbed knowledge about building houses, since he and my Mom built two before I turned ten.  That’s probably what gave me the confidence to do a little electrical work on one of my own homes.  I ran into a small problem when trying to replace one outlet that also needed to be tied into a light switch.  So, I called Dad up.  He’s walking through all the steps with me and just before I needed to connect it all up he asked if I turned the power off.  I promptly said yes, just as I got zapped with a bit of electricity.  Apparently I didn’t absorb enough about electric work.

Dad loves to tinker, with just about everything, and my brother was often next to him helping.  They fixed up one of the tractors and painted it with flames on either side.  I swear that tractor is older than I am and it still manages to run.  For some reason, we also liked to stand underneath the snow blower on the tractor to get bombarded with rocks.  Did I mention we had a gravel driveway?  Not sure what doors that opened up for us.

As early as I can remember, we were on bikes riding without much fear.  One of my earliest memories is from a bike ride we took from the Hootie Hoot Retreat, my Uncle’s Cabin near Winter, WI.  I got pretty worn out from the hills.  Dad fashioned a rope between his bike and mine and he helped pull me up the hills.  I thought we biked all the way to Winter, which was 22 miles, I think my 40-year old memory is starting to fail me!  Regardless, all of his grandsons are learning or have learned to ride bikes.  I can’t imagine not getting them out on their bikes as early as possible!  It gave us such freedom to go anywhere.  We even managed to bike to our good friend’s home, The Stipeks, from Highway K to SH 178 south of Cornell, WI.  Really, we biked along 178?  Crazy.

We had an awesome fort at our home on the Chippewa River.  Dad built a platform and hung it by chains to four different pine trees.  He put an A-frame roof on it, just like our home, and a trap door that had a rope ladder to get into the fort.  To bad the door was closed on that fort.  Maybe I wouldn’t have been a speckled mess of mosquito bites from my overnight stay.

Dad definitely made sure I was prepared for traveling.  He made sure I knew not only how to change a tire, but how to rotate tires by the time I was 15.  I had barely had my license for five months and he made me drive in downtown Denver and over the snowy Monarch Pass.  Nothing like being afraid of heights and driving over a mountain pass that is snowy and icy.  (I think he just didn’t like to drive in those areas himself)  To top it off, I am all about reading maps.  He taught me so well, that when my flight from the southern beaches of Thailand to Bangkok was canceled, I hitched a ride with two Canadians that would have been seriously lost if it weren’t for my map skills.  And I have never been stuck at the side of the road because of a flat tire and that drive in Denver opened the door to some of my racecar driving (Have to keep up with big city traffic!). 

My stepbrother and stepsister were treated to many snowshoeing, hiking, kayak and canoe trips and got to see how natural it was to him.  He marked up maps with each trail length and shared so much knowledge of the paths and loops on hiking trails in Eau Claire.  Today, they still enjoy the outdoors and all it has to offer.

For others he has shown them his patience, teaching, encouragement and attention through years of leading church youth groups, pie rides, building and renovating trails, and so much more.

I always told my boyfriends that Dad is going to ask lots of questions.  He’s not doing an interrogation, he just naturally asks lots of questions.  When I was in college I asked him why he did this.  He told me that people like to talk about themselves and I like to hear about them.  That’s probably why those that meet him feel like they matter. 

Whether Dad was teaching, woodworking, hiking, tinkering with tractors, avoiding driving in annoying conditions or listening to friends, strangers and family, he has given so many others and me the key to open the doors to so many experiences, lifetime of memories, and qualities that can only be attributed to him.


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Super... Dog? But I want SuperNanny!

Per the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary,

1  a :  disposed to seek adventure or to cope with the new and unknown
    b :  innovative
2:  characterized by unknown dangers and risks

Mom (Mother)
1  a :  a female parent
    b (1) :  a woman in authority; specifically :  the superior of a religious community of women
       (2) :  an old or elderly woman
2:  source, origin

3:  maternal tenderness or affection

It seems to me that if I were to run out the door screaming to get away from my toddler and baby that my wish to be an adventurous mom went out a different door.  I'm no longer "coping" with the new and unknown and am trying to shred the idea of being a female parent with maternal tenderness and affection!

Exhibit A:  November 2014 Tantrum
It is absolutely amazing to me how a two year old can make a fully grown, nearly 40 year old, mother crumble to the ground, want to crawl under her bed and never come out.  How is it that they can make a simple 30 second change into pajamas into an 1-1/2 hour excursion of screaming, kicking, hitting, WITH four timeouts?  To make it worse, your baby is crying in bed because, that's what they do when they don't want to go to bed.  Alas... the two year old's crying and screaming just mask the baby, so you're saved!!!

Seriously, how does one get through this horrendous period in a toddler's life and then pick herself up to go through it all over with the second child just as the oldest gets better (or I hope gets better)?  There are so many books, websites, etc. out there to help.  How is a mom supposed to find the time for all these great resources when you're collapsing to the ground after finally getting them into bed an hour after they were supposed to be in bed?

Maybe there's such a thing as a SuperDog (Cat?) that takes all your cares away and helps teach you deal with them.....

Oh, that's right, they're too busy pulling food off the counter, eating the cat's food, harfing up hairballs, clawing your legs and deciding to poop in the play room because even though you have a dog door, that's their way of telling you, hey, you pissed me off.

Friday, January 16, 2015

January 22nd… Number Four?!!?

January 22nd… Number Four?!!?

Hard to believe Anniversary No. 4 has arrived! 

Three and a half years after I wrote to my Grandma telling her about this wonderful man named Kevin, he married me.  Now, we have two wonderful boys wrapped in her baby quilts that patiently sat and waited for their arrival.

September 12, 2007

Dear Grandma,

……..I started dating a new man about a month ago.  He has deep black hair, bluish hazel eyes, and awesome smile, and is about 5’10” tall.  His name is Kevin Obendorf and he is from Ithaca, New York.  He has one older brother that lives in Washington D.C.   He has a degree in environmental studies and biology from the University of Montana-Missoula.  He works as a landscaper and has a pretty extensive knowledge regarding sprinkler systems. It has been fun to talk to him about my yard and what to plant.  I met him through a computer dating service call  We both believe in preserving the environment & have similar political beliefs.  He has been very kind to me and really seems to enjoy my company.  He has a miniature dachshund dog, named Zula and a longhaired black cat named Oso.  Both the dog and cat try to get my attention.  Zula is so cute, you would adore her. She is such a happy dog. I like Kevin quite a bit because he respects who I am and hasn’t tried to place me in a box of how he thinks I should be.  I can’t even express how much he makes me smile and laugh.  Since I met him, I have felt that I have gotten my old self back and I haven’t been so down in the dumps.  I hope it continues to go well……..

… and the rest is history!

Smiling face make you happy and good news makes you feel better. ~ Proverbs 15:30

Today, My husband's, cousin's husband posted a remembrance of his grandmother.  It quickly reminded me of my Grandma, Myrtle Lillian Harp, and how much she meant to me.  I was absolutely honored when my Mom, Uncle Dennis, and Aunt Darlene asked me to give her eulogy for her funeral.  She was 90 years young.

This is what I had to say on September 21st, 2007....

Grandma Harp with Conner, May 2007
Smiling faces make you happy and good news makes you feel better.  ~Proverbs 15:30

When I was in the 3rd grade, I received my first bible.  During the church sermon, I opened the bible up and this verse burst out to me.  These words have been with me ever since and have become even more imprinted within my soul these past few weeks.  I have heard of many people comment ton their fondest memory of Grandma... her smile.  Smiling faces make you happy...

Often times when someone of such great importance in our life passes away, we think of what their legacy may be.  I truly believe that Grandma's legacy starts with her smile.  Each time she held one of us grand kids for the first time and then the great grandchildren the smile not only came from her lips, but from her eyes.  Each time she watched a squirrel try to outsmart a bird feeder, she'd hate the squirrel but be laughing and smiling at how comical it was.  Every picture I've seen with her and Grandpa, is highlighted with her smile.

Another part of her legacy, or at least, one of my favorites, was her great baking.  She has the best banana bread, strawberry shortcake, Special K bars, strawberry jam and rolls.  If you ask my Mom, she may to have include her fruitcake.  I have tried to mimic her roll recipe and she definitely had a knack for those because each time I make them, they taste right, but they bottom out your stomach with a big "thunk".

Many of us know how much Grandma loves to eat and made darn sure that anyone and everyone sitting at her table never left hungry.  I don't think anyone else can ever convince me to actually have thirds and possibly fourths when sitting down for dinner. One of my favorite memories of Grandma was her "run in" with Robin's friend, Dan, at my Mom's Christmas Dinner.  As usual, Grandma wanted to make sure all had enough to eat.  Dan turned to her and asked if she wanted anymore mashed potatoes.  She respectfully declined as he quickly scooped up a big spoon of potatoes and placed them on her plate while telling her, "Here ya go Grandma!"  She looked at him and smiled back with all she had and laughed as he teased her.

One of the last last pieces of her legacy was that she's a mea
n card player.  If you had to have teams for a card game, she was the gal to have on your team.  Unfortunately, she and my brother somehow ended up on the same team, a lot.  Need I say, I'm not that great?  I never understood how someone with even the smallest cards for a game of 500, could still manage to win. She knew her stuff.

Last evening, I was trying to come up with a way to express who Grandma was.  I re-read a poem I wrote for my own Mom several years ago and it also fit Grandma perfectly.  This isn't too surprising since there are so many similarities between my Mom and Grandma.


Her eyes twinkle like stars.
Her smile shines like the sun.
Her laugh is infectious.

Her heart is immense.
Her love is everlasting.
Her soul is beautiful.

Her strength is enormous.
Her will is unstoppable.
Her passions are strong.

Her patience is boundless.
Her kindness embraces all.
Her calmness is comforting.

She is a Phenomenal Grandma.

Follow-up Note....
Something I will never forget about that day is when my cousin Ryan came up to me and asked how I was doing and if I was o.k. because he knew how much she meant to me.  Thank you Ryan for your kindness.

Friday, December 19, 2014

How do I get back to "Adventurous"?

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt," John Muir

How do I get back to "Adventurous"?  Before the "yard" part of my life, I traveled/backpacked in S. America for four months, traveled in Thailand for two weeks, hiked Colorado trails all the time, got in a couple 14ers, and definitely camped.  I took a one week camping trip to Maine & New Hampshire.  Several of my adventures were also by myself.  Not to mention forcing myself up Elitch's "drop" ride, TWICE!  I am so afraid of heights that I was crying by the time we dropped down to earth.   

I would say my definition of adventurous ended when I purchased a home with a yard.  With that yard came a lot more space for Aspen to roam around and all sorts of gardening & landscaping.  It was awesome!  I think I went on one backpack trip that year.  

It ended even more when I moved further away from work and was just worn out from that.  Then... Zachary was born.  I could barely get him fed healthy foods let alone venturing into the mountains.  We did get out on one adventure just outside of Estes Park for a two night camping trip.  It was so nice and Zachary loved it, even if he couldn't walk yet.

Now, we live in a place with a much larger yard with pasture land and we have kid number two.  We definitely don't eat healthy now.  Wow, even with working 3/4 time, I'm still scrambling to get out the door.  We did manage to go camping up to Chambers Lake, west of Fort Collins, with both kids.  Wyatt was two months old.  It was an adventure in patience and frustration.  We went home early because our campsite flooded and I couldn't handle much more of the crying and whining. 

So... again how do I get back to Adventurous, when I feel I can barely breathe?  And even more important, how do I make sure that my children go on paths in which I "make sure a few of them are dirt"?  What does that look like now?  How do I fit that back into our lives? 

Maybe my first baby step is remembering it hasn't disappeared, it just looks different.  Now I just need to figure out what it's new definition means.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Huh, Overall Project Manager, who would've thunk?

After being on  maternity leave and getting up to speed on new and old projects through an over abundance of meetings, I made it out to my bridge construction project.  Man was I grateful to be out there and it made me realize that when we're designing, I need to get out there even more!

This particular bridge project has made me cry, lose sleep, and bring joy like never expected.  I was even on the Denver's Fox31 evening news because of the eagles in the vicinity of this project.

All the work, frustration, anger, etc. made it all worth it when I was able to tell one of the workers, "I am THE overall project manager of this entire project."  Not in a million years did I expect to say something so neat and empowering.  I think I wowed the guy even more because I was a younger woman.  It was a liberating thought and am glad I got this far.  It's times like these that I need to remind myself, I am a good engineer and a good mom.  No need to ever doubt myself (course perfectionism runs in the blood too!)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The third week... 15 more to go??? Fudgesicles.

So, I'm finally into the third week of my marathon training and I have already thought....

  • What am I doing with all this training?
  • Do I really need to qualify for Boston?
  • One of the FAQ questions is, can I transfer my registration between the marathon and half marathon.....hmmm, Good question.
  • Why do I want to do this?
  • Can I just decide to finish?
  • What if I switch from the Advanced I training program down to the Intermediate I training program?  Then I wouldn't have to run as much.
  • Why am I training in the winter to only qualify for another race that has me training in the winter?
Can you tell that I am extremely discouraged.  But, alas, I made it running again last night.  I just swore a lot as I ran.  The best part is that despite the black ice which shone in the moonlit night, I had a great running pace.  So, I'm thinking that when I'm running in warmer temperatures down to sea level from 5280, I'm going to kick some ass!!  I need to stick to this goal, and need to be reminded of this often, because I need to learn not to give up when it gets tough.    

San Diego Rock'n'Roll finally released their course today.  We start in downtown, run through Balboa Park and end at Sea World.  I will have the best coach in the world cheering me on as I run, my Mom.

So, my fourth week looms and I think I really need to find friends to run with.  Anything to motivate me to run other than the chance to swear a lot!