Life is Short

We hear about the brevity of life and sometimes, when we've experienced the death of someone close and/or unexpected, we're more aware. But I think that in addition to human life, we can forget that even our surroundings might not always be the same. But we live like they will be.

I imagine that every day I'm blessed to wake up alive here on earth that Pike's Peak will still be a part of the Rocky Mountains and a part of my landscape toward the west. I don't concern myself whether or not the Rockies will be there each and every day. Even on a smaller scale, I assume that my yard will look the way it does (barring some landscape work on our part), that the neighborhood will look relatively the same, and that the roads will be intact.

Yet that's not always true. Yes, for them most part, that's how life works. Major thoroughfares typically don't just go away or become altered. But they can.

The fires burn uncontrollably.

The rains gush down relentlessly.

And the landscape changes.

I got an update today on my great uncle who lives on the Big Thompson River in the canyon between Loveland and Estes Park. I knew he had to have been evacuated given all the information on the news. I believe he's 86 years old and still lives alone in that house where he's been for over 30 years. He and his wife bought it in 1977-78. The Big Thompson Flood happened in 1976 - a "100 year flood" - so they figured they wouldn't live long enough to see another flood of such proportions. My great aunt didn't. Surprise, surprise - my great uncle is still alive and kicking. In the same house. And the next 100 year flood did not wait 100 years to arrive.

It's one of the most peaceful places I've ever had the opportunity to visit. It's only a few hours from here and I haven't been there all that often (though I wish I had been). But when my aunt and my cousin's kids came to visit this summer, we did get the chance - no, we made the time to go visit him. My boys came along, too, for which I'm now even more grateful. It was a perfect day. Of course, I had my camera and took numerous pictures. While my pictures always are valuable to me, they are an even great treasure to me now.

My great uncle is in red. Probably pretty easy to figure that out. That's the Big Thompson River behind us.
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The river runs off to the right just outside the picture and you can see it a tiny bit in the center background. This place is just so wonderful. At least it was prior to last week.

the river

Zach, relaxing and enjoying the water flowing past.
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My cousin's lovely daughter, taking in the fresh mountain air.


My uncle was helicoptered out last week during the rain and flooding. They took him to a shelter and one of his kids drove in from Kansas to get him. I'm not sure if he'll be coming back. I'm not sure what he'll have to come back to. While his house is elevated from the river a bit, we've had a ridiculous amount of water in Colorado this past week.

My heart just breaks for him and the thousands of other people impacted by this devastating weather. My heart breaks even selfishly for myself, not knowing if I'll have the chance to go back to that amazing place. But I'm so grateful I was there this summer.

None of us knows what life will look like tomorrow. Appreciate and savor the life you have, the people in it, and the places that you go while you have the opportunity to do so.


Homemade Caramels

We've been big fans of Alton Brown's show Good Eats for some time. Albeit, disappointed fans since the show's no longer on. But we have acquired his three cookbooks and Caleb thought he'd like to try his hand at making homemade caramels.



The first batch cooked too high and too quickly. Primarily due to the fact that we don't have a heavy enough pan. Nothing like the smell of burnt sugar. Blech.

Caleb enjoyed stirring and playing with the bad batch. He stuck it in the frig so it would harden quicker and we could toss it.


Then the pan had to be washed so he could start batch #2.


Looking much better.


Much, much better. Caramels were never meant to be black.


I wasn't sure how they would be sea salt on them, but that was what the recipe called for, so that's what he did. They're really not too bad. In fact, looking at how quickly they're being eaten, I'd say they were a big hit.


I actually cut my little square into about eight tiny pieces. That stuff is brutal on the teeth! But they are super tasty. I suspect we'll see those being made again sometime in the near future.


Dallas, part 4

Who knows how long this will take? At least I'll have a record of our trip. In addition to the trazillion images. Okay, maybe slightly fewer than 3,000. But it feels like a trazillion when you're culling and sorting and editing and such.

Tuesday was the 3rd day of tournament play. Fortunately, Caleb was finally feeling well enough to join us. I was really disappointed that he missed most of the first day and all of the second day, but he enjoyed hanging out in the hotel room by himself.

After volleyball, I had some time to wander around and take a few (more) pictures. Fountain water is always interesting. To me, anyway.

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We saw an awful lot of this garage entrance.
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I wasn't really sure what the deal was with these two enormous letters.

After I walked over there, I discovered a sign (no idea why there's no picture of that, which said something about a part of the next BIG thing. When you stand in the middle (there are footprints to guide you), you become the letter I in the word BIG.

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Since it was the last night in Dallas, the entire team, including families had dinner at the Grand Lux. Which is in the mall. Which mean we could walk. Nice.

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Back at the hotel we discovered this beautiful Maserati parked out front. Drool. Drool.

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Of course, all three of them couldn't possibly cooperate at one time.

I could probably clone Caleb's bunny ears out pretty easily.
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This one could've been good...had Caleb been looking at me. Maybe I'll paste his eyes in from the previous picture.
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And then the silliness began...
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And yes, her team won more than they lost again.


Dallas, part 3

Sunday night, our bathroom sink was draining very, very slowly. But I didn't really give it a whole lot of thought. I would, however, give it more thought the next morning.

Monday was the second day of the tournament for Bailey's team. The bathroom sink (which was very deep, by the way) was very full. Of dark brown sludge water. Ewwww. We had to brush our teeth in the tub. Neat.

Caleb's stomach was still bothering him, so he stayed in the room. Yes, the one with the icky dark brown sludge water. I was planning to contact the hotel later, as I knew Caleb would go back to sleep once we left.

No, I did not photograph the icky dark brown sludge water. You're welcome.

Being at the tournament I pretty much forgot about calling the hotel.

Cracked me up to see Cliff jumping that high while Kaylie just stood there. She is 6' tall, though.
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Another awesome serve by #2.
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My other niece, chillaxing.
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I got back to the room in the middle of the afternoon and one of the maids popped into our room to switch something out, so I mentioned the icky dark brown sludge water. She promptly called maintenance. Who didn't show up. For a couple of hours.

I had gone down the hall to get ice, saw the maid again, and she asked if they had taken care of it. When I told her, "No," she looked rather horrified and told me to call them right away. Which I did. The guy was there very quickly this time around. He told us it would take quite awhile to repair this issue and we could stay in that room or be moved to a new one. Since my sister and her family were on the 15th floor and we were on the 13th, I asked if there were rooms up there, which there were.

He went downstairs to take care of all the administrative issues and returned with a cart and new card keys - which included access to the executive lounge for our trouble. Plus we got to be on the same floor with the rest of our family. After getting settled in our room, we had dinner with the rest of the family, minus Bailey, at the Tin Star. It was pretty yummy. I even scored an awesome, in-the-shade-all-the-tme parking space!

Easy to spot a yellow jeep, even from the 15th floor.
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Then we came back and hung out in our room for awhile where I was able to photograph an amazing sunset.

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I guess all the laying around the room for a couple of days gave Caleb some pent-up energy. So he decided a couple of Superman stunts might be fun.

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Oh yeah, Bailey's team won more than they lost again. Sweetness.


Dallas, Part 2

Let's see if I can put the future parts of this Dallas trip together just a little quicker.

While I pretty much covered getting there and that very tired Saturday, I did not post these shots of my beautiful nieces.

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The tournament was at the Dallas Convention Center and we stayed at the Westin Galleria. It's about a 17 mile drive down the toll road to the Convention Center. While we took two vehicles to Dallas, we could all fit in one just fine for the toll road jaunt each day, plus we'd be able to split the cost of paying the toll.

The first day, Bailey had to be at the Convention Center at 7:00 a.m. Which meant we ALL had to be at the Convention Center at 7:00 a.m. So we got up bright and early (actually, it wasn't bright at all - it was dark!), got all our stuff together (camera, cards, lenses, wallet, etc. - you cannot bring any food or beverage in so that they can charge you an arm and two legs to buy theirs!), and headed south. Dave dropped us off and then found an excellent parking space in the underground parking garage and it was all looking pretty good.

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When the doors opened to go in, we had to go past the security people to get into the court area. They asked to see inside my bag (had my LowePro backpack) and promptly told me that I was not allowed to bring in the lens I had (I rented a 70-200mm f/2.8). In fact, I couldn't bring in a lens over 3" long. Interesting, because nowhere in the information about the tournament stated such lens limitations. Now I know they have professional photographers from whom people could buy pictures, but really? Fortunately, they went ahead and let me in. Whew. I was a bit stressed, though, since this was the lens I had intended to use most of the weekend.

Good bye, lens. It's been fun. Safe travels back to #borrowlenses.

Or not.

Having never made it to any of the previous regional or qualifying tournaments (though I tried), I had NO idea what the setup was like. I thought we would be sitting in bleachers, kind of far away from the players. Not sure why I thought this, but I did. I couldn't have been much more wrong. Unless I'd pictured us in a football stadium. We all sat in chairs RIGHT NEXT TO THE COURT. Which is awesome for watching the game. But horrible for the lens I brought! In my effort to travel light, the only other one I brought was my pancake lens - a 40mm. That was it. I could've cried. Oh, I'd still have rented a lens, so the money wasn't the issue. The problem was I had rented an amazing lens and wouldn't be able to use it. For FOUR ENTIRE DAYS of the tournament!

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But then an angel disguised as an assistant volleyball coach appeared with his bag o' tricks. Bailey's assistant coach, Cliff, is a photographer, and he shoots Canon, and he had a 24-70mm Sigma, and he was super sweet and kind and allowed me to borrow it for the ENTIRE TIME we were there!

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It would seem that all was well at this point. Only it wasn't. Unfortunately, the trip and the not eating normal and the screwy sleep (or lack thereof) wreaked havoc on Caleb's stomach. He was not feeling well at all. He stuck it out for the morning, but wasn't doing any better. So I borrowed the keys and took him back to the hotel. I left the big, amazing, heavy lens in the hotel with him and headed back to the Convention Center. Naturally, there were no underground parking spaces available, so I had to park in the hot, hot Texas sun. Phooey. I also missed a game, but that was to be expected at that point.

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Bailey's team had a pretty good day - they won more than they lost. It was also her birthday, so that was pretty cool since she loves volleyball so much and got to spend a good portion of her day playing. That night, the team had a pizza party planned at the hotel, so she got to continue to have a fun birthday.

Nice photobomb by my brother-in-law.
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Caleb & I just vegged in the hotel. I think he finally started to feel a little better. Oh yeah, I also uploaded nearly 800 images from the day. Yikes.


Pillar reflection I discovered on our way out of the Convention Center.
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Who says you have to be tall to be good at volleyball? Not me. I've seen otherwise.
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She has a great serve. Although I miss her jump serve.
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Bring it on.
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This isn't about the play. Look at the ceiling lights. A) They make for great lines, photographically. B) It gives you an idea of how big this place is. This is just a small portion of it that you can see. I believe there were 90-some courts total. That's a LOT of volleyball!
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In case you missed it:
Dallas, Part 1

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