12mph America At The Speed Of Sanity

26Sep/100

Did you know? (Denver tidbits)

Now that we have been living in Denver for a couple of months, I decided to explore a little more about this city via the Internet and share with you. I'm using Wikipedia and www.hometodenver.com as my sources. Feel free to peruse those sites for more information. Gosh, you could find out something that I need to know!

Did you know that Denver is called The Mile High City because it is 1 mile in elevation about sea level? That's right, 5,280 feet. There is a spot on the west steps of the state capitol building where it is exactly 5,280 feet. While I'm mentioning "city" and "state" in this section, it is quite interesting that there is Denver the city and Denver the county. Denver the city is Colorado's state capital.

Did you know that Denver has the 2nd largest park system in the U.S., with 205 parks within the city limits and 20,000 acres in the mountains? There are 650 miles of urban trails. Denver B Cycle has arrived in Denver. It is a program where one can rent a bike from numerous bike kiosks for a quick commuting jaunt or for multiple days as a visitor. (Chicago also has this program). With all of the opportunities for an active lifestyle and unbeatable climate, Denver is rated the "thinnest" city in the U.S. and ties for 1st place with Hawaii as the "thinnest" state in the U.S.

Did you know that Denver has over 300 days of sunshine as recorded by The National Weather Service? According to the weather records, that is roughly 3,100 hours of sunshine annually. (Folks, we receive more sunshine than San Diego, CA)! Our average temperature is 64 degrees F. (I'm convinced that those upper 90 degree days throughout most of August and September help to keep this average so high.) Annually, Denver receives an average of 15.81 inches of precipitation. We have an arid, continental climate, but experience 4 distinct seasons. Winters can be cold and dry with record lows down to -25 though average winter temps are mid-40s to low-50s. Golf courses remain open throughout the year. When it does snow, the snowfall quickly melts. (Ok, but will I get to snowshoe in this city?) The snowfall in the mountains can have significant accumulations, which sets the stage for wonderful downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and other winter sports. Now the other key point is that Denver receives an average accumulation of 61 inches of snowfall, which translates into roughly 6 inches of precipitation (snowfall in inches divided by 10=inches of precipitation). Keep in mind that those 6 inches are included in the 15.81 inches of annual precipitation! Yikes! We had around 15 inches of rain over Jeremy and Michelle's wedding weekend, September 12-14, 2008 back in Illinois.

Did you know that Denver was founded in November 1858 during the Pikes Peak or Bust Gold Rush? Where the South Platte River meets Cherry Creek, some flakes of gold were found. This area is now Confluence Park and a popular spot. With the discovery of gold throughout the mountains, Denver continued to boom. It was also a prominent city on the plains since agriculture was big along the foothills. Denver was coined, "Queen City of the Plains". Stately and elegant mansions, streets, parks, statues, and fountains were a part of this boom period.

Did you know that Denver has a terrain that is considered high plains with rolling hills? Although I'm also reading that it is considered one of the flattest cities in the U.S.! Of course, coming from Chicago's far-western suburbs and northern Illinois, flat is something to which we're accustomed. It is amazing that where Steve's Mom lives in Centennial, 10 miles south of us, she lives at 600 feet higher in elevation than downtown Denver. Chicago's elevation along the shore of Lake Michigan is 577 feet and Johnson's Mound, the highest point in Kane County, Illinois 45 miles from the lakeshore, is just 801 feet. From where we live in Denver, we are a 20-30 minute drive to the foothills to the west with elevations of 8,000-11,000 feet and on our way to The Front Range with some 14,000 foot peaks. Ah yes, Rocky Mountain High (thanks John Denver).

Did you know that Denver's estimated population in the 2009 was 610,345? Including the metropolitan area, the population is roughly 2.5 million. To lend a perspective, Chicago has a population of 2.8 million people and the Chicago metro area as over 9.5 million people. Our former community of Batavia, IL has 27,300 people. In estimated terms, we could fit nearly 89 Batavias into the Denver metropolitan area. My hometown of Belle Plaine, Iowa has 2,878 residents, so guess 890 Belle Plaines would fit. This math stuff is fun!

We continue to adjust to life in our new neighborhood, community, church, shops, DU, and to living at a distance from our family and friends back in Batavia. We enjoyed such a great visit from our daughter, Steph, for several days this past week. We took in several meals at area eateries with her and Steve's Mom. Friday was special as we headed to the mountains to capture some fall colors. Kenosha Pass, Breckenridge, Frisco, down to Idaho Springs. Then up to Mt. Evans Road to Summit Lake. Echo Lake was dashing with the colors, lake reflections, blue sky, etc. Our return to Denver was via Squaw Pass which had brilliant colors and outstanding views. Yesterday a 45 minute video chat was a perfect update with Jeremy and Michelle.

As we continue finding out neat tidbits about Denver, I'll be happy to share them with you. May this update find you taking time to absorb the fall season, its colorful pallet, delicious apples, pumpkin patches, blue skies, crisp mornings, and a happy heart.

Much love,

Diane (& Steve)

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19Sep/100

Final stretch of summer and school is FINALLY in session!!

Well folks, it is the final stretch of summer. Are you asking yourself, where did summer go? It is mind boggling that in only a few days, autumn will officially arrive. Here in Denver we continue to have 80 and 90+ degree days so summer seems to be everlasting! Last Monday Steve and I drove up to Silverthorne for a 5.5 mile hike in the mountains. The aspen trees were about 30% changed to their brilliant gold attire. It is amazing how the aspen leaves seem to dance in the breeze at a quick tempo. The skies were brilliant blue and very few puffy white clouds coasted along, slipping over the mountain tops and casting their moving shadows across the landscape. However, the uncomfortable crunch of the pine needles and brown vegetation under foot were "sound" evidence of the very dry season that Colorado has experienced. Wildfires have destroyed homes and thousands of acres of trees and vegetation along the front range in the Boulder and Loveland area. Warnings are out that it only takes a spark to make a very dangerous wildfire. So, while we enjoy the ample sunshine here in Denver and Colorado, we absolutely pine for some gray, cloudy days and much needed rain. Since we arrived at Steve's Mom's on July 22, we have experienced only two rain showers, each as downpours lasting only 10 minutes. Those are the type of rains which seem to just flow off of the arid ground and into the creeks and gutters for flash floods.

The big news flash for the week: Classes began this past week for us. Steve only has two classes for a total of 8 credits: one on Negotiations and one on Conflict Resolution. To date he has purchased 12 books for the two classes plus just ordered 3 more through Amazon. Some people react to Steve only having two courses, but he has an immense amount of reading to accomplish, papers to write (after a 32 year absence from academia), and events through his department that he is highly encouraged to attend. He's also going to meet with a non-profit organization specializing in Conflict Resolution this week to see if there are some volunteer opportunities with them. After many years of a more typical 9-5 job routine and a wonderful span of time to enjoy life this summer, he is trying to build a new structure around his life as a student. Fortunately the campus library is just a 15 minute walk from home, so it is easy for him to schedule study time in a quiet environment. The university offers a Writing Clinic, which he will be utilizing as part of his initial paper-writing.

I enjoyed my first class of Spanish on Thursday. While it is considered a Beginning Spanish class, I am grateful for having high school Spanish as a base (even if it was umpteen years/decades ago), for there was very little time given to pronunciation of vowels and other key pronunciations on Thursday evening. As the pace is set to pick up over the next few weeks, I feel grateful for having access to an on-line enrichment program through my curriculum where I can practice Spanish dialogue.

This past week I was invited to be a guest at a meeting related to educational reform in Colorado, but specifically initiatives to increase parental involvement in the schools as a critical component to a student's academic success. At the very least, it gave me a glimpse into the reform that is occurring in Colorado and the commitment that so many organizations in Colorado have to providing good education in this era of educational reform across the U.S.  Our friend who helped connect me to this group of people also put me in touch with the Denver Road's Home, an organization that is trying to end homelessness in Denver over a 10 year period. I've jumped at an opportunity to volunteer one day in Denver for Project Homelessness Connect 10. This will be a day when homeless individuals and families converge on Metro College of Denver. With the assistance of 1,000 volunteers, they will have "one-stop-services" including medical care, food stamp applications, legal aid, job counseling, connections for housing, assistance with documents, etc. Steve hopes to volunteer with me that day too. I miss volunteering, so at least this will get my feet wet!

Through the church that we've been attending, (Cameron United Methodist), several thoughtful people have provided resources for me in a job hunt or volunteerism search. Steve and I also attended a campus fair for graduate students, where various campus services had information booths set up. There is a Career Services Department, who will gladly assist me as a University College student. Guess my little course has some added bonuses as well.

Over this past week, Jeremy and Michelle's friends, Alma and Yangling, came to Denver. We invited them and Steve's Mom for dinner last Tuesday evening. Then on Wednesday Alma, Yangling, and I went to downtown Denver to be tourists together. Admittedly, I've only been as far as Union Station (light rail service ends/begins there), Coors Field (Rockies Baseball), and the Barth Hotel (for theatre productions). It was delightful to see a little more of Denver. We basically took the 16th Street Mall Free Shuttle, stopped where we wanted to get off along 16th Street, enjoyed some iced coffee at Starbucks, walked to the U.S. Mint only to find it was closed, and enjoyed a loving lunch at an Irish eatery where we sat in the shade outdoors and visited. When we felt like we experienced what we could for the day, we drove back towards our home and strolled around the beautiful flower gardens in Washington Park. Canine friend, Sugar, really enjoyed time at the park and scoping out the flowers, but seem to evade photo opportunities!

Last night our Denver-area friends (from Iowa State days), Denny and Bette, came to our place. Then we walked less than a mile to the Old South Pearl Street neighborhood for pizza. A walk back to our place and more conversation time,  made for a perfect evening.

Some people have asked about our transition. Yes, it continues. Now that Steve has finally begun school, we feel like our feet are perhaps planted in the next phase after taking two years to get here. Most importantly, we recognize that life is full of transitions for all of us. Right now as part of living in Denver, we are embracing this time as a genuine gift. It is time to search for opportunities to grow our minds, stretch out of our comfort zones, build upon connections we have or are making, quiet our souls so that we are open to God's nudges, and continue downsizing our household (yes, even that must continue). The one Bible scripture that helped steady our course still is etched in our minds and on our hearts. Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you,"  declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Summer....the days, weeks, and months filled with two moves, incredible travels, and a plethora of activity. Autumn...bursts of color, harvest festivals, an intense mid-term political season, and visits from family and friends.

May this find you all doing well and ready for autumn! Send us an email or call us with your updates as we LOVE them too.

Love & Blessings,

Diane (& Steve)

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8Sep/100

Student Status and More

Our BIG transition that was set into motion two years ago tomorrow (yes, it was the first Thursday that I had my 3 year old preschool class in 2008) has been achieved! Steve just returned from DU's campus after his first session of new student orientation, and he has officially registered for classes!! At the session today he was introduced to faculty and the other new students enrolling in the Conflict Resolution graduate program. Originally, he was slated to register for classes tomorrow, so he was pleasantly surprised to accomplish registration this evening. He'll be taking two classes this term, at the suggestion of his student peers who have one year behind them. His classes will involve a great deal of reading and writing, so that alone will be an adjustment. One class meets on Wednesday afternoons, 2-5, and the other on Thursday evenings, 6-9. The great thing about Thursday evenings, is that I have my Spanish class on campus those nights. When I'm finished, I'll just head to the campus library to study and wait for Steve to join me for a walk home together (a little reminiscent of Iowa State days 37 years ago). I am so pleased for Steve as he eagerly anticipates his role as graduate student. This is an answered prayer!!

Getting back into the school mode is quite interesting. Today my Spanish class syllabus was published on-line and I have homework already! Last week I obtained my Pioneer Student I.D. Card (Steve had to wait until registration to get his). The great thing is that we get 10% discounts at various eateries near campus. Since I have non-credit status, my perks pretty much are limited to having access to the DU library. As a graduate student, Steve will have free access to public transportation, the fitness center, student health services (hurray), and discounts to events. All of the "free" stuff ends there. Next week the tuition and activities bill will be paid (gulp) and the rest of his textbooks will be purchased tomorrow (cough).

Lately, I've been knocking around ideas for what I'm going to do besides becoming proficient at Spanish. Refreshing my resume is certainly one of the first endeavors over the next week. Yesterday, a friend of ours here in Denver kindly put me in touch with a number of people at agencies or people involved with projects in the Denver area. Many of the agencies work on behalf of improving education and academic achievement for all students in Colorado. Some of these programs are striving to empower parents to become more involved as partners in education. Some reach out to parents of children with disabilities. Another works at designing programs as young as infants and toddlers, with a parent-education component. Denver's Road Home hopes to end homelessness here under an aggressive, 10-year plan. They are 5 years into it already and making a wonderful difference.

I've been reading website after website to try to become more informed as I begin to see the bigger picture in Denver and Colorado, especially on the social service front. Ideally, I'd like to be involved in a social service agency, whether it be with children, youth, families, older adults, or a combination of those groups. In the next two weeks, I intend to make contact with the Institute of Gerontology at DU. We shall see where my path takes me!

This has been Batavia week! On Monday morning we had a light brunch for Paula, Jeff, their three children, Amy, Julie, and her son. (Amy, Paula, and Julie are all sisters. Paula and her family moved to the Boulder area in June from Batavia. The rest of the group flew here to see them over Labor Day). Later on Monday, we went to dinner with Jenny, Meghan, Colleen, and Ryan (Colleen's boyfriend). Mom Jenny has been out here on two different trips over the last 3 weeks to bring Colleen to Denver Seminary and then this week to bring Meghan to DU. Both Meghan and Colleen have been were in our high school youth ministry with us back in Batavia. Jenny took us to dinner where we had a lovely visit with everyone.

We anticipate more company over the next couple of weeks. We are thrilled to say the least! We also have nabbed a couple of video chats with Jeremy and Michelle and other Batavians, Carol and Paul. Steph and Shane had a 45 minute speaker phone chat with us last week too.

Other updates: 7 boxes of "stuff" will be donated to Cameron Church tomorrow for their rummage sale (yes, we continue downsizing). Today we mailed our voter registration forms as we don't want to miss out on participating in the November election. Last week our property manager approved some repairs, but it looks like cleaning the filthy windows and clearing the wild sumac from the yard will be up to us. As of this week, we have a television and newly installed Direct TV satellite service. We've been out on bike trails several times this week. The sun has appeared every day since we arrived on July 23. Our home congregation is observing its 175th anniversary this year and on Sunday they'll have a big banquet to celebrate. Our Pastor's wife will be playing the organ at the Mormon Tabernacle on Friday night. (It's a big weekend for them, isn't it?)

Okay folks. This is our update for the moment. Please email us or call us with your updates: school, work, kids, pets, hobbies, and travels.

Love from the Mile High City,

Diane (& Steve)

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