Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wishing You the Best for 2013

Hello Readers,

It's been a while since I've posted anything on this blog.  The original purpose of From Grits to Granola was to chronicle my transition from Georgia to Colorado and to keep in touch with friends who are far away geographically.  But lately, I have backed away from regular posts.  

Now that we've lived in Denver for over two years, I am accustomed to life here, for better or worse, so there are few revelations now - the transition is complete.  Colorado is a strange state - very divergent in almost every way.  Half of the state is flat, ugly and rather plain.  The other half is majestic, beautiful and breathtaking.  Half of the state is ultra-liberal and the other half ultra-conservative.

Part of the reason that I haven't written lately is that I'm reluctant to bore anyone with the details of my day-to-day life.  Having moved a fair amount during my adulthood, it is somewhat sad - but I realize true - that as time goes by and there is rare opportunity to see friends, the friends are still precious but the relationship changes.  There is not the intimacy of knowing what each person is doing on a regular basis - it's more the occasional catch-up that includes only the highlights and low points, but not the mundane.  Yet often it's knowing the mundane that bonds the friendship.

My blissfully boring life has created a blogging quandary.  I am thankful for many things - health, family, friends and a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains.  I now realize that I will never feel totally comfortable here in Denver, but that's o.k.  My complaints, like cold, dryness and altitude, are really insignificant in the big scheme of things.  While Barry and I may be the only two Colorado residents who do not partake in what appears to be the primary pastimes of all other Coloradans - skiing and drinking beer - there are some positives.  I found watching the Presidential election close-up in a swing state to be fascinating, and I am interested to observe as the state tries to enact Proposition 64, being one of the first states in the country to legalize marijuana.  That said, it is my hope that we will not be living in Colorado to view the next national election close up.

My plan for the blog is to continue to post occasionally when I have some pretty photos or on the rare opportunity when I have something to say that I believe will be of interest to others.  By far, the best thing that has come from this blog is that I often hear from many of you in response to a post, and I don't want this dialogue to stop.  The blog has definitely done what I hoped when I started - kept me in touch with friends who are distant in miles but not in my heart.

A new year is always a new start.  So as the new year approaches, I will continue to make resolutions that I may or may not keep.  As always, my top two are:  1.  Have more fun and 2. Lose weight.  I would have thought that losing weight would be the universal resolution, but, to my surprise, I recently read that the number one resolution is in fact "have more fun."  Go figure.  The problem though is that my resolutions #1 and #2 can be contradictory at times.  My other goals for the year are to get involved with some new projects, one of which will definitely be gun control (even in a state full of cowboys).  I would love to hear what some of your resolutions for the new year are.

I wish you all a very happy and healthy 2013.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Shedding Tears for Jersey

I grew up in a blue collar community in industrial New Jersey, just 16 miles from Manhattan but worlds away in day-to-day life.  It was gray, drab and polluted in our town.  There were petrochemical refineries as well as large plants from just about every chemical company that existed then.  One of the reasons is that my hometown, Linden, was on the Arthur Kill, which separated New Jersey from Staten Island, and eventually made its way to the ocean.  I rarely have anything nice to say about Jersey and have on many occasions commented that it's a great place to be from because every place else that I've lived seems so nice in comparison.  Well, that's still true.  A calamity like Sandy certainly doesn't make me nostalgic for Linden.  It was a hole then, and it still is.

But the Jersey Shore is another matter.  My happiest memories of my childhood are on the Jersey Shore and that seems to be true for a lot of other Jerseyites who I've seen being wistful on television.  The biggest thrill of the summer would be to get into our un-airconditioned car, sit in steaming traffic for a couple of hours to go about 30 miles, and eventually be rewarded by being able to claim a blanket-sized piece of sand on the beach.  The Jersey Shore beaches weren't like the beautiful empty beaches that I've been fortunate enough to visit in my adulthood - they were wall to wall people.  But that's not so surprising in the most densely populated state in the country.

My parents' beaches of choice were Bradley Beach and Asbury Park.  I still remember riding the merry-go-round in Asbury Park.  My dad loved the boardwalk, and we'd usually spend as much time there as in the ocean.  He'd make me stop and watch the salesmen demonstrating the vegematic slicer as if this was serious theater.  He loved that stuff.  We'd all get hot dogs and custard and, even though we'd leave with sunburns and sit in another couple of hours of hot traffic to get back home, the beach was magical.  When I was old enough to have friends who drove, we did exactly the same thing - headed for the shore.

As an adult, I still love the beach - any beach.  I've never thought about it much, but I guess this beach attraction is a result of these happy childhood memories.  That may be why I can't exactly embrace land-locked Colorado, which is about a thousand miles from a beach.

So looking at the devastation of the Jersey shore is heartbreaking.  I've actually shed some tears, thinking of those beaches of my youth that won't ever be the same and of all of the uprooted residents who, like me, felt the draw of the ocean.  If someone had told me two weeks ago that I'd be crying about New Jersey, I would have thought them crazy.  But Sandy changed a lot of things.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Traveling Circus

Denver City Park, October 24, 2012
OK - I absolutely promise that this is my last post on the presidential election.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to go to a speech by President Obama in Denver's City Park.  It was a huge production - truly the political equivalent of a traveling circus - with about 16,000 people attending. Yes, one of the perks of being in a closely contested state is that the candidates are constantly here. You almost feel like they will stop by your house if you promise to vote for them.

I usually try to avoid these crowded types of events, but I made an exception and went.  I tried to take in all of the hoopla around me.  This is such a huge effort - everyone had to go through security and there were more gates to go through than at most airports that I've been to.  The guards looked through my purse in a lot more detail than they do at the airport, even opening my sunglass case to see what was inside.  They handled the crowd well, and the lines moved quickly.  Very impressive.  After the event, I watched them roll up all of the security gates into the many waiting trucks and move on to the next location.  

While putting together the logistics of a "quick stop" for the President is mind-boggling (the stage, the acoustics, the crowd control barriers, etc., etc.), what affected me much more were the people who came.  Many came with wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes.  From babies to the very old.  A more diverse crowd than I see in my normal day-to-day in Denver and all very excited that they had the opportunity to see the President of the United States.  I was touched by the man who told me that he drove from Wichita, Kansas to see the President.  Even more touched by the elderly African-American lady who told me that she wanted to save her ticket to add to her collection of souvenirs from the 2008 election when she had all of her election paraphernalia laminated.  I'm sure when this woman was a girl she could not have imagined that she would see an African-American President of the United States in her lifetime.  Her pride in him was palpable.  There were also many children there, taken out of school to attend this event.  It made me happy to look at their faces and to realize that they would remember this day for the rest of their lives.  

Seeing all of the excitement of this visit was fun, and I got to shake hands with the Mayor of Denver, the Governor of Colorado, and the President of the United States. Cool.  By the way, his hand is not calloused by the many handshakes;  it's actually pretty soft.

Here are some photos from my day:

What can I say? It's definitely a fashion statement.
Colorado Governor Hickenlooper and my friend Jill

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

. . . And I Approved This Message

Hello from Ground Zero of a very close presidential race.  As I write this, Colorado still remains one of those handful of states that is too close to call for either candidate two weeks before election day.  The most recent poll I looked at today showed a difference of .2% between Obama and Romney, obviously well below the margin of error.  So the craziness here continues.  It has given me brain damage, I'm afraid, and consequently have been unable to accomplish much at all, including posting on this blog.

Soon after I first moved here, I did a blog post about mail-in voting in Colorado.  You can find that post here.  To avoid repetition, I won't go into the details of mail-in voting again, but I recently read that 70% of voters in this state get mail-in ballots.  Also, I learned that Colorado has the fourth best percentage of eligible voters who actually vote (Minnesota is the best and Hawaii the worst), so there are some definite advantages to this system.

I've already voted and dropped off my completed ballot yesterday.  I'm hoping that this will stem the barrage of contacts since it is a "done deal" for me now.  What surprised me when I looked at the ballot was the fact that there were 16 candidates for president and vice president listed on the ballot.  I had to search among the long list of candidates for the two whose faces and names have become constant companions to everyone in this state.  I did see Roseanne Barr's name as a presidential candidate (somehow she doesn't have all of the qualities that I look for in the leader of the free world), but other than that, who are these people and what are these political parties about?  I wonder if all states have so very many presidential candidates or if it is only this state.  As you vote, please let me know, just for my own curiosity.  Here's what the presidential ballot looked like here:  

2012 Colorado Ballot

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Colorado the Swing State

I've never lived in a swing state before and always envied those folks who got to watch the action up close.  So now I'm living in Colorado, a swing state where the measly 9 electoral delegates are hotly contested.  It's a weird experience to watch commercial after commercial after commercial, all spilling vitriolic lies (both sides).  Literally, there is a Romney commercial followed by an Obama commercial or vice versa all day and night long.  If all I knew about the election was what I see on commercials, I wouldn't want to vote for anybody.  I truly hate the negativity.

I will tell my idea of a better political system to anyone who will listen.  Get rid of the political commercials - just outlaw them.  Yeah, I know about the first amendment but, for the public good, we've outlawed cigarette commercials, so why not these nasty political commercials that come very close to making my ears bleed.  Once we got rid of political advertising, there would be no need for all of the money that must be raised to feed this monster.  Consequently, no favors would be owed to big contributors. Then, set up a series of public debates between the candidates, position papers and whatever other good ideas that come up for a way for a candidate to get his or her ideas across to the voting public without advertising.

It's mind boggling to imagine how much money is being spent on each and every vote here.  The whole state only has about five million people, less than metropolitan Atlanta.  If you figure the percentage of people who actually vote, I would guess that each side is spending thousands of dollars per vote.  This makes no sense.  If all of the money donated to political causes could be donated to help our schools, just think of the impact that would have.

While I'm on my soapbox, one other idea.  What about one six-year term for the President so the first four years aren't consumed with worries about  re-election?

I've been working on registering voters here in Denver.  The other day I approached a perfectly normal looking guy to ask if he needed to update his registration.  His response:  "Why would I do that?  Secret societies control the world so voting doesn't matter." Well, I guess that's one point of view.  I just hope that the "secret societies" don't start advertising too.

Monday, August 13, 2012

West Coastal

After surviving the plagues of July in Denver - fires, heat, shootings, media storm - we were delighted to have the opportunity to get out of town and head to the cool west coast.  We traveled the coast of Oregon and northern California.  Very scenic and most importantly, in the 60s.  July was officially declared the hottest month EVER in Denver, so having to wear a jacket was a welcome relief.

From the exquisite craggy Pacific coastline to the stately redwood forests, the trip made me want to burst out in song a la Woody Guthrie:  This land is my land, this land is your land, .... (you know the rest).   This really is a beautiful country.

Here are some photos of our very pleasant trip.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Shame on You, Wolf Blitzer

I've always known that the media is not completely accurate in their reporting, but I had no idea how bad it really is until this week in the aftermath of the Aurora shootings.

This is the first time in my life - and hopefully the last - that I am in a situation where I have personal knowledge of the actual facts in a huge media story.  I'm sad to realize that journalism - a profession I used to respect and admire - is at a very low point. Some in the media do not care at all if what they say is true - it's all about sensationalism.  What happened to the days of checking sources?  What happened to the days of checking facts before putting information out to the public that doesn't even make sense if anyone stopped to think about it?

The public's right to know is important, but it's not the only thing that counts in a tragedy of the magnitude of the Aurora shootings.  And certainly the public has a right to know only accurate facts, not any old thing that any anonymous source wants to put out there.  

PhD students in science work long hours in the lab and, in most institutions, are supplied a modest living stipend so they do not have to find other employment that would detract from their dissertation studies.  When my husband was a graduate student in the Paleolithic Era, he received $300 per month on the same type of NIH training grant that supports many graduate students today.  This was enough to pay our rent and buy food back then. Currently, the science graduate students here receive a living stipend of $26,000 per year, which probably covers normal living expenses such as rent, food, utilities, gas and car insurance, but leaves little left over.  I'm guessing that today's graduate students are able to live like we did on our $300 per month - very frugally.

Consequently, I was shocked to see Wolf Blitzer do a story titled "Paying for the Weapons."  Scrolled across the screen was "Thousands in Taxpayer-Funded Money." The story went on to say that the shooter got "thousands of dollars" from taxpayers like you and me, the implication being that he bought his instruments of destruction with taxpayer money.  It is true that the shooter was on an NIH training grant that pays a little more than $2,000 per month.  But it seems irresponsible to me to link this very worthwhile science training program with one obviously disturbed individual who spent between $10,000 and $15,000 on guns, ammunition, etc.  He obviously had credit cards because he ordered a lot of his materials online.  How can CNN (and all of the other news organizations who followed their lead) know where this money came from or if in fact the shooter just ran up big credit card debt?  Why would they even try to make this connection between federal dollars and his destructive spending spree?

I've always felt like Fox News doesn't really care if they make stuff up, but I expected better from others.  I have now sworn off CNN too.  If the result of this horrible event is that NIH training grants are banned as dangerous and gun sales continue to rise, I'm just going to give up.

Shame on you, Wolf Blitzer, and all the others just like you.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Too Close to Home

The horrific movie massacre is too close to home for all of us.  We've all been in packed movie theaters and can only imagine what it would be like to experience the terror and chaos of this week's event.  We start to think - what would I do?  Would I duck?  Would I run?  What's the best reaction depends on the circumstances and nobody's mind really wants to go there.  We all just hope that we're never faced with a scenario like the one that occurred in Aurora.

This particular event was even closer to home for us.  Not only are we geographically close to Aurora, but the shooter was a PhD student in a neuroscience program in the graduate school that my husband oversees.  He just finished his first year but was in the process of withdrawing from the program.  Barry didn't know him, but people who did describe him just as you've seen in the media - as a loner.  Over the years, we've known many scientists and that description would apply to a good number of them. Certainly nothing that would set off alarms.  Scientists often work long hours at the bench by themselves, and many are just like that.

The shooter's booby-trapped apartment is directly across the street from the medical campus at an intersection that we pass every time we go to that campus.  So this whole experience is a bit more personal to us than it would be if we lived somewhere else. Barry's office was barraged with media calls from all over the world.  There is great interest in figuring out what would cause this young man to do such a thing.  

I personally keep coming back to the fact that he spent months getting ready and buying firearms and ammunition totally legally.  What is wrong with our society that someone can collect an arsenal like this without any alarms going off?  I would hope that this might make our elected officials say that no one outside of the military and law enforcement needs automatic weapons that can fire 100 rounds, but I am extremely doubtful that any gun restrictions will occur as a result.  I always want to believe that out of something bad, something good comes.  In this case, the "good" would be gun control.  But Colorado is a cowboy state and has a cowboy mentality, so I expect that others like the shooter will be able to buy whatever weapons of death and destruction they want.

It's all so sad. 

Monday, July 16, 2012


Yes, that is a photo of me way high up - at the top of Mount Evans, elevation 14,264 feet.  Is the Colorado lifestyle finally getting to me?  Did I hike or bike up all that way up?

Nope.  There's a paved road that goes to the summit parking area (elevation: 14,130 feet), and then we walked about a quarter mile to get up the last 130 feet.

It's really pretty way up above the tree line and about 50 degrees cooler than downtown Denver.  Yes, it was in the 40's atop Mt. Evans.

Not exactly solitude up here

Besides plenty of people, many of whom did use their own muscle power to get up there, we saw lots of mountain goats.  Real Coloradans keep track of how many Fourteeners (there are 53 mountains in Colorado that are more than 14,000 feet) they have climbed.  Mountain bikers are proud of doing the "triple bypass" where they bike up and down three mountains in a day.

But, for me, I loved getting up there in my lazy, no strain way - moderate pressure on the gas and brake pedals.  Delightful.

Back below the tree line

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Boston Getaway

Boston Common

There are times when I feel quite lucky to go to nice places as a tagalong.  Barry had a meeting to attend in Boston, and I was able to go as well.  I haven't been to Boston in a long time - I can't actually remember the last time I was there but it's probably been at least 25 years.

It was fun to reacquaint and to be a tourist there.  A great big plus of the trip was staying at the beautiful Fairmont Copley Plaza in the Back Bay area, a very elegant hotel celebrating its 100th anniversary with a major renovation.  

While Boston was a nice change from Denver, the trip made me realize that almost any change in scenery is a great refresher for the spirit.  I think we sometimes underestimate how invigorating it is to go to a different locale, look at new things with a new eye, be a real tourist and try to wring as much out of each day as possible.  When I'm home, it's so easy to fall into the same ruts, the same patterns without really meaning to do so.  

Here are some photos to enjoy my Boston tourist experience vicariously. 

The Beautiful Boston Public Library
More Boston Public Library
Great Shopping on Newbury Street
Charles River
Chihuly Glass Sculpture at Museum of Fine Arts
Boston Public Library
Fairmont Copley Plaza
Museum of Fine Arts
Museum of Fine Arts

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

50 Shades of Boring

It's hot and when that happens, staying inside and reading a good book sounds like a great thing to do.  If your July 4th holiday finds you in this mood, I recommend you stay clear of the #1 paperback best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey.  This book has been so widely popular that the media can't seem to let it alone, so I succumbed and read it to see what all the fuss is about.

It is the first of a trilogy about a young, inexperienced twenty-something woman and a slightly older, highly successful and handsome man who needs to be dominant in all things.  He likes to tie her up and spank her as well as other degrading things, some of them sexual and some not.  For example, she's told that she's not allowed to look him in the eyes but must look down instead.

I would just say it's a junky book and leave it at that, but it troubles me that the book is so popular as "mommy porn."  I'm not sure what these women who love this book so much are thinking.  It's troubling if they actually find this story intriguing.  I found it depressing and boring.  Honestly, I only finished the book because I kept thinking that it would improve, but alas it did not.  The one point of interest for me was to find out what in his past made Mr. Grey the sadist that he became.  Of course, this is not covered in Book 1, and I don't want to know enough to read the next two books.  I can definitely exist without this information.

On a more cheery note, Happy July 4th to all and stay cool, if that's possible.

Monday, June 25, 2012

We're Burning Up Here, Folks

Both figuratively and literally, we are burning up here.  I never would have guessed that the Colorado summer could be so brutal. 

The thermometer above shows the temperature in the blazing sun on our terrace - yes, you read it right: 129.9° at 6:18 p.m.  But even in the shade, it was a balmy 105°, the highest official temperature ever recorded in Denver and the fourth straight day of 100+ temps with no end in sight.

Wait - that last reading wasn't really so bad.  Just 27 minutes later, you can see 133.5°as the outside temperature.

But anyone who is not in danger of being actually incinerated by flames cannot complain.  Much of the state is burning down.  There are at least 12 wildfires throughout the state, burning countless acres.  Colorado's governor said today that about half of the nation's firefighting personnel are in Colorado right now.

So let's just continue to pretend that global warming doesn't exist as we simulate hell on earth.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Chalk Art 2012

I've been negligent in my blog postings of late but there is not that much of interest in my life right now.  That's not a bad thing - I've been enjoying the quiet time and the beautiful spring weather.

Last year, I wrote about the annual Chalk Art Festival here.  Since it's close to where I live, I went on Saturday and Sunday this past weekend.  Sadly, rains came Saturday afternoon and washed away that day's work.  So the photos you see below were taken late Sunday morning, as the artists tried to recreate what they'd already done.  I'm still amazed by what these folks do with chalk.  By the time I'm writing this on Monday morning, all of what you see below has been hosed down and washed away.  Enjoy.

One artist's tools

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fashion and Style

I recently went to the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective at the Denver Art Museum. Interesting exhibit - I learned a lot about fashion (do you know that St. Laurent was the first designer to send a pants suit down the runway and this was considered scandalous?), and it made me think more about this topic in general.  It's always been fascinating to me - I love to look at all sorts of fashion, whether it's in a magazine, on the street, or on the red carpet.  But, it dawned on me when thinking about this exhibit that I don't ever really try to incorporate fashion into my own life, other than as a spectator.  It's intimidating and frightening to me. I would never, for example, wear the beautiful gown in the photo above, even assuming that I had somewhere to wear it. The pink would be too bright for me and the bow way too big.  Yet it's a stunning and classic gown when you see it in person.

I am actually scared of prints and bright colors (except in small doses).  I wear the same solid, boring things all of the time - light colored solid top (often white) and dark bottom.  Or, if I really feel wild, dark colored solid top (often black) and light bottom. Why is this so?  I'm not really sure.  There was a time in my life when I was young (teens and twenties) when I would wear bright colors.  I'm thinking of a particular a-line dress that had color blocks (so trendy now) of chartreuse and hot pink.  (So wishing that I had a photo of myself in this dress that I adored at that time.)

But as I get older, I just want to fade into the background, not call attention to how I look.   This phenomenon of becoming invisible as we age was discussed in an article I read recently.  The article is about aging stylishly, and it made me realize that being fashionable (which I know I can never be) and being stylish are two totally different things.  I admire women who have their own style - you know  they'll look great in whatever they show up wearing.

Then I read about a new book called Advanced Style that shows photos of older and very stylish women. The author and photographer of the book also has a blog where he features these aging fashionistas.  It's clear in looking at these women that it takes a lot of time and effort to really show up with style.  Maybe that's why I have no style - it's just too darn much work.

Another current exhibit at the Denver Art Museum - Read My Pins : The Madeleine Albright Collection - gave me an idea.  Maybe style is possible while dressing blandly if you have a reoccurring theme in your dressing, like Albright's ever-present pins.  The pins were fascinating as they tell a story of her life.  They're more than just a fashion accessory to her as she uses them to express how she's feeling on a particular day or to send a message to those she's seeing.

So no lessons to be learned here.  I simply want to think more about our superficial appearances and what that says about our insides, if anything.  Does what we wear make us more or less interesting people or just more or less interesting to look at?  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Little Old Lady from (South) Pasadena

View from South Pas House

It's official.  We closed on our retirement house in South Pasadena last week. Unfortunately, we won't actually be living there until Barry retires from his Denver job, but I can now see my future as The Little Old Lady from (South) Pasadena.

For those of you too young to remember it or for those of you too old to remember the classic lyrics, take a listen to this 1964 Beach Boys song with a click here.  Back in the day, I was never a big Beach Boys fan - they seemed too clean cut to me and that California sound was way too far away for this Jersey girl.  In 1964, I was entranced with the Beatles, the British invasion of music, and the R & B sounds that were the soundtrack for my childhood.  But somehow the Beach Boys' songs and lyrics have stuck with me, and I still remember their big hits.  I could never have imagined then that I'd be living in so many places all over the country and that I'd wind up actually being that little old lady.

So the lyrics go:  ". . . and everybody's sayin' there's nobody meaner than the little old lady from Pasadena . . ."  That would be me.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April (Snow) Showers & Carpe Diem

April 3, 2012

After a glorious spring month of March with nary a snowflake to be seen, today is a gloomy snowy day.  The fact that April has begun seems to not impress the snow gods even one little bit.

But today is gloomy for reasons more significant than the weather.  I learned early this morning that my friend Sheila died today.  She was a wonderful person - liked by all. Sheila was a retired kindergarten teacher so that tells you right there that she was kind, patient and giving.  We had dinner together at Nicola's on LaVista the day she learned her diagnosis.  By that time, we had both researched the long name for what she had on the internet and both knew that the prognosis wasn't good.  So we cried, we laughed, we talked, and, of course, we drank wine.  We hoped that she would be included in the small percentage of people who were able to beat her kind of cancer, but it didn't work out that way. 

So, once again, the lesson to be learned is life is short.  Seize the day.