Monday, April 6, 2015

Friends from Home: Denise

Beautiful Denise!
Meet Denise.  Also a recurrent character in our travelers' story.  We met during her junior year of high school.  She had transfered to Gateway from a local private school.  Though I don't have any recollection of this, apparently Denise has a fond memory of me inviting her to join my lunch table on one of her first days at Gateway.  My memories from high school are fuzzy and over cast by my insecurity of being someone who didn't fit in.  It feels good to know I was kind and welcoming.  

Back in 2008 we found the gem that is Bear Run Nature Reserve.  Located in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania, the Reserve is a area of protected land with a maintained trail system and 6 hike in only camp sites.  If faries and leprechans exist, this is where they can be found.  Shaded with hemlock and lined with rododendron the trails transport you to a place of tranquility.  We wanted to share this find with anyone willing to make the hike.  Several friends joined us over the 2 summers that we camped there consistently.
The magic that is Bear Run Preserve

It was also about that time people were congregating on Facebook, making connections from the past.  One of those friends from the past was Denise.  At the time she was just getting into hiking and camping and was posting for advice about equipment and locations.  Feeling a kindred spirit, I reached out and asked if she's like to join us at Bear Run.  We would be there for the weekend with Brian's sister and our niece and nephews.  I thought it would be fun for her kids and a good time for the adults as well.  She agreed to stop up for a day hike.  

She arrived with her oldest kiddo ready for some serious hiking.  We showed them around our favorite trails and went for a dip in our favorite swimming hole.  But the most memorable moment from that afternoon was Denise as a mom.  She had packed fixings for pb and j sandwiches, snacks, and drinks to feed our entire crew.  Just the right combo for a pack of hungry hikers.  Kidless at the time...I was in awe!  I haven't been able to find any photos from this trip.  The memories will have to be enough.

Denise relocated to Colorado back in 2012, and when we planned on making our way there in 2014 I was excited with the prospect of the very least for a mini reunion.  Already having close to 2 years experince with the Rocky Mountain State, she would be a great resource on things to see and do while we lived here.  Little did I know how influential Denise would actually be in our family's life.
Denise finding her own peace in the Great Outdoors

It's no secret we were in a serious financial bind when we arrived in Colorado.  It quickly became apparent that we would not last more than a month in temporary housing.  The conditions were pretty bad...enough for a future article.  We were running into issues finding a furnished rental that was a.  within our price range and b.  available when we needed it.  Reevaluating our situation, we decided to start looking at unfurnished spaces.  We found a suitable space, but the original deposit amount quoted was increased once our application was processed.  We had been in Colorado less than a month and our finances were still shaky at best.  And in the chaos, there was Denise, offering to help.

As I sit and write this article, I look around the apartment, and can not see a space where Denise has not touched our lives.  From the roof over our heads (she helped by funding a portion of our deposit) to the furniture, the curtains, the pots and pans, our dining room table...the list goes on.  She had offered to help and when I asked, she was there.  

The day we paid our first months rent and deposit, she was there.  She help us move two loads from our hotel room to our new apartment and in between runs treated me to an amazing lunch of mexican food.  Mmm...I'm hungry for tacos just typing about this.

In the first few months, after we moved, I took jobs where I could get them...sometimes even 60 plus miles away.  They provided me with bed and breakfast services on several occasions when I worked closer to Denver than the Springs.  Always leaving the light on, Saving me gas, and giving me extra minutes of precious sleep. 

I owe her a debt I'm not sure I will ever be able to fully repay.
Flowers I got Denise for her Bday!

It is no surprise that she was just awarded an honor for excellence in education in the school district where she works.  She carries this giving spirit into every aspect of her life.  A wife, mother, teacher, and friend...she balances each with what appears to be grace and ease.  I admire her and am proud to call her my friend.  I am honored that she considers me hers.  
Denise preparing to receive her award for Excellence in Education

Thank you Denise for everything you have done for us!  I hope our paths continue to cross for many years to come.

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