Monday, May 18, 2015

A Thief Among Us

I have read more blog articles than I can count regarding travelers' experiencing theft on the road.  Usually it's some far of country and I sit behind my screen, soaking up their misery vicariously and shaming their offender in my mind.  I was niave really, not to think something like this could and would effect us locally.

A week ago Thursday, my purse and phone were stolen from the front seat of my car.  I have so many feelings even now ranging from anger to relief and everything in between.  We're definitely not in Concho anymore.  We were spoiled with living in the middle of no where.  The probability of our car being broken into while we lived in Arizona was miniscle if any.  There we lived on gated land.  I can count on one hand the times "visitors" actually drove through the gate.  Field mice were the biggest threat.  We definitely became more aware of leaving food in the car.  Heck, when we lived in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, we rarely locked our doors.

This particular afternoon, I was enlisted to pick up a client's 10 year old from school.  They also have 1 1/2 year old twins.  Having 3 kids under 3 in car seats is hecktic on a good day.  As I pulled into the "car rider" line an hour long hail storm began.  In that time that passed at least 5 inches of hail accumlated on the ground.  My windshield wipers froze.  Fussy kiddos cried from the back seat.  The line crawled along.  Each time I got out to clear the windshield my feet would sink thru the slush into the ice water running beneath, drenching my shoes and clothes becoming soaked by the pelting grauple falling freakishly from the sky.  When my car actually made it to the turn into the school I was flagged down by the child's father.  Luckily, he had her in tow.  Unluckily, my pick up service had been unnecessary.
What the hail?

Though my mood was sour, my task was to get back to the client's home safely with their precious toddler cargo.  Thankful for good tires, I was able to manuver the thick slush successfully.  I credit my many, many years living through Pittsburgh winters for my "mad" weather driving skills.  Arriving to the destination unscathed, I began the tedious unloading of toddlers and car seats.  In the commotion, the car doors were left unlocked.  My purse remained unassumingly on the front passenger seat.

After about 15 minutes of filling the client in on the events of the day, I returned to my car.  I was anxious to get home and get ready for an interview with a perspective client.  Once Truman was secure in his car seat, I settled into the driver's seat and reached over into my purse to grab my phone.  I had wanted to let Brian know we were on our way.  My hand fell through the air to the seat below and in that moment I realized my purse was gone.

I didn't instantly assume the worst.  I went back to the client's door and asked if I might have left my purse inside.  I checked in the garage by the kids' car seats.  It was when I had searched all the usual suspects with no avail that panic began to set in.  I wasn't particularly worried about fraudulent spending, but the overwhelming thought of replacing everything from debit cards to social security cards loomed ahead of me.  And the phone calls...police, financial, verizon customer service, all of our auto debits...anxiety provoking to say the least!

I felt the call to the authorities a bit of a dead end.  My case wasn't violent or life threatening, so it wasn't a priority.  I was given the impression that any leg work would need to be done my me if I was going to recover my stolen items.  I began combing the neighbors trash cans, speaking with local business owners and checking their dumpsters.

All avenues turned up empty.  Calls to my financial institutions showed no attempted use on my cards.  Verizon assumed the suspects had turned off my phone and that is why my tracking application was not producing results.  Defeated, I gathered Truman and decided to head home.  My clients had been kind enough to replace the money in my wallet plus a little extra in exchange for future sitting, aleviating the immediate financial need.

I pulled out of their driveway and came to the intersection.  In a split second decision, I decided to search the trash cans on the next block.  A few houses from the end a neighbor was pulling out of his driveway.  He commented on my "dumpster diving" and I quickly explained about my purse.  He offered to keep a look out and then continued on his way while I continued searching garbage cans.  A few feet up he stopped and got out.  He called back to me..."It's here!"  He had found my purse and it's contents dumped in a side yard at the end of the block.

I quickly checked the items remaining.  Everything, but my phone was present and accounted for...even the money.  I recall screaming as if I had won the lottery and then hugging this kind stranger in thanks!    

The purse it self (aside from my phone) was quite possibly more valuable than all it's contents.   It was a replacement for my diaper bag that had broken a few months back, a gift from a friend.  Inside were diapers, a change of toddler clothes, and a couple of toys.  I'm hoping the theives were disappointed with their bounty and that is why they threw it away.
The infamous purse

Though the outcome was more positive than negative, I am still reliving the panic this experienced induced.  I don't think I realized how dependent I have become on my phone.  It contains my life and has been the hardest loss to overcome.  Due to it's confiscation I missed a promising interview.  I have had no response from my attempts at contacting this perspective employer. In addition, the deductible for my phone was more than anticipated and definitely outside our budget for the month of May.  Sadly, my perfectly functional phone is likely in the trash somewhere locally, unusable...Thank you, no thank you...Apple!

I wouldn't wish this experience on anyone, but if I had to be the one...I'm glad I had an amazing support system.  I can't thank my clients enough!  From phone use, to occupying Truman during my own melt down to giving us money (a portion of which I used at McDonald's for dinner, because who feels like cooking after their purse is stolen).  What a load of drama!  Grateful is an understatement!

In addition, Wells Fargo was amazing.  I was able to cancel my card and account and then reopen a new account all over the phone.  I was also able to recieve a temporary debit card from a local branch to use until my personalized replacement arrived.  Verizon's service was decent.  They were able to deactivate my phone and suspend charges on my line until the phone is replaced.  Though the experience has made me a bit skeptical about the monthly insurance plan I pay for each month.  At $10 a month over the course of 2 years, I am already shelling out $240 whether or not I ever replace my phone in that time.  When I signed up, I was advised a replacement deductible would be $99.  Verizon then stated over the phone it would be $149, while the insurance company verified their records showed a payment of $169 would be necessary to replace the phone.

I'm hoping this is the end of our string of unfortutnate events for a while.  After two weeks of illness, armegedon like weather, and then this debacle, we are ready for a break!  Fortunately, a local friend offered us a "parents day out" and we have taken her up on our offer.  Brian and I are headed out, just the two of us, on a much needed date.    

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Lesson in Parenting | Lantern Festival 2015

We had been waiting for months for the Lantern Festival.  Tickets purchased...check.  Meet up plans confirmed...check.  Bags packed...check.  Sick kid...wait, we didn't order a sick kid?!?

Truman woke up the day of the festival feeling...well, like crap.  We knew this because he told us over and over again.  But you see, we had these tickets.  They were bought and paid for months ago...and they weren't cheap.  We had friends from north of Denver, driving down to see us.  We treated Truman's symptoms with Tylenol and cold medicine and got him down for a nap.  We figured he would be fine after a least well enough to attend the event for about 3 hours.  There would be lots to do and see.  Live music, food, kids, and s'mores all from the comfort of his stroller.  We could do this!

We could not have been more wrong...

Just getting Truman to the car was a challenge.  He simply did not want to go.  He quite vocally expressed his desire to stay in his "choo choo bed" and watch his shows.  He struggled fiercely as I buckled him into his car seat.  Flailing and wailing in an effort to disuade our departure.  It was not his lucky day, we departed anyways.

The venue was about 30 minutes south and Truman slept the whole way.  It's like a parental amnesia kicked in during the if the previous melt down had never existed.  I started to let myself get excited.

The event was being held on the in field of a local motor speedway.  Truman woke up as we were pulling into the parking lot.  It was then the chant started...

"I want to go home...."

"I want my choo choo bed..."

"I want my show..."

This went on for the next hour.  As we stood in line to collect our lanterns and care packages, as we walked over to the in field, as we bought festival food, and as we tried to roast s'mores.  The chant excalated to a rant, getting continually louder and was then accompanied by tears.  Even in the commotion of the festivities we knew Truman was starting to effect the enjoyment of the people around us.

A woman in the concessions line politely asked if Truman struggled with sensory issues.  She wondered if maybe all the activity was too much for him.  I sheepishly replied, it was too much, but because we were pretty sure he was coming down with something.  I admitted we were selfishly hoping to ride it out because we had paid for the tickets  several months ago and had really been looking forward to being there.  She nodded and responded understandingly.  Assuring me she probably would have done the same thing.

A second mom, sitting by the fire ring we were using to roast marshmallows, asked if bubbles might make Truman feel better.  She had brought some for her own children and had an extra to spare.  I thanked her for her generosity, looking beyond her and into Brian's desperate stare.  No bubbles were going to make any of this better.  I knew it was time to go.

Truman was now crying and coughing.  I was also having difficulty with the smoke from the bonfires and torches.  It was as if I was having an allergic reaction.  My eyes would not quit watering...and they hurt.  And in that moment, we snapped out of our selfishness fog and back into reality.  A snap decision to return to the car with Truman was the best idea of the evening.  

We didn't really discuss anything, but that I would take Truman to the car.  Just knowing we were returning to the car lifted Truman's mood.  It was starting to get dark and people had begun to flood the single access to the in field that acted as both entrance and exit.  There were also two flights of stairs and just me to manuver Truman and the stroller.  I did okay getting down from the field into the tunnel.  It was a tight fit.  Those exiting were limited to walking single file.  As the exit and ascending stairs approched I began to get  a bit anxious.  And then, as if the kind stranger behind me had read my thoughts, a young man no more than 21 discontinued the discussion he was having with friends and appeared at the front of the stroller ready to help me carry it to the top.  I thanked him and then he was off, disappearing into the crowd.  

I made my way to the car and got Truman settled inside.  Knowing Brian's phone wasn't working, I texted the friend's we were with and asked if they could bring Brian home after the festival.  She said they'd take good care of him and get him home saftely.  

I don't remember the last time I'd been this excited about attending an event and yet, in that decision to go home I felt relief.  Lucky for me there are a few in every crowd that can't follow directions and a few stray lanterns found lift off while I was pulling out of the lot.  I reached for my camera, but it was dead.  What's that line..."you can't take a picture, the moment is already gone."  It wasn't the "Tangled" experience I had imagined, but with Truman comfortable and calm in the back seat I'll take what I can get.  It filled my need.  My first person experience to be forever committed to memory only.

We made it home safely and I got Truman settled in bed.  I took his temperature and found it to be unreasonably wonder he was acting so miserably.  I treated the symptoms and settled him into his bed with a show.  He did not cry once he was where he had asked so desperately to be.  He knows what he wants and needs, and in the future we promise to better listeners.  I'm definitely glad it didn't take the whole evening for us to "wise up".  I wasn't too unhappy to be home either.  Once away from the smoke, my eyes stopped watering and my headache dissipated.  

Eventhough it was the best decision for me to come home, I couldn't wait until Brian arrived home as well.  I pounced on him as he walked through the front door.  He was grinning ear to ear as he tossed me the camera.  He had had a blast!  Brian was able to capture some amazing photos and video which he compiled here!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Painted Mines Interpretive Park | Calhan, CO

This past Friday was our second visit out to the Painted Mines Interpretive Park.    Maybe you remember the controversial video from our first visit.  You know, the one where I was showing how delicate the sandstone formations are.  If you haven't seen it, you can view it here.

We arrived that day shortly before lunch, quickly threw on our gear, and hit the trailhead with ambition and intent.  I felt relaxed and in the moment.  I wanted to share what we were experiencing.  And in that moment, I uploaded what felt like a harmless post to our Facebook page.
Me, letting my hair down with a selfie!

We were well prepared (this first afternoon) with a picnic lunch, snacks, and plenty of water.  We had packed layers and sunglasses.  We were ready!  But the Interpretive Mines are located deep in the plains.  The mountains of Colorado Springs aren't even visible.  And this particular afternoon consisted of relentless winds.  Strong winds.  Winds strong enough to blow over our 3 year old (yes, the wind literally blew Truman over) and sent us running for shelter within the formations.
Nom!  Nom!  Nom!

Brian was ahead of us and Truman in the middle along a ridge trail within the park.  A huge gust of wind came through and I watched Truman's feet lift off the ground.  He then fell down and forward.  This landed him on a hillside.  A shear look of panic on his face and Brian's...and I'm sure on mine as well.  We are never far from Truman while hiking and this instance was no different.  I grabbed his hands, preventing him from slipping any further.
Brian helping Truman on a tricky part of the trail.

Brian was immediately at our side to scoop up our shaken son and swiftly checked him for injuries.  He then hiked with conviction towards the closest inlet.  He had found the perfect enclave of formations to protect us from the wind and allow us to regain our composure and have a snack.
Hiding from the wind!

Once we felt a bit closer to fine, we began the walk back towards the car.  We knew our day had met it's expiration.  The walk back was intense.  Though we had walked maybe 2 miles, we were exhausted.  Truman was content to ride in his pack, adding a 32lb disadvantage to my dragging frame.  Our feet felt like lead weights as we continued to trudge along the dense sand trails.  The head winds didn't help either.  Brian was so supportive as we hiked.  Chanting words of encouragement with every few steps.  He even offered to take Truman, the heavier of the two packs.  I brushed him off and pushed on.  Once I was able to see the car, a second wind hit and I picked up my pace.  A few minutes later we arrived at the lot.  I unloaded Truman and felt the literal weight of what we had accomplished lift off my shoulders.  I swear I heard a "choir of angels"!
Better than Geology Class!

Trail hiking provides a sense of achievement.  Setting a goal.  The physical challenge.  Mind over strength.  Not to mention the views.  Even with that scary moment with Truman, we really enjoyed ourselves that afternoon.

Still feeling the natural high that accompanies a day on the trail, we were a bit blindsided by the negative comment regarding our climbing that afternoon.  We'd never gotten a negative comment before.  Being seasoned and respectful hikers, we reponded to our concerned reader the best we could and made a decision to revisit the Paint Mines.  We wanted to give it the respect it deserved.

What we didn't realize was that first fateful visit we barely scratched the surface of complete visual spectacle this trail system has to offer.  The trail system within the park is less than 4.5 miles.  We planned to use this second visit to explore the park in it's entirity as well as record more video.

This time we picked a sunny day with little wind and fair temps.  We entered the trail the same as before, but stopping to capture video along the way.  Truman was in his own foul mood, but a promise of a picnic lunch around mile 2 kept him in check.  We arrived at our lunch destination only to realize niether of us had packed any food.  Unfortunately, a bit of miscommunication meant we were running on borrowed time.  We carried on, each bend more beautiful and brilliant in color than the last.  

The final part of the hike was an ascent up to a ridge trail that over looks the entire park.  We had finished what we had set out to do.  Once up at the top, the level ridge trail made the return to the car fairly easy.  Brian was ahead with Truman and quickly out of sight.  I lingered on that outcrop for a while, just taking it all in.  I felt really good about what we had done.  Storm clouds on the horizon and a clap of thunder brought me back to reality.  I hustled up to the ridge and made my way along the trail towards the car.  A decent and a climb near the end gives your heart one last push for good measure.  Truman and Brian cheered me on from the trail head.  We turned on the ignition just as the first rain drops began to fall.  Perfect timing!

On the drive through town we had noticed a little Mexican restaurant called La Mission Burrito.  We had promised ourselves a reward meal following our adventure.  What a great little place.  Brian and I shared a margarita on the rocks while Truman comandeered the chips and salsa.  The waitress was so accomodating...bringing us extra chips and salsa (Truman refused to share!).  The food hit the spot.  Everything tastes better after a hard day's play.  As we were leaving Truman spilled his drink all over the floor.  We asked for a mop to clean it up and our waitress did one better and cleaned it up for us with a smile!  Her tip reflected our satisfaction!  We will definitely stop again if the opportunity arises.
Clay from the mines.

After 2 trips to the Paint Mines Interpretive Park, we have put on our list of free hidden gems in Colorado Springs.  That said, we felt a few tips will help make your trips as well as our future trips a success.

Watch the weather...
We have garnered this knowledge from several experiences attempting hikes in the plains.  Winds make for difficult hiking conditions.  In addition, Spring storms are common.  There is little shelter (as you would find in a forest setting).  Ponchos or a tarp will come in handy if caught in a storm.

Pack the right gear...
We encourage packing the following: layers, ponchos, sunscreen, chapstick, snacks, water, and paper products (ie. kleenex or toilet paper).  The only facilities are at the trail head.  There is no potable water available at this trail.  

Know the terrain...
Even though the distance is relatively short, the trail itself is mostly loose sand.  It will feel very much like walking on the dry sand of any beach.  Wear supportive, comfortable shoes and be prepared for some possible leg aches.

Say cheese...
We highly recommed bringing your camera along.  The views are spectacular!

Respect the land...
Please respect this land for future visitors.  The sandstone formations are fragile and the trails make accessing them easy.  There really is no need to climb outside the lines here.  Clay deposits still exist here and it is so fun to pick up and manipulate with your hands, but please leave it and other "souvenirs" behind.  Lastly, leave no trace.  If you picnic, pack out your food and trash.  We want this to remain a treasure for years to come.