Category Archives: Denver

Homes sweet homes

Eden is hosting the Gimme Shelter carnival. Go on over to see the other people’s shelters and maybe add your own.

Here are highlights from the places I’ve lived.

Family of origin. Sheri, Tami and I shared a basement bedroom during my school years. We didn’t feel squished or deprived of daylight — it just was where we lived. It was a happy place. My sisters and I laughed and created and fought and teased and bonded tightly in a suburb outside of Denver.

College. My roommate and I held a surfing party one night and broke all sorts of rules. As well as a couple of ironing boards used for surfing. In Kansas.

Japan. I had to take off my shoes at the door. It was a teensy apaaato (apartment) with only one room (of three) that was heated in the winter or cooled in the summer, which were equally brutal in central Japan. It was the room where I slept and read, bundled up under the heated kotatsu table during the winter or splaying myself in front of the a/c during the summer.

Condo. I got a mortgage on my own for a 2 BR condo in a west Denver suburb. I lived here when I met Roger, and after we married it was the first place where we cohabited.

Syria. We sold the condo, our cars and most of our stuff, and stored or gave away the rest. We moved to Syria for two years and lived in a spacious flat with polished stone floors, a wraparound balcony, and an oil-burning boiler/hot water heater. We turned it on only just prior to using hot water, and left it off the rest of the time.  We had to have the tank refilled on occasion, and that was very expensive. I loved our coffee-in-the-morning rituals there. And watching Tim Russert on Meet the Press on Sunday evenings on NBC Europe. Oh, and toilet paper was not flushable.

Victorian. When we returned from Syria, Roger and I bought our first home together, an 1891 Victorian in Denver proper that had one bathroom and no closets. It housed well all the old-world souvenirs we brought home from our travels. This was the place we brought Tessa and Reed home to as newborns. It was where we erected all sorts of kid-proof gates and pushed plastic prongs into electrical outlets. It’s the setting for hours and hours of home movies of the first bath, first crawl, first food, first step, first birthday, first time on a bicycle. However, by the time both children were potty trained, it was clear we either needed to add a bathroom or move to suburbia.

Full circle. We now live 2 miles from the home I grew up in, where my parents still live. We’re on a cul-de-sac, a space where the kids can free-range safely, much the way I did as a kid. Tessa and Reed have their own rooms, which they switch occasionally. Here they laugh and create and fight and tease and bond tightly.

And we have 3 bathrooms. My slice of heaven.

To enter your own Gimme Shelter post, visit the awesome Eden.

Note from a sponsor: BlogHer is giving away $100 on my review blog, All Thumbs Reviews. To enter, comment on my Pop-Tarts posts here and here.

Perfect Moment Monday: Cycling

Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.

Once a week we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join. Details on how to participate are at the bottom of this post, complete with bloggy bling.

Please visit the links of the participants at the bottom.

Here’s a perfect moment from my week. I hope you’ll share yours, too.

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After MUCH more prep time and hassle than anyone expected, my family headed out for a downtown bike ride. Getting everybody fed, hydrated and sunscreened, repairing/tuning up 4 bicycles and 8 tires, as well as loading said bikes into/onto the car turned out to be quite an ordeal. NOT THAT ANYONE LOST HER TEMPER OR ANYTHING. What was supposed to take place in the relative cool of the morning turned out to be a 2 pm launch.  On a day in which temps hit the 90s and the sun was blazing.

Those were not the perfect parts.

Once we hit the bike path, however, the perfect moments began flowing. This was my view of the urban trail and my family on it.

I was so happy noticing this. It was one of those quintessential parenthood moments I once thought would never happen.

We rode along a creek to where its joins a river. Tessa and Reed could not resist doing what everyone else was doing in the shallows of the confluence — just playing around.

Tessa and Reed had their own perfect moments. A week before we had attended a fabulous sangria party at Greeblemonkey‘s house. Tessa and Reed had befriended Dominic and Francesca, roughly my kids’ ages and the children of another guest . Tessa confessed on the way home that she had a little crush on Dominic (and he on her?).

So guess who we ran into while river-dipping at the confluence? Yup, Dominic and Francesca. Tessa and Reed were thrilled.

After a bit we stopped for a snack and headed home. Much happier than when we’d left it.

(photos taken with cell-phone)

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To participate in Perfect Moment Monday:

  1. Between Sunday night and Tuesday night, write up your own Perfect Moment in a blog post, on Twitter, on Facebook, or simply leave a comment below.
  2. Grab the URL of your Perfect Moment.
  3. Use LinkyTools below to enter your blog’s name and the URL of your Perfect Moment
  4. Visit the Perfect Moments of others (from the links below), and let the writers know you were there.

Once you make a Perfect Moment post , you may place this button on your blog.


What Perfect Moment have you recently been aware of? Be sure to visit these moments and share the love, and please come back next week (click to subscribe).


“Let’s see what you’re made of.”

The exhibit starts in a bright red antechamber. In the background is a faint throbbing noise, an incessant heartbeat. I see two dozen large red barrels bathed in red light, which represent the amount of blood my heart is going to pump today — 1800 gallons at a pace of about 3 ounces per beat. It takes me a moment to comprehend this.

I do not marvel at my body nearly as much as I should.

It is the aim of Dr Angelina Whalley that we all do so more.

Dr Whalley, a licensed physician, is both the technical director and creative visionary behind Body Worlds: The Story of the Heart. She has been the Director of the Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg, Germany since 1997, and married to its founder, Dr Gunther von Hagens, since 1992. She reports that 29 million people around the world have seen a Body Worlds Exhibit, which is open now through July 18 at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. (Click for dates in Philadelphia and Calgary.)

For the first time, a this incarnation (haha) of Body Worlds centers on a theme, in this case the heart. Throughout, you can see how the heart both functionally and symbolically interacts with other organs and systems. In addition, the room that housed a sub-exhibit of pregnant and fetal specimens in past tours ( agonizing for me back in 2006) has only embryos and fetal specimens this time. It is in a separate area so that visitors can be prepared and enter only on purpose.

I had the chance to interview Dr Whalley, who spoke to a small group of journalists the day before the exhibit opened. “This exhibit changes people. Everyone has a body, but this way we can really experience the sacredness of it.”

The exhibit contains whole-body plastinates arranged in real-life poses (well, real-life if you are an ice skater, gymnast, javelin thrower), as well as organ plastinates (heart, liver, lungs, etc) and body slices.

Some visitors are squeamish, some find it fascinating. Many are squeamishly fascinated.

What is plastination? It’s a process pioneered by anatomist Dr von Hagens whereby a body is steeped in acetone for several weeks, dissolving fat and eliminating fluids. That stage is followed by immersion in a liquid polymer applied by constant vacuum. Finally the specimen is posed and cured with gas and epoxy to set. Each full-body specimen requires 1500-3000 man-hours to prepare.


More than 11,000 people worldwide have donated their bodies to the Institute for Plastination — 42 of them from Colorado, and 9 from Denver. The thought of donating my own body makes me squirm, but no more so than considering the other options. Why not sit in a yoga pose forever, especially one I don’t have the flexibility to do while alive?

One thing I noticed while moving through the exhibit: all the whole-body plastinates seemed uniform. Each was about my height. Each was muscular and with amazingly flexible joints. Each was posed spectacularly — bearing a large load or bending in an extreme way. Other than gender (which is often conspicuous but never gratuitous), I couldn’t tell any of the specimens apart, save for the poses. The hockey players locked in a fight for the puck looked just like the hurdler and the torch-bearer. The features I would normally use to discern one person from another — body shape, skin tone, facial features — were missing.

I asked Dr Whalley if those, uh, people were selected for their physiques, and she agreed that the most aesthetically beautiful were chosen for the full body poses.

And she added that we are all this beautiful under our skin. “We are trained to look at skin,” Dr Whalley said, “but beneath those differences that you can see, we are each a magnificent work of art.”

Here are some marvel-inducing facts:

  • Your heart will beat about 2.5 billion times by the time you’re 75 years old.
  • You will breathe about 20,000 times. Today.
  • Your shoulder joint is built to have the widest range of motion of all the joints.
  • Your hip joint sacrifices a little range of motion for the sake of stability in bearing the weight of the torso.
  • Your knee joint is built to bear the greatest load of all the joints.

Dr Bridget Coughlin, the Museum’s Curator of Human Health, explains why the Museum offers the Body Worlds exhibit. “This look inside has the power to transform health in our community.”

If my reaction of wonderment to Body Worlds is any indication, Dr Coughlin’s words may very well be true.

Note to Denver-area readers: Hours and prices can be found at the Museum’s website. Large crowds are anticipated and all tickets are timed. If you hope to see this exhibit, don’t delay in making your plans.

Photography by Mary Elizabeth Graff

Cross-posted on MileHighMamas.