Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Rebirth of a Paper



“My well has run dry,” Doug Conarroe, former owner of the North Forty News wrote on the front page of the June 2016 issue of the paper. After six years of commitment and hard work, Conarroe was ready to move on. So ready that he didn’t officially put the paper on the market. Instead he offered to give it to anyone willing to take on the challenge of a small monthly paper with a loyal but diminished following and a negative cash flow.

“Okay,” I said to myself. “I love this job, (as a staff reporter) but I’ve had a good run. I’ll pick up my marbles and go home.”

Then the grapevine leaked that some guy named Blaine Howerton had taken up the gauntlet. He already had several businesses going, he was more of a TV/online guy than a print journalist, but he couldn’t resist the challenge.

He was full of ideas and enthusiasm. He envisioned a paper that would continue to serve Wellington, LaPorte and the mountain communities but also include all of Northern Colorado including Fort Collins and environs. He was willing to retain the small existing staff and to invite several others to enhance this vision.

I wasn’t about to retire and miss out on this opportunity. The other
members of the staff felt the same way.

Over the last months the paper has grown, both in number of pages and areas of distribution. There is a significant online presence and a daily digest of news. Those of us involved are invited to express our opinions and suggest stories we feel to be timely and of interest. Howerton is open to suggestions and willing to try new approaches.


It’s an exciting workplace. I hope to be around as long as I still have my marbles—at least most of them.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

From tiny beads to big ideas

Elly and Waddington Raisi won’t be in town for Christmas this year. Along with their two young daughters, the family will spend the holiday in Zimbabwe where Waddie grew up and where the couple met. They will reunite with family members and touch base with Zimboarts Coop, their enterprise that provides training and permanent work opportunities for Zimbabwean women struggling to raise their families.

I was fortunate enough to meet this couple, now residents of Fort Collins, in the course of doing a story for North Forty News. Every year about this time, I have a moment when the holiday spirit hits. The Raisis did it for me this year. 

Zimboarts Coop is thriving and all profits from the sale of their beautiful beadwork go to supporting their training/work center in Zimbabwe. The women they serve receive free day care, two meals, and $10 a day while they learn beadwork, traditionally done only by men in Zimbabwe. There’s an after school sports program for kids as well.

In Fort Collins, Waddie owns and operates Hollywood Lawn Service and Elly concentrates on marketing and selling beadwork made by the women at local craft fairs.

Elly is a Fort Collins native who traveled the world seeking adventure until she met Waddie in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. He grew up poor and learned the art of beadworking so well that he was able to support himself well. He helped Elly out when she experienced a currency crisis while on her travels and that small interaction changed both of their lives. Their common commitment to make the world a better place in whatever small way they can binds this couple together. They function as if it were Christmas all year long. 

Photos: Waddie and Elly pose in their showroom. Waddie showing the parrot he created. In the background, a poster shows the women at work in Zimbabwe.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Moving day--or days


People relocate all the time. Sometimes across the street, other times across a state, a country, or anywhere in the world. When these people move, they take with them their worldly belongings.

Thus the need for “relocation services” that come into your home and go through it room by room with boxes, paper and tape, dismantling, wrapping and packing up every item in sight. The “relocators” are fast, efficient and perform a service much in demand.

During the last few days, as I help a family member with the “other end” of all that wrapping and packing, I’ve had plenty of time to think. I’ve been blown away by the mounds of cardboard and paper that remain when the objects it cared for during transport have been released back into the world. How many trees did it take to produce all this packaging? And what to do with it now? The wrappings get stuffed back into the boxes it came from, in hopes that there’s someone close by who is about to move and will be able to make use of them.

Let me tell you, it is taking a village, or at least a conglomeration of shirt-tail relatives, to get this particular outfit settled into a new house. By the end of day two in the unpacking process, the garage is full of wrapping paper, strips of cardboard, and boxes piled nearly to the ceiling. The debris, stacked up on the front porch as well, in a pile so high that should a wind come by (almost a given in Wyoming) the neighbors would not be happy. So more paper and boxes got stuffed into the garage.

At first, the idea of unpacking is exciting. It’s kind of like Christmas, opening box and after box, and tightly wrapped little package after package. But then, the thrill wears thin.

It’s a relief it is to learn that it’s possible to go to Facebook Marketplace and offer all those papers and boxes to some poor soul that is gearing up to “relocate.”


In a few days or maybe weeks, the unpacking will be finished. No one will be anxious to repeat the process any time soon.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Abby's first marathon

More than 50,000 people are nursing sore muscles this morning. They’re the ones who ran 26.2 miles through New York’s five boroughs during the 47th running of the New York Marathon yesterday, November 5, 2017.

The event began in 1970 when, of 127 entrants on a course entirely in Central Park, 55 men finished and the sole woman dropped out. Entry fee was $1 and the entire budget for the race was $1,000. 

The now iconic race has blossomed into a mammoth exercise in community spirit and a symbol of hope and renewal. It was held less than two months after the 9/11 attacks and this year following another tragic event that caused an increased police presence throughout the race. The only time the race was cancelled was in 2012 because of Hurricane Sandy. That year runners showed their support by running together in Central Park.

Among those resting up today after their “long run” is my 24-year-old granddaughter, Abby, who finished her first marathon with a smile on her face and surrounded by a gaggle of her cousins who had come to cheer her on. She had never run more than 17 miles at a time before, but yesterday she chalked up more than 26 miles, no problem.


I was there when she was born, when a goofed-up ultra sound had predicted a boy. She and I did one of her very first runs—all of 20 minutes—around a nearby lake. She has come a long way, baby, and who knows where all she may go!

Monday, October 30, 2017

White Shadow comes to life

It started off as a story that haunted me and wouldn’t let go. I learned about the life of Janet Rae Johnson Mondlane when I spent the best part of a year in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique in sub-Saharan East Africa, more than a decade ago.

While I was there, and as a way to make the most of my stay, I did several things. I substitute taught at the American School. I tutored a few graduate students in English. And every week I sought out an adventure and took photos to share with people back home on a website called Come to Africa with Me. It was intended for elementary children, but I think some older people read it as well.

Formerly known as Portuguese East Africa, Mozambique, a beautiful country with 1,500 miles of coastline on the Indian Ocean, was a colony of Portugal for 500 years. To say that the native people were taken advantage of is a blatant understatement. But that’s another story. It was in the course of researching the country’s raw and recent history that I learned about the lives of Janet and Eduardo Mondlane.

During the 1960’s, a tide of revolution swept the African continent. Some countries went to war and some colonizers saw the handwriting on the wall and gave up their ill-gotten land. Portugal was one of the last countries to give up their colony and that didn’t happen until 1975 following a 10-year guerilla war effort.


All that is background for the story of a 17-year-old American girl who fell irrevocably in love with a 31-year-old Mozambican with a revolution in his future. White Shadow is the story of Janet’s lifelong love affair and the ways in which it affected the rest of her life.

White Shadow is available at Amazon and locally in Loveland at Whampus Books and Fort Collins at Trimble Court Artisans.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Elephant talk

I’ve been wondering what the world might be like if human beings were mute.  If none of us had the ability to speak—ever—to anyone. If none of us could communicate with each other by the spoken word because there was no such thing. What a shattering loss. In many ways, yes. But in others, really?

I’m probably doing this wondering because I just finished reading The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony. In it the author, a conservationist, writes of his hard-won, intimate relationship with a herd of rogue elephants. He took nine of them into his South African game reserve to save them from being shot.

Slowly, slowly, he began the difficult task of befriending them while preserving their wildness. In the process, he and the elephants discovered ways to communicate with each other. When he was with them, he did use language, which he knew that on one level they could not understand. But it was not his words that began to break down barriers and lessen the animals’ fear of him. It was his tone of voice, its softness, warmth and emotional quality that the elephants responded to.  They came to realize that Anthony cared about them and their welfare and that they were safe in his presence.

The elephants began using their trunks to respond to him—by gently touching him.  After a rough start when the animals escaped their temporary enclosure and went stomping wildly through the bush, they eventually got to the point where they sought out Anthony to interact with him. He describes being covered with “elephant slime” from their touch and loving it. After he’d been around them for a while, he realized that they could communicate with each other through stomach rumblings. The day after he died, they emerged from months in the bush and showed up at his home. On the one-year anniversary of his death, they did the same.

What if, on the local, national and international stage, those in power were unable to speak.? What if they had no verbal tools with which to express themselves—to argue, to insist, to insult? If all they were able to do was to communicate with each other by gentle touch and the rumblings of their intestines.

What if? I was just wondering.