A little help from a friend. :)

A fellow blogger, Chas, pointed out an article in the Denver Post. You can find it here.

Sometimes having a little knowledge is a good thing. Other days it is just damn irritating! So, forgive me for climbing up on a soapbox for a few minutes. (thank you Chas!) Articles like this drive me nuts.

The Denver Post published an article stating that out of the 64 counties in Colorado, Douglas County ranks the healthiest and Huerfano County ranks last. This was in spite of the fact that seven counties were not included due to insufficient data. In many ways, as with unemployment and educational data, there are statistical anomalies that hurts our county. The manner in which data is sorted and compared is also damaging.

Yes, we are probably one of the poorest counties in the state. Unemployment is at 13%. We are one of 11 school districts taking part in the state wide TDIP (Targeted District Improvement Plan) and we have a population of about 7560 people. That’s about 4.9 people per square mile.

Now, what skews facts? First off, Urban vs Rural. It is the demographic Damocles Sword. Douglas county, up there between Colorado Springs and Denver has just about everything nearby. They have choices that those of us in rural areas only dream about. These choices impact people in ways that demographic computers can’t calculate. And yes, that is what they use. A database run by academics in Denver and Northern Colorado. For the most part, they plug in a set of values and then apply them across the board to the entire state. In some ways this is a good thing. In others it produces comparisons that are in line with apples and hex bolts.

Some facts that those data bases never stumble across are well known to the denizens of Huerfano County. We have a love/hate relationship with some of them. The Fox is our only theater. No multiplex, just one theater with one movie; Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There is NO Department of Motor Vehicles. We have two sets of stoplights in the entire county and they are one block apart. Walsenburg averages 30+ trains a day bisecting the city. We can walk anywhere in town in under 30 minutes. There are two grocery stores, two small dollar stores, numerous antique shops, a few specialty shops, and our video store is a bookstore and the local bus station. Walsenburg has a great library, four major highways intersecting it, half a dozen diners and fast food joints. And that doesn’t even touch La Veta or Gardner and their assets.

Next, Council of Governments. (COG) Huerfano and Las Animas counties are joined at the hip due to a COG agreement. While economically good for the counties in general, when it comes to data collection, COG messes up the statistics. As for unemployment, the two counties are tied to six others in the San Luis Valley as the South Central Workforce Board. Some of those counties have even higher unemployment than Huerfano County. They are some of the same counties with too little data for the Denver Post article as well.

Our mayor made a good point in the article. He mentions that most people go to Pueblo for health services. It’s true. One of the biggest employers in the county has HMOs based in Pueblo or Colorado Springs. Yes, we have doctors, dentists, a hospital and a nursing home. However, it was a banner headline last year when a baby was born in the county. It was the first one about 20 years. Why? Because everyone goes to Pueblo! So, when we go north to the doctors, this skews the statistics. It makes Pueblo look great. All the ‘healthy’ people go out of town. Those in town are visiting the emergency room or use local doctors because they don’t have an HMO or health insurance. Most employers in the county are small businesses. They can’t afford HMOs, and there go those data streams.

Then there are the other demographics. Veterans. By some odd quirk, we simply have lots of veterans living here of all ages. Yes, we have a State Veteran’s Nursing Home here, but that doesn’t account for all of them. Just count the DV license plates at Safeway some afternoon. Furthermore, most go to Denver and Pueblo for health care. That hands the health statistics to Denver.

We also have a very high number of retirees. They either return here because they were born here, or because the cost of living is low. They want to get away from the rush and noise of the urban areas. Once again, many of them use HMOs with offices in Pueblo, Denver or Colorado Springs.

The cost of living is another factor. It is very low in the county. Welfare, Social Security and pensions provide almost as much income as local employers. It is possible to live here for cost of the rent of a house in Denver. 25% of our population lives below the poverty line. Average Median Income is about $31K. This puts many people on Medicaid or Medicare. We all know what that system does to statistics.

There are other things that don’t count when it comes to quality of life and that data set used by the Denver Post article. Clean air, low crime rate, beautiful scenery, decent neighborhoods, and no traffic jams except when there is a train. It isn’t that we don’t have troubles, but compared to Denver or Castle Rock, it’s nothing. Sometimes being on the bottom of the list isn’t such a bad thing.

Out like a Lion!

Well, at least a windy one. It’s about 70 degrees and the wind is a light breeze at 22mph! Such fun to be hauling trash in an open truck with this breeze! Dan, Morgan and I loaded the truck. Dan and Morgan have taken the stuff to the dump, aka the waste transfer station. Then they will pick up a load from Yolanda’s and take it to the dump. 🙂 She had some trashy tenants.

After they get back and we have some lunch, It will be time to work on the Wendy House a bit more. Most likely we will work on emptying the shed and getting ready to rebuild it. Plus start lifting the brick so we can dig on the one side of the house to lay the new plumbing. Wheee… Argh. Where oh where are the boys when I need them for sweat equity labor?

I’m glad Morgan can help. She is on spring break. Otherwise most of it would be done just by Dan as I am achy. Sort of feel like I’ve been run over by a truck. ugh.

We also plan to re-dye Morgan’s hair. Her mom took her to a salon and they got her hair dyed. It turned out much brassier than redder. Ugh. Not a good combo for Morgan. Her mom said to just let it grow out. No, I don’t think so. So, Dan bought hair day and we will do that today. 🙂

Last but not least, my writers block on my one story has begun to lift! Wheeee!!!!


A blustery day

Today is the second one with very high winds. Yesterday saw all the loose dirt for at least an area the size of the county head East to Kansas. Right now the gusts are from 35 to 45 mph. Geeze!!! At this rate, we might even get some snow.

Granted, we were up in Denver on Sunday and the wind was blowing up there. My sister even asked for us to take the wind home!

Sigh… we did.

The weekend was busy. Thursday morning we left early and headed up for Denver so that Dan could go to a Workforce meeting. A Colorado Workforce Development Council -CWDC meeting. It was downtown Denver, and once we parked, we saw my sister who works for the Colorado department of Labor and Employment. She had watched the truck go by as we tried to park. LOL! Then we met up with a friend and visited for a bit. Dan went to the meeting and I headed back to our hotel. Well, sorta back.

My sister had mentioned a quilting store… Creative Needle, and that it was near the Joann’s that I knew on Ridge Road. So, I detoured. 🙂 First Joann’s, where I found two patterns for dresses. Wheeee!!! Then on to the Creative Needle. OMG! All sorts of goodies in that shop including the fact that they are the only Elna service dealers in Colorado. I must have spent an hour in there. Then, off to a bookstore I spied on the way in. Heaven!!!!! Tons of used books. I was lost on where to start there were so many choices. I found a new to me Charles De Lint and the last three Jane Austen’s I needed to find. Plus I found a book for Dan. He’s been talking to Fr. Martin, and has been wanting to find a catechism book so that they were on common ground for some of their discussions. I found one! Happy-happy-joy-joy!!!

After finally pulling myself out of the bookstore, I headed to the movie theater. I found what time The King’s Speech was playing and realized I had time before it started. So, I went to Red Robin for dinner. I had fish and chips and apple pie for dessert. Then, back across the parking lot to the movies. The King’s Speech was fantastic. I understand that it wouldn’t be everyone’s choice, but I enjoyed it.

After the movie, I headed back to the hotel. I had a nice long soak in the tub and did some writing. It was really nice to relax. Dan finished up with all of his stuff including a dinner and ‘meet and greet’ around 9pm. Of course, that all that relaxing came to a screeching halt at 5am! Up, through the shower and out the door to be in Denver at the CWDC Youth Council meeting by 7am! Awwwgh!!!! Worse yet, it had snowed during the night!!!

We made it to the meeting in spite of the fact that Dan got turned around when he went to get a coffee at Starbucks! LOL. I laughed so hard at that. Mr, Mountain man gets lost in the big city!!!! Oh well. Breakfast was buffet style. Glad there was some fruit stuff, because all the eggs had cheese on them. sigh… I went to the State Youth Council meeting and Dan went to his Workforce Investment Board meeting.

Best part about my meeting was that my friend from high school was one of the co-chairs!!! Yeah Dani!!! The meeting was interesting and I met a lot of people. After lunch, I joined Dan and we heard the Lt. Governor talk. While I know he was towing the party line, there were some questions concerning the budget I would have liked to have heard a real answer on instead of dross. Our state is so polarized when it comes to Rural vs Urban, and a one size fits all kind of budget is not going to work well. Other people in the room felt the same way from the questions being asked.

We finished around 2pm and headed back to the hotel. We took a nap, grabbed dinner and then headed to Mari and David’s. We visited while Dan fixed Mari’s laptop and troubleshot another. It was a good visit, but we got home late. Showered and dropped into bed.

Saturday morning, we got up, showered, packed and were out of the hotel by 10am. Why? Because we had another computer client to visit!!! 🙂 It was really nice to have the work after the dry spell we’ve been having. That job finished around 3pm and then we went to visit my sister. After Lori’s, we went to Red Robin again and then to the movies. 🙂 We saw Rango. It was a riot!

By the time the movie was over, we headed home and arrived around 11pm. I think I face plowed the pillow! We slept Late on Sunday, and then unpacked, played with Brandy to make up for leaving her alone for three days, and straightened up the house.

Monday was busy with Morgan back to school and us back into the daily routine. Best part though was the mail. Morgan got her SSAT scores!!! We were over the moon, and she was upset that she hadn’t done better!!! Gads! Her overall scores were 2166 correct, or 89% She missed 63 points.  Nationally, her percentiles for the test were Verbal, 95%, Math, 98% and Reading 97%!!!! When we finally got her to understand that only 3 to 4% of the 8th graders in the nation were better than she was, she finally mellowed out. Our next big hurdle will be hearing from Fountain Valley School and if she has been accepted. (Lots of good thoughts people!!!!!)

What a start to the week.

Sunday we went up to Colorado Springs. We spent the night up there because Morgan had SSAT testing at Fountain Valley. We got there on time and she took the test. The proctor said that they had never had a student so happy when they came in to take the test. She finished the test in record time. Interesting in that she didn’t know that it is the kind of test you aren’t expected to finish. It tests the limit of your knowledge at that level. Now we await the test results.

When we got home on Monday, we were watching a movie when the house began to smell. Skunk!! Two of them having sex under the house. Awwgh!!!! the smell!!!! gag… Have I mentioned how much I detest skunks? It was snowing, so we couldn’t even open the doors to air out the house. ugh. Did not sleep well.

Yesterday was a school board meeting that outlined just how bad things could be. Not pretty. Once again, I didn’t sleep well. On top of the school board getting my dander up, I upset a friend accidentally. So, I tossed and turned during the night trying to figure out how to fix things.

A good thing though is that I am making pizza for dinner.