2011 Was A Good Year For …

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As the year winds to a close, hear Coloradans -- through our Public Insight Network (PIN) -- reflect on good experiences that shaped their lives in 2011, despite a weakened economy and struggling jobs market. (The stories coincide with a similar year-end project produced by NPR.)

In addition to the stories you'll hear by listening to the above audio, below are even more positive reflections from Coloradans on 2011.

In 2011, my daughter took her first steps and said her first words. My son grows as a reader and writer every day. Even in this tough economy, I'm fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom, and I've been able to be there to cheer on my kids as they reach each milestone. What a blessing. -Carol Hughes, Westminster

I completed my doctoral degree in education with my last action being the submission of my dissertation to the Dean of the University of Phoenix School of Advanced Studies in January. I am a dental hygienist, and I have wanted for years to pass on the culture and knowledge of the profession to students entering the profession. The research for my dissertation added to the body of knowledge in the science of dental hygiene education. The skills I learned toward my degree also are applicable to my work as a clinician and to my future expectations as an instructor and researcher in the field. On a more mundane level, now I no longer need to correct my patients when they address me as Doctor Howard.

-Howard Notgarnie, Aurora

[It was a good year for] freedom. While I'm sorry for the temporary instability and suffering, I'm happy for the Middle Eastern/North African nations who are gaining freedom. I'm hopeful that the regions efforts will be rewarded in the near future. -Jane Ratzer, Morrison

It was a good year for me because despite work/financial extreme highs and lows the pieces of the puzzle all fell into place and I'm ending the year fabulously. I am thankful for the lucky coincidences that have me starting 2012 with a resounding 'Happy New Year'. In mid-February the project I was working on ended abruptly. Because the project had been very busy and stressful for the past 8 months I was relieved. And, because I had built up a substantial savings I chose not to look for more work immediately. I spent the next few months establishing my first vegetable garden, giving back to the community through volunteer work and catching up on my neglected life, physically and mentally. However, by August funds were dwindling to an alarming level and it was time to start looking. Out of the blue a former client called asking about my availability. I said I had some openings (did I ever!) and was immediately working on a four month project. Earlier in the summer, I had reconnected with a former colleague from a project five years back. Although I was not soliciting her for work, she called me unexpectedly and asked for help on a project. More opportunity - and I took it. The last was truly a twist of fate. An off and on client of mine was flying back from a conference. His seat mate on the plane was flying back from the same conference, but had been bumped from his earlier flight. The two struck up conversation. As it were my client's seatmate was looking for someone to with software selection. Did my client know anyone in Denver? As a matter of fact, he did. On November 21st my brand new client executed our sales and services agreement. I'll be busy for the next six months and look forward to rebuilding my savings. Maybe I'll take the summer off again, but I'm not sure I can count on that much good fortune two years in a row. -Katherine Linder, Denver

[It was a good year for] reinvesting in myself and starting my own business. I became a Home Inspector, after taking an intensive course and follow-up training (online) during the summer and fall. Now, I am certified, own a LLC and market myself so my phone starts ringing. It has been real slow, but hopefully this will take off in 2012. The resort areas are starting to see recent sales, so I am optimistic. ... I did get one job thus far. As the economy strengthens and real estate transactions pick up, there will be increased demand for this service. Although there is competition out there, I am finding positive ways to stand out above the rest. Nothing wrong with American "can-do" spirit, especially during tough times. Can't wait for a job? Create your own. -John Gulick, Eagle

It was a good year for family. From having no family around us, we are all of a sudden surrounded by the return of our son and daughter-in-law and their two children, one born In March of this year, and my 90-year-old mother and 95-year-old father whom I moved from Chicago to Colorado in May. No longer are our days filled with last minute relaxing dinners and impulsive travel for the two of us and occasionally with friends. We have big responsibilities to tend to our family's daily needs. My thoughts often turn to those people who have no family around them. We used to feel a sense of freedom because we didn't have to go to all the mandatory family events. Now that our family has "come after us" we try to create our own sense of family without overwhelming anyone. And we try to make the events upbeat whenever we can. An impromptu dinner in the middle of the week with our working children and our grandkids after day care lifts us all up. Taking my dad in an electric shopping cart at Target so he can shop for his great-grandson's birthday gift was a hoot. Watching my Mom do the "Can-Can" in her dementia unit makes me smile. Having my California cousins join us for Thanksgiving and blending their cranberry sauce and stuffing recipes with mine straight out of Real Simple Magazine and watching four generations of us sitting together and reconstructing the family tree brings deeper meaning to the concept of family that we frequently brush off when we are younger and less mature. -Mimi Pockross, Denver

[It was a good year for] so many reasons. Primarily the leukemia patient to whom I donated bone marrow is 100% cancer free and is getting better every day. We met for the first time last weekend. I'm blessed to now have a new extended family. She and her family flew from Los Angeles to Denver to attend the bone marrow drive that I helped organize. We got 83 people to join the bone marrow registry so there are lots of reasons to be thankful today! -Jane Weinfeld, Evergreen

It was a great year for our family. We welcomed our third daughter (in 4 years). My husband got positive reviews at work. And we used solar financing to put panels on our roof! -Rebecca Loy, Denver

[It was a good year for] me because my body was totally repaired back to normal after being hit by a car two years ago. I returned to all my favorite competitive sports, won my age group in a triathlon, duathlon and also in my first half marathon ever. My lawsuit from that accident was settled favorably thanks to a fabulous Bike Law lawyer! -Sue Butcher, Boulder

[It was a good year for] students with Asperger's Syndrome. With the arrival of a new and unique school for kids who are often the brunt of bullying, mocking and misunderstanding, Temple Grandin School (TGS) brought hope, fun, friendship and a strengths based learning model that promises these bright and different students a future in which they can contribute and find joy, value and self-worth. -Mark Inglis, Boulder

[It was a good year for] getting prepared for the future and becoming independent from society. If the future brings struggle or prosperity, my family is prepared. Our jobs are stable as long as long as society remains stable. In the event of natural disaster, social/economic collapse, we are prepared to survive quite well, and without the aid, or even the attention of any government agency, utility supply, oil, etc. We are better prepared for anything than ever. -Sean Fendt, Strasburg

[It was a good year for] getting back into the show ring with my Arabian horse Rolin on the River!! -Arlyn LaBair, Denver

[It was a good year for] focusing on family. My son returned from the army in March and after 4 long years, my family is complete again! Even though we may be going through financial difficulties, we have a wonderful, healthy, happy family and we are grateful for that! People need to know that if you are in financial peril, not to let the bill collectors ruin your spirit and bring down your sense of self-worth. What has happened to our nation is unprecedented. ... Look at this difficult time as a "reset" and keep your head up! Be thankful for what you have that cannot be taken away - your spirit, your integrity, your friends and family and your sense of YOU! -Diane Czarkowski, Boulder

[It was a good year for] me! I achieved my dream of visiting Chile's Atacama Desert and climbing one of the world's highest desert peaks. -Robert Michael, Fort Collins

[It was a good year for] health and happiness. We celebrated my mother's 80th birthday by taking her to Hawaii. She had never before had the opportunity to visit and it was a wonderful feeling to make her so happy. My husband and I also celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, with three beautiful, healthy children. I'm finding that being married this long is getting more and more unusual and I'm proud that we have remained so committed to each other, even through the hard times. ... While neither my husband nor I received a raise at our current jobs, we are both thankful that we still have jobs. My son has struggled a bit, trying to make payments on his student loans, but he has secured a job he likes a lot and seems to be making a go of it. -Patty Pratt, Centennial

It was a great year for my personal life - I married the love of my life and we moved into a beautiful house! Also, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010 and have been treating it with complementary and alternative methods (detox, change in diet, supplements, etc.). A recent MRI shows that 1 of my 2 tumors (7 millimeters) has disappeared! -John Klahn, Lakewood

[It was a good year for] my dogs. My older dog got his Grand Championship this year and my 18 month old puppy is half way to his Championship. -Wendy Spurr, Grand Junction

I SURVIVED. -Dave Morrison, Longmont

[It was a good year for] coaching, learning, teaching and personal growth. -Amy Kappel, Colorado Springs

It was a good year to be an older parent. I was nearly 50 when my fourth child, Marina, was born two years ago. I have been in the restaurant business for 25 years, and have seen my share of economic tailspins and trail winds, tsunamis and comebacks. The mid-life crisis morphs into a mid-life grind.. then along comes a new member of the family (who is now a toddler), a welcome entity who upsets and upends the work/live/toil/grind paradigm. I have learned a lot from my daughter this past year. For instance, a two-year old smiles and laughs about thousand times more than a fifty-something year old. When I take off my glasses to read the morning newspaper (which is often depressing), I am inevitably distracted by a daughter who bounces joyfully onto my lap, sing-songing her way through the morning, her face as smooth as silk, her eyes as bright as light bulbs, oblivious to the woes of the world. At other times, while I hunker down at my desk to pay bills and contemplate new ways to grow my business, there she is again, climbing onto my chair, disrupting my affairs, blocking the computer screen, and sowing reckless mayhem. Decades earlier, I might have grown impatient, but now I sigh and marvel at the delightful whim and exuberance of childhood. There are life lessons there, and in the small moments of the day, after cleaning the spilled milk, changing the diapers, and ironing out the crinkled-up papers, I sneak a reprieve from the wall-to-wall workdays, and pause to soak up the boundless, unfettered optimism of a child, whose daily agenda beckons with new opportunities for fun and roses, laughter and smiles, mayhem and mischief. We could learn a thing or two from a two-year old, and smiling, laughing, and singing more throughout the day will do wonders for your heart and soul, no matter how old you are. -Jay Solomon, Denver

[It was a good year for] learning what's really worth holding on to and what can be let go. Our rural community faced losing our public elementary school this past spring. That school stands today as a charter school, and is doing better than ever now that the community realizes how important public support is to keep our public school open. This year my neighbors and I worked so hard and learned so much, all on behalf of our kids, our community, and education. It was a good year to remind us all how dependent we are on our fellow neighbors to build something beautiful and worthwhile both for ourselves and for our children. -Karyn Bechtel, Glade Park

[It was a good year for] waking up, growing up and taking responsibility. I think what this year demonstrated in every moment I was paying attention is the Shakespearean adage: "Nothing's good or bad but thinking makes it so." I already held that as a general Truth, but our conditioning otherwise in this culture so well grooved into our habits of thought, reaction and behavior. Certain events are so far reaching they cannot be understood or judged, only met and experienced. Both my parents passed away this year, four months and 1500 miles apart, divorced longer than they were married, yet so close in their exits. It almost seemed their final gift to me -- the daughter who remembers many dreams in which they came together again -- as a united front. Tending to their needs in infirmity contributed to a ten year suspension of my own life, a sort of tunnel from which I am emerging. Even when such deaths are expected, one can never anticipate their impact, and this year has been a swirly trip down a rabbit hole of sensation and revelation. In metamorphosis, the caterpillar is liquefied, neither past and future recognizable, before miraculously some force of Grace and intelligence orchestrates the emergence of a very different and beautiful creation. I'm still in the chrysalis, and it's still dark, but, through it all, life and awareness persist, radiate indomitably forth. While I've been in the cocoon, people all over the world have awakened to new possibilities, given up fear when not their lives, to overthrow iniquitous power structures, near and far. Waking up, Growing up, taking responsibility. Baby steps. It looks different for all of us, but humanity is in metamorphosis. -Michou Landon, Boulder

[It was a good year for] the Schmitt Elementary Girls On The Run Team. I am one of the volunteer coaches who worked with 40 girls at Schmitt, a low income elementary school in South West Denver. In just three months, the girls went from being non-runners to competing in a "real" 5k. It was magical to see the joy of satisfaction when they completed the course. I know in my heart that lives were changed. -Leslie Mitchell, Denver

[It was a good year for] living within my means. Instead of charging concerts and dinners, I've hiked and snow shoed more, had friends over for dinner. What I value in life, friends, my home in the mountains, laughter, have all been more prolific this year! -Carolyn Wacaser, Pine

[It was a good year for] family WE had a new granddaughter this year and a daughter who was trying to conceive succeeded and she is expecting in a few weeks. We had all six grown children together as well as our parents for both the spring and fall Jewish holidays making two occasions of four generation celebrations and memories. We look forward to a Chanukah full of light and pray that we will be able to shine that light throughout the year. -Aliza Bulow, Denver

[It was a good year for] Douglas County, as we begin to make progress on finding solutions to our water issues. -Geoff Withers, Parker

[It was a good year for] taking clairvoyant classes in Evergreen learning how to communicate with and heal animals, teaching a 2nd grade class how to "ground themselves" and create "protection bubbles" for greater attentiveness in the classroom, continuing to work with my client who started me w/a 3 mo. contract 10/10 and we're still going strong. -Barbara Sullivan Roehrig, Denver

[It was a good year for] gardening in Colorado. We had a bumper crop in both our personal garden as well as the community garden that we started next door at a property we bought in 2010. We put in 9 plots, and 6 were taken over by neighbors who grew vegetables and flowers. The amount of good will engendered by completing this garden was spectacular. While it is only December and we still have 1/2 the winter to go through, we are still eating both frozen and canned goods and will do so for months to come. ... Gardening in Colorado is not for the faint of heart. In 2010 we saw our entire garden wiped out in a hail storm in early June, only to return strong in time for fall harvest. Good things come to those who wait, and are willing to work hard. -Don Cameron, Golden

[For] the first time in my adult life, I have not 'reinvented' myself during a recession. This is the first time I have stayed employed, in the same job as when the downturn started, a job that I love, and a company with whom I'm proud to be associated. -Karen Mallette, Denver

[It was a good year for] my husband and me and our families. My daughter was married and many family members attended from as far away as NYC, FL, GA, ND OH, MI and Australia. We are semi-retired and work as we wish. I'm a retired teacher and substitute periodically. He is retired from a retail computer job and has started a computer consulting business. -Leslie Stevenson, Highlands Ranch

It was a good year for getting a job after 9 months being unemployed after a layoff in May 2010. A company in Colorado Springs took a chance on a 60 year old and it has turned out fine. ... Thanks to previous planning, we were able to keep our home. -Neal Boniface, Denver

It was a good year for me because in 2011 I finally connected all the dots with regards to health, food, earth and natural process. Through a 10-week program with Denver Urban Gardens and Denver Recycles, I became a Master Composter and ultimately taught composting and vermicomposting at local Farmers' Markets and local schools - still do. My awareness and fears around Big Ag and GMOs have deepened and I feel a permanent shift change in how I view every step of the food cycle - seed to crop, harvest to market, stove to plate, table to compost, soil to seed. I am continually shocked about how people do not see the connection between their diet and their health. It may be my life's mission to educate others as much as I can. Also, this is the first year I have had a large working kitchen and am told I command it like Capt. Kirk on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. I am now officially obsessed with cooking and eschewing processed foods. Some days, I feel downright Amish and I love it. What do I want for Xmas? Thanks for asking. I'd like a ukulele and a grain mill. Basically, 2011 was the year I met previously undiscovered parts of myself...and I am delighted. -Heather Clisby, Denver

[It was a good year for] my family. Our son and I were honored to serve as Count and Countess of the Wheat Ridge Carnation Festival. We both never sought the honor and were totally taken aback when chosen. It also drove home the importance of family, community and standing up for what you believe. ... We have had some health challenges in our family at large but as the end draws to a close, many of those are being resolved and continue to improve. We have tried to give to area groups that house, feed and clothe those in need to pay back for the blessings we have received in 2011. -Cheryl Brungardt, Wheat Ridge

[It was a good year for] family! We welcomed our first child, a beautiful little girl, into the world in 2011. The whole pregnancy process was fascinating and wonderful. My husband and I grew closer through it. I will never forget the day I gave birth. My mom, sister, and husband were all in the room with me and I cannot express the deep level of connection I now feel with all of them. I didn't think I could get closer to them, but indeed we are closer now. -Gayle Bell, Aurora

[It was a good year for] my friend Louis. He was released from prison after 37 years. We gave him one of our cars to help him in his job search.. 2012 will be a really good year if he succeeds in finding work in Detroit. My husband and I had a great bike tour around the Baltic, totally self-supported, traveling through east Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Sweden and Denmark for one month. -Barbara Bennett, Boulder

[It was a good year for] the movement called Occupy Wall Street, Denver etc., the first very hopeful political movement in a long time, something we've been waiting for many years. Finally, young people (and other people) are understanding and moving. Topics which have been undercover are out in the open ... -Nan Fe, Denver

It was a good year for becoming a better, stronger person for me. I've lost 45 pounds, which is an accomplishment on its own, but through this process I've learned to respect myself so much more. I've quit smoking, removed myself from a relationship that was destructive, started to surround myself with people who add to my life and had experiences that I never would have felt comfortable with had I not been able to lose weight. Losing weight has ultimately brought me closer to becoming the person that I truly am and I'm so grateful for that. I've blogged about the experience as it has unfolded and the entire community of Denver has been behind me. It's been so gratifying. -Laura Standley, Denver

[It was a good year for] our older son: he finished his Master's in Mechanical Engineering at Colorado School of Mines. He did this while working full time! It was a good year for our family, as we were able to enjoy a trip together in August to Peru and witness the 100 anniversary of the discovery of Machu Picchu, an amazing and beautiful site, and learn a lot about the conquest of the Incas by Spanish adventurers. ... Not all was rosy. We lost an elderly aunt who survived a Nazi prison, forced labor, and concentration camps and was smart enough to include her own name on a famous List: Schindler's List, which she typed as a member of the typing pool at Plaszow Concentration Camp in Poland. Her eyewitness knowledge is now gone. -Pauline Reetz, Denver

[It was a good year for] the fact that our daughter both graduated college AND landed a job within her chosen field !! In this economy that is a true wonder and we are VERY grateful. -Andrew Sweet, Denver

[It was a good year for] growth and moving into the next stage of my adulthood. ... This year was hard trying to buy a house (which was next to impossible), planning a wedding, getting married, going on a honeymoon and losing a pet. Overall I will always think of 2011 as the year that has taught me any hard lessons that I needed to learn and reshaped my thinking towards the world and my own life. There were a lot of tears but in turn I gained deep understanding. -Julie Duran, Northglenn