from Sandy Needham

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Boulder Dispatch

Full disclosure: I have traded in my PC for my first Mac: Newton’s previous laptop. I have to use an entirely new blog-writing program, which is tantamount to learning Greek. Yeah, I know, folks…the post looks different! I’ve no clue; just pretend it’s all cool. Here’s the dispatch:

While Newton flew to California to meet up with his partners before a trade show, I flew to Denver, Colorado to spend the weekend in nearby Boulder with Lenna, my best friend from my whole life!

The bonus was that my sweet sister Janet – who lives in Denver but was traveling the following day – picked me up at the airport for lunch with her and her husband, the adorable Rex. I got to see their house again after many years, complete with Rex’s impressive collections of model cars and license plates and Janet’s wonderful doll collection. Of course, there was plenty more to peruse, like a museum! Their blended families add up to quite a collection of photographs, as well. We had a fun lunch and Janet escorted me to the train to my downtown Denver rendezvous with Lenna. Luckily, it was a mild, sunny January day despite recent snows, so I could wait on the platform in my thin wool coat without my big extra sweater underneath.

Janet  rex

Somehow, the scene of my rendezvous with Lenna seems so much like another typical continuation of our years of friendship, mostly because it was funny in a slightly absurd way! While a train to Denver’s Union Station seemed straightforward enough, what Lenna had not realized was that a six-block area around the station was under reconstruction. We reached each other by cell phone five times before success, as there didn’t seem to be a way to gulf the very short divide between us! As I ambled with my rolling suitcase towards a hopeful intersection, my big wool scarf caused my earring to fall out. As I retraced in hopes of finding it, another call set a new intersection as the target. Bingo! I found the earring, and soon after, I found Lenna on the same side of the impenetrable construction!


Lenna emerged from her car and I started across the street. The image of the two of us meeting in the middle of the crosswalk at a downtown traffic light and embracing while we laughed, oblivious to the imminent change of signal, is indelible. Some things never change.

It was thrilling to be back in the home of Lenna and her unflappable, affable husband Jon, after many years. The last time I was there in the ‘90’s was the last time I saw Lenna’s mother, someone very special in my life. Lenna and Jon’s two children are grown up and living on the East Coast, so the house has a more settled Zen-like tranquility. The decoration exquisitely follows the architecture and the Japanese landscaping around it. The whispering light shade of taupe on the walls and the carefully curated collection of objects from around the world (from their travels, their Southwest art collection, and several foreign exchange students’ gifts) offer a setting of repose.

And repose is rarely better earned than by these two powerhouses. Lenna has been the executive director of the non-profit “Via” for 23 years. It was formerly called Special Transit, and provides transport around Boulder to improve the quality of life for seniors, disabled individuals and others disadvantaged with limited mobility. Our visit to the new green, efficient, and beautifully designed Via headquarters was a proud moment for me. Lenna’s head of fund-raising for the eleven million dollar project was none other than the formidable Jon! I could just imagine the clear and calm Lenna applying her significant intelligence and kindness to the delegation of duties and the solving of problems for this enormous operation.

Here is a short interview with Lenna describing her involvement with Via upon her receiving the 2013 Boulder Chamber of Commerce "Women Who Light the Community” Award:

In her spare time, Lenna serves as the president of the local Rotary club! Here is the elegant couple at a fund-raiser, no doubt.


Jon is a lawyer, a Sunday school teacher, a “Big Brother” to a local disadvantaged boy, a Rotarian, and the head of the United Way charity for the Boulder area. The recent flash floods of September that seriously decimated the area required significant involvement from both Rotary and United Way.

For relaxation, Lenna and Jon tend their abundant vegetable garden, among other hobbies. Lenna has taken up piano again and devotes most of her growing interpretive skills to Chopin. I was moved by her demonstration.

Lenna and Jon traveled plenty in 2013: to Nicaragua via Rotary to build a well for a small local community; to Paris to celebrate their 40th anniversary; and to Ankara, Turkey for the wedding of one of their exchange students. They also have a new first grandchild, Gavin Nicholas, born in Boston less than a month prior to my visit. NOW I’m jealous. His middle name is after Lenna’s Ukrainian father, one of the true characters I knew in my youth! 

Jon  Lenna anniversary in Paris



We had several great meals out together at their favorite restaurants in this sophisticated university town. A real highlight was Colterra in nearby Niwot. Another was Jon preparing chicken on the outdoor grill on a chilly January evening!

IMG 1067

Oldies with tech

Lenna reserved tickets for the two of us at the Denver Art Museum’s “Passport to Paris” exhibit. Considering that we both experienced Paris for the first time together at age 17 - both simply dizzy over the Louvre - and considering the love of art history that ensued, we were the perfect exhibit companions!

Denver art museum

            Passport to paris         


  A fascinating experience for me was attending church with Lenna and Jon at their famously progressive First United Methodist Church of Boulder.   


   I gave up church long ago, but that was after an entire childhood at the famously deco, exquisite Boston Avenue Methodist Church of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Lenna also attended. It has a round sanctuary.

To just stand up in a pew to sing a hymn or to sit and listen to a choir in any church now conjures such memories of my parents at my side as a child that I can barely endure the emotion. I especially appreciated the beautiful words of the comfortably casual Boulder minister about gathering to wish and engage collectively. When he remained unruffled and even comedic after the sound technicians inadvertently conversed on a live mike during his big prayer, the deal was sealed! The church’s welcoming atmosphere emphasizes social justice and inclusion of the LGBT community, unhappily in open defiance of the official Methodist Discipline. A new member of the choir – a voice major at the University of Colorado - treated the congregation to a bass aria from Handel I have known all my life. The acoustics of the sanctuary rendered his basso voice divine, indeed. I love my yoga practice and my personal mode of coming back to myself from all the ways I am taken by the world around me, but I was reminded here of the palpable and lovely feel of wishing communally.

This church has a large room dedicated to the labyrinth modeled after the one in the marble floor at Chartres Cathedral. I had the privilege of tracing by foot this same model in New York, and I revere that physical enactment of traveling to one’s center.

Chartres labyrinth

From church we wandered down the Pearl Street pedestrian mall, made crowded and happy by sunny weather hovering around 60° F. This meant that outdoor cafés were full in the middle of January. The kitchen store on the mall called Peppercorn is probably the finest I have seen. I now have two new pillows on my sofa made out of French napkins from this unparalleled collection.

IMG 1047

I woke up on Monday to that old cliché of a snowy Colorado morning in January! I was thrilled by the silent snowfall on the back garden out the large window in my bedroom. I bundled up for Lenna’s chauffeuring to the airport in 20° weather, remembering as I exited the house that the dry Colorado cold does not feel as cold as the wet New York cold! Immediately after my dearest friend dropped me at the airport and I wheeled my suitcase inside, what did I notice? My wool scarf had knocked out the same earring, again. I ambled back outside to the sidewalk with the suitcase and there I found it, again!...the other bookend to my Boulder visit.

Thanks, Lenna and Jon, for your inspiration, your affection, and plenty of giggles!



PS Here is my 2009 tribute to Lenna after she and Jon visited us in Brazil: 


  1. Thank you for this wonderful post!! I hope you post some pics of the new pillows made from napkins

  2. Absolute joy! That's what this post conveys. Absolute joy! Nothing is ever better in life life than time with an old friend.

  3. Actually puts some meaning into our society's use of BFF. This acronym is so widely used, but in reality there is really only one best, and you described why that is true.


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