Archive for December, 2017

CHSAA will soon end mysteries of `next year’

“Wait until next year” is a familiar catchphrase for many sports fans.

The next year is approaching and Colorado high school enthusiasts are waiting for the Colorado High School Activities Association’s Legislative Committee to approve several proposals which could go into effect for the 2018-2012 cycle.

There are 15 committee reports and additional proposals waiting for approval at the Jan. 5 meeting.

It’s a new year and time for some changes, especially the reports and proposals for football and baseball that have drawn the most attention.

The football committee report outlined two-year alignments for leagues that are more logical than the waterfall format we’ve been stuck with for the past two seasons. Waterfalls are striking to view in the mountains but not as a football league setup.

Also the football committee endorsed expanding the 5A playoffs to 24 teams, and one proposal backed by the committee would align football with the National Federation calendar, which would mean practice could start Aug. 6 rather than Aug. 13. Postseason dates would not be changed.

Another proposal that hopefully will be adopted is to lengthen the baseball season from 19 to 23 games during regular season for classifications other than 1A and 2A, which play district tournaments.

This would be a long-overdue change since it has been 52 years since Colorado has increased the maximum number of baseball games allowed.

Spring weather in Colorado is fickle. Decades ago when I was coaching youth teams, I always said the last week of February was usually nicer than the weather in March, April and even May.

So the extra games could be played in tournaments or something called doubleheaders, which used to be more common years ago.

Other Northern states that sanction baseball allow a maximum of more regular-season games than Colorado. For instance, North Dakota allows 36 games on 23 dates and Idaho rules say teams are not to exceed 24 games.

There are many more proposals and committee reports that need to be passed, including the volleyball committee’s new bracket format for the state tournaments, cross country recommending a “run six athletes and score four” format, and creation of Foundation Benefit Contests for all sports to allow schools to raise funds for their programs.

Swimming rankings

Mountain Vista swim coach Rob Nasser once again has been busy compiling rankings of individual girls swimmers and teams in hopes of gaining more publicity for the sport.

In the Dec. 20 rankings, Fossil Ridge and Fairview are ranked first and second in Class 5A with Cherry Creek third, Arapahoe fourth, Rock Canyon eighth, Mountain Vista ninth and Castle View/Douglas County 10th.

Heritage is third in the Class 4A rankings, with Valor Christian fourth and Highlands Ranch eighth.

Individually, Arapahoe junior diver Franny Cable has the best 5A score recorded in the state so far at 506.85 points, with Castle View/Douglas County’s Sam Tamborski second with 465.45 points and Ralston Valley freshmen Isabel Gregerson third with a 458.80 score.

There are several local swimmers ready to challenge with second place times. Horizon’s Charlotte Fieeiki’s time of 55.85 is second in the 100-yard backstroke, Jessica Beckwith of Rock Canyon has the runner-up time of 56.41 in the 100 butterfly and Delaney Smith of Arapahoe has clocked the second fastest time of 2:03.33 in the 200 IM. Cherry Creek’s 200 medley relay team is second with a 1:46.83 clocking but all the above times need to be faster to catch the leaders.

In Class 4A, Heritage’s Kylie Andrews has recorded the top times of 23.76 and 51.29 in the 50 and 100 freestyle events. Valor Christian’s Ella Kirschke is tops in the 200 IM with a 2:06.96 clocking. Valor also has the fastest time in the 200 freestyle relay of 1:36.85.

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at or at 303-566-4083.

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Contemporary realist art shown in conjunction with stock show

The 25th Annual Coors Western Art Show opens with a reception and sale on Jan. 3 and continues through Jan. 21, in coordination with the 2018 National Western Stock Show. Dan Young’s “Super Moon on the Colorado River” is the signature painting/poster this year. The show features 60 contemporary realists from North America and Europe. Proceeds help with scholarships for students in agribusiness, veterinary and human medicine who help create a future for Western culture.

Douglas County Christmas Bird Count

Across the nation since 1900, birdwatchers have become citizen scientists collecting data on bird populations. On Dec. 30, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., volunteers will work within a 15-mile radius. See for more information and to take part.

Harmony at University of Denver

Yale University’s famed Whiffenpoofs will return to sing at the Newman Center at the University of Denver on Jan. 6 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $17/$15 students. or 303-871-7720.

Englewood Camera Club

Alex Burke, a professional landscape photographer from Greeley, will speak to the Englewood Camera Club at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit, 6400 S. University Blvd., Centennial. He will talk about landscapes on large format film, graduated neutral density filters anf filter usage in general in the field — and about trip planning. Guests and new members welcome.

‘Sonata’ screening

Shohini Ghosh (Highlands Ranch), Anuradha Mukherjee, Nishika Ramaswami and Surupa Sengupta are presenting a screening of the film in English: “Sonata” by Aparna Sen, at 4 p.m. on Jan. 14, 2018, at the Broomfield Auditorium, 3 Community Park Road, Broomfield. Tickets: $15 advance, $20 at door.

Sue Mengers

“I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers” by John Logan, directed by Bernie Cardell, will bring award-winning actress Emma Messenger back in a role she performed previously at the Edge Theater. It will run one night only at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 30 at Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora. Mengers was a Hollywood agent who represented Barbara Streisand, Cher, Steve McQueen, Burt Reynolds and many others. Tickets: $25,, 303-856-7830.

‘Magnets on the Fridge’

Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan St., Denver, brings back its popular “Magnets on the Fridge” series after an 11-year hiatus. Episodes are based on audience suggestions and will play once a month on the first Wednesday at 8 p.m., starting Jan. 3. Tickets: $8 advance/$10 at the door.

Call for entries

The 52nd Annual “Eye of the Camera” photography show in Littleton will accept entries through midnight on Jan. 5, 2018. See: Exhibition will be Feb. 16 to March 25 at the Littleton Museum. Juror to be announced.

New Year’s Eve

“Jazz and Jive New Year’s Eve” will be celebrated at the Centennial ViewHouse, 7101 S. Clinton St. Five-course dinner, champagne, dancing. Reservations required: 303-816-3160. Seating times: 7, 7:30, 8, 9 p.m.

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Whether it’s gewgaws, gadgets or gigabytes, the less the merrier

“My echo, my shadow, and me.”

If you were to walk into my house right now, that’s about all you would see.

“We three, we’re all alone, living in a memory.”

I am not going anywhere, and my furniture wasn’t garnisheed.

(I have been waiting six years to use that word — “garnisheed.” I am not entirely certain I have used it correctly, but close enough.)

The place is going to be re-carpeted, so everything is neatly stacked in the studio.

Except for whatever I need every day.

It turns out what I need every day isn’t very much.

The major appliances sit on hardwood flooring, so they are still in place.

All that’s left in the master bedroom is the bed and the television. The computer is still on duty in the office. But the guest room is as bare naked as it was when I moved in here in 1993.

The look of the house right now is unexpectedly wonderful. The sight lines are quiet. There are no unneeded objects anywhere. There were very few to begin with.

Curmudgeons generally don’t collect figurines, gimcracks, or doodads.

The house as it is won’t be featured in anyone’s Parade of Homes. But I like it, and I wish that it could stay this way.

Of course, I need a couch, and living room chairs, and my bookshelves in my office, and what else?

I have been in homes that looked like three-dimensional scrapbooks. Family photographs everywhere, mementos of travel, endless end tables, and decorator pillows.

I have decided to rely more and more on my memory than on objects to remind me of memories.

Bloomberg View’s Shira Ovide wrote an article about the technologies that have engulfed our lives. Said she is “falling out of love” with them.

Me too.

Partly because of technologies and the ability to scrutinize, to hack, to bully — anonymously and privately — we live in a treacherous world.

A former local secondary school staff member is being investigated for allegedly recording clandestine cell-phone videos.

Ovide calls the voice-activated speakers from Amazon “creepy.”

I would add vacuum cleaners that wander around on their own.

And iPhones.

Yup. It’s 2017, and I still don’t have a cell phone. And I am doing all right.

I know I am a freak. Don’t need one. Maybe if I had children.

Jennifer has an application on her phone that allows her to locate her three children — with their permission — any time of day or night.

Facebook? Not on it. Nor do I tweet like Number 45. I have never sent a text. I wouldn’t know how. And I’m still standing.

Am I an out-of-touch and arrogant codger, who thinks his home is Walden or a Zen garden? No. I know what is going on.

Maybe if I were (much) younger, I would be just as inextricably linked to a phone as everyone else is.

It is now possible to appear to be clever-minded, articulate, informed, humorous, or interesting by pulling out a phone and sending a message, but only after doing a bit of a search.

But in person, on the spot, extemporaneously, those attributes have become more difficult to encounter.

We are, sometimes, what we can look up.

Look who is talking. Without the internet, I would sound like, uh, well, hmm, uh.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at

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Share a smile and you’re likely to change another person’s day

So lately I have been testing a theory, and I have to tell you it has been so much fun. I have written about this quote before, I have been familiar with it for more than two decades, and I have read it hundreds of times, and I wanted to finally test the concept and see if it really did work.

“If you see someone without a smile, give them one of yours.” — Zig Ziglar

Seems simple enough right? We have all probably experienced this effect in one way or another. Someone catches our eye or attention and we smile, they smile back. Or someone smiles at us, and most times we smile back ourselves. Probably basic human nature.

Now, we have all probably experienced the other side of that too, meaning we offer a smile and get greeted with a scowl. Or someone smiles at us and we have no idea who they are, but they must want something from us, so we duck for cover, head down, and try not to make eye contact, let alone smile.

So I had this bright idea that I would actually test this theory over a period of time and in different locations. I happened to be vacationing in Hawaii and each morning would go for a power walk, a run, or a casual, less intense walk. And yes, it was Hawaii so most people should be happy or smiling anyway. However, you would be surprised at how many people just didn’t appear happy at all and a smile was the furthest thing from their face.

As I walked or ran, I started to smile. And not just smile, an over-exaggerated smile, kind of like eating a banana sideways. I made eye contact with people from 20 yards away coming in the opposite direction. And whether they were smiling at the time or not, by the time we were side by side, more than 90 percent of the people smiled back and even gave me a warm “good morning,” or “Aloha.” On the other hand, 5 percent of the people never made eye contact, and about 5 percent made eye contact but didn’t smile back. I will take 90 percent as a win.

I tested the theory in the stores I have gone to as well. The grocery store, the hardware store, walking down main street, and the results were exactly the same. Now maybe, you could argue that my ridiculously over-exaggerated smile caught people’s attention. And maybe their smile back was just the beginning of a snicker or laugh, but it was still a smile. Not only did people smile, they engaged in conversations, asked questions as if I worked at the store, and wished me a good day or merry Christmas. Again, 90 percent success rate.

My final test came this weekend, the weekend before Christmas. The venue I chose was the mall. Yikes. I tried to smile while finding a parking spot and as I came close to seeing one open up, I was outmaneuvered by a faster car with a driver who wasn’t smiling, but rather sneering in victory. After finally getting lucky and finding a pretty sweet spot, I entered the lions’ den. My attitude was good, my confidence high, and my resolve to smile and be positive was unwavering. The bigger I smiled, the more people turned away. It was more like 10 percent of the people smiled in return and 90 percent of the people kept their head down and blazed through the mall with purpose, no time for that smiling nonsense.

Like everyone else I did have a purpose for being at the mall. There was a gift I needed to pick up. Still smiling and feeling good, maybe not as good as I felt on vacation, but my attitude and resolve were strong. And as I approached the counter to pay, there were three women working the registers. I greeted them with my ridiculously over-exaggerated smile and a hearty Merry Christmas, and they stood looking at me for a moment like a deer caught in headlights.

For a split second I thought that maybe I had overdone it just a bit. And then, they all looked at one another, turned back to me, smiled, and said “Thank you.” They thanked me because they said almost everyone that had been in the store so far that day had been rude, and they were not feeling the Christmas love or appreciated at all. So I shared my little testing of this Zig Ziglar theory, and they returned my smile and shared with me that no matter who else came in, they would smile back, even a ridiculous over-exaggerated smile filled with Christmas cheer. A little win but a huge victory.

It’s almost the new year. We can go into the new year with a frown and avoid making eye contact with others, or when we see someone without a smile, we can make a commitment for the new year to give them one of ours. I would love to hear your smiling story at And when we can help just one other person to smile, it really will be a better than good week and an amazing new year.

Michael Norton is a resident of Castle Rock, the former president of the Zig Ziglar Corporation, a strategic consultant and a business and personal coach.

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Healing garden opens at Castle Rock hospital

Patients, doctors, nurses, visitors and any other people who need spend time at Castle Rock Adventist Hospital now have another place to pass the hours. The hospital has opened a new “healing garden,” located between its Briscoe and Alexander buildings.

The campus already includes a community garden, but this latest project is meant specifically as a place of healing, said the Castle Rock Adventist Hospital Foundation Chief Development Officer, Valerie Ross.

The area features a year-round fountain, a sitting wall, paths lined by trees, a play area for children, a grassy area and a playhouse. Although it is open, planting will not take place until the spring.

“We have 60 trees going into that space, and of course it’s all very Colorado style — low maintenance, low water, all approved by the Town of Castle Rock,” Ross said.

Providing a tree requires a $1,000 donation. Donors will be honored with a silver leaf on a metal tree that an artist is creating for the space. Anyone interested can contact Ross at

“All donors for the garden are going to be recognized,” Ross said. “When you walk through it’s going to tell a story of the community support we’ve had through the garden project.”

The donor tree won’t be the only artwork showcased at the garden. Dianne Heidbreder, who served on a committee formed to help bring the garden project to fruition, has also donated a sculptural piece of art with her family.

The sculpture, a hibiscus, is in memory of her late husband. His two-year fight against the pancreatic cancer that ultimately took his life helped inspire Heidbreder to get involved with the garden.

She knows firsthand what it’s like to spend days, sometimes up to a month, at a hospital, often out-of-state, while a loved one receives care. Days revolve around waking up, going to the hospital, finding ways to fill the time, staying until dark and then returning to your hotel, she said.

“It’s your daily thing,” she said. “Then you come back to the hospital and you do it again and you do it again, every day, you know. It’s very difficult and it can be depressing.”

A healing garden, she said, is something every hospital should have.

“When you’re in a hospital setting, sometimes you’re here on your worst day and having to sit inside is difficult,” Ross said. “We actually believe it’s very evidence-based to combine nature with health care.”

Ross said the hospital hopes the garden will provide an oasis for people undergoing experiences like that of Heidbreder, and for families at the hospital for happy reasons, such as the birth of a child. It will also be used for events, like yoga classes, sports therapy or simply a lunch spot.

“Everyone loves this project, so it’s been really easy to engage the community,” Ross said. “Churches, civic groups, they’re all excited about how we can use this garden for creating more partnerships in the community.”

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Rock Canyon students leave their mark downtown

On a recent December afternoon, a handful of Rock Canyon High School students traveled to downtown Denver to transform a gray concrete wall into a colorful Colorado landscape. The students, along with their teacher, Zoe Tessier, got to leave their mark on a nook in the heart of the city, just south of the entrance to Coors Field.

“It’s kind of a cool way to apply the 21st century — to get an idea and see it come to life,” said Tessier.

The mural was an ongoing project for Tessier’s 30 students in grades ninth through 10th. It was also the first of its kind done by an art class at the high school in Highlands Ranch.

Tessier asked each student to draft five to 10 ideas of a painting that best describes Colorado. She then asked a combined real estate business and art studio, on Larimer Street in downtown Denver, if her class could paint a mural on the exterior back wall of its building.

The owner of Ion Real Estate, Jim Cavoto, agreed. He and several of his employees sifted through students’ submissions and voted on a winner: a painting by freshman Chris Jung of a scene of white Rocky Mountains, purple clouds, brown downtown buildings, the entrance of the baseball field and a sun overhead mirroring the red “C” from the Colorado flag.

“We narrowed it down to two,” said Cavoto of the submissions. “The one we picked was more baseball oriented.”

Students who were able to travel downtown and paint on the afternoon of Dec. 19 were thrilled to be selected for such a job. Though one student’s artwork was selected, creating the final masterpiece was a team effort.

“It’s more hands-on,” said 15-year-old Olivia Luhnau, holding a thick brush covered in white paint, standing next to her mother, Debbie, who accompanied her on the trip downtown. “It’s a lot more free hand and a lot less detail.”

Debbie Luhnau was happy to see her daughter switch out her daily routine of sitting at a desk for participating in a real-word activity.

“As a parent,” she said, “I’m excited that my child gets to do something practical.”

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Gold Award Girl Scout: Abby Sickinger

This is the second in a four-part series interviewing this year’s Girl Scout Gold Award recipients from Castle Rock.

Four Castle Rock Girl Scouts recently received their Gold Award, the highest honor in the organization. The Girl Scout Gold Award is a seven-step project in which girls strive to solve a community problem.

Aimee Bianca, the Highest Awards Manager with Girl Scouts of Colorado, said the process has a lasting effect on the Girl Scouts.

“They learn so many things but they really learn how to manage a project efficiently and communicate with adults,” Bianca said. “For the girls, it means that they have the power to create change in their community in a meaningful way and that they have the power to pull together a team of people who support the things they are about.”

Here, girl scout Abby Sickinger answers questions about her involvement in the organization and her Gold Award project.

About me

I am a freshman at Arapahoe Community College. I am very passionate about music, which guided me to study Music Audio Technology. In my free time, I lead a patrol of Junior Scouts (fourth and fifth graders) in a Super Troop (a troop containing all program levels of Girl Scouts). I also love to read and write, and make music with a close friend.

What was your Girl Scout Gold Award project and what were its goals?

My Gold Award project was called Operation Occupation. The main goal of my project was to help high school students get a job. I had different stations at my event that gave them specific skills needed to acquire a job. These stations included a resume station, dress and behavior station, mock interview station, and a station with employers looking to hire high schoolers. I also had successful people speak to the attendees about their story.

Looking back, what do you think you were able to accomplish through this project?

Nine out of the fifteen students that attended got a job after the event, and said that my event helped them gain confidence to do it. My YouTube channel has reached four different countries, and has been seen in different states across the United States. My website has been shared by three different sources, and has been viewed by a total of 73 different people. Although a lot of the accomplishments aren’t physically visible, many people have learned more about what I was trying to teach.

How do you think this project has impacted your local community of Castle Rock and the nearby areas? Were you able to learn more about your own community by doing it?

Most high schoolers I talked to had no idea what getting a job really meant, and how impactful it is for not only them, but others around them. They learned that jobs are more than money, and that they give you experience, skills and memories.

How did this project influence you and what did you personally learn from it?

The most valuable idea I got from this project was to not procrastinate. Girl Scouts are allowed to start earning their Gold Award in ninth grade. I decided to put it off until my senior year. This made it stressful, difficult and rushed. I definitely could have had a bigger impact if I started earlier. Also, I learned how to communicate with people outside of my age group. I learned organization, time management and how to ask for help when needed.

Finally, why do you participate in Girl Scouts?

I started as a Daisy (kindergarten) and went through every level possible, which means I participated for 13 years before bridging to an adult scout. Throughout these 13 years, I have gained leadership skills, initiative, and learned respect for my environment, others and myself. I continued on to be a troop leader because I am passionate about empowering girls to be a leader, and go for their dreams.

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Police officers placed on paid leave after Christmas Eve shooting

An unspecified number of Castle Rock police officers were placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 24 after an officer-involved shooting sent one individual to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to a town news release.

The officers involved responded to a home on South Sierra Drive at approximately 2:52 p.m. on Christmas Eve after reports of a suicidal person, the town said.

According to the release, officers had entered the home when the subject pointed a weapon at them, prompting an officer to shoot. The suspect was then transported to the hospital.

The 18th Judicial District is investigating the incident and the officers are on paid leave. The town is not releasing more information at this time.

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Subject sustains non-life threatening injuries during an officer involved shooting

A subject sustained non-life threatening injuries during an officer involved shooting Sunday afternoon.

Around 2:52 p.m., Castle Rock Police were called to a home on South Sierra Drive regarding a possible suicidal subject. Once inside the home, Police say the subject pointed a weapon at the officers. An officer was then forced to fire shots.

The 18th Judicial District’s Critical Response Team is now conducting an investigation. The Castle Rock Police Officers have been placed on paid administrative leave. The suspect was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

No additional information is available at this time.

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Year-end tax planning crucial before law changes

There are only a few weeks left to impact your tax planning for 2017 before the new tax laws take effect next year.

As of this writing, there is no consensus between the House and the Senate bills but what is similar between them may be worth looking at. Whether there are four or seven tax brackets may not be as much of an issue as what may no longer be deductible. Currently there are concerns that medical expenses and state income taxes may not be deductible. This could make 2017 your most flexible tax year with little time to take advantage of a few year-end strategies.

Consider funding an IRA account. Most employees who have a 401(k) plan have forgotten they might also be eligible for an IRA as well. If you are married filing jointly and only one spouse has a 401(k) plan, the other spouse may be eligible for a $5,500 deduction or $6,500 if over the age of 50. Check the IRS limits for adjusted gross incomes that range from $186,000 to $196,000. Those with two qualified employer plans with incomes under $99,000 can both write off the full contribution. This may be enough to reduce other factors, such as eligibility for the education tax credits, another item not expected to be available after tax reform takes place.

Self-employed individuals may be eligible for a SEP (Simplified Employee Pension). These limits can be substantially higher than an IRA based on business or consulting income. Most plans allow for deductible contributions similar to 401(k) limits — which for 2017 are $18,000 with an over age 50 catch-up provision of another $6,000. For higher income earners, you may also be eligible for a profit sharing contribution up to 25 percent of your business profit up to $59,000, depending on your business structure. Contribution limits increase in 2018 by $500 on 401(k) and similar plans.

It is crucial to get with your tax or financial advisor immediately to see what plans and limits you are eligible for.

Consider maximizing your health savings accounts for the year if they have not already been funded. You may be eligible if you had a high-deductible health insurance plan starting no later than Dec. 1. An individual can contribute a tax-deductible amount of $3,400 with a $1,000 catch-up provision for anyone over age 55 by Dec. 31. Households with one spouse on family coverage can contribute $6,750 plus the catch-up for over age 55.

The penalty for not having health insurance this year is $695 per person or 2.5 percent of adjusted gross income. You can apply during open enrollment this month to avoid this penalty in 2018 as well.

You can fund college savings plans that are eligible for the state income tax deduction for children or grandchildren through This will save you the 4.63 percent Colorado income tax on your contribution.

If you pay quarterly estimated tax payments, consider paying your fourth quarter state taxes before year-end. Then you will be able to deduct it on your Schedule A next April. This is a benefit that is slated to be eliminated next year.

To help reduce unwanted taxable investment income, meet with your financial advisor for tax loss harvesting and to structure your investments to be tax-efficient. Next year, there may be a restricted calculation on figuring your investment losses. This is important to review as the goal is to keep more of your hard-earned dollars working for you. Plan to take advantage of every deduction you are eligible for and make estimated tax payments on time. Then you won’t have to pay any more than necessary.

Patricia Kummer has been an independent certified financial planner for 31 years and is president of Kummer Financial Strategies Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor in Highlands Ranch. Kummer Financial Strategies Inc. is a seven-year 5280 Top Advisor. Please visit for more information. Any material discussed is meant for informational purposes only and not a substitute for individual advice.

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