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Kerry Donovan: Bipartisan work key to supporting Colorado

The other night I was visiting with one of my Republican friends and colleagues. We found ourselves reflecting on the national political climate, our time in the Capitol and what motivated us to serve in the Senate.

It was a great conversation. We don’t always agree on the bill at hand, but most of the time we do find a lot in common. We chat about our goals and our concerns. We make suggestions and accept changes. We approach our differences with respect to achieve bipartisan solutions for Colorado. This is how the State Capitol works. I don’t always think the constant churn of the 24-hour news machine likes to present this view because it certainly isn’t as catchy as conflict. Sometimes, elected leaders use their position to sow division and manufacture reasons for us to distrust one another. But without the division created by some, we get along and work together because that is the job we are tasked to do.

In a time when the national picture is one of disaccord and disfunction, here’s what we are doing at the Colorado State Capitol, together.

One of my first bills this year is bipartisan legislation with Sen. Coram, a Republican from Southwest Colorado, to address job creation in rural Colorado. The REDI program (SB20-002) has supported small business expansion across communities on the Western Slope and Upper Arkansas Valley. I wrote this bill to ensure the long-term success of the program and make sure it stays focused on creating new jobs in rural Colorado.

Another bill I am carrying is the Mobile Veterans Support Unit Grant Program (SB20-122). Veterans have served our country dutifully and this bill gives the state the responsibility to serve them in return. This bill will create a grant program for nonprofit organizations to build a mobile support unit to make it easier for veterans living in rural areas and veterans experiencing homelessness to access their benefits and support. This bill gained unanimous, bipartisan support in committee.

I am also carrying a bill with Sen. Rankin, a Republican from Garfield County, which will improve our Backcountry Colorado Search and Rescue (SAR) program (SB20-130). This bill will study support for SAR volunteer teams that serve our communities. Backcountry search-and-rescue teams are volunteers that respond to emergencies and complete rescue missions in remote and precarious locations. Their work is paramount to our great state’s outdoor recreation and economy.

This work fuels my motivation to continue working on bipartisan bills in partnership with my Republican colleagues. During our conversation, my colleague and I both agreed that this time spent serving the state would a highlight of our lives. It is my distinct honor to represent the Western Slope and Upper Arkansas Valley. I am eager to keep fighting for the issues that matter most for my constituents and all Coloradans.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan represents District 5, which includes Chaffee, Delta, Eagle, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Lake and Pitkin counties.

What are your priorities regarding school district?

Aspen teachers and school district staff recently came up with a list of values that guide them when educating our students. Academic excellence is on there, but so is a whole lot more.

Now the school board and administrators want to hear from you. What are your priorities? Are there any you would add to this list? Which ones are most important? Which ones are least important? How would you rank them?

Here is the list from teachers and staff:

Whole Child: every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged

Equity: access and improved outcomes for all

Community: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals

Collaboration: working together toward continuous improvement

Learner Mindset: possess the desire to learn, unlearn and relearn

Innovation: unique and unparalleled teaching and learning

Tenacity for Growth: perseverance and resilience to never stop growing

Global Citizenship: contribute and take action to make the world a better place

Empowerment: people having the tools and trust to succeed

Coherence: a logical and consistent system

Collaboration Collective Efficacy: a shared belief that through our collective action, we can positively influence student outcomes

Humility: freedom from arrogance and respect for others’ viewpoints

Academic Excellence: highest performing school district in the state/nation

Often, when we talk about improving our schools we hear about trade-offs that need to be made. For example, do we prioritize the instructional time needed to perform well on state tests and prepare our students for rigorous advanced courses? Or do we prioritize outdoor and experiential ed even though those trips mean sacrificing days and even weeks of academic time? Many of us want it all. How do we do that?

Defining our community’s values will help school officials answer these questions. Teachers came up with their list of values while working on the strategic plan, a document that will lay out the school district’s vision for the next 20 years and beyond. The strategic plan will guide not just academic decisions but also important budgetary decisions.

To provide your feedback on these values or the strategic plan, come to a community forum Jan. 29 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Aspen High School Commons. Or if you don’t have time to attend the meeting, send an email to the school board at aspenboelistens@gmail.com or fill out the online form here:

https://bit.ly/30U02hY.

The District Accountability Committee (DAC) is a collaborative group of parents, community members and district employees who work together to advise school board members and district leadership. State law requires each school district in Colorado to have a DAC. For more information about the DAC or to get involved, please contact Angela Rittenhouse at arittenhouse@aspenk12.net.

Guest commentary: The benefits of Basalt’s whitewater park

Two recent front-page stories in The Aspen Times featured the improvements currently taking place on the Healthy Rivers whitewater park in Basalt and their associated costs. Unfortunately, both articles left out clarifying information regarding the benefits of the project to the river’s ecology and the Basalt community. Residents and visitors alike may be interested in knowing the whole story.

The reason the whitewater park was conceived and built in its present location is to secure a permanent water right for the Roaring Fork River, and to restore a degraded stretch that has incredible potential as a community asset. The type of water right is called a RICD, or Recreational In-Channel Diversion. This legal mechanism allows water to be left in a river for recreational purposes if that water is delivered to a man-made structure. By securing this water right, the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers program legally insures that sufficient water will continue to flow into the future.

Unfortunately, safety concerns became apparent after last spring’s high runoff. A safe, user-friendly water feature is critical to the success of the project, and we are committed to getting it right.

We in the Roaring Fork Valley know the incredible value of an ecologically healthy river. Our environment, with a healthy watershed at its core, is a big part of our identity. It is a driver of our quality of life, and vital to our economy. Unfortunately, trans-mountain water diversions remove around 37% of our annual river flow. What water remains in the river is allocated to irrigators and municipalities along its course. The only water in the river that is not already claimed, are the peak flows of our spring run off.

Ecologically, spring runoff flows are the pulse of the river, and are not unlike our own pulse. They give life to the stream by flushing smothering sediments, and by infusing the river with nutrients. It is this very pulse of spring water that is most at risk. Future water developments for reservoirs and diversions would likely tap this un-allocated water.

The RICD right that Pitkin County has secured will help to prevent any project that would de-water the river from the headwaters on Independence Pass to the whitewater park in Basalt. Thus, the entire upper river will benefit. Specifically, the water right for the park calls for up to 1350 cfs of water during the time of peak flows in June. Modest stream flows such as this are currently typical of the Roaring Fork; they are not, however, guaranteed into the future.

Though this water right may be junior to all water rights predating it, the whitewater park RICD right will be senior to future attempts to flatline the pulse of the Roaring Fork. Funding for this project and others comes from a 0.1% voter approved healthy rivers county sales tax. The Pitkin County Healthy Rivers volunteer board feels that this is money well spent to secure our river’s vitality and water future.

Andre Wille is chair of the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers board. He lives in Basalt.

She Said, He Said: Stepping into a blended family can be tough … for the kids as well as adults

Dear Lori and Jeff,

I’ve recently gotten engaged to the love of my life and can’t wait to officially begin a new life with him. There is one issue that’s giving me cold feet — the two boys from his previous marriage. I’ve tried so hard to have them accept me, not as a replacement for their mother, but as someone who’s important to their dad. No matter what I do, they are rude and sarcastic to me and make me feel like I have no business being part of their family. I am kind, supportive, forgiving and understanding, but I get none of that in return. My fiancé understands what I’m going through but is reluctant to step in and defend me when it’s obvious they’ve crossed the line. Is this a big enough reason to put off the wedding or should I keep trying to integrate into their lives?

Signed,

Cold Feet

Dear CF,

Lori and Jeff: The answer to both of your questions is a resounding “no.” Don’t put off the wedding and don’t try so hard to make them accept you.

Lori: Kids who have gone through a divorce are often experiencing grief, uncertainty and a lack of trust in the world. While the discord between you and them may stem from having personalities that just don’t gel, it’s more likely that they are testing you to see who you really are at the core. Are they going to let you in, only to be abandoned by you in the near future? Are you going to take their father even further out of their lives?

The key here is to stop seeing them as a threat, and hold space as the adult for them to be the hurting, confused kids that they are. Recognize that whatever they make you feel is likely a mirror of what they are experiencing inside. This doesn’t mean that you accept their inappropriate behaviors. But you have to separate out your reactions from the boundaries you set with them. You need to harness your ability to self-soothe and rely on appropriate supports (friends, family, a counselor) to process your feelings so that your interactions with his kids are coming from a consistently solid, grounded and mindful place.

Jeff: I can speak to this issue from two perspectives. The first is as a relationship expert and the second is as one of those boys. With my coaching hat on, I can tell you that your fiancé is in a tough position. He’s caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to support you while protecting his kids. Don’t ask him to choose sides — it would be a painful decision either way. Be patient and know that the foundation of your relationship will see you through these more challenging times. What you can ask of you fiancé is that he give his kids permission to direct their feelings toward him and remind them that he’s strong enough to handle whatever emotions might come up for them. This might take some of the pressure off of you, creating an opportunity for you to build connections with the boys.

When I take off my coaching hat and look back over 40 years ago, I see myself in the same situation as your fiancé’s boys. My parents divorced when I was in grade school and my dad remarried several years later. My brother and I had to learn to accept a new person in our lives (who would later become our amazing stepmother), but at the time, we were not exactly thrilled about having another parent who could tell us what to do and how to act. Back then, it was also much safer to project the anger, hurt, frustration we felt about our parents and their divorce onto our stepmother. It wasn’t necessarily a reflection of how we felt about her or how she treated us but it was a convenient outlet for our feelings. In this light, be understanding of what your fiancé’s boys are going through and that you are simply the recipient of misdirected feelings.

Lori and Jeff: Blending families is never easy. Each member is experiencing their own emotions, vulnerabilities and desire for acceptance. We know that adults can have hurt feelings, too, and kids can be really mean. But it is always the responsibility of the adults to create safety for everyone and to model how to manage feelings and fears in a healthy way.

Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.

Guest commentary: More than actions, money speaks louder in fight against climate issue

I just read another op-ed about how to help the climate crisis by cutting my own carbon footprint. If I ride my bike, stop eating meat, throw a few solar panels on my roof and hang my laundry out to dry, we can fix this problem.

Unfortunately, while worthwhile, personal effort isn’t moving the needle quickly enough. If it did, Australia wouldn’t be going up in flames as we speak.

This narrative appeals because it’s the familiar Judeo-Christian one — sacrifice your comforts and you will be saved. Unfortunately, the climate crisis isn’t about saving you, or me, it’s about saving us. It’s about saving the planet that we all share.

The confusion is that we individuals also are consumers. We consume all things carbon-emitting: We drive cars, eat meat and burn the midnight oil, also known as light bulbs. We travel for business — flying long distances in huge, stinky, carbon-and-otherwise polluting airplanes. We travel for pleasure, to unspoiled sandy beaches in the Caribbean and glorious glacier-capped peaks in Nepal, enjoying the wonders of the earth while simultaneously, albeit guiltily, making these places a little less wonderful by emitting more than “our share” of carbon.

It’s easy to blame your travel or my fancy house. But sacrifice and guilt just pit citizen against citizen. There’s no upward movement toward solution. That stuff drives us apart and the climate just gets worse.

Shouldn’t we focus our efforts on the biggest actor? The one that encompasses us all? That would be our government.

Our government — the one we pay taxes to — is fully engaged in prolonging carbon pollution. Our government gives tax breaks, credits and subsidies to expand fossil fuel exploration, drilling, pipelines and exports. The very businesses that are making money in creating this climate crisis.

Do you ever wonder why, in 2020, it’s taking us so long to transition to fossil-free solutions? We’ve known about climate change since the ’80s. For example, why do we only have a few electric vehicle options, mostly with batteries that don’t allow you to drive more than 150-250 miles without re-charging? It’s not because storage batteries are so unbelievably complicated. OK, they are, but so was going to the moon. Once the U.S. government got behind that idea, with lots of money, an American was on the moon in eight years.

We’re not healing the climate crisis (or avoiding it) because our government isn’t investing in it. And it’s not investing in it because we aren’t asking for it.

So, throw your laundry in that dryer and spend the extra time demanding our government gets off fossil fuels. Don’t know who to call? Your local nonprofits certainly do. Join one and find out where you can help.

Or donate. Of all the philanthropy in this country, only about 2% goes to address the climate crisis. Most nonprofits need more support to expand their reach.

Here are a few of our favorites and the most effective:

Wilderness Workshop actively protects our public lands and wildlife from overdevelopment — of all kinds, but particularly the fossil-fuel kind. They offer opportunities to write letters, attend public meetings and much in-between.

The Sierra Club: Made up of 64 chapters across the nation, their 4 million strong grassroots army protests pipeline expansions, protects public lands, litigates when needed, and successfully pressures utilities to replace coal with cheaper renewable energy. When coal plants are retired, they make sure there are funds to help fossil fuel workers transition to new jobs. Volunteer or donate.

Western Resource Advocates works directly with utilities to teach them how they can retire coal, reduce carbon and still make money. They help craft state policies in our western states — Colorado, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and Wyoming — that encourage utilities to move into the modern carbon-free era.

Conservation Colorado successfully lobbies our state government to create laws that protect your health, your air, water, lands and, of course, our climate. With their work, we have increased our state’s renewable standards so that we can tackle this climate issue on a larger scale.

Your money is your voice. Write a check that is meaningful and manageable for you and your family. Ask your friends and contacts to join you. Donate and call, because your voice is money, too.

When your grandkids ask what you did to stop the climate crisis, you will be able to tell them you spoke up, loud and clear.

Jill Soffer is a local philanthropist focusing on climate and democracy issues. Through Our Part, the foundation she founded with Rebecca Mirsky, she expands her investments by engaging peers with initiatives they find to be especially effective. Our Part does not solicit or accept funding for its work.

New rule could alter who can access court records

In a closed-door meeting Friday, a Colorado judicial branch committee is expected to consider a long-awaited new rule on the suppression and sealing of criminal court records.

A draft posted online indicates that the 14-member Rules of Criminal Procedure Committee hasn’t yet settled on how weighty an interest must be to justify keeping a court record from public view or allowing the public to see only a redacted copy. The draft gives committee members four options: Should the interest be “compelling,” “significant,” “substantial” or “overriding”?

The draft rule does say, however, that a court order to limit public access should explain how making court records inaccessible would serve another interest, e.g., a defendant’s right to a fair trial. The court order also would have to find that no less restrictive means are available and conclude that the identified interest outweighs the public interest.

Two concerning aspects of the draft rule: A motion to restrict public access to court records and any subsequent hearing on the matter both would automatically be closed to the public.

For several years, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition has urged the judicial branch to adopt a uniform standard for restricting access to criminal court records, proposing a rule modeled after one endorsed by the American Bar Association. A clear rule is needed, CFOIC has argued, because each trial court judge now must determine the legal standard to apply whenever there’s a dispute over limiting the public’s right to inspect court records.

“The justice system stands to gain if, at the outset, everyone understands the rule of law that guides the outcome,” CFOIC president Steve Zansberg wrote in a 2016 column.

Suppressed court records are available only to the court, parties in the case and the attorneys of record. Anyone else seeking access must obtain a court order.

Although the lack of a uniform standard has been an issue for a long time, stories in The Denver Post helped push the judicial branch to act. In his “Shrouded Justice” series in 2018, The Post’s David Migoya revealed that more than 6,000 Colorado court cases, many of them involving violent felonies, were hidden from public view because of judges’ orders to suppress them. In many of those cases, there was no ruling available to the public to explain why the court file was inaccessible to the public. Many of the cases were not even listed on publicly available dockets.

Also, in a case decided by the Colorado Supreme Court, The Colorado Independent argued that a district court judge did not sufficiently explain why he sealed records alleging misconduct in the prosecution of a death row inmate; the judge cited only “countervailing considerations.”

The Rules of Criminal Procedure Committee includes judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys. If it votes to recommend a new rule, the proposal will be presented to the Colorado Supreme Court. Chief Justice Nathan Coats has indicated a public hearing is likely before a rule is formally adopted.

Meanwhile, a bill is expected to be introduced in the state Legislature this session that would track the parameters of the American Bar Association guidelines, which require a judicial finding of a “compelling” state interest to justify denying public access to judicial records and an additional finding that no reasonably available alternative means exist to protect that interest.

Jeffery A. Roberts is the executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition. Visit CFOIC’s legislature page to track bills in the General Assembly that could affect the flow or availability of information in Colorado.

Tim Cooney: To shrine or not to shrine? What would Greta think?

Periodically the precious whimsy of Aspen ski area shrines makes a new rotation in media pages, often penned by visiting journalists who rhapsodize recycled awesomeness into the topic. This latest perigee orbits by us in a Yale doctoral candidate’s academic paper, “The Right to Shrine,” via a well-crafted story by Snowmass Sun reporter Maddie Vincent (Snowmass Sun, Jan. 1, 2020).

Therein, Ph.D. aspirant Cody Musselman, a former Aspen Skiing Co. employee, coins a new view by looking at “something playful in a serious way.” She premises “territorial entitlement and claims to space,” based upon “continuity of settler-colonial logics.” Another way of saying squatter’s rights.

Since the first shrines appeared on Aspen Mountain in the 1970s, honoring Elvis and Marilyn, we’ve witnessed the sprawl of themes, from Pooper Troopers to unicorns, from soft-core porn to Trump, and assorted deceased celebrities. Though each shrine is a memorialization important to the erector, many have little to do with Aspen history or notable residents who have gone on ahead. Yet for better or for worse, the shrine phenomenon has become a runaway train.

Along with these multiplying installments, two points of view contend: The first is the alleged inalienable right that anyone from anywhere can put up a shrine in any Aspen woods about any topic they choose. This butts heads with the view that we’re littering disappearing wilderness with too much sacred plastic, stuffed monkeys, bowling balls, toy guitars, rubber lizards, ski boots, tchotchkes, Mardi Gras beads and tinsel.

Then we straddle this quarrel with a marketing blind eye that hypes the shrines to enchant more consumers to Aspen, thereby inviting visitors to build one for a departed someone or to showcase an obsession of their choice.

And at some point some blinkered artist spray-painted a mural-size Jimi Hendrix profile on the historical rock foundation of the 1892 mining tram dock at the top of Zaugg Dump ski run on Aspen Mountain, the site of the now-decaying Hendrix shrine.

Unfortunately, one part-time resident has spurred the whole mishmash by promoting the concept with a website, Facebook page and a book titled “Sanctuaries in the Snow.” Furtherance seems the design, based upon the deception that all these shrines simply appear by random inspiration, while he humbly works at documentation.

What is curious, however, is how many of the shrines have the exact same laminated-style pictures secured to the tress by the same galvanized roofing nails in similar stacked layouts, such as the era-sharing Frank Sinatra, Ben Hogan and Stein Erikson shrines.

A few years back the same phantom shrinester tried to inundate Billy Zaugg’s old cabin (the last miner to live on Aspen Mountain) with the same laminated-style photos of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Nearby there, laminates of golf greats, full ball buckets, clubs and old golf bags tried to claim “territorial entitlement” just steps off the summer road at the top of Aztec run. Wood nymphs objected and that shrine dissolved, only to reappear at Snowmass, disappear again, and then reincarnate mall-sized — with chairs — in same design close by.

Could the aforementioned promoter be trying to chum up more shrine builders by affixing his obsessive oeuvres around the ski hills, which then appear overly documented and photographed on his social media? A look at his exhaustive aspensnowmassshrines.com site shows numerous pictures that even a basic Sherlock can see are matching plastic layouts cranked out by the same tools.

Over time we’ve seen shrines come and go, and the heartfelt sentiments that go into many should be respected. However, countless deteriorate in neglect as the non-biodegradable wrapped pictures and bric-a-brac spiked to so many innocent trees begin to shred, spreading microplastic particles to kingdom come. On top of that, ski-by additions heap garnish in the memorials for nature to somehow reclaim later. Aspen uniqueness, I suppose, but perhaps enough is enough. Still, like not tossing stuff out of a car window any longer, we might do better to admit the obvious: cluttering the woods contributes to environmental degradation. We don’t pollute the Roaring Fork River anymore.

Maybe it’s time to raise the level of consciousness, walk our Aspen Canary Initiative talk, and clean up the mess. Or does promotional specialness override common sense responsibility to the planet?

What would Greta Thunberg say?

Tim Cooney is an Aspen-based freelance writer and historian.

Judson Haims: Following doctor’s orders all the way through: It’s simple and game changer

There are many factors that contribute to one’s well-being and recovery after a visit to see a medical provider. One factor, the one you can actually control, the one that works best is simple: follow the doctor’s orders.

Managing a home care agency places my staff and me in a unique position. On a daily basis, we play an active role in people’s management of their health. While we always try, getting people to follow through with the plan their medical provider has laid out is, at best, challenging.

While I don’t think most people expect to be cured immediately after a medical visit, I do find it interesting how noncomplaint and impatient people are in managing their recovery from an illness or injury.

Quite often I find people who struggle with upper respiratory conditions fail to adhere to their medical provider’s recommendations for treatment. Whether it’s a case of strep throat, bronchitis, asthma or even pneumonia, people seem to frequently stop their treatments too early or not use the medicines their medical providers have suggested they use.

There can be serious consequences of noncompliance with a treatment. When people fail to adhere to the treatments their medical providers suggest, frequently there’s a substantial worsening of condition — sometimes even death.

Not too long ago, I read an article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information that stated, “The treatment of chronic illnesses commonly includes the long-term use of pharmacotherapy. Although these medications are effective in combating disease, their full benefits are often not realized because approximately 50% of patients do not take their medications as prescribed.”

Nonadherence to doctor’s orders extends well beyond that of mediations. Nonadherence also can be associated with diet, smoking, exercise, weight loss and physical therapy.

In my own experience of recovering from orthopedic procedures, I have found that following doctor orders has been challenging at times. Recommendations that had sounded like friendly reminders or even kind suggestions were in fact precise directions intended to be followed.

It may not have been until after my third or fouth knee surgery that I actually followed my doctor’s orders exactly as ordered. Prior, I was impetuous and impatient. I thought I was young, in good shape, healthy, and saw little benefit in waiting to get back on my mountain bike. After all, I’ve always heard that biking was one of the best recovery exercises for the knee.

What I had not considered after the first few surgeries was tendons, ligaments and soft tissue need time to heal. The doctors had clearly told me such but, I felt fine and thought I could advance my recovery by doing more — sooner. Outcomes didn’t work out for me as I had thought.

Don’t assume that if the symptoms have gone away that it’s OK to stop following a doctor’s orders. Finish your antibiotics even though you feel better. Take your cholesterol medication consistently even though you feel fine. And, when your blood pressure suddenly becomes irregular, fatigue and muscle weakness occurs, anxiety and nervousness arise with greater frequency, and memory problems become concerning, it may benefit you to take heed to what your doctor said about not taking and/or skipping your thyroid medication. (We see this occur all too often.)

There are many reasons why people are noncompliant with the treatments their medical providers suggest. Some people may not have the money to spend for treatment while others may choose to stop treatment because they don’t see/feel the benefit(s) of treatment. Sometimes, noncompliance results from challenges in remembering to take a medication on time, skipping doses, or even exercise as directed.

Most of us place our lives and well-being in the hands of our medical providers. Perhaps it may be a good idea to listen to them and follow their medical orders.

Communicate with your doctor(s) and let them know if you have questions or problems with the medical directives or medications they have provided.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for the elderly and is available to answer questions. He can be reached at www.visiting angels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.

She Said, He Said: Take time to take stock, reflect on your marriage this time of year

Dear friends,

The beginning of a new year offers a wonderful opportunity to reflect on who you are in your relationship today, and how you’ve come to be here. Every relationship cycles through periods of tension, resolution, flow and stagnation.

Though many partners have an appreciation for the times of ease and steadiness, it’s the experience of evolving that keeps most of us feeling fulfilled in our relationships.

Both the purpose of marriage and what we define as a “good” relationship have changed significantly over the past half-century. Our needs and wants have shifted as society, technology and gender roles have progressed.

The goal of partnership now is to find a best friend, a lover, a life companion and someone who will help to bring out the best in you — someone who will help you grow.

But growth in relationships can feel uncomfortable, challenging and sometimes downright scary. Partnerships tend to settle into a place of homeostasis — a compromised balance that is consciously or unconsciously supported by both partners and accepted as the comfortable norm.

This equilibrium often feels lovely in the short-term. But over time, what originally seemed like stability will often slowly morph into complacency. The routine becomes set, the efforts of each partner begin to dwindle, and stagnation becomes a breeding ground for irritation and resentment.

Yet, so many couples become stuck here because it’s familiar and predictable, while change is hard and messy. Growth means rocking the boat, not knowing how your partner or the bond between you will respond.

Challenging the static status quo within yourself and in the partnership is the most healthy, positive and loving choice you can make.

In the spirit of supporting relationship growth, we invite you to explore how you and your partner have grown, and in what areas you are ready to expand and evolve in 2020.

• How have you grown as an individual over the past year?

• How have you grown as a partner?

• In what ways do you want to grow this year?

• What might you ask your partner for in support of your growth?

• How has your partner grown?

• In what ways does your partner want to grow?

• How can you support them on their desired path?

• How has your relationship evolved or remained stagnant?

Carve out a few minutes with your partner to explore your answers together and you’ll kick off 2020 with a clear vision for how you’d each like your relationship to grow and flourish.

Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.

Guest commentary: Colorado’s open enrollment for health insurance still available

While open enrollment has ended for most of the country, there is good news for Coloradans who purchase their own health insurance. Open enrollment in our state continues through Jan. 15.

We are a nonprofit marketplace, available only to Coloradans, which means we have a bit more flexibility in providing health insurance to our residents.

Our customers are Coloradans who do not get health insurance from their employer, don’t qualify for Health First Colorado (our state’s Medicaid program), and need help affording health insurance. They still have time to sign up for a health insurance plan for this year.

Going into the final stretch, we are pleased to report more than 153,000 Coloradans have already signed up for a health insurance plan. Approximately 68% of those enrollments qualified for financial help to lower their monthly premium.

Coloradans who don’t qualify for the financial help will see lower premiums for a 2020 plan as a result of the reinsurance bill passed by our Legislature last year.

Understanding all your options for health insurance can be daunting. That is why we have free, in-person help available from experts located throughout Colorado. Certified brokers and community-based assistants can help you get the right health insurance coverage for your medical needs and budget. Some enrollment centers also offer phone and virtual appointments. You can find help close to you at www.ConnectFor​HealthCO.com/we-can-help.

We know there also is concern over the recent 5th Circuit Court decision in the Texas v. Azar case regarding the Affordable Care Act. As a reminder, the law remains in place while the case moves through the process, and our marketplace is as strong as ever.

Our CEO, Kevin Patterson, responded after the ruling: “I want to reassure our customers that regardless of the ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the marketplace in Colorado is stable, strong and open for business. The steady pace of 2020 enrollments shows that Coloradans continue to rely on the health insurance coverage and the financial help our marketplace provides. The Affordable Care Act has withstood a variety of challenges since it became law nine years ago and remains unchanged while the case moves through the expected appeals, which will take some time. Colorado has also passed state laws that protect those with pre-existing conditions. You can rest assured that your financial help and plan protections and benefits remain in place.”

After the open enrollment period closes Jan. 15, residents can only sign up for a plan if they experience “qualified life events,” such as losing Medicaid coverage, losing job-based insurance or certain family changes.

Linda Gann is the senior the senior manager for Connect for Colorado’s Western Slope Region.