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"When the world is running down You make the best of what's still around."

Updated: Oct 31, 2022


I was thinking of that song the other day. There's a lot going on in this country, and abroad. What we thought we knew about the US, and our place in it as human beings, seems to get weirder by the day. Our options seem limited, our future not as rosy.

That being said, I think we're about to turn the corner. I think we're about to see dramatic change in how we view our politics, how we view social issues, and how we treat each other.

So, if you feel like things are off, and you find yourself more depressed than usual, it's not just you. Everyone I know has expressed feelings of doubt and disappointment about the state of the world. But they know the only way things will get better is if we make it better. It's always been up to us. We are not helpless. We all hold the key.


At one of the buildings I clean, there was a woman I used to have wonderful conversations with. She passed away two weeks ago. She had stepped down from her receptionist duties late last year. I thought it was because she was retirement age, and afraid of Covid. She was, but that's not what killed her. She was 67.

Her name was Alene Wisniewski, and she was a remarkable woman. She was an Air Force Academy graduate, and afterwards worked as a nurse. She also served four years in the Army. But it was her 30-year career as an Air Force contract worker that was truly jaw dropping. From her obituary:

"She worked numerous programs, including the F-16 program, the Missile Defense Agency and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. She retired as a GS-15. After retiring, she used her contracting skills working on the Navy’s F-35 program."

None of us knew anything about this. As a mutual friend told me, in the understatement of the year, she had a lot of top security clearance. She was a boss lady!


Alene would tell me about her work with the Air Force Academy cadets. The recruits saw her as a mother figure, and she treated them as such. She was also active in local politics, and participated in the Women's March in 2018. She was socially aware, and a political activist. She never rested on her laurels.

The one thing Alene loved most, aside from helping people, was tending to the Colorado Springs Utilities Conservation and Environmental Center's gardens. She was a volunteer with the group, Friends of The Mesa Gardens. Colorado is considered high dessert, so the group's primary goal is to show locals which plants, trees, flowers, grass, and shrubbery will thrive in our environment, and create gorgeous gardens in a water saving, sustainable way.

The CEC demonstration garden, which is open to the public 7 days a week, is breathtakingly beautiful. It's a popular place to take prom pictures, and wedding photos. People walk their dogs around the garden, but are incredibly conscious, and considerate enough to dispose of their dogs' waste properly. That ensures that everyone can enjoy the garden, without getting their feet dirty!

So, in honor of Alene, I encourage you to visit the garden, especially before fall arrives. If you get there before 4pm, you can go inside, and walk around a living room/kitchen setup, that displays energy efficient appliances like a refrigerator and stove, a furnace, a hot water heater, sinks, and even toilets. If you take your kids, they can get a workbook that encourages them to walk around the indoor displays, as well as the gardens, where they can identify water saving plants and flowers. Once they finish the booklet, they are given a small gift for their efforts.

Alene worked to help change the world, one person, and one plant at a time. The garden is a tribute to her, and folks like her. Take a mental break and

enjoy it's beauty. It gives me hope. It makes me smile. And it helps me make the best of what's still around.

Conservation and Environmental Center at The Mesa, 2855 Mesa Road, Colorado Springs (719) 668-8232


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