Daughters ~ A Mother’s Treasure

Few in life “get me” like my daughters.  Few in life understand me like my daughters.  There are no other women in my life to whom I am closer than my daughters.  I trust them implicitly.  They are wise beyond their years and have spoken truth and wisdom into my life at times when I most needed truth and wisdom spoken to me by someone I respected and trusted.  My daughters are those women.  I can’t even imagine my life without my daughters.  Thank God, I was blessed with three of them.

Tomorrow is my oldest daughter’s birthday.  

Keicha Marie Christiansen graced my life with her birth 
on the 25th day of January over forty years ago.  

(I’m not telling you her age because I don’t know if she wants me to tell you.)  

Her entrance into my life seemed to be a metaphor for her life.  Born a day before her due date, she was early.  She is always early.  She never runs late.  Her birth was easy.  I had three hours of labor before she was born after there were only three hard labor pains.  She then presented herself with great efficiency. She is still efficient.  She doesn’t waste time or energy.  She just gets things done.  She was a petite baby.  She is still petite.  She was beautiful, and she still is.

Keicha and I on her 40th birthday

This past week, Keicha and I were chatting by phone as she left work and headed home.  In the midst of the conversation, she said, “Oh cool.  They have the shelves up in the new library.  That is so exciting.  I can’t wait to go in and see the new library.”  I asked where the new library was.  She then told me it was the old library that been remodeled.

My mind went back to those early days of Keicha’s life and my memory recalled days of watching her run into the building to get books with such great excitement.  I remembered her holding my hand and walking along the wall to jump off at the end and run to playground that was nearby.  I remembered how from her earliest days she loved books and libraries.  Keicha is a reader.  She always have been.  It did this mom’s heart good to hear how excited her adult daughter was to get to go back into that old library now made new to explore the new surrounding and find new books.

I guess if she has one downfall it would be that after checking out stacks of books for summer reading, she would stash them under her bed and forget to return them.  She read Gone With The Wind and the age of thirteen and that began a very long fascination with all things related to the book and the movie.

Keicha and I have shared many books, book talks, and ideas from books for so much of our lives.  I love that about Keicha.

It has been said that a daughter is a little girl who grows up to be a mother’s best friend.  There is much truth in that statement.  As a young mother, I had no idea that my baby girl, my toddler, my teenage daughter would someday become such a treasured and trusted friend.

Keicha is many things to many people.  She is an awesome mom to Gillian.  She is a much loved sister to her siblings.  She is a wonderful companion to her significant other.  She is a competent, hard-working employee.  She has worked hard within her community over the years through volunteering for Junior League, Boys and Girls Club, Ogden City School Foundation, and she works tirelessly in the area of Suicide Prevention.  There are more organizations and boards that she has served, but I don’t even know what they all are.

I’m very proud of all that she does for so many, but most of all I am just very proud to call her my daughter.  I don’t tell her enough how much she means to me.

Keicha, you are truly a treasure to me.  I do not know what I would do without you.  We have traveled down some very rough roads together.  We have had to stand shoulder to shoulder on the very worst days of our lives, the day we lost your sister Julie, and those hard, hard days that came right after that day that changed our lives forever.

Together we walked through those dark, dark day after Julie’s death.  Together, we cried, we screamed, and yes, we even laughed hysterically at a very inappropriate time not long after Julie died.  We have stumbled through seven and a half years of learning how to live after great grief.  For whatever reason, the two of us, you and me, seemed to always be on the same wave length as we dealt with our great loss.  How would I have made it without you?

I wish this bond we have which was forged out of grief had never had to happen.  I wish we could have just had more and more days of you three girls laughing together while making your mom a bit crazy, but that was not to be.

We have learned that we can do hard things.  We learned that together.  You have inspired me, made me proud, and always been an honest sounding board.  You have told me the truth when I needed to hear it.  You are smart, funny, have a flare for making your surroundings beautiful.  You have style.  Oh do you have style.  Your taste is exquisite.

Keicha, you are my daughter, my beautiful daughter.
I am so blessed.

Happy Birthday!

A Spring Trip to Utah ~ Part I

If my math is correct, there have been fifty-three days between Mother's Day and Father's Day this year.  I look at the calendar for May and June and see that the days have been scheduled with one thing after another.  Seeing the schedule in black and white explains where the days have gone, but where the moment's go I have no idea.  We have begun summer.  Spring sprinted past me.

The highlight of the spring was a trip to Utah early in May.  My husband wanted me to have time with my two oldest children for Mother's Day.  The weather, horrendous at home with heavy rains and record breaking hail storms, was not much better as we drove that all too familiar route between Colorado and Utah through rain storm after rainstorm.
The View of Pike Peak as we left home
I've been making that long trek across Wyoming at least once a year for the past fifty years.  As we drive the 600 plus miles, we always plan to make a pit stop at Little America, a truck stop, gas station, and hotel that is in the middle of nowhere in the wide expanse that is Wyoming.  We have to get our 50¢ ice cream cone.  This year we found that the ice cream cone is now 75¢!  Not only that, but the iconic back to the sixties feel restaurant where we have eaten so many great meals over the years is closed!  We were sad and disappointed to see that a place where we could count on for a good meal is now gone.  We had to settle for eating a fast food type sandwich in the grocery store part of the gas station.  What a disappointment.

As we walked over to where the old restaurant used to be, I sneaked in to take a photo of the breakfast/lunch counter area one walked through on the way to the dining room.  We have spent more than one night over the years sheltered in a room at Little America when we drove across Wyoming in a snowstorm at Christmas time.  We always looked forward to the nice meals we would eat there.  Now we just have our memories of the place.

Iconic Views of Little America, Wyoming

I learned to drive on I80 when I was a teenager driving across Wyoming with my father.  Much has changed since those days.  There is much more traffic, and there are a lot of trucks making the I80 one of the main routes they take across country.  These days, one can drive at 80 miles an hour on parts of I80.  It is often one sees the speed limit posted at 80!

We got a very late start on the day we took the trip across Wyoming.  My husband had worked late the night before.  Since he was planning on doing most of the driving, he slept in.  Then, we had to pack.  I am notorious for not packing until just before I leave on a trip.  It was noon, lunchtime, when we pulled out of the driveway to begin our journey.  I asked my husband if he'd like to look for a place for lunch before we left town.  His answer, "I was thinking I'd have to look for a room to spend the night before we leave town at the rate we are going."

As it turns out, we should have planned ahead and found a room before we left town.  We made slow progress due to the weather on the first day out.  We decided we wanted to get to Rawlings, Wyoming, before stopping for the night.  That is about the half way mark in the trip.  It was raining like crazy when we got to Rawlings, and we could find a room for the night.  I called every hotel or motel I could find listed on the smartphone apps.  All had no vacancy.  This is not the first time we have come up with this problem in Wyoming.  As they say, "This wasn't our first rodeo." We should have known better and booked a room.  Finally, a clerk at one hotel told me of a new hotel that had just opened.  They had one room left.  We took it.  It was a tiny little room.  We barely had room for our suitcases, but we were happy to have it.  

Tired and hungry, after we were checked in, we drove over to the truck stop for dinner.  At 8:00 at night on a rainy night in Rawlings, we were grateful to find a place to eat.  After dinner, we made our way back to the hotel and began to prepare for bed.  That is when the power went out.  A generator had been hit by lightening.  The entire hotel was in the dark.  Grateful for a room, even one with no electricity, we went to bed without our CPAP machines.  At 4:00 in morning the lights, the t.v. and our CPAP machines suddenly came on and woke us up.  So much for a restful night, but we were dry, and we had a bed, and we got a little sleep.

The next day, we made our way across the rest of Wyoming.  As we entered Utah, I had my husband stop so I could get some photos of Devil's Slide, an interesting limestone formation in Morgan County, Utah.  It always fascinates me.  Read more about it here:  Devil's Slide.

As we drove on into Weber Canyon, we observed that spring had arrived with all of its beauty in Utah.  I especially enjoy driving this part of the journey in the spring because of the verdant green pastures where sheep and other farm animals graze on either side of the highway.  I love Utah in the spring.  It is always so beautiful.  Anxious to get to our destination, we didn't stop for photos.

Family Time

We stayed with oldest son Ryan and his bride of one year.  Ryan cooked us up his wonderful fish tacos for dinner that night.  Dinner was great.  Ryan is such a good cook.  Sheridan is also a good cook.  Together, they make a fabulous team.  Of course the presentation is also a delight.  

The next day, we drove north to Ogden to spend some time with Keicha.  We decided we wanted to go to a restaurant that has been serving awesome meals since 1949:  Maddox near Brigham City, Utah.  I remember taking Ryan there as a baby when I celebrated my very first Mother's Day.  They still serve excellent food there.  Sometimes, it is just fun to visit long time favorites when visiting one's old stomping grounds.  Keicha had actually had dinner there the night before, but she didn't mind going again.

Special Mom & Daughter Time
Friday night, we were back in Salt Lake for a special time down in the Ninth and Ninth neighborhood in Salt Lake City.  (Click on the link to read about this fun neighborhood.)  I always love spending time in this neighborhood and have happy memories of the first time Julie took me there when she was a student at the University of Utah.  We went there to look at an apartment, which she ended up renting, one time when she needed to find a new living arrangement.  She was a bit hesitant to even check it out, but I convinced her we needed to go see it.  Even then, this neighborhood seemed so hip to me.  I thought how I would love to live in the area.

Daughter-in-law Sheridan, who was once Julie's roommate, has owned a shop in the area since 1999. She is very involved in the business community events that take place in the area.  Recently, my son Ryan joined her as a business partner.  If you are in Salt Lake City, you must go and visit Hip and Humble.  Every corner is filled with treasures.  You don't have to go to Salt Lake City to shop at Hip and Humble.  You can shop online too!

Hip & Humble
Ryan & Sheridan

We had such a fun evening going in out of various shops that were participating in the art walk.  This shop was once a flower shop that I remember visiting with Julie many years ago.

It was the perfect spring evening.

To My Beautiful Daughter

Reflections:  To My Oldest Daughter on the Eve of Her Birthday
Sunday's Child
Full of Grace

Forty-five years ago tonight, on a cold and foggy Saturday night, your very pregnant mother and your father, tired from having served all day at his second job as an Army reservist, made our way with your brother Ryan to your aunt and uncle's new home located out in the country.  We were looking forward to eating homemade chili, playing cards, and visiting for the evening.  

Along the way, on a very dark country road, surrounded by fog so thick we could barely see feet ahead of us, your father realized we had a flat tire.  Somehow, while changing the tire, his head was cut.  Did the car slip and graze his forehead?  I no longer remember.  I only know that he was cut badly enough that we had to make our way back to town to the hospital.  Of course the medical staff thought I was the one needing assistance until they saw the bloody handkerchief on your father's forehead.  Young, and full of more energy that I now have, I think we went back to your uncle's to eat chili and play cards late into the night.

The next morning, a Sunday, your father left for Army reserve duty again, and I began to type the paper that your father had due the next day.  At noon, your father came home to check to see how things were coming along.  Never expecting to hear that I was making more progress towards giving birth than towards getting his paper typed, he thought perhaps I was just tired and should just lie down for a bit.  That was not the case.  My pains were two minutes apart.

You know the story.  I had gone to the hospital at 3:00 p.m.  I only had three hard labor pains before you were born on on that Sunday evening,  January 25, 1970, at 6:00 p.m. You arrived a day before your due date.  Your birth was a great predictor of some of your greatest character traits:  You were early, efficient, and easy to handle.  

From your earliest days, you were a girly girl.  You loved dresses with lots of fluffles.  You insisted on wearing dresses most of the time.  You've always had the most amazing wardrobe, and you wear everything well.  Actually, you do everything well.  You can cook and sew with the best of them.  You are creative in crafts and handwork and in photography and in home decorating and in gardening.  You are a voracious reader and a wonderful writer.  You are organized.  You can put on a party for several hundred without even blinking an eye.  I've never known where you got all of these amazing characteristics.  I know that you must have been seriously frustrated finding yourself being raised by a terribly disorganized mother.  You are your father's daughter when it comes to being organized.

As a child, you loved to read.  You also played office or bank because your father would bring home old bookkeeping ledgers from school where he taught business subjects for you kids to draw on.  No wonder you started working at the credit union where you are still employed when you were only seventeen.

Keicha & Me
Keicha in her little white cap and fluffy coat
with Grandma French
I love that you are a reader.  Some of my great memories have centered around talking about the books we both have read with you.  I remember when you were only in junior high when you came home with a book for me to read.  It was Katherine Marshal's To Live Again.  You had found it in the library and you thought it might help me go through the break-up of my marriage to your father.  It did help.  I'll never forget that you wanted me to read the book.  You wanted to give me hope.

You have been the one with whom I have most been able to share the depths of my grief over the loss of our dear Julie.  We all grieve in different ways and at different time, yet somehow, you and I seemed to be much in sync in our grief journey.  We seemed to be at much the same places at the same time.  I wish we never would have had to walk this path together, but my precious Keicha, I am so thankful that we have been able to be there for each other.

Keicha with the Easy Does It
The rose I bought her to plant in her garden in memory of Julie
You are a wonderful granddaughter, daughter, sister, mother, and friend.  You are strong and able to do what must be done even when it would easy to not step out in courage.  You serve your community in so many ways through the Junior League, the Boys and Girls Club, the Ogden City Schools Foundation, and in so many other ways.  I am extremely proud of you.  

Keicha modeling the coat I wore when she was a young child

Dressed to party
My beautiful girl dressed in red
I wish the brightest of days for you in the future.  I hope that this coming year will bring you many wonderful experiences with your daughter.  I hope that you will find loving and supportive companions for your journey through life.  I am grateful you are again able to walk, and run, and exercise without pain.  I am very excited to see what the coming year will bring your way.

I was greatly blessed the day you were born.  Happy Birthday.  I love you deeply.  XO

*I hope that you don't mind that I borrowed a few photos from your Facebook page.  You know I need to organize my photos.  ;)

More Highlights from My Trip to Utah

While I was in Utah, my oldest daughter and I decided to tackle some work that needed to be done in her yard.  Keicha really has an adorable house in a wonderful neighborhood.  The planter near her side door says it all and is a great indicator of the tasteful, colorful, country garden look that she has created in this area of her yard.

No matter how much care we use in planting and caring for gardens, as they grow, we find that there are issues to address.  The lavender grows too big and must be trimmed.  The vines planted by the former occupant of the house keep growing up the brick walls of the house and rock wall built surrounding the house.  So, the two of us put on our gardening gloves and took hold of gardening tools and went to work on trimming and pulling and cutting.  We did this off and on for three days.

Working side-by-side with my daughter in the yard was wonderful.  We both agree that pulling weeds is good for the soul.  We shared some memories of Julie and laughed and cried as we both try to figure out how to live life after the life we knew and loved has been altered forever.  We didn't figure that out.  As a mom, I am just hobbling along trying to set an example of hope while knowing that broken hearts take a long time to heal.

Cutting back lavender and columbines

Keicha supervised by Lucy Lou weeds her vegetable garden

My daughter's vegetable garden, planted near her side door, is doing well despite the lack of sun that they have had in Utah this year.  As I study the photo of her carefully weeding her tomatoes, squash and other vegetables, I am stuck by how quickly life goes by.  I study my daughter, now an adult who owns her own home, has worked at her place of employment for over 20 years, has a daughter who will soon be a teenager, who is working in soil of her home which is located right next door to the doctor who delivered her and all of my other children.  

It seems like life goes by way too quickly.  It seems like just yesterday I was the young mother who just gave birth to this beautiful daughter.  Yet my daughter, now grown, has a neighborly relationship with the older retired man who lives next door who was also the doctor who cared for her before she was born.  

As Keicha works in her garden, I photographed another one of her garden planters.  This one clearly states, "He who plants a garden, plants happiness."  I like the message that this gives.  I like that gardens speak of hope, of joy, of fulfillment, of creativity, and of beauty.  I know that gardens also mean that one must labor and work hard.  They mean that the gardener must be persistent, determined and not be easily discouraged when there is too little sun or too much rain.  We learn much in the garden about life, but mostly I hope that our gardens bring us joy and happiness.  I'm grateful for the little bit of time I had digging in the dirt with Keicha.  I hope I can spend more time in years to come doing just a little work in her garden.  

I must confess we did not spend all of our time working.  We took an afternoon off  from gardening so I could get a pedicure while Keicha ran errands.  Later that afternoon, we went to our favorite spa for wonderful massages and time in the eucalyptus steam room.  We relaxed and enjoyed it so much that we were shocked to find that nearly three hours had passed and it was early evening when we actually left the spa.

We also spent an afternoon at my favorite lunch spot, The Greenery at Rainbow Gardens.  A trip to Utah just wouldn't be complete if I didn't get up to Rainbow.  I had to have a Mormon Muffin for sure.
Off to Camp
I was also able to spend a little time with Gillian, Keicha's daughter before she went off to church camp. Unfortunately, my visit overlapped the time when she was gone for most of the week, but we had a little time together.  I'm sure she'll be taller than I am by the next time I see her.  I snapped a photo before she headed off to camp with her cool, peace symbol covered bag slung over her shoulder.  Yes, my grandbabies are all growing up way too fast.