2017 - A Reflection

A year I won’t soon forget.
A year that in many ways, I’d just as soon forget.

A year captured in photos and in my journal. 


We share a footstool.
We share a life.

One cold evening in January, as my husband and I sat side by side, I snapped a photo of our feet as we shared a footstool together.  He is, as is typical, wearing a pair of his unique socks.  I love this side of his personality: he wears interesting and cool socks.  I am barefoot, but my nails are done in a shade that I wore most of the year: most likely Senorita Rosalita by OPI.  

Perhaps, in many ways, this is my favorite photo of the two of us for the year.  It captures much of our unique and very different personalities.  It gives a glimpse into our tendency to sit side by side sharing a space as we share our lives, and it represents the deep comfort that comes to me as we share not just our home and hearth, but how we share our lives in a mostly peaceful and contented state.  Evenings spent side by side, find us reading, recapping the days news developments, or I might write in my journal while Jim watches some movies, or t.v. programs on his iPad. This to me is true bliss.  

I began a teaching job in January.  I worked five days and became very sick on the third day.  I resigned on the fifth day.  The rest of the month I was sicker than I had been in years with a virus that ended up giving me bronchitis that seemed to hang on forever.  

In January, on my son’s birthday, I learned that he and his wife were expecting a new baby, a boy.  It was the great surprise, and the great blessing of the year.  


We planned a get-away in February for a combined Valentine’s Day and birthday celebration for me, but bronchitis hung on, and I was not well enough to leave home.  Needing a bit of cheer and some flowers to brighten my days, I bought some miniature violets to add to an arrangement on the living room coffee table.  Flowers bring hope of spring in the midst of winter.  

I’ve learned I can’t live without flowers in my environment.  

Jim took me out for a special Valentine’s Day lunch at the Cliff House in Manitou where I saw crocus blooming in the garden as we walked in for lunch.  I couldn’t believe how much joy I felt upon seeing the early indicator of spring.  Later in the month my daughter Amy and her daughter made the journey to my house so we could celebrate our birthdays together.


The weather improved.  My health improved.  I was able to get out of the house and exercise.  I’m so grateful for the beautiful place where I live.  Our home is only fifteen minutes from major shopping areas, but when I am in the neighborhood, I am surround by amazing rock formations, trees, and views of the mountains.  Some of my happiest times are spent walking with Jim and Boston in our ‘hood.

My journal records the work I was doing in becoming “unstuck.”  As I have progressed through the grief journey I have been for the past seven years, at each stage of the journey, there have been times when I felt that I was getting stuck in one or another area of grief.  Working with a therapist has helped me greatly as I have mentally, spiritually, and emotionally processed the death of my daughter Julie.  

I clearly remember a day in March when these words words that Julie had left on sticky note on her desk came back to me: 

Live Well!

As I have struggled to become unstuck, these words spoke to me so often in 2017.  The words spoke to me as I continued to fight through the effects of living with autoimmune diseases that have brought changes to my health, my appearance, and my ability to function fully.

Words can become touchstones in my journey through a year dotted with political unrest and division, broken relationships, compromised health, and the effects of an aging body.

I often write quotes or scriptures on 3 X 5 cards that I keep next to my reading chair.  I pick these cards up and re-read them when I am feeling anxious, overwhelmed, sad, or in need of wisdom.

Not long after Julie passed away, I wrote these words from I Peter 5:10 on a slip of paper and placed the note on my refrigerator.  These words are a daily reminder on how God through Christ continues to restore me, make me strong, firm, and steadfast.

March was a hard month where I saw so much division in relationships.  I personally experienced great loss of a relationship which I value greatly and hope to see restored.  

Psalm 42,  a Psalm my pastor preached on in March, spoke so deeply to me.

From my journal:  “Mark says we are not to ruminate about our problems.  We are to talk to God about them.”  I began to ponder how I ruminate.  I  have sought to turn my focus on God, talking to Him about my problems.  My roommate from college, wrote a poem based on Psalm 42.  She wrote:

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
Why this unrest within me?
Hope thou in God, for I will give praise
For His answer, whatever it be.
The Psalms & Ecclesiastes in  Poetry
by Elizabeth Cary Bishop
Published by Gospel Folio Press


April, what a glorious month.  April brought me the best gift of the year.  My eighth grandchild Leon Roberts Christiansen was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to my son Jonathan and his wife Samantha.  He was also welcomed home by my grandson, and Leon’s big brother, Atticus.  This is a photo of this precious child after his first bath.  

In April, Jim and I took a trip to New Orleans.  We needed to get away.  What an escape this wonderful trip was for both of us.  We stayed in a wonderful B & B called Ashtons.  Our room was spectacular.  So was the food, the ambiance, and the company of others staying there.  The flowers on the fireplace in our room were the perfect touch.  

The B&B has the most amazing porch.  We, two who love to porch sit, spent a lot of time on this fabulous porch.  Jim took my portrait.  One is me before I was ready for the portrait.  The other is the official portrait.


My two October babies, the grandchildren born 36 hours apart in 1998 graduated from high school this year.  I flew to Utah to spend time with daughter Keicha and to celebrate Gillian’s graduation.  Her mother gave her a nice party after graduation.  Here is the beautiful Gillian with her mom and dad.  

A few days after Gillian’s graduation, Gillian, Keicha, and I flew to Colorado for Mason’s graduation.  Here is a photo of my very happy daughter Amy with her handsome son, Mason.  


In June, Jim and celebrated twenty-five years of marriage with a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a long weekend touring both Santa Fe and Taos.  I snapped a selfie of us as we headed out of town on our anniversary trip.  

As with any journey, who you travel with can be more important than your destination.

I have been very, very blessed to have this man, the love of my life, as my constant, steadfast, supportive, loving, and most caring companion on the journey we began twenty-five years ago.  We are hoping for another twenty-five years together!


In July, the other great event of the year took place.  My son Jonathan and his wife Samantha returned home to Colorado.  Samantha was hired to teach history in a tenure-track position at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.  We are so excited to have these two and their two sons back home in Colorado.  Jon won’t officially move here until this coming spring as he finishes up his PhD in Scranton, PA.  

A mini-family reunion was held to meet new grandson Leon and to welcome Jon, Sam, Atticus, and Leon to Colorado.

A mini-family reunion

Atticus, Samantha, Leon, and Jonathan


A few years ago, Jim and I built a small patio in our front yard.  This has become my favorite spot to spend summer evenings.  We sit and rest there after our summer evening walks, or sometimes we even head here to eat a light supper.

In August, the eclipse was experienced and viewed from this patio.  I was fascinated by the designs cast on the stones by the shadows made by the sun and and the moon.

During much of late spring and all through the summer, I experienced the unpleasant and unwanted effects of high levels of inflammation in my body due to the inflammatory condition which I have developed that has caused me to lose much of my hair.  I was in pain throughout my body, tired, and felt generally unwell.  I went on the medication Plaquenil.  It brought down the high levels of inflammation and it even helped with the pain I had in my hips and shoulders.  However, the side effects of intolerance to heat, to the sun, severe gastric problems, and drastic drops in insulin levels caused me to stop taking the drug.  I now am not treating my auto-immune condition with any medication and am doing well.  I find that I have times when I have flares, and then I have times when my system is “quiet” and I seem to be in remission.  I’m learning to live with and cope with having a chronic health condition.  I’m learning to take the good with the bad and hope for the best.  


We made the second trip of the year to Grand Junction to see my 101 year old mother in September.  She is still doing remarkably well.  


Jim and I traveled to Chicago in October to celebrate his birthday. This was our first trip to Chicago, but I doubt it will be our last.  We loved our time in Chicago! Even though it was his birthday trip, Jim surprised me by getting us a room on the top floor of the Thompson Hotel.  We had a view of Lake Michigan and of the shopping and restaurant area that was located right outside the door of the hotel.  In the nearly weeklong time we were there, we spent our time eating, walking the Magnificent Mile, exploring the many museums in Chicago, shopping, and because my son Ryan was in town for business on the last evening we were there, we even go to have dinner and spend some time with him.  We also were able to get tickets to see Hamilton.  


Thanksgiving Break meant that son Jonathan and his son Atticus were able to take a break from their academic studies and come to Colorado for a reunion with the Jon's wife and baby.  We also were able to spend time together as a family.  I can’t wait until the academic year is over and Jon and Atticus move here permanently.  

For Thanksgiving, Jim and I traveled to Northern Colorado to spend the weekend with daughter Amy and Jewett in their brand-new home.  This mom is so happy to see her daughter happy.  This year has brought so many blessings to our family, and this happy relationship between Amy and Jewett is one of the great blessings of the year.  It was also great to see my grandchildren Mason and Hannah.  


Right after Thanksgiving, I noticed that the overachievers around town already had their homes brightly lit and decorated inside and out for Christmas.  I began early with a bit of decorating, and then decided to cut the decorating I normally do in half.  I only set out Christmas decorations in the upstairs part of the house.  I also took the time to ponder what activities would bring me the most joy and the least amount of stress as we went into the hectic holiday season.

From a  December 12 entry in my journal:  

4:00 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.  The light is fading, but the glow of the afternoon fellowship brightens my heart while my body sinks into my cushy chintz chair.  The light on the page comes from the Christmas tree next to me. So often I long for friendship, fellowship, and yet seldom do I provide the hospitality that fosters such connection.

These moments of contentment need to be captured.  Snapshots of my surroundings are sent to my memory bank, yet while I love my comfortable home, it is when it is filled with others that I have the most joy.  

...The ladies (ladies from my Bible study group), six of them came at 11:00.  They left a bit after 3:00...Everyone made themselves at home, they were at ease, and open.  

...As the ladies left we talked about how this is such a busy time of year, but it is nice to set aside time for fellowship, for connection with others...It truly was a day when we focused on being present rather than on giving presents.  (I took no photos that day.  It is good sometimes to just connect and not record by taking photos!)

So much of December was like that for me.  It was a time when I tried to be present with myself and with others.  There were many gatherings.  One with my high school friends.  Another with the couples from the neighborhood.  Then there was a smaller gathering at the home of a neighbor.  Our writing group, which had not met through all of 2017 met for lunch at the home of one of the ladies.  All in all, the month did bring me a great deal of joy and little stress.  

In December, I tried to focus on that which means the most to me:  my faith, my family, and my friendships.  I am richly blessed in each of those areas.  

Jim and I spent Christmas Eve with his daughters and their families.  We then had a quiet Christmas Day at home alone when our plans to drive to Erie, Colorado, to be with daughter Amy had to change when she woke up terribly ill.  While we were disappointed not to spend time with Amy, we made the most of day and went to a movie.  We saw The Darkest Hour.  

We did get one Christmas photo taken when we went to view the light and decorations at the Broadmoor Hotel on the Friday before Christmas.  

The year 2017 had its challenges, but as I reflect upon the year now gone forever, I am filled with gratitude for all of the goodness that another year brought into my life.  

My Oldest Son Reaches The Mid-Century Mark

My oldest son reached the mid-century mark today.*



How can that be?

That would mean that fifty, yes, fifty, as in 50, years ago today, I became a mom.

More importantly, Ryan, my 
firstborn child
firstborn son,
entered this world on a beautiful Sunday early afternoon in September,
fifty years ago today.

Ryan on his wedding day

This mother’s heart has stayed young and does not count the years when she thinks of her children.

Is that because children, even after they are grown, keep one’s heart young?

Ryan and Mom
I had no idea when I first met my firstborn that his life would expand my world so much.  From his earliest days, he was such a delight to me. That first year of his life was a year when I had the opportunity to bond deeply with him.  His father began college on the day I brought Ryan home from the hospital, and Ryan's father worked a full-time job at night also.  That meant that Ryan and I spent many hours alone, but what delight filled hours they were for me. In those early years,  many evenings were spent with mom pushing Ryan in his stroller for long walks exploring the neighborhoods near the basement apartment where we lived.  Often when he was a little older we would end up in a park where Ryan loved playing on the playground equipment.

Then, there was the day when my son got his first set of wheels.

His life, and mine, changed that day.  
He now had a vehicle where he could explore the big wide world out there on his own.

Honestly, I was a protective, almost over-protective mom to my very core.  Once Ryan had wheels, this protective mom learned she could never keep up with Ryan and his next adventure.  He was off and running.  Somehow, he’d be out of the house and on his bike before I’d discover he was gone, and I had no idea where to start looking for him.  At the age of three, he was seen riding his tricycle down the middle of a busy street as if he owned the road while I was looking for him somewhere else close to home.  He’d decided he wanted to go to the grocery store where I’d wheeled him in his stroller, or driven him to by car, by himself.  Thankfully, someone saw him, and brought him home just before he crossed one of the busiest intersections in town on his little blue tricycle.  I should have known then that adventure and exploration would be a foreshadowing of his life.  

Somehow, he survived riding dirt bikes that weren’t really dirt bikes, in places where his mother did not want him riding.  Somehow, he survived the driving the hot red sports car that got when he was 18, the little Mazda sports cars that he had through his thirties and forties.  He loves his wheels, and I always love when he takes me for a spin in one of his sports cars.  It is a thrill, but honestly, I also hang on and close my eyes, and sometimes, ok, always, say, “Ryan, please be careful.”  Mostly, though, I just try to hang on and enjoy the ride.  This has been a metaphor for my life with my firstborn son.
Ryan in his biking attire before a big race

Ryan (top left) and & team on LOTOJA Race 2007

On his fortieth birthday, he rode his bike on the challenging LOTOJA Race.  It is a 200+ mile race from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 

For his fiftieth birthday, he got his favorite thing: wheels, an new truck.  I haven’t seen it yet, but he now has the ultimate truck where he can throw in all the kids, the camping equipment, the bikes, or the skis and take off on another grand adventure.  He tells me he loves his new truck.  I'm sure he does.


Ryan learned to read at the age of four.  He seemingly taught himself.  I read to him from his earliest days.  I’d just begun but had not completed teacher training to be an elementary school teacher when I married Ryan’s father a year and a month before Ryan was born, so I was eager to teach my son all the skills I’d learned about reading.  I had little plastic letters on the fridge.  We’d practice sounds and letters.  I’d point out the words on the page.  Then, one day, Ryan started reading.  I thought he’d memorized the book, so I took him to the library and asked where I could find the first grade readers.  I took one off the shelf, sat down with my curly headed four-year-old, and asked if he knew what the book said.  He did.  He started reading from it. Frankly, I was shocked.  He'd broken the code for reading, and now another great passport for his future life was in his hands: reading and learning.  

School was not his favorite thing.  He was a peer leader socially, but not academically, yet those early leaning towards learning and growing have served him well as he progressed and grown in the world of finance.  His social skills, his love of people, his gift of gab, have also served him well.  He has already had a very successful career as a banker. 
Ryan with Zion's Bank, his employer for many years, in the background

My handsome son after a long day of work at the bank

Ryan in his banking days

Now, in his fiftieth year, he is in the finance industry in an entirely new way.  I don’t even understand his new job, but he does, and that is what counts.  He has been on the ground floor in developing a program for the lending industry.  It has been an exciting, fulfilling time for him as he has worked in the development of and the marketing of this new financial tool that lenders throughout the country will be using.  Best of all, he says he no longer has to wear and suit, and in his fiftieth year, he has let his hair grow long and grown a beard.  He doesn’t look like a banker anymore.


One picture of Ryan that I carry around in my head as one of my happiest memories is the one when he burst out of a hospital delivery room with his first-born son in his arms to present my first-born grandchild and grandson to me.  The look on his face was priceless.  It seemed to say, “Mom, look what I did.”  He was so proud and so happy.  I tear up every time I remember it.  Ryan is a great dad.  He loves being a dad, and his kids love having them as their father.  

Ryan with his three children
Regan, Parker & Bridger

Christmas morning 2010
Ryan with Parker and Regan


Ryan cooking breakfast for mom in her kitchen while wearing her apron.
May 2011
Somewhere along the line, Ryan learned that he loved to cook.  Was it when he took cooking in junior high?  Was it when he was scouting?  I don’t know when he first started loving to cook, but he does love to cook, and he is a great cook.  I remember him walking in the door from a ten-hour day of banking, after a commute of two hours a day added on, and begin rolling up his sleeves as he walked in the door ready to fix dinner for the kids.  He says cooking relaxes him.  It also brings out his creative nature.  In his fiftieth year, he loves cooking for the kids, the family, for friends, or just with his wife whenever he gets the chance.

Ryan creating the ultimate Thanksgiving dinner with Sheridan
November 2015


Ryan met Sheridan the love of his life six years ago.  

Together, they have worked at building a family, a blended family, and a future that is filled with much love.  They have bought and built a family business that his wife Sheridan began with her sister many years before Ryan entered the picture.  Now in his fiftieth year, he and Sheridan manage a family owned boutique, (mostly Sheridan does this job these days), and he also works long hours with his financial software business job.  These two work long, hard hours, but they do it together.

The "Mordiansens" a blended family
Parker, Regan, Max, Bridger, Henry, Sheridan, and Ryan

They also parent together so well.  It warms this mother’s heart to see how they are such great parenting partners.  

How could a young mom all those years ago have ever known the way that small son she first held would bring so much richness into her life?  As I told my husband today, I love having sons.  I’m also so grateful that I have daughters.   There is a special part in a mom’s heart for her first-born son.  He is the one that introduces her to the memorable ride of being a mom. What a ride it has been.  

Photos of mother and son from 2007 to 2017 are below.

Ryan & Sally
July 2016
Thank you, Ryan for gifting my life for the past half century. (How can it have been that long?)  You have so exceeded every desire I ever had for you when you were a child.  I never even would have imagined the path your life has taken. Perhaps one of the earliest milestones you reached was becoming an Eagle Scout.  When I think of you, I can’t help but think of the Eagle Scout character traits that you portray in so well in your life.  The words loyal, trustworthy, friendly, helpful come to mind.  You learned early to love the outdoors and survive in it.  That transferred over to living successfully in any environment where you found yourself.  You learned to set goals and reach them.  You learned leadership, and you have lead well.  You learned to love adventure, hiking, biking, skiing, and hiking. You keep on doing that every chance you get.  You make my day every time I hear your voice, and when you hang up the phone, you always say, "I love you, Ma."  You have been a wonderful son, brother, husband, father, friend, and business man.  You have made me proud.  I hope the coming decade brings you continued success in all that you do.  

Given your genetic makeup, you most likely have at least another fifty years of living, loving, and laughing ahead of you.  Enjoy it.  I love you.

* My photo program froze as I was writing this post, so I couldn't access many of the photos I had hoped to share in this post.  

** The formatting on this post is mixed up and crazy, but if I try to change it, it will take me until Ryan is another year older.  

On Being A Mom

I'd always dreamed of being a mom. Always.  Being a mother has brought me more joy than any other experience in my life. I love being a mother.  I guess we all were quite naïve when we entered motherhood.  Perhaps it is best that way.  Looking at what motherhood might cost a mother might have scared me from walking down that path more than half a century ago, but I doubt it.  I think no matter what, I would have chosen to be a mom.
Amy, Keicha, Ryan, Julie, Jonathan

Now, as I look back on my life knowing the pain, the sorrow, the grief, the heartache that being a mother has brought me I still would not change a thing.  Truly, all grief I’ve ever experienced over the death of a child has been tempered by joy and gratitude for being a mother. The journey through motherhood is one I would never want to miss. I would do it all again. 

In fact, sometimes I wish I could go back and live all those days with my children over again. Just one more time, I'd love them ALL under my roof again.  ALL of them.

Julie, Keicha, Mom, Jonathan, Amy, Ryan

 I’d listen to their banter, and laughter, and I'd laugh with them.  Oh how we laugh when we are together. I'd watch them chase each other around the house teasing and taunting and acting like a bunch of pups frolicking in the joy of having spirited, like minded playmates and likely call out, "watch out or one of you is going end up crying." 

The household in which I raised my children was anything but quiet. When the children were small they roller skated and rode their tricycles in the house.  They practiced their high jumping skills by moving the family room couch to the middle of the room so they could run towards it and jump over it.  The result was that Julie in particular could not only jump high and wide enough to clear the couch.  She also learned to stop running quickly before she ran into the fireplace.  Her track coach once told me he loved how wide she jumped when she ran the hurdles event.  “She learned that at home,” I said with a laugh.

Garbage bags or sleeping bags provided were repurposed to slide down the basement stairs.  An old bedframe with only springs and no mattress perched under the apricot trees in the back yard provided a unique trampoline, a place to build forts with blankets, and a place for summer night sleepovers.  My kids were inventive, resourceful, and imaginative when it came to turning found things into just another way to have fun.

If I were together with all my adult children, I'd listen to their informed and insightful conversations that would include very divergent points of view.  I would, and do, rest assured that no matter how different they all may be from each other, they love and respect each other so much that they will remain a pretty tight group.  They may have their squabbles, but I truly doubt anything could ever destroy the bond they have with each other.

These bonds and this devotion to each other was hard won.  Even though the early years of my children’s lives together were spent establishing and creating childhood bonds with me and with each other, our family was split many years ago by a judge in Utah. 

It happened when my children’s father and I went through a divorce.  My five children ranged in age from fifteen to five.  In those days, custody of the children was not an issue in most divorces.  In the case of my divorce, custody was not even discussed.  As a stay at home mom, I was the major caretaker.  In fact, at the time of the divorce, I didn’t even have a job.  The home in Utah was awarded to me, and so was the custody of the children.

A year after the divorce, I decided, after much urging from my parents, to find a job in Colorado. I had no restrictions on the custody I had been awarded, and the children only occasionally saw their father, so I proceeded with my plans to rent out my home in Utah and move my children with me to Colorado.  Once their father learned what was happening, on a day when visitation rights were to be established for him, he instead surprised the court by filing for custody of all five children.
After a hearing, the judge could see no reason why I should not maintain custody.  He then did a very interesting thing. He asked my thirteen-year-old daughter and my fifteen-year-old son what they wanted to do.  Both said they wanted to stay with their father so they could stay with their friends.  Probably most teens would have said the same thing.

And so, the trajectory of our family was irrevocably changed.  After that fateful day in court, my two oldest children remained in Utah with their father while I flew home in a state of shock and devastation with my three youngest children.

Through absolutely no fault of my own, I lost children legally before I was finished raising them, loving them, and being with them as a mother should be with her children.

Being a mom has brought me some of the greatest emotional pain in my life.  I am not the only one who suffered because of this legal decision.  My children, every single one of them, also suffered immeasurably from this judge’s decree.

In the years when our family was divided down the middle with two children living with their father and three children living with their mom, so much was lost.  I think of all the time I lost where I could have been involved in those teenage years with my two oldest children and my heart nearly breaks.  I wasn’t there to watch over their schooling, their choice of friends, the way the spent their time, or the choices they made.  I didn’t get to make or help pick out prom dresses, or even a wedding dress, for my daughter.  I wasn’t there to advise, console, comfort, or admonish when two teens needed a mom in daily attendance.  So much was lost.  One never gets back time once it is gone.

My younger children also lost all those times they could have spent with their older siblings.  One never gets back the occasion once it has occurred.

To that judge in Utah that ruled to split my family down the middle, I would like to say, "You, with all of your legal power, hurt my family more than you will ever know.”

I wonder if he ever again wondered about the welfare of our family as a whole, or of each child as an individual.  I wonder if he ever even thought of us again.  Did he really consider the financial, the emotional, and the spiritual costs that his decision would place upon all of us?  Did his decision ever wake him up at night?  Did he spend sleepless nights wondering how to restore all that was lost by his decision?

When faced with making, as my daughter has said, a decision worthy of the wisdom of Solomon, this judge abandoned his responsibility and asked two minor children to decide their own custody arrangements.  These children were not old enough to vote.  They couldn't be licensed to drive.  Under law, they still had to go to school, but this judge left a decision, that they could never have had the skills to make in their hands.  I would say to this judge all these years later, “You did great harm to them and to all of us.  The legal system failed my family dreadfully, and each of us paid the price."

All those years ago, when my family was shattered and broken into two distinct pieces, I wondered how all the problems that were created for all of us as a whole and for each individual would be resolved.  It was ordered that all the children spend as much time together as they could.  The order seemed to place precedence over the children visiting each other over the children visiting with the parents.  Or so it seems to me now.  Perhaps, what really evolved from the situation was that the children spent more time all together with their father in Utah then they spent individually or collectively with me.

As a single mom, I had to work to provide for my children.  My earning capabilities were severely limited due to a lack of education and a lack of experience.  I worked as a very poorly paid secretary school secretary.   The irony was that while I had spring breaks and summer breaks off, I did not end up having those times with my children because their father, a teacher, was also off of work and the two teenage children were by that time beginning to work.  They seldom were able to come to visit me or spend time with me.  The three younger children spent every summer with their father and siblings.  Spring and winter breaks were also nearly always spent with their father.

Practicality was not the only deciding factor that led to the visitation arrangement that developed.  In my heart I had determined that I wanted my children to spend as much time together as siblings as they could.  The relationships they forged with each other was of great importance to me.  I wanted them all to experience and create a sense of family that would surpass the limitations that time, money, and a legal decision had placed on the family unit.

Early bonds are not easily broken when they are carefully established.  My children and I have endured as a family.  We love being together.  Each family gathering is a cause to celebrate each other and the family we are.

The law has great power, but it can never have the power that love has.  Love wins.  It always wins.

My children have lost a sibling and I have lost a child to death.  That loss was another loss that was painfully woven into the fabric of our family.  As a family, we experienced much of the sorrow, the shock, the pain, the grief that came from the death of our dear Julie together, or by sharing our grief with each other.  This experience gave us another thread that has sewn our family together into a beautiful covering to provide mutual love and healing for us as a family and as individuals.   
Ryan, Keicha, Amy, Jonathan
Death is often seen as the ultimate show of power, but death cannot destroy love either.  Again, love wins.  Love always wins.

When I think back to those years when I dreamed of being a mother, I wonder what I thought being a mother would look like.  When I brought my first born home from the hospital, did I have any idea of all that being a mother would bring to me?  If I had, would I have had children?

The answer to the first question is: No.  I had no idea what being a mother would mean when it came to how I lived out my life. None of us ever do.  The answer to the second question is:  Yes!  I would not have wanted to miss out on being a mother.  I love being a mom.

Somehow, my children navigated those teenage years and became successful adults.  They are pretty amazing as far as I’m concerned.  There are no other adults I enjoy hanging out with as much as I enjoy my children. 

I have been blessed beyond measure by each of the lives of my beautiful, bright, articulate, funny, complex, and thoroughly delightful five children.  Knowing the pain, the sorrow, the grief, the heartache that being a mother has brought me would not change a thing.  I’d do it all again.  I’d do it and savor every single minute of it.  Thank you Ryan, Keicha, Amy, Julie and Jonathan for being my children.  Thanks for letting me be your mom.  XO

The Passing of the Family Patriarch

Just past midnight I received a text from my daughter Keicha telling me her paternal grandfather had passed away. I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to spend some time with him this fall.  He was a dear and special man in my life. 

On February 14, 1966, I went to work at the Internal Revenue Service in Ogden, Utah.  On that same day, another young man also started working at this same place.  We met two days later, and it was clear that we were quite taken by each other.  We would marry six months later.  

My dear in-laws were our only attendants when my former husband and I married.  I loved these two people as if they were my very own parents.  They always treated me as if I were their daughter.  I could never have picked finer in-laws.  Now, both of them are gone.  

Dad, as I called my father-in-law, worked at IRS during the night shift.  After I was married, and when I was pregnant with my first child, Dad and I would often eat our dinner together at work.  He always checked in on me during break to see how I was doing.  Once, someone asked me who the man was I kept talking to at work.  "I even see you eating lunch with him," the person noted.  I said, "Oh, that is my father-in-law."  The person responded on how young he looked and remarked that they could not believe he was really just my father-in-law.  

He was a young and good looking man in those days.  He was only twenty years or so older than I, but he was very fit and active, so I guess I can understand how people questioned who he really was.  Dad was a river runner, a fisherman, a gardener, and had been quite a skier back in his day. 

Unfortunately, the marriage between my first husband and myself did not last, but my respect for and love for his parents never diminished.  Over the years, they both always treated me with great love and respect also, and I always looked forward to seeing them when I was in Utah, or on the few occasions when they came to Colorado to visit.  This past fall,  I am so grateful I had the see my dear father-in-law one last time.  Below is an account of the occasion:

I think we all have places that have become central to us when we look back on our lives.  Certainly the home of my former in-laws is one of those places for me.  It was in this home where I first got to know my former husband and his family.  Fifty years ago last month, I left this house to walk across the street to the church on the corner to marry my former husband and father of my children.  

Nearly every Sunday afternoon or evening during the years my family was young when I lived in Utah, we would visit Grandma and Grandpa at their home.  Often we were treated with homemade raspberry ice cream made by Grandpa.  The raspberries came from his garden.   His garden kept his grown family and probably half of the neighborhood in fresh produce throughout the summer for as long as I can remember.  How I loved those fresh tomatoes from his garden.  Often, my lunch consisted of just garden fresh tomatoes from Grandpa.

The backyard was the gathering place for so many summer evening picnics to celebrate a birthday, a baby shower, or Father's Day. I asked Grandpa how his garden was doing, and he said he only had a few tomato plants that had not done well this year, oh, and of course there were the raspberries.  And, there had been some good peaches earlier, he said.

Hoping to find some raspberries, Bridger and I headed to the backyard.  We were in luck.  There were a few delicious ripe raspberries waiting to be picked and eaten.  
Keicha came out to see what we were doing.  As she stood on the stairs of the deck memories of the day she walked down those stairs on her wedding day to be married in this very yard also came flooding back.  

My former father-in-law, now in his early 90's,  is a bit stooped over, and he said he can't hear or see "too good," but his voice was strong as he asked for all of the the children and grandchildren, my husband, and for my mother.  He told about a book he was reading.  He reminisced  a bit about the days he was a pilot for Bridger.  His once youthful, handsome face now seemed as if it had been refined by the years he has lived.  He has always been such a kind and good man to me.  Always.  I kissed him on the cheek when we left and told him I loved him.  He remains "Dad" to me.  It was hard to visit him and know that "Mother" is no longer there with him.  I'm so grateful to have had this short visit with him.


It is hard to imagine life without Grandpa Chris in it.  I will forever be grateful that he was a part of my life.  I am also grateful that he was such a great grandfather to my children and grandchildren.  All of them adored him.  I was blessed when I married into his family, and he continued to be a blessing to the generations that were added to his family.  We all will miss him terribly.  He was one of the greatest generation, and he was one of the finest examples of devotion to home, family, church, and country that his generation produced.  My heart is so very sad to see him pass to the next life, but I am grateful to know he no longer suffering and in pain.  My heartfelt condolences go out to his children and grandchildren.  God bless you all.

Holiday Gatherings ~ A Time for Creating and Passing on Family Traditions

Earlier today when I had a task that seemed a mile long, I spent ten minutes that I felt I did not have to spare untangling a necklace chain from which the first letter of each of my children’s name dangle.  I could have tossed the necklace back in jewelry box and decided not to wear it as I ran errands, but I just had to untangle that mess.

“Being good at untangling chains” is not on my resume, but despite the time it takes, I’m usually up for the challenge of untangling such messes.  One pesky knot around the letter “R”  refused to untangle each time I would think I had it freed to join the rest of the letters. This is a metaphor for life,  I thought as I determinedly sought to free the chain from knots.  

So many times in the past, there have been assorted types of knots in the chain that links my family to each other.  These knots prevent us in one way or another from  joining each other in the creating events that strengthen in a positive way the ties that bind us as a family. Relationship problems, time, work obligations, schooling, money, and distance create the knots that keep us apart, yet despite these pesky problems, perhaps no other time of year stirs up longing for family like the holidays do. 

Family ~ Creators and Custodians of Memory of Rituals

I recently read an article which stated that family creates and becomes the custodian of rituals that define the family narrative.*  These narratives are especially developed and passed on during the holidays.  

The rituals of holiday were created for me as a child.  Now, those from the generation before me are gone, but those times when we gathered around the holiday table created connections that remain.  The traditions, the rituals, the connections become an important part of the legacy of family which I hope my children and grandchildren will embrace and continue long after I am gone. 

Cousins gathered in giddy anticipation of family celebrations create powerful memories that last a lifetime.  Cousins share a family history that spans the generations from childhood to old age.  Cousins remain connected long after the aunts and uncles are gone.  

It is worth every minute of untangling knots in the family chain that links us all together to create moments worth remembering when one thinks of the those nearest and dearest to the heart.  

This year, I know it was not without great sacrifice of time, money, and distance that my family and I came together to celebrate Thanksgiving.  That makes the celebration all the more precious.

Family ~  Memory of Rituals 

Filed away in memory bank are many wonderful memories of Thanksgivings from long ago.  Thanksgivings when I was a child were always spent at the home of my grandparents.

Sorting through those memories, certain images stand out in my mind:
The dining room table, large, solid, and the dominating feature 
of the room where my grandparents spent most of their time,
 was set for dinner long before the guests arrived.

The silver had been polished days before.
The china had been removed from the china buffet to be placed
 on white linen table cloths.
Each place setting was perfectly placed according to rule of etiquette.
We learned the rules of etiquette at home and at my grandmother’s table.
“Where is the salad plate?” my father would ask if his place setting was not properly set for even the simplest of meals.
Good manners were very much a part of my family narrative.

I have vivid memories of Grandma and the aunts bustling around the kitchen, 
best dresses covered with aprons, 
shooing all the kids out of the kitchen 
as they fill china dishes with Thanksgiving fare.
“Get out of the kitchen,” 
we were told as the cousins and I ran excitedly around the circle that connected
 the dining room, the kitchen, the bedroom where my grandparents slept, and the hallway to the bathroom and stair that led upstairs.

“Stop chasing each other.   Someone will get hurt.”
I did get hurt.
I was barely three, or maybe younger, 
when playing a game of chase around that circle I fell, 
 hit the foot of that gigantic and very solid oak dining room table.
 I knocked out one of my front teeth.
Was that on Thanksgiving, or Christmas?
Either way, the story became a part of my personal narrative of why I had a missing front tooth from the earliest days of childhood.

I love that my homes where grandchildren have come also have that circle that connects the kitchen with the rest of the house.
It reminds me of the circle that we cousins loved to run around at my grandmother’s home even as she reprimanded us for doing so.

Grandma was a wonderful cook.
Her Thanksgiving dinners were the best.
So, was Christmas dinner.
She made amazing pies, 
but her homemade candy was what we really looked forward to eating.

The trappings of Thanksgiving long ago created a rich tapestry of visual images that formed a template in my mind of how Thanksgiving should always look.

The table laden with food, the china, the silver, did not fully represent the perfect template for Thanksgiving.

All of those trappings would be absolutely meaningless if family were not there.

Family coming together to celebrate created the perfect blueprint for a what I remember best about Thanksgiving.

 Thanksgiving memories are priceless because the memories focus on family.

Time stands still in those black and white achieved photos from long ago.
Time with
aunts and uncles,
and cousins
made Thanksgiving my favorite holiday of all.

My father, mother, and Aunt Katherine on Thanksgiving sometime in the 50's.
Look at all those homemade pies!

Cousins in the 1960's
I am second from the left in the back row.
Next to me is my cousin Steven. He was killed in Viet Nam when he was only nineteen.

Continuing family rituals create a sense of
“Life Is How It Should Be.”

This year’s Thanksgiving plans were not made early.  In fact, as usual, we were still up in the air about plans for Thanksgiving early in November.  Daughter Amy announced she was going to Utah with her children to spend time with her brother Ryan and his family.  I know that Thanksgiving is the very busiest time of the year for Ryan and Sheridan.  Owners of a small business, Hip and Humble (click on the link) in Salt Lake City, Bountiful, and Murray, Utah, Sheridan is especially busy and involved in Small Business Saturday activities both with her own boutiques and with other small businesses in Salt Lake City, Utah. I called and invited myself to Thanksgiving anyway. 

I had not spent Thanksgiving in Utah with my family since 1981.  We've been together at my mom's or my house, but we have not been together in Utah for Thanksgiving for a very long time.

Jim did not want to make the trip with me.  His family narrative of holiday gatherings is different from mine.  He did not grow up with extended family gatherings.  He would just as soon go out to eat on Thanksgiving.  He doesn’t like to travel to Utah in the winter.  He had to work.  He bought me plane ticket, rented me a car to use for a week in Utah, and sent me on my way for a week with my children and grandchildren. 

This year, it seemed more important than ever that we all gather together.  The grandchildren are getting older.  One is already twenty.  Three are eighteen.  One is seventeen.  Two are fourteen.  Soon, they will be going off to make their own way in life, and they will no doubt be scattered to parts unknown.  Before that happened, I wanted as many as possible of us to sit around a Thanksgiving table and make happy memories of family being together.  That is exactly what happened.

There is a sort of passing of the baton that takes place in families as one generation ages and the next takes over the hosting of Thanksgiving.  I'm sure I could no longer pull off fixing a Thanksgiving meal for a crowd.  Yes, despite my children thinking otherwise, there was a day when I could do this.  Despite my lack of cooking these days, I can still shop at the grocery store, so armed with the grocery list made by my son and daughter-in-law, I shopped for Thanksgiving while they were at work.  I loved shopping at the wonderful new grocery store near their home.  We had charted out which store would carry the items on my list.  Did you know that Costco sells a four count package of Martinelli's Sparkling Cider?  Score.  I bought two packages.  They were a big hit.

Keicha had specifically requested that I make a lemon meringue pie.  "It's been so long since I had your homemade lemon meringue," she wrote in a text.  "It's been so long since I made one," I replied.  The pressure was on.  I made the pie with help from Keicha.  It not only looked decent, it was also delicious.  

Passing the baton for Thanksgiving preparation and hosting to my children has proven to be a joy to watch and experience.  Son Ryan and his wife Sheridan were the perfect host and hostess.  They both love to cook and to entertain.  I've had some very good Thanksgiving meals, but I must say that this year's feast was one of the best I have ever eaten.  

Sheridan purchased two fresh turkeys which Ryan brined before they were roasted.  The sweet potatoes and dressing were made from Sheridan's father's recipe.  They were delicious.  The gravy was perfect.  The rolls wonderful.  I loved the winter slaw that came from a recipe from Bon Appetit.   Ryan said there would be no green bean casserole made with canned cream of mushroom soup, but daughter Amy insisted on that favorite dish being prepared, so mom bought the ingredients and made the casserole at Keicha's house.  Sometimes, you have to have that old comfort food from the days when mom put together casseroles that came from ingredients that come from a can.

The tables were beautifully set when we arrived at the lovely family home that belongs to Sheridan's parents.  Ryan and Sheridan are living in this home while Sheridan's parents are in Denmark for a year.  This home is the perfect home for holiday entertaining.  (Thank you B & B for letting us use your lovely home for our Thanksgiving.)

Family photos recorded the day for posterity.

Our hosts for the day were all smiles.  

The Mordiansen's (A name for this blended family that combines Ryan's and Sheridan's last names)
Parker, Regan, Max, Bridger in back, Henry in front, Sheridan, and Ryan
Parker and Regan, a great brother and sister combo, are roommates while Parker attends college and Regan is working.

My daughter Keicha and granddaughter Gillian were joined by Gillian's boyfriend, Fran for a group photo.

Daughter Amy and her children Mason and Hannah flew in from Colorado for the holiday.

It is always a great time when cousins are together.

Sheridan's family brought a new tradition to our family: bingo!  After Thanksgiving dinner, Sheridan's family always plays bingo.  Each person brings a gift to add to the prizes that will be awarded.  When the hostess owns boutiques, the prizes are awesome and much sought by those playing the game.  At times the competition to win was quite intense because winners can take gifts from other players.  Once the gift is stolen, the original winner can't get the prize back.  Ryan was the bingo caller.  Grandma Sally kept winning.  I think the grandchildren thought I was cheating since my card was nearly covered with beans before long.  I soon had many cool prizes, but alas, I ended up with only a box of chocolate covered orange sticks.  The grandkids showed no mercy in taking away my gifts. Regan totally scored by winning a fleece lined flannel and a cool hat.  The amazing part is that she got to keep them.  What a blast we had playing bingo.

At the end of the day, I declared the Thanksgiving of 2016 the very best ever! 
While I wish that son Jonathan and daughter-in-law Samantha and grandson Atticus could have joined us, the day was nearly perfect.

 Thanksgiving, a day for giving and for thanksgiving happened because each family member that could gave up time, energy, and money to come together for a time of family celebration.

Thanksgiving, a day for expressing gratitude for the love we all share for each other, reminded us all what we really like about each other.   

Thanksgiving is a time for rejoicing in gratitude for those invisible bonds that tie us together across the years.  
Those bonds have brought us all both great joy and unbearable heartbreak.

Thanksgiving, is the perfect time to make new memories that will be added to our family narrative of both love and loss. 

Mama Sal surrounded by three of her kids is a very happy lady.
Amy, Mom, Keicha, Ryan
Whenever I am with my children, life truly is how it should be.

Thanksgiving 2016, is now in the books.  
It will live on fondly in my heart for a very long time.

*Tie That Binds...Bonds That Empower by Robert D. Caldwell

The Importance of Family

My earliest memories are of times spent with my father's family.  He was the oldest of six children.  He loved his siblings and always liked spending time with them.  The times they got together were times of great story telling where their shared wit and humor came to the forefront.  I mostly remember fun and laughter from the times I spent with my aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Family ~  Where We First Learn Social Skills And How To Become A Part of Community

Times of wall to wall cousins sleeping in a bedroom in the back part of the summer home my grandparents had in the mountains of Colorado are among my happiest memories.  Nighttime in that old house was the time we giggled ourselves silly, told scary ghost stories, had tickle fights, tattled on each other, cried over slights one of the other had done to us, had pillow fights, jumped on the bed, and got yelled at by our aunts and uncles for being too loud.  Grandma would pound on the wall from her bedroom with a broom which meant we better quiet down!

Day times were spent roaming the hills looking for antique bottles, or other treasures left from long ago mining days, or we played on the relic of an old horse drawn wagon from the past that Grandpa had in the front yard,  and pretended we were pioneers.

Our parents played card games and had good times while we were all supposed be sleeping in the back room.  It was a great joke to take a photo of Grandma French with a big liquor bottle in her hand because she and my grandfather were teetotalers.  (Upper photo: The cousins in Victor, Colorado in the late 50's.  Aunt Caroline is sitting on the car bumper.) (Uncle Don, Aunt Katherine, Mother, and Grandma French at the dining room table in Victor, Colorado.)

My mother was an only child and her parents had died before I was born, so I only had my father's parents for grandparents, and I only had his siblings as aunts and uncles.  I loved being surrounded by this close knit group of people that were my father's family from my earliest days.

I was born just as World War II was about to end.  My first Christmas was spent at Grandma French's house that was one block from my house.  My father, serving in the Army, was not at that first Christmas celebration, but my mother is seen sitting in the middle of the family gathering holding me.  My father's family was her adopted family, and my Aunt Katherine holding my cousin Donna was my mother's best friend.  Also missing from this photo is my Uncle Bob whom was serving in the Marines.  Uncle Charles, holding his wife on his lap, was home on leave from the U.S. Army where he had been a paratrooper in Europe.

Family ~  Where Learn About and Create A Shared History

Family history was always an important topic at gatherings with my father's family.  I learned the histories of my Grandfather French's family that dated back to the earliest days of this nation from my grandfather.  He was proud of the heritage we held.  When I'd ask him what our heritage was, he's say, "We are damn Yankee rebels,"  We have had a family member fight in every war since and including the Revolutionary War.  

Dyed in the wool Democrats, my grandparents modeled political activity by attending many functions held by the Democratic Party.  I clearly remember all those political debates in the fifties that took place at family gatherings.  They were informed, but passionate, discussions.  I don't think there was much dissension in the family around the topic of politics when I was growing up.  I just remember it was an important family value that family members be involved in the political aspects of life.

My grandparents lived across the street from the church where my parents were married and where I was baptized as an infant.  Most of the family also went to this church, The United Presbyterian Church, so it was also a center for many family gatherings.  Faith was not as important part of the family life as church going was, but the seeds of my faith and the faith of most of my family members were planted here.  (My brother at a church reunion a few years back is touring the grounds of our old church.  The family home that belonged to my grandparents in the lower right corner was photographed while I stood on the church lawn.)

Family ~ Where We Form A Sense of Identity As We Celebrate Together

Times together with family are times where one learns the value of shared histories, of shared stories, and of the value of creating a legacy of love of family.

Wonderful family times formed my personality and created my sense of what was important in life as much as any other experience I ever had in my life.  Family became of supreme importance to me at a very early age.  I remember telling my grandmother I wanted six children when I grew up.  I didn't quite reach that goal.  I had five children.

Growing up in the middle of an extended family where birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions were always celebrated together left  an expectation of always having family nearby.  That is not the way things worked out in my adult life.  I lived away from the extended family all through my high school and college years.  I then lived in another state away from all family for a decade and a half.  I think that is why I treasure every large family gathering that we are able to put together as I grow older.

During the years that my siblings and I were raising our families, we would try to get together at my parents' home as much as we possibly could.  Generally, these gatherings took place at Thanksgiving, or Easter, or maybe the Fourth of July.

During those early years, when our children were young, we would all stay at Mother and Daddy's house.  What a group that was!  Each couple usually got a bedroom, but there weren't that many bedrooms, so I don't remember where we all slept.  We cooked big meals, and somehow we survived with 2 1/2 bathrooms to serve the entire tribe.  

My children and their cousins got to know and love each other during these gatherings just as I had gotten to know my cousins at such gatherings.  There were toys and books in the basement for them to play with, but I think they mostly made their own adventures and games by playing outside.  They took forbidden trips down to the Colorado River.  The times were full of laughter, games, stories, and much fun just as the times I had as a child with my cousins and aunts and uncles had been.  

We celebrated milestones such as my parents' 50th Anniversary, their 80th birthdays.  Then, as my parents aged, we weren't together as often because the events were hard for my parents to host and our children were growing and were busy with many activities.  When my father passed away in 2002, most of us gathered to celebrate his life and to support my mother during this time.  In just four short years later, we all gathered to celebrate my mother's 90th birthday.

My mother's one hundredth birthday party celebration on June 25th of this year provided the perfect opportunity for a long overdue family gathering.  She is last surviving member of the family that was the core group of my childhood.  My grandparents, my father, and all of my aunts and uncles are now gone.  She is the center of the next generation that has carried on the love of gathering together as a family.

A few of my cousins made the trip over to celebrate my mother's birthday.  Cousin Diana and husband Steve came for Mother's actual birthday in May, while Cousin Donna came for both celebrations.  Cousin Janet brought her daughter and grandchildren with her to celebrate.  It was wonderful to have members of my extended family with us on these occasions.

Donna, Janet with Mother, a champaign toast with family on Mother's birthday,
Donna, Jim, Diana, Sally, Carol, Keicha, Mother, Michelle, Brittany, Michelle, Tony
Mother's 100th Birthday and Celebration

Family ~ The First To Show Love and Support When The Unthinkable Happens

Barbara Bush once said "To us family is about putting your arms around each other and being there."

When Julie died, I will always remember and treasure how we as an immediate family came together. All of my remaining children and their children lived together at daughter Amy's house for much of the traumatic week that followed her death.  Those days we bonded deeper than we had ever bonded.  We gave each other strength and comfort.

My sister came from California and stayed across the hall from Jim and me with her husband at our hotel.  They guided us through the deep waters of grief as we made funeral plans as a family.  All of my nieces and nephews, the cousins of my children,  came to Colorado from  California, Massachusetts, Texas, Nevada, and parts of Colorado.  Only Michael serving in Afghanistan was not there.  Their tears, their stories, their laughter, their love provided balm to our broken hearts that no one else could have provided.  I love these kids so much!  I have the most amazing nieces and nephews.

Family ~  Where You Can Always Feel At Home

I  think of family as a dynamic organism that keeps changing while also remaining the same.  The past generations are now mostly gone.  Only my mother remains from the previous generations of grandparents and aunts and uncles.   Only my cousins and I and my mother have the shared memories of that time.  We remember the stories, the histories, the personalities, the humor, the wit, the fun that those precious ones brought to each gathering.  They remain in our hearts as we gather with the younger generations.

We are so fortunate to still have the home my parents lived in when my children were small as home base.  This place represents the family home to all.  Toys, books, and other items from days gone by are still there.  My son Ryan went to get his wife a drink of water and came back proudly holding the prize cup from childhood days. "I couldn't believe it when I saw this still in the cupboard," he said as he handed his wife some water.

On the day of the family party to celebrate my Mother's 100th party, after the invited guests departed, the family gathered to eat and have fun.  There was music.  It was time to dance and have a good time.
Nephew Adam indulged me by dancing with me.

Niece Cristy and her husband Jim entertained with fancy dance steps.

We gathered for group photos.

 Siblings Suzanne, Carol, Rell, and I were photographed with Mother.

The older great-grandchildren, five of whom are my grandchildren were photographed. 

Grandson Bridger, grandniece Gabby, grandson Mason, grandson Atticus, granddaughter Hannah
Granddaughter Gillian

Finally, most of the greats in attendance were gathered for a photo.

Thoughts of how dear and precious these times are caused me to be overwhelmed with emotion.  I know how rare these times are.  I know what treasure they are.  I was surround by those I love most, and suddenly, I could not hold back the tears.  They were mostly happy tears, but they were also sad tears.  

Son Ryan and wife Sheridan, daughter Keicha, Jim, Sally, daughter Amy, son Jonathan and wife Samantha

Knowingly, Amy hugged and held me tightly.  She was crying too. 

 I was happy with my loves surrounding me, but I so missed that one not there.  I looked to the other side of the large yard and remembered her playing red rover with the grandkids on Mother's 90th birthday.  Now, Julie is not with us and the grandkids are teens.

This place, my mother's home,  holds so many memories that do not change as much as those whom come to remember times past and to create new memories do.  Home and family remain the same in the heart, only those whom make up the family configuration change over time.  

A part of us always remains young when we are home. 

 When I am with my family, I am free to be the one I was when my sis and I would dance and sing at the top of our lungs from our earliest days.  Time at home and time with family would not be family time if we didn't shed a few tears of sorrow, frustration, and joy together.

When we are home we can run through the grass in bare feet and feel like a kid again.  When we are home and with family age has no number.  I am crazy Aunt Sally who drank two glasses of wine at the party, and you know what wine does to her.  I, crazy Aunt Sally, also will admit that at night after the grand party as we gathered around the fire pit at the hotel,  I even took a few puffs on my son's cigar and enjoying the taste of if before I felt very sick.  

At the family celebration,  I danced with my sis, my first and probably favorite dance partner.  

And we all tore down the ribbons from the trees and danced the conga.  

Where else but with family can one feel so free to have outrageous fun?

If I leave nothing else to my children and grandchildren, 
I hope I leave a legacy of loving and celebrating family.  

Retired English Teacher Teaches A Family Member English As A Second Language

Family Ties ~ The French Connection

At least 30 summers ago, there was a Fourth of July French family reunion and picnic at the home of one of my cousins.  A favorite cousin, one I had not seen in many years, was there with her three beautiful young daughters.

The day was a hot one.  For some reason, I asked the girls if they wanted me to put their hair up in French braids.  One by one, each sat on the floor before me as I brushed and braided each one's hair.  That is when I first got to know and to love my first cousin once removed named Annie French.  I think she was about eight years old at the time.

Unfortunately, I didn't see a lot of my cousin and her daughters while the girls were growing up.  The next time I spent any time at all with them was twelve years ago when we gathered in Cousin Mary's hospital room just before she passed away from ovarian cancer which was discovered very shortly before her death.  The girls were still so sweet, so beautiful, and so very young to lose their wonderful mother.  They were barely out of their teens and into their twenties.  My heart broke for them.

I knew Mary had given them a wonderful foundation. She, a single mom, had raised them to be strong, independent, yet loving, and caring young women. She also raised them to be strong in the faith that she had taught them.

Annie, the one I call Mary's mini me, always wears a glorious, winning smile just like her sweet mama did.  After her mother's death, Annie went on to graduate from college and to travel around the world as a single woman.  Most of her trips were mission trips.  She journeyed to Peru to take some seminary classes from a branch of the Calvary Chapel Bible College in Peru.  There, she met her future husband.

Thanks to Facebook, I have been able to follow her journey from afar.  I saw the photos of the beautiful bride that Annie was when she married her handsome smiling groom, a native of Peru, in Peru.  I read of their missionary work in Peru and in Costa Rica.  I was thrilled to see photos of the beautiful daughters they soon had.  I admired Annie's handiwork of sewing that she did for her husband, her home, and her daughters.  I was impressed by Darwin's work in the the ministry.

Perhaps, our lives would never have intersected again except at family gatherings when the Torres family might be stateside if Darwin and Annie had not come to the United States late this spring for an extended sabbatical.  Their plans were that they would return to Peru to plant a church in Cusco, Peru.  They were being sent out to do this work by Rocky Mountain Calvary Chapel in Colorado Springs.  They hoped that during the time the family was stateside, Darwin would also be able to take the test to become a U.S. Citizen.

A Springtime Meeting ~ An Answer to Prayer

In mid-April of this year, I wrote in my journal, "I am feeling stuck in a holding pattern of clouds and rain and storms...As I look out the window, I see patches of blue, lots of patches of blue as the clouds dissipate.  I got stuck in a storm pattern before the storm even materialized.  Our feelings really have next to nothing to do with reality."  I went on to write that I would be happier if I dug deeper into what made me happy and got unstuck from my holding pattern.  I prayed for opportunities to do more of what I love best: working with people and teaching.

Later, that very day, I got a message from Annie on Facebook.  Not knowing my professional background, she asked if I knew anyone who could teach her husband English so he could pass his citizenship test!  

Just prior to returning the the United States from Peru earlier in the spring, Annie had been working with Darwin so he could take the test for citizenship while they were in the States.  At home in Peru and in Costa Rica, the girls were learning English and were bilingual in Spanish and English.  Annie and Darwin communicated only in Spanish, and the girls spoke Spanish to their father.  This meant that Darwin's English was quite limited.  When he first took the test, he did not pass.  They hoped he could take it again soon, gain his citizenship, and they could return to Peru to begin their new ministry.

When Darwin did not pass the test the first time, Annie asked her aunt, my first cousin, if she knew  of someone whom might be able to help Darwin with English.  My cousin said, "Ask Sally.  She taught English.  She might know someone who knows how to teach ESL."  

I was beyond excited when Annie contacted me.  I told her I would be thrilled to help Darwin.  I told her of my background and even told her I had been praying for an opportunity to teach again.  We scheduled a time to meet at my home.  I dug out all of my old books and got ready to get to work doing what I love to do: teach English to speakers of other languages.  

I was a bit daunted by the task.  We didn't have much time.  Where should I start?  

At our first meeting, seated around my kitchen table that was covered with books on grammar, picture dictionaries, and other resources, I did an assessment to determine Darwin's understanding of and use of English.  Once that was complete,  we set our goals and objectives for the times we would meet.  Annie was my translator when Darwin and I could not connect.  I told them that the first goal would be that they would no longer speak in Spanish at home, but would use English.  I knew that we didn't have much time, so I wanted Darwin to use English for speaking and listening as much as possible.  I also suggested he start reading English storybooks to the girls at bedtime.

From there, we took off.  Darwin was such a gifted and willing student.  It was such a joy to work with him.  Along the way, we got to know each other and were able to share a bit more about our lives and about the faith we shared in common.  My heart became quite knitted together with the beautiful hearts that live in Darwin and Annie.  Darwin has a gift for language.  He is a bright and able student.  He worked so hard on learning English.  He expanded his opportunities to listen to English by going on a retreat with other men from his church.  He began going to Bible Studies taught in English.  He sought opportunities to have conversational English times with other men in his church.  

The French Connection ~ A New American Citizen

On June 20th, Darwin took the U.S. Citizenship test for the second time.  This time, he passed with flying colors.  Many prayers were answered.  He was not nervous during the testing.  He remembered what he had learned when the questions were asked.  He especially remembered the conversations and times we had when we went over "Who" "What" "Where" "When" and "Why" questions.  Those type questions can be so hard for second language learners.

Last night, on July 5th, Jim and I were able to have Annie and Darwin and the girls in our home for a celebratory dinner.  We grilled hamburgers.  I made potato salad.  We even had that American dish of apple pie topped with ice cream for dessert.  

My profession which has given me so many wonderful experiences over the years just keeps on giving back to me.  I am so grateful I was able to work with Darwin.  I am blessed beyond measure to   have taught immigrant children, young adults from other lands studying English as a foreign language, and adult learning English for various purposes.  To have the opportunity to work with Darwin in his journey towards citizenship will be one of my great joys.  I loved getting to know this wonderful young man of God.  I am excited about following his journey as he goes to Peru to plant a church.  I have been so richly blessed because our lives have intersected at this point in time.  I needed this experience of teaching him and learning from him and from Annie more than they will ever know.  Now our hearts are forever knitted together.  

Darwin and Sally photographed in our classroom setting: the kitchen table.

After my father retired, he spent much time working on family genealogies and gathering photos and stories about the French family history in the United States.  My paternal family history in the United States, the history that Annie and I share,  goes back to 1676 when our ancestor first came to these North American shores 

Now, 340 years later, I had the opportunity to welcome a new American citizen to our family.  He came from South America.  He married into the French family and became a much loved family member.  I couldn't help but reflect about the rich family history that keeps being written in this wonderful land that has been home to my family for over three centuries. 

A few years ago, I wrote a reflection on what it means to me to be a citizen of the United States of America.  You can read that post here:  I Am An American.  Now, I can add this chapter to my American story just as Annie and Darwin are writing their own American story.  

Our connections are deeper than that of family history.  We are more than cousins.  We are bound by our love of Jesus and by our Christian faith.  

I was reminded of Ephesians 2:19 as I thought of the connection that I now have with this family.

...you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household.  

The French Connection:  Annie, Darwin, & daughters with Sally

Darwin and Annie will leave to return to their new home near Cusco, Peru, in less than a week.  They will begin the work of establishing a church and working with those whom already are anxiously awaiting their return.  I will miss having this family as a part of life, but I am so happy that they are returning to the land of Darwin's birth to do the work they have been called to do. 

Thank you Annie and Darwin for including me in your journey.  Thank you for making me a part of the story you two are writing with your lives.  It has been my honor to work with you.  I love you.  My prayers go with you.  

Milestones ~ Part Two

Truly few meet the milestone of reaching 100 years old.
So when one does, that is an event that deserves to be well celebrated.

My mother reached that milestone on May 29, 2016.
As a family, many of us celebrated with her on different occasions for nearly a month.
On June 25, 2016,
all of my mother's children,
and most of her great-grandchildren gathered to throw her a
fabulous festivity
full of
and fun!

Many memories were shared.
And even more precious memories were made.
Stories of family, the fun we had, and the faith we've shared were exchanged.

This milestone of my mother's one hundredth year was a milestone for us all.

I dare say none of us will ever forget the pride we felt for our much loved matriarch as she so graciously greeted friends and family from her chair beneath the shade of the globe willow my father planted so many years ago.

No queen on her throne could have been given more honor or love that she was shown that day.
This space, the home, the yard, have been under her domain for 43 years.
She has planted every tree, vine, rose bush, shrub, and flower that flourished beneath her care.
She nurtured this place of beauty that my father provided for her.
Where tables now stood for birthday guests, she once had a huge vegetable garden.

This place is home to us all.
The grandchildren will always carry a sense of home associated with this place.

What a blessing it was for all of us to gather in this place to honor the one who has shown us how to live life,
one hundred years of life,
in a way that builds community, family, and faith.

She is
the charming gardener who makes our souls bloom. ~ Mareel Proust

Pablo Picasso said,
Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist when he grows up.

In so many ways, my mother remains a young girl at heart.
This was never more evident during the birthday celebration then it was when the firemen with Engine No. 5 showed up with fire engine sirens blaring.
She was like a young child sparked with excitement when she heard her firemen coming.
She literally jumped up with joy.

I couldn't help but think of the irony of their visit when I mused over the events of my mother's life.
Mother's life has been marked by fire on more than one occasion.

When she was only about five years of age,
no firemen came
when she watched her home and all of her family possessions burn to the ground
on a cold winter morning
in 1921
in Woodland Park, Colorado.

Her family lost everything except
their lives,
their determination to build again.

My mother's pioneer spirit that she learned from her homesteader mother lives on in her today.
She just gets up each day and makes do with what she has and lives her life with hard work, ingenuity,  grace, dignity, intelligence, wit, good humor, charm, determination, and independence.
She leans on her God,
and by His Grace she lives by faith.

She says,
"I'm here not because of anything I've done, but because God has kept me here
and provided all that I need."

Here is her story through her own words.
This poem written by my mother was first penned twenty-three years ago.  She's added to it over the years.

Where Can All Those Years Have Gone?

Seventy-seven years I've been on this earth.
It's been a long time since the day of birth.

Where is the girl with dark curls so long?

The days of fun and games and song?
Where can all of those days gone?

Where are the days of school and boys?
I'd put aside all childhood toys.
Where are the days when the jobs came along
To pay for the things for which I did long?
Where can all those days have gone?  

Where are the days of dates and dreams?
Hours spent together in heaven, it seems,
With that special one that came along.
We both worked late, the nights were long.
Where can all those nights have gone?

We had a car but not much money.
We were man and wife and life seemed sunny.

We found then, we'd be three before long.

Mom died that year, but life went on.
Where can all those years have gone? 

We had a blue eyed baby boy, so sweet.
Bill worked two jobs to make ends meet.
Pop lived with us. We bought a house with a lawn.
Pretty soon a little Sally came along.
Where can all those years have gone?

The world was at war and Bill had to go.
Pop died.  I knew I'd miss him so.
Now just Rell, Sally and me.  I had to be strong.
But somehow life had lost its song.
Where can all those years have gone?

The happy day when Bill came home
I knew I'd no longer be alone.

His job was waiting; the children grew strong.
Then, baby Carol came along.
Where can all those years have gone?

There we five of us in that little house.
There wasn't room for even a mouse.
We remodeled the house - never did get it done.
Then, Suzanne is born when I'm forty-one.
Where can all those years have gone?

The moves started coming when Suzanne was two,
to Pueblo, Leadville, and Utah.  Boy that was new.
Our lives are quite changed by the people we've known,
by the places we've lived and the things we have done.
Where can all those year have gone?

Our kids go married.  We had grandkids and great.
We live in Grand Junction, in the west part of the state.

We've grown old together.  Done some right things, some wrong.
But, Lord, we're so thankful that thru the years we've not been alone,
that You've been along.
By Alberta G. French
July 1993

Now, here I am ninety years old
And there's still more story to be told.
The family kept growing with weddings and birth.
All through the years we said to each other
"When can we sit and just recover?"
Finally, we sat on the porch, each in our own chair
And looked at sunsets beyond compare.
One day God said to Bill, "come home."
So now I look at them all alone.
But, I'm not alone.  God is so near.
And friends and family are all so dear.
To God be the Glory is my song.
But where can all the years have gone?

Alberta G. French
May 29, 2006

Today is the 100th year of my birth.
The day I came to this old earth.

The days of fun and dolls and making mud pies,
The days of friends, both girls and guys,
Where can all of those days have gone?
I met Bill and married him.
Had children four.
Didn't want any more.
One day we moved out west.
Those days turned out to be the best.
Then one day God said to Bill "come home."
And some day soon He'll take me by the hand and say,
"Alberta, come along."
And then we'll no more have to wonder,
Where can all those years have gone?
Alberta G. French
May, 2016

No matter how much longer she lives,
I will never be able to think of my mother as old.
I worried about her on the day of her party.
She sat in her chair and visited with friends and family from early in the day until late into the night.

I kept asking,
"Are you drinking enough water?"
She'd look at me with that stop being so nosey look
 and nod at the ice tea she'd been sipping all afternoon.
"That's not enough water, Mother."
I once said, "I think you need to go inside for a bit."
"Why?" was her response.
"It's hot.  You look tired.  It's been a long day."
I got nowhere.
She wasn't leaving her party.

She bid the firemen goodbye with a wave and a smile mid afternoon.

She was moved from her position under the willow to the other side of the yard where we would eat dinner under the apple tree.

I couldn't help but think of a photo from long ago under that same tree.
Who could have known we would gather again so many years later to laugh and dance and play under that apple tree?

The kids were actually decided to reenact a photo they took under another tree many years ago.  Grandpa and Julie are were sadly missed when the new photo was taken, but all the rest were there.

Throughout the evening, we danced, we laughed, we passed a candle to tell of our wishes for mother and for our family.

We made many happy memories.
Mother stood to give us a few words and to thank us for her party.

I must admit that I had eyes filled with tears.
I am sure I was not alone when I listened to her in awe.
I thought to myself how blessed we all are by her life and legacy.
I worried a bit about the party being too much for her, but then I thought,
"There she is with a bit of chocolate on her white pants, 
a smile on her face, 
speaking with wisdom, strength, and competency,
completely cogent,
adding a bit of wit to her words,
surrounded by a loving and adoring family."
 How could anyone ask for more than having a day like this  after living
36,500 days of life?

Wait there is more.
The day ended with a bang.
There were fireworks!

Mother's 100th birthday was celebrated well.
Very well.

Milestones ~ Part One

Milestones ~ Those Rare and Precious Moments in Life

Rose Kennedy once said, "Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments." To me milestones are more than mere moments.  Milestones mark significant points of reference in life.  When one reaches these milestones, a celebration allows for those special moments associated with the milestone to occur.  Such moments are the treasured memories that we remember long after the event is over.

 The day a child is born marks the entry of the child into his or her journey into life.  This milestone brings significant change into the lives of the parents.  The grandparent sees the birth of a grandchild as milepost that signifies that the journey though life has progressed to middle age or beyond.

The child progresses from infancy to childhood to adolescence.  The grandparent watches in awe and disbelief as all those moments go through a myriad of  transitions during the first few decades of a grandchild's life.  The moments seem to roll along with a rate of speed much faster than the grandparent can believe. 

Suddenly the toys that were such fun for the grandchildren during those golden days of childhood are gathering dust in grandma's basement.  The grandchildren are no longer interested in dolls, stuffed animals, trucks, puzzles, coloring books, children's books, and trips to the zoo.  Pancakes made in the shape of Mickey Mouse are no longer requested after sleepovers at grandma's house.  In fact, sleepovers don't even take place.  The grandchild is too busy with sports, and friends, and events, and homework to have time for grandparents anymore.

Too soon, the grandchildren have skipped over the important stepping stones of leaving grade school, entering middle school, and then entering high school.  Too soon they have driver's licenses and are dressed for proms.  Too soon they become young adults and leave high school head out into the world where they must make their own way.  

Thankfully, milestones such as high school graduation are celebrated.  It gives the grandparent a chance to stop and take a deep breath before turning to face the new direction of the life journey the dearly beloved grandchild will take as he or she sallies forth into adulthood.  The Free Dictionary so aptly defines sallying forth as "a sally into the wide world beyond his home." The grandparent recognizes the pitfalls of so much that is in the world.  They know that the dearly loved grandchild is off on a venture with an uncertain outcome.

A Family Milestone:  Regan's Graduation

This past month, I attended my oldest granddaughter's graduation from high school.  My dear, sweet Regan, a beautiful granddaughter with whom I was never able to spend enough time marked that great milestone in her life:  high school graduation.

I flew from Colorado to Utah on Sunday, May 22.  My son Ryan, aka Regan's dad, picked me up at the air port.  In no time at all, I was in the middle of preparations for Regan's graduation party that would be attended by family.  Son Ryan loves to cook, so he jumped right into making a great celebratory meal.  Once he and wife Sheridan were in the kitchen, the entire family gathered in this family's favorite gathering place:  the kitchen.

Henry, Regan, Ryan, Sheridan, Parker, & Bridger
After an evening spent enjoying the company of family while eating great food, we were all off to bed.  I spent the night in borrowed pj's since my suitcase did not arrive from Colorado when I did.  (Note to self:  When you can fit into your oldest son's pajama bottoms, it is time for a diet.  Go on a diet!)

At one o'clock in the morning, I received a call from the airline telling me that my bag had arrived in Salt Lake from the trip it had taken to LA.  Did I wish to have driver wake me up when he arrived at the house with my bag, or should he leave it on the porch?  I said to leave it on the porch.

The next morning we were all off to Weber State College in Ogden, Utah, for Regan's graduation.  Her big day had finally arrived.

We were able to capture a quick family photo of Regan with her dad and with Sheridan and Sheridan's boys Henry and Max before we entered the ceremony.

Newly graduated, Regan was hugged by her very proud papa.  That girl has always held a great big special spot in her father's heart.  What a beauty she has become.  She is also one of the sweetest girl's ever.  Congratulations, Regan.

After graduation, we all went to lunch at an Ogden favorite, Rooster's.  Lunch was hosted by Regan's mom, Stephanie.  Regan is surrounded by beautiful women: her mom and her aunt Keicha.

Regan lovingly kissing her mom and thanking her for the party.

Regan with her mom Stephanie and her father Ryan.

Parker's Milestone: He publishes an article in a magazine.

While we were at the graduation party, I learned that grandson Parker, Regan's big brother, who just finished his second year at Utah State University, published his first magazine article in Outdoor Utah Adventure Guide 2016.  Parker, an outdoor enthusiast, who loves to hunt, fish, hike, and camp, is also studying to become a journalist.  His goal is to become a photo journalist.  He had landed a few gigs writing up coverage of lacrosse games for a lacrosse magazine during the last semester of school.  Then, he was able to write an article that was published in this travel magazine.   I am so proud of him!

The article, "The Canyon that Hides It All," is about Logan Canyon.  He did an excellent job writing about this beautiful canyon that is near Utah State where he goes to college and near Bear Lake where he spent so much of his childhood at a wonderful home right on the lake that once belonged to his paternal great-grandmother.  Parker is working in Bear Lake this summer.

This spunky, good natured, and good hearted young man, ended his second year of college by living in a campground in Logan Canyon.  He had a roommate situation that didn't work out at the very end of the semester.  It was too late in the semester to find alternative housing, and being the adventuresome young man that he is,  he lived in his car and in a campground for the last few weeks of school.  During the day, he spent many hours in the library studying.  His grades reflected his commitment to study and his hard work.  He tells me he is keeping a journal of all of his adventures.
Home Sweet Home
Parker with Regan's graduation flowers in front of his trusty Subaru.

Graduation from high school is a milestone that marks a juncture in life.  It is a turning point.

This grandmother has seen two grandchildren reach that milestone.  Next year two more will, God willing, also reach that rite of passage that marks the end of childhood and adolescence and marks the entry into adulthood.  I truly don't know where the time goes.

While I was in Utah, I was able to spend a bit of time with daughter Keicha also.  I was anxious to see her garden and some of the improvements on her home she has been making.  The rose bush I bought her to as a remembrance of Julie was in full bloom.

Easy Does It
Julie's memorial rose.

May can be a very difficult month for me.  
It was good to be with family marking milestones and building new memories.

I thought of how much Julie would have loved to see Regan become such a beautiful young woman.  
It really doesn't seem that long ago since Regan was a baby and Julie was feeding her a summertime supper at Great Grandma and Great Grandpa's house. 

During those milestone moments, such as graduations, I don't express my sorrow over Julie missing another important event in the lives her "true loves," her nieces and nephews.  

Sadly, I do experience a deep grief in the midst of joy, but the joy reminds me that we have much to celebrate in the accomplishments of the living.

Milestones are to be marked with joy, thanksgiving, gratitude and celebration.

I carry such hope for my grandchildren.
While they do sallie forth into ventures with unknown outcomes, they are only doing what all of us did as we moved into adulthood.

 I see great resilience in the two grandchildren whom have moved forward into adulthood.
For that I am grateful.
Resilience is such an important trait to cultivate.
I see their resilience in the way they approach life.
They demonstrate confidence, intelligence, good social skills, and determination.
They are hard workers.
They put others before themselves.


On Regan's graduation day, my heart is full of joy and anticipation for her as she steps forward to enter into the next phase of life.  

I see her kind and generous heart.
I know of her success in high school.
I know she is hard worker.
She has what it takes to realize her dreams.
She will take a gap year before starting college.
She will be teaching gymnastics to younger children in the gymnastics school where she once trained.
She will also be working in the family business:  Hip and Humble.


Julie left a message to us all.
It was found in her apartment.
I know this is her wish for Regan and for all of us:

I pray my grandchildren know that this is what I also want for them:  Live well.

You are greatly loved.
You are surrounded by family who loves you and will support you with love and encouragement when you need it.
You have a legacy of love to build on.
You are in my daily prayers.

What a joy it is to mark the milestones in the lives of those whom we love so deeply.
Congratulations, REGAN!

Traveling Woman

Without warning, I disappeared from the blogosphere in late May.  Even though I knew I'd be traveling for the next few weeks, I thought I'd be checking in on blogs and even writing a few posts on my own blog.  That hasn't happened.  I've been so busy that I took an unannounced blog break.  I hope to be fully back to reading and writing blog posts soon.

Since May 22, I have been on an amazing journey.  I'll give you a few of the highlights.


On May 23, my oldest granddaughter graduated from high school in Ogden, Utah.  Not only did I get to attend her graduation which marks a milestone in her life, I also was able to spend time with my oldest son and his family and with my oldest daughter and her daughter. My time with my Utah family is always so precious to me because I only see them once or twice a year.  

                                               Ryan and Regan

I flew back to Colorado on May 26th so that my husband and I could drive to the Western Slope of Colorado to where my mother lives so we could be with her on her 100th birthday. What a milestone this day was for my mother and her family.  I was blessed beyond measure to spend this day with her and with the family that gathered to mark this momentous occasion.  I promise I will write more about this day later.

                                                   Keicha, Mother, and Sally

A Journey

My husband and I then drove back to our side of the mountains, a journey that takes nearly six and a half hours, to return home on Monday, May 30.  We then flew out of the airport in Denver on June 1 to New Orleans.  I had a conference here this past weekend.  The rest of the time, we have eating our way through New Orleans.  Thankfully, we are also doing a lot of walking.  This is our first trip to New Orleans.  We have fallen in love with this amazing city!  

We return home on Wednesday, June 8th.  Until then, I will be on a blog break.  I hope to catch up with you all soon.