Seasonal Thoughts and Thanksgivings




The seasons collide in the fall.
Halloween gives way to Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving bumps up against Christmas.
November,
I’m not done with you yet.
I need to hang on the last vestiges of 
fall and the Thanksgiving season
 before I am hurled into the rush and bustle 
of December and Christmas.
*************
My son called early in October and asked us to come out and spend Thanksgiving with them in Utah. I took him up on the offer.  They have a new home we had not yet seen, so we were excited to spend the inaugural Thanksgiving with them making new memories in their new home.  
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Jim and I flew out to Salt Lake City, Utah, and my son Ryan picked us up at the airport.  We ran around town with him while he did Thanksgiving preparation errands, and he gave us a grand tour of his new neighborhood.  I so seldom get to spend alone time with my son, that I couldn’t help but comment how wonderful it was just to be driving around town with him while we chatted.  He always makes the best of times even better.

Fall is the perfect season to capture the beauty of my son and daughter-in-law’s new home.  A branch adorned with golden leaves formed a perfect frame for this classic craftsman style home. 



I love the neighborhood where my son and his wife now live.  On a small porch at the corner house down the street from them, two college age guys dressed in wool coats and wool caps were sitting in lawn chairs listening to classical music and smoking cigars as they played chess.  I said to my son, “I love where you live.  It seems so civilized.”


Jim and Ryan led the way as we walked past houses still adorned with fall decor and headed to our home away from home to spend a quiet evening together.  

Our airbnb, which was just a block and a half from my son’s home, was so nice.  We really enjoyed the experience of staying in this home and in this neighborhood.  I kept telling my husband I was ready to move.  I loved the area around Sugarhouse in Salt Lake City.  




This was just one of the cool houses between our house (home away from home) and son Ryan’s.  

The next morning Jim and I walked back to Ryan and Sheridan's house and the four of us and Sheridan’s two boys headed out for the mile and a half walk to get breakfast at the best bakery ever.  I had their steel cut oats with fruit.  Seldom does one rave about steel cut oats, but I raved about theirs.  Oh, and I had part of an orange cinnamon roll too.  I wasn’t going to pass that up.  I fear we would visit this place on  daily walks if we lived nearby.



There are shops all around the bakery.  Across the street is a wonderful bookstore called The King’s English.  We visited it on the day after Thanksgiving.  All of this makes the neighborhood a desired location for living a life where shopping, and restaurants, and grocery stores are just a short walk or bike ride away.
The door to our apartment...


leaves on the ground, they all became subjects for me to photograph.  On this beautiful fall day, I so loved the experience of walking around taking in the sights found in a neighborhood filled with architectural delights.  It was just what my soul needed.  
At home, fall had left us during a blistery and wet storm weeks before Thanksgiving.  I had not been able to revel in the glory of fall and give her a proper farewell at home, so these last days of November in Utah were a special blessing to me.

Thanksgiving Eve, Jim and I walked over to my son’s house to participate in food preparation (ok, I watched while they worked) and to await the arrival of Amy and Jewett whom were driving from Colorado, and the arrival of grandson Bridger whom was coming down from Logan, Utah, where he attends Utah State.  


The beauty of the day continued.  I wish I could have captured the full effect of the moon at dusk, but this photo does give you an idea of how beautiful the evening was as we headed into my favorite holiday of the year: Thanksgiving.
We were worried about the travelers as a huge wreck had closed down the highway, but daughter and her love arrived safe and sound at a much later time than anticipated.  Thank heavens for cell phones and Google maps.  Bridger also arrived safe and sound from his drive down from Logan.  I was struck by how thrilled we were when Bridger arrived.  Does everyone always shout with joy when he enters a room?  I think so.  He is such a special kid.
The bounty for the planned feast was plentiful. I was struck by the beauty of the preparation of the meal itself.  Part of Thanksgiving is the anticipation of what is about to transpire as family comes together.  There is so much work in preparing the feast for a family the size of ours.  I so appreciate all that Ryan and Sheridan did to make the occasion perfect.  Thank you, Ryan and Sheridan!


While my family is large, the gathering itself was a bit smaller this year.  Ryan’s two older children, Regan and Parker, are living and working in Montana where they will be attending college, so they did not come home for Thanksgiving.  Amy and Jewett came from Colorado, but Amy’s two children stayed home with their father and had Thanksgiving with their other grandmother, and Samantha and Jonathan and their two children had been in Paris, France, the week before Thanksgiving and they were flying home to Colorado on Thanksgiving Day.  As with most large families, we are scattered all over.  That is why being together whenever possible is so special.
Thanksgiving morning, the house had been transformed in order to accommodate the expected guests.  (Don’t you love Ryan and Sheridan’s home???)


The guests arrived, photos were taken,and soon we were ready to eat the scrumptious meal provided by our hosts.  Really, they out did themselves.  Everything was perfect!
Photos were taken,

Daughter Keicha with her daughter Gillian


Amy & Jewett

My girls on either side of me
Keicha, Sally, Amy

the turkey was taken from the oven and carved,



the lentil loaf prepared for and by Sheridan for the vegetarians in the group was also taken from the oven,

the food was placed on the beautiful tables, 



Holidays bring with them memories both happy and sad.  Often, we are reminded of those no longer with us.  Sheridan was my daughter Julie's dear friend, and it was at Julie's memorial service where my son Ryan met our lovely Sheridan.  Blessings come from loss.  I'm so grateful for the family that was created because of a lasting and long friendship between Julie and Sheridan.  Julie's ashes are on the mantle and the empty chair reminds us of the one we miss and wish were with us to share in this joyous day.  

The empty chair reminds me that Julie would not be in it even if she were with us.  She had way too much energy for that.  She would be cooking and cleaning and arranging, and laughing, and joking, and loving on her nieces and nephews.  I miss her arm on my shoulder as she would have stood beside me in a photo of me and my daughters, but her spirit is with us.  I rejoice that we as a family remain strong and together and so appreciative of fall days at the end of November when we gather together to give thanks for all of our many blessings.  
There was more!  
In the evening we followed the tradition started long ago by Sheridan's wonderful dad by playing a spirited and competitive game of bingo.  The prizes were both great and not so great.  That is part of the fun.  Bingo and Thanksgiving pie now go together in my mind. 

 I love this tradition of more guests arriving in the evening with pies and gifts.  Sheridan's sister and her family and her mom and dad and another couple whom are good friends came to the house to play bingo after their own Thanksgiving dinners.  There was barely room to move around.  Jim was schooled on how to be the Bingo game caller, and we ended the day by playing Bingo which led to much fun and a lot of laughter.  


The memories of Thanksgiving 2018 are stored away in that place were all that is wonderful about this holiday live.  I am so very blessed with such a dear and wonderful family.  My children are so supportive of me and of each other.  I do not take that gift of family unity lightly.  Our bonds are strong and our devotion to each other is firm.  That is one hope I have always had for myself and and my children:  that we would celebrate and embrace the uniqueness that each of us bring to our family bond and they would seek to always build and affirm that bond and devotion to each other.  I'm so very grateful that again I witnessed and partook in the fellowship of a family devoted to each other.    My heart is full.
Perhaps, Thanksgiving comes at the perfect time of year because just as fall leaves us, we are given the chance to embrace her beauty one last time as we gather to spend a day giving thanks while eating delicious food with those we love best.  

Thanksgiving 2018, I needed you to be just as you were.  Now, I can let November days give way to the hustle and bustle that comes in December.  

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.”
Indeed,
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
grandparents,
parents,
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.

Cousins
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
Mother

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.  


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,
grandchildren,
and most of her great-grandchildren gathered to throw her a
fabulous festivity
full of
friends,
family,
food,
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,
and
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.


Christmas ~ A Reflection of Christmas Past


The day was a bleak, cold one.  Snow and cold weather had brought life to a standstill throughout most of the city the day before.  I had an early afternoon appointment with my cardiologist at the hospital downtown, the one in which I was born so many years ago.   By the time I left the appointment and made my way out of the hospital parking lot, I was starving.  A holiday dinner was scheduled for later that evening, so I didn't want much lunch.  As I drove west, making my way the few city blocks towards the home in which I had lived as a child, my mind was focused on trying to find a place to stop into for a quick bit of food to tide me over until dinner.  There's no place to stop for lunch in this neighborhood, I thought.  

Just then, I caught sight of the little coffee shop across the street from the corner of the block where my childhood home was located.  The coffee shop is housed in the building that once housed a grocery store and the neighborhood drugstore.  Hungry to the point of going into a state of hypoglycemic  craziness, I parked my car on Boulder Street, my street, the place where I grew up, and made my way to the shop. 

As I rushed from the car to the shop, my mind returned to all those times over half a century ago when I would stop on the corner across the street from where I now stood.   My memory transported me to a time when my mother would entrust a quarter to me with the instructions that I was to go buy a loaf a bread.  "Yes, you can keep the change and buy candy if you wish."  I'd skip down the street, stop on the corner, look both ways, run across Boulder Street, and then Institute Street, and then skip up to the front door of the grocery.  

I could almost see those long ago penny candy boxes lined up in front of the front counter where I would pay for the bread as I approached the door.  The door was locked.  It was dark inside.   Pressing my nose against the window, I peered in and saw the shell of what once was the market of my youth.  I remembered the meat counter at the back.  That's where the check-out counter and the candy was, I thought as I noticed the worn floors I had walked across so many times so many years ago.  Coffee bean bags and equipment for brewing coffee were strewn all over the small space.  Was this store really that small?  

Just as I turned to head back to the car, desperate to find another place for a quick snack, I realized there seemed to be life in the other side of the shop, the place where a drugstore once was located.  I walked towards the door and realized the coffee shop was housed on that side of the building.  Inside, the layout was all wrong.  Tables and benches lined the wall where my cousin and I would once sit at the soda fountain to order our cherry cokes when we were cool thirteen year olds with enough money to buy a coke.  On the opposite side of where the soda fountain once stood, was a bar where I could now order coffee and something to eat.

Soon, a bagel, a very good bagel, with cream cheese, and an excellent cafe latte brought my sugar levels back up to normal.  Siting on the wooden bench in the bay window store front, I savored the moment.  

Somehow, despite the cold weather, the dreary skies, the worries in my heart, and the feeling that this Christmas just wasn't going to be that merry, my spirits were lifted by being in that simple little coffee shop that was full of young people studying for finals. 

I felt I was in the heart of "home" while I sat sipping my cafe latte.  Grateful, for the time of rest, refreshment, and time for reflection on the happy, simple days spent in this little corner of my early world, I left the shop and headed back to my car.


These streets, these sidewalks, are as familiar to me as the back of my hand.  I know where all the cracks are, and even the several types of concrete used to make these sidewalks are familiar.  They haven't changed in all these year.  

I look up at the trees that line the street.  They seem to be standing guard as they protect all the memories once made under their leafy branches. Their aged, bare limbs seem all the more empty now that they no longer shelter my great grandparents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my father from hot summer days. 

Grandma's house is just down the street.  I can't see her house, but it is there just steps away.  How I wish I could walk down that street and walk in the door for a visit.   

Trees stand guard on the way to Grandma's House


My roots run deep on this street.

I think of the family history that these trees witnessed on this block.  They watched my father move into the house just down the way over ninety years ago.  I look at the trees and see my parents standing so close together for a photo on their wedding day.  The day was a bleak and cold one.  They'd been married in the United Presbyterian Church across the street right after morning services on that February day.

My earliest days were spent here.
My first Christmas was here.
Daddy was just home from the army.
World War II had just ended.


Grandma's house provided the heart of Christmas for so many years.

My grandmother in front of a fireplace with a Van Briggle hearth -
My grandmother holding me on her right and my cousin Donna on her left

Christmas was no small undertaking in those days.


All the aunts, the uncles, the cousins would be at Grandma's at Christmas.
It had been that way since my earliest days.

Baking for Christmas began before Thanksgiving.
That is when Grandma made her wonderful fruitcake.
The panty, that cold room right off the kitchen, 
the place where we as children could never enter,
the place that seemed like the inner sanctum of the home that was the heart of Christmas,
held shelves stacked high with metal tins full of 
perfectly made candy:
peanut brittle,
divinity,
cherry drops, 
fudge.
More tins held the most heavenly tasting spritz cookies.
Oh the joy I would feel
when she would enter the pantry after Christmas dinner 
and load down the kitchen table with:
mincemeat pies,
pumpkin pies,
 cookies, 
and  candy,
all made by her own hand.

Preparation for Christmas Day would have also included
days of polishing the silver.
Sometimes, we, the older cousins, had the task of going to Grandma's house a few days before Christmas to polish the silverware and the silver serving dishes.
 We would very carefully take the china from the dining room buffet and set the table.
The table had to be properly set.
The salad plate, the water glasses, the silverware, the napkins, all had to be properly placed.
The silverware was measured with a finger to be an inch from the end of the table.

We always went to the church across the street for Christmas Eve services.  
Always.
It was the family tradition for Christmas.

The story was always told of how my father as a young boy, dressed in his new flannel robe, which had been purchased for his part as one of the shepherds in the Christmas pageant, 
had begged to stay home from church.
He said he was ill.
My grandmother was a strict disciplinarian.
He was told to get over to the church and fulfill his duty.
He did.
Halfway though the pageant, he vomited and had been rushed home across the street wearing soiled new robe.

Years later, my cousin, my sister, and I would be angels in that same Christmas pageant.


My home,
Grandma's home,
my elementary school,
the church,
the grocery store,
were all within a block of each other.

My world was small.
It was filled with rich relationships,
many funny stories,
great laughter,
long held traditions,
and
solid foundations for
faith
and family.

As I think on these things,
the memory of my mother's beautifully clear soprano voice fills my mind.
Christmas memories from this place would not be complete without the memory of her
dressed in her green silk dress,
the one she made from drapery fabric,
 standing  in the choir loft at church just as the Christmas program starts.
My mother, a tiny 4'll" dark haired woman is adorned in
crystal jewelry which sparkles as she sings.
I am in awe of her beauty.
I am proud of her and her beautiful voice.
 With a lighted candle in my hand,  I listen with tears rolling down my cheeks as she sings.
I will soon be lighting the Christmas candles nestled among the pine branches placed in front of the church windows.


Her voice rings out with the words of that beloved Christmas song.

Oh Holy Night!  The stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth.
***
Truly He taught us to love one another.
He law is love and His gospel is peace.

********

Today we sang those words of that much loved Christmas song in church.
O Holy Night!
Again, my mind went back to my mother.
I longed to be standing next to her in church listening to her sing that song of 
praise and adoration 
for her Savior,
Immanuel,
God with Us,
The One whose birth we celebrate on Christmas.

*********
This past week, as I walked back to my car after walking up to the long ago home of my father and his parents, those memories of days of long ago were again tucked away in my mind.

Grandma's house is still there,
but I can't walk up the path and step on to her porch and find her and grandpa sitting in the dining room reading.


She died on Christmas Eve over thirty years ago.

My father is also gone.
All the aunts and uncles are gone.
Only the memory of the 
times we spent together, 
those times filled with
such wonderful stories,
and
so much laughter
remain.

Mother is still with us.

Today, she and I talked of that Christmas when she sang her favorite Christmas song,
and mine.
She said she went to church today was able to sing in  despite it being her one hundredth year after she celebrated her first Christmas.

I am now a grandmother.
My grandchildren will never have the rich memories of the Christmas traditions of family that I hold so dear.
We don't live near each other.
We seldom see each other at Christmas.
It breaks my heart each and every year not to be with my children and grandchildren.

*********
As I get in my car to leave the streets of my childhood,
I remember the prayer I had for this Christmas.

I prayed I would not be focused on the traditions and trappings of Christmas.
Certainly, those traditions are wonderful to create, to remember, and to celebrate,
but they really are not what Christmas is all about.
I prayed that I would not focus on the trappings of Christmas this year.

I prayed I would rejoice in the One whose birth we celebrate.
I prayed I would not miss the reason we have Christmas.
I prayed that each of my loved ones would know this truth this year:

Truly He taught us to love one another.
He law is love and His gospel is peace.

May your Christmas be filled with 
hope,
joy,
love,
and
peace.
















Home for the Holidays

Reflections on the Holiday Season

Decorating the Christmas tree brings back so many memories of years gone by.
My festive Spanish bell purchased in Mexico so many years ago triggers memories of times with dear people whom were so much a part of my life in the 80's.
Humming,
Feliz Navidad,
I remember Christmas season trips to New Mexico.
I think of all the wonderful Spanish speaking students whom I taught over the years.
I think of the rich cultural traditions that others have during this time of year.


Some years a few new decorations are added to tree.
This year, dried wheat bunches from the Thanksgiving flower arrangement were gathered together and tied with Christmas ribbon to create a new decoration.
It will be a reminder of the wonderful Thanksgiving we shared with my son and his wife and son
and with 
my daughter and her son and daughter earlier this year.

My tree always is dotted with bells, lots of bells.
Somehow, many years ago, I started collecting so many bells that I decided that my Christmas tree would have a bell theme.
And so, to this day, bells hang on my tree.
The bells of Christmas.
Each bell has a story behind it.  
Each bell carries a special memory.


I love the bells of Christmas.
The angels.
The lambs.
The red berries.
The pine cones.
The red and silver balls.
The lights.
I love the beauty of Christmas.

Christmas decorations remain on display at my house until New Year's Day.
It seems we are so busy before Christmas that I rarely have time to sit and reflect about the true meaning of Christmas until it is all over.


Julie's tree,
the tree that holds only her special ornaments,
gives me great comfort,
but it also sometimes sends fresh shock waves through my mind
when I see her things in my house as a reminder that she is not here to put them up in her own place.


I'm never quite prepared for
 the scent of Julie
 that overpowers my emotions when I open the hat box that contains her Christmas ornaments. 
Yes, the tissue paper that she placed around each ornament still smells like her. 
It got to me again this year. 
I miss you, Jules.
 I love you. 
XO

***********

The holidays really began for me when my high school girlfriends all gathered for our holiday party on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
(That's me, surrounded by my girlfriends, 
smiling broadly,  dressed in orange, and sitting midway on the stairs.)


Oh how I love these girls!
As a group, and individually, my life is much richer 
because I met these awesome ladies over fifty years ago.
We giggle like school girls while we open our gag gift exchange.
You don't even want to know what we give each other!
We laugh so hard we can barely breathe throughout the day when we have our get togethers.
This year, Dove could not be with us, so she sent a bottle of real maple syrup from Vermont, where she lives, for each one of us.


We cry and give thanks as
we share our list of gratitudes for the year with each other.
Each of us feels loved and blessed because
we belong to something that is rare and precious:
a sisterhood of
of girlfriends
 with deep roots that began in the golden days of youth
 and has lasted until our hair has turned to silver.
We are there for each other no matter what.
As we get older, the "no matter whats" become harder to bear,
but we don't bear our trials alone.
Our friend with Alzheimer's called during our lunch.
Her husband placed the call so we could talk to her.
Three of the girls drove to Kansas this summer to bring her love and gifts from the group and to take her out for the day.
That's what I'm talking about.
These girls are true, forever friends.

**********

Soon, the next holiday was upon us.
Thanksgiving was so special this year.
Ryan and Sheridan brought oldest grandson with them as they flew in for a short visit for 
Thanksgiving.


We have plenty of chairs, but these kids like togetherness.

Firstborn grandson Parker is in his first year of college.
What a treat it was to have him with us during his short break!


Daughter Amy and her children were here with us too.
The siblings took over the kitchen for mom.
That is a good thing since I can't seem to put it all together like I used to do.
After a run through the neighborhood, they whipped up dinner.
(We also had a bit a lot of help from Whole Foods.)


I was one blessed and happy mom on Thanksgiving Day.
Nothing makes me happier than being surrounded by my children and grandchildren.
Nothing.


The trip to my house was a quick one for the newlyweds.
I'm grateful they were able to come at all.
The day after Thanksgiving was Black Friday.
The next day was Small Business Saturday.
Sheridan, as a small business owner, took time to be with us, her family,
 before she was off for the Christmas rush at Hip and Humble in Salt Lake City.


*************
The day after Thanksgiving, Jim was also off to work at the Apple Store.
With me also working, this was a crazy, busy Christmas season for us.

Somehow, we managed to decorate the house,
shop for presents,
write and mail a Christmas letter,
and attend other holiday get togethers with friends and family.

My new best friends became the folks that own the nearby
PostalAnnex in the University Center in Colorado Springs.
I literally dropped gifts on the counter and asked, "Can you wrap and mail these for me?"
They did just that!
I didn't have to go to the post office or FedEx or UPS one time during the Christmas season.
Check them out for all your mailing needs.

A special event each year is hosted by my cousin and her husband:  The Cousin Christmas Party.
Thanks, Diana and Steve for again being such gracious hosts.
We shared great food and deep belly laughs throughout the evening.


*********
On Christmas Eve, we celebrated with Jim's daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren at daughter Thia's new home.
What a fun time we all had.


Christmas Day was a very quiet day for the two of us.
Jim said, "Don't get me anything for Christmas.  I don't need a thing."
I thought of a few things he needed.
First,
he needed new gloves that would keep his hands warm while he walks the dog
and navigates around his iPhone.
He needed technology friendly gloves.
"You can text while wearing these gloves," I said.
"No kidding?" he replied.
Then he happily tried them out and was quite excited about the new gloves.

He also needed another winter hat, one that he could wear to work.
He loved his new brown wool cap.


I also surprised him with new "tennis shoes" that he likes to wear to work.

Jim finds great comfort in honoring and remembering his heritage when we light the menorah.
On Christmas morning, my dear, dear Jewish friend in California sent me greetings via a text.
She then sent me a photo of her daughter and her husband, home for the holidays, seated in front of a lighted menorah.
I sent her this photo of Jim.



Jim spoiled me to death with many wonderful gifts.
He didn't listen to me either when I told him that I needed nothing for Christmas.

Cooking a large Christmas dinner has never been high on my list of things to do on Christmas.
Instead, I've traditionally made Christmas brunch.
This year, just the two of us enjoyed a brunch of chili relleno casserole, hash browns, a spinach salad, a fruit salad, and stollen. (We forgot we had also planned to have bacon.)
As we leisurely enjoyed our morning and early afternoon, I realized that we had not spent an entire day together without any obligations or work since mid-September.

Christmas Day the air was cool and crisp, but the sky was a brilliant blue.
We decided to walk in the Garden of the Gods.
We'd not been there in months.
Boston could hardly contain himself with joyful anticipation as we approached one of his favorite walking places.
We thought it would be the perfect day to enjoy the great outdoors now that all the summer tourists have gone home.
We were wrong.
Throngs of people had the same idea we did.
I don't know when I've seen this beautiful place so crowded.

Despite the crowds,
and Boston's over-enthusiastic reaction of being in a favorite place filled with lots of great smells,
 and lots of other people,
we enjoyed a crisp Christmas afternoon walk.


**********
Home for the holidays is an ideal I have carried in my head for a long time.
I envisioned that this meant all of our offspring would gather around the table with us to eat a Christmas meal, or open presents around the tree.

Divorce,
death,
and
distance,
the three D's of Christmas,
 have robbed me of much happiness at Christmas over the years.

This year,
acceptance of those things over which I have no control
allowed me to
celebrate,
with peace and joy,
a quiet
Christmas at home.









The Little Country Wedding

My son and his beautiful bride were married during the middle week of June in Boulder, Utah.
It was the best wedding ever.
My son, the groom, was teary-eyed throughout it all.
The bride could not stop smiling.
The sheer joy emitted from these two will not soon be forgotten by any in attendance.

Ryan and Sheridan
A disclaimer is in order.
Photographer/participant do not go well together.
I wanted to take my own personal photos,
but mostly, I wanted to just enjoy the moment.
Also, I took so many photos, that I just might crash this blog by sharing them all.
Not only that, I just could not begin to capture the scope of this wedding.
It was in the country.
It was not "little."
No detail was missed to make this wedding perfect.
Some said it was like a Martha Stewart Wedding.
That is not correct.
A Martha Stewart Wedding would not have been as relaxed, joy filled, fun, and beautiful
as this wedding was.
Going to this wedding was like going to a great family reunion.
It wasn't just a wedding.
It was the event of the year for our family.


There was:
family,
love,
laughter,
tears,
hiking,
fishing, 
volleyball,
soccer,
football,
croquet,
bonfires,
smores,
dress up clothes for
polaroid camera photos,
flowers,
candles,
dancing,
music,
daily agendas,
food,
drink,
friends,
fancy restaurant meals
barbecues,
cowboy boots,
cowboy hats,
fancy dresses,
a gourmet wedding supper
prepared by chefs written up in the New York Times,
Sunset Magazine, Fodors,
homemade ice cream
outstanding scenery,
a full moon, 
the coming together 
of two families,
and
much
celebratory
JOY!
The bride accompanied by her two sons

My son awaits his bride.
My son and his children.
Parker, Ryan, Bridger, Regan

There is more to come.  I just wanted to give you a small snapshot into it all before I fill you in on all the details.  Stay tuned...



Springtime Joy

To my dear blogging friends,

Thank you for all of your thoughtful and caring comments that you left on my last post.  I had hoped to respond individually to each and every comment, but since I've not yet accomplished writing back to you all, I'd just like to thank you for all the love and support you have always shown me as I have gone through my times of grief.  I honestly don't know what I would not done without all of you, your encouraging and thoughtful comments, and your friendship.  Blogging has meant so much to me.  My blogging friends are some of the best friends I've ever had.  Thank you again for your continuing love and support.

Dear blogging friends, that being said, you may wonder where I have been lately…

I have been out there enjoying life and living it to the fullest during the month of May.  I have not gotten around to visit you all, nor have I taken the time to blog about each joyous event that has filled my days in the past month.  I so admire those of you who are organized, productive, live life, garden, hike, participate in family events, and have full social events while you also manage to post daily, or weekly, about all you have been doing.  That trait is not one I seem to share.  I miss reading your blogs and keeping up with you, and letting you in on what I've been doing, but I don't have the same discipline.  Blogging gets fit in around the edges of my life.  Lately, it has been edged out.

We have had many joyous events during May of 2014 in our family.

  1. My oldest grandson by marriage, Jim's grandson, was married during the first week in May.  The marriage took place in Logan, Utah.  This meant that my hubby and I traveled by car to Utah for the wedding.  This also meant that we had some great family time with other family members in Utah.
    Here's the happy couple,
    Caleb and Rachel
  2. Caleb and Rachel's wedding happened to coincide with the my oldest grandson's Eagle Scout Court of Honor.  We live 500+ miles from four of my grandchildren who live in Utah.  That means I have missed a lot of events in their lives that I wish I could have attended.   I was so excited to be in town for this milestone.  I'm so proud of my first born grandson.  
    Parker's Eagle Scout Court of Honor
  3. A week after we returned home, we attended Caleb and Rachel's wedding reception in Colorado.  It was a great wedding reception that included time with family, great food, and lots of dancing. What fun.
  4. A week after that, I flew back to Colorado to attend grandson Parker's high school graduation.  This time, I was able to extend my trip.   This allowed me to spend lots of quality time with my children and grandchildren.  Parker made my day, when on the Saturday before graduation he sent me text asking if we could go to lunch together so we would have time to chat. I was thrilled.  *Warning:  Parker shaved his head the day before he asked me to lunch.  It was one of those crazy impulses that kids do to celebrate graduation.   
    Parker and Grandma Sally
    Graduation 2014
    He said he missed his hair.  I can relate.  Of course, I remember that the first time I ever saw him he had no hair. I thought he was one of the most beautiful treasures I had ever seen.  My mind has not changed.  He is still a beautiful treasure.  I continue marvel and adore this handsome grandson of mine. 

    Parker and Grandma Sally
    March 1996
    Parker is one day old.
    Where has the time gone?
  5. I flew home from Utah so I could join my husband in watching his oldest granddaughter graduate with honors from high school in a ceremony held at Red Rock Amphitheater in Denver.  It hailed, rained, and tornados touched down in Denver just before the ceremony, but the beautiful Daphne had only sunny skies as she walked across the stage to get her diploma. 
  6. About a week after I got home from Utah, my oldest daughter Keicha came for a visit with me.  She came to be with me and her sister during the anniversary date of her sister's, and my daughter's, death.  We had the most wonderful visit that included a wonderful day spent with my niece Michelle.  She and Keicha are cousins and best buds.  They love to be silly, laugh, and share the special bond they have.  I got to tag along with them for the day.  It was a very special day.  The visit with Keicha was just what this mama needed.  

Keicha and Michelle
May 2014
At the Broadmoor
Today, the skies have been cloudy, and grey.  We've had rain.  We've had tornado warnings.  I even had to put my warm winter pants and fleece jacket while I read the Sunday newspaper.  Not only that, I actually had to turn on the gas fireplace to take the chill off the house.

It has been a crazy spring here in Colorado.  Even the pastor at church today said that today was one of those days when he just wanted to stay in bed and sleep when he saw the weather when he woke up.  I understood what he meant.  I felt the same way when the alarm went off this morning.  I thought, It's Sunday.  It is 6:00 a.m.  I am retired.  It is cold. It is rainy.  I should just stay in bed.  But, I didn't.  Thankfully, I was able to hear an amazing sermon that helped to build my faith and filled my heart with peace and joy.  

After church, my husband took me to brunch at one of my favorite places, Patty Jewett Golf Club.  Today, Pikes Peak, shrouded in clouds, could not be seen from our table that allowed us to look out on the beautiful golf course,  but the great food and the atmosphere gave us an uplifted spirit.  I even saw an old friend from long ago who was having brunch with friends. We made promises to connect soon. I came home to  read the paper at a leisurely pace in my newly rearranged living room.  Here is a panoramic view that includes the dog's toys and the newspapers.  We live rather casually around here.
I went outside to water the two new trees and three new bushes we planted before the rain came.  I took another panoramic photo of the back view of the house.  You can barely see my husband in the right corner of the deck.  He is wearing a winter jacket.  Yes, it is still cold, but the storms that threatened earlier today passed over us and just brought us some rain.  

The days have been full and happy as I have spent time with family in May.  I've celebrated a wedding, an Eagle Scout Court of Honor, and two high school graduations.  That alone would make anyone feel happy and blessed. I hope to catch you up on the details later.  For now, I'm getting ready for the next big event in our family.

Later this week, we travel to Utah.  My son is getting married.

I'm so excited!  I can't wait to go to The Boulder Mountain Lodge in Southern Utah where the wedding will be held next Saturday.  I'll be taking a blog break from now until late next week.  I hope to catch up with all of you soon.

Wrapping Up Christmas - Part II

This was the year that I was going to keep Christmas simple.  I was not going spend as much money, and I was not going to do as much decorating.  At first,  I thought we would aim at a quiet Christmas at home.  Then, I changed my mind.  I decided I really did want to go to Utah for Christmas.  It had been nearly two years since I'd been over to see the grandkids.  I did not want to miss out on seeing them all again.  Jim hates to drive over to Utah in the winter.  Despite having written a recent blog post (click on highlight to read) about not driving in the snow, I had convinced him, and myself, that we should drive the twelve to fourteen hour trip during the 2013 Christmas holiday.  I suggested we leave a window open on the date for departure and leave when the weather promised to be best.  Somehow, against his better judgement, my husband agreed to this plan.

A few days after we had made the decision to make the trip, my daughter Amy called and said that there were great airfares on round-trip between Denver and Salt Lake City on Frontier if we were willing to fly on Christmas Day.  Then, she went on to tell me she did not want us driving.  She said driving was foolish, expensive, and dangerous this time of year.  She said we needed to fly.  Of course, she was right.  Jim immediately went on line and booked our flights and rented a car to use while we were there.  Deep down inside, I was relieved.  Flying would be so much easier than driving.

The change in trip plans meant I had to get all the gifts wrapped and ready to ship.  I did not want to carry them on the plane with me.  This also meant that we celebrated Christmas about four times.  First, we celebrated with the family in Colorado.  Then, Jim and I exchanged gifts on the night of the 23rd.  Then on Christmas Eve, we left early in the afternoon to drive to Amy's near Boulder, Colorado to spend Christmas Eve with her and her two children.  We exchanged our gifts with them that evening and then went out for a special dinner.  Jim and I then drove to DIA (Denver International Airport), which is only about twenty minutes from Amy's house, and spent the night at a hotel.  The next morning, Christmas Day, we flew to Salt Lake.  We were surprised how busy both airports were.  I guess more and more people travel on Christmas Day.  I do think the lower rates make it more attractive to do so.

Immediately upon landing in Salt Lake City, about 3:00 in the afternoon, we drove the twenty minute drive to the home of my soon to be daughter-in-law's parents' home.  I had never met Sheridan's large family, nor had I met her parents.  We literally crashed into the middle of their huge Christmas party.  Sheridan is one of six children, and nearly every child has a large family.  Being a part of this family gathering was an awesome experience.  They are a wonderful family.  I felt blessed knowing that my son in marrying into such a beautiful and gracious family.

The Happy Couple
Ryan and Sheridan
When Sheridan and Ryan tie the knot later this spring, they will be creating a blended family that will include Sheridan's two young boys and Ryan's three children.  These kids are already just like siblings. It warmed my heart to see the love and connection they all have with each other.  I captured this precious picture of Sheridan, note the beautiful engagement ring on her finger, giving a loving glance towards her son Max and Ryan's daughter Regan who are sharing a chair and a moment.  Ryan's son Parker is looking on as he sits in front of the fireplace at Sheridan's parents' home.


Here, Max is helping Ryan's son Bridger check out the cool hunting pack that Bridger got from one of the cousins on Sheridan's side during the family gift exchange.  Bridger, and Max, both loved the gift. 


Soon, it was time to move on to Sheridan's home for another Christmas party.  We planned to exchange our family gifts after daughter Keicha, her daughter Gillian, and her friend Mike drove down from Ogden.  After the gift exchange, we would all have Christmas dinner which was prepared by Ryan and Sheridan.  Sheridan's sister and her family would also join us.  (I know, I should provide a chart so you can all keep track of who is who!)

After we drove the mile or so to Sheridan's house and walked in the door, we literally almost tripped over Parker (my oldest grandson) who was right inside the door putting together the family Christmas present from Santa.  It was a green machine.  Soon, it was assembled and moved outdoors.  As you can imagine, it is designed to give the rider a wild ride full of excitement.


Upon entering the house, on the entry table, Sheridan had a tasteful display of family photos, books, plants, and artwork.  There among the special items was a bit of a heartbreaker.  A framed photo of Julie with her head in the mouth of a giant lion statute at the Salt Lake Zoo was placed next to a small urn of her ashes.  That photo was taken about twelve or thirteen years ago when the entire family made an excursion to the zoo. Julie was teasing the children who were toddlers then.  Back in those days, Julie was Sheridan's roommate, friend from work, fellow student at the U of U, and best friend.  While we all knew Sheridan well, Ryan had never met her until after Julie died. Now, Sheridan, will soon join our family when she marries Ryan.  

Not long after arriving at Sheridan's, I went to the window and snapped a photo of the Salt Lake valley below her beautiful home in Bountiful.   The sun was beginning to set on a wonderful Christmas Day.  We had successfully made our trip, and we were with family.  Nothing makes me happier than to be surrounded by my family.  I was a happy mama.  

It is always great when cousins can be together.  Here is Regan, Ryan's daughter, and my second oldest grandchild, with Gillian, Keicha's daughter, who is my fourth born grandchild.  They were both born the same year, but because Regan was born in January, and Gillian in October, they are one year apart in school.
Gillian & Regan
The kids are ready for another round of gift opening, but I think Grandpa Jim is tired and over the gift exchanges that have gone on for days.


I like to pick out gifts for the grandchildren for Christmas, but I worry that they won't really like my selections.  If they ask for gift cards, or money, that works too.  I was so excited about Bridger's gift.  I don't know why, but I hoped he would really like them.  I had so much fun picking out these red Van's.  I see a small smile on his face as he opens the gift.


Phew…I think he really likes them!


Now, I worry about Parker's gift.  Will he like a Pendleton shirt?  Will he like red?  He seems to like it.


Yep, he likes it, and I think he looks very good in it.  Ok, I am a grandmother, and I brag about my grandkids, but, isn't he one handsome boy?


The girls unwrapped their matching pajamas and matching scarves along with other gifts from me.  Hannah also got matching p.j.s.  I wish she could have been here with her cousins for the Utah celebration.

This year, all of my children received the same sentimental gift from me.  While I was on Vashon Island in October, I found a gift shop called Giraffe Home.  Of course I was drawn to the shop because Julie's favorite animal was the giraffe.  It seemed that all of us would always look for a giraffe keepsake to bring home to Julie on every trip we went on.  At Giraffe Home, I found the perfect card.  On the front of the card was a drawing of a giraffe that caught my eye.  Inside, there was a beautifully written poem called Giraffe Blessing.

In so many ways, the poem epitomized Julie.  It seemed to be a message she would want us all to take to heart.  I bought a card for each of my children.  I also found the perfect Christmas tree ornament to go with the card:  A silver giraffe.  We all cried when the gift was opened.  I am sure Julie would have loved the gift.


Soon, the gifts were all opened and Ryan and Sheridan resumed the preparation for our scrumptious Christmas dinner.  The girls got into their new p.j.s.  (I notice that Parker made an appearance in the photo in what is called a "photobomb."   Note his flexed muscle on the left of the photo.  I didn't notice it until I published the photo.  Kids these days!  LOL)


Parker tried on his new backpack, a Christmas gift from his dad. This outdoorsman who loves to hike, ski, fish, and hunt is ready for more adventures.


I also caught a photo of Bridger warming up in front of the fire.  I think this spot,
and this one, are favorite spots in the house.  This is the same fireplace that gives off warmth on two sides.

Christmas Day 2013, was anything but simple.  It was complicated and took great planning.  It was also packed with so many gifts.  Jim and I enjoyed a relatively easy flight early in the day.  We then were blessed to be included in Sheridan's extended family celebration.  It was a rare and special treat to be with my two oldest children and their children on Christmas Day.  We then were treated to a truly fabulous Christmas dinner that was prepared by my son and Sheridan.  We enjoyed spending time with Sheridan's sister and her family who joined us for dinner.  This celebration was truly one for the books.  Jim ended the day by reading his Kindle in his own special spot near the Christmas tree.  Thank you Ryan and Sheridan for this special day.


Only one thing would have made the entire Christmas celebration better:  having son Jonathan and his family with us.  They did not come to either Colorado or Utah for the holidays this year.  We missed them greatly.  Maybe next year…

*  There is still more to come.  I will share our "vacation" part of the trip to Utah next.

Wrapping Up Christmas - Part 1

The holidays, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, are a bit of blur.  It seemed we were constantly on the run going to parties, and shopping.  At the same time we were battling the cold, the snow, and illness.
I got sick before Thanksgiving, and I'm still not completely over whatever it was that hit me.  Despite the fact that I had my yearly flu shot, I got some sort of virus that laid me low for weeks.  I ended up with an ear infection and sinus infection.   I tried not to let the bug that bit me slow me down much.  I also tried to not pass it on to others.  For this reason, and because we were so busy, I took a blogging break from Thanksgiving until after Christmas.  Now, I'd like to catch you all up on some really old news:  Christmas!

Mid-December, I was really on the party circuit.  We had so many fun gatherings with friends new and old, that I was glad that I took a break from blogging so that I could, despite being sick a lot of the time, enjoy the wonderful parties that we had the pleasure of attending.  Of course, one of the highlights of the season is always our high school girl friend party.  This year, we again laughed and ate and laughed and joked and shed a few tears as we shared updates about what we had been up to since we last met in September.  We may have met more than 50 years ago, but we are still girls at heart, and "girls just want to have fun."  I love these girls and am so blessed by our friendships.  Here is our 2013 Christmas picture.  Aren't they all lovely ladies?  They are all among my great treasures in life.


We held a family Christmas party at our home on the Sunday before Christmas so we could celebrate with our Colorado family.  The night before the party, my daughter Amy came down to spend the night and to help me prepare for our guests.  Since this particular night was December 21 and the Winter Solstice, we celebrated the occasion by going out for pizza.  After eating we made our way to the Broadmoor Hotel to see the Christmas lights.  I need to work on my photography skills, but at least you get some idea from the photo I took of how beautifully the grand hotel was all decked out for Christmas.  
One of the great draws for the Christmas visitors this year was this gingerbread house made by the bakers at the hotel.  It was amazing.  

And, it provided the perfect backdrop for a photo of the grandchildren.
Hannah and Mason
I was touched by the beautiful expression on my husband's face when he showed me this menorah that he found on display at the hotel.  I see both pride and sadness in this dear face as he no doubt  remembers and honors the fact that he is the son of Holocaust survivors.  


When we got home from our night out, Mason and Hannah got out one of the board games.  They played the game of Life.  I love how they like to play board games.  We always seems to have that tradition of playing some sort of card or board game when we are all together.  


The next day, we were all jumped into high gear as we got ready for our Christmas dinner for the family.  I remembered a few more things we needed from the store.  Mason, at fifteen and a half, was thrilled because this meant he could drive Grandpa Jim to the store.  Off they went with Mason driving his mom's car while Jim became co-pilot.  I must admit I got a tear in my eye when I saw my grandson drive for the first time.  Where did my cute little curly headed baby boy go?


Amy, took over in my kitchen.  I could not have done it all without her.  She set up all the tables and decided how we would serve the food.  I just realized we sure have a lot of red in this house!  Can you tell it is my favorite color?  



I wanted to bring out the china for dinner and use real silverware.  Amy and Jim had their way.  We used paper plates and plastic utensils.  In my childhood, and whenever I have entertained the family in the past, we used the china.  This year, I was overruled.  Everyone thanked Amy and Jim when it came time to clean up.  I guess I am just a traditionalist.  My father was always strict about a well set table with all the proper utensils and a salad bowl and or bread plate.  Those habits of setting the table properly for holiday dinners are just too ingrained in me.  I also remember all the fun the aunts all seemed to have as they gathered in the kitchen to wash all the dishes and pots and pans after a big family dinner.  Ok, maybe they didn't have fun, but it seemed to me they did.  At any rate, we threw our dishes and utensils away when we finished dinner, and Amy set up everything up quite nicely.  
Once her chores were done, as we waited for all the guests to arrive, Amy put her feet up for a bit while I pretended to be in charge of kitchen.  


Son-in-law Greg, married to Jim's second daughter carved the ham.  


Grandpa Jim helped greet his daughter and others as the house began to fill up with our children and grandchildren.

We had an eclectic meal, but traditional for us, of green chili made by Grandpa Jim, and tamales.  We did not know where to buy good tamales in Colorado Springs, so we got these from Costco.  They were very good.  

We also had ham, and a wonderful jello salad made by Jim's daughter, and my Spanish rice.  (This year I didn't explode the pan on the stove just before the guests arrived as I did a few years ago.)  I also made homemade rolls.  They weren't my best effort.  I'm a bit rusty, but everyone said they were still better than store bought.  

The new hit for our family dinners, is this kale and pomegranate salad.  Amy first made it for Thanksgiving.  Thia then brought it for Christmas.  We have all declared it one of our favorite salads of all time.  


We now have mostly teenagers for grandchildren.  I don't know how that happened so fast.  They gathered to fill their plates for dinner.

Thankfully, we were able to seat everyone.  We had three tables set up throughout the house.

The older kids...

The younger kids...

The adults...
Trinette, Jim's daughter looked so lovely in the sweater that matched her eyes that I had to take a close-up.  What a beauty she is, inside and out.  

After dinner, we all went downstairs to exchange gifts.  Here I am with daughter Amy and her children Mason and Hannah.  

Olivia, Avin, Rachel, Daphne, and Trista all gave me their best smiles.

It's smiles all around.  Caleb, Darby, Greg, and Daphne await the gift exchange.


Brad and Thia check out a gift.


Grandpa Jim loves Christmas.  He really does.  I think the kids all like the contents of the envelope he gave them too.  They all got something green and it fits in an envelope.


At the end of the day, Jim and I were pretty tired when everyone left.  He has a saying about when the kids and the grandkids visit.  "I love to see the headlights, but the tail lights are even better."  We say this because our energy is not like it used to be, but we also can hardly wait for the next visit.

Jim went directly to his chair and used his new Christmas gift from me:  an electric throw blanket.  This blanket is pure evil because if you dare to sit in a comfy chair and turn the blanket on during a cold evening, I guarantee you that you will not want to get up and do another thing!  He loves his new blanket.


There is more to come.  On Christmas Eve, we went north to Amy's house for a celebration.  Then, we flew out of Denver the next day and headed to Utah to see more of the children and grandchildren.  Stay tuned...