Graduations and Grandbabies ~ Part I

Photos Tell A Story

 When my grandchildren see me coming camera in hand, most of them run and hide.  I admit it.  I am obsessed with documenting the times I've had with my children and grandchildren by taking photos.  Since the advent of the digital camera, I have literally amassed thousands of photos of my offspring. My photos are sent to my computer to an app created by Apple called Photos.  These same photos are also stored in iCloud.  One feature of the app Photo is called "Memories."  Photos are collected in the memories feature of Apple's Photo app by date and appear on my Apple products in the Photo app nearly daily.  I am always fascinated to see what photos may appear each day with the title "On This Day."

Today, it was a treat to see photos of the day twelve years ago when my youngest son Jonathan and his wife Samantha graduated from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS).  I've spent the remainder of the day thinking about these two and the incredible journey they have been on since the day they met.

The Backstory

Jonathan must have been seventeen, or maybe he was eighteen, when he started talking about Sam, this new girl he had met.  Then, one day, he announced that Sam was driving down to Pueblo where we lived from Colorado Springs to pick him up for a date.  Jon didn't have a car at the time.  I don't even know if he had a driver's license, but Sam obviously had both.  Jon was not attending high school; he'd dropped out.  He was in his phase of wear grungy clothes.  I was more than curious to meet this new girl in his life as Jon had never brought girlfriends around the house.  Did he ever even have a girlfriend before Sam?  I don't think so.

I think we were instructed by Jon to be cool with Sam and not ask too many questions of her because she was shy.  I think she died a thousand deaths when we answered the door because she had to do the dreaded meet the parents gig.  When the doorbell rang, it seems Jon ran to answer the door first because he just wanted to rush out the door without making introductions to save both of them from going through the formalities.  Of course, I wasn't having any of that.  I wanted to meet Sam.  Quick introductions were made at the door.  Sam was polite, and cute, and dressed very similarly to Jon.  I approved of her, but of course I would never say that to either one of them at the time.

As soon as Jon was out of the door, Sam turned and together they walked across the porch towards the driveway.  That is when I saw that they each had heavy chains hooked to their belt loops that were attached to a wallet in the back pocket of their jeans.  My husband and I turned and looked at each other when we saw the way they both had those chains on their jeans.  "Soul mates." I said with a smile.  "I think Jon found his soul mate."

The Academic Journey

It was a number of years after that day, that these two graduated from college.  They had already lived on their own but together in New York, Austin, Texas, and then returned to Colorado Springs to marry and begin college.  Soon after they were married, they also had a child, dear Atticus.

Atticus Roberts Christiansen

Those two had a lot going on in those years.  They were working to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads, and keep a car running.  Jonathan mostly rode his bike everywhere.  They also attended college and that meant they were constantly studying and writing papers.  They also showed themselves to be fantastic parents who spent a lot of time enjoying and nurturing their adorable and bright son.

Those years were not easy as they plugged away and worked hard and earned those college degrees.  It seems hard to imagine that is has been twelve years since the day when they met the goal they had set and accomplished that milestone of earning their bachelor degrees.

Jonathan and Samantha Christiansen
Graduation from UCCS
May 2005

Samantha graduated with highest honors and won a full-ride scholarship to work on her PhD at Northeastern University in Boston.  Jonathan was accepted to Boston College.  This meant that in the summer of 2006, we would proudly, but with sad hearts, send this little family of three off across the country to Boston.  Trips to see them and trips home to see us were not frequent, but at least we got to see each other as they continued their educational journey.

As part of the journey, Samantha was granted a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Bangladesh.  She gave up this prestigious scholarship to take a scholarship that would give her enough money to take Jonathan and Atticus with her to Bangladesh.

Boston seemed so far away, but it suddenly it seemed quite close to home when this adventurous and hardworking family took off to the other side of the world to Bangladesh.  They would live and study there for a year and half.  Atticus attended a bilingual French school while they were there.  They kept us intrigued with all of the stories of the adventures they were experiencing.

Once Samantha was finished with her research for her PhD, they returned to Boston from Bangladesh and were able to return to the same apartment building where they had lived before.  Since Jon had finished his MA at Boston college before they left for Bangladesh, he went to work as a researcher studying the effects of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) grants in education.  He worked closely with researchers at MIT and Harvard.  Samantha returned to finish her PhD at Northeastern.  She also by this time had published a chapter in an edited volume about sixties movements.

Dr. Samantha Christiansen
Atticus and Jonathan Christiansen
Northeastern University, Boston, MA

In 2014, Samantha and Jonathan moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Samantha would begin her University career as a professor of history at Marywood University.  Jonathan was able to also gain employment at Marywood teaching sociology.  Their offices, like the two of them have been since they were teenagers, were side by side.

This past year has not been an easy one. Jonathan began working this past summer on his PhD in Binghamton, New York.  This has meant he has carried a full-load of teaching while also carrying a full load as a student.  He also drove an hour each way four days a week to get to and from  his classes in Binghamton. 

The journey these two began into the world of higher education has been a long one and a hard one.  It has also been exciting.  Today, as I looked at those photos of my son and his wife graduating from college twelve years ago, I just shook my head in wonder at all that has transpired since that day. 

Samantha & her mom Jonathan and his mom
Graduation from UCCS 2005

Jon and Sam were both mostly raised by single moms and those two moms could not have been prouder of their two kids on that graduation day.  Those same two moms have missed these two kids and their son terribly as they've traveled the world and accomplished so much. 

It has not always been an easy path that they have followed.  There has been a few rocks in their pathway, and quite a few twists and turns, but they have persevered and been successful in their academic, professional, and personal lives.

As a couple and as a family, Jonathan, Samantha, and Atticus are a pretty tight unit.  I think I was right the first time I met Samantha and saw her and Jonathan together.  They are soul mates.

As I said this past year has not been an easy one, but it has been so exciting because...

wait for it...

These two surprised us all with the most amazing news ever earlier this year. 

News I could not share at the time, but I can now. 

This couple has added to their family and presented me with my eighth grandchild!

 Leon Roberts Christiansen 

was born a week before the end of this semester on April 23, 2017.  

Leon Roberts Christiansen

Can you even believe how beautiful he is?  I know I might be biased, but I honestly don't think I've seen a more adorable baby in a long time.  Probably not since my last grandchild Atticus was born.  This grandma is over the moon.  I can't wait to see him!

True to form, Samantha gave birth to Leon on a Sunday night and returned to teach her classes at the end of the week.  Jonathan continued to teach and write papers for his program.  Thankfully, Grandma Rita flew out from Colorado to help these two with taking care of the new baby while she also kept meals cooked, dishes washed, laundry done, and got plenty of time to hold and love on this adorable baby. 

Atticus now fourteen is getting to know his new baby brother. 

 There is even more amazingly happy news.  

They are coming home to Colorado Springs to live! 

Samantha has been offered and has accepted a job as a tenure track professor at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.  In August, she will begin working as a history professor in the department from which she graduated twelve years ago.  Jonathan will have to stay in Scranton another year to finish up his PhD, so this academic journey is not quite over for him.

Quite honestly, I am so thrilled with all of this good news that I can scarcely believe it.  Come August, I will finally get to hold this precious new family member in my arms while I welcome this family back home.  They will have come full circle since that graduation day twelve years ago.  I could not be prouder of them.

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.  

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.