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.  

For My Grandchildren

This is a letter to my grandchildren, or perhaps, it is a letter to myself.  I’m not so sure my grandchildren will ever even read these words I have to say.  The words in my heart must be expressed even if the ones for whom they are intended never read them.

My grandchildren, my dear grandchildren, you are on the cusp of life.  

The point of transition where all of you now stand is quite dramatic.  

There was a time a few years back, when together you climbed a fence to see what was on the other side.  With curiosity, together you all climbed higher to have a better view of what was beyond where you had been standing on your side of the fence.

Today, you are all four year older.
You are on the side of the fence that represents childhood.
You will quickly go over that fence between childhood and move into adulthood.

One of you has graduated from high school and is going off to college.  

Two of you are going to be getting your license to drive. 
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 I will have four of you in high school this year. 

I will have two of you in middle school.  

I look at this place where you all stand right now, this place where you will soon make the transition into the next stage of your growing up years, and recognize that those days when I was your grandma who took you on adventures to Lagoon, or to penny arcade, or out for an ice cream cone, or to the zoo are fading into the past. 

I must admit that I have tears in my eyes when I write these words.  I wish we would have had more times together.  You all lived far from me, so times together were not always easy to come-by.  Every single moment I have ever had with each one of you is a treasured memory in my heart.

These tears that are falling from my eyes are a grandma thing.  They are sort of like lipstick kisses, and grandma taking too many pictures of you.

The tears are there because I have loved and treasured my days with you as a grandmother.  I hope to have many more days with you all as you move into your futures.  As your grandmother, I also am taking this opportunity to speak to you about the lives I hope to see you live.

I have no doubt that you all will work hard and accomplish much.  You are a talented, intelligent, good hearted bunch of kids.  All of you have so much going for you.  I am very proud of that.  

Of course I want you to 
study hard,
read many good books,
learn those math equations,
turn in your homework,
get to class,
don't skip school, 
put on your seat belts in the car,
drive carefully,
stay away from drugs and alcohol,
make good friends,
respect your teachers,
make wise choices.

There is one more reason why I am writing this letter. 

There is a very important thing I don’t want you to neglect as you move on with your life: family.

We live in such a disconnected world these days.  It is easy to get busy living our own lives and forget about building those relationships that matter.  

Family matters.  

This summer, while most of us were at Ryan and Sheridan’s wedding, I was so thrilled to see how many good times you had with your cousins.  You hiked, fished, toasted marshmallows, played games, stayed up late, and talked, and laughed.  Times like these are more rare than I wish they were, but at least we have them now and again.

While we were together, I had the gift of having lunch with two of you.  We talked about divorce.  We talked about how hard it is for families who go through a divorce.  Divorce has touched our family more times than I wish it had, yet we have also seen new relationships bless our family after a divorce.

I never had to deal with the divorce of my parents.  For that I am grateful.  Even though I have not had to deal with what you are dealing with after your parents have divorced, I know one thing for sure, one must learn to forgive the failures of one’s parents and do one’s own part to make the relationship between the parent and the child a strong one.  Parents disappoint and hurt us.  It is a part of life.  We disappoint and hurt our parents.  That is why we have the opportunity to learn about forgiveness.  

As you move on into life, you have the opportunity to become mature adults and make your own way, but for now, all but one of you need the guidance and wisdom that comes from your mom and your dad.  

I left home at eighteen when I went off to college.  In those days, it was not easy to keep in touch with my parents.  Long distance phone calls were expensive and were only used for emergencies.  I wrote letters to my mom and dad.  I learned that from my father who always wrote letters to his mother until she died.  He was faithful to stay in touch with her on a weekly basis by writing long letters every week even though he was nearly seventy years old.  

As you know, my mom is nearly one hundred years old.  For nearly fifty years, I have made many car trips to see her.  She has never learned to drive and has not been to see me in my home over twelve years.  It has not always been easy for me to make these trips, but as a daughter who honors her mother for who she is in my life, I take the responsibility of making sure I see her as often as I can.

You are all just beginning the adventures you will have in your future.  As you move on into the next year, I am so excited for all of you.  I hope you have much success and a lot of fun discovering who you are and what you want out of life.  I hope you will stay in touch with me.  I love texts, phone calls, or video calls.  I am here.  Call me.  I’ll try not to bug you much, but I will check in once in a while with a text or a call.

More importantly, keep communication open with your mom and your dad.  They are the ones who love you more than any other person in this world.  They have made great sacrifices for you so you have the wonderful material things that you have had in this life.  They have worried over you and cried over you when you are hurting.  They still do this, and they will always continue to do worry over you while they allow you to spread your wings and fly into the future.  As you soar off into those teen years and adult years remember, becoming a responsible teenager/adult involves learning how to love and show honor and respect to your parents.  

Our family has had a lot of sadness in the past few years.  I hope if there is one truth that you all know for sure, it is this:
We are all here for you.
You have grandparents who adore and love you and would do anything to help you.
You have aunts and uncles who adore and love you and are there for you.
You have cousins who will be there after your grandparents, your moms, your dads, and your aunts and uncles are gone.
Your family will always be here for you.  
Each and every single one of you.

My life has been rich in friendship.  My life has given me many great relationships.  The most difficult, and yet the most treasured relationships in my life, have been within the family.  Our family is not perfect, but I hope you all remember that we are all here for you cheering you on as you move into this next chapter of your lives.  Make it a good one.  

I have great confidence in you abilities to make wise choices.  I also know that if and when you make a misstep, and we all do, you know that you have a team behind you cheering you on in your family.  

Text an uncle or an aunt or a cousin, or make a call to you mom or to your dad, or to you grandma and let them know you love them now and again.  We truly are all here for you.  If you need help, ask one of us for it.

Know that I pray for you, each of you, every day.  

I love you all beyond measure.

Grandma Sally

Vienna and A Memorable Evening - Part III

Vienna &
A Memorable Evening

I find it very hard to even write about Vienna because the city seemed to impress me at every turn. According to a guide book, Vienna is known for its coffee and croissants. These two things and much of the architecture of Vienna speak of the Turkish influence. The Turks also brought tulip and hyacinth bulbs and lilac bushes to Vienna. Vienna is at its most beautiful in May. We were there during the waning days of April.

Everywhere in Vienna, one finds evidence of baroque architecture and design. Empress Maria Theresa, mother of Marie Antoinette and 15 others, built Schonbrunn Palace soon after she established Vienna as the of capital of the Austrian kingdom.
She had a great love for baroque design and Mozart. Her influence is seen everywhere. In the photo below, I am pointing to one mom I really have to admire: Maria Theresa, otherwise known as "Europe's mother-in-law." One of her sons-in-law didn't end up doing so well. I guess that is a lesson in why we shouldn't arrange marriages for our children.

I could not even begin to capture through photography the beauty and uniqueness of Vienna. Schonbrunn Palace is as splendid as anything in Europe. We took a carriage ride through the gardens during which I nearly went crazy from the beauty of spring that was budding all around me. When I discovered I couldn't do the sights around me justice, I just put the camera away and enjoyed the beauty . I have included a photo of Schonbrunn Palace.

It was in Vienna where we went to the Museum of Fine Arts and saw a large collection of the Dutch masters. On our way as we walked to the museum, we passed a statue honoring Goethe.
Once, when I working on my English degree and was reading Goethe, I asked Jim if he had ever read anything by written by the German author. "Yes, in German," my husband replied. I found new respect for him with that statement! It
turns out that he read "Faust" in German in college. Jim loved seeing this statue honoring
this famous German author.

It seems that everywhere you look in Vienna you see something made of marzipan. The cakes in this photo are all made entirely out of marzipan.
Speaking of marzipan, before we left for our trip, Jim's niece told us about Mozart balls. "You can't go to Vienna and not eat a Mozart ball," she said. So, of course, that is one of the first things we bought. These delicious little chocolate balls are made of several layers of different flavors of chocolate surrounding a center of marzipan.

An Evening of Music at Kursalon

Before we went on our trip, Jim asked me if I would be interested in attending a chamber music concert while we were in Vienna. Of course, I was interested. One simply can't go to Vienna, the world music capital, and not attend a concert. On Saturday evening, April 24th, we were able to have a very memorable evening listening to musicians play music by Mozart, Strauss and others at the beautiful Kursalon.

Not feeling well when I got to the concert hall, I made my way down two flights of narrow stairs to the restroom and then back up again . Dying for a glass of water "without gas," I asked the bartender if he might be able to give me a glass of water before I went into the concert hall. Jim and all of our friends were already seated and waiting for the event to begin. Graciously, the bartender gave me a glass of cold water and would not accept any money for it. He invited me to step outside to the terrace for some fresh air to drink the water.

If you look at the link I put in this post for the Kursalon, you will see many beautiful statues of Greek gods on top of this building. It is behind and just below these statues where this terrace was located. I stepped out for the welcomed cool air and walked over to the edge of the terrace where I had a view of the moon. From my vantage spot, I could gaze out at the new spring foliage on the trees and down to the drive below that was filled with concert goers in evening dress. The experience was magical. "Just think," I thought to myself. "Here I am, the only person on this beautiful terrace drinking in the beauty of the spring evening as I look forward to listening to chamber music being played in Vienna, Austria." Refreshed, I stepped into the concert hall and let myself be carried away with the music. The power of the music allowed me to fully live in the moment. Forgetting my worries, my tiredness and other bodily discomforts, under the beautiful chandeliers, seated in the front row on a side section, with my wonderful husband at my side, I was one with the musical beauty of Vienna.

Later, I learned that Kursalon means "a spa or a cure." At one time people came her to drink the curative water and listen to the music. It certainly worked for me.

February - Celebrating a milestone reached

Thanks to a blogging buddy, I've been nudged into posting an entry to my blog. Where did February go?

I spent most of the first week of February at CCIRA (Colorado Council International Reading Association) in Denver. It seems at bit strange that I would first attend CCIRA after I had retired, but there is an explanation for becoming a part of an educational conference at this point in my life. I had been asked by a good friend to co-edit the Colorado Communicator with her. Since I really knew very little about the organization itself and the people who held leadership roles in it, I decided to go to the conference. I had a wonderful time attending the sessions and came away with many things to think about and explore. I am actually working on a post about some of the sessions that I attended.

Of course, an extra bonus that I gain from the conference was spending time with my good friend Dr. Linda Button. Linda and I met many years ago at what was then Colorado State College. We lived in the same dorm and we both pledged to Sigma Kappa. While we were never close friends in college, we re-connected about six years ago when I attended a meeting in Greeley at our alma mater, now the University of Northern Colorado, where Linda was a member of the faculty. Since we have both retired, we have tried to make it a point to stay connected. Re-connecting with friends and building friendships are a great benefit to retirement time.

February was also the month where my husband and I tried to jumpstart our diet and exercise plan. I did spend more time at the gym during February than I have in the past few years, but I can't say that I have spent enough time there. My husband has been much more committed, and for that reason, he has had better results.

February is my birthday month. This year was a milestone. I finally was eligible for Medicare. Who would have ever thought that I would celebrate that? I entered retirement a bit naive about the reality of paying insurance. In fact, I went back to work full-time from January to May in 2008 in order to get insurance. At the end of that job, I had to begin paying my insurance through COBRA. Ouch! Finally, at age 65, I no longer have that big insurance bill staring me in the face every month. What a relief!

Every Friday during January, February and March, I have also been attending classes Colorado Master Gardener classes. I've longed dreamed of the day when I would finally be able to take on the obligation of working toward a certificate in master gardening. I knew I would be making a huge commitment when I took this project on. Not only do I have to attend classes weekly for three months, but I also must contribute 50 volunteer hours in order to meet the qualifications for the certificate.

In February, I was blessed with had two special birthday celebrations. My good friend Judy met me in Colorado Springs and took me to lunch at The Margarita at Pine Creek.
We both love this special place! It was so great to laugh, talk and reminisce with Judy. The crazy thing is, it wasn't until she said something about teaching in Alexandria, Virginia, that I remembered, "Oh that's right. Judy is an ESL teacher just like I am." In fact, that is how we met each other. She worked with me at the University as we worked to get the ESL endorsement program put together. Now, our lives don't revolve around professional things. She is now my "retirement model." I hope to someday enjoy retirement as successfully as she does.

East High Girls Gather
At Sally's House
I had a big birthday bash at my house on the day before my big day. Actually, the gathering was a get-together for a group of girls I went to high school with. I am a newcomer to the group. They've met three times a year for over 25 years. I lived out of state when they first began meeting, and just joined the group in November. What a special group of ladies they all are. We all had a great laugh when my husband asked if he needed to turn the t.v. on for us before he left. I guess he thought we would have nothing to talk about. As you can guess, we didn't stop talking, laughing and sharing our stories for the entire time we were together. I love that this group loves and supports each other through the good times, through illness and death, and through the loss of husbands and parents. It truly is comforting to know that I have friends who knew me back when and continue to be a part of my life.