Thursday, June 30, 2011

More Highlights from My Trip to Utah

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

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

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

Cutting back lavender and columbines

Keicha supervised by Lucy Lou weeds her vegetable garden

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Highlights from My Week in Utah

For the past eight days, I spent some time with the Utah branch of the family.  Since four of my seven grandchildren live in Utah, it seems I never get to spend as much time with them as I would like.  They are all growing up way too fast.  It is a treat to spend a few summer days and nights with them.

A Trip to Salt Lake on the Train 

A week ago Friday, my daughter-in-law, three of the grandchildren, and I took FrontRunner, the Utah Transit Authority train, from Ogden to Salt Lake City to meet my son for dinner before my granddaughter's gymnastics meet.  As a railroader's daughter, I jump at the chance to take a train ride.  The kids weren't as enthusiastic about the ride.  It takes too long in their estimation.  My daughter-in-law and I sat back and enjoyed the stress free commute that meant that we didn't have to have two vehicles in SLC.

We had dinner at a fun new restaurant in SLC's new City Creek development called The Blue Lemon.  (Click to read an interesting review from the Salt Lake Tribune.)  It was the perfect place to go for quick dinner for the family.  Not only was the food good, but the setting is fun.  

My son wanted to show me the big development of this area that has been underway for the past few years, so after dinner, we crossed the street for a quick walk through the gardens surrounding the Joseph Smith Building and then back across the street again to the Zion Bank building so we could see the development from my son's office window.  

It is after hours, so my son is not in his banker's garb, but he did indulge his mother by posing at his desk for a photo.

Below is the view from his office.  Those of you who may remember Salt Lake City from the past will recognize this building as the old Hotel Utah.  It is now the Joseph Smith Building.  I once climbed out on the balcony near the top of this building through a window of a ballroom or banquet room with an adventurous boy friend.  That was long ago, but it makes for a good story to tell the grandchildren.  I doubt they believe me as I tell them the story.

Our whirlwind tour of the Temple Square area is over quickly because we need to get to Miss Regan's State gymnastics tournament.

Regan with Hand on Hips
Conferring with Coach

I didn't have a good camera with me to capture my granddaughter's events very well, but I was able to get a few shots to mark the occasion.  

Since #1 grandson is 15 and has his learner's permit, he wanted to drive home.  For me, that was a stern reminder that my grandchildren are growing up way too fast.  Son Ryan decided that since it was dark, the car was full, and grandma, known for her reputation as a backseat driver, was in the car, he would be the driver for the trip home rather that Parker.  

This evening was such a treat for me.  I have too few of such times with my family.  Even though Utah and Colorado are right next door to each other, it is at least a 14 hour drive from my house to my son or daughter's house.  A flight takes a little over an hour and a half in the air, but air travel also means a trip to Denver or Colorado Springs from my house and a trip to Salt Lake from their homes.  I try to suffice with at least a yearly visit, but always wish for more.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thinking of My Dad

I'm in Utah staying with my daughter.  My granddaughter is downstairs making a Father's Day card for her father.  Since my father is no longer living, I no longer have the opportunity to tell him how important he was to me, or how important he remains in my life.

A Tribute To My Father

A Photo of My Father
A Peace Rose from My Garden

The day I was born, my father had to drive my mother to the hospital and then leave for Denver so he could be processed into the army.  At age thirty, he was drafted.  Uncle Sam still needed men, so despite his age and the fact that he had a wife, a child, and another child on the way, he was called up and shipped out.  He liked to say Hitler gave up when he heard my father had joined the army.  In truth, he never went overseas to fight.  He spent his time stateside working as a clerk.  He missed the first year of my life.  I'm sure I missed a lot not having him there also.  I've always loved this photo taken when my father came home from the service in 1946.

It seems difficult to write a narrative about this man who was my father.  I cannot be objective on the subject because I am his daughter and I adored him.  I thought he was terribly funny.  He was funny.  He had a dry wit and could think of the greatest puns.  He had the greatest sense of humor and told the best stories.  He always made me laugh.

I could listen to his stories forever as he drove through the beautiful mountain passes of Colorado.  He knew so much Colorado history.  He loved his native state of Colorado and taught us to protect her beauty.  We spent many happy hours camped along beautiful clear Colorado streams in the summer.  We were taught to always leave our campsite better than we found it.  We were taught not to leave a trace that we had been there.

My father was a reader.  He loved to read.  I learned to love to read because I wanted to be a member of his club.  Reading was such an important part of his life.  He could never understand people who didn't like to read.  He always had a book at his side.  As he got older and suffered from diabetes, he was so grateful for the lending library in Denver who sent him large print books on a very regular basis.

He also liked to write.  He wrote long letters to his children and his mother.  He wrote family histories.  He compiled family genealogy.   He wrote narratives about his childhood memories in Colorado Springs.  He had a large correspondence that he maintained with family members throughout the country who also worked on family genealogies.  I wonder if he would have written a blog.  I wonder what he would think of mine.  He submitted some of his writing about various topics to be kept in the archives of his alma mater, Colorado College.

Actually, Daddy never graduated from Colorado College.  He quit after marriage during the depression when he only had a few hours left to complete.  I don't know if he ever regretted quitting college with so few hours left to complete.  He went to work for the railroad and worked there his entire life.  He started as a clerk and retired as regional manager.  He was always grateful for the good life the railroad gave him, and the good retirement.  He followed his father's footsteps in working for the railroad.  His father was a telegrapher.  I am a railroader's daughter and have always loved the way my life was intertwined with railroad history and lore.  I love my memories of growing up riding on trains.

My father was a generous man.  He was one to always want to help those who might have a legitimate need.  The day before he died, we were gathered in his room talking to a nurse who was sharing her story of fighting cancer and how hospice was such a Godsend to many.  She told of her struggle to get well and to keep working.  We thought Daddy was not aware of what was being said that night.  When the nurse left the room, he said, "Mother, make sure you write a check as a gift to that nurse.  She needs some help."

Daddy was a strong Christian.  He had been a drinker, had a temper, and swore like a trooper when we were younger.  In his early 60's, he gave his life back to the Lord.  The transformation was obvious to all who knew him.  One of my favorite memories is remembering how mother would read the Bible to him every night before he went to bed in the last years of his life.  When he died, he was ready.  He kept saying he wanted to go and be with the Lord.

He was not a perfect man.  He scared off every boyfriend I ever had, or tried to scare them off.  He had a short fuse.  He was demanding.  I always said his bark was worse than his bite.

He worked hard.  He earned a good living and provided well for us.  He was not overly demonstrative.  He did not express his emotions of tenderness.  He was a product of his generation.  Men went to work and earned the money.  Women stayed home and raised the kids.  He expected good behavior out of us, and I lived in fear of disappointing him and bringing on his wrath.

Some of my most precious memories are of his final days on this earth.  I spent the last days at his bedside.  My sisters and my oldest son were there much of the time.  It was a blessing to be there and try to ease those last days that he spent in a body that had been broken down by diabetes and congestive heart failure.

I held those hands that I had always loved a lot of time.  I tried to memorize how they looked so I would remember all they had done for me throughout my life.  They had dug out a basement below our house.  They had remodeled more than one house that we lived in.  They had painted many walls and pounded many nails.  They had caught many fish.  They had held many books.  They had written many letters, memos, and narratives.  They had typed papers in the army on old fashioned upright typewriters and learned to write on a computer.  They had spanked my bottom on a few occasions.  They had been manicured by me when I was younger.  I loved to give manicures, and he was a willing subject.  I miss holding my daddy's hand.

I long ago forgave him of his shortcomings.  I've tried to live my life in such a way as to make him proud.  When I was working, I always used him as my role model on how to conduct myself in the workplace.

He was my daddy.  I was his Sally Lou.  I remember when he died that I was filled with absolute certainty that he loved me, that he was proud of me, and that seemed to be enough for both of us.
Graduation Day
B.S. in Business Administration
Mother & Daddy at My Side

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Anniversary Thoughts

Nineteen years ago today, in a small Baptist church in North Ogden, Utah, two families came together to see one family's mom marry the other family's dad.  I look back on that event and wonder at our audacity to even begin to think that just because two high school sweethearts had been reunited after thirty years apart they could marry and create a happy and successful life together.  Yes, it truly was an audacious act, full of risk, for the two of us to marry.  Sometimes, in the early years when we were trying to blend two families who are totally different together, I think we asked ourselves what were thinking when we thought we could actually pull this marriage off.

Jim wanted to go to Las Vegas and get married.  I insisted that we have our families with us as we took our vows.  Since two of his children were living in Utah at the time and since my children would all be in Utah visiting their father for the summer, we finally agreed to get married in my former church home in Utah.  Since my oldest daughter was graduating from college on June 12, we decided to also get married the same day.  I joked that we would all only have to get dressed up once.

For some reason, only one photo remains that shows the two families coming together as one.  Unfortunately, it has been somewhat destroyed after sticking to the glass of the frame it was in.  But there we all are.  The groom is holding a baby while the bride holds her flowers.  We are surrounded by the configuration of children and their spouses.  The baby is Caleb, Jim's first grandchild. 

We all look so young.  Much has changed since that day.  The children have married and brought their spouses into our lives.  We've added 16 more grandchildren.  We've lost a child to death.  

The two of us supported each other immensely in our careers. We've retired together.  

Some may ask, what has been the secret to the success of this marriage?  For my part, I would have to say there are many reasons we have been able to create a life together that is happy, satisfying, and,  I hope, a blessing to others.  First, he is the love of my youth.  To me he will always be that young man that I fell in love with when I was only 16 years old.  He was then, and remains my true love.  I can always trust him and his character.  He has always treated me like a treasure.  I know of no other man I have ever respected and admired more on both a personal and professional basis.  

Love and respect, plus a commitment to building a team and having some good laughs along the way is the secret to a good marriage.  To the young who are searching for a marriage partner, I would say: Marry a person with character.  Marry a person who treats others with respect.  Marry a person who is humble and serves others.  Marry a person who is wise.  Marry a person who has a great sense of humor.  Marry a man who honors his parents and his elders.  Marry a person who will be there for you no matter what.  I married such a man, and I have been blessed.

Happy Anniversary, Jim!  We've made some wonderful memories together, and I think we need to make more for many more years to come.  I love you.

Our Wedding Day

At the Statue of Liberty
Before a Canon Game
Go South!
A Carriage Ride in Central Park

At the opening to the new science wing
to South High School
Eating out
Our favorite thing to do

Graduation Day with Principal Wessely
and a few of his family members
A photo taken during year one of marriage
Fifty Year Reunion
East High
High School Sweethearts 50 Years Later

Monday, June 6, 2011

Momma Bird Returns

Last year when my husband and I returned home in June after being gone for most of the spring, we found a bird had built her nest on the porch side of the entryway to our house.  I must confess that I am not a fan of birds.  Who knows why I am this way.   Perhaps, Alfred Hitchcock put a fear of bird into my mind. I nearly panic and start screaming if a bird comes flying too close to me.  I like seeing birds in the wild, or even in yard. I love listening to them sing.  I have bird baths in the yard.  I just don't like them in my face or in my space.

That being said, I wasn't sure what to make the fact that a mother bird built her nest on my porch last year.  In someways, I was comforted to think she found my home a place of peace and safety.  I wrote about the birds who had taken up residency last year in a blog post.  You can read about it here, if you are interested.  Once the birds hatched and flown away, my husband took down the nest for me so I could reclaim our favorite spot to spend summer evenings.  There was a lot of clean-up to be done.  The birds had made quite a mess of our porch by the time they had all moved on.

After the nest removal last year, I hoped Mama Bird would move on to some other prime piece of property this year.  That didn't happen.  About five weeks ago, I noticed she had built another nest in the exact same location.  In fact, she had crafted her new nest and laid her eggs before I even realized she was there.  We seldom use the front porch or the front door during the winter and early spring, so I guess not only did she establish residency during a time when things were quiet in her selected spot, but she also was able to take up her new home without us even noticing.

I'm not one to disturb a nest.  I let her stay, but I still went about my business of getting the front porch ready for summer use.  She would fly away when I showed up and would cry from the nearby tree until I quickly left her in peace.  She finally allowed us to keep the front door open so we could see her nesting while we were inside the house.  We could even walk by the door inside of the house without her flying off.

Then, a few days ago, my husband and I went out and bought all of our annuals to be planted for the year.  As is our practice, we deposited on the front porch until we could get them planted.  She was not at all happy with our constant use of the porch on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I noticed she was no longer hovering quite as close to the house, nor was she sitting in the nest on Sunday.  I thought perhaps she had abandoned it.  Feeling bad about that possibility, I opened the front door this morning so I could watch the nest for any activity as I ate my breakfast.  No Momma Bird appeared.  Then, after a short while, I noticed a tiny little head poke up above the edge of the nest.  "Oh, we have babies," I thought.  "The eggs have hatched."  Soon, Momma Bird flew up to the nest with breakfast and began feeding her brood.  My heart was relieved.  I was so afraid she had abandoned her nest because I had invaded her space too frequently.

Now, we probably have a week or two before we can reclaim our porch completely again.  I will be spending my morning breakfast time watching the new babies grow as they get ready to go out into the world.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Year Later ~ A Remembrance Service

Today while I was shopping for flowers, someone I didn't know asked me if I had attended any of the commemorative services held at the local cemeteries this past weekend.  At first, I was quite taken back by the question, not because the woman wasn't being friendly, but because I had held a memorial service for my own daughter on Saturday, May 28th.  Instead of telling this kind woman that I had made two trips to the cemetery in the past week, one for a service and then a return trip to actually bury my daughter's ashes, I just said, "No, I didn't attend any of the public services."

A year ago when Julie died, a number of factors prevented us from actually holding a burial service.  We decided that we would hold a service a year later in Colorado Springs where she would be buried.

It has been a very difficult time for me over the past few weeks as I have questioned my wisdom about waiting a year to actually commit my daughter's earthly remains back to the earth.  I have been torn to pieces inside as I sometimes felt I was reopening a wound that had just begun to heal.  Despite these feelings, fears, and questions, deep in my spirit, I knew it was time for me to take her urn out of my study where it had been for a year, gather loved ones around me, and place her remains in the earth.

Thursday of last week, my oldest daughter and her daughter flew into Denver from Utah.  The next day, my oldest son and his daughter flew in from Utah.  My youngest son was unable to come from the Boston area.  We gathered, surrounded by close friends and family members, at the cemetery on Saturday afternoon to remember our dear beloved Julie and to try to bring another measure of healing into our lives.
My son Ryan 

My daughter Keicha

It was a beautiful, touching service that only lasted about 30 minutes.  We had a box near the grave site where those who wished to do so could leave a letter to Julie.  These letters were then buried with her urn.  We listened to a few remembrances of a beautiful, dearly loved woman who left us too soon and in a way that broke our hearts.  We were blessed to have a few words of scripture read to us by a kind and compassionate pastor.  Our hearts were then deeply touched by the words sung by Sarah Woods in the song which she wrote when she was only fourteen years old entitled "Little Red Balloon."  We then held a balloon release.

My granddaughter Hannah

Sarah Wood singing, "My Little Red Balloon"

After the service, we all gathered for lunch at my niece's home in Colorado Springs.

My niece Cristy

Another milestone has been reached by my family.  Each of us has been on an individual journey, but the time we had together this weekend was precious.   We  have been greatly blessed by such supportive friends and family.  I am strengthened and encouraged by those who have stood beside me and my family this past year.

Now that this past weekend is behind me, I'm glad we chose to have this simple service.  Grief is a process.  We are all at a different place than we were a year ago.  We are no longer numb with shock and disbelief.  Yes, it was painful to go through this past weekend, but it was also very healing in some ways.

Release is an important step that I had to take in my journey toward healing.  As I placed my darling daughter's earthly remains in the earth, I was reminded that we all subjected to the law of ashes to ashes,  dust to dust.  I am also able to lift my eyes to heaven and continue to believe that she is now, and always has been, in the hands of a loving God.