Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Season of Comfort and Joy

A Season of Comfort and Joy

This year it seemed that the Christmas Season was truly one that brought me great

The preparation for Christmas seemed a bit overwhelming at first.  We had not even unpacked all our moving boxes when yet Thanksgiving was upon us.  My daughter Amy visited us on Thanksgiving for a few days.  I told her she could not go home until she put my tree up, and so she did, and there it stood, naked, without a thing on it, for nearly three weeks.  

One day, miraculously, it seemed, the Christmas boxes full of decorations that filled the dining room were emptied, places were found for all the beloved Christmas decorations, the tree was decorated, and the house was ready for whatever the season had to offer.  In fact, when the last Christmas decoration box was put away, I realized that for the first time since we had moved in on October 22, all boxes on the top level of the house had been unpacked!  For the first time since we moved in, I saw the dining room floor, better known as the unpacking place, without one box on it.  This was our first Christmas miracle that brought great joy.

A highlight of the season,
an event always sure to bring 
great JOY
 much comfort,
the East High School Girls of '63 Christmas Party.

The EHS Girls
I love these women!
Sometimes I can't even believe that we are all still together after all these years.
We continue to laugh, and giggle, and make jokes whenever we are together and the years just melt away.
Iris and I, shown together below, comment often on how much this group means to us as the years go by.  Here we are joking about the size of our antlers.

Some of the girls went to grade school together.  I was blessed to meet them all when I was fifteen years old.  When I look into the faces of these beautiful women, I don't see us as older women who have known each other for over fifty years.   I  see my girlhood friends each of whom has the same sparkle in her eyes that was there when we were teenagers.  Some things never change.

High school  friendships that deepen, and grow over the years are priceless.
There are few greater gifts than these rich relationships.

Family time during the holidays also provides great JOY.

I didn't always have a camera with me to capture the wonderful time I've had with family.  Moving to Colorado Springs has meant that I am now back in the same town as my siblings and cousins.  For years, some of the cousins have not lived in Colorado.  In the past year, three of us have moved back to our dear hometown.  My cousin, Diana hosted a wonderful get together at her home just before Christmas.  Having just married her wonderful husband Steve in May, this couple, still honeymooners, were wonderful hosts.  Thanks, Steve for bringing Diana back home to Colorado!

Somehow, I didn't get photos of our first dinner guests in our home.
My brother and his wife came over to share some homemade Snow Chili, cornbread, and great conversation on the Saturday before Christmas.

On Sunday, my daughter and her two children arrived.
Mason is on his way to becoming a great gift wrapper.
I can't talk his mom into wrapping my gifts anymore, but Mason was willing to do so, and he did an awesome job!  

Boston basked in all the love and affection that he received from Hannah.
Hannah, who really, really wants a dog, (so does Mason) spoiled Boston rotten.
He received many hugs, belly rubs, and enjoyed cuddle time with his best girlfriend.

Christmas Eve:  A Time to Celebrate the True Meaning of Christmas

I love this nativity that we purchased a few years ago.
I love that it includes five sheep.
I place the little lamp next to Mary and think of Julie.
I think of her as spending Christmas sitting at the feet of Jesus.

Amy, Mason, and I went to church early on Christmas Eve where we were to meet my sister Carol.
Carol's great surprise and great joy was discovered when she exited her car in the parking lot.
Her son, his wife, and her granddaughter had driven in from California and surprised her in the church parking lot.  We were also so excited to see them home for Christmas.
Sister Carol surrounded by son Erik,
and his wife Nancy and granddaughter Katie
at our home on Christmas Eve

I don't know when I have been to a more deeply moving Christmas Eve service.
Many in the congregation lost homes in the fire this past year.
The service, a beautiful, inspirational candlelight service, reminded us that as was prophesied  in Isaiah

The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light 

Having walked through many a dark day throughout the last few years,
I felt great healing as I sat next to some of those I love most with tears running down my face rejoicing in the birth of the One who came to bring Joy to the World.

After church, our unexpected guests came to the house for dinner.  Thankfully, I had more than enough food.  I was a little worried I wouldn't have enough homemade rolls.  I rationed those until everyone got at least one.  Everyone was impressed that I can still bake good, homemade rolls.  (I was a bit surprised they actually turned out.)

As I told my nephew Erik, it is good to know that when one fixes too much food guests are provided to eat it all!

Christmas Eve in our new kitchen!

Sister Carol with her handsome son
and beautiful granddaughter

Christmas Day

It was so much fun to have Amy and the children here for Christmas morning. 

Amy got a styling new hat!  Doesn't she look great?

The kids were so excited over their gifts.
Hannah got her longed for Uggs.  She looks so grown up in them!

After a brunch of more good food, the kids were off to spend the afternoon with their father.
I discoverd Boston in his bed shortly after they left.
Was he worn out, or was he sad to leave them leave?  I think it was a bit of both.

I took some time to practice using my new camera that my wonderful hubby surprised me with.
Isn't it just beautiful?
I love it.
It is my favorite color!

Then we welcomed the next round of guests who stopped by for a short visit.

Jim's daughter Trinette and her family
Christmas 2012
They were followed by the next guests.
Jim's daughter Thia and her family
Christmas 2012
And so, this is how we celebrated the first Christmas in our new home.

It was a white Christmas.
It was sunny and bright.
And it was filled with great JOY.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I'm Thinking of The Mothers...

I hesitate to write anything about the that terrible event that took place on Friday, December 14, in Connecticut.  What can I add to what has already been said?  Does it matter that I want to tell you that my heart is broken over the loss of those beautiful children who died in an unspeakable way?  Does it matter that my heart is broken that members of my profession died caring for students entrusted to their care?

No, my words of shock, heartbreak, disbelief, and sorrow really do not need to be added to all the other words that have been written in the public forum about this tragedy.  And yet, I must write because my voice needs to be raised so that all those who have suffered because of a senseless act of violence will know that they are not alone.

As a mother...
My heart is broken for those mothers who lost a child on day that most likely seemed like any other day.  I know those mothers never dreamed they would not see their children at the end of the day.  I know the shock that comes when you hear the words that we fear most in life, those words that announce that our child is dead.  I know that shock.  I know that heartbreak.  I have suffered hearing that news, but I did not have to hear that my child, an innocent six or seven year old, was brutally murdered.  I did not have to suffer that.  That, I cannot imagine.

If I could speak to these mothers, I would say...
Your heart will heal, but you will have a broken heart the rest of your life.  This broken heart will ache because you will never again look into those eyes that brought you so much joy.  You will never again hold that dear child again, and you will always ache to do so.  I hope that despite this ache, this pain, this sorrow, and this feeling that life just can't go on, you will find the resilience and the hope and courage to heal.

To the mothers of all those who lost a child at Sandy Hook, I would say...
You are now a member of a club none of us ever wanted to join.  All of us who have lost children hold you in our prayers.  We know of your pain.  We share your pain.  You are truly not alone.  You will heal best if you gather all the support around you that you can.  Grieving is a solitary action in many ways, but it is also one that also requires much support from others.

I was told by a doctor that I should not be afraid of letting go of my child for fear of forgetting her.  I don't know if that was good advice or not.  I only know that she lives on in my memory.  I remember clearly her eyes, her hands, her hair, her smell.  I remember her voice.  I remember.  I will not forget, nor will you.  She lives in my heart, the heart that is broken, the heart that is healing.

To all the parents who lost children at Sandy Hook, I would say...
There are no words to convey my sorrow.  There are no words that can begin to convey the pain that I feel for you as I think of you walking down that path that is in front of you.  I know there will be so many legal details for you to deal with.  That will be hard.  I know there are so many questions that will never be answered.  My prayer is that you will be strong, and that you will weep, but that in that weeping you will find healing.

On the first Sunday of December, The Compassionate Friends Worldwide holds a candle lighting ceremony to remember all  children who have died.  This year, I lit a candle for my daughter Julie.  Next year, I will also remember all of the beautiful children from Sandy Hook Elementary.  Please click on the link below to hear a beautiful song of remembrance for all those whose children died too soon.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Mundane - Scrubbing the Floor

My days are consumed with:
moving things from one place to another, 
 trying to find out where an item fits best.

Adding to the stress of moving things around,
I've thrown in the Christmas boxes
that now 
lined up in dining room
where the other boxes 
all used to

The Christmas tree is up.
It is naked, except for the lights.
It is a pre-lit tree.

Every piece of furniture needs to be
The carpets need to be
The wood floors need to be 

It is the laundry room that is catching my attention today.
The laundry room is
the entryway from the garage,
the place where the dog is 
and where he messily
laps up
 bowls of water.
The laundry room is
the place where the dog is 
when we are not at home.
The laundry room is Boston's room.
The floor is
with dog hair.
It is
muddy and dusty.
No matter how much I feel 
to unpack 
to decorate
the Christmas tree,
I am more 
to scrub 
the laundry room floor.

And so, I 
sweep up
the dog hair that covers the floor.
I then find some floor cleaner, and a rag.
I get on my hands and knees and begin to scrub the dirty floor.

Then, I

Julie was not yet two years old
 in the memory I have of her as I 
the floor on my hands and knees.
On that day, now 36 years ago
I was also 
the floor on my hands and knees
Christmas had just come and gone, and
the other children were back in school.
I was very, very
 with my last child, my fifth. 
Jonathan was born on the last day of January that year.
As a mother of four children under the age of ten,
with another soon to be born,
I was
very tired,
but the huge kitchen floor was very dirty.
On my hands and knees, I
and worked 
my way around the room, 
getting every corner sparkling clean in preparation for the birth that was imminent.

the task of cleaning accomplished,
I headed downstairs to do a load of laundry while the floor dried.

while I was downstairs,
went into the newly scrubbed kitchen.
I remember thinking she was way too quiet upstairs.
That was never a good sign.
When I came up the stairs,
my arms full of clean, neatly folded towels and sheets,
I heard pots and pans banging together.
I went to other side of the kitchen island to investigate.
There was
She had been very busy.
She had taken all the canned goods out of the lazy Susan and put them on the newly cleaned floor.
She had then taken out all of the pots and pans and placed them by the canned goods.
She had then taken eggs and broken them over the cans of food, and the pots and pans.
My floor was a mess.
Julie was happily playing house.
I wanted to cry.

Today, I 
as I 
that long ago day when I had gotten down on my hands and knees
 to scrub
the kitchen floor.
It was a mundane chore then.
It is still a mundane chore.
It is also a chore filled with treasured memories 
of a tiny,
curly haired,
little imp,
my little pixie,
always so busy,
always so inquisitive,
always so creative,
whom had made a mess on newly cleaned floor so many years ago.

I may have been exhausted,
I may have been overwhelmed,
but those feelings are forgotten.

I remember 
 while I
the floor.

Today, the mundane task of 
the floor brought back golden memories. 

I miss you Julie.
I love you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Mentally flipping back the pages of the calendar to November of 2011, my husband and I were struck by all that has transpired in our lives over the past year.  These twelve months has been some of the most difficult days of our lives.  Amazingly, we both have come through health challenges and a major move.  Today, we are happily enjoying our new home and surroundings in much improved health.  Jim will need some surgery in the next month, but in so many ways, we are so much better.   Somehow, just saying that I am grateful for all this healing and change seems a bit trite.  After all, tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  Shouldn't we all be giving thanks?  Isn't that why we celebrate this holiday?

Gratitude is not something I have ever expressed enough.  I sometimes think I grumble and mumble about things more than I give thanks for things.  I take all of the good things in my life for granted too often.  I don't stop and take stock of all of my many blessings.  During the month of November, I have been writing daily facebook posts about those things for which I am most grateful.  Even that practice has not even scratched the surface when it comes to truly assessing the multitude of  reasons I have to give thanks.

This past year has truly been one of the worst in my life, but it also has been the year when I have most been aware of how blessed I have been.  In December of 2011, my husband had a 95% blockage of his LAD that was discovered before suffered what would have been a massive heart attack that most likely would have been fatal.  (You can read about this by clicking above.)  I don't even have the words to express my gratitude for my own ability to  recognizing his symptoms and get him to the hospital.  Thankfully, the doctors were able to save his life by giving him a stent.  Thankfully, he was able to recover his health quickly.

Not even one month after Jim's heart incident, I fell down our basement stairs and had a brain injury.  This injury was followed by months of dizziness and other symptoms that come from a moderate traumatic brain injury.  I also suffered from a debilitating vestibular disorder, heart arrhythmia, and episodes of a very rapid heart beat.  For over six months, I could not drive at all.  I also suffered from anxiety attacks that nearly crippled my ability to carry on my normal life.  During all of this, I also continued to deal with the grief of losing a daughter to suicide just a year and a half before.   Somehow, today, I can say with extreme gratitude, that I am no longer suffering from these symptoms that were robbing me of the life I had always lived.

Many people, those in the healing profession, family, and friends, have brought both Jim and myself to this current place of health.  I have had several women in my life who are in the healing profession without whom I would not be where I am today.

We have had two wonderful realtors.  One helped us sell our home in Pueblo, and one helped us find our wonderful new home.  We had a multitude of friends and family who helped us move from one home and get settled in another.  When I think of friends, I can't forget about all of you in the blogosphere.  You have been an important part of my journey this past year.

I have a mother who prays for me every single day.  She is 96 years old.  I am blessed beyond measure to still have her in my life.  I have four beautiful children and seven amazing grandchildren.  I am also blessed by three stepchildren and their beautiful children.  My family life is rich and full.

This past year, my awareness of how shallow my gratitude expressiveness has been throughout my life was made painfully clear when I read Ann Voskamp's amazing book, One Thousand Gifts.  This book played an important role in my healing.  As I read and reflected on Ann's beautifully crafted words, I struck by the simple truth that gratitude brings healing.  When one is suffering from scary symptoms that cause one to think that life as one knew it is forever changed, it is difficult to feel gratitude.  When one is broken by grief over the loss of a child, it is even harder to find a reason to give thanks.  Somehow, throughout my journey through grief, I have learned that my capacity for appreciating life has gone deeper, my soul has been expanded.

In the margins of Voskamp's book, on April 29, 2012, I wrote, 23 months today next this passage:  "Love's a deep wound and what is mother without a child and why can't I hold on to now forever and her here and me here and why does time snatch away a heart I don't think mine can beat without?  Why do we all have to grow old?  Why do we have to keep saying good-bye?"  These words were so painful to read 23 months to the day after I lost my beloved Julie.  I too had once stroked my beautiful girl's curls.  Tragically, the last time I did so was after she died.  How could I feel gratitude?  How could I not be bitter?  How could I not stop living when I told her good-bye?  How could I go on when I would never again hear her voice or feel her arm draped around my shoulder?

Many days, I sat in my chair and prayed for healing for my husband, for my children, and for me.  Ann writes, "The only real prayers are the ones mouthed with thankful lips."  Wow!  That struck me hard.   I have this wonderful family in my life.  They are the blessings of my life.  How could I not be thankful to have them to pray for?  Many days I feared what the future would hold for all of us.  Finally,  I chose not to live my life in fear.  I chose not to fear losing again.  Ann also writes, "All fear is but the notion that God's love ends."  Since I know in the very core of my being that His for me love does not end. It never has.  It never will.  I am able to be filled with gratitude.

Expressing gratitude frees the mind to see all that one has in this life.  This is premise of Voskamp's book.  She set out to write down one thousand gifts for which to grateful.  It transformed her life while she kept this list.  She helped to change mine as I read about her lists.  She helped me to learn how to be thankful in the midst of much turmoil and illness.  For that I am very grateful.

So while tomorrow will be filled with the traditional Thanksgiving activities, when I give thanks, it will be with a new sense of gratitude for more than I could ever begin to list. The short list will include much thanks for healing, for new beginnings, for a wonderful supportive husband, and for a family of children and grandchildren all of whom bring me great joy and give rich meaning to my life.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Trying to Settle In

Moving is exhausting!
Boston and Jim took some time to rest in the midst of all the unpacked boxes and mess.
Bit by bit, we are getting it done.
We are sticking together and tackling the task ahead of us one day at a time.

I keep being asked, "Are you all settled in yet?"  I just want to answer with a curt, "Are you kidding?"  Tomorrow, we will be able to say, "We have been living in this house for three weeks now."  In someways, those three weeks have seemed like a very long time.  We are growing accustomed to our surroundings.  We are beginning to establish a routine.  This place is even beginning to feel a bit like home.  We are not settled in yet though.

I am still writing this blog from my favorite chair in the corner of the guest room.  I have not yet set up my desk, my office, my writing space.  I did finally unload the top of my desk.  It is no longer covered with boxes.  I have not unpacked any of my office supplies.  I don't even know where my mouse is for the computer.  Thank goodness I use a laptop.  Thank goodness a laptop allows portability and connect-ability.  I think I have finally decided which room will house my office.  I think my husband and I have decided what space will work for his office.  Thank goodness, we are finally getting a vision on how to set this house up to best suit our needs.

We went from a two story house with a full unfinished basement to a one level patio home with a finished basement.  We had four very large bedrooms at our former home.  We now have three bedrooms that are not very large.  Two of our bedrooms were large enough in our old home to allow for space for a bed and an office.  This is no longer the case.  In theory, I went from a five bedroom house to a three bedroom when it comes to space.  What I didn't realize, was that I also gave up three very large closets!  I had a lot of stuff (please note how descriptive that word is!) in those closets.  Now, I am trying to figure out what to do with my stuff.  My new favorite place to shop has become The Container Store!  I am constantly on the search for better ways to store and have access to all that stuff that I need. Believe me, this stuff is the important stuff.  I still have a storage shed full of stuff that isn't important that I need to deal with at some point.  For now, I am just dealing with the important stuff.

The kitchen was the first challenge in this new home.  I also didn't realize that I was giving up a large pantry, a pantry I constantly complained about and didn't appreciate.  The pantry in this house, and the kitchen cabinets, took me about a week to arrange.  I am still rearranging.  My husband, my dear sweet husband who is patient and helps me so much, is still asking me to show him around the kitchen so he can figure out where items go.  I have rearranged quite a few times trying to make sense of where each item should be placed.  It has all been like one big puzzle, but I think the puzzle is finally coming together.

I love my new kitchen.  I love cooking in it.  Yes, I am actually cooking.  That is not something I have done much of over the past 15 years.  Our lives were too busy while we were working.  Then, after retirement, I just never took up cooking again.  I never liked my kitchen before.  I loved how I had fixed it up.  I loved its colors, but I didn't like cooking in it.  This kitchen has less storage, but it is more functional, and I love being in it.

The first floor of our home is finally free of all boxes!  This is something to celebrate.  Now, I have to empty the dining room table of all the china and crystal and get it loaded into the china cabinet.  That doesn't seem like it should be such a big task, but it is.  The only thing I have more of than shoes is china or dishes.  I love dishes almost as much as I love shoes.  The everyday dishes are arranged in the kitchen; now I must take care of  the "good" dishes.  I must get them all put away.  I lamented that I could not remember how I had the china hutch arranged.  Thankfully, my husband had taken a picture of it before we moved.  Now, I just have to look at the picture and not rethink how to arrange it all.

We are finally also making progress on the basement.  A good friend of Jim's came over on Saturday, the second time he has been here to help, and loaded a lot of things into the crawl space.  He brought his seven year old son who thought it was just really cool to take things into the huge crawl space.  Wow, was that ever helpful.  Our friend, Rob, also helped us get a vision for the family room.  I think we know what we will do with the space now.  He is coming back with his family to help us arrange it all and unpack books.  We would not be where we are without the help of friends and family.

It hasn't been all work and no fun.  We take time each day for a walk in our beautiful surroundings. 

On the day after we moved in, I took Boston for a walk around our little block.  Just three houses up from ours, as I rounded the corner, I was again awestruck by the beauty of where we live.  This scene that I photographed is just steps from our home.  This sight, the white sandstone rocks, the stately pines, and the Colorado blue sky, are there for me to admire when I round the corner from my house.  I still can barely believe I have the blessing to live to in this beautiful place.

As I rounded the next corner, I saw a few of our neighbors were checking us out.  Boston and I are the new kids on the block.  I'm not sure what they think of us.

Boston was surprisingly polite while he met his new neighbors.  He sat quietly without barking and kept his distance.  I guess he didn't want to appear too eager to meet the other animals in the neighborhood for fear they would scamper away.

Boston spends most of his time gazing out of the window at his friends.  This keeps him entertained throughout the day.  He has his favorite viewing spots.  This one is in the living room.

Our lives are very different here.  Our vistas are different.  We are settled in a small community of patio homes just over the hill from the Air Force Academy.  We drive two and a half miles from the interstate up a wooded road to our home.  I breathe a sigh of relief, of peace, whenever I drive this beautiful road on my way home.  I am away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and yet, in just minutes, I can be anywhere in the city itself.  We are surrounded by nature, trees, and lot of wildlife.  I saw a fox tonight as we were driving home.  I understand a bobcat lives in the area.  Needless to say, Boston no longer is able to run freely in the yard, but I think he is ok with that.  We give him walks, and he goes to doggie daycare to play on special days.

We have wonderful neighbors.  Everyone has been so friendly.  We are all about the same age.  Most of us are retired.  Everyone stops to chat when they are out and about.  Everyone waves.  We have had visits from our closest neighbors.  They have brought food, flowers, and housewarming gifts.  They have given suggestions on handymen and even helped with advice on where to hang pictures.  We think we will be very happy here.

I have longed for a sense of community.  I have longed to be near my family again.  I worried that my husband would never really adjust to moving to a new town.  So far, we are almost feeling like we are on an extended vacation as we get to know new places to explore.  We are in the honeymoon stage.  This past Friday night, we thought we would settle in and not go anywhere.  For the first time in our marriage, we ate in on Friday night.  (Really, that is the truth!)   For the first time in years, we did not go out for Mexican food on Friday night.  Jim put on his pajamas early.  Then, we remembered we needed something from Home Depot before Jim's friend Rob came over on Saturday morning.  Jim changed from his pajamas to his clothes and we were off into the night.  We drove all over looking for a yogurt place.  We found it and ate frozen yogurt just before the place closed.  On our way home, I said, "We were in a rut before we moved.  It is good to do new things and go new places."  Just tonight, as we came home from another trip to explore new places, Jim said, "I love living in Colorado Springs."  I am so happy he is happy here.

We've had our moments of profound homesickness.  We miss much about our former hometown.  We lived among the most wonderful people in the world.  We lived in a place with great tradition where people have roots that go deep.  We lived in a place that we dearly loved, but it was not where our children and other family members lived.  We were an odd rarity in Pueblo.  Most everyone in that town was surrounded by family.  We were not.  We knew our children would never move back.  That is why we moved.

The move has been very unsettling in many ways, but in others, it has also given us a chance to begin again.  For me that was most important.  I needed a new beginning.  I needed a new focus for my life.  I've never believed a place will make you happy.  I still believe that.  This place will not make me happy, but I know that I will be happy in this place.  Jim told me this past week that he thinks I am happier here.  He is right.  I am happier because I have the opportunity to move on with my life.  We are both able to rebuild again after great loss.  We've always been at our best when as a team we are building something new.

As we settle in, we recognize that we must take it slowly, one box and one day at a time.  We also recognize that we are starting a new chapter in our lives and in our marriage.  This is a something for which we are both very grateful.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day Memories

Election Day Memories
(This post is an edited and updated post of an original post I wrote in November of 2008)

Well, the big day is finally here. I hope you all get out there and vote. I have been thinking a lot about our family and its involvement in politics.  

My earliest memory of things political involves a visit to see President Harry S. Truman when he came to Colorado Springs by train in October of 1952.  He was actually on a Whistle Stop Campaign for Adlai Stevenson.  The photo below was taken in Colorado Springs, Colorado on that very day when I had the exciting opportunity to view the first President of the United States that I remember.  I was only seven years old when I had this introduction to political campaigning.

My parents took us to the train depot that day and stressed how we were not only fortunate to see the former president, but also they wanted us to see history in the making.  My father always brought us up with a rich appreciation for history.  He also taught to take very seriously our responsibility to be informed voters who used our voice by participating in the political process.

My paternal grandparents,  Avery and Elva French were staunch Democrats.  (They are shown in this photo from 1971.)  They always, as far as I know, voted the straight Democratic ticket, and they were very involved in local Democratic politics.  Grandma French was an active member of the Jane Jefferson Club of Colorado Springs.

We all turned out for that day in 1952 to see Harry S. Truman come into town.  I was surrounded by my parents, my siblings, my grandparents, my aunt and uncle and my cousins.  We all loved Harry.  I remember being hoisted up on my father's shoulders so I could see the President.  I still remember the excitement I felt that day.  The memory has stayed with me with great clarity these sixty years later.

Those days, politics seemed kinder and gentler.  Even so, I remember hearing tales from my grandmother of back room deals that were brokered in the game of politics.  Such things always angered her. Politics has never been a game for the faint of heart, but I find the nastiness and dishonesty or half truths that we hear today during a political campaign especially upsetting.  I also am sickened by the money that is spent on campaigns.  I think it is immoral for either party to spend the billions they do on campaigns. I will be grateful to have the current campaign behind us after tomorrow.  I do wonder if we will really hear the end of it after November 6 though.

In 2008, Jim and I went to see then candidate Barack Obama when he came through Pueblo during his campaign.  It was a very exciting day for us.  I try not to be political in this blog, but you will probably guess who my candidate was and is by the photo I am including.  I guess you could say our Democratic roots run deep.  Jim's father was a loyal supporter of Harry S. Truman, just as my grandparents were.

Another Election Day Memory

I haven't always been registered as a Democrat.  I have always had a more moderate view of politics as an adult, and for many years, I registered as an Independent.  When I was a young wife and mother who stayed at home and did not work, I did a few odd jobs to earn money. One job I had, involved working as an election judge. The precinct where we lived in Utah was Democratic. They needed Democratic election judges, so I changed my affiliation to Democratic from Independent. The first election I worked was not a presidential. It was in the early 70's and the home where we voted was in a very poor part of Ogden, Utah. The woman who had the election in her home had done so for years. She was the mother of at least 12 if not 13 children, and she must have weighed about 250 pounds. She was in her late 50's, about 5' tall, and had stark white hair. I thought she was fascinating. During the day, she told us stories about elections and raising all of her many children. She reminded me of the Old Woman Who Lived in A Shoe. This house was tiny! It had three bedrooms, a living room, a bathroom and a kitchen. It was crammed full of furniture, books, papers, junk, and people. This is where our precinct voted! Mind you, she worked hard to keep her home as a polling place because she made extra money for holding the election in her home and by working as a judge.

The other judges and I brought food for the day. There were crock pots of great chili, veggies, chips, cookies and etc. I met some great ladies working as the other judges,  and I met many interesting people who came to vote. Of course, as folks left from voting, the other judges told me all the gossip and life histories of these folks. I just wish I would have recorded the events in a journal.

Times were very different in those days.  The polling places were held in homes, not always in schools or other public places.  There was no early voting.  This year my husband and I voted by mail.  That did not happen in the 70's.
Election Day 1976

In November of 1976, on the two hundredth anniversary of our country's founding, I hosted the presidential election in my home. I finally reached my goal of earning $50 for working an election.  I made $25 for hosting the polling place and another $25 for working.  The polling place had to change in our precinct that year, and my home was selected. Our home was a bi-level, so there were complaints by those who came to vote about the site being moved from where it had been for years, and about the stairs they had to climb.

On the day before the election, my husband and I had moved much of the furniture out of the living room so that the tables for voter check-in could be set up there. Voters then could either vote in booths in the kitchen, or the booths in the basement family room, which also had been emptied of furniture.

I remember that our neighbor was one of the judges. Her ex-husband and son travel around the neighborhood with a speaker system in their truck exhorting people to get out and vote. Julie was just a baby at the time, and Amy was a toddler.

Jimmy Carter won the election. My folks were for him.  I have a letter from them to prove it.  I was not for Carter.  So, as you can see, I have not always voted the Democratic ticket.

In 1976, I used the extra money from working the election to help buy the Christmas presents that you can see in the photo of Julie on Christmas morning in 1976. This was after much of the money had to spent on cleaning the carpets. Do you have any idea how dirty gold carpet gets after a presidential election is held in your home???

I don't remember working as an election judge again after that year. Perhaps, I worked one day in North Ogden. I don't remember,but I have memories of voting in North Ogden, Utah in the home up the street during the year that Reagan was elected. We already knew he would probably be president when we voted in the evening.

This year, history will again be made in this election. Please vote. Record your memories of why you voted the way you did.  I think your children and grandchildren will be interested someday in reading about your views.  More importantly, your commitment to voting and being a part of the political process is a teaching moment.  It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Welcome to our new home!

Our New Home
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Friday, October 19, 2012

Twelve days ago, we posed on our new front porch.  We were happy and excited to be finally moving to our new home.

Wow, were we ever naive.
We hadn't moved yet.
Everything seemed orderly in our lives.
We had finally sold the home we had loved so well for so long.
We had purchased the home we had fallen in love with in my hometown of Colorado Springs.
We celebrated by spending a wonderful, last evening in Pueblo at The Rusted Poppy Inn, a wonderful bed and breakfast.
I'll have to tell you all about that great place later.
I took lots of pictures.
The place is awesome.

The next morning we were supposed to begin our move.
I will spare you the details.
Let's just say we had the move from the hot place.
Our movers were less than competent.
It took them three days to complete the task.
At 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, the third day of this move, I was so fried mentally, emotionally and physically, I left our new home, and my credit card to pay the movers,  in the hands of my competent oldest daughter by marriage, Jim's daughter Thia, and went to the hotel to go to bed.
She, her husband, and her son stayed at the new house waiting for the last load of stuff to come from Pueblo.  Jim spent the night in Pueblo and didn't get to our new home until 5:00 p.m. the next day.
Thia held the mover's feet to the fire until all boxes were appropriately placed in the house and the job was completed sufficiently.
I owe her big time!

That same evening, when we were in the throes of the move, my youngest daughter by marriage, Jim's daughter Trinette, and her husband Nathan and I went out to sit on our new deck for a moment.
The evening air was warm.
There was a slight breeze in the aspen trees surrounding our deck.
I looked out on the beautiful meadow behind us.
I looked west to the mountains so close it seemed I could touch them.
I felt as if I were at a resort in Vail or some other wonderful place in Colorado.
I could not believe I was on the deck of my new home.
In that moment, I knew this place would be a place of
and a place that would truly be
our home.

The next day, October 22, was my husband's birthday.
I didn't have time to give him a card.
I didn't even have time to wish him happy birthday on Facebook.
He was Pueblo supervising the cleaning of our house we had sold and vacated.
I was in Colorado Springs trying to make sense out of the placement of boxes all over the house.
We had guests coming at 6:00 to celebrate his birthday.
Yes, I'm crazy like that.
I have a party with guests on the first night I move into a house!
Finally, at 5:00 my dear husband, the birthday boy, arrived home with Boston who had been kenneled for five days while we made the move.
I captured his birthday portrait on our back deck next to the door that goes to our bedroom.

At 6:00 our guests arrived.
Thanks to Thia and Brad, my husband had cake and ice cream for his birthday party.
His day and our first evening in our home was celebrated by two of his daughters and their husbands, some of his grandchildren, my cousin, and our realtor.
It is good to live by family again.

Happy Birthday, dear Jim.
He celebrated by moving into our new home.

Since that time, we have tried not to be overwhelmed.
Although, I must confess, at times, many times, I've felt like just sitting down and crying.
I still have boxes everywhere.
The kitchen is finally unpacked and everything is in place.
I have the bathroom set up and organized.
The closet is getting there.
Thanks to my sister, my dining room is unpacked and china is sitting all over the table.
Thanks to a dear friend of Jim's, Rob, pictures are hung and other tasks we could not do are done.
My sister Carol has been a lifesaver.
We've had a lot of fun playing house, arranging furniture and moving things around.
Thanks, Carol.

Tonight, I am sitting in our guest room.  It is in shambles.
My desk is not functional. It is still covered with boxes.
The family room looks like something from an episode from the hoarders.
So does the garage.
So does the storage room.
So does the other guest room.

I don't know when I will dig out.
I am trying to take it one box at a time.
I am trying not to obsess over my need for order.

We are both a bit homesick.
Jim was terribly homesick on Sunday.
Today, I am.
"Do you feel like this is home yet?"  I asked Jim after dinner.
"No, not yet.  How about you?" was his reply.
"No.  Not yet."

Home where is it?
At times, I step outside and I feel the air, look at the mountains, and am filled with great peace because
I am home.
I drive the familiar streets of my hometown.
I am home.
I am happy.

I also am in a state of unsettledness.
I'm not home yet.
I miss my old home.

The sermon I heard on Sunday summed it up.
I sat next to my sister and listened to the words of the pastor and listened to the familiar voice of my sister singing.
It made me realize we all have a longing for home.
This place will never be my home.
I hope to make this temporary earthly home a place of peace, a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle we faced for so many years.
It is good to be in a place where old memories of loss do not linger.
It is good to be starting over.
I have new energy and new interest in making this house a home we will enjoy.
We are located in a bucolic setting.
I am amazed at the beauty that surrounds me.
I have been greatly blessed with this new place of residence.
I also know that my longing for home will not be satisfied on this earth.
These places where we live are only temporary.
They hold great meaning,
but they are not our final destination.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Our Last Sunday in Pueblo

No Place Like Home

As on every other Sunday, we sat in the "newspaper room" in our twin chairs reading the Sunday morning newspaper.  The pink chairs were purchased when we moved into this home 17 years ago.  I was expecting my first grandchild at the time.  I remember the salesman telling me these were perfect grandma chairs because they rocked and they swiveled.  I wasn't sold on the pink, but the chairs were so comfortable, and they did rock and swivel.  

Now, the chairs are very worn.  They are no longer pink.  Newspaper print has rubbed off on the fabric.  Babies have been rocked in these chairs.  Christmas morning activities has been witnessed from these chairs.  Easter egg hunts have been witnessed by these chairs.  My chair, the one on the right, held me when I heard the worst news of life. It was here where I heard my Amy say, "Mommie, Julie is dead."  

Still, this chair is always a comforting place for me to go.  It speaks of home, of family, of times with my husband as we rehashed what we read in the paper.  Back in the day, when my hubby was working, I'd sit in this chair reading and say, "I see you made the newspaper today."  Thankfully, he always seemed to garner good press.   One morning I read he had physically apprehended a student who had a knife in his hand as the student attempted to exit the building after making a threat.  That was after I had asked him what had happened at work the day before and had received the reply, "Nothing really."  When I read the news clip to him saying, "I thought you said nothing happened at school yesterday."  He said, Oh, that's right.  I forgot."  I guess it was just another day in life of a high school principal.  

Yes, this room, these chairs hold many memories.  We will take the chairs with us.  We've talked of getting rid of them since they are so unsightly.  I think they will make the move.  We will reupholstery them.  They are comfortable.  They rock.  They swivel.  We do like them.  It is the room we will leave behind.  This room, called the "newspaper room" by the grandchildren, was the setting for our last Sunday morning paper reading today.  I raised my coffee cup to my husband and said, "Here's to this room and our last Sunday in it."  

Sunday Routine

We needed to keep packing, but the sun was shining.  The weather was warm, and we needed to settle our minds about leaving the place where we have lived for so long, so we went to the Pueblo Riverwalk for one last Sunday walk with Boston.  We go to the riverwalk nearly everyday, but Sunday is a special day because so many others are there walking when the weather there on Sunday afternoons.  Located in the heart of Pueblo, a walkway runs beside the historic route of the Arkansas River.  Just this past week, on a beautiful fall afternoon, I spotted a beaver in the river that runs right through the middle of the city.  Can you see him in the middle of the photo?  Good thing I had my iPhone with me.  

Beaver swimming at the Pueblo Riverwalk
I captured this photo from the bridge over the river
We couldn't spend our last Sunday in Pueblo without going to our favorite spot to spend a Sunday afternoon.  We ran into friends who were either walking or eating on the pizza on the patio at Angelo's.    I don't think we can take a walk on a Sunday without spending at least 15 minutes chatting to friends along the way.  We will miss this.

How could we have our last Sunday in Pueblo without buying popcorn from Taffy's?  Well, we didn't think we could, so we went to get our Sunday popcorn.  They were closed!  How can that be?  The sign on the window said, "Closed.  No electricity."  That is when we remembered that the power was out all over downtown because there was a fire at the electrical plant.  We had learned that while chatting with our friends at the pizza parlor.  The waitress had come out to say to our friends that they were having some difficulty with the bill because the power was out because of a fire at the power plant.  Our car was parked right next to the power company, so we saw all the commotion as we left to go get popcorn.  I guess we should have known.

Another routine for Sunday involves Boston being groomed by Jim.  We came home so Jim could get that done.  The last roses were blooming.  I've tried to ignore the roses this week.  The sprinkler system is off.  They are not getting watered.  I decided to just let them die for the season and not get emotional. As I stepped onto the back deck to watch the grooming, I saw my beautiful Easy Does It rose was not done blooming yet.  I decided I had to snip the last blooms.  I could not let them remain on the bush to die.  I had to enjoy their beauty.

Try as I might, I can never quite capture the richness of the colors of this rose with a photo.  Of course, perhaps I should try to photograph it with something other than my iPhone.  We do have a fancy camera around here, a Nikon D90, but I never bother to get it out.  I guess I am not a serious photographer at all.  Despite the poor attempt at photography, I am amazed at the colors that do show in the photo below.  

Easy Does It
We may be in a state of chaos around here.  I haven't cleaned for several weeks.  There are boxes all over the place.  We are moving, but I decide I need one last round of roses in the house.  This bouquet was for the table next to my chair in the family room.  The roses go in my two favorite vases next to my favorite portraits:  one of father, and one of Julie surrounded by my seven grandchildren, her beloved nieces and nephews.  This week of goodbyes will go better with roses in the house.

I was struck by the absolute beauty of this:  the last full bloom from the rose bush I planted in memory of Julie.  It was the best full bloom from this plant I'd picked all summer.  It seemed to say, "I've saved the best for last."  

This day, our last Sunday in Pueblo, blessed with perfect fall weather.  We spent it doing what we love to do.  The day was full of sunshine and the colors of autumn.  The reds, the yellows, the oranges of fall put on a wonderful show of vivid color for us today.  

At home, I then was blessed with this rose.  The tinges of yellow blending into vivid orange softened by light pinks and apricots around the edges of this beautiful rose reminded me of a sunset.  Drinking in a beautiful sunset at the end of a day always brings such joy.  One is grateful for such a gift that reminds us of the blessing of that day as it ends.  Such is the feeling I get as I look at this rose.  Our days in this place that has been our home for so long are coming to an end.  Jim has lived here nearly 61 years.  I have lived here 20 years.  This is the town where we met as teenagers and where we have lived as married couple.  We will miss it all so much.  We will miss the town, the people, our home, our special spots around this house, our garden, our flowers, and so much more.  We carry so many memories with us as we go into a new day.  This season may be ending for us, but we are not done blooming yet.  We are off to cultivate new memories in a new place.


I'm adding my daughter Keicha's post about our dearly loved home.  Read it here:  Letting Go.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Time with Dear Old Friends I'd Never Met

The title to this blog post may make no sense.  The title is an oxymoron.  It seems to be a contradictory statement.  The casual blog reader may ask, "How can the author of this post spend time with dear old friends with whom she has never before met?"

If you are a blogger, you may understand completely what I am talking about in the title.  I've never met  most of my blogging friends.  Even though I've never met my blogging friends face to face, I consider so many of them dear, dear friends.   Somehow, someway, friendships are formed in Blogland, and these friendships become very important to the daily lives of many bloggers.

It is difficult for me to describe how much these blogging friendships have meant to me over the past two years.  Exploring that topic will have to left for another day.  For today, I am just going to tell you a little about the time I spent with some of these treasured people I met online.  These folks share themselves and their lives with me and others in this unique place we call the blogosphere.  According to Wikipedia, "The blogosphere is made up of all blogs and their interconnections.  The term implies that blogs exist together as a connected community (or as a collection of connected communities) or as a social network in which everyday authors can publish their opinions."  While I like the Wikipedia's definition of the blogosphere, I think it does not begin to describe the interconnections and connected community that actually has been developed and established between some bloggers.  

Friends from Blogosphere meet face to face

Betsy and George

I'd always hoped I'd meet with at least one of my friends I'd made online, but I'd never met any fellow bloggers until just a few weeks ago when one of my very favorite blogging friends Betsy from Tennessee and her husband George came to Colorado on vacation.  (click on Betsy's and George's name to see their blogs.)  

Betsy had contacted me several months ago to tell me of the travel plans she and her husband George were making.  She said that planned on coming to Colorado Springs and hoped we could arrange a meeting while they were in town.  Emails went back and forth where dates for the visit were given and then plans for how we would spend the time began to take shape.  I cannot tell you how excited I was to actually get to meet Betsy.  She has been such a dear and supportive friend to me ever since we met online several years ago.  

Betsy and Sally finally meet
I knew that Betsy would be just like she was:  bubbly, happy, positive, charming, interesting, full of energy, intelligent, and loving.  I knew she would look just as she did.  I knew we would connect instantly because we already had done so online.  My husband and I met both Betsy and George at a wonderful restaurant at the foot of Pikes Peak after Betsy and George had driven to the top of Pikes Peak.  Did I say that these two are dauntless?  They are the ultimate explorers and adventurers.  They love waterfalls and mountains.  Their love for these two outdoor destinations go hand in hand with their love for hiking and photography.  I love following them in their adventures on their blogs.  

After lunch, it was my great delight to take Betsy and George to see one of my most favorite vistas in the entire world.  I love the spot where I photographed them standing with the beautiful red rocks of Garden of the Gods behind them.  Note that blue sky!  Note those sunny yellow shirts on two very sunny people.  Don't you just love the colors in the photograph?  The colors characterize the day.  My husband and I had the privilege of spending a beautiful late summer day in September walking among those red rocks under a perfect blue sky in colorful Colorado with two lovely folks from Tennessee.  Can you think of anything better?  This day confirmed what I already knew.  Blogging friends are the BEST!  Blogging friends are treasured, dear old friends.  

A Weekend with Blogging Friends

Just a few weeks after meeting Betsy and George, I then had the experience of meeting a group of blogging friends and spending the weekend with them on Vashon Island in Washington State.  Yes, this past weekend, I spent time with five other dear old friends I had never met.  

A few months ago, one of my other blogging friends, Linda, from Bag Lady in Waiting, sent me an email asking me if I would be interested in meeting a group of other blogging friends.  Of course, I said, "Yes!  Count me in."  Again, emails went back and forth as plans were made for six of us to find a time and a place where we could meet and spend the weekend together.  Finally, the day arrived, and I flew off to Seattle to meet five other women I had met and grown to love through our communications online.  Each one was very special to me, and each has played an important role in my adjustment to retirement, and to the loss of my daughter. 

Can you imagine the excitement we felt when we all first met at our weekend retreat spot, Lavender Hill on Vashon Island?  Please check out this website for this place.  You will begin to see just how special the spot we chose for this wonderful weekend was.

The sight of those women, dear old friends to me and to the others, all in the flesh in one spot, was almost unbelievable.    
Hello!  We finally meet!
Deb and Sandi greet Linda & D.Jan
as Jann and I wait our turn to hug our dear friends.

Unfortunately, I discovered I didn't have the battery in my camera when I got it out to take photos.  Can you believe it?  I carefully charged the battery before I left and then must have dropped in on the floor while I was packing.  All my photos were taken with my iPhone.  Thankfully, I managed to get one photo of the group with my phone.  This group below is made up of the most awesome women.  Each one is a treasure to me.  Please meet my friends:  Sandi  from Flying into the Light; Deb from Catbird Scout; Linda from Bag Lady in Waiting; D.Jan  from DJan-ity and Eye on the Edge; and, my very first follower, Jann from Benchmark 60.  

Sandi, Deb, Linda, D.Jan, and Jann
Ladies at the Lighthouse
Ladies I can count on to shed some light on many topics

I will be writing more about these experiences later.  For now, I just wanted to tell you of my experience when I stepped out of the blogosphere and spent precious and treasured time with dear old friends I had never met.