Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring Break

Who knew that even retired people need a break?
As a former teacher and a former principal, my hubby and I always looked forward to spring break which has always been held the last week of March in our school district.
I guess those dates are burned in our brains because we decided that it was time for us to take a break.
We sent Boston to the kennel.
We packed up the car.
We headed out of town.

We have spent the last four days with family in Utah.
It has been glorious to be with them again.
Pictures and details will come later.

Now, we are relaxing in the beautiful town of Springdale, Utah.

Springdale, UT
from Google maps
We will spend the next few days touring Zion's National Park.
I am hoping for some much needed time of rest, relaxation, and restoration.
I will catch up with all my blogging friends when I get home next week.
I hope the sun is shining wherever you are, and that you are enjoying some beautiful spring weather.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Book Review ~ Gilead

GileadGilead by Marilynne Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It has been a long time since I've read a book that touched me so deeply and profoundly as this beautifully written book has done.  Rarely does one find a book so well written in such a thought provoking narrative prose.  The imagery in this book would stay with me as I went about my daily activities.

The themes of the book caused me to reflect on the great importance of embracing the simple beauty of the Christian faith when it is lived out in a humble way by those who attempt to act "from faithfulness to the truth" as they see it.   Some of the themes that I saw were: visions, baptism, communion of the Saints, forgiveness, war, race, ageism, parenting, the Prodigal, loneliness, history, and faith.

The narrator, John Ames, an elderly preacher dying from heart disease, tells his story by writing a missal of sorts to his young son.  He says, "For me writing has always felt like praying..."  Certainly, reading the book, I felt as if I were reading his prayers as John Ames struggled with his own humanness, his lack of faith, his faith, his struggles with forgiveness, and his need to understand the past and leave a story of what that past meant to him for his son to read.  He is committed to "Trying to say what was true."  He also is trying to make peace with himself and his lack of forgiveness and understanding.  He is bothered by his heart that keeps acting up and leaves him feeling old and tired.  He expresses his desire to die with a quiet heart.  In the end, I believe he did.

Gilead is about the past.  It is about a family caught up in abolition.  It is about how a pastor, a church, and community comes to terms with  war; in this case, the Civil War.  He speaks of how one generation does not embrace the struggles and visions of the generation preceding it, and acknowledges "we live in the ruins of lives of the other generations.

Gilead is a rich narrative.  The story is one stays with the reader.  It is about a bygone era.  It is about the times of our grandparents and great-grandparents.  It is how they connected to their times, their land, and their faith.  I felt at times as if I were reading my own family history since my great-grandfather who lived in Iowa served in the civil war.  It is also about how those who remembered those times tried to understand and adapt to the times just after World War II.

Community, and connections between long time friends is an important part of the story.  I loved the simplicity of the story, and yet the construction of the literary aspects of the book were quite complex and satisfying to ponder.

Gilead, according to Wikipedia,  says the biblical meaning of Gilead "means hill of testimony or mound of witness."  This image is seen throughout the book as John Ames connects the land to people, and people to their faith.

I will revisit this book.  I will read it again.  I know there is much more I can learn from this book.

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Treasured Friends ~ Treasured Times

Every three months, my dear high school friends meet for lunch.  This has been going on for over twenty years.  Most of us live scattered along the Front Range of Colorado from the Denver area to Pueblo.  The drive doesn't stop us from getting together.  We have our calendars marked three months in advanced for the next scheduled meeting of the group.  It seems there always a few who can't make it, but we nearly always have at least 12 to 15 girls (ladies) in attendance.  

In 2010, the weekend of a class reunion for the first four classes of our school, we held a special breakfast gathering for all of the girls from our class who were in town for the reunion.  That was our largest gathering ever.
EHS Girls of '63
Summer 2010

Yesterday, we had a very special Saint Patrick's Day gathering.  Originally, we were supposed to meet at my house, but Iris stepped up to the plate as the back-up person and held the party at her house.  Thanks, Iris!  She made sure we would all be decked out in a little green.

There are some great traditions that group continues to hold:

  • The hostess provides the main course or meat dish.  This year since our gathering was held on St. Patrick's Day, two others and I fixed corned beef.  

  • The others always bring the side dishes, appetizers, and desserts.  This time we had wonderful potatoes, boiled cabbage, a dish that combined cooked carrots, parsnips, and parsley, salad, Irish soda bread, and wonderful Irish oatmeal cake.  All of it was simply delicious.
  • The group always makes a toast to those who have passed on and are no longer with us.  The toast started to honor Shirley Boyce, one of the original founders of the group, who passed away from breast cancer a number of years ago.  Now, we also remember our dear Judy who passed on in November of 2010.
Making a toast to those who have passed on.
December 2011

  • Before the margaritas are mixed, we always have to find out who the virgins are.  Or, at least we find out who wants a virgin margarita.

The three virgins
  • We also must take the group photo as soon as we get there.  This is done right away so we don't forget to take it, and so we still look somewhat fresh.
EHS Girls of '63
Spring 2011

EHS Girls of '63
December 2011

  • We try to always have a time when we sit down and go around the circle and update each other on what is happening in each other's lives.  This is where we celebrate the victories or support the hard times.  This group of ladies have all been through some rough things such as cancer, high blood pressure, loss of spouse, illnesses, loss of children, and divorce.  They are truly there for one another, and they have made the commitment to each other to be there when there is a need.  The deep concern, love and support that this group gives is just amazing.
Each time we get together, I am reminded that when my girls give a hug, they mean it.  

A hug from a favorite hugger:
Getting hugs
Getting the food set up go together

While no one is celebrated more than any other, we did have a few special attendees and guests yesterday. Dove came all the way from Vermont to attend the gathering which also happened to coincide with her birthday.  

Dove & Sally
March 17, 2012
Back in September of this past year, Dove and I were together at her beautiful home in Vermont on the same day as the girls were meeting back in Colorado.

Dove & Sally
Vermont, September 2011

Dove & Eileen catching up
and reminiscing about days going as far back as kindergarten
A birthday cake was in order since it was Dove's birthday.  I wrote about Dove in this post.  The first date with my husband was when we attended her 16th birthday party. She is the person who lined me up with this wonderful man I married.  Thanks again, Dove!


 In 2010, the group met at my home on my birthday.  I remember how thrilled we were that our dear friend Judy was well enough to join us.  She is sitting in the gold chair.  She had been through a really rough spot just before our gathering, but she made sure she joined us.  A few months later, her illness in remission, she looked so well and healthy at our summer reunion gathering.  (She is seated in the front row of that photo and is wearing a turquoise colored pair of slacks.)  Sadly, she would pass away just months after that.  True to the commitment this group has to each other, and true to the love they have for each other, many from the group met at her bedside as she was moved to hospice and just a short few hours before she passed away.  
EHS Girls '63
February 2010

Yesterday, the other special guests who joined us for dessert were Judy's granddaughter Maddie and her husband Ted.  It was so good to see Maddie, who seems to be doing so well.  She totally got into the St. Patrick's Day theme and made sure she was decked out in green from head to toe.  

EHS Girls '63
with Ted & Maddie
March 2012
As Dove drove me back to my house, we talked about how wonderful the gathering had been.  It was the first time Dove had actually been able to attend with us.  Although she had been at the summer reunion in 2010, she had never experienced the small intimate group.  We remarked how wonderful it is to be with the girls we grew up with. I find these times together with the group so affirming and grounding for me.  I think Dove summed it all up best when she wrote on Facebook,  I felt very nourished and energized by spending a few hours with them. Wonderful open hearted hugs and deep caring for one another, the power of women is a beautiful thing to experience.

There is an authenticity to the group that one seldom finds.  We know where we came from, who we are, and what we have been through.  Some of us knew each other's parents and siblings.  We remember the neighborhoods we grew up in together.  We remember our teachers, and we remember how we just never had enough time to talk and got in trouble in class because we couldn't stop talking.  In fact, we shared and talked non-stop from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m yesterday.  Then, sadly the clock said we had to part again, but we will meet again in three months.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

From One Shoebox to Another

A Review of the iPhone App Shoebox

Some background on the app:

In my last posting, I made reference to Shoebox and 1000 Memories.  One of my blogging friends,  Rosaria  from sixtyfivewhatnow asked me about the app I used to download the large family portrait I included in the blog post.

For those of you who may not know about Shoebox and 1000 Memories, I thought it would be fun to share what I have been doing with this app.   My daughter Keicha, who blogs at o-townramblings,  first told me about this app a few weeks ago.  This post will not give technical information about the app because I am not very good at giving technical information.  If you need technical information, go to  If that doesn't work for you,  just download the Shoebox app onto your iPhone, and I'm sure you will be walked through the process.  Thankfully, my daughter walked me through the process, and then, unfortunately,  I forgot it all.

The concept behind the idea of Shoebox and 1000 Memories is the brain child of Rudy Adler and Brett Huneycutt.  Their goal is to "turn the world's smartphones into tools to digitalize the estimated 1.8 trillion fading and yellowing snapshots that people have lying around in their attics, garages and picture albums..."  Isn't that an awesome idea?  I  didn't know anything about the creators of this app or the genius of their idea until after I had actually downloaded the app and started using it.  I then read about the app in yesterday's Denver Post.  (Click to read the article.)

I guess Mark Zuckerberg also thought this app was cool because now he and Facebook have joined forces with 1000 Memories in order to allow users to add the photos from their newly digitalized photos to their timelines on Facebook.  I haven't quite gotten that far yet.  None of my photos are on Facebook, but I hope to share them with family using that format soon.

Using the app:

I had the perfect opportunity to practice using this new app this past weekend when some of my cousins, an aunt, and I gathered at the home of an aunt who passed away a few years ago.  The home still contained many family mementos, and my cousin wanted us to come by and take what we might want so she could get the house ready to rent.

One of the treasures we found was this large framed portrait of my grandfather.  My aunt said she would like to take the portrait of her father home with her.  As we stood admiring the portrait some of us had never seen before, I suddenly remembered I had Shoebox on my phone.

A. French
Binghamton, NY
Since the portrait was framed and behind glass, with my aunt's permission, we took the portrait from the frame because I couldn't capture a good scan using my phone due to the glare from the glass.  The next problem to be solved involved trying to place the portrait on a table and get a good scan.  I saw an easel, so I put the portrait on the easel and then used the phone to scan the portrait.

We discovered my grandfather's handwriting on the back of the portrait.  He had recorded when and where the portrait was taken.  He also noted that it was taken in his uncle's studio by his uncle.  I was able to also scan this handwritten documentation using my smartphone with the Shoebox app.

As we went through dishes, glassware, and such, I discovered a shoebox full of old photos.  I took just a handful and scanned them.  Here is a sampling:

This photo was taken in my grandparent's backyard when my father came home from the service in January of 1946.  My father is holding me, and my brother is standing at his side.  I have a photo that is similar to this that includes my mother, but had never seen this particular photo.  I love this photo because it records the first time my father spent any time with me as an infant because he was drafted into the army on the day I was born.

This priceless treasure was taken the same day.  My father is shown in this photo with his two brothers who were also home on leave.  My Uncle Charles was a paratrooper, and my Uncle Bob was in the Marines.  As I understand it, Christmas was celebrated on the day the photos were taken because the family waited for the boys to come home before having Christmas.  My grandmother recorded the date on the back of the photo as January 20th, 1946.
My handsome father
his handsome brothers
This photo was bit of a challenge because it is in color.  I found that by placing the photo on a white paper, I could scan it more easily.  This photo was also taken in my grandparent's backyard, and it is of my brother.  I would guess he is about two years old.

This portrait of my mother sits in a frame in my office.  I did not remove the photo from the frame because I was experimenting.  As you can see, it is difficult to get the edges straight by holding the phone and scanning if one does not place the photo on a flat surface.  I can crop this using the app, but included it so you could see that some of the scanning takes some time and proper placement of the item being scanned.

I love this portrait of my beautiful mother.  She had this taken while my father was away in the army so he would have a picture of her to carry with him.  This same portrait was on a dresser in my parent's bedroom when I was child.  I remember studying it once when I must have been about five years old.  I was struck by my mother's great beauty.  I ran in the kitchen and looked at her and said, "Mama, did you know you were pretty?"
This photo of my sister and me was taken by a neighbor who was learning how to take portraits.  He posed us in front of his living room window after he positioned a hose on window.  He wanted to create a scene that appeared as if two children looking outdoors on a rainy day.  He entered a large portrait of this exact pose in a contest and won first prize.  For a number of years, this portrait of the two of us hung in the Fine Arts Center of Colorado Springs.

I was able to scan this from a 8 X 10 framed copy that I now have in my study by placing the photo on a flat surface and scanning it with my iPhone.
Sally and Carol
Finally, I am sharing the first scan I took using Shoebox.  This photo was one of the poses of my daughter Julie taken for her senior picture.  I love this photo of Julie because it captures her smile, her eyes, and her hair so well.

Not long after her death, I was reframing the photo and decided to trim the sides to fit it into the frame better.  I'd forgotten she had written on the back of it.  I was devastated to think I had destroyed part of the message she had written on the back.  With Shoebox, I was able to easily scan her handwritten message so it would be saved with her photo for others to see.  

She wrote:
This is one to show my hapiness & I would like for 
you to show it to me when I'm down to show me 
a smile lights the world.  Even though
you make me feel better just being around.

Yes, the photos are "often among the most prized, and least seen of people's possessions."  I love having a way to save and share these treasures in a format that also allow one to tell the story behind the pictures.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Act III, Scene II

"Just give me a stage," I've often said.  Perhaps that is one reason I enjoyed teaching high school English.  I was front and center on stage everyday.  

My love for the stage began in high school when I joined the drama club and began to audition for high school plays.  My favorite class my senior year in high school was drama.  That year, I had a leading part in several plays.  

Perhaps, my love of plays and acting were one reason why I was drawn to the poem below by Madeleine L'Engle the first time I saw the title in print during the 1980's.  On my first reading of the poem, I found myself relating to what she had written at a very deep level.  

*The Main Characters in  My Life
My Cast of Thousands

"Act III, Scene II"
                            By Madeleine L’Engle

         Someone has altered the script.
        My lines have been changed.
        The other actors are shifting roles.
        They don’t come on when they’re expected to,
        and they don’t say the lines I’ve written
        and I’m being upstaged.
        I thought I was writing this play
        with a rather nice role for myself,
        small, but juicy
        and some excellent lines.
        But nobody gives my cues
        and the scenery has been replaced.
        I don’t recognize the new sets.
        This isn’t the script I was writing.
        I don’t understand this plot at all.
        To grow up
        is to find
        the small part you are playing

in this extraordinary drama
written by somebody else.

When I first read this poem, I was just going through a divorce I did not want and it seemed my life was upside down.  Suddenly, the part of wife and mother I thought I would play throughout my life was being ripped away from me.  The story of my divorce 30 years ago, and the subsequent fall-out from that divorce, are not the topic of this blog post.  That is a story for another day.  

This poem spoke to me all those many years ago because I realized I had limited control over the script of my life.  Even though I fancied myself an author who was writing a stage play that I thought I rather liked, I learned that the other leading character in the play did not like his role, or perhaps he didn't like the lines I wanted him to speak, or it might have been the final outcome of the play that he did not like. In the end, the author of the play, that would be me, had to do a rewrite.  

The script of my life that I thought I would write hasn't really gone the way I had it in my head even after I started working on the re-write.  I had no idea of the joy and the tragedy that be included in my new script.  Lately, the characters have been shifting in the major and minor parts that I thought they would play.  Believe me, "I don't understand the plot at all."  I think I am beginning to really understand the last few lines of the line of the poem.  I am coming to accept my part in this grand drama of life.  

I have a very small part.  I can't write the script.  I can't even direct the production of this drama.  I can't write the parts the other characters who share the stage with me are playing.  

Thankfully, I continue to fully trust in a Sovereign power who has control over the entire production.


*This family portrait shows the entire Wessely-Christiansen family.  The group includes all of my husband's children, sons-in-law, and grandchildren, and all of my children, sons-in-law and daughter-in-law, and my grandchildren.  Only one daughter-in-law is missing because she was studying out of the country when the portrait was taken.  This portrait hangs in our family room.  I used Shoe Box 1000 Memories to take the photo of the portrait which was originally photographed by Portraits by Leslie in Pueblo, Colorado.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Birthday Wishes to My Daughter Amy

Our birthday celebrations are usually linked together because they both fall within a week of each other.
I will miss not being there with you this year.

Amy, or as your name means,
I don't know what I would do without you.
You are the one who talks straight to me.
You are the one who always gives me the best advice.
Others call her you my mini-me.
Yes, of all my children, 
Amy is the one who is so much like me that it sometimes makes it hard on both of us.

Amy's birthday, 2010
Hannah, Amy, Mason

We've been through a lot together, dear Amy.
I hope you know
your smile absolutely lights up my life.
Your tears break my heart.

In my treasure trove of photos,
you seem to always be smiling.

You always have your arm around someone.
Mother's Day 2009

With Mason

With daughter and niece
Hannah, Amy, Regan

With nephew
Amy & Parker

You're the one who bakes the cakes or the pies for celebrations.
You are always a gracious hostess,
and a gracious guest.
You are caring and loyal to others.

Hannah's Peace Birthday Cake

Julie's birthday cake

You're the one who loves to go out and kick up her heels.
You always win at Trivia Pursuit.
Your fun personality makes you a welcome addition to any social gathering.

Mom, Amy, Keicha, Julie

You are an awesome mom who loves your kids like crazy.

With Hannah

Your courage and determination have inspired me over the last few years.
You are a strong, competent young woman.
You have had to survive great loss,
yet, you've been able to keep your head up, smile,  and keep on going.

You excel at each of these roles.

I am blessed to have you as my daughter.
You mean so much to me.
Thanks, Amy, for being there for me.
Thanks for being you.
I love you.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Where Does the Time Go? Another Birthday Rolls Around

Cousins & Siblings
Rell, Donna, Sally, David, Carol, Linda, Diana

It seems like not that long ago that this photo was snapped.  I marvel to think that it has been sixty years since we gathered in my aunt's kitchen to celebrate my cousin Donna's birthday. Since her birthday is only 11 days after mine, I can be seen wearing my new birthday dress.  I am the third person on the left.

The faces in photo are all so dear to me.  They speak of such happy and carefree childhood times.
Truly, I am amazed that those days are so far in the past, and that I have just reached the age of sixty-seven.

A Birthday to Celebrate

Late last week, my husband told me he had made reservations for a birthday brunch for Sunday.  "I know it is a few days early, but we will be busy on your birthday, so I wanted to make sure we had a nice brunch," he said.  I thought that seemed thoughtful and reasonable.  On Sunday, two hours before we needed to leave, he suggested I get in the shower and get ready because he wanted to go earlier than he had first said.  I thought nothing of it, but decided to accommodate his request.  When I was ready, uncharacteristically, he wasn't ready and needed to do a few more things on the computer.  Again, I thought nothing of it.  So, to pass the time, I called my oldest daughter to chat.  She seemed surprised to hear from me.  Again, not thought was given to this.  

As I was talking, the door bell rang.  "Who can that be?"  I asked my daughter.  My husband made no movement toward going downstairs to get the door.  So, I went down to open the door and gazed out to see an attractive, young, dark-haired woman holding flowers and a cake.  To myself, I said, "Who delivers flowers and a cake on a Sunday, two days before my birthday?"  Then the woman said, "Happy Birthday, Mom."

Truly, I had no idea.  I didn't even recognize Amy!  Her hair was darker, she had her head slightly turned, and I absolutely did not have a clue that she would make a surprise visit.  I grabbed her in a hug and started to sob.  I was so happy to see her.  I have missed my kids so much lately.

Amy with birthday flowers
As is Amy's norm, she showed up with flowers.  As is the tradition, she brought daffodils mixed into my birthday bouquet.  I really can't remember a birthday for the last 15 or 20 years where either Amy or Julie, or both, sent or brought me daffodils.  They are my favorite flowers.

I had to beg for photos.  She "hates" to have her picture taken.

Amy arranging my flowers
Truly, I was overjoyed to see Amy.  She made my day for sure.  Boston was just as overjoyed.  
I cried.  
I hugged.
Boston lept in the air, barked, whined, and wagged his tail.
I know just how he felt.

Amy and Boston

So, I guess my husband and my daughter had been in cahoots. They planned my surprise.  Amy wanted to come down for the weekend.  She didn't have her kids that weekend, it was my birthday, and we always try to watch the Academy Awards together, even if it has to be done by phone.  After Boston and I settled down, and the flowers were arranged, we went to Sunday Brunch at Coyote Grille. This place is one of my favorites.  We had a wonderful meal, and a wonderful time together.  

*I featured Coyote Grill in this blog post a year ago.  

We came home and ate the scrumptious birthday cake that Amy brought.

My hubby sang "Happy birthday" to me before we cut the cake.

He always brings a smile to my face.

Happy birthday serenade

On my actual birthday, Tuesday, February 28th, my hubby drove me to Castle Rock, Colorado for my second appointment with the vestibular therapist that I have been seeing.  Before we left, he had a beautifully wrapped gift, as sweet card, and another cake sitting on the breakfast table when I got up that morning.  I loved the wrapping!  I loved the contents:  a nice new knit top and some beautiful, chunky blue beads.  

My appointment went well.  I have greatly improved since my last visit.  That was very encouraging.  The exercises, and time, are probably working well together.

After lunch, we went to lunch at Augustine's in Castle Rock.  I loved this cute little place.  Using his cell phone, Jim snapped my birthday photo.  I wearing my new knit top and necklace.  

We both ordered Salad Nicoise with ahi tuna.
I loved the ambiance of the restaurant, the salad, not so much.

At least we had cake to look forward to at home.
Not like I needed another cake, but my husband had ordered it before he knew Amy was bringing one.
What are birthdays for anyway?  Isn't all about cake?  
This is my favorite kind of cake:  carrot cake.

The day was made very special by many facebook greeting, cards, and phone calls from my family, and flowers.  I have flowers in every room on the first floor.

This beautiful purple rose arrangement is from my son Jon and his family.

This beautiful arrangement is from the family of my son Ryan.

Thank you to all who made my day so special!


On the day after my birthday, Leap Day, I continued to celebrate.  I had coffee early in the morning with a dear friend from high school days.  Iris suggested that we go to Colorado Springs that evening to go to the movie.  Of course, I jumped at the chance.  We went to see "The Artist." 

Right away, I found myself thinking that the film was just delightful.  I also thought it was refreshing.  I really did enjoy everything about the movie.  It was uplifting, light, and unique.   In my opinion, Berenice Bejo, made the film what it is.  I was fascinated by her.  I don't know why she didn't get any nominations.  I loved her smile, her hair, her clothes, her cute little moves, and her ability to dance.  Jean Dujardin did a great job.  I like his characterization of a silent film star who was on his way out, but I'm still not sure that he deserved best actor.  I still have to see George Clooney in his film to make that determination for myself.

After dinner, Iris and I walked downtown to grab some dinner and then headed back to Pueblo ending a wonderful birthday celebration that lasted several days.

One last thing.  I also got my CPAP machine yesterday.  It turns out, I have sleep apnea.  See, good thing come from bad things.  I doubt this would have been discovered without the fall and subsequent referrals to an ear, nose and throat specialist.  I successfully slept with my new machine last night.  I woke up much refreshed and have seemed experience a decrease in my racing heart and heart palpitations today.  Time will tell...