Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 - A Reflection

A year I won’t soon forget.
A year that in many ways, I’d just as soon forget.

A year captured in photos and in my journal. 


We share a footstool.
We share a life.

One cold evening in January, as my husband and I sat side by side, I snapped a photo of our feet as we shared a footstool together.  He is, as is typical, wearing a pair of his unique socks.  I love this side of his personality: he wears interesting and cool socks.  I am barefoot, but my nails are done in a shade that I wore most of the year: most likely Senorita Rosalita by OPI.  

Perhaps, in many ways, this is my favorite photo of the two of us for the year.  It captures much of our unique and very different personalities.  It gives a glimpse into our tendency to sit side by side sharing a space as we share our lives, and it represents the deep comfort that comes to me as we share not just our home and hearth, but how we share our lives in a mostly peaceful and contented state.  Evenings spent side by side, find us reading, recapping the days news developments, or I might write in my journal while Jim watches some movies, or t.v. programs on his iPad. This to me is true bliss.  

I began a teaching job in January.  I worked five days and became very sick on the third day.  I resigned on the fifth day.  The rest of the month I was sicker than I had been in years with a virus that ended up giving me bronchitis that seemed to hang on forever.  

In January, on my son’s birthday, I learned that he and his wife were expecting a new baby, a boy.  It was the great surprise, and the great blessing of the year.  


We planned a get-away in February for a combined Valentine’s Day and birthday celebration for me, but bronchitis hung on, and I was not well enough to leave home.  Needing a bit of cheer and some flowers to brighten my days, I bought some miniature violets to add to an arrangement on the living room coffee table.  Flowers bring hope of spring in the midst of winter.  

I’ve learned I can’t live without flowers in my environment.  

Jim took me out for a special Valentine’s Day lunch at the Cliff House in Manitou where I saw crocus blooming in the garden as we walked in for lunch.  I couldn’t believe how much joy I felt upon seeing the early indicator of spring.  Later in the month my daughter Amy and her daughter made the journey to my house so we could celebrate our birthdays together.


The weather improved.  My health improved.  I was able to get out of the house and exercise.  I’m so grateful for the beautiful place where I live.  Our home is only fifteen minutes from major shopping areas, but when I am in the neighborhood, I am surround by amazing rock formations, trees, and views of the mountains.  Some of my happiest times are spent walking with Jim and Boston in our ‘hood.

My journal records the work I was doing in becoming “unstuck.”  As I have progressed through the grief journey I have been for the past seven years, at each stage of the journey, there have been times when I felt that I was getting stuck in one or another area of grief.  Working with a therapist has helped me greatly as I have mentally, spiritually, and emotionally processed the death of my daughter Julie.  

I clearly remember a day in March when these words words that Julie had left on sticky note on her desk came back to me: 

Live Well!

As I have struggled to become unstuck, these words spoke to me so often in 2017.  The words spoke to me as I continued to fight through the effects of living with autoimmune diseases that have brought changes to my health, my appearance, and my ability to function fully.

Words can become touchstones in my journey through a year dotted with political unrest and division, broken relationships, compromised health, and the effects of an aging body.

I often write quotes or scriptures on 3 X 5 cards that I keep next to my reading chair.  I pick these cards up and re-read them when I am feeling anxious, overwhelmed, sad, or in need of wisdom.

Not long after Julie passed away, I wrote these words from I Peter 5:10 on a slip of paper and placed the note on my refrigerator.  These words are a daily reminder on how God through Christ continues to restore me, make me strong, firm, and steadfast.

March was a hard month where I saw so much division in relationships.  I personally experienced great loss of a relationship which I value greatly and hope to see restored.  

Psalm 42,  a Psalm my pastor preached on in March, spoke so deeply to me.

From my journal:  “Mark says we are not to ruminate about our problems.  We are to talk to God about them.”  I began to ponder how I ruminate.  I  have sought to turn my focus on God, talking to Him about my problems.  My roommate from college, wrote a poem based on Psalm 42.  She wrote:

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
Why this unrest within me?
Hope thou in God, for I will give praise
For His answer, whatever it be.
The Psalms & Ecclesiastes in  Poetry
by Elizabeth Cary Bishop
Published by Gospel Folio Press


April, what a glorious month.  April brought me the best gift of the year.  My eighth grandchild Leon Roberts Christiansen was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to my son Jonathan and his wife Samantha.  He was also welcomed home by my grandson, and Leon’s big brother, Atticus.  This is a photo of this precious child after his first bath.  

In April, Jim and I took a trip to New Orleans.  We needed to get away.  What an escape this wonderful trip was for both of us.  We stayed in a wonderful B & B called Ashtons.  Our room was spectacular.  So was the food, the ambiance, and the company of others staying there.  The flowers on the fireplace in our room were the perfect touch.  

The B&B has the most amazing porch.  We, two who love to porch sit, spent a lot of time on this fabulous porch.  Jim took my portrait.  One is me before I was ready for the portrait.  The other is the official portrait.


My two October babies, the grandchildren born 36 hours apart in 1998 graduated from high school this year.  I flew to Utah to spend time with daughter Keicha and to celebrate Gillian’s graduation.  Her mother gave her a nice party after graduation.  Here is the beautiful Gillian with her mom and dad.  

A few days after Gillian’s graduation, Gillian, Keicha, and I flew to Colorado for Mason’s graduation.  Here is a photo of my very happy daughter Amy with her handsome son, Mason.  


In June, Jim and celebrated twenty-five years of marriage with a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a long weekend touring both Santa Fe and Taos.  I snapped a selfie of us as we headed out of town on our anniversary trip.  

As with any journey, who you travel with can be more important than your destination.

I have been very, very blessed to have this man, the love of my life, as my constant, steadfast, supportive, loving, and most caring companion on the journey we began twenty-five years ago.  We are hoping for another twenty-five years together!


In July, the other great event of the year took place.  My son Jonathan and his wife Samantha returned home to Colorado.  Samantha was hired to teach history in a tenure-track position at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.  We are so excited to have these two and their two sons back home in Colorado.  Jon won’t officially move here until this coming spring as he finishes up his PhD in Scranton, PA.  

A mini-family reunion was held to meet new grandson Leon and to welcome Jon, Sam, Atticus, and Leon to Colorado.

A mini-family reunion

Atticus, Samantha, Leon, and Jonathan


A few years ago, Jim and I built a small patio in our front yard.  This has become my favorite spot to spend summer evenings.  We sit and rest there after our summer evening walks, or sometimes we even head here to eat a light supper.

In August, the eclipse was experienced and viewed from this patio.  I was fascinated by the designs cast on the stones by the shadows made by the sun and and the moon.

During much of late spring and all through the summer, I experienced the unpleasant and unwanted effects of high levels of inflammation in my body due to the inflammatory condition which I have developed that has caused me to lose much of my hair.  I was in pain throughout my body, tired, and felt generally unwell.  I went on the medication Plaquenil.  It brought down the high levels of inflammation and it even helped with the pain I had in my hips and shoulders.  However, the side effects of intolerance to heat, to the sun, severe gastric problems, and drastic drops in insulin levels caused me to stop taking the drug.  I now am not treating my auto-immune condition with any medication and am doing well.  I find that I have times when I have flares, and then I have times when my system is “quiet” and I seem to be in remission.  I’m learning to live with and cope with having a chronic health condition.  I’m learning to take the good with the bad and hope for the best.  


We made the second trip of the year to Grand Junction to see my 101 year old mother in September.  She is still doing remarkably well.  


Jim and I traveled to Chicago in October to celebrate his birthday. This was our first trip to Chicago, but I doubt it will be our last.  We loved our time in Chicago! Even though it was his birthday trip, Jim surprised me by getting us a room on the top floor of the Thompson Hotel.  We had a view of Lake Michigan and of the shopping and restaurant area that was located right outside the door of the hotel.  In the nearly weeklong time we were there, we spent our time eating, walking the Magnificent Mile, exploring the many museums in Chicago, shopping, and because my son Ryan was in town for business on the last evening we were there, we even go to have dinner and spend some time with him.  We also were able to get tickets to see Hamilton.  


Thanksgiving Break meant that son Jonathan and his son Atticus were able to take a break from their academic studies and come to Colorado for a reunion with the Jon's wife and baby.  We also were able to spend time together as a family.  I can’t wait until the academic year is over and Jon and Atticus move here permanently.  

For Thanksgiving, Jim and I traveled to Northern Colorado to spend the weekend with daughter Amy and Jewett in their brand-new home.  This mom is so happy to see her daughter happy.  This year has brought so many blessings to our family, and this happy relationship between Amy and Jewett is one of the great blessings of the year.  It was also great to see my grandchildren Mason and Hannah.  


Right after Thanksgiving, I noticed that the overachievers around town already had their homes brightly lit and decorated inside and out for Christmas.  I began early with a bit of decorating, and then decided to cut the decorating I normally do in half.  I only set out Christmas decorations in the upstairs part of the house.  I also took the time to ponder what activities would bring me the most joy and the least amount of stress as we went into the hectic holiday season.

From a  December 12 entry in my journal:  

4:00 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.  The light is fading, but the glow of the afternoon fellowship brightens my heart while my body sinks into my cushy chintz chair.  The light on the page comes from the Christmas tree next to me. So often I long for friendship, fellowship, and yet seldom do I provide the hospitality that fosters such connection.

These moments of contentment need to be captured.  Snapshots of my surroundings are sent to my memory bank, yet while I love my comfortable home, it is when it is filled with others that I have the most joy.  

...The ladies (ladies from my Bible study group), six of them came at 11:00.  They left a bit after 3:00...Everyone made themselves at home, they were at ease, and open.  

...As the ladies left we talked about how this is such a busy time of year, but it is nice to set aside time for fellowship, for connection with others...It truly was a day when we focused on being present rather than on giving presents.  (I took no photos that day.  It is good sometimes to just connect and not record by taking photos!)

So much of December was like that for me.  It was a time when I tried to be present with myself and with others.  There were many gatherings.  One with my high school friends.  Another with the couples from the neighborhood.  Then there was a smaller gathering at the home of a neighbor.  Our writing group, which had not met through all of 2017 met for lunch at the home of one of the ladies.  All in all, the month did bring me a great deal of joy and little stress.  

In December, I tried to focus on that which means the most to me:  my faith, my family, and my friendships.  I am richly blessed in each of those areas.  

Jim and I spent Christmas Eve with his daughters and their families.  We then had a quiet Christmas Day at home alone when our plans to drive to Erie, Colorado, to be with daughter Amy had to change when she woke up terribly ill.  While we were disappointed not to spend time with Amy, we made the most of day and went to a movie.  We saw The Darkest Hour.  

We did get one Christmas photo taken when we went to view the light and decorations at the Broadmoor Hotel on the Friday before Christmas.  

The year 2017 had its challenges, but as I reflect upon the year now gone forever, I am filled with gratitude for all of the goodness that another year brought into my life.