"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Memories of 2016

This year I didn't get Christmas cards sent out and I've never been one to send Christmas letters. I've also severely neglected blogging this year, not because I've had nothing to write about, just because I spent the year enjoying life and trying as much as possible to live in the moment. Here's a look back at 2016 and some of its memorable moments. 

2016 was full of celebrating many milestones with family, starting with 
my niece Regan's 18th birthday. 
Gillian and I continued our tradition of making Valentine cookies together.
Gillian attended and voted in her first presidential election caucus.

Later in the year she proudly supported the first female presidential candidate
when voting for the first time. 

In May, Gillian survived her 1st (and hopefully only) car 
accident, totaling her car. Luckily she wasn't hurt. 
Gillian's Senior Prom
With my mom and grandma, Alberta French, on her 100th birthday.
Three generations of my family dance around the large globe willow tree in my grandma's backyard
as the sun set on the evening of her 100th birthday party. What a gift it was to be able to gather
once again under that tree, the place where countless family pictures have been taken,
and where so many happy moments have been shared. 
Grandma's 100th birthday bash in her backyard 
was a weekend full of family, fun, memories and celebration. 
These cousins live in three different states and don't see each other much.
They loved their time together in Colorado to celebrate their great-grandma's birthday.
Kelly and I celebrated one year together while enjoying a relaxing
week with friends in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 

Utes tailgate parties and football games are always a good time. 
Gillian started her senior year of high school. 
Gillian and her boyfriend at the Ogden High vs. Ben Lomond Iron Horse football game.
Gillian turned 18 in October. I'm not sure where the time goes. I've cherished our
 time together this year,  and am enjoying watching her grow into a talented, mature, 
hard-working, smart, independent young woman.
It's been a year filled with treasured family time. This is me with
my nephew Bridger and my 92-year old grandpa in September.

Me, back in a bike saddle after a 10+ year hiatus, enjoying a gorgeous
fall weekend with Kelly in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Thanksgiving with my mom and sister in Utah, a rare occasion.
Our last Thanksgiving together in Utah was over 2 decades ago.

This year was filled with many treasured moments and memories. Thank you to all of my friends and family who were there to share those moments with me and helped make them special. I'm sending much love and happy holiday wishes to each of you.

Monday, November 14, 2016


When Gillian was very young we discovered she was missing many of her teeth. The medical term for this condition is Oligodontia, which means a person is missing more than 6 teeth, excluding wisdom teeth. My first clue should have been when she was a baby and started getting her teeth, which ironically enough, she did at a relatively young age. I proudly recorded each new tooth in her baby book. Before too long the teeth coming in didn't at all match the neat, orderly tooth diagram in the baby book. I didn't give this much thought, instead chalking it up to me being confused about which teeth were coming in. Oh, to be that naive again! 

Gillian - age 8, before getting her 1st braces on.
Not too many years later I knew there was a problem, although I still didn't fully understand the magnitude of it. At eight years old Gillian had her first set of braces put on. Over the next 10 years she would be in and out of braces three times and undergo some very painful dental procedures. The ten years of orthodontics were in preparation for a time in what used to seem like the distant future when she would be able to have permanent tooth implants put in. Nothing permanent could be done until she was completely done growing, which we guessed would be around age 18. 

She's been patient and brave through it all. It hasn't been easy for her. Young kids don't like to be different from their peers. Having to wear retainers with false teeth glued onto them for all of her childhood was a difficult thing for her to endure. Today, after years of consultations, waiting, prep, adjustments, and some difficult decisions, she was finally able to start the process of getting permanent teeth placed in her mouth. From there we went directly to the oral surgeon's office. It was an emotional day for both of us. For her there was the anxiety and fear of the unknown. For me, it was the anxiety I'm sure every parent feels when leaving their child in the hands of a doctor, however skilled, to administer anaesthesia and operate on their child. 

I'm happy to report the surgery went well. She had seven titanium posts placed in her jawbone. As of today she has 16 teeth. Most adults have 32 permanent teeth, including their wisdom teeth. If all goes according to plan, in three months she'll have permanent crowns put in place by her dentist, bringing her total number of teeth to 23. As I waited with her in the recovery room one of the nurses handed me the five baby teeth that were removed today. I wonder if I'm supposed to make sure the tooth fairy pays a visit tonight, even if the teeth she lost should have fallen out 12 years ago?

Gillian has come so far in the last ten years. The happy, smiling little girl in the picture above is now an independent young woman. She's gone from being completely dependent on me to manage her care to taking a primary role in making decisions with her team of providers. She's learned to be an informed patient who asks intelligent questions and advocates for herself. Her case isn't a simple one. It's required years of communication and coordination between her dentist, orthodontist and oral surgeon (all of whom have shown an amazing level of care and dedication to her treatment over the years). 
I snapped this picture after Gillian was home and resting with Lucy making sure she wasn't left alone. Today it was nice to have simply be my little girl again, and I relished every moment of being able to take care of her.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October Fun in the Sun

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn't it?" ~ Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery 

My baby turned 18 this year! I can hardly believe how quickly the years flew by. She requested a low-key celebration instead of a party. Kelly and I joined Gillian and her boyfriend, and her dad and step-mom for dinner together. She was showered with lots of love and presents to celebrate her special day, including a dragonfly charm necklace, her first piece of jewelry from Tiffany and Co. Her dad and I wanted to give her a special keepsake for this milestone birthday. Several years ago Gillian gave me a dragonfly necklace as a souvenir gift from a trip she took to Alaska. I hope she'll treasure her necklace as much as I do mine. The Japanese believe dragonflies are symbols of success, victory, happiness, strength and courage. As Gillian enters adulthood, I hope she creates a life for herself that will have plenty of all of those things.
The birthday girl cutting her cake.
A special gift for a special girl.
Me and my girl. 
Over the Columbus Day holiday weekend, Kelly and I were able to get away to Sun Valley, Idaho. Even though it's a short 250 miles from Ogden, I'd never been there before. Have I ever been missing out! It was gorgeous! I think we picked the perfect weekend to be there. The aspens were still full of golden leaves and the weather was warm, clear and sunny. Even though there were lots of people in nearby Ketchum for the annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival, it was still a very relaxing, calm and quiet weekend. 

On our first full day there we headed out for an 18-mile bike ride. It was my first time riding any distance longer than a mile or two in over a decade! It was fun to be back in the saddle and riding again. The next day we watched the Trailing of the Sheep parade down Main Street in Ketchum as 1,500 sheep were moved to their winter pastures. After that we did a short hike. On Monday we did another bike ride. I was still pretty sore from our earlier ride, so we took a short route into Ketchum and then back to our condo with a detour through the Sun Valley resort property. Our evenings were spent at the historic Pioneer Saloon. Kelly has been going to Sun Valley for most of his adult life, and even spent a short time living there. I now know why he loves it there. I loved being able to share one of his favorite places with him while we soaked up some of the last warm, sunny days of fall. 

Just like Anne of Green Gables, I'm so glad we live in a world where there are Octobers. As the days grow shorter and the cold air of winter starts moving in, I'm holding onto the memories of those relaxing days spent enjoying the beautiful outdoors in the warm fall sunshine. 
Playing tourist with Hope.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mexico Memories

The signs of summer drawing to a close are everywhere. School is back in session, my tan is fading, Labor Day is less than a week away, and it's already been a month since my summer vacation! It's never too late to share some vacation photos and memories though, is it? 

Kelly and I spent the last week of July in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, which is a beach resort town north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was a much-needed getaway for both of us and the perfect vacation, full of lots of R&R and long, lazy days spent poolside in the sun.

When we departed I had only a vague idea about where exactly we'd be staying and almost no details about our accommodations. Early summer is very busy for me at work, so in the weeks and months leading up to our trip I was too focused on my numerous looming deadlines to even ask for details about our plans. These three things pretty well sum up most of what I knew: 
  • Vacation 
  • Mexico 
  • House by the beach  
I was more than pleasantly surprised when we arrived! This is where we spent a week together with three other couples we know. 

The back of the house. 
Poolside - not a bad view!
The first half of this year was busy, stressful and oftentimes overwhelming for both of us, and June was an extremely full and intense month. We were both in serious need of some time away to relax and recharge. As soon as we arrived and walked outside to look at the ocean, I felt all of the stress and pressure of the previous 7 months slip away. 
Yes, this was as serene and relaxing as it looks.
The perfect spot for reading, relaxing or napping.
We spent most of our days doing a whole lot of nothing, which was great. Mornings consisted mostly of drinking coffee, reading, walks on the beach, swimming, lounging by the pool and watching the ocean, surfers, and others enjoying the beach and water. The resident caretakers made us delicious fresh ceviche, salsa, and guacamole that we snacked on every day. Most afternoons brought rain and thunderstorms, which we liked to watch roll in over the ocean and listen to from the open doors and windows as we took shelter inside. Although, one day we did get caught in a major tropical downpour riding bikes back from an outing for gelato. I consumed lots of gelato on the trip, but at least we rode bikes to and from the gelato shop to help burn off some of the calories! And, of course there was plenty of cold Pacifico on hand, which I consider a beachside vacation necessity! 
A favorite spot for morning coffee and evening sunset watching. 
Sunset view from poolside.
All in all, it was a perfect vacation. We were able to relax and enjoy each other and our time together with very few interruptions or distractions. Wi-fi reception at the house was spotty, which made me think about how much of an intrusion being constantly connected to and focused on electronics can be to really connecting with those we love. It was a good reminder to make a conscious effort to unplug and focus on being more fully present in my daily life back home. I think that's what vacations are best for - disconnecting from daily distractions and reconnecting with ourselves, our lives, and the people and things that fill up our hearts and make us happy and content. 
Taken on July 25, 2016, a year from the day we first met.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Life Celebrations

There's a quote about parenting that says, "The days are long but the years are short. Enjoy every moment." I think it applies to life in general, not just to parenting. The past two weeks have reminded me of the truth of the statement and how quickly life flies by. A week ago Saturday, life was cruising along with its many obligations and occasional misunderstandings and complications. One moment the most important thing in my world was making it to a music festival I look forward to attending every year. Seconds later, after a phone call from Kelly telling me his sister was in the ER, everything else fell away and became unimportant. Sadly, his sister died that night. The week was filled with the many decisions and tasks that come with a death, culminating Friday evening with a celebration of her life. 

My grandma, Alberta French, at church on her 100th birthday.
Just two weeks ago, Kelly and I were in Grand Junction, Colorado celebrating my grandma's 100th birthday. Two life celebrations two weeks apart for completely different reasons. One life over at 60 years of age, another still going at 100 years. I was struck by how brief 60 years of life seems. Even 100 years, as incredible as it is to make it to that age, seems like just a blink of an eye in many ways. At 46 years old, I feel a little panicked at how much of my life is already gone and how much I still have left that I want to accomplish.  

Having both things happen so closely together has me thinking a lot about how truly fleeting life is and how important it is to live life to the fullest at every opportunity. It's also been a good reminder to me of how important relationships and family connections are. In the later years of life those are the connections we long for and reminisce about, and seek out for comfort when lives end. All of the material things we spend so much energy working for and accumulating are all but meaningless in the end. Sometimes making the time to connect with friends and family is challenging. People are scattered across the country and everyone's live are busy. But the energy and expense is worth it for me. I am once again reminded of the importance of making those connections happen. My time in Colorado with my family celebrating with my grandma was good for my soul. I love and cherish my relationships with all of my family, and am especially grateful for the lifelong friendships I have with my cousins. In a couple more weeks all of us will gather in Colorado for the official 100th birthday celebration for my grandma. I can't wait to see everyone! In the meantime, here are a few pictures and memories from her birthday on May 29, 2016.
Me and my cousin Michelle. She always makes me laugh.
Toasting the birthday queen.
Grandma with her two oldest granddaughters.
Being silly with the cousins.
Grandma with her grandkids that were there for her birthday. 
Three generations. Me with my grandma and mom. 
The family after lunch with grandma.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Sunny Days Seem To Hurt the Most


Today would be your 40th birthday. You've been on my mind so much the last several days. You always are in April when the daffodils are in bloom. Reminders of you are everywhere in these early days of spring. It's weird, but I seem to miss you the most during the beautiful, sunny, warm days of early spring. 

The other day I heard Kenny Chesney's song Who You'd Be Today. Just as the songs says, I wonder so much about the person you'd be today. It's hard to imagine you at 40. You died so young with so many of your dreams unrealized. What would you be like today? Would you have chased your dreams and then settled down with a family? Remember how we used to talk about your future? What would you have named your babies?  

I remember the year I turned 40 and how happy I was to celebrate with you. We were both so young and carefree then, or at least it seemed that way. You must have been struggling much more than I realized. But still, you showed up to make my birthday special. That was so like you, always hiding your own pain while you made others smile. We made so many plans together during the early days of my 40th year - plans to grow old together. Remember how we promised each other we would never be alone because we would be two crotchety old ladies living together in our golden years? When we made that promise did you know you wouldn't make it to 40? 

Why is it that sunny days make me miss you so much? I feel so alive and happy on those days, especially the sun-filled days of early spring when the flowers are beginning to bloom. It's when I feel most alive that my heart fills with sadness and longing for you. Life is full of so many simple, beautiful pleasures, like the warm sun on your face after months of cold, dark winter days. You lost sight of all the good things that life could offer you. Your mind played tricks on you, focusing only on the dark, hopeless thoughts in your head. I wish I could have helped you through that last dark night of your life. If only I could have been there to remind you of the light and hope that morning and a new day would bring. 

I miss you. I wish you were here to celebrate your 40th birthday together with me. The sun is going to be shining and the daffodils are blooming in my yard. I'm having a party to celebrate your day, because even though you're gone your life still deserves to be celebrated. I love you forever Jules. Happy Birthday. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Asparagus and Love

The other night I had asparagus for dinner. As I stood at the sink rinsing and snapping the stalks before steaming them, my mind flashed back to an Easter dinner long ago and memories of my Grandpa French. Asparagus always reminds me of grandpa. He's been gone 14 years this month and I sure do miss him! Anyone who knew my grandpa knows what a gruff, abrupt manner he had. He could be very intimidating and was definitely someone who demanded and received respect from everyone. Lurking underneath that gruff exterior however, was a loving, generous man. Grandpa adored his kids and grand kids and was always willing to go to extraordinary lengths for those he loved. Which is where the asparagus comes in. 

A long ago Easter with my cousins in Grand Junction
For much of my childhood and even into my young adult years, my family would spend Easter with my grandparents at their home in Grand Junction, Colorado. I loved being there for Easter! I can still picture grandma's beautifully set dining table complete with a lace tablecloth, her best china and silver and her delicious potato salad. My mouth waters just thinking about it. Grandpa always sat at the head of the table and would bark out a quick order to quiet down when it was time to eat. First though, we all joined hands around the table while he said grace. It's been too many years since I've sat around that table and joined hands with my family. It's amazing how such a simple act can be so powerfully full of love and connection. 

Anyway, back to the year of the asparagus. I was in my early twenties and gathered at grandma and grandpa's with my husband, mom and assorted siblings. Early in the day grandpa was headed to the grocery store for a few things and asked me what vegetable I wanted for dinner. Without giving it much thought I said asparagus. Grandpa left and we continued with our morning. Much later grandpa returned home. He'd been gone quite a long time! He came into the kitchen and dropped a huge bunch of asparagus on the counter.  Apparently, it was still a little early in the season for asparagus and he'd gone to several stores searching for it. He eventually ended up driving into Fruita, the next town over, to find some. Because it was early in the season it was also expensive. He paid some outrageous amount per pound for it. When I asked for asparagus I did it without even thinking about its availability that time of year. I just thought it sounded good! I failed to realize that fulfilling my simple request was an act of love for grandpa. He was willing to drive however far was necessary and pay whatever price was asked in order to find what I had asked for. I remember feeling humbled and a little awed by the power of this one simple act. Grandpa wasn't one who was overly affectionate or expressive with his emotions. Mostly, he showed his love through actions. I realized then how enormous his love was for me and for all of his family. If needed, he would go to the ends of the earth to help his family. His was not a love to be taken lightly.

I was out of the country when grandpa died and didn't get to say goodbye to him. It remains one of my life's great regrets. I wish I could have been there to once again tell him thank you for the asparagus and for the many other ways he loved me throughout his life. Thankfully, I have many treasured reminders of his love for me. Grandpa was a great letter writer and I kept most of the letters he wrote me over the years. On my desk I keep a notepad of Denver & Rio Grand Railroad stationary. His business card hangs on my bulletin board next to my sister Julie's, daily reminders of two beloved people that I've lost. And I also have asparagus, one of my favorite springtime meals. I like to eat it lightly steamed, topped with butter, pepper and a whole lot of love and happy memories!