Archive for Family


Our Family Calendar 2016

Yes friends it’s that time of year again.  It’s time for me to share our fabulous family calendar.  Actually I’m slightly late bringing this fabulous artwork to all of you this year.  We are creeping up on the 20th year of this calendar being put together.  Wow!  That fact alone amazes me to no end.  Just wow- another family tradition started by my parents. Over the last couple of years I was handed the editorial baton by my Mom to make sure the calendar tradition continues.  This year’s calendar is especially poignant because my Mom was able to get back into looking through pictures and put a page together for us. Thanks Mom!!  We’re so glad to have you back in the calendar making process.  (My Mom’s page is the one with the red background.)

It’s awe inspiring to see this project come together, and see the pages come to life as they get emailed in.  The process for the calendar pages goes like this.  There’s a post on our family Facebook page where everyone can join in and sign up for the month they want to put together.  Once all of the pages are assigned everyone is on their own to put the pages in place, and there’s a deadline for getting them turned in.  We all do the pages in Picasa’s collage format.  An easy way to get the pictures into a format that you like.  It actually takes longer to collect the pictures than it does to put the collage in place.  I always tell myself if there’s a picture or group of pictures I like I need to put them in a separate folder on my computer and collect them throughout the year.  So far this great idea hasn’t materialized for me.  My procrastination seems to get the best of me and I’m always scrambling to meet the deadline I set for the family!  

Once all of the photo pages are done it is my task to add the family birthdays’ and anniversaries for everyone.  My Mom chooses the photo that will become the cover for the calendar.  After we have proofed and re-proofed all of the birthdays, anniversaries, etc. we are off to the printer with our masterpiece.

So without further ado I present to all of you our 2016 family calendar.  A few of the months have definitive themes that are just treasures.  My Mom’s page is a collection of the black and whites from her childhood.  Family treasures and traditions just do not get any better than this.  It will always be my hope that this tradition will continue for many, many years to come.  Who knows maybe one day my grand-kids will be putting the calendar together!  Cheers to family traditions once again.  

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It Was Time to Retire the Firestick

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When I was growing up my parents took us on so many very, cool vacations.  We got to see quite a few of our national parks and wonderful sights.  Our mode of travel was normally some sort of camping.  We had a station wagon and a pop-up tent trailer for a long time, and then when my parents retired they ventured into the RV world and bought a beautiful Rexhall motor home.  You can read all about their adventures on my Mom’s blog, Joan on the Road.

One of the highlights of our camping experience was always having a camp fire.  Building a fire, keeping it going, and eventually roasting the marshmallows for a great s’mores treat.  I think one of my Dad’s favorite parts of camping was building the bonfire, I mean campfire, for the evening.  He would build pretty big fires, and he was the one who kept it going.  I know for myself I couldn’t wait until there were some lovely coals to roast my marshmallows next to.  I prefer them lightly roasted, thank you.  When we were on vacation we always had our guitars with us, and would play and sing around the fire.  We loved to sing John Denver tunes.  Oh those were the days.

Fast forward to my Mom and Dad’s RV-ing days, and they kept the campfire tradition going. Most times when we would visit them we’d have a fire, and maybe roast those marshmallows or a hot dog.  One thing that was always with my Dad for his campfires was some sort of strong stick that he could use to stoke the fire with.  It was a coveted stick, and as we all got older sometimes we would take turns stoking the fire too.  What a treat.

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When my Dad passed away and we were helping my Mom go through her RV and decide what she was keeping or not, she gave me my Dad’s last campfire stick he used for stoking the fires.  It’s really a personal memento for me.  It helps me to hold on to the good memories of our family times together around the campfire.

These days Travel Man and I have a trailer of our own that we like to take out for the weekends.  We always have the coveted “Fire Stick” with us to stoke our campfires.  But on our last camping trip we noticed the Fire Stick was starting to get a little short.  I kept catching the end of the stick on fire, and it seemed like it was getting shorter and shorter and fading away.  I suppose in the back of my mind I was worried that if the stick got shorter and went away the memories of camping with my Dad would fade a little bit too. So we made the painful (well for me anyway) decision to retire the Fire Stick.  We will be keeping it in the trailer with us when we go out on our camping adventures.  And eventually I think I will figure out a way to hang it on the wall.

It’s a wonder to me that a stick could hold memories that are so dear to my heart.  The memories of your loved ones that are no longer with you are the ones that you hold onto the tightest.  You never want to let them go.

It’s Been a Long Time Since This Happened


There are many moments in my kids growing up years, their early growing up years, that I sometimes just do not remember.  I’m fairly certain I can attribute this fact to the events of 2001.  The year I turned 40, the year my first marriage fell to pieces, the year that my daughter, Hilary, had her first grand-mal seizure, and the year that my baby boy, Zachary, received a diagnosis of Leukemia (ALL) at the tender age of 9½.  2001 was definitely THE most challenging year of my parenting and adulthood to date.  It was the most trying year for my kids too.

Zachary’s leukemia and other health issues are one of the reasons I started blogging.  I have always felt that I had a story to share just because of my multiple experiences with chronic conditions, and now childhood cancer.  If I can touch one person’s heart with my stories, and let them know they will be able to get through anything, then that’s why I’m here.


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4th of July 2001

Now back to Zachary; during Zachary’s treatment and recovery from his leukemia he had many, many visits to the pediatric oncology clinic.  For certain procedures or appointments he would have to go to the hospital for an outpatient procedure.  At this point in his chemo regimen he was going through so many procedures one right after the other.  It makes my head spin just to think back about those times. There was one particular day in the beginning of his treatments that he had to have a spinal procedure.  This procedure requires the spinal fluid to be drawn for testing, as they are checking for any cancerous cells in the brain stem.  For these procedures Zachary would be given Demerol. This would make him quite relaxed, a little sleepy, very chatty, and you never knew what he was going to want to talk about next.

Zachary was laying on the gurney and his little, pale face was chatting up a storm about something.  As the medical staff was prepping him for this particular procedure he began to sing.  The song he sang still melts my heart every time I hear it to this day.  He started to sing Lee Greenwood’s, “God Bless the USA”.  When I think about this moment I can picture Zach’s little face while he was lying on the hospital bed softly singing out the words, “And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free”.  I cried like a baby for half an hour.  It was such a sweet, memorable moment my words here can barely do justice to the emotions I was feeling.  This is one of those stories that will be forever ingrained in my brain.  This was the sweetest moment ever with my baby boy.

After this happened my Mom sent a letter to Lee Greenwood about Zach singing his song, and Lee sent Zach a nice hat and an autographed picture as a gift. A grand gesture for my little 10-year-old battling the chemo mapping and procedures.

This summer will mark Zach’s 11th year cancer free.  We are forever thankful for the tremendous care, love and support he got at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital.



Zach & Brookelynne’s Wedding Day

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Easter Weekend 2015

Today is Zach’s birthday, and he is doing so well. He is married, has a lovely wife and a pet turtle.  Zach is way less schmoopy about remembering all he’s been through. His mother gets teary eyed at the drop of a hat thinking about times gone by, and what we all went through together  in 2001.  But my heart is also overflowing with love, pride, and admiration because all of my kids have lived the definition of perseverance. They  all know that at any given moment if they are faced with difficult circumstances they can find a way to push through and they will be just fine on the other side of life.

Just know that this is another one of those families stories just waiting for the right moment to be told.  Today is the day for this one.

This post linked to the GRAND Social  and at MidLife Luv Linky Party.

FaceTime with the Grandkids

My grand-kiddies can be sooooo entertaining.  They will be the generation that takes all of the new fangled technology for granted.  They won’t be oohing and aahing over a new computer that’s about to be released, or some other gadget that just came on the market like the rest of us do.  We didn’t have all the amazing gadgets that our grand-kids can get their hands on when we were kids. “The cloud” will morph into something completely different by the time they are young adults.

Quite frequently on any given weekday night, around Miss Madison’s bedtime I will receive a “FaceTime” call on my phone. This is the iPhone version of a video call.  The call normally starts out with Madison making some sort of silly face into the phone.

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This is a typical example of how our video call will start

Then she will finally say “Hi Grandma”.   I’ll ask her what she had for dinner, or she’ll have something “important” to tell me about her dog, Daisy.  We’ll chat for a few minutes, I mean seconds and then she usually gets distracted or she just hangs up on me with no warning.  Madison is an expert at pressing that “red” button to hang up on me.

Evan on the other hand loves to have his Face Time calls all to himself.  He really does not like to share this calling time with his baby sister.  He loves to talk and say hi to anyone and everyone in our house.  We always humor him and pass the phone around so he can talk to all of us. Sometimes he will have something to tell us, maybe a joke or something about his friends he needs to share.  Then there are other times when he  simply just  wants to say “Hi”.

Here’s a few of my favorite Evan “selfies”.  I usually find these on my phone or computer after he has gone home.

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FaceTime is a great way for the grand-kiddies to stay connected to their Pop-Pop while he’s away on a business trip too.  Plus it’s nice for Pop-Pop to chat with them when he can.  It always helps him feel more connected to home while he has to be away.

If video chatting is new to your technology world use it often.  It’s nice to be able to say hi to long distance relatives, or your husband who travels frequently for his job.  In my opinion it’s a great way to stay and feel connected to your love ones.

What’s your favorite video chatting mode-Skype, Google Hangouts, or Facetime?

Across the Country – We Took a Road Trip.

48-IMG_0066 2Today is the second anniversary of the day my  Dad passed away.  For myself it’s important to acknowledge this day, and have some long-time remembrances of my Dad, and my parents together.  As I started to write this post I was thinking a lot about my Dad and the fact that he wouldn’t want us to be sad and somber, but to remember the good times with him, the laughter and the love.  Today I’m going to share a story about a road trip.  This particular road trip happened  in July of 2013 and it has taken me awhile to put my thoughts together to be able to share this story with all of you.  As it happened my parents were visiting my grandparents in Illinois when my Dad became critically ill in June of 2013.  My Dad passed away very unexpectedly, and it was just a fortunate circumstance that my siblings, myself, and Travel Man were there to be with my Mom and Dad during this most difficult time.  Once all of the affairs with my Dad were decided and concluded it was time to get my Mom and her car back to California.  Travel Man and I volunteered for this “Road Trip” as he had some vacation time, so we knew we could make this happen.  This would definitely be a somber experience.

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I’m sure my Mom was anxious and nervous on this entire trip.  Everything that was “normal” for her had been turned inside out and upside down.  It was a poignant trip, with lots of talk of our past family vacations, and my parents travels.  Travel Man learned a lot more about the family history on this trip that he’s ever had the occasion to hear.

Our first day out we traveled through western Illinois to Des Moines, Iowa.  Somewhere during this day we came up with the idea that we would enjoy movie nights at our destination hotel.  The movies we selected had to be set in the state we were staying in that evening. The first night we were in Iowa so if course that called for a viewing of “The Music Man”.  A timeless classic, and I’m sure we heard Travel Man saying, “Pick a little, talk a little” for the next few days.  One of his favorite lines from that movie.



Our second night out we stayed in York, Nebraska and watched “About Schmidt” with Jack Nicholson.  During the day we took a little detour and did some touring at the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument in Kearney, Nebraska.   A great monument that tells the story of the role Nebraska and Fort Kearney played in the expansion of the West.  It was great to take some time off  the road, and just enjoy ourselves.



Next it was on to Colorado and I’m pretty sure we ditched the movie night theme for a wine night.  Our destination for the day was Silt, CO.  I remember this was such a poignant day.  Travelling through the Rocky Mountains, and my Mom playing “Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver on the radio.    That song has always been one of our family vacation favorites.  I cried in the car the entire time the song was  playing.  So many memories washed over me that day.  My Dad loved Colorado and all of its scenic glory. At our destination hotel that evening we had a beautiful view of the Colorado River from the balcony of our hotel room along with our glasses of wine.


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Random tourists taking pictures of my Mom’s Honda.


The Eisenhower Tunnel



Rocky Mountain High


Colorado River in Silt, CO

The following day our drive took us through Grand Junction, Colorado along the I-70 to Cedar City, Utah.  The most amazing scenery on this day was the Black Dragon Canyon near Green River, Colorado.  My words cannot do justice to the beauty of the landscape here.  Plus we saw the biggest thunder-cloud we had ever seen.  We skirted around the rain for a bit, and then drove right through it.  Wow!  Looking back at our pictures and Facebook posts apparently we ditched our movie watching theme after the second night.





Thunder Cloud!


Big thunder cloud / Photo credit-JW

Once we got to Utah all three of us were ready to be back in California.  My Mom needed her hugs from the grand-kids.  They had not seen her since the end of May.  The last day of our travels we blasted through Utah, a teeny, tiny corner of Arizona, Nevada and made it to our home destination in California.  Travel Man did all of the driving for this trip.  What a trooper!  We are forever grateful for his travel experiences, they always help us get where we need to be.  And yes we did have an Oscar Meyer Weinermobile sighting on this day, in Las Vegas.  Always a funny site to see on the road.




This trip will be forever ingrained in my memory bank.  Seeing my Mom’s sadness and listening to her reflect on such great family times with my Dad, and then being able to share some laughs and some tears with her was a necessary part of the grieving process.  My parents were the most loving couple I have ever known, and yes I am partial because they are my parents.  We were so grateful to help my Mom complete the trip she had started with my Dad on the 4th of June 2013.  We traveled the route they would have taken home together.

My Mom wrote about her journey with my Dad on her blog  It’s a great story, and will bring a tear to your eye. A few lessons I have learned about family in the last couple of years;  If you have a chance to visit your family don’t pass it up.  If you have the time to take some pictures with your family members grab your camera and get it done.  I realized while composing this story I am so thankful for the pictures we took.  It allowed me to finally share this story, and put it on the family’s’ history pages for years and years to come.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

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