Saturday, June 29, 2013


"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
KJV Matt. 5:9
Grandma was a peacemaker.  :-)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Outside Grandma's House

I was born in Illinois and didn't see my grandparents much until six, when we came west to live with them.  After that, we moved into a trailer but continued to see them often.

The big swing on their hill!

One day, Grandpa took me to pick out a bike.  I still remember the price: $100.  I thought that was a LOT of money!  (Still do!)  This is that bike on their driveway, where I learned to ride.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Last Big Christmas

Most of my memories of Grandma are attached to her house in some way, probably because the time I spent with her was usually when we visited, and I absolutely loved being there.  One of the highlights was when all the aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered for Christmas every couple years.  The last Christmas we met at Grandma's house was 2005.  My pictures were horrible, but I'm going to share them anyway.  My health was bad, and I probably wasn't able to hold the camera steady.

This is the landing where Grandma usually greeted us.  She always hung stockings for the grandchildren, and she loved snowmen.  At the bottom of the stairs was the play room to the right, a small room to the left, and the laundry area straight ahead leading to the garage.  Kylen is in green.

The chairs next to the fireplace and Cousin Ben.  Grandpa used to take lots of naps on the floor.

The TV Room: Cousins Laurie, Holly, Ben, and Melody

The Play Room Ramp: Nieces Kerinsa and Gracie, Kylen, Cousin Austin
Dining Area 

The cookie jar was located on the china cabinet right behind Uncle Aaron. 

I loved to look at Grandma's picture boards.  There was one in the kitchen.  Left to right: Uncle Kenny, Aunt Karen (by marriage), Uncle Tim (by marriage), Grandma, Cousin Holly (by marriage)
Dad, Mom, Sister Wakena

Back: Aunt Kelly (by marriage), Cousin Paul, Cousin Ben; Front: Cousin Laurie, Cousin Holly

 I'm holding the camcorder.

Grandma and Grandpa

Monday, June 24, 2013

We'll Miss You, Grandma!

Norma Alteneder ~ February 29, 1932 - June 24, 2013

An extraordinary woman born on an extraordinary day, Grandma and Grandpa always disagreed on whether her birthday should be celebrated the 28th of February or the 1st of March.  I still remember when I surpassed her in age.  It was such fun boasting to my friends that I was older than my own grandmother!  And yet it was fitting for this youthful woman, who was ever young at heart.  She made us laugh right up to the last day she talked, surprising us with her blunt but humorous quips.

If I could choose one word to describe Grandma, it would be selfless.  She married young, bore five children, and spent her entire life serving others.  When her children were raised, her focus shifted to her grandchildren, and later, her great-grandchildren.  Visiting her house was one of our greatest joys.  Inside were two stories full of love and memories.  Upstairs was Grandma and Grandpa's bedroom where I used to sit and watch her fix her hair.  Across the hall was the "TV room" where we children passed many happy hours watching cartoons.  There was a spare bedroom for dropping off our belongings and a bathroom with a laundry chute.  The living room had a sofa, recliners next to the fireplace, National Geographics, and piles of books.  Best of all was the dining area, the central hub of activity.  It was connected to the kitchen, and consequently, to Grandma.   We shared countless meals over the table while laughing at Grandpa's famous stories, playing games, or putting puzzles together.  Grandma's favorite game was Chinese Checkers, which she was brilliant at.  I remember Authors, Crazy 8's, Old Maid, and lots of Parcheesi, which was Grandpa's favorite.  The adults frequently played Rook while the kids found plenty of diversion inside and out.

Downstairs was the mysterious, unfinished basement with its curious smells and exposed pipes.  It was furnished with a washer, dryer, freezers, enough coats to outfit an army, and a big wash sink with a paper cup dispenser.  I don't know how many times I entered through the garage and stopped at that sink to quench my thirst with 14 tiny cupfulls of water.  And there was the play room with its old toys, books, an exercise ramp we ran up and down, and balls we kicked around.  There were yellowed clippings from old funnies taped to a file cabinet and an ancient metal desk with all sorts of odds and ends.  My Uncle Aaron used to hide down there in the dark and scare us to death, making strange noises and throwing stuff up at us.  The play room had a door leading into a storage room, which we called "the junk room."  Running up and down those stairs all the time probably helped Grandma stay fit!

The house was situated near the bottom of a forested hill on a nice little piece of land, surrounded by a lawn, shrubs, trees, and flowers.  We explored the hill in summer, sometimes venturing all the way to the top, accompanied by Grandma and a picnic lunch.  In the winter, we sledded and tubed down it.  After wearing ourselves out, we were met with hot chocolate and a few rounds from the cookie jar, which was always well stocked.  I learned to ride a bike next to their garage and developed a passion for ice hockey on the cement slab down by the blue shed.  They had a long, dirt driveway that led to their mailbox, and it went right past Grandpa's huge garden where he taught me about potato bugs.

After more than 50 years of marriage, Grandpa passed away, and Grandma had to learn to be independent.  We would occasionally tease her about whether she'd found a man to marry, but she always firmly replied that she would never marry again.  She enjoyed 10 fabulous years of good health, collecting cats along the way (Grandpa had always kept cat-collecting in check), traveling around to visit her children, and keeping up both her house (for company) and a small apartment (for the rest of the time).

I learned many lessons from Grandma.  I learned that holidays and birthdays are special, stickers make great embellishments, and one can never overdose on chocolate.  I learned not to eat a handful of Flintstone vitamins all at once (the only spanking I ever got from her), and I learned how sweet a package can be.  We lived several states away until I was 6, and the boxes from her were the best!  The only stuffed animal I was ever attached to came from Grandma: a pink cat that I slept with and took everywhere until it nearly fell apart.

Grandma was a gracious hostess, always putting the needs of her guests before her own.  She was one of the last to bed, the first to rise, and I guess she didn't get much sleep in between for worrying about all she needed to do the next day.  She was modest and kind, gentle and patient.  She could get along with just about anyone and provided a sympathetic ear whenever needed.  She was an incredible role model of what it means to be a wife, mother, and grandmother. 

This beautiful soul peacefully went to be with Jesus at 9:25 this morning, surrounded by her son, daughter-in-law, grand-daughter, and the prayers of those who loved her dearly.  We'll probably never fully comprehend or appreciate just how blessed we were to have her in our lives, but we will miss her terribly.  I am so thankful for all the wonderful memories we have to cherish.

Goodbye, Grandma!  I can't wait to see you again!

Farrah, your "first grandchild"

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Update On Grandma

Grandma was transferred to hospice a few days ago, and the focus of care has become comfort rather than recovery.  She has been given something to keep her calm and spends most of the time sleeping.  In a way, I envy her.  Soon she'll be leaving behind this life with all its sorrows and woes and entering heaven, where it's always happy.

I am so proud of my cousins, especially Melody and Kamin, and my Aunt Karen and Uncle Kenny.  They have made sure someone is with her 24 hours/day.  Even Kamin's husband, Adam, has spent much time with her and stayed with her during the night.  It's wonderful seeing all those who loved her coming to say goodbye or stay by her side.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

June Update

This has turned into a busy month, a combination of doctor's appointments and get-togethers with family and friends.  My grandmother's health, which has been declining for about four years, took a turn for the worse.  Her liver is no longer functioning due to cancer, and she is not a candidate for treatment.  I spent the second half of yesterday at the hospital with cousins, parents, siblings, an aunt and uncles.  How this lady is loved!!!!   My prayer is that she will not suffer.

Greg's aunt went to visit a friend in California for a week, but she is back in town.  We are planning to see her several times over the next week.

Kylen had his first violin lesson last night.  He didn't actually try the instrument yet, but his teacher is nice.  Sounds like violin is difficult to learn, so we'll see what happens!

My final test to determine whether my breathing problem was caused from my main medication, Methotrexate, was a cat scan on my lungs.  They can get a better image if they put something in there by IV.  What should have been 5 minutes turned into a couple hours.  They needed a large vein and couldn't find one.  After looking at both my arms with a sonogram, they found a spot to try.  It didn't work, but I was left with a VERY sore arm.  The arthritis in my elbows doesn't allow my arm to completely straighten, and in the process of making it as straight as possible, I think they forced it.  It was so sore, I couldn't use it at all for a day or two.  It took over a week for it to return to normal and even longer for the huge, horrible-looking bruise to disappear due to the internal bleeding caused by sticking that vein.  Not fun, but we survived the ordeal.  They gave up and did the scan without the IV.  Soon after, I got a call saying my lungs looked normal and to go back on the Methotrexate.  It seemed to me that my breathing had greatly improved since going off of it, so I was hesitant.  But I took it and had a bad reaction, including an allergic reaction.  My doctor decided it's time to switch medications, much to our relief.  Greg and I would have refused to have me take it again, anyway.

Now, we wait until the allergic reaction is gone, and then I'll try a new medication.  It's always a bit stressful to try something new, because of the uncertainty of side effects.  For the most part, I feel at peace.  I know that God has a good plan He is working in our lives.  :-)

Video: "A Letter from Dad"

This video made me cry.  It shows the beauty and value of life, even when that life is very short.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hay J's Restaurant

After Kylen's piano recital, we took my parents to one of our favorite restaurants, Hay J's.   It's next to a gas station and doesn't look like much on the outside, but it's quite fancy!

I always order the salad with huckleberry vinaigrette and the salmon.  If you make it before three, several of their dinner items are available during lunch (such as the salmon) at a significantly lower price than on their dinner menu.  And if you go around 2:30, the place will be practically empty.  :-)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Piano Recital #4

We were excited that my parents were able to join us for Kylen's fourth piano recital on Saturday.  The recitals are always held at the Steinway Piano Gallery.  His teacher schedules two each year, and he's been taking lessons for two years.  Last summer he continued lessons through the break, but this time we decided we're going to take a few months off.  It was sad saying goodbye at the end, knowing Mrs. Peters won't be stopping by each week!

Kylen was well prepared with all three songs memorized.  We didn't arrive early enough for him to practice a bit like usual, and playing on their big grand is very different from our digital.  He had some problems with the second song, which was the easiest of the three.  Funny how that can work!  It seemed to me that there was an echo and the sounds were mixing, especially on his first song.  The room is supposed to be acoustically designed, but sometimes I wonder about that.  Seems odd that it would sound so much better on our inferior instrument at home.  Or perhaps it was because we sat in a different area of the room?  Normally we are in the front row on the left, directly behind the players.  This time, we were a few rows back on the other side.

You can't tell from the picture below, but the room ended up having more people than usual by the time everyone took their seats.  They gave an extra hearty applause when Kylen finished, and a few people even came up and complimented him when the recital was over.  One man whipped out his tablet and showed him a video of a boy around the same age playing two different songs at once and told him Kylen's playing reminded him of that video!

I always enjoy taking a closer look at their beautiful grand afterwards.  This one had been signed by a famous pianist!  Turns out that Roger Williams was the first (and only?) artist to receive the Steinway Lifetime Achievement Award.  They even named a series of pianos after him.  No wonder he signed one of them!

LEGO Dreadlocks

Kylen did this while I was reading.  I couldn't think of a more descriptive name!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Presents! The Cake!



Happy 30th, Ryan!  Don't ever grow up!


I like these shots of my mom.  I think they show how happy she is to have all her children together celebrating one of their birthdays, something that hadn't happened in a long time.  Two of my siblings got divorced a couple years ago, and it was hard on the whole family.  Maybe enough healing has taken place that we'll see these gatherings more often.  :-)

Horse Shoes

My father (actually step-father, but the only father I've known most of my life and whose positive influence I have been so grateful for) loves playing horse shoes.  He, Greg, Kylen, and my brother Denny played a game or two.  It may have been Kylen's first time.

Happy 30th, Little Brother!

I just can't believe it.  If he's over the hill, where am I?

We celebrated my "little" brother Ryan's birthday at my parents' house on Sunday.  They have a nice little piece of land with a huge yard, basketball court, trampoline, hot tub, and tire tag.  The kids took full advantage of the warm weather with much splashing and drenching, and the neighbors brought over their inflatable slide to share.  Kylen was obsessed with tossing buckets of water on his uncles, and my siblings had a tussle over the hose.  I kept my camera on me at all times, which proved an effective deterrent to getting doused.  At one point, Kylen was trying to fling water at someone and got ME by accident!  My own son!  Thankfully, it all went on my head rather than the camera!  I hadn't seen Denny or his daughters in probably a couple years, so it was a pleasant surprise meeting them there.  His girls have really grown, but then so has Kylen!  I'll share more pics in a few more posts.

Kalena, my sister Wakena's baby.  Ain't she a cutie?

Wakena and Ryan acting very mature!

Kylen and his bucket, speculating on when to go after Ryan.

A rare pic without his glasses.

Ryan with Wakena's two boys, Isaiah and Elijah.

Denny's oldest, Kerinsa.  Too bad the one of her sister Gracie didn't turn out!

This is Ryan surrounded by most of our nieces and nephews.  I took several, but someone had their eyes closed or head down in every shot!  Wakena's two boys are in front, Denny's two girls are on the right, and Denny's step-daughter is on the left.  All the kids adore Ryan.  He's one of those fun uncles who never grew up!