Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hey 2016 . . . Can We Take Our Seat Belts Off Yet?

With all the highs and lows of 2016, I feel like I have been on the craziest roller coaster ride ever.  The Cyclone?  Nothing like 2016.  The MindEraser?  Not even close.  The Chipmunk?  Nope.  Right from the start, 2016 presented us with tragic news, amazing opportunities, devastating losses, and joyous moments.  How in the world does anyone handle that?  Well, we fasten our seat belts and hold on for dear life.  

Those lows were tough.  How many entertainers did we lose this year?  It seemed like I had just processed the death of David Bowie and the next thing I heard about Glen Frey, The Hag, and Prince.  And on and on and on and on . . . 
It continued right up to the end, too.  Hitting me hardest was losing Leon (blog to come soon about his place in my life).  My good friend Monroe, who has accompanied me to many Leon concerts, snapped me out of my despair like only Monroe can with "Well he didn't just 'hang out' for 74 years.  He LIVED.  Dying is a part of it.  Don't waste the living part."  Thank you, Monroe, and thank you Leon Russell.
Leon the last two times I saw him--2014 and 2015
There were other lows, of course--terrorist attacks in our country and abroad, disappointing football seasons for Nebraska (will we ever be a championship team again??) and the Broncos (why couldn't they end the year like the Super Bowl Champs they were at the beginning??), and that election that seemed to bring out the worst in people.  My heart still hurts from all the hate that infiltrated our lives, mostly through social media.  

I cried with family members and friends as they lost loved ones to cancer and heart disease and organ failure, and I pray they find peace in the new year.

Those lows--I'm sending them off to the universe with a kiss and hoping their light shines down on all those who miss them--because there were highs.

Oh those highs!!!!

In no particular order (well, maybe the last two would be at the top!) 2016 brought me:

My sister Kerri enjoys taking Mom and me on trips, and I'm so glad she does.  We returned to Maui, my favorite vacation destination, where we stayed at the Westin Maui Resort.  Sunny, warm days, sparkling blue water, pineappley cocktails, and beautiful traveling company transformed this weary teacher in a way that nothing else could  Paradise.  Thank you, Kerri and Nathan and Lindsey and Mom!

Maui Love

Somehow, I am surrounded by the most amazing friends--angels--whose hearts are as big as the sky.  Their support and genuine love shines in my heart always, and I am grateful for each one.  I love our conversations, our lunches, our cocktails, our movie and theatre dates, our happy hours, our book talks, our laughter, and our tears.  They make me say "Yay friends!"
Yay friends!

We welcomed a new royal baby this year, Russell Lee Hawk.  Nathan and Lindsey, my new niece!, are beautiful new parents, and I can't wait to meet Russell next month. The other seven Royals continue to bring so much light to our family.  Ethan 6, Drake, 3, Max, 3, Madi 3, Lucy 2, Quinn 1, and Archer 1 made 2016 beautiful.
Royal Babies

Bruce Springsteen came to Denver in 2016 and I got tickets!!  I have seen him many times, but this--The River Tour--was my favorite.  He just gets better and better.
That's my Bruce

Did I mention Bruce?  Because 2016 really could be called The Year of Bruce.  Not only did I see him in concert, but in case you somehow missed it, I MET HIM, TOO!!  I will write about that as soon as I can calm myself down enough to come up with sentences rather than #HEKISSEDME or #HECALLEDMEDARLING, but for now, just know that Bruce is real, he is sweet, and he is gorgeous.  #HighlightOfMyYear!  

*Update*  Blog finished!  Read it HERE!

The highest high this year and every year is my family.  At one time or other, whether in Nebraska, Minnesota, or Colorado, I got to see everyone, and there is nothing that will ever top that.  
Family over Everything

I'm really, really hoping we can all unbuckle our seat belts, at least for a bit, as we begin 2017.  For those of you who are ready to kick 2016 to the curb, I hope 2017 is better.  It will be, I know it.  And for those of you who are clinging to 2016, thinking how can it get any better, it can.  I know it, too.

I hope you are all ringing in 2017, this New Year, in whatever way brings you joy.  May you all meet your Bruce in 2017!

Happy New Year!

(my New Year's kiss!!!!)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Simply, Simplify

"Our life is frittered away by detail. . . Simplify, simply."

And with those simple words, I became hooked on Henry David Thoreau.  My 11th-grade English teacher, Mr. Becker, introduced us to the world of Transcendentalism.  His expertise on this topic and his amazingness as a teacher helped me expand my thinking and think beyond my little Nebraska world.

I love everything about Thoreau, but my absolute favorite passage comes from Walden.  Thoreau tells us we work and run around like ants, and we don't take time to appreciate what we really have.  He tells us our lives are complicated with too much detail, and we need to simplify.  This rings true now more than then.  We've so cluttered our world with everything from technology to clothing to cars and even food choices.  I long to just retreat to a cabin in the woods and get away from it all at times.

During this Thanksgiving season, I plan to slow down and savor all the blessings in my life.  I will be traveling to Nebraska with my traveling companion, my mom, where most of my family lives.  First stop--Lincoln--to help my brother celebrate 60 years of living a great life and to see my sister in law and feel her warm embrace and to hug tightly my nieces and nephew and to get to know our little Lucy and to watch the Huskers stomp Iowa.  Next stop--Cairo (Nebraska, not Egypt!) to celebrate my niece's 32nd year of a beautiful life and to see my sister and to be surrounded by love and joy and laughter with E and Drake and beautiful Quinn.

Simplicity.  Life is good!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My Father's Eyes

"Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?"
Henry David Thoreau

It's hard to believe that my dad has been gone for more than thirty years.  His sudden death in 1982 sent a shock wave through my close-knit family.  Indeed, we still feel some of that shock even now.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about his strong spirit, his unique and genuine laugh, and his beautiful eyes.  My dad had the bluest eyes, and it is from him that I get my own blue eye color.

Growing up, there were times when I couldn't look my dad in the eye, especially those times when I knew I had disappointed him.  He was always so extremely proud of all of us, and even though he would never show it, he must have felt some moments of disapproval.  I regret not looking him in those blue eyes and saying "I'm sorry.  I love you."

I would love  just an instant to look through those blue eyes once again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Write Like Thoreau

"Write often, write upon a thousand themes, rather than long at a time, not trying to turn too many feeble somersaults in the air"--Thoreau

My 12th-grade English students are creating Thoreau journal/blogs, and I'm going to join them.  I will be switching gears a bit with my posts and trying my own hand at writing Thoreau-inspired posts.  I'm super excited to revisit some of my favorite Thoreau passages and explore new ones with my seniors.  Follow us as we all try to write like Thoreau!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Lucy Aloisie Franta Dolezal

I recently completed an assignment for a graduate class that asked me to write a character sketch inspired by a picture or artifact.  I used my grandmother's baptismal certificate for my inspiration.  (You can read all about that here) My character sketch ended up being more of a love story based on lots of speculation.  Here it is:


Lucy Dolezal holds her tiny baby niece securely in her arms.  She listens intently as Father Vaclav recites the words that will welcome Emily Franta into the Catholic Church.  Emily is gazing into her eyes, as if searching for something.  Guidance?  Yes, that is Lucy’s job as her godmother—to provide spiritual guidance as Emily travels through life.  Safety?  Something in Emily’s round, innocent eyes tugs at Lucy’s heart, making her want to protect this baby always.  Love?  She and her brother James have always been so close, sharing much as they grew up on the farm with their mom and dad and their five brothers and sisters.  Now James has asked her to be his daughter’s godmother, an honor that brought her to tears.  Yes, love.  She will cherish Emily as if she were her own.

Glancing up from the baby, Lucy catches her new husband’s gaze.  Anton, her groom of two months, stands on the other side of James and Lizzie, joining her on Emily’s spiritual journey as her godfather.  She sees the love in his eyes as he looks from her to Emily and back to her again.  They have so many dreams for their new life as Mr. and Mrs. Dolezal (when will she get used to being Lucy Dolezal not Lucy Franta??)  They dream of owning a farm, building a home, and of course becoming parents.  Anton, so strong and brave, dreams of his children being born in America and having a lifetime of opportunity.  He was born in Czechoslovakia and came to America with his brother as a young man.  Lucy sees them work hard to start new lives here, and it breaks her heart to think of all they left behind.  Lucy’s own parents left their families behind in Czechoslovakia to chase the same dream, and she has heard their stories of loneliness and fear, but they were always, always laced with hope. She and Anton will raise their American-born children with faith and love.  They will have so many more opportunities than she and Anton had.

A small cry brings Lucy’s eyes back to the baby in her arms.  Emily somehow senses that Lucy’s thoughts are far away, and her cry makes Lucy smile.  Yes Emily, I am here, my goddaughter.  Just in time, too, as Father Vaclav nears the end of the service.  He is addressing her now.  “Is it your will that Emily should be baptized in the faith of the Catholic Church, which we have all professed with you?"

Not taking her eyes off Emily, Lucy, along with Anton, vehemently responds, “It is.”

Lizzy takes her daughter from Lucy’s arms as she readies her for the splash of holy water that will cleanse Emily of original sin.  Lucy’s eyes stay glued to Emily.  Her arms feel so empty now, but her heart is full as she witnesses Emily’s first sacrament.  She prays for Emily’s health and happiness and that she will witness many more milestones on Emily’s journey.  She prays that Emily will be strong and loving like all her Franta ancestors.  She prays that she will fall in love with a good man and find joy in her own children and grandchildren.  She prays that she will always lead a holy life and feel God’s comfort and grace.  And mostly, she prays that Emily will always feel loved.

Father Valcec pours water over Emily’s head.  “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  You are God’s work of Art.

Emily doesn’t cry.  She smiles as if she understands.  Tears well up in Lucy’s eyes.

Yes, Emily Franta, you are.

Dedicated with so much love to my Grandmother Emily Jambor.  
And to Lucy Dolezal :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Finding Lucy (Aloisie) Dolezal

Lucy Dolezal was my grandmother's aunt and godmother.  I learned this just a few years ago after my great niece Lucy was born.  (You can read all about that here.)  From the moment I saw her name on Grandma's baptismal certficate, Lucy Dolezal has been on my mind.  I wanted to learn  more about her, and recently an opportunity presented itself for me to do just that.

Always looking for ways to improve my own writing, I enrolled in Improving Writing Skills through Autobiographical Applications (check it out!), an independent-study graduate ENG class.  I was absolutely thrilled as I browsed the course manual and perused the required writing assignments. The very first exercise/assignment was to write a character sketch based on a picture or artifact.  I knew immediately about whom I would write --Lucy Dolezal! Other than knowing that Lucy was my grandmother's aunt, however, I knew almost nothing else about her.  I needed to do some family history digging, stat.

Enter my sister in law.  

Joy and I are soul sisters to the core, and I knew she would embrace this challenge.  She loves spiritual connections and family as much as I do, and I knew she wouldn't let me down.

And so we began our quest to learn about Lucy Dolezal.  We quickly learned, however, that finding out about ancestors who have been gone for a long time and whose immediate family members are gone as well is not an easy task.  Nevertheless, we both became obsessed with our mission as we encountered inaccurate information, took wrong turns, backtracked often, and even ran into full blown dead ends.  Still, those obstacles only made us more determined to find Lucy Dolezal, and we spent most of July searching.

All we had was a simple piece of paper indicating that my Grandmother Emily was baptized on July 11, 1904, and Lucy Dolezal was listed as her "sponsor." My mom remembered that Lucy was Grandma's aunt, but that was all we had.

So where do we start?  As Glinda  says in The Wizard of Oz, "It's always good to start at the beginning," and so we did.  We Googled Lucy Dolezal, of course.  And just like that, we were off, down our own Yellow Brick Road of discovery.

From that initial Google search, we located many Lucy Dolezals all over the world,  We quickly realized we needed to refine our search.  We added dates and places (Nebraska) and names (Anton, assumed husband)  until we thought we had something.  We thought that our Lucy Dolezal at some point became Lucy Dolezal Fisher.  We speculated that 1) she and Anton divorced (I never wanted to believe that) or  2) She remarried after Anton died.  From there, we spun the story that he died from injuries or sickness incurred in WWI (the info we had said he died in 1928) and so Lucy remarried and became a Fisher.  We even found the gravesite of a Lucy Dolezal Fisher in Wahoo, Nebraska.

Something didn't seem right though.  The dates were slightly off.  The unexplained Fisher name was out of sync.  We had hit our first dead end. But we weren't going to let a Wicked Witch throw apples at us on our journey. Just like Dorothy and friends, we refocused and continued on.

Somewhere in here I changed my search to Lucy Franta, her maiden name. The result was super exciting--I actually found a mention of her marriage certificate! 

I immediately sent the link to Joy, and we both were recharged--we had a glimpse of our Emerald City!  The dates all worked.  We were finally on the right track for the right Lucy and Anton Dolezal.  For a few steps, anyway.  It wasn't long before we hit another dead end--we weren't finding anything beyond the marriage certificate. That Wicked Witch was throwing fireballs at us now.  

It was at this point that Joy and I both remarked that it was a good thing it was summer and we had the time to do our search.  We were into week three at this point, and we were driving our loved ones a little crazy with our obsession.  We found ourselves stopping to read text updates in the middle of Home Depot or staying indoors tethered to our iPads on gorgeous summer days.  And we were starting to get a little weary.  Was that a poppy field up ahead??

Just when we were thinking we had found as much as we could, my mom handed me a faded piece of paper. Any spell of weariness quickly wore off after reading the words on that paper.  It was an old, hand-typed, brief Franta family tree. At first , I thought it was just another dead end---there was no Lucy listed.  But once again, It was Anton's name that led to Lucy.  Anton Dolezal was listed as husband to Aloisie Franta.  Light bulbs went off.  So Lucy used a nickname??  Her real name was Aloisie??  Was that why we seemed to be going one step forward two steps back??

From there, things moved quickly.  We began searching for Aloisie Franta Dolezal, and we found our Emerald City.  Through U. S. Census sites we discovered that she and Anton had seven children.  We discovered that they all stayed in Nebraska, most in the same eastern area.  

We discovered that Anton died before Lucy, and that both of them are buried in Schuyler, Nebraska.  We even found this

I got teary when I saw these images.  I couldn't help feeling that my great, great aunt Lucy Dolezal was a part of me, and I was sad that I never got to know her.  

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But I also smiled when I saw that Lucy and Anton are together even now.  Although I don't know their real love story, I can imagine that their life was filled to the rim with love for their children and grandchildren and each other and that they have their happily ever after somewhere over a Nebraska rainbow.

(Oh, and about that writing assignment that inspired this summer-long search for Lucy Doleful?  You can read that story here)

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Our family has been blessed again with another Royal Baby.  Henry Archer Alldredge joined our family on November 7, 2015, born to my niece Amy and her husband Austin.

Compared to our other Royal Babies, Archer's arrival was a cakewalk (Amy might have something to say about that!)  Amy's due date was November 12, so none of us were prepared for the phone call a week before that date.  We were all celebrating Lucy Mae's 1st birthday in Lincoln when my cell phone rang.  When I saw Amy's name on the screen, I just assumed she was calling to wish Miss Lucy a happy birthday .  Instead, I heard Amy's voice, a little sleepy, a little giddy, and a lot happy .  Their baby boy was here.

So many people were anxiously awaiting little Archer's entrance into our world.  Even though he lives all the way in California, his new family quickly arranged trips to the West Coast to surround him with love.

Poppi T
Alabama Grandma, Grandpa, and Cousin
Uncle Andy

Some of us had to wait a little longer to meet Archer.  In fact, he had to come visit us in Colorado, and we are so glad he did!!
Meeting Aunt Ana and cousins Max and Madi

The seemingly endless wait was so worth it!

We couldn't get enough of Archer when he was here in Colorado.  We even got to have a slumber party at my house!  And throughout the whole process of meeting new family, meeting Jewel, playing with twin cousins, having his first tea party, and being passed around like a football, Archer rarely cried.  He's such a good baby!!

As Archer grows and changes, some things have become obvious.  Like . . .

He's going to grow up with football all around him.  From his mama's Stanford Cardinals to the Thompson's Nebraska Huskers and the Colorado family's Denver Broncos all the way to his dad's Alabama Crimson Tide, Archie's life will be full of the excitement and thrill that is football.


Even though Archer is far away in distance from most of his extended family, he is close to all of our hearts.  We all look forward to planning trips to San Francisco, and we're anxiously awaiting his next adventure to Colorado.  Or Alabama.  Or Nebraska.  Or wherever life takes Archer!

Welcome to our beautiful world, little Archer!!!