Celebrating my Great Grandmother's Birthday

Today is my third great grandmother Lizzie’s birthday! She would have been 157 years old. I am sad when people say that their lives have no meaning and they don’t matter. It is only because they can’t see the big picture! Each of us does make an impact–especially with our children, grandchildren and future generations. I love this woman and feel connected to her even though she died 30 years before I was born. The more I have studied her life, the more I love and respect her. It is because of how she dealt with the problems that came her way, not because her life was perfect.

Happy Birthday Grandma Lizzie!

Elizabeth Kenney Stevens

Lizzie’s Early Years

Lizzie was the oldest child of six and she was cheerful and kind. She laughed and smiled as she helped her mother cook, tend her brothers and sisters, take care of the farm, and make clothes for her family. When she was young, the dam above her town broke and the flooded everything. Her family had nothing and had to move to another town and start over. The people in her new town helped them with food and clothing and temporary housing until they could get situated.

When Lizzie was ten or eleven, a silver mine was discovered in Pioche, Nevada and it quickly became a large town. Her father decided to fill their wagon full of produce and to drive it to Nevada to sell it to the miners. His wagon broke down along the way and he was stranded for a few years. 

While he was gone, Lizzie got a job at the local general store as a clerk to help support her mother. She made cheese and buttermilk and fresh bakery items and sold them to the traveler. Her boss had a son named Joshua Stevens who was six years older than Elizabeth. They had gone to school together in the same one room schoolhouse. He had been gone for a few years but was quickly smitten with Lizzie who had grown into a beautiful young lady with blonde hair and beautiful eyes. 

Marriage and Honeymoon

After a summer courtship, the married in the fall. Joshua told her he had been asked to go with a group of missionaries called to start a new settlement to be located in southeastern Utah.  Joshua’s brother David and an uncle of theirs would also be going with them. They were to meet up with the group outside of a town called Escalante and they would make their journey southeast toward Colorado across a short cut. It was only supposed to take six weeks.

When they arrived, they found the shortcut was impassable. With snow covering the mountains over the way they had come and many of the pioneers had already sold their property to make the move, they voted to continue on through the red rocks and twisting canyons of modern day Grand Escalante Staircase. They blasted an unconceivable road and it took them six months instead of six weeks.

Map of the road Joshua and Lizzie Stevens took
It is the only pioneer expedition that went East.

What impresses me about Lizzie is her ability to be happy despite her circumstances. She was a young girl of 16 years old. She had never been more than ten miles from her home. She learned quickly to cook over an open fire and sleep under the wagon on the hard ground. She probably got scared with the coyotes wailing at night.  As their food ran out, she had to eat beef every day and what little greenery she could find along the trail.

Gunfights in New Mexico

After they made it to the new settlement, Joshua and David decided to settle further upriver in New Mexico. She was the first white woman in the area and may have felt scared or out of place, but she rolled up her sleeves and helped to make a home for her family. The area quickly became overrun with outlaws as it was a few days ride from Durango Colorado and there were many marshalls in the area. One particular outlaw threatened Joshua and David and took over their home when they were gone. A gunfight followed leaving David badly wounded and Joshua with black hands and a scar across the forehead. I can’t imagine the worry she felt as this went on.

Moving to Northern Chihuahua

Eventually, Lizzie and Joshua moved to the Mormon Colonies in Mexico. Eventually she had fourteen children and raised thirteen to adulthood. She cooked, cleaned, gardened, canned, carted wool, spun wool, and made all the children’s clothing and household items. They built a nice life for themselves down there and then she lost her husband prematurely when he was murdered by strangers during the Mexican Revolution.  She had to leave her comfortable home and all they had worked for twenty years.  She moved back in to the States where she eventually died at the ageof 84. She was alone for thirty six years and did her best to be a good example to her large family. 

Why Her Story Speaks to Me

I admire her faith and obedience. I admire her kindness and good nature. I admire her willingness to work hard and to not complain. I want to be more like this woman and I celebrate her life.


Creating a Positive Self Image

I recently decided to go back to counseling. It is hard to recognize that you need help processing and working through your own thoughts, but it is important. I am working on a few things that my counselor gave me. I am trying to practice self-compassion and to work on having  a postitive self image.

Self-compassion is a term created by Dr. Kristin Neff. She is an Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture, Educational Psychology Department, University of Texas at Austin. She has spent over ten years researching and writing about this concept. It means we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. I have been working through her online exercises and they have been very inspiring. If you are interested, you can find them here.

I also really enjoy listening to The Life Coach School podcast by Brooke Castillo. Her recent episode was about Self-Image. You can listen to it here. She defines self-image as the way you see yourself. It is how you interpret and think about yourself. It’s not the factual way you see yourself, but the opinion that you have of yourself.

We spend a lot of time trying to manage how other people see us. In fact, for most of us, this is a full-time job. Managing how other people see us. The way we dress, the way we drive our cars, the way we manage our households, the way we do anything can be really about other people without even realizing that that’s what we’re doing.- Brooke Castillo

I believe I have been doing this. I have been trying to control how other people see me and I’m tired of it. I can’t control what other people think of me, I can only control what I think of myself. I don’t like what I think of myself because it is so negative and I am trying to change it. I need a plan! Thank heavens Brooke suggests some ideas.

If you could dictate what everyone’s opinion of you would be, what would it be? What is the best-case scenario? What do you want them to think about you?

My first thought was surprisingly not about my physical appearance because I am so obsessed with telling myself how imperfect my body is. My first thought that I want people to notice or think about me is that I am kind, I am happy, and that they can find a friend in me. I want people to feel better after being around me. I want to lift people up and to be a positive light in a dark world. I want to allow myself to reach my fullest potential.

In sixth grade I was in the school musical. I was a background dancer with my friends. A high school senior came and taught us the choreography for the dance. I don’t remember the dance or even if I performed well, I only remember that I loved being in the musical because of her positive influence. She radiated joy wherever she went. If I could control what people think of me, then that would be what I would want them to see. I would want people to say, “I like being around Karen. She is fun and positive and I feel loved and accepted when I am with her.

Ask yourself what is the thing that you think you need to achieve to prove your worthiness? How would you think about yourself if you achieved it?

The two biggest things I want to accomplish in the next few years is to become healthier (physically and mentally) and to finish writing a novel.

I am tired of being overweight, but it is more than just a number on the scale. I am tired of my bad eating habits. I am tired of the way that I beat myself into making change. It never works! I need to be compassionate with myself as I change my bad habits that I have lead me down this unhealthy road. I need to be friend to myself first. I can’t be the kind of person I want to be when I am abusing myself.

I would love to finish a novel. I have four in transition but I haven’t finished them. I am very excited about the one I am working on now. It is the kind of book that I would like to read, about history, romance, and how the characters overcome their personal struggles to find themselves and to grow a beautiful, lasting relationshiop. I need to write it for myself, not for anyone else. I believe it will be a good book!

Now, once you do these two exercises, you’re going to have a long list of thoughts that you would love to think about yourself. It’s the ideal self image that you can have of you.

Brooke says the more I honor myself and take care of myself, the more I have to give. The more I love myself genuinely, the more I love other people. I would love to be like this!

Goal Setting, Heres to Living my Life!, Motherhood, My Mission

A Conversation with My Future Self

I really love podcasts, don’t you? There is one that I have been listening to for a while that I really enjoy. It is called “Better Than Happy” by a woman named Jody Moore. She is a certified life coach and mom of four children.  We are about the same age and share similar interests and beliefs. I think we could be friends.

I was listening to Episode 131 of her podcast this week entitled “Your Future Self.” If you are interested then you can listen here.  It is really an interesting concept that you ask your future self questions and you can get a lot of insight. She likes to ask her 92-year-old self questions because she thinks 93 is a good age to die. I laughed when I heard this, but there is a lot of wisdom in it.

A few year ago, I had the opportunity to interview my great-aunt Norma Gutke Ellis with my sister Deniane Kartchner. Aunt Norma was the only one of her generation left. She was the youngest sister of my grandfather whom I don’t remember because he died when I was under a year old.  I loved visiting with her. She was in her nineties and so spunky so fully of life an love. It was a sad day when we lost her. She was simply amazing.  I loved hearing her laugh and the bantering between her and her husband of over sixty years. She was full of wisdom and love. She struggled with her health, but she always had a smile on her face.

I think I would like to learn wisdom from my future self. I will go to the age 90 because that seems like a nice even number. My grandmothers both lived into their eighties and so there is a good chance that I could live to ninety.

The year will be 2069 when I turn ninety. Now that is a crazy thought! When I picture my ninety year old self, I see a combination of my Grandma Gladys (left center) and my Grandma Fern (right center with me as a baby). I will also look similar to my mother on the far right and my sister. I love these women and I will be proud to look like them. I will have white/gray hair. I will be wrinkly in the face, but I will still have the same green eyes that I have at forty. I will have sunspots on my arms and legs, but I hope I will be strong able to walk, to garden, and to take loving care of my children, grand children and great-grandchildren. I will probably have a double chin and shakes when I laugh, but who cares? I will be beautiful like these women are beautiful.

One of the ways to “talk” to your future self that Jody Moore suggests is doing the “Start, Stop, and Continue” activity. She suggest asking your future self:

What should I start doing?

What should I stop doing

What should I continue doing?

So I picture myself at ninety and I picture my wonderful grandmothers and here I go.

Dear Ninety Year Old Karen,

What should I start doing?

Dear Forty Year old Karen,

How lovely it is to talk to you! I am so glad that you are taking the time to picture your life ahead fifty years from now. The world has changed but there are so many things in this world that matter that have not changed. The sun still comes up every day in the east. There are still wonderful seasons to enjoy. The rain still falls and drips its heavenly sound on the roof and ground. The daffodils still poke their heads up every spring and adorn their beautiful bright yellow petals. The lilacs still bloom and send their sweet fragrance forth. They are still my favorite.  Technologies have come and gone, but there are three things that are always consistent my dear; 1) Jesus Christ, 2) the importance of family, 3) and loving and serving others. 

So you ask me what should you start doing as a forty-year old? I think it will be best if we break them down into four categories: physically, spiritually, and mentally/emotionally and occupationally.

Physically: start eating more fruits and vegetables and doing more strength building exercises like yoga and lifting weights. Your grandmother Gladys had diabetes and was no longer able to move from her chair in her eighties. Please take care of yourself. Eat well and take good care of your body. 

Spiritually: pray. Please pray every day. I know it is hard for your right now but if you pray every day and build that relationship with your Heavenly Father then you will have the strength that you need when every hard situation comes along and there will be many. You are setting the spiritual example for your children, but also for your grand children and great-grandchildren. They will be here some day. As I look at my wall I see photos of all their smiling faces and I love each of them as Grandma Fern loved each of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Think of the legacy that Grandma Fern left and her consistent testimony despite her many troubles and weaknesses, strive to be like her. Think of your mother and her relationship with the Lord. Be strong and be believing. Think of how Mormon and Moroni were strong despite the fact that they were alone in their faith. You can do it. I know you can because I am you. 

Mentally/emotionally.  Please have confidence in who you are. Please know how much your are loved and needed on this earth.  Please know you are a daughter of God and you are worthy of love always. Please be confident in the abilities and talents that Heavenly Father gave you and allow yourself to shine. 

Occupationally: Start writing! Write every day. You are a good writer. Write your personal history and write your stories in  your head.

Dear Ninety Year Old Karen,

What should I stop doing?

Dear Forty Year Old Karen, 

I will answer in the same categories. 

Mentally/emotionally: Stop listening to the critical voices (especially those inside your head) that drag you down and keep you from reaching your potential. You are a dreamer! Dream, float, fly and create. It is what you are supposed to do. As I sit here in my little apartment, there are at least ten books that have your name as the author. What you have to say is important. Your words are important. Your children and grandchildren need your voice and to read the stories of your ancestors in an enjoyable way that only you can write. Please do it. 

Physically: Stop comparing yourself to others. You are going to get old and your beauty is going to fade on the outside. It really is the inside that counts. Your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will think you are beautiful because you are who you are. I have a double chin, but no one cares. They love me for me! They love spending time with me because I have invested myself in their lives and shared so much love and friendship.  You can take care of yourself and you know how to do that. Please be your own kind of beautiful. 

Spiritually: Stop trying to save yourself. You will never be able to make it back to Heavenly Father on your merits alone. Allow Jesus Christ to be your partner in the yoke of this life. Allow him to take away your sins, your cares, your burdens, your struggles. Let him into your life. Develop your relationship with him. Give your heart and will over to him and let him run your life. It will take you places you will never imagine but it will be a fantastic ride! Hold on and enjoy the ride! 

Dear Ninety Year Old Karen,

What should I continue doing?

Dear Forty Year Old Karen,

Continue to do activities like this. I am always here and available to you. Remember when times get hard and you want to give up that I have made it this far. I made it through. I am ninety years old and I have lived a satisfying and happy and amazing life.  You will get through your hard times and there will always be sunshine ahead. REmember that today is a good day to have a good day. You are the one who chooses each day to be happy, to be confident and to be healthy. You can do it. I know because I am you and I have had a happy life. You can do it! You will! Keep going! 

I love you always– not matter what

Ninety-year Old Karen




Regency Romance

Drawing a Deep Breath, “I’m Back”

It’s been awhile. I feel like I have been on a long journey, but I am drawing a deep breath like Sam Gamgee and starting over.

But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.
He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said”

Lord of the Rings: Return of King– JRR Tolkien

I finished my first book two years ago and I submitted it to be published. It was rejected by each publisher, but one was kind enough to give me feedback. They said they liked the setting and plot, but my characters were lacking and the plot dragged. It was good feedback and I thought I would pick it back up and try again. However, each time I tried, I told myself I was a terrible writer and why was I even trying.  I lost my enthusiasm for that particular project and eventually I snuffed out my own desire to write. I lived in a cold, dark abyss for many months, so I decided to stop writing for a while.

Last fall, I decided to get back to the reason I wanted to write a book in the first place. It was because I love to read! I have always enjoyed escaping this world for a little while to a new one and to see what the characters will do.  I devoured Tolkien’s Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings back in the early 90s. I even wrote a twenty five page fan fiction about Legolas’ love life before I ever saw Orlando Bloom portray him on the screen.

I decided I should read a book that I would want to write. So for the last six months, I have read fifty romance novels. I realized I love Regency Romance. You would think I already knew that by the number of times I have watched the 2008 BBC version of “Sense and Sensibility” but sometimes it takes awhile for me to catch on. With each book I picke dup, I analyzed it by character and by plot, why it worked for me and or why it didn’t.  I enjoy Sarah Eden’s characters and setting. I love Julianne Donaldson’s setting and the witty dialogue of her characters. I laughed out loud at a scene in Edenbrooke that still makes me chuckle when I think of it.

I have also enjoyed Nancy Campbell Allen’s  steampunk fairy tales twists from “Beauty and the Clockwork Beast” to her recent book “Kiss of the Spindle.” I love her steampunk world and the way she twists the traditional fairy tails in a new light. I love that she has strong heroine’s that challenge their counterparts.

I am super excited to announce that my spark was lit and now my fire is going well. I am  going to write a Regency Romance of my own! It is about a kind hearted, but passive Harriet Crutchfield who lives in the shadow of her charismatic and heir to the family fortune, Andrew.  She is in love with her brother’s best friend, the talented and smart Theodore Montgomery. Unforunately,  as Theo is an only child he thinks sees Harriet as a little sister. It isn’t until the boys are in a lot of trouble and Harriet orchestrates an elaborate plan to save them that Theo realizes the woman has been looking he has known all along.


Along the Oregon Trail: Three Island Crossing

Growing up the Oregon Trail to me was a video game. I always tried to be a farmer who could make it to Oregon with $400 dollars and a big dream.  I played online today with my seven year old. You can find the link here.

At one point in the game,  my character got lost for two days. “It is was probably because you spent too long talking to people, Mom,” my kid said.

Eye roll.

A few minutes after I finally decided to return, we ran out of food, and my character died.


No problem. I could restart my game. However, it made me think about the brave men and women who traveled the Oregon, California, Mormon and other trails over a hundred and fifty years ago. They sold their homes, packed supplies into a wagon, and set off for a part of the world they had never seen. They only had hope that their lives would be better once they reached their destination. On our recent family trip, we visited one of the sites along the Oregon Trail, the Three Crossings of the Snake River.

Three Crossings is located near present day Glenn, Idaho. When the settlers arrived here they had to decide whether to continue down the south side of the Snake River where there wasn’t as much water or to risk crossing the river. They could die of thirst or die drowning in the river. It wasn’t an easy decision.

IMG_6090The strength and fortitude of these emigrants is amazing. I am out in the hot sun for ten minutes and I want to run inside to my house where it is cool. I get a few mosquito bites and I am annoyed, but I don’t have to worry about getting infectious diseases.  I am so blessed to live in this time and to have so many comforts.

Many of my ancestors traveled the Mormon Trail. My fifth great grandmother Lydia Goldthwaite and Newell Knight left their home in Nauvoo, Illinois. The home was only a few years old and had a tidy lawn and new corrals.  They left in the cold of February because mobs from the surrounding cities threatened to come into the city and destroy their homes and harm the women and children. Mobs had destroyed their home in Missouri only eight years before.

Newel and Lydia Knight traveled with their seven children across the muddy plains of Iowa and eventually settled in a place called Ponca near the Missouri River.  They made crude dugouts and lived there throughout the harsh Nebraska winter. Newel became sick from the exposure to the cold.

From Lydia’s journal,”On Monday morning, Jan. 4, 1847, Bro. Knight, whose health had been failing for some time, did not arise as usual, and on going to him he said, “Lydia, I believe I shall go to rest this winter.”

Lydia watched as her husband declined for ten days.

“I felt at last as if I could not endure his sufferings any longer and that I ought not to hold him here,” she wrote. “I knelt by his bedside, and with my hand upon his pale forehead asked my Heavenly Father to forgive my sins, and that the sufferings of my companion might cease, and if he was appointed unto death, and could not remain with us that he might be quickly eased from pain and fall asleep in peace. Almost immediately all pain left him and in a short time he sweetly fell asleep in death, without a struggle or a groan, at half past six on the morning of the 11th of January, 1847.”

Lydia and family look on at Newel’s grave.

I can’t imagine losing my husband and then having to cross the plains with seven young children. Lydia did it. She did not give up. Her motto was, “God Rules.” She wrote in her journal, “I still trust in God knowing He will do all things for the best.

My faith is not as strong as hers. If my husband were to pass away suddenly and I was left to raise my boys by myself, I don’t know if I would be as strong as her. I know I would struggle and it would be hard for me to say, “Heavenly Father, I Trust in Thee.”

I would like to have Lydia’s kind of faith. In the next few levels of my real life, I want to remember her and her faith and I want to become stronger. I can choose today to restart my life and strive become better each day.




Family Travel, Life with Boys, Uncategorized

Lazing at the River Ranch Retreat in King Hill, Idaho

We arrived at the River Ranch on a warm summer evening. The ranch was only a few minutes off I-84 and was easy to find.  I loved the tall timbers outlining the property entrance as we drove up.  A bit of nostalgia hit me as we drove lane lined with tall pine trees. It reminded me of visiting my uncle’s house as a kid.

We parked the car on the country estate. On the property, there is a main house to the right as your enter. We passed the guest house and a small cabin with a wrap around porch. There were also many outbuildings on the property. We met up with our family who parked who were camped in the RV site. They were lounging on the banks of the Snake River so we headed across the park like yard shaded by tall oaks.

One of the large tress had tree swing that we immediately loved. IMG_6046

We put our things into the guest house. It had two bedrooms, a bath, a living room/dining room and kitchen. There was also a sun room east. The kitchen was very fun. I loved the bright red and yellow hutch that held the old fashioned dishes and we enjoyed playing cards at the round table.




They had almost every copy of Natural Geographic ever written. They had a large selection of other books and lots of music. There wasn’t a movie collection, but the kids didn’t need it because there was so much to do outside.


Jason especially liked the leather settee in the living room.

We lounged for two days at the River Ranch.  The boys fished, waded on the Snake River, and found a killdeer and her nest. I loved reading my book on the porch swing at the cabin and even took a nap on a blanket under all the glorious shade from the many trees on the property. We had a fire, roasted marshmallows and made s’mores. It was great place to “camp.”



Family Travel, Life with Boys

Exploring Twin Falls, Idaho

We arrived in Twin Falls around 3:00 in the afternoon.  It was a breezy, summer day and very clear. We visited the Perrine Bridge first and the view was totally worth it. I have to admit I missed the turn off the first time and had to turn around. It was a headache, but worth it once we finally got there.

The bridge spans the Snake River and you can see waterfalls flowing from the top of the canyon to the southeast and to the southwest.

Perrine Bridge is the eighth highest bridge in the United States.

We arrived a few minutes after a group of base jumpers launched off the middle of the bridge. Hopefully you will have more luck than us.

From the view point, we could see the twin waterfalls to the southwest and Shoshone falls to the southeast.  It was an exciting place!

Next, we drove to Shoshone Falls. It is about twenty minutes through town and costs $3 per car for admittance to the park, but it very worth it.

Shoshone Falls is 212 feet (65 m) high and flows over a rim nearly 1,000 feet (300 m) wide.


View of the Snake River downstream from the falls.

and of course, the boys had to reenact their version of “Titanic’s” famous scene.

After the falls, we enjoyed the park. Families were picnicking and enjoying the cool summer afternoon and evening. We also were surprised to see a marmot in the trees near the falls.