Thursday, April 17, 2014



The stress of my life was beginning to overwhelm me, so I made a decision.  For the last four and a half years it had been all about my triplet daughters, my husband and my work.  It was time for me. 

Lack of sleep or any form of relaxation was draining the life out of me.  I realized if I didn’t take better care of myself I might not be around for my children when they needed me later in life.  I liken it to the announcement they make on airplanes… “Please put on your oxygen mask first before assisting your children.”  For me it was a survival decision.  If I became incapacitated my family would suffer too.  A start to this new attitude was letting my BFF, Sherry, whisk me away for a girl’s weekend getaway last weekend to Sabino Canyon in Tucson, Arizona.  Little did I know at the time that I would also re-discover part of my heritage.

My mother was born and raised in Tucson before being swept off her feet by my father and moving to California. My maternal grandparents settled in the small dusty town in 1920, just eight years after Arizona became a state.  They were true pioneers. 

My grandfather, Al Sterns, was a chiropractor… the first ever licensed in the state of Arizona.  Back then most people thought chiropractors were quacks.  His patients were always grateful for his treatments, but they couldn’t always pay.  So my grandfather was often paid in chickens, eggs or vegetables.  Al and my grandmother, Eunice, had seven children, two boys and five girls.  My mom was the youngest girl.  After having their first child their young family lived in a tent while they built their first house by themselves… rock by rock. 

In the 1940’s when my mother was 11 years old, her family purchased a small piece of land on Mt. Lemmon, just north of Tucson.  Over the years they hauled up rock and sand from the riverbeds down in the valley.  The government was clearing land to widen the road, which provided them logs.  With the help of the Sterns kids and various relatives they eventually finished their small summer cabin made of rocks and logs.  I vaguely remember visiting the cabin a couple of times as a small child.

My mom as a young girl
However, none of this was on my mind as Sherry drove us south from Phoenix to Tucson.  She had planned everything including booking a lovely two-bedroom guesthouse.  And it was Sherry who suggested a day trip up Mount Lemmon the day after we arrived.  It wasn’t until we were nearly to the top of the mountain that I thought of my grandparents cabin.  I called my mother but she wasn’t much help with directions.  However, my aunt who still lived in Tucson gave us a general idea of where it was located. 

Off the main highway we bounced along a dirt road for several minutes.  I recognized the cabin right away.  It looked medieval up on a hill amongst the pine trees… like a small rock castle.  

It had a For Sale sign out front.  The windows were boarded up.  It had been neglected for some time.  However, I was impressed with how sturdy it was.  Nothing was knocking this cabin down.  The walls were made up of large, smooth river rock, beautiful quartz rock and a few logs.  A large heart shaped rock sat in the center of the fireplace wall. 

I called the realtor on the sign.  Only two people had ever owned the cabin, my grandfather and the current owner.  Up in Mount Lemmon they still called it “Doc Sterns Cabin.”  
Doc Stern's Cabin back in the day
I was enchanted by this strong symbol of my descendants.  I had long admired my mom’s incredible strength and work ethic.  Now I imagined her as a pre-teen hard at work slapping cement between the rocks, scraping the bark off of the logs, attaching tiles to the roof.  She had passed this strength onto me. 

Doc Stern's cabin today
Even though at times my life seems like more than I can handle, I knew right then I would find the strength to stay strong... with the help of God’s grace and power, my inherited fortitude and by keeping a big heart in the middle of it all.


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  2. So cool! It amazes me how quickly things change. Each generation grows up so different and yet here we are all together! Thanks for sharing this :) I'd like to see that cabin myself!