From the Editor

When I was 3 years old, I took my first plane ride on a family trip to Arizona. That's significant for me, because that trip also produced the very first memories I can recall. I remember sitting by my mother on the plane-my father and older sister sat behind us-and coloring with crayons to while away the time. I remember my older sister stubbing her toe at our hotel pool, and I remember the tiny black-and-white TV set mounted on the wall in our room.

But what I remember most clearly is the car ride to the airport in Minneapolis. We left so early that morning it was still dark. And I remember peeking out the backseat window to catch the first glimpse of the sunrise-the pale gray and pale pink and pale yellow pooling into the dark sky.

About the same time in my life, my Grandma Christiansen would read me a book about a little girl whose family got up just as early to see the traveling circus-and her own observation of the dark sky changing to pale gray and pale pink and pale yellow as the sun rose. This was my first understanding that some things are universal, that two very different people can see something and experience it the same way. (It was also my first brush with the concept of a recurring theme, my favorite writing device.)

Years later, as I got up earlier and earlier to allow time for my increasingly complicated morning routine before school, I would catch glimpses of the sunrise out of our kitchen window, and I would always think of that car ride and that book. Firsts, though by definition happen only once, also transcend time. With one glance, I would be for an instant that 3-year-old girl, full of wonder.

This issue of Coulee Region Women is devoted entirely to "firsts," in all the ways that word can be interpreted. We open with one of the first of "first" experiences-first grade-and a woman who has devoted her career to making sure her students' early experiences with education are positive ones. We move on to the first steps to recovery from addiction, to a firefighter who is often first on the scene, to women who serve up our first meals of the day in inspired style. We meet women in "first chairs" at the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra, introduce a program that makes a first home available to many, and pay a visit to our "first neighbor to the north."

Thinking of all these firsts gives us the opportunity to reflect on other firsts we'll never forget-first job, first home, first love, first child, first significant loss. We each have our own litany of firsts-some beautiful, some disappointing, some painful and some funny-and our impressions of them are what make them timeless. These are our stories, and like any good recurring themes, they are universal. Sharing them allows us to learn about each other, diffuse pain and disappointment, experience wonder and realize that, despite our differences, we have much in common.

These days, especially in the winter months, I'm easily up in time to see the sun rise. Some days it seeps into the dark sky in shades of pale gray and pale pink and pale yellow. Some days I'll look out the kitchen window and be startled by a shock of fuchsia. "Come here and look at the sunrise!" I call to my kids, groggy over their cereal bowls. "You'll never forget it."

Betty Christiansen



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What is inside this month's issue:

Fabulous First Grade
Nancy Wettstein-Weaver shares the joys of teaching first grade.

A Family Practice
A family of Viroqua nurses boasts three generations of putting patients first.

Healthy Living
Putting Yourself First
Stay balanced with 5 tips for self-care.

Personal & Professional
First on the Scene
For Erin Statz, there is no better profession than firefighting.

A couple celebrates a remodel featuring Solid Surface Specialist and solid relationships.

Finding HOME offers a helping hand for homeownership.

First Meal of the Day
Start your day right with offerings from local restaurateurs.

Area recovery centers help people combat addiction and reclaim lives.

Arts & Entertainment
First Among Equals
Principal players of the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra make beautiful music.

Who Came First?
Does birth order really explain it all?

Retail Therapy
A Token of Thanks
Find inspiration for a holiday season's worth of hostess gifts.

First Neighbor to the North
Visit Toronto and Niagara Falls for a firsthand experience of Canadian hospitality.


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