Hope and Joy

We are moving soon, and for the first time in six decades on the planet I will live in the city! The country mouse moves to the city–well, suburbs. I will miss my old houses and the decorating style that blended so well with them. I grew up in the 60s and 70s and was very happy to leave behind the orange shag rugs, the avocado green and harvest yellow appliances, and the Colonial Americana textiles. The house we just bought was built in the year of my birth–1963! Mid-Century modern is NOT my style, having lived through the real thing. I do admit to a bit of nostalgia for Coppertone wall ovens. I could like that again.

Moving is a big deal. There is so much work ahead, packing up and downsizing 5000 square feet into roughly half that. Compared to all of the other recent changes in my life I am reminded that it is not insurmountable. In fact, I am looking forward to it.

Although I will miss the gorgeous vistas I have been blessed to see daily, the winding Missouri River, the distant hills, and inviting woods, I am envisioning a simpler life. We are having a fence installed and I’ll work on a cottage garden, as much as my back will allow. A window over my sink will invite tranquility within as I wash up after meals. This will become the stuff of my daily vistas.

Those meals will be smaller, as I learn to cook for fewer and fewer on a daily basis. One of our sons will be moving out on his own when we pack up this old house, and another will be head to college in the fall. But I have visions of big family Sunday dinners. We will be a few houses up from one of our daughters, her husband and our one-year-old grandson. We’ll be an hour closer to my pioneer-woman daughter in the hills of Central Missouri. and still within a day’s drive of our two oldest daughters and their families. I can hope that one day they will move yet closer.

I really think that the years growing up watching The Waltons imprinted on me a desire for a large family. It is not for everyone, but I count blessings that this came true for me. We don’t travel as other friends do who have smaller families. One good friend of my late husband and mine, with whom we vacationed regularly, travels out of the country once or twice a year. Another good friend is in Kenya as I write. These travels are not possible for us now, and any envy I feel is instantaneously replaced with happiness for them and gratitude for all I do have.

Gratitude is “where it’s at.” It keeps us focused on what is real, and fills us to overflowing with hope and joy.

Preparation and Joy

I watched an interview this morning with Cardinal George Pell from Australia. Regardless of religion and stance on the awful pedophilia that exists not only in organized religion it but in too many workplaces and organizations, here is a person who was exonerated not only once, but multiple times. He was imprisoned for over a year while appeals were heard and judged in the Supreme Court. He was unanimously and finally declared innocent.

The interview delved into his emotions and how he coped with unjustified imprisonment. Of course there are people who have suffered worse, but here was an inspiring account of how he avoided anger and prayed for those who falsely accused him. If anyone is familiar with how accounts of Jesus portrayed his unjust torture, imprisonment and crucifixion, the very least one can agree on was that he was docile, did not fight back, did not act out in anger, and prayed for his accusers, torturers and executioners. Accounts of imprisoned and tortured disciples and apostles show an imitation of Jesus.

Cardinal Pell has written about his experiences. I have not read the journals but would like to. In this interview just before his natural death, he explained how and why he did not react in anger, but trusted God and prayed for not only his accusers but for all of those who have suffered from sexual abuse. He remained, it seems, as calm as he did throughout the interview. Toward the end, the interviewer verbalized his own opinion that the Cardinal’s experience seemed to parallel those of prophets in the Bible who suffered unjustly, whose experiences were portents of things to come. He implied that things are going to get worse in the future and that we can use the Cardinal’s response as an example of how to react.

Cardinal Pell, interestingly to me, did not agree with the negative view of the future. He expressed great hope despite how things might seem. This was as enlightening to me as was his forgiving response to imprisonment and unjust suffering. We do live in a time where many are losing hope and predicting awful times ahead. Perhaps in some ways they may be proven correct, but I agree that there is always hope.

This does not mean that we ignore the things we see as signs of what may come. We should indeed prepare as we see fit. From this interview I see that the greatest preparation is within us. The most incredible things that I gain from my faith in terms of how to live my life, are perspective, and a philosophy of living in love and hope. These things increase the love of others, and of prayer for them despite evil. With preparation there is then peace, and it leads to joy.

Memento Mori, Memento Vivere

I grew up in a rural town where everyone knew my name.

I was the-go-to babysitter, Suzy Greene.

Not long before I began babysitting; cool trench coat, eh?

A most-favorite Mom became a good friend through my twenties and early-thirties. Joanne was 41 when diagnosed with colon cancer, her boys by then in their early teens. I took my new baby girl, all pink and white in her carrying car-seat the last time I visited Joanne. There are no other words— Joanne was radiant. She was 42 and, being nearly 30 years ago, it was before regular screenings were routine, treatments were not as advanced, and it was caught late.

Glowing Joanne told me she had never been happier. She had found joy in the moment, in living.

I miss her to this day, but she was right. The moment is “where it’s at,” and there is beauty in it!

One of my sons turned 19 last week and my husband made an incredible dinner. It was the first time I did not bake my son’s cake, but oh, that Pepperidge Farm Coconut cake tasted heavenly. His best friend was visiting and his girlfriend was on Facetime through the dinner and singing of “Happy Birthday.”

It was the happiest moment I can think of in years. Our priest Fr. Arek visited earlier and my son took communion with me. It was a great day!

I’ll share the brilliant writing of a newfound friend of mine. Hers is not my journey, but it hints closely. It’s about as much self-disclosure as I’m up for, and indirect, at that. It is full of raw feeling, yet embedded with wisdom.

Enjoy today! In order to experience joy, to fully live in the moment, we must first contemplate that at some point in future, we all die. Memento Mori, Memento Vivere!

Carpe Diem!


My children talk to me about what they encounter on the internet. We’ve set the parental controls that we know of, and try to limit time on devices. I check most of their devices, as well, and respect friends who don’t even allow them. Truly. I gave in somewhat compared to others. My kids think I’m overly strict so I must be somewhere within the right wavelength of parental involvement.

Most of the time what videos they show me and stuff they discuss is fun and entertaining, but when it gets close to disturbing they know we will discuss it. “Disturbing” includes YouTubers who post depressing and negative views about life or politics, the state of world culture or social view. I really prefer to help them to understand where the poster came from, what must be informing their experience and opinions. I really dislike it when my kids talk down about a person or viewpoint. A difference of opinion is fine but I tell them I’d rather hear them express dismay and a lack of understanding about a viewpoint they are offended by or disagree with — rather than talk down about that person.

It is a learning process. I am not perfect and they know that. So, more discussion.

Recently a friend posted a pretty depressing meme expressing something unfair within their worldview of politics. I counter the negative vibes by reminding myself that there has been inequity since humanity existed. We’ll keep dialoguing and working out solutions, but, like the viral sensation Nightbirde has wisely expressed, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” Nightbirde has lived for the last few years battling cancer, at one point she had a 2% chance of surviving. Her husband left her, she moved halfway across the United States and yet she found spiritual healing. Her blog posts are poetic and moving and beautifully written. She says that she makes music and art out of what she has been handed and it is redemption for her.

There will always be inequities and tragedies and we must work as a society to right them. But even if we cannot see the end of it, even if we feel powerless we can choose to see what is good and beautiful in the world, and choose joy.


Joy. Contentment. We are built with an amazing ability to experience these at any time. In times of strife, during suffering, and even in pain, people throughout history have attested to this truth. Paul the Apostle wrote about it from jail. In prison with a death sentence over his head, he wrote what would later become books within the Bible. He wrote letters of encouragement to Christians. He wrote that to live was “gain” and yet to die was also “gain.” He did not fear death because he believed that he would live eternally with God. And so he gave of himself in a way that he could…through letters.

Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist helped fellow prisoners in the concentration camp he was imprisoned in; he encouraged them, counseled them, inspired them and remained hopeful. After he was released he wrote about his experiences in A Man’s Search For Meaning, an inspirational book even today. Corrie ten Boom helped other women and shared her meager vitamin drops in the concentration camp she was in during the Holocaust, and wrote about her experiences later in a very inspirational, now classic book, The Hiding Place.

Can we learn something from these people which we can apply to our present time? The Covid-19 virus has taken many lives. For those of us trying to stay well, especially for those who are most susceptible, it is frightening. The state of our world or our country may seem crazy, and some may be having trouble maintaining hope for the future.

Contentedness is not ignorance, nor is it impotence. In the realities of life and the knowledge of the same, we are called to act–to help–to make changes according to our abilities and talents. One of my friends who is a college professor is truly and rightfully concerned for students, for her own children and future grandchildren. She is devising novel ways to teach during this time in which on-campus admissions are declining and online students are increasing. This is extremely stressful for educators yet she is modeling resourcefulness, good citizenship and activism.

It is easy to lose hope, but we must fight against that. A psychologist friend told me a story which he would relate to illustrate hope: A man was given one last match in a pitch-black room. Not knowing what else was in that room, his fear and hopelessness told him it could be dangerous if there were something flammable in the room. If there was nothing then what was the point? He argued with himself and finally decided that if it were perhaps the last light he would see, then so be it. He lit the match. In those few precious seconds of illumination he saw that the room was empty, save for two things– a flashlight and a door. He got out. Had he given in to despair he might not have escaped.

Last winter I made the trip of a lifetime. I traveled in the UK with my daughter, and it was incredible. In a sense this is puzzling because at the same time I was scared half to death as I was driving the twisty, narrow 60 mph roads with more roundabouts than I ever want to see again. With white knuckles I chastised myself for thinking I could ever drive over there, and felt as though I would ruin the trip because of it. Not only that, but one of my sons was hospitalized while I was on the plane flying to London. Upon landing I learned of it. My husband insisted I not come home, that he could handle everything. I wondered if I was a bad mother, and if my worrying would ruin the holiday. I plowed through the worry, and of my fear of having an accident (especially because a huge news story at that time was of an American woman who tragically hit and killed a British citizen). Yes, it is puzzling, that I now look on those weeks as wonderful and life-changing.

It may be easier for those who have a joyous life event going on now to distract them…a new baby, a new love relationship, a successful job. I have written before that in dark moments the best thing we can do is the next right or good thing in front of us…even if it is doing a load of laundry, or washing the dishes, or sweeping a floor. The next right thing will then present itself. That next moment may show the way or illuminate the hope that is truly there.

Throughout human history there have been tragic and difficult times. Mothers for centuries have worried for their children and the future. Keep striving…not so much with the goal or end in sight, but for the sake of forward motion…for the journey…for the moments…the marvelous, complicated, painful, miraculous, stressful, painful, beautiful, blessed and joyful ones. They are all there. One day life will be at an end, that is sure for every one of us. So speak kindly, give generously, offer help. Therein lie contentment and joy.