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.

Rediscovery

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I was recently asked to write about a few distinguishing moments in my life. There were indeed a few, but the one that came first to mind was becoming a mother. Perhaps it was because I had wanted to be a mother since I was a little girl. I can articulate the desire better as an adult; our ability to influence others, to inspire, to help and to care is the greatest gift we can give to humanity. Whether biological, adoptive, foster, or spiritual mothers and fathers, it matters not, for it is a generative love.

The early months of pregnancy with my first daughter were some of the happiest in my life, and the day she was born was like no other. I called my own mother, tears welling up, and asked, “Did you really love me this much? Really?” She answered with some surprise, yet affirmatively. Life, for me, was forever changed in the span of one day. I was in love like never before. I asked my mother sincerely, “Then how did you let me grow up?”

At the time, I could not imagine my baby Marie becoming any less important to me. In fact she has not, but she is now nearly the age I called my mother with that incredulous plea. Now I amable to see that one can not hold back the tide of time and of growth. Marie was my world for a while, and that was the way it was supposed to be. She needed me. Her five-and-a-half pounds needed me literally every hour to give her nourishment and strength and protection.

She is off to make an adult life in Cincinnati, Ohio, and I am so proud of her. Her sister Susanna, born two years after her, moved to Baltimore last year. Marie is an artist, and Susanna is a nurse. Susanna is a bit more like me and even resembles me. We are both nurses. In the photo above, I had the pleasure of being her clinical instructor for one day, a few years ago.

Marie and Susanna’s father was my late husband Bob. He was a family practitioner in Maryland. Life changed again in a moment, when he passed away at 42 of a heart attack.

Rediscovery. One reaches deep down and finds strength from the wellspring of creation. Some call it self-will, some call it a life force. I am one of those people who say that it is God.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way¬†believes that we are all creations, and so it follows that the force which created us must imbue us with the ability to create. If he is the great creative force, then his strength is the wellspring which gave life to all, and to which all are connected.

Dr. Ira Progoff developed an intensive journaling method in the latter half of the twentieth century. Like the Redwood forest roots that interconnect with each other in a vast network, he proposed an image of each of us connected to a source, a wellspring of humanity and spiritual strength.

That source got me through tragedy, and on to a new life. A new military life half a continent away in Kansas. I rediscovered myself. I discovered strengths, and joy, and new love. I married Bruce, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army and gained two more beautiful, wonderful daughters, Emily and Sharon. I became another kind of mother: a stepmother. Sharon once finished a sentence of mine. I told her that “I first loved her…” and she added, “when you got to know me.” I corrected her. I loved her from the moment I loved her father, because she was a part of him. Who she is, and who Emily is, and have grown to be, have only deepened that love.

Four years and three more children later, we took on an au pair from Brazil. I clearly needed the help. I was host-mother to Renata. Foreign exchange students YeoJoo, Johanna, Bobby, Beto, and another au pair, Stephania, entered our family as the years went on and as three more children were born. Ten children in all, four exchange students and two au pairs stretched and blessed our family in so many ways. Better mothers may have not needed the help. Some husbands would not have allowed for so many people coming to live with us. But this was us, and we were and are blessed.

We lived on a farm in Atchison, Kansas. The Abbey Farm. I wrote a blog about life on a historic one-time monastery. It was built by Benedictine monks in 1890 and it was home to many families. Somehow I knew that we were another family in it’s history; certainly not the last. We had wonderful years there.

And so we rediscover ourselves once again. I wrote a post on The Abbey Farm about seasons of change. Once again, it is proven that the only thing that is unchangeable is change itself. Perhaps one day, when asked about distinguishing moments in life, I will say that moving away from that wonderful home caused me once again to dig down deep, to gain strength for the change. Strength, from the one who is the wellspring of peace and the miraculous.