Toughness, Elegance and Humor.

There are two strains of bloodline that came together to make me who I am. One strain carries tough Swiss blood. Farming stock. Those who braved Nebraska winters and the life of being dependent on nature. I love the pictures I see of them…I love the fact that they look not only tough as anything, but there is humor in them.

That’s my Grandfather in the overalls.

They came from Switzerland, my great-grandfather and great-grandmother. They danced in barn dances. They made a life that paved the way for my life. They were farmers, hunters and builders. Eventually the builder in them came to New Mexico. My Dad inherited the humor, the love of nature and the building. And the toughness.

My Great-Grandfather Fritz Moosman

My other strain is New Mexico tough. With a little Eastern elegance. My great-grandfather on this side became a law man and a judge. And a baker. Not a candlestick maker as far as I know…but I wouldn’t be surprised.

My Great-Grandfather the baker, lawman and possibly candlestick maker.

This bloodline carried lawyers and inn keepers and one who had a pool hall. A Sheriff referred to as Cincopor Jones because a Mexican came riding his horse into town during the election shouting “Cinco Por Jones”. These were city folk compared to the Nebraska line. And somewhere in there my mother inherited the elegance and the toughness. Her family line doesn’t have that kinda snarky smile as much, but there was humor there as well. And, yes, toughness. That Great-grandfather the baker was referred to as the Eliot Ness of Otero County and once captured Machine Gun Kelly.

The women who impacted my mom, who impacted me.
Lawyers, Judges, fighter pilots and strong women. That’s my mom in the front row glaring at her brother who is, well, showing that strong personality.

Two strains.

Toughness throughout, but a mix of refinement humor. All of this flows in me, and mixes with the spirit of hospitality and faith of my husband’s family.

My kids carry more strains, but there is still toughness and there is still humor, and there are glimpses of the ancestors in them. Mom’s jaw in Maddie, Dad’s twinkle of humor in his eyes in Nate.

So now, I watch one of mine becoming his own person. All of them are doing it in different degrees, but Nate is taking a giant, galloping leap into becoming his own person.

He is walking in that toughness, humor and adventure of his ancestors.

He has always been fiercely independent, and he has wanted to see the world since he was 13. He has dreamed of going to South Korea, to Seoul, to study. And in three hours his plane will take off and he will be carried almost 7000 miles away to his see his dreams come true.

They won’t look like he expects. They never do. They will be better and they will be worse. So, at 3am as I listen to the dryer finishing his last load and see him darting up and down the stairs to figure out what must go in these two suitcases…some words of advice.

It’s in your blood.

Your heritage is one of adventure and curiousity…some coming from Switzerland to America, others coming from out East in a covered wagon to the West with a china cabinet as a gift for a bride. Embrace that adventure and curiosity and see where it takes you.

It won’t be what you expect.

You are going to have days when the homesickness hurts so bad you just won’t know what to do. Embrace it and be glad that you are loved and you love enough to ache when you are gone. We’ll be feeling the same here as we miss you and feel the void of your absence. There is no shame in that, and it doesn’t diminish the awesomeness of your journey…it just reminds you that loving always carries some sacrifices.

God created you this way.

Embrace the curiosity and the wonder and the love of other cultures. That doesn’t just come from your ancestors…it comes from your Creator. The fact that you want to know about other cultures and people is a glorious testimony to the God who created you…and the other cultures…and wants us to delight in each other. Love them well.

God is in all of this.

What challenges you have faced in the last year to get to this moment! The fact that God has put this desire in you is so clear to those of us watching you. You have never faltered in the desire to go, even though you’ve had lots of moments where you could have said it just didn’t seem to be working out.

I read this the other day and it sure struck true to me:

“O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt you, I will give thanks to Your name; for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” Isaiah 25:1

Nate the Great.

Whew. I can’t believe we are one hour from driving to the airport. I hope the laundry is done. I hope I don’t blubber and cry and embarrass you at the airport.

I hope you know how loved you are.

I hope you know how ready for this moment you are.

I have to include a Buechner quote (yes, it is often used, but that is because it rings so true):

The grace of God means something like: “Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn’t be complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you.”

There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it.

Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.”

Seoul…he’s almost on his way. He’s been waiting for this moment for years. Be kind to him. He’s rather special and loved. Just wait. You’ll see.



I realize that I have not written anything since Mom passed away.

I haven’t really felt like writing, to be honest. I’ve taken lots of pictures, which is another way I process life, but I have not written. I began this blog to process Mom’s decent into Dementia. It was a way to think out loud and to connect.

So now there will have to be a shift.

I still feel funny having a “blog”. There is so much noise, so many voices out there…and many with far deeper and more coherent thoughts than mine…but, maybe there is a place for a small rain. (I’ll have to revisit the meaning of the name since next week will mark ten years since I began this!

So what now?

How about starting with silence?

The Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky

It has been nearly as many years since I took a silent retreat as since I began the blog! I headed up this past weekend to The Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. I think this is the fourth time I have been, and every time I am astonished by the peace in this place.

My corner spot in the dining room.

There were about thirty of us this weekend, in addition to the monks. The amazing thing is I never felt crowded or rushed. We ate in silence, we made our way through the hallways and the grounds in silence. We smiled and we waved, and we connected in simple ways…but we were all free to simply listen to God and to have space to breathe.

Dining room

I took naps and I read too late. I watched the sunrise and the sunset.

Sunrise on Saturday.
The Abbey at Twilight

I took lots of pictures. And I walked a lot. The Abbey has 1500 acres of trails, and on the trails is a spot with statues. There is a little spot where you come across the disciples sleeping and Jesus weeping. Gethsemani.

I love the fact that there is a bench just before the entrance to the statues.

I needed a moment to prepare. Not because I want to worship statues. Not because it is some magic moment.

I needed a moment to pause. In this beautiful place to prepare myself for a moment of realization of Jesus. The reality of Jesus. The reality of the disciples. The reality of our faith.

Sometimes, I think, we need a moment to remember the absolute holiness, and the the absolute reality of our faith. And sometimes, I need a little help because I am distracted and my head is filled with noise.

Disciples asleep.

As I walked toward the sleeping disciples I was so aware that these men knew Jesus so well…and fell asleep. And how I would probably have been right there with them.

And just in the distance…

Jesus weeping and praying.

Jesus weeping. Jesus praying. Jesus preparing. Just, Jesus.

To walk in and be struck by Jesus. I love the fact that his hands are covering his face…we don’t have to picture him in detail. It’s just a presence and a statue to make us stop and take a moment.

Take a moment to pause and to remember and to pay attention.

The statues are an intricate part of the Abbey and of the retreat, but for me they only command a moment. I always make a trek out there, but only once. It is a centering, and the rest of the time is opened to no schedule, to quiet and to peace.

I need the shock of seeing Jesus in the woods weeping, even though I know he is there and I’ll come upon him just as I enter those woods. I need the centering of that…and then I need the peace of the Abbey.

All surrender of life,all denial of pleasure, all darkness, all austerity, all desolation has for its real aim this separation of something so that it may be poignantly and perfectly enjoyed. I feel grateful for the slight sprain which has introduced this mysterious and fascinating division between one of my feet and the other. The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost. In one of my feet I can feel how strong and splendid a foot is; in the other I can realize how very much otherwise it might have been. The moral of the thing is wholly exhilarating. This world and all our powers in it are far more awful and beautiful than even we know until some accident reminds us. If you wish to perceive that limitless felicity, limit yourself if only for a moment. If you wish to realize how fearfully and wonderfully God’s image is made, stand on one leg. If you want to realize the splendid vision of all things-wink the other eye.

G.K. Chesterton – The Advantage of Having One Leg

The exercise of stepping away from life for a weekend, into a place of silence, not only helped me center and to breathe…it helped me to long for the noise and the chaos of my house. The silence was wonderful, but the silence reminded me of the laughter and the chatter in my house.

And made me long to be home, even after just a few hours.

I thought of Mom a lot. I think just having the space allowed for that. I realized how much I miss her, and how long it has been that we held back that missing. I’ll write more about that, but I need to think it through more.

One other thing that really struck this weekend, though, was the need for holy spaces in our lives.

Entrance to the Abbey.

It is wonderful that our churches are more approachable than probably any time. It’s great that our buildings are full of activity and a multitude of uses.

But, there is something to be said for a space that is only intended to be used to worship God.

There is a peace in this place that is different, and a reverence. You do not rush in chattering. The smell of incense lingers in the building.

There is a hush and a waiting when you enter and wait for the monks to come and sing their prayers. Even at 3 in the morning.

This is a place of awe and of reverence. This is a place of quiet, and in a world of so much noise (and even just in my own mind so cluttered), the space was healing. I love that it is open always and I could walk in and pray at any time. I love that the monks are praying at the 3 in the morning and the sound is sweet and pure in a place that holds so much silence.

So…I’m recharged from a weekend in a holy place. I’m curious to see what comes of this blog and what might be sparked for me to write. I’m thankful for a weekend pausing the normal and reminding me of all that is good and holy and needed. And reminding me how good and holy my life is back home as well.

Oh. And one other thing I learned this weekend. The monks prepare all the food…and it was simple but good fare. Except. The monks do not know how to make egg rolls.

They do, however, know how to make butterscotch pudding.


Eleven days ago Dad called to tell me Mom was declining.

Twelve years ago Mom began the descent into Dementia.

Nine days ago, Steve and I flew to Albuquerque to see Mom one more time.

Sixteen months ago had been the last time we had seen her without a window between us.

Somehow all of these numbers and moments seem vital right now. She has declined significantly just since we saw her last week. We chose to go immediately to have the chance to see her before she was completely unaware of our presence. We had to sit six feet away with masks on, but we were able to talk to her, and able to play her a couple videos of Sam playing piano…on her old piano. (Sam playing Liszt. )

She absolutely responded to that. She was aware the whole sixty minutes we were with her. But, while Sam’s piano was being played, she was looking around moving her hands. She knew.

There were things I wish I had said. I think there always will be. We thought we would see her the next day and that didn’t work out. That was hard…that we had seen her for the last time and had not known. There were things I wish I had said.

But she knew.

“I owe her an enormous debt of gratitude for all the good things she has taught me, for standards to live by, for criteria learned in childhood which are helping me to live through this summer, which is rushing by, no matter how much separate days may seem to drag.”

So says Madeleine L’Engle in the Summer of the Great Grandmother. She documents the final summer with her mother, and there is grace in that book for me right now. And I do owe Mom an enormous debt of gratitude. I would like to have told her that more clearly, but she knew. I have her set of the jaw when I am angry, as does my Maddie. I think I have a bit of her wit and incredibly quick mind…but not to her level. I don’t think I’ll ever command a room like she could.

Fifty-one years she has taught me, even when she did not know who I was or where she was, or even who she was. And now she is teaching us this final lesson. I’m watching from afar, which has been my role for the last quarter of a century. I’m learning from a distance, and there is an ache to be there…but I am glad we were able to be with her before she did not know.

My memory of Mother, which is the fullest memory of anybody living, is only fragmentary. I would like to believe that the creator I call God still remembers all of my mother, knows and cares for the ousia of her, and is still teaching her, and helping her to grow into the self he created her to be, her integrated, whole, redeemed self.

I love this thought. Mom has forgotten who she is…or at least from our viewpoint, and we know her only in our own limited ways. But God knows her, and he remembers all of her, and he will not forget. She is not lost, and she is not simply deteriorating or slipping away from us…she is being called home and she is being called to be whole. I sure wish I could see her in that moment of becoming again. The things she will have to say!

I think about the passage in Hebrews, about the great cloud of witnesses that are in heaven, and I think of them holding their breath and waiting for that moment…that final moment that God has ordained. That moment when he whispers to her…or shouts? She is almost there, she has almost endured to the end, and she will soon see that cloud of witnesses.

And we will be left here, another cloud of witnesses. Those who knew her. Knew her laugh and knew her wit, knew her keen thinking and knew her talent to make anyone feel welcome in her presence. Knew her thundering anger when we had not lived up to who she expected us to be. Knew her love of her family and her love of God. Those of us who ate at the table with her, a table filled with food she designed to nourish both our bodies and our souls. Those of us who lived in rooms she decorated with care and love. We, the cloud of witnesses left behind, will only know her in our memories and in our stories, and through the mark she has left on all of us.

For now, I sit and wait. I watch my phone for the updates. I cry some, but mostly those are quiet tears that just roll out. I’m not sure when I will completely grieve. I’m not sure the rules on this. This is all new territory, and so I sit and wait and feel the grief waiting with me.

I’m holding off on posting until this is complete. So this post sits open and I come back and reflect. That is a bit of the processing for me…writing and letting these things soak a bit. What a strange sensation to think of a world without my Mother. Even the skies seem to be waiting as heavy clouds roll in. There is no rush, Mother. Take your time. There will be a moment, and you will know it…when God says “Now” and all will be well. We will grieve, each of us in our own way…and then we will rejoice and will know you are whole.


Twenty-Eight hours later and she continues to breathe steadily, even if shallow breaths. FaceTime is on constant now and provides this tenuous connection that eases the distance.Listening to the quiet conversations, listening to the prayers of the chaplain, and the consistent breathing of Mom in the background. Mom is still the center, she is still in control, even of this moment.

Four hours later. Mom has endured to the end. With the grace and dignity, with the class that she lived her life she left us. I cannot imagine her passing being any more peaceful.

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him…

Mental Health Days, Weakness, Leaves…and Remembering

Someone posted on my son’s college FB parents’ page a picture from another college. An announcement of a mental health day called by the president of that college. Something along the lines of “y’all (yes it was in the South) are under a lot of stress, catch up on work and decompress.”

They posted this with the suggestion of how nice it would be at our college. This was met with many comments of appreciation, and a few that said we need to teach our children to adult. They have the weekends to decompress and they need to learn to navigate these difficult times.

There is surely truth in that response. College is the time to learn to adult. We cannot just pamper them and coddle them.

But, that’s not the whole picture, is it?

We have a new dog in our lives (my last post was about burying our former dog.) He is rambunctious, nearing 80 pounds and still all puppy. And he forces me to take him outside multiple times a day. At least two or three times we go up in the woods and throw sticks.

Well, I throw sticks and he sometimes brings them back.

He gets me outside every day, though. Even in the mud and the rain we have had the last several days.

So I started sweeping the woods.

I have a little rake that is actually my daughters, and we started cutting more trails back there. I rake the trails while Bear sniffs and runs around. And sometimes attacks the rake.

Right now, every day the trails are covered in leaves when I come outside. So I have to start all over and sweep the woods.

It’s fairly pointless, really. The leaves come back even between the visits during the day. But…raking those leaves gets me outside and slows me down and gives me space to breathe and pray and think.

And I love how the trails look after I sweep them. Well, rake them.

This has become a rhythm of the day for me.

Throw sticks.

Rake leaves.


And sometimes leave a few of the best leaves in the middle of the trail.

Because, part of the process is also paying attention to the leaves and the colors and how everything changes.

So what does that have to do with mental health?

Well. I think sometimes we need the excuse to create some space for health and some space to recognize that things are not easy right now. I have to walk the dog. There were a few weeks when I just walked him…but then I began to make it a rhythm to my day and something that spoke life for me. Breathing. Colors. Sunshine.

I don’t think it is coddling or weakness to tell our college kids to take a day and decompress and breathe.

Or our adult kids, or our teens, or our children. Or ourselves.

I think we need the space to remind ourselves of hope and of joy and life.

I have dropped off social media for the most part lately because I have friends who are passionate about different candidates. I have friends with a wide range of beliefs. And sometimes, while I love having those differences, the passion can become noise and the conversations can become exhausting.

I can’t imagine how that feels for the college kids. Especially those voting for the first time and choosing between Trump and Biden…and well, Kanye. And trying to see their future and be excited.

We do have a hope though. And we do have grace. We need to think deeply about our politics, and we need to be challenged by those who think differently. And we need to find a way to do that with compassion and not anger, with patience.

But hope.

I read this from Frederick Buechner and I so needed to hear it. Maybe you do as well…

Then at last we see what hope is and where it comes from, hope as the driving power and outermost edge of faith. Hope stands up to its knees in the past and keeps its eyes on the future. There has never been a time past when God wasn’t with us as the strength beyond our strength, the wisdom beyond our wisdom, as whatever it is in our hearts–whether we believe in God or not–that keeps us human enough at least to get by despite everything in our lives that tends to wither the heart and make us less than human. To remember the past is to see that we are here today by grace, that we have survived as a gift.

Sometimes we need the testimony of the saints…and sometimes we need to remember we are the saints with the testimonies. Buechner continues:

And what does that mean about the future? What do we have to hope for, you and I? Humanly speaking, we have only the human best to hope for: that we will live out our days in something like peace and the ones we love with us; that if our best dreams are never to come true, neither at least will our worst fears; that something we find to do with our lives will make some little difference for good somewhere; and that when our lives end we will be remembered a little while for the little good we did. That is our human hope. But in the room called Remember we find something beyond it.

I love that paragraph. There are good things purely humanly speaking. There are stories of hope, and there are stories of kindness and goodness. But…they are limited. Continuing with Buechner…

“Remember the wonderful works that he has done,”” goes David’s song–remember what he has done in the lives of each of us; and beyond that remember what he has done in the life of the world; remember above all what he has done in Christ-remember those moments in our own lives when with only the dullest understanding but with the sharpest longing we have glimpsed that Christ’s kind of life is the only life that matters and that all other kinds of life are riddled with death; remember those moments in our lives when Christ came to us in countless disguises through people who one way or another strengthened us, comforted us, healed us, judged us, by the power of Christ alive within them. All that is the past. All that is what there is to remember. And because that is the past, because we remember, we have this high and holy hope: that what he has done, he will continue to do, that what he has begun in us and our world, he will in unimaginable ways bring to fullness and fruition.

“Let the sea roar, and all that fills it, let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall the trees of the wood sing for joy,”” says David (1 Chron.16:32-33). And shall is the verb of hope. Then death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying. Then shall my eyes behold him and not as a stranger. Then his Kingdom shall come at last and his will shall be done in us and through us and for us. Then the trees of the wood shall sing for joy as already they sing a little even now sometimes when the wind is in them and as underneath their singing our own hearts too already sing a little sometimes at this holy hope we have.

The trees of the woods shall sing for joy…and drop their leaves to make us pause and listen.

Finally, from Buechner:

“The past and the future. Memory and expectation. Remember and hope. Remember and wait. Wait for him whose face we all of us know because somewhere in the past we have faintly seen it, whose life we all of us thirst for because somewhere in the past we have seen it lived, have maybe even had moments of living it ourselves. Remember him who himself remembers us as he promised to remember the thief who died beside him. To have faith is to remember and wait, and to wait in hope is to have what we hope for already begin to come true in us through our hoping. Praise him.”

God is here. We have hope…and He has shown us that throughout our lives. We need to pause and remember sometimes.

We need, sometimes, someone to remind us to take a day and decompress and pause and catch our breath.

This is going to be a stressful week coming up. No matter what happens, it is going to be stressful. But, no matter what happens, we have hope. And we have kindness. And we have patience. And we have grace.

Find your version of sweeping the woods. Catch your breath. Speak hope to someone. And if someone offers a mental health day to your college kid, and you think it is just weakness to do that, well, maybe keep that to yourself.