Tuesday, August 14, 2018


     There is a saying, "When we make great plans, God laughs." This must be for our amusement, to laugh at ourselves, for  God does not laugh at our efforts. Rather, he cheers us on, trying to direct us. We need to be open to him, to listen hard, to pray hard, to use our intellect and make the best decisions we can.

     My husband, a retired Army officer, uses an Army saying, that the "plan is everything and the plan is nothing." It is important to plan, but one must be keen on adjusting the plan when needed. That would certainly work for my monthly menu planning, which rarely is followed exactly (or even closely). The effort is not wasted. The intention is good. In truth, the Army saying has given me peace. Imperfect efforts are not failures. We are truly works in progress.

     The Abbey Farm was bought with the intent of us living here "until the nursing home." Plans have changed. For health reasons we are moving on. It is a sad decision, prayed over for some years, but clear and logical now. Though we thought this farm was our forever home, it seems that it is not. God is not laughing. We know it was his plan all along, and that gives us peace.

     Perhaps my ancestors, the Greenes, felt similarly. Once the Barons of Runnymede, they owned a lovely castle in Waterford called Kilmanahan. In 1852 the family sold it. I visited the ruins of it in 1984, when backpacking through the UK. There was wonder as well as a sense of sadness walking through the crumbling halls, ancient plaster mouldings littered around me. Last Spring I happened upon a brilliant blog, The Irish Aesthete. The author photographs and investigates the history of different buildings in Ireland. Much to my delight, he wrote about Kilmanahan Castle. I contacted him and shared the photographs from my "pilgrimage." He was very gracious. In the Spring of 2018 he included in an addendum to his original post about Kilmanahan.

     I have always thought that we are stewards of whatever home or property we live on. Since we do not live forever, should we not ideally care for that property as well as we can? I feel the same  about our planet. None of us is perfect, yet good intentions do matter.

     On a final note, I returned to Maine to bring my son back home. It was hard, his being away for the summer, but he is home now, and my heart is joyful.

     Joy is a mystery. It can be present in sadness, in chaos, in tragedy, and in moving on when our heart is still attached. 

God bless you all,
The Abbey Farm

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


I am in beautiful Maine. The world holds so many variations of beauty. What a gift to travel.

The reason for my travel is not so wonderful, as we are enrolling one of our sons in a wilderness therapy camp. Our town has suffered four suicides in the last year. Our young people, barraged by social media and a world that holds nothing back in terms of the suffering going on daily, have such a hard time believing that this world is a beautiful place. They are losing hope. Even being raised in a bucolic setting with a family who loves him dearly, is not necessarily enough protection from the angry tentacles and angst of the dark side of social media.

I heartily believe that there is good and bad in just about everything. It can be a hard part of parenting to show and teach your child this. Self control begins with loving yet firm boundaries. Self-doubt and second-guessing comes more readily to some parents than others. I'm thankful that it is almost foreign to my husband, because he helps balance me. At times, difficult decisions need to be made.

Our daughter recently gave us a book called "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. I am working through it. It was originally written a couple of decades ago when Julia developed a method of unlocking creative potential. What strikes me is her acknowledgement of the great creative force that ties us all together. Some call it God, some call it a "force," whatever. The way she describes it is non-offensive to anyone, in my mind, and applicable to anyone's belief system.

The truth is, we are created by something or someone that is the author of all creativity. Even if one does not believe in intelligent design, then we are amazingly complex and incredible in our Neo-Darwinism. Creativity is part of the intelligent human brain. I highly recommend Cameron's book.

Perhaps I will write more again, it certainly has been a long time since the last post. In the meantime I will be praying a lot for our son. I want him to see that despite challenges and suffering, the world is truly a beautiful place, and worthy of our hope and unique gifts.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Mary Breckinridge and The Frontier Nursing Service

       I am so happily reading the autobiography of Mary Carson Breckinridge, "Wide Neighborhoods."

       Born in 1881, Mary's father moved the family to Saint Petersberg in Russia. He was the United States Ambassador and Mary remembers meeting Czar Nicholas and Empress Alexandra. She later attended boarding school in Switzerland. It is fascinating to relate her life experiences to others I have read about by Tolstoy and Queen Victoria, and by watching "Downton Abbey" and "Call the Midwife."

       Mary's family bought two islands on the Muskoka Lakes in Ontario, not far from where I worked and vacationed on Ahmic Lake. Having moved all over the world, and though they still owned family lands in the South, this was where the family considered "home." They had a large house built when the lake froze over and supplies could be hauled across the ice. Her mother spent most summers there for the rest of her life. Mary loved her mother, father, two brothers and sister devotedly.

       In adulthood Mary lost a young husband, and dealt with grief through service. She trained as a nurse in New York. She married again, but was later divorced from her second husband following the tragic deaths of her baby girl Polly and four-year-old son Breckie.

       Once again, Mary plunged herself into service. After Breckie's death she helped with the war relief in France for several years. She fell in love with the poor, the mountains, and needy children. She was exposed to the nurse-midwives of Great Britain who volunteered in France alongside her. Midwives in the United States were not formally trained nurses at that time, and she was inspired.

       She returned to her family lands in and near Kentucky and rode on horseback, covering thousands of square miles through the Appalachian Mountains, and decided that she would serve those mountain folk. Mary knew the value in great preparation. She traveled to England to become a nurse-midwife, then spent a summer traversing the Hebrides on foot, horse and boat to learn all about a successful rural public health program there.

       Finally ready, she secured the support of friends, judges, officials, nurses, doctors and locals and created the "Frontier Nursing Service" in 1925. The nurse-midwives delivered babies, and provided families with healthcare in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, traveling by horseback. Daily, they might have to ford rivers and travel scores of miles. They were always treated with respect, great hospitality and even "chivalry" by the mountain men, women and children.

       Mary Breckinridge died in 1965 in her eighties; she directly affected the lives of tens of thousands of people, and many, many more indirectly. She is an example of faith and redemptive suffering. Mary would have been happy being a devoted Mom to her two children, had they lived. She wrote in her prolific journals about the dreams she had for them. But their deaths inspired in her great service, and changed the lives of those many thousands for the better.

       I'll close with a quote from"Wide Neighborhoods," as Mary relates a story about a little Kentucky girl, thrilled with a rag doll:

"The doll...was a piece of old blanket, tied around the middle with a string, with a stone fastened at one end for a face. But she loved it, with that creative instinct older than recorded time, which springs up anew in every girl baby. Why must she needs mother something, with the first outreaching of her tiny hands? Why plead so early for a life whose sword shall one day pierce her own? 
When Christmas comes we understand a little less dimly. The Light of the World could only come to His own through a woman's body. Only a woman held the mysteries of His advent, and pondered them in her heart."

       As Christmas is not over until Epiphany--I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Abbey Farm

Monday, September 19, 2016

Summer's End

       We had a busy summer, mostly at home. We traveled in early June to North Myrtle Beach. Nine in a big van over 3000 miles total is an undertaking. We took our friend, Mary Pat's para from school, and she was great help. I believe she earned sainthood with that trip. The wife of one of Bruce's officemate's says that these types of travels are "trips." Vacations for Moms are something else. God bless you if you are able to combine both into one. I can't yet; but I have hopes. Regardless, it was my family's vacation and they had a ball.

       Mary Pat loved the ocean, as did the other children. They were either in the ocean or the great pool at the condo most of the time. I got to see my brother, Chip and family--it had been years. That really was my highlight.

I made my brother a Dobos Torte!

       In May I put in a bona fide flower garden. I have never done that. I've gardened small plots, and long ago. But since moving here and adding six more children to our family, the only garden was the proverbial cabbage patch. I'm really loving my garden. My friend Alex visited earlier in the year. She designs luxurious gardens in England. I was brave enough to send photos of my garden to her. She was sweet about it. 

       It really is a work in progress. I saw that early and  intensive watering and weeding and fertilizing were critical to the establishment of beautiful blooms and healthy growth. Next year will be fun, to see what the perennials come back like, and which annuals I'll plant. I loved a orange-red impatiens planted next to white. My hostas did well, as did my hydrangeas and coleus. The celosia did a little too well, and I'll be transplanting them. I even put in a garden over a septic tank, and spread about a ton of rock in front of the house around a dozen boxwoods that I put in. 

       Since then, school has started up in full swing and I'm doing the Mom-grad-student-part-time-jobs-six-in-school crazy shuffle. My friend is a psychotherapist and I'm lucky to have her in my life. She is a visionary. She has started conferences and boards and community-supported-agriculture groups, and more. She always has ideas and drive for the future. She personally studied under Ira Progoff, a journaling expert back in the '70s and became his first female leader of conferences. She coached a few of us recently on this type of method and I've been really enjoying it. I won't go into it here, but it really helps one to get in t ouch with oneself, and work out feelings and events. My amazing friend just turned 81-years-young. She inspires me. 

       "Renata" will continue to be worked on offline. Perhaps one day you'll see it on Amazon. We'll see. Kids and gardens take a lot of time these days! 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Spring Once Again

       I suppose I can remember the onset of forty-some Spring seasons. I marvel at how happy I am that it has come again, though--as if there were some chance it would not. This winter was not terribly cold, or snowy, but I was ready for it to end and to be warm again.

       Walks around the farm are so beautiful. Tiny frogs are jumping around the banks of the pond. Trees are flowering and leaves are appearing in that early chartreuse color that is such a contrast to grey and brown. Robins and Downy Woodpeckers and Bluebirds have returned. A great heron has been feeding at water's edge, and migratory flocks of geese are passing overhead.

       With the change of seasons comes a reminder of new life and rebirth. I can't imagine living in a place without four seasons, but that is only because it's all I've ever known. Our foreign exchange students have told me what it is like for them. Certainly Stephania, who came at the start of winter here, is happy to be able to go outside without a heavy coat.

       The dogs are seeking shade to lie in to escape the sun beating down on their still-thick fur coats. The horses are happy to be eating grass after the winter of dry hay. We need to be careful with the ponies. Spring grass has a lot of sugar in it, and they can get sick from it and founder. I have been putting them in and out of stalls, the riding ring, and even the chicken run. We gave away the last of our chickens before the winter. They were older and had pretty much stopped laying.

       Gus wanted a couple of bunnies and so we made a condition that he clean out the chicken coop as an eventual home for them. He worked over Easter break and carted loads and loads of manure as well as a load to the trash dumpster and a few loads to the barn.

       Gus got the bunnies. They are adorable. We got them from the local farm store, which also had ducklings and chicks. Another hallmark of springtime. Margaret asked why bunnies are associated with Easter. The bunny motif was certainly strong in our dining room.

       I told her that bunnies are born in the springtime, that Easter is in the Spring, and that Christians believe that Jesus rose from the grave at Easter to give us new life. We drove past a local farm and saw that the farmer had erected a huge wooden cross on his hill. New growth is everywhere. It happens again and again, every year. Frozen ground thaws and green appears.

       Frozen hearts can thaw, too. Minds stuck in a belief pattern can change. 
Life can indeed begin again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Busy, Busy and Blessed

       The pond is still frozen and even the automatic horse-waterers have frozen on the Abbey Farm. We have two old wells but they do not have pumps on them and I'm not sure of the quality of the water. At times like this we hope that the water hydrants don't freeze, because we are using them to fill buckets which we carry to horse-troughs in which we have placed electric heating elements.

       I do love the changing seasons in this part of the world, but when water freezes I can't help but look forward to the Spring. Stephania is visiting from Columbia and she does not like the cold. I remember it took our Renata from Brazil (yes, she is the inspiration for my book, though the story is very different from reality) a long time to get used to the cold. Alberto from Mexico disliked it, but Bobby from Thailand took great delight in it. I still remember them running outside barefooted and shirtless. Alberto froze but somehow Bobby was able to weather it well.

       Alberto is now becoming a famous singer in Mexico! Bobby is now quadri-lingual, becoming fluent in Japanese, while starting a fifth language: Vietnamese. It is hard to express how these young people will always feel like family to me. Yeo Joo from Korea and Johanna from Germany also have special places in our hearts. The Abbey Farm has been graced with wonderful, multi-cultural young men and women.

       Our waterers are frozen in this cold winter, but our hearts are very warm.

I would like to ask for the favor of a comment, if you are reading Renata. I would appreciate feedback. I have been told that some have trouble posting comments here, so please contact me at: MomofTenPlus@Yahoo.com
Thank you! Stay warm!

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Big Picture

       The other day, the automatic horse-waterer froze in the pony pasture. I had this terrible feeling that it might be frozen; I had not checked it for a day. Horses need great amounts of water in the winter. Ponies, too. I fought a feeling of dread.

       I was about to take the kids to school and drove over to the fence by the waterer to check it. It was frozen solid, meaning it had probably been 24 hours. I felt awful for the ponies. But then I looked over and saw that somehow, someone had left the water spigot outside of the pasture on full-blast. Though we will pay significantly more on our water bill this month--all I could do was smile! Each of the family members denied having left it on.

        Because it had been, a frozen river, with just enough liquid for the ponies to drink, coursed through the pasture.

       The kids jumped out of the van, so enchanted by the strange ice formations from the spraying and splashing of the water. Icicles and mushroom-like mounds covered the fence and ground around the spigot.

       It was beautiful. Any other time I would have been angry at whomever left the water on all through the frigid night. But this was a blessing.

       I worry too much, it is true.

       God tells us that we shouldn't worry, that we should think on good things, and that there is always hope. I'm not sure how, when martyrs were confronted with the end, they managed  not to worry, that they had good thoughts or had hope.

       This is difficult to ponder. God assures us He will be there, that He will save us, and that there is hope. Either this is absolutely true, it is only true sometimes, or it is false. If either of  the latter two are true, then, we can't really rely on God as Christianity describes Him. 

       My late husband's mother, Grammy, modeled to me that we can always have hope in God, that we can hand Him our worries, and that we really can trust Him with the future--to see the "big picture." If we are truly His instruments, here to "know and to love and to serve Him in this life and in the next," then the thing that brings fear most--death--truly has lost its sting. She remained inspirational throughout her suffering and death. "I have to focus on all the blessings God has given me," she told me.

       Recently, I was describing to a salesperson, as we were getting to know each other, how as a hospice nurse I am not depressed. There is a hallowed feeling of witnessing something so very profound. The salesperson tried to understand; she said, "Well, I guess there is some kind of thankfulness because the person is no longer suffering."

       "It's more than that, though," I explained. "As Christians we believe that this world is only temporary, but that our life with God is forever. Heaven is what we were made for. It's as if this life is like being in the womb. When we are born, it is joyful." I tried to explain another way,  "The caterpilar has to spend time in the cocoon before it can break free and emerge as the beautiful butterfly it was meant to be."

       It is fine if she did not agree or understand. I don't pretend to have it all figured out. 

       But I will try to avoid worry, to think on good things, to always hope in God, because I trust that He sees the "big picture."