Warm Summer Greetings from Cynthia – Summer 2018 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Once again Michaeleen has gathered an inspiring group of articles for us, and I hope you will think of it as a booklet of stories that you read over a few days. Or perhaps you prefer to jump in and read it straight through.  Either way, enjoy the inspiring offerings and please share with your friends – all the way to the end where you can read about new trainings, workshops and online courses, and a yummy recipe!  I know it’s a lot of going back and forth between the emailed newsletter and the website, but it’s worth it!   It’s not like the good old days of holding the whole newsletter in my hand.  On the other hand, we do save a lot of paper this way!

Every new newsletter seems to be my favorite. This one, however, is personally poignant as we are now living in a three-generation home with our eldest son, daughter-in-law and two little grandchildren.  When Michael became paralyzed three years ago, our beloved sons and daughters-in-law rallied to relocate us with the idea that we would continue to live in family community going forward.  Blessedly, he has since recovered from paralysis and continues to heal – walking, driving, working and playing with his grandchildren.  This is due, in no small part, to two of the most amazing and profound gifts that can ever be bestowed upon someone – love and devotion. Due to the nature of our adult children and grandchildren we are blessed that this love and devotion is coming from them.  We see this reflected again in Rahima’s story of care for her own mother and mother-in-law.

What about our elders, however, for whom this blessing of family is not available? I just read a heartbreaking article about the growing phenomenon of loneliness in the aging population of Japan.  As the country has adopted the nuclear family pattern more recently, letting go of their once common multigenerational home life, the Artificial Intelligence community is creating more and more robotics (to include artificial pets and grandchildren) to help sway the loneliness. I am inspired to ask the question – Is our LifeWays community being called to explore the needs of our elders and offer our support in turning the tide?  What do you think?

So many beautiful stories are heralded in this newsletter. I loved reading about Brigit’s Hearth.  I met and was inspired by Lina Pelaez almost twenty years ago when I was offering a workshop in Ireland and have dreamed of going back ever since.  We are also featuring Magnolia Blossom, our only multi-generational LifeWays Center, and I love how Marguerite characterizes her program as “a little slice of heaven”.  This is true on so many levels, not the least of which is that the people being served by Linda’s and Marguerite’s programs are truly touching the hems of the spiritual world.  The little ones are fresh arrivals and the elders are approaching the return journey!  On so many levels, they are the perfect cohorts.

Rahima’s article features the work of Dr. Bill Thomas who created Eden Alternative elder care in the early 1990s. It was in the same decade that LifeWays came to birth.  I remember writing a letter to Dr. Thomas in the hopes that somehow our two organizations could find the perfect marriage!  He believed that elders thrived in the presence of children, and we believed that children thrived in the presence of elders.  He didn’t respond which I completely understood from my own experience of how all-consuming a new endeavor can be.  Years later we came very close to having a LifeWays childcare program in one of his elder care centers in Oklahoma.  However, a statewide legislative scandal made it not possible for anything innovative to happen in nursing homes at the time.   Dr. Thomas’s movement has grown to over 30,000 associates, and I know Rahima often asks the question “what do we need to do to grow LifeWays that way?”  I think it begins with each of us sharing our enthusiasm with everyone we know!  I learned recently that Marguerite has encouraged five parents at Magnolia Blossom over the years to enroll in LifeWays trainings!  Thank you, Marguerite, and to all of you who continue to help to spread the word!

It was sweet to read Kerry’s article highlighting Grandma Daphne whom I had the chance to meet when I visited Kerry’s Mothering Arts group a few years ago.  Even though Daphne is not the blood grandmother to the little ones who come with their mommies, she offers grandma love to all of them! What a shining example of “the best kind of bonus love” as mentioned in the article “Raising our Kids Near Their Grandparents”. That article truly pulled at my heartstrings as I am now living the dream of being near at least two of my grandchildren daily and realizing how the bonds of trust and love are providing a wraparound of care for everyone in the household.

Kudos to my friend Jane for giving such high priority to inviting the grandparents to visit her kindergarten. I have such fond memories of when I was still a kindergarten teacher and grandparents would visit.  It was especially delicious on the days when they would bring their handwork along or help with simple repairs.  Those experiences and my own experiences with my Grandma were at the foundation of why we so strongly encourage those of you caring for little ones to find a way to include elders regularly.

On a slightly different note, Mary’s article “Seeing our Imprint” focuses beautifully on offering children the opportunity to participate in truly transformative work. Her sensitive description of how the children helped to raise and later harvest chickens reminded me of the inspiring way the Honorable Harvest is described in the book Braiding Sweetgrass.  It is an amazing testament to the goodness, beauty and truth reflected in Native American culture when harvesting beloved plants and animals for sustenance.  Mary also mentions the work of my former colleague Bente Goldstein, herself a grandmother and author of the book Childhood is a Verb.

One thing I especially enjoyed in Mary’s article was the Amish term frolic to describe a work project that is pleasurable.  It brought to mind a verse we often work with in our LifeWays professional development trainings.  Called The Master in the Art of Living, it reminds us that working and playing do not always have to be separate experiences.  This brings me full circle to the joy of multigenerational living.  It is a blessed way to have a frolicking good life!

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.