You didn’t miss a chapter. I decided to start with our last move and go backwards. Several of you have requested that I discuss the joys and challenges of moving. Since graduating from high school, I have moved to eight cities. Not counting dorm moves, I have lived in 15 different dwellings. When you are a people person, moving is always a bit challenging. Knowing or hoping that you are following God’s direction is great comfort, but there is a sense of loss for friends and people left behind. I have moved enough to know that most people, even those you are very close to, say they will stay in touch but few people follow through with those intentions. Life happens and that is the way it is. I have managed to stay in touch with friends, 4-H and church kids we worked with, co-workers, and more – pretty much everywhere we or I have lived. Moving up for more money or to climb the job chain or to better your situation is good but nonetheless, it is still always hard.
My hardest move was to our current city. Olathe is a suburb of Kansas City. We have great city resources, outstanding Olathe schools and a fabulous Down syndrome support organization (DSG of KC). One of the main reasons we considered moving here was the education system. We have been impressed with the overall education system, and we have been extremely pleased with the special education services. Black and Veatch, where Jonathan works, is a strong company and a good place to work. For Rachel, we have found Christian Youth Theater. This has been one of our most fabulous blessings. With all the good, what do I have to whine about you say? That is a good and fair question.
When I move, I seriously joke that the three hardest things, in order, are finding a hairdresser, finding a church and finding a new doctor! I don’t mean to whine but I grieved for an entire year after moving here. I still grieve from time to time. It has nothing to do with the quality of life in Kansas. It has to do with the deep and very real loss of what I left. Rachel was born in Memphis. We learned she had Down syndrome in Memphis. Jonathan had cancer and overcame cancer in Memphis. My best buddy from our days in AZ says, “You left your war buddies in Memphis.” That says it. The people who shared the joy and the challenges in those early days of Down syndrome. The people who can’t be replaced in a new town because they have their own war buddies. Working side by side with people who became like family to help maintain an early intervention program, build a Down Syndrome Walk, and build a Down syndrome support group that would give families hope. Our church Faith Baptist embraced Rachel and us and wholeheartedly supported our efforts to try to build a more inclusive community through our walk and our Down syndrome support group. Sedgwick CMS, where Jonathan worked – I could never begin to say how much I appreciate all they did for us when Jonathan was sick and all they did for our Rachel and for people with Down syndrome. Employees, leadership and the company itself became our family. I still get teary thinking of the love they continue to show.
When you move to a new place, no matter how great it is you do have to find that new hair dresses, doctor and church. Finding a church is no easy endeavor and will need a blog day all to itself. You also find little that is familiar from replacing your Kroger with Price Chopper to learning new routines for obtaining driver’s license and car tags to figuring out which weather-person and news station to watch. Those are just a few of those not so favorite things. No one knows your story and few if any are familiar with your strengths and what value you can add to your new situation. Eventually new friends come, things become more familiar and they put you to work as chair of the Silent Auction.
As much as I know this is exactly where God wants us to be, I still miss my life in Memphis. I miss being the director of the Down Syndrome Association of Memphis and the Mid-South, meeting all our new families and watching them grow in strength and stature. I miss the conversation with my old hairdresser Greg who grew up with me in Rose Bud, AR. We both landed in Memphis – how funny is that! I miss the nurses in the doctor’s office wanting to see pictures of “Baby Rachel” and reminiscing about her life. I miss the warmth of Southern people and being in the middle of the Southeastern Conference football.
I do miss things and people but I am mostly thankful for all I have here, and the life we are building. The sadness is not about the here. It is about the loss I still feel. I still believe Jeremiah 29:11. I still love a little adventure in life. As Forrest Gump says, “I don’t want to look back and say I lived no humdrum life.” I don’t think there is any chance of that happening.
Pictured in temporary housing with a few of the things that gave her familiarity: Rachel, an Arthur Book, Marisol, Baby Sally, Kansas, and Sock Monkey.