Dear Friends and Family,
Life is full of surprises ….. mostly good. The big surprise for me this year was, after dithering for 4 years about whether or not to sell Paul’s dream retirement home in Sun City, I finally inked the contract. Within days of closing I took the proceeds and bought a beach house in Hopkins, Belize …. exactly the impulsive type of decision making that Paul both loved and loathed. Why Belize? After 38 years of 6-month winters I was tired of the cold. My criteria were warm, easy to get to from Houston, English speaking, reasonably priced, diverse economy, and a Rotary Club where I could dive into something meaningful to do. Hopkins, half way down the coast, met all the requirements. My neighbors are wonderful. The Rotary Club has a project at a local elementary school, where I tutor reading to the kids who fell behind during COVID, which is almost all 300 of them! (There was no online instruction here. The students went home for 18 months.) I have not yet worked it out financially to purchase a car so I ride my bike 3 miles each way over the most horrific dirt road imaginable. It is like peddling through glue with rocks. I have a small classroom set up as a phonics teaching center, library and resource room. The students are eager to see me every day, calling out “Good Morning, Mrs. Hage” so often that by the end of the day I am tired of the sound of my name! One 10 year old cried when he admitted to me he could not read. Definitely one of my more eager learners! The boys would come to class and constantly “drum” on the table while we read. I decided their persistence needed to be rewarded so bought the school two sets of drums. The video is the day they were delivered and an impromptu drumming and dancing session began!
The year has been completely dominated by this transition. I still spent most of my time in Summit County where I loved taking care of Caroline and Emelia when needed, which was not much as they started kindergarten this year. The Community Dinner runs without me. Almost 200,000 free meals served in the last 13 years. I am now president of the board of Treetop Child Advocacy Center. A lot of turmoil and upheaval to work through this year. Gratefully the interim director has pulled it all through.
For 2023, my plans are to remain in Hopkins until June, when I will return to Summit County to be with girls until they return to school in the fall. Once school starts I will return to Hopkins.
Rebecca organized a wonderful 2 week June trip to Scandinavia for Alexandra, Cassie and me. Spending time with my daughter and grand daughters is too energizing to me for words!
The family reunion in July was in the Adirondacks. A great week of river tubing, hiking and evening games.
Rebecca, 49, saw the breathtakingly beautiful and successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. (Learn more about what she does here.) Rebecca and all of the engineering teams breathed a collective sigh of relief when the entire array flawlessly deployed. Now the world is enjoying the fruits of their labors. She did not miss a step on being assigned to the next generation, The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. She is assured work on that until 2027 when it is scheduled to launch. Alex also launched this year! She pushed out of high school early and entered West Virginia University, only 16 when she began freshman life in her own dorm room. Now that was another surprise!
Jonathan Alejandro, 48, and Guillermo are enjoying a fulfilling life in Houston. Gilly works at a mission for homeless women. Alejandro keeps passengers safe for United when he is not playing volleyball, playing flute for the Catholic parish, and sewing a variety of things to sell …. shoe bags, masks, shopping totes, water bottle carriers. He is always busy!
Matthew, 47, has made a major career change. Surprise. He now flies 747’s, transporting as much as 124 tons of freight. His routes take him to China, Korea, and up and down the west coast. The part of the job that is taking some getting used to is being gone for 2 weeks at a time. Facetiming the girls every day helps, but they miss him. However, then he is home 2 weeks. Becky holds the fort down when he is gone while working the pharmacy at the hospital. Five-year-old Caroline and Emelia are fabulous kindergartners. Dancing, singing, tumbling, swimming, skiing, sledding, laughing, giggling, running, jumping their nonstop way through the day.
Ruben, 47, continues at Mountain Lyon Café, as he has since he was 14, starting out as a busser. Now he runs the line, putting out eggs of every description. Cassie, 18, headed out to Mesa State University in September. She met a lot of friends and enjoyed most of her classes but decided the courses offered were not exactly what she wanted so is returning to Summit County and Colorado Mountain College for the second semester. Surprise! Ruben and Dillon, who she is still dating, missed her terribly and are thrilled to have her back home!
Rachel, 44, and Kellie are in Las Vegas, teaching sociology at College of Southern Nevada. Gone are the days when their lives were consumed by 17 year old Derek’s soccer exploits. He has taken a year off from soccer to pursue dual high school/college degrees. Andrew, 12, is explosively active, artistic and creative.
Robert, 46, is safely in a group living situation in Washington State, with the 24/7 psychiatric/ medication support he needs. James, 46, Jesse, 44, and Amber, 42, are incommunicado. Though I heard through the grapevine that Jesse’s daughter Dominique had a baby girl sometime during the summer. Surprise! I suppose that sort of makes me a great grandmother, but not really.
The massive, horrific surprise is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I am consumed with the news of the unwarranted death, destruction and inhumanity! Not just in Ukraine, but the daily onslaught of death from unwarranted and unregulated gun violence in the US. So much grief and trauma. Grief and trauma are exhausting. Debilitating. Trust me. I know. The amount of grief from senseless deaths is shaking our nation to the core. So much for the right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness for everyone. From the strident tone of voice and facial expressions it doesn’t look like the AK47 rights people are all that happy either! Brutal monied organizations have turned our beloved country into a bloodbath with their constant harping and fear mongering that the rights of individuals to slaughter supersedes the rights of individuals to live.
And yet, we turn to the Prince of Peace. What a surprising contradiction. Christians as AK47 defenders? Christians imploring God to bring peace while they allow assault weapons to flood the country. As if God is going to impose peace without the support of people. I don’t even know how that is supposed to happen as I was taught people are the hands, heart and voice of God to work her will on the earth. Surprise! God can’t do it without people, so praying for peace while allowing mass violence doesn’t work. Surprise! If peace is to be it is up to you and me. Surprise! Kneel in adoration at the manger and then get up and get to work!
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.
All things break and all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intention.
Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally, fearlessly.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.
– L.R. Knost
Paul remains with me, through all of the ups and downs and surprises.
So I close with Merry Christmas!
Love, Paul and Deborah
Love Me Still
If you wish to love me still when I leave
By loving others
By giving new love
By seeing joy
By living your life like it cries to be lived
By letting go when the natural order demands it
By being at peace with the circle of time
If you wish to love me still when I leave
By loving life
By loving all that is life
By loving yourself most of all
The way I loved you
For now that I cannot
Love yourself and you will love me still
Love your life and you will love me still
– Donna Ashworth