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The concept of environment is one that has always felt very concrete for me.  Until recently, when I heard that word I would think of things like recycling, Earth Day, whales, oceans and paper bags.  I respect the environment, but I wouldn’t consider myself an environmentalist.

However, when examining this month’s tenet, the idea of promoting life culture within the womb, the home and the ecological environment, my thoughts began to shift and expand.  I started to wonder about the idea of an ecological environment: what was that exactly?  By definition, it is any type of surroundings, not just natural or physical.  Put in that context and combined with the other elements mentioned in the tenet, it became easier for me to consider myself and my efforts as part of a greater whole.

For me, 2019 was a year of change, a study in life culture.  It was a year of self-examination, a year when I was forced to take a look at my life and evaluate and prioritize my relationships and my efforts.  I had to decide what I wanted to invest in and what I needed to let go.  This came about largely through a set of circumstances that were traumatic and thrilling all at once. 

In January, my mother lost her battle with cancer.  Gone too soon, I was left trying to figure out how, as the oldest child and only daughter, I would try to care for my father and rise to carry on the traditions that my mom had created, that defined our family.  How would I continue to promote the life culture she had established?  As the mom of four kids with a husband who travels weekly for work, I barely had a grasp on my own life; how was I going to attempt to step into Mom’s shoes?

As I struggled through the spring to try to figure out which way was up, I found myself tossed in a different direction when my 19-year-old daughter met and was quickly engaged to the young man who is now my son-in-law.  To say that I felt unmoored would be an understatement.

It was at this point I decided that the time had come for me to truly define what was important to me.  What did I want as my foundation?  Where would I plant the roots of my family tree? 

The answer came easily.  I would plant them in my home.  I want my home to be a place of refuge–a place where my children will want to come, to bring their friends and to find peace.  I know that even now, some of my most peaceful times are when I find myself alone in the home I grew up in. I can feel Mom’s spirit there and the life that she created for me and my brothers, and our children and spouses.  I feel strengthened by her resolve and reminded of the many times she would tell me “you can do this” or to “stop feeling sorry for myself” or to “find someone to serve.”  I want my children and grandchildren to have those same feelings when they are in my home.

So, in 2020, that is my focus.  It is more than a little ironic that I am writing this in the midst of the global pandemic that we call COVID-19.  I, like a mother hen, have gathered all my chicks in and we are riding out the storm.  Some of my chicks are not happy to be in the hen house; but when this is all said and done, my hope is that they will know that they are loved, valued and respected.  I want them to feel peace and comfort in our home and to know that no matter what they may encounter in life, they always have an environment they can return to where they can be restored and find love and support.