Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Home Sweet Philadelphia

We just spent four glorious days in Philadelphia!

The purpose was to go see the new LDS temple in downtown Philly (go here to see pictures!), and the trip went better than I could have anticipated!

We stayed with beautiful, wonderful, gracious friends. Oh, how we love them!

Elegant, ethereal, compassionate Clairon! 

And her photobombing husband, Matt

They have five kids! Our kids adore them and vice versa.

Silly photos while waiting for some of the kids

We stayed in the attic! Well, it's mostly just an adorable third story. Their entire house is straight out of my dreams-- centuries old, quirky, beautiful, and not perfect. Love!

Brandon playing Mozart

Their oldest is a cellist and pianist. His back is to the camera... 

View from the attic window

We spent one day at the shore! We were in Cape May, NJ, and we were privileged to have our hosts, as well as two other families, join us. What is it about sand, wind, sun, and salt water? We all got sunburned (I'm so bad at the reapplying of sunscreen), the ocean was a bit too rough (I went body surfing! On accident! It was kind of scary and hilarious at the same time!), and the seagulls were annoying (as always), but it was such a good day. We have zero oceans in Kansas, you know. Ha!

We took non-LDS friends through the temple tour with us and it was such an honor to show them a place that means everything to us. One of the best parts was that the night we toured, the volunteers were all from our former stake (Valley Forge Stake) and there were several people from our former ward volunteering! It was so fun to see their faces when they recognized us. It's only been five months since we've moved, but it felt both shorter and longer, somehow.

The temple, itself, is glorious. Surreal, really, and as we walked through the rooms as a family, it just felt so good to be there. The architecture is Georgian/Colonial and fits Philly so perfectly! The parking garage under the temple is convenient AND it fits large vans like ours! That was an amazing surprise! The church across the street is beautiful and the copper toppings will turn green in time (like the Statue of Liberty did). The location of the temple is brilliant --it's right in downtown, near the library, Franklin Institute, and the Basilica (Catholic).

Interesting sidenote: this is the only temple were there is a mural/painting in the baptisimal font room. It's of Joseph and Oliver baptizing each other in the Susquehanna River. And how could they not include this?! The first baptisms of this dispensation happened in Pennsylvania! It was perfect.

After the tour on Friday, our friends (a Jewish family from Villanova and an Episcopalian couple from Princeton, NJ) took us to dinner to Tacconelli's, a tiny, hole-in-the wall pizza join in north Philly. It was amazing. Like, the best pizza of all time! We had such a great time and the kids were such troopers, even though we didn't finish until almost 11PM. My only regret? No photos with our friends! So sad.

See the temple??

Basilica view

LDS chapel across the street and behind it is the construction of an apartment/office building the church is constructing. 

Families are Forever!

We spent a day in the village where we had lived (and Brandon went back to the temple to tour with some friends who had driven to it from Lancaster!), saw neighbors and friends, and enjoyed a wonderful time at church on Sunday (it truly felt like we had come home). The only weird part was that Brandon was sitting with us in the congregation and not up on the stand with the Bishopric. In fact, the counselor that "took his place" was not there (their family has been in Africa, much to our sadness, because we missed seeing them!), and so it felt odd that Brandon wasn't sitting up there with them. I swear, we hugged the whole ward! It was such a nice visit. The kids ran off to Primary without a second thought, so excited to see their friends...

The drive there was uneventful (we stayed in Indianapolis halfway). I drove there and back so Brandon could do work (on his laptop). On the way home, we left later than we had planned (we couldn't break away because we were sad to leave!), and we hit a wicked storm in West Virginia/Ohio that lasted about 60 miles (flooding, lightening, thunder --we were going about 45mph!). We stayed the night in Colombus, Ohio, and it was a quick stop (to bed around 11:30PM and then up by 6:30AM). The long days of driving, plus my poor eating habits also meant I developed horrible edema in my legs and feet. I've never had such swollen feet! When we got home, I immediately downed 1/2 gallon of water and put my feet up. I now know, dear reader, what women are talking about when they get swollen feet while pregnant. I've had seven babies, but I've never had swollen feet, before (I know, I know, I'm so lucky, etc.). Holy cow, it's nutso! And painful. I'm so sorry for those who endure this often! They're better this morning, but not back to normal, yet.

Indianapolis Temple! We drove by it on our way out of the city.

She's a horrible sleeper and never goes to bed. Like, ever. Sigh... 

View of Ohio sunrise in Columbus.

Crazy van!

Home again!

Dear reader, I wish I could convey to you the overwhelming feelings I had about this trip. I won't be able to do it justice, but I'll try.

I know we are supposed to be here in Kansas. I have no doubt. The people here are outstanding and I adore our house. I love our ward, the schools, and the entire city of Manhattan. It's wonderful! But I truly left a part of myself in Pennsylvania, and my heart is there with so many people and places.

It's odd to me, and Brandon put it well, that our time in PA has left such an imprint upon us and our children. We have lived in four different states, now. San Francisco was just over a year, and although we have life-long friends from that experience and consider SF one of our most favorite places, our children have very few memories of our time there. We lived in Utah for more than a decade, though. We lived in one of the best neighborhood and greatest wards. We also have life-long friends from that time, and we love visiting Provo. But...  going back to Utah has never felt the way going back to PA felt. Our kids really felt like they had come home, again --especially our teenagers. I admit, too, that I felt very much the same way.

Is this because it's only been 5 months? Will it still feel this way in a year? Is it because the ward really was family? I honestly wonder if it's because of how different the culture and dynamics play out. It was easier to raise my family in a Mormon-saturated community because I never had to have uncomfortable conversations. I knew what to expect from everyone, even in the secular part of living. It was so different in Thornton, PA! It was difficult to navigate a new place where Mormons were so very few, where my religion and values were a bit foreign to everyone I met. Even our family size was a bit odd --but unlike San Francisco, and even sometimes in Utah, nobody in PA ever said anything negative about our family size. Ever! I do admit that it was a real sacrifice to practice our religion because our commitment meant a lot of time, distance, and effort. The friends my kids made weren't necessarily based on a shared religion or neighborhood --they chose each other outside of those things. I had to have uncomfortable conversations and I had to learn and grow. I found a way to truly see everyone as children of God in a way I never understood before. I'm not trying to negate the wonderful life we had in Utah (I adore Utah, I really do), but there was just something about being somewhere different; somewhere far from a Mormon culture where the choice to live our religion was internal, with no pressure from anyone.

Maybe an even bigger part, at least to me, is this: Pennsylvania represents many of the things I love about life and about myself because of how difficult it was to live there at times. I spent some of the darkest moments of my life there, and I found the greatest moments of light. In those 2 1/2 years, I discovered a strength in me and a strength in my Savior that I hadn't realized existed. I learned how to deal with the unexpected, to appreciate the simple parts of our lives, to instantly feel charity toward other people, and to love myself, again. I was in the midst of a rich, beautiful history. I was literally surrounded by towering, bursting-with-life foliage. I learned to love nature all over again, and a found a new respect for wildlife. I gave birth to our seventh child. I made some of the greatest friends I've ever had the the privilege to make. I learned how to cope and manage while my husband served in the Bishopric and traveled for work the majority of our time, there. (He also had to learn and grow amidst our unexpected challenges!)

So, it doesn't really surprise me that we love and will always miss Pennsylvania. It will always be "home" to us, no matter if we never live there again. Kansas will be our home, too, and I already have a deep feeling that in many years from now, we will feel the same way about Manhattan as we feel about Philadelphia. That is a good, good feeling, dear reader.

Have you ever lived somewhere that changed you so much that you will forever love that place? 

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