When I first moved to Scottsdale Arizona my little Jack was only three years old. I entered a stage for the first time in about twelve years where I was able to breathe freely as a parent. The boys were all old enough to finally play together and they didn’t need me to hover over them every minute. A few months after moving to Arizona Jack decided he was ready to make friends so he wanted to go to preschool. This gave mama the first predictable patch of time in my days to give to myself. I felt like a flower that was suddenly given enough warmth and light to open. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I hold the desert so near and dear to my heart, it is where I blossomed.
Being a miser with my time, I began to plan how I would use those hours productively so I could reach some personal goals. I was going to learn to write a novel. I went to evening classes at Scottsdale Community College where I learned the mechanics of writing fiction. That’s where I met my good friend Madeleine Sinclair who remains a permanent member of my life story today. She took me under her writer’s wing and coached me for a year until we were such good friends the writing took a back seat in our relationship. During the hours when all four boys were in school I wrote. And those were days when I experienced tremendous personal growth and exploration. I reconnected with the person I am apart from the mom. I found out she was there after all, and as I got to know her, I was happy to have her around.
The novel I was writing centered on a casita, or a little backyard guesthouse. The characters in the story were really autobiographical. I basically made up stories and used our family members as the characters.( Craig liked to laugh at me because it was my utopia of being in control.) It was fun! I had this big plot where the family moved to AZ and there was a rundown casita out back. The main character, Elena, reached out to her father because his wife had just passed away. He agreed to come stay in the casita and fix it up, and enjoy participating in the lives of the family in an intimate way he had never before been able to enjoy. The grandpa developed a special connection with the three year old. But Elena had a crisis just after her father moved in where her mother’s fifth husband dumped her and left her without a cent. She was a difficult woman, noisy, opinionated, crass and bossy, but beautiful. She had been divorced from the nice grandpa since before Elena was a teenager, and they hadn’t seen each other or talked to each other since the ugly divorce. One day the mother appeared at Elena’s house needing a place to live. There was only the extra bedroom in the casita. And so there they were, the grandpa and grandma, after all those years sharing the daughter’s guest house. You can imagine I worked it out that they fought like crazy for a while, but eventually fell back into love and there was a wedding at the end of the story in front of the casita entrance. (and the three year old was cupid)
Ok. So you can charge me with realizing a childhood dream to have my own parents get back together in some weird fantasy that is not at all based on the reality that I love my step parents like crazy. It was in some ways fun. The writing of the thing was torturous though. I finished it in long hand, closed the journal. Put it on a shelf and never read it again. It took me a year to finish. I was so sick of it. If I ever do something with that work, it will be to take the idea and write it again, fresh, with more wisdom in the years between the first draft and the second. But I honestly doubt I’ll ever write fiction because my own life has become so rich with adventure I’d rather write about adoption, Uganda, and raising the big family… including the 47 kids in Kyengera Uganda who call me mama. You can’t make that stuff up! And I do hope the moving dust will settle one day and I’ll find that patch of time to write this memoir.
I tell you all of this because my heart has always been set on having a casita in my backyard. As a young girl growing up in Michigan I loved how there were so many lakes that every family in the state could have found a little cottage somewhere to escape to for the weekends. I visited many of our neighbor’s cottages as we grew up, and now my dad and Audrey live in one on Morrison Lake. My mom and Pete live in one on Lake Leelanau. I always fantasize about cottage living. I devour every cottage living magazine. I want to think small even though my life is HUGE. I like cozy. So, when I saw how adorably cute this casita is in my new backyard, it is clear why I was immediately attached to it.
It has one bedroom, so my novel can never come true.
I do have a very special purpose for this casita though. We’ve invited Whitney to come join us in our new life, and we will give her the bedroom in the casita. The main room in the casita will be the home gym. She has done an outstanding job helping us organize and establish our nonprofit, Kirabo Seeds. She is so committed to working to help the children at the orphanage have better living conditions that we are really a good team. She is finishing college by doing an online study program so her school comes with her. When I suggested she could keep her work and have a place to stay with us, she was happy. Neither of us wanted our move to end the work we had begun together.
In the fall, we hope to do more fundraisers, create a good line of communication between our sponsors and the children at the orphanage, and relax with all the unknowns because we are sure of one thing: God has arranged it all. There’s no accident the one house I fell in love with had a sixth bedroom, for her. It will be exciting to discover God’s will for her in this casita story.