Questing…in my Attic

More “Quilters Quest” adventures:

A few weeks into my new job a customer brought in newly acquired Featherweight sewing machine for servicing. She was very excited. A light bulb went on in my head reminding me that I had one of those in my attic.

I went searching and found the very smelly case with the machine inside but no plug or foot pedal. I left the case outside in the sunshine for a few days and brought the machine into work one day when a class on maintenance was meeting. The teacher had kinds of supplies so I bought what I needed, including a new soft case to replace the smelly one. It needed more adjustments so I left it with the tech department for servicing.

The story behind all this is that many years ago Johnny was helping his friends empty out a warehouse where several of them had been living. No one wanted the old machine in a box, so he brought it home. It smelled so bad that I wouldn’t let it in the house. For some reason, it made the move with us to Aurora and found a place in our attic.

Our sewing machine tech was not very pleased with it. It required “every adjustment known to man.” She calls it my Dumpster machine.

After joining some Facebook groups for Featherweight owners and meeting the ladies in our classes, I’ve learned that a large cult of Featherweight owners is alive and well. Some own two or three or more machines. (My friend Mari does all her piecing on her FW and I just learned today that my aunt in Florida owns one as well.)

The machine is tiny, 9.5 inches in length with a fold up extension that adds another 5 inches. It weights just over 11 pounds. It looks like a toy. Today they are valued by quilters for the very straight stitch and for their portability, as well as something of a collector’s item. They are also fairly simple machines that can be maintained by the owner, which would be a selling point, then and now.

Mine has a “birthday” of February 10, 1952, just about the time I was conceived. My aunt’s machine has a birthday of October 14, 1953, a few days after my birthday. They are worth anywhere from $300 to $700 or more.

It has a straighter stitch than my more expensive machine and is small enough to cart around. I have always dragged my machine to cottages and outdoors because I enjoy sewing in open spaces. In the past, I’ve dragged machines to a variety of places–the cottage in Canada, camp, Balgownie and Stormy Lake, as well as my backyard. This little machine is perfect for traveling or transferring to the back deck.

After all that, I remembered that I also had the iron part of an old treadle machine–also up in the attic. I had John get it down and started cleaning it. It’s old and marked, but has the gold lettering of SINGER in the middle and gold on the side medallions. I’m planning to get a solid top for it and storing the Featherweight on it. Pretty cool.

I just finished my first quilt on Featherweight, a “garden” quilt with one of my first Quilters Quest purchases. Most of it was sewn outdoors on my deck. The Featherweight is perfect for taking outside. I will store it on the treadle iron right inside my back door and carry it outdoors whenever I’m in the mood. Just right for summer!

The QQ Bin

Working at a quilt shop ( has been fun, exhausting, and challenging. Ten weeks in, I’m comfortable but not totally confident. My stamina is still not up to par–seven hours on my feet is challenging, so many nights I go home and crawl into bed way before bedtime. It helps that I have a day to recover before going back at it again.

Shopping in a quilt store is a little different than working in one. In the past, I could go in, browse, and usually leave with just what I needed. Cutting fabric (in particular) and shelving it, as well as watching new lines come in at least weekly is a bit more challenging to my stash-habit.

Initially I said I would look at my current stash before going to work to remind me that I didn’t need more fabric. Then one day, a customer bought a really cute sheep fabric with perfectly matched coordinating fabrics. I bought a yard of each! (I do get a discount.)

Then “Wild Blossoms” came out of the box and a few days later I realized the background fabric was an amazing ombre pattern of beautiful flowers. I bought 1-1/2 yards for a square backing before the bolt ran out and a charm pack of the rest of the line. Not long after I could see that the “hatch” bolt was running low, so I bought a yard of that too.

I made book pillows for the kids, mostly using my stash but bought interfacing and zippers, and then 5 half-yards to supplement my stash to fit the kids’ interests.

And then, the chickens… I watched those for a few weeks before choosing four of the fabrics to make skirts and purses for the little girls.

And so on.

Last week I bought a 13 x 13″ acrylic bin for my stash wall just for my QQ fabric. I wanted to see all the fun purchases, keeping them front and center so that I could both enjoy them and also be reminded to use them. As I filled the bin, I also decided that my “rule” would be that I couldn’t buy any more than fit into the bin–I would need to use it before buying more once it was filled. (It was a little more than half-filled at that point so it seemed like a reasonable rule.

I bought 1.5 yards of this batik ombre and started looking at colors to make a “Captiva” summer quilt. Instead, I decided I should make the Wild Blossoms quilt while I still had access to some of the prints. The batiks I plan to use for Captiva aren’t going to run out and I really need to use what I’ve already purchased.

So it’s (kind of) working 🙂


While on a bike ride last fall, I found a house that really appealed to me. A couple weeks later it had a For Sale sign out front. It was way out of our range, but in the first month the price dropped by $150K. Still pricey, but I went to look anyway. Ranch style on a hill so a full finished basement that could easily be a home for another family; two full kitchens, laundry rooms, living rooms and three bedrooms on each floor. It was on 4 acres of land, bordering a pond. It had an outbuilding that I envisioned as a separate apartment for Johnny. And, it had a pool! It was also on a small side street just off my favorite country road for biking.

We didn’t buy it, of course, but what surprised me most was that I was dreaming again.

I also decided that I wanted to get a part-time job. After thinking about all the possibilities, I realized the only thing I really wanted to do was work in a quilt shop. I made up a “quilting” resume and visited a couple shops in the area. One of them was planning to move to a bigger store and would likely be hiring in the spring. I started working there three weeks ago. A dream job 🙂

I asked to work 3 days a week for the first couple of weeks so I could learn more quickly. I agreed to three-in-a-row, which was a bit ambitious for my feet and energy level, but I enjoyed the process and am now working two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Quilters Quest (at 75th & Lemont in Downers Grove) is a bright, roomy store with a lot of beautiful fabric and a bustling longarm service. We also sell and service Bernina and Janome sewing machines and sergers and offer many classes. Come in and visit!

Getting paid to play with fabric is pretty cool. I love straightening the shelves, cutting fabric, and helping other quilters find just the right color or hue. It’s especially fun to unwrap new collections. I also love seeing the finished quilt tops that are brought it for long-arming. Some of them are simply amazing.

* One fun fact: When I first came in to ask about a job, one of my former colleagues at Elmhurst Medical Associates bopped up to me in a staff t-shirt. About a year ago, she did the same thing I was doing, randomly asking about hiring. I think it’s hilarious that a former nurse and pharmacist are now working together in a quilt shop! Connie, who is still working at EMA, calls it our fun job. It was even funnier when one of our former patients came in looking for fabric.

Sometimes I end up on the “wrong” side of the register 🙂

There and Back Again

Like Bilbo, I’ve been away on an adventure and am only now writing about it after having been there and back again.

Lizi and I traveled to Middle Earth (New Zealand) from September 14 through October 11, our first trip to back since Covid. Although fully vaccinated and boostered (including the latest flu vaccine) we ended up being sick for most of our trip, sickness shared with Anne and the kids. Not Covid but strep, foot-hand-mouth disease and even hayfever. That, along with kind of miserable early “spring” weather made it an unusual trip.

Still, we got to meet Theo and spend lots of time with James, Anne, Charlee and Simee. We got to share their lives, even though it wasn’t perhaps the best of their lives.

Since we last visited James and Anne have moved twice. James resigned from Capernwray last year and took on a role as youth pastor for the Tirau Community Church. They had purchased a home up on a hill in Tirau but the job offer came with a manse so they moved into that and have someone else making mortgage payments on their house. The manse is a good fit for this time of their lives with a fenced yard and flat landscaping. It is less than two blocks from the church and an easy walk to the shops etc. It is very different from the country lifestyle that Anne so enjoyed for several years, but still surrounded by green hills and pastoral views that are so refreshing.

It was school break so James’ activities were mostly on hold. He attended a Youth Workers’ conference in Queenstown, which we turned into a trip to the South Island, visiting James’ family in Gore, as well as quick trips to the Caitlins and a daylong ski trip near Queenstown. It was a busy family time more than an occasion for sightseeing, but we enjoyed catching up with James’ family and experiencing their rural life. (They, too, have moved since we last visited, selling the sheep farm and moving to a smaller property that still includes paddocks, beautiful views and a gracious home. They had five ewes and twelve lambs that were born right around the time of our stay. Lizi enjoyed feeding the lambs. Mostly, though, they have a crop of twelve grandchildren that keep them busy!)

We were all “smashed” after our trip to the South Island, sick with strep, scarlet fever, and so on. Poor Theo got the worst of it.

On one really nice day, we visited Hobbiton. Since our family is currently doing a Lord of the Rings Conqueror Challenge, we wanted to visit a real location. Matamata is only about 20 minutes from their home. The girls were old enough to appreciate the scenes and all of us had a good time hiking through the Shire.

After being Immersed in their life for four weeks, it’s weird to be back home again. The overnight flight–with odd periods of sleep and wakefulness–is a strange transition from one world to another. We left at 8:15 as the skies were growing dark and arrived in LA at bright noonday, transported to a very different world. A long layover and four hour fight dropped us into Chicago just as the day was ending. Our luggage didn’t make that last flight so it will be delivered on our doorstop early tomorrow morning.

I miss my Kiwi family but it’s kind of nice to be home to sunshine and fall colors. Our first fire of the season and a return to my hot tub, as well as apple crisp at the Birkey’s made it a warm welcome.

I am also happy to return to e-biking, at least for a while. I returned the e-bike to Zoomo before my trip and four days later received notification that they were closing down the Chicago location and selling the bikes at a greatly reduced rate. I didn’t get to buy the exact bike that I rented all summer, but was able to get a refurbished bike in great shape. I rode it today and I am very happy with it. All around it turned out to be a great deal, allowing me to ride all summer for $25/week and then purchasing it in time for my birthday.

*Tirau, their small town, is the Corrugated Capital of the World. From signs to actual buildings, the town in decorated in corrugated metal art. Here are some of the unique buildings and the Good Shepherd that is by the Community Church where James serves as a youth pastor.

Not so fast!

Team Scotland* finished the North Coast 500 today–five hundred miles, walked and biked in 40 days. Compare that to the 238 days it took me to complete the 480.9 miles of my personal Camino. Just over a month compared to eight months to travers five hundred miles, give or take a few. For those of us who did both, this seemed way too fast. Admittedly, the Camino seemed way too slow and tedious so I’m thinking that there has to be a happy medium.

For me, it might be biking. The pace of biking is nice. Completing more miles in less time for my virtual journey is certainly nice, but I also enjoy simply covering more distance on my forays whether in my neighborhood, community or even more distant adventures. I’ve been able to ride most of the 44.6 mile Fox River Trail from Oswego to Algonquin. I was able to ride further afield on the Waubonsee Creek Trail. This week I had a fun ride on a country road I discovered by car sometime last year. Taking it at a biker’s pace was even nicer.

Heather, one of my team members, also said she missed the time to read books and learn about the country she walked through with this faster trip. I did manage to read quite a few Scottish books and also worked for a bit on my Scottish genealogy.

It was especially here that I had to make myself slow down and heed the warning: “Not so fast! Genealogy has changed a lot in the 40-some years that I have imbibed. The Internet has made a lot of things easier to research. It has also made it easier to do sloppy research and make more mistakes.

I decided to focus on my Marshall roots. My grandfather, Robert Marshall, was born in Torphichen, West Lothian, in 1890, the son of Edward Marshall and Jean Ross. Edward Marshall was born in nearby Bathgate in 1847, the son of another Edward Marshall and his wife, Janet Leishman.

This Edward Marshall was born in 1818, the son of Robert Marshall and Elisabeth Morton who were apparently married in 1820. (Yes, noted.) Robert died three years later and Elisabeth married Peter Kerr in 1825, with whom she had several more children. There is no death record for Robert other than a notice that one of Elisabeth’s relatives, a John Morton, paid for the mort-cloth for his burial. Not finding a death record is frustrating because I am missing information on the cause of death, which for a 26 year old could be interesting. Robert died leaving two children, three and less than one years old. More importantly, a death record would normally include the name of his parents.

I would really like this information because on Ancestry I found a line of Marshalls going back eight or nine generations to the mid-1500s. A Richard Marshall had several children, including a Robert and a James. James’ family eventually emigrated to Australia, where Ian Marshall, a descendent has worked on his family tree and shared this information. It would be so nice to claim that Robert Marshall as my ancestor and gain all the others as a result. But not so fast!!! I tried and tried to really satisfy myself that this was my Robert Marshall, but alas, there really is no proof.

Scottish naming patterns can make things challenging as the first son is usually named after the paternal grandfather; the second son named after the maternal grandfather and the third son named after the father. If a family had several sons, they all might name their eldest sons after their father, resulting in cousins sharing the same name so it is difficult to prove genealogical paternity unless there is more than a birth recorded.

Whilst** trying to establish Robert’s paternity, I read through several Kirk Session records about a Robert Marshall who was accused by an Agnes Shanks of fathering her illegitimate child. Usually when this happened, the young man was brought before the session and admitted his responsibility but in this case, Robert repeated denied the charges and was given the opportunity to bring in witnesses on his own behalf. Eventually the case was delayed and then apparently dropped. Later, in a late-registration of an illegitimate birth, I found a notation that Robert (no surname) and Agnes Shanks had a baby, Thomas, baptized. Interesting story, but again, was this “my” Robert Marshall or one of his same named cousins or someone from a different family altogether? There is really no way of knowing.

So, in the end, I had to leave myself with more questions than answers in my Scottish Genealogy in order to be sure I wasn’t mistakenly jumping to conclusions. Still, it was pretty fun while it lasted.

Back to my Conqueror journey: I may do a short trip, biking “alone” the next few weeks, but then I want to start the Lord of the Rings challenges. There are five challenges and five medals. The first, The Shire, is relatively short (145 miles.) Since our family has enjoyed both the books and the movies, as well as the location for the movies, I thought it would be fun to do the first challenge as a competition between our three main family units: The Birkeys, The Bruces, and the Hurnis. If the they want to continue, we’ll do the 680 miles of The Fellowship as one team and so on.

Hopefully we’ll find a way to find that middle ground between “slow” and “not so fast!”

*Team Scotland was my first experience of adding miles together as a team. There were five of us accumulating our walking and indoor/outdoor biking miles together. We estimated it taking us 70 days to complete, about 25 miles a week, but it flew by much faster.

**Whilst is a uniquely Commonwealth word that I’ve rarely heard here in America. I’ve heard it in New Zealand and now in several of the books I’ve read during my Scottish reading. I kind of like it.

My Camino

This morning I rode my bike virtually over the finish line of my 480 mile Camino. I started on September 2, taking 256 days to complete the 480 miles. Roughly, I walked 325 of the miles, yoga’d 16 miles, swam 20, and biked the last 100+ miles.

I also read at least 10 books and watched one movie about the Camino, re-reading the first one (The Way is Made By Walking) again as I approached the finish line.

During that same time period, I participated in an online Bible Study Fellowship group, studying the Gospel of Matthew and read through A Long Obedience once or twice.

Lastly, the same time period covered Johnny’s academic year, two semesters that were challenging emotionally with many ups and downs, as well as illness and dental issues. It was, to say the least, a very rough year. Somehow he completed 13 credit hours with two As and 2 Bs, plus a “Satisfactory” designation in an Observation Course. That last one included many hours working with the Penguin Players, a theater production for adults with special needs.

In January, I also started attending Re:Generation, a recovery group at Wheaton Bible Church. At 68, I feel too old for this, but decided to work at my part in this unbalanced equation of over-helping and codependency. I began by calling myself a “weary mom” and gradually accepted the label of codependent. I am still in the Groundwork phase, but will start a Step study in June. The jury is still out on whether this is a helpful exercise, but I am committed to the process, for now.

I started the Camino hoping to continue my daily habit of walking outdoors and also make it a spiritual pilgrimage in some unclear way. My feet betrayed me over the fall and winter as plantar fasciitis worsened. I visited podiatrists, bought new shoes and insoles, and tried physical therapy. Next up might be cortisone shots, but I haven’t decided yet. In the meantime, I rented an e-bike and continued my journey with the help of wheels and pedal assist. (Now, new aches and pains are showing up from a different sort of physical activity. Am I too old for this too?)

Spiritually, I learned to depend on God a little more intentionally, but I’m not really “there” yet. In one of the videos we watched at Re:Gen, the speaker used a bench press to illustrate his point. He added big heavy weights that represented his addictions and sins. I didn’t expect him to be able to lift it at all, but he laid back and lifted it once, twice, three times before he started slowing down and then struggled, tiring under the weight. It was a perfect picture of me: I CAN and DO lift a lot of weight, particularly in my helping roles, but I get worn out and weary pretty quickly. Fortunately for the weight lifter, someone spotted him and took the weights from him. I am learning to more quickly ask God to take those weights, even asking BEFORE I pick them up the first time if this is what He wants for me. (Not always, I still rush in to fix and calm more often than not.)

As I end this journey, I think I’ve accepted that life and spirituality are challenges that will continue to the very end, that it may never get easier, but that I am not meant to do it alone or in my own strength/power. Changing my routines and even pedal assist is okay. I also can/should depend on God and others to ease my way. A huge theme of all the Camino books I read was that the community of pilgrims walking the same path was the best part of the experience.

So, I’ve joined a Team for my next virtual challenge, the North Coast 500, a 500 mile journey through the Scottish Highlands. Six of us (so far) will walk, bike, row (or whatever) our miles and add up the miles together rather than separately. Two of us are cancer patients, one had a stroke this winter, all of us are on the old side of things but we are still moving, still journeying. Four of us are also classmates from 46 years ago. Our class verse given to us by the preceding class is just perfect, even (or especially) for this stage of life:

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings as eagles;
They shall run and not be weary;
And they shall walk and not faint.
–Isaiah 40:31

P.S. I got to take a long ride this morning with Laura, who is training for a Sprint Triathlon in June. I never would have been able to keep up with her without pedal assist! Loved it even more.


Last weekend I rented an e-bike from Zoomo in downtown Chicago.

I’ve wanted one since last year, the day after I fell and broke my wrist because I didn’t have enough “oomph” to make it up a slight incline. The bike rolled back and I fell in slow motion. The next day Annie told me “that wouldn’t have happened if you’d been on an e-bike.” So true.

So all year long I’ve looked at e-bikes but I just haven’t been able to shell out $1000 for a low-end e-bike. Then I saw an advertisement for Zoomo, for weekly and long-term rentals. Yesterday I bit the bullet.

It was definitely a millennial experience. I had to chat online with Sherrine to ask questions and set up an appointment. Then I had to complete all my paperwork online, including uploading my driver’s license and proof-of-address mail. In person, I sat at a small table while another girl filled out the rest of the information on her I-pad. I signed a few papers and she gave me a 3-minute explanation about the bike. Later, I tried calling to ask a question about the charging cords and guess what–there is no phone number for contact. I had to submit a request and they’ll get back to me whenever they can. They are only open Monday-Friday.

Online I tried to find out more about the bike–like a manual? Ha!

I took a quick ride as soon as we got home but it was really cold so I decided to wait. John and I set out the next day for a 3-mile ride. We weren’t far before I was way ahead of him, realizing that even at the lowest level of pedal assist, the bike was going faster than my legs were working. I played around with turning pedal assist on zero and changing the gears. It helped to ride behind John so that I could see and feel more of a normal bike ride, but could still turn the pedal assist on if wanted or needed. It also has a throttle button that I can hit if I am on a bigger incline and really want the help. A quick touch of that makes a nice start up as well.

Zoomo mostly rents to young people working as couriers or other delivery services in big cities. It is an Australian company with sites in the UK, EU, and US, located in big cities like New York, San Francisco and Chicago. I am not their typical client. (I asked.)

I will only rent it for a couple of months, racking up about $200 in charges. I figure this is a good way to 1) finish the Camino before summer; 2) test ride an e-bike without breaking the bank; 3) see if I really like biking enough to invest; and 4) give my feet time to heal.

In the meantime, I’m ready for spring and for the rest of my Camino. I try hard not to feel as if I’m cheating–and to put as much of my own muscle power into the process as possible. I think this will be fun.

A long post-script:
The longer virtual challenges are a bit daunting. Alps to Ocean (New Zealand) was 180 miles which I finished in 80 days. The Cabot Trail was 186 miles, done in 56 days and Kilimanjaro was only 60 miles, completed in 21 days. I’ve been working on the Camino since last September and still have 133 miles to go. Therefore, I decided that for any future long challenges, I am going to do them as a team, one of the options on the Conqueror Challenge. Essentially, team members pool their miles to move more quickly along the path. They each pay for the challenge and each get a medal at the end. So far, I’ve walked in “communities” which track each other but still maintain a bit of competition.

There are two long challenges that I am interested in doing with a team. Maybe you’d like to join me for one of them:

The North Coast is a 500.5 mile hike/ride though the Scottish Highlands. It costs $34.95.

The Lord of the Rings Challenge was just released. In this case, you can form a “fellowship” instead of a team to pool your resources. This one is more expensive, but possibly more rewarding. It contains five challenges that must be done sequentially and is a bit more pricey. It follows the LOTR film trilogy postcards and stories. A lot of people are either reading or listening to the books as well. You can buy the full package or buy them individually. I think I would opt for the second option to spread out the cost over a year or so. There also are options for more or less miles on some of the challenges. The Shire (145 miles.) The Fellowship (98 or 680 miles.) Mines of Moria (40 miles) The Eye of Sauron (95 or 668 miles) and Mordor (282 miles.) It is also okay to do just one or two of them if that satisfies you.

Check them out at the Conqueror app and let me know!


Today is our 45th Wedding Anniversary. Yikes. What is even more weird is that some of our close friends are celebrating their 50th this year. I mean, like, isn’t that for old people?

I remember my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Although they lived in Florida, they came back “home” to Chicago to celebrate the event at Mayfair Bible Church. My Gramma made herself a gold dress and I got my first “store boughten” dress for the occasion. I was fifteen.

My Dad didn’t think he’d make it to their 50th after having a heart attack at age 58, so we celebrated their 45th with a special family weekend. They went on to celebrate their 50th, 55th and 60th, at which point I told him “no more parties.” They actually made it all the way to 66.

John’s parents did celebrate their 50th, but it was nine years into Mom’s journey with Alzheimers. When they wheeled Mom into the community room at the nursing home, I almost told them they had the wrong patient until I recognized her dress from one of the weddings. I cried through the whole party.

So, how did we–and our friends–get to this place? Why do we seem so much younger than our grandparents at that age? The gallery below is actually not quite fair since John and I are five years behind on the anniversaries, though the ages might not be so different. Gramma Freeberg was 19 when she married my grandfather. Mom was 20, and I was 23.

Buen Camino

“Pride goeth before a fall.”

Last year I walked 700+ miles and bragged about it in my Christmas letter. This year I got sidelined with plantar fasciitis. I bought new shoes, rested, stretched, had Physical Therapy, and two really good foot massages, but I still can’t walk a mile without pain.

Since January 1, I’ve “walked” 61.5 miles. I snowshoed, cross country skied (very little), walked, and taken credit for my weekly restorative yoga class. I even count the 0.4 mile on the step bike I use for my warm up at PT. Here in Florida, I am swimming laps in the pool to count towards my miles.

Currently, I’ve finished 326.3 miles of the Camino (since September) with 154.5 to go. At this rate I might finish by the August, six months after my projected goal of the end of March.

But it is still a Buen Camino, a good hike. I’m healthy (except for my foot) and doing well. My cancer numbers are good. It has been two years since my second cancer diagnosis and the first med regimen is still working well with no noted side effects.

And, I am very much enjoying two weeks in sunny Florida. I visited my aunt and uncle in Titusville for 4 days and then drove south to spend a week with friends on Captiva. Lizi and I will end our trip with 3 nights and 2 days at Disney. I think a day of walking at Epcot will do serious damage to my feet so I am planning to spend the second day just relaxing at our resort. We have lifetime passes to Disney, but since it is spring break, there are blockout dates to the parks that day. A last day of rest and relaxation poolside sounds just right to me.

And hopefully, when we get back home Spring will be just around the corner.

Buen Camino!

Research Update

Here’s an update of some of my research on The Pillars:

Out of the blue, or so it seemed, I received an email from the librarian at the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston with a copy of Mary Keeley’s reminiscences of her interactions with Mary Baker Eddy. It told of her initial interest in Christian Science (1888) and her training at the Massachusetts Metaphysical College (1898) to become a Christian Science practitioner. It also described her husband’s resistance to her faith and practice and his gradual softening towards it. Apparently he embraced the faith toward the end of his life, but not fully as he never gave up his medical practice. He died after being treated by Christian Science practitioners and then calling for medical treatment too late. (Mary Keeley was the second owner of the home, between 1913-18. I wrote about her in Going to Dwight.)

From this record, it seems unlikely that Mary Keely bought and improved the Pillars property to provide treatment for anyone addicted to alcohol or medicines. If anything, it is possible that she intended to serve the Christian Science faith in some way through the development of the property. Or, perhaps she simply enjoyed a big country home and property. I do know that she unloaded her investments in the Keeley Company, selling low to expedite the process since it didn’t seem in line with her faith. She later sued many of the family and business. I am not sure how that suit turned out, but I am guessing she may have used any awards to purchase the home in Oswego. I would love to know, but at present I have hit a brick wall in the research.

Secondly, after Christmas, I invited the daughter of a previous owner to visit the Pillars. Laurel Erlanson was born right about the time her parents purchased the run-down home on Main Street. She was brought home from the hospital to their new/old home, which had been subdivided into four apartments some time previously and painted throughout in “lime green.” (This was 1969.) Her parents worked hard over the next decade to restore the home, creating an elegant mansion once again while they raised four unique and talented children. They added the marble floors, the handmade carpets, the blue decor and the Czechoslovakian chandeliers, special lighting and sound systems. My favorite story is that her mom placed a sign by the door to the dining room, stating “Be a Blue Walker,” which was a reminder for the family to stay on the blue edges of the mostly white carpeting in the dining and living areas to preserve the expensive carpeting. Laurel brought real estate brochures dating from 1981-1996 while they attempted to sell the home and an extra copy of the Better Homes & Gardens magazine featuring the remodeled kitchen done in the early 80s. It was fun touring the home with her and sharing her stories of her family’s life in the home.

Last, I recently reviewed my research on third family that lived in the home, the Hansons’, who owned the home from 1918-1947. I knew that they had suffered a lot of loss in the home and that they were also Christian Scientists, but what I missed was that Eva was also a Christian Science practitioner as early as 1910. They had one son who came home ill from Dartmouth College in 1929 and died. Did they forego medical treatment? Sadly, five years later, Harry Hanson, the father, took his own life down at the pool house or “summer house” on the property. It does not seem as thought Mrs. Hanson stayed in the house for the rest of her tenure as an owner, and who could blame her? I wonder what these losses did to her faith?

(Interestingly, the first owner, Margaret Woolley also experienced much loss. She purchased the land from her sister who lived next door, she and her husband Charles built the home. He died seven years later, followed by the death of her sickly son a couple years later and her mother, whom she must have nursed in the home, a year or two after that. No wonder she chose to purchase land on the other side of her sister’s house to build a smaller home for herself.)

I’m kind of at an impasse in my research but there are still tantalizing details that help me press on. In the meantime, it is fun to watch the Birkey family enjoy the home and find ways to share it with others. Currently they are hosting house church three Sundays a month and Laura is looking for ways to develop a retreat location. She has hosted two yoga retreats and also has dreams of making the third apartment in the carriage house into a small retreat center. It is currently a run down, unoccupied apartment needing renovation, but opens up onto a secluded patio and a quiet, secluded view of the yard and river. At this time of year, with the foliage out of the way, we are enjoying the views of the river and the loud cacophony of a huge population of geese living on the river’s islands. The kids and I had fun snowshoeing one afternoon and they have enjoyed several snowy days of sledding down their back hill. Still, we are all really looking forward to spring with warmer weather and a resurgence of all the native flowers. It hasn’t even been a year since the Birkey’s moved in but the house is already well-loved.