Lizi 101

A recent conversation got me thinking that maybe I need to write a manual for being with Lizi. If you are her Facebook friend, you will know that she has been struggling with relationships and loneliness for the past few years. She longs for friendship, but often doesn’t know how to make it happen.

Occasionally Lizi invites herself to visit one of her out-of-town cousins. They have always been happy to have her visit, but not quite sure about planning for her visit. I usually tell them that Lizi really just likes being with people. She is quite happy to just be with someone, even if they aren’t talking or doing anything special. An occasionally trip to Kohls or Walgreens (or, back in the day, a Christian bookstore) will satisfy her need to “go,” which is minimal.

When I go out for a meal with her, I often bring a book. We’ll have a short conversation, and then she is happy to let me read. She will answer questions and ask a few basic ones herself, but mostly she isn’t much of a conversationalist and she doesn’t need you to be.

Remember side-by-side play? It’s basically like that. She is happy to go along, or not, but simply loves being with others.

Recently, the Mathiesons invited her to a dance recital that was taking place in Elmhurst. Aunt Linda and Uncle Larry often take her along on trips to the Arboretum or to free concerts in the area. They also watch TV and movies with her. Our old neighbors Lark and Alicia both are great about letting her simply hang out with them.

Lizi still has a couple more months of independence before likely moving in with us at the end of the summer. Currently, she stays with us Sunday afternoon through Wednesday morning. She goes back to her apartment to work three (W-Th-F) lunch shifts and stays through Sunday morning, sometimes at a loss for things to do–or people to see. She especially likes the company of dogs and children (though admittedly, not all children know how to handle her.)

It’s really quite simple. Lizi 101.

In Summer!

Olaf’s song, “In Summer” keeps going through my head, especially that last belted-out line.

Lizi and I enjoyed a taste of summer for a few days at Balgownie, the Bendelow’s cottage in South Haven. It was hot and sunny most of the time we were there, perfect for a few beach days to start off the summer.

Returning home last night was a little weird: I drove home via I-80 and then up Rt 30, through farmland and fields for the last few miles, then came into our subdivision from the south, avoiding the busy roads that I’m used to transversing. When I got home and unpacked, I had an odd feeling of surprise that this was actually my home.

It feels a bit like a summer home with the light, bright basement, the deck(s), the lush grass, and the big blue skies. No pool, no lake, but still summer-y.

In a week, we’ll have a small body of water on our property: We bought a new hot tub and it should be installed this weekend. John has been busy planning a second level deck and building the base for the hot tub. He also is installing the electric wiring from the house to a circuit box and then to the tub. In the next few weeks, he will put in a fence and later this summer, build the deck around the hot tub. He has good helpers.

In the meantime, we’ve enjoyed eating and entertaining on our deck. When we first bought the house, John thought the deck was too big. He planned to cut it down by about a third, knowing he would be adding a second deck for the hot tub. But as we have lived with it, we find it is not too big at all! Tables, chairs and people fill it up just fine.

My gardening plan for this year was limited to the area just outside our front door. It looked like the previous owner had simply put mulch down, never developing the soil or planting much but bushes across the front of the house. I was dismayed when I started to dig (thick clay) and disappointed when we paid to have it rototilled with added compost. It will be a work in progress for a few years.

I planned to wait until next year to add a garden for vegetables and herbs. However, my new neighbor to the north has four terraced raised beds on the south side of his house, facing my kitchen window. I asked him if he was planning to garden and he said he didn’t know much about gardening. I asked/offered to work on it for/with him. I dug out weeds today, will add compost tomorrow and hopefully have it planted by the weekend. I brought several plants with me in pots that need to be transplanted. It felt good to be digging in relatively good soil today–a definite sign of summer.

Next weekend we get to host a summer birthday party for Olive, our only summer grand child (and her Birkey cousin, Eva.) Laura’s friend owns a blow up water slide. Laura took one look at our backyard and wondered if we wanted to host the party 🙂

I have a feeling summer will fly by while we continue to settle into our new house. That’s okay because we are planning on a second summer in December/January and possibly February: New Zealand! Meanwhile, we plan to enjoy our new house…in summer!

10 Things I Like About You

I thought I’d write about the 10 things I like about our new home:

1. I like my kitchen. Actually I’m finding it simply amazing (without being over-the-top.) It is big, open, and has tons of storage. It’s been fun having people over for dinner and it really is a good thing that I like my kitchen/dining room so much because it is the only place we can sit down inside the house.

2. I like my island. It has become a comfortable place to cook and feed others, but it is also my place to sit and read or plan, or work on the computer. John has his office and I have a loom room/sort-of-office, but I find I gravitate to the island for most of my quiet moments.

3. I like our deck (when the sun is shining.) Even though we are planning to make some changes to the deck (a second level with a hot tub 🙂 we’re enjoying what we have for now.

4. I like our very first master bedroom/bath. Our master “suite” is really four rooms: a bedroom, a bathroom, a separate toilet room, and a walk in closet. The bathroom has a shower and a deep whirlpool tub tha is helping me get over the temporary loss of a hot tub.

5. I like our first-floor laundry. Way cool.

6. I like our garage. So far it is a staging area for unpacking, but we are gradually getting things put away. John built triple decker shelving along one wall of the garage, which lets us store things, basically in view. His next project is a workbench.

7. I like our “lower level.” We are working on dividing the big room into sewing area /play area/ and place to relax together with friends. Last week I made a trip to IKEA and set up a desk and bookcase to make a separate space for my sewing. This week we ordered a sectional couch for the other end of the room. These two spaces bookend the kids’ play area but they all kind of flow together. John2 has a bedroom and a large “media” room that we are letting him take over.

8. I like our neighborhood. It’s really different, but pleasant. I’ve become a dog-walker, enjoying looking at the different homes, gardens, etc. There are ponds and paths and miles of places to walk. It’s not like Elmhurst, where we could walk to town and ogle some really big and beautiful houses, but it’s open and quiet. I like that we routinely pass farm fields as well. Our new neighbors seem nice. I was especially happy to find that one of my nursing school classmates, Cheryl Fornelli, lives just two blocks from us. We had fun getting re-acquainted with her and her husband, John.

9. I like our new town: Aurora. It’s really diverse and interesting. It’s sprawling suburbia mixed with a downtown area that is struggling to survive. An Elmhurst “kid” told me that we have a cool venue in River Edge Park. Today we got a flyer for the Summer Concert Series. (Our own Ravinia?) Aurora has miles of bike trails, lots of parks, a small zoo, and Blackberry Farm. Aurora is also home to Wayside Cross Ministries, where John has volunteered as a mentor and occasional teacher/speaker.

10. But best of all, I really like being near Laura and Taylor, Kellen, Oaks and Olive! It has been a lot of fun to share our lives and our new home with them. Besides babysitting and casual drop-ins, we were able to enjoy the end of the soccer season, seeing our kids at church, and taking field trips with them. Laura and I are also co-cooking: we plan our meals and double our portions so we don’t have to cook every night 🙂 Loving that!

The Big Check

We moved! We’re still settling in, of course, but we’ve moved–lock, stock and barrel–out of our Elmhurst home and into our new home in Aurora. I can finally check off a major goal that I’ve been pursuing for a couple years.

Every time my dad moved he said, “We should have done this five years ago.” I was determined to move sooner rather than later, never regretting waiting too long to make a move. My experience with cancer also planted a desire to move so that neither John or I would ever have to make such a big move alone.

The whole process was much more difficult than we imagined. We spent a year getting the house ready for market; four months stressed by the processes of selling and buying; three weeks of crazy packing; and four days actually moving. We attempted to clean the whole house in about four hours, but failed, stretching the final move into the evening and again the next morning. We were out about the time the closing ended (after two more soaks in the hot tub.)

We were debt free for about two hours: Our second closing was scheduled 5 hours after the first one. (We pre-signed so we didn’t have to go to the Elmhurst closing.) When we finished the Aurora closing, we headed out to the new house, where we spent the night and waited for the POD and the movers to arrive the next morning.

Laura and the kids joined us soon after we arrived and were back the next morning, ready to help. The whole family was back in the afternoon for play and pizza. The next morning I picked up the boys and took them out for a Mother’s Day breakfast and then went to church with their family (while John went back to Yorkfield to teach Sunday School.) Monday was soccer and today I watched Oaks in the morning and Kellen all afternoon. A big reason for our location choice was to be closer to the grandkids so it has been great fun to reap the benefits right from the start.

John2 has been less-than-thrilled with the move. He seemed to enjoy moving into his space the first night, but since then he has slipped into a deep depression, sleeping away most of the last three days. When Kellen saw him this evening, he said “Johnny, I’ve been looking for you for three days!” We expected the transition to be difficult so we’re not surprised by this, though we wish it could have been smoother.

Lizi has been with us since Friday afternoon. She will return to Elmhurst tomorrow for three days of work, Saturday, and church on Sunday morning. Then she will come back out and stay with us until Tuesday night. This is our compromise for the time being: It allows her to work and enjoy her church fellowship, and hopefully will help her learn to be more independent. Her lease lasts through August so we have some time to decide–with her– what to do next.

Annie face-timed with us a couple of times over the weekend, saying goodbyes to the old house and enjoying a tour of the new. She and Charlee always cheered us up when we were exhausted and discouraged.

I’m really enjoying my new kitchen. It turns out there is 26 linear feet (63 square feet) of counter top, 33 cupboards and 16 drawers! I also discovered two glass panelled doors in a closet and a conversion set for a sink front tray. Laura and I had a lot of fun finding places for everything. My used Ethan Allan table (bought from friends years ago) is a perfect match for the countertop and cabinets: the wood top matches the cabinets and the green base and chairs coordinates perfectly with the formica. My “Malone” also fits in perfectly.

There is still plenty to do, but we have lots of time and no deadlines. John bought wood to build garage shelving today and has several smaller projects in mind. I have enjoyed unpacking and starting to organise our various rooms. Today I started unpacking my sewing room and tomorrow I may set up my loom.

Our new address is 2225 Roaring Creek Dr., Aurora, IL 60503. Our Welcome Mat is out!

P. S. My “Malone” is a print done by my cousin, Daniel S. Malone, gifted to me this past January.

Kummerspeck

One of my favorite grandparenting activities is reading to (and now with) my grandkids. Some books have a way of showing up in real life.

For example, Kellen, who was not obeying at the time, recently announced to me that he was “invincible.” I called him mother and in the ensuing conversation she proved otherwise. He had been reading a little too much Calvin and Hobbes.

That same night, I picked up another book, which Kellen told me “wasn’t a good one.” It was a book titled “Other Wordly–words both strange and lovely from around the world.”

Croodle” is an English word which means “to cuddle nestle together from fear or cold.”

Inglenook is another English or Scots term indicating a “close, intimate corner by a fireplace where people gather for warmth.”

Swedes use the word “smultronställe” to describe “a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation; a personal idyll free from stress or sadness.”

German offers two words that fit our current circumstances:

Schwellenangst” literally is “threshold anxiety or the fear of embarking on something new or entering a place.”

And, “kummerspeck, excessive weight gain through eating as a means of relieving stress or strong emotions” –an apt description of my response to the stress of the past few months. While we have trimmed down our stuff, I will be taking an extra 10 lbs to the new house.

We’ve been busy sorting through our stuff and packing. Elmhurst conveniently had a Spring Cleanup Day a week ago and the College hosted a Recycling Event this last Saturday. A POD was dropped off this morning, which John plans to fill with the contents of our garage. (I was dismayed to see its signage: 1-800-PACKRAT.) We sign the closing documents on the 9th; have the POD picked up on the 10th; and the movers come on the 11th. Both closings are on the 12th and we will move in on the 13th.

We are so looking forward to having this behind us, to creating a smutronställe in Aurora, an inglenook and a place to croodle with our grandkids. We’re especially interested in leaving behind the schwenllenangst of the past months, as well as the kummerspeck. One thing we know for sure; we are no longer (if we ever were) invincible!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not for sissies!

“Old age is not for sissies.” I hear this line frequently at work as I commiserate with my patients about the challenges of aging. Nor is selling/buying a house.

You will have figured out that we did not win our bid on the house, a disappointing but not devastating outcome. We are guessing that our bid was higher but that the other family didn’t have any contingencies. Even though things are going well on our sale, we still have a contingency on the closing and they chose not to take that risk.

My reading for today was (appropriately) Psalm 73, where Asaph indulges in self-pity and envy of others around him. I was encouraged by the reminder that:

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel.
My flesh and my heart may (do!) fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

It is good for me to be near my God; I have made the Lord God my refuge.

I love the Psalms for how real they are–and how they are able to bring us back to our senses, back to the truth. But I could still use your prayers as we continue to look at houses. I don’t have much heart for it at this point. I’m still a sissie.

Wisdom

The Final Four didn’t work out the way we thought it would. Although we thought we could live in any of the four houses, we walked away from our tour more confused than ever. We decided to take a couple days off and not rush things.

This morning we talked about our options and started looking a bit further afield. Our realtor sent us a automatic list of properties and I scanned through it. The very last one was interesting. It had just come on the market and looked perfect, inside and out. We cajoled our realtor to take us today because it looked like it might go fast. (She arrived home from vacation after midnight and was trying to prepare for tomorrow, but agreed to meet us at five.)

We loved the house: the colors, the style, the size, the kitchen, the rooms upstairs and the finished basement. We also loved the deck, the yard (backs onto a large park and walking path) and the exterior of the house. We also loved the price.  Before I even got to the second floor, I was telling her to put in a bid for us.

As we left, another couple came in to see the house. It was so hard not to tell them to go away! We met with our realtor at a nearby library and filled out all the forms and signed all the papers.

We thought we wouldn’t hear anything until the morning, but the realtor called to say they had a dual offer–two offers that came in about the same time. We have until noon to give them our “best” offer, without any idea of what the other bidder offered or will offer. Crazy.

We’ll let you know how this turns out, but in the meantime we are asking you to pray. Pray that we will be wise, that we will sleep peacefully, and that we will trust God no matter the outcome.

Last month Laura made a reading plan of Proverbs, Praise (Psalms) and a Promise to be read each morning. I enjoyed it so much that I sketched out a similar plan for April using different Psalms and different promises, all rather randomly chosen. The last few days I’ve read this:

“Fear not, stand firm and see the Salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. The Lord will fight for you. You have only to be silent (Exodus 14:14.)

 

“For the Lord gives wisdom. From his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2)

 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives generously and without reproach” (James 1:5.)

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight (Proverbs 3.)

 

“Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46.)

 

“If you ask anything in my name, this I will do. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14.)

 

“God works ALL things together for good” (Romans 8:28.)

None of this means that our bid will be accepted, but it does mean that we can ask for wisdom and let God do his work. He knows all the factors that we do not know. We need to be quiet before him and see how he works all things together for good.

However, if you read this on the morning of April 5, please do pray with us. We are asking that our bid be accepted, but also that we will be at peace during the process and with the final outcome.  We are asking for wisdom.

Final Four

“March Madness” seems like an apt description of the past month, even though the craziness had nothing to do with basketball.

Our house went up for sale on March 1st and nine days later, we had a buyer. This was followed by the inspection and a flurry of emails from our lawyer. We hired contractors to install a radon mitigation system, seal cracks in the foundation, and sweep our chimney. When all that was done, John had to replace the panels he had removed and patch the drywall (yet, again.)

In the midst of this, our washing machine broke down and we had to have our lawyer ask their lawyer to ask them if it was okay for us to buy a new machine.

Our last hoop to jump through was an appraisal/FHA inspection. We haven’t received the official report yet, but our realtor told us that the appraisal was good, so it looks like the deal will go through.

We also started house hunting. We looked at rentals for a week or so. There wasn’t much available, so we decided that we needed to look at purchasing after all.  We have been spending our time pouring over Zillow and visiting houses with a realtor.

It’s actually been kind of funny: We’ll walk in a house and the realtor will start pointing out the “dated” features, all of which look quite modern to me. My 90-year old bungalow (which I do love) has prepared me to be very accepting of flaws in another house. I’m ready to be done with old-old and finding these 30-year old houses just fine.

We are planning to go see the Final Four tomorrow–and possibly make a decision. Any of them would be fine so I’ve drawn up an Excel Spreadsheet to list their different features, costs, etc. so we can compare them somewhat rationally. We have a lot of variables to consider and this seems the best way to do it.

Two are in Laura and Taylor’s neighborhood and two are in an older area less than two miles away.   One of them backs up to the park where the kids play and another is near the high school. (The realtor told us that we might not be interested in it because it was near the baseball field–too loud. I wanted to send her a picture of our back yard and the baseball field just beyond our fence.) They all have fireplaces, family rooms, basements, 3-4 bedrooms and a good spot for my hot tub 🙂

March Madness.

Sold!!!! (????)

WE SOLD OUR HOUSE!!! We sold our house. Ah, yeah, we sold our house…um…well, maybe.

We got an offer on day 9 of the showing process. John counter-offered and then they countered and he accepted it. Whew! The inspection was scheduled two days later.

All we heard the night of the inspection was that there was a concern about the possibility of past water in the basement. John went to bed worrying, even though in 28 years we have NOT had any flooding, even in the worst rainstorms.

The 30-page report came on Monday, followed by an attorney letter requesting a few repairs: radon abatement, basement sealing, and the chimney swept and examined. The other requests were all small, easily fixed problems. We sent our responses back to our lawyer and she drafted a letter to the buyers’ lawyer.

All of this is a pretty normal–and actually fortunate–home-selling process but we are NOT enjoying this at all. We are trying to trust the Lord and not worry (read: obsess) about the details, but it ain’t easy.

What a contrast to our past home buying (and selling) experience: We bought our first home in 1982 (for a lot less money) with something like a handshake among friends. We sold it five years later to another set of friends. We may have had a closing at that time, but I don’t have any memory of it. Even when we bought our current home in 1988, it seemed much simpler and much more friendly. (Um, I don’t remember the agents and lawyers being so intensely involved. Just saying.)

We’ve also started our hunt for our next home, hopefully a house for rent in the vicinity of Aurora or Warrenville. We saw two houses the first weekend, but have just been looking online (working with a realtor) since then. We still have a bit of time so we’re not frantic yet, but it certainly is a concern. Closing date is May 12.

And now, we wait. The hard part is knowing that it still could all fall through and we’d be back at Square One.

       “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.                     Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.                                      The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”                                                        — Proverbs 16: 1, 3, and 9. 

I keep thinking of two of my dad’s favorite phrases: “Relax, God is in control” and his frequent prayer that God would lead “every step of the way.” I’ve faced a lot of tough things in my life, but this one is particularly stressful. Relax….step-by-step….Relax….

Finishing

I finished my towels–and finished getting the house ready for market!

The final step in weaving is finishing–usually by washing–which changes the threads into whole cloth. One writer calls it “wet finishing”, stating that may involve more than simple washing. She lists scouring, agitation and compression as key finishing factors.

Although I simply washed and folded my towels, the words “scouring, agitation, and compression” are a much better fit for the metaphor of getting the house ready. I’ve never been so tired in my life!

First of all, shortly after posting my last blog “Loose Ends” I realised I was using a sugar-coated euphemism, like none other. “Tying up loose ends” doesn’t begin to describe the work that we did these last two weeks. For example, here is John tying up a loose end:

Besides this, he spent a cold day under our back porch bringing the electric connection for the hot tub and pool up to code by burying the cables and connecting pipe to the box. He also had to remove the blocks from the hot tub. The realtor was impressed with his design, but didn’t want buyers to think that “the whole place has been jerry-rigged.” (Haha–it has!)

I cleaned and cleaned, and cleaned more. (And the more I cleaned the more I found that needed more cleaning. To be on the safe side, I left $$ to pay a cleaning lady to come in and make it shine.)

On Monday morning, I locked the door and left it all behind, driving eight hours to Stormy Lake (with a few stops at quilt and fiber stores) to join John, John2 and Lizi. Even Luna is on vacation, staying with our friends the Homiaks. We are planning to rest–and pray–while Tim Schiller does his part back in Elmhurst. We can’t even think about what’s next.

We’re finished!