More Birthdays

October is birthday month in our family. John and I celebrate our birthdays a week apart (9/16) and there are birthdays in our family on the 8th, 12th, 13th, 18th, 19th, 21st, and 24th.

Last year on my birthday, Laura gave me a nice picture of Oaks. Behind that was another card, an IOU for a picture of Kellen. Behind that was yet another card, an IOU for a picture of “your next grandchild, maybe that granddaughter you’ve been wanting.” Whaaaaat? Woo Hoo!

This year on my birthday, I spent several hours holding Sweet Olive, a fulfillment of last year’s gift and IMG_3333many dreams.                               Grandchildren are, indeed, a crown for the aged. Proverbs 17:6

And now that Annie has posted her Facebook Announcement, I am able to share another “birthday” story:

Our family vacation this summer was an emotional roller-coaster. We were thrilled to have Anne and James home for a month and planned cottage time together as a family. It started with our Re-Wedding, a fun day of sharing their love and commitment for one another with the whole family. Two days later, Johnny flipped our car on a country road not far from the cottage. He was able to crawl out the driver’s window and wasn’t injured beyond an achy body and depression. He was taken the the ER, but released that night with a couple tickets in his hand. A bit of family drama followed. (I will spare you the details.)

We went on to another cottage with just half of our family (+ 3 friends) for a fairly restful week in Canada. We were traveling home in two cars, planning to stop for a few hours at our small group “Day at the Dunes” and then drop James and Anne off at Midway Airport for a quick trip to visit good friends in Alabama. We had overnighted in Grand Rapids and had started our trip homeward.

I wanted to stop by and check out a mental health facility that I’d found on the Internet. (I joked that they could just drop me off there.) As we were following the GPS to it, Anne called from the other car asking about appendicitis symptoms. We missed our first turn and pulled into the next parking lot, which happened to be an Urgent Care facility. I talked more with Anne and decided that appendicitis was strong possibility. I told her we needed to check this out before putting her on an airplane.

(Interesting side note: Because of Obamacare, we still have Anne on our insurance even though she is married and living on the other side of the world. It’s crazy, but also turned out to be a real blessing in this case.)

So, we went to the Urgent Care. Anne and James came out a relatively short time later saying she needed to go for an ultrasound. I asked what they had said and her first response was “I can’t really say.” I asked if she was pregnant and a minute later, she admitted that she was! At that point, there was the possibility that it was an ectopic pregnancy, hence the need for an ultrasound.

She actually had been sent to the ER, where they did more tests. Her appendix was fine and a cyst was noted on her right ovary, which is what was causing the pain. Her hormones were rising appropriately and the fallopian tubes looked normal. She was told that it would be okay to fly to Alabama and that she should follow up with an OB doctor in Chicago the following week.

My heart started dancing. Even though we knew we weren’t out of the woods with an ectopic pregnancy and that the cyst could rupture, we all started feeling excited about the surprise pregnancy. For me, it was such a treat to be physically present as all this unfolded, as it so easily could have been just a phone call or Skype message.

The following week, Anne had another ultrasound and blood test that indicated that it was a normal pregnancy, progressing as expected. The cyst was large and still could cause problems, but also might resolve on its own, which it has.

We had a few fun days of anticipating a baby together and shopping for maternity clothes before putting them on a plane back to New Zealand. The goodbyes were a bit harder than usual, but I knew I’d be seeing them 10 weeks later. I was already imagining how hard it will be to say goodbye to grandchildren in the future.

So those are my two birthday stories, sweet hours of holding Olive and remembering last year’s birthday gift. Ultrasound pictures of our next grandchild and hearts full of gratefulness for the blessings of old age.

And now I’m on my way to New Zealand with a suitcase full of baby things, looking forward to seeing Anne, who will be just stating to look pregnant at 16 weeks/4 months.


Way back in the late 1970s, John made a three-section bookshelf for our house in Bellwood. It was made out of plywood and constructed a bit like a jigsaw puzzle so that it could be taken apart and re-assembled throughout our moves. I can’t even remember all the places it has been, though I do know that in Maywood (early 80s) we cut it apart into two separate bookshelves, painted it (red) and had one on either side of the doorway to our sunroom. One was used for school supplies.

I just painted it for the very last time. Only one section made it to Elmhurst and it has been in our back room for more than 25 years. At some point, I painted the room a cream color and attached to a filled-in doorway. It has held school supplies, cookbooks, quilt fabric, gardening tools, dog stuff, and baby supplies.

I’d say that shelf has been adequately recycled and repurposed. It is NOT going to the next house. We got our money’s worth.

My summer “off” seems to have been repurposed as well.

Originally I decided to take the summer off to 1) enjoy the pool; and 2) get the house ready to put on the market. The summer is half over and my “best laid plans” have been slow going. Lots of rain and cool temperatures have thwarted my plans to float around the pool for hours on end and not much is getting done on the house.

I finally painted one room (and while I did that, John painted the upstairs stairwell and hallway.) And we made arrangements for someone to come in and do a tiling job in one bathroom and a new floor in another while we are on vacation. We’re still waiting for estimates on some of our front yard work. (We think we need to replace our front steps and concrete sidewalk and replace our lawn (er, weed patch.)

Anne and James arrive later today (Woohoo!) so I don’t think much more will get accomplished during the next month. We’re headed to a family week at Stormy Lake on Friday and then, on to another cottage in Canada, July 31-7. They also plan to fit in a trip to Nashville that last week.

It’s been wonderful to hold sweet Olive and play with the boys during the past month. (Olive is 4 weeks old today. She’s doing well and changing a little bit every time I see her.)

So, if my summer has been repurposed, I’m not complaining. Visitors from the other side of the world (especially if they are your kids) and newborn babies are much more important than the endless tasks that aren’t going anywhere. They are a lot more fun too.

More pictures of little Olive and the boys. The group shot is their first venture to church.



Last fall I re-did my pantry to prepare for a diet change. I bought the paint—antique stucco and jonquil yellow–and only completed the pantry. Here is my neat pantry and my repurposed shelf:

IMG_2936 IMG_2935-2









P.S. I also packed my first box for moving: books that I want to read again, but know I won’t read this year. And two boxes marked “garage sale” for before we move.

Maybe the Baby

Years ago, in Alaska, we learned a little game to play with babies and toddlers. (I think Richard taught it to us.) You hold the child–not infant–over a bed or couch and say “Maybe the baby” a few times while you lift him up and then one of those times you say “Maybe the baby go boom” and gently drop him onto a soft, bouncy surface. Kids love it.

For the last two weeks, the refrain “Maybe the baby” has been going through my head. Only we’re looking for a different kind of drop.

Maybe the baby?–ten days early Laura spent a whole day having contractions. Lots of them. Maybe the baby was going to surprise us and come early. Ah, no.

Maybe the baby? Five days later Laura thought maybe her water broke and was sent to the hospital to be checked. Ah, no.

Maybe the baby?–surely the baby would come by her due date. Both Kellen and Oaks’ labor started ON Laura’s due date (at exactly the same time: 2:30 a.m.) Ah, no.

Maybe the baby? Three days after her due date she had an ultrasound to check the level of amniotic fluid. They packed their bags, just in case. Initially, the ultrasound seemed to show that her fluid was decreased and they were asked to stay and possibly consider induction. At this point they still weren’t sure they wanted to go that route, and the midwife reconsidered and did a second ultrasound, which revealed plenty of fluid. Ah, no. Back home again.

(In the meantime, Laura’s sister-in-law, due one week after her, gave birth to baby Eva. Laura was there within minutes of the birth to take pictures!)

Also, in the meantime, we’ve had plenty of time to finish projects. I knitted two hats for the baby, finished her quilt, made a crib sheet, and today I made little sheets for her co-sleeper. Laura got all the drapes in her new house hemmed, hung and steamed. Now they are hanging the pictures.

We keep coming up with new theories for why baby is taking so long:

1) She wanted all the projects out of the way before she made her arrival.

2) She’s just a very considerate child.

3) She’s a girl–and, as Annie says, “you better get used to waiting.”

4) She’s a girl–and Laura wonders if she is just preparing her for a life of drama.

5) She is waiting for Father’s Day so she can be the ultimate Daddy’s Girl and start out with him wrapped around her little finger.

6) She is trying to secure her place as the baby of the family.

Life has been on hold for the past two weeks. We’re excited, alert, and sometimes discouraged. We know she’ll come at just the right time and that God is in control of all the details.

But in the meantime, Anticipation. It’s making me late, keeping me waiting.

Maybe the Baby, maybe the baby, maybe the baby–go boom!

Soft Retirement

Tonight I am sitting in front of a fire at Balgownie (South Haven, Michigan) quietly celebrating my “soft retirement.” I actually have to go back and work one more day on Friday but grabbed this chance to begin my summer at a cottage during the three-day hiatus between my last two days of work.

I’m calling it a soft retirement because I still haven’t decided if I am going to completely retire at this point. For the past two years, I’ve been employed as a “zero hour” employee of Elmhurst Hospital. That meant that I wasn’t required to work and they weren’t required to have work for me. It was one of the unhappy fallouts of my cancer treatment, but worked in my favor in many ways. I lost my job security, but gained the freedom to take off when I wanted.

And so, last fall I announced that I wanted to take the next summer off! My original plan was to stay home and 1) enjoy my pool; and 2) work on getting the house ready to sell. In October, Laura & Taylor announced that they would be having a new baby in the middle of June and shortly thereafter, Anne & James made plans to be home for a month from mid-July to mid-August. So I don’t think I am going to get much done on the house this summer, though I still hope to enjoy the pool. I know I will love having a new granddaughter (soon!) and family time later this summer.

Our latest plan is to put the house on the market in 2016, sometime after the first of the year. This summer we’re working on curb appeal and in the fall, we’ll have to get serious about indoor painting etc. So I’m not really sure about going back to work in the fall. I think I may have my hands full trying to prepare for a move.

The hospital recently changed the rules for zero hours, so that I now I have to work a minimum of 2 days a month in order to maintain this status. I will work two days in July before our Kiwis come home and two days at the end of August (if I decide to go back in the fall.)

FullSizeRenderA few weeks ago I put up a paper chain at work to count down the days. There is now just one link left, which I will joyfully remove on Friday!

But first, I am going to relax and enjoy a little pre-retirement vacation.


P.S. This last paycheck will also pay off my Visa bill–which I’ve been working on for the last two years. Something else to celebrate 🙂 !

Material Girls

My mom liked nice things. She liked clothes. She loved shoes. She liked the latest appliances and kitchen gadgets. She liked Hummels and (a few) nicknacks. She liked jewelry. She liked all those “free” giveaways that came with makeup. Even during her last months of life, she was thumbing through magazines and turning the corners down on advertisements for things that appealed to her.

I wouldn’t exactly say that my mother was materialistic, but she did like things–and sometimes it drove me a little crazy.

But the funny thing is that now I have many of her things and I’m finding a certain comfort in them. Her good wool jacket kept me warm these last two winters. Her knives are better and sharper than mine. Her vacuum cleaner actually sucks up dust and debris. I also enjoy her Rowena iron. (Thanks, Mom, for buying quality.)

I also enjoy wearing her diamond(s). Her dishes and pink glassware/goblets are lovely. I love wrapping myself up in her quilt and having the Swedish Woven blanket on my chair.

I’m a “material” girl in another way, of course. Get me inside a quilt shop and I’ll almost always find something that I need/want. Beautiful yarn can be almost equally enticing. I recently bought a pretty cool serger that has air-jets to thread those loopers with the push of a button.

This Mother’s Day, I’m remembering my mom who taught me to sew and how to iron a shirt. Not that I actually do iron shirts much, but I happened to iron one this morning and thought of her. She also taught me how to make the best dinner rolls ever and perfect cheesecake. She probably wouldn’t want to take credit for my housekeeping, er, dis-abilities, but she did teach me to clean toilets and dust.

And I’m enjoying being surrounded by some of her things. It has come as a surprise to me, this comfort in her things. I suppose it is because it’s all I have left of her. I keep thinking of the verse that talks about the perishable putting on the imperishable, mortality putting on immortality (1 Cor 15:33.) It says that when that happens then “Death will be swallowed up in victory.”

One Sunday not long ago, we sang “Oh death, where is your victory? Oh hell, where is your victory?” I sang with tears streaming down my face even while my heart and voice belted out those words. The truth is, death still does have a sting. It is when the perishable truly puts on the imperishable and mortality finally puts on immortality that the sting of death will finally be over. For me, that is still in the future. And it may be why Mom’s perishable things bring comfort. It’s a small comfort, of course, in comparison with the hope of eternal life, but it is a comfort. And I’m glad for it, for all Mom’s thiings.

Retro Lamb Cakes

Oh, Mom. If only you’d known!

My mom made a lot of lamb cakes over the years. She made them even after her grandchildren were grown up, finding young families to give them to every year. She probably made 2 or 3 every Easter. A few of them traveled to out of state–in one piece.

I got a lamb mold at a garage sale, but I only made a few of them. They were frustrating to put together with the nose, ears and sometimes the whole head falling off. You’d put it back together with toothpicks and a lot of frosting, but it never was the same.

I decided to make two lamb cakes this Easter, in honor of my mom. Lucky for me, I googled “lamb cakes” when I couldn’t find the package mix for pound cake and thought I’d have to make it from scratch. I found a post called “Retro Lamb Cakes.” Ha!

I learned a few things (that I don’t think my mother ever knew.) First of all, you can embed reinforcement into the cake before you cook it. A thick bamboo skewer, or in my case, a cake pop stick, laid from head to foot at the front end and two toothpicks reaching into the ears helped hold everything together.

IMG_2370Also, you aren’t supposed to bake it in two halves and then struggle to make the two standing halves stick together. You fill the nose side of the mold, place the back side on top, and tie is all together so that it holds together in the baking process and you end up with a complete lamb.






It didn’t work quite that way, but it came close. My first lamb didn’t “rise” up as much as it should have, so the backside of the lamb is pretty flat. My second one did a little better, but still didn’t fill up the back part of the pan. I ended up making two back halves and putting them together, but it still was easier than what I remember. I suppose if I fill the first pan to the brim, it might work. Or, maybe I will try a “from scratch” recipe that might rise a bit more.

Next year.

In the meantime, have a Happy Easter.









Yesterday was Laura’s birthday. We celebrated with Lou’s pizza, cream soda, angel food cake and strawberries.

Today is my mother’s birthday, her second in heaven and first one that she celebrating with Dad there too–if they celebrate birthdays in heaven. Maybe the date of our earthy birth is not so important there, or maybe there are so many other things to celebrate that birthdays have little significance? Who knows?

unnamedThis week is Oaks’ first birthday. Just because it’s so stinking cute, I gotta share his birthday party announcement with you. Laura is great at coming up with themed party ideas. Kellen’s first birthday was a Moustache Bash; this one is going to be about Beards, plaid, and hats. I’m hoping to dig out the red Alaska suspenders Johnny had as a one-year old.



unnamed-1AND we are anticipating yet another birthday this summer. I wanted to write about it in my blog during our last “birthday season” (October) but Laura wasn’t ready to share the news. After struggling with miscarriages and prolonged waiting with both Kellen and Oaks, this pregnancy seems like a gift–a crazy gift, but one that is delighting us immensely. Since then we’ve had a gender reveal party (my first) at which Laura and her sister-in-law, Anne Marie, shared their news together by letting go of their blue balloons and hanging on tightly to their pink ones–amidst the screams and shouts of the entire family. (Laura says I was jumping up and down.)


I’m hoping for a little girl that looks like Laura did–31 years ago.



I have three areas of my body that are numb.

My left ear is still numb from the parotid surgery (November 2013) though I can think I sense feeling coming back. My right chest area, side and part of my back are also numb from the mastectomy and axillary dissection (February 2013.)

Most of the time, I don’t even realize that they are numb. In fact, lately I’ve found that if I lightly scrape the skin on my cheek with a fingernail, new sensation prickles. I don’t even know how to describe it but I think the nerves are reconnecting and I can feel more and more of my ear as time goes on. It is weird to realize that I still don’t have much feeling on my chest or side, that there are areas of my back that simply don’t register sensation. I can feel pressure but not normal sensation. I guess you get used to numbness and it becomes your new normal. As sensation returns, it is surprising and well, a little odd.

I think that my heart is also numb, and that is my new normal for now. Most of the time I go on with normal life and don’t feel a great deal of sadness or grief. Every once in a while a fingernail scrapes across my heart and I am surprised to remember, to feel odd sensations that I can’t quite identify.

I’m a little puzzled by this. It doesn’t seem right that the waters should be so calm, like the surface of the ocean simply rolled over the spot where a ship went down and now everything looks peaceful and normal–but it is not. I’m surprised at how life (and everyone around me) has moved on, that barely a ripple remains on the surface.

I can’t manufacture emotions so I’m just taking a day at a time, doing the next thing, and trying to give myself space to heal. I’m trying to avoid being too busy and letting life come, as it does, in seasons that are varied, in changing patterns. Just as I’ve learned to live with numb body parts, I am learning–I guess– to live with this process of strange grief.

Relax…God is in Control

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

This phrase and this verse were important words in the life of David Marshall, but they were not ideals that he easily achieved. When he preached and exhorted others to relax…trust…and lean…he was preaching to himself as much as to anyone else.

David was born on October 13, 1925, 3-1/2 months after his father was killed in a train-automobile accident. His mother found solace in the Psalms, and thus chose the name David for her newborn son. Four years later, the Great Depression took away most of their financial security and a year later, his 12-year old brother died suddenly from a concussion. When David was 13, his mother went to Michigan for a weekend and came home married to an family friend, without ever discussing it or warning young David. Eventually they moved to Coldwater and then on to Detroit. David graduated from high school in Detroit and joined the Navy in 1943. He spent his entire Navy career in college, studying mechanical engineering, allowing him to be the first in his family to graduate from college, certainly a provision of the Lord. His step-father also died suddenly during these years.

In 1947, he married Eldora Freeberg on the hottest day of the year. They settled into a home in Chicago and David completed a second degree in Business Administration while working at Marshall Fields as an efficiency engineer. David and Larry joined their family during those years. In 1952, David responded to an ad in Interest magazine to become an engineer at Wisconsin Wire Works in Appleton, working for an entrepreneur and inventor. While David and Eldora enjoyed living in Appleton, David did not particularly enjoy his job. In 1953 they moved back to the Chicago area, began working for Ford Motor Company, and added Chris to their family.

In 1956, they were transferred to Detroit and settled into a home in Redford, and into the fellowship of Dunning Park Chapel, their church home for nearly 60 years. They participated in the ministries of the chapel, enjoyed the fellowship of other young couples and attended faithfully.

But David was focused on his career at Ford. It wasn’t until the early 70s that David’s faith started to deepen. He attended the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts and began a spiritual journey that was disciplined and ardent. He began reading the book of Proverbs daily and continued that habit for 40 years. He also mentored young men and encouraged many in their faith. He participated in the leadership of Dunning Park for several years. David always had a heart for the fatherless, for widows, and for the aged. With Eldora, he invited many people into his home and found thoughtful ways of reaching out to others.

He and Eldora welcomed new family members when all three children married within a span of 8 months in 1976-77: Joann, John and Connie.
Grandchildren arrived and were welcomed with great joy:
Bill, Matt, Katie, Brian, John, Laura, Brad, Mike, Lizi, and Anne.

David and Eldora invested in the lives of these grandchildren with their time, their energy, their love, and with their finances. He paid for CIT at Bair Lake and put aside enough money to pay for a year of Bible school when each one graduated from high school. David and Eldora babysat, cheered at sporting events, and prayed faithfully for these grandchildren. Everyone in the family knew that he would pay for a new Bible whenever one was needed and in recent years he funded the photography of his great grandchildren. He also supplied them with a steady stream of cereal, laundry soap and whatever else his coupons could buy. For the Chicago family, a visit from Gramma and Grampa always came with a boatload of groceries!

David retired in 1984 and had a heart attack six months later. This further re-ordered his priorities and his outlook in life. He started to look forward to heaven, even then. They spent their retirement years serving their family, their church, and both Bair Lake and Upper Peninsula Bible camps. SWATT became a semi-annual commitment and continued for many years.

They also enjoyed being part of their grandchildren’s graduations and weddings. With joy they welcomed new adult grandchildren into the family circle: Andy, Amy, Taylor, Amy, Kate, Melissa and James.

The arrival of great-grandchildren was even more joyful: Emily, Megan, Liam, Farrah, Brooke, Grace, Kelley, Ellie and Oaks (with three more on the way.)

David’s Type A personality served him well in the business world, but left some rough edges in his relationships both at home and church and for his health. He had a big heart and truly cared about people, but he sometimes had a heavy hand in his style of encouragement. (We’re pretty sure nearly every one in this room has been offended at one time or another. Sorry 🙂

David followed the Lord with his whole heart, but that heart at times was anxious, controlling and often impatient. As he struggled with this, he adopted the mantra, “Relax, God is in Control.” As he and Eldora grew older, as he faced trials in the lives of his family, when his wife was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and his daughter with breast cancer, he struggled to trust. He was honest about his struggles to trust God, sometimes with disarming transparency and vulnerability. His heart grew soft and pliable. He grew in grace towards those around him and in faith and gratitude for his Lord and Savior. He longed to go home to heaven, but trusted God for “every step of the way” on his journey.

He has now completed his journey and is at rest with his Lord and Savior. What a reunion he faces as he meets his father for the very first time, along with family that has gone on before him, including Eldora his wife and companion of 67 years, who preceded him to heaven just a year ago. We’re pretty sure, though, that he is not gazing at glory or even at these family members, but at his “king of grace”… there in Immanuel’s Land.

His great desire is that each one sitting here will join him in heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ, and that—in the meantime—you will trust the goodness and love of God and relax

—because God really is in control.


It is Well

The year began with my Mom’s death on January 1st and ends today with my Dad’s burial on December 31st. Pretty weird.

During his final days, a t-shirt hung on his IV pole stating “It is well with my soul.” After he died, I asked the nurses to put it on him so that when the family gathered one of the first things they saw were these words–and his peaceful repose. The t-shirt made its appearance again at the funeral home and was laid over the top of his casket during our final song.

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, o my soul.

And Lord hast the day, when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll.
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend
Even so, it is well with my soul.

We asked our pianist to play with enthusiasm and asked the congregation to sing not a dirge but a triumphant song. During the last verse, I put down my song sheet to raise my fists in a gesture of victory and praise. It is something my father would have done and I needed to sing and praise with my whole body–to say and sing aloud that in spite of this year of loss, in spite of overwhelming sorrow and in spite of the fact that my faith is not yet sight (but Dad’s is!!) it really is well with my soul.

Let this blest assurance control.

In the next few days I will share the eulogy I wrote for my Dad and will probably share a few stories from his life and mine. But for now, I just tend to keep singing this song:

It is well, it is well with my soul.