Glow Worms

We just got home from an adventure: a middle-of the night visit to the glow worm caves in Waitamo.

ABS (Adventure Bible School) has been gone for 4 days: hiking, camping and abseiling. Tomorrow they will go caving. We joined them yesterday for a late night hike.

I’ve actually seen glow worms on at least four occasions. The first time I met James, he took Anne and I in a night-time kayak trip down the river so see glow worms hanging on the overhanging trees. During the wedding trip, James and Anne led us across the field near the ABS lodge and down into a ravine. We walked up and down and through a foot of water (where eels lurked in the dark!) to a small cave with a waterfall, open sky and hundreds of glow worms. I’ve been back there twice: once when Anne led Marilyn and I to the caves and again, the night before Anne went into labor.

For all these years, and all these visits, we’ve wanted to go to the bigger glow worm caves at Waitamo. We heard stories about the ABS adventure, including a worship service inside the caves. It never worked out–until this trip.

We met the group around 9:30 p.m. after negotiating miles of curvy switchbacks as the sun went down. By the time we started our hike, it was totally dark. We basically bushwacked for about 40 minutes, up and down, on a rough trail. When we neared the caves, we turned off our headlamps, joined arms and side-stepped our way into the cave. We found seats on a narrow ledge of rock and sat in silence for awhile, taking it all in.

At first, glow worms look like a dark sky full of specks of iridescent light, kind of like the night sky full of bright stars. Looking up at them, I started to see a bright light surrounded by a kind of halo. Viewing them at eye level looked like hundreds of silver/white ornaments in huge clusters, each with a bright center.

In reality, they are simply the excretion of ATP from the bum of a maggot-like larvae, the lights designed to attract flying adults at the end of their life cycle, to be used as food/fuel for the mating and reproduction process of arachnocampo luminosa. They really are quite ugly in daylight.

Still we marvelled at God’s extravagant creation. All this beauty–for what? I’m guessing He just loves creating beauty, even hiding it for hardy hikers (and paying customers who can see it by boat or other means. That’s what I’m planning for my next glow worm experience!)

After midnight, John and I left the group at the trailhead and headed back to town to stay in the Huhu Chalet, a tiny tower AirBnB, with a second floor bedroom with a 30ft ceiling, a steep stairway to the first floor kitchen/bathroom. In spite a comfortable bed, we didn’t sleep well–aching joints and muscles reminded us of our advancing age.

There are no pictures with this post, as there is no way our phone/camera could do justice to the beauty of the glow worms. Instead, here are some interesting links to glow worm pictures and information. Actually, I don’t think the pictures–even the best ones I could find on the Internet–really capture what glow worms are like in real life. Guess you have to come to New Zealand to see them.

Christmas al fresco

We celebrated Christmas today. We had cinnamon rolls with fresh eggs; read the Christmas story from Luke 2;  enjoyed watching Charlee open her presents and played the new game that was James’ gift, King of Tokyo. James and Anne gardened and clipped the chickens’ wings. We went swimming.


And then we had a lovely dinner of roasted chicken, roasted vegetables and pavlova–outdoors.


Its been overcast and rainy since we arrived but we haven’t minded. We needed time to get over jet lag and enjoy little Charlee.


She is a busy little girl with a beautiful one-dimple smile, white-blond curls, and a solid, strong body. She inherited agility from both James and Anne: climbs confidently, wanders freely, and handles the animals with ease.

Her Christmas presents were a bike, a baby doll (w/cradle, quilt and baby paraphernalia), a stuffed singing elephant, and a coffee-maker wooden toy. The bike was from her parents and later that day, James made a ramp for her! John made the cradle and I made the quilt. She is a busy little mama, caring for the baby. Good practice for the real baby coming in June.

Anne and James are now away on a two-day vacation, the first time they’ve both been away from Charlee overnight. The three of us are managing to keep up with one busy little girl.






Merry Christmas! (It’s finally over :-)!



Sew Organized!

We are continuing to settle into our new home–and getting ourselves organized.

I started with my sewing area in the basement. I bought an Ikea Kallax 8-bin unit to define my space and set up a boundary with the kids’ play area. Bins organized toys and fabric and an attached table made a nice home for my new sewing machine. I returned to Ikea for another table for my serger and a cutting board, and an even bigger–16 bin–unit to store my fabric. A re-covered design board, a new ironing board cover, and a table skirt to hide more bins of stuff, completed my sewing room by mid-July.


With Lizi moving back home, I organized the closet in her room to compactly hold–and organiez–her clothes and my (non-sewing) hobbies.


I needed to cram a lot of books and files into a small space. Back to Ikea (several times) to pick up pieces of the Algot system and figure out how to use the space well. I finished our new, organized closet by the end of August.






Last, but certainly not least, we were able to get our garage organized by the end of September. Another Kallax system and more bins, a massive workbench and pegboard, and numerous shelves. Our bikes are stored up high on pulleys for easy access and sports bins hold the balls, discs, and skates. A rail system holds gardening tools, etc. Plus we either stored (garage attic) or threw out the rest of our junk.

Best of all, we are able to park two cars in the garage for the first time since we left our Bellwood home in 1980! We are so excited to be able to pull in and out of the garage,
away from the elements. And yes, I have ball hanging from a rope to guide me into my space 🙂


One more thing: My threads for weaving are finally “organized” after what seems like months of stops and starts. Before we left Elmhurst I laid out 400+ threads on the warping board and tied them neatly. In August, I managed to get all the threads onto the loom, but didn’t finish dressing it until this week. For me, that means going over and over it to get it right: the pattern, the threading of the heddles, the sleying of the reed and then, the tension. I love how it looks when it is all done, though I have to say the process of getting to this point is more than tedious. Now I’m ready for the fun of weaving 🙂







Really, sew organized!



I am a meanderer.

I’m not sure if that is a word or not, but I rarely take the direct route when driving. My last trip to Detroit took seven hours (without any stops at quilt stores.) It took even longer coming home. When I travel home from work, it always seems to take a couple hours. Fortunately, even if I work two days in a week, I only make one return trip home because my normal routine is to stay overnight in Elmhurst to avoid the long commute. (I think I just meandered through that paragraph!)

Today was one of those days. I left work early and decided to stop at a quilt store and Ikea, “on my way” home. On the spur of the moment, I stopped to visit a friend near Ikea. And then I set my GPS for home. I meandered through a bit of what I call “suburban hell,” curvy roads through the suburbs that catch you in their tangled webs. I meandered past a lot of fields and industry.

Before I knew it, my GPS had me meandering right past the farm where Laura and Taylor pick up their CSA vegetables every Friday. A light went on: We were supposed to do the pick up today. I called John to see if he had remembered (he didn’t) so I pulled in and was able to get our weekly supply, just moments past the regular closing time.

And then I meandered home. Right, left, left, right. Farm fields and housing developments. And then, I was on Hafenrichter, one of the streets bordering our subdivision. Home–with a smile on my face. What a lovely commute.

P.S. The sun was shining and the top was down on my convertible. I’m sure that had something to do with my happy feeling.

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!

Make New Friends…

Remember The Big Hole and the Taj Mahal? Our new neighbors moved in this week: a single cardiovascular surgeon, accompanied temporarily by his mother. We just got home from having Chicago style deep dish pizza with them. Naz is my new best friend.

Last Friday she wanted to make us a Pakistani meal so I gave her a ride to the grocery store so she could pick up the ingredients. She came home and cooked mounds of chickpea rice, chicken, and a tomato/onion relish. Her son told us she Americanized it for us.

She has been unpacking while I have been packing, which has worked out wonderfully as they are giving us their empty boxes and packing paper.

She also wants to take me out for lunch before I leave and her son has invited us back for a lamb dinner in a few weeks. We traded cell phone numbers tonight.

We are T minus three for blast off: By this time Thursday, our house will be empty (and “broom clean”) for the walk-through. I may come back afterwards for one more soak in the hot tub. We will still own the house until mid-morning on Friday.

By early afternoon, we will own another house and will move in over the next few days. I can’t quite imagine what it will be like unpacking all this stuff that I’ve been putting in boxes for months. It might be a bit like Christmas.

In a few days, we will be the new neighbors. We know that the neighbors on the north side of our house just moved in a couple weeks ago so it will be interesting to meet them and see if we can connect as easily as we have with Oz and Naz.

…but keep the old.

It’s going to be strange leaving the community, the people we recognise from our kids’ school years, the neighbors whose kids played with ours–all those folks we wave to in passing, but only rarely meet face to face. We’ve been through enough church changes over the years to know that it some of those close ties will change as well. My work relationships will continue for awhile, but eventually those will fade as well. Even Facebook is less satisfying. (I took the app off my phone so I’m looking at it a lot less frequently.)

We will have to work at making new friends, and be “intentional” about keeping the old.
One is definitely silver; the other gold!

New House/ Blank Canvas

We bought a house in the burbs!

After our lost bid, John spent the next day (while I worked) researching and looking at houses. He found a ranch that he said was “nice, but no glamour–functional, light.” It’s selling point was that the basement was entirely finished and very light and sunny.

We looked at it again the next day and also looked at another that had a lot more glamour but a completely unfinished basement. It also smelled like a smoker lived there.

We ended up going back and forth between the two, choosing the finished basement, clean home (the previous owner’s wife had problems with allergies so it was the polar opposite in air quality) and ranch style, which seemed wise for a couple in their mid-60s.

It’s a little boring, but I’m looking at it as a blank canvas. There is very little work that needs to be done, so we can concentrate on making it our own in other ways.

It is also relatively new–only 11 years old with one owner. This will be a new experience for us as we have always lived in old houses (with the exception of the duplex in Alaska.) It has a brand new furnace and air conditioner and a clean 2-car garage. The main floor walls are all white and the “lower level” is a pleasant yellow. (My friend said it shouldn’t be called a basement.) The deck is functional but uninteresting and the yard is mostly undeveloped, but sunny.

The kitchen/dining room is large and open, a huge contrast to the claustrophobic kitchens I’ve had in the last two houses. I haven’t measured yet, but I think there must be  a good 16-18 feet of countertop compared to what I have now and lots of drawers and cabinets. It will be our first house without a separate dining room, which I think will be a nice change. It also has a small island with a “breakfast bar.” The entire room, including the dining area, is 16’x20′.

This morning I cooked up a Tartan Room, an Alaskan Room, and a sewing area in the bright corner of the basement. There’s even room for a longarm 🙂

This is going to be fun.

(If you are the nosy type, you can look it up on Zillow: 2225 Roaring Creek Dr., Aurora.)

P.S. Today is our 40th anniversary! The proscribed gift for 40 is a ruby, but I think this is better.


On Christmas Eve our pastor spoke about the mess of Christmas: of Jesus’ birth in a messy stable cradled in a feeding trough; of the difficulty of keeping plastic Jesus in the manger at his Indiana pastorate; of the reality that Jesus didn’t stay in the manger and he didn’t stay on the cross; and the truth that he comes–Immanuel–into our messy lives as well.

(I may not be summarizing his message accurately. An awfully cute baby had my attention through most of the sermon.) img_3106

This Christmas season felt messy and Christmas day was definitely chaotic. Our Last Christmas In The House was fraught with expectations, our house was FULL, and on top of that, we planned a family trip to Disney after the New Year. I decided not to give my adult children gifts since we were going on the trip (which one adult child thought was a very bad idea.) Three weeks ago, our travel plans changed (only half the family is going) and other family drama marred the preparations.

Christmas Day actually turned out reasonably nice, though chaotic. I gifted my adult children with photo boxes, memory boxes, journals and albums of the Christmas Letters we’ve sent over the years. (Actually a smart way to pack up to move.) We had gifts and activities for the kids, but hadn’t planned on Oaks’ penchant for randomly opening gifts. We also had two meals in the space of 4 hours: cinnamon rolls after opening our stockings and a turkey dinner at four. We ended our family time with a puzzle contest, which Kellen won (with Papa John’s help.)











When I first started unpacking my Christmas decorations, I spent time placing my nativity scene on the top shelf of the curio cabinet. John and Johnny bought it for me years ago, and while I’m no longer a fan of Precious Moments figurines, this one is special. A papa sits in an armchair next to a fireplace reading the Christmas story to his little boy, img_3136illustrated in the manger scene of figurines of the main characters, cute sheep, a donkey and a pig. An angel with a flashlight shines his light down on the manger, an added piece that I bought the Christmas after a miscarriage.

On the shelf below, I put an earthenware communion set that I asked a friend to make for me years ago. Laura and Taylor used it at their wedding and I’d been saving it for the day when our entire family was truly following Jesus. As I placed the pieces, I decided that we should stop waiting for that elusive day and serve communion this Christmas–no matter how messy our lives were looking.

So for a very few minutes, we sat around the table eating cinnamon rolls and talking about our faith and our Savior. Oaks said he wanted to pray and we smiled while he prayed for “all the children to have power, all the power…” Kellen, prompted by his parents, explained why Jesus came and died for our sins. John and I both got choked up when we talked and others shared their gratitude for friends, family and church. We listened to a music video of O Come, O Come, Immanuel and then shared simple bread and grape juice. Short but sweet.

And then we went back to the chaos and the mess, both literally and figuratively. I was exhausted by the end of the day, vowing to never be in charge of Christmas again. There were huge img_3109messes everywhere, in the kitchen, dining room and living room. The top of my mantel was crammed with “stuff”, a pet peeve of mine. And oh, in between our two meals, the sink/disposal backed up so John, Taylor and James worked their magic with a plunger and a snake.           Not pretty.

But Jesus was here–God With Us–in the midst of our mess. We might have only noticed for a few brief moments, but we walk by faith even in those times when we don’t sense his presence or lean on his goodness. Merry Christmess!

Cedar Lake

Several years ago–I’m pretty sure I had my first blue Nokia cell phone at the time–I wandered off the beaten path and found Cedar Lake Conference Center. I called my dad and told him where I was. He immediately began singing an old camp song that he remembered from many years past:

“We’re down in Indiana, at Cedar Lake. Yo-ho!

We’re feasting on the manna, to the promised land we go. We’ll raise a loud hosanna and happy hours you’ll know.

At Cedar Lake in In-di-an-a.”

On Thursday, Dad’s birthday, I once again visited Cedar Lake. My mission was to find out more about the summer home my grandparents purchased in 1925.

Cedar Lake is in the back story of a Marshall legend. My grandparents, Robert and Janet Marshall, had purchased a summer home near Cedar Lake. I knew that it wasn’t on the grounds of the camp, but somewhere in the area.

For years I’ve intended to visit the Lake County Courthouse in Crown Point to hunt down the home that were living in on June 30th, 1925.

I found the Recorders Office several miles down the road in the Lake County Government buildings rather than at the Courthouse in the middle of town. The first three people I met were not very optimistic about my search, but I persisted and found the deed for their purchase on June 26th, 1925.

They bought the cottage on a Friday and must have started moving in right away. I’m guessing they spent the weekend there and settled in to spend at least part of the summer away from the city. Robert planned to commute back and forth to East Chicago, in his hard top touring car.

The following Tuesday, just four days later, that plan was turned upside down. Here’s the story I wrote from 11-year old Jean’s point of view. (Based on what she told me of her memories of that night.)

       Jean couldn’t cry even though she had never felt so sad in all her life. She stared at the ceiling of her small room, longing to cry, longing for someone to tell her it was okay. Okay to cry (even if she was a big girl.)

       She knew that nothing would ever be all right again. Her father was dead! Dead. How could that be?

No matter how many times she went over the story, it always turned out the same: She had been helping Mother prepare supper in the small cottage kitchen. They heard a car pull up in front of the house, and stopped to take off their aprons before greeting Dad at the door. Only it wasn’t Dad. It was two men from the conference who had come to tell Mother the awful news.

      Jean saw her mother’s hands fly up in the air and heard her anxious questions while she tried to absorb the news.

An accident.

The car hit by a train and dragged down the track. A fire.

No one could have survived the crash.

Yes, they were sure it was Bob’s car.

Yes, the police and fire department had come.

Yes, he was in heaven now.

No, he wouldn’t be coming home to the cottage or home to his family ever again.

         Then Mother had insisted on going to the scene of the accident, about a twenty minute drive from the cottage. The men hesitated and tried to talk her out of it, but she had insisted that she needed to see it. The children were too young to leave behind so they were bundled into the vehicle as well.

           There at that barren corner where the tracks crossed the Calumet highway, Jean had huddled in the back seat with her two little brothers, scared, shocked, unbelieving.

There really wasn’t much to look at. The car was a mangled, burned mess off to the side of the track. The train was long gone. The police and fire trucks had just pulled away. One lone policemen led Mother by the arm, explaining what he knew about the accident.

           A car had stopped for the oncoming train, but father had pulled around it and tried to cross the tracks ahead of the train. He hadn’t made it, crossing directly in the path of the Scotsman flyer. There had been a terrible screech and explosion as the train impacted the car and dragged it further down the track. The machine had burst into flames.

          Jean watched as her distraught mother wandered around the site. She saw her bend down with a handkerchief, pick something off the ground, and put it in her pocket.

         Finally, Mother returned to the car and they went back to the cottage where they immediately began packing their belongings. The would return to Chicago in the morning. .

Weeks later, when it was all over; when the funeral was done and Father had been buried next to Agnes; when they moved back home to their apartment on Green street, Jean asked her mother what she had picked up that day. 

           “Your father’s brains.”

When I shared Aunt Jean’s story with a friend, she asked if my Gramma was being sarcastic. I immediately said “no” but the more I thought about it, the more I believed that she was expressing both shock and anger. Robert made an impulsive and foolish choice that day, a choice that would impact his family for years to come. My father was born four months later.

I don’t know (yet) what happened to that cottage. I was able to locate an address and get a copy of Real Estate Assessment and Transferred Records, but they only go back as far as 1958. Even so, there are hints of more story: the first name on the record is Mary R Christie, a sister-in-law of Janet’s second husband. Her son’s name (a nephew) is in the top left hand corner of the document and Lawrence’s name is also on the original deed as the notary public. More puzzles to unravel.

img_2648I did find the land, but no cottage. There was even a For-Sale (“Best Offer”) on the ground. Speaking of land, I’d also stopped at Mt Hope Cemetery on the far south side of Chicago earlier that day. The final resting place for Robert Marshall (and two of his children) is an unmarked grave in a back corner of the cemetery that isn’t cared for well at all.img_2646


I ended my day, somewhat coincidentally, at Palos Hills Christian Assembly, the Plymouth Brethren off-shoot of the “hall” at 86th & Bishop my grandparents attended. It was also my Dad’s home church for at least twenty years of his life. I was there for a memorial service, but couldn’t help reflecting on these family stories as well. Years later, Janet Christie, my grandmother, said “There are no tragedies in life.” She trusted that every part of her story was within God’s plan for her life–and ours.

It’s easy for me to wonder “what if?” they hadn’t bought that cottage…or Robert hadn’t been commuting back and forth. What if he’d simply stopped behind the other car? How would the story of our family have been different? Would it have been better? Or just different?` I probably wouldn’t go so far as my grandmother, to say there are no tragedies in life, but I could well relate to the words of Immanuel’s Land:

With mercy and with judgment
My web of time He wove,
And aye the dews of sorrow
Were lustered with His love!
I’ll bless the hand that guided,
I’ll bless the heart that plann’d,
When throned where glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

P.S. Immanuel’s Land actually has nineteen stanzas. It was written by Anne R. Cousins in 1876, using letters written by a Scottish pastor, Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661.) Read his story here.