Road Trip

We are homeward bound after four weeks on the road. We’ve been through parts of Alberta, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Yet to come: Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. It’s been a fun trip, a good distraction from saying goodbye to our Kiwi family. We visited with two families that we knew in Alaska many years ago, an old Elmhurst neighbor, and another family from our Woodside days, plus friends we know from ABS in New Zealand when we were traveling with James and Anne.

We’ve seen a lot of scenery. As I write we are winding our way through the Wind River Canyon in the Copper Mountains of Wyoming. We stamped our National Park Passport in Olympic National Park, Mount St. Helens, Hells Canyon, Lolo Pass, and Yellowstone. Our real passports have been stamped in Edmonton and Victoria. All of it has been beautiful and fascinating, but Oregon has been the biggest surprise.

First of all, before I ever set foot in Oregon I was tutored in the proper pronunciation: the last syllable sounds like “gun”.

Second surprise came as we left the Columbia River Gorge and the rest of the state turned dry and brown. I thought the whole state of Oregon would be lush and green, but once we passed the Cascades, we were in high desert for two-thirds of the state. The Oregon Trail took on new meaning as a result, as well as portions of the Lewis and Clark Trail.

In Halfway, we learned about irrigation as a way of life. One man in church told us that he’d been threatened with his life over water issues in the 1970s as a newcomer to the area. Yikes!

Today we made a diagonal beeline through the state of Wyoming, starting at the northwest corner (Powell) and ending in Cheyenne, enjoying the last of the mountains along the horizon in both directions. I so badly wanted to dip down into Colorado for more adventures rather than heading east into Nebraska. Do we really have to go home?

I’ve decided that I like road tripping. It probably helped the we were able to pick up our car on the west coast and only traveled in one direction, but it has been fun to see so much in a brief time. The airbnb’s at the beginning of our trip were fun; the hotels not so much. The best accommodations were with friends.

P.S. Johnny obviously managed life without us. He had a rocky start, but did well enough with the help of “Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Dunc.” Continue to pray for him as we push for a more settled lifestyle and more independence over the next few months.

A Whale of a Good Time!

I so looked forward to having our Kiwi family in North America for three months. Charlee and I talked on the phone about the “little pool” in my backyard (hot tub) and the “little bed” we found at a garage sale for her. I bought blue paint for the room, a stuffed whale for her bed, and two wallhangings featuring whales. I decided to make a small whale quilt for the bed. We never actually finished painting the room or hanging the pictures. I finished the quilt a few weeks into her visit. (She didn’t care in the least.)

We must have had fun because the time just flew by. They are settling back into life at home and I am grieving their absence and all the things we didn’t get to do. (I’ve always been more on the cup’s half empty side of things.) It was a busy, crazy time filled with lots of people and activity–and miles. We all traveled to a weeklong wedding event in Ontario to kick off the summer. Then we spent six weeks at home, entertaining guests from Germany, Spokane, and the Ontario bride and groom. Anne and Laura had two-and-a-half years to catch up on and the cousins spent a lot of time together.

The Birkey’s and the Bruce’s took off the same day–on a road trip to Colorado. They spent four days together in Breckenridge before going their separate ways. Anne and James spent another three weeks visiting friends and the Capernwray centers in Estes Park (Ravencrest) and Winter Park (Timberline). From there they drove up through Wyoming and Montana, stopping to enjoy Glacier National Park on their way to Canada. They stayed with friends in Red Deer (near Calgary) and Camrose (near Edmonton) where we joined them for the last thirteen days of their trip, days filled with–you guessed it–people, activity and more miles.

They hosted ABS reunions, visited friends, camped and rock climbed pretty much up to the very end. At one point, they realized that their whole staff from the past two years was all in western Canada, kind of a bittersweet reality. They probably visited or met up with 100 past ABS students on their Reunion Tour with three major reunion events and several mini-reunions.

And then, it was over. They flew out of Vancouver on August 27th and we started our slow trek home, first visiting Vancouver Island and Olympia National Park. We will wend our way home at a fairly leisurely pace, visiting some of our friends along the way.

In July I saw a scrapbook with a whale on the cover. I bought it and decided that I would make Charlee a scrapbook of her visits to America. I had a lot of pictures printed and brought it to Canada. We spent a few hours in the car assembling some of the pages, but I have found it healing to work on the project when I feel sad. The first page states “When Charlee comes to visit…we have a whale of a good time!” A few pages remind me of her 2016 visit at eight months of age and our trip to Disney World. The 2019 pages will picture a completely different kind of trip. Lots of cousin time. James, Charlee and Simee’s first 4th of July. A trip to the American Girl Doll store for tea. Road tripping and camping; visits with many friends.

Yes, we had a whale of a good time. (So why am I so sad?)

Adventure Awaits

We’ve made it through Security for the second time in 24 hours. John, Lizi and I are on our way to Edmonton where we will meet James, Anne and the girls for the last 13 days of their summer trip. We will put them on a plane in Vancouver and start a road trip through the Pacific Northwest. We hope to enjoy Vancouver/Victoria and Olympia National Park. We want to visit friends in Washington and Oregon and then decide which route to take home, maybe finding more friends along the way. We could be gone for as long as a month.

Or not. Although Johnny has a “home” in Chicago, he is not comfortable there. He has been staying there on work nights and hanging out in our guest room on the weekends. Two nights before we left he was up all night obsessing about being “abandoned”. We kept moving forward, step by step. He took a few more things (a bed, TV and personal items) to his room on Tuesday night and Wednesday we boarded one of our (two) favorite airlines, Alaska Air bound for Seattle. Our compromise was that we will come home sooner if necessary, taking a week at a time.


So while adventure awaits (and we’re very excited about that) we feel like it was an adventure just getting out the door! Please pray for us and particularly for Johnny as he manages life a little more independently. He still has the support and help of family and friends but he has to make good decisions and manage his emotions. We’re hoping it will get a little easier every day and he will experience the benefits of independence.

Old Friends

Last week I participated in the funeral of an old friend. Shirley Bendelow was 96 (and halfway to 97) when she died last Sunday afternoon. I had known her for less than half of that life; had been face-to-face friends for maybe a quarter of that time. 

I suppose the friendship really began when she invited a group of young women to her cottage in South Haven for a fall weekend and apple picking. Before that I knew Shirley as a part of my church family, an older woman always sitting on the left side with her husband and son, a motherly sort of person who was friendly, hospitable, and busy about the church. After I married, left for Alaska, returned, and began having children, we shared more in the life of the church, crossing paths and occasionally having long phone conversations discussing the hot topics of our day: women’s roles, head coverings, and church life. Shirley’s husband died (relatively) young and she carried on for thirty some years with Craig, her son with special needs at her side in a congregation that splintered and split, and eventually dwindled in size.

Every autumn Shirley invited a group of women to the cottage in Michigan. We drove up on Friday night, stopping at Bill Knapps at Exit 28 for supper, arriving at the cottage after dark. The cottage could comfortably sleep ten or twelve if it was warm enough for some to sleep on the porch. We stayed up late talking and munching and Shirley was right in the middle of all the conversation. In the morning we had breakfast and usually headed for Fennville where we picked apples and had lunch at Crane’s. We spent our afternoon either in South Haven or at the beach. After sunset (an event in Southwest Michigan) we ate again, built a fire, and talked until we gradually drifted off to bed.

The group of ladies that trekked to Balgownie changed every year, but I always in the mix. (John once accused me of having a “cottage addiction.”) Eventually I started recovering furniture and replacing curtains. One year Marilyn and I made a quilt for the cottage out of Shirley’s old handkerchief’s. We rented the cottage for a week for two summers and I sometimes went for weekends in the early summer or after Labor Day.


Eventually the ladies’ group dwindled down to just three or four and then, Shirley was no longer able to navigate the steep stairs or even get to the beach. Her nephew and nieces took over the care of the cottage as well as renting it for several weeks every summer. I sometimes closed the cottage in the fall and I still occasionally do a sewing project.

Shirley and I continued to visit or talk on the phone even though so much of the context of our friendship changed. We no longer went to the same church, but we continued to share our lives. She fell many times and broke her hip, her leg and once her neck, but each time she recovered and carried on. I lived my busy life but made time to check in on her. She was always up for a visit and never made me feel like I’d neglected her in any way. She knew my family stories and prayed me through life’s many challenges. 

One by one, her friends and cohorts died and even Craig succumbed to cancer. Her life became confined to her home and then, just a small part of her home when we put a bed in the sunroom and turned her dining room into a sitting space. Caretakers lived with her for a few years before her daughter Nancy took over her full time care last year. And then finally, she spent the last few months confined to a bed, which really didn’t suit her. She became confused at times, but continued to recognize me and remember my family. In January I talked to her about all her old friends waiting for her in heaven and she snapped, “maybe they are waiting for YOU!”

When we gathered for her funeral, Woodside was full of old friends and acquaintances. We were a mixed group of family and old friends from times past, a mix of ages and certainly a mix of experiences.  For some of us, it may be the last time we are at Woodside Bible Chapel, a place that was “home” for so many years. We also couldn’t help but noticing that there wouldn’t be many more funerals for the “old folks”; we are next in line!


I have had good reason to appreciate “old friends” in another way these past six weeks. Three of our “old friends” have taken Johnny in during this time of transition, helping bridge the gap between our home and independence. Although a lot of people have cared for us through this time, I can’t imagine anyone but really good, longtime friends, that would take on this kind of helping, people who have shared our family story for so many years. For Johnny, these are “aunts” and “uncles” who have been in his life since the beginning, people who not only offer a place but comfort in an uncomfortable time.

I am feeling particularly blessed by old friends.




My nightstand has become a charging station. My phone, my Apple watch and now, something new: my hearing aids!

I didn’t want to get hearing aids. I didn’t want to spend that much money on them (the price of two trips to New Zealand.) I knew my hearing was getting worse and decided to at least check it out.

The audiologist convinced me that it was time to get hearing aids and the price wasn’t quite as bad as I’d expected. The hearing aids she tried out on me were small, rechargeable and also smart phone/watch interactive. I decided to go for it.

So every night I plug in my phone, put my watch on the magnetic recharging circle and drop the hearing aids in their small station. I do this all at once to make sure I’ve removed all my devices before getting in the hot tub and I don’t put them back on in the morning until my showering and hair styling are completed. Who ever thought I’d be so techy?

I’ve also been able to re-charge while learning to “Reset” via our church’s sermon series, learning to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind” (and coming soon, “your soul and strength.” Daily readings of a Proverb, a Psalm and a Promise have been encouraging. The peacefulness of our home has been good too.

Johnny has been “out” for six weeks now, working for four of those weeks. He is doing well, but we haven’t been able to make the transition to longer term temporary housing yet. He has a lot of anxiety about living on his own and the process has been slower than I hoped or expected. We haven’t given him access to his car yet, so I usually spend part of Wednesday and Friday with him. He has tap on Wednesday night in Elmhurst and on Friday we check a few things off our list for moving forward. We are so grateful for friends who have provided a safe and welcoming place for him in the meantime. Please continue to pray for these next steps–for the timing, location and also for friends that can encourage and support him.

We’re also charging up for a fun and crazy summer: Our New Zealand crew will be here for three months, starting at the end of May. They have a wedding in Ontario in early June, six or seven weeks here in the Midwest, and then a month of traveling to Colorado and Canada to serve with one of the Capernwray centers in Colorado and hosting a couple of reunions in Alberta and Vancouver. We are excited to share our home with them while in the Midwest and will also plan to meet up with them for the Canadian portion of their travels. We’ve never been to Vancouver, so we want to take this opportunity to do so. We’ll also enjoy a road trip, driving our car home from the Pacific Northwest (early September) after saying goodbye to them in Vancouver.

Partial Launch

I’ve been planning to re-launch my blog, basically giving it a new face (or header) for quite some time. I wanted to showcase some of my tartan quilts and add a font that looked more hand-sewn. I also wanted to come up with a catchy phrase, a kind of subtitle for the blog.

Picture check. Font check. Header, not so easy.

I decided that to accomplish this (and another parallel goal TBA) I needed to learn to use Adobe Illustrator. I spent the last few months working my way through an online course, learning the basics of using Illustrator, an Adobe graphic arts program similar to Photoshop (which I also don’t know how to use.) I have to say that I’m pretty sure that I’m age and/or experience challenged when it comes to learning this kind of thing. I am also not a natural artist, at least in the graphic arts.

I listened to 40 ten-minute videos, some two or three times before learning the material.
I slowly memorized the shortcut keys and strokes. I tried, tried, and tried again until I figured out the very basics of what I needed for my two goals. 

While I’ve been busy learning, the site itself has been somewhat dysfunctional. For most of the last six to eight months, I couldn’t count on being able to publish the blogs in a timely manner. For the previous eight years, I’d been able to click on the PUBLISH button and the next morning the post would appear and you would get an email letting you know it was there. These past few months were more erratic. I would write and publish, but the post and notification appeared days and sometimes weeks later. We couldn’t figure out if the problem was with WordPress or with the notification system. MailChimp.

I still haven’t figured out how to fix the notification system but I am going to go ahead and launch my new header. It’s been fun to learn new things, but I’d rather write than Illustrate.

Meanwhile (and this is a huge meanwhile) we have also launched our son John out into the world. Long story short: I came home from New Zealand at the end of February with a renewed focus on meeting a previously stated goal to have him on his own–with supports–by May 1. Although it seemed best for him to get a job, adjust, and then move into an apartment, I told him I wasn’t waiting for the job. I also told him that if he chose to resist or manipulate, it probably wouldn’t end well. 

Within a couple weeks, he chose door number three and he landed back in the hospital. We met with him there and told him that he couldn’t come back home, something we had previously discussed. He took the news fairly well and opted to be discharged to the street. He spent one night in a homeless shelter and planned to spend another camping out. Neither went well. Eventually, he stayed with a family friend for a couple weeks. He had to be out of the house early every morning. Within a week, he got a job with the help of one of his friends in the city. He has completed two weeks of part-time work and a lot of commuting. He likes his job and is adapting to his new set of circumstances.

He is currently staying with other family friends, but we are hoping to find place for him to live in the next few weeks. We’re narrowing down locations and hoping to find a summer sublet or short term lease for his first new home.* It is still a tenuous process, a partial launch at this point. 

Early on I read Psalm 147:13-14: For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you. He makes peace within your borders; he fills you with the finest of wheat.” Although the verse refers to Jerusalem, I took it as a confirmation that we were doing the right thing in strengthening our boundaries, seeking peace within our borders. I was encouraged that somehow my son might be blessed in the process. Over and over God reminded me of his steadfast love and faithfulness, of my need to wait and hope. Psalm 130:7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love and with him is plentiful redemption. 


*If anyone has any leads on places, please let us know. His work is at 47th & Kedzie. So far he has been commuting on Metra to the city and then catching a ride on the Orange Line. The CNW seems to be a better option than the Burlington train, and we think the Green or Blue lines might work even better so we are looking at Forest Park, Oak Park, and possibly as far west as Elmhurst. We also have looked at neighborhoods in the city, along Archer and 47th. 




No Drama

On Monday I took Anne and James’ car into Hamilton for a recall procedure. I left the house at 7:20 am and navigated to the Subaru dealer in time for an 8:45 appointment. They told me that it was scheduled until 3:00 but would text me if they got done earlier.

I walked about half a mile to a nearby mall and spent the day eating, reading, and shopping. About 2 pm I got this text:

           ‘”Just to let you know we’re running a little late with your
             car and may need it til 16:00, let me know if that’s a drama.”

I cracked up. “Drama” conjures up so many other images in my head that an hour delay at the shop seemed pretty funny. Or even that he asked that way. I’m guessing Americans might be annoyed by the suggestion of drama.

But that is the Kiwi way: If you apologize for something, their typical response is “All good.” When you say thank you, they will probably respond with “No worries.”

Actually, though, No Drama pretty much sums up my time here in New Zealand. I’ve immersed myself in Annie’s life, the life of a Mum with two little ones. We get up, change diapers, play, eat meals, take naps, swim, visit the ABS lodge or Monavale, do bedtime, and go to bed ourselves, hoping for enough sleep before we do it all over again.

The only drama we experience is the 3-year-old or 8-month-old variety which may be intense but only lasts a short while and is easily forgotten with all the cute smiles and hugs. 

I am getting a break from drama at home and from the drama of winter in the midwest. While Chicago went through a polar vortex, we enjoyed an Australian heat wave with temps in the low-to-mid 80s and lots of sunshine. One day there was a more than 100 degree difference between Chicago (-27 F) and Auckland (84 F.) I was happy to be on this end of the continuum. And I’m happy to be spending time with these sweet little girls.  

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Ten Things I like about Christmas

 1. Christmas mail. I love writing, sending and receiving Christmas cards, pictures and (most of all) letters. I wish it wouldn’t end soon after Christmas is over. I’m actually grateful to those few persevering souls who write a “New Year’s Letter” or send their Christmas greetings after the holidays. Keep ’em coming! A highlight of my Christmas season was when Kellen burst in the door enthusiastically praising my letter about the birds.

2. Christmas projects. I always seem to spend the last few days before Christmas (and sometimes afterwards) finishing up a Christmas project. This year I had three projects that all were finished around the midnight hour: I made two crazy quilt pillows out of my Mom’s wedding dress. I finished a quilt for Laura that I started at Stormy Lake the week we put our Elmhurst house on the market. I also finished a sweater for Olive in time for Christmas. A sweet spontaneous hug from her was another highlight.

3. Christmas baking. I don’t actually do much Christmas baking. This year I spent one day in the kitchen making dinner rolls and  Sweet Rolls. I made some two types of non-Christmas cookies and some UPBC Hot Fudge sauce. Still, it was a pleasant way to spend a day.

4. Gift giving. I’m pretty sure gifts are one of my love languages so I enjoy loving others by giving gifts. Mostly I follow the suggestions given to me, but I especially like coming up with gifts from the heart (or my imagination.) I love to surprise others with thoughtful gifts. Earlier in December (after a gift wrapping session) I thought that others were missing out on so much by not enjoying the process of giving, but later realized that it more than likely has something to do with love languages as we generally love others using our own love language (which may not mean much to them.)

5. Traditions. I’m not big on decorating, but I do like pulling out the same things year after year–Christmas orneryments (John’s term for cute, meaningful ornaments,) my Father Christmas collection, Anne’s Nutcrackers, and lately, my tartan quilts in generally Christmas colors. I also like having Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast and oyster stew (which I never actually partake) on Christmas Eve. This year both Laura and Anne adopted my past tradition of making sweet rolls for their friends and/or neighbors and delivering them on Christmas Eve. That was kind of cool.

6. Family. Our family celebration doesn’t look the way I imagined it would, but I still treasure the time spent with family around the holidays. It was especially fun to have the Birkey family hanging out with us on Christmas Day. We were able to Facetime the Bruce bunch more than usual as they stayed home for the holidays. Since they are a day ahead of us, we called (or were called) on Annie’s NZ and American Birthdays (20th and 21st), NZ Christmas Eve (22nd), Our Christmas Eve/Their Christmas Day (24) and Our Christmas Day and their Boxing Day (25th).

7. Christmas Parties. Joy Peters hosts an annual Christmas gathering at her downtown condo made up of various past and present small group participants. After dinner we walk to a concert nearby and then return for dessert. Everyone brings something to share, but this is definitely not a potluck. Courses are coordinated with the main dish. This year Joy was in the early stages of a kitchen remodel and her oven didn’t work, so we had a pasta bar cooked on the stovetop.  My other party was the annual EMA Christmas Party which is always early on a Friday afternoon. New and old employees are invited so it’s kind of a reunion as well as a fun time of appreciation and laughter. All the docs give speeches and one or two of them usually follow up with a second act, providing further entertainment. It is a lot of fun.

8. Christmas Bonus. I almost always forget this perk and love the surprise of a little extra cash at Christmas. This year I didn’t expect anything since I’d been treated generously at the time of my retirement but when they passed out cards and bonuses, I got one too. I held on to mine through the rest of the shopping season and today bought myself a used Apple Watch (with the help of my tech savvy and resourceful daughter, Laura.) Old folks remember when retirees received a gold watch for their years of service. Mine is a rose gold Apple watch 🙂 It probably won’t last as long as the traditional gold watch.

9. Christmas Legos. I wonder if we’ve ever had a Lego-free Christmas? We probably have, but Johnny has maintained a life long interest in Legos which stretched our Lego years much longer than normal. The grandkids are well into their Lego years. Last year everyone got a small set of classic Legos and we had a contest to see who made the best creation. This year Johnny bought the family a group gift of a 1969-piece Saturn V rocket that is almost 3 feet tall. Johnny, Papa John and Kellen spent several hours completing it. (Taylor helped his littles complete their Legos.)

10. The Hallelujah Chorus. When Kellen was three he loved hearing the Mannheim Steamroller version of the Hallelujah Chorus, asking us to play it every time we got in the car, over and over and over again. This year John sang a shortened version of the Messiah at our Elmhurst church and later that same day we heard the Moody Church choir sing it again. My favorite parts are when everyone rises to their feet as the song begins and that last pause before the final Hallelujah. Someday “every knee shall bow” and I can imagine that better when I watch an audience (especially a secular audience) rise at the first strains of the music.

When I started writing this blog, I didn’t know if I could come up with ten things that I liked about Christmas. I thought I might get to four or five and then would end with saying that the best part was when Christmas was over. I still breathe a big sigh of relief when it is over, but in writing this I found that there is more to like about Christmas than I thought.

Make Room

I started the month of November and retirement with a list of goals and dreams. Retirement coincided with the beginning of my annual NaNoMo project, which seemed like a good place to begin. I thought maybe I’d complete a first draft of the story I’ve been writing–off and on–for several years, the story of my grandmother’s life.

I didn’t come close.

Mostly, I got bogged down in research and writing about writing. I completed my 50,000 words but didn’t write my story.

I also didn’t get my Christmas letter written, a normal task for the month of November. I struggled to find a theme that pulled together the events of 2018 and still was positive enough for a Christmas letter format. Here is the “blog” version of my Christmas letter. (The official Christmas letter will be quite a bit different.) 


At the beginning of 2018, our pastors at The Edge encouraged us to Make Room for God, for ministry, and for miracles. I asked God for a miracle that day, beginning the year with high hopes for dramatic change in the life of our family.

Soon after, John, Lizi and I left the Chicago’s winter to experience our first New Zealand summer. We tried to prepare well for our absence, leaving a freezer full of organized meals, a morning dog-watcher for Luna, and a support system in place for John2. I even left my smart phone home with him to make calls easier. (We didn’t need three phones in NZ anyways.)

It didn’t go well in spite of all our preparations. We came home to holes in our walls, a broken bar stool, and a very unhappy son. Frustrated with the smart phone, he threw it out into knee deep snow and it was never found again. Only much later did I find out that he had invited two guys from Wayside to live here for three of the weeks that we were gone. We had a great time in New Zealand but coming home was pretty discouraging.

Life went on, as it always does. In March and April, our pastors preached on Fasting and I began a period of regular fasting. In April I decided to do a 21-day partial fast called the Daniel Fast. On the very last day I had an encouraging conversation about it with a patient/pastor during my work day. As I prepared to head home I got a text message about Johnny “freaking out” over something. I came home and began my usual calming measures but things escalated through the night and in the morning we called 911 for help. Johnny was taken to a nearby ER and much later to a local psych unit in Aurora, where he unhappily spent the next ten days, agreeing to do an outpatient program as a requirement for coming home. I got the “dramatic” that I asked for without the positive change I hoped to see. It did begin a process of change that is continuing, very slowly, but the results are still uncertain.

After that I struggled with my plans to go to New Zealand for the birth of a new grandchild. I was torn between the “needs” of my oldest and youngest. The timing didn’t seem right, but in the end I purchased my ticket and stepped forward in faith, leaving a week after Johnny completed the outpatient program, leaving John and Johnny home to work out the details of life together. Simea Areli was born at the end of my first week. I had a wonderful time caring for Charlee while her parents were away and the even sweeter experience of sitting around holding Simee for hours on end during the next three weeks.  

Soon it was Papa John’s turn at grandparenting. He visited James, Anne and the girls for five weeks, mid September to the end of October, when he could help Anne during the beginning of ABS and also help with spring clean up and garden prep. He, too, had a wonderful time with Charlee and Simee. 

While Papa John enjoyed his time in New Zealand, I worked a bit more than normal and finished up my 13-year late-life “career” in nursing on November 2nd. I started retirement with–as I said–lots of goals and dreams. It seemed especially important for Johnny and Lizi to find work. I had writing goals, exercise goals, and so on. I wrote “Au Revoir Octobre” in that flushed mood and as the month progressed, I kept thinking that my next blog should be “No, No, November,” reflecting my discouragement at the lack of progress.

This morning I spent time thinking about the year, again looking for a Christmas letter theme. Make Room?  I remembered a Christmas carol that ended with the refrain, “O Come to my heart Lord Jesus. There is room in my heart for Thee.” When I googled it, I found another song by Matt Redman of Casting Crowns simply called Make Room. Hmmm. Its refrain is a bit different, asking the question, “Is there room in your heart? Is there room in your heart for God to write His story?”

“No, no November” is ending differently than I hoped. 2018 looks like it will also end without the miracle I hoped for. So here’s the question: Can I make room in my heart for God to write His story? Not my story or even my grandmother’s story.

His story.

Au revoir Octobre

I have a love-hate relationship with the month of October. I love all the October birthdays (including mine), Indian summer, and brilliant fall colors. I hate the end of summer, cold windy days, and Halloween. (It’s fine as a fun day for children but adults have wrecked it with ridiculous decorations, adult parties, and gruesome lawn displays. Can’t we just leave it simple for small children?)

But this October was a bit more love than hate.

1. On the first of the month I became eligible for Medicare, ending a two year period of paying for expensive COBRA coverage. Woohoo!

2. Turning 65 a few days later was kind of fun.

3. I also reunited with some of my West Sub classmates for a mini-reunion near Witchita, Kansas. It was really sweet to spend a couple of days with a fun group of friends, nurses, and believers while we laughed over memories and shared our current stories. Some of the women who came had either not been to a reunion for quite some time or ever. It was really fun to reconnect with each one. My friend and neighbor, Cheryl, and I took an extra day to road trip to the reunion, stopping at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and the Amana Colonies enroute.

The Willow Tree Angel is carrying a lamp similar to the ones we carried down the aisle at graduation. This was a gift from one of our classmates at the reunion. I officially hung up my stethoscope today!

4. And last but not least, I officially retired at the end of the month. My last day was actually November 2nd (today) because I signed up to spend one last work day with Dr. Cheff, my main doc for the first 9 years at Elmhurst Medical Associates. He spent the day teasing me about how awful retirement will be* and predicting that I will be back in 3-6 months. A lunch time potluck and lovely gifts and cards made it a special day. I came home with a full heart.

I chose the french spelling of Octobre to emphasize the “re” in both reunion (back or again+union = back together again) and retirement (back + draw (tirer) = to retreat or withdraw.) I like the play of words that defined this October for me.

* Dr. Cheff’s description of what I can expect in retirement is a huge, cold, dark, windowless and damp room with a slow sound of dripping water. Inside there would be absolutely nothing, complete emptiness except for John and I looking at one another. I insisted the room would be full of light, fabric, sewing machines, a loom, books, my computer and my grandchildren. (He did come back and say that maybe he was being overly negative 😉