Annie’s Life

I am back home after my month long, now annual, visit to Cherry Lane Cottage iin New Zealand. James was busy with Adventure Bible School, Charlee had “kindy” (preschool) three mornings a week, and Simee needed a midday nap, so we mostly hung out and shared Annie’s life as mum and caretaker of their two acres. They are seriously considering buying this “lifestyle block” (for what seems like an astronomical price) so I have been thinking a lot about Annie’s life.

First of all, she loves it—and can think of few things better than owning this little piece of the world. Actually, she visited this house way before she was married and told me that was where she wanted to live. She loved the kitchen in particular, but thought the house was the best. It was/is owned by Peter & Elizabeth Thomas, then principal of Capernwray school. About five or six years ago, the Thomas’ moved to Australia to help with the work there. Their kids have grown and settled in the area, so they are considering selling the house and settling in Australia.

Cherry Lane Cottage is just off the main highway, the second house along a short road consisting of four or five farms and two or three ‘hobby farms. (The difference is whether the farmers also have a day job that supports their lifestyle.) Anne and James live on a narrow two acres, that includes the house, two or three paddocks, a chicken coop, a small hut, and a big shed. It is a bit overgrown, in spite of the fact that John arrived two weeks before me and worked hard clearing some of the overgrowth. Huge pineapple-type trees, hydrangeas, lillies, roses, fuchsia, a “truffula tree” (or Dr. Suess Tree) as well as a large vegetable garden and a small orchard (lemon, peach, apple, fig, avocado, fejoa and grapefruit trees.) There are currently about nine chickens, a rooster, and five ducks, as well as two horses (temporary) and eight sheep. Oh, and a cat and a 14 week old puppy dog.

The house is an old frame ranch with three bedrooms, two baths, a lovely kitchen and living room. It has a wrap around porch hosting a hammock at one end and swing at the other. It also has no insulation and had no screens until John started building magnetic screens a few years ago. I think he has built three or four so far. It also has five french doors to the out-of-doors, which is lovely in summer but hardly airtight the rest of the year. It is heated with a wood stove and a few room heaters as needed. The water comes from a couple cisterns which regularly run dry in the summer drought.

Although it sounds idyllic, it’s also a lot of work, especially with two small children and a puppy. Fortunately Anne loves physical labor, truly enjoying mowing, working in the garden, caring for her family and pets, and chopping wood. I’ve been impressed with how hard she works.

Some things just take longer. She does a couple loads of laundry most days that are pegged on the clothesline and then taken down later (on good sunny days.) Not quite like pushing a button on the dryer and having soft warm clothes as a result. The towels are rough, the clothes somewhat wrinkled and stiff. Dishes require hand washing. (They do have a broken dishwasher but probably wouldn’t use it much even if it worked because of the water/energy usage. Water needs to be conserved as well as electricity.)

But don’t feel sorry for Annie! She is young, strong, healthy and loves her life here. Her children are growing up with space to run and play, lots of fresh air and fresh food (and boy, are they ever cute!) She and James are supported by (and contributing to) great communities at church and at Capernwray.

I’m pretty proud of my Annie girl.

Below are some typical pictures of the house, land and a few of my beautiful granddaughters.


It has been a long time since I wrote anything here, but nothing seemed noteworthy. I was sick for several weeks in the fall (a nasty cold that went around.) I spent November writing 50,000 words about my half of our family tree*. I got through the holidays. Big deal.

Laura and her siblings gave both John and I a subscription to Storyworth. Each Monday we receive an email that asks us to write, answering a question they’ve chosen, or choosing one of our own. We can write as little or as much as we want and add pictures. This gets emailed to them and at the end of the year, they’ll turn it into some kind of a book. Two books, I presume, one for John and one for me.

I can’t tell you how much I love this gift and how excited I am on Monday mornings!

* I am also a little excited about my November writing project. I was a little unprepared for my usual writing so I decided to write about my ancestors who have finally found a place–physically–on my family tree.

When Johnny moved out last spring, we cleaned and painted our new guest room. I decorated with my tartan quilts, genealogy notebooks, and a big family tree placed in the corner so that my side of the family could branch out on one wall and John’s could branch the other way. It’s still a work in progress, but I am working on it.

My half of the family tree…still working on John’s half.

I got off to a great start in November writing John’s story. (I offered to let him do it himself, but he declined.) One afternoon I wrote 5,000 words about “John the Shoemaker.” Does anyone remember what that refers to? I wrote my story, “Pieced Life” and then started writing about my parents, grandparents and so on. Both my dad and my father-in-law wrote autobiographies when they first retired, but both lived another thirty years and refused to write anything more. So I wrote about “Old Man Marshall,” a story I particularly enjoyed because I got to watch my dad become a kind, sweet old man who deeply trusted his Lord in the midst of worry, loss and even depression.

As I climbed the family tree, I knew less and less about the actual people. I had dates and facts, but little real understanding of their personalities and character. When I could, I imagined what their lives much have been like, writing fiction based on what I knew. This was a time-consuming project because I had to go back and review what I’d previously gathered and update my search. By the time I reached the upper branches (or photographed family members) I could only trace the facts of their lives and couldn’t even guess at what their lives were really like. I did include small family trees that identified names of far-back ancestors, as well as an old watch, a couple pictures of ancestral homes, etc.

About halfway through the project I decided to put all this writing into a notebook that could stay in the room with the tree. I’m still working on that. Hopefully at least my kids and grandkids will read through it someday and enjoy the family stories. They can throw away all my genealogy notes and files if they want and still have a pretty good record of their ancestors–my own Storyworth.

Quilt Shops

One of the ways I work through the long miles of a road trip is to stop at quilt shops along the way. When I retired last year, my work gave me (among other things) a big book listing quilt shops across the country and Canada. I couldn’t fit it in my limited baggage for the trip so I took pictures of the pages and also googled “quilt shops near me” to find several along the way.

It’s fun to visit different quilt shops. Each one is unique and almost all of them are interesting. I try not to buy too much, since I already have a stash that I probably won’t ever use up in my lifetime, but I also want to support these small stores when I can.

I didn’t visit a lot of stores on this trip. One in Seattle near Pike’s Place and one in Missoula, plus two or three others on the long drive through Nebraska and Iowa. (I know my family’s limits when it comes to quilt shops.)

Here’s what I bought: a few animal pieces for my baby quilt stash; a 12 Days of Christmas piece for a possible table runner; an America panel of States; a unique Seattle piece (not sure why); and my favorite–two yards of radio schematics. This seemed just right for a quilt for my husband.

I also liked the small plaque reminding me to “Always take the scenic route.” It matched the America piece perfectly and is my favorite philosophy of travel. We took many scenic byways through Washington, Oregon and Idaho. By the time we got to Wyoming and Nebraska, we had to stay on the major highways so my quilt shops were short detours into small towns and byways. 

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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