All I want for Christmas…

A week or two before Christmas John asked me if there was anything I wanted for Christmas. I replied, “All I want is for it to be over!”

The next day, I listed all the “new” things in my life: a new house with new furniture, a new piano and a new hot tub, as well as a garage I can park in, a first floor laundry room, a master bedroom suite and a fantastic kitchen. I really didn’t need anything for Christmas. (Though I still desperately wanted it to be over!)

December and early January is a difficult time in our house. The combination of winter weather mixed with the holidays (and John2’s birthday) means a lot of added stress. It started early in December this year with John2 obsessing about gifts, both for himself and for others. He loves to give gifts, but also loves to get them. His wish list start sounding like a list of demands for a calm Christmas. And once we get through Christmas, his birthday is ten days later, with a different set of expectations. We must go ice skating on his birthday; we have halibut and baked Alaska for dinner, and there is another wish list. This year I had Lizi give him his Audrey Hepburn calendar as a Christmas gift, which bothered him. I also tried changing the menu.

Anyways, we made it through the month of December, Christmas and John’s birthday.

Now we are packing, and getting ready to celebrate another birthday (Anne’s) and Christmas in New Zealand. It’s too expensive to mail packages and Annie is a lot more relaxed about gifts and traditions. They were traveling anyways, spending her birthday and Christmas on the South Island with James’ family.

We are sewing and building and still ordering things on Amazon while we are un-decorating our house and packing for summer. Two weeks of white snow and arctic temperatures will give way this week to a heat wave in the 30s. Next Monday (January 15) we will start our journey to the other side of the world, arriving on the 17th, with a day lost on the way. (We’ll pick it up on the way home.) Maybe we’ll celebrate Anne’s birthday on January 21 and Christmas on January 25th. Or maybe not.

We are all so excited to see–and hug–Annie, James and Charlee so much that the rest seems inconsequential. We’ll spend five weeks with them on their “farmette” eating from the fruit trees and garden, caring for the animals, and loving on little Charlee. And we’ll get mid-winter tans as well 🙂 Our first New Zealand summer!

P.S. John2 will be home alone for five weeks. Please pray for him–and if you are nearby and feel “called,” reach out to him with a phone call, a text, a meal, or an invitation. His phone number is 630-200-0415. He may or may not answer it, but will likely listen to your message and may return your call. Or maybe not.

Denali Finale

When we left Petersburg, we considered changing our tickets and going straight home-to deal with a crisis at home. We decided against it when we looked at the cost and were advised against coming home to “rescue.” We carried on.

 

We spent a rainy day in Juneau. We decided to rent a car, which allowed us to drive out to the Mendenhall glacier, shop, and stay relatively dry. That evening we boarded a flight to Anchorage, where we rented another car, drove to the mission guest house, and tucked ourselves in bed.

The next morning I had breakfast with my friend, Sharlane before she went to work. The weather didn’t look good for the trip towards Denali that I had planned, but we decided to go for it anyways. We packed for a possible overnight and headed north.

Six hours later, we arrived at Denali National Park and gleefully stamped our retirement Passport book. On the way, we stopped and took just a couple pictures of the great mountain. We could see most of the massive mountain, but the top was obscured by clouds. It’s hard to see but it is there in the center of the photo.

 

In 2010, during an 8 hour layover in Anchorage, Anne, a friend, and I had made a spontaneous trip towards Denali. We stopped more than 100 miles from the mountain but were still awed by its majesty. I wanted John to have that experience.

He (and I) had a completely different experience of Denali.

It turns out that one of the best places to see the mountain is from a distance. For one thing, the road that leads into Denali National Park is located on the east side of the mountain range that runs almost straight east and west. To cut down on the impact on the environment, travel within the park is limited a to a bus system that we didn’t have time to access. (The shortest tour was 4.5 hours; the full tour was 11 hours.) Cars were only allowed to the visitors center, the campgrounds, and a fifteen-mile stretch of road.

We took an evening and morning trip up the park road and a two-mile hike at Savage Creek, in wind and rain. Autumn was in full bloom in the park, with red brush, yellow aspens and green pines. Stunning. Our pictures can’t possibly do justice to the beauty we experienced. We really enjoyed the vast and beautiful landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

It was a fitting finale for our Alaska adventure.

 

 

 

 

*One of the things I love about Alaska is that there are three highways: 1, 2, 3, forming a triangle between Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Tok, which is just east of Glennallen, our first home when we lived in Alaska. We have transversed Hwy 1 between Tok and Anchorage several times; part of Hwy 2 to the Sourdough Lodge; and now we’ve been more than halfway up Hwy 3 towards Fairbanks. My goal is to make the whole loop next time we come.

 

Petersburg Peeps

Late last night we said a reluctant goodbye to Petersburg, watching from the deck of the Malaspina as the lights of town slipped out of sight. It was a good week.

Three full-on rain days gradually turned into partly sunny days at the end. We donned our rain jackets and (in my case) garden shoes and carried on. I shopped, walked and visited the new library. We took trips out the road in both directions, nearly circumventing the island.

 

But mostly, Petersburg was about our people: We had two delightful evenings with good friends from the Bible church, reminiscing and catching up on our families. Both served us halibut–a special treat! We spent a lot of time with our friend “Clyde”, eating out and doing errands around town. (His real name is Harvey but he decided to use his middle name in light of the hurricane ravaging the South.) Anne and I had a wonderful lunch and caught up, chatting at the Pilot office, the newspaper she and her husband own. On Sunday we enjoyed fellowshipping at the Bible church and sharing in a Back-to-School BBQ.

We were sad to see the empty KRSA studio building, the still blinking towers (without a signal) and our house, the back porch littered with beer bottles. Sometime after our last visit (2010) the mission decided to pull out of radio ministry in Southeast Alaska. For awhile other groups attempted to run the station and then finally, just a few years ago, KRSA was completely shut down. Changes in radio and the accessibility of the Internet precipitated some of the changes, but a change in focus (to church planting) for the mission also contributed. We knew about these changes, of course, but seeing the empty building made it a lot more real.

Once again, it was the people–and their stories–that encouraged us. It was really fun to meet almost all of Brian & Carol’s family (including 7 grandchildren), to hear so many stories about other adults that were small children so many years ago. This generation of believers has built a beautiful new church building and carried on ministry to the community, growing strong in Christ. I don’t think we realized how new many of our friends had been to the faith back then, nor how recently the church had been established.

 

We dug our roots down deeply there–even though we were only in Petersburg for 18 months–so we were delighted to see how God has been working in their lives in the intervening years.

 

 

 

In the 35 years since we left Petersburg with our 8-month old firstborn, we’ve traveled back several times. We went back with our small children three years later (1985) and again when John2 graduated from high school (2000.) Chris visited with Ellen Ferris once, and John (once with John2) came back twice to help with engineering in the later years. In 2010, we sent Annie to Petersburg to “practice” being far from home before going to New Zealand for Bible school. After she left–and found that she loved Petersburg–Chris decided to go up and visit for the last week. This trip was our 6th and probably not our last.

We love our Petersburg Peeps.

Sunny. Or not.

Sunny days in Southeast Alaska are like gold. You don’t squander them. The blue skies and sun lasted all the way up our trip up the Inside Passage–and we spent as much of it as we could basking in the sunshine and warmth.

This is what we woke up to the next morning:

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this is the forecast for today:

100% chance of rain all day. At least an inch of rain is projected. In Ketchikan a sign measures “liquid sunshine,” so I guess that’s what we are getting now. We saw this sign on a store today:

 

 

 

 

 

We are settled into a B&B on the waterfront with a HOT TUB! This is my twice-a-day view of Petersburg:

So, sunny or not, we are having a good time.

Ketchikan

I’m sitting on a plastic lounge chair atop the Matanuska, a mid-sized boat on the Alaska Marine Highway system. We are docked at Ketchikan waiting for our ferry to continue its journey north.

Amazingly, the sun is shining and it is warm.

 

 

Yesterday morning we left our house early to arrive at the airport by 8:30 a.m. We dropped Lizi off at the American Airlines gate for Denver and found our way to an Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle. Four hours later we landed at Sea-Tac and got on another flight going north to Ketchikan. We arrived in the middle of the afternoon.

After settling in to our hotel, we walked around the town, looking at tourist shops and eating King Crab and halibut fish ’n chips. We walked up steep stairways to get a better view of the harbour (which at the time was dominated by the presence of two mammoth cruise ships.) By late afternoon we were exhausted so we went back to the room to power nap for a bit. While I slept, the cruise ships mercifully continued on their way so that when we went back out to enjoy the sunshine and sunset, our views were unobstructed. (Three more ships came in by daylight and the town was again teeming with cruisers.) We had dessert on a third-floor restaurant and then walked a couple miles trying to burn off the calories.

In the morning, I walked further into the historic district and meandered through art galleries. (I informed John that this is a “buying trip” for our Alaskan master suite 🙂 I even found a quilt store.

Sunshine in Southeast Alaska is a rare treat.

 

When I checked the weather app for Petersburg it listed clouds and rain for the entire week. When we got off the plane, someone told us that this was the 10th sunshiny day of the entire summer. In fact, they’ve had so much rain that they have experienced flooding for the first time she can remember in 40 years. We’re thrilled that we are getting to start our trip with sunshine and will have it for at least some of our trip up the Inside Passage.

 

Speaking of 40 years, this is the official celebration of our 40th Anniversary, actually occurring last April. We planned to meet James & Anne (and Charlee, of course) in Hawaii, but James has been busy preparing his Adventure Bible School for an audit, so it never worked out. We decided to revisit one of the most fun times of our life together by planning a ten-day trip to Alaska. We considered a cruise, but didn’t like the idea of the big boats (which we like even less now that we’ve seen them up close.) This ferry boat suits us just fine and will deliver us tonight to Petersburg, our home for 18 months (March 81-September 82.) For the next 9 hours, all we have to do is relax—and enjoy the sunshine.

Poof!!

Four days at Disney. Four parks.         Four Starbucks.
Lots of people. Long lines.
Ten Rides.
Six Shows.
Five different eating experiences.
Two parades.
Fireworks.

 

 

 

Eight month old Charlee seemed to enjoy it all, smiling,bouncing and raising her arms in delight. (In turn, she provided a lot of entertainment for us and those around us.) It was also fun to experience it with James; he had never been to a theme park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The image that sticks in my mind is a cloud of smoke with a character either appearing or disappearing in an instant. Poof–There’s Elsa, ready to sing “Let it go.” Or a trap door opens and Indiana Jones drops from the ceiling or disappears down a hole.

Although we anticipated the arrival and dreaded the departure of our Kiwi family, it still feels like a cloudburst–Poof–they’re gone, whisked away to the other side of the world.

We spent 25 days with them, watching Charlee begin to crawl, then stand. We enjoyed our mornings with her, bedtimes, and everything in between. We strapped her in her carseat, carried her in a front pack, and pushed her stroller around Chicago and Disney. We hugged and kissed and snuggled our little Kiwi grandchild, trying to pack six months of love into three weeks.

Skype, Facetime, Viber and Instagram are wonderful but no match for having a baby in your arms, your home and on vacation. We’re already plotting our next adventure.

Sisters

scan-11I love this picture of four sisters: Jennie, Maggie, Martha and Lizzie. They were born to James and Agnes (Gray) Bitcon during a ten-year span of years from 1881 to 1891 in Dumbarton, Scotland. By 1897, they were fatherless, with limited resources and no social security. They worked together to make ends meet. All but one would eventually emigrate to America to seek a better life.

I’m fascinated by the way these sisters’ lives intersected in spite of time and distance, helping one another in times of crisis.

  • Jennie was the first to emigrate (1906.) She made two voyages back to the Old Country to visit her mother and sisters, one in 1911 before her marriage, and another in 1922 with three children.
  • Martha emigrated to Canada in 1911 and then to California in 1923. Two years later she traveled to Chicago—and stayed for six months—to help Jennie after the sudden death of her husband and the subsequent birth of her son.
  • Lizze’s husband accompanied Jennie and her children on their return trip to Chicago in 1922. He found a job and saved money to bring Lizzie and their four children over the following year.
  • Maggie and her husband, Peter, remained in Scotland, caring for her aging mother. In 1937, Maggie took a six week trip to America, visiting both Chicago and California.
  • Jennie, in 1946, after the sudden death of her second husband, went and stayed with John and Martha Greenlaw for six-and-a-half years, helping to care for them in illness and in death.

This picture, taken in 1937, fascinates me. I’ve long wanted to write a story about these four sisters, so this month—November, National Novel Writer’s Month—I focused on them during my annual project to write 50,000 words. I spent a great deal of my time and writing doing genealogical research, trying to find out anything I could about the real women portrayed here.

Jennie, of course, is my grandmother. Maggie was the first-born; Martha was second-born; and Lizzie was the baby of the family.

Last week I started asking relatives about their memories of one of the sisters. I learned that the story is more complicated, messier, than I imagined. That shouldn’t have surprised me. I had vague memories and impressions that at least two of the sisters did not get along. Jennie had a sharp tongue and could “kill you with kindness and cut you to the bone if so inclined.” Lizzie was “difficult.”

This could actually make my story much more interesting, adding tension to the plot. The challenge is to do that without disparaging any one sister and/or offending living relatives. If I ever write my story it will be a fictionalized, imagined story, loosely based on these four women. It will be honest about their lives and personalities, but full of grace without (I hope) being sappy.

Last week I found two more pictures of the sisters. The one on the left was taken in Scotland, circa 1911. The second has Jennie “photoshopped” into the picture. Both pictures, likely manipulated with whatever limited technology was available back then, are good metaphors for the lifetime of relationship shared by these women, across miles, oceans and separation.

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I never had a sister. In the past, that hasn’t bothered me, but at this stage in life, I’m starting to wish I’d had a sister or two—or three!

I do have daughters though, and in three short weeks, these sisters will be together for a short time, also crossing miles and oceans and separation, to be together. So grateful that we get to do these long-distant relationships in a time when travel and technology make connection much easier, much more frequent.

Reluctant Reunion

I really didn’t want to come. I’d signed up, paid my fees, and bought a plane ticket. Just ten days before John had decided that he would like to join me on the trip to Colorado and there was an extra room because someone else had to cancel. When John2 had another manic episode, I really wondered if one or both of us could/should go. I worked Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and still didn’t feel like taking a trip, but decided to just follow through regardless of feelings.

Our West Sub class of 44 graduates (1976) had voted to have this reunion in Colorado for a change. Only 13 ladies made the trip, less than 1/3 of our class. Illness, grandbabies, and other travel prevented many from making the trip, as well as some whose memories of nursing school aren’t all that fond.

14370306_10157368366335401_2575341235484813236_nBut the weekend has been sweet. We’ve laughed and talked through three meals a day and evening sessions focused on the past, present and future. We’ve driven together to town, and along the Trail Ridge Drive. We took a short walk around Bear Lake and huffed and puffed up trails in (literally) thin air. We even stopped to see a small display of National Park Centennial quilts.

This morning, we sang a lot of old hymns and songs from the 70s, our older voices stretching to hit the high notes (plus John’s bass.) We prayed and shared and had Cheryl Fornelli tell us a story* from John 11.

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I came reluctantly. I leave blessed. So here’s the lesson: Grab whatever opportunities you have to reconnect with classmates, extended family, and friends. It’s a little taste of heaven.

 

 

*Cheryl uses a method called Orality, which uses oral storytelling to teach the biblical narrative. She and her husband, John, have been using this as an evangelistic tool in many cultures. Follow the links to learn more.

 

A Day in the Life

A day in the life of the Hurni family lasts about 41 hours on average. With our family spread between New Zealand and America, and messages flying back and forth between, some days can get pretty full. We had a day like that on Sunday.

IMG_1616Starting in New Zealand, Laura and Anne had a wonderful “last day” together on Sunday. We had exchanged a few texts on Saturday night, asking about their plans for the day. They visited “the Mount”, one of our favorite towns/beaches, and had walked with the girls while chatting about the trip that was ending and future trips.

Meanwhile, John, Lizi and I were having last conversations with long-lost cousins and siblings as the Hurne reunion (Pennsylvania) wound down. At breakfast Sunday morning I told everyone about Laura’s travel itinerary.

 

IMG_1605Taylor, Kellen and Oaks packed up the car and started home from Stormy Lake where they spent three days in the Northwoods, fishing, flying airplanes, and having fun.

Just as they started out, Laura called Taylor to tell him that she’d been doubled over in pain for the past few hours. His seven hour trip was punctuated with updates: an urgent care visit, a trip to the Emergency Room, a diagnosis of appendicitis, and eventual surgery.

A small group of Hurnes met at a campground for a praise service and it was there that the text came through letting us know what Laura was experiencing. I left the circle to get my own phone and found earlier texts that I missed. I caught up with the ongoing saga and the Hurnes prayed for Laura and Anne. We went on to visit Aunt Helen and Gramma Timmie, but it was hard to focus on another reunion while our hearts were miles away with our daughters.

Eventually we heard the news that Laura had been taken into surgery and had to wait more hours to hear first that she was “out” (of surgery) and then, late our Sunday night, more details. Sleepy/sedated Laura was able to talk to Taylor in Chicago and send a couple of texts to me. Anne and James juggled two kids through supper and bedtime. James was also juggling busy camp responsibilities. (He is currently running a two week “Journey” camp for high schoolers, a mini adventure Bible school.) IMG_1617

I was also texting with my friend Marilyn updating her on both Laura and Taylor’s saga. (Taylor had been at her cottage at Stormy and Marilyn had also visited New Zealand with me last fall.) She said it was hard to believe this was really happening. I replied: “Hurnis don’t do normal.”

Eventually, Laura went home to Anne’s house where she is recuperating. Taylor arrived back in Chicago to be Mr. Mom for a week, his work having freed him of other responsibilities. We traveled back to western New York and then made a beeline home to Chicago.

We keep reminding ourselves that God knew all the details before these trips were even planned, and while it has taken us by surprise, it hasn’t surprised Him. We are grateful that the abdominal pains didn’t start later–in the air or while traveling–and that we’ve been able, as a family, to travel thousands of miles safely. We’re pleased with the longer visit for Anne and Laura, though we know Laura is ready to be home with her boys. We are also grateful for our smart phones that kept us all in contact throughout the drama.

Just a long day in our life.

* Did you notice the alternative spelling of our surname? John started out life as a Hurne, even though the original Swiss name ended with an “i.” Tired of correcting pronunciation and interested in our roots, we changed out surname back to the original in 1981. Although the rest of our extended family continues to spell the name with an “e”, they are split between calling themselves Hurne and Hurn(silent e). Quite a few of them gave up on correcting others and just went with the one syllable name. Approximately 80 Hurne/Hurnis gathered to celebrate the approximate 100th consecutive reunion of this family, descendants of Samuel and Rosina Hurni who left Switzerland in 1880. As they crossed into America, they either anglicized the spelling of their Swiss-German name or a customs officer wrote it down incorrectly.

P.S. It looks like Laura and Olive will be flying home on Saturday, leaving on our Friday. She will get wheelchair assistance at both airports and is hoping for a bassinet row with some empty seats.

Loomy

Confession: I bought a loom while I was in New Zealand. It might be proof that I am certifiably a little crazy. Loomy.

IMG_1197About mid-point through my stay in New Zealand, I looked up looms on Trade Me (their Craigslist.) There was a kilt-width table loom w/stand up for bidding about an hour drive from home. I didn’t bid, but sent messages to the owner asking about the loom, make and model–and could I see it?

 

No one ever bid on it, so I took a drive one afternoon and bought it on the spot for $60NZ ($42.76 US.) We dismantled the major parts and put in in the trunk. I brought it back home but left it (hiding) in the trunk until the next day.

IIMG_1502t had been in storage for at least five years and was pretty dirty, so I spent the next afternoon cleaning it as best I could. I put it together and left it on the front porch, eventually moving it inside before we left for the weekend.
I searched the Internet and found directions for assembling it and replacement parts. I dismantled the whole thing, carefully labeling parts and screws, and John packaged the whole thing in box that could be taken home as baggage.

I set it aside once I got home to tackle the tasks of settling back in at home and waging war in my gardens, but once I finished those, I unpacked it and began the tedious process of putting it back together. Eventually I made a trip to The Fold, a weaving, spinning, and knitting shop that I’d visited years ago. I bought a new reed, a shuttle, some yarn and a few other small things (more than my initial investment, of course.)

But once home I realized that I hadn’t bought the right size Texsolv heddles, so I called my new weaving friend and visited her. She didn’t have the right size either, but gave me 500 Texsolv heddles that could be tied–one by one–to fit my loom. I spent a few days figuring out how to I could make these fit my loom, eventually using a board and finish nails for my project. While in Detroit, Angelo–an inventor–improved upon my design.

 

 

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A car ride and a couple of sick days gave me time to tie all the knots and put 400 heddles in place, 100 on each of four shafts. By the time I got to the last 100 ties, I was getting pretty organized and efficient. (Picture below, left.) Maybe a little over-the-top? Hey, I saved about $100 by using these freebies.

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This is what the heddles look like in place. If you notice an “eye” in the center, that is where I thread the warp threads. When the shafts are raised or lowered sheds are formed for the weft to pass through.

My first project is going to be a series of rag rugs, actually placemat sized. All I have to do is string up yards and yards of rug warp yarn and then use cut cloth, recycled, for the weft. Somewhere I have a bag of old jeans that I saved years ago for this project. If that can’t be found, I’m sure there is plenty in my stash.

Yep, a little loomy.

Here is the re-assembled loom, ready for its first project.

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