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.

Meandering

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.

Lizi 101

A recent conversation got me thinking that maybe I need to write a manual for being with Lizi. If you are her Facebook friend, you will know that she has been struggling with relationships and loneliness for the past few years. She longs for friendship, but often doesn’t know how to make it happen.

Occasionally Lizi invites herself to visit one of her out-of-town cousins. They have always been happy to have her visit, but not quite sure about planning for her visit. I usually tell them that Lizi really just likes being with people. She is quite happy to just be with someone, even if they aren’t talking or doing anything special. An occasionally trip to Kohls or Walgreens (or, back in the day, a Christian bookstore) will satisfy her need to “go,” which is minimal.

When I go out for a meal with her, I often bring a book. We’ll have a short conversation, and then she is happy to let me read. She will answer questions and ask a few basic ones herself, but mostly she isn’t much of a conversationalist and she doesn’t need you to be.

Remember side-by-side play? It’s basically like that. She is happy to go along, or not, but simply loves being with others.

Recently, the Mathiesons invited her to a dance recital that was taking place in Elmhurst. Aunt Linda and Uncle Larry often take her along on trips to the Arboretum or to free concerts in the area. They also watch TV and movies with her. Our old neighbors Lark and Alicia both are great about letting her simply hang out with them.

Lizi still has a couple more months of independence before likely moving in with us at the end of the summer. Currently, she stays with us Sunday afternoon through Wednesday morning. She goes back to her apartment to work three (W-Th-F) lunch shifts and stays through Sunday morning, sometimes at a loss for things to do–or people to see. She especially likes the company of dogs and children (though admittedly, not all children know how to handle her.)

It’s really quite simple. Lizi 101.

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!

The Big Check

We moved! We’re still settling in, of course, but we’ve moved–lock, stock and barrel–out of our Elmhurst home and into our new home in Aurora. I can finally check off a major goal that I’ve been pursuing for a couple years.

Every time my dad moved he said, “We should have done this five years ago.” I was determined to move sooner rather than later, never regretting waiting too long to make a move. My experience with cancer also planted a desire to move so that neither John or I would ever have to make such a big move alone.

The whole process was much more difficult than we imagined. We spent a year getting the house ready for market; four months stressed by the processes of selling and buying; three weeks of crazy packing; and four days actually moving. We attempted to clean the whole house in about four hours, but failed, stretching the final move into the evening and again the next morning. We were out about the time the closing ended (after two more soaks in the hot tub.)

We were debt free for about two hours: Our second closing was scheduled 5 hours after the first one. (We pre-signed so we didn’t have to go to the Elmhurst closing.) When we finished the Aurora closing, we headed out to the new house, where we spent the night and waited for the POD and the movers to arrive the next morning.

Laura and the kids joined us soon after we arrived and were back the next morning, ready to help. The whole family was back in the afternoon for play and pizza. The next morning I picked up the boys and took them out for a Mother’s Day breakfast and then went to church with their family (while John went back to Yorkfield to teach Sunday School.) Monday was soccer and today I watched Oaks in the morning and Kellen all afternoon. A big reason for our location choice was to be closer to the grandkids so it has been great fun to reap the benefits right from the start.

John2 has been less-than-thrilled with the move. He seemed to enjoy moving into his space the first night, but since then he has slipped into a deep depression, sleeping away most of the last three days. When Kellen saw him this evening, he said “Johnny, I’ve been looking for you for three days!” We expected the transition to be difficult so we’re not surprised by this, though we wish it could have been smoother.

Lizi has been with us since Friday afternoon. She will return to Elmhurst tomorrow for three days of work, Saturday, and church on Sunday morning. Then she will come back out and stay with us until Tuesday night. This is our compromise for the time being: It allows her to work and enjoy her church fellowship, and hopefully will help her learn to be more independent. Her lease lasts through August so we have some time to decide–with her– what to do next.

Annie face-timed with us a couple of times over the weekend, saying goodbyes to the old house and enjoying a tour of the new. She and Charlee always cheered us up when we were exhausted and discouraged.

I’m really enjoying my new kitchen. It turns out there is 26 linear feet (63 square feet) of counter top, 33 cupboards and 16 drawers! I also discovered two glass panelled doors in a closet and a conversion set for a sink front tray. Laura and I had a lot of fun finding places for everything. My used Ethan Allan table (bought from friends years ago) is a perfect match for the countertop and cabinets: the wood top matches the cabinets and the green base and chairs coordinates perfectly with the formica. My “Malone” also fits in perfectly.

There is still plenty to do, but we have lots of time and no deadlines. John bought wood to build garage shelving today and has several smaller projects in mind. I have enjoyed unpacking and starting to organise our various rooms. Today I started unpacking my sewing room and tomorrow I may set up my loom.

Our new address is 2225 Roaring Creek Dr., Aurora, IL 60503. Our Welcome Mat is out!

P. S. My “Malone” is a print done by my cousin, Daniel S. Malone, gifted to me this past January.

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!

Kummerspeck

One of my favorite grandparenting activities is reading to (and now with) my grandkids. Some books have a way of showing up in real life.

For example, Kellen, who was not obeying at the time, recently announced to me that he was “invincible.” I called him mother and in the ensuing conversation she proved otherwise. He had been reading a little too much Calvin and Hobbes.

That same night, I picked up another book, which Kellen told me “wasn’t a good one.” It was a book titled “Other Wordly–words both strange and lovely from around the world.”

Croodle” is an English word which means “to cuddle nestle together from fear or cold.”

Inglenook is another English or Scots term indicating a “close, intimate corner by a fireplace where people gather for warmth.”

Swedes use the word “smultronställe” to describe “a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation; a personal idyll free from stress or sadness.”

German offers two words that fit our current circumstances:

Schwellenangst” literally is “threshold anxiety or the fear of embarking on something new or entering a place.”

And, “kummerspeck, excessive weight gain through eating as a means of relieving stress or strong emotions” –an apt description of my response to the stress of the past few months. While we have trimmed down our stuff, I will be taking an extra 10 lbs to the new house.

We’ve been busy sorting through our stuff and packing. Elmhurst conveniently had a Spring Cleanup Day a week ago and the College hosted a Recycling Event this last Saturday. A POD was dropped off this morning, which John plans to fill with the contents of our garage. (I was dismayed to see its signage: 1-800-PACKRAT.) We sign the closing documents on the 9th; have the POD picked up on the 10th; and the movers come on the 11th. Both closings are on the 12th and we will move in on the 13th.

We are so looking forward to having this behind us, to creating a smutronställe in Aurora, an inglenook and a place to croodle with our grandkids. We’re especially interested in leaving behind the schwenllenangst of the past months, as well as the kummerspeck. One thing we know for sure; we are no longer (if we ever were) invincible!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Not for sissies!

“Old age is not for sissies.” I hear this line frequently at work as I commiserate with my patients about the challenges of aging. Nor is selling/buying a house.

You will have figured out that we did not win our bid on the house, a disappointing but not devastating outcome. We are guessing that our bid was higher but that the other family didn’t have any contingencies. Even though things are going well on our sale, we still have a contingency on the closing and they chose not to take that risk.

My reading for today was (appropriately) Psalm 73, where Asaph indulges in self-pity and envy of others around him. I was encouraged by the reminder that:

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel.
My flesh and my heart may (do!) fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

It is good for me to be near my God; I have made the Lord God my refuge.

I love the Psalms for how real they are–and how they are able to bring us back to our senses, back to the truth. But I could still use your prayers as we continue to look at houses. I don’t have much heart for it at this point. I’m still a sissie.