Thursday, September 16, 2010

Continuing to Live Life Spontaneously

September has arrived and while I am feeling myself crushed with our attempts to unpack our things in an unfamiliar place while being deluged with the start ups of all the activities and responsibilities we shed along with our sweaters and socks last Spring, I will delay a blog on the outcome of our BIG ADVENTURES in MOVING until my mind and body catch up with Two Men And A Truck . Instead I will tell a story about visiting a storybook like place called, "The Blue Dress Farm".

Five days after two truckloads and several car, SUV, and van's full of our "stuff" was deposited at the new house, ( It won't be "home" until Avery has had his way with all it's walls, but that's a different blog as well!) ...anyway, we found ourselves pulling ourselves away from our frantic search to locate THE boxes containing underwear, coffee, toilet paper and the like to take a drive to Benton Harbor for a look at a potential wedding venue for Christian and his Emily. They had actually set up an appointment for us with the proprietor.

It was H-A-R-D to tear ourselves away from unpacking after having all our stuff in storage for months, but it was a beautiful day for a drive and the coffee tasted good on the way down the road.

We arrived early and wandered around talking to catering people preparing for the wedding to be held there that afternoon. We took scads of pictures and met with the owner to talk about some of the questions Emily had wanted answered. It's a beautiful place, absolutely what the kids described they desired to gather friends and family to for their wedding and I was anxious to get home to send off pictures to California and maybe Skype that afternoon about the venue.

The caterer's truck had left and another vehicle came crunching down the gravel road into the clearing. It stopped and it's occupants stared at us.

CHRISTIAN and EMILY! They flew in from California to surprise us!! I am not a cryer... but I was bawling like a baby. Suddenly we realized why Megan had scheduled a family potluck BBQ for Saturday night only a week following her big 30th birthday bash. It was the best surprise... TOTAL surprise that we have had in maybe forever. A long time at least. Good thing. We are "getting up there" as my Dad used to say, and shocks like this might prove unsettling.

You know what? Keep the surprises coming!
Thanks to all the faces in this picture who helped us in all sorts of ways to maintain sanity and made it physically possible for us to survive so many aspects of the last several months . (Only Derek is missing from the picture because he was working.) WE LOVE YOU ALL!...MORE!!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Vern and Eunice, Two Marys and a Joseph

It started with a sermon on putting your feet in the water, committing yourself to what you feel God calling you to do in your life. In a flash...SIX WEEKS ACTUALLY, we have transferred ownership of our homes and furnishings and gardens to Vern and Eunice, two Mary's and a Joseph. They are all thrilled with their new digs and accoutrement. I'm happy for them, really I am.

Yesterday I packed the last box, cleaned the last place to an immaculate status, left instructions to smooth the new owner's transition along with a bouquet of my garden's ( soon theirs) cut flowers and a bottle of wine to enjoy as they consider the killer view. We loaded the car and left Sandy Pines. Adam and Caity and Lola have taken us in for our three "homeless" weeks.

Three doors closing, one after another in rapid succession but soon, NEW doors opening.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Taking A Breath and a Quick Glance Back.

Got Mr. Kozak's for lunch...but got no table or chairs...or bibs?
This is a shot of the cousins sharing a tasty gyro on the floor of the empty dining room on our last day in the condo.
It seems SO long ago, but you could count it in days.
It is good to know that we survived that door closing...and the closing of the door as we sold our older place at Sandy Pines...
...just as we will survive as we pack things up and move them out of our sweet place on this little cove full of Kingfishers, Herons, and wonderful sunsets, leaving it to the new owners.
I'm happy that there are three sets of people that are SO excited about the new places they are inheriting from us.
I'm thankful that once again, God has accomplished a maximum of molding and adjustment in our lives in a remarkably minimal time frame.
I'm hopeful that in a month's time we will find ourselves unpacking our things in our new home.
We are blessed, truly blessed!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

but God Meant It For Good...

After all the hubbub of the last two months we finally find ourselves with our whole family ( even Emily and Christian who flew in for the week from So. California) at the Fredericks' cottage at the "tip of the Thumb" of Michigan for a peaceful week of vacation on the shore of Lake Huron. And, as always, we spend time appreciating the gift that Steve's parents gave us in the wonderful summer times spent here for all these decades.

Things here have changed over more recent years. First, one winter a burst water pipe resulted in a lengthy and extensive remodelling . By the time it was completed, Nana and Papa were for the most part not able to live up here any longer.

These two circumstances have resulted in a different look here. Mom loved gardening and the window boxes dripped with annuals. Little strips of garden boasted her favorites, dahlias and snapdragons often cut and arranged with tall gladiolas purchased from the local grocery. For years and years, we'd dig out huge clumps of her ubiquitous varigated hostas and orangey red Gaillardia to take home to start gardens at all our homes.

Mom "deadheaded " her Gaillardia and pitched the heads over the foot low cement block wall separating the lawn from the sand dune shore of the lake.

Last summer FOURTEEN of us, three generations, returned for a week of vacation thanks to the graciousness of Steve's brothers who took over ownership after Mom and Dad's passing. We again marvelled at the spattering of Gaillardias flowering in the sand on the beach side of the wall along with the two " Baby's Breath" plants which at one time had been true "specimens"...tall and broad, more easily considered shrubs than a flowering perennial plant, now all surviving rooted in sand with only an occasional drink of rain. We commented on the miracle of their subsistence....and were crushed when the landscapers hired to mow the lawn methodically moved to the beach side of the wall, turning these brave "volunteers" to sand and close cropped stubble.

Imagine our surprise to be greeted upon our return for a week THIS summer by a thick garden of orange and burnt red flowers periodically studded with healthy Baby's Breath plants! It's a powerful relearning of the concept of pruning of plants and people. It always seems so painful and harsh...but the longer term rewards are stellar!

I found myself thinking of the Biblical story of Joseph, now powerful and ruling Egypt, reassuring his brothers who feared his retribution for selling him into slavery in Genesis.

God is in control. There is NOTHING He does not either allow or ordain. He promised ALL is ultimately for good.

"What you meant for evil, God worked for good!"
Genesis 45:5

Thursday, July 8, 2010

And...That's That AGAIN

Ten days after our closing on our home in town, we found ourselves sitting in another closing at Sandy Pines. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I am getting used to this emotional upheaval, but I did sense a certain numbness as we walked through "K4" on Sailboat Cove for the last time; at least as it's owners. I really like Mary, it's new owner. I am so happy that she and our wonderful old neighbors are getting EACH OTHER.

I liked hearing her say that after being shown twenty other places she "fell in love" with mine. I am so happy for her excitement to move her vanful of things into my dear little yellow "cottage on the lake" ( we hesitate to use that "T" word) and for her looking forward to her family coming to visit this weekend. It makes it all seem as though it is exactly the way it was always meant to be.

After driving over to our old place to turn on lights and get everything up and running for the new owner's "walk through", we returned to the only roof remaining over our heads to find a park sales agent just finishing a showing with a prospective buyer.

It's a good thing to remember GOD is in control. That there is NOTHING HE does not allow or ordain in our lives.

For today, we look forward to a dinner at Uccello's tonight to celebrate paring ourselves down to one car, one elderly motorcycle, two storage units full of "stuff"....and only ONE trailer on a man-made lake in Allegan County. LIFE IS GOOD

Thursday, July 1, 2010

And That's That.

And then, suddenly all the packing was over; the mountains of boxes all transferred to a storage unit...OK, TWO storage units, a mile from home.
NOT our home anymore.
The parting was made slightly less jarring by the new owners purchase of the larger pieces of our furniture on the main level, so the place wasn't so entirely, sterilely empty when I closed the door for the last time.
But I know that already my former space is being filled with stranger's's THEIR home now, afterall.

We've moved more than most and my leave takings have usually been hasty retreats, no backward glances only itching to start unpacking at the eagerly anticipated new digs; new homes whose walls often began as pencil scratchings on my sketchpad.
Not this time.
This time is different.
This is obsessively poring over the MLS between packing marathons. Trying to imagine our things in....a 1923 farmhouse with a small barn and chicken coop. Or a 1956"Jetson" house...which was one day quite stunning, but not alas, today. There are new houses with the shockingly hard colors and black brown cabinetry we started out with in our very first home in 1978. I think I've been there and done that. There are dear old, hopelessly outdated homes that I long to revive...I feel their sense of rejection "How long have you been on the MLS? How many changes of Realty agents ?"....but I'd love to do that transformation for someone else, not for me!
There was a two story "barn", 30'x60' down a winding road in deep woods that a builder tempted us with a creative and practical reworking of space. But taking down the trees necessary to get a yard and some sunshine would yield enough firewood to last us years but tree felling and stump grinding would gobble up a budget.

On the Internet, two houses made my heart go pitty pat. They were both filled with wonderful "creature features" and the MLS photos looked great...but Onsite visits revealed that these homes had broken their family's hearts...water damaged and filled with black mold they sat empty and abandoned; just existing to disappoint MLS mavens who think they've finally stumbled upon "THE" new home for them.

On Tuesday, at 7:50 am, the moving truck pulled up and eight hours later I found myself all alone in my emptied and spotlessly clean FORMER home. Really, it looks like a brand new home. God gifted us with a beautiful, cool day. The breezes grabbed my pretty Martha Stewart lace curtains...I know it sounds hokey but it was as though they were waving goodbye. I AM going to miss them. I WAS tempted to "forget" that they were included in the sale....but if that had ever been a serious thought, which it wasn't, at our closing on Monday, their new owner asked once again, for good measure, "...and the window treatments are all staying?" yes,theyallstay.dang

...but I digress. It was so quiet. No one but me and the waving laces and the ceiling fans swirling lazily. I lingered. After so much rushing around running from detail to detail, I lingered, alone. It was difficult to leave, but I turned off the fans, latched the windows, denying the sweet breezes. I thanked God for all the blessings I so don't deserve, and I locked the door and drove away for the last time.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Full Moon and Peonies, Saying Goodbye.

It's always been one of my little secrets. I ascribe human characteristics and emotions to inanimate objects. My perennials have always been personal "friends" welcomed back each Spring, mourned in their winter sleeps. I have a heart for "adopting" abandoned furniture and old dishes. I have offered to forego payment for design consulting services receiving instead, furnishings my clients were ready to "kick to the curb"...or a dear but partial set of old, crazed glaze Homer Laughlin dishes some young bride was so proud to display in 1898. I tell myself that I am providing them with a home...maybe even cherishing them more than any previous owner. Sick! I know! Don't start with the sermons, I've run them all through my head.

And so I am finding myself in an emotionally precarious place. Packing boxes that up to this moment are going...nowhere?...a storage facility (location also unknown)...a new hobby farm, forest retreat, suburban tract house. We've never been confronted with the offer to buy our furnishings before. It is sensible. They "make" this wonderful home we are leaving and may well NOT fit in our new home. I know the new owners to be extremely kind, already appreciating these (let's get real!) THINGS!

I am sure it's my imagination. NO! It's real. My peonies outdid themselves this month. They appear to be triple petalled and nary an ant on the counter below their immense bouquet. It's as though they are saying goodbye in the best way they can.

It's that time of "the lasts": a game I play whenever I move or we go on a big trip. This is the LAST shower I will take before leaving. This is the LAST time I will clean out these drawers. This is the LAST time I will watch the raccoons wrestling at my bird feeder at night. This is the LAST time I will bake a pie in this oh so well designed kitchen. This is the LAST time I will drag a pillow and blanket from the bedroom, open the windows to crisp breezes and fall asleep watching the full moon and bright stars from my dear, dear sunporch.

To be used to counteract the sometimes irresistible desire to look down, panic, and sink as I "walk on water" in faith:

* Accept any opportunities offered for coffee with friends and family.
It's so easy to say I have no time ( and I probably don't) but spending time with friends to vent and hear what's going on in their lives is a calming island of sanity in the unsettling maelstrom my life has become.

* Strive to NOT procrastinate, but rather methodically pack and dispose of STUFF in a timely fashion to head off any "marathon of panic" on June 29th.
Identify afew favorite things: a coffee mug, a favorite blanket,book, kitchen wares to take with me in the interim. The comfort of alittle "familiar".

*Focus on all the ways, some quite miraculous through which God has clearly affirmed this adventure of ours.

* Stop myself from the obsessive compulsive practice of going over the Multilistings online over and over again in hopes something will change. Make a physical list of criteria for our new home so that we are not susceptible to the constant temptation to find a HOUSE in order to have an address as quickly as possible ( and a home for all the boxes)...but fall short of fulfilling the perceived needs of this move.

* Kiss and hug on Grandbabies whenever I can and remind myself that they will NOT go in boxes but will be the best comfort in the coming months of exodus.

*MOST importantly. Make time alone with God to talk to Him and LISTEN for HIS guidance in this unsettling and unsettled time.

Eighteen more days of "Good Byes" to 1620 High Pointe Drive.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Taking A Step Away From The Third Rail.

As the shock of the warp speed sale of our condo begins to couple itself with the rapidly approaching closing and potential move out date, I finally raise my head from a half packed box. It just may be time to consider a question many are posing, namely, WHERE are we going?

Organizationally comforting and familiar to me, I had eagerly launched into the packing,cleaning,packing ploy....the perfect distraction from that nagging, persistent query...where ARE we going?
Although God has moved the majority of our homes in this manner; that being, receiving generous offers to often the first people to walk through, we have personally always had an idea of WHERE we were going. This time is SO different!...and this mountain of packed boxes has to ultimately go SOMEWHERE!
Our initial plan is to store our things and move out to Sandy Pines for the summer. When you think that we don't have to move anywhere until they turn the water off on October 15th, you can be lulled into sense of there being no real rush. But I tend to forget that in the middle of the night when I have trouble sleeping. When I WILLFULLY forget the miracles God has already done in this housing situation.

We've picked up the "Old People" habit of going for drives. We drive and drive looking for FSBO's and Realty signs in the areas we think we are interested in. I really wish God would just put an address on a slip of paper inserted in our mailbox. THAT would be sweet. I scour the Internet for house listings, old and new. We check out new leads which so far have been eliminated for one reason or another.

A surprise in the running, a REAL paradigm shift for us, my eye kept falling on a "short sale" listing of a low, brick, "Mid Century" home in a nice Southside neighborhood. The more I looked at it, the more I thought of creative ways to transform the sow's ear to a fantastically appealing "silk purse". We gathered with our realtor in the backyard to discuss the in ground pool. This be COULD be fun, not to mention a terrific Grandchild magnet. We could do this!...then we stepped inside. The new roof and aluminum fascia work belied the disaster within. Too suddenly I understood why the owners had "walked away" from this "beauty". I had had such sweet plans and they were dashed, I tell you! You would have had to rip the entire house down to the studs and you'd never ever get the investment out of the property.
(A note about those "studs". After we left and I glanced at the disclosure page of the listing just handed to us I found TERMITES and STANDING WATER in the basement "disclosed". Really sad...I had such hopes to score on this 115K "beauty".)

Then there is the idyllic, 8 acres overlooking rolling farmland. Unfortunately the house is perched at the edge of the rolling part and has no..."front", just a double garage door with a service entrance. Nope

And what ABOUT living in the country for the first time, speaking of "paradigm shifts"? We are truly "city folk" and not "handy" at that. (Insert Butterfly McQueen from "Gone With The Wind" here) "We don no nothin'bout propane tanks...or septic fields or wells..." Steve came home with a great idea the other day, one with the potential to make the re-entry shock of going from a condo where we have enjoyed landscape care as a SPECTATOR sport to something less painful. "Let's plant dune grass!" I actually kind of like dune grass but have heard stories of vermin setting up occupancy, not to mention I doubt a neighbor would accept the alternative. But I digress...

Yesterday, though we felt we were "beginning to follow the light" to center our thoughts on a house plan and finding an appropriate lot, we arranged for a showing of a home that sounded interesting. (You KNOW it had to have some positive attributes to make a proud MSU fan even consider setting foot on Wolverine Street!)
Well, it DID. And let me tell you, a lovely garden turned this girl's head big time! It was not our style in almost ANY way EXCEPT for those gardens and the fact that it was immaculate. I was ready to sign on the dotted mind running ahead to ways to "make it ours" (...just how DO you soften a contemporary into "cottage" and might this be,afterall, a matter for an Interior Design Board of Ethics???)
It was a potent brew seeping into my mind: The challenge of recreating this home to make it ours, the irresistible temptation to NOT have to double move and pay storage fees and live in limbo for months. We were getting excited, creative juices gushing into replacing "medium oak" with glass fronted creamy cabinets, bead board here there and everywhere...punching MORE skylights into the roof.
Suddenly I saw Jimmy Stewart enjoying the cigar, sitting across the desk from Old Man Potter when that smallest shaft of light, that "too good to be true" hits his consciousness.
The longer I stood in the house, the longer the liability side of the ledger got. Not for my husband who has always and often proclaimed that he could live happily in a double wide. But for me, who NEEDS light and lots of cross ventilation, for me my decades of doing this for other people refused to allow me to ignore the pool of dread beginning to spread in my gut. Listen to the dread...listen to the dread.
the small windows and lack of A/C...the realization that sunlight doesn't flow into this house save through a few skylights. Can't do it. Sad Sad Sad but good bye to rising hope, again.

So here I am. A wise and dear friend reminded me this week of how easily we shake our heads at the thankless Hebrews of the Exodus, so quickly forgetting the miracles of God's repeated and dramatic provisions for their deliverance and sustenance. Yet in a few days they were shaking their fist at Him and asking why they ever left Egypt.

Time to take a break from the frenetic scramble to "find" the place and "find it NOW"...and also from the distraction of mindless packing and cleaning, to spend some quiet time focusing on gratitude and faith that in HIS perfect timing He WILL reveal our new home. Having one and two year old sister's for their first overnight away from Mom and Dad should also prove an adequate diversion from my misplaced frettings.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"She said,YES!"

I was jolted by my cell phone ringing later than usual Sunday night. After locating and retrieving the black covered phone from the "Black Hole of Calcutta" which is my purse I rushed to make contact with whoever was calling before it went to voicemail. The response to my "Hello?" was an exuberant voice..."SHE SAID,YES!"

On Sunday afternoon, at Joshua Tree National Park in Twenty Nine Palms, California, my baby boy, Christian John got down on one knee, pulled out the beautiful ring and asked his sweet Emily Kay to marry him. WOO WOO!!!

It was so fun to listen to them both bubble over with such delight. Emily said she was so excited that she was now going to become a "real" member of our family. Truth is she's been one of us from the start. When I mentioned that she was going to become Emily Kay Fredericks, she exclaimed that she hadn't even thought about that!

Emily and Katie were the girls' names in the running for our last two babies, which ended up Adam and Christian. The furthest thing from my mind in those days of managing four little ones five years and under was that these baby boys would bring an Emily Fredericks and a Caity Fredericks into our family. I am getting my Emily and Caity afterall! God is SO good, all the time He is good. These sweet young women are such blessings to our whole family. They and Becky's Derek and Megan's Avery are wonderful "gifts" to our family we could never have imagined back then.

Oh, oh, the planning begins...even for the beige-clad Mother of the Groom.

Congratulations to Christian and his Emily Kay!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

On the Road ...again.

I love analogies. For me,analogies have always seemed the most effective way to more accurately convey a thought. Not unusual to have had one pop into my noggin to provide a starting off point for this posting....Not that it will make our newest adventure seem any less crazy to all those in our lives who are, once again, shaking their heads at our latest "adventure".
Do you know what it's like when your radio is on the outer edge of reception for a station? You carefully turn the knob ( OK, I am old!) to the right and left trying to get a clearer signal. THAT is how a nagging "nudge" has seemed in our lives for the past couple of years. The spiritual "poking" seemed to tell us that we should leave our beautiful, comfortable home. We resisted the continuing nudges.( is a beautiful home that "works" well for us. It is very comfortable...did I tell you about our sunporch? The Tempurpedic bed? right..)But the taps on the shoulder kept getting more persistent.

We had been drinking in eight weeks of teaching by Ray Vanderlaan on Sunday nights at Central Wesleyan Church. His topic, "Let My People Go", a deep and fascinating preaching /teaching on Moses and the Exodus, of God leading the Hebrews out of Egypt. One Sunday night Ray taught on Exodus 14:15. The Hebrews of the Exodus were at the shores of the Red Sea with Pharoah's Army of chariots pursuing them at full speed.TRAPPED.

"Then the Lord said to Moses, "Quit praying and get the people moving! Forward march!" Exodus 14:15 (Life Application Bible)
RVL taught that God was saying," Show me YOU are IN the water"..and then watch for my mighty works.

This is what I wrote in my journal ( Do YOU should!!!) just below in my notes on that Sunday night:
? Are we waiting for God to act when WE haven't stepped into the water?
We talked about that.
We called our Realtor.
We listed the house late on a Tuesday afternoon
....and it was sold on Friday of that week.

We We We. Another thing RVL taught about was the habit we have of talking in terms of what WE are going to do or have done, completely neglecting the reality that GOD is totally and absolutely sovereign in all aspects of our lives. NOTHING happens that HE does not allow or ordain. The circumstances of this sale are certainly validations of those concepts. The market has plummeted. Several condos have been for sale in our small development, some for over a year, with no actions other than price reductions. How else can we account for an immediate sale for more than we were told to expect with terms that would not require a bank appraisal. It is GOD'S work. "We" sold nothing.
Then, just like Peter stepping out of his boat to walk on water, I looked down and began to "sink". We have no plan where are we going to go where are we going to live have I already forgotten what a pain moving is and how I was going to try to never do this again and by the way where are we going to go? one month why do I continue to be in bondage to all this stuff I surround myself with?pant pant gasp gasp...(Please insert picture of chicken running in frenetic circles squawking here.)

Yesterday the new buyers came to visit with us. They are wonderful people and before we knew it, four hours had passed. Here is their story:
They'd been looking for the right place since last fall, finding several places that "worked"...but just didn't seem to be "THE" one. The wife said as she walked into our foyer she told her husband, "this is a happy home" and knew it was "the one." That's right, Blog readers. Throwing all "Flip this house" rules to the curb, God brought someone who loves my "American Cheese" front room, my "Red Pepper half bath/laundry room and my softly chartreuse "Pale Avocado" sunroom with the pretty Swedish blues running between them all! She said she was surprised after her first visit that she couldn't recall any specific things she was going to check out about the home, but simply knew this was it.
But the most incredible thing these people shared with us was this: As they prayed and discussed whether to put an offer in on our home, whether to commit themselves to relocating here from another state and the comfortable home they built for themselves over three decades ago...the scripture that came to them was this same passage in Exodus and they determined that they were to "step into the water" and purchase this condo.
The squawking chicken is sitting quietly in a corner now. People still are shaking their heads, think we're crazy. We still have no clue as to where we will be living long term, but we are ABSOLUTELY certain, as we stand in the water, that GOD knows exactly when and where we will be moving.
Don't you just love Him?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Just so you know it's all true...

The ad on TV says, " Ask your friends. Check it out on Facebook and Twitter."I don't know why I feel the need to do this, but everytime I see the ad on TV, with the small army of people saying "Ask me!" I want to jump up and be counted, too!
Everytime I see a Tempurpedic mattress advertisement on TV I find that I stop what I am doing and watch it. Maybe it is because with all the hyperbole and political rhetoric ricocheting through the media these days it is a relief to hear something I KNOW to be absolutely true.

It all began several years ago when our oldest daughter and her soon to be husband invited us to go mattress shopping with them ("We don't know anything about these things and it's a big investment and you and Dad have purchased mattresses before") Well, if you know me, I would never turn down an invitation to walk through a furniture store! As the kids wandered the bedding aisles and were being serenaded with "Mattress 101" by their salesman, I found myself standing in front of the Tempurpedic. Normally I would feel self conscious, but no one was around and so I laid my body down.
Life stopped.
In a split second I realized that I had grown accustomed to the chronic aching pains of my Fibromyalgia...and that when I laid down on that mattress, suddenly, nothing hurt. Bang.
I went from being self conscious about laying on a mattress in public to Ally McBeal imaginings of salespeople forcibly removing me from the mattress and the store at closing time.
....When I was a little girl I remember "The Loretta Young Show" and in one drama she played a model whose job it was to sleep in a bed in a atore window...Maybe I could convince ArtVan that people viewing my enjoyment of their sample mattress would be good for business?
....Also when I was a little girl, my parents would take us girls to the local toy store before Christmas in order to gauge our "wish list" for Santa. On one such trip my younger sister took one look at the stuffed "Zippy the Monkey" and threw such a tantrum at the thought of being separated from it that they bought it for her on the spot....but the Tempurpedic is ALOT more expensive than a Zippy and I didn't think the tantrum thing would so much work with my husband.
So, with reluctance and a couple looks over the shoulder, I got up and walked away from this newly revealed obsession.

Fast forward afew years. I had come to realize that sleeping on the sofa wasn't as painful as our bed and though still hobbling each morning, more or less took my nights on the sunporch couch. Both of us were dealing with stiff necks and chronic backache and then, it happened.
One day, Steve returned from running an errand with a receipt and date for delivery of our own Tempurpedic! As the Dutch say, "Oh, Oh, Oh!"WHAT a husband!
This is our testimonial: EVERYTHING they say on those's TRUE. You will notice the ads themselves are soothing and relaxing and that is how I feel when I even think about that mattress waiting, serenely in the bedroom. As it gets later in the day, I begin to look forward to crawling into that bed and when I wake up in the morning, I am conscious of how absolutely comfortable and soothed my body feels and how much I hate to get out of it. With our old mattress I literally had difficulty walking upon getting out of bed and would grab at furniture and walls for my hobble to the bathroom. I pop out of that Tempurpedic like "Mighty Mouse" (...also from my long ago youth.)
It costs a "Kings ransom" but it is one of the best purchases we have EVER made because when you sleep this well, as in no more waking multiple times per night, waking refreshed and relaxed and painfree...other parts of life seem to go better.
We miss it when we're gone from home and have actually verbalized, TO THE BED, how happy we are to return to it after a trip.
Believe it. BELIEVE IT ALL and begin to save your pennies.
Those Swedes know how to make a wonderful bed.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On Guard While You Sleep

I have always loved a powerful painting by Christian artist, Thomas Blackshear II called "Watchers in the Night". It portrays a young boy in bed asleep in a dark room with a guardian angel towering over him. The angel is massive, strong and handsome. He has beautiful and huge wings that protectively curl around the boys sleeping form. The spear held in the angel's left hand leaves no doubt he is there to protect, and a flame, representing the Holy Spirit's presence, hovers above the angel's cupped right hand. At times when I have been afraid, this painting comes to my mind and I am comforted by the promise that God is watching over me...and I recall the times in my life when I have been amazed at how HE grabbed me by the nape of my neck and plucked me from all nature of dangers...because HE is ALWAYS that close beside me!

Over the last four years we have been aware of a sweet example of "guardians" in our little dogs, particularly our little female, Idgie Threadgoode, named after a favorite character from, "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" by Fannie Flagg. Our Idgie really has the opposite character of the heroine she was named for. She is slow, pudgy, extremely timid and gentle. When the grandbabies started coming we noticed that she took on a new role. She seems to feel the need to protect the youngest. We have five grandbabies now. The oldest just turned four and the youngest is a month, so there are lots of babies to keep sweet Idgie busy.Though reticent and withdrawn (sometime under the couch) around strange adults and other animals, she is comfortable approaching the little ones at play and often seeks out the youngest to snuggle next to during "tummy time". As they grow old enough to sit upright, she changes her position to curling protectively behind their little bodies like some fluffy, furry little Bumbo seat. She very patiently allows the little ones to touch her nose and eyes and play with her tail and doesn't seem phased by alittle pull or poke here and there.

When the babies take naps at YaYa and Boppa's they sleep in the Pack 'N Play in the bedroom. I have long ago learned to be watchful. Idgies aim is to silently, lest we adults notice, sneak in behind us and stay with the babies. I have often discovered the "missing" Idgie sleeping on the floor beside the napping baby's crib. Denied by the adults in charge, she sometimes stays as close as she can get...snoozing on the floor outside the closed bedroom door.

After naps or for special treats, we have movies for the kids. (Ask me for ANY line of dialogue from "Finding Nemo" which, really, is a favorite of mine). As the kids scramble up into their "theatre seats" on the sofa the dogs stand in line waiting their turn to join the little ones for the show.

And their only compensation?.... the occasional Goldfish or Craisin "escapee", the orts (word of the day for all of you who don't do crossword puzzles) landing in the overspray perimeter of floor beneath the highchair. There is no hazard pay for the occasional pinched paw. One thing for certain, I know that after a day around the grandbabies, these hardworking guardians sleep soundly through the following day. Shepherding little children is NOT an easy task!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More Control Over My Thyme

Yesterday morning, while reaching into my cupboard for something, a metal container of Ground Thyme fell out. Upon closer inspection, I noted spots of rust on it's base and flipped it over to learn it had an expiration date of 1979!! That's right, it became ineligible for use as a spice in the eyes of some spice authorities THIRTY ONE years ago! That coupled with a three day and three night "sleepover" with an almost four year old, Eden and almost two year old, Judah made me realize that despite my "kvetching" I actually have more time on my hands on a daily basis than I previously thought. SO I launched into an early "Spring Cleaning" of my kitchen.

To make this a more "festive" occasion,and because "waste not, want not", I popped the cap off a long forgotten Killians sporting a dubious date on it's bottle face.(Steve assured me that if it had gone "skunky" I would know it!) Back in 1979, cleaning ovens was a chore( remember the horrid smell of Easy Off Oven Cleaner? Talk about a potential hazard...better the filthy oven!) All I do now is flip a latch and turn a knob and my oven ends up clean as a whistle. I am as thankful for that feature as I am that my four children accepted toilet training.
As long as I had begun with appliances, I next approached the long neglected pull out freezer drawers.

A detour to start a big pot of water on the stovetop. My BEST soups are one of a kind "clean out the fridge and freezer" variations, loosely based upon what meat I can identify through the frosty ziplock this case the remainder of the Christmas ham..plop into the water with a bag of a variety of dried beans and left over veggies from the refrigerator bins. Dribs and drabs of leftover vegetables, globs of mashed potatoes and sometimes even gravies, residuals of meals all frozen in little packets to make the soup yummo....and the freezer emptied. So now the house smells great...the soup bubbling hides the hot smell of the oven searing the remnants of way too many months of baking spills AND reminds anyone in the house all day that there will be a good meal tonight!

And there is the aerobic segment to all this. The stretching of unused muscles. I actually used my big ladder and all 17' of my Dyson hose to vacuum above the kitchen cabinets which was as close to Cirque De Soleil as I will get! I make multiple trips to make deposits to the recycling bin and dumpster in the garage to keep my feet moving. I take great pride in the weekly stuffing of our recycling bin...some sort of personal challenge.

Let's toss some more balls in the air! I threw doing the laundry into the mix, more steps, more accomplishment...more good smells in the house. WHY does this make me so happy, content, energized???

"Finds" of the day: A forgotten bottle of Gherkins with an expiration date of 2000. The bottle wouldn't even open so I thought it best to just toss. THUD! The last of the green coffee beans from a coffee roasting experiment of several years ago. I've heard these now aged beans are even valuable in other countries...also THUD in the garbage. I carefully considered my options with leftover Taco Bell sauce packets. These have saved my butt many a time when I have started chili and found my chili powder supply depleted or totally gone. So I made an executive decision and pitched all the old purple "Border Sauce" packets...That seemed safer.

Our son, Adam displayed something of a phobia for foods past their expiration dates. I discovered that there were lots and lots of "elderly" items in my cupboards with NO expiration dates at all, leading the skeptical part of me to conjecture for atleast some items, this is a ploy to get you to pitch and purchase more.....but not the ten year+ old gherkins. And though there might not be an expiration date, the price stickers on the spice cans tell the story. $1.19 then, $4.29 now. I did find one can with only "1954" on the bottom. It CANNOT be the year...can it???

By bedtime, the kitchen gleamed. My copper pieces sparkled on the clean stovetop and a clean dishcloth draped the scoured sink, ready for use in the morning. I fought the temptation to just open the frig and freezer to admire the order....does anyone have a roll of that "Crime Scene" tape? I'd like to cordon the space off for just alittle while.....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Things Are Not What They Seem

It's been a not so bad winter here. Actually, we've had more peeks at the sun and full sunshine than in recent winters. I have felt little of the claustrophobic sense of wanting to somehow propel myself upward, out of the clouds and into the blue skies above. Maybe I was actually successful in etching the impression of sunshine onto my retinas during those eleven glorious, Southern California days last month.

What do you see in this photo of my front garden? Monotone...snow and icicles?

Everytime I drive up to the house or go outside to let the dogs out or head to the mailbox, I am "seeing" something vastly different.

Late last summer my dear friend, Donna took the tangled overgrown mess of my "cottage garden"; at least what the moles and rabbits had left of it,and convinced me that I needed a space more Fibromyalgia "user friendly".( It pays to know a Landscape Designer who is also a Registered Nurse) Over the course of a few days she totally transformed the jumbled confusion of limping perennials into a new delight. She hacked and dug and evicted the out of control "old" and replaced confusion with an orderly, pleasing mix of plants I have never nurtured before.
Donna redrew lines, anchoring a garden bench with a lovely flagstone path. I couldn't get over the immediate changes and last fall would just stand on the front porch doing R.L.H.C.'s ( rapid little hand claps...thanks, Helen!)

But...the best is yet to come! Donna planted all sorts of bulbs....all will be surprises for me in a few months. For thirty years, when fall comes, I have "plant bulbs" on my to do list BUT the "tyranny of the urgent" takes over, as it always does. Spring rolls around and I look at mud left by winter snows instead of tulips, daffodils, and their ilk. I sigh and resolve to do something about it in the fall....and then "groundhogs day" happens, again. Not THIS SPRING!! I can't wait to see what surprises Donna has waiting for me under their temporary blanket of snow!!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Donna for the treat of transformation last fall and the delicious anticipation of Spring that has lasted throughout the long, frozen tundra winter!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

When California Gives You Lemons...

As we took off from John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana a week ago, I tried to will my eyes to remember what the sunshine and blue skies looked like. I kept my face turned toward the sun's warmth radiating through the jet's window and craned my neck to keep the ocean and then the snow capped Mountains in view for as long as I could,then sighed and hit my sudoku. The entire trip across the country was in sunshine! We could watch cities,plains,canyons, mountains, rivers,lakes and farms on the ground with the occasional jet whooshing westward below us. The man in the seat behind us narrated what was passing below us..'And there's Lake Michigan!' Blue and visible until we hit the West Michigan coastline, which looked like an impenetrable mat of dirty grey cotton.

Christian has been asking for another California Blog and the past two days we have had bright blue skies and sunshine, such a GIFT in West Michigan at this time of year! It makes it easier to recall our last weekend in California. Steve was busy all day Friday and Christian came down to Santa Ana and took me back to Azusa. I had finally gotten so that I didn't flinch and call out while driving on the freeways, though we all marvelled at "splitting lanes": the legal practice in California of motorcyclists rocketing through freeway traffic BETWEEN lanes of cars! ( Can you say,"Death Wish"?) Christian was kind, warning me when he was required to swing rapidly across four lanes of traffic to switch I had time to cover my eyes.

All worth it. It was a totally fun day. We went to Emily's house in Claremont. Oh to live in a place where windows need no screens and doors opened to the yard are left wide open to let the glorious outside in!!! We hit downtown Claremont, a jewel of a town with wide random "gardens" of trees surrounded by perennials between sidewalk and street curbs. Stores line the outer edges of downtown city blocks with bustling courtyards in the centers of the blocks. As you walk down the street and happen to look up you are stunned to see the Snow capped San Gabriel Mountains towering right above you! We ate lunch at a a brew pub, The Back Abbey, where we sat in 1940-esque, oversized chrome framed, leather easy chairs at concrete tables outside. The kids told me that at night if it gets chilly, they bring fluffy white throws out to wrap around diners. The outer "wall" of the restaurant was a long line of planters bursting with Horsetail Grass. We ordered a cone of homemade Pomme Frites served too hot to dip in four sauces, to eat as we waited for our meal along with our choices of delicious, exotic beers. I didn't want it to end. Sitting and laughing with the kids, in sunshine and warmth. We sauntered through some wonderful shops before driving through streets full of enchanting homes (to a design junkie like me). After rearranging furniture and making some paint suggestions at Emily's (could there be a day of more fun?),the kids returned me to the hotel in time for Steve and I to reconnect after his busy day and meet dear friends,Jerry and Carolyn for dinner. It was wonderful but just trying to find a parking spot in a GARGANTUAN mall parking lot studded with a forest of palm trees, completely filled with cars made us begin to long for home. More than once we heard that no one cooks in Orange County. An exaggeration unless you try to find a parking spot at meal time. Orange Country is clogged with restaurants. Every kind of restaurant you can imagine. Persian restaurants and Peruvian restaurants, Indian restaurants and Korean BBQ restaurants...We talked and laughed and closed the Buco de Beppo's which made finding our car much easier in the now near empty parking lot.

Our last day we returned to the foothills, to laugh at Christian's new pet: a squirrel who comes to scratch on his front screen door for bagels. Then we headed over to Emily's where we spent our last afternoon playing cornhole and euchre under the pergola in the sunny backyard with music and chirping birds. Oh, and plucking lemons the size of small grapefruits from the tree branches and making lemonade.

It is all so idyllic, breathtaking, particularly for shivering Midwesterners blinded by the sunshine and trees bursting with citrus and day-glo flowers too gaudy to be real. Yet as we drove through the Foothill communities "ohhing and ahhing" I was aware THESE are the towns we frequently hear of in television coverages of evacuations for wildfires and subsequent mudslides. I can see why they take the risk.

The shuttle driver taking us to the airport in the chilly pre-dawn hour the next morning, apologized for his knit hat. He appeared to be Indian, perhaps, and was curious about where we were flying. He was asking if water froze where we lived and we told him yes, and described cutting holes in the ice to ice fish. His quick response had a tone of concern. "Why don't you move here?" he asked.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday on the Freeways

I'm waiting for Emily and Christian to arrive to pick me up to spend the day together. Christian has prepared me for traffic and speed on the freeways today being really crazy. I am bringing my knitting to distract me, willing to sacrifice ohhing and ahhing at more California exotica in order to preserve my mental health.

Our first full day in Cali we headed north to Azusa to Christian's apartment. He arranged a tour of the beautiful campus of Azusa Pacific University with a friend whose job it was to give tours to prospective students and their parents. It was a GREAT tour! ( Thank you Douglas Clay McCoy!) Douglas is a Californian and probably wondered why I was so frequently exclaiming over the trees and plants. He'd point out an original building to the campus...and I was impressed not by it's history but by the incredible bougainvilleas climbing up posts and stretching and dripping along the buildings edges in hot pink and oranges. The campus is like a giant botanical garden. Plants we singly place in pots and baby on a window sill at home grow is wild "patches". And this is the time of year when the locals are apologetic for how scrubby the vegetation looks!
The mountains literally begin at the edge of campus and students climb them. There are trails to hike and I learned through Google research that Azusa is called the Canyon City. I also learned that not too far from my baby boy's apartment is a place called "Rattlesnake Gulch" now when Christian tells me he's going for a hike I will worry about rattlesnakes on the path...and then there are the cougars up in the canyon...(the reason the APU teams are called "cougars"? You be the judge!) And the coyotes he's seen on the golf course right outside his front door.

I loved the campus.It is full of wonderful surprises. You turn a corner and look to the top of a several storey building to find in big letters at the top "God First", or an ivy choked wall in which a beautifully, but simply carved wooden door sits. Douglas told us that students post things on the door...opinions and thoughts and then other students respond on the door. Reminds me of Luther and nailing HIS thoughts on that church door in Germany.
Here and there around the campus are pieces of sculpture done by students. WONDERFUL pieces that delight you. AND....stained glass sky lites and hallways filled with art installations. Little architectural and artistic "surprises" to delight everywhere. I liked the long, broad stairway flowing from an outdoor courtyard, the edges of each step edged in a different colored tile; colors descending in rainbow order. I loved the prayer garden with a small "wailing wall" where students write prayers on paper and insert their prayers in the cracks of the wall just as in Jerusalem. Douglas told us that it was contributed by a benefactor who was felt so strongly about it and passed away the day after it was dedicated.
I was stunned to discover that Azusa has five fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls THE Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as other noteworthy scriptural artifacts.
All in all, I was pretty blown away, not only by what I could SEE, but what I HEARD about the programs and the integrity of the University. The growth seen all over campus and in the surrounding community they touch. I especially loved the new, state of the art Science building. Etched on the outside Glass walls facing the streets bordering the campus are words from the Book of Genesis, lest anyone passing forget WHO created science and all it's elements.

Several times during our visit this time I have found a confusing thing the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood and at APU. We enter a door INTO a building only to quickly find that there is no ROOF save the beautiful blue sky above our head. Walls with no roof. I do not think this building concept would work in Michigan, but for here, it's magic. It would be a painful thing to waste time being IN a building when outside is perfect light and temperature and no bugs and lush plantings and fountains. So much of California seems to be one big, beautiful courtyard.

It is a great convenience that APU also has an excellent Masters program in College Counselling and Student Development because once Christian visited the campus there was no question of his becoming a Cougar. And I so totally understand this. I think I would like to be a cougar, too and live in this wonderful place.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"We're Not In Kansas Anymore, Toto!"

It is Day 3 of our stay in So. California and I am getting reacquainted with my frustration that words and photos are inadequate to convey the essence of this place...though I am unable to stop trying. On our southbound route to church services this morning( A Presbyterian congregation meeting in a Jewish synagogue in Newport Beach!?!),Carmen Garmin, our GPS instructed us to get into the left lane and "make a U-turn when able". As we complied we looked up to see the San Gabriel Mountains covered with snow against a sky of Impressionist purpley blue in the distance. It was a breathtaking surprise. It was so beautiful we all gasped.

There's been alot of that going on. Saturday was a day of whip lashing from a contemplative and unexpectedly sentimental stroll through Yorba Linda's beautiful Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Birthplace, to touring the impressive campus of Azusa Pacific University literally at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains and finally to a totally surrealistic pilgrimage to downtown Hollywood after hours. At the end of the day I felt as though I was some sort of stroke victim whose vocabulary had suddenly dwindled to one word used over and over again..."wow!"

To the heavenly,exotically spicy smell of humongous California Pepper trees with their convoluted branches and clusters of cream and pink berries or to wondering WHAT smells so good and realizing you are standing next to a row of eucalyptus.
To city streets lined with towering palm trees or glossy leaved trees trimmed in the shapes of perfect, deciduous gumdrops as far as your eye can see ahead.
To the man selling sequined gloves out of a brown paper bag ten feet from where "Michael Jackson" and "Prince" stand talking to gaggles of teeny bopper girls (what the heck are THEIR parents thinking of???)
To Szechuan Green Beans and Crackerjack Shrimp at Hollywood's Ghenghis Cohen's
To wondering what homeowners do with the hundreds and hundreds of plump oranges and grapefruit hanging from the trees in their landscaped front yards?
To realizing as Christian's passengers on the freeways of So. Cal. that if he needs to find a new way to make a living he is probably qualified to consider NASCAR racing.
To a bird, with a tail twice as long as it's body sitting in a bush at Del Taco.
To small trees bursting with kumquats previously seen only in a little basket in the "exotic fruits" section at Meijer.

Everything here seems different. The light is brighter, different. The trees and plants are exotic; greener greens with flowers of such technicolor bright colors it seems they can't be real. The air has a spicy smell and all these things seem to draw people out of doors. Perfect temperatures, no bugs...I think it makes for the uncontrollable draw to be outside here. People hate to be separated from the Eden outside. The chapel we worshipped in this morning had outer walls of floor to ceiling glass panels giving the sense that we were all worshipping in the garden. And what can you say about snow capped mountains? Oceans? The fascinating architecture. You know the movie, "The Wizard Of Oz"? The movie begins in black and white until Dorothy's tornado spun and flung house lands with a thud in Oz...and Dorothy looks out the bedroom window and everything is suddenly in COLOR! That's what California is to me. WOW!!!