Friday, December 12, 2014

The Piano

I know nothing about music. I can't read a note of it, and can't really carry a tune in a bucket. When Mac and Autumn were little I wanted them to take piano lessons. We couldn't afford a new piano so I scoured the newspaper and made a phone call. An older woman said she had a spinet that she would sell me for $650. The children and I made our way across town to see the piano.

The older woman claimed to be a retired piano teacher, and invited the children to play. The piano did indeed look beautiful. There wasn't a mark on it. The children were excited and the woman offered to let me have it for $500 since I had four little mouths to feed. I thanked her profusely, setting up a time for Verne to get it and bring it home. As I walked out the door, the woman said not to have it tuned anytime soon. "Your children are young and won't know the difference. You can wait awhile."

Verne and a few friends brought the piano into our home. When one of the men sat down to play a few notes he said it was badly out of tune. I didn't want the children thinking that their songs sounded wrong, and so I called a tuner. The piano tuner wasn't in my home more than 10 minutes when he asked me how long I had the piano. I told him the entire story and he said, "I'm sorry, but you've been had." It turns out the the pegs holding the strings had been pounded, and couldn't be turned at all. And though the cabinet looked beautiful, it was home to quite a few mice, and they had left their nests as proof.

As you might imagine, I was distraught. I called the woman back and told her what the tuner said, and asked her to please refund my money upon the return of the piano. Her response? "You're really upsetting me!" and she hung up!

Here we were $500 poorer, and with a lovely looking, but totally useless piano taking up real estate in our tiny cape cod home. The children were greatly disappointed. I was disappointed and disillusioned. I couldn't take a chance on another used piano, and we ended up going the digital route.  Not a keyboard, but not a real piano either. And it wasn't pretty!

As Mac, Autumn, and eventually Collin took their lessons, Abigail would count. "One, two, three four." Soon she was climbing up on the piano bench, opening the hymnal (sometimes upside down), and playing. As the other children lost interest, and went on to play guitar, cello, bass, etc., Abigail's interest continued to grow.

Last winter when we began our house-sitting adventure, Abigail had the treat of playing on a real piano each and every day as it sat in the living room of the house we stayed in. She started lessons again in our new city with a very enthusiastic teacher who brings out the best in her. When our home didn't sell and we had to go back to the small town, we promised that though it was far, we would get her to piano lessons again come fall. But, she also had to return to the digital piano.

All summer long Abigail would sit down to practice, and end up in tears.

We did sell our home, and moved into the rental, dragging the digital piano along. At this point, Abigail had lost interest in practice altogether. You have no idea how this upset her. This is a young woman who has never been told to practice once in her life. She simply goes to the piano multiple times each and every day to sit an play for 20-40 minutes.

The week were were to move into our permanent home, I saw a message on a Facebook page for the women in our church. Someone had a piano to give away. The name wasn't familiar, but I sent her an email telling her the whole story I've just written above. She responded and said if Abigail wanted the piano it was hers. I didn't want to commit to a bad piano, and though I still know nothing about music, Abigail can tell if it sounds good or not. We arranged to look at it that very evening.

We met the woman at the home of her father who had recently passed away. He bought her the piano years ago when she was in high school, and it had always stayed at his home. Abigail sat down to play, and Karen and I talked. When she told me that her dad had died of cancer, it hit me. "Are you Paul's daughter?" Karen doesn't go to our church at all, but her dad did, and had been in Sunday school with Verne and me. She was hoping to bless someone from his church, and she was thrilled that we knew him. Karen not only gave Abigail the piano/bench, but she also gave her the piano lamp, the metronome, and a huge box of music.

We closed on our home on September 11 at noon, and at 6 pm, Abigail's piano was the first piece of furniture to come in the door. We scheduled the piano tuner for two weeks out, and I was a nervous wreck until he got here, though Abigail assured me the piano was fine. Sure enough, she was right. Our home is filled with music once more.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Just the Three of Us

We recently had a "family" photo taken of just the three of us. It seemed like a little bit of an odd thing to do with three-fourths of our children missing, but this is how most people know us these days. I find this to be an odd stage of life, actually. When meeting people in our new city they assume Abigail is an only child, and look at me with wonder when I explain that no, actually she's the youngest of four!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Getting Settled

The first order of business was taking one of the two coat closets and turning it into a pantry. In just a few short hours I was happy as a clam. My new kitchen is about half the size of my old one, but I did a major purge before moving, and I'm finding the smaller space suits me just fine. Of course, I don't have four children at home any longer.

I really intended to live with the walls as they were until spring, but after scrubbing and looking at nail holes where I didn't want them I became restless. Verne knows me extremely well, and told me to buy the paint and we'd get started. I was so relieved!

We have a living room and a family room in our new place, and I thought it would be fun to go kind of bold in the living room. Turquoise bold! I dreamed, and I planned, and I bought paint samples. I was going to keep the walls neutral and have just one accent wall. I bought a lamp, scouted for curtains, and chickened out. Back went the lamp.

I decided to keep things neutral, and I'm so glad I did! The photos don't really give you the feel of the room. The wall color is Sherwin Williams Aesthetic White, only it's mixed in Farrell-Calhoun paint. The color changes throughout the day. Early in the morning it looks very white, but as the afternoon shadows roll in it changes to a soft grey. It isn't cold at all. This was our first time using Farrell-Calhoun, but after Verne talked to the man at the paint store he really wanted to try it. We're both really pleased. (I haven't washed it yet, of course.) Coverage was great, and application was easy.  We were both really pleased that there was zero odor.

This was no small paint job. The foyer, living, dining, and hall are all one area. It took two days to get two coats on. Verne then changed out all of the beige switches and outlets for white. What a difference! He's still working on stripping the grates for the air returns as they had several coats of paint, and we didn't want to add to them.

I looked high and low for curtains. The big window in the living room faces west, and there are really tall tress in the front yard. The room can be rather dark, and I didn't want to completely cover the window. I found two great pairs of panels that I couldn't decide between at Tuesday Morning, and I  bought both. I'll swap them out in the spring. The panels in the dining room coordinate with both.

I've been really enjoying making this new place "home" after being out of my own place for the majority of 2014. I'm looking forward to Christmas!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Home Again

Ten years. That's a long time to make memories. Collin was sad that we wouldn't be living as close to him anymore. After all, we just got back to town. Mac perfectly understood why we wanted to downsize a bit and move. Autumn is the furthest away, and I was feeling especially sad that she wouldn't get to come home and see the inside of the house one last time. She felt sad about it, too. 

Moving weekend came, and I was worried that Verne would be in agony after such intense work. Thankfully, a great group of young men from the homeschool athletic association that Verne started several years back came to the rescue. They carried heavy boxes and furniture for several hours on Friday evening, lightening Verne's load immensely. Mac arrived later that night to help the next day, and Collin showed up on Saturday as well. 

We just crawled into bed on Friday when fear struck Verne. He had borrowed a delivery truck from work to transport our things. It was bigger than anything he had ever driven. While he felt confident on the interstate, he was fretting over how in the world he was going to get it into the crowded streets of the city neighborhood where we would be renting for the next five weeks. But God! 

Just as I was drifting off to sleep, Verne sprang up. "Tracy! Nathan!"

What about him? Verne had only met Nathan the month before when he started his subbing rotation in the children's Sunday School class on Thy Will be Done. Nathan and his fiancĂ© had been assigned as classroom helpers to Verne. 

Verne went on to say that Nathan was a city firefighter and would likely know how to maneuver the large truck in tight spaces. Providentially, Nathan had offered to help unload the truck once we arrived in our new city. He sent Nathan a message, and Nathan said he would be happy to drive the truck into the neighborhood. What a relief, and a blessing! God provides! Verne drove the truck to within two miles of the house where he met Nathan in a large parking lot, and Nathan took it from there. 

Closing day came, (we moved out a week early because they took immediate possession), and we walked through the house one last time, stopping to take pictures on the porch steps. I was sad, but also excited to start a new chapter in our lives. 

After five weeks in the rental on the opposite side of town from where we had house sat in the first half of the year and where we now live, we learned even more about the city-new shortcuts, things to do, places to eat. I'm thankful for our time there, but I was more than ready to live in our own home. 

The men at the church rallied once more and helped move us a final time. As the men were unloading the truck a neighbor came to meet us. The next evening a group of neighborhood children knocked on the door, their bikes neatly lined up on the sidewalk, and helmets in hand. They wanted to welcome us. Various neighbors have stopped by to say hello. Children ride their bikes, scooters, and run the streets with superhero capes. Yes, God brought us to just the right place, and took care of every detail getting us here. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Thy Will Be Done

For the past ten years we've lived in the same home. That's longer than we've lived anywhere as a married couple, and longer than anywhere I've lived in my entire life. Our home was a true blessing. It was spacious and comfortable, and although we bought it new, we made it truly ours by finishing the garage space into 2 more bedrooms and a bath, adding two gas fireplaces, board and batten, adding a deck, and more. 

The years flew by and the children grew older. One by one, they left the nest and left us in a house far too big for three people. We were driving 90 minutes one way to get to church, and put our house on the market with hopes of a quick sale. Two years is not quick. 

Last October, a couple from our church approached us one Sunday morning with a proposition of sorts. She is a professor and was going to be teaching in Europe from December 31 until early July, and they didn't want to leave their home vacant over the winter. Knowing that our home was for sale and that we were desiring to move to their area, they asked us if we might pay a small amount of rent to stay in their home. We prayed and prayed, looked at our finances, and decided to say yes. Our hope was that our home would sell in the time we were house-sitting and we could be mortgage-free, allowing us to save money. We could then buy a home in the summer. Not being in our home would allow it to be shown at a moment's notice without us having to make everything look just so. 

And so, on December 31, 2013, we loaded winter clothing, school books, and kitchen things up, and set up housekeeping in a house that didn't belong to us. We lived with their furniture, and most of their clothing still hanging in the closets. It was...odd. I haven't posted a lot this year, but not one person questioned when my kitchen suddenly looked entirely different than it had before. 

We hoped and prayed, and I looked at oodles of homes that were for sale. Winter was harsh, and spring came along. Still, our house sat. Verne had to travel back weekly to mow the yard, weed the flower gardens, and keep up maintenance on our home. I'd go back once a month or so to give everything a quick dusting, run the vacuum, and make sure everything looked just right. We were both starting to feel like our own home wasn't even ours. That's a strange feeling! 

Spring turned to summer, and finally, one day in June we got an offer. We were elated! We made an offer on a home. It would work out perfectly that we could stay in the house we were sitting in until closing day for both properties. 

And then it all fell through. The prospective buyers for our home couldn't get financing. I was spending the day with Autumn and Abigail when Verne called me with the news. He had taken care of everything, letting our realtor know that we wouldn't be able to purchase the home we had a contract on. 

The next evening we took Abigail to youth group, and went for a drive. Suddenly, the rainbow in the photo appeared. We were so upset. Distraught, really, and it was as if God was telling us that He cared for us and it would be okay. Still the news was hard to swallow. 

Way back at the beginning of the year, Verne talked to the Director of Children's Ministries at our church and told him he'd be willing to teach Sunday School as a substitute. He never heard anything again until the week our house fell through. Verne was asked to teach Sunday School for the entire month of July. The children were studying the Lord's Prayer, and Verne's month was on "Thy will be done." 

As Verne taught each week, he shared with me that he didn't know if the children were learning anything, but he sure was. It was as if God was speaking directly to him with each lesson. Mid- July we packed our things and went back home. As much as we wanted our house to sell, we were both at peace. 

The day after we returned home we got a phone call. The house had been shown four days prior, and the people decided to make an offer. We accepted. The house we were going to buy previously had already sold, and we made an offer on another home. We were both really excited as we liked this home much better than the first one. The day for inspections came, and we couldn't wait to get back into the house to see it again. Only, as we entered the house the inspector looked uneasy. He had bad news. Very bad news. Invisible to the naked eye, he had found quite a bit of water damage, roof damage, and active termites. We were deflated. There was a bit of going back and forth with the seller, asking for things to be repaired. To be honest, they agreed to most of what we asked for, but we were still very uneasy. We decided to walk away from the house. It was three weeks before we had to be out of our home, and we had no idea where were were going to live. 

Back to the internet I went, scouring the webpages for homes for sale. I had seen most of what was on the market in our price range. Pickings were slim. I found six homes that could work, and set up an appointment with our realtor. As the day of our appointment drew near, Verne asked me what I wanted for our 25th wedding anniversary, which just so happened to be the day were were going to look at houses. I replied, "I want a home." 

As a homemaker, it isn't easy to be displaced for 7 months, not really being able to make things yours, and living with someone else's things. Once I was back in my house, I was too busy packing up to enjoy it. 

August 5th arrived, our 25th anniversary, and we set off. The list dwindled as one homeowner wasn't willing for us to view their home that day, and another house had renters that needed more notice. As we walked into "the one", we both knew. We loved the yard, and the house felt like home. We continued on through the list, had some lunch with our realtor, and asked if we could go back to "the one". 

Our closing was a short ten days away and we knew that even if the sellers accepted our offer, there would be no way we could have everything done in time to move into the new home. We also knew no one would want to rent to us for just a few weeks. It was looking like we might have to stay in a hotel, and that was going to get expensive really quickly. Plus, we have pets. Our realtor suddenly mentioned that a couple from our church had just listed their second home for sale the night before. I quickly asked if she thought they might rent to us short term. Of course I'd be willing to let potential buyers come and look. 

The realtor made a quick phone call, and got a "Yes!" This was such a blessing to us, and it turns out, a blessing for them as well. They didn't have to make two payments this way. Needless to say, we negotiated, and came to an agreement with the sellers of the house we loved. 

That's not the end of the story of how God worked out every little detail. Maybe I'll tell the rest tomorrow. ;)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Without Excuse

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. - Romans 1:20 (NIV)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Spell it with Moda

Warning! This post contains MANY photos! 

A few months back I noticed that there was a Spell it with Moda quilt-along, and after I saw the third letter I was ready to jump in with both feet. My Instagram feed provided loads of inspiration. I didn't start until after all of the letters were released, but I had been thinking about my stash of 30's reproductions and knew that's what I'd be using.  I chose the old-fashioned Baptist fan quilting pattern in keeping with the era of the fabrics. 

My finished quilt is 71" wide x 100" inches long. I made the blocks in order and had so much fun. After I chose the fabrics for my letter A, I kind of became a little obsessed with going through my stash and challenging myself to come up with something to fit each letter. I also decided to make way more filler blocks than what the pattern called for. It should fit a twin bed with plenty of room to hang down the sides. 

 I can just picture talking about this quilt with my future grandchildren, Lord willing I get some. ;-) I'm looking forward to a day when I might have little ones spending the night with me, baking cookies by day, and being tucked under a quilt at night.

What's to talk about?

A is for Anchor's Aweigh, B is for blue and blossoms and boat!

C is for cherries, circles, and churn dash. D is for daisies and dogs.

E is for Eggplant, and economy block. F is Fluorescent.

F is also for flying geese. G is for goose and Granny square.

H is for Hourglass and happy children.

I is for Irish Chain.

J is for Japanese. K is for Kitties.

L is for Little Bo Peep, Queen Anne's Lace, and Log Cabin.

M is for Maraschino cherries and Maple leaf.

N is for nursery rhymes and Northern Lights.

O is for Ohio Star.

P is for Pinwheel, purple, pansies, plaid, and polka dots.

And... here's where it starts to fall apart. I got tired. Q? well, the whole thing is a quilt!

R is difficult to see, but it's retro.

S is for strawberries and schoolhouse.

T is for Turquoise. U is for umbrella.

V is a variation of a star. Lame, I know.

Wait! I perked back up for W. Waterwheel and windmills.

X. This block gave me such a hard time. The black fabric was wonky, and I tore it apart three times before finally getting it right. And then what??? The quilting on it looks horrible. I was so disappointed when I saw this. It was the very first thing my eyes went to. Well, I guess X marks the spot. And not in a good way.

Y. I've got nothing but a bunch of hexagons. By this point I was ready to be done.

Y & Z. Zinnias maybe?

As tired as I was of thinking abut the letters, I was excited over this adorable mini- elephant binding. I finished hand-stitching it just last night.

This is one of my favorite quilts yet.

If you'd like to follow me on Instagram, you can find me at 5redhens.

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