Monday, December 15, 2014

This Is My Happy Place



    It is a foggy morning. Every morning has been foggy lately. For days! And we are now officially ready for a good snow storm. Christmas is just around the corner and would you know it, we are going to have us a green Christmas unless something changes pretty shortly.  Thanksgiving and Christmas swapped places on the calendar. That's what I think!
    SAD articles are circulating again. It is the right time of the year for that. The school buses are waiting their few minutes in the dark before every child's gate up and down the streets here where we live. I love that old school bus...every morning that I happen to notice this, I thank God for our own schools: home or church. No child of mine would enjoy getting out of bed and off to school before daylight.
    It really is so sad on the days that I am working to look out at four in the afternoon and see that the street lights are coming on already. On these foggy days one wonders if the sun ever really made it above the horizon.
   So yes, vitamins might be a good idea. But give me some sunshine and or an honest snowstorm any day instead of the murky uncertainty out every window today. I fight back with lights: lamps, candles, and strings of lights. And music. And a clean house.
   Yes, a clean house. Nothing, I repeat, nothing unhinges me more certainly than a bombed house. So my vitamin D is tidying and cleaning and doing the laundry. That's my walk a day, too.
    We have signs at work that say, "This is my happy place."  A clean house, lit candles, music, Christmas just around the corner, and children and grandchildren coming home makes this my happy place.
 
Afterward: And now it is pouring down rain. The grass is greening up!
 
 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Graber Christmas Letter


December 2014


 The Stone House
Hayward, Wisconsin
Dear Family and Friends,
               Greetings to you from the land of snow and cold.  Here it is December already again. I have my journal open as I write. It has been a busy year, some of it good and some of it too hard to write about. My verse for today in my journal was this:
                 Do not fear, nor be afraid; have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.’” Isaiah 44:8
               A year ago Francis got engaged to her Josh Cross.  So over Christmastime we planned wedding things.  Her private Pinterest board that she had been collecting on for years was a big help to us.  Thankfully, she wanted burlap and flowers and candles, and not expensive ways and means to have a beautiful wedding. The wedding was planned for June.
               Gabes and Josh spent ten days with us over the holidays. We had very cold weather so that only two of those days were we able to take the children outside for snow play. The days of lots of activity in one little old house make for wonderful memories. I bask in the managing of a home full of grandchildren and their parents.  My journal entry 12/30/14      -21*F It’s very cold and I’m afraid people are going to have cabin fever soon. Nobody got cabin fever at all. Not to say that nobody got spankings and naps; for they did. But that’s how babies grow up best. We enjoy our grandchildren immensely.
               We received a dog from friends who were moving out of town during this time as well. Ruger thinks he is a sensitive animal and should live in the house. He is an actual tender foot so he does live indoors. I have scandalized many of my friends and family for allowing it. We also own a vacuum sweeper and use it regularly. So it’s all good.
               In January Elv and I spent a weekend with Steve and Nell while she had hip surgery.  It turned into a bit of a get-away for us, too. We stayed at a little place called Willowood Inn near Sauk City.  Her surgery went well. She was in the hospital for only 30 hours. We know where to go next time I need hip surgery. Recovery and mobility were so much better for her than we remembered from my experience.
               Propane went up in price in January. We tried our home children’s patience by heating all our water on the wood stove for a few weeks. Not good. But they lived and Elv and I got a kick out of free hot water.  We found the generation gap theory to be well-founded after all.
               In February the cold persisted. 2/10/14 Monday Evening -10* and dropping. Very cold. We have our living room chairs pulled up in a tight circle around the stove. It’s very nice and cozy. Directly behind our chairs the chill encroaches.
               I relearned knitting and started right in on mittens. Sometimes I suspect we are getting old and “dotty”. Elv snoozing by the stove, me knitting mittens.
               Josh’s parents visited us during a truck (train wheels) run in March. We enjoyed Dean and Colleen Cross’s visit very much. Francis will have a good family in Nebraska.
3/20/14 Thursday. An awesome winter morning. The moon hung in a blue-gray sky this AM over snow laden trees. Very cold and crisp. I rode with Elv in his big red pick-up to work. We didn’t talk. He had been out till the wee hours and headed back to work by seven. Driving off the highway into the woods, we found Lance in his machine moving logs. Big monster insect with bright lights, huge black, track feet, and a long grasping boom taking large bites of 8 foot logs from his bunks up in the air over to the ranked piles higher than our pickup. The trail has become a channel through the walls of wood. Such is winter logging. I was helping to move a vehicle for Elv.
In April, Dru and Lisl came home for a six month furlough. They moved into Lance’s house with him as home base. 4/12/14 We spent the day at Lisl’s/Lance’s yesterday. I enjoyed our two grandchildren immensely.  Jube came along for my job interview. He’s four, speaks clearly and willingly. He is a happy child. Havilah is the same kind of dolly her mother was. We are all loving on her and she laughs and plays.
Which brings me to May and my new job, working for Northwood Outdoor. “I was praying for the kind of help I need.” said Ruthie.  I was shopping in Marketplace one day when Abbey called me to say that she had heard they had a position open. I think Abbey was looking for work for herself for the summer, but when I called Ruthie I told her I wanted to help Elv and would like the job. I started the end of May and have been with them ever since.  I work with friends doing the things I love to do (home d├ęcor related), in a positive atmosphere. God knew we needed the extra income and that I would need the encouragement of Ruthie, Rosie and Sheri over the summer.
Lisl and Jube planted the garden here at the StoneHouse this summer. She wanted Jube to know about seeds and growing things and harvest. It was successful at that level. He saw seeds planted, plants grow and even a few things to harvest. The deer ate the tops off the green beans so that I only got two or so pickings for our freezer. After we pulled the green beans they opted for the kohlrabi tops and ate those clean instead. Some of you would have said it was a complete fizzle, but we did get a few flowers and peppers and one picking of strawberries.
Our June wedding came off splendidly beautiful thanks to God and to all those of you who helped to make it possible.  Francis and Josh had a lovely day for a wedding. Pictures before the ceremony in the rain came out absolutely gorgeous.  They had a Lake Superior honeymoon and have settled in the little town of Milford, Nebraska where they are living happily ever after.
July and August were harder months for us church wise but for Dru and Lisl’s presence and encouragement and support and “translating” during this time. I’m sure that God had His hand in their being here for our church.
In August our whole family went camping. Clark had reserved Leisure Lake camp back in December for us. It turned out to be the perfect spot. I wish I could gather everyone around the campfire for you and describe the scene properly. Gwen (4), brown and frowsy-haired sitting in an oversized camp chair swinging her bare feet; happily eating a toasted marshmallow off a stick. Benny (3) and Jube (almost 5) discussing things they know nothing about in their little boy voices…once it was marriage and girlfriends while jumping up and down off the log bench. It was funny and I tried to capture it on a video but I failed to get the settings on my camera right from laughing so much. I do have a picture of sitting on the shore with the grands helping them to fish. We caught only tiny, little fishes, of course, but we had a ball. Then there were the evening/late night visits around the campfire discussing “marriage and girlfriends” that perhaps we too know nothing about, but we’re learning at least. Precious times.
10/2/14 We’ve been married for 32 years. How is that for amazing! I like having been married 32 years. Commitment and blessing.  
Elv and I spent our anniversary day at Uncle Arnie’s funeral. This was an enriching day even though a loss for family.  My highlights of that day are: visiting with Trenda who always gets what I’m trying to say and doesn’t mind crying and laughing both over those things. And with Ladina who has visited Switzerland and knew just the pieces of lore I need to hear for my slow going writing project. And, hugging Kate, Curt and Evelyn’s little blessing baby from Liberia, Africa. They’re home right now due to the Ebola outbreak there.
Abbey and I drove Amy and Brad out to Nebraska in October to help with harvest for a couple of weeks. When we took off for home on Monday morning Josh offered to show us the “back roads” route home. I leapt at that idea and so we drove north through Nebraska, into South Dakota, and over east across Minnesota through St Cloud. We saw harvest beauty all up the line. We stopped and climbed up the butte overlooking The Great Missouri River flats. Much better than freeways full of lumbering semis and hurrying city folk. I love boonies, even flat boonies.
Elv spent a weekend with his mom and brothers one of the first weekends in November. He was hardly home when Brad and I left to be safely in Duluth that evening before our first snow storm of the season hit. Brad and I tended the store Monday and Tuesday throughout the storm. Yes, people do shop during a snow storm. There were 60 accidents reported that Monday morning within the city limits of Duluth.
 Thanksgiving found us at the cabin and with Lattins for Thanksgiving Dinner. It was a smaller crowd for the dinner than usual; but all the same goodness in food and fellowship, as usual. I’d like to draw you another picture. Susan and I spent Saturday afternoon together in her living room with each our projects: hers, making wreaths to sell and me knitting mittens. Spread before her on a large sheet are piles of pine boughs: spruce, cedar, white pine, red pine, and others. She has a roll of wire and one ring of heavy wire in her hands. Bunch by bunches of those different boughs get wired onto her circle of wire all around until there are up to 250 boughs. It is a fragrant, fully crowded, lovely wreath. 
We moved the chimney to a new place in the cabin while we were there.  Last spring the snow load on the tin roof let go all at once during the spring melt and sheared the chimney off at the roof line. So we took that as our opportunity to rearrange and move it to the peak so as to avoid the snow load issues.  It’s an improvement all around.  You can sort of heat the place with two heaters, but after the cook stove was hooked up again we could heat water, heat the cabin, cook dinner, and dry out wet clothing. A cook stove is the soul of a cabin.
Now for the children: Brad is enrolled with Penn Foster for his high school. He is a dedicated student and does well. He is our chore boy and my work companion when I keep store in Duluth right now. School work is portable and so are his hand work projects. He made a chain mail belt lately and is thinking about learning to braid rope. If you visit him in his cabin he will show you his wood and metal creations of spears. I don’t have a clue what he wants with them but they could kill an elephant easily. They look impressive.
Amy works for Miller’s Market, our new bulk food store in Hayward.  She loves her job of deli work, or stocking shelves, and even working at the till.  She enjoys the customers and her co-workers. She also teaches Sunday School sometimes and helps with the kids club work. “I have a good life,“ She says.
Lance is 25 and makes a good bachelor. I still pray for a wife for him, but he really is a good house keeper and even cooks some. His house is a favorite landing spot for our family of evenings on the weekend or to while an hour away while we’re on errands in town sometimes. Amy likes to take her lunch break there if she can. It’s a quiet spot for him. It really is “home” in a lot of ways to him. He shares it graciously. 
Our married children are all in the busy-ness of young, growing families. Clark’s would like to move closer to “the loop”. Gabe’s are still working on their “new” house and enjoying it. And Dru’s just moved into a lovely new home in their beloved city of Chiang Mai, Thailand since returning there. Amazing news is that we have three grandchildren on the way to join the number of eight that we already have. They will tell you all about their lives in their letters to you, I’m sure. J
If you actually got all the way to here in your reading, I’m delighted and amazed. 
 . We are grateful to God for His abundant mercy and blessing.
 The Grabers

              
              
                             

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Winter is well and truly here. Have I mentioned this before? But it is a month early for sub-zero temps and lots of snow. So this is just one of my pins on the map of my journaling here for later reference. This is the year that we had snow in May and flurries again in September allowing us just three months of no snow for the year. This is the November when we had our first real snow storm two weeks before Thanksgiving, not two weeks after Thanksgiving. The fall that the leaves didn't get raked.
 It is the same fall when Amy took her first full time job. She cried after the first day and got it over with and has enjoyed every day since.
The holiday season that Brad and I kept the store at the mall for Northwood Outdoor and Gifts one day a week.  We'd drive up to Duluth and open the store first thing in the morning. Brad would set up a computer and his notebook on a couple of hickory benches and study  between errands for me while I would open and make sure we were ready for customers. We'd pack out after eleven hours of store keeping and drive down the hill, enjoying the harbor lights and head home through the woods late at night.
This is the thanksgiving we moved the cookstove/chimney to the middle of the cabin. Brad and Josh Mullet helped. It is also the Thanksgiving when we didn't have church at church but in the various families groups or churches elsewhere we found ourselves. 28 people were in our little circle at the cabin that morning. I hope all our other folks enjoyed the same good fellowship as we did around the Word.
 This at Lattins house where we had our Thanksgiving meal on Friday evening. Susan and I spent a few hours Saturday afternoon by lamplight each working our projects. Her's was making wreaths one of which you see here that are full and lovely and beautiful. They plan to sell these at an event next weekend.


 My project was knitting mittens for the grandchildren in Nebraska.
The first two pair are so-so as they say. But the last pair pleases me considerable better. And these are not those. :)

Again if you need a pair let me know. I haven't figured out a price yet.

 



The cabin is functional again. The chimney is where it belongs; so we have hot water, cooking, baking, and heat again. I am delighted that it turned out exactly as I had envisioned and now all the other possibilities of how to finish the kitchen come into view. We're enjoying this ongoing project both as a dream coming true and as a healthy diversion.
Stay warm, think of others more than yourself, and do the right thing.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thankful List


Tomorrow, for part of our Sunday morning worship, we are having a testimony/singing to share what we are thankful for.  Thanksgiving day is next Thursday. I'm thinking about the things that are on my personal list this year.

~ I am especially thankful for our church. The challenges have been tremendous.
~ And for a group of families determined to stick it out and work together, after-all.
~ I am intensely grateful to those of you, our friends/brothers and sisters in Christ from other church groups, who offered kindness and prayers while we faced the challenges. You have no idea how important this has been to us.
~ Thankful for newly married couples and the new babies born this past year. Such encouraging proof that God is blessing...that life goes on...in a good way.
~ Thankful for peace in our hearts. The kind that comes after pain or suffering. It is a richer, brighter joy.
~ Thankful for old friends who know all about us and love us anyway. So thankful!
~ And for new friends. Isn't it refreshing and amazing when we find each other because we are Christians?
~ And for my dear husband and children and grandchildren and for two living parents.
~ And for people who comment on this blog. :)

                          Life Is Good!



Friday, November 21, 2014

A Home Day

The big plans to sew curtains and hang them on new rods in custom made bracket/shelves by Brad have been postponed.
  Since Amy and I started working on new jobs, our days at home have become even more valued and enjoyed. We both like our jobs, but home is best.  I have umpteen projects to work on at home.
  First of all Brad has been sighing for some fresh home baked cookies.

I am loving our new kitchen shelves. Every day they are beautiful and functional. Thanking my man for them and God for a good man and a lovely, old cottage to make home in. So, as you can see, we have music and coffee and cooking baking happening here.
   I have a candle lit, a sink of hot soapy water for washing up as I go, and a huge batch of cookie dough.

It was ten below zero this morning and we were having trouble getting warm. Which is why I decided to bake. It worked. The house warmed up nicely.
The cookies went into the freezer and the cookie jar. We have a large pickle jar that holds a couple dozen cookies and looks good on the shelf full to the brim.

Apples were 50 cents a pound this week. I used a clean dish towel and buffed them to a shine and filled a basket. At the same time I took windex and another part of my clean cotton dish towel and cleaned the lens on the camera. 

   My mom calls what I did all morning "puttering around".  Dish washing, baking, staging for project pictures, and just in general enjoying the sunshine and music and creating.

.


 These three boards, and three ironwood sticks are destined to become curtain rods and brackets and shelving above the dining room windows.

 But we couldn't start today after all. Brad can't seem to find the nails we need. I know I bought a pack of nails when we did the porch trim this summer. Now they are nowhere to be found.
And as you can see, I ran out of thread. I managed to thread the serger myself, blindness and clumsy fingers notwithstanding! And promptly ran out of thread. Thus the curtain sewing project to go with the new rods also is now on hold.
Water based varnish/sealer on these boards and the freshly sanded ironwood sticks should look good if we ever can get our act together enough to get it done.

   
 Planter box turned coffee/tea box with chalkboard paint, some string and a liner.


 

             Cookies For Brad

~ 2 sticks of butter
~ 3/4 cup of peanut butter
~ 1 cup of nut butters sent home with Amy from work
~ 5 eggs
~ 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
~ 1 1/2 cups white sugar
~ 1 tsp salt
~  1 1/2 tsp soda
~ 1 tsp vanilla
~ blended oatmeal
~ 2 packs of milk chocolate chips

Mix first 9 ingredients only until barely mixed. (The key to perfect cookies is not mixing too much.)
Add in the oatmeal and the chips. Bake at 350* only until slightly browning. Let them pan bake for a few minutes before taking them off the pan.    Until next time, comment here please? I really need to know who cares about this blog. I know, that's lame, but it's honest, at any rate. One word either negative or positive would be great. 
           Happy Thanksgiving!                 



Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Ordinary Life



  

    Snow drifts down outside my window in a fine mist with an occasional clump joining in the slow dance that falls from the snow buildup on the branches and ledges. Suddenly, we have been thrust into the grip of cold, snowy winter with almost eighteen inches of snow for our first real snow.
    Inside, we keep all three stoves stoked for the constant warmth we need in our living spaces. There are icicles hanging from the eves...again! So much for a layer of "water and ice" and a whirligig near the peak and gable vents. This old stone house is determined to maintain the old, rustic, cottage look.
    We are busy with winter decorating and sewing besides the usual round of house work. The cleaning that is happening with Amy and I both at home for a couple of days is very much appreciated and needed.
   Brad and I spent a couple of days in Duluth during our snow storm keeping the gift shop store open at the Mall.  If you shop in Duluth be sure to come to Northwood next to Sears for your "woodsy" gift needs for Christmas.
   Thanksgiving is a few days away and we are looking forward to spending some cabin time putting in a new chimney. We're also leaping over Thanksgiving and playing Christmas music on Pandora.
   

A couple of precious days off work to "putter around" the house, decorating has been fun. We found things at the used shop and at Northwood where I work.
     And I had the privilege of getting updates from Lisl through the night on her progress with birthing. In the wee hours this morning Rennie Rafik was born to the Dru and Lisl Lattin family. Older brother Jube and older sister Havilah welcome him fondly.

 It is positively soporific this afternoon by the wood fire.  Lack of sleep, Christmas music, and warm stove.
   So Amy suggested a walk in the snow.  More snow was falling and the road is completely covered in a snow pack.
   Ham and beans simmer in the crock pot for our supper.
    Francis calls for a recipe and to order a few birds from our gift shop.

 Come for coffee soon.
 

Monday, November 3, 2014

God's Grace/Largess

      ~ Leaves cover our lawn. Piles and layers of thick, brown papery oak leaves. Walking out to the clothes line, my feet swish-swish the leaves furrowing a wake behind me. It's time to rake the piles onto tarps and pull them over to the compost heap of all the years we've been here. Looking at that heap I want a tractor loader to turn it and take up the treasure of mulch for the gardens. Heaps into mulch. It is another analogy of God's grace. Just a little work on the piles in our lives will work God's grace back into the soil of our hearts. God is good.
    ~ Love covers a multitude of sins. The sins of taking too seriously our own feelings and beliefs while not taking seriously enough the injunction to love our brothers. God's grace again allows us to wake up to our own need.
    ~ New babies. Babies are God's idea. What better way does He show us that life goes on? He gives us another chance to weigh our responsibilities and joys, by babies. Another chance to be soul caretakers when we have just come through the harrowing ordeal of distrusting each other too much. If there is anything we do not deserve, it is babies. That's Grace.
    ~ Routines of work and worship are only by God's grace. How much louder does He need to speak? Than a fire? or by Ebola? or by the peace and prosperity of our lives, for that matter!




 Susan and her daughters created and gave the most lovely baby shower party for Carolyn and Kathryn last week. Perfection of pink and cream and brown in every possible way: drinking mugs, napkins, cake, confections, and a banner. Lovely.
   
 Another piece of Goodness to us that evening that I noticed was that three of us ladies there each had two grandchildren present. That was really fun and warming for me to think about. Because I can see Him smiling about that, trying to show us: deaf and dumb and blind that we are, how MUCH He loves us.
 Here's a work picture for you. Rosie's handwork on the "window" at our Mounds View location.
    We're open at the mall on Miller Hill now, too. My work keeps this family content...I suppose because I am.