Introspection

The world has gone a bit surreal, and I’m not quite sure where to place myself in it. Thirty one years ago I left Hayward, Wisconsin for life in Florida. It was a completely new life in every way. Now I am back, but again it is a new life in nearly every way. The actual “work”of moving is done so now I have time to think about what has happened. Introspection is a mixed blessing.

We arrived last night, like we have for many vacations over the years, after a long drive, suitcases in tow, with plans to catch up with family members and visit childhood haunts. The surreal part is that we won’t be packing up again in two weeks for the trip back to Florida. We will stay here and see the seasons change, make new friends, start new routines, and settle in. Instead of calling Mom every morning I will meet her in the kitchen as we get our first cup of coffee.  Instead of cleaning my own house and taking care of the oneacrewoods, I will be looking for ways to help others with their homes and yards.

For months, this change from one life to another has seemed so far off and so slow in coming that it was hard to believe it would happen at all. “If you ever get here…” Mom would say. I would reassure her that the “challenge of the week” would be met and that we were making progress, but honestly, I had moments when I cried and felt like I couldn’t do it.  The most valuable thing I learned from it all is that I should not spend a lot of time looking at the large picture – it can be too daunting viewed as a whole. One day, one step at a time is all that I was designed for. Each small accomplishment should get its full measure of satisfaction and celebration. One by one the hurdles got crossed and now I am sitting at the end of the course wondering how I got here. Once again, the passage of Time has created a miracle, a change.

I learned about home improvement, about hiring painters and contractors and overseeing projects. I learned about getting medical and financial records in place and ready for a move. I learned about selling and buying trucks and what goes into the making of a good trailer. I learned I had friends. I learned that hard things become easier when I pray about them and decide to trust that I’ve been heard. I learned that some things must be waited for and are beyond my control. I learned that having even one concrete task that I can do is a comfort and a blessing – get busy and do it – then look for the next thing.

The house in Florida has not sold yet, but we joke around saying we are homeless, because the house is empty and our “things” are in storage. Instead I’m going to remember that my goal was to be with more of my family and that has come to be.  If “home” is where my people are, I’m not homeless. Instead, I’ve come home.

 

More to come, because this is going to be interesting, a new page. Just sayin’…

Truck/Trailer Girls

I have learned so much during this move, and haven’t had time to write about any of it! Stay tuned for a full confession in the next few posts. 

Trucks and Trailers

I’ve had enough of them, but I dare not complain because there is more to come and I depend upon them. They are a part of moving. Graceful acceptance is in order.

I’ve totally lost track of how much I’ve recorded in my blog so this is a quick summary of events. I sold my car which reduced us to a one truck family. We traded that truck for a more roadworthy model and it is slightly smaller than the Silverado, but it’s still a truck. I am a truck girl for the time being.

The other truck in my life is the one that brings and takes away my PackRat container. It has been in our yard, struggling to turn around and get in position, four separate times now. The last time was last week when our fully loaded container left on its way to North Carolina. I had been packing it for three days with all those things that will someday go in an unfurnished house or apartment. According to instructions I was not to exceed 6,000 lbs. but it had been a long time since I had weighed any of my furniture or belongings (never). As I shoved the last heavy box of flatware over into a recliner, stuck high on a pile of book boxes and marble slabs, I had a bad feeling about the weight. I shut and bolted the door anyway because the driver had called and was only five minutes away from picking it up.

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This was how it looked on Day 2 of packing, before the real challenge began… And yes, marble slabs. Don’t ask.

I innocently asked the driver how they weighed the containers and he pointed to a scale gauge on the lift. His words, “we’ve been taking a lot of overweight loads lately but the limit is 8,000 lbs. because the lift can’t handle more than that.”  Honestly, I went inside to pray while he hooked it up and took the container up a few feet. God was listening – it was 8,000 lbs. and he gave me a thumbs up and took it away. I’m still marveling.

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There it goes, all 8,000 lbs. I can breathe again.

Don’t think our house was empty at this point. There were boxes and piles of objects unloaded from the furniture all over the house. All these things were destined for the nice, new 6×12 single axle trailer that we had just purchased to go behind our new used truck.  I don’t want anyone to think that I did all this container and trailer loading by myself. I did enough of it but had excellent help from several friends who know how to lift, carry, stack and tie. Because I am not at all superstitious, Friday the 13th, was my departure goal. We had been given some guidelines in gauging the weight on this trailer too which I forgot about until it was too late. I have to say it was another tightly packed box by the time we finished.

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The husband prepares to embark. It was raining.

We made it to North Carolina! Several large items in the trailer were for my daughter Julie who lives in Greensboro so the day after arriving I unpacked the trailer. With Julie’s help we reorganized and reloaded my trailer – and then unloaded and reorganized her trailer. She is even more of a truck/trailer girl than I am. Her trailer is twice the size of mine, so is her truck.

What remains for us (me, the husband, the truck and trailer) is the 18 hours of driving to our destination in Wisconsin. Gonna be such fun, right? We are going to be very familiar with each other by the time we’re done… just sayin’.

Journal: June 27, 2018

My mind is overwhelmed. It is the night before the husband’s retirement celebration and I am nervously trying to think through all his medical concerns. I know I will be asked tomorrow about how he is faring and what news we have. It is complicated.

The doctor we talked to today spoke so fast and jumped from one topic to another without explaining the relationship. I had to go home and google the condition to understand much of what he was saying. It was like he was on speed or something. The short of it is that the husband does have a type of heart failure, but not the kind that’s caused by a weak heart muscle. It is the kind where the muscle can’t relax. It is stiffened, and that can be causally related to hypertension (which he has) or sleep apnea (which I think he has) or a few other things like A fib (which he doesn’t have). It can be managed by treating the symptoms. He is already doing that as well as he can.

That is not to say that he doesn’t have the other condition (NPH), but the consensus is that he should be seen for that diagnosis at Mayo Clinic when we go up north. If he has NPH, he will need the specialists they have there. My head is swimming from being on the internet all evening looking at sleep apnea home tests and CPAP machines and applications for an appointment at the Clinic. I don’t even want to figure out how these things are going to fit in the schedule of the next two weeks before I’d like us to be heading out. It’s too much.

Both daughters have their tickets for the family reunion. People are posting their plans to attend. I am just hoping to be there and not in a hospital somewhere with the husband. We talk daily with my mom and I can tell she is a bit skeptical and wonders if we can pull this off. I’m trusting my master planner has it all figured out, and I’m going to be okay with the circumstances, as he arranges them. I think I appear calm, generally, but the fact that I keep going to the refrigerator, or the cookie can is evidence of what is under the surface. Food doesn’t exactly help how I feel but I crave it anyway.

There doesn’t seem to be much time between trips these days. Trips taking the husband to work, trips to the doctor’s office, trips to Good Will, trips to the store. The good thing about having only one vehicle is that the husband and I are together a lot, coming and going places. We are talking in a different way, or rather about different things than usual. Instead of him talking about fans and ventilation (thumbs down in my book) we talk about how he feels about retirement, and the preparations for moving and other stuff I find interesting and necessary. This is a good thing.

 

 

Who Will I Be Next?

There’s nothing like moving to help you think about who you are, who you really are.

For years as a young mother, living in a rural area, I was responsible for growing a lot of our food and preserving it for use during our snowy, winter climate. I learned a lot about gardening, had my own rototiller, and a root cellar. I was baking bread with flour which I ground with my wheat grinder. I was making sauerkraut in stoneware crocks and canning tomatoes, green beans, beets, applesauce – lots of fruits and vegetables. I had a raspberry patch and made jam. I enjoyed that lifestyle so much. I loved being that person, even though it entailed a good bit of work. It was about 8 years of my life, thirty years ago.

Since then I have occasionally tried to garden but it felt more like raising produce for insects (or whoever it was who ate it before I got there to harvest). One year I canned tomatoes because the farms here in Florida were practically giving them away – they didn’t have workers to pick them. My Wisconsin persona brought jars, equipment, a pressure canner and expectations to my new home and they have been largely unused since then. I have kept them on a shelf in the garage. I have avoided making decisions that needed to be made.

Who am I now? Even more important, who am I likely to be in the future? It’s not that I don’t still like the thought of gardening, or of having good food put up for the winter. It’s that moving has made me decide not to be a person defined by “my stuff”. It felt empowering to put the jars in the recycling bin, knowing that they could be replaced pretty easily up north, if needed. The person I am is one who adapts to the reasonable default, whatever that is going to be.

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All those perfectly good, jars and lids – somehow doesn’t seem right…

Another similar moment (I know, two in one day!!) came in the course of taking the husband to work. He has been dreading closing up his office, making decisions about his boxes of books and papers. He has spoken of it several times so I offered to help him. We took a small table and I arranged all his books where his coworkers could look them over and help themselves. I went through his periodicals and we decided to pitch all but the last year’s magazines.

It’s probably harder for someone who has had a long career doing what they were educated to do. They really become defined by their job. I think the husband’s books, his physics notes from college (yellowed, with bugs, and copious dust), his work memos from eons ago, and bits and pieces of ventilation equipment were defining him to a great extent. He left the room and I took care of some of it for him (dumpster) but I’m not saying exactly what because he reads this too.  If he can actually remember something he needs from it all I will go dumpster diving and look for it. I’m betting there will not be a need.

Now we are freer than we were, but not as free as we will finally be in a couple weeks. We will be free to adapt and be who we really are in our new circumstances. For me, the job will be easier without the canning jars along for the ride, just sayin’…

A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter S)

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Today’s S sign features the words SLOW, SPEED and SENIORS. I’m feeling all three in different ways…

S for Staging

I have looked at a lot of houses for sale. To my knowledge, not one was ever staged. I always felt that it was up to me to imagine my own things in the spaces, ignore other people’s furnishings, and make the appropriate decisions. I don’t think I ever turned away from a place because it wasn’t cleaned. I know how to clean. Nevertheless, staging has become a “thing” in selling real estate, thank you HGTV.

A staged house is decorated tastefully, with interesting furniture (which you might like better than your own), cute throw pillows (dented “just so”), a smell like your mother just baked cookies in the kitchen and, of course, you will want to move right in. The psychology of selling has gone into high gear, for sure.

Lindsay the designer (back on letter D) made an initial visit to my house, which was full of our things and made suggestions as to what we should remove, what we should leave. Since then I have realized that I’m moving. I have tried to get rid of things that I don’t want to keep and store. I have packed our belongings to the point of making life uncomfortable. My house is now staged with cardboard boxes and no furniture that would appeal to anyone. Ooops.

Lindsay did not get to see the rental house because it was full of renters and a big dog. But now it is empty except for a glass top table and four chairs with no seat cushions. I wouldn’t exactly call that staged either.

So, I’m wondering. Do I really have to rent nearly two houses worth of furniture here? Staging is getting a little scary. You see, I don’t have a warehouse full of couches, tables and decorations that I can choose and have a crew transport to my location and put in place. Don’t forget the fresh flowers and the bowl of fruit, please. I’m wondering where I’m going to hide all these boxes.  I could put them in the container from Pack Rat, except that container can’t appear in the outside pictures, so it has to go away.  But it also has to come back for whatever furniture I do have in my house. Logistically, I’m a little confused.

There you have it. Staging is wonderful but will someone please appear and buy my houses before I have to do it? Please?

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The perfectly staged living room in which no one has lived ever (probably). 

A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter J)

Tomorrow will be another busy day, scrubbing grout in between grocery shopping and a trip to the airport to pick up my cousin. I’m posting early so I won’t forget and be late. 

Junk is a J word

As I consider PAYING to store things during our move, I look at my possessions with a different perspective. I cannot afford to box up and store anything that I consider junk. But the definition of junk is very subjective – kind of like beauty being in the eye of the beholder.  You’ve heard it before, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure. There is a reason almost every house has a junk drawer – true?

I may not be in my next home, one that I will be required to furnish, for months. When that time comes will I have a place for the collections, knick knacks, throw pillows, books, etc… that I have now? I can’t count on that. It might be much better to wait and see, and furnish a new place with things that fit in its spaces. So having adopted this sane way of looking at paring down, why does it all fall apart when I go up in the attic and find this…

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Look at those precious little pig faces, and the rooster and hen. I love the little clear glass pitcher too. I love it all.
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That white vase is so unusual, and the blue and brass Delft vases could be valuable, couldn’t they?
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This vase has always made me happy. I have to keep it. It won’t take up much space in storage (rationalize much? yes).

I just can’t help hanging on to precious, unique things, even if all I ever do is look at them. Like my chickens (or maybe they are roosters), whose heads are salt and pepper shakers and bodies are cream and sugar servers. Or my funny little vases that have a Delft label. They are either things I’ve had passed down from family or things I’ve miraculously come across in a garage sale for almost nothing! Definitely meant to have a forever home with me, I’m thinking.

Then there is my blue glass collection. I love blue. And my John Deere collection which bears witness to my farm girl soul – it’s all boxed up, ready for transport. It’s not junk when I see it and think about giving it away. So then, how is it that some of these things have been put away in the attic for years and I didn’t even remember I had them? Would that be the definition of “junk”, stuff you don’t miss enough to know that you miss it? Maybe.

I have found things that I hope will be someone else’s treasure. In fact, I make such frequent trips to the donation center that I drive to one farther away where they won’t recognize me. But I’m hoping that someday I’ll enjoy unpacking the things I’ve kept and finding just the right place for them.

This moving process is useful in that it has helped me limit those collections to a reasonable number. Best of all, I think I’m really going to avoid that last-minute frustration of throwing all those left over things in a box because I don’t have time to thoughtfully sort through them.

Do you have precious junk? Would you put it in a box and pay to store it?

 

Dealing with it (termites)

Encountering the twists and turns of life is an inescapable part of being alive, of sticking around, of aging, of “dealing” with it. I’ve been dealing with it all day, “it” being my own restlessness first, then the selling of property that has been kind of a millstone around our necks for years, add in the rain and wind outside, a couple of difficult emotional relationship dialogues, and preparation for the fumigation of our house starting Friday morning. I feel old and numb.

But I’m not going to cry. Instead, I’m going to write about our termites.

I discovered them when I was in the storage room looking for things to give away. Some boxes next to a wall were covered in termite evidence, looking a little like a pile of pepper. When the inspector came he found the tiny holes in the wall where the termites had been pushing out their tiny balls of … poop, feces, whatever you want to call it. One small corner of one small room has only one HUGE remedy.

Our property consists of two houses designed for generational living, connected by an enclosed breezeway. We have no generations willing to live with us at present so we rent out the other house, and use the breezeway for storage. The wall that the other house shares with the breezeway is where the termites live. Or maybe it’s only one of the places they live because they hide and generally chew very quietly so there’s no way of knowing where else they are. They are dry wood termites and eat very slowly, but having discovered them we had to do something. We are thinking of putting our house on the market and an inspection would undoubtedly reveal their presence. They are not a positive selling point.

The big (HUGE) remedy is fumigation. Do you know what that is? It’s a unbelievably large tent that will cover both houses and garages. It’s made with tarps held together with supersized clothespins and held in place at the bottom with weights. It holds in deadly gas that is pumped in and left for 24 hours. It’s a gas chamber for everything living inside. The workers have to be so careful that no people or animals are in the house that if there is one door, one closet, one chest, one refrigerator that they can’t open and check, then they can’t continue the procedure. Once ready, the whole house is locked up so no one can get inside. When it’s over, no one is allowed inside until tests show that the gas is gone (and I’m kind of wondering where it goes? And why are we not worried about that?)

My job today, and probably tomorrow, is readying the house, mostly the kitchen. All food that is not factory sealed in glass, plastic bottles or metal cans has to be double bagged with special bags provided to us, or removed from the house.

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It’s a mess here, no kidding.

I suppose this is a blessing in disguise, kind of a dry run for packing to move.   As the minutes turned into hours today, it really did help to give the job that redeeming feature.  At first reckon, I could imagine filling three bags from the cupboards, another two for things in the freezer, one for the refrigerator and maybe one for medicines and vitamins. I was only wrong by about a dozen bags. I’m not done yet either.

Oh my goodness, I decided to throw away the yucky protein powder from five years ago and the slightly rancid smelling flour.  I combined the three partial boxes of salt, the two bags of sugar and the multiple boxes of tea and hot chocolate. I threw away the jar of candy sprinkles (where did it come from?) and the half melted 50th birthday candle. No one is going to be fifty again in my remaining cake baking years. It’s strange how I keep finding more food too, in strange places. I can’t even talk about it.

What if I forget the candy bar in my back pack and it harbors deadly gas and I find and eat it next month and die? Yeah, what if? See why I’m a little restless today?

But I have one more day to deal with it – tomorrow, well, that’s after we go to the husband’s early morning doctor appointment, and after we sign papers with the realtor, and after I find a place for the husband and I and the cat to go live for three days while the termites are being gassed. Life… just sayin’.

Ordinary Times and Travels: North Carolina

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View out the kitchen window. Could it be prettier? No.

I am in North Carolina for about 10 days, staying with eldest daughter Julia. She has recently moved here to start a new job with Carolina Equine. She is an equine veterinarian. She left her previous work in Jacksonville, FL over Christmas vacation and is gradually getting moved. It hasn’t been fun or easy for her, and moving is quite often a risky endeavor. How do you know it will be better for you in the new place? You don’t, really.

North Carolina has been a dream of hers for a long time. I think it started when we visited a friend’s house in the Nantahala area. It was cooler than Florida and had interesting terrain with streams, mountains, and forests.  Later on, we went hiking on the Appalachian Trail and saw more of the state’s mountainous western side. We’ve spent a week in Charlotte years ago. We’ve heard glowing tales from friends who have moved to the state – that’s it. Somehow the dream grew from these beginnings.

I feel that it was divine providence that Julia found a temporary place to live. She was worried about finding an affordable rental that wouldn’t require a long lease. She wants very badly to find property of her own where she can finally settle and unpack. She has not had a place she could really call her own since she left for school eight years ago. One of the clients of the practice she works for has a small rental house on their horse ranch and offered it to her. She can’t unpack and is still surrounded by boxes but it is a comfortable abode and the ranch is so beautiful it is going to be hard to leave.

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Over 100 acres of field and woods, loved and cared for by Cesario the ranch hand.

Of course, the husband and I are interested in all this because she is our daughter, but also because we have entertained the thought of moving here as well. We have been wanting to live nearer to family, specifically our daughters, for a while, praying about it and considering where and when.

So, here I am, determined to find out some things about Greensboro, NC. I am learning my way around the roads, looking at the neighborhoods and trying to imagine living here.  I’m trying to help while I’m here by fixing some meals and, as usual, cleaning the old food out of the refrigerator. I find it strange that after years of not liking to cook, it now seems that is one of the ways I am most useful to people. I had better start to like it. I clean, I take care of pets, I get groceries. Ordinary times are the norm, and that’s good because ordinary times are wonderful.

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Horse trailer, pick up truck, Tess the dog, Todd Rogers the cat – all part of ordinary life with Dr. J.

Change, bring it on…

I have to say that things have begun to change for me already, but  that will continue.  Since last August I have been following an inner directive to be free for helping  my immediate family should they need it.  There are extended times in the ordinary progression of life when everyone  is on the young side, fairly healthy, moving forward and enjoying independence.  And then there are those other times that are not all those same things.  If the family is like a wagon train heading across the plain, there are times when they need  to circle the wagons.  That’s a bit of what I feel.

Time is not a limitless commodity. I want to make conscious decisions where I spend my time and who I spend it with.  As much as I love and appreciate my present friends and my community, I kind of arrived here out of financial necessity.  And time spent here has been good, but I am also blessed that I love to spend time with my family, every one of them.  They are all people  I would choose to spend time with, lots of time. Instead, it’s  been limited to a week here and there while on vacation, a reunion every few years, sometimes a holiday celebrated together.  I am ready to choose a closer connection.

That being said, I don’t really know where I’ll be a year from now.  Hey, but until I’m ready to do it, I don’t have to worry about where I’m going.  I just have to get ready to go somewhere.  The husband and I have made great progress toward this – at least I’m proud of us. Every week we get rid of some of our “stuff” that would not be worth taking with us.  We are both thinking about our present jobs and how our work would continue in a different place.  I jumped the hurdle of signing up for my social security benefits yesterday (believe me, it was a mental/emotional HURDLE).  I am scaling back on commitments I make and not jumping into new ones.  I am waiting to see what God will do with my readiness.  And there is a peace in not knowing the timing but just doing one thing at a time as the possibilities become apparent.

steps toward change
steps toward change

 

I Have Wondered Why It Happened…

We were a fairly young family with two daughters, ages 8 and 5. This was our first big move, leaving friends, family and a comfortable home in the north for unknown circumstances in a state as far south as one could go. Almost everything was unfamiliar. All our belongings were packed into two trailers for the trip. My parents helped us move by towing one trailer and we pulled the other one behind our van.  I remember the end of that long trip – I was driving in the early morning on the interstate and hit an armadillo. It was our introduction to Florida.

After our first day of resting in a motel, our Realtor helped us to a temporary furnished apartment near the famous Siesta Beach with it’s wide, white sand beaches.  We found a storage facility and unloaded pretty nearly all our earthly possessions into two rented rooms to await the new house I was sure we would find within a short time.  We weren’t wealthy but we were blessed with enough. Our “things” were dear to us, having either been received as wedding gifts or handed down as heirlooms from both sides of our families.  We had only some clothing and personal items with us in the apartment.

A week and a few days later we went back to the storage facility to get something we needed.  I walked down the second story corridor to the rooms at the end and tried to figure out why the door on one of our rooms was standing open. I looked in the empty room and tried to tell myself there had been a mistake. Was I somehow in the wrong building? the wrong corridor? What could this mean? I was in a state of repressed panic. I tried to remember all the things we had put in that room but it was impossible – there was too much.  My grandmother’s china cupboard, our best (only) dishes and flatware, our few pieces of art, clothing, my precious knitting machine I had worked so hard to buy… where was it all?

As the next hour unfolded we learned the truth about what had happened that was stranger than anything I could have made up.  It took a while to figure out because, at first, the owners of the storage facility were clueless and defensive.  Gradually putting it all together, this is how it came about.  Previous to our arrival, the now empty storage room had been rented to a customer who was delinquent in paying.  The manager had put an overlock on the room and notified the person that they had X number of days to pay or the contents of their room would belong to the storage facility.  Sometime before that deadline, the customer managed to get in the facility, remove the overlock and get all their belongings out without the manager knowing about it.

I entered the story.  Having been sent up to inspect the building where I was told there were two empty rooms, I saw two rooms, adjacent to each other, empty with the doors standing open.  They looked the right size and we paid for them and filled them up.  I don’t remember even looking at the numbers on the doors.  There were actually three empty rooms off that corridor, one  that I didn’t know about. It’s door was closed and I didn’t even notice it. Unfortunately that was one of the two rooms the manager thought we had rented. The third room, now full of our things, was the one that had belonged to the deliquent customer. And now the deadline had come.

The customary action when the account for a storage room is delinquent is to offer the contents for auction, hoping to recover the delinquent payments (think Storage Wars on reality TV). Our belongings were bought, sight unseen, by a business that accumulated goods from estate sales and storage units and then held a weekly auction on a Friday night.  We learned this on the Saturday after our things had been auctioned.  We were allowed to go through their warehouse and look for anything we recognized that hadn’t been sold.   We bought back the wooden highchair that had been mine as a child.   We found our family picture albums in their trash. There was nothing else. We were devastated.  Although they knew names and addresses of those they had sold to, they would not release any of that information to us.

We felt it was a shared mistake, and attempted to collect damages from the storage company.  Because we had no receipts for the missing items and no appraisals of the furniture and antiques, we were told that legal precedent would be against us.  We would be better off to accept a small settlement rather than take the matter to court and get nothing.  Our lawyer felt so sorry for us he did not charge us for his services.  That was the only overt blessing that I’ve ever been able to recognize concerning this event.

Did life go on? Yes, of course.  But there are differences since then.  I wish I could say that I learned never to make a quick decision, always to check every transaction thoroughly – but that hasn’t always been the case.  What did change was that I hold loosely to “things”, in order that they might not get a grip on my heart.  I’ve bought very little furniture, invested very little in things that might fit into a packing box, spent more time in Goodwill, second hand shops and garage sales for the things I do need.  I’m not sure I understand why God allowed this to happen at a time when so many other difficult things were also taking place, but He did.  I think I will understand it better some time in the future.  And I’ve never given up hope that some day, in some backwoods antique shop, I might see Grandma’s china cupboard again.  I’m just sayin’ it would be kind of like God to do that…