Sunday, October 22, 2017

Our new town

We are half-way through the first semester/a quarter of the way through our first year living in this small town in rural America.  I have lived in rural towns most of my life, and so far this is the best town I've ever lived in. So much good is here.  Not perfect, no.  But so many good things.

When we looked over this town, we liked the second hand store, Pass It Along, that was situated downtown. The owner was very friendly.  Indeed, I have still to meet an unfriendly person here!  We were saddened when the second hand store closed within weeks of our moving into town, but since then a wonderful salon has opened in its place and next door they are remodeling the unused store to house the new Pass It Along, which will be run by the same woman!  The original store closed in order to make room for the salon as it was opened by the previous owner's daughter.

Our new hometown also has three sit-down restaurants, if you count the country club outside of town, a small carry-out ice-cream, gyros, burgers and pizza place, and one gas station that sells fried chicken everyone loves one day a week, and has another ice cream counter :).  We have a Ford dealership, a t-shirt shop, another gas station, two insurance companies, two banks, a couple of realtors, a grain elevator (right in the middle of downtown - but it seems to be closed), two clinics (now that our hospital opened mine), several churches, and at least 3 larger manufacturing businesses that offer jobs to the community.  One of these businesses is Avanti's.  It makes Gino's frozen pizza and sells lots of specialty cheeses and some meats.  It has a neat little store that sells us the cheeses and such locally and also provides a place to get unique gifts as well.

Up until now we have not had a grocery store here.  No Walmart, Dollar General or any place like that.  I've heard that Dollar General is going to open a store here, but in my 4 months here I haven't seen as much as a ground-breaking event.  Beginning early next month, however, we are going to get a grocery store!  The owners have their own farm and have been working on opening a butcher shop to offer their organic high-end meat, but for the past 1-2 months have felt the Lord leading them to go further and also make it a grocery store!  They will offer organic and regular produce as well!  I am so happy to hear this, and you can believe that we will shop there!

Our little hamlet does not have a pharmacy.  I've thought that would be a problem, but one pharmacy in a larger town 30 miles away is offering delivery of prescriptions for $3 by one of it's employees who lives in our town! She also said that she would deliver for free if you were willing to come to her house to pick it up! You can't even drive to that town and back for $3!  I'm hoping that this will get people patronaging our local clinics when they know that they won't have to drive to town to get their meds afterwards.

Have you ever read the series of books by Frank Peretti starting with This Present Darkness?  Sometimes I feel like I am in that little town of that first book.  I see God working here.  I love the new church we are attending, and I see everyday miracles happening in the lives of people who attend there.  About a month ago a six year old child lost control of a motor scooter he was trying to ride and went right into the path of a huge semi-trailer that subsequently ran over him.  The testimony of this child and his recovery is so amazing and shows God's hand in it in every area.  He is recovering and every day we read miracles about the new things he is able to do.  The community and towns around our little town have stepped up and raised so much money for this family that it is unbelievable.  The "Prayers for Caleb" Facebook page that daily tells his recovery story is liked by over 25,000 people everyday!  So many people are praying for that little boy and his family.  My son shares a class with his sister at school.  The school has also taken part in several fundraisers for the family.

More about our church:  our church has a worship band and two pastors.  The head pastor speaks straight from the Bible and digs out the message in prayer each week, probably spending a huge portion of that time on his knees.  He is very active in the pulpit and quite entertaining.  The more I've been to this church and heard the sermons and sat in the group afterwards that discusses the sermon with the head pastor and elders, the more I have come to love this church.  These people are genuine and seem to share the same values that my husband and I hold.  It isn't uncommon that I just feel God there - in the sermon and in this after-class especially.  I haven't been reading my Bible pretty much since I moved to this state from Alaska 3 years ago.  Bible study become a burden to me.  I still have a close relationship with God and pray and depend on Him dearly, but I was burned out on the Bible.  I don't know the whats or whys of how it happened, but I found the Bible so troubling and confusing and made me feel separate from other believers.  Lately, though, as I go to church at our new church, I am feeling drawn to read my Bible again.  I want that sweet communion that I used to have when the Lord would speak to me from His Word on a daily basis directly about my life.  Not just the do's and don'ts, but just the tender whisperings that He is there and sees me and has everything in control.  My 3rd daughter has started going to junior high youth group at our new church and loves it.  My son also has a midweek program called Kool Kids after school that he attends there.

This summer our new town put on two town-wide celebrations.  One is celebrated around the 4th of July for several days, and one is held in the fall.  I was surprised by how many people take part in these celebrations.  It takes a village committed to having a wonderful place to live to pull these things off, and you can see that in these celebrations.  I didn't get to take part in much of the fall celebration because I was tied to a booth promoting our new clinic and the hospital I work for.  My kids had a great time.  There was live music, vendor booths, jump houses, face painting, free cider and donuts, pumpkin painting and lots of frolicking.  Next year I hope to do something more mobile so I can take part in more and also I would like to tour the fire station (which I forgot to tell you earlier that our town also has.

One down side to our town right now is a thorn in everyone's flesh.  We have a large building downtown that has been neglected by out of town owners and has sat empty for some time.  Now there are bricks falling down from the building to the sidewalk below and the area has had to be fenced off.  The village leadership is working on coming up with a solution that won't cost the town too much money, but I haven't heard what will happen yet.  In spite of this eyesore, the downtown area is being renovated and building by building new businesses are taking up space.  I keep thinking that my husband and kids should open a bakery/coffee shop, but my husband isn't convinced yet :) .

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Early Summer Happenings 2017

Sometimes life catches me in its tide, and I just have to go with it.

LE in burgundy is one of the society ladies in "Pollyanna"

Joe's first spring recital.  I just love to listen to all of the kids play.

The younger kids finished school at the end of May.  There were music recitals at school and two for Joe's violin group.  There was a play that LE was in.  There was a graduation ceremony that both kids played instruments in (Joe on violin and drums).  The school also had a spring concert in which both kids played solos, and LE sang a solo.

JJ in middle hamming it up as the youth group gets ready to head to Florida

JJ finished 11th grade, went to CamPossible as a volunteer and is just returning from a week in Florida with her youth group today.  In another week she may go to high school camp at Camp MennoHaven.  In August she will be a Leader in Training at Camp Oasis in Wisconsin.  She wants to try public high school for her 12th grade year, which will be a wild transition with all her health issues, especially since she has never experienced normal public high school.

CC came home from Bluffton University and is experiencing her own set of health issues.  I think they are getting in better control, but she has seen three specialists (gyne, cardiology and neurology).  We have ruled out seizures with a 5 day inpatient EEG ($30,000!).  We have found help with her horrible periods with hormone therapy she can tolerate.  We have found a medication that takes care of her chronic daily headaches.  She is still having a lot of anxiety issues and dysautonomia symptoms.She is doing physical therapy, which hopefully will help her back pain.

I'm second from the right with the scissors.
Joe and LE with a friend at Walnut Days showing off their balloon creations.

On June 19, we opened the Perry Memorial Walnut Clinic.  That has been an exciting adventure!  Last weekend, July 1, we had an open house, grand opening and parade complete with ribbon cutting  ceremony that went along with Walnut Days.  The community seems very pleased to have us there.

LE and Joe with DH after fishing contest.
LE won largest fish overall for the girls and largest catfish in her age category

On Monday, July 10, we will close on the house that we are buying.  We've been living in a pretty primitive cabin in some woods.  There is one window air conditioner and wood floors, walls and ceilings.  It is dark (which helps it stay cool, but is hard on the girls with depressive tendencies).  There is a large hole (5 inches across) that leads to the crawl space and if we don't cover it with the litter box, big spiders make their way into our home at night.  Don't get me wrong, however, I am really grateful to have a place to live since we had to leave the camp we've been helping to staff at the beginning of the summer to make room for the new facilities director and his family and other summer staff.  Our new house wasn't available yet and we otherwise would have found ourselves homeless.

This is the agreement DH had to read over and sign for his C-Pap machine!

Speaking of such things, DH is done at camp now.  It was determined this spring that he would never be released from restrictions on his ankle to be able to do his job as facilities director.  He gracefully bowed out.  He went before a legal advocate (acting like a judge) on the worker's comp claim that they were trying to settle out of court.  The advocate didn't feel like the insurance company was giving DH a fair deal, so he refused to sign it.  He encouraged Tim to get a lawyer who can help get at least future medical coverage for when the ankle replacement needs to be redone in 10-15 years.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Navy Pier trip to see Romeo and Juliet with Eliana

Eliana's junior high from Princeton Christian Academy took a trip to Navy Pier in Chicago to see Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  We took a train from Princeton to Chicago, then rode a bus to the Navy Pier.  After the show Eliana and I hung out with some of her friends and rode the giant ferris wheel and ate Chicago style deep dish pizza - yum!  It was a fantastic trip and the show was amazing!

Illinois Valley Honor Band

Elli was chosen as one of three from her school to be a part of the area wide junior high honor band.  She was thrilled to be chosen.  They went on two separate occasions.  The first was an evening to practice together.  The next was to actually perform for us.  It was a great experience for her.

On the right is her teacher, Mrs. Dawn Marshall

Tim's Recovery and Prayers about What's Next

Tim has been trying his hand at making knives.
In this picture he is doing a method of patina which
decorates the blade with a design which causes a protective
oxidation that also prohibits bad rust.
Tim finally finished the last day of his work conditioning yesterday.  He has been lifting heavy boxes, carrying 80 lb beams, walking on treadmill, riding an exercise bike, using a stair stepper, riding an arm bike, lifting weights, carrying 5 gallon buckets around the room, pushing and pulling a loaded sled around, going up and down a step-ladder, shoveling fake snow, stretching, working on balance apparatuses, stretching and undergoing manual joint manipulation.  Oh, and he said he had to operate a remote (LOL!)
The kids joined a group from our church at some friends' house
for making valentines in February.

His ankle doctor has released him back to work by increments.  In about 5 weeks he will be able to work full time.  Right now he is supposed to work 4 hours a day, then in another week, he'd be allowed to work 6 hours a week.  Finally two weeks after that, he could work full time (8 hour days).  Unfortunately, the director of the camp he worked at is gone on sabbatical and won't be back for another 2 weeks.  Another person is doing Tim's job in the interim of his leave (since last August).  We don't really know if he will have a job now or if this other person will be better suited to the job and replace him permanently.  The boss has been forbidden to talk to Tim about anything work related due to his worker's comp restrictions.  This has been very awkward for us and them.  Tim hasn't talked to him about what the future holds for us for months.

This possum was sitting on a log near the driveway to Camp
Menno Haven in February.  He just sat there and stared and let
us take picture.  Sorry for the blurriness.  It was taken on my
phone with a zoom.

This muskrat decided to walk along the sidewalk in Sterling
right in front of my car when I started home from work on a
weekend day at Ready Care.  I wasn't sure what this oversized
rodent was when I first saw it!

We've been wondering what God has for us next, of course.  Will it be here?  We do want to stay in the area.  We've looked at houses around us, but can't make an offer unless we know for sure we have to move.  We've seen some houses we liked be sold out from under us.  We've considered moving to Plow Creek again.  That is an intentional Christian community not far from here where we lived in the early 2000s.  That community is in limbo now.  They are considering closing their doors, but that hasn't been decided for sure.  There is still a core group of people who are interested in reviving/reinventing it, and we are considering being a part of that.  Lots of things to pray about!

At the Flour House in Princeton

Ciara home for spring break. 
We are enjoying some time at the Flour House in Princeton.

Our friends had an accident that we came upon on our way home from Princeton
on another day.  Thankfully, no one was seriously injured.

My new employer, Perry Memorial Hospital, put on a
community educational event a couple weeks ago.

My nephew Cannon, in the middle, is fighting a rare form of sarcoma.
Posing with him is his brother Matthew and sister Melissa.
Please pray for his full recovery and the cancer to die!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year 2017

Tim and I having a date at the Flour House in Princeton.
  I love the ambiance of this little bakery/coffee shop.
My dear JJ.  Pray that 2017 will be her year for healing and
getting her life back.

2016 started on the heels of a rough fall 2015 with

JJ's health issues going sour and three hospitalizations.  She crashed in April on all fields - GI pain, depression, seizures and spent 9 days in another hospital scenario.  We seem to have gotten into a vortex that we can't seem to pull out of and move forward with her.  I kept her home this year to keep the stress at a minimum.  She gained weight up to 125 lbs and grew another 3/4 inch, much to her delight.  In the fall she started sliding backwards again - the seizures returned over the past 2-3 months on a weekly basis.  We tried another seizure medicine but couldn't get past the lowest dose due to severe depression, suicidal feelings, abdominal pain and weight loss.  She still is slipping down on her weight and is down to about 114 again.  It is very discouraging.  We are frustrated with her current GI, who never seems to offer much hope of improvement and doesn't really try anything new either.  We have started at another GI's office, and have been waiting 2 weeks since our visit to have all her other records gathered and reviewed.  Our current GI seems to look at her through Crohn's glasses only, look at her labs and past scopes, and say, "oh looks like her Crohn's is in remission" and then don't try to figure out what the problem is.  My biggest pet peeve is the diagnosis IBS.  It really is a catch-all for "I don't know what the heck is wrong, so I'm just going to throw antispasmotics her way and hope she gets better."  We've tried all the traditional IBS meds, but most of them increase her seizure activity.  Their answer for her weight loss and rectal pain was a painful rectal ultrasound, in spite of her abnormal MRI, and not only that, but they wanted me to figure out who could do it.  I've given up hope that the original GI will ever move forward with her. In January she will see a new neurologist as well, since she's pretty much blown through anything the current neurologist feels she can offer.

CC, LE, me, JoJo, JJ
CC finished her first semester with high standing - As and Bs.  She is feeling much better about school.  She isn't having as much back pain, but seems tired all the time.  We took her to the doctor over Christmas break and found some things out of whack, and have made a few changes in her medications.  Hopefully this makes a great improvement in her life.  On New Year's Eve, she ended the year with a bang, literally, when she was involved in a motor vehicle accident which totaled our beater van.  Fortunately only her pride was hurt.

LE is on the right between cheers.  Isn't she cute?

LE had a great semester overall.  Her grades are outstanding - the best I've seen for her. She is making friends, was a cheerleader for boys basketball, continued her flute at school and with Music Suite 408.  Just before Christmas break, she found out that she was invited to be in the area wide Junior High Honor Band.  She had many concerts this fall and Christmastime and was in a school wide Christmas musical with a solo part.  She has grown so much in her flute skills and actually thanked me for making her keep with it.

Celebrating JoJo's 10th birthday in November.

JoJo is thriving at Princeton Christian Academy as well.  This semester he was involved with basketball, which was a very good thing.  I loved the coaches and the whole atmosphere of it at PCA.  Joe is also busy with his violin and has started doing percussion with his school band.
Tim had his second surgery in September, a total ankle replacement.  He is now out of his boot and walking unassisted, but he is still having a lot of pain in his foot.  He does therapy 3 times a week.  They said that he should be able to do light duty in February.  I hope that his foot stops hurting by then.  They also said he'd be back to full duty in April.  We are waiting for a call from a place that does orthotics so that he can get some, but there seems to be a hold up due to the holidays.  We're hoping that these help with his foot pain.  In the picture to the left, he is eating at a the Naf Naf Grill in Orland Park during one of our trips to see his surgeon.  He really enjoyed this.

We lit the Hanukkah candles this year.  It is a small thing, but reminds us God has things under control and He is our light when the world is a dark place.  This Moses bush on the right also reminds me of God shining hope in my life when things are overwhelmingly dark.

Tim's father passed away peacefully just before Thanksgiving.  We were able to see all of the Gales and many other family friends that week.  Christmas day was spent peacefully with Tim's mother and a local friend we invited to share it with us.  Randy has been very good to reach out to Tim during his convalescence.

One last mention before I close, is that two close family members were diagnosed with cancer this year.  My 48 year old sister in law was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemo and radiation and surgery.  My 19 year old nephew was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma over Christmas break.  He underwent surgery just before Christmas and is suffering as he waits to see the oncologist for further treatment and answers this month.

Tim's dad passed away just before Thanksgiving. 
Here is a picture of all the Gale cousins gathering for Thanksgiving. 
Being near family in times like this is wonderful.