Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Who Is Jesus?

Last weekend Bill and I drove to Indiana to spend time with my family. On our way we stopped to see Grandma. She had cataract surgery on Thursday and on Friday she was able to see just fine. Amazing what doctors can do these days.

We got to see our friends Alex and Jason and enjoyed dinner with them Friday evening. Even though our service was sub par and the waitress was apologetic, I felt like being kind to her was a better gift. It wasn't her fault the kitchen was short-staffed, nor was it her fault they were running out of food. We enjoyed the company of Alex and Jason and are looking forward to meeting their new baby this spring. Courtney has grown, and she cracks me up. I swear she is a Gremlin... you would never think that by looking at her sweet innocent face. But I have heard the noises she makes. Very funny.

Saturday, Bill and I saw a couple of family friends. We took Mom and Dad to Sam's Club for the Membership (part of their Christmas present), and then Bill and I made a stop at the St. Dennis' Family gathering to visit. Leah and Chris had just returned from their lunch. All the kids are getting so big. Emma had a slideshow of the Christmas photos she had just taken of all the grandkids.

Saturday evening, after my sister got out of work and came to Mom and Dad's, we had "dinner". This year we decided snack type food would be ideal. As we were just sitting down to eat, the doorbell rang. It was the Schwann's Man. Mom and Dad didn't have an order, but before he left someone shouted to invite him in to eat with us. Of course he could only stay a short time, but he did join us. After he left, I made a comment about having just shared time with Jesus, you know the Bible verse that says something about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison and when you do it to the least of these you are doing it for Jesus. Skylar piped up in her innocence and declared, "Jesus is the Schwann Man?" That got a big laugh, but it made me think. Yes. Jesus is the Schwann Man, and Jesus will be the homeless people Bill and I help cook breakfast for tomorrow morning.

In this Christmas season, I have already seen true joy. Quota has a group of deaf adults who are essentially orphans, that we buy Christmas presents for. Then, during December we take them to lunch and hand out their presents. They are very specific in their gifts and we always deliver. This year was no exception. To see the look on their faces when they open their presents, that is pure joy.

I hope that you experience pure joy this Christmas, that you can share even the smallest thing with Jesus and that love and hope fill your spirit.

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 7, 2009


I have a few pictures to share. First, for our Quota Christmas party I decided to make rice krispy treats. I took a page out of Jenny's book and used a cookie cutter to make them more holiday appropriate. I found the last snowman cookie cutter when I was out shopping on black Friday. So here is Wally Jr. (named after the snowman marshmallow that Heather made for my 30th birthday, click here to see him).

This is a picture from the side, so you can see his three dimensions. He's a snowman, he doesn't mind showing off his roundness.

And here's the living room with the curtains hanging up.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

the rest of the living room

What started in August is now almost complete. To remind you of what it looked like back in September, click here. The dusty, dirty part is done. Finally. Through lots of pain, blood, sweat and perhaps a few tears (of course I cried. I got a hot paint speck in my eye. I'm okay now).

Here, Bill is using the heat gun to remove the many layers of paint (I could count five).

Bill patched the walls with plaster compound. We decided to remove all the layers of paint from the wood molding, but only the top layer of paint on the walls. Once we started heating up the trim, that top layer on the wall just peeled off. So that was the easiest part of the entire job.

You can see here all the different molding. There is a fluted, flat molding on the ceiling, then the crown molding, next is the picture rail molding (yes, we use hooks to hang our pictures from this, instead of pounding nails into the plaster walls), the inside molding creates a frame. We call it the frame molding, and it was most likely not original to the house.

Cleaning the dust out of the picture rail molding before priming.
Bill gets paint on the walls, while I fix dinner. After dinner we busted it out and were finished painting the walls (second coat) by 9pm. All that is left is the trim. I can handle that. It might not be until the new year, but I am happy to have this much finished.

A very dusty camera lens

Ta Da!

There will be one more post once the trim is finished. For now, it's time to prepare for Christmas!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Another Needtobreathe concert

It was September 16, 2008 the last time I saw Needtobreathe in Grand Rapids. They released their new album on August 25th, 2009. I am not a critic and cannot pretend to write like one. I love their new album as much as the last, which I love as much as their first. Their sound is fresh, it's southern but not country. They share their roots (listen to Washed By the Water, which Bear wrote about their father) and I find their lyrics to be honest. If you haven't heard them before, check out the video from the concert. It's the last song of their encore, "Something Beautiful" or go to their website and listen to the featured song. I hope you enjoy it at least half as much as I do!!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

the last of fall

With Halloween comes the end of fall. At least it seems like it in Michigan. Happy end of Autumn!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Find what you want

At any given time someone is out there conducting a study about what is bad for you. At the same time somewhere else someone is conducting the same study on the same thing only why it is good for you. One example, Coffee. Is it bad for you? Or good for you? I just read that an Alzheimer's study was done in mice. The Alzheimer's symptoms were directly reduced when the mice were given coffee. The article goes on to say that five cups of coffee may treat as well as prevent memory loss. Five cups of coffee. I know someone who is trying to stop drinking coffee because three cups everyday were going to cause cancer.

I decided that in moderation, everything is good. Do I want potato chips? Yes. Are they bad for me? Only when I eat the entire bag. Are they healthy for me? As a serving of vegetables, yes. The same goes for coffee. Now that I drink it, I don't plan on giving it up anytime soon.

I just thought I'd share that in case you were thinking of giving up coffee because it's bad for you.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Living Room Project

Since we moved in three years ago we knew we wanted to paint the living room. For three years we had not done anything to this house. Every room was pretty much colors we would have chosen, or at least weren't hideous enough that we didn't feel it necessary to do anything right away. As our three year anniversary came and went, we received news that Bill's parents would be coming back to visit. Their first visit was July after we first moved in. That kicked me into gear.
"We haven't done anything!" We have to get going. The other thing that was holding us back was choosing the right color for the living room. The dingy beige had to go. Especially after Bill did some patching and painted with the existing paint did we realize how dingy and dirty the walls really were!

I quickly took down the wallpaper in the bathroom and painted the walls there. You can see a picture here. Maybe in that post I mentioned how we came to chose the new color; if not here is the reason. I was reading about the difference between old Colonial Revival interiors and Craftsman interiors. Colonial interiors were often white walls. While Craftsman interiors reflected colors in nature, typically green. That was also the opposite color [on the color wheel] of the natural wood trim found in these style homes. That was my "ah ha!" moment. The unpainted trim in our living room has orange hints in it. Blue is opposite orange on the color wheel. That was it. Blue walls would enhance the wood trim that is throughout the first floor. In my mind I knew what color blue I wanted. Bill and I thought we found the right shade and bought a quart to try out. Thank goodness we did that. It was too blue. Smurf blue! Yikes. Back to the paint store. We finally found the right shade with the right tones. It's really difficult to tell in the photos, but the blue has hints of gray. It may still be a little too blue, but the white molding helps offset the walls.

But that's just the beginning. As we started stripping the paint off the trim, the paint started peeling off the walls in sheets. We don't think there's wallpaper under all the layers of paint. We think that there are just too many layers, latex over oil-based, and eighty years worth of paint on the walls.

We're working in sections. Or at least we started that way. We have the one corner finished, with the exception of the trim being painted. We worked from Bill's week off while his parents were here until Labor Day weekend. We took a break and are back at it. We hope to be finished by Christmas! I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, if you come and visit, please pardon the dust!

Over the framed opening into the Dining Room.

The fireplace and framed opening into the Dining Room.

Looking back at the finished half.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Art in Grand Rapids

Art has taken over the city of Grand Rapids. In an amazing contest, over 1200 artists have set up work in more than 150 venues. Grand Rapids has embraced art since the Endowment for the Arts funded the sculpture La Grande Vitesse in 1969 by Alexander Calder. You can take a sculpture tour of the city, click here for a map. Perhaps all this existing art is why I like Grand Rapids so much. Whatever the reason, I am inspired to be downtown and to be creative. Last spring this Art Prize event was announced. I think it is bigger than anyone could have imagined. The first day of Art Prize, I went along with Sami and the "Whatever Wednesdays" group as they looked at the art. Here is a little sampling of what we saw, and what is out there.

Venue signs are outside of the buildings hosting art work. (By the way, the sculpture used in this sign is at Meijer Gardens.)

This sculpture didn't look like anything as we walked up to it, it was in front of an art studio. But if you walked around, the light came through the glass and it suddenly looked more like a stained glass window when the sun shines through it.

The table and chairs on top of the pedestrian bridge.

The big bench with the sign that read, "Have a seat". We did, thank you very much. The bench was all carved wood. The scale was amazing!


A cool piece of sculpture hanging on the wall inside the old Federal Building.

Okay, so here is a stamp of the Michael Jordon logo. Remember that? Well, this is up close, the stamp was about six inches.

This is what it looked like when you stood back. I stopped reading the info from the artist when I realized what it was. So I don't know who the portrait is supposed to be. Does it really matter? It's created by all those stamps. On the drywall.

Here is another installation piece inside the Old Federal Building.

These "quilt" panels were actually tiles, hand-painted by different people. Up close you could see all the different details in the tiles.

If you want to see more, check out the website Art Prize. I find it interesting to see what 1200 artists consider art. From what I've seen all you had to do was sign up. Your art could be whatever you consider to be art. I think Greg could bring a collage here next year!

So again, I ask; what inspires you?

Monday, September 28, 2009

What inspires you?

I am often inspired while driving the four hours to my parent's house. I pass things and I think, "oh that would make a good blog!"

For instance, the North/South Continental Divide. I had no idea what it was and I pass it on Hwy 31, outside of South Bend, In. I have always been curious and finally decided on my own that it must be the dividing line between the northern half and the southern half of North America. That makes the most sense. During our trip to Cleveland, Bill and I were discussing the length of I-90 and where it starts and stops. It is the longest Interstate Highway in the U.S. He has a blackberry so I googled it (something I never remember to do when I pass the N/S divide). It turns out that there was a link to the North/South Divide because I-90 runs close to it. It is actually the dividing line for which direction the waters in rivers flow. North of the line they flow into Lake Michigan, which eventually flows into the Atlantic. South of the line the water eventually ends up in the Gulf of Mexico.

Or I'm inspired by the flat cornfields and the round barns. I love the round barns and even have a barn book. I pass three on my way to Cicero.

Often times I'm inspired but by the time I get in front of a computer, I can no longer recreate my thoughts or excitement.

What inspires you?

Thursday, September 10, 2009


The morning of 9.9.09 I found Felix resting in eternal peace under a chair in the dining room. He looked as though he had been giving himself a bath with his back left leg up in the air when he had a heart attack. The way he was lying suggests that he fell on his leg. The way he was under the chair suggested that he did not fall off. He also did not cry out, which I believe he would have if he had been in any pain. Felix was only seven, we shared his life with him for six of those years. Here are a few of the memories...

The wool sweater from Mom and Dad U. that Felix liked too

Skylar loved Felix

Felix played hide-n-seek under Amy's wedding dress

Felix loved laying in the sun

This was sent to me and seemed very appropriate for the end of this post:

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...

The end of the summer

Summer is over if you mark the end with Labor Day weekend. We had a very busy August. Skylar came to visit, followed by the Dau's, followed by Don & Judy (Bill's parents), I squeezed a trip to NJ in between the latter to help Cate move the office. Then we had one week "off" before Tammy flew in for a long Labor Day Weekend. Alex and Jason came up for a couple of days too. We had a cookout on Sunday with a good turnout of about 26.

Here are a few pictures from the end of the summer:

Of course Skylar and Aunt Em took a trip to Meijer Gardens.

Bill and I are ready to go to Chandra and Jason's wedding.

I also took the Dau's to Meijer Gardens.

The Dau's, Schrumpf's and Uebbing's met in Chicago to watch the Cubs host Philadelphia. Sadly, the Cubs did not win. But for the second time, Bill and I got to see Jim Belushi live. (The first time was in Vegas for a Blues Brothers show). He threw out the first pitch.
It was my first time at Wrigley Field. And then it was promptly sold the following day. I'm still not sure what's up with that...

And we (er, I) decided to paint during all of this!

The bathroom had this wallpaper in it, which wasn't too bad, but it was peeling. So I took it all down and painted the walls Lavender Blue.

For those of you who have never seen our house, or upstairs bathroom, there is white wainscotting 3/4 of the way up the wall. Only the top portion got painted. Everything else in the bathroom is white. We like it, even though Bill will try to complain about the purple bathroom!

The Living Room is being stripped of its paint. Painstakingly. Section by section. The first section we finished was the fireplace. The wall color is Solitude and the darker color is Montpelier (and yes, the bricks were already painted). The way we figured it, we have about six more weeks of scraping and painting before we finish. The stairway walls are painted now too. Our next big decision will be an accent color around the hearth (the white part), which may also be the upstairs hall color. My vote is for a cinnamon. Look for more pictures as we continue the process.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Group Workcamp '09

The FUMC Jr. High youth group left on Sunday, July 19th for the Group Workcamp in Bay City, Michigan. It was pouring down rain as we loaded Big Red and Reba (Heather's rental). That did not stop us from starting out with "vanversations" and having a good time. Well, that is until a dragonfly met an unhappy ending when it flew into the windshield of Big Red and got caught in the wiper. No matter what I did, he would not come loose. We stopped at a rest area and Tyler bravely removed the gone, but not forgotten, dragonfly. We laid hands over it and prayed. I wish I could say that was the only casualty of the week, but two kamakaze birds were doomed (two separate bombings). We finally made it to Bay City. We were the first group to make it! You can see more of Group's official photos here

We stayed at the First Presbyterian Church of Bay City. It was a beautiful stone church. Thankfully we had air-conditioning! We got a tour of the facility and set up our beds. There were no showers, so we were allowed to go the YMCA and use their showers (we knew that a few days ahead of time). While the other groups arrived, we sat around playing Mafia. Soon it was time for dinner and then our first worship. We were assigned into our Crews. We sat down with our Crews and got to know each other and chose our "assignments" for the week. I was the "Progress Reporter". Crew #2 consisted of: Bill P., Nicole, Phillip, Laura and Cory. We were to work on JoAnn and Robert's wheelchair ramp, back deck and dirt pile.


Monday morning arrived and we set off to meet our homeowners. I did not realize that I had my camera until Tuesday, so I didn't get any pictures of the dirt pile "before". We did not have all the materials to build new steps off the back deck; so we removed the old, rotting steps, started moving the dirt to the north side of the house (we piled it up and sloped it away from the foundation). We weren't too sure about what we were supposed to do with the wheelchair ramp, so we had to wait for our Site Coach, Bruce, to arrive to explain what we were to do.

After our work day ended, we headed back to the church to meet up with our youth groups to go shower. Chandra had received a phone call that morning which requested that she get online. After the FUMC girls showered, we stopped at the Library which was only two blocks from the church. We hung out while Chandra accessed the 21st century.

Bay City has a beautiful public library


Crew #2 had a better idea of what to do. The dirt pile was significantly reduced, so we started pulling the weeds out of it. We left JoAnn's pumpkins and were careful as we weeded around them.
pictured l-r: Laura, Phillip, Cory

Cory worked hard shoveling and using the pick ax to break up the incredibly hard pile of dirt.

Nicole and I stopped to snap a cheesy photo.

As I was shoveling dirt, this huge frog lept out at me. I screamed and ran away like a little girl. He just startled me. We watched out for him the rest of the week.

Tuesday was also our short day. That meant we spent less time at our worksite and had an afternoon for free time. FUMC went and saw Harry Potter. First we ate dinner at a sub shop that Bill P. highly recommended. Then we walked down to the St. Lawrence (?) Candy shop. We had a great time, and were thankful that the rain came that evening and not during the day.


We got the steps on the back porch finished and got the handrails up. I called Cate to consult her on the railing height so it would be to code. We also secured the rest of the deck. That thing was solid like a rock after we were finished with it! We did start staining. We hurried and finished staining the back deck steps before the end of the day. The wheel chair ramp had the extra railing on it and it also got the beginning stages of stain.

The new steps

Crew #2 (front row, l-r): Laura, Nicole, Emoly, Phillip, Cory. (back row): Bill P. (foreground: Bruce's finger tip) What you don't see behind us is a sunflower that is growing out of the crack in the driveway. It was already about three and a half feet tall. It had a huge flower on it that probably opened up the next week.

Mmmm fudgsicles. Jenna and I enjoy our dessert that night after dinner.


Our last day at JoAnn and Robert's. We woke up to rain. We headed out to the house, hoping and praying that it would stop raining. When we got there we decided to cover the back deck. If it dried out enough by lunchtime we would be able to finish staining it. After we covered it, we weeded, in the rain. By lunchtime, the fence around the yard looked great, but it was still misting and the back deck hadn't dried out at all. We ate our lunch in the van. We decided the best thing we could do would be to go in and talk to JoAnn and Robert.
Laura and Nicole hard at work, weeding around the fence.

They welcomed us in. We sat and talked for an hour. We had a card to give to them. JoAnn had Phillip get an envelope off the table. She said it wasn't much, but in her entire life she had never had anyone do something so nice for her, and she gave us each $10. It reminded me of the parable of the woman who gave her last two coins. It wasn't about the money; it was the gift that we gave to them, and that even though weren't rich they wanted to share what they could with us. I am still moved by their generosity.

We got to know them a little bit better. JoAnn turned 77 on July 27th. She and Robert will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary on August 14th. Robert has had four strokes, yet he can still walk around short distances, dress and feed himself and use the bathroom by himself. God has blessed them. They have three children who take good care of them even though they don't live close by (the closest one lives near Grand Rapids in Walker). They do not have any grandchildren. I think that JoAnn adopted us all as her grandkids that week. They are a wonderful couple and I am so happy that we got to spend that time talking with them.

We also got to learn that just because we didn't finish God used us in other ways. One was chatting with JoAnn and Robert. The other was that we were able to go pick up an abandoned Crew. They had been getting a ride all week long with another Crew. When their ride finished their projects they were sent on to help a third Crew finish up at a different location. That meant the Crew that had been getting a ride was now stranded. Not to worry, Crew #2 was on the way! We all made it back safely. Other Crews stayed until their jobs were finished late that evening. Of course the sun came out at about 4pm. We had no idea. Again, we learned the value of spending time with JoAnn and Robert. She assured us that her one daughter enjoyed painting and staining and would be able to finish.

Bill P. and I stopped to buy our Crew ice cream before we picked up the other Crew.
I love ice cream! This cone was wood flavored!

Thursday night was our final worship and our lights out was pushed back an hour. Since FUMC was headed to Mt. Pleasant for tubing on Friday, we did not need to leave uber early. We did not mind staying up a little later.


We loaded up the vans and were the last to leave! We drove to Mt. Pleasant and went tubing on the Chippewa River. After losing Jenna, Heather and Chandra, and then losing a tube, we all linked together and floated down the river as one big group. Dana worked hard to keep us from running into any more trees or rocks. We spotted over a hundred turtles. Lindsay shared a tube with the cooler and passed out snacks. Three hours later, we climbed out of the river and headed home.

We had packed Big Red with more stuff so Heather's van was less full. More kids rode with her on the way back since this was the last time she was spending with FUMC/team Vine. We made it back to the church an hour early and unloaded the vans. We waited for parents and said goodbye. What a wonderful week!!!

Thank you to Chandra, Jason and Bill P. for your leadership and blessed patience with our youth.

Thank you to Sam, Nick, Chris, Sarah and Lindsay for the memories (dragonfly). Good luck in High School!

Thank you Jenna, Dan, Dana, and Tyler for all the memories and more to come. See you in the fall!

And finally...
Thank you Heather for all of your dedicated hard work with these youth. God has given you a great gift. I learned to appreciate Jr. High youth and see them for who they are. I learned to teach them to be the best they can be. I learned to have fun and to always be flexible. I learned that friendships can survive hours of road trips together with a dozen Jr. High students. I learned all of these things from you and with you. I love you!!! Best of luck to you in your new venture!