Saturday, December 31, 2011

Extraordinary Gifts

I had such fun shopping for and giving some grandchildren gifts . . . Jessica’s cowgirl hat . . .

Morgan’s Harry Potter necklace . . . Allie’s dollhouse furniture . . . all ordinary gifts but fun nonetheless.

However, Bob and I were given some extraordinary gifts this year—gifts of the heart—given in love and with joy.

Bob’s son, Kevin, gave us a fabulous gift. He is perspicacious regarding what would be helpful for his dad—for us. He is observant, creative, considerate, perceptive, hard working, and generous. For Father’s Day 2011, Kevin floored part of our attic.

I have no photos of the process because Kevin and his children worked while we were gone for the week and surprised us with this practical and wonderful labor of love.

For Christmas, he gifted us again. While we were gone enjoying Christmas with our extended Gisel family, Kevin with the help of all of his children designed and installed a lift for the heavy beekeeping equipment that we use to extract honey.

He placed it above the garage door with a crank shaft so that it is easily lowered and raised as needed.

And that is not all! Our garage pull down ladder required two people and a stepladder that needed to be moved twice to pull the ladder down and pull it up again. Kevin invented and installed a system so that one person can easily get the ladder down singlehandedly with no stepladder.

See that hole in the very top step? It is an ingenious idea! You just put the pole in the hole and gently move the ladder down. Kevin made a pole and a handy place to hang it right by the pull down.

I was skeptical and wondered if it really could be that easy but I have done it now several times by myself.

It was an extraordinary gift! We are incredibly blessed! Thank you! Thank you!

Brian and Sharice, my nephew and niece by marriage, gave us a wonderful gift of time and talent and camaraderie and generosity—twice! The two of them honored us with their presence! They bring fun and laughter!

The first weekend they came, Sharice helped me decorate our master bedroom. She used a picture that I had tried to sell numerous times on Craig’s list. I like the picture but thought it was too large for our house. First we shopped together for a whole day! She listened to my likes and dislikes and came up with a plan that I love.

She also helped me buy frames for the grandchildren’s pictures, taught me about monkey hooks, mounted the photos, and hung them.

She and Brian hung a clock going down my stairway.

We even enjoyed little Coco, their sweet Chiweenie. He can make ambivalent, tolerant dog people into receptive though cautiously reserved admirers.

A few weeks later, Brian and Sharice came again.

On Saturday, we spent a little time in Chicago enjoying Christmas.

Sunday, they attended church with us and relaxed and seemed to enjoy just being together.

Then on Monday, we tackled the guest bedroom. Once again, Sharice looked at what I already had and used that for her inspiration and then we shopped—quickly this time—just two stores. We went to Kohl’s armed with my 20% off coupon and then to TJMaxx, heading straight for the clearance items.

Within a few hours, the guest room looked like House Beautiful. (I have ordered a blue drape to hang down the left side of the window that will finish the room.)

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! for your wonderful, extraordinary, immense gifts from the heart. Our hearts were touched and we are still smiling!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Slightly Altered

Sometimes it is just too hard to resist . . .

I could not resist putting these young and old shepherds in a Bethlehem field.

I could not resist putting beautiful Mary and contemplative Joseph in a stable.

I could not resist putting all of the characters in one cast picture.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Votes Taken . . . Motion Carried

I took up a campaign with hubby some time ago to take all of the grandkids into Chicago at the same time for a Christmas experience. I researched, put together my support team, budgeted, and strategized.

We introduced the kids to a Billy Goat Tavern and some stories about the original place.

Experienced a bit of Daley Plaza

and Christkindlmarket.

Took the Brown Line “L” to Southport

Enjoyed “The Christmas Schooner” at the Mercury Theater

Bought pizza from the Ogilvie food court and Garretts popcorn for the train ride home . . .

No one got hurt.
No one cried.
No one got lost.
At least grand, liked the food
At least grand, liked the play
At least grand, liked riding on the “L”

It is not official yet but I think there will be a 2012 Campaign.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Seize the Day!

I took this picture of a few of the grandkids on Labor Day weekend. All of the grandkids are delightful!

It is fun to talk with them, be with them, hear them talk, and watch them mature! They are growing up so fast!

David will be celebrating his 14th birthday on Thursday. This boy is going places. He is in band, jazz band, on tech crew and the football team.

He seldom has a few free hours and almost never a whole free day. Today he was available!

Someday, I will no longer be able to maintain balance on a bike and have the strength to pedal for six miles but today I feel great! I wanted to do something active and outside and was glad that David was willing to accompany me on a bike tour.

I tried to breathe in all of the beauty of the day and capture a few photos.

I love it that David is adventuresome in eating! After our bike ride, we stopped at Max’s on Adam’s Street for lunch. David ate an authentic Chicago hot dog—with all of the toppings-- yellow mustard, onions, relish, a dill pickle, tomatoes, hot peppers, and celery salt on a poppy seed bun. . .

And then he had a second! It made me glad! I don’t know why? It just did.

I love it that David can walk fast and thinks a mile or so is no big deal. It was great to skip the taxi rides!

For about 4-5 years, David has requested to go to the Willis Tower Skydeck when it was still called the Sears Tower.

I have to pause first and I still stumble over the new name every time. It just doesn’t sound right.

For David, Grandma Days have seemed to fall on days when the weather was inclement.

A couple of years ago we went to check out the Skydeck twice but there was “no visibility.”

Today was gorgeous!

We enjoyed our few moments on the Ledge and got the appropriate photos.

And even though David is not genetically related to me, I was glad to discover something else that we have in common.

We made a Garrett’s stop before boarding the train back to Winfield.

Unfortunately, I remember very little from my freshman year of Latin. The older I get though, the more I recognize the wisdom in this phrase—Carpe diem!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Shadowed Reflection

The views in Chicago are impressive—captivating!

I do not tire of seeing the tall buildings, the parks, the lakefront, the museums, the free performances and occasionally the not-at-all free theatrical plays and concerts. I like going to the baseball games—at both parks and remembering the Michael Jordon basketball years. I like going to Moody Bible Institute and worshipping in the services and attending sacred concerts in other Chicago churches. I like the bridges and the views from standing on them and looking down the river. I like so many of the restaurants and delicatessens and shops—both big and impressive stores and small family owned businesses. I like Navy Pier and Millennium Park. I like the flowers and the scenes from all of the different seasons.

I even like Chicago in the rain.

I like seeing Chicago from the view of a pedestrian on walking tours and from up high in the tall buildings and from a ship on the lake, on bicycle and Segway.

I like taking the train, and figuring out how to get around on foot and sometimes just getting places by taxi.

Recently I drove the car on some personal business and felt a sense of accomplishment at getting around on my own and finding a place to park the car. I liked walking and taking the escalators. I felt small and intimidated and wide eyed and thankful and relieved and glad and proud all at the same time.

Mostly though, I like going to the city with friends or family. I love experiencing things together.

Wednesday was a gorgeous day in Chicago. Six of us had participated in a You Swoop deal and were privileged to see Chicago from the river perspective in kayaks.

We loved hearing Charlie our Waterider tour guide recite poetry and tell some of the Chicago story.

Later we enjoyed the romance of the city, eating outside at Erie Park served by Erie Café.

We looked over the Chicago River that we had just kayaked observing tourist boats, more kayaks and rowing crew after rowing crew in a peaceful, delightful setting watching the sun go down with good friends.

My hubby whispered, “Does it get any better than this?”

I did so enjoy the whole experience and yet I could not let go of some of the stories told by Charlie. Unfortunately, much of Chicago’s history is sordid—stories of greed, and crime and corruption and sin. Some places on the river were foul smelling and disgustingly polluted with trash and better viewed from a distance—not all of course but some. I sadly acknowledged a different perspective of the city. I wondered how God sees Chicago—like Sodom and Gomorrah? It left me conflicted.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7

I’ve been reflecting on the experience for a couple of days now. What do you think?