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On Pens and Needles
 
 

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As a writer, needle artist and photographer, I invite you to share my pursuits with me on this site. Among other things, there is a weekly post called “D-mail” that examines the spiritual meaning in current stories, both personal and news events.  I invite your comments at  cathycongerblog@gmail.com

“The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.”  N. Platt

I haven’t posted for awhile and much has happened.  We’ve had 8 house showings so far, which is great they tell us.  But now it’s been a week with nothing.  I admit to being impatient.  Also, our friends who moved to Door County from here placed their house here on the market the same time we did and they sold it last weekend!  It’s not a race, but it felt like one.  I’m so happy for them, but it makes it harder for me not to be anxious.  Last week we spent 3 days in Door County during which we met with our builder.  He pulled out a long spec sheet.  A spec sheet is a list of everything that goes into a house from septic to paint.  The builder uses it to bid out all the work. We had already made so many decisions that we got through most of the spec sheet in a few hours.  We also nailed down the last details on the blueprints and made the complex decisions about windows.  We’re going to have a LOT of windows. The next day we visited several vendors.  We picked out the gas fireplace we wanted, siding, shingles, tile for the fireplace surround and hearth, and some possible gable trims.  Al, our builder, said that we had made enough progress on the spec sheet that he thought he could send out for bids.  Then, just as soon as we accept an offer on our present house, we can call him and say GO.  If that happens before June, we could be into the new house by Christmas.  Al also had a lead on a place we could rent up there during construction.  So, now we wait and pray God sends us a buyer pretty soon.

Our present house is definitely a traditional colonial so it will take a buyer who is looking for such a layout.  It seems that everyone now days wants the open floor plan (and granite countertops).  I guess that’s it for now.  Here’s a photo of our lot overlooking a frozen Green Bay.

We received feedback on the first showing - “they couldn’t get past the wallpaper” and “Too expensive”.  It surprised me that I took it so personally.  I guess I’m not as thick skinned as I thought.  But I will be!  The snowblower is at the shop.  It will cost $200 to fix it!  At least it hasn’t snowed more than an inch.  Hope the snow holds off until it’s fixed.  The day they came to get the snow blower, the garage door opener decided to give up the ghost.  Another $135 for a new one.  Chuck saved an additional $135 by installing it himself with only 2 trips to the hardware store!  He also fell off the ladder and wrenched his knee so he’s limping around,but very proud of his installation.  He pointed out to me that the opener that broke was the one original to the house and 36 years for a garage door opener is pretty good.  They say bad things come in threes but I’m not believing it!

Today they showed the house a second time.  This time it was to a doctor who is interviewing for a job at the hospital.  They requested a “house with as many bedrooms as possible”  and they want to be able to walk from it to downtown.  Our subdivision is set back in the woods.  Most people don’t even know there are houses back here.  We’re less than 5 minutes from our downtown - such as it is.  It’s an easy walk to Walmart. Does that count? Anyway, we’ll see what comes of this buyer.  There will be an open house next week which might turn up a suitable buyer.  Until then…

The day after the For Sale sign went up in our yard, the realtor called to schedule our first showing!  Boy, were we surprised!  So this morning, Sunday, they showed the house while we were at church.  I got up early to make sure all the last details were taken care of.  When we got home from church, the only signs that someone had been here were the tire tracks in the snow.  I suppose we won’t hear anything unless the people were interested.  That’s one more step on our journey.  The snowblower stopped running on Friday and the repair people can’t take it until Tuesday.  It’s supposed to snow Tuesday through Friday so I sure hope they can fix it quickly.  We especially wouldn’t want an unplowed driveway for another showing.

This morning the door bell rang and there stood a dozen real estate agents queued up behind their fearless leader.  As they streamed into the foyer, they slipped off shoes and put blue surgical booties on their stocking feet.  After a short overview by our agent, John, they went off in all directions to study our home.  Everyone was very nice and complimented us on the good job we did staging the house.   We knew several of the agents, one being our babysitter from years ago.  I felt strange having all these strangers taking notes as they surveyed each room.  The sunroom and fireplaces seemed to be the favorite rooms.  They had toured, put shoes and gloves back on, and gone out the way they came in less than 15 minutes!  John promised the sign would go up tomorrow and we gave him a key.  On the way out, he asked about the capacity of our septic tanks - after all, these practical things matter.  Chuck and I sat down across from each other at the kitchen table and shrugged our shoulders.  ”All I have to say is that I sure hope it sells soon,” he said.  The next step will be an open house some time in the next month.  In the meantime, we can’t make any messes and have to make the bed every morning!

Friday was the big day!  Our realtor came to take photos for the real estate MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and Coldwell Banker website.  We were ready - we thought.  He walked through the house to take a look at all of the improvements we’d made in the last 6 weeks.  He was very impressed ( almost surprised it seemed).  He brought his new camera and a tripod which he set up in each room, one by one.  As it turned out, we still hadn’t cleared away enough stuff from counter tops, fireplace hearth, etc.  I followed him around with a basket to collect everything he wanted cleared.  I think this staging process is the most stressful because we just don’t live in  hotel type spartan surroundings.  I admit that we desperately needed to clear out a ton of belongings around here. However, it’s not my nature to live in a hotel room.  Anyway, he then traveled around the house with camera to make a virtual tour.  That will be interesting to look at.  As he was about to leave, I asked, “Where is the for sale sign?”  He said it wasn’t ready yet.  It seems that a special sign support must be used in the snow.  I was disappointed.  I wanted to see the sign go up to cap our 6 weeks of work.  Oh well.  On Wednesday he is bringing his whole sales staff to tour the house so all of them could knowledgably show the house.  Maybe he’ll bring the sign then. The photo shows our realtor with camera.

The following is an excerpt from a book on living with fibromyalgia entitled The Unchosen Path, written by Laurie Hope.
I found it to be helpful in my fibromyalgia journey. I hope it helps you too.

The Unchosen Path

“Everyone seeks to be happy. But when we physically feel lousy, our external sources for happiness are not so easily accessible. Sometimes the suffering of illness lies not so much in its accompanying physical sensations, but in the personal sense of diminishment and the social isolation and separation it brings. As the body contracts, life contracts as well. Nothing is left unchanged-our relationship to ourselves, our families, and our social world. Because of this, illness causes us to reprioritize our lives, separating the nonessential from the essential. Basic questions of life’s purpose and meaning take on new poignancy as we question the very value of our time here.

Illness can be a gentle nudge or a jolting wake-up call that motivates us to reexamine our lives and lifestyles. Because illness exposes our imbalances and weaknesses, it acts as a psychological magnifier that may uncover unacknowledged but deep-rooted feelings that our previously busy lives may have effectively masked. Some of these feelings may appear to be caused by the illness, but really they were there all along. Because they can no longer be denied, they can finally be attended to and healed.

Whether we accept the challenge to heal willingly or go down the path kicking and screaming, illness takes us on a descent to our depths. The path to the underworld is opened. It may not be a path we have consciously chosen, but it is the one on which we find ourselves. Here we have the opportunity to mine the gems that can only be found in the deep and dark places.

So many spiritual paths have certain austerities or sacrifices that are prescribed. Why do they do this? Maybe to cause us to wrestle with the will of the ego-to develop a spiritual muscle that will be a worthy adversary for the ego’s tenacity. A chronic illness can serve this same function. It motivates us to explore the edge between personal responsibility and God’s will. It demands sacrifice. The ego’s wishes are impersonally ignored by the dysfunctions of the body. Illness insists that we let go of innumerable desires and gives us the opportunity to develop the generosity of heart that can become our salvation.

We know by the example of many saints and spiritual masters that they are not immune to the afflictions of the body. But they also show us that there can be joy and divine realization despite the body. Drawing close to God and seeking His truth is cultivated by withdrawing from the distractions of worldly life and retreating. In some ways, an illness provides the perfect opportunity for such spiritual training: removal from ordinary society, solitude, quiet, turning inward, self-examination. If we’re lucky enough to be able to take time off from the demands of the outer world, we can use this time to learn to free ourselves from the personal patterns that contribute to much of our suffering. As our perceptions shift and our worldview opens, how we relate to our bodies and their illnesses also shifts. As we discover that our essential wholeness exists independent of the body and mind, we see that eventually all paths converge.

How we struggle with illness often reflects our spiritual struggle. When we ask, Why can’t I permanently sustain those precious moments of clarity, bliss, or health? we must remember that just as illness requires infinite patience, so does spiritual progress. As one of my teachers said, “The true spiritual path is arduous and demanding, involving one insult after another.”

Illness does not necessarily teach us anything. It can be viewed as a mere annoyance or a great tragedy. But it can also be a great teacher and provider of endless opportunities to understand the nature of reality and to develop compassion for ourselves and all others. Through unexpected discoveries I have found that the path of illness, though arduous, can be a rich and honorable one.

FROM VARIOUS CHAPTERS IN THE BOOK:

I used to think that I could enlighten myself out of feeling depressed. If depression is the result of a negative belief system, then it is alterable. But if depression is the by-product of the imbalanced brain chemistry of a disease process, then all my letting go and great perspective and egolessness may not change the tendency toward sadness and negative thinking. Since the enlightened transcendence of depression doesn’t seem to be my present fate, I’ve decided to practice “enlightened depression”-depression coexisting with everything else that is here; depression free from self-blame; depression free from shame; depression that does not separate me from others but rather reminds me of my common humanity. I am not depressed because I hate life-I am depressed because I love life and long for a more energetic involvement with it. This perception takes me to a more fundamental identification-myself as a life-loving creature-connected, involved, part of the unfathomable drama.

_______________

One day I was asking for guidance about what was needed for my healing and I heard a wise voice saying, “Rest.” Gently, but imperatively. Well, that’s usually the first and most obvious advice that’s given to a sick person, but not exactly what I wanted to hear. I hate resting-it feels like a waste of time. I should be engaging in acts of charity and kindness, be fighting for justice and world peace or be alleviating the suffering of others. Where’s the rest in all that? Then I realized that “rest” didn’t necessarily refer to my worldly activities. What needed rest was my mind. A good, long rest. Rest from the demands of an ego that wants to do and be good. The mind that thinks it has to be doing something is not at rest. And yet the rested mind is effortlessly inspired to right action. It may turn out that resting could be my greatest contribution.

_______________

I’ve added a second Golden Rule: Thou shalt not compare thyself. Doing so is always deadly. Not only is it disastrous to compare myself to others, but also to compare myself to a memory of my former healthy self or to an image of my idealized future self. When I catch myself comparing, I know it’s because I’m having a hard time accepting things as they are. When I remember that comparison is only a matter of relative perspective that depends on your vantage point, it becomes easier to embrace all the seeming inequities of life.

_______________

It is in the moment of the full accepting of my brokenness that my essential wholeness becomes apparent, and then it is clear that nothing needs fixing. The wholeness includes the brokenness. Not the thought that “I will be whole someday when I have improved myself or become more loving or gotten healthy.” I am whole now. As I am. Like this. And so are you. Just like you are now. When we can love our own broken or even rotten places, we can love one another as ourselves. I am not a human doing; I am a human being!

_______________

Pain usually involves contraction. Therefore, visualize expansion and limitless space. Illness involves stagnation. Therefore, visualize movement and flow. Anxiety chokes the breath, therefore, breathe deeply. Notice when and with whom you are most relaxed and choose that circumstance as often as possible.”

_______________

My Mom and Dad resting at the kitchen table

My Mom and Dad resting at the kitchen table

Realtor told us to paint neutral!

Realtor told us to paint neutral!

boxes, boxes, boxes

boxes, boxes, boxes

more boxes for the storage unit

more boxes for the storage unit

It's a sunroom again

It is a sunroom again after years as an office

new sofa

new sofa

Stained glass window replaced with clear

(Stained glass window replaced with clear)

I have been lax about blogging for the past few weeks because of all the work getting our house ready to sell.  My parents came out from Pittsburgh to help and have a visit.  Since they are in their 80’s, we gave them less strenuous tasks.  Dad, however, insisted on doing all sorts of strenuous things.  While they were here, we packed everything that the realtor told us needed to be gone in order to stage the house.  Consequently, there were stacks of boxes in the garage bound for the storage unit.  I lost count of how many vanful’s of stuff went to Goodwill!  Then there were the various items we sold on Craig’s List.  The storage unit we are renting is now full of all the things we want to move to our new house.  Mom and I worked for days organizing my sewing room.  She thinks I could open a fabric shop! She may be right.  I sent 12 large Rubbermaid totes full of fabric to the storage unit and organized everything else in 14 more. It looks so nice in there that I don’t want to mess it up by sewing!

Painting  became a major project, but first wallpaper had to be stripped.  What a ghastly, nasty job!  We had pieces of sticky wallpaper all over the place after steaming the paper off.  Our baseboards are mostly dark stained wood and were really beat up after 36 years in the house.  Dad spruced up all those baseboards.  I continued to clean up and organize the basement.  The new sofa and loveseat we had ordered for the new house arrived in the middle of all this wrapped in plastic.  Since we had given our family room furniture to our daughter and son-in-law, we decided to unwrap the plastic and give ourselves something to sit on!  The new furniture is beautiful, by the way.

Yesterday I organized all my yarn and knitting supplies into giant ziploc bags, leaving out several projects to work on. That just leaves the front coat closet to clean out.  I know there is a mammoth video recorder from the 1980’s in there!  So today the painter is finishing touchup painting all over the house and refinishing some doors.  He painted 3 rooms this week as well.  The carpet cleaners just finished so there’s furniture piled all over the place. My husband and I have been cleaning the crystal chandeliers.  We’ve taken the smaller ones apart to wash but the 2 big ones are a different story.  I learned how to do it from an innkeeper where we stayed last summer.  I’d commented on how sparkly her big chandelier was.  She told me that to clean it you place a sheet of plastic and old towels on the table under the chandelier, turn off the lights, and fill a spray bottle with a mixture of warm water and isopropyl alcohol.  Then spray the whole chandelier.  When it is done dripping, it will dry sparkling clean!

Tomorrow we’ll place the furniture back in the rooms, set out the accessories, vacuum and put away all the paint brushes, tools, etc.  Friday the realtor comes to take photos of the interior to put on their website.  Before he leaves, he’ll put the sign in the yard.  It still hasn’t hit me emotionally that after 36 years, we will be leaving our home, the home where we raised our five kids.  Maybe when it stands empty and the moving van is pulling away, I’ll let myself cry.  The big stained glass window with our initial in the center that we had an artist make when we built the house has been removed, replaced with a clear window, and crated.  It’s a part of our home we are taking with us to the next one.  I really hope the house sells soon though, so we can get on with our plans to build our retirement home in Door County, Wisconsin. I’ll keep you posted.

13

Emptying family room leaves us with little seating

14

Stained glass window gone

15

Trundle bed gone in purple bedroom

16

Bare bones bedroom

To see remaining photos:  go to www.flickr.com/photos/congerfamily

After living in the same house for 36 years, we have decided to move from our home in central Wisconsin to Door County, Wisconsin for our retirement. Chuck plans to retire in August of 2014.  One year ago we purchased land on a high bluff a few miles south of the charming town of Egg Harbor, overlooking Green Bay.  Our plan was to build our retirement home on it.  So far, we have finished a house plan and chosen Portside Construction as our builder.  The plans have undergone many changes and probably will undergo a lot more, but we are happy with the plan.  It is a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom open concept home with a walkout basement (which we have no plans to finish).  So our living space is all on one level - something my creaky knees will appreciate as I age.  The best part of the house is the view!  The entire lake side of the house will be glass.  The next best part of the house is my very own, big sewing studio!

So we have begun the journey.  Of course the downside is that we must leave the town where we have lived and worked for 38 years.  We have many blessed, old friendships here, good neighbors, a wonderful church family, and all the memories surrounding raising our 5 children here.  We built our present two story, 5 bedroom, colonial home in 1977.  Many made many changes and improvements to the house over the years.  It feels comfortable and just fits us, like an old slipper.  A few months ago we hired a realtor, our friend John S. to help us sell the home.  Little did we know what a huge job that was going to be!  He recommended that we remove all the clutter (also known as my beloved memorabilia, photos, and comfy furniture) and try to make the house a neutral space for perspective buyers to imagine themselves living in.  Imagine 36 years of accumulated “stuff”!  Imagine how much of that “stuff” has to be sold, given away, packed for the new house, or just junked.  The hard work we anticipated.  The emotions we’ve been experiencing we did not expect.  Why wouldn’t a buyer like my wallpaper?  What’s wrong with the color scheme I spent long hours developing?  What do you mean we have too much furniture?  What’s wrong with our art work?

Right after the Christmas tree came down, the project began.  The first thing we did was walk through each room with a critical eye, making lists of what needed fixing, what needed new paint, what furniture had to go, etc.  Before it got really cold, we had a crew come to wash all the windows inside and out.  After New years,flooring installers came to tear out the well worn carpeting  in our master bathroom and laundry/mud room and lay the new vinyl flooring I had chosen.  Wow!  What a difference!  And we are just getting started. When we built the house, we had a large stained glass window made for the landing of the stairway.  Since it was very special to us, we decided we wanted to move it to our new house.  Also, it had a big letter “C” in the center which we thought the new owners might not appreciate.  The carpenter came, removed the window to a sturdy wooden crate, and covered the opening with plastic and brown paper until the new, custom window arrived.  The plastic is keeping a surprising amount of the cold air from coming in.

Two of our daughters helped us tackle the basement while they were home for the holidays.  We collected LOTS of trash, organized and packed a lot into Rubbermaid bins, and separated out the furniture and stuff that needed to be hauled upstairs and either taken to the storage unit or to Goodwill or sold on Craig’s List.  I went through clothes we’d been storing down there for…well, I don’t know what for.  I cleaned off shelves of paint cans, old camping equipment, toys, seasonal decorations, etc.  It was liberating!

January12th our third daughter and her husband arrived to help us with the next step on the journey.  We hired 2 hard-working teen boys as well.  We rented a storage unit and a U Haul truck.  My daughter, the organizer, led the way with a roll of masking tape and a marker.  She’d ask me what I wanted to do with each box or piece of furniture.  Then she’d slap a piece of tape on it that had either an S for storage unit, a C for Craig’s List, or G for Goodwill.  The boys carried an amazing amount of things (some very heavy!) to the garage (that’s either up a flight from the basement or down a flight from upstairs!).  Meanwhile my son-in-law kept them directed and expertly packed the truck.  Thank God the temperature outside was in the 30’s - unusual for January in Wisconsin - because they were outside all day and the doors were open too!  The next day the temperature dropped into the teens and all were very happy the outdoor work was done.

January 13th:  Chuck and I assembled a microwave cart.  The realtor said that we needed to clear as much off the kitchen counters as possible.  Our big microwave took up a lot of counter space so is now on a cart along with the coffeemaker.  We moved the kitchen table and chairs around as well.  I had my Dickens Christmas village displayed year round on a long, high shelf in the kitchen.  I took it down and wrapped each piece carefully in bubble wrap (it took over an hour!) .  Meanwhile Chuck was setting up my desk in the library to accommodate both of us on one computer since he had to empty his office in the solarium in order to make it look like a solarium again.  He managed to consolidate his 4 drawer file cabinet into one bankers box (his mobile office now) and pack everything else-which was A LOT- into boxes that went to the storage unit.  He’s not quite done yet but it’s coming along.

January 14th: The cleaning lady came today and couldn’t believe all the empty shelves and open space.  She made the dust and trash disappear and mopped up all the dirty boot prints from the kitchen floor.  Then out in the garage, she spied all the things we are selling.  It seems that her bachelor son has just bought his first house and has nothing but a bed, a desk, and a TV.  She chose quite a few things for him.  The garage looks more bare and we have made enough money to pay for a night’s stay in Door County!

My parents are coming for a 2 week visit on Thursday.  They are willing to help us pack some boxes and do touch up painting, etc.  Bless their hearts!  I will post some photos as we go along.  Until next posting…

“What trouble? you say. “It’s the trouble of not having any that’s the problem!”

But think about it.

Money, in truth, is one of the most unsatisfying of possessions.

It takes away some cares, no doubt; but it brings with it quite as many cares as it takes away.

There is trouble in the getting of it.

There is anxiety in the keeping of it.

There are temptations in the use of it.

There is guilt in the abuse of it.

There is sorrow in the losing of it.

There is perplexity in the disposing of it.

Two-thirds of all the strife, quarrels, and lawsuits in the world arise from one simple cause – MONEY!

Statistics say that the second most common reason for divorce is conflict over money (the first reason is unfaithfulness).

The Bible says,

“The love of money is the root of all evil.”  (By the way, it doesn’t say that money is the root of all evil)

Learn to handle money wisely.  It is a gift from God that He wants us to be good stewards of.