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What I Was Up to Last Week

Saturday afternoon we returned to sticky Lower Michigan after a perfect weather week Up North at Camp Lake Louise.

Lake Louise, 2015

As always, we were up there during the 7th and 8th grade week, with my husband serving as camp pastor (copastor, actually, with one of his former campers who is now a pastor and attending seminary). We also brought with us a new friend and recent transplant from Zimbabwe.

Lake Louise, 2015

My responsibilities amounted this year to being the Fire Guy — building and lighting the campfires each night — and the occasional odd job that needed doing.

Lake Louise, 2015

The rest of the week, the boy and I were free to enjoy participating in the games, the morning and evening sessions of worship and teaching, and various lakeside activities, such as sandcastle building, kayaking, collecting rocks, taking photos, sunbathing, and speedboat riding.

Lake Louise, 2015

We were blessed with incredible weather, sunny and breezy and absolutely gorgeous.

Lake Louise, 2015

The lake was so high with all the snow and rain from the last year that in order to get to my secret rock harvesting spot we had to wade most of the way there. And the peninsula I normally spend some time on in order to get more varied angles of the lake and surrounding woods was practically submerged. Trees and bushes that had been tiny in years past are beginning to block views.

Lake Louise, 2015

Besides the fun outdoor activities, I found time to revise a manuscript on our cabin’s deck while listening to the wind in the trees and the sounds of (mostly) happy kids running around. And I got the happy news that this very manuscript has reached the final round of judging in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association’s Rising Star contest.

Lake Louise, 2015

Now we’re back home, sorting laundry, buying groceries, and facing the reality of getting back to work. But in a couple weeks I’ll be back up there again with the boy for his first time as an actual camper. It may be hard to adjust to not just doing whatever we want while we’re up there.

Lake Louise, 2015

But I think we’ll manage.

The Big Purge Begins

July has been an odd month around here. My eggplants aren’t growing (like, not at all since they were put in the ground), the biggest crop of mosquitoes in twenty years has hatched (yet I’ve escaped with nary a bite!), and a week or so ago I got a phone call out of the blue from someone who worked at a real estate office asking if I knew anyone in our neighborhood who was thinking of selling their house. Apparently, the housing stock in my quite desirable neighborhood is very low. Rather than wait for clients, this realtor was taking the initiative to find them.

It so happens I don’t know anyone who is wanting to sell. “What about you?” the man asked.

Well…

The truth of the matter is that we had a realtor give us an assessment two or three years ago that did not turn out terribly favorable. We bought our house in November 2005. When a realtor hears that, she gets a pained look on her face and says, “Ooo…” Lansing real estate hasn’t recovered as well or as quickly as some other cities and the comparables in our area (which seemed to be all she considered) didn’t allow her to get us a price point we could work with. So we figured we’d be here for the foreseeable future. Not that that’s bad. We love our house. Everyone loves our house. People walk in the door and they are compelled to comment on how cute or adorable or classy our house is.

But when we bought our house, we weren’t planning on having a child. The boy will soon outgrow his small bedroom, we live near a very busy street, and we live in the worst school system in the area. His particular elementary school is one of the best, but come to find out he can only go there through third grade as the school is being completely converted over to Chinese immersion and the contemporary students will go…I don’t know where. We had thought we could stay here until the boy was a sixth grader (despite the size of his bedroom). In June we found this was not the case and began fretting about what to do next.

Enter this random (or was it?) phone call.

Sure we would be disappointed by what this new realtor would say, we met and talked about the house. Unlike the previous realtor, this new guy took into consideration the substantial improvements we’ve made over a decade in our home — the new thirty-year roof, the renovated bathroom, the incredible landscaping, etc. And when he came back with the numbers we were pleasantly surprised. His recommended sale price was a full $20,000 higher than the old realtor’s recommendation a few years ago. Suddenly, moving to a different school system was a real option. We decided we will likely put the house on the market in the late spring next year.

And you know what that means: ten months of purging, cleaning, touching up paint, and getting every room ready to show well. It means getting rid of crap that has accumulated over a decade of living in one place. It means my recycling bin will be full every time it is put on the curb. It means lots of lists and projects and weekends with mom over helping me scrub and sort and sell. (My mother once moved house five times in less than four years, by herself, with two children under five. She is an expert.) I’ve already begun to ruthlessly go through my file drawers and bookshelves and magazines, and I have a detailed plan worked out to tackle every inch of the house over the coming months.

I’m not sure exactly which community around here we’ll end up in, but after ten years in one place — the longest I’ve lived somewhere since my childhood home on Lesperance Court — I’m excited about the prospect of finding the right house for our family of three in a great school system for our son. It will be difficult to leave such a beautiful home and yard, but a new place will be like a new canvas on which to design another beautiful home and yard, armed with the knowledge and experience we’ve gleaned from the past decade.

So beyond the usual fare of articles about writing and Michigan and pretty pictures, for the next year or so this space will be a place for me to share with you the odyssey of moving house.

My Garden’s Changing Palette

One of the things I have enjoyed over the past ten years as I have planted and transplanted my gardens is the challenge of getting blooms all season long and getting those blooms to “go” with one another. I haven’t always succeeded, but this year I’m seeing some lovely results from a decade of digging and trimming and watering.

In May, the gardens have a decisively purple tone.

baptisia
baptisia
allium
allium
grape hyacinth
grape hyacinth
iris and phlox
iris and phlox

In June, purple gives way to mostly pink.

rose
astilbe
astilbe
rose
huechera
dianthus
peony
rose

In July, many blooms fade and foliage takes center stage.

hosta
hosta
hosta
hosta
japanese fern
japanese fern
lady's mantle
lady’s mantle
hosta
hosta

And in August, things warm up with reds, oranges, and yellows.

gallardia
gallardia
sedum
sedum
black-eyed susan
black-eyed susan
nasturtium
nasturtium

There’s always something beautiful around me. It’s taken (and continues to take) a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it.

Summer canning has begun…

Canning has begun in earnest. The pantry shelves are bare and Michigan’s bounteous fruit crops are coming in.

Ten jars of strawberry jam, ten jars of currant jelly, seven jars of strawberry lemon marmalade.

Red currants ready for the stove

And leftover strawberries for dipping in sugar and eating.

Cherries, blueberries, and mulberries will fill out the rest of July, then blackberries, raspberries, peaches, tomatoes, and peppers in August and September, and apples and pears in September and October. I’ll be trying out my new pressure canner as well for things like beans and whole fruit I couldn’t do with a water bath.

Last year I hardly canned at all and was forced to buy store-bought raspberry jam. Ew. I’ve been too spoiled with homemade to ever really enjoy that stuff again.