Good News!

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Time for Rob to hang up his barbecue tools and paint brushes, at least until the weekends! He was called late yesterday and he got a job!  He started today.  It was pretty crazy, as there was no orientation, no training yet, he just plunged right in.  He was thrilled to get started, but nervous.  This is a complete change from his previous job.  Complete.  He spent quite a bit of time wondering exactly what he was supposed to be doing.

So, 80 job applications, 10 interviews and………..that’s what it took!  On Friday, after the latest interview, the vice principal called and said they had a strong interest in him, but that the HR department had a problem with him having worked in one place so long previously.  So, we just didn’t know what to expect all weekend.  Rob responded by hurrying up and finishing the canning cupboards “just in case.”  Good thing he did:)

He will be working as an assistant in a special needs classroom.  He will be working primarily with one certain child, assisting him so he get through his day.  He has 6.25 hours of work per day.  When the child is sick, he will have to go home, too.  He will not work during the summers.  So, those things mean we will have to continue to be very creative with our money.  Still, we think we can make it, when combined with the other job.

On the other hand, he will have insurance for all of us.  He will have a retirement plan for the first time, ever.  His other job had none.  At our age, any retirement piling up will certainly be better than none.   He will have the school holidays off to spend with the family.  He will have the summers off so we can volunteer at camp again if we want to or go on mission trips, or maybe both.  We can go camping and he can assist me in watching our niece and nephew while they are off for the summer as well.  If we need for him to, he can pick up another summer job of some sort.  Also, they put him into the sub pool so that if the child is sick, he can possible sub that day in a different area and not lose wages that day.  And, his foot is in the door.  Later, there are positions with longer hours and he could try for one of those if we need more hours.  The way these jobs work is that he has to re-apply each year, because the needs change.  After 3 years, I guess he can keep the job, if it exists, without re-applying each time.  OR, they can move him around as they wish if his existing job vanishes.  Complicated, but one step at a time!  Although that part is not going to be fun, once he has his foot in the door, we’ve been told it’s much, much easier to get re-hired than it was to get hired in the first place.

Like I told him, “you only have to do the first day once.”  He made it through the first day of many good days to follow.   I am very happy for him.

 

 

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House Hunting–It Starts

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Where I live now is next to a beautiful garden.  It’s kind of small–but is clean and comfortable.  However, we are looking for our new house.  We started our quest last Monday, in earnest.  We have been spending  a lot of time on the internet looking at houses, but know it’s time to physically look at houses, in person.

We drove by one on our way home from Eastern Oregon last weekend.  After calling the realtor, we stated that we didn’t see much wrong with it from the outside, and it had an acre with it.  It was, however, far from any town, which is not our plan this time around if we can find anything closer in.  For the record, Rob and I love living out in the country, but we do still have kids to raise who like being active and it’s hard to drive so far for all of their activities.  After a conversation, the realtor admitted that the reason there were only 2 interior pictures of it on the internet was because that’s all he dared to put up.  There was very little sheetrock, places with leaks, etc., etc., etc.  So, unless they lower the price a lot, that one’s out.

Monday, we needed to come back from the beach where we were camping for a family event.  Our nephew, Jake, was adopted.  Yea!  He was hung up in the legal system for a long time, but things finally came to a conclusion on Monday.

We set up some showings.  I was very discouraged after that.  Those houses were even farther out than the first one, and in very poor condition, or very small.  VERY small, with no usable yard, no place for a garden, and the house had structural issues.  The other one had a nice big lot, but reeked of animal urine, probably had asbestos issues, and needed major structural repairs, such as a roof.  It was very far away as well.  I am beginning to appreciate my camper more and more.

Did I forget to mention the other option–the one where the well had failed and a car had driven through the side of the house, leaving a gaping hole.  We didn’t even ask to go in to that one:)

Yesterday, we had 3 houses set up to view.  We got to see 1.  By the time we got to our appointment, one had 7 offers on it, and the other one had an accepted offer.  The one we saw had a 1/3 acre lot, so nice and big, but the house was needing a lot.  The floor has soft spots, the roof is shot, there is asbestos that would need to be addressed, and there is an added-on area that we wonder if they got permits for, as the square footage is not adding up.  So, more info needed on that one, and they would have to come way down on price for us to be able to afford the  house and the repairs.  It was in a good location, though, and I liked the house.

We go again tomorrow.  Hopefully, it will be better:)  We understand that this is going to be difficult and that we are going to have to compromise greatly from what we really want.  That being said, we trust that God has a place for us out there.  We are beginning to appreciate what a challenge it may be to find it, though.  Here’s hoping…..

 

Patsy’s Adoption

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The big day finally arrived!  On May 17, 2016, everything was officially signed, sealed and delivered and Patsy finally became Patricia Rachel Mae!  We will still call her Patsy, but as is tradition after 8 adoptions, the adopted child gets to choose his or her new name.  We always call them the same thing they have always been called, but several of them have chosen “longer/bigger” names and sometime go by them when they are grown.  They choose a family middle name beginning with “R” and keep, add or discard as many other middle names as they wish.

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Several of the family were able to come, even given the short notice.  Patsy was showered with gifts.  Her caseworker, Nicole, brought flowers.  The lawyer from the DA’s office brought balloons and cupcakes.  Her CASA worker was there, as was her former SSA/driver.  They were so happy.  This is a happy ending for them, too.  They have all worked so hard for years on Patsy’s behalf, and we are so grateful.   Both grandmas, Aunt Janet, and Auntie Abbie were all there.  The ones who had to work were sad, but we will have a root beer float party later for both Patsy and cousin Jake, whose adoption will finalize soon.

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The judge had us go through a very nice ceremony, similar to a wedding ceremony, and then signed the papers.

After the ceremony, we headed straight to Dairy Queen, where Patsy was showered with even more presents from family members. She got a locket, a bracelet and a notebook to write down the “New Adventures of Patsy Rachel Mae” in, along with Grandma’s favorite Bible verses scattered throughout the otherwise blank journal.  She loves to write and has already written 2 pages of her story.  I must say it starts “I hate, hate, hate moving, but have decided I will do it because, since I’m adopted now, I’d better stay with my new parents and not the new buyers……”  It moves on to say “I put my things in boxes, which I also hate, but decided I’d better move if I ever want to see my things again.”  And so forth. It’s cute and funny.

Families are complicated.  They are messy and each one is unique.  They are also sometimes hard to figure out.  Patsy has figured out that we are both her grandparents and parents.  She will call us whatever she wants to.  The grandmas have figured out that they used to be great-grandmas but are now just grandmas.  They caseworker pointed out that it makes all of us younger with one stoke of a pen:)  Auntie Abbie is her biological aunt, and is now her sister.  That makes Abbie an “aunster” and Patsy a “niece-ter.”  (aunt-sister, niece-sister) Hmmmm.  I guess when our heads begin to spin too much, all we have to remember is that no matter what we call each other, or what our title is–we are a family, for better or for worse, forever.

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Moving–Pre-Packing Organization

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Now that we’ve decided to sell the house for sure, we need to get it ready.  I feel like I need to get some of my things out of the way so that people can see the house in its best light.  Also, a lot of my things will need to go into storage during the transition, so I want them to be packed carefully so they don’t get damaged.

I want to pre-pack for the month of February.  We have been offered the use of an empty semi-truck trailer to put many things into for free.  I hope to list the house in March, and I plan to have it looking nice by then.  Our house is not super messy, I just hope to make it look  nicer so I get a better price for it.  The shop is actually a concern.  There are a lot of things in there that need to be sorted and moved to storage so it doesn’t look so full.  The barn is 90% clean, thanks to friends who came a couple of weeks ago and helped.

It is likely that the house will sell quickly if we price it right.  The market is hot right now and the average time of sale is 12 days in our area.  Then, if it does sell quickly, we will need to finish packing, put all of the boxes in storage, and move into our camper for a few weeks until the new house can be purchased.

When I think about the amount of work that needs to be done, I feel like crawling into bed and putting the covers over my head.  I decided I needed a better, more specific plan than just staring around at all of my possessions and wondering if there were enough cardboard boxes in the world for all of them.  So, here’s what I came up with.

Rob got me a huge pile of cardboard boxes from stores.  He also bought a big pile of plastic totes with lids.  The boxes will be for things that cannot be damaged by moisture or mice and the bins will be for things like delicate dishes that need extra protection, fabric, and any clothing that ends up getting put into storage.

I started going through things like dishes, candles, baking pans that were seldom used, homeschool curriculum from other years and things like that.  I was completely overwhelmed until I convinced myself that I didn’t have to do it all at once.  I simply took the small amount of time I had available, say 1/2 hour or hour, and tackled one small area or shelf.  I then grabbed an item or 2 and made a decision.  I packed some for later, threw away a lot, and then divided the rest into “sell” or “donate.”  I also left quite a few things on shelves or in cupboards that I anticipate we will use during the interim before the house actually sells.  I haven’t gotten very far, yet, but am starting to see progress.  I figure that when all of my family and friends come to help me, now I can point to a shelf of books and say “pack all of those”  and not have to make any decisions, thus using their help more wisely. I won’t get it all done ahead, so I figure I will have plenty to decide on that day!

I am delighted that I sold a bunch of homeschool curriculum on e-bay already. It will ship out today, and that’s another big box gone.  All money we get from selling things will go into a special account for things like paint and curtains for the new house.  I anticipate that the new house will be needing a little TLC, since we are going to find one that doesn’t cost very much, since we won’t qualify for a loan.  How much TLC needed depends on the price we get for this house.

I started packing empty canning jars as we empty them.  I will actually go down to the basement when I get time and pack up several boxes of empty jars.  We will continue to eat from the full ones, and I will deal with those when the time comes closer to actually moving.

I am making a large pile of things to put into the camper, i.e. more canned food items, etc.  It is in the shop getting some warrenty work done (let’s not even go THERE today–I’m not pleased that it needs it–but glad it’s getting done for free), but when it comes home, I will pack and organize it for an extended “camping trip.”  That can be pre-done and will actually give me a place to store a few things.  I don’t plan to stop life when I’m living in there, so I want a few projects in there to work on.  I anticipate that it will be a short stay–and easier than moving in with friends or relatives while we wait for things to close.

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As soon as we get a big pile packed, and some strong friends to help, we will start taking loads over to pack into the semi.   We are still eating down the stockpile, but will have lots to move anyway.  I plan to put bins of food in the front of the storage semi and then “shop” from those bins each week while staying in the camper.  We already have a place to plug in our freezers and will shop weekly from those as well.

It’s a plan.  I’m eager to see which parts work and which parts need tweaking!  I’ll take any and all ideas you may think of.

A Hard Decision

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We have come to a hard decision.  We are going to get the house ready to sell and move.  It has not been an easy one to come to, but we are now at peace about it.  Other than the obvious reason of how much work it is to move, it is another great loss for us.  This is our dream house.  We remodeled a 1925 farm house into a lovely 2-story, 3,400 square foot home on 8 acres.  We have a large shop, a barn, a mini forest, and ability to grow pigs, chickens, turkeys and a huge garden, which I preserve for a great deal of our food.  So, it’s not just a loss of a living space, it’s a loss of a lifestyle.  Hopefully, we can still continue some of the activities we like to engage in when we move.

As you know, in September, Rob was unexpectedly let go from his job as a children and family pastor.  He went to work one morning, and did not have a job by noon.  The reason given was that the church had hired a consulting firm and they felt Rob did not fit into the future direction/plan for the church.  They stated he had done nothing wrong, they just were choosing to not use him anymore.  They were going to go another direction.  We still do not understand their logic.  Neither does anyone else we talk to, except the 3-5 people who made that decision.  He was not given any opportunity to correct anything that bothered them, or they felt could be done better, just told to go.  So, he did.  Clearly, he had no other choice.

As you can imagine, the last few months have been filled with many, many hours of prayer, sadness, questions–you name it–we’ve felt it!  We were advised to treat it as a death, because our entire lives were bound up in the church–it was never just a job for him, or our family.   So, we have. We’ve made no quick decisions or changes.  We’ve tried to keep things going as smoothly as possible for the children. This is especially important because they have all lived through times of extreme trauma, negative life-changes, etc. and they don’t handle change well.  They lost all of their church friends, as well as their normal traditions associated with church, such as holiday services, etc. It has been extremely difficult for all of us and they are not handling it well.  They have continued in the dance lessons, etc. that they were enrolled in and their schedules have not changed, except for church.  We have been attending another church regularly, and they have been able to plug into a few of the youth activities, but not as many as we wish because the new church is over an hour away from our home.  Rob has been going to counseling to help him work through his feelings and hurts over the way this was handled.  We have tried to stay positive, but it has not been an easy road these past few months.  I do think we are going to survive this, though. We have lived through worse.

Financially, we did get a severance package, and we logged our hillside.  We are ok for a while, but that time is going to end before long.  We are living on that money, and savings from the logging.  We want to be pro-active about our finances before the money runs out, and have made cuts in many, many areas.  I am utilizing my food storage to the max!  We have cut out almost all eating out.  Things like chips are scarce around here.  Christmas was a little smaller than usual.  Still, we are having lots of fun times, and good days.

We have explored a lot of options.  Rob has looked into getting his masters in counseling, a job that everyone over the years has said he would be extremely good at, and it’s true.  However, this past week, we received a setback with the information that after he completed his school program, there would be 2,500 hours of internship, and only around 800(ish) would be done during school.  There would be another 1-1/2 years of  working, and that is usually done for free, before he would be licensed.  Then, the pay of the new job would be actually lower than what he had been receiving and we would be over $100,000 in debt.  His previous salary was not considered high, but we could live off of it comfortably.   H-mmmmmm.  We are in our 50’s.   It doesn’t pencil out.  So, he’s not giving up entirely on that, but it’s looking less promising.

He’s seen some jobs posted, but none are right for us so far.  There are choices such as “work for 10 hours a week for very little money, but your family can help a lot” and “work for 60 hours per week at a 40-hour per week salary” or “work at a camp, but there are often a couple of months per year when you don’t get paid because we run out of money” and some other options that aren’t going to work for us.

So, we are still in limbo about what he will be doing.  That’s ok.  We have peace about waiting for the right opportunity to come along.

But, what we have decided is to sell the house.  The market is quite hot right now around here.  One lady told me that the average time for a sale is 12 days right now in our area.  We have a really nice house on 8 acres in the country.  We hope that when we sell, we will have enough equity to buy something else, much smaller of course, free and clear.  We have been discussing this decision for months, but did not want to do anything hastily.  We even have family members who were willing to pay our house payment for a while, but thankfully, we never had to take them up on their offers.  It was nice to have that option in the background, and saved a lot of anxiety.  We can never express how grateful we are for their emotional and financial help.  We’ve had lots of support from friends as well.  We have received gifts of money, gift cards and time and Rob has been invited out to coffee so many times I think he may begin to float away down Starbucks River!

We have looked at houses on the internet until our eyes are popping out.  There are some small properties available (pretty far out of towns, though), and some small houses that we think we can afford (in towns). So, we are cleaning out things now in preparation for putting the house on the market.  We are going to need to sell first, then buy, as we are clearly not going to qualify for a loan with no employment.  It is all up to what we can actually get from the sale, not what we hope we can get when it all comes down to it.

So, that’s the plan.  It will be interesting to see how it works out for us.  There is an exciting feeling in my heart about having no mortgage.  I know changes are never easy, but, with God’s help, we will make it through this one.  I think in a year or so, I will be able to look back and see how he helped us through.  It’s just not fun to be in the middle of uncertainty right now.  We hope to grow as people and as Christians through this time of trial.  I also have a goal that when it’s over, I can see times of thankfulness and joy amidst the agony.  I want to live and be happy now, not just when things are going my way.  I don’t want to end up bitter and cross, or be afraid to put myself out there again.  Those are lofty goals, but I don’t think they are unattainable.  I don’t know what the future holds.  I can only do my best to move forward and make the best of what life has dealt to me.  That’s all any of us can do!

 

Almost Christmas

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It’s almost Christmas.  Am I ready?  Are you?

We have a tree, some holly, and a poinsettia.  There are some festive placemats on the table.  Our decorations are very simple-a couple of nativity scenes are out on the side tables.  Funny thing, though–we can’t find the huts they sit in.  We know we own them and we had them last year.  But this year, Baby Jesus has to sit in a new place.  The other decorations are the same ones we use year after year.  We have plenty of presents for the kids and each other. Although there are less than there have been in the past, we know they will like them.

But this year, there is a huge difference.  Like our poor nativity scenes, we’ve lost our place.   We don’t have our church home (or Rob’s job) anymore, and it hurts.  It hurts so much that we are having trouble feeling that light-hearted excitement, the overwhelming joy, the thrill of the joyous feelings of Christmas.  We are slogging through the motions, trying to find new traditions, new places to go, new memories.  Since we had been there almost 19 years, many of our holiday traditions were connected there, and now they are not. So, no Christmas events or dinners with people we considered our family and friends, no Christmas Eve service to play music for, no Christmas choir to sing in, no worship team to play on, no baskets of candy canes to hand out to the children, no playing with the babies in the nursery as our family always did during one of the Christmas Eve services.  We have been attending another church, but it’s very different to watch, and not be involved–it’s just not home yet.

So, what are we doing to combat those feelings?  We are allowing ourselves time to grieve and work through this situation. Friends have been very kind and supportive, offering us innumerable opportunities to go to their events with them.  We haven’t gone.  We’ve been invited to church services, Bible studies, movie nights, and more.  We’ve mostly declined, except for the Sunday morning services we are attending with family.  We are still grieving.  For us, it’s like a death.  A death that needs to be grieved properly.  We cry a lot.  We mourn.  We feel anger, sadness, and more. We pray.  We pray some more.  There are good days, interspersed with the bad.  As time passes, there have been more good days.  There is a feeling of hope that was not there before.  A sense of peace, and of the goodness of God, who cares for us in the hard times along with the easy ones.  An overwhelming knowledge that He is still in charge, in control, and involved with our lives.  And, slowly, we are creeping back to life inside.  We will be ready soon,we think,  to take these friends up on some of their offers–ready to take on another big adventure, as Rob calls it.

We have spent more time with family than we have ever had time to do before.  They have been so supportive, caring, loving and kind to us.  They have listened, hugged us, had us over, fed us, prayed with us, given us gifts, helped out with the children, and much more.  The time spent has turned out to be one of the hidden blessings of this whole situation, and mere words could never express how thankful we are to them.

We have chosen to be purposefully thankful.  We are deliberately looking for things that we have to be thankful for. Our needs are being met.  We have a home, food, clothes, family, friends, and much more.  We have much to be grateful for.

We have chosen several activities that make Christmas feel like Christmas to us.  We are already very busy people.  We have chosen carefully so that we did not lose the meaning of Christmas in busy-ness.  We have attended Patsy’s 6th grade band concert.  We had our usual 4H Christmas party.  One daughter is in a homeschool choir and we will watch her Christmas concert.  We are choosing to attend a church choir concert one evening.  We are going to modify our traditions.  We will go to church on Christmas Eve, it will just be different.  I will have food ready when we get home and we will still unwrap our presents like usual and go to my sister’s on Christmas Day, like normal.  Our children do better with routine.  This has been very hard on them and we are trying to make things as normal as possible for them in a situation that is anything but. It seems like this year, we have been more focused on the true meaning of Christmas and family.  It seems that hard times truly do push us closer to the manger.  And, like our poor nativity sets, perched on 2 tables, we will adapt and survive.  Because, God is bigger than all of this.  And Christmas….Christmas is way beyond us, and our paltry troubles here on earth.  It’s a celebration of the Christ Child–God Incarnate, sent to earth, the hope of the world and all mankind.  Am I ready for Christmas?  I’m sure working hard to be.  How about you?

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Thankful

IMG_1696I have been taking the time to purposefully be thankful this fall.  In September, when Rob’s job ended unexpectedly, we were both cast into a daze–stunned by the news that, after almost 19 years, he was no longer wanted.  After a couple of weeks of wandering aimlessly around on auto-pilot, unable to focus, unable to do anything buy cry, I realized I was going to have to be purposeful in how I handled this.  The situation was not going to change.

Because of Rob’s job as a children and family pastor, both of our lives, plus the lives of our children, were unusually intertwined with his job.  We spent countless hours at the church, volunteering in the childrens’ department, on worship team, going to events such as retreats, youth group activities, Bible classes, small groups, etc.  So, when his job was suddenly over, we no longer had a church home as well as no income.  Both of those things were extremely significant to us.  Our children had known no other church and felt loved and nurtured by the people there.  The very people we would usually turn to for love and support were suddenly not as available to us.  We literally had no place to attend church on Sunday anymore.  It was a big blow.

The reason given for his dismissal was that, when they hired a consulting firm to analyze the church, they wanted to go in a different direction, and Rob did not fit that direction.  He had done nothing wrong.  It was “just business.”  Ouch.  There was not one chance for him to fix anything they did not like, make any changes they might want–nothing.  Just go.  So, with tears streaming down our faces, we packed his office, and went.  We were given a severance package after a week on pins and needles, wondering what we were going to get, if anything.

I decided then and there that I did not want to become a bitter old woman, spending the rest of my life in anger, bitterness, or fear of the future.  I want to live today with peace, happiness, and contentment. It was going to take work.  My plan was to count the blessings I did have, pray a lot, and try to stay upbeat about all of this.  Clearly, we needed to figure out things financially as well.  It was not the worst thing that had ever happened to me, I reminded myself, but it was right up there.  We both felt blind-sighted, betrayed by those we had considered our friends, anxious and upset.

To make things even more stressful, we are in the middle of an adoption (our 8th) and it is not final.  You are supposed to be able to support children you are adopting, and now Rob has no job. My small, part-time piano teaching business does not cover our bills.  Also, he has had back trouble for quite a few years, and is in the middle of analysis by the doctors, trying to figure out how to fix this problem.  We will find out soon if he is facing surgery.  He cannot just go get a physical job as he would have done when he was younger to fill in the gaps.

We sat down several times over the past few weeks and talked things over.  We counted our money and other resources.  We looked at our housing situation, our cars, our location, our children’s needs, everything we had and needed.  We are examining what Rob wants to do next.  We are still working out a plan.  We have many ideas, but, after much prayer, have concluded that right now we need to wait and not plunge into any big decisions.  We are making progress, though, in our decision-making.  We need some time to heal emotionally, and are taking that. We have been advised to treat this as a death, and not do anything major, like sell our home, for a while.

Thankfulness is a big key.  I’ve been trying each day to find things to be thankful for, despite our circumstances.  There are many.  I have had no trouble finding them, when I take the time to look.

  1.  I am thankful for our family.  From the first day of Rob’s job loss, they have been there for us.  Different family members have called, offered support, given us money and gift cards, cards and texts with words of encouragement, came and sat with us, helped clean out Rob’s office, let us cry and talk to them, prayed for us without ceasing, taken us on vacation, done heavy jobs since Rob’s back is so bad right now, and many other things.
  2. I am thankful for the many, many people who have given us support from the church.  We have received many phone calls, cards, texts and emails showing their love to us.  Many of the congregation did not make this decision at church, only about 3-5 people did, so many people have been shocked, upset and appalled.  Most of them continue to attend that church, we have been very verbal with them that we don’t want them to quit; it would serve no purpose to have people quit going to church because they are upset.  Hopefully, things will get better for them there.  If it doesn’t, what they do needs to be their decision, independent of what happened to Rob.
  3. I am thankful to the many friends outside of the church that have pulled through for us.  They have shown their support in many ways, both physical (everything from someone fixing our furnace to the dentist giving us an extremely reduced rate on our dental check-ups and more), and mental (prayers, cards, kind words, etc.)
  4. I am thankful that we are ok financially for a while.  Between the severance package and some logging we had done, we have a little while to think.  We have a huge stockpile of groceries because I can and freeze so much garden produce, Rob raises meat, and we buy things in bulk and on sale.  We have filled in some gaps in our storage over the last few weeks and am now going to work on using up some of the stockpile, and saving the money that would have been spent.  We have good insurance for a while, so are getting as much done as we can while still on that.
  5. I am thankful that we have each other.  Together, we can get through.
  6. I am thankful that God is not dead.  People disappoint, but He never does.

This coming up week  will be a busy one.  I am going to enjoy spending time with our nieces and nephew.  We are going to watch Patsy be a pig in a little 10-minute play at school.  Family with gather on Thursday and we will celebrate Thanksgiving.  I am going to enjoy this week and continue to count my blessings.  They are many.