Surely the house will sell NOW.

When a house goes on the market, it’s common for the owners to sign a 90 day contract with their realtor, and that’s what we did. Once the “For Sale” sign went up, I methodically moved down a to-do list:

  • clean the oven
  • pack the 182 photo albums
  • organize the crawl space and label those boxes
  • match up the sheets and pillowcases we want to save
  • box up our hundreds of children’s books.

There were 86 items on my list, including miscellaneous repair projects, with which I needed help.

Ninety days passed. Then 120… and 150. I was up to #54 on the list but had slowed my efforts considerably, having lost any sense of urgency. Although many people came through our front door accompanied by realtors, nobody was buying. “Your house is quite old,” our realtor observed, “and that’s bothering people. You’ll need to fix it up in some significant ways.”

A month later we had hired a basement sealing company to put in a new system, making our musty cellar dry. We’d destroyed wooden shelves throughout the basement, because we were told they were moldy.

We tore down a wall that divided two small bedrooms, making one large one. (This was our realtor’s idea: “Most people want four bedrooms. Five can be a study or guest room. Six is too many.”) We painted the upstairs bedrooms and washed our 52 windows (each with a storm window) and spiffed up the gardens, planting new flowers.

We de-cluttered. Knick-knacks disappeared, and table cloths were put away in favor of polished wood surfaces. We did such a good job at this that one realtor said, “Oh, I see you’ve already moved out.”

We put new carpet in all the bedrooms and replaced an old toilet with a new stylish one. In a different bathroom we yanked out the cabinet base, sink and countertop, replacing them with new ones. In all the bathrooms we had the grout scoured and dyed, removing all stains.

Our 100-year-old farm house looked better than it had in decades, and we were sure it would sell NOW. After all, the entire country was still on the real estate ride of quick sales.

Then Mom got sick. They told us it was lymphoma, but she wanted to fight it, even at 92. Life picked up speed as we escorted her to doctor’s appointments and daily radiation treatments. And then winter came to Chicago.

Our realtor’s counsel was, “If you take it off the market for a few weeks, when it comes back on, it’ll be a new listing that’ll draw fresh attention.” She, too, was frustrated when the house refused to sell.

House hunting traffic had thinned anyway, so we took her advice and terminated our listing. It would be a relief not to clean like a maniac every time a potential buyer came. Our high school girls breathed a sign of contentment. “So the house isn’t for sale anymore?”

“Not right now.” And that was that.

He brings me bouquets.

I am blessedvase of with a mate who believes in the power of flowers. From the days of our earliest relationship, Nate often walked through the front door with a bouquet. He realized, early-on, how flowers lifted me. “I don’t get it,” he’d say, “but I can do it.” That’s a wise husband.

When disappointments have come, he’s helped mitigate their impact by buying a bouquet on his way home from work. I picture other women on the train noticing the wrapped bouquet on Nate’s lap. “Lucky someone,” they think. “She’s getting flowers.”

There have been seasons when our finances were so tight, a store-bought bouquet would break our bank. At those times I’ve said to Nate, “No flowers for a while, Dear. Really.” How many wives have to ask their husbands to stop bringing flowers to them?

Last spring we were at the financial bottom. After enduring an excruciatingly long wait to sell our house without any prospective buyers even still, I said, “The yard will be full of perennial flowers this summer. How ‘bout we enjoy those rather than the fancy bouquets you usually bring?”

He balked, having grown to love the process of choosing which flowers to buy, pondering what colors to put together and thinking forward to my delight in receiving them. Once he came home with peach colored roses edged in dark orange. “Remember?” he quizzed. “I got you this kind for our 20th anniversary.” I did remember and was hugely flattered that he did, too.

Last summer, though, he finally agreed to pass by the flower shop without stopping, and I made a fresh effort to make yard-flower bouquets: golden daffodils, white crabapple blossoms, lavender lilacs, yellow iris, pink plum branches, burgundy peonies, even the tall stalks of tiny purple “blossomettes” that grew from the hosta plants.

By August, when our gardens were flagging, I went on walks to gather weed-flowers for our vases. Dad always admired the staying power of weed-flowers and even thought about planting a garden of his favorites. “They have roots a yard long that can withstand any drought,” he’d say. If you’ve ever tried to uproot a dandelion, you know that.

Today I went walking (with my scissors), looking for a bouquet of weed-flowers. If Dad was still alive, he’d smile with affirmation at the gorgeous arrangement now on my table. Spectacular Queen Anne’s Lace, growing rampantly in every empty lot in our area, is fit for a bridal bouquet. (See picture above.) As Dad always mused, “Who labeled some weeds and some not?”

One day Nate may again bring me frequent bouquets of florist-bought flowers. But til then, the woods and empty lots can be my suppliers.

Life in a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl

Have you ever caught your fingers in the whirling beaters of a mixing bowl? Doing it once insures you’ll never repeat it. I can testify to the experience: scrambled, twisted, excruciating.

Our house had been on the market for many months, and the ticking of every clock was like the unrelenting wap-wap-wap of mixing bowl beaters… with us in the bowl, scrambling. What would we do if the house never sold? Would we lose it to foreclosure? Excruciating.

Financially, I knew it would help if I went to work. Looking at want ads, I marked the newspaper with highlighters, but every job had at least one requirement I couldn’t meet. What does a homemaker do after being out of the work force for 35 years while raising her family?

My mind whirled as the beaters twisted me. How ‘bout this? Or that? Or something else? I looked in one direction and then another, here, there, back and forth, spinning fruitlessly, unable to grab onto anything.

Finally I decided to do what I should have done in the beginning. I asked God. I’m not sure why it took so much spin-time before approaching him, although it was difficult to look up when life was beating on me. All I could see from the bowl was chaos.

But God knew all along he had a plan. Never mind that he made us wait a little longer before he showed it to us. Wap-wap-wap.

I have a friend who loves the elderly. Jan works in a nursing home and is in charge of many residents, often befriending the spouses of those in her care, the ones who come visiting.

One day “out of the blue” she called me. “Would you like to become a companion for a delightful 83 year old lady, in her home, several days a week? She’ll pay double minimum wage.”

Within a week I was sitting in Bettye’s immaculate living room, hearing her make that same offer. And the job description? All the things I’d been doing as a stay-at-home mom for 35 years. It was a perfect match.

The beater stopped spinning, and God lifted me out of the mixing bowl. Bettye and I worked together in flawless synchrony until our family moved away just recently.

I’ve learned that God can be trusted and ought to be consulted well before life twirls out of control. He always has a good plan, and it’s always an original. The hard part is waiting with patience until he’s ready to reveal what it is. But when he does, the time will be exactly right.