Reluctant Reunion

I really didn’t want to come. I’d signed up, paid my fees, and bought a plane ticket. Just ten days before John had decided that he would like to join me on the trip to Colorado and there was an extra room because someone else had to cancel. When John2 had another manic episode, I really wondered if one or both of us could/should go. I worked Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and still didn’t feel like taking a trip, but decided to just follow through regardless of feelings.

Our West Sub class of 44 graduates (1976) had voted to have this reunion in Colorado for a change. Only 13 ladies made the trip, less than 1/3 of our class. Illness, grandbabies, and other travel prevented many from making the trip, as well as some whose memories of nursing school aren’t all that fond.

14370306_10157368366335401_2575341235484813236_nBut the weekend has been sweet. We’ve laughed and talked through three meals a day and evening sessions focused on the past, present and future. We’ve driven together to town, and along the Trail Ridge Drive. We took a short walk around Bear Lake and huffed and puffed up trails in (literally) thin air. We even stopped to see a small display of National Park Centennial quilts.

This morning, we sang a lot of old hymns and songs from the 70s, our older voices stretching to hit the high notes (plus John’s bass.) We prayed and shared and had Cheryl Fornelli tell us a story* from John 11.








I came reluctantly. I leave blessed. So here’s the lesson: Grab whatever opportunities you have to reconnect with classmates, extended family, and friends. It’s a little taste of heaven.



*Cheryl uses a method called Orality, which uses oral storytelling to teach the biblical narrative. She and her husband, John, have been using this as an evangelistic tool in many cultures. Follow the links to learn more.



I finished my first sampler, about 10 “structures” short of the 62 variations noted in the pattern. I ran out of warp.

My sampler feels great, looks pretty good–and I absolutely LOVED the process of weaving.

And so, I’ve decided to make another one, same pattern, same threads. No mistakes. Or, at least if I do make mistakes (which I will) I plan to stop, take out, and fix. Perfection.

My first challenge for a perfect sampler came with dressing the loom. I couldn’t use my poolside warping set up because the morning glories have completely taken over.






Instead, I set up three chairs in my room and stretched the thread between them. Which worked, except for that moment when one of the chairs fell over from the tension I was exerting. Eventually, I got it done with the “cross” looking mostly correct.

The next step is sleying the reed, which is picking up one (or two) threads from the cross and threading them through the reed from right to left. I was off to a good start, but it wasn’t long before my threads looked hopelessly tangled. I used lease sticks this time to help me maintain the cross, but I still ended up with a lot of tangles.

Next is threading all the ends (142) through the heddles, following a pattern which in this case was a simple 1-2-3-4. Not too difficult, though plenty of opportunity to miss a heddle or cross the threads in the process. I checked and rechecked them multiple times.

img_1987Once that seems right, the threads are tied on to the back beam and the process of untangling all the threads as they go through the reed and heddles begins. I broke five threads in the process and spent a good hour or more untangling. I ended up rolling the warp on to the back beam, back to the front beam (to add those five threads) and all the way to the back beam the second time! I’m sure there are better ways to do this, but my goal was a perfect warp and this is how I managed it.

I was in a hurry to get the loom dressed because I like having it set up for weaving during all the in-between-moments of life. It is calming to weave and rewarding to see the patterns emerge as I go.

I particularly need the calm and the reward, this sense of perfection, because so much of the rest of my life is anything but. John2 has had fourteen manic episodes this summer with accompanying depressive crashes. We’ve been working hard on our house and garden and we still feel like there is so much to do! We’re now thinking that we will celebrate one more Christmas here and put it on the market after the new year. That takes the pressure off, but extends the interminable wait process.

img_1989Weaving is the perfect antidote.







Bingo Arms

IMG_1740My loom is a bit unusual. Generally, looms are either table looms or floor looms. Floor looms are more solid and bulky and usually have treadles that raise and lower the shafts. Table looms are lighter and have levers that raise the shafts. Mine is a table loom on a stand, lightweight, somewhat wobbly, with large levers on the sides that raise the shafts.


IMG_1783I finished the rag projects, experimenting with different widths of jean material and quilt fabric. I wasn’t sure I liked the end result, though I think someday I may want to try another. In the meantime, I wanted to get back to weaving something more cloth-like.

I attended a weaving conference in Milwaukee, mainly to see the exhibits and the marketplace. I bought a couple cones of Swedish thread (in blue & yellow) but realized after I got home that it was probably too fine for a beginner project. I bought a couple of magazines and tried to find a good next project. I finally settled on a sampler and found thread that was a bit more sturdy.

At the conference I also met a Kiwi representative from Ashford, the company that made of my loom. He thought I got a very good deal and hoped that I would visit the company (South Island) on my next trip. He also told me that my loom was “very old…from the 80s!” I told him something from the 80s was NOT old!

My loom is a four-shaft loom and apparently there are 62 different combinations of treadling patterns which create a wide variety of patterns in the cloth. I’m already up to #19 and enjoying the process of seeing patterns develop.

IMG_1768I’m also hoping that the repeated action of changing the large side levers (which looks like this) will do give my bingo arms a workout. It certainly feels like it.



P.S. One more adventure: Last weekend I was in the Detroit area for my high school class reunion. I followed my GPS down a long country road and up a long driveway to two long low buildings. I waved to a friendly farmer on the way, but otherwise found it a little unnerving. I hesitated before I rang the bell and once again before entering the building. (I could see familiar weaving equipment through the window.) A middle-aged woman led me inside to the one lighted spot where she and an old man were sitting at a table. I told them what I was looking for and he showed me a large side room full of colorful cones of thread–at least a thousand of them–mostly from UKI Supreme, which is what I hoped to find. We slowly picked out the colors I needed for my next project. He pushed a walker with a seat (and a cardboard box on the seat) to hold my cones. He moved slowly, eventually weighing the fibers and calculating the cost. Mid-point, I learned that he only took cash or check, but I had almost the exact change in my pocket so I was able to complete the transaction and get on my way. As I pulled out, I regretted that I hadn’t taken any pictures, but here is one of all my new cones of color and a peak at my sampler:



I finally got my loom “dressed” and started weaving.

Dressing a loom takes several hours and is a bit tedious. All the warp yarns have to be threaded through the reed and through the heddles, untangled, and then tied to both the back and front beams.

In this case, I threaded 142 ecru-colored cotton threads onto the loom. It took me a few tries before I got it close to correct. I had a few twisted threads and at least two places where I double threaded the reed. In the end, I decided to accept the imperfections and get started anyways.

IMG_1634My weft (the cross “threads”) were made from cut up jeans. I never found my box of jeans that I saved years ago so I settled for a trip to Goodwill, where I bought someone else’s old jeans. I would have liked to weave from old jeans once worn by my family, but settled for soft, worn jeans that had belonged to someone else.

I used my rotary cutter to slice the jeans into strips anywhere from 1/8 to 1/2 inches wide, as long as possible. These I stitched into longer strips on my sewing machine, and then wound them on to long thin shuttles, sticks with slots cut into the ends.

I am not sure if I really like making rag “rugs” (or more likely, placemats or a table runner.) I do like the speed of weaving with rags and I like the long thin shuttles. I’m just not sure if I like the finished product.


But I’m kind of hooked on weaving. Tomorrow I am going to visit a weaving conference in nearby Milwaukee, mostly to 1) see a wide variety of weaving styles and 2) decide on my next project, and 3) shop for supplies. Weaving stores mostly seem to be online so this will give me a chance to see (and feel) a variety of yarns all in one place.

There’s something soothing about weaving. I think it is kind of like making bread at home. Banging the beater bar is a bit like kneading dough, a little chance to bang or punch out stress. It’s relatively slow, rhythmic, and rooted in history.



A Day in the Life

A day in the life of the Hurni family lasts about 41 hours on average. With our family spread between New Zealand and America, and messages flying back and forth between, some days can get pretty full. We had a day like that on Sunday.

IMG_1616Starting in New Zealand, Laura and Anne had a wonderful “last day” together on Sunday. We had exchanged a few texts on Saturday night, asking about their plans for the day. They visited “the Mount”, one of our favorite towns/beaches, and had walked with the girls while chatting about the trip that was ending and future trips.

Meanwhile, John, Lizi and I were having last conversations with long-lost cousins and siblings as the Hurne reunion (Pennsylvania) wound down. At breakfast Sunday morning I told everyone about Laura’s travel itinerary.


IMG_1605Taylor, Kellen and Oaks packed up the car and started home from Stormy Lake where they spent three days in the Northwoods, fishing, flying airplanes, and having fun.

Just as they started out, Laura called Taylor to tell him that she’d been doubled over in pain for the past few hours. His seven hour trip was punctuated with updates: an urgent care visit, a trip to the Emergency Room, a diagnosis of appendicitis, and eventual surgery.

A small group of Hurnes met at a campground for a praise service and it was there that the text came through letting us know what Laura was experiencing. I left the circle to get my own phone and found earlier texts that I missed. I caught up with the ongoing saga and the Hurnes prayed for Laura and Anne. We went on to visit Aunt Helen and Gramma Timmie, but it was hard to focus on another reunion while our hearts were miles away with our daughters.

Eventually we heard the news that Laura had been taken into surgery and had to wait more hours to hear first that she was “out” (of surgery) and then, late our Sunday night, more details. Sleepy/sedated Laura was able to talk to Taylor in Chicago and send a couple of texts to me. Anne and James juggled two kids through supper and bedtime. James was also juggling busy camp responsibilities. (He is currently running a two week “Journey” camp for high schoolers, a mini adventure Bible school.) IMG_1617

I was also texting with my friend Marilyn updating her on both Laura and Taylor’s saga. (Taylor had been at her cottage at Stormy and Marilyn had also visited New Zealand with me last fall.) She said it was hard to believe this was really happening. I replied: “Hurnis don’t do normal.”

Eventually, Laura went home to Anne’s house where she is recuperating. Taylor arrived back in Chicago to be Mr. Mom for a week, his work having freed him of other responsibilities. We traveled back to western New York and then made a beeline home to Chicago.

We keep reminding ourselves that God knew all the details before these trips were even planned, and while it has taken us by surprise, it hasn’t surprised Him. We are grateful that the abdominal pains didn’t start later–in the air or while traveling–and that we’ve been able, as a family, to travel thousands of miles safely. We’re pleased with the longer visit for Anne and Laura, though we know Laura is ready to be home with her boys. We are also grateful for our smart phones that kept us all in contact throughout the drama.

Just a long day in our life.

* Did you notice the alternative spelling of our surname? John started out life as a Hurne, even though the original Swiss name ended with an “i.” Tired of correcting pronunciation and interested in our roots, we changed out surname back to the original in 1981. Although the rest of our extended family continues to spell the name with an “e”, they are split between calling themselves Hurne and Hurn(silent e). Quite a few of them gave up on correcting others and just went with the one syllable name. Approximately 80 Hurne/Hurnis gathered to celebrate the approximate 100th consecutive reunion of this family, descendants of Samuel and Rosina Hurni who left Switzerland in 1880. As they crossed into America, they either anglicized the spelling of their Swiss-German name or a customs officer wrote it down incorrectly.

P.S. It looks like Laura and Olive will be flying home on Saturday, leaving on our Friday. She will get wheelchair assistance at both airports and is hoping for a bassinet row with some empty seats.


Confession: I bought a loom while I was in New Zealand. It might be proof that I am certifiably a little crazy. Loomy.

IMG_1197About mid-point through my stay in New Zealand, I looked up looms on Trade Me (their Craigslist.) There was a kilt-width table loom w/stand up for bidding about an hour drive from home. I didn’t bid, but sent messages to the owner asking about the loom, make and model–and could I see it?


No one ever bid on it, so I took a drive one afternoon and bought it on the spot for $60NZ ($42.76 US.) We dismantled the major parts and put in in the trunk. I brought it back home but left it (hiding) in the trunk until the next day.

IIMG_1502t had been in storage for at least five years and was pretty dirty, so I spent the next afternoon cleaning it as best I could. I put it together and left it on the front porch, eventually moving it inside before we left for the weekend.
I searched the Internet and found directions for assembling it and replacement parts. I dismantled the whole thing, carefully labeling parts and screws, and John packaged the whole thing in box that could be taken home as baggage.

I set it aside once I got home to tackle the tasks of settling back in at home and waging war in my gardens, but once I finished those, I unpacked it and began the tedious process of putting it back together. Eventually I made a trip to The Fold, a weaving, spinning, and knitting shop that I’d visited years ago. I bought a new reed, a shuttle, some yarn and a few other small things (more than my initial investment, of course.)

But once home I realized that I hadn’t bought the right size Texsolv heddles, so I called my new weaving friend and visited her. She didn’t have the right size either, but gave me 500 Texsolv heddles that could be tied–one by one–to fit my loom. I spent a few days figuring out how to I could make these fit my loom, eventually using a board and finish nails for my project. While in Detroit, Angelo–an inventor–improved upon my design.







A car ride and a couple of sick days gave me time to tie all the knots and put 400 heddles in place, 100 on each of four shafts. By the time I got to the last 100 ties, I was getting pretty organized and efficient. (Picture below, left.) Maybe a little over-the-top? Hey, I saved about $100 by using these freebies.




This is what the heddles look like in place. If you notice an “eye” in the center, that is where I thread the warp threads. When the shafts are raised or lowered sheds are formed for the weft to pass through.

My first project is going to be a series of rag rugs, actually placemat sized. All I have to do is string up yards and yards of rug warp yarn and then use cut cloth, recycled, for the weft. Somewhere I have a bag of old jeans that I saved years ago for this project. If that can’t be found, I’m sure there is plenty in my stash.

Yep, a little loomy.

Here is the re-assembled loom, ready for its first project.



It is the first day of summer, the last day of school for the Chicago Public Schools (really?), and the last day of my 2-1/2 month “vacation.” I start back to work tomorrow.

What a wild ride it has been–both the trip and the days since arriving back at home. Vacation=time off work. Vacation≠rest. I think this is what retirement looks like. Most people say that they are busier retired than when they worked and I think that may be true.

Since we’ve been home (two weeks tomorrow) I’ve done a ton of gardening, catching up on all the work that normally takes place in the spring. I missed the whole “dandelion season”–for which I am grateful, though my neighbors probably weren’t.


I’ve cleaned the house and the back room, which is becoming our box storage area. This is actually clean, relative to how it looked a few days ago. And it gets the boxes out of the living and dining room.






Today I put away my snowmen and snow scene…









and put up my summer decorations.











(Not the best pictures, but on the left is a quilt I finished 20+ years ago. I still enjoy it, though it may the last year I put it up. On the right is a patriotic quilt I made a few years ago. It turned out too big for wall above the fireplace. Both combine piecing and hand applique.)

We are still hoping to sell our house, just not sure of the timing. Right now our plan is to take one day at a time and keep working on the million small projects that we still should accomplish. We’re thinking that maybe we could be ready sometime in August or September. Or, we may end up waiting til January (though we don’t think so.)

We also have to consider John2, Liz, and Luna. We would like Liz to stay in Elmhurst so she can continue to enjoy her work, friendships and church life. She has gotten very used to having us close by so we know it will be a big adjustment for her. We guess that we’ll be making regular trip back to Elmhurst (the reverse of what we do now.)

John2 has not had a good year and has not made much progress toward independent living. We are willing to bring him with us to a new home–and expect that is what will happen–but it is not what he wants. He likes living closer to the city. (Too bad.) We feel that we just need to move forward with our plans and see what happens. Maybe it will end up being an incentive for him to move on.

Our plan is to rent a house in Aurora (or surrounding area) near Taylor, Laura and the grandchildren. We don’t feel ready to give up a backyard, but plan to gradually downsize to a condo within two or three years. There is a house I’m watching about a mile and a half away from the Birkeys. In the rental market, things may go quickly or may not, so we’ll see. Every day I ask the Lord to go before us; to lead us, because quite frankly, we don’t know what we’re doing, we just feel a need pack up and move. It is good to trust that God does know.

In the meantime, the first two weeks of my summer have been lovely. I love hot weather and Chicago has delivered! I work hard but take frequent breaks in the pool (or hot tub.) I’m already a toasty brown! It has hardly rained, which isn’t great for the gardens, but has helped me get a lot done.

I’m grateful for my kind boss who didn’t put me on the schedule for two weeks even though I just finished a two month vacation, giving me time to get over jet lag and go through Lizi’s surgery and recovery. It has been a huge blessing.

I’m only working two days a week but it is still a game changer. When I didn’t finish something I intended to do it didn’t bother me: There was always tomorrow. Still, I’m grateful for a flexible job and a great work environment. Retirement is still on the horizon, but just over that next hill.

We’re going to make a few short trips this summer and fall, in each case to “reunite” with family and/or friends. Over the 4th of July weekend, we will be in Detroit for some family time with the Marshalls. I am looking forward to meeting two babies for the first time and spending time with my family. The 100th Hurne Family Reunion takes place the third weekend in July. All but two of John’s siblings will be there, plus nephews, and grands. It will be fun to catch up with family again. In late August, my high school class celebrates 45 years and mid-September, my nursing school class celebrates 40! (Geesh!) That one is taking place–for the first time–away from the Chicago area at the YMCA of Colorado in Estes Park.

We also celebrate Olive’s birthday tomorrow–our ONLY summer birthday in all the family. (James’ birthday is June 6, but since it is winter in New Zealand, I guess that doesn’t count.) She was “tarred and feathered” at a family party on Sunday. Here she is enjoying her feathered smash cake, wearing a headdress! What a cutie.


















Biz Buzzed

Lizi’s surgery is all done. The frozen section showed cancer, so the whole thyroid was removed, as expected. Her larynx and parathyroid seem to have survived intact. Today we heard that her pathology report was very positive so there is a good chance she won’t have to do any follow up radiation.

IMG_1452She really did quite well. Neither of us liked the night in the hospital so we begged the doctor to send us home the next day. She came home with a drain still in, but that was removed this afternoon at the doctor’s office. It should be clear sailing from here on out.

She is a little tired and a bit “buzzed”–just sort of overwhelmed by the experience. She says she’s done having surgery! Yesterday we got her to smile by asking her to say “Charlee”, but today her smiles are real.

Thanks for praying!

P.S. Before leaving Rush, I stopped to take this picture of the demolition of my birthplace! I was born in the Presbyterian Hospital, which later became St. Luke’s-Presbyterian and then Rush University Medical Center. This makes me feel old–as did the night in a recliner.IMG_1454

Liz Biz

It’s been a great year for Lizi. Well, mostly.

Last August, she and Siobhan moved to a two bedroom apartment about four blocks from our home. Lizi likes being closer to (our) home while still having the independence of an apartment.

In the fall, she started attending a young adult Bible study and soon after decided to attend the church as well (Lombard Gospel Chapel.) We know several families there, so it’s been a little like coming home for Lizi. She even found Marshall cousins there. A few months later she started volunteering at Awana.

IMG_0123She got a new job at Chik Fil-A, less than two blocks from her apartment. It has been a great job for her, with a wonderfully accommodating boss and friendly co-workers. We’re so happy that she can walk to work instead of taking a taxi or relying on us.

When John retired in January and started getting Social Security, Lizi was able to receive a portion as a dependent child, switching from the SSI that she’d been receiving since she turned eighteen. This gave her a raise in “pay” and also released us from the stricter rules and reporting requirements. (In 2014, we learned that Lizi couldn’t be out of the country for more than 30 days without losing benefits. Normally, that wouldn’t have been an issue, but with a sister in New Zealand and retired parents, it could have been problematic.)

IMG_1231Speaking of New Zealand, Liz was able to travel back there to welcome her new niece. Besides visiting Anne, James and Charlotte, she enjoyed the friendly Kiwis and just about everything about the countryside. She also enjoyed meeting Christina, who also has Williams Syndrome and Pastor Simon (“Boom! Hallelujah!”) who has a dearly loved sister with Williams Syndrome. He was so encouraging.

031a3923-47ee-4e34-b525-fa177851538aShe also has been drinking less soda, walking more and eating a bit better, resulting in a fairly significant weight loss. She looks great, though in light of the following, we are a little concerned.

Lizi has always been a bit of a hypochondriac, frequently asking me if she can see one of our doctors for one complaint or another. I usually try to put her off for a few days and every once in awhile bring her in to be checked. At one such visit, our most persnickety physician saw her for a complaint of ear pain. He noticed her neck and examined it, feeling a nodule on the thyroid. (Lizi has always had a somewhat prominent Adam’s apple and this was entirely unrelated to the reason she was seeing the doctor.) He asked us to get an ultrasound. That came back with the recommendation that we follow up with a biopsy.

We ended up having the biopsy done the day before I left for New Zealand and getting the results during my first few days there. The doctor was supposed to call me, but he ended up getting through to Lizi first and I heard from her: “tumor,” “surgery,” “suspicious.” I spent a few maddening days trying to reach the doctor.

Although Lizi hoped to have surgery right away, Dr. Nielson wanted to wait until we returned from New Zealand. He didn’t want her traveling for at least six weeks post-operatively, and felt that it wouldn’t make much difference to wait. Lizi and John visited my doctors and the surgeon again, and made appointments for the first days after our return. I read a book about thyroid health and asked to have a few more tests performed to rule out autoimmune disease and also check possible causes of her weight loss. So far, everything except the biopsy–including her thyroid function numbers–has been perfectly normal.

The biopsy report isn’t even conclusive, though our surgeon says they are 95% sure that Liz has papillary cancer of the thyroid (the best type to have.) He will excise the nodule, examine the surrounding nodes, and do a frozen section biopsy while Liz is under anesthesia. If it comes back positive–which is what he expects–he will remove the thyroid. Dr. Nielson did my parotid surgery a couple years ago so I trust him. He is also kind of goofy and fun for Elizabeth.

Liz is a little anxious about the upcoming surgery, but is generally handling it well. With a little extra TLC, she will probably do just fine. Please pray for her today (Tuesday, June 14) as she undergoes the surgery, around noon. Pray for peace that passes understanding, good health and rest. She is doing this on a somewhat jet-lagged body (and so are we.) We will likely spend two nights in the hospital and then she will stay at our house until she feels ready to be on her own again.



Charlotte’s middle name is the Maori word for love and empathy. Her first name means “trumpet” so they are hoping she will be a trumpet of love and empathy. (When she cried loudly, which wasn’t often, I wondered if she will be another kind of trumpet!)

“Aroha” has also been co-opted by advertising and branding. Here are a few Aroha products that we found in New Zealand. (Both were delicious!)










Nealy every souvenir shop had one or more items with Charlee’s middle name featured. She was given two of these wall-hangings and will no doubt receive many more over the years.

Here is our sweet Aroha:










P.S. Still working on pronunciation.