Friday, November 29, 2013

What a nice Thanksgiving. Drama free, family & friends, and my mother revisited. =)

Handicap Van

So, we had to repair the Handicap Van on Tuesday as it was running on 6 of 8 cylinders. 2 of the 8 coil packs went bad, so they had to be replaced (along with the spark plugs). $369.00 later (OY!!!), we took the van home and I reflected on the cost of maintenance of "the beast" when taking into the consideration of the fact that it is too big for Penny to drive as she cannot handle large vehicles that are rear wheel drive (so it isn't the backup/secondary vehicle as I had hoped). Also, the church has not yet put a hitch on it for trailer duty (one of the reasons why I was keeping the vehicle.... for it's towing capacity in addition to it's ability to provide independence). I also have been ambulatory for about 4 months on the new gout medication (where the pain is almost manageable... and I can at least hobble when having attacks versus being unable to walk). And lastly, when driving it during the first snow a couple of days ago when going to the VA hospital, I almost slid into the ditch and that scared the living "oy" out of me (I had forgotten what top heavy rear wheel drive vehicles drove like in slippery conditions).

So when the opportunity to help another family (a paraplegic woman and her daughter who was disabled with MS).... and we got the van back from the repair shop (the mechanic had mentioned this family in need), I discussed with Penny the possibility of selling it that night. Penny indicated she did not want to get another vehicle as she was tired of seeing yet another vehicle in our driveway. However, she was not the one driving the Handicap Van... so I gave her the positives / negatives. She had to acknowledge that she could not drive a full size van, if her minivan went askew... she had no viable vehicle option, and if I set up a replacement minivan with handicap options that she could also drive if necessary, that she was at least open to it. So, I posted the ad on craigslist and the family in need contacted me within 24 hours (I had to make sure that there was actual interest). Their 2003 Dodge Caravan has many miles, was dented up/rusted, in poor shape, and the engine was failing (and they had been without transportation for over 2 weeks). Their minivan also did not allow the women independent freedom as she was dependent on her disabled daughter (who has physical issues of her own) to put a manual ramp up to their minivan to load the jazzy scooter she uses (and she needed to be lifted into the minivan's drivers seat.... a difficult option without a harness).

So, when they contacted me, I immediately drove to their apartment (the same apartment complex where we had helped 5 families after their building was on fire back in February).... and demonstrated to them the different aspects of the handicap features of the van. Let me paint a picture. The drivers seat allows for swivel movement, height adjustment, and forward/backward access (it literally is a "super seat" for handicapped people). A person can remotely start the van, come up to the van when it is warm, open the lift doors via remote controls from the passenger door while sitting in a scooter/wheel chair, get onto the lift, take the scooter inside the van, transfer over to the driver seat and swivel into position, fasten the seat belt, and use the hand controls to then be on their merry way..... all without any help from others. It allows for ultimate independence (which is why I got it in the first place).

As this woman needs it only for the occasional excursion (she is permanently disabled so she doesn't need it for a commute), she can choose when she goes out for a drive (and can drive on days it isn't slippery out so she is safe due to the rear wheel drive setup). This van represents freedom for her. These type of van setups normally cost over $5,000.00 and up for very used vans... and are usually not in decent shape. Penny and I decided to sell the van for what we had into it dollar wise ($2,200.00)... we were trying to recoup our money to get a decent minivan at no additional cost to us and we did not want to profit from another's desperate need for independence.

As the Corvette was handed back to us to sell (and we did sell it for $4,000.00 3 days ago), it was time for us to "pay it forward" for another family as well. Both the woman and her daughter wept with joy as they were stunned regarding the mechanical condition of the van plus all of the features were available within their price/point / budget. So as of this afternoon, they will have the van (which will expand her ability to get around and lighten their load regarding their physical limitations). A win/win for everyone.

But that's not all, I needed to find a replacement vehicle that would still work for me when I needed to use the scooter and yet could be driven by Penny when needed...... and one was handed to us on a silver platter. A 2002 Chrysler Voyager that looks a lot like our 2001 Chrysler Town & Country was available to us if we wanted it (for $700.00). It is a basic Voyager, but had 7 passenger capability.... was clean on the inside, had 177,000 miles but ran smooth - straight - stable (it just needs a heater core, new muffler, an oil change, a good cleaning, & an eventual replacement rear lift gate as the one on it is pretty rusty ). I can install the scooter/wheel-chair lift that we still have in the rear of it (I just have to have it professionally installed), and the woman who is getting the van is donating her old minivan's hand controls to us for us to get installed into ours as well. The total cost of the van plus repair & handicap control installation should be ultimately around $1,500.00 (so we will be about $700 ahead after selling the full size van.... which with the $4,000.00 earned from the sale of the Corvette... will help us immensely after the unemployment ends next month). It isn't a new van, but there'll be no monthly payment and it is good enough for us. =) 


This is the first Thanksgiving that we didn't interact with Andersen family siblings, and the lack of negativity has been a godsend to be totally honest. It is hard enough with our own children / immediate family given the difficulties over the years, but we made sure that no matter what we faced... we would not allow it to get us down. Sondra was here (I had to drive to DeKalb to get her, but it was worth it to see how happy Penny and Travis were for her to be at our table), Travis was here along with his friend Jared, and so was Penny's father (who is now 80 and is not well). We had a fantastic meal (courtesy of many others at Fox Valley Church and Grafton Township) with Penny spending HOURS cooking up a delicious meal, and we gave thanks for all of the blessings we have, for the financial cushion we have for January through March when my unemployment ends, and we then watched "Christmas Vacation" to continue a long tradition at our household. It is appropriate that my mother's urn (and her ashes) are still at our house and we all felt the vibe... as my mother only "tolerated" that movie because it always made the rest of us laugh (so we had a great time speaking of her and telling "Mom stories" all around). And my favorite man in the world who my mother just adored (our son Travis), helped me lift a shot glass of aquavit to her memory at the end of the evening). It is now the only time I permit myself liquor. And... speaking of my mother.......

Anita Fletre Andersen (12/7/1940 - 11/29/2009).

It has now been four years since my mother passed away. She spent the last 4 years of her life living with us more often than not due to her deteriorating condition, and it is this time of year where we really miss her terribly (as this was her favorite time of year.... when family came together). Yes, she would be disappointed in me for my establishment of boundaries with my sister and brother (as she would have made sure we all got together no matter how bad things got between us)...... but she remains in our heart.

May she be resting in peace.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

An incredible uplifting weekend =)

The Corvette Raffle:

We held the Corvette Raffle on Friday and our lives have been so incredibly blessed since. First off, our Pastor (Pastor Adam Miller) went up and beyond to make the raffle possible by donating his time, his credibility, and the church facilities to do the drawing.

The previous blog post announcing the 2 winners resulted in 67 unique page views (and over 150 pages views of the main blog page).....  so that was a huge surprise to us. We were able to raise almost $2,000.00 with the raffle, so we have enough raised to make it through the end of the year.

However, the winners of the raffle (the Jasker family) proceeded to just blow us away the following day when we were making arrangements to deliver their prize. We were told by email to...... "Hold on, hang in. God is going to turn all things around for each of us His way.  We will call you this weekend, so don't put that car anywhere. ....". When we talked on the phone later, we were told of their plan to help us try to achieve our original $ goal and they asked us to keep the car and try to sell it in order to attain enough funds to help us over the next few months (considering our unemployment ends next month). When we got off the phone, both Penny and I were crying just having been blown away by the Jasker's giving heart.

The ebay listing for the Corvette is at: On that listing, we give full credit to their giving hearts by explaining what sacrifice they made by allowing us to sell the car.

In reference to the laptop, we are sending that laptop to the winner (we'll get it in the mail by Tuesday). I just need to make sure it is packed in such a way that the logistics company doesn't do damage to it during transit.


We also received a Thanksgiving Basket from our church on Saturday (we were one of twenty five families picked for this). Our friend (Deb Wolf) stopped by and delivered the incredible feast of food. What an incredible selfless gift by many at our church. We truly don't know what to say other than how blessed we are by God (and how incredible our church is). We have so much to pay forward, and we will.


We received in the mail, my new bi-focal glasses from the VA. It's the first time I have paid for the lack of postage in 20 years (they didn't have enough stamps on the package), but I now can see clearly (completely) for the first time in 2 years...... and I am very pleased with the results. The glasses were free from the VA (I just had to pay 57 cents for the postage shortfall).... still a great deal and a great blessing. However, I am noticing the lower part of the bi-focal doesn't help with anything between a foot in front of me to two feet (where my laptop or any computer monitor resides... so I have to ask the VA what my options are for that aspect of my vision. 
I will be going to the North Chicago location tomorrow morning to continue the MST Cognitive Behavioral Training sessions and to see the Podiatrist plus Neurologist. My gout attack calmed down yesterday and this morning, but got worse this afternoon so I am hopeful I can get some answers when I get there tomorrow. I am concerned though about the Handicap Van (as it is running rough on Cylinder 5 and 8 per the trouble codes). I am hopeful I don't do more damage to it by driving it before I can get it repaired. =(