04 December 2015

We need a little Christmas. . .

A quiet, sedate, yet seasonal photograph that caught my fancy the instant I saw it.

Truly we do.  And we'll have it soon enough here at Stollen Central.  Peace, tranquility, and a return to being settled.  We finally -- FINALLY -- received news yesterday afternoon on the closing date for our new house.  We will close on Monday, December 7th at 4pm and move into our house, which I am christening Totleigh-in-the-Wold, the following Monday the 14th!  I cannot tell you how much this news raises my spirits. As I remarked to my mother late yesterday afternoon when I called her in Mexico with our good news, I neither need, nor want anything for Christmas this year.  I simply want to unpack our things and settle into our new house.  Quietly.

Those of you who drop by The Grand Duchy of Stollen now and then might recall that 2015 has, in many ways, been a momentous year.  Most notably, the Grand Duchess and I were both offered new academic positions at Michigan State University, which was quite a step up career-wise for both of us in a number of ways.  The Grand Duchess, in particular, is now truly on the national and international map now due to scholarship in her field, activities on various bodies national and international, and work as the chief editor for a forthcoming book series.  As Pete the Cat might say, "It's all good!"

At the same time, the months since those job offers came through last March have been, at times, fraught with change and challenges for all three of us separately, and as a family.  "That is life" as my maternal grandmother used to say occasionally, and we've weathered it, but the intervening months spent looking for and then waiting on this house have been hard to bear at times. Early house hunting back in the spring, with two visits up here in April and a few weeks later in May, was difficult and, ultimately, fruitless thanks to a depressed and very tight real estate market in the Lansing area.  Most things that our first real estate lady showed us were dumps with major problems of one kind or another, not something we wish to undertake at this pointThen, there was her habit of not showing us places we asked specifically and repeatedly to see based on our own online research.  So, we cut her loose after the second go-around in May.

The whole process this fall, with a second real estate lady, has been somewhat easier, but that has taken a good deal longer than we hoped because the sellers of the house we are buying really dragged their heels on making certain major repairs to the roof, and addressing a few other issues, following our home inspector's very thorough examination of the place back in mid-September.  Talk about slow on the uptake.  One might think that they didn't really want to sell the house that badly given the apathy from their side.  We suspect, because they are apparently building a new house somewhere, that their own finances are stretched very thin, and they have been stalling for time.  No way of knowing for sure, and it hardly matters now that the necessary work has at last been carried out, but there you are.  I suspect, too, that the Grand Duchess and I were a little spoiled by how smoothly things proceeded when we purchased our first house back in 2008 just before the crash.

There has also been a spate of problems with our lender, who has repeatedly misplaced important paperwork, sent various documentation to the wrong places, miscommunication of vital information (or not) a number of times, etc., etc., etc.  We've used USAA before an been very pleased with their services, but not this time.

The Young Master, in particular, has had a difficult transition from the only home he has known back in Illinois. . .  to Michigan for two weeks in June. . .  to Berlin in July and August. . .  and finally back to Michigan in late August.  Hindsight is 20/20, and I should have put my foot down about not going given that we knew well in advance, by March 30th last spring, a major transition was coming in June.  He told me this morning that he doesn't like our new barbershop here and wants to go back to our old hair-cutter 'Lisa' where we used to live for example.  

A day or two ago, our six-year-old son mentioned that he wanted to return to Illinois because he does not like Michigan.  Many children are resilient and deal well with changes, but not our little boy.   Worst of all, he has made a couple of close friends in school this fall, something he has trouble doing under the best of circumstances anyway, and our new house is, naturally, in another school district.  His frustration and difficulty with all of this makes my heart hurt for him.  So, above all I want to give the Young Master a quiet, grounded, and happy Christmas season, with a return to normalcy, this year.

I realize that there are lots of horrible things happening around the world and here at home in the U.S. lately, and our family's problems are inconsequential by comparison.  Goodness knows there are plenty of people everywhere who suffer from all manner of ills, many through no fault of their own.  Just turn on the TV, read about it online, or pick up an old-fashioned newspaper most days.  And that's not even considering the death meted out by various kinds of zealots at home and abroad.  This awareness of suffering, want, and privation on the part of others seems to bother me more as I grow older and, at times, is almost incapacitating when I think about it too much.  How in the world do we prevent tragedy and ease suffering on a large scale?   I have no good answers, and greater minds than mine have wrestled with these very questions for a long, long time.  

I could go on, but as mentioned earlier at the top of today's post, we need a little Christmas.  Along with some of that peace on Earth and good will to others.  Here's to better days.

-- Stokes

A very kind friend in Australia, one Mr. Horne, who might be known to some of you, and I are playing a small game via email using his vintage Spencer Smith collection.  He graciously suggested doing so early this week and is supplying the troops, table, and scenery as well as a 30mm Willie mounted general to stand in for yours truly.  I also believe his young son will carry out my orders for the troops under my command.  Now, if we could just have some snow here. . .


Ross Mac rmacfa@gmail.com said...

Its good to have a Home, and its good to have friends.

Best wishes that Dec 7 will go smoothly and well and henceforth be known as a famous day in Stollen and the start of some good years.

-Ross Mac

Phil said...

Good luck in your new home. I'm sure all the upheaval of these past few months will prove worth it once you're settled.
Looking forward to reports of your encounter with Greg, of Alzheim fame!
Best wishes

Fitz-Badger said...

Congratulations on the house! I know moving in can't come soon enough! I can empathize with your young lad. I'm not always ready to embrace change myself. Hopefully, once you settle in things will get better for all concerned.

Peter Douglas said...


Here's hoping for a smooth transition into the new Chateau! Hopefully the new year will be less stressful.

Prufrock said...

I feel for your wee lad, both from my own experiences (6 different elementary schools in 4 different parts of the country...) and those of our own kids. He will adjust and be happy, but the sooner you're all settled in the sooner it can begin, so here's to that! Best of luck for the new life, and may this Christmas be all that you could want it to be.

Best wishes,

Si Bath said...

I hope everything goes smoothly for you all as you get the keys to Totleigh; and that you'll have a wonderful family Christmas and New Year in your new home.
Best wishes,

Anonymous said...


I have followed your blog since the very early days and have always been amazed at your persistence. My own hobby interests jump around and I have not gamed in the Seven-Years War in a very long time. I hope that your Christmas season will be all that you wish and that your move will go smoothly.

Merry Christmas.

Chris B.

Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke said...

Thank you for your kind words, everyone. They are a help. Really and truly.

Best Regards,



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