Catching up a bit

I love to blog and desperately want to do so regularly, but here’s a funny and rather sad truth: when lots of interesting and blog-worthy things are happening in my life, I don’t have time to blog; and when nothing’s going on, I have time to blog but nothing to say. This means that sometimes – like now – I have a long list of things I wanted to write about, but which happened a while ago so I can’t remember all the wonderful details, and at other (much rarer) times I have no such list and end up staring at a blank WordPress screen wondering what to say.

So today I am just making short mention of a number of special events and thoughts.

We were “on the road again” quite a bit in March and April.

Scott, Andrew, and I took a fun day trip to Eureka Springs (walking about town and up to the Crescent Hotel, lunch at Bubba’s Barbecue, Thorncrown Chapel, bowling) while he was home on Spring Break.

Two weeks later Scott and I had an overnight in North Little Rock for Scott to speak at one of our supporting churches there. We also stopped by my parents’ house for a brief visit.

Six days after that, the two of us drove to St. Louis and back (the same night, 2:00 PM to 2:00 AM) to attend the Varsity Vocals regional semi-finals. Andrew sings baritone in  the Beartones, a men’s a cappella group at MSU. They had won the regional quarter-finals in February and were competing at the next level in St. Louis. Unfortunately, they did not place there, but we enjoyed the concert (including Andrew’s classy back flip!) and were very proud of him and the guys.

Ten days later, Scott and I enjoyed our already well-blogged-about getaway to Panther Cabin and surrounds in northern Arkansas.

A few days after that, I made a trip to Ft. Scott, Kansas to attend the funeral of the elderly mom of one of my dear friends.

After all those trips in a month, I was ready to be home for a while, and the following week Scott left for a three and-a-half week mission trip to Kenya. Ain’t no moss gathering around here!

Then, the day before Easter, the three of us (Scott, Andrew, and I) had an absolutely lovely and WONDERFUL float trip on Bull Creek. We put in at Round Mountain Road and because of time constraints only floated the upper section, taking out at Gaars. It was one of the best float trips I’ve had in a long time, and I want to state for the record that Andrew in particular went out of his way to take total, compassionate care of me every inch of the way. He followed me, looked out for me, walked/hauled me through rapids and other tricky stretches, advised me, encouraged me, and portaged my kayak when necessary; in short, he made absolutely sure that I felt totally safe and secure every single moment we were on the water. He knew that I had had some scary kayaking experiences in the past, and, sensing that I was nervous and dreading the float, he just made it his mission to ensure that I had a good trip. Mission accomplished: I enjoyed it maximally! (Of course, knowing that I was floating with a very strong ace lifeguard who was fully trained in all things rescue didn’t hurt either.)

Tragically, two weeks later we had torrential rain, the creek rose 14 feet in four hours, and two novice kayakers drowned at the same place where we had stopped for a picnic lunch during our idyllic float.

Lessons: Don’t float a stream in raging flood conditions, wear a life jacket if you’re not a strong swimmer, and be ready spiritually, realizing that life is precious and can be cut short very suddenly.






I really need to get in the habit of taking “before” pictures.

Decluttering my life is very fulfilling and brings me a lot of pleasure. Actually, I’ve been “kinda sorta” working on it off and on for many years, but it’s become a primary, regular focus in the past eighteen months or so. Decluttering applies to all kinds of stuff: digital stuff (scrolling through files), emotional stuff (working through feelings), and physical stuff (sorting through piles, boxes, drawers, shelves… and smokehouses).

I tend to take pictures of a space after it’s been decluttered because I’m so proud of having finished the task and I’m so pleased with the fresh, new look. But whenever I take those “after” pictures, I always regret that I didn’t think (or was too ashamed) to take a “before” picture, so that there’s no documentation to show the comparison.

In this instance, I once again forgot to take pictures of the smokehouse before Scott and I tackled it, but those of you who have seen it may remember – or can imagine – how embarrassingly messy and dirty and piled-up it was.

Well, here’s how it looks now. This first picture is looking straight in through the door toward the backyard side and far right corner. I tied all the tomato stakes in same-size bundles, and we threw out several tubs of junk. I think the Chuck Pennel sign adds a colorful and sentimental touch.

Turning 90 degrees to the right, this one faces the Coffee Road side and corner nearest the laundry room door. We moved the shelf from where it had been (straight ahead when you walked in) to this corner, where the two beat-up, super-heavy file cabinets full of birds’ nests and other grahdoo had been. Scott insisted on keeping the slightly shredded kickball bases and all the scraps of wood. I agreed as long as the wood was neatly stacked (it is), and the other items were totally contained on the shelves (they are.)

Another 90 degree turn to the right has me facing the house side, where we hung our sleds. We ditched a number of the plastic ones because they were cracked or defective in some way. I was also going to ditch the wooden sled with metal runners because the runners are bent so that I’m thinking you can’t sled on it, but Scott said, “Oh, but isn’t it a heritage item?!?” And yes, of course it is. It’s the sled we had on Kingoak Drive when I was a kid. We moved it to NLR where it almost never snows – although we did usually get a nice ice storm the second week of January – and it came with me to Missouri. We Robertses used it for years to sled down Smart Lane before Mr. Zahner had it paved. The sled still says “VARNER” on the bottom in my dad’s handwriting, and Scott’s right: it is precious enough to merit a place in the smokehouse, even though it may not be functional. Although now that I think about it, there may be a way to straighten out those runners… hmm… It’s hanging up behind the red and green sleds.

One more turn to the right leaves us facing my gardening shelf, which I cleared off, throwing out a truly crazy number of pots, saucers, and useless items, and retaining only the essential products and tools I actually use. The orange bucket and green tub were cleaned and relocated to the playroom, and the pots to the left of the orange bucket were neatly re-stacked after this picture was taken. We swept up a Pigpen-sized cloud/pile of dirt, and then, since it is, after all, the smokehouse, we shoved as much of that pile as possible down into the large cracks between the uneven sheets of plywood flooring. What we couldn’t shove down we scooped up into a tub of junk that went out to the street where Raintree Disposal gladly hauled it off.

I am very satisfied with the results. Now I can go into the smokehouse with pleasure instead of dread. Over time, I’m expecting the same to become true of the rest of my life.  = )


We’d done Pedestal Rocks, and all that was left of our four-day, three-night getaway was to drive home. On our way, we took a picture that will surely live in infamy.

Back when we lived in Little Rock (23+ years ago), we made MANY trips north to the Buffalo River area and/or to a remote youth camp called Castle Bluff that Scott had helped construct. On the way, we’d always stop in Russellville to eat at our all-time favorite burger place, Feltner’s Whatta-Burger. Their made-to-order burgers were awesome (still are), their orders of fries were huge, and Scott often got either a limeade and/or a banana shake to go. He was always driving, and we’d take Hwy 7 north through Dover an on up. I remember Dover, with its sharp left turn at the grocery and then that bridge over Illinois Bayou where that one guy had a wreck coming home from a Singles Life float trip because he wouldn’t stay in Scott’s caravan…

Anyway, sometime after Dover and before we turned off 7 onto 16 for the Deer/Nail/Swain section, I’d always doze off for a while. (After all, doesn’t a belly full of cheeseburger and fries plus a car ride obviously equal a nap?) And when I’d wake up, Scott would always tell me that we’d gone through Cowell, but that I had missed it AGAIN. For many years I had the privilege of listening to the “You slept through Cowell” refrain every time we went to Castle Bluff, and through the years, my desire to actually see Cowell grew and grew.

Well, our route home from Pedestal Rocks took us west on Hwy 16 to Lurton and then north on Hwy 7/16 toward Jasper. Shortly before Hwy 16 cut off west for Deer/Nail Swain, Scott said, “Hey, we’re about to go through Cowell!”

Oh, boy! What an opportunity! And I was actually wide awake!

“Now don’t blink or you’ll miss it!”

Eagerly, I stared ahead. There was really nothing to see except grassy rolling hills and deep wooded valleys, but then… Sweet Georgia Peaches! We spotted it up ahead: the actual, literal, green-and-white Cowell sign! Oh, the joy! I was, of course, definitely going to get a picture of the sign, but Scott insisted that I needed to be in the picture in order to document for all posterity that I had actually experienced Cowell. He pulled over where Hwy 55 (a less substantial thoroughfare than Coffee Road) cuts off down a hill to the east, and I hopped out, grateful that there would be no good old boys around to see me grinning like an idiot in front of the green Cowell sign.

But while Scott was getting the shot set up, wouldn’t you know it? A couple of local men in their 40s and overalls came driving up “Hwy” 55 pulling a trailer of equipment, and they stopped to ask if we needed help. Well, thank you, but no, we were just going to take a picture of the wife and the sign and be on our way. They were fine with that, smiled, waved, and drove off. I guess they’re used to touristy types posing by that infamous landmark…

And now, here’s proof positive – after 33 years of passing through it – that I have indeed been to Cowell.

Pedestal Rocks

I really want to break my habit of not blogging immediately after or within a short period of time – like a week – after something interesting happens. When I get too far from an event, I simply can’t remember the details, and then I’m sad that I can’t write about it very well. “Discipline, discipline, discipline, Patty!

Our final excursion on our April getaway happened on our way home. Scott had heard from a tennis buddy about a great hike at a place called Pedestal Rocks. Neither of us had ever heard about it, which was odd, particularly because it’s on Highway 16 (of Deer/Nail/Swain fame) only a few miles east of the extremely well-beaten Highway 7 Little Rock-to-Castle Bluff path. And after doing the hike there, Scott was aghast at the fact that we had somehow failed to take our own children there. “This would’ve been an AWESOME place for the kids! I can’t BELIEVE we never brought them here. How is it that we didn’t know about it?!?”

There are two trails there, Kings Bluff and Pedestal Rocks, and we chose the latter and had no regrets. It was basically flat with lots of opportunities for Scott to leave the trail and explore rock formations, waterfalls, and odd crevasses. The scenery was gorgeous and the pedestals; well, they are hard to describe, and there were so darn many of them! The trail weaves along the edge of a bluff where erosion has left these odd “pedestals” just standing out there, begging to be investigated and/or climbed.

We stopped for a picnic lunch on a big flat rock. Our little site overlooked a lovely waterfall, so Scott was compelled to hike down and do some exploring.

    There’s an intermittent waterfall down there. It was running that day.

Needing handholds, he grabbed the lower trunks of these very tall, very skinny trees, only to find out the hard way that they were… thorn trees! OUCH! And of course, we had no Band-Aids. Well, there were some a half-mile back in the glove box of the Durango. Decidedly unhelpful, but oh well. It was only a little blood.

I rested on the rock while he explored.

                                   Not my most flattering portrait

The trail was lovely, and with Scott carrying the remains of our lunch along with most of our other “gear,” I was free to focus on stepping carefully and enjoying the scenery.



We found this scenic arch, and…


of course, Scott was compelled to conquer it!

Soon thereafter, we rounded a curve and suddenly there stood a very strange pillar jutting up as if placed by some giant chess player!

Its shape was just weird, almost like a chimney, and it was hard to get a full picture of it through the trees. Evidently this was THE pedestal of “Pedestal Rocks” fame – and there would surely be another one to justify the plural. Little did we know!

We just kept seeing them over and over. The trail was at the same level as the tops of the pedestals. Walking on the level is much easier for me, so I stayed on the trail while Scott frequently climbed down to explore the bases of the pedestals and the interesting cracks, crevices, and little caves below. I guess what happened was that over time the ground was washed away, and these odd towers were of hard enough rock that they remained. Erosion leftovers, so to speak. Very, very interesting topography.

   No, didn’t climb up there to pose; I just walked a few paces off the trail.                         Scott climbed down to explore and take my picture.

We really enjoyed the hike and all the wonderful views. Did I mention that the weather was perfect too?  = )


I was pretty worn out by the end of our 2.2 mile hike, but we were both SUPER glad to have fully experienced Pedestal Rocks.


2017 Christmas Games

I’m decluttering my life, and that includes all the sticky notes and index cards stuck on the wall above my desk. I can’t remember if I already posted these, but this particular index card has been hanging in front of me for 17 months. I’ve kept it because it was so impressive, and I wanted to type it up so I’d have a digital record of… ALL the games our family played over the 2017 Christmas break. Here they are:



Dominion (7 times)

Code Names


Minus Five


Pandemic (3 times)

3-Handed Bridge

Hail to the Chief

7 Wonders

Settlers of Catan



Ping-Pong (regular and hand/air)

Bookworm Adventures

Worms World Party

Roller Coaster Tycoon


I have now thrown one index card into the trash!

Burger Barn

After viewing Haw Creek Falls and then spending an inordinate amount of effort trying to get a decent selfie of the two of us in front of it/them(?), and being quite hungry, we sped off to the Burger Barn in Ozone. By this time, it was probably after 3:00 PM, and we wondered if they’d still be serving lunch. Aren’t smartphones a wonderful thing? While Scott followed Siri’s directions, I called the Burger Barn, but sadly that number had been disconnected or was no longer in service. Although I did not feel I had reached that recording in error, I tried again for good measure and got the same result. Not to worry; if the Burger Barn was closed, we’d just stop at some other restaurant in Ozone.

We were approaching Ozone on Highway 21 from the south, and I will say that there wasn’t really a great deal to see. Some readers may be familiar with the approach to Walnut Shade, and I’d say the two are comparable. There was an official green highway sign that said “Ozone,” but with no population given I had to assume it’s an unincorporated area. We tooled along for about a mile, looking for the Burger Barn and passing fields with cows (I guess those would be considered “pastures”), small houses with chickens about, a couple buildings that looked like they may have housed small businesses at some point, and the Ozone post office sporting its handicapped spot. [Note that this is not my picture; I pulled it off the internet and the only information I could find about it was that it was taken in 2017.]

Continuing slowly along, we passed through what seemed to be Ozone proper and appeared to be heading out of town when, rounding a curve to the left, we saw it at last: the Burger Barn! We had arrived at what turned out to be the only restaurant in Ozone, Arkansas.

This was not exactly what we had expected, but given how hungry we were, considering how good all the reviews in the guest book had been, and being determined to experience as much local culture as possible on our trip, we pulled in. A friendly, somewhat scruffy-looking, bearded and pony-tailed twenty-something greeted us at the window, motioned toward the handwritten menu on the marker board in the window to our right, and asked what we’d like. Cheeseburgers were $7.00, and cheeseburgers with fries were $8.00, so we went all out and each got our own order of fries. Good thing we’d brought cash; a hand-scrawled sign read, “NO Debit or CREDIT CARDS, Local Checks Only.” The man seated at the window said he’d get those cooking, and we wandered around the place while we waited.

Another guy of similar vintage and dress asked the chef something about certain cleaning supplies, and we later learned that he was on a motorcycle journey from Georgia to Colorado and had stopped in Ozone, Arkansas for a while. Interesting. I think he was earning his keep at the Burger Barn compound by doing some clean-up chores…

It was clear that eating at the Burger Barn would be a journal-worthy experience, so I took some pictures while we stood around discussing the environs and trying to figure out the history of the place. As the only customers in the mid-afternoon, we could have our choice of eating inside…

or outside.

We opted for the dining “room,” but future diners should be warned about that far picnic table. I sat down on one end of the bench and the whole thing went flying up, à la seesaw!

Cats featured prominently throughout our getaway; our guest house had at least five outdoor cats, including one who was pregnant and liked to sit behind me on the patio chair when I was reading or writing; they were fun to watch. One got into the Durango as we were loading up, and another one – or maybe the same one – spent some time one morning on top of the Durango. There were also cats hanging around the Oark General Store, a place one should NOT bother visiting even though it does claim to be the oldest continually-operated store in Arkansas (since 1890).

Scott on the porch of the Oark General Store and Café

The staff there were rude, the service was terrible, the price was high, and Scott’s shake was no good. In fact, the only two worthy things about the Oark General Store were the really neat (probably original) wooden floors and this sign.

But back to the Burger Barn and cats. There were several, including this one who played hide and seek with this chicken… after we’d chased the chicken off our table!

The “grounds” of the Burger Barn were interesting: a tiny house, two trailers (one temporary, one semi-permanent?), several portable outbuildings, a fountain that wasn’t running, a defunct basketball goal, what appeared to be a covered hot tub, children’s yard toys, a porta-potty, a satellite dish, and a finer assortment of miscellaneous stuff sitting around, seemingly wherever it had been dropped.

In about 15 minutes, our host called out the window that our food was ready, and when we picked it up, he said that he’d given us some tots because he’d run out of fries. It all smelled wonderful. A wide variety of condiments were available on our covered table, and the food was quite good and filling, although I did briefly wonder if the health department even knew the place existed… In any case, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, Scott and I were outside together, and we got to enjoy a tasty meal in what can only be described as very unique surroundings. (And yes, I realize that’s redundant.)

We were very happy campers, and I can wholeheartedly recommend the Burger Barn in Ozone. Everyone really should eat there once. And have their picture taken in the rocker. = )

Haw Creek Falls

In thumbing through the guest book at Panther Cabin, several things were mentioned repeatedly by numerous guests. Unfortunately, I realized I wouldn’t be able to navigate the two-mile round trip (downhill and back up) hike to the much-acclaimed Glory Hole Falls, but having definitively conquered the fire tower and its accompanying Jiffy Lube precursor, we pressed on to Haw Creek Falls. It was early afternoon, we hadn’t packed a picnic lunch because we were planning lunch out at a special location, and Scott was quite hungry and munching on trail mix as we tooled along.

We did eventually come out – that is, off the dirt road onto pavement – and in less than five miles arrived at our next scenic destination: Haw Creek Falls Recreation Area. This is the one that claimed an “accessible trail to the falls,” which would surely be just the ticket for me.

I will add here that virtually all our goings-on during this trip occurred within the Ozark National Forest, a massive swath of primarily forested hills covering much of northwest Arkansas. Wikipedia informs me that “… the Ozark National Forest was created by proclamation of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 to preserve 917,944 acres (3,714.79 km2) across five Arkansas counties,” including our long-time favorite, Newton County. I’ve decided that I really like the Ozark National Forest. Its recreational areas, sites, and trails are not as heavily used those of state parks; its minimal signage, while making some trail heads difficult or impossible to find, lets me enjoy the natural beauty more; and in each of my multiple visits to several of its vault toilets, I found them all to be clean, not foul-smelling, and well-stocked with T.P. What’s not to like?

Arriving at Haw Creek Falls Recreational Area, we (in the Durango) forded a low water crossing, parked and could see from our parking place that the “accessible trail to the falls” was actually about a thirty foot-long flat gravel path, and the falls themselves actually weren’t very high.

But they were definitely unique, with water flowing over in two criss-crossed directions at the same time.

I took  several pictures of the falls, and Scott worked hard – and we laughed a lot – trying to take selfies of the two of us with the falls in the background. (I plan to update this post with some of those pictures from his phone when I get them.

All in all, it was a delightful stop before hunger drove us on to the Burger Barn.