Still tracking

After running the 200, 100, and 400 in the first meet (Branson) and long jumping in the second meet (also at Branson), Andrew wasn’t entered in the third meet (Rogers) because it was an all-relay meet, and he hasn’t trained for relays. Not for lack of desire, mind you; he says the track thing he’d like to do more than anything else is to run in the 4 by 400.  = )  But although he’s a senior, this is Andrew’s first time ever to be involved in track, so I think his lack of experience and expertise has limited his opportunities. At each of the next three meets (Harrison, Ozark, and Joplin), he was entered in the long jump.

The thing to understand is that doing a long jump takes maybe 15 seconds total, so being a track mom is a little different from being, say, a choir mom (who watches her kid’s ensemble sing for 20 glorious minutes out of a 100-minute concert), or a drama mom (who watches an amazing two-hour musical in which her kid is acting and/or singing in several scenes). And then there are baseball or basketball or football moms (who watch their kid’s team play an entire game). A mom of a long jumper, on the other hand, arrives when the meet starts, sits and waits until the time comes for her kid run very fast and jump incredibly far for a total of less than a minute, and then waits patiently for another unknown amount of time to see the results.

But oh, the joy of watching those 45 seconds!

I went to Harrison to watch Andrew long jump, arriving – after only a few wrong turns – at 3:25. The field events were scheduled to begin at 3:30, and I innocently thought that the long jumping would be done by 4:30 and I’d be back home by 5:30. That’s not exactly how things worked out. When I got to the stadium and realized that the field events had actually started around 3:15, I initially panicked, fearing that I had missed my son’s moment(s) of glory, but I need not have worried. One four letter word that can never mentioned in conjunction with a track meet is S-O-O-N.

Andrew’s first jump was at 5:12, and since Scott couldn’t be there, I wanted to get some pictures. I’ve learned that my phone actually does better than my camera at catching the action, so I practiced on some previous jumpers and endeavored to get at least one shot during each of Andrew’s jumps.

I will say that for the spectators, there’s a lot – really, quite an excessive amount – of sitting around and waiting. The athletes also do a lot of sitting around and waiting, followed by a bit of warming up and then another hefty dose of standing around and waiting.

See, there he is in his red and black, standing around and waiting. And if we wait around long enough and keep watching closely, and if our cell phone battery doesn’t die first, Andrew’ eventually going to run toward us and jump into a sandy pit that’s out of view just beyond the bottom left corner of the picture.


I told you so! He’s finally gotten the go-ahead to run, and here he comes.


If he steps over that second-from-the-pit line, his jump will be  a “scratch” and it’ll be disqualified. (I believe it’s permissible to step on the line, but not over it.)



No scratch! And look at him fly!


Wow. The eagle has landed.



This particular day was horrifically windy. When the meet started, it was about 75 degrees and sunny, and throughout the whole thing, the wind was 15-20 mph and gusting to nearly 30. After his jumps, Andrew came and sat with me. He was pretty excited, telling me he had jumped a PR (personal record) of 18 feet, zero inches. He told me all about the mechanics of it; what you do and how and when and why, and we both got some education watching the people who were marking and measuring the jumps. We also watched a number of races, which we enjoyed.

The reason we kept sitting there for so long was that the stadium has a big electronic scoreboard, and from time to time, they would post the results of the various events. The board could only fit eight listings at a time, so in races or field events where there were multiple heats, or when there were lots of competing athletes or teams, the results would appear in sets of eight, along with the four-letter abbreviation of each schools.

Waiting for Andre to jump, I’d had plenty of time (a gross understatement!) to study that sign, so here, in no special order, I will provide the names of the schools that were at that track meet.









Green forest

Valley springs








Eureka springs


Oark (not a typo)


There’s a song that says, “I don’t need my name in lights; I’m famous in my Father’s eyes…” but I am not the least bit ashamed to say that I wanted to see Andrew’s name up on that board. And take a picture of it.  = )  So we sat and waited and sat and waited and sat and waited and watched the board. I was wearing jeans and a polo shirt and had brought a hoodie, but Andrew was just in his jersey and shorts, and with the wind still whipping, he was getting pretty cold. But gentleman that he is, he didn’t want to go back to his friends and leave me alone to watch the sign, and, well, I’m stubborn. I wasn’t about to move out of my seat till I got a picture of that sign!

The sun went down, the stadium lights came on, Andrew shivered, and still we sat and waited, and finally, at 7:23…


So now we have proof that Andrew long jumped 18 feet, finishing 12th out of about 24 men. We gave each other high fives, he ran back to join his teammates, and I was so proud and happy that I treated myself to Wendy’s on the way home.


Shame on me

Last Tuesday was especially busy. We had lunch guests for whom I ended up cooking a “supper” meal, and that, along with getting the first floor of the house basically presentable, took a good chunk of the morning and early afternoon. Then there was our regular weekly laundry, plus desk work, stretching, and walking, and the fact that at 6:00 I still hadn’t figured out what to feed us for supper.

As I was putzing around in the kitchen, Scott was in the living room looking for weather on the TV, and at 6:23, he said, “Hey! did you know there’s an election today?”

An ELECTION?!?!?! Oh, my goodness! “No! Are you sure?”

“Yep. They just said something about a sample ballot.”

This was a problem of prodigious proportions!

Not only did I not know there was an election that day, I had no idea what was on the ballot, and I didn’t know what time the polls closed. Nevertheless, my integrity (and pride) wouldn’t let me – a person to whom a number of people look for election research and voting recommendations – miss an election, so while Scott pulled up a sample ballot on his computer, I quickly texted four people who might be able to advise me on how to vote.

It turns out that all we’d be voting on was whether to re-authorize and existing tax to fund our local community college, whether to adopt an additional new tax to do the same (no and no), and which two people of six we’d like to elect to the school board. I only recognized two of the names, and although I knew one of those candidates personally, having sung in our community choir with him for a couple years, I had no idea whether either of those two would make good school board members.

But I grabbed my wallet, we hopped in the car, and we high-tailed it to our church, which is where we vote. On the way, one of the folks I had texted replied with who he had voted for, and since I respect him and didn’t know anything, we both voted as he had. We drove home, and I had mixed feelings. Voting is SUCH a big deal to me, and to do it without having done any personal research was embarrassing. I felt like I had not been a responsible citizen. On the other hand, even thought it was definitely at the last minute (or 20), at least we did vote! Mostly, I just couldn’t believe that I had not even known it was election day. I had seen a paltry few campaign signs about, so I knew an election was coming up, but I figured it would be in a couple months or so – after LOTS of signs had sprouted everywhere. I was wrong.

One things for sure: I’ll be attending more closely to my civic duty in the future!

Seeing double

I’m sure I’ve said this many times before, but I walk along the highway in the mornings, and my walk takes me over the creek and back four times, which means crossing the bridge eight times. On my final pass heading back to the house, my treat to myself is to stop on the bridge and take a couple minutes to just stand there, stretch my calves, survey the scenery, look for turtles in the creek, and pray for a certain out-of-state friend of mine.

I nearly always see something alive. If not turtles (and it’s not quite turtle-seeing season yet), then fish of several varieties, or my noisy belted kingfisher friend, or maybe a great blue heron standing like a statue, or very, very, very rarely a beaver, mink, otter, or muskrat. Last week, all the turkey vultures in western Taney County held a conference in three big trees right around the bridge. I actually counted 61! They were all eyeing the many dozens of sucker carcasses the previous week’s fishermen had abandoned in and on the banks of the creek. Now to me, just sitting around in treetops looking at those heaps seemed an awful lot like going to Golden Corral and just sitting around plate-less at a table next to the buffet, but I guess the turkey vultures knew what they were doing.

That conference was something to see, but this morning was made that pale in comparison. I stopped on the bridge as usual, and as I looked upstream, a large bird came flying toward me. What was it? As it got closer, I could see that its head was white, and… yes… yes, it was indeed a mature bald eagle! God had timed his flight perfectly, to cross the bridge at the exact moment out of 45 minutes that I would be standing there. WOW! I turned to watch, grinning, as it flew on downstream. Then when it was nearly out of sight, I turned my gaze back upstream to begin scanning for turtles, and Sweet Georgia Peaches! Here came ANOTHER bald eagle, this one very slightly smaller than the first, flying toward me on the exact same path. It was almost unbelievable. TWO bald eagles on Easter Sunday morning!!! What a wonderful gift! (Not to mention the infinitely more wonderful fact that Christ is risen indeed.)

Glorious Resurrection Day!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race…”

As a high school senior, Andrew has joined the track team this semester, and he’s really liking it. I like it too, especially the part where I get to watch him run. Reminds me of “Chariots of Fire.”  = ) There is, however, a parental learning curve when it comes to track. Here are a few things I learned from attending my first high school (dual) track meet last week.

You don’t have to pay to get in; at least we didn’t that time.

Nobody much comes to track meets; no need to save seats.

For the uninitiated, it can be hard to tell what’s going on.

“Field” means shot put, discus, javelin, pole vault, and jump (high, long, and/or triple). “Track” means running, either with or without hurdles, and hurdles can be of three different heights and a variety of distances. The permutations on hurdles seem endless.

Race lengths are in meters, with 400 being once around the track, 800 twice, and 1600 four times. A 100-meter dash is done only on the straightaway, and a 200-meter dash covers a curve plus a straightaway. In any race that involves a curve (over 200 meters or more), the runners have staggered starting points. For 200 and 400 meters, they have to stay in their assigned lanes, but for 800 and 1600 meters, they only have to stay in their lanes for the first lap. Although different races start in different places around the track, the finish line is always in the same place. There’s no actual physical “tape” across the finish line, just the stripe painted across the track.

Pole vaulting and high jumping occur at one end of the field, with long jumping occurring simultaneously at the other end. Some field events can also be going on during some of the races.

Our track team members are required to be there for the whole meet. This means that they have a lot of down time, during which they sit on the field, walk up and down the field doing specific stretches and exercises, help hold starting blocks in place for other runners, maneuver hurdles (set them up, raise them, lower them, re-position them, and/or take them down), eat (so they’ll have enough energy for their various races), and just generally hang out. Since Andrew enjoys both running and spending time with friends, track seems to be a good fit for him.

Political correctness aside, there are men’s and women’s versions of most of the events, so a meet takes a long time. The one I attended on March 23 was a dual meet between only Hollister and Branson, and it lasted about three hours, but the meet I skipped last night (March 30) was a regular “invitational meet,” in which some six area schools competed; it lasted six hours! I was pleased to hear that Branson won that one by 14 points. I don’t know the details of how the scoring work, but Andrew said winning by 14 was pretty good.

On March 23, Andrew ran in the 200 meter, 100 meter, and 400 meter races. I later learned that the runners are required to have certain amounts of rest time between races, so Andrew ran in one of the earliest races and one of the last, as well as one in the middle. For the spectating parent of a kid who has more than one race, this means you are there for the long haul. As in, dress in layers, bring food and drink, bring a book, and make yourself comfortable. Thankfully, Branson has very comfortable stadium seats. I don’t know how things will be at away meets.

For each race, depending on the number of competitors, there are multiple heats. Andrew ran in the first heat of the 200, and he did quite well, finishing second. The winning runner just barely edged him out at the end. An hour or so later, he ran the 100-meter dash, in which and he confirmed his suspicion that sprinting is not his natural strength. Then, near the end of the meet, he ran the 400, and I must say that was a delight to watch. He ran very well and was in the lead coming around the curve into the home stretch.

We were up and screaming for him! He was running hard, and I was hoping he had enough calories in his system to keep up his pace and form to the end. He passed us giving it his all, and, as Scott later said, “He ran a GREAT 380!”

380 because then, just a few strides before the finish line, he FELL DOWN. What?!? Unbelievable! Yes, he fell down, but he got back up and kept going. If he hadn’t fallen, I’m pretty sure he could have won. It was such a hard thing to watch, but I was so proud of him for getting right back up. He wasn’t really hurt, although he did spend a long time afterward – first lying down and then sitting up – out on the grass doing a number of stretches. He later told me that he was doing well till he looked over and saw the other runner gaining on him. He got distracted, lost his concentration, had trouble with his hamstrings, and tripped and fell.

In last night’s six-hour meet, the coach only entered him in the long jump. Each athlete gets three jumps, and I assume they count the best of the three. Andrew scratched (fouled, foot over the line) his first two jumps, and his third was not very good. He hasn’t had much experience at all in jumping, although his natural athletic ability and his gymnastics training surely help. The track team has practice from 2:30 to 5:00 after school every day that they don’t have a meet. I don’t know how much – if any – choice he has in what specific events he trains for, but I told him I think he could also be a good high jumper. = )  The parents of one of our cross-country runners were sitting with us at that first meet last week, and their son has run cross-country for several years. That sport occurs in the fall, and their races are just for 30 minutes or so. They said, “We should could have used Andrew the past couple years in cross-country. He’s got the natural abilities of a cross-country runner!” Their son said, “And he’s in choir; he knows how to breathe.” That made me smile.

Track’s been a good experience so far, even with that fall. Andrew said he really likes running, especially the 400 meter distance, and he hopes he can do it in a race again soon.

Packing it in

Some of our family members travel light.

Jessica can pack for a month in the States that includes her own wedding in half of a full-sized suitcase.

Josiah comes to spend the night at our house with a cell phone, his wallet, and Walmart bag containing a comb, some deodorant, sometimes a toothbrush, and possibly – but not always – a change of underwear and socks.

When forced to fly home, Katie inevitably arrives with a half-full carry-on bag.

And then there are the rest of us.

I don’t travel much, but if it’s more than about three nights, I need a big suitcase.  = {

Scott takes relatively few clothes, but a large everything else that could possibly be needed, including games, gifts, and groceries. Most of his travel is international and involves a large suitcase, one or two carry-on bags, and a computer bag.

But Andrew has officially won the prize for the highest pieces-of-luggage-to-length-of-trip ratio of any Roberts family member. His high school choir left last night by motor coach (luxury bus) for an exciting trip to Chicago over spring break. They departed at midnight Monday night and arrived in Chicago around 9:00 AM Tuesday. They will stay in a hotel Tuesday night and Wednesday night, and after seeing a show on Thursday evening, they will leave Chicago around 11:00 PM and drive home, arriving at 8:30 AM Friday. For this trip, Andrew packed one full-size suitcase, one duffle bag, and one regular backpack. Readers may leave a comment to guess the number of pairs of shoes he took.  = )


Behold, by now she liveth


I really am alive and kicking, and I am determined to post blogs, even if they are only a few sentences long,  because doing so is one of the things that most brings me joy and makes me feel alive.

Turkeys are figuring prominently in my life these days. For one thing, I just ten minutes ago pulled out of the crockpot what I intend to turn into something delicious sometime while Scott’s home. At a youth group function back the week before Thanksgiving, the sport du jour was Turkey Bowling. Andrew explained that they took frozen (packaged, net-wrapped) turkey breasts and hurled them across the floor at targets of some kind, and that it was a lot of fun. I don’t know if Turkey Bowling employs traditional scoring, but I suppose Andrew won, because he brought home a rock-hard turkey breast! Which I stuck in the freezer and pulled out last week. After thawing in the fridge for several days, the bird really needed to be cooked, and since I didn’t plan to serve a nice meal to more than three people this week, I decided to plop the bird in the crockpot overnight. Now the house smells wonderful, and my to-do is to debone the critter and package the meat for future use.

And in other news, local readers may be aware that over the past couple of years, some rich somebody bought a large parcel of land along Bull Creek just east of here, including what used to be a cow pasture running along the outside of the horseshoe bend. They did extensive excavation, raised and lowered certain areas, put in a long, winding driveway, dug out a pond, and built an absolute mansion of a house that’s set way back from the road close to the creek. They also cleared many, many acres of land between the house and the road, which means that now, for the first time in well over twenty years, that plot of land is no longer trees and brush right up to the highway, and abiding in that recently-opened piece of real estate are two flocks of wild turkeys. Sometimes the two groups congregate, for a total of some two dozen birds. I rather doubt they are recent additions to the neighborhood. They’ve probably always lived there; it’s just that now I can see them. In fact, I see them 78.8% of the time I drive that road, which I do every time I go to church (read: approximately four times a week). Once I even saw about five of them with their tail feathers spread out, a truly impressive presentation! As Tennyson said, “In the Spring a young [turkey’s] fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love[ly young hens?]”

Anyway, I’m enjoying seeing those wild turkeys across the way on a fairly regular basis, but one day last week I looked out our very own back window to see – as I live and breathe – twelve turkeys ambling across our yard. They bee-bopped from Coffee Road, between the propane tank and the smokehouse, across the driveway, and up into the woods. WOWZA! A couple of them were even on this side of the peony bed, only about ten feet from the dining room window.

Prominent figures, those turkeys.



Jeopardy question: What are snow, iguanas, and temperatures?

Answer: Things that fall.

A couple weeks ago, my sister in law who lives in south Florida, sent me this.

“… We’re hunkered down in the 30s the last couple of days.  Pretty rare for us.  Latest hazard is falling iguanas, who are immobilized under 40 degrees.  what_smile…”

The visual of falling iguanas really made me smile. I don’t know if they’re falling from the sky, or if they’re falling over like the cows in that one Veggie Tales episode, but the temps in Walnut Shade have done some falling of their own of late.

Sunday it snowed. Not a lot, but it was glorious and it kept coming down from 7:00 AM  to nearly 1:00 PM, with the result that the church Scott was scheduled to speak at in Springfield, our own church, and seemingly every other church in Branson all canceled services. Monday it snowed a lot more, beginning during my walk in the morning – and I only did three laps instead of my usual four, because the shoulder icy and/or piled up with snay – and continuing steadily to early afternoon!!! When all was said and done, we had either four or five inches of beautiful white powder, the kind Scott says is perfect for skiing. He thought four inches was probably most accurate, but when it comes to snow I always round up, so my official number is five inches. I took some pictures, and then Andrew, who is a very good photographer, went out and took a slew of pictures with my big camera. If we all live long enough, I will share some of them. here.

Anyway, with the snow, I have just been ecstatic!

And then talk about falling. When I set out this morning, out thermometer read MINUS EIGHT! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a temp that low here. I only did two laps, and I took my walking stick for more secure balance on uneven surfaces. It was just the ticket and I had no problems. Of course, there wasn’t what you’d call heavy traffic at 6:15 AM on a legal holiday, so when no cars were coming, I just walked in the middle of the lane. Thankfully it wasn’t windy, so only my nose and fingertips were really cold, and I wasn’t even out thirty minutes, but when I got back, it was -10. amazing. We did get up to a positively balmy 18 degrees around 2:00 PM, but since we’re now sitting at -5 at 10:00 PM, I think I’ll leave the boys’ faucet dripping again tonight.