A few things I’ve learned recently

  1. Never buy Christmas cards that have glitter on them. It is impossible to avoid wearing said extremely fine, powder-like glitter, and despite aggressively washing your face, you will look like a 1990s gymnast for days.
  2. If every press of the comma key causes all text prior to that comma except the initial letter to disappear, and if this happens with your built-in keyboard as well as your external (USB) keyboard, it’s time to re-boot your computer.
  3. Don’t use fresh green beans to make green bean casserole. They are way too crunchy and effectively defeat the whole “comfort food” goal.
  4. Quicken’s ability to download transactions is as fickle as a middle-schooler’s friendships.
  5. There’s also a Great Canadian Baking Show, and it uses the same theme music as its British forebear!
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I have 29 years to go…

… until I do like my parents and celebrate OUR 60th anniversary! We had a special celebration with them in their home in North Little Rock last weekend, and it was a wonderful blessing to see so many of their friends (many who live half an hour away in Cabot where they attend church) turn out in 50-degree weather and pouring down rain to honor them and their marriage. They all said such wonderful and true things about Mom and Dad, and I was once again so very proud to be their daughter.

Event planning was not included in my natural skill set, but since I am becoming “mature” enough to recognize many of my own shortcomings, I humbled myself and, at Scott’s urging, asked for help. Scott and I did most of the planning, but Dad put together a wonderful slide show of their many years together, our girls sent video greetings, and several of our friends here and several of their friends there used their various talents to provide decorations, recipes, gifts, and photography. Scott put together a fun trivia quiz with 18 multiple choice questions about my folks, and then we gave a prize to the guest with the most correct answers (11). After all, how many people’s moms have been taking daily insulin injections for 82 years? And how many people’s dads even own an accordion – much less can play it?!?

I’ll just say that for two (at the time) unbelieving, non-dancing college students (a freshman and a sophomore) to meet on a blind date to the Junior Prom, marry, raise a family, and become Christians – in that order – and then still be deeply in love and very happily married SIXTY years later; well, that just has to be a God thing. And I and our family are some of the beneficiaries. What an awesome heritage we have! Thank you, God, and Congratulations, Mom and Dad!

BYOS

I think I’ve seen it all now. At the Blair-Shannon dining hall at MSU, the massive buffet in the first floor of his dorm where Andrew eats most of his meals, they no longer provide straws for drinks. He says he now carries his own metal straw (which came with his Yeti) to the dining hall. And yes, that means he has to – at least periodically – wash his own straw.

Timing the strawberries?

Why is your travel alarm in the fridge, Patty?

It’s an understandable question.

I noticed a few months ago that the milk had been going bad early. Well, the Hiland didn’t, but the Walmart did. Repeatedly. So I turned the fridge somewhat colder and promptly forgot about it until several weeks later, when there wasn’t any appreciable change in the shelf life of our milk, but the lettuce and tomatoes were just a notch shy of frozen. Hmm.  So I nudged the fridge temp back up a skoash.

Then last week I began to wonder what temp the fridge actually was. And what temp it was supposed to be. To answer the first question, I needed a thermometer. The one that hangs in the oven only goes down to 100 F, so that was no help. But Scott had a brilliant idea. He brought in the little transmitter gizmo that hangs on the side of the smokehouse. We have its partner on the windowsill in our office, and that’s how we know what the temp is outside. The set has been setting there and showing us the temp for four or five years. It seems like only three years, but I have learned that nowadays those “seems likes” are always off. As in, it seems like we’ve had the new stove for about four years, but it’s really been seven. Or, it seems like I bought that can opener about five years ago, but it’s really been nine.

We also have the big round, cheap, Walmart thermometer hanging on the smokehouse facing the house, but it’s not very precise – only good for a range of, say, about ten degrees. It lets us know at a glance if the temp is 74 or 86 (depending on whether or not the sun is shining on it), but that’s about it. For more detailed info, we go with the digital one in the office. It has a button on top that, when pressed, toggles between “Indoors” and “Outdoors,” but we never think to press that button, figuring that since we’re by definition standing inside when we’re looking at it, we can already tell whether we’re hot, cold, or comfortable.

So Scott brought in the little gizmo and plopped it in the fridge, and an hour later, it read “73 F.” But the next day, it read “73 F.” As it did four hours after four more hours reposing in the fridge. That was alarming, to say the least. So we took it out of the fridge and set it on the kitchen counter where, for the next two days, it continued to read 73 F. Which was probably pretty close to accurate, although we do leave our thermostat at 80 during the day and 74 at night…?

It then occurred to me that our ACME wonder thermometer that had served us so well for (well, I guess I don’t really know how) many years, was either dead, dying, or… or maybe it needed new batteries! Of course, I didn’t have enough of the right size, so that would have to wait for a Walmart run, but in the meantime, I remembered that my nifty orange travel alarm always has a digital read-out of the ambient temperature. Aha! I got it out of my toiletries bag and set it in the fridge on top of a a clam shell of strawberries. Fifteen minutes later, it read 33 F. Finally! I googgled ideal fridge temp a, arrived at 36 F, and then played around with the fridge temp dial for parts of two days till I got it to stay at 36.

My travel alarm is back where it belongs, our high tech thermometer is doing well, our milk is cold, and our lettuce is crisp but not icy. All is well in the Shade.

Before me and behind me

Andrew came home today (!) to go floating with us.

Scott’s been bummed because the last two times he’s been overseas, hes been in places that are hot and dry, it’s rained at home while he’s been away, and then when he’s arrived home it’s been very dry here (read: nowhere near enough water in the creek to float) with no rain on the horizon. So I can’t tell you how many times in the past ten days Scott has said something about rain and water and creek level and floating. And then a couple days ago, glory to God, we had a major rain event. Scott was SO happy! Yesterday (Friday) the creek was up and at a great floating level, but we both had commitments, and anyway Scott really wanted to float with Andrew, but he was in class.

Then this morning (Saturday of Labor Day weekend) I checked the creek and it was on the very low end of floatable, a foot down from yesterday. But Andrew had said he’d come, so we made preparations. (What that actually means is that Scott played tennis, I did RVR payroll, and Scott mowed the yard.) Anyway, Andrew got here a little before noon, and while Scott did some other deskwork, he and I watched Episode 1 of the 5th season of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix, something we both very much enjoy doing together. And then finally, after losing and later finding things (trailer lock, contacts, shades), forgetting things (sunscreen), playing musical cars (even after all these years I never can fully understand who needs to drive what where when and with which keys on this shuttle deal, so now I ask them to please just tell me what I need to do), and finding that we only had two and-a-half paddles instead of three (one set had two male ends – UGH), we finally put in at Round Mountain Road at 3:48 PM CDT.

Unfortunately, I have been dealing with floating fear. We have kayaked Bull Creek many, many times, Bear Creek several times, the Buffalo River quite a few times, and Lake Taneycomo one time, and through all that, I’ve personally only had four bad flips (three of which were quite scary and unnerving, but not actually dangerous). I’ve also had one flip that could have been life-threatening, and although I no longer dwell on it, I will never, ever forget Jessica’s horrific floating accident. It’s kind of sad to me that those experiences seem to be burned more deeply into my consciousness than the many fun and beautiful times we’ve had floating, but they are, and although I hate it and wish it weren’t so, the fact is that my anticipation of a float is now often tinged with dread. That, combined with some issues with my right knee that make it challenging to get up and down quickly, makes me tend to think, “Maybe I should just stay home.”

But Scott really wanted the three of us to go, so we went. And here’s what I want to say about the whole thing. We had a good time, and I relied HEAVILY on my amazing menfolk.

Every little riffle tried to undo me. I prayed. I cried. I paddled. I remembered to never get crossways to the current. I wished the water were deeper so the rocks wouldn’t be so prominent, but they were. I wobbled. I scraped. I panicked. But every time I cried out in fear or yelped, “Help me!” Andrew was right there. At each and every challenge point – and I know that those points were only challenging to me; they were absolutely nothing to Scott or Andrew – Scott went ahead of me (with his pathetic little half-paddle), scouted out the best way to go, talked me through it, and on many occasions beached his own boat, hopped out, ran back, and grabbed my boat to walk me through the tough stretch. And Andrew followed behind, always watching me and ready on no notice to jump out, steady my boat, confidently calm me down, tell me he had me, and get me through whatever was scaring me. I never flipped, and I hardly even got wet.

For 31 years, Scott has been taking excellent care of me, and honestly, I’m so used to it that I guess I take it for granted. Today reminded me that I shouldn’t, and I’m determined that I won’t going forward. But I really don’t know how to express how terribly impressed I was with Andrew. In dealing with a woman who was not in good shape physically and who was high-strung and scared emotionally, he was kind, respectful, calm, strong, and capable. He didn’t laugh at my fears or belittle me. He knew just what to do in each situation, and he was strong enough to make it happen. The current, the footing, the roots, the rocks, and the panicky mom didn’t faze him. At one point, when he was preparing to pull me through rushing water in a very, very tight space between what amounted to a rock and a hard place, and I asked him, “Can you do this?” he said, “We’ll see. I’ve got you. I’m a lifeguard.” And he did it!

Yes, he is a lifeguard, and for three summers he’s come home from work and told me stories about what happened at White Water (the good, the bad, the stupid, the rescues). Now, from the other side, as a fearful person on the water instead of just as his mom, I can see why he is a very good lifeguard. Today I experienced – although I already knew it – the fact that he really can handle a water-related situation in a way that inspires confidence and gets the people through whatever real or imagined crisis they are facing.

We took out at Gaar’s at 6:15 PM, and all was well, but I can tell you that there’s nothing quite like having not one but TWO very strong, very handsome, very experienced men taking good care of you when you’re flustered. I am very, very blessed!

 

Why I’ve felt like a 1990’s gymnast

I took a selfie, but it didn’t show up – which is actually good! – so I will use words to describe the situation.

I am play a significant role in three entities: our family (a.k.a. “Team Roberts”), our ministry (“Take the Challenge”), and our family business (“Roberts Vacation Rentals”). I like to send Christmas cards, and although our family mailing list has expanded and contracted through the years, it currently sits at 187. That’s a lot of Christmas cards to sign. I do that signing, and one year I made the mistake of doing it while Scott was around. When he saw me prepping Christmas cards, he asked if I had any extras (DUH, I’m a beaver; what kind of a silly question was that?) and said he’d like to send some to our TTC ministry partners. Hmm…  And maybe it would be good to send some to our RVR guests. Hmm… again. So I asked me to give me names and addresses, and that ended up involving way more than my extras, so we had to real quick go buy some – at the peak of the Christmas card season; not a good idea – and the whole project became a massive pain, but we got it done.

Then last year, I asked him earlier in the fall about it, and yes, he wanted to send them to both of those additional entities and it ended up being about 200 each, which added to our family ones came to nearly 600 Christmas cards to sign, stuff, lick, label, and post, along with everything else in life.

But I’m nothing if not creative. HA! So in January of 2018, I asked Scott if he wanted to send TTC cards in 2018. “Yes.” And what about RVR cards in 2018? “Yes.” And how many? “200 of each.” So in the first week of January on the deep discount, I ordered 200 cards for our family, 200 different cards for TTC, and 200 yet again different cards for RVR. Gotta’ keep up with which is for what, you know. And each entity got them for half price and when they came I labeled the boxes so I’d know what I had for what. AND I decided that I wasn’t about to wait till mid-November to star dealing with 600 Christmas cards! No way. I would begin signing them little by little in the summer. Brilliant, huh?

Well, summer was busy. Andrew graduated. We went to Waxhaw. We all went to Yellowstone. Jessica and Matthias came to visit and then went back to Hong Kong. Scott went to Ghana. Andrew moved to MSU in Springfield. And I handled lots of responsibilities and breathed, but didn’t start signing Christmas cards. I did, however, print return address labels for all three entities in August…

Then just today, I bartered with Scott on a project and got from him the wording he wanted in the RVR cards. And I decided maybe I’d sign maybe 18 per day (they’re in boxes of 18), you know, do it little by little, so it wouldn’t be so overwhelming. I pulled them out and opened the first box of 18. They’re really pretty and they have gold glitter around the edges. I repeat, they have gold glitter around the edges. By the time I had written, “Merry Christmas from Roberts Vacation Rentals!” on just four cards, there was glitter all over my desk and keyboard. Sheesh. It was pretty, but this was going to be a messy project. If I did a box a day, I’d be re-cleaning up a LOT of glitter 11 or 12 times!

Scott was gone to town, so I just ducked my head and plowed forward. Two hours and 35 minutes later, I finished. 198 RVR cards are signed and ready to be stuffed, licked, labeled, and posted. WHEW! But when I met Scott at the door he LAUGHED at me! Turns out my face, my hair, and my shirt were very sparkly. This glitter is teeny tiny, like powder, and it was a bear to get off my face. I tried to brush it off with a dry wash cloth. No go. I looked like those little gymnasts a few Olympics ago (well, probably more than a few) when glittery faces were all the rage for little girls. That’s when I should have taken the selfie, but I didn’t think of it. Instead, I wet the wash cloth and scrubbed for all I was worth. It’s mostly gone now, but there are still errant flecks of gold on my face.

And just for clarification, I won’t be taking a tumbling run any time soon; I only feel like a 1990’s gymnast from my neck up.

“I’d rather do it myself!”

This is definitely true for me much most of the time, but more and and more I find myself feeling varying degrees of resentful that now I HAVE to do “it” myself, and wistful about the days when I didn’t.

The following seem to be normal parts of life now, Although some of the following are now just normal parts of life, they weren’t always!

~ Pumping our own gas – Before about 1970, service station attendants did this; now I live next door to a gas station that is so self-serve that it employs no humans at all!

~ Using an ATM to get cash from a bank  – Although our bank does still employ tellers… for now.

~ Self-checking our groceries – I simply refuse to do this if I have more than a handful of items.

~ Assembling a brand-new electric floor fan or a patio side table – Should it really be possible to buy either of those in a flat box?!?

~ Printing our own postage – I generally refrain from this because I like stamps.

~ Entering our own information into some/any company’s database – We do this nearly every day, so often that I’m pretty sure I’m not even aware that I’m doing someone else’s job.

But every now and then I get some truly excellent, old-timey customer service from a real-live human person, and it does make me smile.


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