Archive for February, 2008

Still on the planet

Contrary to popular opinion, I have not fallen off the planet or grown weary of blogging.  The past few weeks have been especially busy, and I have just not made updating the blog a priority, as you can plainly see.

I am not even sure that I have much of anything to say today, so I will shut my mouth for now.

Regular posts should be forthcoming again in the very near future.

Gmail is the way to go!

I have spent HOURS – many, many HOURS – wrangling with email issues over the past ten days; at a time when having my email work well is really important. With no computer tech person to assist me, I have worked my way through to converting my whole email system to Gmail, and it works wonderfully. I am so very pleased.

And in other family news:

1. Jessica made it to the AIM leadership camp on her own just fine.

2. Josiah attended the annual BSA Merit Badge University at C of O and earned his Animal Science Merit Badge, with a strong emphasis on cows. Just ask him about a cow.

3. The living room woodwork paint that was damaged by the carpet lay-ers has been successfully touched up, and the carpet company paid for it.

4. Katie’s first book has been mailed off (with fear and trembling?) to a company to see if they’d like to publish it.

5. Josiah turned 14 and enjoyed Breakfast Casserole and biscuits for breakfast, lunch with friends at The Olive Garden, and a fine dessert of Chainsaw Bars at home.

6. Katie has been accepted to two colleges and offered a half-tuition scholarship at one of them.

7. Katie’s essay in the NRA contest won second place in the nation (out of 700 submissions) and will net her a $500 savings bond.

8. Jessica finished her Sonlight Core 100 (American History in Depth) and her Geometry course, with an A in each one.

9. Andrew’s behavior officially been 85% good over the past 5 days.

10. I really like Gmail.

I was really “tire-d”

Last Thursday was a wild day on the home front.

The girls left at 9:45 to help Tess at the SAC before their SALT session at noon.

I drove alone to Forsyth for a haircut at 12:30.

At 1:15, I left with Josiah to take him to the SAC for AIM.  I told Andrew I’d be back in 30 minutes, which I was.  He was fine to stay home alone with doors locked and instructions to answer the phone for no one but me.

At 4:40, Andrew and I left to take him to gymnastics.  I would then go by the SAC and pick up Josiah, because the girls were staying for Mrs. Lilly’s baby shower.  Either they (hopefully!) or I would pick up Andrew at the YMCA at 7:00 PM.   I was happy.  I had a plan.

So Andrew and I were on Hwy 65 heading for the Y.  I was in the left lane, doing a steady 65, and shortly before I got to the reduced speed sign before the Branson Hills exit, the van started feeling funny.  Something was rough, maybe a problem in the steering.  There was a semi beside me in the right lane.  Things got rougher and I smelled burning rubber.  The van was getting a bit hard to control, and I realized I had a flat.

I knew I had to get out of the traffic fast, but the shoulder on the left lane there is too narrow to pull over, and there’s a lane wall there.  I threw on my right turn signal to try to get over into the right lane, but the semi would NOT speed up or slow down.  I finally had to brake hard in the left lane (with cars behind me) to let the semi pass and then I shot over onto the right shoulder and stopped as soon as I could.

I was actually not too shook up, but Andrew was beginning to cry.  I had managed to park well; as far to the right as possible.  I got out and looked at the driver’s side back tire, which is the one I assumed was flat, but it was fine.  Then I turned and saw the smoke.  It was the driver’s front tire and it was completely shot.  The tread was completely ripped in big circles, and it was smoking.  I had burned rubber, literally.

By the time I had gotten the van stopped, it had felt like I was maybe just driving on the rim of the wheel.  Maybe I had been.  Not a good thing.

I got back in the van, prayed with Andrew, and calmed him down.  Then I called Katie.  No answer.  I called Jessica and was very glad when she answered.  By now it was just a few minutes till 5:00, and the girls were about to start the baby shower.

I explained our situation and asked if she could come and take Andrew on to gymnastics.  I also asked her to bring Josiah . . . or maybe Jorge (one of the AIM staffers).  I knew I might need help in changing the tire.  I explained that since I was slightly south of the Branson Hills exit, she’d have to go up to F and come back.  She said she’d handle it.

I took Andrew behind the van and showed him how to get out the jack.  I unscrewed the gizmo to release the spare, but it was still attached to the van by a wire, and I couldn’t figure out what to do about that.  I showed Andrew the picture of where the jack should go under the van and we tried to figure out the right spot.  I tried to loosen the lug nuts, but they wouldn’t budge for me.

We got back in the van to wait.  In about ten minutes, here came Jessica and Jorge.  As they pulled up, so did another man, but Jorge said he could handle it.  He jacked it partway up and loosened the lug nuts easily.  We were all standing in front of the van and he was at the tire.  As he pulled it off, the van lurched forward and crunched down off the jack into the pavement with a sound that you are glad you didn’t hear.  I hollered at Jessica to get out of the way, which she did, just in time.  Like an idiot, although the van was in park, I had not set the parking brake.  (duh!)  Jorge just looked at me, I felt stupid, and Andrew started to cry again.  I comforted him, reminding him how thankful we were to God that everyone was safe, and then I had Jessica crawl in and set the parking brake.  = )

A couple more people stopped to offer help, including a man in a big pick-up.  Turns out he goes to 1st Assembly in Eureka Springs.  He helped Jorge some, and they got to talking about the S.A. and how much it had helped this man’s family when there had been a fire in California.

Jorge got the mini tire on and the man checked it with his tire gauge.  It was supposed to be 60 PSI, but it was only 12.  He went to his truck and came back with a little air compressor that plugs into the cigarette lighter.  Way cool!  It took a long time to air up, but after a while it got up to 48 PSI and then the fuse on our cigarette lighter blew.  But we didn’t know that and thought we had blown out his air compressor.  He went back to his truck and brought out ANOTHER one!  Slightly different style.  It didn’t work, either.  We tried it in the outlet in back of the van, but no go there, either.  Obviously we had blown a fuse in the van, but there was enough air to get it to Mitchem Tire.

Jessica followed me to Mitchem, but of course, it being almost 5:45 by then, they were closed.  I locked the van and left it there, and we went back to the SAC to drop off Jessica and Jorge.  I took Andrew to gymnastics, an hour late, and got gas (11.1 gallons) because the low fuel light was on in the Toyota.

I bought some vacuum cleaner bags at Lowe’s, picked up Andrew, and went back to the SAC to get the big kids.  Then home to our crockpot of Taco Soup.

I rode in to Mitchem with our friend, LaShell, the next morning and arrived at 8:30.  I had taken along the paperwork showing we bought two tires there in August, less than 10K miles ago.  I fervently hoped that the blown tire was one of those two and would be replaced an no charge.  Alas, it was not so to be.  It was not their tire, so I had to pay.  = (    In fact, I had to pay for two tires, because instead of replacing the dead one, they replaced BOTH the front tires.  I was a little steamed at that, but I guess it is better to have the same thing across the axle.

I don’t remember hitting anything at all.  There was no big pop or explosion like you often hear when a tire blows.  It just got rougher and rougher and that was it.  Later, Katie told me that she had thought something in the van felt “rough” for about the past week, but she couldn’t really tell what it was.  Like maybe there was a spot on the tire that was sticking out or something.  I, too, had been noticing for about a month what I thought was a rough feel in the steering when  I turned slightly to the left at high speeds, but I figured it was just my imagination.  After all, it had been aligned recently.

After the fact, I thought more about this tire blow.  You know, it could have happened on the way to Forsyth – where 160 is totally curvy and has no shoulder at all – while the big kids were in the middle of their AIM practice.  This happened right as practice was ending at 5:00.

It could have happened while I was taking Josiah to the SAC; while Andrew was home alone for the first time.  Now, THAT would have been a mess!

I could EASILY have hit the concrete divider at 60 mph.  Or I could have hit another vehicle, or someone else could have hit me.

It could have happened in the dark, but it was still light at 5:00.

Besides Jorge, at least 5 other people stopped to offer help.  The man with the two air compressors saw us, but couldn’t get over fast enough to stop.  He missed the 248 exit and went on to 76, then turned around and went back up to F and came back down, just to help me.  Another lady pulled up and asked if we needed a “four-square.”  (Jorge had brought one.)  She said her husband had passed me in a FedEx truck (going south) and had called her (they live in Branson) and told her to go see if I was OK.  She, too, had had to go up to F and back.  All the folks who stopped were nice, and several were believers.  No problems with questionable characters.

It’s very obvious that God was watching out for us that day.  Thankfully, he doesn’t get “tire-d.”

Not a girly girl

No, I’m not, and it’s a good thing.  Yesterday, I grabbed a few pieces of junk (little papers, a dead travel toothpaste tube, etc.) that had accumulated on the dresser and walked into the office to throw them out.  As I tossed them into the waste can, something felt funny.  I looked down and realized that my wedding ring was not on my finger.  Hmmm….  It must have slid off into the trash with the junk.

I did not become alarmed immediately.  I rather calmly sifted through the trash, junk mail by orange peel, by Kleenex, by business reply envelope – but the ring was not in the trash.  I retraced my steps to the bedroom and looked everywhere, but I couldn’t find the ring.  I told Scott what had happened and he looked around too.  No ring.

Now this is not the first time I have been wedding ring-less.  During either the Jessica or Josiah pregnancy, my actual wedding ring got very tight in the summer and I think it had to be cut off or something.  I don’t really remember, but I do know that that ring no longer exists.  Post-baby, we ended up buying a relatively inexpensive new, larger (in diameter!) ring to fit my new larger-in-diameter postpartum finger.  I have worn that ring #2 for the past 13 or 16 years – depending on which baby it was.

However, there was a week or so when I didn’t wear it.  A couple years ago, Scott and I were strolling on the dirt road near our house, talking about whatever, and suddenly I realized the ring was gone.   We looked all over in the dirt and gravel, thinking it had slid off, but we never found it.  We even offered the kids a reward if they found the ring.  Now that was a funny picture; four children walking very slowly up and down the road for hours on end, all staring at their feet.  No one found it.

A week or so later, Josiah said, “You’ll never believe what I found in my drawer.”  I didn’t want to know; a long time ago, a kid had found a dead mouse in a drawer.  He held up the ring.  “It was between two pairs of shorts, Mom.  Fork over the cash.”

No one has the slightest idea how my second wedding ring got into Josiah’s clothing drawer, but I obviously didn’t lose it on the road.  It must have been off for some time before the stroll and I just didn’t realize it.  That makes me think that it probably didn’t fall off yesterday evening when I tossed the trash.  It was probably off earlier than that (who knows when or where?) and I only realized it then.

So, I told Scott that although that particular ring didn’t have any great sentimental value, my finger did feel naked, and I didn’t like the feeling.  I know I’m married, and he knows I’m married, but I want it to be obvious to the rest of the world, too.  Therefore, I want to put something on that finger, even if it’s just a pop-top ring.  Just kidding.

Since the second ring may eventually turn up, I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a third one.  In fact, I was thinking about just going to Wal-Mart and looking for something cheap for now – not necessarily even real gold.  I even thought about wearing my class ring.  I get a point for actually knowing where to find it, but alas, it is MUCH too small for the finger in question.

However, while digging through the box of ancient jewelry, I found a silver-colored ring that actually fits just fine.  I have no idea where it came from.  It’s a bit bulky and not exactly what I would select as a wedding ring, but the price was right and I look married again.  Not girly; just married.

Great balls of mud!

I think I mentioned the igloo.  It was about seven feet high and totally glorious.  The construction was an exercise in geometry.  Many, many large (2 foot diameter?) balls of snow were stacked in a rough cone shape, with a board providing some roof support over the door.  I’m guessing there were maybe 20-25 huge snowballs involved, and we all know how one makes huge snowballs:  you start with a handful of packed snow, and roll it all over the yard to make it bigger and bigger and bigger.  Of course, as you roll the ball around, it picks up dirt and leaves, but this is of no consequence. There’s always a bit of dirt visible on a large snowball, but white will certainly be the predominant color.

Until the sun comes out.  Which it did the very next day.

Snowmen (and igloos) don’t melt suddenly into a pool of water.  They very gradually soak themselves into the ground, and as they go away, what remains boasts a progressively higher and higher ratio of dirt to snow.  This morning, two-and-a-half sunny days post-construction, I looked out the window and saw in the middle of our brown, snowless, grassy backyard, a hulking structure seemingly composed of. . . great balls of mud!

The contrast from the original gives new meaning to the phrase, “washed me white as snow.”

You can be in the top .2% and not be judged the best

We should be glad, but I think we are all somewhat disappointed.  For the second year, Katie entered an audio essay in the VFW’s “Voice of Democracy” contest.  Last year’s topic was “Freedom’s Challenge,” and Katie’s essay placed first in the post, first in the district, and second in the state, with over 1400 entries state-wide.  Although she was away on a mission trip and unable to attend the state banquet last year, she netted a very nice chunk of change for her winnings at three levels.

This year’s topic was “My Role in Honoring America’s Veterans.”  If anything, her essay this year was even better than last’s, and she again took first in the post and first in the district.  The banquet is a black tie affair, and she borrowed a prom dress and was escorted by her dad.  Unfortunately, there must’ve been some big hairy mistake, because after they announced the seven 6th place winners, they called out Katie’s name as one of the two fifth place winners!!!  AAAARGH!  Every was shocked and slightly embarrassed, and it wasn’t at the sight of our lovely daughter in her gown!

Now, to put things in perspective, it must be noted that there were over 2000 entries statewide this year, and having one’s  work judged as 5th out of 2000 is no shabby accomplishment.  There was a moderate cash award, and as I encouraged Katie, “at least you didn’t buy a dress!”

What does empty mean to you?

I like email, but sometimes it can be darn cantankerous.

Our ministry has an email list. We send updates to our partners roughly every week (or every other week, or whenever Scott says, “You know, we haven’t sent an update in a while. Would you write one today?”) and sometimes daily. Lately, we have learned that many of the folks on our email list are not receiving what we send.

Troubleshooting queen that I am, I did a trial (experimental, not judicial) yesterday. I sent out an email asking everyone who received it to reply with “got it” in the subject line. I received two replies, which, out of nearly 150 addresses, was disheartening. I use Outlook Express to get my email.

I then went to the online inbox for the address to which people had been asked to reply. It was empty, but I noticed that there is also a “junk” folder and a “trash” folder, both of which said “empty” beside them. I had never actually opened either of those, because obviously I could tell by looking at them that they were (duh!) empty. However, something urged me to open the trash folder anyway, and lo and behold there were almost 200 messages in there, some from up to six months ago! So “empty” didn’t mean the folder was empty. It meant that I should click on the word “empty” in order to empty the folder. Aha! I’ve been home all along, but now the lights are on.

I will not bore you with the details of trying to figure out how and why all those replies got into the trash folder. Suffice it to say it involved another hour or so of computer fun, fun, fun and all kind of gyrations with our ISP, the web-based email provider, mail forward, and account settings.  I enjoyed reading all 175 of those replies and I almost cried with gratitude.  You see, for months, we have not heard much from our partners and we assumed that people just didn’t care.  Those emails showed that LOTS of people do care a great deal!  Yay!

I think it’s all straightened out now, and I think I can hit mail forward and receive into Outlook Express the messages that are being sent to me. Of course, that doesn’t solve the problem of a LOT of our outbound ministry updates being returned to me undeliverable, (all suspiciously to yahoo addresses. . . hmmm. . .), but that will be a challenge for another day.

And now my trash folder is really and truly “empty.”