Archive for September, 2010

Christmas cards?

One of my special little pleasures in life is Christmas cards.  I like to send’ em and I like to receive ’em.  Shoot, we decorate our living room and dining room with Christmas cards every year.  But this year, for the first time in my LIFE, I am thinking of skipping the Christmas cards.  Sigh.

For one thing, they are expensive, especially when your mailing list is as large as ours.  Postage is not going down, either.  In fact, on January 2, it’s projected to go up to $0.46 for a one ounce letter – or a Christmas card.  However, even the cost is not the main factor.  What wearies me is the challenge of trying to find cards I really like that look the way I think Christmas cards should look and say what I want them to say, all at a decent price.

Besides, having a compulsion for doneness, I don’t like to wait till they show up in Christian bookstores, because frankly, it takes a long time to sign all those cards.  It’s easier for me to get started on it around, say Halloween (or Veteran’s Day, at the latest), and do them little by little.  I prefer to order them online, but some years – despite my best efforts – I just cannot find what I want.

All that to say that our friends and family will be hearing from us in mid-December, but it may just be a newsy family letter on nice stationary.  Or, maybe this will be the month I find the perfect cards.  = )

It was the battery!

Great news:  the electrical problem with the van seems to have been the battery after all.  We have a new one and the van is starting easily every time.

A job I am thankful not to have

Next door to us is a now-defunct-and-for-sale gas station and convenience store turned Mexican restaurant.  I know; only in Walnut Shade.  On the other side of “the restaurant,” as we call it – actually between the restaurant and the creek road-  is a flat overgrown two to three acres of land that some guy named Altom is buying or leasing or using for free as a staging area for his earth-moving equipment.  There are rumors that he’s going to put up a building there to house his office.  Preliminary clearing and leveling for such a building has been started twice, but all that’s really been on that land for more than a year is some gravel, seed weeds, and some (one to ten, at any given time) large pieces of equipment.

Then, a couple weeks ago, a fence went up.  For those of you in the know, the long section of it runs along Irene’s, beginning at the no trespassing sign that was erected most likely to keep Andrew off all lands Faucett, and running all the way back to the woods just this side of Blansit.  The shorter section of fence runs parallel to Coffee Road between the restaurant’s far side parking lotl and the Altom property.  It only goes about halfway from Irene’s to the highway, though.  Odd.

The fence is chain link, and it went up over a period of a few days.  The short section is maybe six feet high, and it has three of those angled-toward-you rows of barbed wire at the top.  Real neighborly stuff.  The long section is even higher but without the angled affair.  It just has about a thousand and a half little twists at the top.

So the fence went up and I thought, “Hmmm.  Seems like a lot of money to spend to enclose only one-and-a-half sides of a weedy gravel field.”  But then, one day last week, I saw something incredible.  A man was out there threading dark green plastic slats through that fencing.  You know what I mean.  It’s that stuff that you thread vertically over, under, over, under each wire of the chain link fencing, so that when you’re done it has kind of a screen effect.  It’s not solid, but it’s less see-through than just naked chain link.

I thought about those slats while I was walking the other morning.  It took a few days for the guy to thread them all, and I found myself wondering how many of those green slats he had to thread.  Inquiring minds, you know, so I decided to try to figure it out.

I got really nervy and walked down Irene’s as far as the no trespassing sign.  I hadn’t set foot on that road at all in probably two and half years.  No one shot me.  I stood there evaluating the fence situation.  I estimated that there were roughly 60 slats in one section (between uprights) of fence, and I loosely counted about 25 sections from there to the woods.  My lightning fast mind then calculated that that poor fellow had threaded something on the order of 1500 dark green slats through that fencing!  That’s one THOUSAND five HUNDRED long skinny pieces of plastic going over under over under over under. . .

Like George, I was curious.  Was he paid by the day, or the job, or the section, or the slat?  Was he unable to find any more meaningful work in our fair county?  Or does slat threading just pay really well?  On the other hand, what kind of person would thread slats like that all day long – and for more than one day?!?  Does he have a criminal record?  Does he thread slats on jobs all over the country, or was this a one-time gig?  I’ve done a bit of boring, menial labor in my day, but I must confess that I’ve never done ANYTHING as mind-numbingly boring as slat threading.  Even grading algebra is more interesting than that!

This gives me perspective.  I can never again complain about tasks like ironing (where you just keep shoving and smoothing and squeezing and setting – and in the summer, sweating) , or cooking (in which you spend up to two hours creating something tasty only to have it inhaled by your family members in seven and a half minutes flat), or sweeping or dusting or cleaning bathrooms (jobs which must be done, but which must be done again almost as soon as they’re done the first time).  None of those tasks pay as me well as the slat threader is probably paid, but at least they do allow a person to look at something unique or move from place to place or at the very least be interrupted repeatedly by someone saying, “Mom,” on a regular basis.

I have decided that the fence on the other side of the restaurant must be for aesthetic purposes only.  It clearly doesn’t keep anything or anybody in or out.  And the green is nice.  I’d certainly rather gaze on green while I’m walking than than on, say, neon orange.  And I’m really very thankful that my job(s) do not include slat threading.

Wild West #1 to #12

I really do want to write about our grand vacation last month, but finding the time to do so is difficult.  I have been writing about it in stages to Jessica via email, but I am beginning to realize, sadly, that that is probably the only writing I will do about it.  It’s already getting hard to remember the details.  Therefore, I have decided to  copy those emails to the blog, thereby documenting our trip for my sake, and allowing our loyal readership to share the joy.  Please remember that these were written to Jessica, and may be slightly more personal than my usual blog posts.

Dear, dear, Jessica,

For your sake, I am learning, or trying to learn, how to use a laptop.  Old dog, new trick, you know.  I am sitting at the table in our “Towne Park Suite” in Colorado Springs.  We got here last night, and we have a number of things we hope to see and do in this area. However, I will now give you some bullet points about our trip thus far.

1.  Dad insisted on carrying most of the actual luggage on a rack on the back of the van, so that all the little stuff could go in the folded down back of the van on the right side, along with the left center row seat, so that the space (and I use that term generously) behind the driver’s seat could be used for someone to lie down and sleep.  On the first day, both Dad and Jo utilized that feature.  I did not.  = )  The suitcases were lashed in and covered with a tarp, but there were spaces and I was concerned that if it did rain, Big Red and his contents – including my pillow! – would get wet.  Yes, I know they’d dry up, but. . . So on the way to Albuquerque, it did come a frog strangler.  It rained so hard that most folks pulled off the road (not Dad), and the wind was so strong it was pushing the van sideways from one lane to the other!  But when we did at last arrive at the La Quinta Inn (free on my about-to-expire United mileage points), nothing was wet!!!  Yay, Dad, and PTL!

2.  The La Quinta Inn in Albuquerque is just two steps up from seedy.

3.  The boys swam in the outdoor pool there, but as Josiah said, grinning, “I guess we didn’t get the memo that it was kissing couples night in the pool.  They kissed and we swam around them.”

4.  All continental breakfasts are not created equal.

5.  To get from Albuquerque, NM to the Grand Canyon in AZ is a long drive.  All drives out west are long.

6.  These two states must have major problems with drunk drivers, b/c there are highway signs often reminding you not to do both of those things together.

7.  The land the US gave the Indians is virtually impossible to live on – sandy soil with sage brush and tumble weed, no trees, no water.

8.  I suspect that the Indians are still mad about that and are therefore taking it out on us gringos (white people) by being perpetually sullen and either slightly or significantly rude.  I never saw an adult Indian smile, with the exception of a mom – at KFC – of a little girl about Christopher’s age who was (the girl) adorable and giggling.

9.  The Painted Desert (part of Petrified Forest) in AZ is truly amazing.  The topography looks a lot like the Badlands, but a lot more colorful – reds, pinks, purples, etc. in all those really weird landforms.  In the absolute hottest part of the day, we took a little walking tour of some pueblo ruins, but to me, it just looked like some rows of rocks on the ground.  I’m not easily impressed with Indian ruins.  = )

10.  However, the drive through Petrified Forest is about a 20-mile jaunt (the Painted Desert comprising the first few miles of it), and in the latter parts, we were able to pull off and walk through ACRES of the biggest log chunks that have turned to stone.  I know the word “amazing” will be terribly over-used on this trip, but I can’t think of a better one right now.  Those logs were AMAZING.  And how on earth did they even get there, when there’s not a tree there now for dozens of miles around?!?!?

11.  While at Petrified Forest, we hiked with a nice family now from Rhode Island, but originally from Taiwan.  He came to the States 25 years ago, she 10 years ago, and they have two cute little girls maybe nine and six.  They had never been to mainland CN.

12.  On the road again, we headed north to the Grand Canyon. . . .

Major accomplishment noted

Applause is in order.  I have now downloaded all 1439 pictures from our Wild West vacation.  Most of those were personally taken by Walnut Shade Mom, but Andrew and Scott did manage to grab my camera a few times.  Furthermore, these are merely a majority of the pictures that were taken; Scott also used his cell phone to take pictures during his and Josiah’s hike to the bottom of Grand Canyon and back up.  I am not responsible for his pictures, but I will get to work on organizing these 1439 and posting the better ones to Flickr.

“Why, Mommy, why?”

1.  Why is it still so stinkn’ hot here (88 degrees and humid) in the third week of September, when it was 47 degrees at 7:00 AM on September 3rd?

2.  Why can I remember to wash and dry the sheets and towels but not remember to fold them?

3.  Why does Andrew spend the day YEARNING to get his chores and academics done so he can go out and play, and then sit staring at Josiah’s computer once his work is finished?

4.  Why is it so easy for me to play a certain piano piece, but so very difficult for me to memorize it?

5.  Why do my tomatoes ALWAYS suffer from nearly fatal early blight, then a couple months later grow healthy vines months so high above the dead ones that there’s no way to support them as they resume setting fruit?

6.  Why are our favorite shirts the ones that are most tedious to iron?

7.  Why must the moles raise their tunnels in the nicest looking parts of the yard?

8.  Why are damp towels destined to be left in places where they cannot possibly dry out and which will therefore smell nasty as a result?

Just wondering.

Saw a turtle!

I always pause on my final pass over the Bull Creek bridge to stretch my calf muscles and see if I can spot any soft-shell turtles.  Throughout the summer, it’s a rare day when I don’t see at least one; sometimes as many as three or four, of various sizes ans species.  However, after a frog-strangling flood of a rain, I often won’t see any turtles for a week or two.  I am assuming that they just get washed downstream a ways and it takes them a while to return to their old stomping (or swimming) grounds (or waters).

So, it rained like crazy a couple weeks ago, right after our vacation, and I haven’t seen a single turtle since before the vacation, which was about a month ago.  Sometime in the fall – and I’m thinking it’s sometime in September – they just disappear and I don’t get to see any turtles till the spring, so I had assumed they were just done for this year.  But this morning, I spied a big guy underwater, nosing around in the leaves right at the near edge of the creek.  Hooray for turtles!  They make me smile.  = )