Archive for October, 2010

My favorite things

I’m thinking today of things I really like, and these came to mind:

home grown tomatoes

new stiff corn brooms

jeans that fit

knee socks in fun colors

Andrew’s smile first thing when I wake him up

fresh, sweet pineapple

sheets that have been dried on the line

all due library books present and accounted for

Emily V’s apple pie

Timing is everything

One of my deep dark not-so-secrets is my oven.  It’s dirty.  It’s so dirty that if I try to bake something in it, it sets off the smoke detector in the dining room!  Of course, that has never motivated me to clean the oven; just to take the batteries out of the smoke detector.  (Shhhh!)

So this week, on my weekly grocery run to Wal-Mart, I decided that I had lived with the problem long enough and I would simply HAVE to break down and clean the oven.  Now, I don’t really want to discuss how long it’s been since the oven was cleaned, but although we’ve lived here for 14 and a half years, I’m still pretty sure that the time frame between oven cleanings wouldn’t be measured in decades.  Anyway.

On Tuesday, I actually bought a can of oven cleaner and a set of elbow-length pink flowered rubber gloves.  To clarify:  I’m not into pink-flowered anything, unless it’s growing out front in a bed or container.  I only bought them because Wal-Mart didn’t seem to have any elbow-length gloves in plain yellow, and I was pretty sure that – give the task at hand – length would be important.  In fact, I was thinking that arm-pit length would probably be ideal. . .

So I bought ’em and brought ’em home and Andrew put ’em away under the kitchen sink.  That’s a place where we put things that we hope we won’t ever use.

Then today, I was baking some chicken breasts to chop for a casserole that was going to be tonight’s supper.  Then Scott invited friends for dinner before group on Sunday, so I actually decided to move the nicer dinner to tomorrow and just have frozen pizza tonight, but in any case, I was baking these chicken breasts.  The oven had been on at 200 degrees for nearly an hour while I was thawing some sauce to put with some pasta, top with cheese, and bake tomorrow morning for our post-planning meeting luncheon.  When I pulled out the sauce, I turned the oven up to 375 and waited a few minutes for it to preheat, so I could pop the chicken in for 43 minutes.

I went off to do something else, and when I came back, I noticed that the oven’s thermostat light was still on.  That seemed odd, as it surely should have been up to temp by then, so I figured it had just cycled back on to maintain heat, and I put the chicken in.  While it baked, I was washing dishes in the kitchen for a while, and I noticed that the light stayed on.  I wondered briefly if something was wrong.  One way to check that out is to turn the oven down and see at which temp the light goes off.  Which I did.  And the light went off at 200 degrees.  Not a good sign.

However, I had a lot of other things to think about, so I decided I’d to put it back up to 375 and wait a few minutes.  I did, but some ten minutes of very raw chicken later, I repeated the experiment with the exact same result.  And I did it yet again.  Something was very wrong.  I mentioned this to Scott and he did what I had done (brilliant minds think alike) and got – yet again – the exact same result.  The oven was about 200 degrees cool, and the chicken was not cooking at all.

Well, at least we didn’t HAVE to eat the chicken casserole tonight.  We could just have pizza. . . or not.  Not without an oven.  Evidently my dirty oven had gone into a full-fledged rebellious temper tantrum and just shut down.

It was Saturday afternoon, but I went to call our favorite appliance repairman at ASAP Services.  We haven’t had to call him in a long time, which is nice, but I had a very rude awakening when his line had been disconnected and was no longer in service.  I wanted to tell that woman what she could do with her, “if you think you have reached this recording in error. . .” but I spared her.

I then looked for a phone book to try to find an appliance repairman in Branson, but in our high-tech house, the same house that receives (and summarily trashes) some four or five phone books a year, there was none to be found.

Next I went online to try to find one, and tell me, WHY do these online yellow pages and white pages sites give you a full list of numbers for businesses located up to 150 miles away from the zip code you enter?  I gave up.  To heck with the dead and dirty oven.  I had no idea what else to do.

Scott removed the heating element and asked if I wanted to go to Lowe’s.  I guessed I did.  I surely wasn’t going to bake anything.  I hadn’t really scheduled “shop for ovens,” into my day, but I told him that if he wanted to consider buying a new oven, my only priority was that it HAD to be self-cleaning.

We arrived at Lowe’s, we displayed our dead and dirty heating element, and we were advised of a phone number to call to price a replacement part (which Lowe’s conveniently does not stock).  Much time was spent on the phone, and I heard one half of a long conversation about cross-referencing of part numbers, what was in stock where, and how long various transit times would be, but the deciding factor on the whole deal was when I asked the other Scott (the friendly appliance guy at Lowe’s) how long a new oven would be expected to last, and he said, “ten to twelve years.”  Although we don’t have exact figures, we do know that the dead and dirty one is at least 21 years old, and probably closer to 25.  We agreed that it would probably be wiser in the long term to replace it, rather than fix (and clean!) it.

So, the end result of our jaunt to Lowe’s was that on Monday, their friendly delivery crew will be installing our BRAND NEW OVEN!  I, of course, will have to take lessons on how to use it, because it has a flat cooktop and a lot of electronic controls that look rather overwhelming.  Gone are the days of turning a dial to set the temp on your oven.   Sigh.  Once the deal was sealed, I assured (my) Scott that I had not intentionally broken the oven, I confessed my Tuesday under-the-sink purchases, and we both had a good laugh.

Oven cleaning is clearly NOT a task to be rushed into.    = )

Wrong tub

The other night, I awoke with a start at 1:41 AM.  The wind was howling, it was raining hard, and it sounded like something was brushing against the window screen above my head.  Clearly a thunderstorm as in progress, and thunderstorms excite me.  I am not generally afraid of them, but this one sounded like a raging tornado!

While I lay there in bed trying to decide whether to get up and pee; get up, put on a robe, and go see what was happening, get up, get dressed, and go to the cellar (and if so, what all should I take with me to the cellar?), or just stay there  and pray, Scott popped out of bed, went to the bathroom, got dressed, and went to see what was going on.

While he was in the bathroom, a knock came on the bedroom door.  It could only be one of two people, and I fervently hoped it was not Andrew.  Shortly after he had gone to bed that night, he had re-emerged to say that the wind was scary to him.  I had comforted him, prayed for him, and sent him back to bed, but I know his propensity for fear in the night, and, once awakened, he’s pretty hard to get back to sleep.

“Who is it?”  I called through the closed door.  Josiah somehow always takes “Who is it?” to mean, “Come in,” so he (fully clothed) came in telling me that he was Josiah and did I know that Taney County was under a tornado watch?  Actually, no, but it sure sounded and felt like a tornado was going to rip our fair abode to shreds any minute!

About then Scott emerged, dressed, and joined Josiah in surveying the house from vantage points besides the warm in-the-bed one I was enjoying.  As it turned out, by the time I visited the Little Girls’ Room, donned my robe, and got out into the hall, the wind had lessened, the guys had determined that all was well, and they were headed back to bed.  Andrew slept through the whole thing.

I headed out to walk at 7:00 AM the next day.  The porch was a wreck.  The beat-up cover of the porch swing had blown off, and the padding of the seat was soaked.  My crocs, which have lived on the porch during gardening season had each put a lot of distance between themselves and their usual resting place beside the door, and each one contained half an inch of standing water.  Leaves and debris were scattered all over the porch Josiah had vacuumed less than a day before, but worst of all was the flag.  It was gone.

The flag tends to whip loudly in heavy wind, and that can keep those of us with bedrooms on that side of the house awake.  It also tends to get soaked if there’s a strong, blowing rain, so in either of those cases, we bring it in and stand it in the living room, just inside the front door.  It hadn’t been in the living room.  It wasn’t on the porch.  It wasn’t in the shrubs, or anywhere in the front or side yard.  It wasn’t even over in the restaurant parking lot.

I am partial to my flag, and the thought that it had actually blown AWAY – far away – during the night was disturbing to me.  Of course, we could buy another flag, but still. . .  Had it been a tornado?  Was it one of those cases where a tornado lifted some object and plunked it down miles away from home?  Would I ever see our Stars and Stripes again?

Later in the day, I asked Scott if he had happened to have seen the flag.  Yes, he had!  In fact, he claimed it was in the tub.  In the tub?!?!?  I ran to look, and sure enough, draped across Jessica’s bathtub was our very, very wet American flag.  I’ve seen a lot of things in Walnut Shade, but I had never seen such a patriotic bathtub before.  Actually, a patriotic bathtub would fit better in our bathroom than in Jessica’s. . .


Dear Wal-Mart

Dear Wal-Mart,

It’s really a shame that I have had to leave my local grocery – the one where I have shopped every week for fourteen years, where the checkers watched our kids grow up, where the sackers know me by name and know I want paper without my saying a word, and where smiling staff load my groceries into the van for me – to do my grocery shopping at Wal-Mart.

I liked Country Mart a lot, but when Price Cutter bought them out, things went downhill fast.  First they raised their prices substantially.  Next, they started treating their employees (my friends, which see above) like dirt, and that made me mad.  Then they rapidly raised prices (15% and 20% at a whack) on almost everything.  They cut the selection and eliminated staple products I had bought weekly or monthly for years.  They raised prices more, and then they hiked the prices.

I can save about $35 a week by buying my groceries at Wal-Mart, although about every six weeks I do have to do a Country Mart run to stock up on a few things I can’t get at Wal-Mart.  However, the challenges of scheduling a Wal-Mart grocery trip are really becoming limiting.

It used to be that if I could get through the check-out by 10:00 AM, all was well, but now I have to be done by 9:00 AM in order to be able to do anything else with my morning.  I am a busy mom with kids at home who need my attention, and I need to be able to drive fifteen minutes to town, do my grocery shopping, check out, and drive back home – all in a little over an hour.  However, your new plan of having me stand in the checkout line for 2o minutes or more really cramps my style.  I think it wouldn’t bother me so much if I didn’t have to look at the 18 unmanned check stands while I stood and waited and listened to other disgruntled customers (last week, one lady behind me actually hollered, “OPEN UP SOME MORE LINES!”) and watched your exquisitely slow cashiers do their slow-motion show.

I used to be a grocery checker, and I can tell you that although we didn’t have scanners to slow us down, we checkers were fast – very fast.  We were paid to be fast and accurate, and we were incented to get faster.  We flew like the wind while we checked out groceries, and those were the days when we (not the customer) unloaded the cart!  I know from experience that it is possible to check groceries fast.  Granted, the scanners add a little time, but if checkers want to move fast, they can.  It’s just that most of your don’t, won’t, or can’t.  You do have a couple of fast ones and I know who they are, but sometimes they are not there when I am, or they are stationed on a 20 items or less line.  A true shame.

Last week, I got to the checkout a few minutes after 10:00 AM.  My bad, I know, but I had a full cart and it had taken longer than usual.  There were three 20 items or less lines open at the grocery end, but I didn’t qualify for those.  There was one big line open.  At the non-food end, there were two 20 items or less lines and one big line, but the big line was manned by a woman who I know to be slower than Christmas.  Back at the grocery end, I opted for the only other line in the entire store where I could check out, and it becmae obvious over time (and I spent a lot of time there) that the slower than Christmas dame must’ve trained the young lady I faced.

Well, I didn’t actually get to face her for almost 20 minutes, because she picked up each item, rolled it carefully around to look for the bar code, examined it closely, and then very slowly waved it in the direction of the scanner.  Now she was nice enough, but she was truly slower than molasses in January.  Meanwhile, my ice cream was melting (and she did not put it in a paper freezer bag), I needed to pick up my son from his piano lesson, and I was getting VERY frustrated!

WHY would a grocery store not have more than two big line checkers working on a Wednesday morning at 10:00 AM?  Don’t ladies still do their grocery shopping in the morning? Does it take rocket science for you to schedule your cashiers when the customers are there?

Financially and ethically, I’m stuck with Wal-Mart for groceries, but now that I know that I have to be done by 9:00 AM in order to be able to check out, I may have to forgo my morning constitutional on grocery days, and that would be very sad.

In any case, I have now resigned myself to visiting your store efficiently only before 9:00 AM and after 9:00 PM.  Frankly, I think Sam would be disappointed in you.


Walnut Shade Mom

Wild West vacation (#66, etc.)

Dear Jessica,

#66.  I was really keen on Andrew attending this ranger program the night that Dad and Jo were down in the canyon at Phantom Ranch.  He finally decided he’d like to go.

#67.  You can take the blue route (shuttle bus) from Maswik Lodge to a spot rather near to the amphitheater where the ranger program would be held.

#68.  Despite that, it’s not easy to find the amphitheater.  In the dark.  Without a flashlight.

#69.  Having by this time ridden the blue bus back and forth many times, and having noted a certain stop at which the driver always announced the ranger program at the amphitheater that night, I knew just where we should get off.  Get off we did.

#70.  The amphitheater was “just a short walk up over the hill.”

#71.  I think it was 7:50 PM when we got off the bus, and the program would be at 8:00 PM.

#72.  If you get off the blue bus at the amphitheater stop and take a short walk up the hill, you will end up between two large buildings (one with some Catholic verbiage on it).  You will be crunching through the woods on no path at all.

#73.  It will get darker and you will rue the fact that your brain completely zoned out on bringing a flashlight.

#74.  Another man with two young boys will follow you.  You will hope that he is also trying to find the amphitheater, but you will also be forced to fight off the fear that he is out to attack you.

#75.  Once that fear has been allayed – probably by his asking you if this is the way to the amphitheater, which it most obviously is not – you can return to the bus stop.  At this point (time for the ranger program to start) another elderly man will have joined the expedition.  Being the only female in the group, you can act blonde and approach yet another man – foul-mouthed and cocky – who is walking toward you.

#76.  This is what I did, and when I asked him if HE knew how to get to the amphitheater, he cursed once and said he figured he could find it.  Whereupon, Andrew and I, the man with his two sons, and the elderly man all followed the cocky man, who led us UP the sidewalk (we had initially trekked DOWN the sidewalk), turned to the left and followed another rather broken-up sidewalk up over the hill, around a couple curves, and, lo and behold, there we were at the back of the amphitheater.

#77.  It was a standard national park amphitheater.  You know, wooden benches staggered down toward a stage with a projector and screen.

#78.  Ranger Lori was OUTSTANDING!  She was very outgoing and animated – would’ve made a great children’s church leader.  = )  She drew us in and captivated us with her interesting and humorous presentation.

#79.  We were there nearly an hour, and for the first 45 minutes coyotes were howling more or less continuously, very nearby.  Ranger Lori estimated they were closer than 1/4 mile away.  Wow!

#80.  We both totally enjoyed that ranger program and were so very glad we went.  We learned all kinds of neat things about how animals in the canyon adapt in order to live there.  Amazing stuff.

#80 a.  After the program, Ranger Lori had several kids there who had completed the junior ranger program (you remember that from Yellowstone and Ranger Holly?) and she had to review their paperwork, have them answer some oral questions, and officially swear them in.

#80 b.  One of the girls, maybe 10 years old, was from France and did not speak English.  As her Dad tried to translate what Ranger Lori was saying, the girl was having trouble understanding and was getting confused.  Ranger Lori asked (in French!) to please wait a moment (I could understand that much) while she put the other kids through their paces.  Then, she did the whole question and answer /ceremony / swearing in thing IN FRENCH with that one girl.  I could never do that, but I could understand enough French to catch the gist of most of what she was saying.  I was SO impressed.

#80 c.  Afterwards, I thanked Ranger Lori for her great presentation that evening and I asked her (joking) if she could do the Junior Ranger interview in ALL languages or just in English and French.  “Well,” she replied, “my Spanish is much better.”  What a woman, and what a selling point for learning and gaining fluency in a second language!

#81.  After an evening ranger program, it is darker than it is before the ranger program.

#82.  The darkness and the broken sidewalk can make it difficult-to-impossible for one with poor night vision to see.  Basically, I could’ve seen about as well with my eyes closed.

#83.  Thankfully, I had Andrew, who offered me his arm and guided me back to the blue bus stop.

#84.  We successfully navigated our way home to Maswik Lodge, where our room was small and very hot.

#85.  My plans for the next day involved breakfast in the room (Pop-Tarts, grapes, plus the cute little bottle of milk and a pre-sealed bowl of cereal for Andrew that we had purchased along with some other minor groceries on an earlier blue bus jaunt), followed by a short walk to the red/blue bus stop, and a ride out to Hermit’s Rest to the west.

#86.  The rim trail, along which we had walked the previous day (east to west, ending at the red/blue bus stop) continues on for some seven miles more to the west, ending at a place called Hermit’s Rest, which, in the old days, was the trailhead for the only public trail down into the canyon.  Some famous person had built a little stone house out there at the trailhead, and there was now a winding two-lane (a.k.a. Hwy 160) road that went out there.  However, that section of highway is open only to the official Grand Canyon shuttle buses (red route), horses, bikes, and pedestrians.  You can’t drive out there in your private car.  The rim trail parallels the road, and I wanted to see the canyon from a different perspective than the “standard” views we’d had so many of already; that is, the section of rim trail we had walked with some 17,255 people the day before.

#87.  Breakfast over, we faced the challenge of checking out of Maswik Lodge.  You might think this would be simple, but no.  You see, we had the van, which was full of all the stuff Andrew and I didn’t need (Dad and Jo’s suitcases, the library box, the audio box, the laundry basket, etc.), and all of that had to be unpacked and organized, in order to put into the van all the additional stuff we had been using:  Andrew’s and my suitcases, the train case, the dry foods box, the cooler, the games bag, the dirty clothes bags, and a myriad of other odds and ends.

#88.  Furthermore, because our room fronted a natural area with another lodge building across the way, there was no way to park near our door.  This meant that, no matter how hard I tried, the van was always down the length of our building and around the corner.  THIS meant that one couldn’t leave the van unsecured and out of sight, lest someone steal one’s stuff.  Or one’s van.  And THAT meant that we were forever loading, unloading, moving, driving, parking, locking and unlocking the van.

#89.  That morning – I believe (but am not positive that) it was Monday morning – Andrew and I began the great haul.  He took everything out of the van.  This was made more difficult by the back rack.  It does provide a nice surface, but it also has a nasty habit of jumping up and wanging you in the shins.  Thankfully, it was yet another clear, hot, sunny day, so he could just unload everything into the parking lot.

#90.  Meanwhile, I began packing containers in the room and steadily carrying, hauling, or otherwise dragging them down the sidewalk to the van.  We actually made a great team.

#91.  We also had to make sandwiches and pack a lunch that we could carry in my beltbag and his drawstring backpack.

#92.  We also had to drain the cooler and re-ice it.

#93.  These are normally tasks for adult males, but as we had none of those handy, Andrew stepped up and did the lion’s share of the work.  I was very impressed with his unpacking, organizing, and repacking abilities.  In addition, he uttered not one word of complaint.  AMAZING!

#94.  We started on all this work fairly early, because Dad’s final words to me as he boarded the green bus with Josiah to head to the South Kaibab trailhead had been, “1:30 at Bright Angel Lodge!”  This meant that if we wanted to take a morning journey to the west on the red bus, we’d need to be back at the Bright Angel Lodge by 1:30 PM, and frankly, since that plan had been based on their tentative departure from Phantom Ranch (at the bottom of the Grand Canyon) at 6:00 AM, and since the day before (the day they hiked down) we had heard that it had been over 100 degrees at Phantom Ranch, and since the main goal for Grand Canyon hiking in the worst of the summer heat was to be off the trail by noon or sooner (to hopefully avoid heat exhaustion), MY opinion was that Dad would choose to start earlier than 6:00 AM and could be up as early as noon.  Because we had no cell phone or way to contact him or monitor their progress, and since Dad had never been to Bright Angel Lodge and didn’t even know where it was located, I decided that we needed to be back there waiting for him by noon.  Hence the early attack-the-van project.

#95.  I scanned the now-empty lodge room yet again for the ever-elusive cell phone and watch, then locked the door behind me.

#96.  We walked over to the main building where the front desk, mailbox, and gift shop are located, and mailed our postcards, paid our room balance and checked out, then bought me a souvenir book about the south rim in the gift shop.

#97.  At that point, we had a choice.  We could A) walk the few blocks to the red/blue bus stop, B) ride the blue bus for some 30-45 minutes till it wound around to the final stop on its loop (the red/blue stop), or C) drive to the red/blue stop and try to park the van somewhere in that vicinity.

#98.  The bus routes’ logic can be explained thusly.  Picture a clock.  The blue route runs around its face in only one direction – always counterclockwise.  Maswik Lodge is at 9.  The only place to board the red bus is at the red/blue stop, which is at 10, and the red route takes off from there, heading totally off the clock face.

#99.  There are 20,489 private vehicles on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (that is to say, basically along the blue route) at any given time.  There are several widely spaced parking lots along the blue route, including those at the various lodges.  Altogether, a total of 749 parking spaces -spread over an area of several miles – have been provided.  Any time you can spot a vacant one and then get your car into it, you have accomplished something of major significance.

#100.  Maswik Lodge (“9”) is only a couple short blocks from the red/blue (“10”) bus stop.  The odds on finding a parking space AT the red/blue stop or nearer to the red/blue stop than Maswik Lodge were roughly the same as the odds that Josiah will remember to do his laundry on any given Friday.

#101.  I opted to leave the van where it was and walk to the red/blue stop.  The only bad thing about that was that once we retrieved our menfolk at 1:30 PM or noon, we might all have to walk back the slight uphill to the van at Maswik Lodge; however, I figured that if you’ve just climbed up from the bottom of the Grand Canyon, a couple more blocks on a slight uphill in cooler temps couldn’t be all that bad.

#102.  With our various packs hanging off us, we walked to the red/blue stop and boarded the red bus westbound, but not till after I enjoyed a very nice conversation with a young man from Switzerland, who just that morning, in the previous fifteen minutes (it was about 9:30 AM at the time) had completed a solo rim-to-rim hike.  He had started on the north rim, hiked partway down his first day and camped.  The second day he hiked the rest of the way down (North Rim down to Phantom Ranch is 14 miles), rested during the heat of the day at Phantom Ranch, and in the early evening, started up the Bright Angel Trail (Phantom Ranch up to South Rim is 8 miles), camping at the midway point at Indian Gardens.  Then, on the third day, he finished his climb up to the South Rim.  He lives in the Alps and said that the Grand Canyon was really a nice stroll.  He was not at all cocky, but when I inquired, he said it was really nothing compared to all his mountaineering in the Alps.  Wow!  He was going to take the red bus along the rim for some sightseeing, and then later in the day a shuttle ($50?) would take him the three hours’ drive back around to his car on the North Rim.

To be continued. . .

Wild West vacation (#36, etc., including the cell phone saga)

Dear Jessica,

36. His cell phone?  How would I know where Dad’s cell phone was?  That he needed it was obvious.  The plan was for us to meet him the next day “at the Bright Angel Lodge at 1:30 PM,” but he was hoping to have coverage at least in the upper parts of the canyon and call me to tell me of any change of plans or timing.  Which, when you are doing such a massive and difficult jaunt, there could be many unforeseen changes.  And what about his hip/knee issues?  If he had a problem, he’d surely need his phone. . .

37.  We all scrambled (as much as one can scramble at 6:00 AM when what had happened in a cramped and very hot lodge room over recent hours earlier could not accurately be described as sleep) and searched for the missing cell phone.

38.  Places where Dad’s cell phone was not included:  his backpack, Josiah’s backpack, Dad’s pockets, the van.

39.  The 6:00 AM green bus pulled up, acquired one non-Roberts passenger, and departed for the South Kaibab trailhead.

40.  Dad was maximally frustrated.  Suddenly he said, “And where’s my watch?” Oh. My.

41.  This was not good.  It’s important to keep up with time when hiking into and out of the Grand Canyon.  Things like eating, drinking, and the ever-more-blistering heat make it vital to set goals to be at certain places at certain times, etc.  With no cell phone and no watch, they’d have no way to contact anyone AND no way to tell time.

42.  Dad was significantly more than maximally frustrated.

43.  Some time around 6:10 AM, Dad drove off in the van, leaving the boys and me at the visitor center bus stop, to drive back to our (did I mention it was very hot?) room at Maswik Lodge to try to find the blessed cell phone and watch.

44.  While he was gone, Andrew had the brainy idea for me to call his cell phone.  If we or he could hear it ring, surely we could find it!

45.  I called it non-stop for the next 20 minutes.  No one answered, which meant that wherever Dad was, he hadn’t found the phone.  Think about it.  Imagine losing YOUR cell phone, with all YOUR contacts in it.  At the Grand Canyon.

46.  The 6:30 AM green bus pulled up at 6:25 AM.  I asked the driver how long he’d wait.  “No more than 10 minutes.  I’m on a schedule.”

47.  Note that it is terribly important to begin a hike into the canyon as early as possible, because the hike down could take four or more hours, and after 9:00 AM, the temps would quickly climb to over 100 degrees.  The goal is to get down to Phantom Ranch ideally before 10:00 AM.

48.  I paced back and forth at the bus stop.  Josiah sat quietly.  He was deeply displeased at the major and possibly dangerous delay,
but he made only minimal comments to that effect.

49.  We had – obviously – no way to call Dad and tell him that the bus would be leaving soon.

50.  Without the cell phone, Dad would also have no way to take pictures.  You see, a few weeks earlier, I had said to Dad that since his old digital camera had died, and since he was going to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon with Josiah, I thought he should buy a new one.  This would be a once in a lifetime event and one would surely want to take pictures!  He listened but gave no response.  I figured he’d buy one.  The Wednesday night before we were leaving before dawn on Saturday, we all met at Ft Street and I mentioned to him again about the camera.  You know how I feel about mine, and I fully intended to use it to take a zillion pictures.  I was not about to send it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon with Dad!  I’m just not that nice.  It turns out he hadn’t bought one, but said he’d use his cell phone.  So, back at the bus stop, I was trying not to cry about the thought of them doing this great father-son thing and having no pictures of it.  I was debating with Josiah whether or not I should give Dad my camera.  Or my cell phone, just as a time piece.

51.  The bus driver started his engine and closed the door.

52.  I ran over to the door and waved my arms frantically.  They were already thirty minutes behind schedule.  If they missed this bus, it would be really bad.

53..  When the driver opened the door, I explained that my husband was on his way and would he please wait for him.  He replied, “I’ll wait one more minute; then I’m leaving.”  Sheesh.  Josiah got on the bus.  If Dad didn’t make it, Jo could always cycle around and ride back to meet us.  He surely wouldn’t hike down alone.

54.  Dad pulled into the parking lot.  He slowly got out of the van and slowly looked back into it. Clearly no cell phone had been found.

55.  I hollered across to him, “YO!!!  THIRTY SECONDS!!! RUN!!!” He ran.

56.  As Dad stepped onto the bus, I handed him my cell phone.  At least it would enable him to keep up with the time.

57.  The bus drove off, and that was that.

58.  Andrew and I returned to our lodge room – the hot one – and proceeded to tear that room six ways from Sunday looking for the cell phone and watch.  We spent almost two hours on the process, and I can tell you of a truth that neither of those items was anywhere in that room.  You may ask why we bothered.  Well, due to a change of plans that was implemented by Yaw Fawthuh, they would hike down on Monday, hike up on Tuesday morning early (arriving at the Bright Angel Lodge at 1:30 PM, supposedly), and instead of going back to that rather warm room to crash and then drive Wednesday to our next destination, we would begin our drive right after they got up.  But checkout time was at 11:00 AM or something like that, so I would need to check out of the lodge room on Wednesday before seeing Dad and Jo again.  And once we checked out of the room, we couldn’t go back in to try to find the much-sought-after phone and watch.  Hence the mad two-hour (fruitless) search.

59.  You can pack a lunch and fit it in a belt bag if you are creative.  We were creative.  We took our lunch, Andrew and I, and rode the blue bus back to the aforementioned visitor center, and began walking westward along the south rim.  I think the trail was something like 1.5 miles long, and to say the views were gorgeous would be a severe understatement.  The trail was paved and wove right along the rim, and there were some 13,404 people walking on it with us.

60.  8936 of those were not Americans.

61.  We heard languages from ALL OVER the world!  I was amazed at the fact that wherever we went during our time at the Grand Canyon, fully 2/3 of the people were foreign.  Andrew and I began striking up conversations with people and asking where they were from.  We had actual conversations (not just saying hello) with people from (I’m a beav; I kept a list) Lithuania, Turkey, Taiwan, Spain, Australia, Switzerland, Ireland, England, Poland, and France.  There were lot of Germans around and lots of French and Italian – all very friendly.  There were also quite a number of Middle Easterners and Japanese – all not very friendly.  Interesting.

62.  Having surveyed the situation the previous day, I had astutely set us on the trail at the higher end, meaning that it was all a gradual downhill walk.  That was good because what with the high altitude, the low humidity, and even the constant breeze, the sun was quite hot.  Had we been hiking uphill, as 6702 of the pedestrians were, we would have been most definitely worn out.  I didn’t realize exactly how hot the sun was until that afternoon when we returned to our (also hot – VERY hot in the afternoon) lodge room and looked in the mirror.  Mime tan, my foot!  And brainiac that I am, it had simply not ever occurred to me to apply sunscreen.  Duh.

63.  There is no way to get cool in a hot lodge room when it’s 90 degrees outside, so we both watched cartoons on TV and napped.  Ahhh.

64.  Pizza Hut Express is really yuckky.

65.  There was a ranger program scheduled at the amphitheater (take the blue bus to get to it) at 8:00 PM.  I really wanted to go.  Andrew did not.  He thought it would be B-O-R-I-N-G, so I initially told him he could stay in the room and I would go.  I later decided that I really wanted him to go with me, and it’s a good thing I did.

(to be continued)

Bananas underfoot

So I was hurrying in to church Friday night and I tripped between the little stepping stones through the grass and the curb.  I managed to catch myself and keep my balance and not fall, but I guess in so doing I somehow twisted my foot inside my shoe, and I must’ve wrenched some tendon or ligament or muscle inside the ball of my foot.  The instant pain brought tears to my eyes.

I managed with difficulty to hobble on in and get children’s church set up.  During praise and worship, a friend gave me two Motrin and Andrew asked Scott to have the whole group pray.  Between the meds and the prayers, I was able to get through children’s church, but the pain was still pretty intense.

By the time I got home, what my foot wanted was a long hot bath, but I knew that what it needed was to be iced.  Thankfully, Scott offered to go to the cellar freezer to get the little blue flexible gel-pack thing-a-ma-bob that we keep on hand for just such events.  He was down there a really long time, and when he came up, he was carrying some bagels for tomorrow’s breakfast and a zip-loc of frozen mashed bananas.

I’m supposed to eat a banana every day for potassium, but I can’t stand overripe (or really, even ripe) bananas.  Actually, I’m not a fan of bananas at all, but I’d rather eat one than have to take a potassium pill, so I try to get a bunch of green ones each time I go to the store.  I can usually stretch them to last about four days max, then Scott eats the rest.  (He likes his way too ripe for me.) Sadly, no matter how well I plan it, one or two of them ALWAYS go south before being eaten, and since I can’t stand to throw away food, I mash them and freeze them.  When my frozen stash gets big enough, I bake some banana bread or some yummy Hawaiian banana muffins.  (credit to cj for that recipe)

Now, I don’t know where all the things go that are not where they should be and where they were last left, but there must be an enormous warehouse somewhere crammed full of them – and the little blue flexible gel-pack thing-a-ma-bob is clearly there, because it’s not in our freezer.  But Scott figured the mashed bananas were about equally cold and equally pliable, so I wrapped them in a hand towel, laid it on the floor under my desk, placed my tender foot on it, and kept typing.

It’s working pretty well.  I freeze my foot on the bananas for 30 minutes every few hours and then toss them back in the freezer.  I told some ladies at our church hayride tonight about that, and they found it rather funny, but they also said they’d remember it the next time I brought banana bread to a home group meeting.  = )

Comic relief in the mailbox

Andrew brought the mail in today, and in the stack was an over-sized envelope  from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Now, Mr. Kennedy and I are by no means on a first-name basis, so I was somewhat surprised to receive mail from him, addressed to me personally.  On the outside of the envelope, next to a photo of a polar bear climbing out of the sea onto an iceberg, were these words:

“Big oil companies and trophy hunters are now waging an attack on polar bears that Sarah Palin set in motion.  Sign the petition to save the polar bears.”

For some reason, that made me laugh.  So now Sarah Palin is attacking polar bears.  Sheesh.  Even if she is, is THAT supposed to make my blood boil?  Instead, it made me laugh.  Maybe it was because I daily find myself in a parenting struggle with a kid whose heart I am determined to wrestle for relentlessly while there is hope.  Maybe it’s because another child of ours has spent the past three-and-a-half months giving everything she has and then some to take the gospel to people on the other side of the world, some of whom have never before had the opportunity to hear that good news.  Maybe it’s just because I, who live about as Far to the Right as Mrs. Palin does, am so much more concerned about our nation’s OTHER left-leaning tendencies (nationalized banking, nationalized industry, nationalized health care, increased taxes, increased social spending, illegal immigration, less effective defense, all that money we owe China, homosexual marriage, abortion, spineless legislators, judicial activism – need I go on?) than I am about the Palin/polar bear war that this particular piece of junk mail just seems ridiculous!  In any case, that envelope made me laugh out loud.

Before tossing it unopened into File 13, I flipped it over.  On the back I was informed that the “N(ational) R(esources) D(efense) C(ouncil) has been awarded the 4-star top rating by and meets every standard of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.”  Below that, it says, “FREE Polar Bear S.O.S. Canvas Tote Bag.”

While I am truly thankful that I still live in a country where we are all free to give to the charity of our choice, I think I’ll stick to the church and those doing its work.  Bob, I’m going to pass on the polar bear tote, but thanks for the laugh.

I think I’ll pass.

Simple pleasure

After my piano lesson, I took the van to a car wash, vacuumed it thoroughly, and ran it through one of those washes with all the slinging fabric strips to remove the walnut sap.  Tonight it’s all nice and clean, but that may not last real long, as it’s parked under the walnut trees.

Signs of fall

1.  Leaves on the ground.

2.  Leaves in the gutter.

3.  Leaves on the porch.

4.  Green tomatoes on the vines.  Will they EVER ripen?

5.  40-degree temps in the mornings.

6.  No turtles in the creek.

7.  Orb weavers weaving and Saran-wrapping like crazy.

8.  Other spiders in other places.  ‘Nuff said.

9.  Slow-growing grass.

10.  Walnuts on my windshield.

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