Archive for July, 2013

What a service!

We had a wonderful, amazing church service today.  God showed up in powerful ways and ministered to his people!  Worship was great (Andrew played keyboard for much of it), Pastor Guy prayed for several people, and Jessica preached a very high energy, passionate message about testimony.

WOW!  It was a great service!

No more spots

Scott called CenturyLink yesterday and described our internet/router problems.  This morning a guy came out, and Scott explained to him that he wanted to wire it straight from the box to the router.  The guy was smart and skillful.  He understood exactly what needed to be done and he got it done – complete with drilling a hole in the house and caulking it – in less than 30 minutes.  He checked it out and everything (phone/fax in office and internet) worked fine.

He is evidently contracted by CenturyLink and he is supposed to fix anything on CenturyLink’s side of the box for free, and bill us for any repairs on our side of the box.  The problem was clearly between the box and the router (as Jo so deftly demonstrated), and the guy wired everything for us all the way from the box to the router.  He then said that he wasn’t supposed to do wiring, and so he didn’t bill us a dime!  Internet fixed for free!!  What a blessing!!!

This set-up is a great improvement over the old one.  Our land line has always been static-y and it’s hard to hear.  Now it’s clear and lovely.  For those of you familiar with our house, I will explain that we have at various time had phone jacks and/or internet jacks in sundry places; in the kitchen and in Jessica’s room (1st floor), in the office and in our bedroom (2nd floor), and in Katie’s room (3rd floor).  Over the years, Scott and various phone company people have worked on it, running more and more wires to more and more places.  I will now describe our phone wiring path, as Scott explained it to me.  Note that this is not for the faint of heart or the easily confused.

Seventeen years ago, when we moved here, the phone box was on the side of the house near the chimney.  We’ll call that the “chimney box.”  The wire went:

~ from the chimney box, up the outside  of the house to the floor of the 3rd floor,

~ into the house and under the 3rd floor (the space between the 2nd and 3rd floors) to Katie’s room, and

~ from Katie’s room down through an inside wall, into the office.

Then the phone company came and said that the box had to be on the opposite side of the house, so they put a box there.  We’ll call that the “laundry room box.”  But to get to the existing wiring inside the house, there had to be a connection to the old box on the chimney side.  So they strung a wire from the laundry room box across the porch (stapled up and over the two front doors) to the chimney box.

Several years later – and several years ago – when some painting needed to be done on the porch, Scott didn’t want them to paint that wire, so he moved it, re-stringing it from the laundry room box through the “rafters” of the cellar to the chimney box.  From there, it then split and went several places:

~ up to the attic (Katie’s room) and down into the office, as described above,

~ up to our bedroom, and

~ from the cellar up through Jessica’s floor into her room, and

~ form the cellar up into the kitchen.

Now, in our streamlined set-up, we have one new wire running from the laundry room box, around the corner of the house, and into a box in our office that goes straight to the wireless router.  This means that we now have a land line in the office and nowhere else.  This, of course, is not a problem, because we NEVER call out on our land line, and 94% of incoming phone calls on that line are unsolicited.  We do, however, use that line to receive faxes, which are fairly important, and we do list our home number when necessary for things like insignificant appointment confirmations and such; generally those times when some entity requires a phone number, but we don’t want to give out our cell number(s).  For example, when you buy an appliance at Lowe’s, they require you to give a phone number, but the number is only used to identify you; they never call it, so we just give them our home phone number.

Our answering machine, which I am pretty sure we had when we moved here, died a few weeks ago, and this has been somewhat of an inconvenience.  Our land line rings a lot – usually telemarketers, but once in a great while someone important, like a child who lives abroad! – and we never know whether we should answer it or not.  Tonight we went to Wal-Mart, following a life group bowling event in Reeds Spring, and for a paltry $15 purchased a new answering machine, which probably does much more than the one we probably spent twice that much for 20 years ago.  We will be setting it up very soon.

We actually hope you never hear it.  If you are reading this blog and happen to know us well enough to have been given our home phone number, please don’t call it!  We don’t answer it!!  If you work for a telemarketing firm that auto-dials our home phone number, I will put a short greeting on our new answering machine, to which you may listen (or not, as you see fit); then you can leave a message, and we won’t call you back.

We will, however, be checking our email regularly, thanks to our wonderful new-and-improved “spot-free” internet service!

Don’t go out the laundry room door

Yesterday afternoon, the internet was spotty, and that would be putting the situation generously.  I had to re-start the router four times, and even then the essential globe light – the one that has to be solid green in order for the internet to work – was either red (absolutely no internet) or rapidly flashing green (internet only for a few seconds in spurts if Scott holds his mouth right).  Result:  much frustration!

In the evening, I did go ask him to please hold his mouth right for an extended period, but even that didn’t help much.

This morning, I went to Wal-Mart.  Although I get tired of going there, I have learned that when a majority of the family is home, and/or when we have guests, one trip to Wal-Mart a week just isn’t enough.  So I went back this morning for another major haul, and then I went to post office to mail a pbs book.  It was Jessica’s physical geography textbook, the one that we didn’t post for over a year because who on earth would ever request it?  The one that weighs a very hefty four pounds, so it’s going to cost a lot to mail it.  Yes, that one.  It was requested less than two days after we posted it.

There was an odd thing about that book posting, though.  Once I got it wrapped and stamped last night, I went ahead and marked it mailed on the pbs website, even though it wouldn’t actually be mailed till This morning.  I usually do that because I tend to forget to mark it mailed if I don’t do so right away.  Then when I checked (with effort) my email this morning, I had a note from pbs that the person I was sending the textbook to had marked it received!!!  But the book was still sitting here on my desk!  Amazing how fast books can travel nowadays.

Anyway, when I got home from Wal-Mart and the post office, Jessica and Courtney were leaving, and I noticed that Scott’s car was also gone.  I asked Jessica if she knew where Scott had gone, and she said he went somewhere to get online.  He works remotely from home, meaning that he needs to be online continually.  I guessed that with out internet problems, he couldn’t get (or more accurately stay) online, so he went somewhere that has wifi, probably the church.

I came in the house and Andrew and I started putting away the groceries.  He then left to work at his part-time cleaning job.  Shortly thereafter, Josiah entered the kitchen, in flannel pajamas (do note that this post is being written in mid-July).  He fixed himself some breakfast and then disappeared into the playroom.  I was busy making chili to use in our Philly Chili Crockpot Dip for group on Sunday night, and once I had that going, I went into the playroom to see if perhaps Jo wanted to play some ping-pong.  The Llama had quite the set-up.  The air was on, and he had the card table and a folding chair in there, with his full computer arrangement set up on the table.  Wires were strung around between various pieces of equipment, and when I got closer, he said he was trying to figure out what was wrong with the internet.

Now, Llamas are highly intelligent creatures.  He showed me a black screen with lots of white numbers on it that apparently revealed how long it was taking the computer to access a certain website, if it tried 100 times for ten seconds each.  Evidently, these numbers showed exactly when it could or could not access the internet.  Pelicans are not quite as intelligent in matters of technology as Llamas, so I just chose to trust him on that point.  He then told me that he had narrowed the problem down to “the wire that goes into router.”  When I suggested that perhaps we should buy a replacement for that wire, he said that no one in our family had the technical know-how to fix it.  Hmmm.

Shortly thereafter, the Llama packed up his stuff and also went to the church (I think that’s where the Skink was) to get on the internet, so he could work on his web hosting issues.

Some hour or so later, the Llama returned and spent a few minutes squatted down in the laundry room.  He then put his computer on the dining room table and invited me to observe his screen.  It was that black one with all the numbers again.  He proudly pointed to the various numbers and said – because I was evidently too ignorant to understand what they showed – that the internet seemed to be working fine now.  Yee hah!

I went out to get the mail and found my tomato plants wilting in the heat, so I gave them a short drink, and in dragging the hose, I saw the router wire coming out the laundry room door and going to some (electrical? phone?) box on the house, the door of which was hanging open.  It seems that if the router sits in the laundry room floor and is connected to whatever it’s connected to out there in this “rigged” manner, our internet works!!!

However, it’s pretty clear that this is not a permanent solution, and I don’t know what will happen if it rains.  I do know that for right now, we will NOT be going out the laundry room door.

(Edited later in the day:  Note that it rained lightly for a little while this afternoon, and I did not go out to check the wire or the box.  The router is still on the laundry room floor, and the fact that I can post this addendum means the internet is still working.)

Gone like a shot!

I went out to walk this morning and was stunned to see that there was something in the live trap on the front walk!  I wasn’t even sure what it was (raccoon?  possum?), but I went back in and woke the Llama, figuring I would need his help to move whatever it was up to Busiek State Forest.  He was not happy about that, but he did eventually appear, vertical and dressed for the occasion, including SHOES.

Meanwhile, camera in hand, I went back out front to survey my prey.  It was, indeed, a raccoon, and I’m pretty sure it was the same one we saw at the bird feeder the other day.  Those six marshmallows had evidently done the trick.  He had peed and pooped all over the sidewalk, but he appeared docile enough.  As Jo said, “He sat there calmly, with a look on his face that said, ‘Yep, I’m a raccoon.'”  I was very excited and pleased with the result, and I brought Jessica and Andrew out to see him.  He a cute, curious-looking fellow, but Jessica summed up his situation nicely when she evaluated the ‘coon’s seemingly calm demeanor and remarked, “He’s angry.  He’s royally disgusted with himself.”

I lined the back of the Durango with a black plastic leaf bag, and then Josiah picked up the trap.  At that point, the ‘coon suddenly went wild – jumping, thrashing, and making ‘coonish noises.  It was startling, and I was really glad it was Josiah and not me lifting the trap.  He put it in the back of the car, and we headed off.  Up at the access road, we saw Scott, so I stopped to show off the quarry.  He also was duly impressed.  Then we drove to Busiek, to the sound of little scratchings and the crinkling of plastic; hoping fervently that the ‘coon couldn’t get out of his container.

Down by the shooting range, Josiah lifted the trap out (again with much thrashing about on the ‘coon’s part) and set it down, facing the woods.  He wasn’t familiar with the release procedure, so with the Llama shooting video, I did the honors, and the very split second the door was released, that little guy tore off like a shot!

We looked pleased at each other and one of us probably should have said, with a British accent, “Good has been done!”

The Llama stated that he thinks it will take the ‘coon a couple of days to work his way back to our tomatoes, but then, it is a known fact that Llamas – when rudely awakened from a sound sleep – tend to display maximal pessimism.  (Note that Llamas can be quite chipper and cheerful at other times.)  I happen to think the raccoon will be very happy in his new digs – near a creek for water, near a campground for food, and near a shooting range for excitement.

Sweet and spicey

Well, we haven’t caught the ‘coon yet, but we also haven’t seen any evidence of tomato scavenging in the past few days.  Last night I forgot to set the trap, but yesterday morning, I had also dumped the dead apple quarters out of it near the garage and then forgotten to pick them up.  They were gone this morning, so somebody had a little snack.

There was some deal about Jessica’s taxes and she had to go see the accountant yesterday.  Since he lives in Taney County, his email is on my “Taney County” list.  (Never fear; if you live in Taney County and I have your email address, yours is, too.)  I had sent my Live Trap Wanted email to my Taney County list, so when Jessica saw the accountant, he said, “Has your mother caught her ‘coon?”  Pretty funny.  When she said no, he told her that cayenne pepper sprinkled around the plants is a good deer deterrent.

So, this evening, Walnut Shade Mom could be seen baiting her borrowed raccoon trap with marshmallows AND sprinkling cayenne pepper all around her tomatoes and pepper plants.  Somebody evidently likes the pepper plant leaves, as well as the tomato plants fruit.

FACT:  If you sprinkle liberal amounts of cayenne pepper around your tomato plants and then go into the house and eat multiple handfuls of popcorn, your lips will most assuredly be on fire for quite a while.

The toughest part

In this season of my life, kids come and go a lot.  They come home on college breaks and then they go back.   They come home to visit during holidays and then they go back.  They come home during missionary furloughs and then they go back.

Each time they come and go, my heart has its own unique set of challenges.  I’m always thrilled for them to come, but I tend to stress myself too much trying to figure out what they’ll want to eat and what they’ll want to do and how I can best accommodate their various preferences.  While they’re here, I adjust my “normal” life somewhat, so as to be able to spend more of our limited and very precious time together, but then I feel guilty that I don’t spend enough time with them and/or guilty that I’m not getting done what I need to do.  That balance is much more difficult to achieve than I would have guessed.  When they go back, I cry, but then I usually level out again pretty quickly and I’m OK. . . except that I sure do miss them.

That’s the before, the during, and the after, but I have figured out that there is one particular part of the “during” that is especially tough:  it’s the last few days before they leave.  During that time, my emotions are simply all messed up.  I am thinking about all the pictures I should have taken and didn’t, the games I wish we had played but never got around to, and the times the various siblings or subsets thereof were together and how long it will be before they can be again.  It’s not all bad.  I also think of all the fun we’ve have, the silly ways we’ve acted, the good food we’ve eaten, and the memories we’ve made, but it’s tinged with the dread of the upcoming goodbye(s).

The days leading up to the end of a visit are actually worse than the actual departure, because unlike the departure that basically lasts an hour or two, the prelude thereunto drags on for days.

Henceforth, I propose that when the kids come home, we should maximally enjoy our time together and then go from the fun days straight to the driving or flying away, thereby eliminating the departure prelude altogether.  This, of course, is somewhat akin to the man at the restaurant who, when told that coffee costs $0.50 and refills are free, says, “then I’ll just take a refill.”

This month, I am working through Katie leaving, Jessica leaving, and Scott and Josiah leaving.  These departures (and their associated preludes) are happening one right after the other, so that just as I am coming out of one and pulling myself together, I get to head into the next one.

These things ought not so to be.  But they are.  Thankfully, I am close friends with the One who gives me just the right amount of grace to go through preludes and still make music on the other side.

Bionic squirrels

As I walked back toward the house this morning, I heard what sounded like some very soft gunshots – coming from our yard.  Getting closer, I saw Jessica standing near the cellar door with a BB gun.  What could possibly be going on?

It turns out Jessica had seen that the lid was off the smokehouse trash can that holds our birdseed.  It’s a metal can trash with a metal lid, and we keep a brick on top of it.  The bird feeder had been filled several days ago, and I know good and well that Andrew put the brick on the lid; I saw him do it.

So Jessica told me that when she noticed the brick off the lid, and she could see squirrels in the smokehouse, she decided to take action.  She put the lid back on, replaced the brick, and for good measure, added another rock.  Evidently the squirrels had managed to push the brick out of the way, knock the lid off, and have a feast on our $0.60 per pound black oil sunflower seed!  Bionic squirrels, if you ask me!

Ten minutes later, there were four squirrels on top of the can.  I guess they knew there’d be power in numbers.  = )  That’s when Jessica got the BB gun.  Experts marksman that she is, she hit one, scared them all, and I think they held a brief meeting, in which the motion to vamoose carried unanimously.

This afternoon, I saw one squirrel walking around in the smokehouse, but he wasn’t up on the can, and both the brick and rock were still in place.  I’m thinking that to move 10+ pounds of brick and rock, it’s gonna take a whole scurry of squirrels!

Rain, glorious rain!

We had a Life Group leaders meeting here tonight.  There were fifteen of us in the living room, and because we don’t have seating for that many, my chair was situated in the dining room, facing the living room.

This morning, while I was walking, it got very dark cloudy and windy, and I prayed for God to let it rain.  An hour later, everything was hot and sunny, and not a drop had fallen.  All day, the weather was lovely – that is, dry, sunny, clear, hot; in short, no precipitation.

As the leaders were arriving, I saw dark clouds to the southwest, and I was hopeful, but since it hadn’t rained here since June 16, did I really even dare hope?

Then, during the meeting, I looked across the room and saw RAIN coming down in the front yard!  Yee-hah!  It rained for at least thirty minutes, pretty hard.  Jessica was playing with the little kids, and I saw and heard them out in it.  Josiah had a couple of his friends over to play computer games, and they were out running around in it.

The rain was truly glorious.  I have hope.


Ask and you shall receive

Jessica’s quilt-with-attached-bed-skirt was made in a place that is known for products with less than excellent durability.  It’s been a lovely bed topper for quite a long time, and it was given to her by her grandma.  However, through the years, the material has gradually shredded more and more, to the point that it is now pretty much falling apart.

We will be hosting a number of guests in the next couple weeks, and some of them will be using Jessica’s room and bed, so we decided it was time to replace to the shabby quilt.

Jessica and I looked first at Wal-Mart.  She quickly figured out that she preferred a quilt over a comforter, and we knew we’d have to get a bed skirt to hide the stuff that’s stored under the bed.  None of the quilts at Wal-Mart really grabbed her, and then there was the challenge of dealing with the walls of her room.

They are pink.  Very pink.  Wall-papered, stripey, floral pink.  Very, very NOT at all Jessica.  They have been that way since we moved here 17 years ago, and I guess it’s something like being around since the first show and never being given a name.  What has always needed to happen, and what we should have done many years ago so Jessica could enjoy it, is to strip off the wall paper and paint the room – or pay someone who knows how to to that stuff and likes a challenge to do it for us, but that just hasn’t happened.  I try to live my life with few regrets, and Jessica not liking the decor in her room and bathroom is one of my minor regrets.

So there are pink walls with LOTS of pattern, and even though Jessica doesn’t like pink, and even though I suppose she technically doesn’t live here any more, there are always people going in and out of her room because it contains the only bathroom on the first floor.  Therefore, we needed to get a quilt that would at least look tolerable in its pink surroundings.

This was a bit of a challenge!

We then went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and there found a quilt that we both liked and which I thought had pink-meshing potential.  Then we looked at the price and I choked.  Hmmm. . . I had hoped and expected to find something for, say, $2x or maybe even less, and this one cost $3x.  Sigh.  And we’d still have to buy a bed skirt.

As we stood there contemplating the situation, and employee (or was he a manager?) named Gary came by and asked if he could help us find something.  I asked where bed skirts were, and he pointed us to a display of said items less than 20 feet away.  I thanked him and he asked what else he could do for us.  I said, “Well, what if the quilt we want costs $3x, and I had planned to spend only $2x?”  We talked back and forth for a few moments (coupons, smart phones, etc.) and he said he’d give us 20% off, if I would agree to sign up to receive coupons via email.  It sounded like a deal to me, and although the 20% discount didn’t bring the cost all the way down to $2x, it did remove a substantial chunk of the bill.

We thanked Gary – who, by the way said he could get us discounts on stuff purchased for our vacation rental homes! – and went back to Wal-Mart for the bed skirt and four boxes of ice cream.  no, they don’t go together, but with both the Llama and the Peacock home, it’s a wise Pelican who has plenty of ice cream on hand.

Now Jessica’s bed looks classy, and it doesn’t seem to clash with the walls.

And maybe I can get brave enough to request more discounts in the future!


It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s

maybe not a raccoon?

It was about a week ago when I found evidence of green tomato larceny.  I was hurt and angry.

A few days later, we spied Mr. Raccoon under the bird feeder in the back yard, and I covered the front walk tomatoes with sheets that night.  No damage done.

I didn’t cover them on any subsequent nights, because doing so was a pain.

Then, last night the culprit struck again, but this time, not only did he go after the front walk tomatoes, he plundered some from the bigger plants in the barrels in the side yard.  Let me tell you, them’s fightin’ words, for sure.

At church this morning, I asked around and got the following advice on my raccoon problem:

1.  Take him out with a .22!

2.  Go to Tractor Supply and for $24 buy a live trap.  Bait it with a tomato cut in half, and set it on your front walk between the plants.  In the morning, you’ll have a caged raccoon that you can take and release somewhere else.  Easy for him to say when I don’t have a pick-up, but whatever.

#1 wasn’t practical, and I didn’t want to spend the money for #2, so I called our neighbor, Bill, who, after 17 years still likes us and who has one or more of absolutely everything known to man out in his pole barn.  I asked if he happened to have a live trap I could borrow.  Turns out he used to, but they don’t have it any more.  He suggested a .22.

Then I sent an email to all my friends in the area, asking if anyone had a live trap I could borrow.  In less than ten minutes I had a reply from a friend at church, who said he’d rent it to me for $29.95.  (He was kidding.)  I could borrow it at no charge.

We went on a hike to Busiek this afternoon late, and on the way home, we went by his house and picked up the trap.  He showed me how to bait and set it, and we agreed on a couple of good places to release an angry raccoon.  I won’t tell you where he has released over half a dozen. . . and no, it’s nowhere near our house.

I arrived home to another couple emails.  Another family has a trap we could use.  A really nice guy whom I haven’t actually seen in person for many years said, “A .22 would do the trick.  Or maybe you could just ask your neighbor, Bill, to come over and do the honors.”  Pretty funny.  I guess great minds think alike sometimes.

The main problem with someone “doing the honors” is that that someone would have to sit on my porch all night to wait for a visitor who might or might not make an appearance.  Not to mention the legalities of discharging a firearm so close to the road.  Well, trap it would have to be.

About 8:30 PM, I cut up an apple (the guy I borrowed the trap from says raccoons like apples, and I didn’t want to waste any more of my tomatoes), stuck it in there, set the trap, and placed it on the front walk.

At 9:15 PM, I called Josiah to tell him that, if we had good success, I might be waking him up very early to get him to help me deal with an irate raccoon.  His comment was, “Now my mom has taken up ‘coon hunting!  This better make it into the blog.”

About 9:30 PM, Scott decided he wanted to go for a walk.  As I opened the front door for us to head out, a young DEER sprinted from my front walk tomato plants over to the plum trees, where she stood, motionless, while I fumed.  We watched her for about thirty seconds while I tried to figure out what to do.  Then she ambled over to my side yard tomatoes!!!  I screamed hysterically at her and she took off toward the creek.

I was super steamed and incredibly frustrated.

The deer will not fit into the trap.  I don’t want the deer dead.  I don’t want the raccoon dead.  I JUST WANT THEM TO LEAVE MY TOMATOES ALONE!!!

It hasn’t rained here in over a month.  Everything, including my beloved creek, is terribly dry.  (In fact, this afternoon, a van caught on fire up on 65 at 160, and a mile south, there were grass fires along the east side of 65.)  I know that the animals are starving and desperately need food and water.  During last year’s prolonged dry and blistering hot spell, a deer came every day to nibble fruit from our plum trees.  I don’t begrudge them sustenance, but sheesh!  NOT MY TOMATOES.  I have a deep relationship with my tomatoes.  I take these assaults very personally!

So, Scott helped me cover both the front and side plants with sheets, hoping that will at least slow her/them/it down a bit – but even if that works, do I really look like I want to cover my tomatoes every night and uncover them every morning?  The short answer would be, “No, I don’t.”

Given that I now know for sure that at least one deer is the culprit, I wonder if or when anything will show up in the trap.

Ah well, there’s never a dull day – or night – in Walnut Shade!

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