Archive for September, 2013

A show not to see

I could elaborate, but it’s late, so I just want to get the word out:   Do NOT see “The Adventures of Marco Polo” at the White House theater in Branson.  Certainly don’t spend any money to see it.

Well, I suppose you could see it, but if and only if you. . .

1.  are seriously into group dancing of the major pageantry persuasion

2.  don’t care if a show has no plot or direction

3.  are fine with a show in which no one says anything

4.  don’t mind a little witchcraft and mysticism thrown in

5.  are not bothered by poor writing

6.  subscribe to the view that all religions are created equal

7.  are not easily bored

Thankfully, we went on area appreciation at $5 a pop, so when intermission FINALLY arrived and we were able to make our exit, we didn’t have any huge regrets.

Through the years, we’ve seen several shows in Branson, and some were definitely much better than others, but this one was far and away the worst.  I think it’s probably because we didn’t know what to expect and didn’t realize were were going to a show that was just a series of variously choreographed and elaborately costumed oriental dance routines.  Had we realized that, we would have simply stayed home and done something more fun with our evening.

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Chuck’s back

Our friendly neighborhood groundhog/woodchuck whom we refer to as “Chuck” (as in “how much would could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”) was seen yesterday sitting up on his haunches in front of the shop.  When I got closer than he preferred, he zoomed under the shop.  It appears that he and/or his family have given up just making holes in the wooden underpinning of that fair building and have resorted to simply removing sections thereof.  I’m sure that makes for more efficient entrance and egress, and I don’t begrudge him that.

In other news, the Bear Creek and Bull Creek bridges on 160 have had some attention today, to the tune of one-lane traffic on them at times.  The approaches to them have been grinded down to concrete, and it looked like some paving of a shoulder was occurring on the Bear Creek one.  We’ve been able to get in and out fine so far.

More Taney County MoDot news as it happens.

Getting a turn-lane?

For the past couple weeks, Walnut Shade Mom has noticed in the area a finer collection of those portable, solar-powered, illuminated, flashing block-letter type signs, saying that road work would be starting. . . September 21, then September 26, and now October 1.

In addition, a series of approximately two foot-high double sign supports has sprouted along our route to church.  These are metal footings that appear ready to hold two-legged, diamond-shaped road signs; the kind that, if yellow, might indicate a curvy road ahead or warn that the pavement could be slippery when wet.  I know that these supports are for road signs because quite a few of them have neon orange signs on long double legs lying on the ground beside them.  Some of those neon orange signs are interesting:

Shoulder Work Ahead

Uneven Lanes

Wait for Pilot Car

Road Work, Expect Delays

Now, we have admittedly been spoiled by our three and a half-mile, seven-minute jaunt to church, but with signs like these, I am thinking that we’ll either need to allow extra time, or go the long way around.  The long way around would be closer to seven miles and ten minutes, which really isn’t much more, but somehow seems like it is.

Actually, just this evening, one of those solar-powered flashing jobbies (facing west) appeared in the Mexican restaurant (now defunct and for sale) next door.  It currently reads:

Night Work Begins on Hwy 176 10-01-13

It is possible that the work will be both between us and F to the east AND between us and 65 to the west, in which case it could in theory become – hopefully only intermittently – difficult to go anywhere in a timely manner!

I went to MoDot’s website this evening to try to figure out exactly WHAT is going to be done where, and found this information in the “Today’s Road Work” section:

Taney County

* Route 160: NIGHT WORK – One-lane traffic in areas between Taney County Route F in Merriam Woods and Route 76 in Forsyth. Shoulder work. Work hours: 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

* Route 160: One-lane traffic in areas between Route 65 and Forsyth. Building turn-lanes at Routes F, H, 176-East and Casey Road.

* Route 265: One-lane traffic in areas between Table Rock Dam and Route 65 south of Hollister. Resurfacing.

Then, in the “This Week’s Road Work” section, I read:

Taney County

Construction:

  • Route 160: One-lane traffic in areas between Route 65 and Forsyth.  Building turn-lanes at Route F, Route H, Route 176-East and Casey Road and building shoulders. Completion: November 2013

All that blurb, combined with the pink flags around the Hwy 160/F Hwy intersection, the long “wall” of black visqueen (and yes, according to dictionary.com that is the correct spelling for “a type of polyethylene sheet used to cover areas in building construction and in making waterproof items”) along the south side of the east end of F Hwy, and lots of orange and hot pink markings spray-painted on the ground in the vicinity, indicate that some MAJOR lane construction will be occurring at F and 160.  Although it may be inconvenient in the interim, it should be pretty interesting to watch, and hopefully it will improve the historically very tedious – and at times dangerous – traffic flow at that location.

I will keep our readers posted on the progress.  Go MoDot!!!

How not to sell me something

I went to Dress Barn, NOT to see Tim Hawkins, but to try to find some nice shirts or sweaters for cooler weather.  And dress pants.  I am always on an on-going search for dress pants because even though my body is somewhat smaller than it used to be, it still is not the shape that ready-made dress pants come in.

Anyway, I did find several good items, including a pair of dress pants(!!!), and when I went to pay for them, the following conversation ensued.

Dress Barn Lady:  OK. . . let’s see.  That will be $125.

Me:  OK.

Dress Barn Lady:  And will you be putting that on your Dress Barn charge account?

Me:  No.

Dress Barn Lady:  Do you have a Dress Barn charge account?

Me:  No.

Dress Barn Lady:  Would you like to open one today?  If you do, you’ll get 20% off your entire purchase today.

Me:  Ummm. . . no, thank you.

Dress Barn Lady:  If you open a Dress Barn charge account, not only will you get 20% off your entire purchase today, you’ll also be signed up for all kinds of discounts in the future.

Me:  Well, we put all our purchases on our Visa card because it accrues frequent flyer miles and we use those to get our son home from college in Virginia.

Dress Barn Lady:  I understand, but if you open a Dress Barn charge account today, you’ll get 20% off your entire purchase today AND you’ll get all kinds of future discounts, and if you want, you can put today’s purchase on your Dress Barn charge account and then turn right around and use your Visa card to pay off the balance.  I can take care of all that right here.

Me (realizing the pot has suddenly gotten a LOT sweeter):  Well, OK.  That sounds like a deal.

So, I opened the Dress Barn charge account, and while I was giving her the info for that, I overheard another customer say, “. . . and I’ve got this coupon here.”  To which I said aloud without thinking, “Oh, darn.  I think I had one of those at home, too.  I should have thought to bring it.”  To which the Dress Barn Lady said, “. . . and your total now is $75, after your 20% discount and I gave you the coupon discount, as well.  My, this woman knew how to float my boat!

I floated out of there with great new clothes and enough discounts that I didn’t feel guilty.

A couple weeks later my pink (and very hard to read with silver lettering) Dress Barn charge card arrived in the mail, sporting a peel-off sticker that instructed me to call a toll-free number to activate my card before first use.  I called the number and a friendly young lady we’ll call Jasmine answered.

She asked me how my day was going and how the weather was treating me.  I actually hadn’t called in a quest for extended small talk; I just wanted to activate my Dress Barn charge card – even though it does have a 24.99% (!!!) annual percentage rate (APR) for purchases.  Good thing I’ll be paying it off with my trusty SouthWest airlines Visa card every time I make a purchase!

I told Jasmine I just wanted to activate my card and she pressed some magic button somewhere in the Dress Barn sky and told me my card was activated and she would now enroll me in Account Assurance.  Ummm. . . I didn’t think that was part of the deal, Jasmine!  But before I could formulate the words, “I don’t want to be enrolled in Account Assurance, she barreled on with something like this:

“Account Assurance will give you peace of mind that your account will be paid in full in the event of an unforeseen event, such as illness, injury, job loss, or death.  AND Account Assurance is available for a mere $1.99 per $100, and on any billing date in which your account balance is zero, there is absolutely no charge, so I’m enrolling you in Account Assurance. . .”

Because she finally took a breath, I quickly said, “No, Jasmine, I’m not interested in Account Assurance.”

To which she replied, “I totally understand, Mrs. Roberts. . . ”  And I hoped – against hope – that that would be the end of that, but no; she kept going.  (I figured she was going to give me another set of reasons why I would be a fool not to enroll in Account Assurance, so I sighed quietly and braced myself for the new onslaught.)

Jasmine:  “. . . but I want you to realize that Account Assurance will give you peace of mind that your account will be paid in full in the event of an unforeseen event, such as illness, injury, job loss, or death.  AND Account Assurance is available for a mere $1.99 per $100, and on any billing date in which your account balance is zero, there is absolutely no charge, so I’m enrolling you in Account Assurance. . .”

Me:  “NO!  You’ve told me the same information twice,” (which, although I didn’t say it to her, insults my intelligence and hence is NOT an effective way to sell me anything), “and I already told you I don’t want Account Assurance.  I only wanted to activate my Dress Barn credit card.”

Jasmine:  “Your card is activated, Mrs. Roberts, and thank you for calling Dress Barn card activation services.  Have a great day.”

Should I give her one point for persistence?  Or would that be a daisy dollar?

Well, the Walnut Shade Mom is not doing very well at posting on a daily basis!  As I play catch-up, here are a few miscellaneous notes about life in the recent past.

Scott, who has endured much trial with back pain this year, is doing better, praise God!  He has been able to run a bit and had even played basketball a couple times.  You may remember the never-ending mattress saga. . .  Well, we’ve had the desk saga, too, and since he works three days in Springfield and two at home, all the desk changes get duplicated.  Some of the desk changes were related to the arm pain he developed in June, and some have been for his back.  So far he’s had:

The regular desk with a regular chair and the regular monitor

The tri-level desk (lower keyboard, higher monitor) regular desk with the regular chair and a monster monitor (think flat screen TV on your desk)

The tri-level desk with a bar stool and the monster monitor

The tri-level desk raised up on cinder blocks with no chair (he just stood) and the monster monitor

The tri-level desk at normal height with a kneeling chair and the monster monitor

So far, so good!  = )

We all six got to be together over google chat a couple nights ago.  Jessica was about to head out to help lead the FEET team on their ten-week foray into four countries, three of which are India, Cambodia, and Thailand, and the fourth of which is a closed country and therefore in that special category called, “the places of which we do not speak.”  She is quite excited and eager to get going and we are confident that God will do incredible (literally incredible) things with, through, and on behalf of this great team!  This trip is a sweet redemption from stuff in the past.

It was super for Scott, Andrew, and me to see Jessica (so happy), Katie (“Of course I made them; I don’t BUY cookies!”), and Josiah (“the beard could do with a neck trim”) and get to listen to all of them.  What a family!!!

Scott is leading a small group of men every other Tuesday night.  We think this is good for the men and it gives Andrew and me a little break, as well.  It is one of those exceedingly rare 90-minute time periods in which the Skink is NOT watching the Red Sox.

My tomatoes are producing nicely.  “Nicely” means we have enough for us to eat as desired, enough to give Pastor Barb at least weekly, and enough to share with other folks from time to time.  The Big Beef have the best tomato taste, but the Early Girls are also good.  I have no tomato complaints, at least not at this time.

My red peppers FINALLY ripened in September, but they have been getting these nasty soft spots that I can’t explain or get rid of.  I sent Jessica a pack of them – since the main reason I grew them, and started them so very early was so they would ripen while she was here in July and August, but no! – but even though they arrived in only a little over a week, they were moldy.  I think I will skip red peppers next year.

Our neighbors down the road are gah gah for jalapenos, so after I use the one per week I need to make salsa, I give them the other ten or so, and they eat them like candy.  Hard to believe, but true.

We had a guest minister at church on Sunday – some bag lady with really bad teeth from Toad Suck, Arkansas.  She found it grand that Scott and I have been to Toad Suck – we’ve done Toad Suck Daze and seen Toad Suck Ferry lock and Dam, and the whole bit.  Comes of having been students at Hendrix.  Anyway, this woman was a scream.  We all laughed so hard we almost cried, and she gave one woman in the congregation a Depends, ’cause the poor lady was about to bust a gut laughing.  Then that lady saw ME laughing and gave me her protection.  Sheesh.  That made me laugh even harder.  You never know who will show up or what will happen at church.

I think that’s all for now.  I will go get supper ready for Scott.  We need to eat on time tonight, because Andrew and I have choir practice tonight.

What means the screen?

This morning, I was greeting at church, which means that for the better part of an hour, I stood in front of the glass doors and welcomed people as they came to church.  At about twenty till, a friend of mine who’s probably in her sixties, came in.  We greeted each other, hugged, and I gave her a bulletin.  As she walked past me toward the sanctuary, she paused, looked around the foyer, looked over her shoulder at me, motioned back and forth with one hand palm up, and shook her head.  Then she went on in.

At first I didn’t realize what she was getting at, but a few minutes later I put it all together.  As more families arrived, many of the adults headed either into the sanctuary, to the bathroom, or to one of the children’s classes where they’d be serving, but the kids were, for the most part, hanging out in the foyer where I, the woman at the door, got to be a fly on the wall observing youth behavior.

Of our own children, Katie and Jessica live out of town, and Josiah is away at college, so Andrew was the only Roberts offspring present at church this morning, and he was in the sanctuary for worship practice while I was made the following (disturbing to me) observation.

As I briefly turned my back to the door and scanned the foyer, I saw that two five year-old girls were seated on the floor heads bent over an iPad that was plugged into the wall.  Three boys – eleven, thirteen, and fifteen years old – were seated in a row on the pew along the wall, each fully focused on his own handheld device.  A fourteen year-old boy came in and leaned on the information counter, intently touch-padding his phone.  A nine year-old boy wearing ear buds walked past, holding his device in front of his face.

Seven kids, and every single one of them head down and completely captivated by whatever was on his or her screen.

This made me sad.

It was a deep, inside kind of sad.

I happen to know all those kids and their parents.  They are great folks who are working hard to raise their kids well, but not everyone knows that.  It occurred to me that if a visitor came in and happened to walk from the front door through the foyer and into the sanctuary at that moment, he or she might think that screens are the preeminent priority for the kids in our church.  Is that really the image we want to portray to our first-time visitors?

More importantly, is that the truth?

I guess this is the pot calling the kettle black, because I use screens all the time.  I use my phone many, many times a days to make and receive phone calls and to send and receive texts.  I use my computer ALL DAY LONG, not only for “work” (dealing with financial matters, doing various kinds of ministry planning, administration, and contact work, planning, printing, and keeping records for Andrew’s academics, renewing library books, editing documents for myself and others, ordering all kinds of items and supplies), but also for fun (emailing friends and family, reading blogs, and – smiley face – relaxing and recharging by writing. . . like this!).

Do I have my face in a screen too often?  Yes.  Do I feel a compulsion to look at my phone every time it bleeps to say I have a text or incoming call?  Yes.  So, do I set a bad example for Andrew?  Probably so.  Obviously, I need to make some changes and do better at putting my screens in a box.  But I do want to say that I am extremely grateful to God that we were at least able to raise our three oldest in a culture where screens were not our gods and where their being relatively screen-free didn’t necessarily make them social outcasts.

It takes an awful lot of internal strength to buck the culture, and that’s especially hard to do when you’re 14, incredibly social, and desperate to fit in and be accepted.  Oh, God, give us more grace.  Please.

“I saw the light”

Leaving Ruby Tuesday, full and happy, we headed for yet another elusive target.  Being slightly technologically challenged, at some point in our quest for food, I had given up on the Garmin and turned to something that is fast becoming obsolete:  a state highway map made of paper; a hard copy.  Now, I personally LIKE a paper map.  I like being able to see the whole darn thing, unfolded all over my lap.  I like to see where I am and where I’m going, and I like to discover all kinds of interesting things in between.  The only thing I don’t like about paper maps is the fact that it can be very difficult, if not virtually impossible, to fold them so that the part(s) you need to see are evident on an easily holdable rectangle.  Anyway.

We had set a goal to go through at least one tunnel while we were in the area.  We were on I-895, headed roughly northeast – which is away from Katie’s house – and we were headed that direction specifically so that we could drive through the Harbor Tunnel, which runs beneath a finger of Chesapeake Bay.  We do like tunnels, enough so that we were willing to pay toll to drive through one, and the beauty of our route was that, if we planned it right, once we went through the Harbor Tunnel on I-895 heading northeast, we could hopefully weasel our way back around onto I-95 west (and yes, I know that odd-numbered highways don’t go east and west, but I guess 95 is excused from that rule because it actually runs northeast to southwest, and the stretch under consideration in this post in fact runs due west) and drive back through a SECOND tunnel, the Fort McHenry Tunnel (which, by the way, does not go to Fort McHenry, but is located in the same general area).  How exciting it would be to go through two tunnels in the same afternoon!!!

So I was closely perusing the map, and as I squinted at the small print thereupon, I spotted something remarkable.  Within a quarter of an inch (I write in loving memory of my paternal grandma’s navigation to Hays, Kansas) of the far end of the Harbor Tunnel was the “Lazaretto Point Lighthouse (replica).”  WOW!!!  A lighthouse!!!  How fun!!!  Although this one did say “replica” in parentheses, and I didn’t know what that meant, when I mentioned to my chauffeur the possibility of actually seeing a lighthouse – which would be a first for each of us – she was all game to go find it.

It appeared that the lighthouse (replica) would be accessible by taking the first post-tunnel exit off I-895 and looping down onto Keith Avenue.  However, as is often the case on glorious expeditions, this was MUCH more easily said than done.  We did exit as indicated, but Keith was nowhere to be found.  We found ourselves in an industrial section of town, replete with warehouses, long brick buildings, potholed roads, and railroad tracks.  The roads had clearly been torn up by the weight of many massive trucks, and we sometimes bounced so hard that portions of my anatomy and portions of Katie’s car’s suspension complained.

Keith, Keith, O where are you, Keith?  No one knew, but it seemed that no matter which way we turned or which road we followed, we ended up either going in circles or running into dead ends.  We spent quite a bit of time thoroughly investigating both Holabird Avenue and Broening Highway.  Neither of those roads makes circles on the map, but they both make eternal and concentric circles on the ground.  Furthermore, Broening Highway eventually comes to an abrupt dead end – at the water.

The odd thing was that in all this circumnavigating, we never saw a lighthouse.  Really now, how can you lose a lighthouse?!?  I had assumed this one would be easy to find because it would be (A) tall, (B) alone, and (C) at the water’s edge.  Isn’t that how lighthouses are supposed to be?  My parents have seen and toured some lighthouses, and I’m pretty sure that most of them have met all three of those conditions (BTW, one of my secret ambitions is to actually spend a night in a real live lighthouse.  I think that would be just super nifty!), but this lighthouse (replica) was playing hard-to-get and winning handily.

I am not one to give up easily.  I have even been known to persevere for something I don’t even care about, just on principle, but I really cared about seeing the Lazaretto Point Lighthouse (replica)!  After all, we had come so far, and we HAD to be tantalizingly close; I was just not willing to give up now.  Thankfully, Katie is equipped with an equal level of persistence, and she was willing to keep driving in circles till we either found it, or found that the map was wrong and it didn’t exist.  I did not even want to entertain that depressing possibility.

So we circled and backtracked and did it all over and over two or three or six more times, and suddenly and for no good reason Katie landed us on Keith Avenue.  I am pretty sure that it had been suddenly air-dropped from a Soviet satellite because we had surely been over that real estate thoroughly, but there we were on Keith, and I was intensely focused.

Do please remember that we were driving through the armpit of industrial Baltimore, on the backside of many multiple loading docks, railroad side branches, warehouses, and trucks.  In fact, at one point, we had passed a lot where dozens of containers (those things that get loaded onto the backs of eighteen-wheelers) were stacked three high!

“OK, OK, OK. Keith is going to make a sharp turn to the right. . . yes. . . see? . .  just up ahead. . . and when it turns to the right. . . oh! . . . slow down. . . when it turns to the right, we should look back to the left, and there should be the. . . ”

How Katie was driving and turning right and staying on the road – that probably had railroad tracks running down the middle of it – while looking over her shoulder to the left, I’m not sure, but the road curved right, and she looked left and said, “I see it!”

“You do???  Where?  OH!!! THERE IT IS!!!  WOW!!  A REAL LIVE LIGHTHOUSE!!!”

And sure enough, there amidst the trucks and containers and fences and railroad stuff, in the middle of an asphalt sea, crammed between various security shacks and other ramshackle sign-in buildings, was the Lazaretto Point Lighthouse (replica).  We had found the beast!  He wasn’t very tall; maybe about 30 feet.  He certainly wasn’t alone, and he wasn’t really even at the water’s edge.  But he was a lighthouse (replica), and I can’t tell you how proud and happy we were to have found him at last.  We parked illegally – because there was no legal place to park, it being Saturday and everything locked, chained, and barb-wired – and walked down the road to the end thereof in an effort to get close enough to take a picture.

The setting was a really, really scummy location for a lighthouse, and, being intensely curious as to why on earth there would be a lighthouse (replica) in such a location, Research Consultant promised to google it when we got home.  We did, indeed to do that, and if you are as curious as we were, you can read more about the history of the Larazetto Point Lighthouse and see pictures of its replica here.

Being of short stature – and some of us can relate – the lighthouse (replica) is virtually buried by all the surrounding stuff, but what was really neat was that after ALL that time and ALL that driving and ALL those miles and ALL the circling around and backtracking we had done since leaving Fort McHenry a few hours before, when we stood at the lighthouse (replica) and looked across the water, there was Fort McHenry, the very fort!  And flying high and proud above it was THE VERY massive fifteen-star flag that Katie and I had personally unfolded and held taut and helped raise at noon.

So we stood at a lighthouse (replica) and looked across the water and saw “our own” beloved flag at Fort McHenry, still waving o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Mr. Key, we get it!  WOW!  What a grand and patriotic experience!