Archive for December, 2013

The tub and the table – part 2

We closed the shop door, and I told Josiah that SURELY Scott wouldn’t have a reason to go into the shop before Christmas.  After all, it was December 17, he wouldn’t even be back in town till very late on December 19, we had already – well, okay, the boys had already – hauled the boxes of Christmas decorations out of the shop, and he’d only even be here for five days before Christmas.  What were the odds?

Josiah repeated decisively, “I PROMISE you, Dad WILL go into the shop before Christmas.”

We own a vacation rental home.  Managing it is one of Scott’s primary responsibilities – or should I say, “recreations?”  He is definitely a hands-on manager, and he is always researching and coming up with ways to make our assets more profitable.

In May, he and I took a weekend away and stayed in a vacation home that had a hot tub.  It was most relaxing and enjoyable, and ever since then, Scott has been with the hot tub concept like a dog with a bone.  It is an idea that will not go away, and he decided that it would be fiscally prudent to put a hot hub at our vacation rental home.  (!!!)  After a lot of looking and shopping and considering and planning, he found the one he wanted in a local store, and then proceeded to buy it at a significant discount from an auction site.

I assumed the hot tub would be delivered to the vacation rental home, but that was an inaccurate assumption on my part.  Scott’s actual plan was to bring the hot tub to our house and have it here for a while so that he could learn all the ins and outs of hot tub operation and maintenance before putting it at the vacation home.

We discussed this situation at length.  I was not at all keen on the idea of a hot tub at our house.  For one thing, I think the best place to put a hot tub is out on a deck.  We have no deck.  Not to worry.  Scott brainstormed all kinds of other places we could put the hot tub:  in the office, in the playroom, out in the shop. . . etc.  When it became obvious that, despite my concerns and preferences, the hot tub would indeed come to the house, I gave in.  The hot tub would at some time be installed in the playroom and reside there for the near future.

Katie flew home on December 20 to spend for twelve wonderful days with us.  What a delight she has been!  One of our Christmas traditions that is particularly special to her is our annual jaunt to Silver Dollar City a few days before Christmas.  We all enjoy the lights, the sounds, the rides, the lights, the shows, the lights, and most especially the huge Christmas tree that plays “Carol of the Bells” with an amazing coordinated light display.  Katie has said, “Once I get to watch the tree play ‘Carol of the Bells,’ it’s Christmas!”  I agree!  By that point, most of the work (shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, decorating) has been done, and going to Silver Dollar City is kind of like permission to breathe and actually ENJOY Christmas.

Katie and Jessica and I have even been known to dance in front of the tree.  We really like it a LOT, and I was determined to experience that with Katie again this year.  This was the first year since we have lived here that we have not had season passes, so none of us has been to Silver Dollar City all year.

Since we are planning to go en masse next May when the extended Roberts family convenes in Branson for a family reunion, the guys (who aren’t quite as excited about the tree as we females) decided they could wait till then to go.  Actually, Josiah said his only reason to go would be to ride “Outlaw Run,” – according to him the only wooden roller coaster in the WORLD to go upside down – and we all agreed that for the price of a one-day pass, that would be better enjoyed in May than December.  Besides that, the weather for the few days between Katie’s arrival in Branson and Christmas was going to be cold, windy, and rainy.  In fact, the rain was expected to start the evening she arrived!

So. . . she and decided to go to the City straight from the airport.  As a bonus, because SDC had been closed for a couple days and had lost a lot of business during even when open to guests during the heavy snow a couple weeks previously, they were offering one-day passes at about a $15 discount!  We bundled up and went with joy, and we had a simply marvelous time.  We did all the things we wanted to do, and none of the things we didn’t.  We looked in shops, rode the carousel, watched them make taffy, and stood and cried while the tree played “Carol of the Bells!”

Our final event of the evening was to go to the McHaffie cabin to see the Homestead Pickers in action.  We really like these guys.  They play guitar, fiddle, double bass, banjo, harmonica, and sometimes even hammered dulcimer.  = )  The night we were there, some thirty ladder-back chairs were crammed into the cabin, and we were shoe-horned in as tight as sardines.  Actually, I’m not sure how the fire marshal lets them get away with that; even if we had wanted to leave, there was simply no way we could have gotten out of there till about twenty people left ahead of us, so we sat back and figured we’d just be there for the duration.  It was almost claustrophobic, but the music distracted me from the tight quarters.

They did insert a painfully long comedy routine in the middle, but FINALLY the musicians did get back to playing music, and we were both so very glad. So I was sitting there, minding my own business, bouncing my knee, the pickers were picking, and all was well. . . when sometime around 7:30 PM my phone rang.

I saw that it was Josiah and so decided I’d better answer.  What he told me stood my wonderful, relaxing evening completely on its ear.

To Be Continued. . .

The table and the tub – part 1

I gave Scott a hammock for Christmas.

The story now aches to be told

Of him who’s incessantly scheming

And Jo, who said, “I TOLD you so!!!”

We first saw such a hammock on our family camping trip to Buffalo Point this summer.  Two ladies across the way were tent camping, and once they had their tent up, they pulled out of their car a few pieces of metal, fitted them together, and in less than five minutes had a lovely mesh hammock ready to be enjoyed.  What a novel concept!  No trees were required.  It was fully mobile.  It fit easily into a small car.  And it appeared to be big enough for two.

There’s a hammock-for-two on the back porch of our current favorite getaway home, Creek’s End, and we have really enjoyed it, so when I saw this set-up at Buffalo Point, I simply had to have more information.  Since I am working on being more confrontational when necessary, I walked over to where the one lady was already resting in the hammock and reading a book (wouldn’t a hammock be a WONDERFUL place to read?!?) and the other lady was unloading stuff from the car.

I asked the unloader about the hammock, and she cheerfully told me that they had bought it just for camping, that it was easy to set up, that it was exceedingly comfortable, that it would hold two adults (later that day I saw the two of them in it, one at each end), and that we were welcome to come try it out any time.

Well, now!  So later that day, when they ladies were away, I did try it out, and it was indeed delightful.  I then invited Scott to join me, and, once we tumbled about getting in, it was quite comfortable.

I then promptly forgot about it for several months, but one day in early October, while I was walking – I seem to do my best thinking while either walking or showering – the thought of a hammock popped suddenly into my mind, and I thought, “Hmmm. . . maybe I could give Scott a hammock like that for Christmas.”  This being an idea that would not let go, I began researching hammocks:  styles of hammocks, materials of which hammocks are made, frames that hold hammocks, metals (and their associated coatings) of which hammock stands are fabricated, weight limits of various stands and hammocks, storage possibilities for hammocks and stands, pillows designed for two people in one hammock, the durability of various hammock and stand materials in specific conditions of temperature and humidity, and the price of all the above.

Having squirreled away some personal money over a period of time, I figured out what I could pay and realized that what I really wanted was slightly outside my price range, BUT I kept going back to the site that I really wanted to buy from, and sure enough, in mid-October, their hammocks went on a significant sale, including free shipping.  When you are ordering four packages weighing a combined total of 85 pounds, free shipping is a wonderful thing, and I  –  the person who buys her Christmas wrapping paper in January and who urged her husband to NOT buy a kayak in June (but to wait till February) – think I also figured out the reason for the sale prices:  hammocks probably don’t sell as well in October as in May.

So I began placing the order for the hammock, the stand, the pillow, and the bag in which to store the hammock.  But when I got ready to check out, the resultant shipping challenge suddenly dawned on me.  These would be some pretty big boxes.  They would come FedEx.  During business hours.  To our house.  Where Scott frequently works from home on Tuesdays and Fridays.  Now, UPS and FedEx do bring numerous packages to our door in December, and everyone in the family knows that standard protocol is to thank the driver, bring the package in, figure out who it’s addressed to (while discreetly not looking at the return address), and either give it to the person, tell the person it’s here, or put it on the person’s stair.  But four boxes – one large, two significant, and one very long and very heavy – arriving on our porch while Scott is at home would not be a good thing.  It would not be easy to explain or hide those boxes.

I called my neighbor, Shelly (three long doors down – about 1/4 mile away), and asked if she might be willing to take delivery on this stuff.  She would, so that was great.  Sure enough, a few days later, she texted me to say that all those boxes had arrived, that they were presently stored in their coffee building (they own the Branson Bean coffee company, and they grind coffee beans in a small – and very fragrant – outbuilding), but that they took up too much room and so she would not be able to store them long-term.  Yes.  And Christmas was two months away.  That would require long-term storage. . . hmmm. . .

Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring them home, either.  The only place we had to store such stuff would be in the shop, and it was a sure thing that sometime in the next two months Scott would go out to the shop.

I then called LaShell.  She and Bill are dear friends who have bailed us out of many, many, many problems over the past 17 years.  They live just this side of Shelly’s family, and I happen to know that they have a pole barn on their land, where, incidentally, Bill maintains an interesting and fairly extensive collection of every imaginable tool, part, and odd piece of junk ever known to man.  Perhaps they could store this stuff in their pole barn for me for a couple months.

Yes, they could!  But LaShell went one better.  She was concerned that the critters might damage the hammock, pillow, or carrying case out there in the pole barn (pole barns don’t have side, you know, and critters who like to gnaw boxes are ever-present in our semi-rural area), so she said they could store them up in the attic over their garage.  Bill, a truly helpful gentleman in every situation, took his truck over to Shelly’s house, loaded up all my boxes, and hauled them to his house, where he and LaShell hoisted them up to the attic.

And there they sat, at no charge to me, for two months.

Now, I did have a retrieval plan, and it was this:  Scott had a business trip the first week of December.  While he was out of town, Andrew and I would go down to Bill and LaShell’s, load the stuff into the Durango, bring it home, put it in the shop on the floor opposite the workbench, cover it with a tarp, and, in the unlikely situation that Scott felt compelled to enter the shop in the five days he’d be home before Christmas, simply tell him that he was not authorized to look under the tarp.

Change being constant, Scott’s business trip was moved to the third week of December!  This would be getting mighty uncomfortably close to Christmas.  Sigh.  I re-scheduled with LaShell, Josiah came home from college, and on Tuesday evening, December 17, the three of us went to pick up the boxes.  Bill and his son, Phil, hauled them down, and we brought them home.

I had told the boys the tarp-in-the-shop plan, but they didn’t like that idea.  Too obtrusive, they claimed.  We three therefore stood in the shop, reconnoitering the situation and trying to determine where to hide this Durango-full of massive boxes.  There really seemed to be no options at all.  As I stood we stood there feeling slightly dejected, Josiah suddenly spied Andrew’s kayak standing up in the corner.  Aha!!!  The kayak was just a tad bit longer then the longest box, so if we stood them up on end and positioned the kayak just right, not only would the boxes be covered, there wouldn’t even be any indication that anything in the shop had ever been touched.  Perfect!

We did just that, and all was well – except that as we closed the shop door, Josiah, the Eternally Pessimistic One, said, “I PROMISE you, Dad WILL go into the shop before Christmas.”

To Be Continued. . .

 

Jeopardy Question: What are 6, 8, and 10?

Answer:  Respectively, the length in feet of the longest icicle on our house (hanging near the back breezeway door), the number of sleds we own beyond the number of children currently living at home to use them, and the total depth in inches of the snow in our yard before it began melting today.

We’ve got SNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Boy, do we ever have SNOW!

The glory all started late yesterday morning with sleet.  We like sleet.  It bounces and looks like white sand.  We don’t like freezing rain.  It doesn’t bounce, it messes up the roads, and it makes the power go out.  Power outages equal not only no power (duh), but also no heat (propane furnace, but electric blower) and no water (well pump requires electricity), so we are very thankful that there was no freezing rain and the power has stayed on.

But last evening, it started to snow.  It’s been three YEARS since we’ve had any snow, and as everyone knows that’s two years too long.  Of course, we also know why we haven’t had any snow the past two years.  Two years ago, we joined a church whose pastor doesn’t like snow.  She prays fervently that it won’t snow, and she has a lot of faith.  I don’t think we have more faith than Pastor Barb, but I think God is just dumping out an extra-large amount of grace on us; nine inches so far, to be exact!

When I looked out around 6:45 AM, it was snowing steadily.  When I first measured it at 8:45 AM, it was about five inches deep.  It kept snowing non-stop all the way till 2:00 PM, at which point it was NINE GLORIOUS INCHES DEEP!!!  Several time during the day, I have actually found myself giddy and squealing with delight!

We did all our errand-running earlier in the week, and the events that were planned for yesterday and today were all canceled, so I got to stay home and watch it snow (and write our Christmas newsletter).  Ahhhhhhh!  I did take a number of pictures during my morning walk, some of which I will now remember how to insert into this post.

The snowplow must've slung snow against our mailbox (which was already wobbly) and knocked it over.

The snowplow must’ve slung snow against our mailbox (which was already wobbly) and knocked it over.

 

Adorable Snow Woman!

Adorable Snow Woman!

 

Our home in the snow.  Isn't it just lovely?

Our home in the snow. Isn’t it just lovely?

 

The temp at 7:30 AM on December 7, 2013 was -10 F!  Amazing!

The temp at 7:30 AM on December 7, 2013 was -10 F! Amazing!

 

The creek is lightly iced and simply gorgeous.

The creek is lightly iced and simply gorgeous.

 

We still have our nine inches of snow on the ground, with drifts up over a foot.  It’s cold enough this morning that even with the sun out, the icicles aren’t melting.  I am so very pleased!  Snow makes me so happy!

 

 

‘Hood enhancements

It was dark coming home from church last night, but even so, I could see something new behind the Altom Construction building.  There were trees!  It looked like a row of evergreen trees had been planted along the property line between the building and the Casa de Luz parking lot.  And these were not small trees.  How very exciting!

This morning I went over there to check things out at the end of my jaunt.  While walking, I had been  trying to figure out how tall those trees were.  My guess was 15 feet.  No joke!  They appear to be about four inches in diameter, and there are ten of them, planted in two staggered rows.  It looks like major excavation was involved in getting them in place.  It’s as if they were planted in heaped-up mounds of dirt, and there are a lot of dirt caterpillar (or maybe bobcat) tracks in the parking lot, so some kind of earth-moving equipment must’ve been involved.

There are tags on the trees, so, of course, I had to go read one of the tags.  “Pinus strobus 12 ft.”  Google says that makes them eastern white pines, native to Ontario, Canada and the northern U.S., widely planted as ornamentals which grow quickly and are fairly low maintenance.  I think they are a beautiful addition to downtown Walnut Shade.

Hometown banking

Okay, so it WAS a large check.  It had a number of zeroes after it, and I guess that’s what threw a wrench in the system.

My husband is serving as the secretary of a non-profit ministry led by some dear missionary friends of ours.  He is handling some of their stateside financial and legal stuff, and there is here in our fair city a branch of the bank that holds that corporation’s account.  So, when a check to that ministry arrived at our house on a day that I was going to town anyway, he asked me to take the check to that bank and deposit it.

I thought this would be a simple, two-minute operation, but I was wrong.

See, our family banks at Ozark Mountain Bank.  It’s a small, locally-owned bank, and since I go through the drive-thru there almost every week – and have for many years – I know all the tellers and all the tellers know me.  We are all on a first-name basis, and since I usually have multiple transactions each time I appear, I like to think that I have actually trained some of those tellers myself.  As in, “if they can handle what Patty puts in that pneumatic tube, they can handle just about anything.”

We also have a LOT of accounts at our bank.  Eleven at last count.  We shoot a fair amount of money in and out of our accounts, so I think they like us fairly well.  In any case, we get good, quick service at OMB, and we like it that way.  Even when I give them four transactions with sticky notes of detailed instructions on each, I’m usually in and out in under five minutes.

For all those reasons, I thought that making a deposit at “Bank X” would be similarly straightforward.  It was only one rather large check, and we even had a deposit slip filled out.  Scott had called ahead to confirm that I could make the deposit at the drive-thru.  I took Andrew to his piano lesson and then fought the (right now quite substantial) Branson Christmas traffic to Bank X and pulled up at the drive-thru.

I put the check, paper-clipped to its deposit slip, in the tube and sent it in.  I watched the lady retrieve the tube.  She greeted me and we exchanged the usual mandatory brief pleasantries.  I watched her take the check out of the tube, and then she disappeared.  That seemed odd to me, because it appeared – even though I had never been to Bank X’s drive-thru before – that her teller station, computer, etc. were all right there in plain sight.  Why she would have to evaporate in order to process my deposit was not entirely clear to me.

A couple minutes (and no, I am not exaggerating) later, she walked back past the large window area and looked at me.  The look was the kind of look one might get from a stranger who notices that you have spilled chocolate shake down the front of your shirt and have no clue that you look like a slob.  I glanced about, making sure that I wasn’t unknowingly indiscreet in some way (I wasn’t), smiled at her, and looked back through my front windshield.

There was no one else in any of the drive-thru lanes, so the delay I was experiencing couldn’t have been traffic-related.  I waited.  My teller lady again fled the scene, and I waited.   Eventually, a second lady, appearing to perhaps function in a bit more authority, appeared and looked at me.  She then disappeared, and nothing was seen or heard for another couple minutes.  Both ladies then came back into view, talking with each other, occasionally glancing at me, and looking down at something (my deposit?) that one of them was holding.  They again left.  To go out for pizza?

By this time, I had been sitting in the drive-thru lane for eight minutes, and my only contact with any employees of Bank X had been the teller’s initial greeting. . . eight minutes ago.  I was starting to get fidgety.  I wasn’t trying to make a withdrawal, for crying out loud!  I was trying to put a nice juicy check IN to their bank!

About the time I was wondering if I’d be able to get back in time to pick up Andrew by the time his lesson ended at three o’clock,  the second lady re-appeared, gave me one more thorough looking-over, left the scene, and was immediately replaced by my teller, who told me that they would be able to accept my deposit (THAT was a relief!), but that there would be a hold on it, and she would send out to me a copy of it.

Okay.  Whatever that meant.

She took her own sweet time to do whatever it was she had to do, and while she was doing it, I asked her how long the hold would be.  After all, it could have been the case that our friends were waiting on that money and intended to do something with it soon.  She said that that information would be on the sheet she was sending out.  I told her I understood, and finally, she did send out to me a receipt and two pages of blurb detailing the various hold(s).

Here’s what the blurb said.  Because the check significantly exceeded their daily deposit limit, 1% of the total amount would be available immediately.  Well, I guess that was nice.  There would be a two-day hold on the next 24% of the total, and there would be a 12-day hold on the remaining 75% of the total.  Sheesh!!!

I thanked the lady, left there, swung by the library thrift shop to drop off some of our recently-generated de-clutteration, and made it to Mrs. Abbott’s house at 2:59 PM.  Nothing like a little margin in the schedule.

As I thought back over my experience at Bank X, these meditations coursed through my brain:

“Boy, am I ever glad we bank at Ozark Mountain!”

“What kind of an eight-state bank is this, anyway?!?  Have they never seen a check for that amount of money?!? (Or was it just that I cut such an intimidating figure?)”

“Scott’s paycheck is regularly two or three times Bank X’s daily deposit limit.  If we banked there, would I have to go through all this rigamarole and delay every time I go to deposit his check?!?  And would there be multiple holds on his paycheck each time?”

“I know our friends use Bank X because they have their own account(s) there and it’s in several states, and I really am glad it works for them, but I’m also really glad I can just stick with our small, local, hometown bank to deal with large amounts of money like that!”

In Bank X’s defense, I reiterate that it was a large check.

Ok, I repent

I repent of all the cruel and disparaging comments I have made about Wal-Mart through the years.

I know that one bad experience can color my opinion about something forever.  Refusing to ever dine again at a restaurant that caused food poisoning comes to mind.  But how sweet it is when one good experience outweighs all the bad and makes me smile!

I am soon to embark upon that hallowed tradition of writing our family Christmas newsletter.  Oh, that it were as simple as that sounds.  Yes, I have to figure out what to say (and what not to say) about six people and twelve months.  I have to write it, proofread it, email it to everyone and get their input, make necessary adjustments, go to Staples to get appropriate paper, get it aligned to print properly, print it, fold it. . . but wait!  There’s more.

The mailing list needs to be reviewed and updated.  Labels have to be printed.  (Thank GOD for Scott.  No one knows why Mail Merge in Windows 7 is so hideously tedious, but Scott is able and willing to wrangle with it once a year to get our labels printed.  Whew!)  Stamps have to be ordered, and return address labels need to be printed.  One would think that would be enough, but no.

We typically include a family photo in with the newsletter.  Usually that picture is taken by my dad when we are all together (or not) at Thanksgiving.  Then there is some discussion over which picture is the best.  It is close to impossible to get all six of us to look good at the exact instant the shutter clicks.  Well, that’s not entirely accurate.  A good picture of the six of us cna be taken.  What can’t be taken is a picture which each of the six of us can individually review and honestly say, “I like the way I look in that picture.”  Anyway, we do try hard.

This past week, I reviewed the mailing list, made necessary changes (it seems that people are moving, dying, and/or divorcing at greater rates than they used to. . . ), and got Scott’s input on whom to drop and add, AND said all kinds of wonderful things to him while he mail merged, formatted, and printed labels for me.  What a nice guy!  I also ordered stamps.  (Be it noted that the US Postal service website gets more cumbersome and less user-friendly as the years go by, so Forever Stamps really are a good idea.  I should probably buy all that I will need for my natural lifetime because eventually a person won’t be able to order them at all!).  And, in a true fit of initiative, I remembered to email the family and ask what they thought we should wear for our portrait session with Grandpa.  I even asked Katie if there was a way to Photoshop in a picture of Jessica (who lives abroad) so we could all be in one picture together.

And Katie replied that she thought we were going to use one of the family pictures that Maria (professional photographer) took of us when we were all home together last summer.  Aha!!!  Well, yes.  So I found the picture.  It was saved on my computer, and it looked pretty good.  The only problem was that it had Maria’s watermark, and I was pretty sure that if I sent it to Wal-Mart online (which is how I normally order prints), they would refuse to print it because of copyright issues.

Maria had given me a letter granting permission for our family to print any of the photos on that disk, but in order to use that, I would have to physically go into the store, explain the situation, hand them the letter (which was not especially official-looking) and hope they would print the pics.

I didn’t want to go into the store.  For one thing, everyone knows how I feel about Wal-Mart in the first place.  For another thing, it’s the Christmas season.  It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and I am already sick and tired of all the junk on display, not to mention the swarms of shoppers who fill the parking lot with their cars, the aisles with their bodies, and the checkouts with their full carts.  Wal-Mart emphatically does NOT put me in a thankful, Jesus-focused frame of mind!

But into the store I went.  It was on the way to Andrew’s piano lesson.  We left the house fifteen minutes early, hoping that that would give me enough time to go in, stand in line to use one of their upload machines, talk to a human, explain how I really did have permission to print 160 copies of a professionally-taken photo with a watermark, persuade them to do the prints, get back out to the car, and get Andrew to his piano lesson.

The bar was set quite high, and I knew success was unlikely.

We parked and speed-walked to the photo department.  (We would have run, but I have learned that for some unknown reason, even a very short run will leave me in hip pain for a couple months.  It’s just not worth it.)  There, I fumbled with an upload machine and finally asked Andrew to make it do whatever it should do.  Meanwhile, out of the corner of my eye, I spied the elderly gentleman who is the head of the photo department.  He knows everything and is nice, but he was waiting on another customer.

I kept watching him, and as soon as he was free, I approached and asked for help.  Jim was very polite and friendly – characteristics that I value deeply in service people – and he had no qualms about accepting my permission slip.  He helped me get through the dialogues to order the prints, scanned a copy of Maria’s permission slip, handed me back my flash drive and slip, and told me they’d be ready in 20 minutes.

WHAT?!?!?  AT WAL-MART?!?!?

I thanked him and we speed-walked back to the car, arriving five minutes early for the piano lesson.  Wow!

Afterwards, we returned to the Mart of Wals, speed-walked in, found Jim just where we had left him, examined the prints (they look great!), paid for them, thanked him for his service to our country (he’s a veteran), and left.  All told, we were in Wal-Mart for a grand total of something under twelve minutes, and I have 160 copies of a fun family photo sitting on my desk, just waiting to be labeled and inserted into our Christmas newsletter.

There were probably hundreds of other customers still in the store, wandering aimlessly amid all the junk for sale, but we were not two of them!