Archive for October, 2014

On the changing of seasons

Given the option, I generally don’t do change.  My tendency, at least historically, has been to try to get something, anything, figured out in a way that works and then LEAVE THAT PUPPY ALONE!  I have learned, however, that change is unavoidable and (I do choke to type these words) can actually be good, and although I still fight against it and struggle to work through it, I do at least intellectually realize that life goes better when I face and deal appropriately with change.

As you may well know, I grow tomatoes in containers, and I tend those babies more or less daily from about Valentine’s Day till sometime in November.  I really shouldn’t complain about that, because tomato-growing is my choice.  No one makes me do it, but by about Labor Day, it does start to get old.

Tonight’s low is expected to be 22 degrees.  Every other year, when the first frost is expected, I recruit Andrew to go out and help me move move the tomatoes and cover them with sheets and clip the sheets in place with clothespins.  Then the next morning, we uncover them and hang the sheets out to dry, and the next night we re-cover them, and we repeat this process for one or two or three or more days until the nighttime temps climb back up above 35.  Which they usually do, and then they tend to stay up for a week or ten days before dipping back down, which requires another round of covering and uncovering.

I do this because I have chosen to grow indeterminate tomatoes, meaning that the vines keep growing and the plants keep producing fruit until they die.  Kind of like people. . .  Hmm. . .  Anyway, it’s Halloween, and not only did I have loads of green tomatoes on the vines, I actually still had BLOSSOMS on those plants!  And something in me just can’t stand to let all those green tomatoes die!  It seems like such a waste.  So I complain as I cover and uncover, and then eventually, when I can’t stand doing that any more and it looks like we’re going to have a hard freeze that will do the plants in once and for all, I pick all the green tomatoes and store them in boxes in the unheated playroom, where a number of them will gradually ripen.  Last year, we ate our last homegrown tomato in the second week of January.  = )

But this year I decided that I wasn’t going to do the cover-uncover two-step because – are you ready? – I don’t have to.  My tomatoes are a hobby; we surely won’t starve without them, we can afford to lose some of them, and my time and mental energy are more valuable than a windowsill full of Big Beefs, Early Girls, and First Prizes.

Tonight will be well below freezing, and although the seven-day forecast says we’ll be back up in the 40s all the subsequent nights, I picked all the green tomatoes (two full buckets’ worth; maybe 25 pounds?) today, pulled the poles and cages, and chucked the vines into the ditch.

Yes, I will check the playroom boxes twice a week and move to the windowsill those that have potential, but other than that, I am done.

This is actually an important emotional process for me.  I am learning – and training myself to – let go of things when their seasons are done.  Like pain that has been faced and processed.  Like day-to-day parenting of adult kids who now live on their own.  Like friendships that were close but now aren’t.  Like expectations that are no longer (and maybe never were) realistic.

So, while I know that I am potentially losing the opportunity to enjoy some subset of our homegrown tomato crop, I am choosing to be thankful for the ones we we’ve already eaten and glad that I will have more time for other things in the coming months.

And next year, I’ll grow more tomatoes.  = )

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Rose-colored lenses

On the way to Mt. Nebo, we stopped at the Rotary Ann rest area juts a few miles north of Booger Hollow.  It’s called Rotary Ann because back in the 1930s, when touring cars were all the rage up and down through the Ozarks, there was a Rotary Club.  I’m not sure where it was based, but the guys who were members of it were referred to as “Rotarians,” and their wives – taking off on the pronunciation of rotarians – were known as Rotary Ann(s).  Those ladies raised the money for the construction of the very first rest area in Arkansas, right there on the spine of Highway 7.

I, of course, visited the facilities there, and I waited to wash my hands behind a sweet little. . . well, I was about to say “old,” but I don’t think she qualified yet as she was probably only in her early 70s. . . lady who met me at the hand dryer with the words, “Have you tried looking at the leaves through rose-colored glasses?”

Actually, I had not.

I told her that my own sunglasses are amber-colored, but she went right on to explain that some years ago she happened by accident to be wearing some rose-colored glasses while viewing the fall colors, and it really intensified the colors.  The greens were greener and the reds were deeper, and she decided then and there that rose-colored glasses were the best way to see the changing leaves.  I smiled and went my way, but she caught me again outside the bathroom, as I was looking over the overlook, and told me all over again about the wonder of rose-colored glasses.

Now personally, I prefer to just look at my fall colors unadulterated, but she would have none of it.  Taking off her glasses, she handed them to me and told me to, “Just look at that red one over there (sumac)!  It’s so much more brilliant with the rose-colored glasses, isn’t it?”  I didn’t see a huge difference, but there was a slight one, so I nodded, thanked her, and handed back her glasses.

As I walked away, she told me how her husband, a mechanic, drove behind the snow plows for years up in the those parts, to make any necessary repairs in the snowstorms.  They still lived in the area and were just out for a drive to look at the beautiful trees.

Through rose-colored lenses.

Unrecognizable

Two months ago we planned this camping trip to Mt. Nebo. It’s a place that holds many special memories for Scott and me. We have been there quite a few times through the years, for romantic getaways in state park cabins, for day trips with groups from church in Little Rock, and—some ten years ago—for a camping trip in a tornado with our young kids.

Usually, when we take road trips, I drive while Scott works (to pay for the trip), and this time, he ended up having an added incentive to work from the passenger seat. We planned to leave home at midday Thursday, camp Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and return home late Sunday. Our camper is quite wonderful; big, roomy, very well-equipped, and most importantly, “up.” I deal with the inside of the camper. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say that I supervise Andrew’s dealing with the inside of the camper. He is quite possessive of it, always cleaning straightening, and organizing it; actions for which I am very thankful.

But the point is that I don’t deal with the outside of the camper. Things like power cords and hoses and awnings (of the attached type) and leveling blocks and support legs. . . those are all clearly male responsibilities.

So Scott had initially wanted to leave at 11:00 AM, but Andrew and I had church responsibilities from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM. Scott therefore declared that we would leave at 1:00 PM. When Andrew and I got home at 11:00 AM, I asked Scott for confirmation of his departure plans. He said that he would work till noon, then pack and eat, and we would leave at 1:15 PM.   He said that while he worked, Andrew would be loading the camper. I then asked him if Andrew knew what the specifics were of what he was to be loading, and he said yes. While I didn’t in any way think Scott was lying to me, I was pretty sure that Andrew didn’t know what all Scott wanted him to pack and therefore wasn’t actually packing it, so I went out to the camper where Andrew was replacing the rear inner tube on his bike, told him that Dad said he was packing the camper, and asked if that was the case. He told me that he wasn’t packing the camper, that he didn’t know that Dad wanted him to be doing anything in particular, and that he didn’t know what specifics Dad wanted him to be doing. To which I replied that it would be advisable for him to go talk with Dad. Which he did.

Now, some things are clearly known by all parties. Admittedly, the camper being “up,” it’s much easier to store, inventory, and load items therein than it was in the pop-up. However, no matter how much inventorying and hauling and packing and loading is done in advance by Andrew and me, it ALWAYS takes a bare minimum of two hours from the time Scott engages in the process till we leave. Often it’s more like three hours. So, if Scott was going to eat and pack his own personal stuff, beginning at noon (and then probably go teck a shah-wah), he wouldn’t be ready face the camper tasks until quarter till one, which means we wouldn’t leave the house till nearly 3:00 PM. And it’s at least a three-hour drive to Mt Nebo.

Now early in the morning, Scott had told me to take the Honda to the church because he needed the Durango to take the camper to the tire repair place in conjunction with a foot appointment he had at 9:30 AM. Fully aware that the camper wouldn’t be going anywhere till (we assumed at that point) 1:00 PM, I told him that was fine and took the Honda.

When we got home from church, Scott told us that he had not taken the camper to the tire repair place and that we would just go on our way out of town. Since I—the Wife Who Does Not Deal With the Outside of the Camper— had no idea why one would take a camper to a tire repair place anyway, I said, “OK, that sounds like a plan.” However, I did make a mental note that if we did indeed leave the house at 1:15 PM (highly unlikely) and then stopped at the tire repair place, we wouldn’t actually get on the road till sometime after 2:00 PM, and it would be supper time (and possibly getting dark) by the time we got to our destination.

We left the house a very few minutes before 3:00 PM, and on the way I found out why we were going to the tire repair place.  It is not uncommon for me to be the last one to know what’s going on.  The camper has four wheels, two on each side, and it seems that the tire on one of those on the right had a slow leak.  It had been aired up sometime (a few (days?  hours?) earlier, yet was still low.  Scott wanted to get that tire repaired before we hit the road for a 280-mile round trip that would involve pulling the camper up and down a 1500-foot “mountain,” possibly in the dark.

We hadn’t been at Taney County Tire for ten minutes when the mechanic guy delivered the verdict.  That tire was separating.  As were the other three tires.  And all four tires were vintage 1998, and tires are only supposed to be left on a camper for five years.  Well, it is a 1999 camper; these were clearly the originals.  Moreover, since the camper is so old, the tires are of a size that isn’t used any more, so Taney County Tire doesn’t stock them.  But not to worry; they could get them in by 9:30 AM or 10:00 AM Friday.

Scott thanked the mechanic guy and said he’d call sometime to get the tires replaced.  And Andrew and I did a couple of double-takes.  Could he possibly be planning to drive to Mt. Nebo and back on 16 year-old dry-rotted tires?!?  Well, yes.  He said that the tires had probably been separated when we bought the camper two years ago, and we hadn’t driven it that many places, and we were already reserved for Thursday night at Mt. Nebo, and the tires would be fine, so we were going to go.

Now, we have driven Highway 7 many times.  Not nearly as many as Highway 65, but enough that we both know full well exactly how narrow, curvy, and hilly it is.  And isolated.  And dark at night.  The plan had been for me to drive to Russellville while Scott worked, and then he would drive up and down the mountain.  However, although I decided I could get OK with trusting Scott to drive Highway 7 in the dark pulling a camper on separated tires, I was not willing to do the driving myself.  As I prepared to tell him this, Jeff, the owner, came out to talk to him.  They looked and talked for quite a while and when he got back in the car, Scott said, “So. . . do you think we should wait till tomorrow?”

Rather than jumping up and down and screaming jubilantly, I restrained my affirmative response and answered calmly, “Yes.  With the dark and the curves and the hills, that sounds smart.”

He was SO terribly disappointed, but that’s what we did.  We left the camper there, went home, unloaded the stuff we needed for the night, ate chili dogs, and played Ticket to Ride.  Friday morning, we returned to Taney County Tire and traded a significant amount of money for our camper, and headed out, me driving.

Highway 7 passes through Newton County, the most scenic piece of real estate God created in a several state area, and located in Newton County is the town of Cowell.  Well, I have been told that that is the case.  I have never seen Cowell, but Scott assures me it exists.  Although this may seem to be a totally random fact, it really does matter to the story.

To get to Mt. Nebo, we would be driving through numerous north Arkansas hamlets and only one town of any size, Russellville.  Russellville is located on Interstate 40, some 90 miles west of Little Rock.  No offense intended to any natives, but Russellville is not a destination; it’s just a place to pass through on your way to wherever you are going in northwest Arkansas or possibly southwest Missouri.  When we lived in Little Rock, we would often pass through Russellville on the way to Mt. Nebo or Castle Bluff or even War Eagle.  And whenever one goes through Russellville, it is absolutely essential to stop at Feltner’s Whatta-Burger.  We have been eating there since before we were married, which would be some 28 years.  In fact, we have never gone through Russellville without stopping at Whatta-Burger because, as previously mentioned, it is, quite simply, the ONLY reason to stop in Russellville.  I was looking forward to re-visiting our old stomping grounds on Mt. Nebo (we know that mountain and every one of its features, trails, and amenities VERY well), but I would also have been quite willing to simply drive to Russellville and turn around and come home, as long as I had eaten at Whatta-Burger.

Back in the day when Scott did virtually all the driving, when traveling from Little Rock, we’d eat at Whatta-Burger and then go north on Highway 7.  Having stuffed myself silly with a Whatta-Cheese, innumerable fries and a sweet limeade, I would pretty consistently fall asleep about 20 minutes north of Dover, probably in the rough vicinity of Lurton (where Highway 16 cuts off west to Deer, Nail, and Swain), and I would then be snoozing when we zinged through Cowell.  This was such a pattern that Scott would tease me about not being able to stay awake to see Cowell.  In fact, the family joke whenever I happen to get drowsy in the car is, “We must be getting close to Cowell.”  Cowell is a place that I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen, but about which I have heard very much commentation.

Therefore on a fine fall Friday morning, when I was wide awake and driving TOWARD Whatta-Burger, I was really eager to see this unincorporated spot in the road.  I figured it would be a lot like downtown Walnut Shade, where we live.  = )  I was tooling merrily along, slinging the big rig behind me, when I suddenly saw a sign that said, “Cowell, 3 miles.”  Yee ha!  I was ready.

But I never saw Cowell.  There was no town and no sign, and I was so very deeply disappointed.  Sigh.

We enjoy a great meal at Whatta-Burger, we had a grand time on the mountain, and if I can carve out time, I have plenty of blog fodder from that 48-hour period.  But on the way home on Sunday afternoon – and we had just eaten regular sandwiches for lunch at the campsite, for crying out loud – Scott was driving (he brought us safely down off the mountain, and I’ll just say that the camper’s back bumper hangs a bit lower than one would think) and I was getting sleepy.  However, I was determined to stay awake to Cowell!  Shoot!  I had missed it once, but I sure wasn’t going to miss it again!

We kept talking, mainly so I could stay awake.  Dover. . . Lurton. . . surely it would show up soon.  I even got out our old, torn Arkansas state highway map (paper, yes, I know I am painfully old school) and put my finger on the little burg so I could calculate the remaining miles and make sure to see it.

Well, I must say that it was all I could have hoped for.  When I finally spied the Cowell sign, I was honestly reminded of that famous line, “Ocean in view.  Oh, the joy!”  Shocked and slightly embarrassed, I said to Scott, “Wow.  This is all new territory.  Everything around here is unrecognizable.  I’ve never seen this place before.”  Of course, there was really nothing to see; just one house on the left, as I recall.  We whizzed by at 55 mph, but after 28 years of not seeing Cowell, I thought I really should maximize the experience; I’d look backwards and see where the southbound Cowell sign was.  I figured it would probably be only a half mile from the northbound one, much like the Walnut Shade signs, but – shock and horrors – THERE WAS NO SOUTHBOUND SIGN!  Not at all.  Not after a half mile, a mile, three miles, ten miles.  I was terribly disappointed.  In fact, I am now thinking that I really need to write the Arkansas Highway Department and point out this inexcusable omission; as it stands now, Cowell is a one-way town.  Amazing.  You can only enter it from the south.

However, I truly was thrilled (at having finally SEEN Cowell) and vindicated (at NOT having missed the non-existent southbound sign), and so I had loads of very satisfying closure and then got to doze – with the exception of providing commentation on the famous two-story outhouse at Booger Hollow and then losing two games of cuppers at Rotary Ann – the rest of the way home.

Note:  Time fails me to mention my numerous TTR victories (including one in a high wind); our 3.5 mile rim trail hike in two sections; the green snake; the impossibility of accurately discerning the relative rawness or doneness of chicken shish-kabobs in the dark; our 4 mile bench trail hike; the huge and very noisy crowd around a campfire 15 feet away from us until the park ranger chased them all away at 10:00 PM, and the fact that if you do indeed remember to pack the dryer sheets but then manage to forgetfully leave them in the camper during not one, not two, but three separate hikes, all of which feature great clouds of gnats, then you will be reminded of Josiah’s famous dance routine with its accompanying classic exclamation, “They’re in my eyes, my nose, my ears, my mouth!!!”

Jeopardy question: What is “With a hammer and a dish towel”?

Answer:  IF you wash all the dishes and stack them very, very high in the dish drainer with your big red non-stick skillet perched on top, and IF you then walk into the pantry to put the sugar away, and IF you are then suddenly startled by a terrible crashing sound, and IF you turn around to see the red skillet (among other items) bouncing across the floor, and IF you realize (with a sinking feeling in your stomach) that the nature of the skillet’s impact caused one side and edge of it to warp inward in such a flattening way that the lid will no longer come anywhere close to fitting, and IF your attempts to manually bend your skillet back into shape are woefully and entirely unsuccessful, and IF you then scan your surroundings for anything that might augment your efforts. . . THEN how will you (triumphantly) return the skillet to its former round estate?

Wardrobe malfunction or operator error?

For parts of four days in mid-October, it rained pretty hard around here.  Hard enough that on Monday morning I had to abort my walk halfway through because I could not see through the rain.  Literally.  But this post is about Sunday.  That morning, walking in 50-degree light rain, I looked down at my water rock (that’s somewhat like a weather rock), and said to myself, “If it wasn’t so cool and rainy, with the creek up so high, Scott would want to go floating this afternoon.”

After church we had some lunch, dealt with some parenting matters, and tackled some desk work, and somewhere in the midst of all that, the sun came out!  We hadn’t seen the sun in days and figured it would disappear again soon, but at that minute it was breezy and sunny and pushing 70, and I thought it would be nice to get outside before the next rain storm started.  Somewhere around 3:45 PM, as I was thinking that and trying to wrap up a project, Scott said, “Maybe we should go for a walk.”  Well, walking and talking is usually a good thing, so I agreed.  We both broke off what we were doing – amazing! – and got in the Durango to drive down to our favorite walking path along the creek.  Which was up nicely.

We were only halfway to Big Rock , and I was thinking that it looked like the creek was actually floatable (and when can one EVER float the creek in the fall?!?), and I was wondering how crazy it would be to just cram in a short late-season run before dark, when Scott looked over at me and said, “You wanna go floating?”  I did, and so did he!

So we turned around, went home, changed clothes, loaded the kayaks (unfortunately minus Scott’s seat back, ugh), told Andrew (who was knee deep in academics with a looming deadline) that if we weren’t back by 7:00 PM to come looking for us, and went up to Gaar’s.  They have re-worked that steep road down to the creek, so it wasn’t bad at all, even given the torrential rains of late.  It was knee-deep on Scott and rushing there.  We locked the Durango and trailer and embarked on what ended up being a near-perfect float.

(I do realize that these next two paragraphs will only have meaning for those who have floated Bull Creek from Gaar’s to the 160 bridge.)

Just below Gaar’s, that offensive tipping tree tree – the one where Tobi lost it while we ladies disembarked in search of a bathroom – is still down across the creek, so we had to portage around that.  Every time we come to that place, we wish somebody else would come to it with a chainsaw in hand, but they never do, so we’ve learned to deal with it.

On this fair Columbus Day, the water was actually higher than it had been during some of our May and June floats, and we didn’t drag at all!  Well, I did drag a couple times when I took a less-than-optimal course and had to angle across gravel to get back into more water, but it was minor and I never got stuck.  We even navigated the Gulf of Doom smoothly.  In fact, it was so high that in Zone 9 NO rocks AT ALL were visible!!!  I mean, not a single rock.  And we easily shot through the dam below Big Rock, and that one nasty turn shortly thereafter where you have to stay hard right to have enough water?  Well, we went left (which is usually impossible) and there was so much water that it didn’t even matter.  And Scott had even shot Shady Rapids through the fourth slot from the right with no problem at all.

But let me tell you about Shady Rapids.  As my family will attest, I personally do not kayak through Shady Rapids.  My issue is that even when there’s enough water to do it without scraping, immediately after passing under the bridge, some large rocks position themselves directly in front of you.  To avoid crashing, you have to do an almost right-angle turn around them, and I am not skillful enough to do that without flipping.  Now, flipping doesn’t actually scare me; I can swim and I know that even if I lose the kayak and paddle, they will both float down and be rescued by My Hero.  My gripe with tipping is that it inevitably happens in a rapid, darn it!  If it happened in still water, I would be fine, but tipping in a rapid, with, by definition, a strong current dragging me along a bunch of rocks, is in my mind a situation to be avoided at all costs.

So my habit at Shady Rapids is to beach the boat on the right bank, and get out to reconnoiter the situation, which basically means watching Scott go through, being thankful that it’s he and not I, and then deciding how best to get my boat to the other side of the bridge/obstacle.  After triumphantly negotiating the rapid, Scott usually beaches his boat down a bit and wades back up to either (of he’s feeling conservative) catch mine as I shove it through or (if he’s feeling adventurous) get in mine and ride it through.  That little shoot under the bridge is evidently so fun that some people want to do it repeatedly.  My other option is to simply drag the kayak through the little wooded path under the far right end of the bridge.  The challenge there is that once through, there’s not a decent place for me to me re-embark, so I have then to put it back in the water, hold on to it, and walk it down the bank a ways – on slick rocks in generally fast-moving water – without slipping and falling; and let me tell you, pelicans are not generally known for their grace and agility.

This time I opted to drag the kayak, and do harm was done to the boat in the process.  It was a slightly damp, grassy, gravelly path, so the boat slid easily behind me, but my vanity 15 minutes earlier evidently got the best of me.  I was in my usual kayaking attire:  swimsuit under swim shorts and T-shirt, sandals, and floppy hat.  A little ways upstream, with the sun shining brightly and feeling wonderfully warm, I had opted to remove the T-shirt and work on my tan.  At Shady Rapids, this meant that I was walking along the 50-foot (?) wooded path shirtless.  That wouldn’t have been a problem except that there were some overhanging branches, and from one of them, something dropped into the – ahem – front of my swimsuit, causing instant and extreme irritation.  Surprised, momentarily releasing the front handle of my kayak, I frantically clawed at my upper torso, trying to alleviate the unwanted sensation and remove the cause thereof.  It felt like something was stinging me repeatedly, and with a bit of stunned yelping, peering, and swiping, I finally located and removed (at least partially) the assumed culprit.

‘Twas a very white, very furry entity, and I could not determine if it was animal (perhaps a very hairy caterpillar) or vegetable (perhaps the very hairy “fruit” of some tree).  Whatever it was, every place any part if it had touched – and there was some remaining white fuzz I was still grasping at – stung like crazy, like a mosquito bite that just wouldn’t quit.  I looked at the item in my hand.  It was a little over an inch long, covered with white hair or fur.  Since I couldn’t find a head or legs, I figured it was some kind of plant matter, but boy, was it ever vicious!  I threw the offending matter down, furiously scratched my burning skin through my swimsuit, picked up the handle of my kayak, and dragged it on.

Scott, beached a bit down, where he was, of course, unaware of my burning situation, and he came back, helped me drag my kayak on through, and left me at a place where I could get back in and resume my float.  As I stepped into the boat, I realized  with great concern that my paddle was gone.  I hollered down to Scott, “Hey!  where’s my paddle?!?”  This was emphatically not a good thing.  It would be VERY difficult to navigate the remaining stretch of creek without a paddle.  And where on earth could it be?  I had shoved it securely into the front of the boat when I beached it, but obviously it had fallen out, either in the water – which meant it would now be drifting downstream – or somewhere back on the path.  Discouraged (and with much of my upper torso now annoyingly irritated), I trudged back toward the little path of pain, scanning the rapids for a loose paddle.  Scott also came back to help look, and it was he who found it, lying about where I had had my little altercation with the white fuzziness.

The rest of our trip was wonderful.  By the time we got to the low water bridge, the burning sensation, while not gone, was no longer tormenting me, and when we took out at the bridge to carry the kayaks home, it was only mildly irritating.

But the next morning, there was a hideous-looking angry, red rash all over every centimeter of skin that had come in contact with the fuzz-ball.  And by Monday evening, that rash was beginning to itch.  A lot.  Tuesday morning, things became fierce, featuring that same deep desire to rub sandpaper violently across one’s skin that comes with chigger bites.  Only this wasn’t an isolated bite or six; this covered an area of something like 72 square inches!  With a small patch spreading on my upper arm, as well!  It was kind of like having poison ivy, but I knew good and well it wasn’t P.I.  Rather, it began to remind me of those truly hideous latex-induced rashes I have developed in the past, so I pulled out my trusty (and very pricey) tube of prescription betamethasone (steroid) cream – the only thing that has ever cleared the latex rash – and made frequent applications.  When that ran out, I found a tube of another prescription steroid cream (clobetasol) that Scott had used some years ago, and I have been applying that.  Now, two days later, the rash has stopped spreading, and while it still looks pretty bad, it doesn’t itch as much.

In my desperation to identify the culprit in this crime, I have been trying to remember what the heck the trees and bushes along that little path looked like.  I think they may have been willows; you know, low trees with kind of droopy, overhanging branches of longish, narrow leaves?  With that thought in mind, I googled images for “fruit of willow tree,” and came up with two lovely photos that look just exactly like what “attacked” me!  I was going to put them here for your viewing pleasure, but no matter what I do, wordpress will not allow me to insert them into this post, I suppose because I didn’t take the pictures.  Sigh.

In any case, I am now assuming that I had a rather violent allergic reaction to something in the white and furry “fruit” of a willow(?) tree.

I told Scott that the next time we float Bull Creek, I’m keeping my shirt on!  He suggested I wear a turtle neck.

“We Are”

And I am. . . really proud of Andrew at church this morning, that is.  Usually he plays the background keyboard for worship and sometimes he also sings background vocals.  Because our worship leader (Jessica) was out today, one of the young ladies who usually harmonizes (Taylor) was singing lead, and Andrew and Alexis sang harmony.  He did a good job.  Then right before the sermon, he also sang a special, Kari Jobe’s “We Are.”  I could tell he was a bit nervous – and this is the guy who never gets nervous on stage! – but he sang well and the congregation responded with applause.  = )  That was his first time to sing a solo at church, or anywhere, for that matter.

So musically all went well, and then during the sermon, Pastor Barb called him up to sit in a chair as an object lesson about Psalm 91:1.  He sat down in the chair but looked skeptical when she brought out an umbrella (perhaps remembering the time she fed him baby food as an object lesson. . . ), so she let him off the hook.  She had him stand to the side and asked another young lady to come sit in the chair under the umbrella.  But it turns out Andrew had inadvertently played right into her hand.  Her point was that when we get out from under God’s shadow in his secret place, we are unprotected.  So she poured some water over Bethany’s head, and of course, Bethany stayed dry under the umbrella.  Then Pastor Barb ran over to Andrew and slung the rest of the water at him!  We all had a good laugh, the point was made, and Andrew’s shirt was still damp when we got home.

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I do remember blogging.  Honest, I do!

I go through these periods of time when I blog regularly and feel so productive and happy, but those periods are inevitably followed by times of hecticness – either literal or mental – in which I blog not at all.  Rather, I don’t blog on the computer.  I am ALWAYS blogging in my head!  Nearly every day something happens that makes me think, “Now that would make a great blog title!” or “Oooh, it would really be fun to blog about that!”  But the time isn’t right (I’m standing on the bridge in the rain during my final lap. . . or I’m in the shower. . . or I’m driving – or being driven – down the road with Andrew. . . etc.) or I just don’t have time, and so it never happens.  Then, when I do get around to it. . . you know, my Aunt Mil gave me a “round to-it” when I was a kid; it was a cross-section of a tree limb, about an inch thick and four inches in diameter, with the word “TUIT” wood-burned into the surface and then varnished. . .  As I was saying, when I do get around to it, I feel guilty that I haven’t kept up, and I feel a need to go back to where I left off, but it’s too long ago, and I can’t remember what I was going to say, and I regret that that memory is now lost and won’t be written about, and I get discouraged, so I don’t write anything, and then the next day it’s all worse!

So today, I am going to just say, for the sake of saying SOMETHING, that I am really, really thankful that my mom is OK.  A few days ago, she suddenly lost consciousness in Wal-Mart, collapsed, and landed hard on her back and head, giving herself a concussion.  After an ambulance ride, a couple days in the hospital, and an awful lot of tests to try to figure out why she had this very scary episode, it was determined that she is almost old (well, she’ll officially be old in a few weeks).  She also has some rather complicated heart issues that can’t actually be corrected, but that mean that her heart works very hard and can’t keep up when her brain requires extra blood.  Now, while there is certainly nothing humorous about her situation, one does wonder what exactly it might be about the meat department at Wal-Mart that could require extra blood flow to the brain.  Anyway, Mom is home now and recovering, with instructions to take it easy, avoid certain positions that send extra blood to her legs, and see her cardiologist again in ten days.

I am also thankful for my amazing husband, our four wonderful children, and a great place to live.

I am not thankful that I am hopelessly unable to beat my amazing husband at Ticket to Ride.

I will blog again soon.  Without feeling guilty.