Archive for February, 2016

Old dog, new trick

The only reason I can type at all is that my mom required me to take typing in 11th grade. At the time, I thought that was a stupid idea and told her so, but she held her ground. I had one semester of typing and one of shorthand. I never became proficient at either, I use shorthand not at all, and I hunt and peck (albeit pretty quickly) to this day.

Habits die hard, and not all of them are bad. One good one that was absolutely drilled into me in typing class was that you single space after commas and semi-colons, and you double space after periods, question marks, exclamation points, and colons. Period. (space, space).

But I have been told that in this day of all things digital and word processing and fonts and such, you don’t double space after periods, or after any other punctuation marks, for that matter. I guess the software is supposed to put in the right amount of space or something. This, of course, goes against everything I was every taught, and it really rubs me the wrong way. However, I am now actively endeavoring to break myself of my deeply-ingrained double spacing habit. This is not easy. I’ve been working on this for several weeks, but even now, at the end of every sentence, I have to remind myself to only hit the space bar once. This is so awkward! Whine, whine, whine. Double spacing is much more comfortable, as habits generally are, but I think that if I can successfully break this relatively insignificant habit, doing so will give me the momentum and motivation I need to break some that are much more important.  = )

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To answer the question, “Would you rather have judgment or mercy?” I say I’d rather have

. . . Cox.

For previous insurance reasons that required me to use a St. John’s primary care physician, for quite a few years, I had my mammograms done at St. John’s (now Mercy) in Springfield. Between the drive up there and back (90 minutes total), the registration time (5 minutes), the wait in the outer waiting room (30-45 minutes), the wait while scantily clad in the inner waiting room (10 minutes), and the time for the procedure itself (5 minutes), I generally allowed up to three hours for the whole shooting match.

But now that I am using a Cox primary care physician in Branson, my last two mammograms have been at the outpatient building at Cox Branson (formerly Skaggs), and I must say that in this regard, Cox can certainly teach their Mercy competition a few things.

Now, I will admit on the front end that parking was a challenge. In fact, it was the most time-consuming part of the whole adventure. For one thing, no one wants to park in the main hospital lot and then hike over to the outpatient building, so the natural tendency is to look for a space in the row of parking places in front of the outpatient building. Unfortunately, those spaces were obviously reserved for those who had camped out for them the night before.

The next place to look would be around the back of the outpatient building where a series of signs with big arrows (and we 50-somethings do so appreciate clear signage!) directs one to OUTPATIENT PARKING. Unfortunately, the few of those spaces that are vacant are “Reserved for Cancer Patients.” [Be it noted that I, not being a cancer patient, had no legal right to park there, and since I have great compassion for those who are, I would never park there anyway.]

So, having thus far located exactly zero available parking spaces, one finds oneself suddenly thrust, whether one likes it or not, into the depths of the new parking deck. I have always had issues with parking decks. These issues are probably about as rational as the deep-seated anxiety I face when popping open a tube of crescent rolls, but they are issues nonetheless. Actually, I suppose I just have a lot of questions about parking decks. For example. . .

1. Why must they have such massive, lumpy humps each time you turn to enter a new level? I could maybe understand this significant construction error occurring – and then being left uncorrected for all posterity – once, but on every turn into every level? Come on, guys! Are the parking deck builders not provided with levels? Even I, a somewhat normal (HA!) mom who lacks even an undergraduate degree in engineering can clearly see when concrete slabs have not been laid flat. With all the technology available today, can’t someone figure this out and fix it?

2. Why is it that the spaces in parking decks are situated such that if there really is an empty one, you cannot possibly tell it’s empty until you have driven past it? Really now, who wants to risk backing up in a such a structure? And then this corollary question, which I realize is probably just user error, but which happens so very consistently that one does begin to wonder: why are parked cars in parking decks always alternated big, little, big, little, big, little, so that if you do spot an empty space and begin to turn into it, you inevitably find that a tiny car only half the length of yours is already parked in it? Can people with micro cars not park so that the back of their car is flush with the backs of the two big cars on either side of it? This seems to be standard procedure for books on library shelves. Could we not sway the culture in this very logical direction for parking decks, too?

3. Why are there always workmen standing around in the depths of parking decks, and why are they so rarely working, and why do they give me the creeps as I walk past them and we exchange nods? Well, maybe the creeps part is my deal, but can’t the parking deck building and electrical and paving and striping folks just do all their construction work before the deck opens and then leave it alone?

4. And finally, why is it that if you drive on past the only three vacant spots in the deck because they are all three maximally distant from the stairs (and closest to the workmen standing around), the odds on your finding another empty space before you are see daylight ahead and are about to exit the parking deck are 79:1?

As I said, the parking deal was a bit challenging, but I did eventually squeeze my Durango into a space that was probably intended for a Honda Civic. At that point, I had the rather humorous challenge of trying to figure out how to exit my car without removing any door paint from the vehicle to my left, but I will leave that one to your imagination. Once extricated, I did also have a bit of a hike from my car – past the requisite workmen – to my destination, BUT from the time I walked into the Cox Health Women’s Center office until the time I walked out of said office with my mammogram completed was less than fifteen minutes! And on the shelf in the bathroom where I did my two quick changes, some sensitive female soul had placed a Dove milk chocolate!

This was my experience last year, as well (including the chocolate), but at the time I assumed it was all a fluke. Now, having invested a grand total of 48 minutes door-to-Walnut-Shade-door, I am convinced that this must be Cox’s S.O.P. for mammograms. I am duly impressed, and I am saving my Dove for a special occasion.

Jeopardy question: What is “Turn the radio up louder?”

Answer: My short-term solution to the Durango making a whining engine noise.

It’s nice to have friends who know what to do about car repair things when I don’t. At church last night, I asked J.R. to listen to it and advise me as to whether the noise was a “serious” noise that needed a mechanic’s attention, or a “trivial” noise that did not; you know, one of those noises that a twelve-year-old vehicle might produce just to make its presence known and grumble a bit.

J.R. listened, instructed me to pop the hood (bonnet for you Brit readers), and checked the transmission fluid. He said it was 1.5 quarts low. I noted where the dipstick was, way up against the dash, and asked where you put the transmission fluid in. Turns out it goes into that same hole that’s only about the diameter of my middle finger! I would clearly need a long, narrow funnel to do that, but J.R. said that if I took the Durango to our mutual friend, Bill, who works at O’Reilly’s, Bill would put the fluid in for me.

I thanked J.R. for his help and advice and then confessed that when it started whining about a week ago, it was intermittent; not all the time like it is now. I told him I didn’t like the sound of the whining (Philippians 2:14: “Do everything without grumbling or complaining.”), so I did what any wise woman would do. I turned the radio up louder. J.R. got a big belly laugh out of that.

Bill did put the transmission fluid in, and while it still whines a little bit, it’s much softer. But on the way home, the battery light came on. I passed that little problem on to Scott.

[Update: (2/26/16) The Durango is currently spending the day at Taney County Tire where it will be fitted with a new alternator.]

“Behold, I will do a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19, KJV)

So far, 2016 has been a year of several new things. This year, for the first time I have:

* Lost my credit card (at George Washington Carver National Monument; thankfully it was found and returned by a park ranger before I even realized it was gone)

* Had outpatient surgery (in Minnesota!)

* Attended a webinar (presented by Hope*writers)

And today I did something else for the very first time.

We have been banking at Bank #1 for at least 15 years. We currently have 16 accounts there. Yes, she did say SIXTEEN bank accounts! These include our family’s household account, our individual accounts (in some cases, two) for various family members, Scott’s consulting business account, his investment account, our ministry account, our health savings account, and accounts for our first three vacation rental homes. For reasons I’m not going to try to explain here, the account for our recently-purchased fourth vacation rental home is at Bank #2, and since I occasionally need to make purchases for the various houses, I was issued a debit card for that fourth house; I already had debit cards for the accounts of the first three houses.

With our having so many accounts, I actually have in my possession what can truly be described as a finer collection of debit cards, all but one from Bank #1, and with Bank #1, whenever I get a new or updated debit card – whether it’s handed to me by my personal banker (Yeah, Terri!!!) at our local branch or received “in a plain white envelope” in the mail – it’s always already activated, so my requisite to-do is. . . absolutely nothing. I just use the card. Simple.

But things seem to work differently at Bank #2. Both Scott’s and my debit cards for the fourth house’s account arrived in the mail, but there was a note with them that said that in order to activate them we had to either use them to make a PIN purchase or use them at an ATM. Lovely. Now, since Scott has always functioned as a most highly favored member of any organization of which he is a part: family, church, work, kingdom of God, etc., his card came with a PIN, and he was somehow able to re-set it to a memorable number and activate his card. However, I, being a mere mortal, was stuck with a card that was not activated and had no PIN. My PIN was supposed to come in the mail in two to three business days. Sigh.

My PIN did come on schedule, and it was, of course, a number I would never be able to remember, but in order to get it changed, I would have to go to an ATM and use the card. But truth be told, I had never used an ATM in my entire life! This would be something new and different. What exactly does one do at an ATM, anyway? Scott said I should ask for my account balance. I didn’t really have any reason to know or care about the account balance, but whatever. So I went to Bank #2’s drive thru and stuck my card in the ATM and followed the on-screen instructions and got a nifty little printout of my balance. That was fine, but what about my useless PIN? I called Scott from the ATM and asked him what to do. He didn’t know but said I could go in and ask them, which I did, and a very nice lady took my card, did something on her computer, handed it back to me, and told me to go to the ATM, and when it asked me for my PIN, enter whatever number I wanted it to be and then ask for my account balance; that should take care of it. So I did, and it did. And I now have two printouts of my account balance, and I have used an ATM for the first time twice in one day.  = )

Proofreader needed

Roberts Vacation Rentals just closed on a new house, and tonight at supper, when we were laughing about a certain word one of our kids misspelled years ago in a rather permanent place and which I therefore now see (and always smile about) on a weekly basis, Scott told us about another, more important misspelling. It seems that he had been reviewing information on homeowner’s insurance for the new house on Deep Forest, and when he keyed in its address, the insurance site said that that address doesn’t exist. Huh?!? Well, evidently when the developers set up the subdivision, they spelled that street name “Deep Forrest,” and nobody noticed or corrected the error! Velly intellesting. This might finally explain why, for the four-plus years we have owned the Reunion Rendezvous, also located on Deep Forest, we have consistently had to tell our renters, “Please use our printed directions to to the house. Do not use your GPS, because it will send you to some other place halfway across the county!”

It’s obvious that the world needs more copy editors.

A reading from Luke 2, PSRV

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Patty’s brain that all the seeds should be planted.

2 (And this planting was first made when Valentine’s Day had arrived.)

3 And all the seeds went into moistened peat pellets, every two into their own pellet.

4 And the pelletized tomato and red pepper and jalapeno seeds were all placed first into tan plastic trays under clear plastic lids, and then set in non-leaking foil pans that were carefully positioned on the middle of Jessica’s bed (because we had thrown out the dead office closet computer upon which we had germinated seeds for many years:)

5 To be warmed by her bed-heater, the bed being unmade and great with heat.

6 And so it was, that, while Patty waited, the days were accomplished that the seeds should begin to sprout.

7 And she brought forth her attic nursery, and set up the PVC frame, and laid out the ironing board, but then became greatly distressed; because there were no fluorescent fixtures or bulbs for them in the attic.

8 And there were in the same attic Robertses, searching in the library and the secret closet and Katie’s room and Katie’s closet, seeking two four-foot-long fluorescent fixtures and four four-foot-long fluorescent bulbs, keeping watch for them by the afternoon sun.

9 And, lo, Scott came to Patty and Josiah and spoke to them, and the glory of renewed hope sprung within them: and they were neither sore nor afraid.

10 And Scott said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I took down the attic nursery last year because it had remained up for so very long, and it did, yea and verily frustrate me. And although I don’t remember where I put the fixtures and bulbs, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For in the shop, you may find those items, which will be to you a great light.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the bulbs in the shop or in the lawn building or in the smokehouse or in the playroom or in the cellar, probably not wrapped in anything and lying wherever I placed them.

13 And despite looking diligently in all those places, there was sadly no heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and in the attic, peace and good light toward seedlings.

15 And it came to pass, as Patty realized the gravity of the situation, that she said to Scott, Let me now go even unto Home Depot, and see those things which I need to buy, which the Lord hath not made known unto us.

16 And she went with haste, and passing F Highway, considered that no tomato-loving Roberts would ever have trashed the sought-after items. Hence they had to be somewhere on the property, but what could possibly be the hiding place for six white items each four feet long? And she thought of Katie’s bed.

17 And when she had had this thought, she made known to Jo’s cell phone the saying which might be true concerning these items.

18 And he, when he heard it, also wondered at this thing which was told him by his mother. And he did go immediately and look under Katie’s bed, where the six lost items all were found.

19 But Patty kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And she returned home, glorifying and praising God for all the things that had been found, as it was told unto her.

21 And when twenty minutes were accomplished for the connecting and setting up of the lights, the job was called FINISHED, which was so named of Patty before it had been begun.

Mystery solved!

I week or so ago, after what can only be described as a significantly extensive delay, I made chicken enchiladas. I had actually baked the chicken while Katie was here (she left mid-January), intending to prepare and serve the enchiladas while the five of us were all present. I am pretty sure we all like them, and in our family it’s rare to find anything (food, games, habits) that everyone likes. The only hold-up was that I first needed to shred the chicken. Shredding chicken is a bit of a time-consuming pain, and I had eight breasts to shred, so I kept putting it off. After they had sat in the fridge for a few days and I realized I just wasn’t going to get around to shredding them, I moved them to the freezer, and then between spending precious time with kids, traveling to Minnesota for surgery, and having less energy than usual for several weeks thereafter, they stayed frozen and ignored.

But one day I got industrious and pulled them out. I armed myself with cutting board, monster fork, and podcasts, and tackled the chicken. Eight shredded breasts later, I decided to go ahead and assemble the enchiladas, and when I did, I realized that when I baked those guys so many weeks ago, I had planned to shred the four cups’ worth that I needed for enchiladas and cube the rest for other recipes. Oh, well. It turns out that I now had eight cups of shredded chicken. I shoved four cups’ worth into a big zip-loc and returned them to the freezer, and I used the other four cups’ worth to, at long last, make the ever-lovin’ chicken enchiladas.

My doubled recipe made four pans of five each, plus one big pan of eight, and I baked one of the small pans for our dinner that night.

We all sat down, thanked God for the enchiladas, cheese dip, chips, and homemade salsa, and dug in. While I slowly savored some chips and salsa, the guys started saying things like “Wow. That’s spicy.” And “Pretty hot!” And “Did you change the recipe? These are a lot, um, ‘warmer’ than usual.”

And I assumed they just didn’t know what they were talking about. I took a bite of my enchilada, and it tasted about the same as always. Josiah said, “Well? Did it hit you yet?”

“Uh. . . no,” I replied, chewing, but then suddenly my mouth was absolutely on fire! I grabbed my water bottle and chug-a-lugged for all I was worth.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I knew I had made them exactly as I always do, so why on earth were they so exceedingly, unbearably hot? I pulled out the recipe and reviewed it. Had I somehow doubled something I shouldn’t have? Well, doggone it, even if I had blown it, we weren’t about to throw away all the money spent buying the ingredients or all my time spent making them. We’d just have to eat them over time. And we had four plus more meals of them in the freezer, all just as scalding hot. Sigh.

So much for that nice meal.

The only thing I could think was that I must’ve somehow put in too many cans of chopped green chilies. I thought sure I had only put in the required two, but maybe I put in four by accident. . . ? If so, there wouldn’t be any left on the canned goods shelf in the playroom, because I always buy them four at a time. I left the table to check the playroom stock, and, lo and behold, the mystery was solved! There, right in front of God and everyone, were two cans of chopped green chilies, but when I looked more closely at the labels, they both said, “CHOPPED Fire Roasted GREEN CHILIES.” Aha! No wonder we all had steam coming out our ears.

I later called my friend, Tracy, who is known for her love of all things Mexican and spicy, and asked if she or anyone she knew would be interested in chicken enchiladas that are guaranteed to clear your sinuses and everything else on the way down. She said she had such friends and she would love to take them off our hands. So I will take those to her. In the meantime, still having in my freezer an extra four cups of shredded chicken, on my next Wal-Mart run I purposed to buy the rest of the items (that I don’t keep stocked) needed to make an edible double batch:

30 flour tortillas. . . check

16 oz. Mexican blend shredded cheese. . . check

2 cans black beans. . . check

1 large can green enchilada sauce. . . check

2 small cans chopped green chilies. . . uh, not so simple.

EVERY can of Great Value brand (read “cheap”) chopped green chilies said “Fire Roasted.” So THAT’S what had gone wrong! I have bought Great Value chopped green chilies for years and years, so I must’ve just grabbed them off the shelf as usual, without noticing the small “Fire Roasted” comment on the label. [Note: When I shared this story with Katie, she said that maybe the error wasn’t my fault at all. While she was home for a month over Christmas break, she did some of our grocery shopping for me, and maybe she grabbed the four cans of grossly overheated chilies.] I would have to go with a more expensive brand, but get this. There were four brands of chopped green chilies on the shelves, and three of those brands offered ONLY the “Fire Roasted” version. I ended up buying brand #4, “Hatch,” whose chopped green chilies were marked “Mild.”

And I made 28 more enchiladas and put them all in the freezer. We will probably try them in a couple weeks, and we all expect that they will be deliciously edible.