Archive for August, 2018

Why I’ve felt like a 1990’s gymnast

I took a selfie, but it didn’t show up – which is actually good! – so I will use words to describe the situation.

I am play a significant role in three entities: our family (a.k.a. “Team Roberts”), our ministry (“Take the Challenge”), and our family business (“Roberts Vacation Rentals”). I like to send Christmas cards, and although our family mailing list has expanded and contracted through the years, it currently sits at 187. That’s a lot of Christmas cards to sign. I do that signing, and one year I made the mistake of doing it while Scott was around. When he saw me prepping Christmas cards, he asked if I had any extras (DUH, I’m a beaver; what kind of a silly question was that?) and said he’d like to send some to our TTC ministry partners. Hmm…  And maybe it would be good to send some to our RVR guests. Hmm… again. So I asked me to give me names and addresses, and that ended up involving way more than my extras, so we had to real quick go buy some – at the peak of the Christmas card season; not a good idea – and the whole project became a massive pain, but we got it done.

Then last year, I asked him earlier in the fall about it, and yes, he wanted to send them to both of those additional entities and it ended up being about 200 each, which added to our family ones came to nearly 600 Christmas cards to sign, stuff, lick, label, and post, along with everything else in life.

But I’m nothing if not creative. HA! So in January of 2018, I asked Scott if he wanted to send TTC cards in 2018. “Yes.” And what about RVR cards in 2018? “Yes.” And how many? “200 of each.” So in the first week of January on the deep discount, I ordered 200 cards for our family, 200 different cards for TTC, and 200 yet again different cards for RVR. Gotta’ keep up with which is for what, you know. And each entity got them for half price and when they came I labeled the boxes so I’d know what I had for what. AND I decided that I wasn’t about to wait till mid-November to star dealing with 600 Christmas cards! No way. I would begin signing them little by little in the summer. Brilliant, huh?

Well, summer was busy. Andrew graduated. We went to Waxhaw. We all went to Yellowstone. Jessica and Matthias came to visit and then went back to Hong Kong. Scott went to Ghana. Andrew moved to MSU in Springfield. And I handled lots of responsibilities and breathed, but didn’t start signing Christmas cards. I did, however, print return address labels for all three entities in August…

Then just today, I bartered with Scott on a project and got from him the wording he wanted in the RVR cards. And I decided maybe I’d sign maybe 18 per day (they’re in boxes of 18), you know, do it little by little, so it wouldn’t be so overwhelming. I pulled them out and opened the first box of 18. They’re really pretty and they have gold glitter around the edges. I repeat, they have gold glitter around the edges. By the time I had written, “Merry Christmas from Roberts Vacation Rentals!” on just four cards, there was glitter all over my desk and keyboard. Sheesh. It was pretty, but this was going to be a messy project. If I did a box a day, I’d be re-cleaning up a LOT of glitter 11 or 12 times!

Scott was gone to town, so I just ducked my head and plowed forward. Two hours and 35 minutes later, I finished. 198 RVR cards are signed and ready to be stuffed, licked, labeled, and posted. WHEW! But when I met Scott at the door he LAUGHED at me! Turns out my face, my hair, and my shirt were very sparkly. This glitter is teeny tiny, like powder, and it was a bear to get off my face. I tried to brush it off with a dry wash cloth. No go. I looked like those little gymnasts a few Olympics ago (well, probably more than a few) when glittery faces were all the rage for little girls. That’s when I should have taken the selfie, but I didn’t think of it. Instead, I wet the wash cloth and scrubbed for all I was worth. It’s mostly gone now, but there are still errant flecks of gold on my face.

And just for clarification, I won’t be taking a tumbling run any time soon; I only feel like a 1990’s gymnast from my neck up.

“I’d rather do it myself!”

This is definitely true for me much most of the time, but more and and more I find myself feeling varying degrees of resentful that now I HAVE to do “it” myself, and wistful about the days when I didn’t.

The following seem to be normal parts of life now, Although some of the following are now just normal parts of life, they weren’t always!

~ Pumping our own gas – Before about 1970, service station attendants did this; now I live next door to a gas station that is so self-serve that it employs no humans at all!

~ Using an ATM to get cash from a bank  – Although our bank does still employ tellers… for now.

~ Self-checking our groceries – I simply refuse to do this if I have more than a handful of items.

~ Assembling a brand-new electric floor fan or a patio side table – Should it really be possible to buy either of those in a flat box?!?

~ Printing our own postage – I generally refrain from this because I like stamps.

~ Entering our own information into some/any company’s database – We do this nearly every day, so often that I’m pretty sure I’m not even aware that I’m doing someone else’s job.

But every now and then I get some truly excellent, old-timey customer service from a real-live human person, and it does make me smile.

(With apologies to Julie Andrews): “These are[n’t] a few of my favorite things.”

I am ready to admit that there are a number of specific things I just don’t like. Here are a few that come to mind.

~ Lettuce on anything other than a salad. Please leave it off my burgers and sandwiches.

~ Losing things; even things of no monetary or sentimental value.

~ Canoes. Give me a kayak any day of the week. In a canoe I am powerless, but in a kayak I am free!

~ Clutter – on my desk, in my closet, on the kitchen counter, on the dining room table; really anywhere that affects me personally.

~ Teriyaki anything.

~ Having to do things at the last minute. And it’s probably worth noting that my minutes are incredibly long.  = )

~ Carrots. I’ll eat them when necessary, but I don’t like them.

~ Re-doing work.

~ Doing other people’s work.

~ Calling customer service and getting stuck in an endless automated phone system loop and finding it impossible to access ANY human, much less a native English-speaking human.

~ Hot drinks.

~ Red grapes.

~ Senator Claire McCaskill.

Postcard memories

For years, I collected postcards. As a homeschooling mom, I thought they would be a great way to expose our kids to geography; you know, interesting places, excellent photos, good conversation-starters. It was a nice idea in theory, and it would have been effective if I had actually executed my plan! However, as it turned out, I just ended up collecting and – as you might imagine if you know me very well – organizing postcards for well over twenty years.

Originally they lived in a shoe box, and when they outgrew that, I bought them a nice, roomy, lidded plastic storage box, within which I rubber-banded them together alphabetically by state and then by nation. That storage box has been unopened – well, very rarely opened – on a shelf in our office closet for a number of years that I am embarrassed to even try to calculate, but in my current declutter-my-life phase, I’m tackling the office closet. And therefore, I am, yes, sorting through postcards.

I’ve decided to keep only the ones that have real meaning to me – ones my mom or other special people have sent me, ones with photos of particularly meaningful places, or ones that bring back really neat memories. The rest, most of which were never mailed or even written on, are going to the thrift store. Well, I am keeping a few blank ones for personal use.  = )

Yesterday, I got through Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, and Colorado, and in the process, I learned or was reminded of these facts:

~ The world’s highest suspension bridge is over the Arkansas River at Royal Gorge near Canon City, CO, and the hanging railroad bridge built down along the river there in 1879 is still in use today!

~ The world’s largest hand-dug well is at Greensburg, KS. (I’m not sure how that card got in the A-C stack.)

~ When we were at Mesa Verde, CO, we evidently didn’t see the most interesting ruin.

~ The 14-mile road to the top of Mt. Evans (CO) is the highest paved road in North America.

~ El Capitan in Yosemite National Park is just amazing.

~ I remember very fondly our day trip to Muir Woods (CA) with Josiah in a stroller. Also cable cars and the Golden Gate bridge.

~ I still have the big pine cone I picked up on my solitary, snowy drive up around Lake Tahoe the day I went exploring while Becky, Milt, and Scott were skiing.

~ Nebo Steps (AR) is a killer trail, and watching hang gliders launch from the top of Mt. Nebo is thrilling.

~ As a kid, from time to time we’d take little day trips to Hot Springs, AR and walk around. I enjoyed that.

~ I liked Blanchard Springs (AR) Caverns as a kid and again as an adult with our own kids. That was one of our very first family camping trips, and we were using Scott’s parents’ massive, old, two-room canvas tent from Africa. That was the same trip where 18 month-old Jessica woke me up in the middle of the night with her ecstatic, piercingly shrill, “It’s a BIBLE, Mommy!!!!” She had found the Beginner’s Bible on the floor of the tent.

~ The Petrified Forest (AZ) is one of the strangest places I’ve seen.

~ Gulf Shores was clearly MUCH less developed when my first family was there in the early 1970s than when our current family was back there in 1998. 25 years makes a big difference!

~ In 1980, a first-class stamp cost $0.15.

~ No matter the time of day or lighting conditions, no matter your specific vantage point, and no matter how many times you pause to look, if you are walking on the south rim trail along the Grand Canyon while your husband and 16 yo son are spending parts of two days hiking to the bottom and back up, you will never be bored by the view.

“I’m sure I will ALWAYS remember these two lessons.”

NOTE: I fully intend that the lessons I am learning today in hindsight I will consistently apply tomorrow with foresight.

  1. When mailing a postcard – or even when receiving a particularly meaningful postcard that may be kept for a while – always write in the full date (month, day, year). Do not rely on the postmark to provide this information, as said postmark may find itself smeared, covered, only partially printed, or otherwise illegible when some sentimental person looks at the postcard 20+ years later and tries to figure out when it was sent.
  2. Always write the date and subject(s)’ name(s) on the back of print photos. Even your own kids’ photos. Ask me how I know. Or don’t. I’ll just say that there really are times when it’s not obvious which adorably unforgettable little child is pictured in that photo.

If, then, ouch!

If you like to eat your strawberries sliced in quarters, and

If you always slice them quickly into the palm of your left hand (because that’s how you’ve sliced them for as long as you can remember, and anyway, who would use a cutting board to slice strawberries?), and

If you completely forget that you recently sharpened every knife you own, and

If you quickly slice luscious, sweet strawberries into the palm of your left hand,

Then, you will – within approximately 17 seconds – realize that the palm of your left hand is now in possession of several paper-cut-type slits.


After a bit of experimentation, you will further realize that because of the positioning of said slits, it is absolutely impossible to affix a Band-Aid in such a way that your wounds are adequately covered (and therefore pain-free) AND you have use of your left hand.

You will therefore sacrifice the latter (function) for the former (comfort) and trust that when you gently remove the Band-Aid some 24 hours later, the cells of your left palm will have gone far enough into reproductive overdrive to allow you to once again perform tasks like cutting fresh pineapple, washing dishes with Palmolive, and/or prepping tomatoes for a salad without that obnoxious “paper cut-ish” stinging discomfort.

And because pain makes single-trial learning highly effective, every time you pick up a knife in the next three days, you will experience a new level of respect for its razor sharp edge.

Drop-out… and am I being an ostrich?

The past few days, I’ve had the TV on more than we usually do. I’ve watched a bit of Jeopardy while ironing, sorting mail, and working in the kitchen. I’ve watched some mindless HGTV stuff when I really should be doing something else but I’m feeling too lazy to tackle it, and I’ve watched two local and one national newscasts, mainly because I never do and I thought it might be good to at least see what much of the U.S. sees on their evening news.

It’s a good thing I love to learn because the latter has been an educational experience, and I’m pleased to report that I am now dropping that class. (This is only the second “class” I’ve ever dropped. I dropped a poetry class during my freshman year of college because the professor made everything – and I do mean everything – sexual.]

Thankfully, I am not depressed, but I’m sure that I would be if I watched the evening news on any kind of a regular basis. However, although I don’t watch the evening news, I’m not totally uninformed. I have become a podcast junkie. (For the uninitiated, a podcast is a radio show that you can listen to whenever you want. And I want quite often.)

In this season of my life, my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being all require me to be fairly disciplined first thing in the morning. Meaning that once I’m up and moving, I do about 22 minutes of exercises and stretches, followed by about 45 minutes of walking. While I’m walking, I review memory verses and pray, but during my stretches, I listen to The World and Everything In It, a conservative Christian news podcast from WORLD News Group. To balance that out, after my shower, while I’m getting dressed, I listen to Up First, a liberal secular news podcast from NPR.  And then throughout the day, when I’m cooking or cleaning or hanging laundry or driving, I listen to other podcasts. Some of my current favorites are The Lazy Genius, Focus on the Family, Planet Money, Clutter Free Academy, and A Prairie Home Companion.

But back to the news… Since I listen a lot but don’t watch much, I don’t recognize the people who are in the news. For example, I know Pastor Brunson’s been under house arrest in Turkey, but until I watched the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt tonight, I didn’t know what Brunson looked like. I’d never seen a photo of Robert Mueller either. Anyway, one of the most frustrating things about the evening news on TV is that since I was watching it live, I couldn’t forward through the commercials, and were are a LOT of commercials! Not only that, but the same ones run over and over and over, and they all seem to be either political ads (and could we PLEASE say something – anything! – positive about ourselves instead of so very many negative things about our opponents?) or prescription ads. I think tonight I may have finally figured out the prescription ad thing. They are all for meds to treat COPD or cancer or diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis; diseases that mainly affect older people. I guess the networks have figured out that young people don’t watch TV newscasts any more. They get their news online. So the commercials in a TV newscast are all geared to old people, and old people have health problems. Hence those ads. But I must say that even if I did have COPD or cancer or diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, I don’t think I would ask my doctor to prescribe a med that causes severe and possibly life-threatening diarrhea, shortness of breath, internal bleeding, nausea, headache, blurred vision, depression and suicidal thoughts, joint pain and/or bone loss. Sweet Georgia Peaches!!!

And content-wise, while I do realize that we need to know what’s going on in the world, and I know that bad news sells, personally I just can’t deal well with a father murdering his pregnant wife and two preschool daughters, a teenage girl pushing her friend off a 60-foot bridge into a river, a man who had already shot at a deputy in June murdering a woman in August, a horrible vehicle accident, a body found in a parked car in a shopping center parking lot, and a man burning down his stepdaughter’s home. All in less than 30 minutes! I clearly don’t have what it takes to process that much violence and tragedy that quickly, and I’m not willing to try to develop it.

I’ll just stick to my The World and Everything In It and Up First podcasts, and I’ll take my news – at least my national and international news –  on my own terms, heard and not seen. Local news? I’m not sure what to do about that. If anyone has some good ideas, please send them my way!

On getting the right gadget – and then using it

Sometimes I put off doing a necessary task just because I don’t know how to do it and/or I don’t have the right tool(s) to do it. (Well, there may also be he fact that I’m either too proud or too embarrassed to admit that to anyone.)

Which probably explains why I’ve never sharpened my knives.

BUT, I’ve lately been on a roll of decluttering various aspects of my life (both literal and figurative), hauling to the thrift store many bags of things that I no longer use, enjoy, or treasure, and improving the processes and procedures for several of my various tasks.

Our knives have frustrated me for a very long time. They just aren’t sharp, and although I consistently pass over the worst ones, the ones that are truly ineffective, in recent weeks I’ve been hard pressed to find any that aren’t. So on my Walmart run last week – and yes, I am weaning myself back toward only one run a week – I bought a knife sharpener. I opted for the $10 one, the one that will sharpen serrated knives as well as smooth blade ones because we have very dull versions of both). In typical procrastination fashion, I put it on the window sill and looked at it for about five days, but I finally opened it, read the instructions, followed them, and amazingly, that little tool did a really fine job!

Because of my epic fail on tomatoes this year, I actually had to BUY tomatoes to put on the burgers for Andrew’s big cookout on Sunday. I got them at our local produce market, and while they were fine for the burgers, I happen not to like the flavor of that particular variety. After the cookout, we had one of those tomatoes left, a nice big, ripe one that I was going to ditch.

Now, I always slice tomatoes with a serrated knife and using a sawing motion – because a smooth blade just won’t get a “grip” on the skin of a tomato (although that may be because all my smooth-bladed knives are terribly dull…). Anyway, I sharpened one of my serrated knives with my new ACME handy-dandy knife sharpener, and it cut that tomato much better than it normally does. So then I sharpened every other serrated knife in the kitchen, grinning as I tested each one on the tomato. And then I went after the six-piece set of smooth-bladed steak knives, and even THEY sliced that tomato like it was butter. How very fun!

I’m so glad my knives are sharp now, but I am embarrassed that it took me all these years to realize how very bad they were – and how simple it would have been to sharpen and maintain them. Hmm… I’m sure there’s a good life lesson in this for me. I do remember that Terry Nance used to say, “You’re never wasting time when you’re sharpening your sword.” Ha!

He spared me! (with apologies to the “food queens” of spreadsheet fame)

The other day I got home from church to find Andrew – who had already gone to his church’s early service, come home, and mowed and weed-eated the yard in preparation for hosting a big “off to college tomorrow” cookout with his friends that evening – quite busily doing something (???) with a couple of flip-top boxes on the dining room table. Spread out on the table beside the boxes were numerous cans of pineapple, quite a few granola bars, several cans of pork and beans, a bag of mini pretzels, and an odd assortment of other food items.

Andrew said with a grin and a shake of his head, “I spared you.”

“Spared me what?!?”

“Well, I wanted some boxes to pack stuff in to take to college… and then I remembered that we had all those flip-top boxes on the [Yellowstone] camping trip… but I couldn’t find them in the playroom, so I went out to the camper, and guess what?”

“Uh… what?”

“I found ’em! They were full of food!!!”

“Oh, NO.”

“Oh, yes.”

“What kind of food?”

“Well, all this. I salvaged what I could, but there was a whole lot more: bread and muffins and bagels and fruit…”

“Oh, my goodness! I guess it was really…”

“Yeah, it was REALLY nasty!”

“That stuff’s been sitting out there in the 90-degree heat for over a MONTH!!! I can only imagine what it looked like.”

“And smelled like.”

“What did you do with it? Is it in the outside trash or in the kitchen trash?”

“I dealt with it. The worst of it is outside. A little bit’s in the kitchen trash. This is the part that’s still usable.”

So as I said, Andrew definitely spared me, and I am so very thankful. I do HATE to waste food – actually, I hate to waste anything: food, money, opportunities, supplies, time – but I’m really glad I didn’t have to face/smell/sort through/deal with/clean up after all that rotten, moldy stuff. It’s surely nice having a professional cleaner in the house; especially a smart, handsome, friendly one.  = )



Three in three

That would be final shifts at three different jobs on three consecutive days.

Today Andrew did his final Rendezvous cleaning, a quick turn that he finished at 2:00 PM. He’s been cleaning that house for six and-a-half years, since he was 12, and today an era has ended. I think he told Scott he might be willing to stay on an emergency-only cleaners list, but he’s no longer a regular RVR employee.

Tomorrow he will clean the Life Christian Center church building for the last time. I think he’s been doing that job weekly for about four years. He told me today that Pastor Barb had gotten someone else to do it. I don’t know who that is, but I do know that while Andrew’s been thankful to have that steady income each week, he’s also glad to be free from that responsibility as he starts college next week.

The day after tomorrow will be his final shift of the season as a lifeguard and ATL (Assistant to Lead) at White Water. He’s worked there for the past three summers, making “a lot” of money the summer after his sophomore year, “an amazingly huge amount” of money the summer after his junior year, and “some” money this summer after graduation; the reduction being result of his grand summer of travel. Andrew really wanted to go places and have fun this summer, and he’s been to:

~  Waxhaw, NC with Scott and me to see his grandma, aunts, uncle, and cousins (5 days traveling)

~ The Barn at Maryville, MO with his Chamber Singers friends (4 days traveling)

~ Yellowstone National Park, camping with Katie, Jessica and Matthias, Josiah, Scott, and me (12 days traveling)

~ Faith Ministries Youth Camp at Bear Trap Ranch in Colorado (8 days traveling)

~ Kansas City with his friends (2 days traveling)

In addition to those trips, Andrew’s also had a lot of fun closer to home, what with lots of hanging out with friends, bowling, a couple kayak trips, and going to a St. Louis Cardinals game with Jess and Matthias. And oh yeah, he’s also had a fourth job this summer: singing and serving ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery. I’m pretty sure he’s worked his final shift there, because it’s Thursday now, and following a cookout here on Sunday with his friends and a number of their moms, he’ll be moving into his dorm at MSU on Monday.

I’m really proud of that man. It’s not just anybody who can wrap up three jobs in three days, but Andrew’s definitely not just anybody. He’s my son.  = )


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