Of Stories and Sustenance

Well, now the problem is going to be actually remembering what happened this weekend! On Thursday afternoon, Mary took me back to the Nashville airport, where we met up with my brother Jon, his wife Sheryl, and their son Joshua, who had just arrived from California. Jon was in the process of renting a car and after he fetched it, Mary went back home and the rest of us got in the car and headed to Crossville.

It was a pleasant drive, but by the time we got to Crossville we were very hungry, so we stopped at a place to eat and my parents came and met us there. My parents helped Jon and Sheryl find their timeshare, and once they were settled we headed back to my parents’ house.

My mom’s sewing room seems like my bedroom now because I have stayed there so many times!

On Friday morning my mom and I went shopping to get the rest of the groceries we were going to need. My big job for the day was to make a peach pie out of some fresh peaches that my parents had bought at a roadside stand. My mother dearly loves peach pie. So, while we waited for my brothers to arrive, I made pie crust and peeled and sliced peaches and eventually had a very pretty pie, plus a dish with just the gluten-free filling so that I could have some.

Jon and Sheryl came with Joshua and then my other brothers Greg and Matt arrived in time for Greg to man the grill on the deck. (Greg drove from Ohio and Matt from Indiana) My dad had soaked some corn on the cob and that went on one grill while Greg cooked burgers, sausages, and squash on the other grill. The food was fabulous, but the best part was just hanging out with my parents and my brothers on a beautiful Tennessee evening. Rain had been forecast, but thankfully it held off.

Saturday morning got off to kind of a slow start, since we weren’t meeting until 11:00 at the Cracker Barrel. Mary and Jordan met us there and we got a table for all 10 of us. It took some study, but I was able to find a gluten free brunch!

After brunch, some people went to the miniature golf course in my parents’ neighborhood while I stayed home with my mom to help her with cooking for Sunday’s potluck. As I mentioned already, I altered one of her potluck standbys to make it gluten free. It was a time-consuming process, but it resulted in a great squash casserole! Meanwhile, my mom made layered salad and fruit salad.

Saturday night was my dad’s official birthday celebration, and he had made reservations for us at a swanky restaurant in town. We sat around a big table and ate fabulous food. I had never had prime rib in my life, so I figured this was my big chance. It was good! Like any time when my family, it was a night for stories and lots of laughing. What could be better? And then when I got back to my parents’ house I made some cherry cheese pie for the potluck too. My family never skimps on potluck contributions!

Sunday morning we all went to the church where my dad has been serving as interim pastor for the last two years. After my dad’s sermon we gathered in the fellowship hall for the bountiful potluck. It was nice to meet the people in the church. A couple of them have read my book!

When the meal was over, we set up a little table commemorating my parents’ 60 years of marriage. My mom had brought albums of their wedding and honeymoon, and our family through the years. Eventually, all the church members left, and it was just our family sitting around a table in the library and telling stories. We are so full of stories in this family. If you listen long enough, you will realize that the stories are a testimony to God’s faithfulness.

Mary took some photos of us all in the lovely grounds of the church, and then it was time for Mary and Jordan to leave and go home. The rest of us split up to go take naps, because Sunday afternoon naps are very important.

We gathered again for supper at my parents’ house and feasted on leftovers and more family stories. I had to say goodbye to my brother Matt when he left because he was leaving early this morning to go back to Indiana. I had asked Greg if I could have a quick ride in his Porsche, and he said he could do it this morning when he came for breakfast.

So this morning I got up and showered and was just heading to the kitchen to make my tea when Greg walked through the door and asked if I was ready for my ride. We headed out and I took some video footage of the ride to share with my son Spencer. We drove all the way down off the Cumberland Plateau and then climbed back up via a series of switchbacks that gave the car a chance to show its stuff. It was a fun ride through beautiful countryside and we were gone almost an hour!

By the time we got back to my parents’ house, Jon’s family was there and almost done with breakfast, so I wolfed down a piece of toast and then got my stuff together to be loaded into Jon’s trunk. Then it was goodbyes all around before we headed back to Nashville.

We met my Uncle Jim and Aunt Ruth at a restaurant in the Opry Mills mall for lunch. It was so good to see them and again I found a good gluten free meal. Mary met us when we finished so we could move my stuff to her car and then we said goodbye to the others. Jon and his family were headed to the airport and ultimately to California. Mary and her flatmate Sarah brought me back to the lovely new apartment where I finally got my first cup of tea for the day before lying down for a little nap.

I’ve been working steadily on my little fairy pouches and now have 30 done. So much to do! Tomorrow I get to spend the day with Mary and Jordan before flying back to Texas in the evening. It has been a lovely few days with my family.

All Your Anxiety

There will be a full report on this weekend sometime soon. Maybe after I finish banging my head on a rock to relieve the pain of dealing with Verizon in an effort to upgrade my phone. After five tries I think I finally succeeded.

So anyway, today we had a potluck at my parents’ church and one of the things I did was to alter my mom’s squash casserole recipe in order to make it gluten free. It was pretty good, so I’ve started a new page for recipes and if you are interested you will find it there.

Meanwhile, here’s today’s hymn. The chorus was one that we often sang when we were “singing through the alphabet” at boarding school.

All Your Anxiety, All Your Care

Edward H. Joy

Is there a heart bent o’erbound by sorrow?
Is there a life weighed down by care?
Come to the cross, each burden bearing;
All your anxiety—leave it there.


All your anxiety, all your care,
Bring to the mercy seat, leave it there,
Never a burden He cannot bear,
Never a friend like Jesus!

No other friend so swift to help you,
No other friend so quick to hear,
No other place to leave your burden,
No other one to hear your prayer.


Come then at once; delay no longer!
Heed His entreaty kind and sweet,
You need not fear a disappointment;
You shall find peace at the mercy seat


The Trials & Tribulations of Traveling to Tennessee

So, yesterday did not go at all as planned. The plan was for me to leave for Dallas in mid-afternoon. I would stop and visit my Aunt Marcia in the nursing home and then continue on to have supper with Flynn and spend the evening with him.

What actually happened was that I went outside to roll down the windows in the car when I was almost packed, so that the heat would have time to dissipate at least a little. The windows rolled down just fine. However, the engine did not start. It didn’t even try to start.

Assuming it was the same loose relay as before, I texted my longsuffering husband and before long he came home from work to get the car going again. It wasn’t the relay. Bad news. This meant that the new plan would involve him taking me to Dallas in the van, which only gets 10 miles to the gallon.

When he started up the van, however, the engine started smoking. This is also bad news. I was forced to ask Flynn if he could come get me in the event that neither of our vehicles could be revived.

As it turned out, Walter was able to get the van into usable condition. By then it was late afternoon, and he and Mercy had to go do their cleaning job first. So, we had to come up with yet another plan.

We finally left in the van at about 8:00 p.m. and then Flynn met us in Terrell, which is about the halfway mark between our house and his. We transferred my luggage to his car and by the time we got to his house, it was almost 11:00 and time to get some sleep since we had to get up at 5:00.

After a restless night (for me at least) we were up before dawn and soon on our way to the airport. Flynn did a great job of correctly guessing my terminal, and I checked in with no trouble. The trouble came when I went through security. I merrily put all my stuff on the conveyor belt and then afterwards I was told that my carryon suitcase would need to be opened.
I was not in the least worried because I knew I had nothing in there that I shouldn’t. The lady gave me an earnest look and said, “Do you have anything in here like a pocket knife or a credit card knife?” Note that was a very specific question. “Oh no,” says I. “I made sure to take all that stuff out when I was packing.”

So, she opened up my bag and pulled out the empty handbag I had stuffed into my suitcase for use once I got to Tennessee. Within moments she pulled out a pocket knife, and I cringed. I honestly thought that handbag was completely empty! It certainly looked empty when I looked inside before packing it.

After finding the knife, she continued to look very thoroughly through every compartment of the many-pocketed purse. I was getting a little miffed with her, since she had already found the knife, until I looked up at the x-ray picture on the screen as saw the very clear outline of my credit card knife. Oops! Eventually she found it and extracted it (I was not allowed to touch anything while she was snooping.)

I felt very chagrined. I never intended to deceive anyone. I just honestly thought that I had purged my stuff of all my knives! It would cost more than the two items were worth to check my bag, so I will just replace them at some point.

My flight was delayed for nearly an hour because the plane hadn’t been brought to the gate. After that it was uneventful and uncrowded–a great combination. There was a little hitch meeting up with Mary and Jordan, but we eventually managed it.

Mary and I went to get some coffee and shared a gluten-free muffin before coming back to her new apartment, which is very charming. Before long we’ll be taking off for the airport again to meet up with my brother and his family, with whom I’ll be riding to Crossville, which is where my parents live. Looking forward to a great weekend with my family!

Good Ears

This morning we did school despite a complete lack of interest on Jasper’s part. At least he’s willing to do it even when he’s not in the mood.

I had an early lunch before taking off in the heat for my autoharp lesson. It was really hot and I was more or less soaked by the time I reached my teacher’s house.

This time we could get right into actual playing, since my instrument is now all nicely set up. I played her my arrangement of “The Love of God,” and she played it with me. Afterwards, she said, “You are not a beginner. Not when it comes to ear training. I am very impressed that you figured out all the melody chords as well as the accompaniment. You have a great ear.” Whew! Having a good ear is pretty important if your instrument of choice is one that is mostly played by ear. (Although the mental image makes me giggle every time I think about it.)

She also gave me a list of etiquette rules for jams. I am far, far from being ready to join a jam. However, getting the list made me happy because I believe that means she believes the day will come when I’ll be good enough to jam with other musicians.

Knowing that I am focusing on hymns right now because of playing in church, Ann (my teacher) had prepared several hymns for me work on. They all seem to be pretty challenging, but I enjoy a challenge! We played through them one by one and I struggled mightily to keep up (and mostly failed). After the first couple of hymns, Ann’s husband quietly walked up with a huge upright bass. “Are you joining us?” she asked. “Well, you can’t expect me to hear that good music and not join in,” he said.

So he started playing his bass along with us and I cannot tell you how thrilled I was. It was a big, big deal to me. There was so much joy coursing through my veins that my fingers hardly knew what to do with themselves! Since it was my first play-through, I just kind of stumbled along and strummed a chord here and there as I was able. One of my other lifelong dreams has been to play an instrument as part of a group of people playing other instruments. The tiny taste I had today convinced me that this is a good dream! I’m still savoring those glorious moments.

Today’s lesson only lasted an hour and forty-five minutes, after which it was time to get back into my rolling oven and drive back down to my critique group. I stopped for a quick supper on the way and still made it in time. It was good to get inside the cool library. I took my autoharp in too because I didn’t like the idea of leaving it in the hot car!

Our writers’ meeting (following critique group) consisted of only seven people, including the speaker, but it was still enjoyable and informative. By the time it was over I was ready to head for home, though. Being out in the heat is very tiring for me.

Tomorrow I’m leaving. So much to do! So little time!

A Wasp, Two Classes, & a Tea

I got quite a surge of adrenaline this morning when I went into my bathroom to get ready for my shower and I heard a buzzing sound. The sound was made by an enormous wasp which had apparently moved into my bathroom. Suddenly I was not in a hurry to take my shower.

I skedaddled from the bathroom and closed the door while I went in search of a weapon. Eventually I found a can of bug spray and went back to do battle with the dastardly intruder. Of course by then she (I assume it was a she) was nowhere to be found. The two big questions on my mind were: How did she get in? and Where in the world is she?

The idea of taking a shower again lost its appeal, and I went and helped Jasper with school and printed out about a ream of stuff for my classes and then it got later and later and I knew I was going to have to face my domestic terrorist. Well, I would have faced her but she was still hiding, so I reluctantly got in the shower after carefully shaking out my towel just in case.

All went well, despite my paranoid imaginings, until I was drying off. The buzzing started again and I saw the winged beast fly past the mirror. Good thing I had taken the precaution of having the bug spray in the shower with me. The next time the wasp ventured forth I sprayed and sprayed (from a safe distance, naturally. The enemy sort of staggered in the air before falling into my drinking cup. I quickly turned on the hot water tap and dumped the wasp down the drain, after which I continued to run hot water for a really long time. Just to be sure. Whew!

My first class went pretty well, I think. One boy was unable to make it but otherwise it went off without a hitch. The second class went fine as well, although the boys in that class were not at all thrilled about having to describe a doll.

By the time my students all left, I had about ten minutes to get ready for my first homeschool group’s Mother’s Tea. I have not been to the tea for a couple of years, and in fact I am currently having my annual crisis over whether to stay in the group or not. However, I wanted to see my friend Robin who was also going for the first time in many years, so off I went, bearing deviled eggs which Lucy had made for me while I taught this afternoon.

I should have taken my own tea in a thermos. They didn’t offer any kind of tea that appealed to me, but I settled for some herbal tea just so I’d get to use the lovely tea cup I’d brought.

It actually was quite enjoyable. I sat between my friends Robin and Joan. Among the three of us, we have 20 children and almost 70 years of homeschooling experience. Given that I’ve been at it for 24 years, I feel like I should be more of an expert by now!

By the time the tea ended, I just wanted to get home and practice my autoharp and try out my new thumb pick which arrived in the mail today. I’ve got another lesson tomorrow, which means another drive to Quitman in the brutal heat. It’ll be okay. I can’t put it off because my teacher and I won’t both be in the area again until the end of September.

So, that was my day. The new pick is very comfortable but somewhat quieter than my more traditional pick. I might have to experiment with my playing style a bit in order to get the volume I want with it.

My Jesus, I Love Thee

Sorry for the lack of entry yesterday. Flynn was here and we celebrated Spencer’s birthday and things went very late. We sang the following hymn this morning (with me playing autoharp) so I thought I’d feature it today. Our hymnbook offers an “altered” version, so I’m getting back by posting the original version, which I love. It was written by a sixteen-year-old boy!

My Jesus, I Love Thee

William R. Featherston

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first lovèd me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

Fear Mongering

Today I posted a link on my Facebook page. For those who didn’t see it there, here it is:


This is one article of many I’ve read in the last couple of years about how we Americans have become so fearful that we don’t let our kids do anything. I used to think this level of paranoid parenting was freakishly rare, but I realize now that it is mainstream, despite the fact that statistically, our kids are safer today than they were 50 years ago. It’s just that when something bad does happen, it’s all over the news for days and it can begin to seem that any innocent activity can end in tragedy and in fact most probably will end in tragedy.

I recently read the account of a woman who faced criminal charges and jail time for leaving her preschooler in the car for less than five minutes on a cool day (so the heat was not a problem). My parents would have been in the poky for life if that had been a crime back in the 1960s.

I have refused to give in to this lifestyle of fear. I want my kids to be confident and independent. I want them to be able to handle problems that come up in their lives, whether it’s an argument with a friend, a minor injury, or a fine point of fort design.

Because of this article, I was thinking back on my own childhood. Before we ever went to Africa, I attended a public school in Royal Oak, Michigan. The school was three blocks away, and I walked there by myself even in first grade. Now here’s the thing: I failed at walking to school. I actually loved school, so it’s not like I failed on purpose. It’s just that I was an animal lover and I had to walk past yard after yard containing dogs. Surely I couldn’t be expected to walk past a dog without saying hello!

So, by the time I visited with each dog along the way, I would be late for school. My parents were informed. What happened next is what I think is interesting in light of how things are handled today. My mom did not start walking to school with me. Driving me was not an option because we only had one car and my dad drove that to work. Instead, she started trying various strategies that might help me be successful at getting to school on time.

She arranged for some other girls in my neighborhood to come get me and let me walk to school with them. Those silly girls had no interest in dogs! So even though I enjoyed their company, I would often lag behind and be the recipient of the dreaded tardy slip. I really should have cared about being tardy, but I didn’t.

Another thing my mom tried was sending me out the door half an hour early, so I could take my sweet time on the way and still arrive on time. Sometimes, it worked. Other times, I got distracted by dogs and would notice all the other kids passing me but for some reason it didn’t motivate me to catch up to them and be on time for school.

My teacher lectured me. The principal lectured me. My parents lectured me. Not once, however, did anyone suggest that I should be herded to school by an adult (at least not in my hearing). The goal was always for me to achieve success on my own–and eventually, I did. After months of tardiness, I started being embarrassed by it. It occurred to me at some point that it was just as easy to visit with the neighborhood dogs on the way home as it was on the way to school. I still slipped up every now and then, but for the most part I got to school on time. Sometimes I even got there early enough to play on the swings before the bell rang.

By the time I was eight, we lived in Africa and my best friend lived on the other side of the station, a mile away. I walked or cycled that mile almost every day to go to her house. I survived all manner of minor incidents, including having a swarm of bees fly into me. When I was nine, and riding home from my friend’s house, I was stopped by two young African men who wanted to rape me. I was too innocent to have any idea what they intended, but I knew it wasn’t good.

I prayed for help and God sent help in the form of a group of people whom my would-be assailants were obligated to greet. I took off on my bike and made it safely home. My parents had talked to me many times about what to do in a situation like that, and I had the confidence to do it. I knew every inch of my route because I traveled it so often, and knew I could outdistance those guys easily once they took their hands off my bike. I want my kids to have that kind of confidence too. I don’t want them to feel overwhelmed or afraid of the kind of stuff that happens every day. I want them to just deal with it and move on! So, if you’ve noticed that my kids seem to have more autonomy than most, that’s why.

Today we got school done and then Lucy took off for the weekend. Spencer and Mercy are spending the evening with friends. I’m trying to get some stuff done and practice my autoharp and finish making my shopping list for the morning.