A Two-Horse Open Sleigh

The first order of business today was to cook up a big brunch. Julie had an ambitious menu—pancakes, sausages, bacon, fruit salad, veggie tray, and egg casserole. Her husband Ken cooked all the meat and made pancakes. Others made the fruit salad. My job was the egg casseroles, and they took a little longer than I expected.

However, eventually it was all done and we found ourselves sitting down to a truly magnificent meal, by which time I was on my third cup of tea. Afterward we sat in the living area visiting and watching some snow fall on the beautiful landscape outside, before suiting up to go out.

The weather has not been as cold as I feared it would be, but I still wore my “new” snow pants with leggings underneath, and my big new boots. We drove a couple of miles down the road where two horses were hitched up to a sleigh awaiting us.

After signing a release form, we climbed into the sleigh. There were some who weren’t interested in this activity, so I think only 14 of us were on the sleigh. The ride went through open field and forest, much of it with truly breathtaking views of the mountains. I loved the gliding motion of the sleigh and the jingling of the bells on the horses’ harnesses.

Afterward, a woodstove-heated tent offered hot cider, hot chocolate, and hot coffee. I felt obligated to drink something in order to get the full experience, so I had half a cup of coffee.

Five of our more intrepid members trekked to a fresh patch of snow and made snow angels while the rest of us stood by and took photos.

The couple I had ridden with (my classmate Chuck and his wife Laura) wanted to see more of the views along the road, and so did I, so we drove farther and saw some stunning displays of icicles.

By this time I was a huge fan of my new boots. I haven’t owned a pair of boots for at least 40 years. I couldn’t even remember what it was like to walk around in deep snow with warm dry feet. I loved it!

Then we joined everyone else back at the house to regroup and snack a little before heading to town to look around. The town of Leavenworth is very touristy and modeled on a Bavarian village, which makes it very pretty. The yarn store was too far for me to go on foot but I made it to the tea store! And maybe a cheese shop . . .

At 5:00 we all convened at a German restaurant for an early supper. The food was good but the company was better! And we still had the whole evening ahead of us. We were even able to face time with one of our classmates who was unable to attend.

During the evening I set up a photo studio of sorts in a different room and then took portraits of each attendee so that we can post them on our class page, and everyone who didn’t come can at least see what we all look like now.

The evening ended with quite a few of my brave classmates going to hang out in the (outdoor) hot tub. I just couldn’t see myself walking barefoot over ice and snow to sit in a hot tub. It looked like they had fun though!

Location Change

Sunday morning we had agreed to sleep in. Since I am dealing with a two-hour time change, I figured I’d be the first up so I didn’t even set an alarm. Ha! I slept in till 9:00, which was actually 11:00 Texas time. I guess my travel adventures wore me out more than I realized!

During the day, Julie and I did a lot of cooking and baking for the reunion and also finished the jigsaw puzzle—which unfortunately was missing two pieces. I drank a lot of tea.

This morning, I did set an alarm so I could get up and take a shower and repack all my stuff for the trip to Leavenworth. I felt a little helpless in terms of helping Julie because only she knew everything that had to go. Eventually, everything was hauled downstairs to the garage and from thence to the bed of Ken’s truck. Looking at all the boxes and cases, I did not think that it would all fit into the truck—but it did.

It was a four-and-a-half hour drive to Leavenworth. The first three hours or so the scenery was very flat and only a little snowy. However, once we hit the Columbia River, the landscape became a lot more interesting. Stunningly beautiful, in fact. Snow, mountains, and rivers.

One classmate and his wife had reached the property before us and were here to welcome us. I was given a choice of rooms and picked a cozy little room near the main living area. Soon others started arriving and the rest of the afternoon consisted primarily of happy greetings and conversations with old classmates, some of whom we hadn’t seen in years.

The basement of this lovely house has a long room with a table that can seat all 19 of us! So that’s where we went for supper. There was plenty of the stew that Julie had made and biscuits and salad and lots of conversation. Afterward we migrated back upstairs and Jim made chocolate chip cookies which featured his homegrown Texas pecans. They smelled heavenly, but I did not give in to temptation.

I drank a lot of tea and have enjoyed talking to several of my classmates and/or their spouses. One of the spouses who came was actually in the class above mine and I remember him well because we were in two plays together in high school. So it was good to see him.

Tomorrow I will help Julie put on a big brunch and then we’re off for some adventures. It’s going to be a great day!

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Helen H. Lemmel

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

Refrain

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Refrain

Praying All the Way

Well, I am safely in Washington but it has been quite an adventure! On Friday morning I did my grocery shopping as usual and then finished my packing. I was kind of disappointed the my new carryon suitcase hadn’t arrived yet. One thing I learned from my trip to the UK is that a woman of my age and state of decrepitude needs a four-wheeled carryon. My old one has two wheels and I found it became very cumbersome and difficult to pull around when it was fully loaded with another bag strapped on top.

But I waited so long to order a four-wheeled replacement that it didn’t come in time, so I went ahead and packed my old one for this trip. Then, as Walter was taking it out to the car, UPS pulled up and delivered the new carryon! I knew it would take only five minutes or so to transfer everything over, so we quickly opened the package and I got everything transferred in no time. This is easy to do when you use packing cubes.

Even so, we were about 10 minutes later pulling out of the driveway than we had intended to be. We had barely gotten on the road before I got a text from the airline saying that my second flight (from Denver to Spokane) had been canceled. Minutes later a second text arrived saying that my first flight had been delayed, so our late departure was no longer an issue.

This was my first time to fly Southwest and my first time flying out of Love Field, which is a lot less imposing than DFW. My first order of business, of course, was to go to the desk and see if I could sort out how to still get to Spokane. The best solution I was offered was to go ahead and fly to Denver, spend the night, and go to Spokane Saturday morning. I went for it, knowing that I would most likely have to spend the night in the Denver airport.

The flight to Denver was one of the scariest of my life. We flew through some huge severe storms and the “fasten seatbelt” light never went off. During a brief lull, they started serving drinks but had to abort that mission almost immediately. The plane was tossed around like a grain of corn in a popcorn popper. I don’t know about everyone else, but I prayed the whole way! The landing was also scary but such a relief.

When I arrived in Denver the prospect of spending the night in the airport seemed a lot less appealing. I had to pick up my checked suitcase, which meant that everywhere I went I had to take two suitcases and a backpack with me. I was SO grateful to have that new carryon that rolls so effortlessly, because my larger suitcase does not roll very easily at all.

Julie has a friend in Denver that she thought might be willing to host me for the night, and she was, but the challenges of getting there dissuaded me from attempting it. Much as it went against my frugal instincts, I then thought of getting a room at the airport hotel—which was already sold out.

Another friend who saw my post on Facebook went to work trying to find a room for me, but everything was sold out due to the many flight cancellations. I resigned myself to my fate and started looking for a likely spot to hunker down. I found a seat up against a wall where I could lean my head back. Thus began a long, long night.

I hadn’t found anyplace to sit that wasn’t bordering a major walkway. Herds of people stampeded past at regular intervals, exiting the airport after their flights. Many of them had long skinny bags containing skis. I would doze off for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, then wake up due to a new influx of passersby. Every time I had to make the long hike down to the ladies’ room, I of course had to take all three pieces of luggage with me.

There was a lull in airport activity between about 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., but it wasn’t terribly helpful to me because that’s when all the cleaners were busy sweeping, floor polishing, and vacuuming. So I continued with my little cat naps, trying desperately to find a more comfortable position each time.

By 5:30 in the morning the airport was a beehive of activity. I have never been so grateful to be awake at that hour! I realized that even though my flight didn’t leave until 8:45, my best plan was to go through security immediately so I’d be in the part of the airport most likely to offer a cup of hot tea.

Getting through security was an ordeal as always but at the end of it I searched for and found a Starbucks. Normally I make a point of avoiding Starbucks, but on this occasion I happily waited in a long line so I could get a nice big cup of tea. I found a window seat at my departure gate and sat watching the sun rise as I drank my tea.

The flight to Spokane was a lot less scary, and we actually landed 25 minutes early. I texted Julie, only to find out that she was running late. So I collected my checked bag and settled down for another wait as I watched the snow gently falling outside. A cool thing at the Spokane airport is that they have rocking chairs scattered around the airport.

After Julie arrived, we set off to run some errands. Our first stop was a thrift store, where I was able to find a pair of snow pants that will work for me. Apparently the town where we’ll be having the reunion is even snowier than Spokane.

After a couple more stops to buy food for the reunion, we headed north on the 45-minute drive to Julie’s house—and the car died. Julie managed to get it off onto the shoulder, but we were close enough to the right lane on the highway that every passing vehicle rocked the car. Sometimes you get more of an adventure than you bargained for!

After calling her husband and the AAA, it seemed the most likely explanation was that she had run out of gas. So we bundled up a little more and talked while waiting for rescue.

Eventually, a man showed up with a can of gas which he dispensed into Julie’s tank. Sure enough, the engine fired right up! Naturally we made a beeline to a gas station where she could fill the tank before continuing on our way through stunningly beautiful snow-covered woodland.

Julie’s new home is a cottage that she and her husband are still in the process of renovating. It is by a lake that just looks like a snow-covered field at the moment. It was such a relief to arrive and have a cup of tea! After which both of us took naps . . .

In the evening we got to work on kitchen duties for the reunion. I did all the cutting of stew ingredients while Julie coated and browned the meat. We also spent quite a time working on a jigsaw puzzle she had set up. Her husband Ken arrived back from a business trip also.

Before I knew it, it was 11:00, which was 1:00 in the morning Texas time! I don’t know how I managed to keep going that long. But I have to say that after spending a night sleeping in a chair in an airport, getting to take a hot shower and then climb into a warm comfy bed seems like the most luxurious thing in the world.

Teaching and Packing

So, time got away from me yesterday and I didn’t get around to posting. It was another busy day getting ready for and then teaching the blond brothers and preparing for Geography and my trip.

I don’t think I’ve talked all that much about my trip. Tomorrow I leave for Spokane to visit my friend Julie and help her prepare for our high school class reunion which begins on Monday. And before anyone says, “Oh, I didn’t know you went to school in Washington”—I didn’t. Our boarding school was in Kenya, and despite our expectations of being able to go back there for a reunion someday, it hasn’t happened yet. So the class reunions have been at many different locations here in the USA. Julie thought it would be fun to have a reunion in the mountains in winter. I think it will be fun too, but I am scrambling to locate and pack enough layers.

This morning, though, was all about getting ready for Geography. We were doing Russia and the Balkans today. My student chef was bringing borscht and holupki (stuffed cabbage) and Jasper helped me make the salad. I also made a raspberry tart that turned out pretty well for being gluten free.

To my delight, the borscht was a big hit with the boys. Sometimes their lack of culinary open-mindedness frustrates me, so I didn’t have high hopes for today, but it went better than expected.

After class, I took Jasper sock shopping with me. He needed socks and I definitely needed socks that are long enough to wear with my huge new boots. It will take me a while to get used to walking with such huge feet. Right now it seems impossible that I would actually need anything that warm—but I’m pretty sure I will.

I still have some packing to finish up and grocery shopping in the morning, but in the afternoon I’ll be on my way to the airport in Dallas. This is not an ideal time for me to be gone, but my ticket was purchased months ago and obviously I am going to an event that can’t be moved. And I’ll still get back a week before my husband’s surgery. It will be interesting to see how I handle real winter weather!

Surviving

On Sunday I felt so overwhelmed I didn’t know how I’d make it through the next few days. I had so much to do and I just couldn’t see how I’d be able to do it. It seemed inevitable that I’d fail to achieve at least some of my goals. My anxiety made it difficult for me to enjoy our small group gathering on Sunday evening because all I could think of was how much work I had to do.

But you know what? Somehow I got it done. Sunday night I was up till almost 2:00 a.m., but I got papers graded, grades calculated, and my teacup tree undecorated and taken down. Monday morning I finished my class preparations and taught my class, and Monday afternoon I had a tutoring student. I even stayed awake for all of it and made it to the gym to walk in the evening.

I was up late again last night preparing for today’s elementary class and getting all the grades from last semester calculated. I admit getting up this morning was harder than yesterday, but I was prepared for class by the time the students arrived. And after all that work, I forgot to give them their papers back!

This afternoon I went on a quest for plums. I didn’t think it was an unreasonable goal. I mean, we can buy bananas and pineapples and cantaloupe and strawberries year-round, right? But apparently not plums. Or apricots. I may have to resort to raspberries to make our Geography dessert for Thursday.

My really big accomplishment of the day was making two phone calls that I’ve been putting off for several days. I would rather do almost anything else than make phone calls. I absolutely loathe it. But the calls had to be made. One was to clear up a misunderstanding about a credit card—they had flagged and denied a perfectly legitimate transaction.

The other was to cancel Walter’s flight reservation for this weekend. When I made the reservations back in the summer, we thought we had plenty of time for him to train a helper who would be able to clean the daycare center while we were gone. However, he couldn’t find anyone interested in that job and here we are three days before time to leave and he has no one to cover for him. So I will be going to my class reunion alone. At least he gets a credit with the airline that he can use for another flight sometime.

Meanwhile, I have tutoring students and a Geography class to prepare for, but I’m still hoping to get at least a few hours’ sleep . . . .

Abide With Me

This hymn came to mind as I am really struggling right now.

Abide With Me

Henry F. Lyte

Abide with me!
Fast falls the eventide;
The darkness thickens.
Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail,
And comforts flee,
Help of the helpless,
O abide with me!

Swift to its close
Ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim,
Its glories pass away;
Change and decay
In all around I see;
O Thou who changest not,
Abide with me!

Not a brief glance
I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st
With Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending,
Patient, free.
Come, not to sojourn,
But abide with me.

Come not in terrors,
As the King of kings,
But kind and good,
With healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes,
A heart for every plea,
Come, friend of sinners,
And abide with me.

I need Thy presence
Every passing hour.
What but Thy grace
Can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like Thyself
My guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine,
O abide with me!

I fear no foe
With Thee at hand to bless:
Ills have no weight,
And tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting?
Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still,
If Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross
Before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom,
And point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks,
And earth’s vain shadows flee:
In life, in death,
O Lord, abide with me!

False Alarm

Today was a day when I wished I was in another state—the state of Colorado, to be specific, so I could have gone to my daughter-in-law Tiffany’s baby shower. All that sewing I did last weekend was for the baby shower—6 sheets, 8 burp cloths, and a blanket. I sent them to Tiffany’s mother so she could take them to the shower. Everything was either space themed or dinosaur themed.

But since I was here in Texas, with way too much work to do, I did work—mostly for school, as my full teaching schedule starts up again on Monday and I am still trying to finish my grading from last semester.

At the same time, I had received an alarming email saying that my “local” World Market store would be closing. In my case, the closest store is an hour’s drive away—but I felt I had to make time to go and stock up on a few imported goodies for my Geography class.

I zoomed over to the store in very heavy traffic, and found the place doing a booming business with no sign of closing or going out of business. Today happened to be the day they were giving away free cookbooks, and a very patient young man helped me sign up as he was so determined to give me a cookbook. I asked him if the store was closing and he said no. I stocked up anyway. I mean, I don’t get over there all that often.

When I went to check out, the cashier looked in bemusement at the items I was getting. “That’s a very eclectic assortment,” he said. Yep. That’s me. Eclectic. I told him I taught a Geography class and had to get things from different parts of the world.

Meanwhile, Jasper took down the outside Christmas decorations and my husband heroically tackled the taking down of the Christmas tree. It is a huge job, and it took him much of the day. By the time I returned from my shopping trip, the tree was back up in the attic and my chair was back in its rightful corner. And Lucy and Tanner had returned from their day at the university.

We had our family dinner tonight because Walter and I have life group tomorrow, so Spencer and Jade came over to eat and visit with us. Jasper was at his gaming night but there’s not much we could do about that!

There are still a few decorations to come down, including my teacup tree, but I got all the ornaments off it this evening so the rest can wait until tomorrow.

Meanwhile, there is a stack of papers waiting to be graded . . .

Working My Way Down the List

Friday is my grocery shopping day, so the morning is taken up with list-making and then going to Aldi. Today’s Aldi observation: two young women buying zucchini (courgettes). A whole cart full of zucchini. Nothing but dozens and dozens of zucchini. What could it mean? My mind raced trying to think what possible need anyone could have for that many zucchini. I honestly don’t know.

This afternoon I had other errands to run and so much work to do. I am still trying to make my way through the stack of papers to be graded, but I have so many other responsibilities too. I need another week or two before I have to start teaching again! (Instead of two days.)

I had made time in my schedule to go to my writers’ meeting, so I got ready and then drove up to the other side of town to the restaurant where we meet. I was very surprised to see I was the first one there, as this has never happened before. Then the waitress came and told me that the meeting had been postponed until next week due to the threat of severe weather.

As I drove home, I wondered what I had missed. Why is everyone so freaked out about the weather? I had checked it multiple times and hadn’t seen anything to be unduly concerned about, especially that early in the evening. Yet I had heard of several events being canceled, including Spencer’s rugby game tomorrow which is scheduled for well after the storm has ended.

So when I returned home I watched a video with Jasper while knitting as knitting is important. I have less than a month left in which to finish this project.

I have spent the rest of the evening working on grading and other word-related chores. As I write this the big storm has arrived with a vengeance and the window beside me is being bombarded with rain and rattled by wind. Thankfully we still have power.

Update on my mother: they were able to stabilize her more quickly than expected and this afternoon my dad worked to transfer her back to the nursing home, where they have a new set of protocols for caring for her. Unfortunately, they also discovered that she has contracted yet another urinary tract infection, an ailment which seems to keep coming back to plague her. So pray they will be able to get her on an effective antibiotic right away.

A Word Fitly Spoken

I have become pretty good at compartmentalizing my emotions when necessary, and today it was certainly necessary, because I had so much cooking to do and a class to prepare for and I just had to brush aside all my anxiety about my mother and my husband so I could do what had to be done. In fact my husband had to go to his appointment with the surgeon without me, since it overlapped with my class.

We were studying Scandinavia today, so Jasper helped with some food prep. I made Swedish fish soup, Norwegian coleslaw, Danish creamed mushrooms, and Danish rice pudding. While Jasper and I greatly enjoyed the food, the others were considerably less enthusiastic. They did, however, love the beautiful photos of Scandinavian countries!

Meanwhile, Walter returned from the doctor while we were still watching a video, so I was able to follow him into another room to get a brief report. His melanoma surgery is scheduled for Friday, January 31st. It will be a big incision and I’m sure a very impressive scar. It is an outpatient surgery so I will be able to bring him home right afterward.

My mother is still in the hospital and they are still trying to fine-tune her medications to be as advantageous as possible. She is very limited in how much liquid she can have as they don’t want her to start retaining too much fluid again. She is expected to be in the hospital for another couple of days. Once she is stabilized, she’ll be released back to the nursing home with new care protocols. This is not something she’ll “recover” from. The goal is to manage her various health problems without making them worse. Thank you all so much for your continued prayers.

Lucy and Tanner returned from Austin at supper time. Students are starting to return to the university!

As I’m sure you can imagine, this has been a tough day thanks to my concern for both my husband and my mother. And in the middle of it the mail arrived and I received a padded envelope from England. Inside was a card and newsletter from my sweet friend Adrienne (whom I visited in September)—and a gift of a lovely tea towel. The quote on the tea towel could hardly have been more appropriate:

Hope. Right now we’re hanging onto hope for dear life!