Just a Closer Walk

This was one of my favorite gospel songs in my youth. It seems to have fallen out of favor over the decades.

Just a Closer Walk With Thee

I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.


Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.


When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.



A Double Drenching

Today I had more than one reason for disliking Fridays. Yes, I had to go to Aldi, but at least I had Jasper with me today. It is always so much less dismal when I have company.

After lunch, I planned to drive to the nearest Jo-Ann’s to pick up a fabric order. This is a one-hour drive. I miss Hancock’s so much. About halfway to Jo-Ann’s I drove into a thunderstorm. It was more or less like driving under a continuous waterfall.

I made it safely to the Jo-Ann’s parking lot and sat there in my car, hoping to wait out the rain. The rain laughed at me and came down harder. So I got out of the car and waded across the parking lot to the store. I was completely soaked to the skin by the time I walked in the door.

Now don’t get me wrong. I really do love rain, especially at this time of year when it washes the pollen out of the air for a full ten minutes or so. What I don’t like is not having an umbrella and then getting soaked and remaining wet for hours afterward.

After I drove back home and had supper and was mostly dry, the rain had let up to the point where it was just drizzling. I took advantage of the lull to make a dash for Walmart, where I needed to buy some more supplies for tomorrow’s chai party.

I got everything I needed and then headed out the door, only to find myself faced with yet another torrential downpour. By the time I got to the car and unloaded the stuff I’d bought, I was once again completely soaked from head to toe.

Twice in one day is a bit much. As soon as I got home I changed into dry clothes and vowed not to set foot outside again this evening. Also, I played my autoharp to improve my mood.

Double the Enjoyment

I’m going to take a stroll down memory lane here, to explain to you how I came to possess one of my favorite treasures. In 1993, we moved to Zambia for what we hoped would be years of missionary service, but which ended up being just for 18 months.

Upon our arrival, we inherited a few barrels of possessions that had been left behind by family friends. One of the barrels was full of old books, some of which were real treasures, like an original version of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales–rather horrific compared to the sanitized versions I had heard as a kid! There was also a little book that caught my interest. It was a travel book about various journeys the author had undertaken in his homeland of Great Britain. Having been raised in a former British colony, I am an unapologetic anglophile, so I settled in for some enjoyable reading.

It was a charmingly dated account, written in the 1930s as I recall. My problem was that most of the places he wrote about were unfamiliar to me, and not big enough to be included on your average map of Britain. I hate not being able to picture where things are, so when a British friend of mine was getting ready to go for a brief visit home, I gave her some money and asked her to please buy a detailed map of Britain for me.

She exceeded my expectations by bringing me this:

3-23-17 atlas

A nice thick road atlas of Britain, with individual pages on a scale of 3 miles to 1 inch! I was so, so happy! I got out my little travel book and searched out all the places on the map. My enjoyment of the book was increased immeasurably once I had the map to refer to. I have referred to my treasured road atlas many times in the intervening years. I keep it where I can easily access it. So helpful if you read classic British literature.

Which brings me to this week. A couple of days ago, I started reading Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson, about the travels he went on throughout Britain before moving back to the USA in the mid-90s. Once again, I hauled out my atlas and have been following his travels with great interest on my detailed maps. To my amusement, many of the place names he uses are totally made up–but they’re no stranger than some of the actual place names. For instance, a quick glance over a couple of pages yielded the following places: Herodsfoot, Spriddles, Boohay, Ipplepen, Dippertown, Quoditch, Clapworthy, and Lower Sharpnose Point.

Yes, I know I could probably look up the places in the book on Google Maps–but I really prefer the real atlas. I can follow his travels from town to town and see what route he must have taken. Having my atlas is adding tremendously to my enjoyment of this book.

Of course, it’s not as if I did nothing but read all day. Jasper and I continued our floundering with geometry. This afternoon I took Lucy out to get her birthday present–a new pair of jeans. And this evening Jasper and I went to the bee meeting for the first time in months because the speakers were a couple that I know slightly. The husband has designed and manufactured an absolutely brilliant beehive stand that keeps ants out of your hive. If you keep bees, you should check them out:

DefyAnt Stands

Also, Walter fixed the van.

A Belated Birthday Dinner

Lucy was away camping on her birthday (the 13th) and then we left on our trip before she returned, so we hadn’t celebrated her birthday before today. In fact, today was the only day we could do it this week before Lina leaves again!

So I went to Aldi this morning to get the ingredients for making our favorite beef curry and also for cheesecake, which she had requested in lieu of a more traditional birthday cake. Lina made the cheesecake and I made the curry. It’s kind of sad to make one of your favorite foods, knowing you can’t eat it, to be honest. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get a bite or two at lunchtime, but of course no rice!

As we were waiting for Walter and Lina to get home from work so we could have dinner, Walter called and said the van would not start, so I had to drive over and fetch them. Later, Lina helped him tow the van with the Suburban.

The birthday dinner was very rushed because by the time everyone was here, it was almost time for Bri and Lucy and Spencer to leave again!

The van seems to be having an electrical problem that I hope won’t be expensive to fix.

Also, I got to spend some quality time with my autoharp.

In Which I Ingest a Mystery Substance and Live to Tell the Tale

Today there could be no lollygagging about, because the class I should have taught yesterday was moved to today. I had a lot of stuff to get ready and print out. This also involved going to Walmart to buy paper, because I go through unbelievable amounts of paper when I am teaching a class.

At lunchtime, I went to make my disgusting drink (I now combine my protein drink with my greens and veggie drink so I only have to get grossed out once per day). I put the water and veggie powder in the blender, but then I couldn’t find the protein powder, thanks to the fact that Lucy very industriously cleaned and reorganized the kitchen while I was gone. I looked and looked. The container was nowhere in sight.

I texted Lucy and she thought it might be in the pantry, but I didn’t see it there either. There was, however, a container on the table that looked very much like protein powder. I thought maybe Lucy had helpfully moved the powder to a smaller container to make it easier for me to scoop out. I put a little on my fingertip and tasted it. It didn’t really taste like much of anything. There was an ancient label on the container reading “Chicken Baking Mix.” That meant nothing to me.

I decided it was protein powder, so I made my protein/veggie shake and gagged it down like the boss I am. A couple hours later, Lucy returned home and I told her what had happened and asked if the container I’d used was indeed the protein powder. It was not. The protein powder had cleverly disguised itself as something else in the pantry and she produced it as proof.

This left me with the obvious question: what on earth had I drunk at lunchtime? What even is “Chicken Baking Mix?” Did it have flour in it? Because if so, I could be in big trouble on multiple fronts. I scoured my computer recipes files for some reference to Chicken Baking Mix and came up empty. So, most likely that stuff is well over ten years old, whatever it is. My next step was to test my blood glucose because if there was flour in that mix it would not only mess me up because of the gluten, but it would send my blood sugar into the stratosphere. To my great relief, my blood sugar was just fine.

So, I have no idea what it was I drank. Whatever it was, it is so old that I have no memory of it. I’m sure you’ll be relieved to hear that there is no longer any Chicken Baking Mix in my kitchen. If it has been around so long that I can’t remember what it is, then I certainly have no interest in ingesting any more of it! At least it wasn’t as bad as that time I drank kerosene when I was a kid . . .

After that interesting episode, my students arrived and we began working on research papers. The school year is hurtling toward the finish line . . .


2000 Miles, 5 states, 3 hotels, 3 brothers, 3 seasons, 2 time zones, 1 wedding

What a trip! I had planned to post last night, but the internet at the hotel quit working a few minutes after I logged on, so I gave up on that plan and focused on getting some rest.

On Sunday morning (yesterday) the girls and I got up and before we were really properly awake, Jasper had joined us. He had been sharing Flynn’s room, but Flynn had to leave very early in the morning to catch his flight, and Jasper woke up and was bored. We got the cars loaded (ours and Mary’s) and then walked through the hotel lobby and into the restaurant to meet the rest of the family for brunch.

We had a long table lined with family and it was a very convivial meal. The breakfast buffet was very good, though not cheap. Those of you who see your families on a regular basis may not realize what an amazing gift it is to spend time with all of your siblings and your parents for the first time in two and a half years. I didn’t get a photo of my three brothers together, which is a pity, because then we could have played a game wherein I would ask you (if you don’t know them) to guess which two are twins and what their age order is. I guarantee you would not be able to figure it out from their appearance.

After our brunch, most of us drove out to my brother Matt’s house for a tour (he is the father of the bride). This is the first time I’ve seen any place he’s lived in since he got married 35 years ago. He lives out in the country, at the “dead” end of a dead end, in a lovely house that overlooks a pond with a pair of nesting swans in it. It is a beautiful setting.

Probably the highlight for me was getting to see my sister-in-law’s ceramics studio. My sister-in-law, Brenda, is a boss at whatever she turns her hand to. She is a superb seamstress and embellisher. I did not realize till yesterday that she is also a woodworker—she made a beautiful cabinet that Matt pointed out to me. She can also draw, paint and sculpt. She is a world class macramé artist. Here is a piece she made for her kitchen window:

Brenda curtain

She is so brilliant at so many things, it’s hard to imagine that she is even better at one particular thing. Her ceramic artistry is so exquisite that I can only subside into a state of awe when I see her work. Here are a few samples of her artistry:

Brenda 3

Brenda 1

Brenda 2

Brenda 4

Brenda 5

If you are interested in contacting her, she has a website at http://www.ccreekceramics.com/

So anyway, I eventually managed to tear myself away from all that beauty and say goodbye to my parents and my brother, and we got on the road. Since we left so late, we decided to just get as far as we could and then stop for the night. We made it to Cairo, Illinois before running out of steam, and had a good night’s sleep before setting off again this morning. Amazingly, our budget motel offered a hot breakfast including actual protein that I could eat!

We drove into our own driveway just before 5:00 this evening.  Yesterday, in Indiana, it was still winter. Today, in Missouri and Arkansas, it was spring. Here in Texas, it appears to be summer already. It was over 90 degrees when we arrived home!


Facing the Giants: Wedding Edition

Today was the big day of my niece’s wedding. First though, we slept in a little and then the five of us drove over to the hotel where my brother Jon and his wife were staying, and we spent the rest of the morning visiting with them. We all went out to lunch together before splitting up to get ready for the wedding.

Before heading back to our hotel, I made my kids drive to a different part of town. I wanted to see the house where I used to live. After several decades, it is still there and still a beautiful house:

3-18-17 1008 Kensington

I loved that house. It was green when we lived there. That little window to the left of the chimney was my room. I wish I could have spent more time in my old neighborhood, but we had to rush back to the hotel and get ready for the wedding.

Mary and Lina and I barely made it in time thanks to some confusing directions from our GPS. It was a sweet wedding and I so enjoyed being there with my family, and finally getting to meet the groom, Kevin.

3-18-17 Nicole and Kevin

I also managed to get a photo of Nicole with her sister Meghan:

3-18-17 Nicole & Meghan

The big thing about this wedding is that it involved two very tall families. You are unlikely to see so many tall people in one room as we had at this wedding, unless you are at a professional basketball game. My dad, brothers, and sons range from 6 feet tall (Jasper) to 6’6” (Flynn).  The groom’s family was also tall, and the groom himself is 6’6”. The bride is 6’3” and her sister 6’1”. Mary and Lina are 5’11 and 6 feet tall. It is a rare and beautiful thing for me to feel short at only 5’10”!

The reception lasted for quite a while, giving me a chance to visit with my brothers and a little with my parents. The wedding was very taxing for my mom and as a result she and my dad left quite early. It is so unusual for me to have time with family like this. I interrogated my nephew Baker, whom I hadn’t seen in many years. Tomorrow maybe I’ll get a chance to talk to his sister Riley. We’re all going to hang out and have brunch in the morning before going our separate ways. I had to postpone my class in order to stay later, but it’s worth it.

A Busy St. Patrick’s Day

None of our St. Patrick’s Day traditions were observed today, other than wearing green. We had planned to get up at 7:00, but no one wanted to budge (including me) so we slept in another hour before getting up and going on our day.

Lina and Jasper went to the hotel lobby for breakfast while I stayed in the room to microwave an egg and a sausage patty. It worked out fine except that the lid of the container blew off and became so deformed that I had to throw it away.

We got on the road a little after 9:00 and crossed the border almost immediately. It has been many years since I drove through the farmland of Indiana. After so long, it was almost like driving through a dream. We bypassed Fort Wayne (our final destination) to drive north another hour and visit for a few minutes with Walter’s aunt, who has retired there in her hometown.

Here we were in Amish country, so the farms became even more picturesque. Huge barns brooding over snow-covered stubble fields; half-frozen ponds, an occasional horse and buggy on the road. It was like a snow-covered overdose of Americana.

After our visit with Walter’s aunt, we drive back down to Fort Wayne through slush. We saw several snow plows doing their job. We had to stop at a Wal-Mart to get Jasper some more presentable clothes to wear to tomorrow’s wedding. He objected, but was overruled.

We checked into our hotel and settled in to wait for the arrival of Mary and Flynn. I’m hoping we can explore a little tomorrow morning. My parents lived in Fort Wayne for many years, and I lived here for one year between my freshman and sophomore years of college. I had thought I did not want to go back to college, but one year of working at a job I loathed gave me huge motivation to go back to school and get my degree.

Now my brother lives here. The daughter who is getting married tomorrow has already moved to Wisconsin, but the other daughter still lives here. I am excited about getting to see so many nieces and nephews. Our spread-out family very rarely gathers like this.

So anyway, Mary and Flynn both arrived and we had a nice little family get-together in the hotel this evening. Tomorrow there will be lots more family.

On the Road

I did not expect to be posting for the next several days, because I did not expect to bring my computer on this trip, but it ended up being necessary so I can keep up with various arrangements via options I don’t have on my phone.

So, this morning we set off at about 7:30. I only had about three hours of sleep last night, so Lina took the first driving shift. It was a long day on the road, because I want to have a short driving day tomorrow.

We are currently in Illinois resting up for the last leg of our trip tomorrow. I haven’t been in Illinois for a long time–I’m thinking maybe 1990. Tomorrow we’ll be in Indiana where my niece Nicole will be getting married on Saturday. Looking forward to seeing family!