An Unplanned Adventure

Friday is my grocery shopping day. So after working on my menus and shopping list, I got into my car to head to Aldi late this morning. Lucy and Tanner had borrowed the car yesterday, and I saw the gas tank was almost empty. Accordingly, I headed to a nearby grocery store with a gas station and filled the tank.

However, once I had done so, I couldn’t get the car to start. Now to be honest, the car has been starting kind of “rough” ever since our Tennessee-Georgia trip—but it HAS been starting. Until today in a grocery store parking lot in the blazing sun.

I texted my husband at work and he said he wouldn’t be able to get away immediately. So Lucy and Tanner drove the van over to the grocery store and the plan was to get them to help me push the car into a parking spot. Except that we couldn’t, because I couldn’t even shift the car into neutral.

I consulted my husband again, and as I’m sure you can imagine, he was thrilled. Lucy and Tanner had to drive the van back home, so my husband could ride there on his bicycle. Then all three of them came back to the grocery store. Walter had to call his mechanic friend to get instructions on how to bypass that normal gear-changing setup so he could get the car in neutral, and after that we were able to get it pushed into a regular parking spot.

What we could NOT do was get it started, even with jumper cables. Walter removed the battery and we dropped it off with his mechanic friend before even going home. And all this fun happened while he was in the middle of a major crisis at work.

After he left for his second job, I took a neighbor up on her offer to lend me her car and went to Walmart to pick up at least a few groceries, because I didn’t know when I’d have my own wheels again. Later, after supper, Walter took Lucy and Tanner with him to retrieve the car (he had to tow it behind the van).

So, the car is now back in the driveway. There were two options for what the problem is—the alternator or the battery. It’s not the alternator. I guess we’re getting a new battery. 2020 strikes again!

Making Headway

Today I worked quite hard on writing chores, and also on starting to sort through some of my homeschooling resources that I can now get rid of. It would be so great to free up some space in some of my bookcases. To make room for more books . . .

Lucy and Tanner ran some errands today as they begin gearing up for school to begin. And my husband’s job just keeps getting more and more stressful. I hpe it gets better once school actually starts.

And Jasper finally felt well enough to haul his “new” anvil out to his forge area, in hopes of being able to do some blacksmithing this weekend.

 

Wishful Thinking

Recently I watched part of a documentary about the life of P.L. Travers, and one of the things that came out was that she lied about her life all the time, starting in childhood. Instantly, my mind leapt back to a very strange time in my own life, and to my friend Karen.

A long time ago in a state far away, my family was on “furlough” from our life in Africa. One year stretched into two, for reasons which are unimportant to this story. For the second of those years, at the age of twelve, I attended a private Christian school run by our church, and both of my parents also taught there. My dad was my homeroom and science teacher and my mom was my English teacher, a situation I do not recommend.

If I had felt excluded the previous year at a local elementary school, I felt much more so here in seventh grade. Most of the kids were from families that attended the church, and almost all were white and upper middle class. They had nowhere in their compartmentalized lives to place a girl who had come from Africa and who didn’t even know any of the popular songs they all listened to on the radio. Not to mention that I couldn’t afford to participate in virtually anything they did for entertainment.

It was a lonely, lonely time. Eventually, I was befriended by two girls in my class, both of whom were to some degree outcasts themselves. One was named Terry, and she deserves an essay of her own someday. The other girl was Karen. (That is not her real name—I chose it because it was a very popular name at the time.)

Karen latched on to me and became my constant companion at school. Despite being a little chubby, she seemed very glamorous to me because she wore makeup. In seventh grade! Unlike my shabby hand-me-downs, she wore fashionable clothes and shoes and was always quick to point out the trendy brand names—not realizing I was too clueless to be impressed.

As we became better acquainted, she began telling me about her home life. She lived in a huge house with a huge yard. She had a super-expensive imported English bicycle to ride when she wanted. She had been allowed to furnish and decorate her own bedroom with anything she wanted and furthermore, she got her own private Christmas tree every year for which she could pick out all new lights and ornaments. (That one blew my little MK mind.) She could have snacks whenever she wanted from the gigantic barrel of snacks in the kitchen. (I was sure this one was exaggerated. I pictured a largish cookie jar.)

Eventually, her birthday loomed on the horizon and I received an invitation to the party. I had already been hearing about it for weeks. We were going to go roller skating, then to a fancy restaurant for lunch, and then to a movie. I was very excited because I was finally going to see her family’s mansion!

On the appointed day, my mother drove me over there. It turned out to be a rather ramshackle house that Karen, her single mom and her younger siblings shared with her grandparents. Although the yard was indeed spacious, everything was dingy and rundown—not at all what I expected. If any grass grew there, it was by accident. Karen led me to the magical bedroom which was . . . very ordinary and well worn. Here and there I saw little elements which had been wildly exaggerated in Karen’s descriptions.

I asked about the fancy imported bicycle. It was “locked in the shed” and she wasn’t allowed to get it out because they were afraid it would be stolen. The one thing that was absolutely true was the gigantic barrel of snacks in the kitchen—a waist-high receptacle overflowing with junk food. That utterly stunned me. Food was tightly controlled at our house because there just wasn’t much of a food budget.

Eventually a couple of other girls arrived and Karen’s mom drove us to the skating rink. She left us in the car while she went in to “check on our reservation.” After several minutes she returned, saying the skating rink was inexplicably “closed” that morning. The same thing happened at the restaurant. Karen was furious, and her mom produced a pretty good imitation of anger too. (My guess is her true emotion was shame.) In an effort to appease Karen, her mother bought us some cheap burgers at McDonalds and we went back to the house to watch something on TV, because of course the movie theater was “closed” too. It was an incredibly depressing day, despite the fast food (a rare treat for me) and the birthday cake.

When I reported on the days’ events to my mother, she gently explained to me that Karen’s family were a charity case at the school. The kids were permitted to attend in exchange for some office work that their mother did. The family was on welfare—a concept I’d been sheltered from before then, despite our own ongoing poverty.

Karen and I remained friends, but I saw her through very different eyes now. Her constant bragging about her nonexistent luxuries and privileges made me sad. I never contradicted her, though she MUST have known that I knew she was making it up. Somehow, it was very important for her to keep up the pretense, and I saw no reason to take that away from her.

I have no idea what happened to Karen. After I returned to Africa at the end of that school year, I never heard from her again. I hope she found happiness—and contentment.

 

A Return

Yesterday I spent the morning doing more sorting and putting stuff away, and in the afternoon I got in the car and drove to Dallas. I looked forward to it. It’s funny to me that I’ve become so accustomed to long drives now. Ten years ago I couldn’t even drive two hours without getting too sleepy to keep driving. Now I can drive all day and usually enjoy it. Even if, as was the case yesterday, I am struggling to adjust to a new phone.

My first stop was my favorite Ethiopian restaurant, where I parked and ordered carryout from my car. When I walked in to pick up my order a few minutes later, I was very dismayed to find the restaurant completely devoid of customers. I want that place to survive! The chef/owner is so sweet. She offered to carry my bags out to the car for me but I declined as I have not quite reached that stage of decrepitude.

From there I continued north to Mercy and Daniel’s apartment, with my car smelling absolutely heavenly. The three of us enjoyed the fabulous food while visiting for a couple of hours. Their little dining room has been turned into Mercy’s “work at home” station. Tomorrow she begins working in person again two days a week. I’m sure the variety will be welcome.

Then it was time to continue on to my ultimate destination—the airport. I had two more carryout boxes of Ethiopian food I had thought to put in a cooler and bring home—but alas, they would not fit in the cooler I’d brought. Which was just as well, because when I picked up Lucy and Tanner they were both ravenous and very grateful to have Ethiopian food waiting for them in the car!

It was a beautiful drive home, going toward the rising full moon, which was huge and went from copper to brass to silver as I drove. I know I’ve mentioned this before (probably several times) but I just love it when my trips home from Dallas coincide with a full moon rising. I never tire of that lovely sight.

 

We finally pulled into the driveway after midnight, and of course the dirty dishes were here waiting for me! So I took care of that before heading to bed.

Today got off to a slow start for everyone except my hardworking husband. I was up and about before everyone else, but that was to be expected. Lucy and Tanner got up at 3:00 a.m. yesterday and are also dealing with a three-hour time difference.

The amazing thing about today was that it was more like October than August. Overcast and rainy, the day remained cool and temperatures never climbed out of the low 80s. It was so wonderful.

This afternoon I did venture out to run some errands and it was almost enjoyable with the weather so cool. Lucy and Tanner mostly spent the day recovering but I think might be ready to do some things tomorrow.

And guess who turned six months old today? The cutest little granddaughter in the world, that’s who!

 

 

The Disappointing Garden

Yesterday (Sunday) we all stayed home because of Jasper’s cold. I watched an online service and we got quite a bit of housework done. I made a big dinner, only to have Spencer and Jade cancel. And Sammy was too busy with school. So there are lots of leftovers!

We had a video chat with Flynn and Tiffany and Paisley, and Paisley was very active! Lina arrived there yesterday evening and has now met her niece.

Since Jasper was sick and couldn’t go to his usual Sunday night activity, the three of us watched a movie together and I got some knitting done.

So I believe I mentioned that I might give a progress report on my garden. Here it is, in winner/loser format.

Winner: Mint. I have 4 kinds of mint planted in one large container and they’re doing very well and have provided me with many cups of tea.

1 mint

Loser: Tomatoes. I have 4 tomato plants which I have pampered, watered and fertilized faithfully. One of them has given me maybe 7 tomatoes. The rest, nothing. Yet I hear my neighbors have more tomatoes than they know what to do with!

2 tomatoes

Winner: Nasturtiums. I planted nasturtiums in the spring and they have bloomed and bloomed. Flowers and leaves give a nice bite to salads.

3 nasturtium

Winner: Pole Beans. Here you see my “bean harp” which has been pretty well covered with beans. They haven’t been super productive, but enough for us to enjoy some beans from time to time.

4 bean harp

Winner: Impatiens, especially the two on the north end of the main garden bed. So pretty.

5 impatiens

WINNER WINNER WINNER: Okra. This is my okra forest, now over 6 feet tall. Some of the leaves are nearly two feet across!

6 okra,

And here is a closeup of some developing pods.

6b okra closeup

I only have 8 plants but they produce enough for us to have okra with supper twice a week. Next year I will plant more! I want enough to pickle.

Losers: Bell peppers, parsley, squash. Actually, the parsley is okay. It just hasn’t really taken off like it has for me in the past. The pepper plants have flowered but never produced any peppers. The yellow squash and zucchini have FAILED in every possible way. Who fails at growing summer squash? Me, apparently.

7 peppers, parsley, squash

Winner: Cucumbers. I just don’t have any right now. My two cucumber plants produced like crazy right up until they succumbed to powdery mildew. I’ve got two replacement plants growing but they’re still quite small.

Winner: Asparagus. At least I hope it’s a winner. We’ll find out next spring. Meanwhile, it’s looked very healthy all summer.

8 asparagus

Winner: Lemon thyme, Greek oregano, chives. Almost completely care free.

9 thyme, oregano, chives

Winner: New Zealand spinach. It took a LONG time to establish itself, but is finally doing well and providing greens to add to salads or stir fries. Considering what a chore it was to get it going, I’ll probably see if Jasper can build a cold frame for it so I can keep it through the winter (it’s a perennial).

10 New Zealand spinach

Having taken all those photos yesterday, today I ripped up my useless squash plants so I can focus on building up the soil in that spot for a few weeks before I plant fall seeds there.  Still holding out hope for another few tomatoes . . .

Here’s a shot from the front steps showing most of the garden:

11 garden

Parting Shot:

12 lizard

Look who I found hanging out on an okra leaf.

The Mighty Power

I Sing the Mighty Power of God

Isaac Watts

I sing the mighty power of God,
That made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad,
And built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained
The sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at His command,
And all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord,
That filled the earth with food:
Who formed the creatures with His Word,
And then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed,
Where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread,
Or gaze upon the sky!

There’s not a plant or flower below,
But makes Thy glories known;
And clouds arise, and tempests blow,
By order from Thy throne;
Creatures—as numerous as they be—
Are subject to Thy care;
There’s not a place where we can flee,
But God is present there.

In Heaven He shines with beams of love,
With wrath in hell beneath:
’Tis on His earth I stand or move,
And ’tis His air I breathe.
His hand is my perpetual guard,
He keeps me with His eye:
Why should I then forget the Lord,
Who is forever nigh?

 

Precursors of Autumn

The light is already changing. I can see it in the early mornings and in the afternoons. It means that regardless of whatever else might happen, autumn will eventually arrive! (Not for a long time yet here in Texas.)

Today one of my primary goals was to plan my fall garden. Maybe next week I’ll give you a full report on the garden in its current state, but let’s just say it’s been a bit of a disappointment in spite of all the effort I’ve put into it. Yet I want to plant a bunch of stuff in the fall because so many great veggies won’t grow in the summer heat here.

So I spent some time going over my charts and planting tables and figuring out what I’m going to grow and where. Then, when I went out to water and care for my garden, I planted my first fall seeds—cauliflower. I had planned to start them indoors, but apparently they often don’t transplant well, so I planted them directly into a vacant spot in my garden. Now to wait and see if they germinate. I am still waiting for some more seeds, many of which will be started indoors and kept here until temperatures cool a little. Although I have plenty of experience with gardening, I’ve never attempted a fall garden before, so we’ll see how it goes.

I also did some sorting and putting away of things that have been lying about for an embarrassingly long time. And I made a big ol’ sponge cake (using a dozen eggs!) that will be the basis of tomorrow’s dessert for the family. I feel like they could use a little bit of a special dessert this weekend as it’s been a rough week.

Mercy drove home from Colorado today and arrived safely. Early tomorrow morning, Lina will be leaving to go to Colorado herself, so she can meet little Paisley before school starts.

My hardworking husband had to work all day today out in the heat. He does not have enough employees to do everything that needs to be done on campus before the students arrive, so he spent five hours mowing grass this morning before going to his regular landscape job that we thought would be over by now (the house didn’t sell after all).

And Jasper has come down with a cold, which means that in today’s paranoid climate, none of us will be going to church tomorrow . . .

 

 

Wet

Well, here we are at the end of another month, with no indication that August will be any better than the months which preceded it. Yet there is still so much to be grateful for, and I remind myself of that every day.

Today my grocery-shopping trip to Aldi took place in the rain. Lots of rain. Every drop of rain in the summer here feels like a gift. Not to mention the fact that nature waters my garden for me!

The rain finally slacked off and my friend Robin came over for tea. It’s been a while since she was able to come two weeks in a row, so that was quite a treat.

I’ve been very slowly sorting and putting away some of my mom’s things that I brought back from Tennessee. It’s quite time consuming to incorporate her sewing notions into my own rather formidable stash. And of course, some things I will pass on to my daughters.

I made pizza for the men tonight. I still have to make two different pizzas, because we are trying a dairy-free diet for Jasper which means using the “fake” cheese on his pizza. He appreciates the effort, though, because otherwise he wouldn’t get pizza at all.

 

A Solitary Supper

This morning I took off for a town about halfway between here and the town where Lina lives. We met at a park. She is trying to maintain strict social distancing to meet the requirements for being allowed to meet her niece—and I had some things I wanted to send to Colorado with her.

So we met outdoors at a park and social distanced in a pavilion in the shade, with a lovely breeze blowing. Do you understand what’s weird about this? It is late July, in Texas, and we were comfortable sitting outdoors for two hours. Normally I’d rather do almost anything than be outdoors during the day at this time of year. But we’ve had such a strange mild summer. No triple digit temperatures yet, and a surprising amount of rain for July, which is usually brutally hot and dry. So it was actually quite pleasant to sit outdoors.

This afternoon I drove up to the Verizon place, grimly determined to wait for hours to get help with my new phone. However, it would not only be a long wait, but one of the ladies who came out of the store complained that they couldn’t help her because they refused to touch her phone. Well, I’m pretty sure I would need them to touch my phone in order to help set it up, so I got out of there. I will try a phone consultation next.

Late this afternoon our internet went out, and several of our neighbors also lost internet. So who did the cable company send to fix it? Spencer! Of course he did a great job and obviously we are back in business.

Today was the day for our monthly moms’ dinner. I had several people who said they couldn’t make it, but I thought at least one other lady would be there, so I drove up to the Greek restaurant, ordered my meal, and waited. And waited. There were three of us in the building: the chef, the waitress, and me. My salad came and I ate it sitting alone in the dining room. I’m not a big fan of eating alone in restaurants, although I’ve had to do it from time to time. And considering I was the only customer, I didn’t want to cancel my order and leave after they already started making it! And besides, I really want that place to stay open. I hope they had a big lunch crowd.

The thing is, if I had known no one was coming, I could have stayed home and done other things. *sigh* It was a good salad, though . . .

 

Wile E. Coyote Would Be Proud

Yesterday afternoon, one of my homeschool mom acquaintances alerted me to the fact that there was an anvil for sale at an estate sale that began this morning. Jasper, as you know, has been saving and looking for an anvil for at least the last two years. We have scoured scrap metal places and antique stores, because new anvils are well out of his reach financially. Everywhere we go, we hear the same thing: “We do get anvils in sometimes, but they always sell within hours of being put up for sale.”

So I showed Jasper the photo of this anvil, and we decided to go for it. I got through my sauna and shower earlier than usual this morning, and then we set off for the north side of town. Jasper thought we were leaving too early. I told him that even though we’d get there half an hour before the sale started, there’d be a line—and there was. I do not understand this culture—the people who make a hobby of going to estate sales and who all know each other. Many of the people in line before us knew each other from who knows how many previous estate sales.

Anyway, we waited patiently in line with our masks on until the appointed time. I knew we’d have to find the anvil ASAP if we were to have any hope of getting it—and we still had no idea what the asking price was. As we walked in, we heard the guy running the sale tell the price to someone else who was interested in the anvil. I had brought some extra money to chip in in case Jasper didn’t have quite enough—and he didn’t. But with what I had brought I thought we could do it.

We found the anvil very quickly in the garage, and Jasper was able to lift it and carry it to the front room where the sales table was. It is heavy! Then we learned, somewhat to our dismay, that the price did not include sales tax. Once that had been added, it pretty much cleaned us both out—but the anvil was ours. I think we were the first people to buy anything at that sale. It was literally like a minute after the doors opened.

Jasper got his exercise carrying his “new” anvil out to the car, and we drove home in triumph, both of us more than ready for a cup of tea when we arrived. Whew! It has been a long, long wait. SO glad we can stop looking for anvils now! We weighed the anvil when we got home and it is 101 pounds. So, not as heavy as some, but heavy enough for him to use for a while. He knew he needed one that was at least 100 pounds.

Later on today my new phone arrived. So far I hate it. I couldn’t activate it online because it wasn’t listed as an option. And it has a different kind of charging cable and is too big. I guess I will have to physically go to the store and get help with it. I wish the old one would just magically start working properly again!

Parting Shot:

7-29-2020 Jasper with anvil

A man and his anvil. I’m not sure what caused that dark shadow, but Jasper was not willing to lift the anvil again for another try!