Two Days In South Dakota

In the time I have, the best I can do is a quick recap of the last two days. Yesterday we:

  • Visited a real ghost town and had fun walking around and taking photos.
  • Visited and explored Custer State Park. Saw exactly zero bison even after driving the route where you are “guaranteed” to see them.
  • Had a delicious lunch of German food in a nearby town
  • Went back to the park to drive the Needles Eye route
  • Stopped to visit Sylvan Lake and Mercy and Walter hiked around it.
  • Saw the Crazy Horse memorial from the road
  • Visited Mount Rushmore
  • Ate fabulous Indian food in Rapid City
  • Took Mercy shopping at Walmart
  • Arrived back at the ranch exhausted after 14 hours on the go, and after an incredible moonlit drive through the countryside.

Today was more laid back. Mercy had to work today, so Walter and I were on our own this morning. We drove to the Badlands National Park and spent some time learning about it in the visitor center before heading out to drive through the park. It was so stunning. So much rock. So much color. So much light. And today, so much heat. It was 105 degrees out there today! I was glad we could see and photograph most of it from the car, although we did get out to walk several times. We saw hundreds of prairie dogs. They are smaller than I imagined them. Despite seeing warning signs for bison in several places, we saw exactly zero bison. Everyone was surprised. Apparently they’re all over the place for everyone but us!

We were late getting back to the ranch for lunch, and then Mercy took us to the dam to show us where they go canoeing before driving us to the town of Wall to visit the famous drug store there. A tiny part of it is still a drugstore, though it doesn’t have much selection. It’s now a huge indoor tourist mall that takes up most of a city block. They average 20,000 visitors a day in the summer, and I think they were all there by the time we arrived!

There were a dizzying array of shops, from western clothing to tourist souvenirs, all kinds of food, rocks, jewelry, toys, camping gear, etc. There was even a lovely little chapel where weary travelers can stop to pray. Mercy insisted on buying a couple of the famous donuts and we tried the famous ice cream (good, but to Texan palates not as good as Blue Bell!). The famous free ice water was available in abundance and was very, very cold. Perfect for such a hot day. We saw the T-rex and heard him roar.

We also saw something else—a bison at last! True, he was dead and stuffed, but that just made it easier for us to pose for a photo with him.

I did not leave the store empty-handed. I found some things I needed and a few things I wanted too. It was a relief to get out of the crowded store and climb in the car for the long hot drive back to the ranch.

Mercy and her co-worker made us a fabulous supper and then Mercy and Walter went horseback riding at the invitation of a neighboring rancher. I wish I could have joined them, but I did not bring suitable clothing and am not of an ideal size, to be honest. I’m trying not to feel sorry for myself. At least I got to see the sublimely beautiful full moon rise over the fringe of the badlands here on the ranch. Tomorrow: the first phase of the long drive home.

Yes, we have been taking photos. I won’t have the means to transfer them to my computer until I return home.




35 Years

Thirty-five years ago, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, my husband and I got married. The officiating minister was my father-in-law. A lot has happened since then, of course, including seven children! This trip that we are on at the moment was the idea and the gift of our children, as a celebration of our anniversary.

We left yesterday morning, perhaps a bit later than we wanted to, after seeing the kids off to church. It was a long day in the car, driving first to Dallas and then heading north through Oklahoma and Kansas. We stopped for the night in York, Nebraska, where a room had been reserved for us. By then we had driven past a mind-boggling number of corn fields and grain silos.

This morning, it was back on the road past innumerable cornfields, with occasional soybeans thrown in for variety. Then, at last, the landscape began to change from crops to pastureland set on large rolling hills. Until today, we had never heard of the Sand Hills of Nebraska. They are so beautiful and lonesome-looking, and as I found out when I looked them up, for the most part they are a pristine ecosystem as the land is not suitable for growing crops.

Shortly after lunch we crossed into South Dakota. The landscape changed again as we drove along, now including gullies with water at the bottom and both bare and grassy buttes. There were miles and miles with no sign of human habitation other than the power lines which ran beside the road. Towns were tiny and the population size ran from 91 to a couple thousand. It was an enchanting drive, but I sure would hate to break down in such an isolated place!

We reached the ranch shortly after 3:00 this afternoon and Mercy was keeping a lookout for us. It sure was good to see her again! The view here is spectacular and we are looking forward to doing some sightseeing with Mercy tomorrow. Tonight, we had dinner with the ranch owners and their family and their other two summer workers. It is so fun to be exploring new territory! Walter and I have never been to Nebraska or South Dakota before.


O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

35 years ago tomorrow, I was in church on a Saturday, walking with my dad down the aisle to the music of this hymn, which is still one of my favorites.

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

S. Trevor Francis

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

bride and groom

Perfectionism is a Cruel Mistress

I’ll admit this has been a tough week, and the last two days have been really hard, because I was driving myself to meet a self-imposed deadline, and things kept slowing me down.

Yesterday I sewed until time to meet my friend Robin for lunch. We had a good lunch and a good visit, but it went long enough that I had to cancel an errand I had planned to run, because I knew I really had to take a nap before driving to Waxahachie to pick up Lucy from ArtLife.

I had been told to pick her up at 7:00 as there would be no program this year. Secretly, I was relieved because that meant I would be home in time to get some sewing in before I went to bed. First I had to get there though. I was more than half an hour late due to a massive traffic jam caused by an accident on the interstate. I went two miles in half an hour!

Then, when I arrived, it turned out that there was a program after all, and Lucy’s part of it was already over! *sigh* I’m glad the kids got a chance to perform, but I’m sorry to say I couldn’t enjoy it because all I could think of was the sewing time I was losing. By the time we pulled out of the parking lot, it was after 10:00 and I was in tears. I knew that all hope of making myself a costume for the banquet was lost. I’d be lucky to finish the cloak by tonight, and it HAD to be finished before dark so I could photograph it!

We made it home at about 12:40 a.m. and I just stayed in my clothes and slept on the couch for a while before getting up at 5:00 to sew some more before going to Walmart. Then I had to go to Walmart again when the pharmacy opened to get insulin for our trip, and after that it was all about sewing. The design I dreamed up over the last two years was very labor intensive. I went through two large spools of thread.

I wanted to quit sewing, because I was hot and sweaty and exhausted, but of course I could not quit because that would be failure. In my head, I believed the deadline had to be 7:30 at the latest, because there had to be enough daylight left to take pictures. (Since we are leaving in the morning, the cloak had to be finished and the photos taken before we go.)

I sewed and sewed and sewed. This is not the most labor-intensive cloak I’ve made–that honor goes to the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcloak–but it was certainly a great deal of effort, and I have no plans to ever make another one! Believe it or not, I finished with 30 minutes to spare and I commandeered Jasper to model the cloak so I could get the pictures up. He loved it and now wants one!

This cloak features the following:

Zippered arm openings that can be opened or closed as needed

Two knife/pen pockets

2 D-rings that you can clip your keys to

A large map pocket

A veil that hangs out of the way when not in use, but can be brought up to cover the wearer’s face

18 loops that can be used to turn the cloak into a shelter of some sort

2 rod pockets so you can use a staff or sword hilt to hold up one end of the cloak

8 narrow pockets containing lightweight aluminum tent stakes

2 pockets which each contain 30 feet of military grade paracord

So why did I go to all this trouble? I donate a cloak to the raffle every year but I’ve never put so much effort into it before–and am unlikely to do so again! Sure, I hope it brings in a lot of scholarship money, but the real reason I did it was for the creative challenge. I had the idea two years ago and spent the intervening time puzzling out how to make each feature work and planning the design. I literally spent hundreds of hours thinking about this cloak. Now the process is complete. I dreamed up the design and then I made it work! That’s what I enjoy.

Tomorrow, we leave for South Dakota and spend the night in a state we’ve never been to before–Nebraska!

Some cloak photos, for those of you who don’t have access to the Facebook album.

DA 3

The cloak from the outside. A lot of the stitching shows on the outside, but it couldn’t be helped.

DA 15

Pocket contents–paracord, knife, tent stakes

DA 17

The whole cloak spread out, showing the inside and all the loops.


More Sewing

Well, I was going to wish you all a happy Bastille Day, but it hardly seems appropriate after the horrific events in France today.

I spent the day sewing and had to run a brief errand to get something I didn’t have enough of. The cloak is coming along nicely but I wish I didn’t have to lose so many hours driving tomorrow.  I really want to get it done so I can pack and get ready for our trip on Saturday!

Up to My Neck in Sewing

I promise I wrote an entry last night. Then my computer started acting up, so I tired of waiting and went to bed. This morning I had to do a hard restart and when I finally got my computer going again, my blog entry had disappeared. So I had two main things to say yesterday:

First, I found a new and very handy use for Google Documents. I have almost never used Google Docs before because it cannot handle large files such as my manuscripts, and that’s the primary thing I would have wanted it for. But for the last couple of days, my long-distance student and I used Google Docs to go through his essays, since we do not share the same word processing software.  I loved it. We could both see and edit the document at the same time. When I suggested a change to him, I could see him carry it out. And he could see if I made a change as well. It worked so well. I will definitely use this technique again in future tutoring situations.

Secondly, I did finally get serious about sewing yesterday. I had to buy a pattern, and in my quest I went to Hancock Fabrics for the very last time. They didn’t have what I wanted, and seeing the store made me profoundly depressed. I have been shopping there for 35 years! Fortunately, I did get what I needed at another store and for a good price.

Then I came home and began the grim and painful process of ironing my fabric. The first piece was only 2 yards long, so that wasn’t too bad. The second (main) piece was 6 yards long and 2  yards wide! Standing at the ironing board for that long is very hard on my back. I had to do it in stages.

After supper Janet helped me cut out the Desert Assassin Cloak. It is hard to handle that much fabric alone! I spent the rest of the evening working on the project I’m trying to finish before I have to switch all my thread over to khaki for the new cloak.

Jasper was at a birthday party all night, but he had to get up early this morning so he could come with me to finally get his bees! We met his benefactor on the north side of town and then he followed us home and helped Jasper get his hive set up again. It is a small hive so we are going to have to feed them sugar water until next spring if we want them to thrive. We REALLY want the bees to stay this time! It was so discouraging to lose our bees last fall.

Once we had our new ladies installed, Jasper went back to his party (across the street) and I got back to work on my sewing. I needed about 12 inches of cord in a specific color. I hadn’t tried to buy it because I was confident I would have some in my stash. (I have a very large stash of every possible type of embellishment.) I pulled out my cord and ribbon box and began looking. There was every color except the one I was looking for. There was even some in the right color but it was too thick for what I needed. I was incredulous that I did not have anything that would work. Almost at the bottom of the box, I found some black cording that was usable, but not ideal. Still, I kept on looking “just in case,” and there it was on the very bottom—right color, right thickness. I was so proud of myself.

My luck ran out this afternoon, though. I finished the project that’s been hanging over my head for weeks and was all ready to start sewing on the Desert Assassin Cloak. The first step was to change the thread color in my serger and sewing machine. I went to find my khaki serger thread, only to discover that there was none to find. It is so unheard of for me not to have the right color of thread that I had never even checked to make sure I did!

I really didn’t want to go out. I was heating water for tea. I asked myself if there was anything I could do on the cloak without having to go out and buy thread. I answered myself “no.” Out I went, leaving my kettle still on the fire, and got the thread I needed. Good thing I’m going to have some khaki fabric left over, because now I’ve got plenty of thread!

And yes, I did get back before the kettle boiled dry and I did get my tea.

I got my serger re-threaded with the khaki thread, sewed a couple of seams, and then my serger started acting up. I cleaned it thoroughly and oiled it, but the needle threads kept breaking. Grrr! I do not have time to get it fixed, and if I must do without it will take a lot longer to finish this project. The serger has become more and more crotchety of late, and I am forced to admit that after more than 15 years, it is no longer “new.” In fact, it may be nearing the end of its natural lifespan, which is disheartening since I don’t suppose I’ll be able to replace it anytime soon.

I spent the rest of the evening doing things that didn’t require the serger. I made a large map pocket and sewed it to the inside back of the cloak. I made a veil that will be attached later. And I marked off several lengths of cord for another feature of the cloak.

Tomorrow, I will have a very anxious morning. The exterminator is coming to spray the yard for fleas again, since last time it didn’t get them all. I thought we’d get that out of the way tomorrow and then get the bees on the weekend. Instead, we got the bees today. I am very, very worried that the spray will be harmful for the bees, and if we lose this hive I think both Jasper and I will be heartbroken. We’ve waited so long to get bees again.

Finally, Lucy called me this evening to let me know that there was a security concern at camp. It seems to only affect the boys (it involved a threatening letter), but the camp staff are taking it very seriously, as they must do, of course. Please pray that all the kids will stay safe and that camp won’t have to close early!

Lucy Leaves Again

Today was not the kind of day I had hoped for. I had hoped Lucy would be able to ride in a church van to her last week at Arts camp (this is her fifth year to go). However, the van did not have room for her, so that meant I had to drive to Waxahachie today.

First, though I had my online class and then I had to hurry to get ready to go as Lucy was very impatient. I do not enjoy long stretches of driving, but at least this year we got to go in style in an air-conditioned vehicle! The last stretch of the trip we were belting out songs along with Peter, Paul and Mary. This is a fun mother-daughter car activity. It was very sobering, though, to see all the flag we passed flying at half mast.

Lucy was very happy to make it to camp where she can hang out with “her people” for the rest of the week. I said goodbye and then set off on the long drive home, singing all by myself with Peter, Paul, and Mary. I will have to do this drive again on Friday when I go to pick her up.

I got home before supper time and then after supper Jasper and I went to Walmart to pick up a few things. My plans for tomorrow got postponed, so that means all sewing, all day for me tomorrow. Except when I’m teaching my last online class.






Face to Face

This morning I learned that one of my high school classmates had died yesterday. It was such a shock. I still think of us all as being rather young . . .

Face to Face

Carrie E. Breck

Face to face with Christ, my Savior,
Face to face—what will it be,
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ Who died for me?


Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by!

Only faintly now I see Him,
With the darkened veil between,
But a blessèd day is coming,
When His glory shall be seen.


What rejoicing in His presence,
When are banished grief and pain;
When the crooked ways are straightened,
And the dark things shall be plain.


Face to face—oh, blissful moment!
Face to face—to see and know;
Face to face with my Redeemer,
Jesus Christ Who loves me so.



What a Day!

Today had its challenges, but overall I have to say it was a good day. I was little worried when I got up because pain had woken me several times in the night and when I got up both middle fingers hurt so much I couldn’t move them at all. This happens periodically, always during the night, and I don’t know why.

I struggled through preparing to leave and by the time I got in the car at 7:30 this morning, I had some use of my fingers back, though I was still in a fair amount of pain. It was a beautiful drive to Tyler, and since I had scouted the location ahead of time, I had no trouble finding it.

My lovely assistant, Jennette, arrived shortly after I did and helped me carry my stuff into the building. I took some copies of my memoirs on the off-chance that someone might buy one, but I didn’t expect to sell any.

Jennette and I staked out a table and discovered that we both had the exact same type of water bottle—the best water bottle on the market, in my opinion. Clearly, the woman has excellent taste!

The writers’ guild that was hosting the workshop is so well organized. I had a lady who was assigned to help me with any of my needs during the day. They had a great breakfast buffet set up, which I avoided because of the carbs and gluten, but it looked fabulous! I had a table to display my books also.

Once I got set up I could finally enjoy a piping hot cup of tea from my thermos while waiting for the workshop to begin. I had thought that I might know a few people in this group, but for quite a while Jennette was the only other one there that I knew. Then two other writer acquaintances arrived and joined us at our table, Kassy and another Linda. There was yet another Linda there too! We were all born within a few years of each other when Linda was a very popular name. The final addition to our table was a lady named Brenda who was a lot of fun to talk to throughout the day. In all, there were about 60 people in attendance.

Right after the first class started, a guild member came up and told me I had an appointment. To say I was flabbergasted would be an understatement. It never occurred to me that anyone would want to sign up for a one-on-one appointment with me. I slipped out to the meeting room and met with a gentleman who is writing a sci-fi novel and wanted some general advice. I felt very underqualified to help him, but I did my best.

When we broke for lunch after the first two classes, I was feeling very overwhelmed and outclassed. The first two presenters were so much more experienced and qualified than me. I felt like an imposter. But what could I do? It was way too late to chicken out. I went to the restroom multiple times, because this is what I do when I am nervous. If there was a prize for the most number of trips to the restroom today, I would have won it hands down!

Then I got up and gave my workshop. I was afraid I’d have a hard time staying within the time limit, so instead I galloped through so fast I got done early! I doubted there would be many speculative fiction writers in the group but there were at least a handful. I thought they would get a kick out of my bookmarks but only one person said so, and only ten people signed up to get the extra materials I worked so hard on. Still, I was happy that anyone wanted more information from me! And believe it or not, but I actually sold two books! I also had a second one-on-one appointment with my tablemate Brenda.

During the fourth and final class of the day I experienced a massive headache accompanied by severe nausea. I kind of wonder if it was my body’s way of reacting to the stress of speaking or to the cessation of the stress when I was done! Either way, I had forgotten to bring ibuprofen and was so grateful Jennette had some. At that point I knew I would not even be able to drive home unless I felt better.

I was still in pretty bad shape during the final session, which was a panel with all four of us presenters. Normally I might have been a little dismayed that only one person wanted to ask me something specifically, but under the circumstances I was grateful as that left me more time to focus on not throwing up.

After the panel they presented us all with framed certificates of appreciation. I enjoyed this group so much. They were such gracious and thoughtful hosts.

Jennette helped me take everything back out to the car and then I drove to a nearby park and rested in the car for a little while. I was supposed to meet my friend Sybil for supper, but I didn’t want to call her until I felt well enough to eat! By the time I got to Sybil’s house I felt so much better, and the two of us went to a Greek restaurant for supper. What a tasty end to my day in Tyler. I love Greek food so much, and I love hanging out with Sybil, so it was a very enjoyable experience.

When I dropped Sybil off, it was still light so I had a great drive home and arrived just about twelve hours after I left this morning! It was good to rest and put my feet up.

Parting Shot:

7-9-16 certificate


A Better Day

Today was less depressing than yesterday, which of course was a relief. Lucy found out that she is going to be able to go to Arts camp after all, so she is very happy.

I got Jasper started on his new math book this morning, and also on hearing the lesson on the computer instead of from me. I hope this will enable him to carry on and get his math done even if I am called away to do something else.

Having put it off all week, I finally went to Aldi today to do some grocery shopping. Nothing weird happened. I came home and drank a quart of water because it was really hot outside.

I have been obsessively checking my email all day in hopes of receiving an answer to an email I sent this morning. I was thinking about the fact that I’ll be going to Philadelphia, and I remembered that I have an old friend who lives in Philadelphia. Furthermore, I was able to get her contact information from a mutual friend and then I emailed her and asked about the possibility of getting together. I would really love to see her again. I guess I will continue to haunt my inbox until I hear something.

Meanwhile, I also taught my Skype class today and got some sewing and knitting done. One more day before the writers’ workshop where I’ll be teaching a class!