Just Kidding

There is no blog tonight, and there may not be one tomorrow either. You will definitely hear something from me on Thursday. Until then, I am very busy.

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Picking

Well, yesterday was kind of a nail-biter. I got up at 5:30 to say goodbye to Spencer, only he wasn’t up yet so I dozed on the couch till he actually got up at 6:30. I did what I could to help him get ready and Kat came over to say goodbye too. He ended up leaving at 7:25, having had only three hours of sleep but pretty jazzed about his first road trip and about getting to see his sister Mary in Nashville.

I got a couple of texts from him informing me of his progress. Then, after he hit Little Rock, there was a long silence. I finally called him at about 2:00 in the afternoon, to find out that he had been stuck in traffic for 3 hours and his car had overheated 3 times.

From there, things went from bad to worse. After being stranded on the side of the highway, he eventually limped in to Jackson, Tennessee, where he parked at an auto repair shop and waited for Mary and Jordan to drive the 150 miles to fetch him. It was a pretty disheartening day.

This morning, Lucy and Jasper and I were up and going earlier than usual because I had finally been cornered into agreeing to go blueberry picking. My Bible study was cancelled for today, so there was no getting around it.

Please note that I love blueberries very much. However, for someone with a bad back and knees, serious sun exposure issues, and health conditions that are exacerbated by perspiration, the actual picking of blueberries doesn’t have a lot of appeal. Until today, I have always managed to let my kids tag along with someone else who is picking blueberries.

The first challenge was finding the place. I thought I knew where it was (an hour’s drive away), and I was kind of right, but it was on the other side of the road and I zoomed right past it the first time. Despite our efforts to get there early, we didn’t arrive until 8:45. Another family that was leaving saw us drive up and told us we were late because the place was closing at 9:00. Yikes!

Lucy didn’t even want to try if we only had 15 minutes, but I handed her a bucket and told her to start picking! The rows of bushes were pretty overgrown but there were still quite a few ripe berries. They were not in clusters though, which meant that we were picking one berry at a time, as we listened to country music booming out over the field. At 9:00, Lucy rejoined me, dumped her berries into my bucket, and announced that she was done.

While she went to sit in the car, I took the berries to be weighed, since my understanding was that the place was closing momentarily. The owner weighed my rather small berry stash and then asked, “Don’t you want to keep picking for a while?”

That was kind of a hard question to answer. I wanted more berries, but I didn’t really want to keep picking. However, neither did I want to pay triple the price by getting a lot of pre-picked ones. Jasper, it turned out, was very eager to keep picking so the two of us set off together and picked for another 40 minutes.

The bushes were very tall, so I picked the “high” berries and Jasper picked the “low” berries. It was normal East Texas summer weather–hot, muggy, and miserable. I was drenched in perspiration and increasingly scratched all up and down my arms from reaching through the branches to get as many berries as I could. On one occasion, as I was trying to wipe my streaming brow with my scratched-up hand, Jasper looked up at me and said, “Isn’t this FUN?”

Part of me wanted to snap back at him. He had half as many berries as I did, so clearly he wasn’t as focused on the task as I was. But, unlike me, he was having fun. He wasn’t in a hurry. He was just enjoying being outdoors and finding one ripe berry after another to put in his basket.

I can’t imagine what my life would be like without my seventh child. God knew I needed him. Having had several kids who take after their pessimistic dad, I got a kid who is a born optimist, like I was before various life experiences dimmed some of that positivity. He thinks the best of everyone and everything. He finds fun in mundane tasks and sees beauty everywhere he looks. He is eager to please and almost always willing to help.

Maybe, if he was as focused as me, we would have more berries–but I bet he wouldn’t have had “fun.” I’d rather he have fun. Because it is so late in the season, our berry haul was not very impressive. We did end up buying some “already picked” berries to supplement what we had picked. We have enough berries in the freezer now to make at least a few special treats in the weeks to come.

When we got home, I called Mary so we could discuss the situation with Spencer’s car. It is being fixed, but it’s a very expensive repair (the water pump needs to be replaced), and Spencer of course does not have that kind of money, so various family members are loaning and giving him money to make up the difference. He is at least enjoying his visit with Mary and Jordan, but on Wednesday they will have to drive all the way back to Jackson to get Spencer’s car.

I finally got my serger set up again this evening, and thought I’ve only done a few sample seams, it seems to be fully functional again and running more smoothly than it has in years. I’m so glad to have it back!

Take My Life, and Let it Be

Take My Life, and Let it Be

Frances R. Havergal

Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

Lost in the Woods

Did I feel like getting up and going to Walmart early this morning? No. But of course, I went anyway. Jasper, for once, didn’t feel like going either. Some nights he doesn’t get much sleep because Spencer is a very loud snorer.

Instead of hanging around at the house doing housework, I took off to run some errands. Even after almost a year of having a second vehicle, I still think all the time that I can’t go anywhere on Saturdays. It actually takes mental effort to remind myself that I really can go. Most of my errands were related in some way to the bridal tea I’ll be catering on Thursday. It’s going to be a busy few days.

This afternoon I had a big project in the kitchen, which I can’t really talk about at this point. It was tiring but successful.

I kept waiting all day for Lucy to return home, but then she texted me and said there were no plans to return her today or even tomorrow. I was ready for her to come home, so I offered to go get her, despite the horror stories I’d heard about trying to find her friend’s house in a rural area over 20 miles away.

Just as I was pulling out of the driveway, the young man who has been working on my serger pulled up. I was very happy to see my serger again as I have a huge list of sewing I want and need to do. I’ll be putting it through its paces tomorrow I hope!

So anyway, off I went with my Google directions and Delilah (my GPS) for backup. For once, I can’t blame Google for what happened. The directions were correct. The problem was that two of the roads which I was supposed to turn onto were not labeled in any way. So I went sailing past my first turnoff and drove through increasingly rural and overgrown terrain until I found myself on a dirt road. I was pretty sure I’d gone too far.

I backtracked, stopping to read each road sign. I fired up Delilah and entered the address, only to have her be absolutely stumped. As far as she knew, the road I wanted did not exist. There was no road with the number I was looking for, so I made an educated guess and it turned out to be the right one. There was a sign saying the next road I needed to turn on was somewhere up ahead, but the road itself was not labeled at all, so once again I turned and hoped for the best.

Then came the fun of finding the house. Yep. You guessed it. The house is not identified by a house number or any other device by which one might correctly pick it out from all the other houses on that rural road. Once again I overshot it and had to backtrack. There was an unmarked driveway in the general area where the house should be, so I called Lucy and asked her for some landmarks. I hated to trespass on someone’s property, especially if the someone had a gun.

I turned into the driveway and saw a boat. “Is there a boat in the driveway?” I asked Lucy. “Not that I know of,” she said. Great. Up ahead I saw a camper. “Is there a camper?” “Yes.” About that time she saw the car coming and I heaved a big sigh of relief! I have known her friend’s mom for fifteen years, but this was my first time to experience the fun of finding her house.

We had a late supper after arriving safely home, and then it was time for Mercy and I to embark on our samosa-making project. She is going to a lunch tomorrow and she promised to make samosas to take. The problem is that one of the others going is gluten-free, so at least some of the samosas had to be gluten free. So, I researched recipes and then talked Mercy through making the filling. I think we actually got it spicy enough!

Then I made the GF dough (and I also made it dairy free) and she made the “normal” dough. I fried the GF samosas first so that the oil wouldn’t be contaminated by gluten. Naturally, I made enough so that I can enjoy some GF samosas too!

Meanwhile, I need to get some sleep so I can get up early in the morning and see Spencer off on his big adventure.

Thank You, Swedish Soldiers

This morning, Jasper was very excited about breakfast, because I had told him he could make his breakfast in the Swedish army mess kit (which, by the way, is a genius design). So, we put fuel in the stove (denatured alcohol) and then set up the stand. Jasper lit the stove, then put water in the pot and set it on to boil for tea. Then, I had him grease the frying pan (which doubles as a lid) and break his eggs into it. After he seasoned them, we covered the pan with foil and set it on top of the pot with the water in it.

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This is a variation of my old boarding school trick of boiling eggs in my tea water, because the only “cooking” appliance we could have was an electric tea kettle.

Before long, the water was boiling and the eggs were cooked.

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I had baked some hash browns in the oven, so Jasper had a very satisfying breakfast of hot chai with eggs and hash browns. He can’t wait to do it again. I bet the Swedish army had no idea they would eventually provide so much enjoyment to a family of kids in Texas! I got those (used) mess kits for $5 each back in the day, and they have been well worth it. They are considerably more expensive and hard to find now.

I also got some housework done today and Jasper finished 4 math lessons before 11:00 a.m.! I am so proud of him. He is working hard to catch up.

Lucy went to a friend’s house kind of on the spur of the moment last night and will hopefully return home tomorrow. Spencer is getting ready for his first solo road trip and working two jobs. That left only four of us here to enjoy Mercy’s Japanese curry for dinner tonight!

Quote of the Day:
Me to Jasper: “Are you done with your math?”
Jasper: “Not yet! Mostly because I’ve been singing to myself.”

A Reluctant Admission

A year ago, I made a promise to myself that in a year I would tell you all of a radical decision I had made. Now the year is up, I have found no reason to change my decision, so therefore I must tell you the shocking truth. I stopped using deodorant a year ago. No one has noticed, and no one (not even my kids) have complained about my odor even on the hottest days.

I know what you’re thinking. Why on earth would I turn my back on a product that is considered essential for human hygiene? Well, I’m about to tell you. Stop reading now if you are not interested! I have worried for most of my adult life that deodorant (or more specifically, anti-perspirant) might not be the best thing for me, personally. For years, I fought infected pores and then when I researched the problem, I became alarmed about the ingredients in most anti-perspirants. That led to a period of a couple of years during which I tried every “natural” deodorant I could find. All of them, without exception, gave me very painful chemical burns, which I’m sure you realize was not something I wanted to deal with on an ongoing basis.

By then, I was dealing with another painful skin condition, and my research led me to believe that I might get some relief with Defense soap, which is both anti-bacterial and anti-viral. After reading up on it, I decided to try it in lieu of deodorant as well. So for the last year I have been faithfully showering with Defense soap and then following up with powder instead of deodorant. I started showering in the morning instead of the evening, in order to be as “fresh” as possible during the day. I have been very happy with the results. And by the way, this soap is apparently quite effective for acne also.

Because the special soap is more expensive than “ordinary” soap, I try to use up every scrap. Today as I was tidying up the bathroom, I realized that I had three little slivers of soap that were too small to use individually, so I grabbed some cotton yarn scraps and spent half an hour crocheting a little soap sack:

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I love this way of using up yarn scraps and soap scraps at the same time! And yes, I can crochet. I just prefer knitting for most things.

Yesterday evening my husband set up my birthday present from my friend Robin. Here it is:

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A flower made from glass dishes! Isn’t it adorable? Here is a close-up of the “flower”:

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The flower is very heavy so that’s why we anchored it in a large clay pot.

Since our under-sink flood on Saturday, I’ve been waiting for that area to dry out before putting everything back into the cabinet. Today I got some vinyl liner for the cabinet and some bins to organize everything, and now the area under the kitchen sink is looking a lot better and more functional.

I also tested my fourth and oldest alcohol stove and it did a great job boiling water for my tea. Tomorrow morning I am going to show Jasper how to make breakfast with the Swedish army stove.

Parting Shot:

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When I was out buying plants for the other pot, I finally found some aloe vera plants after looking since early spring. I hate to be without an emergency burn treatment kit!

Lost and Found

It’s been another allergy-filled day. I did break down and take some meds, but I’m not sure if they did anything!

One thing I did was to look some more for my little calendar/planner, because I need to start blocking out the school year and planning for my classes. I spent most of the weekend looking for it as I cleaned. I knew I had taken it to Colorado, but I also knew I had brought it back. Yesterday I finally gave up and ordered a new one from Amazon, which will be arriving tomorrow.

By now I’m sure you’ve guessed that I found my old one today! I knew it would happen.

We got school done and I did a little knitting, but my primary project of the day involved alcohol stoves. I have a total of 4 alcohol stoves. One dates back to very early in our marriage. One is relatively new. Two are Swedish army mess kit stoves that my older kids enjoyed using back in the day.

They had sat neglected in a cupboard in the laundry room for many years. Today, I pulled them out and cleaned them up. The Swedish stoves needed quite a bit of cleaning. Well, not the stoves themselves, but the stands and pots. I love alcohol stoves for camping and outings because they are quiet and compact and there are no moving parts. There really is nothing that can go wrong unless you don’t have a way to shield them from the wind.

I have tested all except the oldest stove, and all are in perfect working condition. I am looking forward to teaching Jasper how to use a Swedish army stove to make tea or fry some eggs! I think kids should be allowed to experiment with cooking, and a little camp stove makes it less stressful for me because it’s not messing up my kitchen. Maybe tomorrow there will be photos. Only if I find my camera, though.

A Shopping Interview Meeting Day

Today was a rather full day by my standards, which admittedly are pretty low. I got up early (well, earlier than I have been) and went grocery shopping. When I returned, I gulped down some breakfast, waited for Lucy and Jasper to haul the dog back from the neighbor’s yard (again) and then took off for the Faire site with Lucy.

I have tried several times to get back over there to interview the Faire owner, but have had to cancel time and again, so I decided today was going to be the day. I messaged Sir Dustin and even though I hadn’t heard back, I decided to go for it. I also decided to try the “back” way of going to the Faire. A couple of people have told me it is shorter than my preferred way, so I was willing to try it.

It was a beautiful drive, and it may technically be a few less miles, but it doesn’t save any time because the speed limit is lower the whole way. So it really is a matter of preference, I guess.

At this time of year the Faire grounds look shaggy and overgrown. It was sad to see the big oak tree in pieces and dead after being struck by lightning several weeks ago. I actually had another person to interview in addition to Dustin, and he was there to greet us. While he went to get into garb, Lucy and I set up my new tripod and found it a bit of a challenge at first. I really should have figured it all out ahead of time! I also heard from Dustin that he had jury duty at 1:00 so he wouldn’t have much time to talk.

So I interviewed Joe until Dustin got there, and until my feet were thoroughly bitten by fire ants. I found it a little hard to concentrate because the knee-high grass was crawling with wasps and I’m not a big fan of wasps. I think Ogden Nash had it right:

The Wasp
The wasp and all his numerous family
I look upon as a major calamily
He throws open his nest with prodigality
But I distrust his waspitality.

I knew Dustin was on a tight schedule, so we jumped right into three short interviews once he arrived. Then a lot of talking happened, which was very interesting and entertaining, but I’m pretty sure that someone was late for jury duty!

After that I finished up with Joe and by then it was well after lunchtime and very hot (all of this took place outdoors). Also, all the time outside triggered an allergic reaction which made the rest of the day kind of miserable. Lucy and I had lunch on the way home and I couldn’t stop sneezing!

At home I reveled in the air conditioning and lay down for a few minutes before tackling my critique tasks, which I finished just in time to go to my critique group meeting.

I am so thankful for my critique partners and their eagle eyes. They are helping me to become a better writer. After our critique group meeting, we had our regular writers’ group meeting, which was excellent and inspiring. Right now, I think I need all the inspiration I can get!

I also need to take some allergy meds. Apparently it’s in my best interest to stay indoors until fall!

All’s Right With the World Again

Today I got my life back, in a manner of speaking after four days of being essentially unplugged. None of my wireless devices could access the internet. My “smart” phone had a terminal case of stupid and couldn’t even be used as a phone anymore.

Saturday night’s chai party went pretty well considering that we couldn’t use the kitchen faucet and that we had some light sprinkles early on. It was a good turnout for the middle of summer. I got to see hundreds of pictures of Zambia. And Walter and I went to bed shortly after midnight and left the kids to clean up and put everything away.

Sunday after church Walter went to work on the kitchen plumbing and I went to Best Buy (where I bought my phone) to see if they could mutter some incantations over it for me. The answer: no. The Verizon girl there refused to even look up to see if I had a protection plan for my phone. Naturally, this forced me to buy and consume a mango smoothie.

I came home to find the kitchen sink usable again. I am SO thankful to be married to a man with skills. While he worked on installing the air conditioner in the schoolroom, I fired up the grill and started grilling chicken–something I very rarely do because it takes so long. But I hated to miss getting to grill something in Texas in July and not getting heatstroke. This cooler weather has been wonderful!

By evening I had a functional air conditioner in the schoolroom again (after more than a year), which means that I don’t have to be quite as averse to cooking as I have been lately. The schoolroom opens off the kitchen so the cold air blows in to counteract the heat of the stove. It’s not a glamorous anniversary gift, but it’s a very welcome and appreciated one!

This morning I got up and went to my Bible Study all by myself. Every other time I have gone with Robin, but she is busy planning a wedding and I really did want to go. (It is a 45 minute drive for me.) I was so proud of myself for remembering how to get there and back. I often don’t pay a lot of attention to the route when I am not driving.

Once I returned home, it was time to tackle our internet issues. My mother had already called to make sure I was still alive. I called the cable company and got someone who actually could help me on the second try! I’m not really sure why what she had me do worked, but you can imagine how thrilled I was when I turned on my laptop and had internet access for the first time in four days!

Flush with that success, I decided to try for some help with my phone. I had a hard time negotiating the various menus on the website (but hey, I was on the internet!). Eventually I did get in an online chat with someone named Samantha who listened to my tale of woe and told me that the only hope of reviving my phone was to reset it to factory specs. This means I lost everything that was on there and it was a very tedious process, but after an hour or so I had a functional phone again. I was feeling pretty proud of myself by this time. Two major problems solved and no cost involved!

Then I got a phone call from my husband’s aunt wanting to know if I was okay, since I had been silent for so many days. I was so glad to report that I’d soon be babbling all over the internet as usual.

I must say, though, that my experience over the last few days has been thought provoking. With no hope of hanging out on the internet, I discovered all kinds of time to do other things. I started a new knitting project. Did housework. Read a book. Grilled chicken. I was forced to admit that I really have been spending too much time online. So, I will be coming up with some self-imposed rules for my computer and internet time. I’m pretty good at following my own rules, so I hope it works!

Saturday’s Post

Well, here I am writing another entry with no idea of when I’ll be able to post it. I finally got through to Flynn today, to see if he could help with our internet issues, but we had already done everything he suggested.

This morning I went to Walmart by myself (not having a willing helper in the house) and did the chai party shopping. It was another cool, overcast morning. I wish this weather would last!

The main project of the day was getting ready for the chai party, but I did other stuff too–in fact more than normal since I had no hope of doing anything online. I was sorting through a bunch of stuff in my bedroom, and discovered evidence that I am losing what little mind I have left. There was a stack of clothes waiting to be hung up, so I began hanging them up. One of the first garments I came to was a black maxi dress which I bought last month. Soon after I hung it up, I was called away to do something else for a while. Then I returned to hang up the rest of the clothes, and right at the bottom was my black maxi dress which I bought last month. I was very puzzled because I knew I had hung it up already. I put it on a hanger and went to my closet to find my black maxi dress hanging there.

Yes. I bought the same dress twice and have no recollection of doing so. I guess it’s a good thing I like the dress!

I also got some laundry done and cut up a denim skirt that is unwearable and then tackled a job that I probably should have done 30 years ago. When I was in high school, I had a jacket that I loved. I think my mom got it for me in Mombasa (Kenya). It was lightweight and unlined, which is what you need in Africa. To make it cooler, I sewed some patches onto it. The US flag, the UK flag, a Zambian patch, a Kenyan patch, and a patch depicting my high school’s crest.

All these years I have hung on to that jacket, knowing I would never fit into it again, or wear it even if I did. It just seemed so full of memories that I couldn’t throw it away–until today. Today I carefully removed all the patches, and patted my teenage self on the back for doing such a good job sewing them on. I also removed the buttons, because you never know. Then the jacket went into the trash and the patches were put into a ziplock bag, from which I can retrieve them when I am ready to put them on something. I’m thinking a throw pillow. Any suggestions?

Mercy did a spectacular job cleaning up the kitchen, and I made brownies and butterscotch bars, and then I went into the kitchen to clean the chai pot and start heating water, and guess what? The pipe under the sink sprung a leak and we had water gushing out all over the floor. Yay. Life is so much fun sometimes. The new air conditioner isn’t in yet either. We do have cardboard blocking the hole though!

But hosting a chai party without a functional sink in the kitchen is a challenge I could have done without today.