Yard Tour!

I don’t know if we’ve ever taken Memorial Day off to just have fun. This morning I went to Walmart early in hopes of getting a brisket to roast, but there was no brisket to be had. There wasn’t even a place where the brisket used to be. In Texas, on Memorial Day, this is an outrage! There were lots of ribs, but I didn’t want ribs. So, we had hamburgers for our supper.

Meanwhile, Walter and Jasper went to do their yard jobs and I prepared for my class. Today was the first class of a two-week course on paragraph writing that I often teach in the summer. Tomorrow should have been the first class of my creative writing course, but I had to cancel it due to lack of interest.

Later in the afternoon, when my class was over and Walter and Jasper had returned, Walter called me out into the yard to see something, which has prompted my first blog yard tour in quite some time. So, without further ado, here is what’s going on in our yard right now:

5-30-16 blue flowers - Copy

These blue flowers are blooming very lavishly. I wish I could remember what this plant is called. It was a gift from a student many years ago.

Hydrangeas are still blooming, in front of the house:

5-30-16 hydrangeas front

And in the side yard:

5-30-16 hydrangea side

Not to mention the oak leaf hydrangeas:

5-30-16 oak leaf hydrangeas

And the tiny shrub roses that have been blooming lavishly for weeks:

5-30-16 roses

And the roses lining the path to our door:

5-30-16 white roses

5-30-16 lavender rose

And the daylilies blooming at the foot of the pecan tree out front:

5-30-16 daylilies

But the pièce de résistance, the reason my husband called me outside, is this:

5-30-16 flame lilies

Our first flame lily blooms of the season. Normally they do not start blooming till mid June, so this was a very pleasant surprise. Every year, these little reminders of Africa make me smile.

Parting Shot:

5-30-16 go cart

Oh my. Apparently it is go-cart season again. Jasper and Sam have been hard at work!

Catching Up—Again

I was way too tired to blog last night–sorry! It ended up being quite a day. I got up relatively early and did some stuff and practiced my music for today. By the time Lucy and Geneva got up and were eating brunch, I was ready for a nap!

We left in midafternoon for Dallas. We stopped on the way for the girls to get drinks, and because we were trying to give Geneva the full Texas experience, we stopped at Buc-ee’s.

5-28-16 Lucy & Geneva with beaver

And yes, we took photos with the creepy sculpture!

Next on the girls’ list was the Galleria mall. For that excursion, I stayed in the car in the parking garage. I knew they would have more fun without me, and I didn’t want to be tempted to spend any money!

By the time they were done shopping, we were all hungry. In fact I’d say we were closer to ravenous. The girls hadn’t eaten (other than a couple of small snacks) since brunch and I had just snacked a little instead of having lunch. Lucy and I had agreed to take Geneva to our favorite Ethiopian restaurant. We walked in the door at about 8:00 but didn’t get our food until 8:30, by which time we were almost perishing!

5-28-16 Ehtiopian food

I was so afraid Geneva wouldn’t like Ethiopian food, but my fears were ungrounded. The three of us attacked that platter and ate up every succulent morsel! Lucy and I were literally dancing with joy in our seats. It was oh so good.

5-28-16 Lucy & Geneva at Lalibela

From there, of course, we had to make our way to the airport to put Geneva on her plane home. It was a late flight, which made it easier for me to find a parking spot. We said our goodbyes, and issued a blanket invitation for her to return at any time, and then Lucy and I trudged back to the car and faced the long drive home.

We arrived home at a little after 1:00 and I didn’t get to bed till after 2:00, so making it through church this morning was a little challenging!

Jesus Calls Us

Jesus Calls Us

Cecil Frances Alexander

Jesus calls us over the tumult
Of our life’s wild, restless, sea;
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth,
Saying, “Christian, follow Me!”

As of old Saint Andrew heard it
By the Galilean lake,
Turned from home and toil and kindred,
Leaving all for Jesus’ sake.

Jesus calls us from the worship
Of the vain world’s golden store,
From each idol that would keep us,
Saying, “Christian, love Me more!”

In our joys and in our sorrows,
Days of toil and hours of ease,
Still He calls, in cares and pleasures,
“Christian, love Me more than these!”

Jesus calls us! By Thy mercies,
Savior may we hear Thy call,
Give our hearts to Thine obedience,
Serve and love Thee best of all.

 

You Can’t Be Too Young or Too Old Part 2

Yesterday I talked about our culture’s obsession with youth, and how tricky it is if you actually look too young. Today I’m going to get personal and reveal some rather shameful things about myself and my vanity.

When I was in my teens and twenties, and I would read stories of celebrities getting facelifts and other forms of plastic surgery, I was contemptuous in the extreme. I understood their need to look youthful because of the careers they were in, but at the same time I despised them for giving in to that pressure. To this day, I am not even a little tempted by that particular strategy.

“I don’t want to look younger than I am,” I said over and over to my friends when I was young, “and I don’t want to look older than I am. I just want to look my age. When I’m 40 I hope I look 40, and when I’m 70 I hope I look 70.” I said that with deep conviction and I truly believed it.

The reality is that no one can say when they are 20 what they are going to be like when they are 40. And the situation has become much murkier thanks to advances in cosmetics and other treatments which are now available. When I did actually hit that milestone of my fortieth birthday, I found myself much more troubled and ambivalent than my younger self would have believed.

For starters, what is 40 actually supposed to look like? If there ever was a standard for that, it’s long gone. Many female celebrities could easily pass for 25 at 40. Some of them have been surgically enhanced—and some have not. Some women who won the DNA lottery look truly fabulous at 40, despite not taking any special care of themselves. The young ladies who currently are frustrated about looking “too young” probably will fall into that category. Some go gray early and that makes them look much older even if their faces remain unwrinkled. Some have spent years battling depression, alcoholism, or drugs and their faces show it. Some eat and exercise very wisely and use the most expensive products on their faces to retain their youthful glow. Some have spent decades maintaining their tans and as a result their faces at 40 resemble leather.

So you can see my dilemma. I had always said I wanted to look my age, but what did that mean for me? I most certainly did not want to look like a 40-year-old chain-smoking alcoholic meth addict. I had no hope of looking like a movie star, but I was distressed at the signs of aging I saw and I felt guilty about feeling that way. I began using various products on my face and believed that they did hold back the clock a little bit. Makeup was not part of my arsenal: I was fortunate enough to marry a man who likes my actual face, so I reserve the wearing of makeup for professional events and lately, I do use foundation to cover up my severe rosacea when I know I am going to be photographed. *shudder*

That, of course, is another point. My rosacea has gotten steadily worse over the last ten years or so, despite my best efforts to combat it, and that has added to my dissatisfaction over my aging appearance. I suppose everyone has their bête noire when it comes to their looks, and that is mine. I can’t afford to treat it, but I can’t stand to look at my face, either! It’s not like I want to look younger than I am, exactly. What I want is to look attractive somehow regardless of my age.

And that brings us to the crux of the matter. It was wrong of me to think in terms of looking my age, or younger or older. What matters deep down is being attractive, and by “attractive,” I do not mean beautiful in the classical sense. I mean being the sort of person that others are attracted to. My childhood friend Carol used to describe various people as “nice-looking.” She did not mean she thought they were stunningly beautiful. She meant they looked like they were nice people.

Now I’m not a big fan of the word “nice,” but I do like the sentiment. When I think about what I want to look like, I think about character qualities I long to possess and that I believe would be visible on my countenance. The idealized woman in Proverbs 31 is clothed in “strength and dignity,” and I think that’s a good place to start.

So, rather than looking “pretty,” or “older” or “younger” than I am, or even looking my age, what I really desire is to look strong, dignified, honorable, kind, and compassionate. These qualities are beautiful at any age!

Oh, and if you’re wondering how old I actually look, now that I’m in my 50s? My age, like beauty, seems to be in the eye of the beholder. I have been mistaken both for my daughter’s sister and for my son’s grandmother!

What are your thoughts on this subject? How do you feel about “looking your age,” whatever that may be for you?

You Can’t Be Too Young or Too Old

An interesting exchange took place on Facebook the other day, which brought up an issue I’ve been wanting to write about for some time, and that is our culture’s obsession with looking young even as you age beyond your sixties and seventies. Today’s installment will deal with one aspect of this issue, and tomorrow I’ll tackle some related thoughts.

There are several young women whom I care about who have what some would consider an enviable problem: they look a great deal younger than they actually are. Though most of them are in their mid-twenties now, people assume they are teenagers and treat them accordingly.

I know a little about this issue, actually. Because I am tall, when I was 13 people often thought I was 18 or 19. However, a funny thing happened when I actually got to my twenties. At 25, people still thought I was 18! The difference between me and my young friends is that I thought it was funny. They do not. They are, I think, more driven than I was and it is very important for them to be taken seriously in the professional world.

So when one of them complained that she is still treated like a kid because of her youthful appearance, I made the mistake of commenting that someday she will be glad to look so youthful, because youth is what our culture is obsessed with. I was summarily slapped down by young ladies who are tired of hearing this. They want to be taken seriously now, not admired for their youthfulness in twenty years. And no one wants to be told that their real problem—a problem for which there is no solution—doesn’t count because it’s a problem that others might wish to have!

As I read the various comments and thought about this issue, as I often have over the years, I came to some conclusions. Here they are, for what they’re worth:

  1. Women are expected to look young for decades of their adult lives—but not too young, mind you. If you look too young you are treated like a kid and no amount of proving your actual age will rectify this. So when you are actually young you must strive to look old enough to be taken seriously, and then you must continue to look young for the rest of your life.
  2. People who have this problem do not want to be told how lucky they are or what an asset it will be to them in the future. Even if you mean it as an encouragement, it is more likely to enrage than comfort them. Because they hear it all the time and it does nothing to help them cope.
  3. People who have this problem also, as a rule, do not want to be told how they can go about “fixing” it. They don’t want to hear about my husband’s cousin, who looked so youthful when she began teaching school that her students wouldn’t respect her. She resorted to wearing (fake) glasses, high heels, and putting her hair in a bun.

So, if you have friends who have this problem, what do they want from you? I believe that the vast majority want sympathy, not encouragement. I think back to my days as a newlywed, when my new husband, like so many men, had no idea how to deal with a woman in distress. His approach generally revolved around telling me how the situation was all my own fault and was due to the bad choices I’d made, followed by explanations of the various actions I could take to fix my problem. Surprisingly, this never, not even once, made me feel better!

What I really wanted was for him to hug me and say, “Oh, you poor baby. I am so sorry you are having to deal with this.” That’s it. I just wanted him to care that I was miserable. If you know someone who is not being taken seriously because of her extremely youthful appearance, realize that this is mostly likely a big sore spot. Don’t make it worse like I did by making light of it. Instead, simply acknowledge the severity of the problem and express your compassion. “It must be so exasperating for you to have to deal with this problem all the time. I’m so sorry you have to put up with it.” We all have our burdens to bear and just because someone else’s burden seems like one you’d like to have yourself, you can’t assume that it is somehow less burdensome to them.

Any comments?

Tomorrow: some further reflections on this topic.

Milestones

Well, first of all, today is the 30th anniversary of the day that my firstborn, Lina, made her entrance into this world. When people tell you the years fly by, they are telling the truth! Once again we must celebrate her birthday on opposite sides of the ocean, but at least we can text and email each other!

The main focus of today was getting ready for Lucy’s graduation party. I went to Walmart to get the rest of the groceries we needed. The cookies were already made. Lucy and Geneva made the deviled eggs and the little sausage rolls. I had to work on music for Sunday but they really didn’t need my help.

The original plan was for the party to be outdoors, but with all the rain we’ve had that was not possible, so we had it indoors. I got a bunch of balloons and glow sticks for people to play with. I made raspberry lemonade and chai. Once everything was set up, I got out of the way.

Eventually, we had a pretty good crowd show up. I think it went pretty well. Tomorrow, we have to take Geneva back to the airport.

Rainy Day

Guess what? This is NOT a catch-up post! I am caught up at last.

It was a very good thing we went to the lake yesterday, because today as promised was rainy. Janet had her first day of work (working for Walter) and I made it to Aldi to get some groceries. Tomorrow we are having a graduation party for Lucy and that will require food.

It was raining by the time I returned home and it continued to rain all afternoon. We tried to figure out what we could do with Geneva, and finally settled on going to the Mud Hut, our local ceramic painting place.

5-26-16 at mud hut

At first I thought I’d just let the girls do it, but my desire to create something won out and I picked a project too. Lucy chose a little Captain America themed box:

5-26-16 Lucy's box

Geneva chose a square vase:

5-26-16 Geneva's vase

And I just got a square tile that I can use as a trivet:

5-26-16 trivet

We will get them back in a week and I will show you what they look like then. Geneva’s will have to be mailed to her, obviously.

On the way back from the Mud Hut we stopped at Bodacious Barbeque to pick up the meat for dinner and I ate as soon as we got home because I thought I’d be rushing off to the bee meeting with Jasper. The only problem was that Jasper was not home! He did finally show up and we rushed off to the meeting while the rest of the family had their supper. We wanted Geneva to experience real Texas barbeque.

During the meeting, Mercy was free to talk so I sneaked out to the car to call her. She had quite an adventure making it to South Dakota, but she’s there now and looking forward to a busy summer in a beautiful location.

This evening I took the girls to Sonic for drinks–another East Texas tradition. Around here it seems like young people are always going to Starbucks, Sonic, or Dairy Queen.

Catch-Up Post #4: The Journey Home & a Lake Excursion

I hope this will be my last catch-up post!

Monday morning we got up early and left Joel’s apartment by 7:00. We had a slight complication in that Janet’s luggage was much (MUCH) bigger than we had expected. It’s a good thing Walter has such excellent trunk-loading skills!

We reached Atlanta by 3:00 and stopped to pick up Jasper at his friend’s house. While we were enjoying ourselves in Virginia, he was having a blast too. His friends took him to Six Flags and also to Stone Mountain. I’m so glad he got to spend that time with his friend Josiah.

Once we had managed to stuff Jasper and his things into the car, we continued on down to visit Walter’s mother. We spent the rest of the afternoon with her and then when Walter’s sister got off work, we all had supper together before we headed back up to our friends’ house to spend the night. As we visited with them that evening, I ended up with some new yarn and a cute little project bag! Rebekah was thinning her stash and I was a beneficiary.

Tuesday morning we did not get up super early because Walter had decided to leave after rush hour instead of trying to beat it. It was a crafty move on his part, because we actually left late enough to arrive at the Caribbean bakery just as it was opening. Walter, Jasper and Janet all got meat patties to save for lunch. Alas, they have no gluten-free options.

It was a long, hot day. Since I didn’t have anything for lunch, we stopped at a Chick-fil-A to get some chicken, only to find that it was jammed with people and I’d have to wait a long time. So instead we went to a grocery store in the same shopping center and I got some rotisserie chicken and a salad, and we all sat in the car in the parking lot and ate our lunch.

It was kind of discouraging to hit the midway point at 3:00 in the afternoon, but we persevered. We crossed the Mississippi late in the afternoon and stopped for supper in Louisiana before finally arriving home at 9:30 in the evening. It was good to be home!

However, when we got here, the house was empty! Spencer and Lucy had gone out for coffee with Geneva, the friend who arrived early in the morning that same day. Geneva came all the way from Arizona and will be here until Saturday.

One of the things we really wanted to do with Geneva was take her to the lake. As I checked the weather while we were still on the road, it appeared that Wednesday would be the only rain-free day of her visit, so instead of having a recovery day yesterday, we had an outing. I did spend all morning doing catch-up tasks at my computer while waiting for that wedding song video to upload. It took well over two hours! Then I went out to buy supplies and by midafternoon we were on our way to the lake.

While I put gas in the car, the kids (including Janet) went into Walmart and got some inflatable floats to take. We had a bit of a shock when we got to the lake because the road on top of the dam was closed! I would probably have turned back if we hadn’t been following a truck that knew exactly what to do. There is a smaller road that dives down and runs along the base of the dam, then climbs back up again right before the floodgates. Problem solved!

We made it to the other side of the lake and set up again where we were with Mary and Jordan a couple of weeks ago. (Our normal spot is still closed due to flooding and we couldn’t have reached it anyway since the dam road was closed also.) The weather was hot and humid but the kids didn’t care since they were in the water. I got some knitting done and also called and talked to my dad for a while.

Meanwhile, poor Mercy was experiencing some travel tribulations. She wasn’t able to get on the flight she’d planned to take to South Dakota. When she finally did get a flight, it was too late for her to get a connecting flight and still make it to her rendezvous with her new employer. So she flew to Sioux Falls via Dallas and had to spend the night in the airport, in hopes of renting a car in the morning and driving the rest of the way (six hours).

We had a picnic supper and the kids went back out to the water for at least another hour. We packed up as the sun set and drove home through the balmy air. Because we are trying to give Geneva the full Texas experience, we stopped at Dairy Queen on the way home for ice cream cones. There was a lot of slurping in the car until we got home!

The fun wasn’t over yet, however. Somehow during the course of the day it came out that Geneva and Janet had never seen or read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. So after the kids took showers, we watched it and I got even more knitting done. It was a good day but a late night.

Parting Shot:

5-25-16 kids at the lake

Geneva’s family knew we were tall, so I thought I’d take a group shot of the kids to demonstrate the height difference between Lucy and Geneva, who are the same age. I love it.

Parting Shot #2:

5-19-16 doody calls

I can’t resist sharing this photo of a truck we saw in the Charlotte, North Carolina area.

Catch-Up Post #3: The Wedding Day

Once again, I wrongly expected that we’d be dashing around trying to help get ready for the wedding on Sunday, but instead we slept in and had a leisurely breakfast at our hotel with another lady from Zambia days and her husband.

Then I got a text from Joel asking us to join his parents and the rest of the parental generation for devotions at the main hotel. The young people left to go set up and we more mature folks sat in the lobby and had a time of devotions and prayer. It was like we had all the time in the world!

After that we checked out of our hotel and then met up with everyone else again at a restaurant for lunch. It was kind of like a wonderful dream and you expect to wake up any minute but instead it just keeps going! Sitting at lunch with my lifelong friends Don and Gwen and decades-long friends Emmanuel and Anita was such a blessing.

After lunch we hung out in the main hotel for a while before changing for the wedding and then driving over there. The wedding was held in a field belonging to a dairy farm. The weather service had been predicting rain for the afternoon and when we arrived it certainly appeared that precipitation was imminent. It was cold–in the 50s–and also very windy. As we took our seats we all huddled into whatever wraps we had and kept looking at the sky.

Wedding 1

The wedding started, and the rain held off. In fact, when Natalya came across the field on her father’s arm, the sun came out! It was still very chilly and windy, however. I felt sorry for Natalya and her bridesmaids with their bare shoulders.

It was a beautiful wedding. Both Joel and Natalya looked so happy!

At the altar 1

One little touch that made me smile was that all the groomsmen had slingshots in their back pockets. This was a nod to Joel’s childhood in Zambia, where every young boy makes a slingshot, or malekani, to shoot at birds with.

After the wedding the guests helped carry chairs up to the reception tent, where at least we could all be out of the wind. Meanwhile, the wedding party posed for a bunch of photos.

Natalya had arranged the seating so we would be sitting with our good friends Don and Gwen, and also with the other family from Texas, the McCorkles. I eagerly awaited the moment when Gwen and Anita would go to the stage to sing their song. When they did, I made sure to get up and get in position to record their song. If you want to hear it, the link is here:

All the bridesmaids and all the groomsmen gave speeches, along with three more of Joel’s friends and both fathers. Natalya and Joel both spoke, and then he surprised her by singing “All of Me” to her. It was so cute. Anita had arranged for Natalya to change into a sari for the reception, and she was stunningly beautiful. Janet and her sister Jemimah also looked lovely in their Sri Lankan outfits:

r16 Jemimah & Janet

Instead of a big wedding cake, there was a very tiny cake and a big dessert buffet provided by the couple’s friends. There were even some gluten-free options.

The only less than wonderful thing about it all was that we were all cold! As the time wore on, I think everyone began to feel chilled.

Then, as we were thinking we should probably leave to head back to Lynchburg, I suddenly realized that Anita and her family were packing to leave also and suddenly we were out of time. There were a few rushed photos in the dying light as raindrops began to fall. A few last hugs and for me, at least, the struggle to hold back tears. This type of goodbye is so difficult for me. It was so wonderful to spend time with my dear friend, and I don’t know when or if I will ever see her again.

They headed off to Washington D.C. to get their flights to Zambia, Sri Lanka, and Canada, while Janet got into the car with us to drive back down to Lynchburg. Joel had given us the key to his apartment so we could spend the night there. Some of his friends eventually arrived too. The nice thing about being old is that in a situation like this when there are several people and only one bed, they let the old folks have the bed! It was a wonderful day.

Parting Shot:

g1 Joel & Natalya with parents

Joel and Natalya with Anita and Emmanuel right before we all left.

Second Catch-Up Post: The Day Before the Wedding

Saturday morning we slept in and then decided to go exploring since we weren’t due to rendezvous with everyone else until 1:00. The groom, Joel, has just graduated from Liberty University, and we were staying very close by, so we thought we’d go check it out. We had also heard a lot about it from our host, Dave, who used to be a professor there.

If you’re not sure what money smells like, a drive around the Liberty campus should rectify that for you. We were blown away by it in so many ways. It makes our own university campus look downright cute and quaint by comparison. For example, our campus is 162 acres. Theirs is 7000 acres. We have less than 1000 students on campus. They have over 14,000. We have 4 tennis courts. They have 12 (that we counted). Some of their dorms house more than our entire on-campus student body. And we were told that they hope to have 20,000 on-campus students within the next few years. I’m pretty sure there are enough Baptists to make that happen.

We felt like country bumpkins seeing the big city for the first time! The only place we stopped and got out was at the bookstore, which is both a Barnes & Noble and a Starbucks. Wow. It was huge.

We were still kind of in shock when we drove back over to Joel’s apartment, only to find that no one else had arrived yet, so we had some time to just relax while we waited. The wedding actually took place in Harrisonburg, Virginia, so we all had to drive up there and stay in a hotel on Saturday night. It was a good two-hour drive. Anita and her daughter Jemimah came with use (Jemimah is Janet’s sister) and we all convoyed up there.

That was such a blessing, to have two more hours to visit with Anita during the drive. Then we arrived at the hotel, where more friends awaited. Don and Gwen and their two sons had driven down from New York the day before. There was also another family from Texas, the McCorkles, who like us had been involved in older son Tim’s life when he was a college student at A&M (their son Jared was Tim’s roommate).

Most everyone else was staying at the same hotel, but they were fully booked, so Joel took us to a nearby hotel and checked us in (at his expense). It was so close to the other hotel it really wasn’t much of an inconvenience at all.

There was no rehearsal, and in lieu of a rehearsal dinner we all assembled at a pizza place downtown. We four “old” couples were seated first at Joel’s insistence so we could visit with each other. I was worried that I’d be stuck eating salad yet again (I eat SO much salad!) but to my delight I saw they had gluten-free pizza and it actually tasted like pizza and had a crispy crust!

After that enjoyable outing, we all went back to the hotel and we old folks hung out in the lobby while the young men went swimming instead of the traditional bachelor party. Another couple with Zambia ties arrived and joined the fun. Anita and Gwen and I went up to Gwen’s room for a while so they could practice the song they would be singing at the reception. Once I heard it, I knew I would have to be sure and get video of it!

I had expected that we’d all be madly trying to help with the last-minute wedding preparations, but it was all handled by Natalya and Joel. We were free to just enjoy hours of fellowship with our dear friends. It was a wonderful day.