A Fortuitous Return

Yesterday I was out of my aunt’s place before 6:30 and stopped to say goodbye to my sleepy parents on my way out of town. The first several miles I drove through heavy fog. I had a 20-minute margin on my time but thanks to rush hour traffic in Nashville I was actually a couple of minutes late for my breakfast with my aunt and uncle. We had a nice but brief visit as I had another appointment to keep!

So I got back in the road and headed for Memphis, this time driving the stretch in daylight. I reached Mary and Jordan’s house in time to share some tea with Mary and a quick visit before she left to drive to Little Rock.

Meanwhile, I drove over to my cousin’s neighborhood and napped in my car before getting out to explore Bass Pro Shop for the first time in my life. I saw some things I didn’t know existed. Such as camouflage baby bottles and purses with special concealed gun pockets. It was kind of an amazing place.

Eventually, I headed over to my cousin’s house, only to end up back in the car as no one heard me knock! So I waited until my cousin Mark came home from work and followed him into the house. I was able to visit with his wife Teresa a little bit when she came back from her Bible study.

After spending the night there, I got up this morning to the sound of rain pouring down. I made tea in my travel mug and was soon on the road for another fun-filled day of driving through very heavy rain. I love rain. I really do. But prolonged hours of driving through it can made a day seem like a month! I was so glad to get home this afternoon.

One reason I wanted to get home in the afternoon was to make sure Jasper was on task with making cookies. He had planned to make two batches of our famous spice cookies, one to take to church tonight and the other which he’s been commissioned to make for someone to take to work tomorrow.

He was in the process of baking the first batch when I arrived, and they didn’t look quite right. He assured me he had followed the recipe exactly—yet he agreed something was off. He tested a cookie and it tasted okay, but the texture was a little different.

It wasn’t until he put the butter in the mixer bowl to soften for the second batch that I realized what had happened. He thought each stick of butter was a full cup instead of half a cup, so he had only used half the specified amount of butter. Problem solved! I have been frantically trying to get ready for geography class, which means lots of research and cooking . . .

Two Days in Tennessee

Yesterday got off to a rather alarming start when my phone rang at 4:40 a.m. My aunt was calling me to tell me to get up and start getting ready for church! I had to tell her that since we didn’t need to leave until 9:30, I would be going back to sleep until 8:00! She goes to bed very early and often wakes up very early, so I don’t know if she even realized how early it was.

Fortunately, I was able to get back to sleep and then when I did get up, my morning mug of tea was very welcome! We met my parents at the church which is literally right next door to my aunt’s condo. Oh, it was such a balm to my spirit to get to enjoy a traditional church service! We sang actual hymns. There was a choir. And a sermon that I could learn from and enjoy.

But as we were preparing to leave for church, one of my aunt’s neighbors came out and pointed out to me that my right rear tire was very low. I was so thankful he noticed because obviously that is the side of the car that I rarely look at. So when I told my dad about it, he had me drive my car over to his driveway after church (a couple of blocks). Then we all piled into my parents’ car and went to an Italian/Greek restaurant for lunch.

After lunch quite a lot of napping went on, but then my dad got going on my tire problem. He discovered that the sidewall of the tire had split, which means that it can’t be fixed. Which means that new tires are necessary. Not what I wanted to hear! But I am SO thankful this happened here at my parents’ place where I can get help, and not on the highway where I’d have to pay for a tow truck!

In the evening I showed my parents photos of my trip until they both fell asleep, and then headed back to my aunt’s place to do some reading before bed. I still have a lot of reading to stay caught up with.

This morning my sleep was blessedly uninterrupted until my alarm went off. I had a nice leisurely cup of tea with my aunt before going over to my parents’ house, where they were just getting started on the day. My dad spent some time on the phone setting up my tire replacement, and then drove my car to the Sam’s in a nearby town, impersonated me, and got the new tires.

Meanwhile, I made goodies here. Coconut bars, date bars, and lemon meringue pie. When Dad returned, I fetched my aunt to come have a late lunch with us and they ate the leftover roast beef from Saturday.

After naps all round, I returned to start working on my final baking adventure—the fresh coconut cake my mother had requested. That was a LOT of work! But the finished cake looks good enough to eat! It is supposed to stay in the fridge for three days before being eaten. We’ll see if it lasts that long . . .

For supper I demonstrated my “omelet in a thermos” technique and my parents enjoyed some pie. We have had a nice visit, and a call from my youngest brother, and I am going to post this before heading back to the house with no internet. Tomorrow, I begin my journey home.

When We All Get to Heaven

We sang this in my parents’ church this morning and I really enjoyed it.

When We All Get to Heaven

Eliza E. Hewitt

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
Sing His mercy and His grace.
In the mansions bright and blessèd
He’ll prepare for us a place.

Refrain

When we all get to Heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

While we walk the pilgrim pathway,
Clouds will overspread the sky;
But when traveling days are over,
Not a shadow, not a sigh.

Refrain

Let us then be true and faithful,
Trusting, serving every day;
Just one glimpse of Him in glory
Will the toils of life repay.

Refrain

Onward to the prize before us!
Soon His beauty we’ll behold;
Soon the pearly gates will open;
We shall tread the streets of gold.

Refrain

Fail, Fail, Fail

Well, it’s been quite an emotional rollercoaster ride for me the last few days. It actually started at the beginning of the week when I tried to download my tickets for Thursday night’s concert—the tickets I paid for back at the beginning of August.

At first I wasn’t too concerned when there seemed to be a glitch in Ticketmaster’s website. But by Wednesday I had spent many hours and I’d guess close to 100 attempts to get my tickets, with no success. The site said my tickets were ready. The various service personnel I chatted with said they were ready for me to download. I just couldn’t do it. And these particular tickets had to be printed out at home—no sending them to my phone, even if they could (which they couldn’t).

By late Wednesday night my case had been “expedited” but still no tickets. They said to check back in the morning. I told them I would be leaving in the morning, because we had made plans to meet Mercy and Daniel for lunch. When I got up in the morning and tried to download my tickets, I failed again. I got on another chat and explained my situation. I was assured they were working on it. I asked if there was any way we could use my phone. No.

Meanwhile, Walter set up our Zambian flag beside the front door because October 24 is Zambian Independence Day! Usually we have a big Zambian dinner on that day, but not this year.

When 9:00 came (our target time for leaving), I felt I had no choice but to pack up my computer and take it to Mercy’s house in hopes that I’d be able to use her printer to print out the tickets if they ever came. I stayed on the chat with the service person as long as I could, but at 9:30 I told him I had to leave as I was already late. At that moment the tickets arrived in my email inbox.

By then I was in tears and so frustrated. I printed the tickets and we got on the road, but it was some time before I regained any kind of emotional equilibrium. I estimate I spent about 8 hours of my life just trying to get tickets I had already paid for!

And then we got to Mercy and Daniel’s apartment, only to learn that the Russian restaurant we had hoped to go to was closed for lunch. So instead we “had” to go to a German restaurant. I am pretty limited in what I can get in a German restaurant, but I was able to have some roast chicken and cabbage and it was very good.

Soon after lunch Mercy had to go to work, and Walter and I still had several hours to kill. I suggested going to an international grocery store I’d seen in the shopping center next to the apartment complex. I love ethnic shops of any kind. This one was mostly Middle Eastern, which was great because that’s our next region in Geography and I was able to pick up some things for class.

From there we went to World Market, where I made my husband’s day by getting him a chocolate advent calendar for this year. Apparently they sell out quickly, so I’m glad we saw them!

Then it was time for a very slow drive through pouring rain to downtown Dallas. We found the concert venue and parked nearby. It was still over an hour before the doors would open, and the rain was coming down. About six or seven people were already in line. We tried standing in line for a few minutes, but it was cold and wet and windy. We sought shelter across the street until the line began to grow a little, so we recrossed the street and joined it.

The couple behind us had driven about as far as we had, and we conversed with them on and off as we waited. Finally the doors opened and we got inside. Mercy had told me to bring a chair as there was no seating on the main floor, so I had a lightweight folding stool with me. But when we saw tables and chairs up in the balcony, we climbed up there to investigate. Every table we looked at was reserved. But the couple who had been in line behind us had got up the stairs first and found the one “unreserved” table up there, and they called us over to join them, so we had actual seats. Not a super great view, mind you, but something to sit on.

Maybe I should mention that neither of us had ever been to this kind of concert before—held in a bar. We weren’t sure what to expect.

The opening band consisted of two people, one of which I thought was a woman and which Walter thought was a man. (He was right.) Both band members were very very skinny and had massive amounts of waist-length hair which they tossed around at every opportunity. The drummer was also the lead singer. And the guitarist also played a keyboard with his feet. And at one point, an instrument that appeared to be both a bass and a guitar:

?

After their set, there was quite a lull as they re-set for the band we’d come to see—The Hu. We’ve been following them on YouTube since their first video came out, and we have been fans of Mongolian throat singing since we first saw and heard it several years ago.

So anyway, the Hu is doing their first US tour and when I heard about it and confirmed they were coming to Dallas, I got us some tickets to our first ever Mongolian metal concert. The sold-out crowd was such an interesting mix of people, from Asians to young gamers to old folks like us to a middle-aged gentleman wearing a leather vest and a Stetson hat. One person near the front on the very crowded floor waved a big Mongolian flag throughout most of the concert.

We thoroughly enjoyed the music and I love how they use their traditional Mongolian instruments in a new way. When the concert ended, I would have liked to buy some merch but the line was long and we had a long drive ahead of us—with Walter having to go to work at the end of it. So we trudged through the rain back to the car and drove home. We arrived at about 1:30 I think—but then poor Walter had to go clean the daycare center since he doesn’t have anyone to help him anymore. I think he said he didn’t get to bed until almost 4:00 a.m.!

Friday morning I got up as quietly as I could to prepare for my trip because I didn’t want to wake my husband from his well-deserved slumber. Since we had been gone all day Friday, I had barely started packing and I still had to go grocery shopping so the family would have food to eat while I am gone. So I went to Walmart and also topped off the gas tank and at home I finished my packing. By then Walter was up and helped me load the car. Despite working diligently to get ready, I did not leave the house until 11:30. I was so glad I only had to drive to the west side of Nashville.

I left in the rain and the rain stayed with me all day. There were some huge traffic jams in Arkansas, at least one of them due to an accident. I think it was near Texarkana that I turned on my GPS and punched in the address of my hotel. The mileage seemed longer than it should be, but I thought maybe there was a detour due to road construction or something. The big clue that should have alerted me to what I had done was that the estimated arrival time was in Eastern Standard Time, not Central. My parents, like us, are on Central and doesn’t change to Eastern until farther east.

Now I know I have talked before about me and my LSA (Lifetime Stupidity Allowance). On Friday I made yet another massive withdrawal. I brushed off the anomalies on my GPS because I just wanted to get the trip over with. I should have investigated.

It wasn’t until I was on the far side of Memphis at 7:30 p.m. that I stopped to fill up the gas tank and reassess my situation. The GPS said I still had over 300 miles to go. It was nowhere near that far to the west side of Nashville. So I finally checked it out. Turns out when I searched for hotels on the west side of Nashville—and booked one—what I actually got was a hotel on the west side of Knoxville. Yeah. And it was now 90 minutes past the cutoff time for cancelling and getting a refund.

I called and tried to get some grace, but no—I was going to be paying for that room whether I slept in it or not. I had no choice. I drove back out into the darkness and the pouring rain, with my rage to keep me awake and an energy shot as backup. I was so upset with myself.

The weather was nightmarishly bad—windy and mostly torrential rains pouring down. I know I was driving at unsafe speeds, and so was everyone else. I just wanted the trip to end—and the hotel had told me I had to get there before 3:00 a.m.

As I drove, I tried to see a bright side to the situation, and I found one. The horrendous weather I’d experienced during the entirety of my drive had forced me to be very focused on my driving—so focused that I often couldn’t even allow myself to be distracted by music. And you know what that did for me? It kept me wide awake for hour after hour after hour, because I didn’t want to lose my focus for even a moment and end up dead. Normally I would have really struggled with sleepiness in the afternoon and again late at night.

After driving right past my parents’ town, I pulled into the hotel at 2:00 a.m. Eastern time. I sure was glad to get out of that car and into a comfortable bed. And this morning when I got up, I only had 36 miles to drive!

I slept in a little and then drove to Walmart to pick up a few groceries before driving on to my parents’ house. Dad had requested a roast beef dinner so I got that going before coming to my aunt’s house to take a little nap. When I got up, the power was out—and it stayed out for hours. Fortunately the roast was done by the time the power went out, so we still had our dinner, and then spent the afternoon visiting in the very gloomy house. My plans of getting some baking done had to be put on hold, obviously. And my mom had to use her portable oxygen generator.

The power came back on at about 7:30, before my mother’s backup battery got too low, so that was a big relief. I was able to watch a TV show with her before coming back to my aunt’s house.

Biting My Nails

Well, not literally. But we have a situation here. A couple of months ago, I ordered and paid for two tickets to a concert that’s taking place tomorrow in Dallas. It’s supposed to be a belated anniversary treat for me and my husband. He has arranged to take the day off so we can drive in early and have lunch with Mercy and Daniel.

The problem is that I can’t access our tickets. I’m not sure what’s going on. I have tried at least 50 times. I have engaged in 4 separate “chats” with the help staff. Still no tickets. Supposedly I’ll have them in the morning—but we’re leaving in the morning! I really hope they get here in time (via email).

One of the blond brothers was sick today so I worked with the other one and was able to get him through some material that I’d been holding off on because it takes a little time. Today was perfect for it. And I’ve sort of started gathering stuff to pack because I’ll be in Dallas tomorrow and I’m leaving for Tennessee on Friday.

Of Pyres and Pumpkins

I worked hard this morning getting ready for my younger class and then teaching it. The kids had two quizzes today. During recess, I made good on my promise to demonstrate how to start a fire with flint and steel. I used a cotton ball and magnesium shavings and we had plenty of pine needles, so I got a great little fire going very quickly. I sent the kids foraging in the yard for some sticks that we could use as kindling:

My original thought had been to let the kids have a go at it, but I realized this would be too time-consuming, and also I had a student who could not resist playing with the fire and I didn’t want to encourage him. So instead of continuing to feed the fire, we let it burn out and came back inside.

As soon as class was over, I drove up to the north side of town in search of coconut to take to my parents this weekend. They can no longer buy the kind they like where they live.

I also received a phone call from the doctor’s office with my test results finally. The nurse who called me is “new” and does not know that I was ever diabetic. So I was kind of tickled that she told me my blood sugar was great and that I’m in no danger of getting diabetes. My A1C score is 4.9! That is well within the “optimal” range. I guess I’ll keep up the good work . . .

The rest of the afternoon was mostly about pumpkin. I made a batch of pumpkin scones. They smelled heavenly. (My once-famous pumpkin pie bars were already in the fridge.) Finally, I made a family favorite—pumpkin soup. I took all three things to my writers’ group meeting and potluck this evening.

This fall potluck was even more poorly attended than the one in the spring, despite my sending out several reminders about it. The fact is I’m a pretty lame leader even though I put quite a bit of effort into it! But it was still enjoyable hanging out with four of my writer/critiquing friends. We shared about books we had loved as kids and those of us who went to Writers in the Field had a chance to talk about it and show off our projects. There was LOTS of leftover food. Something tells me my family will have a very pumpkin-y meal tomorrow.

As soon as I got home, I had to leave again as Jasper needed to go to Walmart. THEN I could finally have a nice cup of tea. I just realized I only have one more day at home to prepare for my trip, as we’ll be in Dallas on Thursday. Maybe I should start making some lists . . .

Playing With Fire

Yesterday morning Jasper and I went to church without Walter, as he really had to get the house repairs done before the rain came in. During the afternoon, Jasper helped him and they did get it done.

Meanwhile, I made a big pot of curry and went to fetch Sammy from Kilgore. Spencer and Jade came for supper but Lucy and Tanner weren’t here as they had driven into Dallas to go to the art museum. Fortunately they returned before the tornadoes hit! It was a stormy, stormy night.

I was up late doing class work and up early this morning getting a few papers graded. I am so far behind on my grading! Class went pretty well, although I was surprised at how poorly some of the students did on my very easy quiz . . .

After class ended, I had a little break during which I prepared for my tutoring student who comes on Mondays. This week everyone is back to coming on their regular days.

While it was still light, I got Jasper to help me experiment with starting a fire with flint and steel. I promised my younger students that they would get to try it tomorrow, and it’s been a really long time since I did it. So anyway, out we went and tried to light our tinder (pine needles) with our flint and steel. We generated plenty of sparks, and created some tiny fireworks with our magnesium shavings, but not enough to set our pine needles ablaze.

Eventually, we agreed to “cheat” by using cotton balls (one each). Voilà! We both easily started a fire using a cotton ball. Now I can walk my students through the process and hopefully they will get to make a little fire or two.

This evening in addition to class preparation, I finally added a closure to the hand-sewn journal I made at Writers in the Field, and I made the dessert I’ll be taking to tomorrow’s potluck. So much left to do!

I Need Thee Every Hour

I Need Thee Every Hour

Annie S. Hawks

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

Refrain

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.

Refrain

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is vain.

Refrain

I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.

Refrain

I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
O make me Thine indeed, Thou blessèd Son.

Refrain

Schoolwork & A Book Signing

I was so thrilled to have a day where I was home and could work on schoolwork all day, but it didn’t quite turn out as anticipated. I spent the morning organizing my Geography notebook. Walter started working on the roof of the house (the overhanging part). That work has to be done before the end of the month if we are to keep our home insurance.

After lunch I had a visitor who had arranged to stop by—a complete stranger. He had started reading my memoir, had purchased copies for his three siblings also, and wanted me to autograph all four books. He and his siblings also grew up in Zambia and had gone to Sakeji, but it was after my time. So anyway, we ended up talking for close to five hours. Not only had we gone to the same two boarding schools in Africa, but our parents were in the same mission so we had a lot of mutual acquaintance. I think I met his parents once when we lived in the Zambia in the early 90s.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much grading done! One of the things we talked about was the Sakeji hymn, which sparks such an emotional response in anyone who has attended there. So this evening I pulled out my autoharp for the first time in months and played through the hymn. Somehow I’ve got to figure out how to find time to play some more . . .

I also cooked some chicken and started a new knitting project today when taking a quick break from school. We are into the time of year where I am working on projects I can’t show you!

Shopping & Knitting

This morning, like almost every Friday morning, was grocery shopping time. I am kind of relieved that Aldi has not yet been overrun with Christmas merchandise—but I know it’s coming soon! And what a relief to know that we would have enough fridge space for everything!

Jasper helped put away the food and I attended a webinar that showed me some amazing features of Scrivener (my writing software) that I hadn’t known about. Now if only I could remember how to do all that stuff!

Then a homeschool friend came over for a knitting lesson and learned about the importance of gauge. We had to rip out a project and start over as it was just too big.

I did make it to the gym for a walk and then waited in line for close to 40 minutes just to pick up some pizza for the family. And I still had to go to Walmart to pick up some items that Aldi hadn’t had.

Lucy made some apple pastries for dessert and Tanner came over to enjoy them too. I am looking forward to a weekend at home with my toppling stack of papers waiting to be graded.

Parting Shot:

Well, this is actually a video of a game whose existence I didn’t know about until a couple of days ago. Pato is an Argentinian game that seems to be a cross between polo and basketball, with a little tug-of-war thrown in for good measure. Amazing!