Our Revels Now Are Ended

Did you all have a wonderful Christmas? I hope so. Ours went by so very fast. Tuesday we were preparing for our Christmas Eve festivities and for the arrival of Mercy and Daniel.

Spencer was playing for the Christmas Eve service at his church, so he and Jade were unable to join the rest of us at Lucy’s church, where we have gone for Christmas Eve the last couple of years. It is a short candlelight service and they sing real Christmas carols—a big plus in my book.

Afterward, the girls helped me make the cheese fondue and get the table set with the gold chargers and the candelabra and the Christmas crackers. We had our late fondue dinner and the holiday goodies and eggnog after that. There were only nine of us this year: my husband and me (obviously), Lina, Mercy, Daniel, Spencer, Jade, Lucy, and Jasper.

I wasn’t up as late as I often am, but I still had to assemble the breakfast casserole and do some planning for the next morning.

Christmas morning I was up at 5:00 making hot cross bun dough. By 9:00 our breakfast was ready but the diners were not! Some found it hard to get out of bed and Spencer and Jade weren’t here yet, but we couldn’t postpone the meal indefinitely because we had a video chat date with Flynn and Tiffany!

The last few years I’ve made a gluten free/keto version of the breakfast casserole in addition to the “real” one, but since Mary wasn’t here to share it with this year, I found I was quite happy with eggs and sausages.

We spent about half an hour with Flynn and Tiffany, opening each other’s gifts and chatting. When they had to leave to go to Tiffany’s parents’ house, we said goodbye and opened the rest of our gifts here. It was a pleasant couple of hours and I think everyone received something they really wanted. I got two new themed cookbooks to add to my collection—a Star Wars one and a Firefly one. I need to start doing special themed meals again—but this time just for my own family since I no longer host a book club.

We squeezed in a video chat with Mary and Jordan also and we roasted a big turkey and the girls helped me with all the trimmings, including making our traditional trifle for dessert.

Mercy and Daniel didn’t even get any trifle because they had to leave right after supper so that Daniel could get a good night’s sleep before going to work this morning. Walter and Lina also worked all day. It was an abrupt end to that cozy Christmas feeling. I miss the days when everyone was able to stay longer!

I had a big project to work on, and it should have taken a couple of hours, but it took much longer and it was very frustrating. But I got it done—and still had time to zoom over to the bookstore for a few minutes.

Now I’m mostly packed up for my drive to Tennessee tomorrow. Please pray for safety on the road as I go to spend time with my parents. One of my brothers is already there and the other two will be joining us also.

42 Years

Can you believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve? What I can’t believe is how much I have to do before then! I am still addressing Christmas cards!

Yesterday Walter and I went to church with Lucy and Lina and enjoyed the more traditional service. It was a quiet day since Spencer and Jade didn’t come over, but we enjoyed watching a Christmas movie in the evening.

This morning Walter and Lina went to work on his annual floor-refinishing contract, and I took Lucy with me grocery shopping because I had LOT of stuff to buy, especially knowing now that I’ll be leaving town again on Friday to go visit my parents.

After getting most of the groceries from Aldi, I still had to go to the bank and to the post office to mail several packages, and to Walmart to get some things that Aldi didn’t have. Tomorrow there will be one last shopping trip for the handful of items I can only get at Kroger!

Meanwhile, Lucy made some cookie dough and I made a batch of Nutella fudge by altering another fudge recipe. It appears to be acceptable. Tomorrow’s going to be a really big cooking day, though.

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On Christmas Eve of 1977, my three younger brothers and I snuck into a theater in a mall across from the mission complex in Florida where we were staying for a big family reunion. We had our parents’ permission, but we had to sneak because several extended family members believed that watching a movie in a theater was a sin. So we couldn’t tell anyone what we planned to do or talk about it afterward.

And that’s how four missionary kids from Africa walked into a theater and saw the first Star Wars movie, which was still showing in theaters after being released in May. I think our jaws were on the floor the whole way through. We were gobsmacked. We’d never seen anything like that in our lives! And the worst thing about it was that we had to go straight from the movie to a big dinner and we couldn’t say anything about it!

In the last 42 years, I know at least my brother Matt and I have seen all the Star Wars movies in theaters. He usually gets to see them before me. When The Empire Strikes Back came out, he called me on the phone and couldn’t resist telling me the big plot twist: “Darth Vader is Luke’s father!” Woah. I couldn’t believe it. Now, everyone knows it, but back then it was a HUGE reveal.

So tonight, one day away from being exactly 42 years later, I went with my husband and two of my daughters to see the final installment of the Star Wars saga. We didn’t have to sneak. Still mulling it over . . .

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Charles Wesley

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a king,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Return Trip

Well, I am back home, at least for a few days. I wasn’t able to post last night because the hotel didn’t give me a wifi password and by the time I realized that it wasn’t posted in the room anywhere, I didn’t want to go back out and track it down.

Yesterday morning I left Flynn’s place at about 8:30 I think. He helped me load the car before his morning meeting started, and I said goodbye and set off. It was a glorious sunny day and I kept looking over at Pike’s Peak glittering in the sunlight until it was no longer in view. By the time I made it through the Raton Pass and down into New Mexico, I was seeing very little snow—thank goodness. There was a lot of snow on that road when I drove the other direction on Monday!

I drove into Amarillo on fumes, partly because I was holding out for lower gas prices and partly because there was a long stretch with no gas stations. After filling up and stopping at Walmart to buy a salad, I continued on to Childress, where I had booked a room for the night. I prefer if possible to have the first day of a two-day drive be the longer one.

Childress was a lot busier than I remember ever seeing it before, but I had a ground-floor room and was quite happy to get some rest. For the first time since leaving home my feet were warm enough to go sockless!

This morning I had my tea, loaded the car again, and set off southward. It was a cold but beautiful sunny morning. However, as I looked ahead I saw what appeared to be a snow-covered mountain range. Since I know that no such mountains exist, I looked closer and realized I was looking at a wall of white clouds that seemed to be just sitting on the horizon. The wall was very sharply defined. As I drove closer and closer, I saw that the clouds were indeed sitting right on the ground! Soon I was driving through fog and drizzle. The weather remained damp and overcast for the rest of my drive.

By 1:00 I had reached my first destination, the home of my friends Don and Gwen, who love north of Forth Worth. As I’ve mentioned before, the three of us have known each other since grade school in Zambia. And today, they happened to have all three of their children home, so I snapped a family photo:

After a couple of hours with them, I continued on my way, stopping for a quick supper and again at Walmart to get some groceries for tomorrow. Jasper left to go visit Mercy and Daniel before I got home, and Lina will be arriving tomorrow. I made it home at about 7:30 this evening and have already unpacked everything. The next few days are going to be VERY busy.

The news about my mother continues to be very concerning—to the point where it seems likely I will be making another trip very shortly after Christmas. Worry about my mom really kind of overshadowed my time in Colorado and nothing has happened to allay my fears. Please continue to pray for her and my dad.

Parting Shot:

The frost on the roof of my car yesterday morning before I left Flynn’s house. Isn’t it pretty?

A Very Special Coffee Shop

Somehow I didn’t imagine myself being quite so busy with social activities here, but I’m not complaining! This morning I set off relatively early to visit my friend Val. She and I went to boarding school in Zambia together many years ago, and were reunited unexpectedly eleven years ago when our kids were in the same online writers’ group and I was here with them for the gathering I mentioned yesterday.

Driving to their home, I had a great view of Pike’s Peak:

She and her husband had to leave for a doctor’s appointment later that morning, so we said goodbye and I returned to Flynn’s house to make some spaghetti sauce and brown some extra meat for them to use in the future.

This afternoon I did have time for a little nap while Tiffany went to an appointment at the hospital and Flynn worked from home. After Tiffany returned, Flynn was able to stop working a little early so they could take me to their favorite coffee shop, where they had their first date and where they also got engaged. It is a nice place run by YWAM in a former hotel. (I drank tea.)

We drove back to the house at sunset so they could have an early spaghetti supper before going on a movie date to see the new Star Wars movie (Tiffany had won the tickets at work). Meanwhile, I was waiting to see if a package would arrive in time. I had to run to the grocery store for one last ingredient and on the way back I stopped and got myself some supper.

By the time I returned to the house, the package had arrived! That meant I could indeed make a batch of my famous molasses spice cookies for Flynn and Tiffany.

The last pan of cookies were in the oven when they returned. I had Flynn and Tiffany taste-test the cookies and they gave them a thumbs-up, for which I was very relieved because I had to adjust the recipe for the high altitude and I wasn’t sure how well I did.

This evening I’ve been packing again in preparation for leaving tomorrow morning on my way back to Texas. It’s been a short visit, but I feel like I’ve managed to squeeze quite a bit into it!

Parting Shot:

Flynn & Tiffany with their little pink Christmas Tree

Out and About

This morning of course I got up and fried the rice cakes for Flynn’s breakfast. I had no idea he was out of Marmite or I would have brought him some! He enjoyed them with ketchup instead.

After he left for work, I drove to JoAnn’s to shop for fabric and meet up with Tiffany’s mom, Deanna. I was looking for flannel fabric to make sheets for the baby bed I brought up. My instructions were to look for dinosaur and space-themed fabrics, and I found both!

While browsing through the rest of the store, I came across something that I could not pass up:

A stellar addition to my literary cookbook collection. This one has a hundred recipes, each from a different classic book! And it was on sale!

After checking out, Deanna and I went to Panera where we could enjoy hot drinks and conversation. Flynn and Tiffany’s baby will also be her first grandchild, so I’m sure you can imagine that we are both pretty thrilled!

From there I drove straight to my friend Jane’s house to visit. Jane was the first person I ever stayed with in Colorado Springs, back in 2008 when I brought a vanload of kids up here for their annual writers’ group get-together. Poor Jane fell and dislocated her shoulder on Friday, so she has her arm in a sling and isn’t allowed to move it at all. Fortunately she was up to talking as we had a lot to catch up on.

When I left Jane’s house the sun was shining and it was 50 degrees. During my 15 minute drive, the sun set behind the mountains and when I pulled into Flynn’s driveway it was already down to 38! I arrived back at Flynn’s house shortly after he did and made them some of my famous chicken enchiladas for supper, after which we watched another Christmas movie.

Meanwhile, back in Texas, Jasper finished baking and delivering all his cookies and Walter finally went to a dermatologist and had a worrisome mole on his arm removed. They will be testing it for cancer but we don’t expect to hear the results for several days.

My mother is still in the hospital and is unlikely to be home for Christmas. She is doing very poorly but may be moved to a rehab facility tomorrow.  Please continue to pray for both her and my dad.

Socializing and Cooking

When I got up this morning the temperature was 14 degrees and the windchill was 5 degrees! Tiffany had already left for work but I was able to drink a cup of tea with Flynn before he left.

A little later I put on layer after layer of clothes before venturing out into the cold snowy world. It was a spectacular day! Pike’s Peak was glittering in the brilliant sunshine as I drove from Flynn’s house to see my friend Evangeline. She is the daughter of my friend Donita, whom I saw yesterday—and both are fellow writers.

Driving in snow is definitely not my favorite, but the main roads were clear and I made it to my destination without any mishaps. We had a nice long chat over tea. Her three cats and her dog hung around listening.

Afterward, I ventured to a supermarket to pick up some ingredients for things that I had talked to Flynn about making while I am here. He had requested crumpets for supper, so I made those as well as a batch of candied peanuts for him and Tiffany to enjoy over the holidays.

After supper, we watched a holiday movie—my first of the year! Then I still had to make rice and form the rice cakes for Flynn’s breakfast tomorrow. So overall, a pretty busy day.

My mom is still in the hospital and very weak. It looks like she will need to go some kind of residential facility to get some therapy once she is released from the hospital. Not exactly what any of us wanted for Christmas! Please continue to pray for her.

A Snowy Drive

I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to get up early this morning and get ready to get back on the road. After the intensity of the last few weeks I would much rather have stayed in my nice comfy hotel bed and done some reading!

Instead I jumped out of bed and took a shower and made myself a nice big mug of tea. I left a little later than planned because I took the time to organize all the stuff that I’d thrown into bags before leaving home yesterday.

The car was covered with snow and it was snowing lightly as I left Amarillo. Snow was on the ground everywhere and sometimes also on the road. I don’t have much experience driving on snow, but I think I did all right. The trickiest part was when I got to Raton and into my friend Donita’s neighborhood, where the streets were covered with snow and quite slippery. And either uphill or downhill.  Here is my car parked in front of her house (her husband had shoveled the sidewalk for me).

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Donita and Frank took me out to a Chinese place for lunch. Poor Frank couldn’t participate much in the conversation because their dog ate his hearing aids and the new ones haven’t arrived yet. But it was still a good visit.

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Unaccustomed as I am to eating a large lunch (or any lunch) and given the fact that I didn’t want to arrive at Flynn and Tiffany’s house before they did, I drove only a few miles north from Raton through utterly stunning snow-sprinkled mountain scenery before pulling into a very snowy rest stop to take a little nap.

The rest of the drive was uneventful but very cold—down as low as 13 degrees! And I had to watch out for patches of snow and ice. It was dark by the time I pulled up to Flynn and Tiffany’s house. It sure was nice to see them and also their house “in person.”  Flynn helped me carry everything in and I am installed in their basement bedroom with a heated mattress pad.

Meanwhile, I’ve been very worried and concerned about my mom who is back in the hospital after another fall. I’m still waiting on a more detailed report, but would appreciate your prayers for her.

Parting shot:

One of the handful of photos I took on today’s drive.

The Barefoot Wanderer Rides Again

Sorry again for my silence. We lost internet for a couple of days and to be honest, I was too busy to be online anyway.

Yesterday was a hard, hard day, strongly flavored with exhaustion, disappointment, and hurt feelings. In order to have any hope of finishing my project, I gave up an outing and two Christmas parties I had really looked forward to attending—but it worked! After staying up till after 2:00 a.m. two nights in a row, I finished my project! This is something that would normally take me two to three weeks of working several hours a day. I got it done in three days of marathon effort and focus. Whew!

I only got about half the lights on the tree, but Lucy said she’d finish it for me after I left, since Tanner was leaving too.

After going to bed after 3:00 a.m. last night, I still woke up at about 8:00 and couldn’t get back to sleep despite wanting to sleep till 9:00! So I got up and worked on packing and preparing for my trip. Walter was a huge help carrying stuff out to the car.

Obviously my original plan of leaving at 8:00 this morning was abandoned before I even got up! I hoped to leave by noon and made it at about 11:40 this morning. I still had plenty of time to drive to Amarillo after stopping in Dallas to drop off a chai mix order.

After the intense effort and focus of the last few days, a road trip was a welcome respite. I didn’t use to enjoy having to drive for very long at all—but after all the solo trips I’ve done in recent years I have learned to love the long hours of solitude behind the wheel.  I thought I would enjoy listening to audiobooks while driving, but that has not proved to be the case. The audiobook tends to distract me from all the stuff going on in my own head and I usually end up losing the thread of the story! I do listen to music on and off.

And yes, I do drive barefoot. Even in cold weather, I will remove my shoes but keep my socks on. I hate driving with shoes on.

I made it to Amarillo a little before 9:00 this evening and stopped to pick up a couple of things and fill the gas tank for tomorrow. When I left home this morning it was 76 degrees. When I arrived in Amarillo, it was 31 degrees! Glad I brought plenty of layers because it looks like I’ll be driving through snow tomorrow.

Favorite sight of the day: Hundreds of giant windmills backlit by a glowing blue and pink sunset.

Second favorite sight: Occasional isolated houses out on the middle of nowhere, decorated with thousands of Christmas lights. They made me smile!

Milestone of the day: Today is Flynn and Tiffany’s first anniversary! Can’t wait to see them tomorrow!

Dizzy

Here is last night’s entry, which I couldn’t post due to computer problems.

I did not mention this yesterday, because I hoped it was just a short-lived fluke, but I had several dizzy spells yesterday and again today. Several times I came very close to passing out while just trying to live my life and walk from one room to another. Today at lunchtime I came very close to hitting the floor in the kitchen, just like my mom, but I’m sure with much less grace and panache. Fortunately I was able to stagger to a chair in the dining room and get my head down. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s super annoying.

I just mention that to say that preparing for today’s final Geography class of the semester was somewhat complicated by my odd handicap. We chose to revisit two favorite recipes from the semester for today’s party: chicken kebabs and fried plantains. Jasper worked on grilling the kebabs while I managed to stay upright long enough to fry up a nice batch of plantains.

Other students brought some other food, enough for everyone to have a very filling meal! We ate our meal which watching a video about the Amazon, but then the guys had to take the test.

Fortunately, it did not take them very long so afterward we had time to play a geography card game I acquired some time ago but had never played. It was fun! I think we might have to do that again.

Obviously, I couldn’t risk going to the gym for my usual walk because I couldn’t risk passing out on the running track. So I worked on my big project and stressed over the fact that the tree is not getting done at all.

Late in the evening we did get out the new tree angel. We’re not a fan of it. The lights flash constantly. I may be shopping for another one at after-Christmas sales!