Home!

That’s about all I’ve got to say right now. It was a great day at the conference, but when it ended, I was ready to be home. The weather was frightful–almost freezing temperatures and a steady drizzle, but I took it easy and made it home at 9:00 this evening. I’ll try to write more tomorrow.

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The Decaffeinated Day

Well, I survived the first day of the conference, despite the fact that they didn’t provide any caffeine. That is unusual. Most conferences I’ve been to have had a beverage table with water, coffee and tea.

So anyway, I got very sleepy on a couple of occasions, but I made it through all my classes and did okay during my pitch session. My manuscript was requested so we’ll see if anything comes of that. One of the teachers whose class I attended today had over 400 rejections before getting her first acceptance!

Drive to and from the conference was extremely stressful and I am dreading it tomorrow. I don’t know how people who live here do it every day!

After the conference ends tomorrow, I will be driving HOME. I am ready.

Hours in the Car

I’m sure you have all been on the edge of your seats, wondering where I am. Yesterday I drove from Phoenix to El Paso, and today I drove from El Paso to Fort Worth. About which–more later.

Tomorrow I will be attending a writers’ conference and I kind of need to get some sleep first.

Gallivanting in Arizona

On Sunday morning when I got up, I was treated to a delicious breakfast before heading off to church with TL and her husband K. Their church has several “campuses” and we were at one of the satellite locations. However, the resolution of the central screen onstage was so fine that when the pastor stepped up to preach, it looked like he was physically there. I couldn’t get over it. I knew it was a screen, but it sure looked real!

The afternoon, of course, was the afternoon of the Super Bowl. K watched it but TL and I visited for a while and then she talked me into going on a bike ride with her. Maybe I should mention that I hadn’t been on a bike in at least forty years. At least.

The bikes they have are the great old-fashioned kind with fat tires and pedal brakes and baskets on the front. I was willing to give it a try, because everyone always says that once you learn to ride a bike, you’ve got the skill for life.

Unfortunately, I seem to be somewhat defective in that regard. The muscle memory was long gone and the skill did not magically leap to the forefront of my consciousness. It took quite a bit of practice before I could take my feet off the ground at all, and more practice before I could actually pedal. I never did master turning with any degree of accuracy, and I went off the path more than once.

However, I’ve got to say this: when I did finally get both feet on the pedals and moved forward and felt the wind blowing in my face, I experienced a feeling of delight that I had left behind in my childhood so long ago. Those few minutes of joy were well worth the stumbles and the soreness afterward. I actually had been thinking about getting a bicycle sometime, and now I’m thinking about it more!

TL and I stayed up late talking and catching up. While we were visiting, I received a phone call. The reason I had not mentioned my trip before yesterday is that one of my goals while here was to meet my longtime friend Nettie. We have been friends online for many years, but had never met in person. I had set it up with her husband Paul to go over yesterday morning and surprise her, so obviously she couldn’t know I was nearby.

But circumstances conspired to change the plans. Several of Nettie’s family members became sick, including one with chicken pox. And Sunday afternoon, one of her sons fell from a bunk bed ladder and broke his hip! So Paul called me and told me that under the circumstances, he felt we should let Nettie know I was coming.

We talked on the phone that night and set things up for the morning. Paul was staying at the hospital with their son, who would be having surgery on Monday morning. Nettie lives on the complete opposite of  Phoenix than TL, so I had a long drive yesterday morning, but I actually found it quite enjoyable.

It was kind of surreal to finally see Nettie’s house and family “in the flesh” after seeing it in photos for so many years! Obviously, it was not a “normal” day for Nettie’s family, but we were able to visit during and around various errands and tasks. We did get to sneak off and have lunch together, which I greatly enjoyed.

2-5-18 Nettie & me

The news came in that Nettie’s son would actually be coming home from the hospital later that afternoon, so I said my goodbyes and left them to get ready while I began the long drive back to the other side of town. This time it was less enjoyable, thanks to traffic, but I made it safely back to TL’s and enjoyed a delicious dinner and an evening of conversation.

This morning, I slept in before getting up to have tea. Later in the morning TL and I set off on an excursion to a Greek Orthodox monastery which is about an hour’s drive away. The dress code is very strict. Fortunately I had a long skirt, socks and shoes, a long-sleeved cardigan, and a scarf I could wear over my head. We both passed inspection at the front entrance and were free to roam the grounds.

It was shortly after our arrival at the monastery that I realized a tragedy had occurred. I stopped after taking a photo to see how it turned out, and I saw a message on the screen that there was no memory card. I could hardly believe it. I had taken dozens and dozens of photos on my drive down here. They’re all a figment of my imagination.

One of my offspring, it turned out, had removed the memory card before I left on my trip. That same person remembered about it on Thursday, the first evening of my trip, but did not warn me, so all the photos I took up until now were lost. *sigh* Thank goodness I discovered it early in our tour of the monastery and was able to switch over to using my phone.

What a beautiful and enchanting place! There were many fountains and gorgeous landscaping surrounding the complex of chapels. Most of the interior decoration in the chapels was brought from Greece. Beautiful paintings, intricate carvings, and stunning chandeliers featuring real candles were some of the highlights. I am glad we went in February, because I have a feeling it would not have been so enjoyable in the heat of an Arizona summer.

At the end our tour we browsed through the gift shop and I snagged a jar of the monastery’s organic honey to take home for my family to sample. It was such an enjoyable outing.

On the way back, we stopped for lunch and I had my first (bunless) In n Out burger. Burgers are something that I rarely have these days, so it was a real treat. We also stopped at a drugstore where I could buy a memory card for my camera! So there should be photos of my travels tomorrow and beyond.

K and TL took me to a Mexican restaurant for supper, where I enjoyed a plate of sizzling hot fajitas. That is one thing I can always order at a Mexican restaurant, as long as I don’t eat tortillas or rice.

It was a beautiful day to round out my visit to Arizona. Tomorrow, I press on to El Paso and look forward to visiting with yet another friend!

Parting Shot:

2-6-18 TL & me at St. Anthony's

Here are TL and I at the monastery in our modest garb.

 

Texas to Arizona

So, I have not been 100% above board with you all the last few days, because I was trying to pull off a big surprise.

On Thursday afternoon, after I finished teaching my class, I loaded up my car and drove to Justin, Texas, where I spent the night with some dear friends.

Friday morning I was up early and soon I was on the road to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Until I reached Amarillo, the road was very familiar to me because I have traveled that stretch several times on the way to and from Colorado. This time, I turned west in Amarillo and kept on going.

I have always wanted to go to Albuquerque for some reason, but I had never really looked up any information about it. So I was very pleasantly surprised by the drop-dead gorgeous scenery I drove through on the approach to Albuquerque. Truly stunning.

Eventually, I left the freeway and found my way to a little house where dear friends were waiting–friends I had not seen in 20 years. It was such a joy to spend time with them. In the morning they made me a wonderful breakfast and we visited some more before I got back on the road, this time headed for Phoenix, Arizona.

My friends had advised me to take the highway to Flagstaff, and then drop south to Phoenix, and I totally intended to do that. Then I saw I had the option to get to Phoenix via St. Johns, so on the spur of the moment I took the exit and soon found myself on a two-lane road that I mostly had to myself.

My reason for wanting to take this route was that my friend Nettie and her family have a ranch up near St. Johns, and I wanted to see the countryside there after hearing so much about it. It was a beautiful drive! I stopped in St. Johns for a caffeinated beverage before continuing on my way through Show Low and the Salt River canyon.

This drive is demanding for an old lady like me, but the views are so incredibly stunning, spectacular, and majestic that it was worth every minute. I honestly did not know Arizona had so many mountains! I was treated to the site of the Superstition Mountains set aflame by the light of the setting sun as I drove into Phoenix.

I arrived at my friend TL’s house in time for supper on Saturday. TL and I were roommates for one semester–forty years ago–and here we are, still friends. It was so good to see her again.

Tomorrow, maybe I’ll have time to tell you about Sunday and Monday.

He Giveth More Grace

He Giveth More Grace

Annie J. Flint

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

And I Think to Myself . . .

What a beautiful world. Sorry for my recent silence. I have been very busy, but in all the busy-ness I have found myself contemplating how much beauty there is to be found in this world, and how much I love it–all of it. I recently watched an episode of a show that was filmed partially in Croatia. Croatia is pretty high on my bucket list, actually.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a place that didn’t have its own beauty. Sometimes you have to look on the “micro” level to find it–a tiny flower in the grass, a brightly colored beetle, a minuscule seashell. Sometimes you may have to look at the big picture–the bold turquoise sweep of the sky over a stark horizon, the heaving swells of the deep blue sea, or the exquisitely patterned threads of a river delta.

It’s easy to forget, as we go about our lives, that we are surrounded by beauty. Today, I’ve been trying to be conscious of it. I’ve been mentally listing all the beautiful places I haven’t seen but still want to. (Basically all the places in the world I haven’t seen yet. Yes, all of it.)

How about you? What’s on your bucket list?

About a Ring

A few days ago, I reached a milestone that was almost unbelievable for me. I was typing on my computer, just as I am doing now, and I looked down at my hands and at my wedding ring, and wondered when I will have lost enough weight to take it off.

You see, I have not been able to take off my wedding ring since a few months after I got married—back in 1981. It’s not that I want to take it off, but being able to would mean that my weight loss was truly significant.

So I started twisting it and to my utter shock I was able to get it off! I can’t overstate how surreal this was to be holding my wedding ring in my hand after more than 35 years. Of course, I put it right back on, but I was just so thrilled. Fortunately, my ring finger is one of the two fingers that hasn’t been seriously affected by arthritis yet, so the knuckles have not swollen. Since that first time, I’ve taken it off again just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke!

In other news, we had our last King Arthur class today. I will miss discussing the Arthurian legend with my students, but at least we have 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to look forward to!

 

Au Claire de la Lune

Did you get up this morning to watch the Super Blue Blood Moon? Jasper and I did. The moon was low in the sky, and we watched and shivered as more and more of it turned red. It was kind of dramatic when the eclipse reached totality, because by then the sky was becoming lighter in advance of the dawn, and the moon simply . . . disappeared, lost in the predawn grayness. What a beautiful start to the day.

One of the things I did yesterday was to take two trash bags full of my clothes to a thrift store. I had to say goodbye to some garments I truly loved, but can’t wear anymore as they were literally falling off my body. This is another kind of weight loss—easier to do but still quite satisfying!

So today I was analyzing what’s left of my wardrobe as I try to plan ahead for the writers’ conference I’ll be attending in Dallas soon. My choices are a lot more limited now, but I think I can come up with things to wear for those two days. The sticking point, as always, is footwear. I do not have any shoes that can even remotely be considered “professional.” Too bad. If someone rejects me because of my footwear, that’s probably someone I don’t want to work with anyway, right?

When I drove Jasper to youth group this evening, the moon was just rising, massive and the color of old parchment. I don’t often get to see a full moon set and rise in the same day. I had an errand to run after dropping Jasper off, and I just feasted my eyes on the moon during the whole drive. By the time I went back to pick Jasper up, the moon was much higher and lighter, but still stunningly gorgeous. What a beautiful end to the day . . .

Why I Need Fabric

Can you believe January is almost over? Time is moving so fast.

This morning while Jasper was having his online math tutoring session, I drove up to Hobby Lobby. I needed one more lobster clasp to finish my Christmas bead garland re-stringing project. (It has now been finished at last.) I also needed some stiffener and fabric to make a bag.

In less than two weeks, I will be heading to a writers’ conference in Dallas.  In preparation, I took on a ridiculous project. I painted two 12×6 inch pieces of one-eighth-inch plywood. I made many, many mistakes. I learned some things I didn’t know about glow-in-the-dark paint and permanent markers. Here are the two least embarrassing sides of the four I painted:

1-30-18 two boards

What on earth are they for? Well . . . . Back in October, at Writers in the Field, I tried out a new note-taking format, which was a little square sketchbook. I loved it. I could get by with a smaller and lighter bag than if I had to haul around a full-sized clipboard, let alone a laptop or even an AlphaSmart. My only complaint was that I didn’t have a firm surface to put my open sketchbook on while I was taking notes. (My lap, for the record, is not firm.)

So I got this idea of having a little piece of wood that I could rest on my lap, but that would still be compact. I went to the hobby store and found a 12-inch square piece of plywood, and had my husband cut it in half. But of course I couldn’t be happy with a plain piece of wood. So I bought paint and some stencils and now with the conference looming I finally got around to painting. One of the things I love about medieval times is how they put so much effort into making everyday objects beautiful, and I love the idea of doing that even if I don’t have the skill!

Now I have not one but two little boards to rest my sketchbook on, but that means I need a bag that will accommodate a 6×12 inch piece of wood, along with my sketchbook, writing implements, water bottle, etc. The bag I hoped would work is a little too narrow. Bags that are wide enough are too deep. I don’t want to have to carry a massive tote bag. I bought a bag at Walmart that I thought would work, but it’s about half an inch two narrow so I will return it.

Which brings us back to why I bought fabric this morning. I plan to design and make a custom bag for carrying around at conferences where I will be taking notes. I don’t think I’ll get it done in time for this conference, alas, but now I have the materials. Having spent an inordinate amount of time on this nonessential accessory, maybe I should put some effort into getting my book ready to pitch, right?