Waking Up, An Early Birthday Gift, and A Scam

So it’s been quite a day—my last day before going under the knife. Can you tell I’m not a big fan of surgery?

This morning I had my tutoring student to prepare for and teach. Fortunately, my voice is doing better today than it was yesterday.

While working with my student, I received a phone call from a stranger who made some intriguing claims, so I told him to call me back later. I’m not going to waste tutoring time talking on the phone.

I squeezed in a brief nap before heading out to my first book club meeting. I was more than a little apprehensive, but at least I’d finished the book. I was the last to arrive—thanks to the pouring rain which slowed me down and the fact that I “had” to get a cup of tea from the coffee shop first before going upstairs to meet my fellow club members.

There were ten of us, if I remember correctly. One of the other ladies was also “new,” but the rest all knew each other. I had met three of the other members, and have spent quite a bit of time talking to one of them. They had some themed snacks but of course I couldn’t eat them and that is just fine. I’m starting to think of food primarily as decoration!

Anyway, that discussion woke up my brain in a way that I haven’t experienced for a long time, and I enjoyed it very much. I belonged to a book club years ago, which consisted entirely of people I already knew and liked, and that was wonderful in a completely different way. This group is diverse and smart and articulate. I expected that I’d sit quietly and just observe, but that plan went out the window quite early on, especially as the member I knew best kept directing questions to me in particular. I love feeling so engaged and focused mentally. The time flew by, and by the end I had realized something about my reaction to the book that I hadn’t been able to verbalize until our discussion.

I think I’m definitely going to try to keep up with the books so I can keep going, despite all the other reading I have to do. I know that I will get to read some books that I would never have chosen for myself—which is great. I’m always up for learning something new. In fact, I thrive on it.

I had to excuse myself a few minutes early because I was expecting another phone call from the man who had called during the morning, and sure enough he called while I was driving home after the book club. He wanted to talk about my memoir, This Rich & Wondrous Earth. He had a thick accent, but claimed to be calling from San Diego. He said he represented a hybrid publisher that wanted to “feature” my book at a massive book fair in San Diego in April. He knew a lot about it, including its sales rank in a couple of different categories and the positive reviews it’s had. So far so good, but I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and sure enough, it did. All this positive promotion and marketing would only cost me $550, because his company would pay the other $100! What a deal!

I didn’t commit to anything and asked him to send me all the information by email, which he did. Meanwhile I Googled his company, ReadersMagnet, and discovered that, as I suspected, it is a scam—and it’s run from the Philippines, not California. (The phone number was a California number, but in this day and age, that means nothing.) There were a few positive reviews of the company, but they were all clearly written by someone who doesn’t speak English very well so I assume they were generated by ReadersMagnet staff.  

So, I declined his generous offer and asked him to refrain from contacting me again.

Meanwhile, my husband got an early birthday gift this evening. His birthday is on Sunday, and the kids and I were having a hard time thinking of what to get him. He couldn’t think of anything to put on his birthday list. Then I remembered that a big Chinese show was coming to the university’s performing arts center this week. The tickets were very pricy, but I knew with my husband’s family background in China, he would probably love it. So several of the kids and I banded together to get him a ticket, Lina volunteered to do his cleaning job for him tonight, and after supper he walked over to campus to see the show.

He did really enjoy it, although he was somewhat surprised to find that the show was a propaganda arm of the Chinese Falun Gong cult. It still was an amazing show and I’m glad he got to see it.

It’s going to be an earlier-than-normal night for me. I found out this afternoon that my surgery has been moved up to 7:00 a.m. tomorrow, which means I have to get up at 4:00 in order to be at the hospital by 5:30. Yikes!

A Lost Voice and New Fippers

Yesterday my husband and I both stayed home from church and rested, in hopes of recovering from this respiratory infection. I was not as sick as him, but I was sick enough to be worried about how it might affect my upcoming surgery. I continued doing all the things which I hoped would lesson the duration and severity of my ailment.

In the evening, as I was preparing for my class scheduled for this morning, I had to admit defeat. Not because I felt so dreadfully sick—because my voice deserted me. It is kind of hard to teach if you can’t talk! Otherwise I felt that I was on the mend—but I had to email my students and let them know that they would get President’s Day off after all. I hate not being able to follow through on what I had planned.

This morning my husband still felt terrible, but he went to work anyway and lasted for about three hours. I alternating between resting and doing the things that needed to done, and then had to go the doctor’s office to pay for my surgery in advance. Not that I have any actual money, but paying in advance gets you a twenty percent discount, so I used a credit card.

After a nap on the couch, so as not to disturb my supine spouse, I headed out again, this time to the hospital where I had been ordered to pre-register. I didn’t take a book to read because I figured I’d just fill out a few forms and then come home. Nobody told me that after the form-filling, I’d have a hospital bracelet slapped onto my wrist and be sent into the bowels of the hospital to get lab work done, followed by a chest x-ray and an EKG. I feel like I should have been warned about this. Considerable waiting was involved, time which could have been spent reading.

When I returned home much later than planned, Lina and I set off together for the mall, bent on checking the selection of shoes at Payless, which I’d recently learned is going out of business. This news troubles me, not because I buy shoes often, but because when I do, that’s the only place I know to go that might possibly have something in my size. I wonder what competition has driven them out of business? We couldn’t pass up the occasion of everything being on sale.

So anyway, we got there and fortunately we wear different (large) sizes so we don’t have to worry about competing with each other. I have felt for some time that perhaps the time has come for me to branch out from wearing only flip-flops or clogs. (I do have a pair of casual sandals that are strictly for walking.) Shopping for shoes is one of my least favorite activities of all time, but today wasn’t too bad. Turns out that losing over 100 pounds makes your feet shrink, at least in width, so I was actually able to fit my feet into shoes that were not labeled “extra wide.”

As luck would have it, they even had slippers in my size, to replace the ones that have lately been literally falling apart. My slippers get a lot of wear now that I get cold so much easier. I always want to call them “fippers,” because that’s what Jasper used to call them when he was little. My new “fippers” have a cute leopard print instead of the men’s camo slippers they replace. I also found a pair of casual sandals and some flats that I could wear with a dressy outfit if absolutely necessary. For me to find three pairs of footwear in one outing is I think a new record, and doubles my footwear collection.

From there we zoomed over to Hobby Lobby, where Lina was shopping for yarn and I scored some half-price beads for a project I’m planning. Then we had to hurry home so Lina could help Walter with his cleaning job and I could go to Walmart and stock up on cold medicine, as Lucy has now also fallen victim to the plague.

As you can see, it was a very busy day and I was able to accomplish a lot despite struggling a little with my voice and energy level. I have high hopes of being in pretty good shape for my surgery on Wednesday morning. I mean, my voice isn’t actually necessary for that since I’ll be anesthetized anyway!

Fighting Off the Plague

Today, like every Friday, was my grocery shopping day. When I was in the baking aisle at Aldi, a woman approached me to ask if I was familiar with the store. I told her I was. She asked me if they had coconut and if so, where was it? I had to work to stay serious. The coconut was right in front of her—not even a foot away from her hand! I think she was a little embarrassed when I pointed it out!

When my tutoring student was here this afternoon, I was helping him come up with ways to describe various situations. I asked him to describe what it was like to be engrossed in a book. He didn’t know. I was incredulous.  I asked, “Haven’t you ever been reading a book and been so immersed in the story that you didn’t notice what was going on around you?” No. What about any friends or family members who like to read? No. How tragic. Someone needs to find that boy a book that he can’t put down. . . .

My husband has been very sick with a cold for the last two days. Of course, he has continued to go to work every day, which isn’t doing anything to help him get better. The problem is that I can really not afford to get sick because I have surgery coming up in five days! So please pray that I will stay well. I am doing everything I know to stay well and have gotten advice from an expert also. I am so ready to be done with this surgery.

Flavor Flashback

Today I offered to take Jasper out for donuts since now even his bike is broken. He is apparently on a quest to visit all the donut shops in town, so today I took him to one he hasn’t tried before. He liked it and felt their prices were very reasonable.

After dropping him off back at the house, I went to Walmart because we were out of milk and also because my friend Robin was coming over this afternoon and I wanted to have a nice snack to offer her. Since it was Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d get some nice red raspberries, which are my favorite berries (berries being the only fruit I can still eat).

So I grabbed a little container of raspberries and then my eyes almost popped out of my head because right beside the raspberries were a couple of containers of gooseberries. I couldn’t believe it. I grabbed one and looked at it. They were labeled as “golden berries” but in the small print they admitted to being gooseberries.

Of course I bought some. I haven’t had gooseberries since I was a kid. They used to grow them at my boarding school in Zambia. When there were enough, we’d have gooseberry pudding, which consisted of stewed gooseberries with custard. (Custard was a prominent part of most desserts there. Not the part I liked.) I loved gooseberries because they were so nice and tart.

As soon as I got home I had to look up and see how high in carbs they are, because that is my primary concern about all foods these days. It turns out they are no higher than other berries—about seven grams of carbohydrate for a half-cup of gooseberry goodness. So of course I had to taste-test a couple. They are just as good as I remembered.

I also made some keto cookies to serve. I never made myself the Christmas goody I had “allowed” myself, so today was my little splurge. When Robin came I set out the cookies and some of my curried pecans and a bowl of raspberries and gooseberries which looked so pretty with the yellow and red mixed together.

Robin had never had gooseberries, but she tried them and liked them. Lina also hadn’t had them before. I savored every little globe of golden goodness that I allowed myself to eat. They brought back so many happy memories.

This evening I went to my crafting group. My prayer shawl is coming along quite nicely and the other ladies were working on their “plarn” and the mat that is being made from it.

We finished up the evening watching a video together and drinking tea. Now I’ve got to get caught up on my reading . . .

A Frustrating Finale

Today was a hard, hard day. The main bright spot was my adorable tutoring student this morning. She is so excited about the books she is reading!

This afternoon I had my final meeting with my editing client. It didn’t go well. I thought I had finally made all the changes he wanted, but I was wrong. Despite the fact that I donated many extra hours to this project, I still failed to format the citations the way he wanted (there are hundreds of them). I thought I was a detail person, but I’ve never seen anyone as obsessed with minutia as this person. And when he saw my bill, he was very unhappy, as I knew he would be. Editing a scholarly work is quite different and more time-consuming than editing fiction, and knowing this, as I said, I put in many hours for free—but it still came to quite a bit more than he had expected or planned on.

So, the upshot is that he is not willing to pay for more of my time, and is planning to enlist his daughter to finish revising the citations. I sent him a document detailing how to do this. But I feel terrible. I can’t think of any past job where I simply failed to achieve what I set out to do. If I thought I could somehow eventually please him, I would have offered to do all the remaining work for free—but I don’t think I am capable of achieving that, because it would basically require me to read his mind. Maybe his daughter will be better at that.

He did finally pay me (after seven months of work) but there was no joy in depositing that check, knowing my work hadn’t been satisfactory to him. From now on, I will stick to editing fiction.

Down the Rabbit Hole

During this gloriously sunny and windy morning, I had a tutoring student and he did very well on his vocabulary quiz even though he forgot about it and didn’t study. I was proud of him.

This afternoon (still sublimely sunlit and breezy) Lina and I ventured forth to our favorite bookstore/coffee shop and spent a pleasant time browsing while sipping our hot drinks. I found a tome about Henry VIII and I knew I had to get it. I am sliding farther and farther into this Tudor rabbit hole.

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it here (and am too lazy to look it up) but I volunteered to be the “scribe” for one of our local Renaissance festivals. What this means in practical terms is that I try to post twice a week on social media to generate some interest in the faire. One post is faire news, and the other one is a little fact about Tudor England, more specifically the reign of Henry VIII usually. I am currently doing a series about his six wives. I have a whole book about them, and a book about life in Tudor England, and a Tudor cookbook, and now I have a book about the big man himself. I have plenty of fodder for my weekly posts for some time to come!

If you’re interested in following these posts on Facebook, you can find them here:

https://www.facebook.com/CanterburyRenaissanceFestivalNETexas/               (Canterbury Renaissance Festival of Northeast Texas)

So anyway, it was an enjoyable afternoon. When we returned I had some reading to catch up on. With my class and two tutoring students, I have three books that I have to be reading in every week. And before I knew I’d have quite this much reading to do, I committed to a book club so I am frantically trying to read that book too, because the meeting is next week and I sure would hate to show up to my first meeting without having finished the book!

My walk this evening was surprisingly enjoyable. I had to park in a completely different parking lot because there was a big basketball game going on in the arena. I’d much rather walk during a game than when the track itself is crowded. The university team was playing their archrivals, Lina’s alma mater. The boisterous atmosphere made it easier for me to keep my energy up, even though “our” team was losing, and I found myself having constant flashbacks to high school and college. The game was only half over when I left, so they still had time to pull it out . . .

Rainy Monday

Yesterday (Sunday) we had our small group in the evening. We meet twice a month and it is always a potluck, which I love because I like to cook and if it’s a potluck, I can always make sure to take something that I can eat. Plus I have all the potluck things that I’ve accumulated over the years: pans with lids, insulated casserole carriers, insulated serving dishes, my Wonderbag, and my thermos collection, including my new favorite, a three-quart Stanley “crock” with a clamp-on lid. I love it because after I preheat it with boiling water, it will keep food hot for many hours, even if the lid is off a lot of the time.

We had a new couple join the group, and they have a baby, so we now have two adorable babies. I am a big fan of babies.

Today is a “break” day from my class as my students need time to take notes for their research papers. Jasper still had to do school—we just didn’t have class. It was a rainy, wet, overcast, drizzly day. I prewashed some fabric and mended some pants for Jasper and re-threaded my serger with the thread that Lina needs for a project.

I thought I would be happy to stay in the house all day, but by late afternoon I realized I really needed to pick up a couple of things at Hobby Lobby, including some posterboard that Jasper needs for school. So I went out into the drizzle and at least it was different drizzle on the other side of town!

My walk this evening was not very enjoyable because the rain meant that quite a few athletes were running on the track with me instead of outside like they usually do. I do not enjoy a crowded track. I could have gone to a concert this evening, but by the time I remembered, it was too late to go . . .

A Move and a Sudden Change of Plans

I realized I never told you last night about my writers’ meeting. Instead of the usual workshop or lecture, it was one of those “murder mystery” dinners where various people were playing the five suspects in the dastardly murder of a Boston socialite on her way to marry a Texas rancher. It was a lot of fun. We were split up into groups and allowed to interview each of the suspects. My group did not guess who the killer was—but we still had fun.

The meeting broke up rather suddenly when it started sleeting outside. I drove home carefully and was glad to get here.

This morning I slept in before getting up to do some work in the kitchen. My husband took off once again to work on the green van—the one he’s trying to get operational for when the gray one bites the dust.

I texted Spencer near noon to ask if Jade had arrived safely, because I knew she was coming in for the weekend. He said no. She left via Greyhound early this morning, but her bus was late and Spencer was afraid she’d miss her connection in Dallas. I told him I’d be willing to go get her if she missed her bus, because Spencer had to work today and I knew if she had to wait for him to come get her, it would be late evening before he could be there.

Sure enough, at about 1:30 I got a call from Jade saying she’d missed her connection and was stranded at the bus station in Dallas. So all my plans went out the window and a few minutes later I was on the road headed toward Dallas.

The weather was ghastly. Cold, rainy, overcast, with a few areas of sleet. I was held up several times because of accidents on the highway. I’ve got to admit, I was not thrilled about having to drive into downtown Dallas. It was a stressful drive, but eventually I made it to the bus station and picked up Jade.

There were more traffic holdups on the way home due to accidents, so my GPS routed me a totally different way. We didn’t run into any traffic jams at all, and we made it home just in time for the dinner which Lina had to make because I hadn’t been here to do it!

Spencer got off work and was able to join us while we were still sitting at the table. When he has to work Saturday, he gets Monday off, so his weekend will be starting tomorrow.

Meanwhile, 900 miles away in Colorado Springs, Flynn and Tiffany moved into their new home today after closing on it yesterday! Flynn sent me a picture as confirmation that they honored our family’s tradition of always having hot dogs for the first meal in a new home. I’m sure there is plenty more work to do, but I am so happy that they have their own place now.

A Rainy Rescue & Banana Bread Baking

Today got off to a pretty exciting start. We’ve had several days of very warm, humid weather (by warm I mean as high as the low 80s!). Last night it was supposed to rain, but it didn’t. When I looked at the weather map this morning, there didn’t seem to be any rain in the offing. So my husband went to work on his bicycle as usual. And Jasper got up excited about his bicycle excursion to a donut shop on a highway over three miles from here (the one in walking distance has closed). He was going there to meet up with the new leader of his youth group. (Second new guy in less than a year.)

I made sure he had his phone so he could call me if he needed help. I resisted the urge to follow him in the car because that’s creepy and after all, he’s almost eighteen! So he set off and then ten minutes later it started raining—hard. I received a text from Jasper saying he needed to be picked up. I was still in my pajamas, so I threw some clothes on and drove off in the pouring rain to look for him. I received a second text telling me where he was. He was on the side of the highway where the side street he’d been on intersected with it.

Poor guy. Standing there in the pouring rain, drenched to the skin. He hadn’t called because he was wet. He had called because his bike chain broke when he tried to cross the highway! I thought maybe we could fit the bike in the trunk, but no. He tossed the useless chain into the car and then said he’d continue on to the donut shop, using his bike as a scooter since the pedals were useless.

Meanwhile, I returned home, parked the car, and got the van keys. I don’t enjoy driving that beast anymore, but this time it was necessary. I drove to the donut shop, where I found my sopping son already there and waiting under an overhang for his youth leader. With some effort, he got his bike into the van. His youth leader showed up, also on a bike, and was very impressed with Jasper’s dedication.

I waited in the van for over an hour while they had their breakfast. It seemed silly to drive all the way home and then turn around and drive back again to get Jasper. Then I received a text from my husband asking me to bring his raincoat and umbrella. He had gone to work not thinking he would need them.

So I told Jasper we had to leave, and he was actually relieved to get into the warm van I think. He was quite chilled from sitting in wet clothes all that time. I dropped him off at home, picked up my husband’s coat and umbrella, and drove them over to his office. I had a few minutes at home before driving back to campus to take Lucy the donuts I’d bought her. The temperature had dropped more than twenty degrees and I got cold walking from the car to the student center!

Lina had an opportunity come up suddenly to get paid to do some cleaning, so she was away all afternoon doing that. I, on the other hand, had a lot of baking to do. The rugby team had a bake sale today, but Lucy has a very busy class schedule on Thursdays so I knew all the baking would be my responsibility.

I made forty-eight banana-nut muffins with streusel on top. Jasper helped me package them all. Then I made 24 “kolaches.” I put that in quotes because it’s a cheater way to make them, but they’re really good! I drove Lucy over to campus with the goodies in boxes and the bake sale went well. Meanwhile, I made a big ol’ stir-fry for the family for supper, to use up as much stuff in the fridge as possible before I go shopping at Aldi tomorrow.

So today was a day when I didn’t really get to do anything that I’d planned or wanted! But that’s okay. I’m glad I was able to help my family out.

I’m also glad to be wearing a sweater again. It was 73 degrees when I got up this morning. Now it’s 32 and feels like 23! Winter’s back.

I’d like to ask you all to pray for Lina tomorrow (Friday). She has another job interview. The last place she interviewed strung her along for a month before telling her they’d decided not to fill the position. This month is the last month she’ll receive any “support” from her mission. She is eager to get started on her new life and find a job so she can get her own place. Because of her tendonitis, she can’t have a job where she’d be on her feet a lot. Pray that she finds something soon! I think having some time off has been good for her, but she is ready to have something to do.


Today I taught my class even though three students were out sick. Other than that, I’ve mostly been working on my editing job, trying to finish it up so I can get paid. Right now, I’m almost in tears. I do not know enough about the finer details of editing citations and I think I just lost several hours’ worth of work. Maybe I should get some rest! I will try again tomorrow . . .