A Farewell and a Hello

So, late last night our internet came back. Hallelujah! I need it for researching and preparing to teach my classes, and I have a class tomorrow.

Yesterday started with a goodbye to Mercy. She and Jasper walked to the donut shop to get their breakfast, and then Daniel arrived. Mercy’s stuff was loaded into Daniel’s car, and after a round of hugs they were off to Dallas to have lunch with friends before Mercy’s flight. I hated sending her off still sick.

Here at home, Jasper and I got some school done and more Christmas stuff put away. I strung another length of garland.

This morning, I had a lot of getting ready to do. My two maternal aunts (plus one uncle) are on a road trip from Austin to Nashville, and they had said they would stop here for lunch. I did what I could to organize things while still making food. I made my favorite quiche recipe—with shiitake mushrooms, bacon, and Swiss cheese. I tried a low-carb gluten-free crust recipe and was not impressed. I think next time I will just make it crustless!

They arrived shortly after 1:00 and it was so good to see them! My aunt Ruth I see almost every year because she lives in Nashville. (My daughter Mary also lives there and my parents are a two-hour drive away.) My aunt Glenda lives in the Pacific Northwest and I don’t think we had seen each other for eight and a half years! So we all had a great time catching up over lunch. I honestly believe I have the best aunts in the world. Walter missed lunch because he had a meeting, but he made it back before they left, so had a chance to at least say hello.

My kin were only able to stay till mid-afternoon, as they planned to continue on to Little Rock. Jasper and I had some schoolwork to do. I didn’t have to cook supper because there was quiche left over.

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Belated

This is the entry I wrote on Monday but was unable to post due to lack of wi-fi.

Yesterday was very different from our normal Sunday routine. We had promised Spencer we’d visit his church so we could see and hear him play in the worship band. He has been begging us to visit for months, but that would have meant our church wouldn’t have had an accompanist, so yesterday was our first chance.

Spencer’s church is aimed at young people, and is very “hip,” but there were a surprising number of middle-aged folks there also. I knew that I would not know any of the songs, so I pre-emptively played and sang several hymns at home to fortify myself before we left.

It was very, very different from the church we’ve been attending, but the enthusiasm was endearing. The church is passionate about investing in and helping the community around them, and I love that. Spencer did a great job playing the guitar. The sermon was delivered in up-to-the-minute lingo, but that didn’t tarnish its relevance in any way.

After the service, the pastor’s wife made a point of coming to meet us and raved about what a great guy Spencer is. She couldn’t get over how tall we all are (a common reaction). I’m so glad we were able to go.

Mercy and Daniel were very busy with various social activities during the afternoon, but they returned in time to have supper with us.

Today is Mercy’s last day here, as she flies back to Russia tomorrow. I called first thing this morning to get her a doctor’s appointment. She has been sick with a sinus infection since Thanksgiving, and it hasn’t gotten better during her stay in the USA. I was so relieved that I was able to get her an appointment before lunch. She ended up getting two injections. I assume they are faster-acting than pills and time is important since she’ll be on a plane tomorrow. I really hope she starts to experience some relief.

She had a very busy afternoon, but eventually she had a free time slot to spend with her mother. We went out for coffee (for her), only to find that the place we had chosen is closed on Mondays. Fortunately there was another coffee shop nearby, so we went there instead.

Then we went to the craft store to look at possible wedding ideas. We found the exact kind of flowers she wanted, so I can start getting them little by little when I have coupons or they are on sale. We also found a lantern she wanted for half price and used a coupon to buy some lights. So we have a little start on the wedding decorations!

Back at home I made hamburgers for supper—something Mercy doesn’t get in Russia—and Daniel joined us. Our internet was out all evening so I started restringing the bead garlands for the Christmas tree. Over 20 years ago, I strung them on fishing line, and it has held up very well, but recently I had the bright idea of stringing them on 15-foot lengths of 19-strand beading wire, and putting a lobster claw clasp at both ends. That will make it much more manageable to put up one strand at a time and then just clip the next one onto the end and keep going. In theory.

 

Jesus Paid It All

Jesus Paid It All

Elvina M. Hall

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

Refrain

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

Refrain

And now complete in Him
My robe His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side,
I am divinely blest.

Refrain

Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.

Refrain

When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.

Refrain

And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down
All down at Jesus’ feet.

Refrain

 

Epiphany

I had planned to sleep in this morning, but it didn’t work out due to having a bad night with arthritis. Still, by the time I got up, Mercy and Daniel were well on their way, having left South Carolina at 5:00 a.m.

Later in the morning I went out in search of puff pastry. I had decided to make Galette des Rois for the first time in years, to celebrate Epiphany. I had already ascertained that Walmart did not have any puff pastry.

Thankfully, I found some, and also materials from which to make the crown to go on top. I delegated the crown making to Lucy so I could focus on making the galette. It turned out pretty well:

1-6-18 Galette with crown

And when we served it out, Jasper’s piece had the hidden treasure so he was our king for the evening:

1-6-18 King Jasper

Mercy and Daniel finally arrived at about 10:30. It’s going to be a very busy couple of days before Mercy flies back to Russia on Tuesday!

 

Pay Day at Last

Today was a big day for Jasper. I received news this morning that his Harvest Festival check was finally ready. Of course, I had to go grocery shopping this morning, but after lunch I took Jasper over to the extension office and he got his check. He ended up getting a little over $700 for his cookies that sold at the auction! Now he is eagerly waiting for his forge to be finished so he can start getting some experience with blacksmithing.

Picking up the check marked our final activity with 4-H. Our once-vibrant club has vanished and there are no longer any activities that are of interest to Jasper, so we are moving on.

My friend Darlene came over this afternoon for tea and conversation. It was so nice to sit and relax with a friend after all the busyness of the holidays.

Later, I had a situation to deal with. Our bathroom mirror has a fluorescent tube on each side. For the last couple of days, the tube on the left has been in distress. I know this because every time I turned it on, it tried desperately to communicate via Morse code. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Morse code is very sketchy apart from the classic “SOS” signal, which I only know thanks to a very monotonous opera I was once subjected to. So I chose to fix the problem by buying a new fluorescent light tube. It is much “warmer” than the old one, which means I look totally different in the mirror now. Not sure how I feel about that.

Beleaguered

Have you ever felt under attack? Maybe not a full frontal assault, but just undermined on several different fronts? That’s kind of how I’ve felt today. It seemed like no matter what I said or did, someone argued or disagreed or criticized. That takes away a lot of my motivation to get things accomplished.

Today I threw out at least two big trash bags full of orphaned plastic kitchen containers and lids. I even threw away some (gasp) name-brand Tupperware. The time had come. It wasn’t easy, but it felt good afterward!  I’m hoping to get more organizing done before we jump back into school next week.

I heard from Lina this evening. She made it safely to Dubai, but once there she received news that the school opening will be delayed until at least the end of January due to a cholera outbreak in the capital city of Lusaka. Over 2000 cases have been confirmed in the last few months and there have been 50 deaths, so the Zambian government is doing what they can to contain the epidemic and stop it from spreading. Please pray that they will be able to halt the spread of this deadly disease! And of course, pray that Lina will make it the rest of the way safely.

 

Coffee Shops & Hospitality

If you know me or have been reading my blog for very long, you know I tend to shy away from controversy both here and in person. I have opinions, about which I am passionate, but I mostly keep them to myself, because I know it is extremely unlikely I will change anyone else’s opinion by airing my own. That said, I fear this essay might spark some thought or discussion—and if it does, it might be a good thing.

My kids and all their friends (and many of my friends too) love to go to coffee shops. It’s a habit, a hobby, a fixture in their lives. They think nothing of spending $4 or more every day for a drink of fancy coffee. The price, all by itself, would keep me from adopting this particular hobby—but this is not about the cost of fancy coffee drinks. I am willing to pay for the expensive coffee in order to spend time with my kids in the venue of their choice, even though I rarely order anything myself.

What I’ve been noticing more and more is that coffee shops are where many people choose to do most of their socializing—including my own generation. When friends talk about getting together, they often agree to meet at one of the trendy coffee shops in town. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this, except . . .

Except I am beginning to suspect these coffee shop excursions are more and more replacing actual hospitality instead of just augmenting it. A coffee shop is a neutral location, which sometimes, of course, is exactly what one needs. But I can’t help wondering, what kind of friendship blooms when all the interaction takes place in a neutral location? What happened to hanging out at each other’s houses and being present in each other’s lives?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, sure, you don’t like going to public locations because you’re an introvert, and you don’t like going to coffee shops because you don’t drink coffee! Both of those things are true, but they are not the whole truth.

Others of you might want to point out that coffee shops virtually always serve tea as a way of throwing a bone to tea drinkers like me. It’s a good thing you can’t see the face I just made after typing that statement. I have yet to have a single cup of tea in a coffee shop anywhere in the USA that even comes close to being as good as the tea I can make for myself with minimal fuss or expense at home. And drinking lukewarm tea out of a paper cup is just . . . not okay. For me, anyway.

When I want to visit with one of my friends, I invite her over for tea—at my house. Although I always make an effort to tidy up, she will walk in my door and see clutter. She may see a sock lying in a corner somewhere. She will see dirty dishes in the kitchen and possibly baskets of clean laundry lying around. She will see my current knitting project piled up beside my chair and maybe a sewing project and some junk mail too.

She will also see my smiling face and maybe get to say hello to a couple of my kids as they cruise past. She’ll get real tea served in porcelain or china cups, and it will be hot enough to be enjoyable. It won’t cost her a single cent, and she can have as many refills as she wants! We can have a private conversation, and we won’t have to shout over anyone’s loud music or listen to someone else’s phone conversation or worry about being overheard.

On rare occasions, one of my friends will also invite me over to her house. I always love to visit a friend in her own home, almost as much as I love having friends in my home. To me, it’s a vital component of participating in each other’s lives.

Not so long ago, visiting each other for coffee or tea was a common thing. People did it all the time. They did it in their own homes. Sometimes it was fancy. Sometimes it was just a mug in front of the fireplace or at a kitchen table that was piled high with stuff, with a little spot cleared so you could put your cup down. It wasn’t about showing off your pristine house. It was about sharing life together.

I’m not saying you can’t share life together in a swanky coffee house—of course you can. But I don’t think it is as personal or as likely to lead to a long-lasting deep friendship, which is why the trend is beginning to concern me. Over the last decade or so, people have often expressed surprise when they hear I still invite people over to my house, especially for meals. Apparently this is not “done” very much anymore. If true, I believe we have lost something we should have held on to—the joy of hospitality, of sharing our homes and our lives with others.

The past month has been greatly enhanced for me because we had dinner guests on five occasions (not counting family). On none of those occasions was my house “company ready” even by my very lax standards. I got over that hurdle decades ago. I do what I can, but I also assume that when people come for tea or for dinner, they are coming to see me, not critique my house. If I waited for my house to be perfect before inviting someone over, I’d never have guests at all, and my soul would be the poorer for it.

I’d like to timidly suggest that if you are someone who has a deeply-ingrained coffee shop habit, maybe you could try inviting a friend over to your own place for coffee once a month. Make the coffee yourself. Choose the mugs. Light a candle. If you really want to step it up, make cookies! But try it. Once a month, save the cost of a designer caffeinated beverage and share your homemade version with a friend. Maybe you’ll like it. Maybe you’ll want to do it more often. I hope so.

Disclaimer: After reading through this again, it occurred to me that some might think this essay is a thinly-veiled criticism of my grown kids and an attempt to spur them to be more hospitable. Actually, I am very proud of how open-hearted and hospitable they all are. They all regularly invite friends over to their homes and I can only hope they inspire others to do the same!

Another Goodbye

It always seems harder to say goodbye when the person you’re saying goodbye to is going out of the country. This morning I was up and showered early so I’d be ready to leave. Jasper braved very frigid temperatures to walk to the donut shop to buy donuts for himself and his sisters. Walter cleared out the trunk of the car so there’d be room for Lina’s luggage. Lina packed the last few things and got her suitcases out to the car.

Shortly after 7:00, Lina, Lucy, Jasper and I were on the road in the bone-chilling cold, headed west to Dallas. One last stop at Buc-ee’s. One last cup of American coffee for Lina. Then, we arrived at the airport. We arrived in plenty of time, but Lina had to wait in a long line to check her luggage in. Then, our precious moments to visit were cut short when we saw the length of the security line. We had to say goodbye immediately so Lina could get in line.

Our tradition is to stand there watching and waiting until the departing family member is all the way through security. Then, because we are all tall, we raise our hands and wave frantically over the heads of the intervening masses until our loved one is out of sight.

Today, we had to wait a long time. It took Lina almost an hour to make it through security. By then her plane had started boarding and she no doubt had to speed-walk on her very sore foot to make it to her gate in time. There was just a very brief wave from her to us and from us to her, and then she was gone.

We headed back to the car and out of the airport. It is good to have something to do at a time like that, and my husband had requested that I stop at an Indian grocery store and get him some of his favorite candy. We drove there and walked into the fragrant store. There are several food items I like to get at Indian stores, but I also almost always come home with one or more stainless steel containers. More and more, I am avoiding plastic and storing food in glass, ceramic, or stainless steel containers. Indian stores tend to have lovely stainless steel containers for very reasonable prices. A couple of canisters came home with me today.

The kids had requested Ethiopian food for lunch, and they didn’t have to do much arm-twisting. We were the only lunch customers at our favorite Ethiopian place. The incense was a little overpowering, but the food was fabulous. To my surprise and delight, they had actually remodeled and upgraded the restrooms so that using them was much less of an adventure than in times past.

After lunch, it was time to head home. The sunshine was almost blinding, and the temperature had risen above freezing, though we still saw several frozen ponds and drainage ditches.

I have to admit, walking into the house was a little hard. Lina’s territory in the schoolroom is bereft of all her things, except the chair we got her for Christmas, which will soon be covered in plastic to protect it from dust and cats until her return. We didn’t do everything we had hoped to do during her visit, but I think we really packed a lot in. At least we know we’ll see her again in July, when she comes back for Mercy’s wedding!

Big News & A Looming Farewell

Yesterday, I was sitting on some news I couldn’t share with you because it wasn’t yet “public.” But today I can tell you that Mercy said “yes” to Daniel at sunrise on New Year’s Day. They are planning to get married at the end of July. We are so happy for them both. Daniel already feels like a member of our family because for the last year he has been coming over for Sunday dinner every week.

This morning I was up early to make a special breakfast for Lina and myself. Technically, she will also have breakfast tomorrow before we leave for the airport, but Wednesday is donut day so Jasper will be sharing that meal with her.

After breakfast Lina headed off to her doctor’s appointment. She’s had so much pain in her left foot since September, she decided to see a podiatrist. The news was discouraging. She has posterior tibial tendonitis. There has been some permanent damage to her foot, but with proper support she should heal enough to be fully mobile again. She might need to wear an arch support for the foreseeable future. She was able to get the brace and support the doctor recommended when we went out this afternoon.

In other foot news, I acquired a new pair of clogs. This brutal cold weather finally convinced me to find something, anything, that I could put on my feet to keep them a little warmer. One of the places Lina had to go was the store where I originally bought my now-extinct lamented clogs that served me so well for 15 years. I hoped to find something similar, but alas—the only clogs they had were Crocs. I never thought I’d sink that low, but yes: I now own a pair of Crocs. They won’t be of any use at writers’ conferences or church, but at least I can now go to Walmart or Aldi in cold weather without risking frostbitten toes! The clogs are not super comfy at this point, but they are better than anything else I’ve got, and I’m assuming they will conform to my feet over time.

Lina and I also went to the yarn store, where everything is on sale this month, and I got nothing. It might have had something to do with the fact that I knew I was going to have to get clogs . . .

Of course, when not running errands, Lina has been packing. And packing. Some things have to be packed to be stored away here, and everything else has to be packed into her two suitcases and one carryon.

We made pizza tonight for her “last supper,” and when she had some time to spare later, we watched one final episode of a show we’ve been watching together. Tomorrow morning will get here sooner than I want it to!

Parting Shot:

Mercy & Daniel

Mercy and Daniel

More Goodbyes and Black-Eyed Peas

It’s been a quiet first day of the New Year at our house. We all slept in at least a little. I was able to get up and take my shower before others were stirring. When Mary and Jordan got up, it was to pack and load their car for the long ride home.

It is always hard when the goodbyes follow each other so closely. Yesterday we said goodbye to Flynn and Mercy and Daniel, and today it was time to say goodbye to Mary and Jordan, not knowing when we will see them again.

I did some little things around the house and steam-blocked a knitted poncho so I could wear it to stay warm. My goal was not to leave the house today, partly because I need to rest and partly because my lack of suitable footwear makes it problematical to go outside in very cold weather. Various other members of the family went out to run errands, but I stayed put—until late this afternoon, anyway. Bri was able to get on a flight this evening and I could drive to the airport in my slippers since I didn’t plan to get out of the car.

Yes, I know. I really need to get some shoes. You have no idea what a tall order that is. I have to find shoes that are both long and wide and that can accommodate my very messed-up arthritic left foot without causing excruciating pain. I am fairly certain I will have to pay over $100 to find this combination—and whatever I find is unlikely to be attractive. So I keep putting it off. Because, you know, wearing flip-flops to everything is so classy.

Spencer returned this afternoon and we had black-eyed peas with our dinner because this is the South, and black-eyed peas are a requirement on New Year’s. They are supposed to bring you “luck,” which is ridiculous, but I am all in favor of charming traditions and I happen to like black-eyed peas!

Lina has been very busy sorting and packing. Tomorrow is her last day at home and it’s going to be busy. Her visit has just zoomed by, as it always does.