Teaching and Packing

So, time got away from me yesterday and I didn’t get around to posting. It was another busy day getting ready for and then teaching the blond brothers and preparing for Geography and my trip.

I don’t think I’ve talked all that much about my trip. Tomorrow I leave for Spokane to visit my friend Julie and help her prepare for our high school class reunion which begins on Monday. And before anyone says, “Oh, I didn’t know you went to school in Washington”—I didn’t. Our boarding school was in Kenya, and despite our expectations of being able to go back there for a reunion someday, it hasn’t happened yet. So the class reunions have been at many different locations here in the USA. Julie thought it would be fun to have a reunion in the mountains in winter. I think it will be fun too, but I am scrambling to locate and pack enough layers.

This morning, though, was all about getting ready for Geography. We were doing Russia and the Balkans today. My student chef was bringing borscht and holupki (stuffed cabbage) and Jasper helped me make the salad. I also made a raspberry tart that turned out pretty well for being gluten free.

To my delight, the borscht was a big hit with the boys. Sometimes their lack of culinary open-mindedness frustrates me, so I didn’t have high hopes for today, but it went better than expected.

After class, I took Jasper sock shopping with me. He needed socks and I definitely needed socks that are long enough to wear with my huge new boots. It will take me a while to get used to walking with such huge feet. Right now it seems impossible that I would actually need anything that warm—but I’m pretty sure I will.

I still have some packing to finish up and grocery shopping in the morning, but in the afternoon I’ll be on my way to the airport in Dallas. This is not an ideal time for me to be gone, but my ticket was purchased months ago and obviously I am going to an event that can’t be moved. And I’ll still get back a week before my husband’s surgery. It will be interesting to see how I handle real winter weather!

Working My Way Down the List

Friday is my grocery shopping day, so the morning is taken up with list-making and then going to Aldi. Today’s Aldi observation: two young women buying zucchini (courgettes). A whole cart full of zucchini. Nothing but dozens and dozens of zucchini. What could it mean? My mind raced trying to think what possible need anyone could have for that many zucchini. I honestly don’t know.

This afternoon I had other errands to run and so much work to do. I am still trying to make my way through the stack of papers to be graded, but I have so many other responsibilities too. I need another week or two before I have to start teaching again! (Instead of two days.)

I had made time in my schedule to go to my writers’ meeting, so I got ready and then drove up to the other side of town to the restaurant where we meet. I was very surprised to see I was the first one there, as this has never happened before. Then the waitress came and told me that the meeting had been postponed until next week due to the threat of severe weather.

As I drove home, I wondered what I had missed. Why is everyone so freaked out about the weather? I had checked it multiple times and hadn’t seen anything to be unduly concerned about, especially that early in the evening. Yet I had heard of several events being canceled, including Spencer’s rugby game tomorrow which is scheduled for well after the storm has ended.

So when I returned home I watched a video with Jasper while knitting as knitting is important. I have less than a month left in which to finish this project.

I have spent the rest of the evening working on grading and other word-related chores. As I write this the big storm has arrived with a vengeance and the window beside me is being bombarded with rain and rattled by wind. Thankfully we still have power.

Update on my mother: they were able to stabilize her more quickly than expected and this afternoon my dad worked to transfer her back to the nursing home, where they have a new set of protocols for caring for her. Unfortunately, they also discovered that she has contracted yet another urinary tract infection, an ailment which seems to keep coming back to plague her. So pray they will be able to get her on an effective antibiotic right away.

Planning & Paperwork

Friday is the day I get to sleep in a little in compensation for having to go grocery shopping. I am glad the holidays are over and I am back to buying “normal” food. First, though, I had to plan next week’s Geography menu so I’d be able to get the supplies I’ll need.

I had a student come in to take a test after lunch and then I worked on paperwork for a while. I never run out of paperwork! I also made a run to Walmart to get things Aldi didn’t have, but I will have to venture forth to a third store for sure if I am going to get the ingredients I need for Geography class. Fennel, leeks, and rhubarb can be hard to find around here.

Since tomorrow is supposed to be a sewing day, I washed and dried the rest of the fabric I’m hoping to use. My grandchild will have some colorful things!

Now I’m waiting to make a late-night run to the airport with Lucy to pick up Tanner. Thankfully it’s just our local airport—not the one in Dallas.

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.

***

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 . . .

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

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.

Don’t Let Your Dog Near Your Knitting

On Fridays I struggle with getting going in the morning because the first four days of the week are so intense. But eventually, I did get out the door to Aldi and found they had their German Christmas goodies out, so I got some even though I was running late, because a lot of that stuff is not restocked. If you don’t buy it the first time you see it, it might be gone when you go back!

As I was putting my stuff into bags, an old friend walked up and I was able to spend a few minutes catching up with her before rushing home because I had a knitting lesson to teach. It was kind of a rescue lesson because the lady’s dog had got into her knitting and bitten through her circular needle. Fortunately the damage was minimal.

This evening I had a writers’ meeting—the one that meets at a restaurant. I’m not a big fan of that particular restaurant, but having said that, I was surprised when the waitress greeted me right away as “Ms. Burklin.” I’m curious as to how she learned my name . . . I don’t think I’ve ever used a card to pay. But she referred to me by name several times and I guess going once a month makes me a regular customer.

I planned to do a lot of work when I got home but frankly, I kept falling asleep. Tomorrow I’ve got a very long list!

November’s Here

How can it be November already? I have at least four months’ worth of work to do before the end of the year. Today I did not have to teach. I spent the morning mostly researching Geography recipes and making my grocery list before heading out to Aldi. Somewhat to my surprise, they still don’t have their Christmas goodies out yet. I got some half-price candy for the family though.

This afternoon I headed over to my favorite bookstore. I had just found out that I need to find a different venue for my writers’ group this month, and the bookstore might be an option, so I went to discuss it with the owner. I also took some tea in a travel mug so I could stay and visit a while. Believe it or not, I didn’t buy a single book today!

Jasper worked this morning and then spent the afternoon working on the costume he’s trying to finish in time for a party tomorrow. The deadline kind of snuck up on him! He has been working on this costume for months now.

I made it to the gym for a walk today and was glad to have an indoor track because it’s been quite chilly all day. We had a hard freeze last night—very early for our neck of the woods. Normally we don’t have our first freeze until around Thanksgiving or even later. So I have been bundled up in sweaters and jackets for the last couple of days. Tomorrow should be a little warmer.

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.