An Unplanned Adventure

Friday is my grocery shopping day. So after working on my menus and shopping list, I got into my car to head to Aldi late this morning. Lucy and Tanner had borrowed the car yesterday, and I saw the gas tank was almost empty. Accordingly, I headed to a nearby grocery store with a gas station and filled the tank.

However, once I had done so, I couldn’t get the car to start. Now to be honest, the car has been starting kind of “rough” ever since our Tennessee-Georgia trip—but it HAS been starting. Until today in a grocery store parking lot in the blazing sun.

I texted my husband at work and he said he wouldn’t be able to get away immediately. So Lucy and Tanner drove the van over to the grocery store and the plan was to get them to help me push the car into a parking spot. Except that we couldn’t, because I couldn’t even shift the car into neutral.

I consulted my husband again, and as I’m sure you can imagine, he was thrilled. Lucy and Tanner had to drive the van back home, so my husband could ride there on his bicycle. Then all three of them came back to the grocery store. Walter had to call his mechanic friend to get instructions on how to bypass that normal gear-changing setup so he could get the car in neutral, and after that we were able to get it pushed into a regular parking spot.

What we could NOT do was get it started, even with jumper cables. Walter removed the battery and we dropped it off with his mechanic friend before even going home. And all this fun happened while he was in the middle of a major crisis at work.

After he left for his second job, I took a neighbor up on her offer to lend me her car and went to Walmart to pick up at least a few groceries, because I didn’t know when I’d have my own wheels again. Later, after supper, Walter took Lucy and Tanner with him to retrieve the car (he had to tow it behind the van).

So, the car is now back in the driveway. There were two options for what the problem is—the alternator or the battery. It’s not the alternator. I guess we’re getting a new battery. 2020 strikes again!

A Return

Yesterday I spent the morning doing more sorting and putting stuff away, and in the afternoon I got in the car and drove to Dallas. I looked forward to it. It’s funny to me that I’ve become so accustomed to long drives now. Ten years ago I couldn’t even drive two hours without getting too sleepy to keep driving. Now I can drive all day and usually enjoy it. Even if, as was the case yesterday, I am struggling to adjust to a new phone.

My first stop was my favorite Ethiopian restaurant, where I parked and ordered carryout from my car. When I walked in to pick up my order a few minutes later, I was very dismayed to find the restaurant completely devoid of customers. I want that place to survive! The chef/owner is so sweet. She offered to carry my bags out to the car for me but I declined as I have not quite reached that stage of decrepitude.

From there I continued north to Mercy and Daniel’s apartment, with my car smelling absolutely heavenly. The three of us enjoyed the fabulous food while visiting for a couple of hours. Their little dining room has been turned into Mercy’s “work at home” station. Tomorrow she begins working in person again two days a week. I’m sure the variety will be welcome.

Then it was time to continue on to my ultimate destination—the airport. I had two more carryout boxes of Ethiopian food I had thought to put in a cooler and bring home—but alas, they would not fit in the cooler I’d brought. Which was just as well, because when I picked up Lucy and Tanner they were both ravenous and very grateful to have Ethiopian food waiting for them in the car!

It was a beautiful drive home, going toward the rising full moon, which was huge and went from copper to brass to silver as I drove. I know I’ve mentioned this before (probably several times) but I just love it when my trips home from Dallas coincide with a full moon rising. I never tire of that lovely sight.

 

We finally pulled into the driveway after midnight, and of course the dirty dishes were here waiting for me! So I took care of that before heading to bed.

Today got off to a slow start for everyone except my hardworking husband. I was up and about before everyone else, but that was to be expected. Lucy and Tanner got up at 3:00 a.m. yesterday and are also dealing with a three-hour time difference.

The amazing thing about today was that it was more like October than August. Overcast and rainy, the day remained cool and temperatures never climbed out of the low 80s. It was so wonderful.

This afternoon I did venture out to run some errands and it was almost enjoyable with the weather so cool. Lucy and Tanner mostly spent the day recovering but I think might be ready to do some things tomorrow.

And guess who turned six months old today? The cutest little granddaughter in the world, that’s who!

 

 

Precursors of Autumn

The light is already changing. I can see it in the early mornings and in the afternoons. It means that regardless of whatever else might happen, autumn will eventually arrive! (Not for a long time yet here in Texas.)

Today one of my primary goals was to plan my fall garden. Maybe next week I’ll give you a full report on the garden in its current state, but let’s just say it’s been a bit of a disappointment in spite of all the effort I’ve put into it. Yet I want to plant a bunch of stuff in the fall because so many great veggies won’t grow in the summer heat here.

So I spent some time going over my charts and planting tables and figuring out what I’m going to grow and where. Then, when I went out to water and care for my garden, I planted my first fall seeds—cauliflower. I had planned to start them indoors, but apparently they often don’t transplant well, so I planted them directly into a vacant spot in my garden. Now to wait and see if they germinate. I am still waiting for some more seeds, many of which will be started indoors and kept here until temperatures cool a little. Although I have plenty of experience with gardening, I’ve never attempted a fall garden before, so we’ll see how it goes.

I also did some sorting and putting away of things that have been lying about for an embarrassingly long time. And I made a big ol’ sponge cake (using a dozen eggs!) that will be the basis of tomorrow’s dessert for the family. I feel like they could use a little bit of a special dessert this weekend as it’s been a rough week.

Mercy drove home from Colorado today and arrived safely. Early tomorrow morning, Lina will be leaving to go to Colorado herself, so she can meet little Paisley before school starts.

My hardworking husband had to work all day today out in the heat. He does not have enough employees to do everything that needs to be done on campus before the students arrive, so he spent five hours mowing grass this morning before going to his regular landscape job that we thought would be over by now (the house didn’t sell after all).

And Jasper has come down with a cold, which means that in today’s paranoid climate, none of us will be going to church tomorrow . . .

 

 

Back to Work

The first weekday after a trip is always so busy. All I wanted to do was write, but there was so much I had to do to get our household running again. And I had a private project that I didn’t want to put off.

So this morning involved working in my garden, and ripping out one of my cucumber plants. The other one is living on borrowed time, but I’ve got to say we have harvested a LOT of cucumbers this year and since I’ve already replanted I know there will be more. My okra forest is just about as tall as me now.

Then I drove up to Hobby Lobby and from thence to Aldi, where I bought enough food to keep us going until Friday. In the afternoon, I had to get some stuff ready to mail and then go to the bank and post office and Walmart. Running that many errands in one day is not my favorite thing, and it means I didn’t get much writing done—but it also means that maybe I’ll have some concentrated writing time tomorrow.

My poor husband is facing a difficult few weeks at work as they prepare for the new school year—whatever that will end up looking like. Regardless, he has more work to do than his reduced staff is able to handle. Some things may be left undone.

On the Road

Today is our 39th anniversary, but it doesn’t feel like it because it was a travel day. We will celebrate later!

Yesterday we spent the day with Walter’s mom and sister. Lots of games were played. We ended the day with a nice dinner and then headed back to our hotel to get some rest. We won’t be staying there again.

This morning we packed and loaded and got on the road by about 8:30. We are not the “leave before dawn” type of travelers. It was a mostly uneventful day on the road and we made good time.

Nearing home, it was close to supper time and I certainly did not want to have to cook anything, so I persuaded my husband to stop at an Indian restaurant I’d heard about. What I hadn’t heard was that it’s part of a truck stop and Greyhound station! But we had the restaurant to ourselves and the food was very good.

We stopped to pick up some food for breakfast tomorrow and still made it home shortly after 7:00. Now the car’s been unloaded and suitcases unpacked. The mail’s been gone through and I am so glad to be home! Lots of catching up to do . . .

Quote of the Day, on a billboard advertising a podiatry practice: “Soles Healed”

 

Someone Else

Yesterday we were up early (although not nearly as early as Jon and Sheryl, who had a plane to catch).  We were on the road by 9:00 and headed south to Georgia. It was a beautiful drive. For possibly the first time ever, we arrived at our hotel a few minutes before the normal check-in time.

I had booked and paid for this hotel stay several weeks ago. I now believe the glowing reviews I read must have been several years old. The room seemed rather tired and dingy, and there is no seating other than the beds and the one desk chair. However, we brought our stuff in and then drove over to my mother-in-law’s house for the evening.

We stayed rather late before returning to the hotel. This morning, as I was getting dressed, I happened to catch a glimpse of the bottom of my feet (a part of my anatomy I almost never glimpse). My feet were black:

7-16-18-black-feet-1

I had been going barefoot in our uncarpeted room and had made several nocturnal visits to the bathroom, and this was the result. No wonder the room seemed dingy to us! I scrubbed my feet with disinfectant wipes until they were as clean as I could get them. I knew I was going to have to buy something with which to wipe down the floor because that was just gross.

But meanwhile, we went back to my mother-in-law’s house and I left the men there while I continued on to the suburb where my friend Ruth and her family now live. I was able to spend most of the day with her and her two young daughters, O (aged 4) and B (aged 2).

We had quite a day. Paintings were painted. Pictures were colored. We played several nonstandard versions of mancala, and also a game called “Go Away Monster.” O, who is very outgoing and extroverted, talked almost nonstop. B took longer to feel up to talking in my presence. She struggled with remembering my name, so instead she called me “Someone Else.” As in, “can Someone Else play a game with me?” It was so adorable.

Ruth and I did get a chance to visit a little with each other while the girls napped! As always, I left full of admiration for Ruth and for any mom of young children who is still sane. By the time I left, both girls had really warmed to me and were sad to say goodnight at bedtime. I love that I got to be there long enough to get a feel for what Ruth’s days are like.

I had a bit of an adventure getting back to my mother-in-law’s place. Jasper had rejoined the group after spending part of the afternoon with his buddy, our former neighbor Josiah.

Walter borrowed his mom’s Swiffer mop and we returned to the hotel room determined to make it cleaner. Walter mopped it thoroughly (scrubbing as he went) three times and by the third time the pad wasn’t getting quite as dirty. And yes, the photo of my feet is probably going in my review.

Parting Shot:

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Little B helping her mom cook supper. She plays with the spice jars and has personified each one. Garlic is her alter ego and Basil is the mom. I love it.

 

The Diaspora

It’s been a full couple of days. Sunday morning we got up early and I made breakfast before we headed off to join my dad at church. Lina met us there—but my dad did not. The five of us found a (socially distanced) pew and I texted Dad to let him know where we were. However, he never arrived.

I admit I was a little worried. Since we had gone to the early service, we had time to go back to the timeshare so Flynn could finish packing before we met everyone for lunch. We had arranged to meet at a Mexican restaurant. When we told them there were going to be 13 of us, they gave us our own room. Soon everyone was there—except my dad. I had texted and tried to call him. No answer.

By now several of us were concerned. Jon and Sheryl offered to drive over to his house and see if they could figure out what was going on. A few minutes after they left, Dad showed up. It turned out his car had broken down in the parking lot of his second church. He had actually been at his first church when we were there, but he sat in the lobby so we never saw him, because he leaves a little early in order to make it to his second church. And he hadn’t had his phone turned on. He had to bum a ride back to his house so he could drive his sister’s car to the restaurant.

So we all breathed a big sigh of relief and texted Jon and Sheryl to come back. It was a fun meal and I tried to enjoy every minute because as soon as it was over, all our kids except for Jasper left town. Spencer and Jade drove down to Atlanta to surprise a friend before continuing on to Texas today. Everybody else went to Memphis to help Mary and Jordan pack. This afternoon Lina and Mercy drove home to Texas. Flynn will be driving the U-haul truck to Colorado on Wednesday while Jordan drives his car. And Mary will stay to finish cleaning their Memphis place and to take care of some business in Nashville before following to Colorado.

Sunday evening Walter and I went over to visit with my dad for a couple of hours. This morning, though, it was all about work. The three of us and Jon and Sheryl all descended on my dad’s house to get some stuff done. Walter and Jasper worked outside. Jon and Sheryl tackled clearing out my dad’s TV room. And I ensconced myself in my mom’s chair in her sewing room and started going through box after box. So. Many. Boxes. So many random items squirreled away in random boxes with papers or sewing notions. I made some pretty good headway, but there is much, much more to do. Tomorrow will be just as busy.

We worked until about 6:00. My dad was invited out for supper, so Jon and Sheryl invited Walter and Jasper to go on a hike with them. I was not wearing suitable shoes, and I needed to go grocery shopping anyway, so I did that and then came back to our lodgings to write.

Quote of the Day:

The girl bagging my groceries in Kroger this afternoon, to the cashier: “Do you have any idea how excited I am that tomorrow’s Wednesday?”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her tomorrow’s actually Tuesday.

Parting Shot:

A book I found in my mother’s stuff today—just in case you wondered where I got my love of words from. And yes, I’m keeping it. Are you kidding me? An entire book of homophones!

We That Remain

How do you go about summing up a life so rich and varied and full of grace? It’s not possible. I knew, going into today, that regardless of what might be said, more would be left unsaid.

We gathered at my mother’s grave this morning for a brief graveside service. My dad said a few words, his musician friends sang a song, and there were a couple of prayers. There were 24 family members present, plus a few friends from church.

Afterward, our kids went out for coffee and we failed to locate them, so we went to the church to hang out with my dad and my cousin David and his wife Julie.

As we visited, I was approached by a lady I had met when I was with Mom in the nursing home. She explained that Mom had given her a couple of hats, and she had brought them, and would I be interested in having them? I knew my mom had given away most of her hats. For decades after other ladies stopped doing it, my mother wore a hat to church every Sunday. In recent years, as the trend showed no signs of coming back, my mother had given away her hats.

I assumed the hats would be too small for me, because my mother’s head was definitely smaller than mine. One of the hats was much too small. The other one, I found, could be squashed onto my head with a little effort—and it happened to coordinate with the navy blue dress I was wearing. How could I pass up the chance to wear my mother’s hat at her memorial service? Knowing how tight it was, I decided not to put it on until time for the service.

Meanwhile, the church had provided a lovely lunch for us, and I enjoyed sitting there and visiting with my cousin and his wife. Because of the pandemic situation, he was the only one of my eight maternal cousins who was able to come—and he happens to be the one closest in age to me.

Then it was time for the visitation hour. Most of the people who came, came to talk to my dad, so although my brothers and I were there too, we did have some time to visit with each other.

As the time for the service drew near, I donned the hat, realizing I was now committed to keeping it on for the duration, because I knew it would leave a mark on my forehead.

My brothers Jon and Greg each read a passage of scripture that had been a favorite of my mom’s, and my brother Matt shared some heartwarming memories. My dad had asked me to read the poem I wrote about my mother several years ago. (If you didn’t read it back in March, you can find it here: https://lindaburklin.wordpress.com/2020/03/27/words-fail-me/ ). Despite practicing the poem (after having to write it out by hand last night), I struggled to get through it in that setting, and gave in to tears afterward. My husband also got up to say a few words as the “favorite” (and only) son-in-law, and there were recorded tributes from my two maternal aunts, who weren’t able to be here.

Some lovely things were said, but so much was left unsaid. I know there’s no way to sum up 87 years in an hour-long service, but I wished people could have learned more about my mom. She was so gracious, elegant, poised and classy. She was also deeply spiritual, a lifelong prayer warrior who read the Bible through every year and could quote long passages of scripture. She was intellectual, well-read, and very thoughtful. Patient and kind, she never put others down or shamed them.

Creative in many directions, she was a first-class cook, a world-class seamstress, a skilled knitter, a home decorator, and many other things. When I was a kid she even had a whole candle-making setup in our basement. She was my superlative example in learning the art of hospitality. She welcomed everyone to her home, whether expected or not. It was from her I learned that hospitality is not a “gift”: it is something we are to be “given to.” No one ever left my mom’s home hungry or uncared-for. Some people never saw her silly side—but she sure did have one, and she seemed to delight in telling stories on herself.

After the service, I tried to corral everyone for some group photos. I have some mixed feelings about this, because this gathering of people may never happen again, and I felt it was very important to document it. However, I am quite sure that some of my relatives were not comfortable at all with the proximity required for group photos, or with having to remove masks so we could see their faces. Was it worth it? I hope so.

Once the photos had been taken, we were all free to go to our lodgings and change into casual clothes before meeting on my dad’s deck for supper. It was another spectacular evening, and as the sun set the fireflies came out again. We have really enjoyed them here.  My brothers Matt and Greg said their goodbyes, as they will be leaving to go home first thing in the morning. The kids all went for a twilight walk by the lake. Eventually Flynn and Jasper returned and we drove back up to our timeshare. Still trying to process all the things that happened today. Still trying to figure out what our family’s life will be like from this point forward, without my mother in it.

Parting Shot:

Mary’s epic selfie of the whole family (except my cousin David and his wife, who had already left).

Independence Day

Today was, of course, our second Saturday in a row. My hardworking husband chose to do a lot of yard work, including digging and installing a new hose line in the yard so I’ll have a spigot near my garden. He really hasn’t liked me dragging the long hose all over the yard. And of course the new setup will be more convenient for me too!

I did some sewing work and mostly tried to prepare ahead for this evening’s supper. Lina arrived at lunchtime and then spent quite a while outside in the hot sun keeping Walter company while he dug the water line. When he found he was missing a couple of parts he needed, the two of them went up to buy the parts—and also to stop by the snow cone place for a treat!

Meanwhile, Jasper was gone all afternoon having an airsoft battle with his friends.

As the afternoon wore on, we “seasoned” the new grill and then I could start using it. I had been marinating the chicken for about 24 hours and that takes longest to cook, so I put that in first. Later I added sausages and corn on the cob:

Not bad for our first meal on the new grill! I also made (hot) German potato salad and cauliflower salad to go with our meal. Spencer and Jade came over to join us and we didn’t do anything special except hang out as a family and then eat watermelon for dessert. I got out some sparklers but no one wanted to go out into the heat and light them, I guess. We’re pretty low key around here.

What Day Is It Again?

Today felt like Saturday all day, even though I did the Friday things like go grocery shopping. However, my husband did his Saturday thing of going to his landscape job so he won’t have to go tomorrow when Lina is here. He had today off from his regular job.

Starting today, wearing masks is mandatory in many places here in Texas, which is having the desired effect of making people not want to go places, I think. Jasper and I did go to Walmart, where they have once again begun counting the customers entering and leaving the store. It was quite crowded though!

After that I took him to a sporting goods store to buy plastic BBs for his airsoft gun, and that place was a madhouse! So it’s hard to tell what’s going on, to be honest.

And it rained this afternoon! That was lovely. Rain in July is rare here, so I really appreciate it when we get it.

I did quite a lot of cooking today so that I won’t have so much to do tomorrow.

Over supper the topic of Wallace and Gromit came up, so afterward I found the DVDs and we watched “A Grand Day Out” for the first time in years. Enjoyed it!