Friday, July 31, 2009

Hostess Trying to Have the Mostess

It's Friday, so away we go with Friday's Freewrite and Friday Fragments.

1. A long time ago in a galaxy far away, we had some acquaintances over for dinner. It was a nice evening, but they never spoke to us again really after that night. A while later, my sibling and the acquaintance both relocated to the same town. The acquaintance was wonderful about helping my sister get settled, so as a thank-you my sister had the acquaintance over for dinner. You guessed it: they've never spoken again.

2. I have marvelous next door neighbors. Low maintenance, generous, kind. We've been neighbors for a decade and they've each been inside my house one time. I don't think I've ever been farther than their front doors. Funny the boundaries that keep us as good neighbors, I guess.

3. When we bought this house, we wanted certain features which would someday accommodate our kids' friends and youth group activities. Now that our daughter is in the youth group at church, I can think of many reasons why I've never hosted an activity here.

4. I'm thinking it was a man who built all these houses in the 70's and 80's with a bathroom right off the kitchen or living room. Some things really do need to remain private.

5. My nephew never once complained to us about being forced to give his bedroom to us while we visited. Thanks, J, for your willingness to sleep on the living room floor.

6. I am having two friends over today for lunch. In a stroke of hostessing brilliance, I made certain they both share a first name. This way there will be no awkward silences as all I have to do is say, "What do you think of that, Jill?" and suddenly two people will be speaking at once.

P.S. They're coming at noon and I have no idea what I'm serving for lunch... I wonder if this is somehow related to item #1??

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Retuning My Heart

My sister-in-law has a flair for decorating and a personality people seek out. She is regarded as a best friend by many and has found tremendous success in her career. But that's not what has touched my heart about her.

What touches my heart is that she has made a deliberate effort to love those people who are deemed, "hard to love." She says the last couple of years have been wonderfully fulfilling as she has chosen to stand in what is sometimes the receiving end of their anger, their frustration, their hurt. It doesn't make sense to some people. Why would anyone choose to be there in the ugliness, the messiness, the worthlessness?

Because it's what Christ commands.

And with His help, sometimes it's possible to see the beauty buried and hidden deeply within the mess we've made of his creation.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Shades of the Man He Will Be

On Monday, when the testing list was posted, his name was missing. Too many absences. He went home and cried and contemplated quitting. Then, on Wednesday, he grew up a little and asked for a meeting with Sensei. They talked about asthma, about how much testing meant, about his skill level. When the meeting was over, his name was on the testing list.

On Saturday, the orange belt was exchanged for a green belt.

And never was a color belt more precious to this boy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Will I Be Strong Enough to Read Her Report Card?

Pepper's first behavior-training class is tonight. Now I wish I'd stocked up on those back-to-school supplies at Walmart last week.

Monday, July 27, 2009

What Do I Know?

One morning recently, we found this Mutant Ninja Turtle playset on our front porch. Next to it was a case full of Magnetix. No note. No indication of the source. Just two very nice toys.

I suspect that my next door neighbor was divesting herself of the remnants of her annual visit from her grandkids, but am not sure of that.

Because I normally see the half-empty glass first before forcing myself to see the half-full glass, I felt sad because these toys have been brought to a house where Mutant Ninja Turtles and Magnetix are passe'.

How long did my children play with these things - the same things I said they wouldn't like? 6.5 hours - and that was just the first day.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Fragments: The Have You Missed Me Edition

It's Friday, so off the Mrs. 4444's I go for Friday Fragments and to Sara's place at Friday's Freewrite.

  • Michigan is the first state in 25 years to pass the 15% unemployment mark.

  • Not surprisingly, when I went into three furniture stores yesterday, I was one of two customers in each store.

  • We did not renew our subscription to the local paper, yet we continue to receive the paper. I guess I'm not too sad.

  • When I told my 14 year old daughter that before I got my first master's degree in English, I strongly considered getting a degree in library science. She was visible disgusted by that news.

  • How am I ever going to lose this weight when ice cream is just so delicious?

  • For years now, my friend and my sister have told me to read Chocolat or at least watch the movie. I finally checked the book out. New favorite novel, here I come.

  • Does it bother you to see school supplies in the stores this early?

  • and finally:

  • WHY would any man who speaks even a little English do this to a company?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The House Gets Quieter

After a few raw emotions, 20 memorized (and long) scripture verses, months spent working on a musical, and too much confusion to keep straight, my girl left with her church youth group for New York City today. Although I would have preferred a differently structured trip, I am proud of her hard work and excited for her.

Travel safely, sweet girl.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Sometimes, when your classmates achieve a milestone long before you do,

your long-awaited and eventual success

just feels soooooo good !

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

He Should Have Been a Haberdasher

Checkered loves hats. To be more precise, he loves ball caps. While our kids collect snow globes, magnets, and shot glasses, my husband collects ball caps. That's okay with me because I like the way he wears them.
When our trip began, he announced that he wanted to stop at a Case tractor place and get a cap. It seems that Fiat owns Case, and since Fiat now owns Chrysler, we are all cousins of sorts. Well, we went by exactly one Case dealership, and it was closed. So much for the Case hat.

But have no fear because by then we were deeply into farm country and I decided that Checkered would look good as a Western man. After stopping at a few Tractor Supply stores, 12 Walmarts, and one Western wear shop, we got him outfitted.

Along the way, he picked up a Texas A&M cap in honor of our niece's boyfriend (how is that for a flimsy excuse?):

And in honor of our new-found love of Texas:

After a National Park Service ranger told us we couldn't wear both A&M and Longhorn caps (we had stop straddling the fence, you know), we opted for another hat altogether.

I think that this hat from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama looks like a Bill Murray hat, but that's okay because we LOVE Bill Murray.

By the time we arrived home, this was the head gear fashion:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Home Again, Home Again; Jiggety-Jig

4,950 miles.

15 states.

The best vacation ever.

Now, the homecoming.

A hot tub cover destroyed by the dog.

The grass 8 inches long.

The topsy turvy plants pretty much dead (even though the dogsitter did water.)

Checkered and Son 1 off to Boy Scout camp.

No food in the fridge.

One over-due library book.

And this:

Home again, home again; Jiggety-Jog.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Long Night in Mississippi

My child: Where are we sleeping tonight?

Me: Mississippi

My child: I don't know who Mrs. Sippy is. Are we sleeping at her house?

And with those questions, my child ate 6 granola bars. It was a noisy night at Mrs. Sippy's house.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Admit It: I Love the Lonestar State

On Wednesday, we say a sad good-bye to our relatives here in Dallas and head across Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi as we wind our way toward Detroit. There are only a few states I've not visited and those three are on the list, so we're taking the long way home to see a bit of them. I used to love the show, In the Heat of the Night, so my family is sure to be blessed with me humming the theme song all the way across Mississippi.

Our time in Dallas has been lovely. We spent yesterday at a waterpark, and today we rode the commuter train into the city to walk around and visit the location where President Kennedy was shot. The museum and gift shop were very nice, but it was an odd feeling to think about that building and how it must have been that day in 1963. What you can't see in this picture are two X's which mark the spots where his car was when he was hit. The grassy knoll is that grass area to the right.

When we first rode into Dallas on Saturday, it just seemed like another big city. Now we see the beauty of it. We see how everything appears to be clean and new. We are amazed that there are middle class neighborhoods right in the city. We love the public transportation and the mix of cultures. I suspect that we could easily live here.

In another year or two we expect to make this trip again, but that time it will be for our niece's wedding. What a happy trip that will be.
Before we arrived in Texas, I thought it would be hot. It is. I thought it would be big. It is. I thought it would be just another state. It's not. Someone told me today that at the start of each legislative year, the Texas state lawmakers vote on whether or not to succeed from the U.S. It's probably a symbolic tradition, but I think that if Texas ever did succeed from the Union, it would hold its own.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Is Dallas Really a Part of Texas?

The drive from El Paso to Dallas was very interesting ... for one hour (and that's being generous.) Lots of cactus. Ample dirt. And enough sun to recharge any vitamin D deficiency I may have for the next decade. After that first hour, I went into a type of passenger-trance so the next 9 hours are a blur.
We are now in very urbane Dallas with Checkered's sister and are enjoying our reunion time with her family. Yesterday we went to the historic part of Fort Worth so Checkered could look Western and fit in a little better than his new look would fit-in in Dallas or any other part of Texas.

Amazingly, the bank temp displays showed 119 yesterday. But somehow in that heat, our kids walked through a maze at Fort Worth. Now to end on a little braggadocio: my boys finished in 13 minutes. Their sister and cousins (including a nurse and an engineer) finished in 30 minutes.

Now to plot our path back to Detroit. That is, if I can bear the sorrow of leaving Texas.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Saying Good-Bye to El Paso

On Saturday we leave my sister and her family in El Paso and head to Dallas to see Checkered's sister. It's always difficult to say good-bye and harder still to wait the probable two years until our next reunion. I am very fond of this west Texas town. My sister's neighborhood is pretty much mosquito-free due to the lack of humidity, so it has been a treat to sit outside at night and chat while the kids swim. Here's a picture of something we will always remember from our trip:

How funny that when it drops into the 90's in the evening, we all say it feels so good outside!

Someday soon, I will get my thoughts together for a better travelogue. Maybe tomorrow's 10 hour ride will be the time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Out and About

Today we do a little touring. First stop: the town where Billy the Kid called home. From there, we head to White Sands National Monument, then do a little viewing of the "fence" between the U.S. and Mexico, and finally take a look at Fort Bliss Army Post. It's sunny. It's hot. It's wonderful.
Someday, I will post pictures. I promise.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's Hot Here!

We've made it to the land of blazingly bright and hot sunshine. A land where I've been warned we will sunburn especially quickly and where we must watch for scorpions and snakes. But it's also a land where our a part of our hearts live. We are in El Paso, Texas visiting my sister and her family.

There is much to see and learn, and much to tell about our experiences yesterday at Bandelier National Monument and Santa Fe, New Mexico. However, today is for watching cousins laugh and play and revel in their rare togetherness.

It may well also be for figuring out how to use my laptop to access their network and thereby share pix with you.

Only time will tell about that last one.

Monday, July 6, 2009

New Mexico, Day 1

I was quite sad to leave my BFF, Kansas, today but our parting got less sweet when I went into McDonalds and the girl working there couldn't understand English.

The drive through the Oklahoma panhandle was flat and uneventful. I must say it didn't displace Kansas' place in my heart.

It would have been a great straight place for me to drive, but at 1,700 miles I am still relegated to the passenger's seat.

Here are some pix to show you what we've been doing.
This is a wonderful book, but you must LISTEN to it:

I have Kansas. Checkered has his GPS.
Riding with the windows down:

And then there was New Mexico. Beautiful, amazing New Mexico which makes me cognizant of my inability to capture its magic with either camera or words. Tomorrow we explore Santa Fe and Bandolier National Park.

FYI: We've been in two Walmarts today and two yesterday. We're crazy.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I am Going to Marry Kansas

We are 1,300 miles into our trip, and I have not driven one of them. Please allow me to go on record: I am a GOOD driver -- just a bit slower than Checkered. Okay, after we got on the two-lane highway in Kansas and the wind gusts got a little frightening, I was happy to allow him to continue driving.

We each have our favorite region of the trip thus far. My children loved Iowa and its surprisingly rolling terrain. They genuinely hope for a return visit someday. I do think our visit with Jeannelle influenced that affection for Iowa. They asked today when would get to see her next. My youngest hopes to return there some day and build a tree house. I told him I would stay on the ground when I come to visit, but his dad offered to help him build it.

Checkered thought Kansas City was beautiful.

I am quite in love with the plains of western Kansas and announced my desire to channel Laura Ingalls Wilder and move here. The open vistas have completely captured my heart. The endless wind.

The lack of traffic. The small towns. They are all part of the lure. I've been dreaming about coming to this part of Kansas to teach, but I have learned that there are no Tim Hortons west of the Mississippi. That could seriously impact my decision to move to the prairie. Of course, if we were to move to Kansas, we would probably end up in some town, but where I would really want to be would be out on the prairie on someone's ranch.

I guess I wouldn't be a great rancher or farmer. But maybe I COULD be a wind farmer.

Today we spent in Dodge City. I am happy to report that the town smelled fine. I suspect that the offensive odor my sister encounterd here years ago was the result of these stock yards. They are so spectacular in their expanse that there is a pull-off to stop and gawk.

The Boot Hill Museum is okay. It's goal is to capture the spirit of the old west, and their acting troupe is certainly entertaining. My kids loved the gunfight, but were a little disappointed to learn that blanks were going to be used instead of live ammo.

Meet Dodge City's newest deputies. They had to go through rigorous training to earn their badge: hopping (to demonstrate how they would chase the bad guys after being shot), running (to chase the bad guys before being shot), and shooting a finger gun. We're quite proud.

For Checkered, my daughter, and me the highlight of Dodge City was seeing the actual Santa Fe Trail tracks. This site has been verified by the National Park Service. See the parallel dark tracks? Now imagine a covered wagon bumping over them with the drivers wondering when the next Indian or weather attack would occur. I was mesmerized by a display at Boot Hill of actual things discarded by travellers along the trail.

The exciting news for the night? That same sexy driver just found an open Sonic.

And all is well.

Friday, July 3, 2009


We thought it would be flat with nothing to see but farms and cows. How shocked we were that Iowa doesn't seem one-bit flat, and while there are farms, Iowa has a lot of cities. And the cows? We counted about 23.

Here's a conundrum for the week-end: why is Nebraska the cornhusker state even though Iowa produces more corn than Nebraska does?

Back to Iowa (or Iowas as I've typed it repeatedly already in this post.) Apart from the green and the corn and a state motto ("Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain"), there is something else very special about the state. It's where Jeannelle lives.

Jeannelle is a farmer, and a nurse, and a photographer, and a philosopher, and a mom, and a choir member, and a wife, and all those other things which might take up the rest of this post if I keep typing. But the label that trumps all those things is that she is a blogger. I don't remember how I first found her blog, but within a post or two, I knew that her blog had become one of my absolute favorites. Her blog has become so important to me that when she doesn't post, I miss her.

As Checkered and I began to plan this trip, I began to dream about visiting Iowa and Jeannelle. I was genuinely shocked when Google maps told us that the best route from Michigan to Kansas was through Iowa!!!

So in celebration of all her talents and wonderful posts, I asked Jeannelle to clear her calendar, get up quite early and drive an hour just to have breakfast with my four antsy children, my husband, and me.

Such a treat for Jeannelle, I'm sure!!

But you know what?

As much as I like Jeannelle the blogger, I like Jeannelle the person even more. I like her so much that I offered to adopt her and take her with us on the remainder of this road trip , but she said no.

If you're ever driving across the state which got cheated out of the cornhusker title, stop and meet Jeannelle. You'll love her demeanor, her goodness, her curiosity, her clever mind, and her gift for finding beauty in the details of life.

Iowa officials, you need a new motto (really, truly.) How about:

Life is beautiful in Iowa because Jeannelle lives here!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

We All Have Our Moments

My dear husband is highly regarded at work and in our social circle for his decisive and logical management style. Give him a task and it will be efficiently accomplished. At home, I completely trust him and regard him as a person who can fix all troubles.

Yesterday he was shopping in preparation for our trip. I texted him repeatedly with additional items we needed and all was well until it was time for him to cash out.

It was at that point that he realized he had left his cart somewhere in the store and had taken someone else's cart.

I am most grateful that periodically he can experience the way I live life.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

He's Precious

During our trip last week, my youngest son got his hand-held video game out and announced that he was going to go online. I told him we didn't have Internet access in the car, but he wasn't having any part of my answer.

"Well, Daddy says I need to find a hot spot to go online and it sure is hot in this back seat, so I think it will work."