Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Report from the Road

Well, folks, the family is having a wonderful time down here in Music City. Aaron and Ketra arrived late last night, and in the last 2 days, Mom, Dad and I have already packed in a lot of fun. That's a capital F - U - N! So, I can't imagine how fun the rest of the week will be now that we're all here together.

Later tonight or tomorrow morning, we hope to successfully download some pictures, so I hope to provide a glimpse of our trip so far. We've heard some fabulous music, seen some interesting places, enjoyed our 'home base' at the nice condo/hotel, and were blessed to hear a wonderful sermon on grace with our brothers and sisters at Bethel Primitive Baptist Church on Sunday.

Today, we really get things going by heading toward the Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson. And, in the next few days, I may make my first trip into a sauna here at the resort. I've never experienced such a thing and don't know that I'll like it. But, I'm up for trying it. I'll provide some of the details for those folks who are curious. (I can't imagine that sweating in a sauna will be any more pleasant than sweating up a storm doing some hard work... but maybe I'll be surprised. Doubt it, but maybe!)

Hope each of you is having a fabulous week, and hope to touch base with you soon!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Something To Look Forward To

Today, I struggle to make a post. (And, YES. I know my title ends in a preposition.) For the first time in a long time, my brain feels empty, blank, void. This is an odd occasion. While it is rarely full of anything of worth, it is almost always brimming with dumb jokes, songs, ponderings, and other amusements. But, now, nothing..... nothing, that is, except the big bright blob that is sucking all energy and thought from all other topics, studies, and distractions. The culprit? The trip to Nashville.

Many years ago, at a time when I was really down, I asked Dad how he got through rough times. My father pointed out that he always tried to have something to look forward to... something down the road, some big goal he was trying to reach, some event that would be especially joyous, some project to work toward. I had never thought about that before and tended to dwell on the 'here and now' - especially when there were bumps in the journey. Low points got me stuck. Since that time, I've tried to apply Dad's approach. I started making it my practice - as on numerous occasions, life hasn't turned out the way I thought it would. So, I've looked forward to the first day of summer recess. I've looked forward to my birthdays. I have looked forward to work celebrations, weddings, family reunions, church meetings, and visits from friends. Sometimes, the big moments were even 5 or 6 months away, but they were often the bright lights that got me through the dark times. In 2006, for instance, I had felt horribly most of the year with ill health, and I kept my "eye on the prize"... feeling like I had wait decades to attend my first Box Lunch Social in Arkansas. The anticipation propelled me forward through a long summer, and it was wonderful when finally attending!!

These "look forward moments" might not be a big deal to some, but they're a big deal to me... no matter how small the occasion, no matter how non-glamorous the destination. And, this vacation has been the same for me. Something great to look forward to for over 7 months! It's our first family vacation in 17 years - 17 years since I was in high school. I did have one big vacation that I took with co-workers while in grad school (a cruise to Mexico!), but there hasn't been a REAL one since. Very little money, too few vacation days, no traveling partners... I've enjoyed many church trips and trips to see friends and family, with a few days off here and there. But, it has been at least 10 years since I've taken a full week off and gone somewhere. I'm breaking free from my desk and leaving work behind. I'm getting out and seeing some places!

You'd think I'd be talking about some exotic island, a European castle, or a spa vacation. No, I'm just talkin' about Nashville, but it seems FABULOUS to me! And, time with Mom, Dad, Aaron and Ketra always goes too quickly, so I'm thankful for the extra long visit. (We'll see if we'll feel that way a week from now!) The week after next, I hope to post tons of pictures of our smiling faces, having a great ol' soakin'-up-every-minute time, making some family memories in Music City. And, maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to check in a few times to submit some "reports from the road" before then. Please keep us in your prayers - for a safe and peaceful journey.

Do any of you have any especially big (or small) events to which you're really looking forward and which have helped you remain motivated?

(More on the spiritual applications of this after I return...)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gonna Take A Little Trip

Taking a road trip anytime soon? If so and if you are curious about how much the gas alone will cost, you might want to check out the Fuel Cost Calculator to receive a quick estimate. All you'll need to do is choose the large city closest to your departure location and then choose the large city closest to your destination city. Finally, you enter the year, make and model of the auto you'll be driving. The program calculates the rest considering the current average gas price in each region of the country.

So, for our Nashville family vacation, the Fuel Cost Calculator let me know that our round trip in my 2001 Buick Regal would be approximately 608 miles, using approximately 21.72 gallons of gas, and costing us $61.92. It is much less than what I expected.Of course, that does nothing to calculate how many miles we'll be driving while seeing the attractions around town!

And, now it is time for some dumb knock knock jokes regarding road trips.

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Lettuce who?
Lettuce go on a road trip for our vacation this summer!

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Philip who?
Philip the tank. We've got a long drive ahead.

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Seymour who?
You'll Seymour if you stay off the Interstates and stick to the two-lane highways.

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Rita who?
Rita map carefully or you may get lost.

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Athena who?
Athena lot of beautiful places on our road trip.

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Oliver who?
Not Oliver jokes are knock, knock jokes. But right now, that's all we've got.

Don't worry. I'm groaning too!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Plan of Attack Initiated

Remember this post about decluttering? Well, I have finally started the war in my home, and thus far, I am winning. (Sure, there are about 12 more battles to go, but BOY, OH BOY did I make progress this weekend!)

I was going to provide some 'before' and 'after' pictures, but I failed to remember to buy new batteries for the camera. Besides, I was also feeling too embarrassed to post a picture and admit how bad my basement has been for the last few years. Last-minute searches to find something really important and water-in-the-basement episodes (for various reasons) have not helped the situation any. What started as a somewhat-organized mess after so many moves became a disorganized mess, and that eventually became a disaster. So, I became determined, and I knew I needed a plan.

With the delivery of a new washer and dryer (new to me) approaching, I arranged the pick-up of my old washer and dryer by a family that recycles scrap metal. I was happy to have them also take the old 50s freezer that was left in my house after the auction and an old refrigerator. (George, Rusty Red Fridge is no more!) Then, I set up tables all around the back room of my basement and created stations. And, I attacked that room. If it was for the office supplies, arts & crafts room, business files or keepsake box, it went in those specific piles and crates. But, if it didn't, it went into the trash, recycling, yard sale or give away boxes.

Brother Tom came over to work on the outlet for the dryer (more on that later this week), so Sister Elaine was wonderful in helping me sort. What a difference it was from the night before when I was working on the project by myself! While I was working up a sweat and was exhausted both times, it was much more fun with her help. And, I found myself hesitating less (which is good for me), so I was getting that stuff out, out, out! She was great at keeping me motivated. I even did a little more on my own late last night, and after 36 hours of work, I came up with the following tally:

4 old appliances out
2 new appliances in
5 loads of laundry completed
Many preparations made for the vacation trip
4 garbage bags of clothes for Goodwill
1 huge garbage bag & 3 tall kitchen bags of trash
2 large rectangular clothes baskets full of papers to shred
6 piles/boxes of things to put away in specific rooms
Lots of stuff for the yard sale
(YIIPPPEEEEE! I become giddy just thinking about it!) :)

So, I still have to put the piles away, and I'll be gone with my family on vacation next week. But, I'm super-motivated about attacking the 2nd room in the basement and my garage after I return. And, I am thankful Lydia has agreed to help me. You know those organizing shows where the people take all of their belongings out into the yard to separate them? Well, that's how we hope to attack the garage, and I have high hopes for having a big "Decluttering My Life" yard sale before the month of August is over.

I get by with A LOT of help from my friends (specifically, brothers and sisters in the church), and I appreciate their help in cleaning up the mess that I've created. And, I continue to keep these parting thoughts (from my last post about clutter) on a continuous loop in my mind:

I pray for freedom from lugging tubs and boxes from place to place. I pray for open spaces to work on the activities I want to fill my life. I pray I never have to make another trip to the store for something I know I have but just can't find. Most of all, I pray for contentment in what I have so I have more time in working on who I am and how I can better serve others. SORT! ORGANIZE! CLEAN! SIMPLIFY! GIVE! PURGE! DON'T GIVE UP!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Let's Tear Down! - Once Again!

One of my guiltiest pleasures, Trick My Truck, is back, and tonight's episode will feature the overhaul of a big rig owned by a former sailor. Robert LaGrange used to live on a nuclear submarine, but today, he drives a truck.

If you want to see what all of the hype is about and why I like it so much, feel free to check out tonight's episode at 8:30 pm central time (or several other times this week) on CMT, Country Music Television.

Look out for my favorite part when the crew stops with the fun and games... and starts getting down to work. Scrapyard Dog usually holds up his torch and yells "Let's Tear Down!" And, I like to yell it with him.


Quilting Pro, Sue Nickels

At the TNT Craft Guild meeting this past week, we were honored to have an extraordinary quilter in our presence. Sue Nickels started quilting 29 years ago, and she made her first quilt right after her oldest daughter was born. Since then, her quilting has received many accolades... including a Best of Show award at the American Quilters Society showcase in Paducah, KY. It seems she really enjoys working with her sister Pat Holly (also extremely talented) while quilting and while writing quilting books. Sue was so kind in answering questions, talking about techniques, and autographing one of her newest books, Stitched Raw Edge Applique.

Sue started her presentation by pointing out many of the sewing machine and handmade gadgets that have helped her through the years. She explained that the quilting world has changed tremendously since she first began and that more and more ladies are just as interested in machine quilting as hand quilting. The best part of the evening was when she displayed some of her quilts made through the years - bringing each one out and talking about the trends that were going on in the quilting world at the time each was made. I wished that so many friends and family could be there... as these quilts are true works of art!!! And, nothing I can write here will do them justice, but they were unbelievable. Here's an example of one of her less intricate designs...but still absolutely gorgeous!

This photo was taken after the meeting when the members came up to take a closer look. I hesitated to take close-up pictures, because many quilters use their original designs to create patterns, market them and sell them. Or, sometimes, as with many award-winning quilts, they choose to keep them private and don't sell any portions of the design. Even though you may get an idea of the beauty here in this picture from afar or in her web site gallery, the view is nothing like seeing them up close. The itty bitty appliques. The tiny stitching. The intricate quilting. It was unbelievable that human hands made them.

If any of you are interested in seeing this year's big winners at the American Quilter's Society Quilt Show, see the following sites:
Quilting Winners
Fashion Show Winners

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

In My Ear, On My Mind, Out My Mouth

I almost always have a song going on in my head. Or, rather, about 5 songs going in rotation. Often, this is a great blessing to help me carry out work around the office or at home. The accompaniment seems to make the tasks go more quickly and effortlessly. However, many times, these songs come out of my mouth. Usually at the not-so-great of times. I remember friends who refused to walk home with me from the grade school bus stop because they couldn't stand the fact that I was constantly singing or - maybe worse yet - the mention of a phrase in conversation that matched a song lyric would make me break out into song. So, I had to keep myself in check... and start learning to keep those songs on the inside again. I have regularly failed at doing this. In recent months, I've found this task is the hardest on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.... usually the day after a good singing in worship or at Sacred Harp. So, little did I know, I had been walking around the office constantly humming this morning until I turned around and saw my co-workers laughing at me. (It's not the first time. It won't be the last.)

With a mixture of songs we sing regularly and other rarely-sung tunes I'm trying to learn, these are what are on my mind and coming out of my mouth today:

#455 Soar Away

#142 Stratfield

#216 Delight

#350 Nativity

#542 I'll Seek His Blessings

*Music from the 1991 Denson edition of The Sacred Harp. Recordings from 2003 Shakopee, Minnesota Shape Note Singing and the 19th Annual Southwestern Seminary Sacred Harp Singing in Fort Worth, Texas.

If you are trying to find a recording of a particular Sacred Harp song, you might find it here in this good list of singings and limited recordings.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Take THAT, Mentone, Indiana!

Just wanted to make sure that Jeremy and everyone in northern Indiana know they have nothing on us with their crazy big egg! Because we've got the world's largest catsup bottle in our area!!!!

(Okay, I don't know which is more crazy!)

Go Jump In The Lake!

This past weekend was once again a "3rd weekend." That means it is Church Social Time! We were blessed to meet at the home of Mike and Shirley Inman who are residents of Holiday Shores. Holiday Shores is a community settled around a beautiful, large lake. So large and filled with so many coves that one has to be careful in finding their way home! 420 acres of surface water. 140 million gallons of water in total.

So, our host took some of us out right away to try to see every bit of it! I was on the first boat tour with these lovely ladies: Sister Barb, Sister Marlene, and Sister Esther.
Brother Paul G and I were not as prepared as the ladies. So, we got a little sunburn, and we had to squint our eyes a lot! Gidget, the Inman dog, loves to ride up at the very front with me.

A mischievous pair! Brother Paul R and Brother Chris came right up to the boat to try and splash us!

The second boat tour by our host and hostess with Brother Neal, Sister Michele, and Sister Lydia come in out of the sun. Meanwhile, Brother Dale and Brother Chris sputter back into the dock area after tipping the jet ski.

Sister Barb holds on tight for her ride, and I receive instructions from Brother Chris. It was so much fun to take my very first jet ski ride, but way too short of a time! I can't wait to visit and go out on the lake again!

A HUGE thank you goes out to the Inmans for a wonderful day and for their wonderful hospitality!!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Visiting the Zoo

Aaron and I have been talking a lot about our upcoming family trip to Nashville, and we've made references about the rolls and rolls of animal pictures that we have taken on vacations through the years that mean nothing to us now. However, despite that, I'm still going to post some from our zoo visit last week. (Aaron can just make fun of me later!) :)

Click on any of these for an enlarged view.

More sea lion shots. I think their faces are so cute! Because Braiden has a toy hippo, he could not wait to get to this portion of the zoo.

The butterfly room was another highlight. The butterflies fly all around the huge area filled with plants and people. Some had such vivid colors! It was fascinating to see them so close.

Try to imagine... this butterfly is bigger than my outstretched hand. The bird area was similar to the butterfly area. Birds were able to fly anywhere they'd like. I think this is a variety of blue jay.

We watched this jaguar for a long time. He sat on rocks. He walked around in the grass. And, then he went into a little pond, splashed around, and played with a piece of driftwood. The prairie dogs were out and about like usual. We were able to see a tiny baby. Here, two start to groom each other after a big meal.

The big elephant kept putting her trunk into the mud and spreading it all over herself. The zookeepers were working with the fuzzy little baby elephant. Adorable.

This was an odd sight for many of us. I know the picture is a little blurry, but hopefully, you'll see this variety of deer is standing up so it can eat out of the tree. It stood like this for at least 15 minutes while eating... and then we needed to move on.

If you're ever in St. Louis, I hope you have time to spend at the zoo!

Krohe Family Visit

After so much going on last week, I fear I've fallen behind this week. But, thankfully, I'm becoming rested up and am ready to go again.

After my dad's side of the family visited on July 4th, some of my mom's side of the family came in the next afternoon for a few days of visiting. This would be the Krohe Family: my mom's sister, her husband, their children, and their daughter's husband and children. Unfortunately, I had problems with the camera again, so the photos I took of most of them turned out blurry. The Krohes had been down near the Lake of the Ozarks for the week and were continuing their vacation in St. Louis.

It is very odd, but my brother and I call our aunt "Aunt Sissy." I guess I couldn't say Ella Marie when I was small. So, since she's my mom's sister, the name was created and stuck. Uncle Wayne and Aunt Sissy have a huge motorhome, and they decided to stay close to downtown so we could easily travel to the sites. Immediately after arriving at the RV park, my cousins came out to greet me. Here is my cousin Janelle's oldest and youngest sons: Shai (6) and Tegan (approx. 3 months.) What a cute little boys!!!

We had a wonderful time catching up, playing cards, and goofing around. Our main outing during the long weekend was a trip to the St. Louis Zoo. It was a HOT day...very exhausting... but a good time. One of the highlights was the sea lion show. Here, Megan and Janelle wait for the show to begin. And, here are the girl sea lions.

This picture doesn't do much to show how HUGE this sea lion is, but maybe this 2nd picture can give you some perspective. These are the males, and the middle one is the size of at least two men - if not more!

Near the gorillas and monkeys, the Vanderploeg family stops for a picture. Shai is very unhappy about this, for some reason. Here are Janelle holding Tegan, Shai, Braiden, and Ryan.

That evening, we were all so happy when Ketra arrived. She was going to attend a wedding in the area, and it was wonderful that she could extend her trip and stay with me for a few days. The boys LOVE (I mean, LOOOOOOOOOVE) Ketra - especially since Shai has a Caterpillar bicycle and Ketra works at Caterpillar. So, they were thrilled when Ketra said she had something for them! Two Caterpillar shirts... and a beautiful Caterpillar blanket for little Tegan. Isn't the one for Braiden (r) especially appropriate?!?!? That just makes me laugh out loud!

On Saturday morning, the family started their trip up north...and came by my house for a big breakfast and a tour. With Ketra's help, I was able to get everything set up under the shade tree, and we had a really nice time visiting while enjoying the backyard setting. We were celebrating Aunt Sissy's birthday, so we had quite the spread: biscuits, sausage gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh watermelon and pineapple, assorted fresh fruit, cereal, 3 kinds of fruit juice, milk....and a cinnamon coffee cake with candles!!! Then, we had a nice long talk about movies while relaxing in the cool air in the house. (Since then, I've added to my already long list of movies I want to rent!) It was sad to see them go (and for Ketra to leave the next day), but I knew everyone needed to go home eventually. It just makes me look that much more forward to NEXT TIME when our families can get together!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Family, Friends, Food, Fun, Fireworks

With my cousin Kayla studying at the nearby university, some of her family decided to head down for a visit to celebrate the holiday. Then, my parents decided to come. And, the party got a little bigger and then a little bigger. It was a nice day - just hot with a capital H-O-T! I feared moving because breaking out in a sweat was a guaranteed result. But, we tried our best to sit still, enjoy the fellowship and food, and celebrate the day with some sparklers, black snakes, and poppers. Here are a few shots from the get-together in my back yard.

Kayla, the SIU-E student. Brittany, her sister and best friend.

Their father and my cousin's husband, David. His brother, Brother Dwayne.

Kayla and Brittany's mom and my first cousin, Sheila Denise (fishing ice out of her cup) along with Brother Jeff who had been attempting to avoid the camera all day.

Sheila's mom and my dad's sister, my Aunt Norma. Her husband, my mischievous Uncle Dick.

Sister Tracy, enjoying some "Sister Velda Cake." Tressa after a long hot day of play.

Abi, trying to cool off with a big mouthful of ice cubes. She made fast friends with Lennie, Dad's Wonderdog.

I've never seen a decorated tree for Independence Day, but Cousin David and Brother Dwayne helped Tressa and Abi create one.

After a storm came through, we had quite a struggle getting the yard picked up, food packed up, and family gathered for their trip home. So, just in the nick of time, the rest of us arrived in Troy to watch the fireworks. Here, the girls are lined up to see the show.

However, soon after the start, it was clear the "big kids" enjoyed the booms and lights much more than the "little kids."