Today A and I were getting our hair done. It had been way too long since I had sat in the chair and let me tell you Banana Rama roots weren’t a good look in the 80s and they still aren’t. I am thankful to say goodbye to the 3 inches of gray and brown that had grown out, but probably not as glad as those who have to look at me on a daily basis.
I love my hair dresser (I know that the more current term is “stylist”, but my grandmother was an hair dresser a.k.a beautician and I just can’t get that term out of my vernacular). I started going to her before I was pregnant with Arden and she has been a pretty constant voice in my world through the last several years. She has seen me ugly pregnant; she helped me deal with baby bangs after Arden was born; she cut Arden’s hair for the very first time; she knows us. She also has a daughter about a year older than Arden, so she and I have been mamas to only daughters together. Our girls love each other and I am thankful that I get to know her. She is also one of the most encouraging and kind women I know, and really she doesn’t have to be – I mean, I’m going to go get my hair cut and colored at her shop every 5 weeks whether she encourages me or not – but she never fails to say just the right thing to boost my day.
Today, she and Arden went out to get something from her car while my color was processing. When they came back inside, she just quietly said to me “your daughter is an absolute joy”. In the moment, I smiled and said “thank you” and agreed that she really is; but as my day has progressed, that phrase has circled in my mind. “Your daughter is an absolute joy.”
I have felt convicted all day. Because, over the last two days I have really not been able to see that in my kid. Every time I try to walk into her room and trip over mounds of discarded clothes and Barbie dolls – I have not thought “absolute joy”. When she makes a disgusted face and refuses to try a meal I have worked hard to prepare – “absolute joy” is not the term that comes immediately to my mind or lips. The complaints and whines and tears over disappointments do not produce in me the feelings of “absolute joy”.
But, you know, she is. Even with the moments of complete frustration – she always has in her that element of absolute joy. At least once a day she does something caring, thoughtful, hilarious, loving, etc. that should really bring those words to my lips. And so, I was convicted and encouraged today to try to find and focus on those moments. Not to say that I’m not still going to lose my ever-loving mind over the state of disarray that seems to be a constant in her bedroom. I am not promising to not have my feelings hurt when she refuses to eat something I’ve toiled over. And the frustration over the drama that IS a 7 year old girl is probably never going to ease.
But with all that and the other challenges of motherhood, finding the “absolute joy” in her that is evident to others is my goal.
So, today was a good day – I have tamed hair and eyebrows AND encouragement to be a more intentional and attentive mother. Not bad for a day at the beauty salon.
Summer is in full swing at our house. After returning from a quick jaunt out of town for Father’s Day, we spent the last week running to and from Springfield for Adventure Bible Camp at the Methodist church. Arden has been attending this particular ABC for 3 years and loves it so much that I didn’t begrudge the drive to town each day. Well, I might have begrudged it a couple of days, but I did it, so I think it counts.
As with most VBS or ABC experiences, the highlight of the week is the offering competition. This year, the kids raised money for clean water wells in Liberia – a worthy cause to be sure and A had much to say about how important clean water is around the world. I really do love the idea behind a giving drive and we collected change throughout the house and cars to put in the “girls” bucket each day. Unfortunately, the girls lost the competition and by extension the opportunity to slime the head boy counselor at the end of the week. This seemed to really bother my little competitive camper. We had several conversations throughout the week about the real reason to give – it was pretty clear by day 2 that the boys were destined to be victorious – and that the real “winners” were the boys and girls who would now have clean water because ALL the children at ABC were being generous. I’m not sure it helped soften the blow of defeat, but maybe a few of my words sunk in.
My little one processes things that happen to her in a way that is so unlike her mother. I tend to want to talk about every experience immediately after it happens – I process out loud, moan, cry, yell, laugh – whatever emotion is experienced pretty immediately in my world. But my sweet girl takes her time – it can take her hours or days to discuss things that are bothering her. This was the case after one of the days of camp this week. I picked her up at noon, we did lunch, playing at home, dinner, and relaxing and all seemed to be just hunky doory – but bath time found her crying and trying tell me something that had happened way earlier in the day. Apparently she had been in a dance off at camp and “NONE” of the children had cheered for her so she didn’t win! Oh my goodness – the tears, the drama, the disappointment! After about 30 minutes of sitting in the bathroom as she hiccuped out the story, it turns out that lots of kids cheered for her, but not enough to win. The real problem was the not winning. And let me tell you, I GET IT – I may be the worst loser in the world. I try to be a gracious loser, but there is nothing fun about not winning and there is no way to get around that. So maybe is she is more like her mom than I care to admit or am glad about!
But while I commiserated with her loss, I was doing a little dance inside. Just two years ago, she wouldn’t dream of getting up in front of people – she would cry and run off the platform whenever there was a children’s performance at church. Her face would crumple and she would just lose it – for her to actually get up and TRY to compete in a dance off was a huge step forward for her self confidence. So, while I was disappointed on her behalf over not being the winner, I spent a whole lot of that 30 minutes celebrating her bravery. By the end of our conversation, she was plotting ways to improve her moves for next year and was looking forward to the next day’s music time. Crisis averted, tears dried, drama complete, disappointed mitigated. Hallelujah!
So there was that. In other news, one of the things I’m LOVING about living out here in Petersburg is access to the Dairy Queen. When I was a little girl, I would spend a couple of weeks every summer with my Grandpa and Grandma Bennett. They too lived in Petersburg. My PaPaw would make sure that the freezer was always stocked with Dilly Bars when I visited. We would sit out on the front porch in the evenings after he would come home from mowing all day (he never did retire, just moved from full time work to his own landscaping business) and eat our Dilly Bars side by side on the swing. It is a highlight memory of childhood. When I was 15, I got my first job at the very same Dairy Queen and learned how to actually make a Dilly Bar – complete with the soft serve curly Q in the middle. Back then the bars were made in house and sold in a bag – these days they are pre-made and shipped to the stores in a box and don’t have the Q, but they are still pretty tasty! Last night we swung through the drive thru on the way home from dinner and bought a box for home. Arden and I sat on the front porch and ate our Dilly Bars side by side – it was a good tradition to pass on – T was there too but he prefers a strawberry sundae (I have NO idea why) so he didn’t get in on the Dilly Bar action. It was just a lovely evening to sit outside, giggle, watch fireflies and enjoy a long-standing taste of summer.
Finally, the DOG – he’s on his “get up every hour on the hour” in the middle of the night kick again and I pray every night for a fenced in backyard because the getting up with him so he can wander around in the yard for 20 minutes every hour is getting OLD. Perhaps if he didn’t sleep ALL DAY he wouldn’t be so energized at night!!??? But talking to dog is a bit like talking to a toddler, they just tilt their heads at you and then run off and poop on your floor. Again, good thing he’s cute!
Hope your summers are off to as exciting of a time as ours!
Father’s Day is a weird holiday for me. On the one hand, I am married to a man who is one of the most awesome dad’s out there – I am so blessed to have him as daddy to our daughter and I love celebrating him big time each year on Father’s Day. On the other hand, I am the daughter of a deceased father, and each year the day brings that reality into sharp relief. I am acutely aware that my dad is not here, that I didn’t go to the store to buy him a card and gift; I didn’t arrange to have a prolonged phone conversation or meet up for a celebratory meal; my dad is not here. And so it is a conflict – to celebrate and not celebrate all at the same time. It is tricky. Oh yeah – and it isn’t about me, so I need to just get over that! See how well it is going?
Pretty much every year since my dad passed, we have found a way to take a little trip – not sure why that helps, but it does. It helps me to focus on the celebratory and not the melancholy – and so we road trip! This year, we went to Branson, Missouri.
If you haven’t been to Branson, Missouri – it is a smallish city located on the Missouri/Arkansas boarder. It is about 30 minutes from Springfield, Missouri – home to Evangel University, my alma mater. Branson is most known for it’s live music productions – mostly in the country, blue grass, Vegas lounge show genre. It has long been a destination for retirees, but in recent years has added a lot of whole family friendly entertainment options, so you really see all ages and backgrounds in town these days. Silver Dollar City, a large amusement park, is right outside the city’s limits and is a big draw for families. We had season tickets there one year – and really enjoy visiting when we are in town for longer than a couple days. This little jaunt is about 5 hours from our home and has become one of my family’s favorite weekend or week long escapes. I don’t know exactly what made us jive with this town, but we love it. As a family of 3, we’ve only seen one show in our several trips so I can’t speak to how good they are. When I was in college, my grandparents used to frequent Branson and would often pick me up from college for the weekend. My favorite show back then was Bobby Vinton and the Glen Miller Orchestra (not sure that even still is in Branson) but, as the family Jones, we tend to focus on shopping, eating, amusement parks, eating, swimming, eating, history tourism, and did I mention EATING?!?
This year’s trip came about from several mentions of a particular restaurant we love in Branson – it just kept coming up again and again in conversations between T and I, and so when a bargain hotel deal popped up on my phone for Father’s Day weekend – we said SOLD and loaded up the car and headed down.
We had a several good meals (and before you ask, we did other things and I will throw some of those details in just to prove it – but I’m blogging about food today, so I hope you’ve eaten!)
So here we go….
We rolled into town at about 9 p.m. – later than I would have liked, but T had a presentation he had to give in Springfield and it didn’t end until around 3:30, so we got in late. We hadn’t eaten dinner, so we stopped at this place, which we have driven past many times on our trips but never braved to turn in and try – Mistake, HUGE Mistake – this was some GOOD eating here and I don’t think it was just because I was starving and it was late – it was just straight up good.
The Great American Steak and Chicken Company
If we had been planning to stay more than a couple days, we probably would have made a return trip – tasty stuff – try it if you are in the area – you’ll need to check your “this is about the cheesiest thing I’ve ever seen” prejudice at the door and go with it. The cornbread alone will make you glad you did.
Sunday, Father’s Day, was rainy – like down pour rainy – so we spent the morning doing some shopping at the outlets (Tanger Outlet Mall was across the street from our hotel) – I am a sucker for a bargain and Arden is a sucker for us buying things for her, so it works out.
Lunch was our “reason for the trip” meal. A few years ago, we “discovered” the White River Fish House, which is owned by Bass Pro Shop and is located on the Landing in Branson. To say that we love the food here, is like saying I love my family – the word “love” is just not adequate. Everything is yummy here – if we had the money and the time, we would probably eat every meal of the trip here because literally everything we’ve tried (and we’ve tried a lot of the menu) is delicious. Below is a pictorial tour of our meal.
The White River Fish House
After that meal, I was pretty sure that we wouldn’t be able to eat again for a few days – but the Princess wanted food again about 6 hours later and the rain had stopped, so we decided to feed her and sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous weather. Just so you are reassured that we didn’t succumb completely to gluttony – we did spend a couple of hours at the pool in the afternoon. I didn’t actually get IN the pool because it was freezing- but these two crazy polar bears did and they seemed to be having fun!
No food pictures because A) I didn’t think of it before we ate and B) I think I was embarrassed to still be eating!
Monday was the last day of our getaway – it was really a quick one! Nothing especially note worthy for our Monday meals – we made the obligatory Cracker Barrel road trip stop – because if you road trip in the Midwest or South, I think you just have to make at least one stop at the good o’ Cracker Barrel. My shopaholic daughter is determine to leave with some purchase every time we go and I am a HUGE fan of those hard candy sticks in the many flavors – another road trip requirement.
And that’s a wrap!
I am so blessed to have a family that really enjoys spending time together! I hope that Arden always wants to hang with us and that we are always up for a last minute getaway.
And now here’s to a few weeks of salads and grilled chicken – because there is a limit to how much stress my buttons can endure!
Day 11 – Come and listen to a story about a car that’s dead…aka never, ever, ever give Green Mazda or any of the Green Family Stores in Springfield your business – EVER
For as far back as I can recall, car troubles trigger my tear ducts to respond with crying. Flat tire – cry. Dead battery – cry. Alternator goes out – cry. You get the picture. So while the story I am about to tell you sounds made up and is definitely a source or unspeakable irritation, there is a bigger and more profound thing that happened throughout the past 2 month saga (and yes I really did say 2 MONTHS) – never in the entire process did I even once tear up. There was no crying whatsoever – not even a sniffle – and for that I am calling it WINNING. Maybe this cry baby is growing up after all? Maybe not, but I didn’t cry and there is little else to find rejoice-worthy in this story – so let’s just take a second and savor my maturity.
So, about 2 months ago (maybe 3 months because I have a vague recollection of something happening in February but I’ve blocked it out so we will just stick with 2) our “newer” car – a Mazda 6 Station wagon – would just not start. One day it would start and run fine, the next day no joy – would not start. We did several things in those early days to rectify the problem – changed the starter motor, checked the battery life, changed out a corroded wire TO the battery, changed out a couple relay fuse thingies (I’m sure there is a better name, but that is what I’m calling them). And all of these “solutions” would work for a time and then a few days later – the car wouldn’t start. Talk about frustrating – there was no predicting when it would decide to not start and both Terry and I had been stranded a few times when this was occurring. Add to this unfortunate issue – our “old” car was also acting up – overheating for no apparent reasons and a couple other issues – but we knew it was on its last leg so we were less concerned about this – plans to replace the old car were already in the mix of our budgeting decisions, so that was less of a “thing”. However, when the “new” car no longer works – the “old” car becomes THE car and you can see the problem here. ALSO, we had begun the move out to the woods – so what used to be a 2 minute commute to school and work for me became 30 minutes each way and you want a reliable mode of transportation for this kind of daily trip.
That’s the background. Here’s the story:
5 weeks ago Monday – the car stopped for the last time – nothing would convince it to start, and so we had it towed to the mechanic we typically use. He looked it over and determined that it wasn’t something he could fix because it was a computer issue that was proprietary to Mazda – so we would need to have it towed to Mazda in town for them to work on the car. We did that Friday, April 14th …that was the last time I saw my car. Over the ensuing weeks – yes WEEKS – my care was held in car jail at Green Mazda in Springfield, Illinois. We could get NO one to call us about what was going on with the car – we would call and leave message upon message, day after day and NOTHING. No call, no email, no text, no pigeon-delivered message, smoke signal – NOTHING. It was one of the most frustrating customer service experiences of my life – NO I take that back – it was THE most frustrating customer service experience of my life.
After 2 weeks of not getting any response, I took to Facebook and posted a warning to my friends out in the world to avoid this particular business – this posting elicited a response from the GM of the Green Mazda (who ironically has the TV persona of Mr. Super Nice Guy – but who is ANYTHING but nice and that is about the only Christian way of describing him) over the course of may Facebook postings back and forth he went from commiserating with me, to blaming me for the problems, to apologizing for their lack of communication, to pawning me off on an underling – never addressing the actual issue and never in this time did were we ever contacted by the service department directly.
3 weeks after towing the car into Green Mazda – we (Terry and I) went IN PERSON to the service department. We spoke with the service manager and tried to ascertain what the issue with our car actually was. At that point, he told us that there was a wire that needed to be replaced to the main relay box and that we were looking at about a week before it would be repaired and about $300 for the repair and labor. That was Monday, May 1st –. With that information in hand, we proceeded to a DIFFERENT automotive sales location (we have purchased our last 2 vehicles from the Green stores – but even being repeat customers did not prove leverage in accomplishing anything) and replaced the “old” car with a beautiful Chevy Captiva which I’m in love with and enjoy driving ever so much.
A week after the in-person visit – still no information on the status of the car. So we call AGAIN – and FINALLY connect with the service manager who informs us that a repair will be not $300 but $3,000!!!!!! The entire relay box has to be replaced and rewired and the part is on back order with no ETA, so even if we decided to fix it, there was absolutely no way they could tell us when it would be fixed.
And so my friends, my brother-in-law towed it off the Green Mazda lot 3 days ago. He has it in Decatur, looking to see if there are any other options. We still owe a little bit of money on it, so we are paying that off and will probably just sell it for parts. So depressing.
We were down to just one working vehicle at that point and not sure what to do, but Terry was able to purchase a used truck for just running around in for cash yesterday – so that was a relief and we are once again a two-car family. Terry is thrilled because he’s wanted a truck since I’ve known him (probably before, but I can attest for the last 10 years). I am thrilled with the Chevy. The only fly in the ointment is the payoff of the Mazda – but it isn’t much and in the scheme of things just one more check on the list.
I know I’ve written a lot on this matter – and I apologize if it is long winded – but I want to have a record of the situation. If I can leave you with anything after this journey into the world of the bizarre – it would be…if you see this sign and building
Drive as far and as fast as you can in the other direction.
I wanted to make sure to write something today because I said I would, however I don’t have much to offer. But it’s Mother’s Day and I am a mother, so I feel ok about being a bit lazy today.
It is my 7th Mother’s Day as a mom…that seems a bit strange because I can still remember all 7 like they were yesterday and I don’t look a second older than I did on that first one, so it just isn’t possible.
I hope all of you mommas out there have had a great day. May your children rise up and call you blessed. Mine rose up and called for toast with butter, but I will take it – girl knows where her bread is buttered.
Day 2 – that time I got a discount offer on a panic room
Targeted email advertisements freak me out. Back in the days of snail mail, you used to get on these direct mail lists when you would apply for things or buy stuff at certain stores (this still happens but not nearly as frequently as the email thing) and they would send you coupons and special offers. Now it is email marketing – and let me tell you, I don’t know what I’ve bought or looked at that got me on some of these lists, but they are downright freaky.
Last week I got an email trying to sell me a panic room at a largely discounted rate. Like a Jodi Foster Panic Room – you know the kind of place you run and lock yourself into to hide from armed intruders in your home. What on EARTH have I done, read, purchased, etc. that got me on THAT particular list? What is it about my incredibly non-danger inducing life that made the marketers of THAT product look at me and say “hmm, we have a shot at selling a state of the art, top of the line PANIC ROOM to that woman! Send her a coupon today!”???
BUT, then the marketing started to work its way into my brain, and I started to have conversations with myself (in my head of course because if you talk to yourself out loud then you may find yourself locked in another sort of room – which would produce panic I am sure – but is not at all the same thing).
The thoughts went something like this:
“I live in the woods. I’ve actually told people on the internet that I live in the woods. So now strangers probably know I live in the woods. I’ve seen the movies about people who live in the woods and some monster, ax murderer, insert your most feared villain, comes and breaks into the house of the people who live in the woods. And no one can hear their screams. If we had a panic room, we could hide from that type of intruder. Maybe I should look into a panic room? It is on sale – and I like a sale.”
These marketers are genius I tell you!
I didn’t buy the panic room for a few reasons:
It was too expensive, even on sale – and while I love a sale, I am cheap – so we are just going to have to find another way to protect ourselves from Freddie Kreuger out here in the woods.
I have a fear of confined places – and those rooms aren’t that big – and if we try to cram Terry, myself, Arden AND the dog in that little bitty room with limited air then let’s just be honest – someone isn’t making the cut. It would be a whole Sophie’s Choice thing, and I would feel badly that the rest of my family had died at the hands of Mr. Kreuger.
Knowing our luck – even if we all got into the room in time to avoid the killer AND there was enough air and space to house us all – something would malfunction on the unit and we would be stuck in the panic room – where literally NO ONE can hear your screams (if the Jodi Foster movie is to be believed) and we would expire in a completely different but no less horrific way instead.
So, I’m thinking I need just to panic in a regular room and hope for the best – oh and maybe try to figure out the metrics that make me an attractive candidate for these crazy things.
I was thinking today – can you make a New Year’s resolution in May? If so, I’ve decided writing more frequently needs to be mine. Scientists (I’m not sure exactly who these “scientists” are – but I’ve heard the term bandied about enough that I’m just going with it) tell us that to form any habit you need to repeat the same activity for 30 days. Is this true? I am not 100% sure – because trust me I’ve been repeating the habit of saying that I look 20 years younger every day for like 10 years and it hasn’t happened – but I’m going to give it a try here with this whole blog thing.
If you’ve been here at all in the past few months, you know we have moved out to the woods. We sold our beloved house, packed up our way too many belongings, and hauled ourselves and our stuff out to the Site Manager’s house at Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site (wow that is a mouthful – so for future reference, I’m just calling it “the site”). So I suppose that makes me officially a woods woman? Is that a thing? One word or two? No clue – but that is what I am now. Moving is hectic and exhausting and emotional and so I haven’t been writing much (which is really counterproductive for me because I process better when I write) but all that changes today!
Today, we turn over a new leaf (see what I did there with the woods metaphor??)! Today I propose to begin a new experiment – 30 days of writing. 30 days of blog posts. I cannot guarantee all of these postings will be all that exciting or even interesting, but I really want to try out this theory that a habit can indeed be formed in the span of 30 days (although Scientists – again not sure who they are – say you can immediately become addicted to crystal meth, so why does it take 30 days to develop a GOOD habit but only one instant to develop a LETHAL one?? I do not know but maybe we can talk about that in more depth on say Day 17 when I can’t come up with something else. But I digress).
So, if you are game – won’t you join me on this ride? Today is Monday, May 8, 2017. If I am successful the last day of this experiment will be Tuesday, June 6, 2017. By that time a couple of things may have happened:
I will be talking only to myself because I am the only one who will be interested in what I have to say on Day 22.
I (and hopefully you) will be more intentional in looking for the interesting things that happen every day.
I will figure out if these “Scientists” know what they are talking about.
So with that intro complete….here we go:
Day 1 – We sold our house in 2 days!
This whole process of transitioning into the site house started way back in the fall of last year, but it really picked up steam and momentum around February of this year. That’s when we took possession of the “new house” and started the process of moving stuff out a little at a time as Terry came and went from work. He also started spending a couple of nights a week out at the “new house” to begin the long and arduous task of getting the house into some sort of shape for human occupation (when I say it was trashed by the previous occupant, I am not exaggerating – it was truly shameful how it had been treated by the people living there prior to us; but I have to decided to be like Elsa and Let It Go on that whole anger train). While the move out began we also started the process of getting the “old house” ready for sale. We met with our realtor, discussed what things needed to be fixed or updated and worked to get all that accomplished for a March 1st listing.
Total hats off and kudos to my rock star of a husband – he did 99.9% of the work at both houses – although I paint some trim like a CHAMP in case you were curious!
Lots of hard work and we had it ready to list by the first weekend in March. The house went live on the internet Friday, March 3rd and we had an offer accepted by Sunday, March 5th. Wonder of wonders, miracles of miracles – it was a huge answer to prayers!
And then the process of closing began…duh, duh, DUHHHHHHH (that is supposed to read like the ominous music in a mystery movie). Closing is not fun. Inspections and appraisals are not fun. Fixing what is found in inspections and appraisals is not fun. I felt judged and persecuted through the entire process – which is ridiculous because I didn’t build the dang house or even install the majority of the things needing to be fixed, but that is how I felt. How dare these people say I need to change x, y or z!??!! Not rational but reality! It truly wasn’t pretty. And then spring sprung in Central Illinois and it rained every day of the month of March – I’m exaggerating of course, but again my perception was my reality. The majority of “fixes” needed to happen outside – of course – and we couldn’t GO outside because it was RAINING! I know, oh the horrors of my cushy life, I’m going to shut up now because I’m making my own self sick with the whining!
So, fast forward to April 28th and all the repairs are complete, signed off on and we close on the house. All our stuff is in our new house, most of it still in boxes in the garage, but we are making progress. We are officially in the woods – with the woodland creatures and nature – and it is beautiful and peaceful and quite a change for this city girl.
But this is the view from my front porch – so I think everything is going to be ok.
Nearly 9 years ago, my sister and I took a trip to Europe. We were both single at the time with no romantic relationships on any near horizon. At this point in our adult lives, we had travelled together several times and had developed a pattern of assigned day planning.
It went something like this – we would get together and plan where and when we were going to travel, bargain hunt until we found the mode of transportation and an agreeable itinerary (which for two sisters who are about as opposite as two can be was definitely the biggest challenge) and schedule our trip. From there would come months of planning, trips to the library and book stores for travel guides, PBS documentaries (ala Rick Steves) about our decided destination, and some talk about trying to do it all on $40 a day, which never came to fruition. Then out would come the itinerary calendars – we would divvy up the days of the planned trip and each sister would have full planning rights to her assigned day.
For this particular trip to Europe, we had planned a Mediterranean cruise departing from Barcelona and stopping at several ports – Sicily, Naples, Rome, Florence and Nice – each stop has its own special memories, but today I’d like to spend some time on the Naples portion of our trip.
In 2007, Italy was experiencing one of the hottest and most humid summers on record. Each day was close to 100 degrees with almost unbearable humidity percentages – it was miserable. But we were in Italy for heaven’s sake, so we were going to make the most out of each moment of this trip! Suck the marrow out of every experience! Vivere la vita al Massimo! (Live life to the fullest for all my non-Italian speaking friends – yes I looked that up!) Continue reading “Joy in the Journey”