Friday, October 26, 2018

How Many States Have I been In?

Let’s add Wisconsin to the list.

We’d only been home a week from our trip to Iowa and Missouri, and we were off again to visit Sarah in Madison.

I find road trips full of fascinating things.

Ping-Hwei notices the trailer trucks that share the road with us—where they’re from, company names, how many locks they have. What does Murray think they are carrying? How much might the driver charge for the load? Where will he park when he’s done working?

We were concerned when they saw one truck where the back wheels kept zigging and zagging. “Is the driver awake?” I asked. “He seems to be keeping the front wheels going straight,” Murray said.

We paid tolls on roads in Ohio and Indiana, but in Illinois, it seemed like every ten or fifteen minutes we had to stop to pay, $1.90; $1.50; $1.80; $0.60. “Again?” I said.

I came out of the bathroom at one gas station we stopped at and said to Murray, “They have a painting on the wall in there.” “That’s nice,” Murray said. “Yeah. And since they’re nice enough to do that, wouldn’t you think they’d have paper towels?”

Murray pointed out the Capitol Building in Madison to Ping-Hwei, and we got to thinking about how many State Capitals Sarah has lived in. Madison, Wisconsin. Montgomery, Alabama. And, we can’t forget Little Rock, Arkansas. “She didn’t live there,” I said. “But she was born there. That definitely counts.”

Then I remembered a car game we’d play with the kids when they were younger. Murray would go through all the states according to a map in his mind, and we’d all see how many of the capitals we could name.

Sarah sympathized with Ping-Hwei for having to share a hotel room with us. “They both snore,” she told him. “They snore,” he agreed, and smiled.

When we got back to the hotel, Ping-Hwei turned on the baseball game, The National League play-offs. Murray checked out the internet on his kindle. I worked on my computer. We were both awake, but I surely heard someone snoring through the ballgame.

Murray talks to everyone. We came downstairs for breakfast in the hotel, and a man sitting at one table wore a T-shirt that said “retired.” Murray asked him, “How long did you work before you retired?” The lady in front of us when we were getting food got two hard boiled eggs. “You are a smart woman,” Murray told her.

It was homecoming weekend when we were there, which caused much ado, with heavy traffic, finding a hotel, parking. Interesting weather for the game—rain; sleet/hail; for a short time, heavy snow; and bright sunlight.

At church the next day, the lady who asked us to greet each other said, “You can ask the person next to you where they were during the mini snowstorm yesterday.” Another man there called it a flash blizzard.

Sarah is crazy busy with graduate school. She was concerned she hadn’t planned any activities for our visit, but we don’t need much to entertain us.

I examined every area of Sarah’s apartment, including the water purification device on the kitchen faucet, and their instant pot/pressure cooker. The instant pot looked very usable, with round buttons to push that I could feel individually and could operate. “I like it,” I said. “Maybe we should get one.”

This was also my first time meeting Sarah’s roommate Angel. She is fun and funny, and played along with Murray’s teasing. He asked if she’d got her hair cut, and said something about noticing things that changed about her in the two months since he’d seen her. She said, “I grew two inches since then too, can’t you tell?”

Angel is doing Sarah’s family genealogy for a class project, so Sarah asked us some questions Saturday. She found Murray’s history much more fascinating than mine. I grew up in one house, went to one high school, and two colleges, one for bachelors and one for masters. Murray had many homes, cities, and schools through high school, and seven colleges.

Ping-Hwei had a success. Murray went to the machine outside our hotel room to get a soda for me, and the bottle didn’t fall down. He came back in and gave Ping-Hwei money for another soda. He told Ping-Hwei to look at this machine and see if he could see the missing one, otherwise to go downstairs by the front desk and get one.

Ping-Hwei came back in a few minutes with four bottles that fell out of the machine for him. We’re sorry for the three people before us who didn’t get their drinks, but Ping-Hwei was a happy man.

I’m always delighted wherever we go to find people who love Jesus. We visited a great church on campus, Blackhawk church; they called themselves Christ followers.

Murray told me the band had acoustic guitars, two electric guitars, and drums. I was okay with that; I don’t mind loud music in church.

I’m sure the music was good, but I didn’t so much notice the instruments. There were several songs I didn’t know, but I was able to hear the words and follow along. I loved that.

They’re starting a new series about examining yourself, checking out your blind spot, using the book of Amos.

The minister talked about surface grace, where Christians might just think about having a way to get to Heaven. He said we need to go deeper into grace, see the sacrifice and commitment. God’s sacrifice and commitment. When we choose to follow Christ, we are inviting God to mess up our lives, get into the rooms we might prefer to keep locked away from him.

He said Israel had a blood oath with God; punishment for sin. The church has a blood oath; the punishment for our sin falls on Christ.

Sunday afternoon I stayed at Sarah’s apartment and worked on my computer for a couple hours while Murray, Ping-Hwei, and Sarah went shopping. Murray said that before they left, I needed to be sure I knew where the bathroom was, how to get a drink, and how to get out of the house in case of a fire.

He was serious.

On the way home to Ohio, a lady at a toll booth greeted Murray with a big smile. She said, “Thank you very much. Have a good day.” Murray waited for her to give him change. She said, “You’re wearing a Green Bay Shirt. You don’t get any change.”

I am so easily entertained on a vacation. I loved my first trip to Wisconsin.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Dreams Are Funny

Time to take a shower. I opened the microwave door so I could climb in.

What? I couldn’t get in.

Head first. Nope. Feet first. I couldn’t fit.

What’s going on? This is how I always take a shower. I always fit comfortably inside the microwave with the door closed.

Frustrated, I gave up and went to the bathroom. Inside the tub; close the curtain. This was so uncomfortable for me.

I needed to find all my stuff and keep it organized. Shampoo. Razor. Where was my body wash? Other unhelpful bottles kept falling off the shelves around the tub.

I could never get the water pressure right. Why wouldn’t the stream point the direction I wanted?

Family members kept coming into the bathroom—hurrying me up; saying I better leave their bath supplies alone. Can’t I have a little peace and privacy?

Worst of all? I finally got to washing myself, and I’d find a piece of clothing I’d forgotten to take off. Pull it off. Throw it over the shower curtain. Wash off . . . There’s another garment I have to remove.

No wonder I wake up so many mornings feeling like I’ve got no rest.

Friday, October 12, 2018

We Go West

This week we did our twice yearly trip to Iowa to visit our daughter Rebecca, then to Missouri to visit my mom and brothers.

Obviously, I don’t get out enough. I came out of the bathroom and was waiting for Murray when we’d stopped during our drive, and a man walked by me and said, “Greetings, Earthling. Salutations.” I was so tickled.

Cracker Barrel seemed a fun place to stop for lunch, and it was. I got a fried chicken salad, so yummy, which didn’t come with anything according to the menu, but the server asked if I wanted any cornbread or biscuits.

Murray ordered a breakfast plate, which included, in part, biscuits and gravy and a bowl of grits. The server came by and asked if he’d like more biscuits, and he said what he’d really like was some more grits. “We love Grits,” he told her. She brought him a larger bowl the second time.

Murray starts a conversation with everyone along the way. He met a regular customer of that Cracker Barrel—he called the cashier by name—and when the man learned we were from Cleveland, he shared delightedly about when he visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

On Saturday we went with Rebecca to a fundraiser in Carroll, where slightly flawed, not usually noticeably so, sportswear was being sold. I asked Rebecca to look for shorts for me, and she brought me a pair for a four-year-old. I said that probably wasn’t for me, and she said, “Just checkin’.”

Rebecca’s kitty Milly is definitely growing more used to us. She hissed her love for us whenever she could, and she only bit me once enough to draw blood.

I love visiting the animal shelter where Rebecca volunteers. As soon as we open the door into the area where the dogs stay, everyone in the room greets us with such loud excitement.

Murray talks to the GPS app on his phone a lot as we travel, and the voice said something new and delightful this trip. He’d ask how many miles to somewhere, and she responded, “If you’re driving . . .”

To add enjoyment to everyone else in the car, for the rest of the trip, I would respond back to her, “If you’re crawling . . . if you’re sitting on the ground and scooting . . . if you’re doing cartwheels . . .”

I always enjoy listening to the ducks and roosters on the farm when we visit Mom. Since my last visit, my brother Jim has acquired a donkey. I went outside and tried to get him to answer my braying, but he did not cooperate.

Jim also has a huge white, wooly dog named Fred, who weighs 160 pounds. When I first met Fred a year or so ago, I made him nervous by getting excited and rushing toward him. He’s not comfortable with strangers.

I promised Jim I would be cautious and careful this time, and I got to give Fred an examination, rubbing his big nose and shaking his giant paw.

On Tuesday we had lunch at Dave’s Pizza with my brother Rodney and our cousin Lorie. When we were seated, Lorie began a conversation with Ping-Hwei and asked, “What are you doing now?” He replied, “I’m on vacation.”

There could be no truer words, but it made us laugh for days. We all might need to get out more.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Letters To Camp

For many years, all of our kids attended summer camp at Camp Barnabas, a Christian camp for kids with disabilities and their siblings near Springfield, Missouri.

When packing last night for our trip west tomorrow, Ping-Hwei found in a suitcase a handful of letters we sent Benjamin while he was at camp in 2006. Murray’s braille letters were a delight.

In one he wrote out the words to “Daisy, Daisy, Give me your Answer, do,” then instructed Benjamin to sing it to a counselor or nurse.

In another letter, he wrote out the words to “B-I-N-G-O,” with a few changes. “I had a donkey whose name was Benjie, B-E-N-J-I-E . . .”

Then there was this note from Murray, as he waited at his Mom’s house in Branson, Missouri while the kids were at Camp Barnabas.


“Sounds like a kitchen appliance, doesn’t it?

“What’s up today? We’re just kind of lazing around, waiting for you guys to come back. When you guys get back, we have a lot planned.

“First, we are going to rent a houseboat and go to Arkansas. Then we’re going to jump out of the boat and swim to Louisiana, then we will take a train to Texas.

“After resting, we will take a hot air balloon to New Mexico. After parachuting out of the balloon, we will take pedal cars to Arizona. Next we will lie on the ground and roll to California.

“Then hop, skip and jump to Nevada, then completely jump over Nevada, Utah and Colorado. Then we will skateboard through Kansas and back to Branson. Get some rest. This trip will take a lot of energy.