Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 31 – “Remember that time …?”

A few “remember that time …?” grandchildren moments …

Zak told us he was happy with the new configuration in his bedroom.  He was moved to the opposite side of the room, and Caleb and Luke now share bunkbeds where his bed used to be.  What makes the new positioning so special?  “In the old way I had to lay there and watch Mom and Dad sit on the big brown chair and kiss and watch TV.” 

Three-year-old Luke upon getting caught up on the roof (not the deck, mind you, the actual, no protective barricade, accessible only by climbing the deck bannister roof) with his four-year-old cousin Noa … “She made me do it.”  Noa’s explanation?  “I wasn’t on the roof.”  Shades of Adam and Eve.

Luke got hold of a rather large ball of yarn that Josh had been using to practice tying lures on his new fly fishing rig.  What did he do with it, you might ask?  Well, with a little bit of assistance from his older role model brothers, he became Spiderman, Junior.  We had a yarn-based, extensive, spider web creeping about the house, about two feet off the floor.  It wound around chairs and bookcases and the very walls, back and forth and around and through and over and under and just about every other geographically based adverb you can think of.  It was amazing.  I, for one, was in awe.  Not so much Mom and Dad, though.  The boys were soon tasked with the job of retrieving the yarn and recreating the beginning ball of beginnings.  Sure.  That didn’t really happen, exactly.  For some reason Luke and Caleb kept getting their entire bodies entangled in a mess of string. 

A deafening silence fell over our house around ten o’clock yesterday morning.  Everyone was gone.  Chris began her usual post-grandchildren sweep of the house to gather up articles of clothing and toys that may have been left behind.  But it was … quiet.  Fortunately, a yard crew arrived about then to mow the grass across the street.  Dogs from afar started barking.  Dogs from a-near decided to join them.  And finally word reached our own litter.  Exit the silence.  Things were back to what we jokingly refer to as “normal” around here.  Normal?  What is that, anyway?

Hebrews 12:3 says, “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Father, thank you for the noise and for the silence.  They both are quite meaningful to us.  And be with Todd and his family as he struggles to recover from sepsis.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 30 – “Extra day”

We were greeted with a pleasant surprise yesterday morning.  No, it wasn’t the rain and threat of more, although that was directly related to it.  Because of the rain and all the tourist traffic leaving the Island, Josh and Christi decided to extend their stay for another day.  The kids were ecstatic, especially when they found out the LaMarque cousins were planning to come for hamburgers at lunch time.  They decided they didn’t want to tell them.  Just let them be surprised.  And they were.  Whatever after lunch plans they might have had were launched through the window. 

Nathan did the food prep this time.  His recipe for hamburgers is pretty amazing.  Anytime Chris would ask him if he needed some ingredient to put in it, he said, “Sure,” and made it happen.  I personally like the fact that he makes them about twice the size of one you would get at the burger places.  Well, at least he started that big.  April somehow convinced him that we might need a few more patties, so he slopped them all back into the bowl and started again.  They were still pretty big.  Just not quite as thick.  All in all, the end result was as I said before … amazing.  Great flavor, and they covered the whole bun. 

Josh heard my cries, and the hours between one and about four were blocked from all video game incursion.  All morning, anytime I was asked by the boys if they could play a video game, I happily said, “Yes,” on the condition that they be done by one o’clock.  They didn’t understand at the time, but their all-knowing Dad picked up on my plea.  At one o’clock the TV belonged to DadDad so he could watch the Astros game.  Quite a game, too.  They were losing 8-2 and scored eleven runs in the 8th inning.  Added a few more in the ninth as well.  I think the final came out to 16-8.  That was a fun game to watch. 

The older kids went to the park for a while to blow off some steam at some point.  The much older Moms and Dads played a board game at the table.  Something about stopping an epidemic that was threatening to destroy the world.  Hope they succeeded.  We capped off the day after the LaMarque went home by watching the movie “Bedtime Story” with Adam Sandler.  Great fun.  I still love that raining gumballs scene.  After family worship it was on to bed for all of us.  It was a really special “extra” day for good ol’ DadDad. 

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Father, thank you for the “extra” days you give us in our journey.  Amen.

Monday, May 29, 2017

May 29 – “Addendums …”

We had a huge crowd at church for Memorial Day Weekend.  Totals varied depending on who was doing the counting, but they all came in right around 98, so we are going with that as an average.  Almost 100.  Wow. 

Playground addendum … We found out that the pancake breakfast brought us just over $500 short of our goal for the playground equipment.  $213 came into the offering without asking for more.  And before we even got home from church, two different people had told me that they wanted to make up the difference, whatever it was.  Playground equipment, here we come.

Chris had a crockpot roast going all night, so by the time we got home, it was stinking up the joint.  Well, that sounds a bit negative, I suppose.  What I meant to say was that the aroma was wafting most pleasantly over the confines of our entire abode.  Yep.  That was it.  Kind of like the lingering smell of bacon greeted us when we arrived at church (Bacon addendum).  In other words, the house smelled good.  Chris started a big pan of rice and before you know it we were well-fed and watching the Astros game on TV (Astros addendum: they won again).  Some people even took naps.  Imagine that.  A nap on Sunday afternoon?  Novel idea.  I may try it some time.

Cailyn got home from her softball tournament in Beaumont (Softball tournament addendum … they didn’t win any games, but they are experienced in road trips now).  They came over to say hi to Josh and Christi, and Cailyn ended up joining us for our fishing trip and even spending the night.  Cousins sleepover … addendum.  Said fishing trip was fun.  Zak and I braved the traffic to pick up some bait.  Surprisingly, once we made our way through the traffic and the short cut, they bait shop had plenty of live shrimp.  Getting back to the house and out to our fishing hole in Jamaica Beach was pretty easy, traffic-wise.  We got all set up and Cailyn pulled in the first catch, a tiny little speckled trout.  Great start to the day, even though we had to throw it back.  Zak continued his run by catching another dogfish.  He caught one of those ugly critters last time we fished there.  We caught five or six croakers and even a slot red fish.  Josh ended the day by hauling in an evil-looking mud eel. 

I felt like I was the star of some TV chef show when we got home.  The kids all hovered over me as I filleted the fish.  Yes, there were numerous choruses of “Eww,” and “That’s gross.”  The comments intensified when they asked me to poke the redfish’s eye out.  That was really, really gross.  But really, really fun, too.  Ah, making memories …

Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Father, thank you for the generous Seasiders.  And thank you for the memories.  May the kids hold them for a long time.  Amen.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

May 28 – “The eel-gar minnow exchange”

Seaside hosted a pancake breakfast yesterday.  We were trying to raise some money to replace our playground equipment.  We haven’t picked out a specific set yet, so we don’t know for sure how much we actually need, but the organizers set a goal of two thousand dollars.  Apparently the sets that best fit what we are looking for seem to fall into the fifteen hundred to two thousand range. 

We had lots of help from Seasiders, as well as from the homeschool music coop group that meets in our building.  Some of their girls holding signs and actually doing cartwheels drew in some cars.  Other antics from one of their leaders really grabbed the attention of passing motorists as well.  The food was great.  Not just pancakes (but who can beat a good pancake?).  There was a table full of sausage and bananas and mixed fruit and oranges and apples and milk and orange juice and apple juice.  Oh, and how could I forget … bacon.  Lots and lots of bacon.  Seasider were tag-teaming in the kitchen, taking turns flipping pancakes and frying up the meat.  Did I mention … bacon?  All in all, it was a breakfast to remember, may … to savor.  And our total amount raised?  $1457.  Not bad for a bunch of pancakes.

All of our kiddos disappeared down to the beach while Chris and I helped with cleanup.  It was past 12:30 before we left the church, so we didn’t get to go the Jamaica Janes bake sale.  I know Jim represented us well at the Sea Isle craft sale.  Oh, and I saw FaceBook posts later about the park party last night.  Looks like the whole weekend was a rousing success. 

Back to the beach … when we started that direction we saw that the police had blocked off all motorized access except for golf carts.  Just too many cars.  Not to be deterred from reuniting with our grandkids (Can’t keep a Nana away with just a few cops, you know), we just walked over from the church.  Our crew was pretty close to the entrance.  We stayed for a while longer so the kids could get their fill of wave jumping and sand castle building (and destroying).  Finally we headed home for a quick snack lunch and a nap or two. 

After naps we headed out again.  This time our destination was the crash boat basin on the other side of the airport to let the kids fish a little bit.  We saw a little bit of action.  Zak caught a tiny rat red on his first cast.  We eventually reeled in a couple of piggies, a hardhead, and a needle nosed eel as well.  A few boys doing some casting took the eel off our hands.  They insisted it was a gar.  I thought about educating them, but decided to allow them their delusion.  They had already shared a minnow with us, so I was happy to hand over the eel/gar in exchange.  Fisherman’s good will, you know? 

And finally … we were all exhausted by day’s end.  No complaints about showers and bedtimes.  Oh, and the Astros even won again.  Good day.  Good day.

Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”

Father, thank you for the success of our pancake breakfast.  And for the fishing trip.  Amen.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

May 27 – “Seaside Pancake Breakfast 7-11 a.m.”

Not much time for this one.  We had a house full of youngsters last night.  Cousins.  Cailyn was at a softball tournament in Beaumont, so she wasn’t here, but the rest of them were.  Josh and Christi came in for the weekend, so Christina brought down all her kids to hang out.  There was quite the Nerf gun battle, and we even made a walk over to the park to play for a while.  That would be Jones Park, one of the ones that was slated to be sold, but the voters nixed the transaction.  It is one of the worst areas around as far as standing water is concerned.  Probably one of the reasons the city didn’t want to deal with it any more.  But it was good to have a place for all these kiddos to run and climb and swing. 

They pitched their sleeping bags on the floor and watched the movie “Sing.”  Not one I ever heard of, but it did have some funny parts.  Especially the old guy who danced kind of like me.  I could really relate.  I had to run over to Nathan’s to let the dogs back inside, so I didn’t see all of it.  And to be honest I was also watching the progress of the Astros game on my phone, since the TV was in use.  They won yet again.  Go Astros.

Now this morning we are headed over to the church … early … for our big pancake breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m.  Proceeds go towards new playground equipment for the church, so come on out and join us.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Father, thank you over and over again for these special children you have blessed us with.  Amen.

Friday, May 26, 2017

May 26 – “About a million”

I heard a great Josiah-ism the other day when they were here for a visit.  He approached me from the side, so I had to ask him to repeat it so I could concentrate on what he was saying.   Not sure I should have done that.  He said, rather nonchalantly, “Hey, DadDad.  You know that part of girls inside them where babies grow?  I think the most you can do in there is about a million.”  So, now, how would you respond to that statement?  It wasn’t a direct question, so I didn’t really have to say anything.  But he was coming to me with an implied query.  So how could I respond that would satisfy his hunger for knowledge?  What would befit the situation better than, “Ask you Mom and Dad”?  All I muster at the time was, “A million?  All at once???”  Apparently my answer sufficed on the six-year-old level.  He laughed heartily and went about his merry way.  Whew.  Kel, it might already be time for “The Talk.”

Someone finally came to mow 40 Steps (the lot next door) yesterday.  Chris and I were heading out for our walk, so she struck up a conversation with him.  Looks like closing on the property will be sometime today, and the purchaser does plane to build a house there.  We can only hope it will be for a single family permanent dwelling.  Stay tuned for that development.

My computer informed me yesterday that it had downloaded the next major upgrade to Windows 10.  It wanted to schedule an appointment with me for the installation, which, I was informed, “will probably take longer than normal, since the upgrades are extensive.”  Now it’s scary when the computer even recognizes that it will be out of commission for longer than it should be.  It offered to do it later when I wasn’t so busy.  I took it up on the suggestion.  At first I set it for ten p.m.  Then I realized that I would have to leave the computer on all night to do it that way.  I usually turn it off when we go to bed.  So instead I put it off for an hour and ran it while we ate lunch.  After we ate, I was cleaning out a cabinet in the same room (needed a place to store an old, operational Xbox that my brother gave me), so I was able to keep an eye on its progress.  I was excited when it appeared to be complete, but then I saw that dreaded all-blue screen with one word in the center … “Hi.”  That began another process of accepting protocols and such.  It finally got done after a total of at least two and a half hours.  I haven’t seen any big changes.  It did try to get me to switch internet engines back to the all-new, enhanced Explorer.  I have been using Chrome.  I clicked onto Explorer to see what all the fuss was about.  Guess what I saw on the very first screen?  An error code.  Yep.  So much for the big update there.  Chrome worked just fine.  But I’m updated now.  For the time being.  At least until they figure out an update to fix the error code on the update.

Hebrews 10:35-36 says, “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”

Father, thank you for a six-year-old’s take on biology.  Fun stuff.  Amen.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

May 25 – “In the exhibit hall”

Shingles update.  Chris is doing a lot better.  The blister phase is pretty much over with.  She is still having the aching pain in her back (from the shingles, not from me).  She’s also experiencing some nerve pain for the first time in her life.  Now that is an experience I don’t wish on anybody.  The tingling numbness that suddenly morphs into stabbing, burning downright pain.  Reminds me of that stabbing feeling I had just last night in my neck.  Ah, but this is her story, not mine.  She’s better. 

And since she’s better we actually took a little walk yesterday.  Just around the block, but it was something.  She held her shirt out away from her body the whole way, but she made it without complaining.  That’s one tough lady.

After staff meeting we had to drive into Texas.  We had a list of stuff for the church that we had to get at Sam’s.  Chris also got a text that the ladies Bible study that starts in a week or so had some books on hold at Lifeway.  So we added that to our Texas list as well.  Problem was, when we got up to the book store at Baybrook, someone else had already picked up the books.  Ah, communication.  Ain’t it grand?

Last night we went with Nathan over to Cailyn’s gifted and talented classes exhibit night.  It was like a big science fair, with kids of all the age groups displaying their projects and standing nearby to explain them and even give demonstrations.  Cailyn had two projects.  The one she did with the help of her Mom and Dad was a catapult designed to scatter seeds around a field.  It was a phenomenal, double-barreled contraption that, according to her detailed notebook of the creation journey, tossed seeds clear to the end of her driveway.  Impressive.  The other project she did at school with a partner.  They had to come up with something that would keep a popsicle frozen for an extended period of time.  Her team used an array of materials and ended up at the end of an hour with a perfectly frozen popsicle.  Again, the team’s progress was tracked in a booklet that was part of the display.  Nice job. 

From the school we had to get her over to the softball field for all-star practice.  They are preparing for the state tournament in Beaumont this weekend.  They are looking pretty good for a first year team.  We won’t get to see any games this weekend, so we are hoping the national tournament in a few weeks becomes a reality.  It is in Santa Fe.  Texas, not New Mexico.  That’s just a hop, skip, and a jump into Texas from here.  Go Her-icanes.

Hebrews 10:30-31 says, “For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Father, thank you for the fascinating expressions of creativity we saw at the G-T Fair last night.  Keep on inspiring those kids.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 24 – “Little League … swimming?”

We had to deal with weather issues again yesterday.  Actually it was a very pretty day here on the Island up until … it wasn’t. 

We had several visitors.  Christina called to say her gang was coming over after a visit to the library.  Chris immediately announced that we needed to make a WalMart run to pick up some stuff before they arrived.  We rounded up what we needed, and as we were checking out, who do you think we saw walking by?  Christina and the kids.  A few of them opted to join us for the ride back to our house.

Once there Chris received her belated Mother’s Day gift from them, a really pretty bouquet of flowers.  Remember, we were in Waco at AnnaGrace’s baby dedication for the actual day.  They found a spot next to the piggy bank box for Alaska that Josh and his crew gave her.  As they were preparing to leave, who should drive up but Nathan and April and Cailyn.  They were bringing a Mother’s Day gift as well.  Theirs was a lighthouse crafted from three different sizes of upside down plant pots and painted with windows.  It also has an actual working light installed on top that is photosensitive, making the whole thing a massive night light.  But it is also water-tight, so it can even go outside.  No decisions have been made as yet on the final resting place for that one.

Last night we went into Texas for Micah’s end of the season Little League baseball tournament game.  And the closer we got, the darker the sky got.  The team was out on the field warming up when we arrived, but the scuttlebutt in the stands was all about the encroaching weather system and the severe thunderstorm alert we were under at the time.  Occasional flashes of lightning swept across the North sky.  The umpire sat near us and watched his phone weather app to see how close the lightning actually was.  The league president was doing the same, and he decided that the game would be put on a fifteen minute weather delay to see if the system would pass quickly.  And suddenly, cell phones all over the stands starting squealing and making horrendous noises.  Sure enough, there it was.  The National Weather Service was breaking in to advise that everyone take cover immediately.  The thunderstorm watch had just been upgraded to a tornado warning.  As parents scrambled to gather up children, the official word was still a delay.  But it didn’t take many minutes of sitting in our car before it became evident that parents weren’t standing for that silliness.  People were leaving in droves.  Kel and Christina finally drove up and said the game was officially canceled.  They also invited us to their house to wait out the storm, but we decided to try to get ahead of it and head on to the south, to the island, to our haven of calm.  Chris braved the rain that did get much worse.  She could barely see the road in front of us.  Finding the freeway entrance ramp was a challenge.  But the rain let up to a simple stead fall just about the time we reached the causeway.  Gotta love that Galveston rain barrier.  Not that we didn’t get any rain.  We did.  But the severe stuff left us alone this time. 

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

Father, walk with those folks who are dealing with the aftermath of these storms.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

May 23 – “Danger: Tornado Warning”

The big news around Galveston today all has to do with the weather.  We didn’t even leave the house.  Oh, it was raining.  But not just raining.  Oh, no.  This time it was raining.  Kel texted us and said he had to wade in knee-deep water to deliver mail in the east end.

At our house, water was pouring off of our roof in sheets.  We stood at the back door to the patio and watched as the water crept closer and closer toward us, until it finally reached an area that was landscaped just enough to divert its path away from the door.  Now, don’t get me wrong, Chris says it was great for the yard.  The rain suddenly woke up every growth sensor in existence in the tiny little blades of grass in our yard.  I’m already trying to fit in a mowing the grass day into my schedule.  Also on the plus side, the birdbath is now filled up.  And we don’t have to water for a few days.  On the major minus side, we heard that a tornado was spotted out near Jamaica Beach.  In fact, I was working at my computer when all of a sudden my phone started making a horrendous noise.  Sounded like a seagull fighting with one of those blackbirds and neither side was winning.  I hastily grabbed the phone and read the message.  “Danger: Tornado Warning.  Take cover … right now.”  Of course Chris went over to the glass front storm door to check things out.  And then came the next bit of the warning.  “Stay away from windows and doors …”  That’s when I got up and checked things out.  We don’t obey National Weather Service orders very well, do we?  Galvestonians are like that.  Yeah, we are.  I saw a photo of it on FaceBook.  Looked pretty big.

The morning paper (yes, we still subscribe to that relic) says all damage was minor and was mainly isolated to one of the time share condo places out past the church.  As of yet we haven’t heard of anyone we know with any damage.  I haven’t been out to the church yet to survey the grounds there, either.  We’ll see. 

So how is the weather today?  Well, Cailyn just texted us to let us know she is heading to school for a special field trip experience … to Palm Beach.  That’s the outdoor swimming area out by Moody Gardens.  The weather is once again Galveston gorgeous.  It’s just eerie how that happens.  Often after a hurricane it is the same way.  What was so horrifying one day can be so beautiful the next.  And speaking of hurricanes … June 1st is next week.  Official hurricane season.  Welcome to the joys of living on a tropical island paradise. 

Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”

Father, thank you so much for the rain.  It really did refresh the grass and all of Chris’ plants outside.  Amen.

Monday, May 22, 2017

May 22 – “East”

That Eastward leg of our trip began with a ferry ride.  We saw some dolphins before we ever left the dock.  They were following a passing shrimp boat.  Of course that made the ride across kind of anticlimactic. But ferry rides are somewhat soothing if you let them be. 

Driving through the Bolivar Peninsula, we apparently just missed the Texas Frog Fest.  Looked like fun.  And we weren’t invited to the Beauty and the Beach wedding, either.  We did see the sign, though.  Oh, and Chris won the award for most unusual roadkill pizza ingredient.  At the time I was on top with my fox spotting, but she saw bacon.  Yep, a pig.  She announced it thusly, “It’s a pig.  That was a pig.  A real (makes a motion from her nose outward simulating a snout) pig.  Roadkill razorkback.  What can I say?  You can’t beat bacon.  And speaking of wildlife, we realized that we were driving right next to the Anahuac Wildlife Refuge.  I’m beginning to understand that “wildlife” actually means birds and cows.  No moose.  Sigh. 

Our goal for this leg of the journey was to make a Vaughan family pilgrimage to Sabine Pass.  My Dad was born there.  Plus it was the site of a key Confederate victory during the Civil War.  I did a report on the battle when I was in sixth grade.  Up front, the town of Sabine Pass was not much to look at.  They did have a very nice school building, though.  But they really take care of their state park.  Very clean and crisp grounds.  The monuments were interesting.  I even remembered the statue of Dick Dowling from my sixth grade report.  They also had a cell phone tour where you just called a phone number and a mysterious voice on the other end told you about the history as you walked around.  We made a wrong turn on one of the paths, though, so it got kind of confusing.  Chris found something online about an old cemetery so we drove over to see that.  It was interesting.  Some Civil War era graves as well as a huge open grassy area in the very center.  No gravestones or anything marked the big circle.  That, our research determined, was the site of a mass burial after a yellow fever epidemic. 
As we were leaving the cemetery, Chris remembered that there was also supposed to be a famous light house somewhere around there.  And you know how Chris is about lighthouses.  This one was apparently the only one commissioned to be on a U.S. stamp.  You are supposed to be able to see it from the state park we had left earlier, so we went back.  And we couldn’t find it.  The lighthouse, I mean, not the park.  It was supposed to be on the Louisiana side, but we couldn’t even see it in the distance.  Maybe they tore it down.  One other very cool thing about the park, though … fishing.  It was free, and it was literally right on the shore of the river that was emptying into the Gulf.  We saw a family there who had already nabbed several big reds. 

We left Sabine Pass and turned our attention toward Beaumont.  We drove through Port Arthur and straight to the Texas Fire Museum.  I had heard a lot about it, and I was anxious to compare it to the one we went to on our Kentucky trip.  They had several old trucks and a little bit of memorabilia, but they were famous for their collection of patches from fire departments all over the state.  Sadly, however, I couldn’t find one from Galveston Fire Department.  I was going to offer them one, but there was no one around to receive it.  Odd.  The museum is the first floor of their fire department admin building.  We did see some fire fighters going in and out, but no museum personnel acknowledged our presence.  I hate to say it, but the museum outside of Louisville was much better.  Of course, it was a dedicated museum and had full-time personnel on site, but it also had more interesting old paraphernalia.  I’m glad we went, though.  I was able to get a picture next to the largest fire hydrant in the world, about two stories tall.  Painted like a Dalmatian. 

We wound our way back a slightly different path, but after a certain point there is only one way to get on the ferry.  We did stop at the Stingaree Restaurant for supper.    Ambiance on the intercoastal canal.  Pretty good crab balls, but the fried crab was a waste of time and energy, no matter where you order it. 

Oh, and one last stamp on the vacation passport front … Friday we tried to go to that nautical place again.  It was still closed.  This time I found a note on one of the doors.  They had had a death in their family in North Carolina, so they were closed until the weekend.  Much better explanation.  We’ll reinsert that one into our plans for sometime next week. 

So, the Sneakaway 2017 without a doubt did not go as we had hoped, what with the shingles outbreak and all.  The things we did and saw were really great, though.  Well, except for that one little issue about a moose …

Hebrews 10:19-22 says, “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Father, thank you for getting us there and back.  When we started we didn’t know for sure where “there” would be, but we always knew you would be there ahead of us and with us.  Amen.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

May 21 – “Interlude”

As we plotted out our next course of action it was becoming more and more evident that Chris was in more and more pain from her shingles.  On a whim we decided to head for home to sleep in our own bed for a night or two.  There was still one more place we were interested in seeing before we called it a year on the vacation front, but she needed to rest up first.  I gotta say, I slept better in our bed than I had for about a week.  Part of that was the Celebrex I took to try to calm the nerve pain that has been coursing through my neck and into my face.  Either that did the trick, or I was exhausted, or I was in my own bed, or some combination of the above.  We let Nathan know we were home, but no one else. 

I think someone on the Weird Vacation Police took pity on our situation and brought some weirdness to us, though.  And we didn’t even have to go to WalMart.  We were in the front yard, minding our own business when down the street came a riding lawn mower.  And who should at the controls?  A guy dressed to the hilt as … a cowboy.  Hat, boots, checkered shirt, bandanna and all.  He puttered by and stopped at a pickup truck (of course).  He pulled out his bandanna (red, of course), mopped his sweaty brow, hopped back on his trusty steed and headed back to wherever he came from.  YeeHaw.

We went to look at a shop near the Strand that carries nautical themed stuff.  Chris is looking for a ship-looking box that will hold a box of Kleenex.  As luck would have it, the place was closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  So we did what everyone must do at least once on vacation … we went to WalMart.  We wanted to pick up some fruit and milk.  And while there I met George.  He was a cousin to my shirt George that we left in Waco.  I was excited that they had the same name.  So excited that I invited George to come home with us.  He agreed, so George will likely accompany us to church on Sunday.  Oh, and I checked.  I do have one more pair of black jeans for church.  We are all set.  After WalMart I hit the couch to watch the Astros sweep the Marlins and Chris retired to the bedroom.  We both obviously needed the sleep.  Not that I slept through the whole game, mind you.  I witnessed most of the victory.  It was good to add this interlude at home to our weird vacation, though.  Helped us be ready for the last leg … Eastward.

Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”

Father, thank you for interludes.  Sometimes we just need to stop.  Amen.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

May 20 – “Wildflower happy”

Following the Fat Donkey excursion we decided that since we were just down the road from what was billed as THE wildflower farm of the entire region, why not check that out as well?  Chris still hadn’t seen the wildflowers she was hoping for, so this would be her best chance.  I didn’t expect a moose there, but, hey, you never know. 

The very first thing you experience at the wildflower farm is … a gift shop.  Well, I guess we could have walked all the way around it, but why not dive right in?  Actually there were two separate shops.  We walked right through the first one.  I think Chris was so focused on seeking out wildflower life that she had blinders on.  Couldn’t do the same at the next one, though.  That’s where the purchases had to occur.  Some kind of jelly, I think.  Maybe some syrup.  Enough that they gave us a box to put them in.  Oh, well.  Gotta spend some souvenir money.  May as well be something to eat.  So I hauled that box as we took a walk, no, a hike, through the grounds. 

And finally Chris got to see her wildflowers.  Acres and acres of wildflowers, many still in bloom.  Gotta admit, it was pretty.  Well, except for the field that reminded me of those yellow flowered weeds we pull out of the flower beds at home.  People pay money for that stuff?  Just stop by the house.  I can hook you up.  They also had a huge plant buying place outside.  And speaking of buying places, we had to go through that first gift shop to get back to the car.  The route was not as direct this time.  That place even had clothes and those hangy on the wall thingies.  But we did finally find the seed room.  One entire room of nothing but row after row of those little wildflower seed packets.  Amazingly, however, we purchased none.  Might be because Chris had to hang onto that heavy box for a few minutes while I made a bathroom stop.  I think her arms were getting tired.  But she was happy.  Wildflower happy.  Still no moose for me, though.

Oh, I just recalled another memory from back in Waco.  The nerf gun battle.  In summary, Zak lost.  Josh lost.  Caleb, Luke and the mystery sniper won.  Gotta say, my new gun purchased just for the occasion performed admirably.

Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

Father, thank you for the beauty in your tiny little flower creations.  Amen.

Friday, May 19, 2017

May 19 – “Some FAT tasting”

Following our tradition of trying things we never would any other time, we backtracked from Luckenbach to a place we noticed from the road.  We knew it was a winery, and that was kind of on our bucket list after our tour of the bourbon factory in Kentucky a few years ago.  This particular one was billed on the internet as the most fun and laid-back place to go.  It was also the cheapest one listed.  That was certainly a plus.

I knew we were in for a treat when we drove up.  They had a huge emblem on the side of the building.  It was a donkey with the word “FAT” inscribed on it.  Not sure I understand the significance, but they did have a real live donkey on the premises. No moose, though.  Outside on the patio I located the restrooms.  Two small silos had been converted into what I can only assume were working toilets.  Neither of us felt the urge to try them out, but they were unique.

The place was surrounded by grapevines.  Pretty impressive view.  Of course when we got inside we found out that they import their grapes from somewhere in North Texas.  And the actual operations are done somewhere else, too.  Not sure why, then, they have a facility near Fredericksburg, but hey, it got us inside.  Guess that explains why it was so inexpensive too.  No tours. 

They pride themselves on doing their own random mixtures of grapes and berries and fruits.  One of them even uses cayenne pepper.  The actual tasting experience was … interesting.  You had to choose from a list posted on the wall.  One side was labeled “sweet” and the other was “dry.”  It’s been years since I had any wine.  I picked dry.  Chris picked, “I’ll just watch.”  I have to be honest here.  Most of the five choices I had were downright nasty.  Some were worse than others, particularly the cayenne pepper one.  Now, I know it’s been a long time since I had wine, but these were really foul.  One of the choices the lady described as “a careful blend of sweet and dry ingredients.”  It tasted more like they were at war with each other and neither side was winning.  I told her that.  I think it surprised her that I was so honest.  I did kind of like the one they made from local peaches.  Maybe because I recognized the flavor a little bit.  Maybe I should have selected “sweet.”  Or held out for one marked “grape-flavored.”

After my five sips Chris decided she would be the designated driver “just in case.”  I love that woman.  Oh, and I even got to keep my tasting glass as a souvenir of the experience. 

Hebrews 9:26 says, “But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

Father, I am constantly amazed at the creativity of people who seek to combine things you have created into something new and different.  Makes life fun.  Amen.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

May 18 – “Lunch in Luckenbach”

Another of the highlights of our journey was almost missed entirely.  After our excursion through the Willow City Loop we decided to do lunch in that iconic landmark town of Luckenbach, Texas.  That would fit nicely on our bucket list of really different unknowns.  We followed Google Siri’s directions out into the countryside, and before long we did indeed come to a large arrow with the words “Luckenbach, Texas” under it.  The designated road, however, seem to lead to nowhere in particular, just another proverbial “loop,” we thought.  So we continued on the straight and narrow path before us, hoping to arrive sometime soon for our Lunch in Luckenbach.  Alas, it soon became evident that we should have trusted the sign.  Even Google Siri seemed to laugh at us as our little blue dot drifted further and further away from the red destination arrow.  Yep.  Time to turn around.

And this time, as we approached the Luckenbach Loop Road, something strange began to happen to us.  Well, to me.  I felt the itch to git on mah cowboy hat ‘n’ pull up mah boots.  Dis here town wuz so little you could walk crost it in mebbe three minutes.  Dere wuz some kina obstacle course fer Fred Flintstone set up and taped off.  No idee what that was fer. 

Fust we strolled on through the ol’ shack they had marked as the U.S. Post Office.  Dat wuz jus’ to git ya inside, though.  ‘Cause in dere dere wuz nuttin but a gen’ral store wit all sorts of gadgets and gizmos and touristy hats and t-shirts.  I bought Chris a thimble fer her collection.  Not many folks have dem thangs anymore.  That post’em office was connected to the bar where some sanging wuz goin’ on.  We waited ta jain em, though.  Decided we wuz hangry.

We et lunch on a table outside.  Had ta shove the ol’ mangy cat outa da way off’n the table to make us some room.  Got us some ol’ dead pig shredded up on a bun fetched from the food wagon they done got set up on the poperty.  Then we set down and listened at three old dudes and one not so old dude sang some fine ol’ country music tunes.  Twarn’t Willie, Waylon, and dem boys, but dese ones done plenty gud.  We took us some pictures for posterity and headed back to the car.  And as we drove away we could feel ourselves transforming back into something resembling normal again.  Or as normal as we get normal, especially on a trip like this one.

Hebrews 9:24 says, “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence.”

Father, thank you again for fun new discoveries.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May 17 – “Wildlife encounters”

Well, now.  Here was a whirlwind day if I ever lived one.  It began with the sad realization that we left George and his older brother Herbert back in Waco, along with two pair of my blue jeans and Chris’s new skirt.  Rather than backtrack we decided to entrust their care to Josh and Christi and hope to see them again sometime before the summer’s end.  Sigh.

On a more positive note, Chris’ shingles were still hanging around, but she insisted she could make it through one more day.  She really wanted to see some wildflowers.  I wanted to see a moose.  We kind of compromised.  After a breakfast that included a free Texas-shaped waffle (always a crowd favorite.  Well, a crowd called “me”), we went to a museum in downtown Fredericksburg.  Interesting compilation of data regarding their early settlers and how they came from Germany through Indianola to Fredericksburg.  They should have come through Galveston, but then, no one asked me or any of my German predecessors at the time.  The most interesting thing about that museum (aside from the fact that it was next door to the fire station, but I resisted the urge to go into chaplain mode and make a visit) was the tiny baby mocking bird we met on the steps on our way in.  I think it was time for the youngster to start flying, and he was being a bit resistant to the idea.  He was still around when we came back outside, but he was waddling his way on foot towards a large patch of grass under a big oak tree.  About that time Momma and Daddy bird both swooped down upon him.  Momma pecked him gently, the not so gently gave him a big shove closer to the grass.  The adults then flew back into the tree.  Not Junior, though.  He finished his stroll across the concrete and sat down to rest in the cool softness of grass.  We didn’t see any predators in the area, so our hope was that the youngster made it back home in one piece. 

That interlude gave Chris enough time to locate an intriguing entry on an obscure website.  Somewhere within 13 or so miles of Fredericksburg there was (drumroll here) The Willow City Loop.  There was not much more information than that available.  Something about it traversing private property, so don’t dare stop or get out of your car.  We were in the back hills, so there was that haunting memory of a certain Coon Dog Cemetery drive from years past.  I had no intention of exiting the car.  But the possibility of wildflowers and wildlife was too much to pass up, so off we went. 

Other than the squirrel on a tree right at the entrance to the Loop and the multiple roadkill pizza toppings we encountered (five or six deer, one fox, numerous armadillos), the only significant wildlife spottings thus far had been Chris’ buffalo (which I never saw, so it was unconfirmed), the cattle at LBJ’s place, and one random, gamboling cow.  Now, this was not a calf, mind you.  A cow on the side of the road at someone’s ranch suddenly just leapt into the air and tossed its head to one side in as carefree a gesture as I have seen in years.  Made it completely into the air, mind you.  All four feet off the ground at the same time.  Amazing.  Inspiring.  Also, however, officially unconfirmed, because Chris didn’t see it.  So … no moose as yet, but I was still open to the possibilities before us.  And the Willow City Loop didn’t disappoint.  Well, a little disappoint … I still didn’t see a moose.  But the road wound around and around and up a mountain of sorts and across cattle guards too numerous to count.  Our first indication that we were in dangerous territory came when we passed The Boot Ranch.  Not sure if that was its official name, but that’s what I called it.  See, all along the fence line, on top of every single post (and there were hundreds), was a boot.  Just a single boot.  Imagine all the overly curious tourists it took to gather that many boots.  Oh, and just to make sure you weren’t thinking yourself safe because you weren’t wearing boots (I had on my Tevas, by the way, and was feeling a bit smug),  there was a baseball cap.  Yikes.  I slowed down enough for Chris to take a picture, but no stopping here, thank you very much. 

Now about our respective hopes for the drive.  Apparently we were too late for any of the potentially vibrant fields of wildflowers.  We paused here and there for a blooming cactus and a panoramic view of the countryside, but no real wildflowers.  Wildlife, on the other hand, was a different story.  As we got farther and farther into the trail we saw quite a few birds that I vaguely recalled seeing in a book one time.  Chris once again tried to counsel me on the difference between a cardinal and a simple redbird.  I’m still confused by that one.  If a bird is red, doesn’t that make it, by definition, a red bird?  The most interesting one to me was the one with the really long tail that looked like it was split in half and dragging behind it.  I think Chris called it a scissor-tail.  They were fun to watch.  Flew really fast, but the tail seemed to just drag them down.  Didn’t appear to be all that aerodynamically sound.  At one point we rounded a bend and there in the middle of the road was … a big ol’ cow.  Numerous cows and calves, in fact, but this one was blocking our path … staring.  Not eager for a confrontation of any kind, I slowed to a stop.  The cow stared.  I inched forward, to Chris’ chagrin.  She didn’t want to record for the insurance company how the car was damaged in a cow attack.  Still the cow stared.  Finally she had enough and strolled -very slowly - toward the side of the road.  And just before she cleared enough for us to get by, she kicked up her back heels.  I’m not sure, but I think in cow talk we were just told where to go. 

Further up the road we had a second encounter.  This time the sighting was a deer.  A lone deer munching grass right on the side of the road.  Again I slowed to a stop so Chris could get a picture before he took off running.  Except he never took off running.  He looked up at us, gave us one of those, “Huh.  Another stupid tourist” looks and returned to his lunch.  Intrigued now, I waited to see what he would do.  Bambi took his sweet time, but he casually strolled into the street right in front of us.  Just when it looked like he was about to sprint into the underbrush, he paused and scratched his chin with a back paw.  Incredibly nonchalant beast.  He finally disappeared on the other side of the road.  Well, it wasn’t a moose, but at least we got close. 

The advertised thirteen mile loop actually turned out to be closer to twenty by the time we returned to the road back to Fredericksburg.  But we made it out safely.  Not at all what we expected, but quite the adventure, nonetheless. 

Hebrews 9:15 says, “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

Father, thank you for all those creatures of yours that we got to see.  Your world is amazing.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

May 16 – “Um … Oatmeal? Texas?”

Ponderings of life’s biggest questions … by Luke … over a donut hole …
“Oh, when we grow up, we’re going to be … umm … what are we going to be?”
Exactly, Luke.  I’ve wondered that many times myself.

Well, we said our goodbyes to Waco.  Chris decided to try driving to see if the seatbelt was any easier for her shingles to handle coming from that direction.  First stop … gas.  Sorry, no excitement there.  But then we tried to find the entrance to none other than Lake Waco National Park.  Yep, there really is such a place.  At least on line.  We drove literally the entire perimeter of the lake before we came to an entrance.  And of course it was the wrong one.  The little old guy working there explained that we needed to “go ‘bout a mile on down this road here to that other entrance.  They’re the ones that have a computer.”  OK.  One computer among them, I guess.  He was right about the computer, wrong about the mile.  It was way less than that.  But we are now official.  We have a lifetime seniors pass to all national parks.  Ten bucks apiece. 

After achieving one major goal of this trip, we headed west … ish.  Well, toward Gatesville.  We drove right past Mother Neff State Park.  See, we can be snobs now.  National parks only.  After making our way through the grand Metropolis of Pidcoke (My new favorite city name.  Only things in town, though, were a Baptist church and a Methodist church.  No sign of any people, just the churches), we stopped in Copperas Cove for lunch.  Lil Tex Restaurant.  It was obviously where all the locals ate.  Well, at least all the old locals.  Incredible food, though.  Loved my meatloaf.  Back on the road again we made our way through two of the better known cities of the Texas Hill Country, Mahomet and of course … Oatmeal.  Yup.  Oatmeal, Texas.  Now I think I blinked around there, though.  Never saw any signs of anything but the sign. 

Leaving Copperas Cove Chris must have been feeling brave, because she actually followed one of my ideas for a short cut.   That was when the unthinkable happened.  Google Siri got lost.  All of a sudden she dropped our flashing blue dot right in the middle of a massive field of … blank grayness.  It was kind of depressing, actually.  At least until I looked up and saw that we weren’t actually floating in the nothingness of The Gray.  Nay.  We were in a really beautiful countryside.  I was feeling kind of sad that poor Siri had obviously never seen any of this expanse.  But suddenly, the screen flashed to life once more.  What was the difference?  Well, I’m not sure, but it happened right after we crossed a county line.  There she was, waiting with open arms to further assist us. 

From that point we cleared the Lampassas River amidst three or four roadkill deer with a side or two of armadillos.  We were heading into the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.  Sadly, I’m afraid those deer and armadillos might have been the only residents of said wildlife refuge.  Oh, the place was pretty enough, but no other signs of the animal kingdom. 

We determinedly continued on.  Suddenly Chris announced, “There’s a buffalo.”  OK, on a trip like this one, you don’t just announce “There’s a buffalo” and casually continue driving.  Oh, no.  That one we had to go searching for.  The very next turn was the entrance to the LBJ State AND NATIONAL Park.  We were in.  As it turned out, driving through that place was all free, so we didn’t need our special credit card-looking passes with their special hangers for the car.  We did the quick walking tour near the visitor center.  There were supposed to be people working a replica of an 1800’s farm.  The sheep were there.  Tom Turkey.  Some chickens and a rooster that reacted when I clucked in his general direction.  Even a few cows were having supper.  But no people.  Apparently at 4:30 in 1800’s farmhouses everyone went into town.  Unlike the Wildlife refuge that was so pretty but had no wildlife, this place was generally speaking ugly and flat, but there were deer everywhere.  Oh, and cows.  It was a cattle ranch, after all.

We spent the evening in Fredericksburg.  Well, that might be a misleading statement.  We went to supper at K-Bobs (great food, by the way.  Chris said her baked potato was an all-time best.  My chicken fried steak actually had steak in every bite.  I can’t remember that ever happening.  And the black eyed peas were a chef’s delight.  I would go back).  After supper we went back to our hotel room.  I know, sad, huh?  But there were two reasons.  Chris’ shingles had had just about enough of this nonsense.  My neck was beginning to ache and tingle (yes, but that’s a whole other story).  Well I suppose there were three reasons.  Did I mention that the Astros were being televised on ESPN?  Not that it played any part in our decision.  Go Astros.

Hebrews 9:14 says, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

Father, please do some healing work on those shingles of Chris.  And help me be careful with neck.  We’re just a couple of taped together creations of yours who want to keep this thing going for a while longer.  Amen.