Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Road Tales Day Three

Or, Looking for Love's in All the Wrong Places

I don't want to admit that road trippin' might not be as fun as it sounded before we began, but this day was a challenge. To be honest, I think all my problems came from being under prepared and inattentive. Also, I must acknowledge that this third and final leg of our journey gave me the opportunity to participate in my favorite part of road trippin', the night drive. We finally pulled into our destination (target arrival window: 6-8 pm) at 10:45pm, well after dark.

Today's misadventure serves as my reminder that when you realize you got up on the wrong side of the bed, sometimes the best thing to do is go back to bed and start over. If only I could have done that today.

Between fatigue and a Wal-Mart visit, we started an hour later than I wanted. One hour into the drive, I had to make an unscheduled stop for gasoline. Oops. This woke Lulu at an awkward time, which triggered a snowball effect that reverberated throughout the rest of the day, as we struggled to get baby, snacks, gasoline, exercise and potty breaks in sync with rest area and truck stop locations.


At one point I pulled off the road hoping to give the screaming baby a bottle. I could not find a place to park at the exit I had chosen, so I returned to the highway and continued my search while Miss Lulu exercised her right to cry if she wants to.

Double cuss.

A few miles later I saw signs for hotels, and exited the highway again. Unfortunately, this time I exited one mile too soon, and instead found myself on another highway crossing through the mountains of Kentucky, from which there was NO EXIT for TEN MILES.

Cuss cuss cuss!

Twenty minutes later I was back at MY highway, taking the NEXT exit, and pulling into a hotel parking lot. Two hours into the drive, three stops, one heck of a detour, and a fit of fury with myself, this was the moment at which I realized Rooster had dropped a shoe back at Wal-Mart.

Cuss cuss cuss cuss CUSS!!!

Have you ever tried to send a text message when you are speechless? I flung a text at the Captain, hoping he could throw me a thread of sanity to which to cling, and about all I could do was use a lot of *** as descriptive adjectives. He sent me the comforting response: “You r just a ball of anger!!! :)” Not the thread I was hoping for. But a needed reality check to help me simmer down.

What? Me, scream? No one will believe you!

My mom drove for the next hour while I tried to piece myself back together with the orderly numbers grid of Sudoku. The day continued disjointed until late afternoon, with 7 stops in the first 6 hours. Once was for the sole purpose of chastising the kids for dumping half a bag of M&Ms on the floor of the car. Which they could only have reached by not wearing a seat belt.

Has anyone seen my serenity? I think it got broken today. Fortunately I have time before the return voyage, to regroup and rethink my strategy for traveling with an infant.

For now, tomorrow is the first day of BEING on vacation. I think we are going to a farm. I may just check the kids in, and come back to get them in a week when I have recovered.

I promise, road trips are fun. But today? Today was just one of those days. I am glad to be at my destination.

All's well that ends well

Monday, June 29, 2009

Road Tales Day Two

I found peaches!!!

I have been waiting a year to buy Arkansas peaches. And today the moment arrived. I had brought along a twenty dollar bill just for the occasion, and was about to buy three baskets of them, but was offered to take home a 25 lb box (equal to six baskets) for just five dollars more. How could I refuse? We will eat peaches until our faces drip with the sweet nectar of tree ripened peaches. Oh glorious morning.

As often happens on road trips, my thoughts eventually turn to the ill manners of other drivers. This morning a white coupe came up on my tail so fast I thought for a moment it was either out of control or out to get me personally. Of course I have no bad driving manners whatsoever, so I have every right to be judgmental. Today I thought of a bumper sticker slogan I would like to share:
"I like NASCAR as much as you, but that doesn't make this the Daytona 500."

They say the road to Gramma's house is never long, but today I beg to differ. My sweet baby doll adds a level of complexity to the trail that I expected but didn't really factor into my plans. I believe our current level of progress could be characterized as a 1.5 to1 ratio. As in, for every 1.5 hours we drive, we stop for one hour. I think on my trip home next month we may have to add another day of driving time, to allow for the leisurely pace so important to me.

The car starts to feel a little closed in. Today we shortened the road a little with an audio book. I feel a little under-prepared this year with diversions for the kids. Something tells me this trip will go down in history as the most difficult one, as in "Remember the year Lulu was a baby, and we were so cranky from being crammed all together in the Explorer?"

I've been looking for a Wal-Mart to stop and pick up a few extra bits of entertainment for Miss Boo. She's bored to death of reading, poor thing. You would think that driving through Arkansas, home of Wal-Mart, that I would have found a place to stop. But every time I thought of it, the sign showed up after the exit ramp. Maybe I'll have those diversions for the trip home. And maybe she won't be hating road trips either. I've got my fingers crossed.

I had to snap this for the Captain. Several years ago, when we were playing Monopoly with his brothers, we started saying "Tennessee" in a silly deep voice every time someone landed on Tennessee Ave: Tuh-ten-uh-sheeeee... And now I can't help it, I have to say it out loud just like that whenever I see it.

Tonight we are sleeping in Franklin, KY, 2 miles north of Tuh-ten-uh-sheeeee.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Road Tales Day One

I love a good road trip.

I know which of my friends are road trippin' soulmates, and which are not. I love you all the same, but this is just what I love. Endlessly organizing details, special trips to the store for treats and surprises, maps, reservations, and the thrill of the game.

This morning these autobots rolled out at 9:30 for what was supposed to be a straightforward day of picking up Gramma in Dallas, stopping for dinner at Outback Steakhouse in Texarkana, and finishing with a leisurely swim at the hotel in Arkadelphia. But what day ever fits neatly into its expectations?

In the first 100 miles of our trip, we stopped four times. With more little people in the car, we just have more reasons to stop! By the time we arrived in Dallas to pick up Gramma from her hotel, I could have been done for the day. But we were only halfway to our destination.

The second half of the trip proved more draining than the first, although we only stopped one time in 250 miles. Perhaps because of that. We didn't make it to my personal reward checkpoint of Outback in time for dinner, so had to settle for Chili's. Chili's probably ranks second in my "Most Reliable Food" list, so I didn't mind too much.

And sometime after dinner, with three hours of driving still ahead of us, Miss Lulu got D-U-N with the whole business. The last hour of the trip was a bit of a nailbiter for the rest of us, except Rooster who fell asleep in the restaurant and stayed that way almost to our destination.

Tonight we sleep in Arkadelphia. I learned last year that while Arkansas will always be the home of Big Rig dealers, Mobile Home dealers, pickup trucks with campers, and Wal-Mart, this state also sports some of the most beautiful roadside trees anywhere in the US, and the best peaches ever. If I am lucky I will find some at a roadside stand in the morning.

Well I was planning to wax poetic about the thrill of road tripping. But the simple logistics of getting time to blog, and downloading photos to share, have taken all my time. Maybe tomorrow I will take the time to explain why I love Outback so much. I left you a little clue, see if you can find it!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ahh, the Irony

Have I mentioned that it's the hottest day of the year, for the third or fourth day running?

This morning, while mowing the yard on this hottest day of the year, I had the chance to muse over a few bits of news found in today's paper. For some reason, they all passed through my irony filter and came out thus:

1. Trees
A few years back, a big developer, whom I will call "Biergarten," bought a prime piece of undeveloped real estate on the south side of town, and submitted plans to put in a Super Wal-Mart. Local residents were appalled, and organized enough community support to persuade city council to nix plans. So long, Wal-Mart.

Said piece of property is still zoned agricultural, but has since been advertised for development. Biergarten has again submitted a request for rezoning for retail use.

Meanwhile, city council, in its small-town wisdom, has recently begun discussing a tree ordinance, which would restrict the wanton razing of greenspace during residential and commercial construction. Keep in mind, the construction is at the behest of said city council, who wants more contributions to city tax coffers.

So, one Saturday morning a month or so ago, ye olde Biergarten took a little initiative and razed every tree on the agriculturally zoned piece of property. Just in case city council passes that ordinance, I guess they didn't want to deal with tree destruction restrictions whenever they get around to developing that pesky parcel.

Haha, I also suppose they forgot about the vocal and mobilized local residents, of whom the editor of the local paper appears to be a part. That's just what you want, to piss off the news outlet.

So, one of the headlines on today's front page makes sure we are all aware that in last night's city council meeting, Biergarten Realty's request for rezoning to retail use has been DENIED. Hah. Biergarten claims the land is now useless.

The story gets better. On page 6, or thereabouts, is another little piece about climate change. Remember farm subsidy, in which farmers are paid not to grow crops? I guess now, in light of the fact that too many trees are being cut down around the country, someone wants to pass legislation that will give developers CREDITS for not cutting down trees, since trees will offset greenhouse gases.

Ahh, the irony.

2. Diminishing Aquifers
In another bit of irony, I have also recently been reading about our local aquifers, which apparently will only last another 20 years. Yet all these new HOA subdivisions (which I live in, with mixed feelings), are sodding with St. Augustine, a very thirsty grass. This week I've had to water the yard for an hour every night, so the grass doesn't die, which would put me in violation of my HOA. I then have to mow my green grass more frequently, causing gasoline emissions.


3. Michael Jackson
And in a final bit of irony, I find it interesting that our friend Jacko, (may he find peace in death that he never did in life) who lived his life behind shades and under an umbrella, passed from this world on the HOTTEST DAY OF THE YEAR.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


"Hank the Cowdog was right. On really hot days, everything off in the distance looks soupy."

This heard from the backseat of the car a while ago, as I transported all three bambinos to the library. And indeed, the horses, buildings and cars in the distance were all soupy with heat waves.

How hot is it? Actually, I don't know. Normally I would, but my mommy-mobile complete with temperature gauge is in the shop today getting prepped for a road trip in a few days. I can guess, though, and the number starts with a 9 and ends somewhere around 8.

While the chariot is checked in for rehab, we got to get personally acquainted with one of Hank's Really Hot Days today, as we [gratefully] drove the Captain's "A to Beater." This luxurious mode of travel features red-hot seat belt plugs, and A/C so refreshing it literally inspired the question today, "Are you running the heater?" When we got out of the car at home, the oppressive heat was actually a relief from sitting in the car. Poor baby had sweat droplets all over her nose and cheeks. Oh.My.Hot.

The so-trendy vinyl wrap on the steering wheel was so hot I had the opportunity to wrap it with authentic red-neck gear just for the privilege of touching/steering. This hot vehicle also sports an intentional black eye on one tail light, and a NASCAR-worthy stripped down passenger door. Once I get my perspective right, it's even kinda cute...

Understand that I am not criticizing this vehicle. It was a gift to us, and has cost little more than maintenance for almost eight years. That's pretty impressive.

But it was good for me to get to drive it today in this soup, to remind me of what a good sport the Captain is. Because honestly, I would have a difficult time settling for such a humble mode of transportation. Yet he drives it, even loves it, because we both agree that we have better places to put our money.

So thanks Captain for all your sacrifices on behalf of the family. We will miss you while we are gone, and will now have added sympathy for the state of your life without us (and our air-conditioned ride).

Enjoy the soup.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I believe the schedule of a freelance writer may just be the first thing I have found to which my work style is perfectly suited.

I have a predictable tendency to attack a new project with vigor and pursue it obsessively until I burn out a few weeks later. I think of myself has having manic phases, followed by recovery phases. One fine example is my half-finished book draft which was written entirely in the first 15 days of November during "National Novel Writing Month." Of course there is the intention of getting back to it, it's just that so many other projects have sprung up to distract me...

On January 9, I sent off a "hail mary" submission, hoping to propel myself past what I knew was going to be a challenging time for creative thought. Then Lulu arrived. I promptly forgot about said submission and sank into the long fog of new baby.

Surprise, my strategy worked! Earlier this month I received news that my submission had been accepted and would be published this fall, in the online portion of a prominent women's ministry magazine.

While there is no monetary gain from this particular success, the encouragement I gained from the experience renewed the spark of manic energy lying dormant within my soul. Despite the challenge of having my biggest kid home from school for summer break, I have discovered the will to press on in my pursuit of writing for Christian ministry.

Thanks to VBS and a baby that naps all morning long, I have used this week to compile a task list to carry me through the next month. Hopefully about the time I run out of steam, I will hear back from another publisher who wants my work, and the awesome cycle will continue.

By the way, my languishing half-draft from November's manic phase also led to something else. After hearing about my project, a mentor from college days passed my name on to another publisher, who in turn contacted me and offered me a paying assignment! So this week of quiet was also used to work on a series of essays for a Sunday School curriculum.

As one friend pointed out to me this morning, I'm living my dream. I'm not ready to quit my day job yet (hah) but it feels so right. Hurrah and thank you Jesus for showing me a purpose that is just right for the way you made me!