Tuesday, June 28, 2011

They Still Exist!

Knights in Shining Armor, that is.  Let me tell you how I know:

On the occasion of this post, dad's car had a slight problem starting and we had to go out after dark and find a random person to jump it for us.
It turned on successfully and we promptly forgot about the problem (At least, I did.  Dad monitored it for several days and it was fine, apparently.)
Then, on Thursday, I was about to head toward Houston for a little friends' reunion, and Dad, at the last minute, offered me the use of his car since my air conditioning is currently out of commission.
(Did anyone else notice the surplus of commas in that last sentence?  No?  Good. Neither did I.)
I accepted his generous offer immediately and only thought of the battery at the last minute as I was literally walking out the door.
"Dad?  Do you think the battery will be okay?"
"Oh yeah.  Definitely.  It hasn't given me any trouble all week."
"Great.  Thanks!  See you later."
*grab the car charger for my phone, walk out the door, crank the car flawlessly, turn on my music and the air conditioning, head out for a great day*

I stopped for gas at my favorite gas station.  Not the most pleasant place, but the best prices.  I filled up my tank and the lady commented on how much I'd just spent.  Yeah.  A Ford Expedition is not a cheap vehicle to maintain.  I walk out the door, step into the car and turn the key.

Nothing happens.  Nothing happens.  Normally, the gauges would all swing over to the right and swing back and there would be a little clicking or possibly an almost-turn-over of the engine.
But there was absolutely nothing.
Maybe I was just dreaming, so I tried again.  Definitely still nothing.

Oh, have I mentioned that I'm now in a tiny town, population two-thousand-something?

So I called Dad and he said to go inside the gas station and ask for the name of a reputable mechanic.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  I thought so.  So I go inside, smile at the lady who was fairly nice to me earlier, and say "I have some bad news.  My car won't start."
She looks at me like "What does that have to do with me?"
I gesture out the door "It's in front of one of your pumps."
She outright frowns and says "Now that is bad."
That means "I didn't care at all that you had car trouble until I realized you were in the way of my business receiving it's fair share of profits. Never mind the fact that you just spent practically a hundred dollars here."
So I smiled sweetly at her and her coworkers and asked for the name of a mechanic.  They all look at me blankly.  Turns out they all (all three of them) live somewhere else and commute to this tiny town to work at the gas station.  Really?

So one of them offers to jump my car for me and I go call dad to make sure that's okay with him.  (He doesn't like to jump it much because there's a computer inside that could get messed up.)  Dad says it's fine and the guy runs around the back of the store and returns in a decrepit Chevy Cavalier.  I'm driving an expedition here and I really don't think this is going to work, but I refrain from commenting because I'm not an expert on cars, especially not on jumping them.
First two times I try to crank it, absolutely nothing happens.  Next three, it sort of clicks.  Keep in mind we are taking a long time between tries to give it plenty of time to warm up. So finally we decide this is not going to work and the guy decides to get his co-worker's Dodge Nitro.
That one worked . . . on the third try.

I was exuberant.  I pulled out of the parking lot after thanking my rescuer effusively.  (Really, I wish I could have convinced someone to give him a raise.  He was fantastic and kept up a good conversation and was very understanding of the fact that I didn't understand a thing that was going on.)
Then, the car died as I was pulling out.  At least it felt like it died, but I just punched the gas and it kept on going.  Talk about a terrifying moment.  I was trying to pull directly into the left lane, so if it had died, I would have been smack-dab in the middle of the road!
But I was fine and I went on to pick up one of the girls.  I didn't stop the engine at her house, just picked her up and continued to our destination.  The car drove great, the air conditioning worked, and C and I had a good little catch-up time.  When we got to the sandwich shop where we were meeting the other girls, I turned off the car and immediately cranked it again, just like Dad had told me to do.

Nothing happened.

So I called Dad again.  By this point I'm sure he was getting fairly stressed out, but he didn't reveal it over the phone.  We decided it would be best to just have one of the girls jump it after we got through with our day, then drive it to C's parents' house because her dad is pretty much a car genius.
So I didn't stress about it for the rest of the day.  I just enjoyed my time with my sweet friends.

But 5:00 eventually rolled around and we decided it would be best to allow plenty of time for me to get home before dark and some of the girls had husbands to take care of, so we all headed back to the sandwich shop to jump my car.
K pulled her car (which is not really much bigger than a Cavalier) up next to mine and pulled out her jumper cables.  None of us were quite sure we knew what to do.

Since both the nodes (Is that what they're called?) of the battery on my car were red and both the ones on K's were yellow, we did a pretty good job of figuring it out.  We were actually quite proud of ourselves when we got it all connected.

About the time we were going to crank K's car, we saw a man who appeared to be in his late thirties walking toward us.  He was wearing a white shirt, black slacks and a tie.  Good!  A man to double-check and make sure we are not doing anything incredibly wrong here.  He got about ten feet away and we noticed the badge and gun.  This guy was an off-duty policeman.  Perfect!  A civic-minded public servant.

I am not being sarcastic here.  I am telling you what we were really thinking.

So, policeman-friend gets about six feet away, stops, stares at us, and says, in a monotone, "Are you girls okay."  (Whoa!  There go those commas again.  And yes.  That period is there on purpose.  He did not sound like he was asking a question.)
We were a little taken aback, but I put on my sweetest smile and said.  "Yes sir.  I think we're alright.  You wanna check and make sure we hooked everything up properly?" (Definitely in a questioning tone.)
Policeman-friend steps forward about two feet, looks in our engines from four feet away and says, "Looks good.  Do you know what the trouble is."  Still in a monotone.
This time I stumbled a tad. "We think it's the battery.  Maybe the alternator?  We're really not sure.  *long pause in which one of us should have said something*  It's my dad's car and I'm just trying to get it back to him before dark."
I only said that last because no one was saying anything for a really long time.

Policeman-friend says "Where are you going?"
I told him, he literally snorted, looked at his watch and said "Good Luck" in that annoying tone that Good Luck tends to take when people don't really mean it.  Then he turned on his heels and walked off.
Just walked off!
I was shocked.  Here was this man who was supposed to be a public servant walking as fast as he could away from four poor young girls who obviously had no idea what they were doing.  I'd heard stories of terrible policemen, but I never really believed them until then.
I was so disappointed.  Literally on the verge of tears.  And it takes a lot to put me on that verge.

But we rallied.  After considerable mocking of policeman-friend (which probably should not have been done, but which made us feel much better), we cranked K's car and then cranked mine.  It worked like a charm on the second try.
There was considerable rejoicing and we let it run for a little while in order to say our goodbyes.

As luck would have it, there was a traffic light at the entrance to the plaza which housed the sandwich shop.  The other girls made it through, but C and I got stuck at it.
It was a long red light and, of course, as I was turning left out of it, my car died.  No punching of the gas could bring it back this time and it took all I could to pull it onto the shoulder.  We didn't get very far off the road either.  The car literally shook every time anybody drove past in in the right lane.  C and I both got out of the passenger side and discovered not one, but three ant beds.
When I say "discovered", I don't mean we searched them out.  I mean one if not both of us stepped in each one before this ordeal was over.  It was pleasant, let me tell you.
We promptly called K and as soon as she heard the news, she was headed our way.

About the time C hung up with K, a green truck pulled over in front of us and who should get out but the photographer from C's wedding.  Yes.  She had recognized us so we had a miniature reunion right there and she made sure we had someone coming to help.
About the time she was headed toward her truck, a little white truck pulled over in front of hers and a man got out who was holding an open container of something and was clearly intoxicated.
This fella proceeds toward us in a rather weavy manner and says (in a very slurred voice which I would love to imitate for you, but sadly you can't hear me) "Y'all need to get out of the way.  I'm a paramedic and I know the fatalities that happen around here.  That big silver thing is fixin' to run right into y'all.  I'm just tryin' to be helpful."
He raises whatever he's drinking and goes off to his truck.
Really?  Because I was in the driver's seat of that big silver thing a few minutes ago and I can tell you it's not going anywhere, much to my dismay.

Now, before you start seriously doubting my definition of a Knight in Shining Armor, let me tell you that policeman-friend and tipsy fella do not fit that category.  In fact I'm pretty sure God put them in this tale purely as a foil for what happened next:

K arrived and we had just gotten the cables hooked up again and two thirds of us were on the phones with our fathers when a little white truck pulled off in front of us.  For a split second I thought Mr. Tipsy had decided to rejoin us, but no.  An angel stepped out of this truck.
Just for clarification, the most commonly spotted angel in East Texas is a twenty-something young man in a sleeveless "work-shirt" (t-shirt with a pocket for all you foreigners), holey blue jeans with mud up to the knees, and some sort of sturdy boots.  Sometimes they even have several hard hats in the back of their truck.

This guy walks up and does everything right.  He stands far enough back to not seem threatening, but asks in a tone that is clearly concerned. "Do y'all need some help?  Because I'd love to help if you need it."
We all look at each other and say "Yes.  Please."
"Good."  He says.  "I just had to stop.  I know how it is to have people just drive right past me when I'm stuck on the side of the road."
And he promptly pulled some tools out of his truck, stepped in, and took over.  Clearly this guy knew what he was doing, so we stepped back and let him do his thing.
After several tries, my car still wasn't doing anything, so he started walking back to his truck without saying anything to us.  I have to admit, for the slightest amount of time I thought he might be abandoning us in frustration.  But no, he returned from his truck with the hugest set of jumper cables I have ever seen.  I mean, these made K's look like a toddler's toy.
He grinned at me and said "These will start a track-hoe.  If they won't start your car we're in real trouble."
I just nodded dumbly, being not really sure what a track-hoe was and even less sure that anything in the world could start my car at that point.
But, sure enough, on the second try, my car started.  Not exactly like a charm, but with minimal trouble.
By now my dad had told me to make sure to rev the engine a little after I'd gotten it jumped.  So I did that while my Knight in Shining Armor went to put up his jumper cables.
He came back from his truck, made a peculiar face at the front of my car, and put his ear to the hood.
Now I'm thinking "Oh great! What now?"
He asked me to pop the hood again, and he poked around a little bit, slammed it down again and came around to my window.  He grinned again and said "I'm hearing things.  Thought there was a rattle but I didn't see anything.  Mind if I take a look at the gauges?"  I didn't, so he did.
"I think everything's good.  It's not your alternator.  Must be the battery.  Walmart has free battery checks.  You should go get it checked out before you drive it any distance, and don't turn it off until you're somewhere safe."
I smiled, said thanks, and he left.
Thanks was not enough.  This guy was the definition of a Knight in Shining Armor:
He purposely made himself non-threatening
He actually cared about the welfare of three girls whom he didn't know and will never see again
He didn't hit on any of us  (Yes.  This is an important element of Knighthood.)

The successful starting of my engine was followed by C and I talking alternately with our dads, trying to reach a consensus among the four of us, a nerve-wracking quick stop at Starbucks for directions to Walmart, and getting the battery replaced . . . for free!  Apparently it was under manufacturer's warranty, so everything turned out alright and C and I just figured it was good all around because we got to catch up more and watch the most gorgeous sunset together.

And, on the way home, I snapped some lovely pictures of a public library in the dark which I wouldn't have seen if everything had gone according to plan.

Other good things lately:

I'm headed out of here with this lady to visit this lady.  So excited!

The little girl I nanny really does like me!  She's not the most demonstrative or responsive little thing, so I really wasn't sure until today when her mom (whom she definitely adores) called to offer her the option of running errands with Mom rather than staying at the house with Esther. She said "I want to do whatever gives me more time with Esther."  Melt my heart!

Also, I'm in my coffee shop and there was a guy in holey jeans, sturdy boots, and nerd glasses reading a book  on the couch earlier.  Those angels.  They're all around if you just look for them.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

An Old Passion Revisited

Kelle Hampton's blog is one which I follow religiously for, well, several reasons.  Not the least of which is the fact that it has some of the most beautiful photography you will ever see.  And it's a pleasant design.  And the writer thereof loves easter peeps.  The list goes on.  Basically, it's really great and you should check it out.  This post just showed up today and rang so true with me, so here for you to enjoy is what remains to me of my ballet days (sorry it's kind of long):

One Thirty-Eight Second Solo

Mother took her to gymnastics class
and her four-year-old eyes loved
the old second story studio
hidden away downtown.

Mother took her to gymnastics class
and her eight-year-old eyes despised
the spotless new studio and body-pierced teacher
in the modern rec center.

That summer, she bought a ballet-slipper backpack.
That fall, she did an arabesque in the house,
flinging her arms wide and knocking out her sister’s front tooth.

Mother got the message.

Mother took her to ballet class
and her nine-year-old eyes adored
the new mirrored studio and brown-haired teacher.

She watched the last ten minutes of her sister’s gymnastics class
thrilled that she was now a ballerina, no longer a gymnast.
That year she choreographed and performed her own duet
to the brand new Titanic theme song.

Then Miss Dana stopped teaching ballet. She cried.

Mother took her to ballet class
and her eleven-year-old eyes loved
the old, mirrored, second-story studio
hidden away on the north side of town.

Prima ballerina instructors expect a lot,
even of small girls.

Mother picked her up from ballet class
and her twelve-year-old eyes cried
because teacher shouted at her
for not pointing her toes.

But she knew it was impossible
to become a real ballerina without shedding tears.
Flat feet were her curse,
and she would overcome.

Fourteen – she learned the feeling
of stretching her arch to the fullest,
of pointing as hard as she could,
of rising high on her toes.

Her feet still held her back.

Fifteen – she caught a glimpse of teacher’s bare feet.
Her first thought was of the witch in Hansel and Gretel.
No normal person had feet that gnarled.
Those feet looked like her own feet felt after a long day of practice.

Sixteen – she was reprimanded for having chicken arms,
but teacher said she had potential for grace in those gangly limbs.

Seventeen – She was allowed to practice
once a week on Pointe shoes
and teacher asked her to demonstrate the Pas de Bourree Tour Jete
since she had such graceful arms and legs.

Eighteen – she danced alone on-stage,
realizing Teacher’s and Mother’s pride,
while her blue eyes shone
in that thirty-eight seconds of victory.

What My Daddy Does

First of all, let's just establish the fact that I have always been proud of the fact that my dad is a "sign-man".  He builds and installs signs for a living.  There are very few other people who can drive throughout their hometown (as well as their whole general region of the state, as well as the area around said general region, as well as . . .) and say "Oh, by the way, my dad made that, and that, and that."
Not that I do this much.
Anyway, today, we're gonna take a look at what my daddy does every day.  Although really we're just looking at the on-the-road aspect, not the behind-the-scenes-actual-building-the-signs part.

He loads up the trailer early in the morning with his own handiwork

Then he drills a hole or two.

Then he kicks around a little dirt . . . sometimes with company.  (Does it not look like they're dancing?)

Does some trimming. (He's got an eye for detail, he does.)

And gets ready to put the sign in the ground.

But as much as I am proud of my Dad for the things he accomplishes "on the job", what I really love him for is the way he always takes the time to teach his girls new things.

Then steps back

to let us figure it out


Thanks daddy for never making me take out the trash or mow the lawn :-P
For whole-heartedly embracing this new photography obsession of mine
For being ever-patient with my lack of potato-peeling/vegetable-chopping/any-kind-of-cooking skills, but still always trying to teach me new ones
For telling me I'm beautiful when I need to hear it
For teaching me how to love others by serving.

I love you Daddy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Esther and Roads

Let's talk about this, shall we?
This being the fact that I am not the best driver out there.  Especially in cities.
I mean seriously, I think I broke the world record for most consecutive times missing the same exit on a recent trip to Houston.

The first time I missed it, I took my life in my hands and decided I had been on the interstate waaaaay to long and must have missed my exit, so I dove (well, actually, exited) straight into downtown Houston; as soon as I left the freeway, there was my exit, taunting me across the space between the exit ramp I was on and the place I needed to be.
I got down into the part of town right below the big road, where scary looking people stand at street corners and red lights last entirely too long. But I turned around and got back on the interstate going the right way as quickly as I could.

The next time I missed it, I was so busy looking for the right number that I completely forgot to make sure I was headed in the right direction.
I wasn't headed in the right direction, so I quickly tried to cross all four lanes and get in the right place.
Didn't make it.  So I took another exit.  This one took me into the "Theater District".
Really Houston?  I did not see any theaters.  I turned around quickly, used the frontage road to get back to the same spot I'd used earlier to turn around.
Let's just mention here that I am usually a fan of roads with names rather than numbers.  In the country they're fun.  Who doesn't enjoy a little jaunt down Coon Hunter Road every once in a while?
But in the big city there's something much more comforting about 45 than, say, Telephone Rd.
So I got back on the highway and tried again.

For those of you keeping count, this is now the third time I tried to get to the correct exit.  Third time's the charm, right?  Not this time.
This time I must admit the only reason I missed the exit was that I was feeling so optimistic about making it to the right place that I got distracted.
Whilst being highly entertained by the way the bumps in the road were coordinated with my radio, I missed it again.

Yes.  This really happened.  I'm driving along, smiling like a goon (Do goons smile?  What even is a goon?) and I miss my exit for the third time.

Don't worry.  Fourth time was the (uneventful) charm.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What I've Been Up To

Summer started out feeling pretty much as busy as the semester, but there has been a good change in the type of activities that keep me busy, so I'm not complaining.
This post will be picture heavy. (You've been fairly warned.) But the first couple weeks of my summer are not documented at all.  The Friday of finals week, I headed to Camp/Austin to help out with training/visit Kae.
My camera lived under my bed and I didn't take a single picture for two weeks.  Terrible.
But since then, I've been taking pictures non-stop.  Here's a sampling of what I've been up to:

Enjoying Country Life

There's just something about denim on a clothesline.  And yes, that last is a chicken coop.  And yes, it lives outside my bedroom window just like that.  I love it.

Building fences for donkeys which will arrive soon

Yes.  I live in that forest.  Isn't it lovely?

I'm sort of in love with pine trees . . .

Smiling ice cream?  Yes, please.

Baking cakes

Going to Baby's ballet recital

Being hospitable to Grandma's cat, who would have none of it and chose to live in

There?  Really? Okay.  I guess she knows where we won't mess with her . . .

Taking in a baseball game with the favorites and Grandma

And getting Baby's hair cut!

She's so cute!

And, PS, I'm sitting in my favorite coffee shop, which is not playing my favorite music right now.  SO I have my headphones on and have not been paying much attention to my fellow patrons.
In a break between two songs on my headphones just now, I heard the old man across the room say, "We can't reasonably expect to create a 9,000 pound gorilla."
Well sir, I'd say you are right on track with that statement.