2017 October 14-16

Saturday 14 We drove in to Cedar Park/Leander to watch Sofia play volleyball. Her team won the first of three games. The other team had girls that were quite a bit older, bigger, and stronger. Very little about what they play could be called “volleyball”. Mostly, if one team finally manages to serve a ball that goes over the net, no one touches it. If they do manage to hit it, it goes out of bounds. I guess this game is teaching them some ‘life skills”.

I mailed out 4 birthday cards when I picked up the mail at the post office. We then came home and fixed some lunch. There was time for a nap before going to Tate’s flag football game in Round Rock at 4:30.

My ex and her husband just recently moved to Lampasas Texas. This means that they will be able to attend more of the grandkids events … like Tate’s game. It was 89 degrees and partially cloudy. The humidity was very low and there was a slight breeze which actually felt cool. Becky, my ex, was commenting that she was confused about what season it was. “It’s supposed to be fall.” Well, do you know what fall means in Texas? That’s right. Nothing.

Tate’s game was exciting. Both teams played well … unfortunately, the other team played better. Tate made a touchdown that didn’t count because there was a flag for offsides. He also made an interception and gained a lot of yardage.

Cross Tracks church was playing “The Shack” in the evening and serving hotdogs, popcorn, and other snacks starting at 6:00 before the movie at 7:00. I had never read the book nor previously seen the film. I had no idea what to expect. With no expectation going into it, I was impressed. I won’t give much away about it for those who, like me, never read nor saw it before. However, I will say that I was surprised by the unusual turn the story takes and the outcome. Count this as a recommendation.

Sunday 15 Breakfast was at church before Worship service. Cross Tracks puts out s large breakfast bar before worship. There are donuts and sweet treats, fruit (I really like the strawberries), homemade sausage and biscuits, and breakfast tacos. Now if that is not a “welcoming church” then I don’t know what is. Oh, by the way, the people are great also. (I didn’t want you to think I only go for the food.)

Ella and I sang in the choir for the first service, which it the more traditional service. Pastor Steve’s sermon title was “9 Apples.” It was a sermon about giving/tithing. The visual aids were good as were the projected images. However, though it examined what usually happens with people’s budgets and their giving, I don’t feel that it made the impact of WHY to donate or tithe to the church. My feeling and understanding is that donating is a way that God allows us to be of service to others and also to be in partnership with God. For in truth God doesn’t need our money but does require our service. He is more than Savior. He is Lord. (here ends the mini-sermon)

The F.R.O.G. (forever relying on God) class has bee stnudying an Adam Hamilton book “Moses, the reluctant prophet”. They are about halfway through the book. So, Ella and I have some catching up to do. I have read and enjoyed many of Hamilton’s books. He is good at enlightening his readers without using a lot of “churchy” words. And when he does use those words, he explains their meaning in plain English.

On the way home from church I asked Ella, “Nap or lunch first?” Her response was a resounding “Nap.” So, our lunch became both lunch and supper (lupper). The rest of the day was spent reading and playing games until returning to the church for Pastor Steve’s study on the New Testament. Once again the group was already in progress when we arrived back in Texas. So there is catching up to do there also. They are halfway through the book of Acts. I have downloaded the study manual on my Kindle app and sent screen shots of the pages to Ella. That way we can at least jump in where they already are.

Monday 16 Began with a sneeze and a runny nose. Somewhere before 4;30 I was forced out of bed by the need to blow my nose. I’m the kind of person who, once I’m awake, I’m awake. Extremely seldom do I ever try to go back to sleep. Unable to sleep, I got up and worked on a sermon idea.

The alarm went off at 6:30 and we ate and got ready to go into Cedar Park. This was the day that I visited my wonderful VA doctor. (Seriously) Doctor Bassari is a wonderful doctor who actually acts like she enjoys see us. She looked at the results of my blood work and told me it was beyond good … it was wonderful. We set another appointment for six months out (just before we head to Iowa).

It was a little before nine when we arrived at the Leander Senior Center. Again, there were very few people there. Ella pointed out an obvious possibility for the smaller attendance, last year they changed the road in front of the center and took away quite a few parking spaces. Makes sense to me. We are old and most can’t or don’t like to walk very far. Another thing that has changed is the chef at the center. Debbie has had surgery on her feet/legs and not returned to work. The person that is filling in for is competent but does not embellish the food at all.

My nose was still dripping and the constant sneezing and blowing made it difficult to play games or eat. I was glad when lunch was over so that I could go home. I put cotton balls in my nose (yes I did) and dropped my recliner back and took a nap.

After supper, we played some games and watch tv until bed time.

*Grandies is a service organization that meets every Wednesday in the Church’s fellowship hall. The group is comprised of “old folks” who are (mostly) grandparents. Hence the name Grandies. We have a card ministry where we send birthday, anniversary, missing you, hope you get better, sorry for your loss, and other types of cards to church members and others. We also donate money and merchandise to the local schools for the care of the homeless children there. We support **Operation Liberty Hill by donation and service. We have a Sack Lunch program during the summer because some children rely on the school lunch program for what may be their only meal of the day. The Sack Lunch kicks in while school is in recess for the summer.

**Operation Liberty Hill is a Thrift Store and Food Pantry.

***Over The Hill Gang is a member suported senior center in Liberty Hill, Texas.


2017 October 10-13

2017-10-01_07.47.15 (1)

Tuesday 10 Up at 6 and on the road by 6:30. Country roads can be very dark at that time of day. There was no moon or stars visible either. It was all very peaceful … except for the knowledge that there is at least one new dead deer along this six mile stretch of road every week! So what could make us leave the nice cocoon of bedding and go out to a chilly (59 degrees) early morning ride? I have an appointment with my VA doctor in a couple of days and I need to have lab work done several days in advance. The lab opens at 7:00 and it is about 20 miles away from home.

We arrived shortly after 7:00 and there was a line waiting to check in. After a while, one of the VA folks said, “If you’re here for lab work, you don’t have to check in. Just take a number and have a seat.” Nearly everyone in line did as he said and took a number from the little pull tab machine.

We sat like good little soldiers, not speaking to each other. As I looked around the room I noticed the coffee bar in the front of the room. There were even snack items available. How cruel to set before people who were doing FASTING lab work. There was noting else to do but sit and watch the large television placed high upon the wall. Slowly, we were called back three at a time. I was so engrossed in watching “Flip or Flop” on HGTV that I almost didn’t notice when my number appeared on the screen.

I was number 60 so I went back with Mr. 59 and Ms. 61. Three partitioned areas and three chairs awaited us. “59 take a seat in the left chair. 60 the middle chair and 61 to the right.” It crossed my mind that there were three chairs with patients, but only two medical techs. Was someone missing? Did one of the two techs work twice as fast? I don’t know. “Which arm?” she asked. I replied that it didn’t matter. I also told her that I am a “hard stick” and most people find it easier to draw blood from the back of my hand.

Ignoring my helpful suggestion she proceeded to try each arm several times. Tying the little blue strip of rubber around my arms and slapping them, looking for a vein. “I think if I use a smaller needle, I can get something here,” she said as she looked at spot on the outside edge of my elbow. She made it. She managed to fill two and a half vials before the blood stopped. That’s when the readjusting of the needle started. Push it in a little farther. Pull it out a little. Move it this way and that. She managed to extract a small amount in the fourth vial. “That’ll have to do, I guess.” Mr. 59 and Ms. 61 were long done by now. Strangely, they didn’t call in two more people. I guess that there is a regulation that said we had to come in groups of three.

It was now shortly after 8 and time for some breakfast. 1010170831_HDRElla suggested the IHOP but I wanted to try something different. Someone (I don’t remember who or when) had told me that the 1431 Café had good breakfasts. It is located directly across the street from IHOP on highway 1431. It’s a good thing that the café was located there  because it would have made no sense for the 1431 Café to have been located on 183. What a coincidence.

It was surprising to me that it was larger than it had seemed on the outside. Not quite like the TARDIS but deceptively large. I’d guess it had seating for around 100 people. However, it was nearly empty. 1010170819_HDRThere was one booth with a young couple leaning close acrossed the table and talking quietly. The only other table in use was occupied by 3 men (our age) and one of the waitresses. At one point they started singing something that I didn’t recognize. I said, “I didn’t know that there was entertainment here also.” They laughed.

One of the items on the breakfast menu intrigued me, Chicken Fried Bacon. I really wanted to try it. However the price of nearly $4 for two pieces of bacon seemed a little high. I had two hot cakes, two eggs, and two sausage patties while Ella had eggs, toast and grits. It was all good.

By the time that breakfast was over it was time that we could go to the Leander Senior Center. 2017-10-14_14.49.51Jerry, Marvin, and Eddy were already there. We sat and just visited for a short time and then Ella brought out the dominoes. Gloria arrived shortly thereafter and joined us. Next to arrive was Charlotte and Arlotte. The two of them  brought out the Rummykube (spelling?) game. Other folks began to arrive.

We finished our dominoes game in time for lunch. There was a salad and eggplant Parmesan. I ate the salad and the noodle from under the eggplant. However the soggy, mushy eggplant was pushed off to the side.  Ella ate her’s. Surprisingly, she had never had eggplant before. Why is it called eggplant when it neither looks like nor tastes like egg?

After lunch most folks left. Charlotte, Arlotte, Ella and I played two rounds of Rummykube. Neither Ella nor I had ever played it previously. Ella was familiar with the card game rummy but I had never played that either.    think I have the hang of it now. I am very good at seeing patterns which if very helpful in the game.

It was sometime after three when we returned home. We did some housekeeping, took a nap, did some more housekeeping and generally goofed off the rest of the day.

Wednesday 11 I woke a few minutes before 5:00 and checked my phone. It was dead. It died last night and I was hoping that by being on the charger all night, it would be revived. No such luck. Knowing that Ella would not be awake for another couple of hours, I decided to do the dishes. There were two reasons for that. One, obviously, the dishes were dirty and needed to be washed. Duh! However, I also needed to make sure my hands were clean and warm so that I could do my INR testing. (blood flows better when the hands are warm)

Even with the warm hands I wasn’t getting enough blood to do the test. Although the small amount of blood was enough for the glucose meter. I suspected that the lancet needle wasn’t going deep enough. So I changed lancets and tried again. Success! I managed to squeeze out a nice size bubble of blood for the test. Yay. Both the INR and blood sugar levels were within normal range. Normally, I would call in the test results right away. However, … that’s right, … my phone was dead.

I would need to use Ella’s phone. I know better than to try and get to her phone while she slept. She guards it like a bear sow guards her cubs. It was safer to just work on the blog for yesterday’s activities. Once she was awake, I asked to borrow her phone so that I could call in my results of the INR. Before I did that though, I swapped batteries between the phones in the hope that all that was wrong with my phone was the battery. Nope. Still dead even with the fresh battery. I replaced her battery and made my call while she was in the shower.

While she dressed, I made breakfast … in the microwave. I ran out of gas in the lighter yesterday and forgot to replace it while we were out and about. No lighter … no stove. Microwaved bacon is great. Sandwich a couple slice between several layes of papertowles and the bacon comes out crisp, flat, and non greasy. The eggs are another matter all together. Years ago Ella purchased some “as seen on TV” microwave egg cups. They work for hard cooked eggs. But I’ve never been able to come up with “over easy” without having the whites uncooked. So, they come out more like boiled eggs than fried. We were also out of bread. I had some hamburger buns to I toasted those. The first ones came out charcoal. The second were merely burnt. The third ones were just right … said Goldilocks.

About quarter after eight we headed into town to Grandies*. However, we stopped at Parker’s Corner (grocery store) to purchase a lighter for the stove. They didn’t carry the lighters but did have boxes of wooden matches. I bought a box.

At the checkout the cashier asked about the shirt I was wearing. It was the one I wear to Grandies and has the logo of Cross Tracks Church on it. She first asked about communion. I said that we use juice instead of wine and generally it is a small loaf of bread that we break and have pieces of. Then she asked if we were accepting. I said that the church’s motto is Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors (which is close enough to the actual motto. I think.) We are an inclusive rather than an exclusive congregation. Then she wanted to know if we allow gay and lesbion couples in. I said that we do and that until fairly recently there were an openly gay couple that were members. They moved away and no longer attend. At this point she wanted to know about out hours, which I told her and explained the different services.

Attendance at Grandies was a little light today. Louine and Donna were home waiting for a health care representative to check up on Donna’s progress. Ethel (whose nephew just passed away) was home preparing for family to arrive. Mary Lee came in late because she was working in the worship center.

We sent out greeting cards and then Wanda read a devotion about a woman who was going through a divorce and found that the Lord could keep her from having “dry bones.” Proverbs 17:22 ESV “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

After the meeting, some people left and the rest of us broke into groups to play dominoes or canasta. About 11:40 we ended the game so that folks could go get some lunch before Benny’s memorial service. Ella had brought snacks so that we did not have to drive all the way home and back before the service. We sat in the fellowship hall most of the time. I did go to the post office, which is just a few blocks from the church, to pick up our mail.

1:15 came and we went to the chapel for the memorial service. It was an uplifting celebration of the life of an incredible man.

The service was followed by a light lunch in the worship center.

As the crowd began to file out of the luncheon, Ella and I went into Cedar Park to the Verizon store. They examined the phone and found no damage. They tried charging it and it would not take a charge. They removed the battery and reinstalled it and nothing worked. (I had already tried all of those things.) Then they called the Service Center where I talked to George. He is sending a replacement phone which I should receive sometime Friday. Yay!

We stopped on the way home at H.E.B. to pick up a loaf of bread so that we could make sandwiches for supper. While we were there (and had a good phone connection) I called Cutty’s and paid my electric bill from last month. Since we no longer have a trailer in storage, I also asked about my refund for the unused portion of the yearly storage. Dianne didn’t have an answer for me. However, she said she’d call me Thursday. I told her that I wouldn’t have my phone until Friday. So I will call Cutty’s some time Thursday.

I tried watching television for a while but couldn’t find anything interesting. I think that I’d mentioned earlier that we receive 13 channels (over the air) and about half are Spanish (which unfortunately I don’t speak). Ella was unaffected by the lack of television because she played games and puzzles on her phone. I miss my phone.

Thursday 12 It was another chilly start for the day (60 degrees). I slept in (got up around 6) Ella was awake and playing games on her phone. She didn’t get out of bed until close to 8:30. She claims that she’s not addicted to her electronics. I’m not so sure about that. Even when we are visiting with people or playing “real life games”, she still is texting of moving puzzle pieces on her phone. Okay, that little rant is over.

We arrived around 9:30 at the Over The Hill Gang*** which was much earlier than anyone other than the “workers/volunteers” arrived. It was at least 10:30 before any more of the Gang showed up. Dawn (pastor of one of the local churches) began playing the piano and singing hymns. I and several others joined in for a while. We visited and ate snacks until we were “called to order” and the news about members was read.

We then had a prayer for the meal. Then those who needed assistance were allowed to go through the line (buffet style) first. Today was meatloaf, mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans, pinto beans, and several salads. We sat with Ira and Ellen with whom we played canasta after lunch. Ella and I played two rounds of canasta and then excused ourselves to go to Ella’s appointment with the Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor in Cedar Park.

Because this was the first time to see this doctor, Ella had a lot of paper work to fill out. An audiologist put her in a booth and checked her hearing, The doctor said that she did indeed have fluid behind the ear drum in the right ear. Since it had not cleared up since she’d started medications six months earlier, she made an incision in the ear drum and drained the fluid. A prescription was called in and an appointment for a follow up in one week was made.

We went to the pharmacy and found out  that the prescription wasn’t covered by our insurance and would cost over $200. We asked them to call the doctor for a substitute. This is the same pharmacy where I had called in my prescription for a refill of one of my meds. The pharmacy said that the doctor had faxed it to them but that the insurance wouldn’t cover it until the 14th.  My dosage has doubled but no one told the insurance company. It was only $4 without the copay so I just bought it. Hoops. I hate jumping through hoops. Why are they always hoops to jump through when dealing with insurance? The pharmacy had still not heard back from Ella’s doctor, so we told them that we’d check back tomorrow.

After arriving home Ella checked her voice mail and found where the doctor had called to say, “Another prescription has been called in.” We will be going back into Leander tomorrow to the senior center. So, I guess we’ll go on into Cedar Park and get the prescription also.

Friday 13 Really? Friday the Thirteenth! It’s a good thing that I’m not superstitious. I was awake slightly before six and Ella woke when the alarm went off at seven. I got up and started breakfast while Ella sorted the dirty laundry. Today is laundry day.

Yesterday I received a check in the mail from the United States Treasury. Reading the enclosed letter, it appears that I was overcharged at the VA for something. It wasn’t a large check but I’m sure our bank account will be glad to have it.

There was a very small group (7) of us at the Leander Senior Center today. I have no idea why the attendance was down so low. The food was good, although I have no idea what the food was called. It was some Mexican casserole with black beans on the side. We played several rounds of Mexican Train dominoes. No one stayed after lunch to play more games.

We returned to the pharmacy and purchased the prescription that Ella was unable to pick up yesterday. From there we went to the Laundromat to do laundry.

From there we went back to the pharmacy to get more prescriptions that Ella had called in.

Around 7 p.m. Teresa knocked on our door to say that there was a package for us. Yay! My phone arrived. I spent most of the evening and night reloading applications. Google play did an automatic install for most things. However, I still had to go in and reregister most of them before I could find my data. My banking app and the DroidTV app took the longest. The hardest part about Droid TV was finding the app to download



*Grandies is a service organization that meets every Wednesday in the Church’s fellowship hall. The group is comprised of “old folks” who are (mostly) grandparents. Hence the name Grandies. We have a card ministry where we send birthday, anniversary, missing you, hope you get better, sorry for your loss, and other types of cards to church members and others. We also donate money and merchandise to the local schools for the care of the homeless children there. We support **Operation Liberty Hill by donation and service. We have a Sack Lunch program during the summer because some children rely on the school lunch program for what may be their only meal of the day. The Sack Lunch kicks in while school is in recess for the summer.

**Operation Liberty Hill is a Thrift Store and Food Pantry.

***Over The Hill Gang is a member suported senior center in Liberty Hill, Texas.


2017 October 1st – 9th

Sunday 01 We went to Union Park United Methodist Church for Worship. Tom was the liturgist for the first service. Nathan, Beth and the kids had broken camp and left by the time we returned to Cutty’s Des Moines Camping Resort. We spent the afternoon with John and Dawn. It was a very laid back relaxing day.

Monday 02 It was lightly raining as we got ready to pull the Excel out of Cutty’s campground. The slideout didn’t want to come in so we called Travis. He and Dennis came and helped get it in. We finally got on the road sometime around 9:30.

We stopped in a rest stop in northern Missouri and saw another couple pulling a smallish travel trailer. We found ourselves following them for mile after mile. Eventually, I told Ella that we were going to need to pull off at the next exit for gasoline. So, I chuckled to myself when I saw the travel trailer pulling off just ahead of us. We followed them into a Casey’s. Of course we got to talk with the other couple this time. They were Kenneth and Phyllis from Independence Iowa. He asked where I was headed and I said, “Liberty Hill, Texas.” When I asked Kenneth where they were headed he replied, “Dallas. Where are you stopping for the night?”  I said that we’d most likely stop at a Walmart somewhere along the line.  He said that they were headed for Nevada, Missouri and a RV park called Osage Prairie.New Doc 2017-10-05_1

At one time, our Iowa family was planning to follow us south as far as southern Missouri or northern Kansas. One of my friends had suggested Osage Prairie as a good place where we could all camp together. As it turned out, none of the family could make the trip with us and yet we ended up camping there anyway.

We arrived at the RV park about an hour ahead of K & P. We found out that they’d had a flat on their truck and a highway patrolman stopped and changed the tire for them. Once we were all settled in, they asked if we wanted to go with them to Buzz’s for supper. We did.

Tuesday 03 We were up and on the road before K&P were out and about so we didn’t get to say goodbye to them. We drove through constant mist and occasional rain all the way through Missouri, Oklahoma, and into Texas.

We thought we had set our GPS to take us out and away from Dallas. However, we ended up following it right through downtown Dallas during rush hour and in the rain. There were also several accidents which had the lanes closed in places. It took over two hours to get through there.

Although we were driving in fairly heavy rain, it wasn’t a big problem until we got to Temple. They have been rebuilding I35 through Temple for at least four years now. With the lane closures and lack of lane markings, it can be challenging enough. However, add in the rain, night, and pulling a 35 foot fifth wheel and it was a white knuckle drive.

Around 9;30 p.m. we pulled into the Cross Tracks Church parking lot. There was a meeting going on in the fellowship hall, so we went in and said hello to folks and let them know that we were parked out there. And shortly thereafter we were asleep.

Wednesday 04

First Sunrise in Texas 2017

Being parked in the Church parking lot made it very easy for us to be the first ones to arrive for Grandies*.

However, before Grandies we went to Sonic for breakfast and then stopped at Dollar General to look for a 30 amp automotive fuse that was needed for the slideout motor. They had none so we went to Winkley’s Hardware who also had none. From there we went to an Auto Parts store where we were able to purchase the needed fuse.

Once a month Grandies has a party to recognize birthdays and anniversaries. Well this was the day. Some of them seem to be having a contest to find the hottest pepper cheese and bring it to share with the rest of us. I enjoy the cheeses more than I should, I think. Plus this time they brought jalapeno cornbread crackers that hat quite a zing also.

After Grandies we took the Excel to the Stocktank RV Park and put it on a temporary site. The site that was reserved for us was still occupied by someone who was supposed to have moved before we arrived. She was months behind in her site rent and had “trash” all around the site. The landlord gave her an ultimatum to leave or be towed away by the police.

We weren’t really setup for preparing a meal at the RV so we went to Jardin Corinas for lunch. We have become that old couple that orders one meal and shares it. Not only did we share it, we had to ask for a to go box.

We made it to the once a month Choir party.  Choir practice is every 2017-09-28_08.48.09.jpgWednesday evening. Ella sings alto and I sing the low bass parts. However, Ella’s jaw was still bothering her. (Remember the fall that left her black and blue?)


Sunset as we were leaving choir practice Wednesday 4, 2017

Thursday 05 As we were leaving the Stocktank, we noticed that some of the trash had been moved from the site that would soon be ours. We donated a wheel chair to Cross Tracks Church and took three or four trash bags full of clothing to Operation Liberty Hill**. By then it was time to go to the Over The Hill Gang*** for games and lunch. It was nice to reconnect with friends that we hadn’t seen in about five months.

Friday 06 was another day to reconnect. This time with the folks at the Leander Senior Center. We were surprised at how few people there were in attendance. Jerry and Gloria played Mexican Train with us as did Marvin (he played Ella’s hand she went to the bathroom). Lunch was hamburgers … add your own toppings. We also picked up some cookies and donuts holes. I was hoping that there would be bread, as we are nearly out.

I had called in a prescription to the Walmart pharmacy so we stopped and picked up a very few groceries. However the doctor had not called in a new prescription yet. So no medications for me.

Saturday 07 This was the morning when we moved the Excel onto our site for the rest of the winter. The only hiccup in the move was that there was a bicycle race/ride on the highway. I waited until there was a break in bike traffic and then pulled onto the road for less than a block long drive. As I signaled for a left turn, someone in a pickup passed us on the left in a no passing zone. I thank God that I checked my mirror before beginning the turn.

After getting the Excel situated and hooked to water and electric we attempted to get the slideout out. I had first replaced the 30 amp fuse that had blown back in Iowa. The slideout started out but then would go no further, even with me pushing on it. I went to our neighbor, Tim, and asked to borrow some muscle power. With the two of us pushing while Ella held the “out” button, it extended like it is supposed to. It is nice to have good neighbors. We will try to BE good neighbors also.

While I was getting the stabilizing jacks down and the awning out, our neighbor to the west came over. She remembered me from last year when I had helped her put up “pop up awning”. Unfortunately, the wind came along later and left it all twisted and unusable.

Being Saturday, we drove the 30 miles to Round Rock High School so that we could watch grandson Tate play flag football. He is fast and has a lot of natural ability. However, the thing that impresses me the most is, he gives it his all every time. If he is carrying the ball, never once does he look back. If he his chasing the ball carrier, he doesn’t quit then either. It is all “eyes on the prize.”

Once the game was over we then went to Adam and Leigha’s for the afternoon. Ella did a couple loads of laundry while we visited with them. We spoke of many things, of cabbages and kings. Both of them have new jobs since we saw them last (5 months). In the evening Leigha and Adam made tacos for supper. Before it was full on dark, we left for the 30+ mile drive home. It was dark when we arrived home.

Sunday 08 We attended Cross Tracks Church for worship and Sunday School. We really missed these people and this place while we were in Iowa. I had a little special surprise. 2017-10-10_15.22.54Wade Burleigh, one of the Santas that I had met at Santa University, was in the congregation. He had been attending the festival for the International Sculpture Garden in Liberty Hill yesterday. He saw one of our members wearing his t-shirt with the Cross Tracks Church logo and asked when the services were.

Before we left for church, I had started some ribs in the crock pot. They weren’t quite done when we returned so we played a couple rounds of board games. By then the ribs were ready.

After lunch we moved the table, chairs, and recliners and vacuumed beneath.

Then it was nap time.

After a short nap I decided to get the TV set up. First I had to change batteries in the remote. Then I ran a search for channels. It located 13 about half of which are Spanish speaking

Monday 09 Columbus Day (also called Indigenous People Day in Austin). The only thing on our calendar for the day was a 1:30 appointment with the dermatologist. We slept in … a little. I went out and set up the patio area by putting down some indoor/outdoor carpet. I then put out a table and camp chairs. Once breakfast was ready, we sat outside to eat.

Later Ella brought to Fast Track game2017-10-02_16.55.51 outside also, We played games until nearly eleven. That was when I moved inside to work on this blog.

While we were playing, te dermatologist office called to say out appointment was rescheduled until the 13th of November. That meant that we had no reason to leave home at all.

*Grandies is a service organization that meets every Wednesday in the Church’s fellowship hall. The group is comprised of “old folks” who are (mostly) grandparents. Hence the name Grandies. We have a card ministry where we send birthday, anniversary, missing you, hope you get better, sorry for your loss, and other types of cards to church members and others. We also donate money and merchandise to the local schools for the care of the homeless children there. We support **Operation Liberty Hill by donation and service. We have a Sack Lunch program during the summer because some children rely on the school lunch program for what may be their only meal of the day. The Sack Lunch kicks in while school is in recess for the summer.

**Operation Liberty Hill is a Thrift Store and Food Pantry.

***Over The Hill Gang is a member funded senior center in Liberty Hill, Texas.





2017 September Santa University recap

The sun was just coming up when we stopped in Nebraska for breakfast.

Mrs. Claus and I left around 4 a.m. on Thursday September 14th and spent about 14 hours driving to Santa University in Westminster Colorado.


Western Nebraska had a lot of sky to look at … and nothing else.



Colorado wasn’t much better than Nebraska just lots of sand hills and sage brush

Upon arriving, we registered at the hotel and took our luggage to our room.


We finally got to see mountains as we arrived at our hotel.

Then we went back to the lobby to sign in with Santa U. We received t-shirts for both Ella and I. It was an informal meet and greet and then a buffet supper.

The training was mostly held at Drury Suites and Inn  in Westminster Colorado where were treated like royalty. I got a real kick out of the female voice of the elevator. It always sounded a little depressed when it would say, “Going up or going down.”

Friday the 15th, after breakfast, 21727991_10155731171957258_4235982954233674786_nwe gathered in the large conference room for a Welcome and sessions on Company Experience. Then we heard from some of our partner organizations: Autism Speaks, NORAD (yes the North America Aerospace Defense command),and Emotional Support Animals.2017-09-15_10.05.01.jpg

After lunch we had a time for some of us to introduce ourselves and tell our favorite memories. (This continued throughout the week until everyone had had a chance to speak) Then we continued learning about our partnership with: Save the Children and our service project with them.

Since this is a new company born by blending Noerr Programs with Cherry Hill Photography. These were the two largest suppliers of Santas to malls, events, resorts, business, and et cetera. Now that they have combined into Cherry Hill Programs, they truly dominate the market.

We took a short time to fill 300 “stockings” with toys for children affected by hurricane Harvey. Once we were done with the Christmas packages, we had a presentation by our partner, Shutterfly. From there we went outside for a group photo and then dinner at the hotel.

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Ella is front row center, I’m nearly to the back center in the plaid tam o’shanter



Photos Ella took at Denver Art Museum

Saturday 16th, after a great breakfast buffet, we continued with member introductions and their favorite experiences. Then we moved into the more serious items such as how to represent ourselves in a positive manner. We discussed costuming and grooming as well as how to be aware of our Santa presence on Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter, and the like. How not to get caught with our pants down … figuratively and/or literally.

We then took a trip outside for another group photo. It’s like playing Find Elmo. Can you see me?

2017 Santa University 01
I’m nearly centered and in the very back.

When we got settled back inside, we had a demonstration on beard whitening and shaping. One of the younger Santas had some gray in his beard but it was mostly a light brown. After one bleaching it was almost completely white with just a little yellow along the sides. His hair was going to need at least one more bleaching. The following morning, he startled himself when he looked in the mirror … it was that dramatic of a change.

We moved on to “Tough Kid Questions” such as “Can you make Mommy and Daddy quit fighting?”, “My grandma died. Can you bring her back so I can see her one more time?”

Then it was things like, How to Prepare for 12 hour days, What to do when the set is slow, How Santa can help create a team atmosphere on the set, Special Promotions (like Special Needs and Pet Night), and Safety Procedures. That wrapped it up for Saturday.

Sunday 17th After breakfast, we had a short praise service in the lobby of the hotel.


When we were back in the conference room, we began to deal with the questions ask BY Santa. Just before lunch, we heard for Doctor John about How to Stay Healthy and in Shape. We broke for lunch and then came back to more from Dr. John. Around 2.:00 is when we began with Media Protocol and Media Training followed by Ethics of Santa. Our last session was a seminar on What Makes a Quality Photo.

We met at a local park for a BBQ from 6 to sometime after dark.2017-09-17_19.32.14


Monday 18th we loaded into shuttles and were taken to the Pole .(Company HQ) for a variety of things from Studio Training, Tech Support, Payroll, Field Expectations, meeting with Judy and Philip (heads of the company) and the big thing for most of us … being fitted for our suits!. After that we all met outside for a final goodbye. Some left from there to the airport. Some started driving toward home. And some of us took a shuttle back to the hotel. Ella and I had booked an extra night so that we could be rested before we began the long drive home.

Tuesday 19th even though we tried to sleep in, we were too pumped up to sleep much past five. There were a few other Santas still in the hotel as we went down for breakfast. It seemed to take less time to load the pickup than it did to unload it when we arrived. We were on the road around 7:30.

We stopped shortly before crossing the Colorado / Nebraska boarder to have a lite lunch at Lucy’s Place. It is owned by the family of friends from Cutty’s. We shared a buffalo burger (they raise their own buffalo) and a couple of pies.

More long hours of driving … stopping for gas and potty breaks … followed by more driving, finally brought us to the McDonald’s where we stopped for breakfast on the 14th. We met up with Hazel there and sat talking for about an hour.


Shortly after crossing into Iowa, we stopped for gas and to run the truck through a car wash. the windshield and front of the truck were plastered with bug guts.

It was about 9:30 when we arrived home. We elected to leave everything except the CPap machines to be unloaded in the morning.

Ella may submit her story of what the Mrs. Clauses did during their time at Santa U.

2017 September Santa University day 4


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One on the slides in our training on Santa Ethics

The past few days have been so full that I haven’t been keeping up with this blog. Here are some photos from the last couple of days.







Santas sharing experiences with each other was one of the most important parts of the program.


Sunday night ended with a BBQ at a park


Sunday’s sunset at the park

2017 September Santa U day 2

Our room

Friday 15th I awoke at 5:30 (mountain time). How did my body adjust to the time zone change and still wake me at my normal time? Or maybe, in reality I over slept by an hour because it would have been 6:30 central time.

It was nice to take a L-O-N-G shower! When you live full time in an RV, you learn to take shorter showers. Because your waste water goes into holding tanks that you then have to empty. 0916170719_HDRSo it was a luxury to take a longer shower in such a roomy stall.

We went down to a buffet breakfast that included just about every possible thing that might be considered breakfast food.

Our manager, Becky, had a short meeting with our group before going in and joining the larger group. Ever wonder what a room full of Santas would look like?

A room full of Santas and Mrs. Clauses in the back rows

And how are you to find “your” Santa in a group like this?2017-09-15_08.11.35 Easy. He’s the one with the plaid tam o’ shanter.

We started the meeting with the company history. Which isn’t very long because it is a newly combined company. Okay, we had the company(s) histories of both Noerr Programs and Cherry Hill Photography.

We had talks from organizations that we partner with such as Save The Children. There was a presentation by an Autism group.

We also had a representative from NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) who told us how they had accidentally become part of Santa’s history. Way back in 1955 a company had run an advertisement in the paper where you could call a phone number and speak directly to Santa. The only problem was the number was printed incorrectly and it actually dialed into the RED PHONE at NORAD. The first call they received was passed off as a prank. However as more calls started coming in, they started to play along and give updates on Santa’s current location. And the tradition has continued since then. There is even a website that tracks the Big Guy’s movements.

We broke for lunch.21727991_10155731171957258_4235982954233674786_n

When we got back to the meeting room, we heard short stories from some of the Santas present. We then stuffed 300 “stockings” to be delivered to children affected by the hurricanes.

In the afternoon we went outside for a group photo


And so ended our day


2017 September Santa University Day 1

September 14th We got on the road shortly after 4 a.m. and headed to Colorado for Santa University. We made our first pit stop about 5. We crossed into Nebraska

Sure is a lot of sky in Nebraska! Not much else to look at.

about quarter after 6 and stopped for coffee outside of outside of Lincoln Nebraska at 6:45 for coffee. The sky was just beginning to glow orange in the east.

The sky all rusty looking

8:45 a.m. quick stop at a rest area outside of Bradshaw Nebraska.

A few minutes later there is more color in the sky

Because we were going to be traveling today and this is the day I normally take my INR and glucose readings I decided to do them yesterday. My glucose reading was ex0914170703_HDRtremely good and my INR was slightly low is supposed to be between 2 and 3 and it was in a 1.7. However I know the reason why, I had forgotten to take it one night. So today while we’re on the road we called Dr Crimmins office and explain why and they adjusted my dosage for just one time.

We stopped in an Arby’s along the interstate and had lunch about 11.

After passing through the nothingness of flat-land Nebraska, we arrive at the nothingness of rolling hills of Colorado.

At 12:19 we passed into the Mountain Time Zone and suddenly we have our time is now 11:20. Shortly after that we passed into Colorado.

Hey! Mountains!

It was about 3:30 mountain time when we arrived at our hotel. For those of you keeping score, that’s 14 1/2 hours after leaving home.

A quick look around and we knew we had arrived  at the right spot.


We checked into our room and then into the Santa group. We got a goody bag, a name tag, and an agenda. We took our luggage to the room and then went back to the lobby to socialize. Around 5:30 we had a buffet supper. We were back in our room and in bed by 7:30. It was along day


Just Thinking about Journaling

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A page from my mother’s final journal.

Do you ever think about what the events in lives mean in the greater ebb and flow of our existence? As I’m writing my blog, I am for the most part, chronicling “events”. Mostly they are small events … the everyday events like “Ate breakfast and then went to the Cafe for coffee with friends.” Sometimes they are major events such as, “I had heart surgery yesterday.”

As I said, I mark these events on my blog. My mother did this for years and years by writing in journals. I have those journals from the last decade of her life. At the end her hands shook so much that the entries are difficult to read.

As I am now saving my chronicles of events, it occurs to me that the events are like stones in a brook. They may divert the water as it flows by. But they make little or no difference to the stream.

The flow of life is that way also. Life is what happens all around the events and not the events themselves.

2017 September part 2

Rudolf the Red Nosed Pickup

Friday 8th We were back on our regular schedule of coffee at the cafe and games and lunch at the senior center. After lunch we went to our storage trailer and brought home more things from there. Tom spent the afternoon rearranging things in our storage shed and getting the patio area clean and neat for tomorrows Williams Family Reunion.

Most of the activities will take place at the Lodge on Cutty’s Main Street. However, we wanted to be prepared for house guests also.

Ella spent the day preparing the salads for the reunion’s potluck.

We managed to get in a short nap before going to the Adult Center for Card Jackpot. Both Ella and Tom won two rounds. That means that we came home with a whopping $2.90 more than we started with. Yep, Card Jackpot is cheap thrills for sure.

It was about 8:30 when we finished playing cards and were surprised to see that the cafe was still open (everything is going to shorter hours now that the camping season is winding down) so we went in and got a couple of ice cream cones. We took them out under the pavilion on Main Street and sat and ate them while talking with friends. It was a great night for sitting outside.

On a more serious note: I received this email for my daughter in South Miami where they are hunkering down to await the arrival of Irma (the most powerful hurricane to hit the USA).

“We will be as prepared as possible before Irma arrives. We have food, water, propane, flashlights, batteries, a radio, candles, cash and gas in both cars. Andres is putting the shutters up right now while I get everything outdoors put away in the shed and playhouse. The girls are getting clothes and dishes washed in case we lose electricity and or water.

When we bought the house, we buried our power lines so we are less susceptible to power outages at the local level, of course wide-scale outages could still occur. Our house is elevated about 2 and a half feet so that helps with flooding. 

The addition has impact windows, but I’m planning to put heavy furniture in front of the windows and the two exterior doors anyway. 

If and when it comes to the worst of the storm, we will be in the interior hallway without windows. We have mattresses and sleeping bags at the ready to put down. 

We are fortunate that this is a natural disaster that we have time to prepare for.”


I have been writing about the supports that I’m adding under the slide-out rooms in our Sierra. Here is a photo to show how I’m bracing them. Keep in mind that this RV may never be moved again. The slides will be left out all the time. So giving them added support seems like a good way to save wear and tear on the RV framework.
You have to be up before dawn to see skies like this.

Saturday 9th was the day of the Williams Family Reunion. Tom and Ella started some things in crock-pots in the morning. We then packed somethings into Rudolf the Red Nosed Pickup that will need to be taken to the Cutty’s Lodge for the party.

We went for breakfast at Village Inn. It was a buy one get one deal. Besides Ella and I there were, Tom and Sue, Sandy and Francis, Francis and Sharon.
Sue, Sharon, Sandy, Ella
Tom, Francis, Francis, Tom
2017 sept 9 8 am
Randy & Linda Cook, Kara Devilbiss, Jay Cook,  Stevie, Shane, Shawn, Shyan Dunaway, Kirk & Rita Williams, Morgan Hart, Mark Christopher, Madden Strand, Dawn Cook Gloege, Cash, Krista & Russ Pape, Jay Cook, Kerei Nelson and more that did not sign the guest book.


The reunion went off very well. Lots fun was had be all. After we’d emptied and cleaned the Lodge, most of us went back to our site. We had a nice day to sit out under the patio awning and just visit. We were somewhat in awe that all those people were able to gather comfortable on the patio and everyone had a place to sit. The 5 folding camp-chairs weren’t even needed.

Sunday 10th The first thing on our agenda was to check the reports on hurricane Irma. It appears that it veered to the west and is going up the gulf side of Florida. With all that was being said about Storm Surge we feared the flooding most of all because they live so near the cost. Because our family is in South Miami, we could breathe a little easier. We are still praying for them as well as those in the future and past path of this storm. This is the message we received from Amber, “The eye is over the Keys right now. By late afternoon/early evening we will have passed through the hurricane strength winds. We are fine. Lots of wind and rain over night but no flooding evening the street and mostly minor tree debris down.”  Thank you, God!

For breakfast we ate the other half of Tom’s Village Inn breakfast from yesterday. We added a couple more scrambled eggs and a little cheese and had three meals out of one breakfast. It was so nice outside that we decided to eat breakfast on the patio.

What a treat! Since we are no longer holding worship services at Cutty’s, we were able to attend service at our home church, Union Park UMC. It was nice to reconnect with old friends that we seldom see anymore.

One of our members has a ministry where he goes to local grocery stores and picks up day old bread and produce that has reached its “sell by” date. He then distributes it to various places … including our church. Our church members, as well as neighborhood folks can come and take whatever they can use. This time there were salads and fruit so, after the service, we made a lunch of them while continuing to visit.

Plus we were there for a special conference after the service. Our friend and pastor Lee Webb will be retiring. The conference was about funding a two year revenue stream for a full time pastor. The church’s congregation is technically too small for the Iowa United Methodist Conference to assign a full time pastor. The were questions about setting a limit and about paying the church’s apportionment that were brought up. However, in the end, the original proposal was accepted 47 to 3.

When Tom turned his phone on after the service there was an update from Amber in Miami, “We are still getting occasional bursts of 80-100 mph winds but the rain had let up. No flooding at all. I love my street! Just a few more hours.”


We came home and just relaxed for the rest of our Sabbath. As a matter of fact, we were supposed to go to an Employee Appreciation Dinner in the evening … and we forgot all about it.

Monday 11th (Patriots’ Day) Tom awoke early … as usual … and checked for messages from Miami, but found none. The last we had heard was that everything was okay and that it was about over with.

Since Ella wasn’t up yet, Tom started gathering information for next year’s worship services at Cutty’s.  He’s not doing anything too in depth, just finding scripture readings from the lectionary and finding a few hymns to go along with their theme.

After Ella was up, we had breakfast on the patio. 2017-09-11_10.04.41Then it was to the Cafe for coffee with Tom, Sue, Keith, and Dixie. Ella made double use of this time by doing laundry at the laudromat on Main Street while we visited.

Tom worked 11-7. This was his last day of work for the season. While he worked, Ella went to the Senior Center in Grimes. When she came home, she began packing clothes, meds, and so forth for our trip to Santa University. We just received our agenda for the school. It looks like Tom will be busy in school while Ella and the other Mrs. Claus are taking tours of museums and such. One of the items in the agenda was a dress code for one day … black slacks and a long sleeve red shirt. The only long sleeve red shirt that Tom had has frayed cuffs. So after work, we went to Walmart and purchased a shirt.


Wednesday the 20th. We finished unloading the truck with the things taken to and brought back from Santa U. We then went to the Cafe for coffee with friends (back to the usual schedule). Lunch at the Grimes Senior Center and pie in the evening with friends. Later we played Train Dominoes at Cutty’s Adult Center.

Thursday 21st Tom checked his INR and glucose readings. They were both in the “Okay” range. Better than he’d expected concedering his diet in the past week.

It was Amber’s birthday so we sent greetings to her also. Everything else proceeded as normal until the afternoon when we started bringing things home from the storage trailer.

Friday 22 normal morning activities with more moving of things out of the storage trailer. We played Card Jackpot in the evening and brought home more money than we’d taken with us. Play costs .05 for ten rounds and .25 for the last round. If you win, the amount of money that you collect depends on how many are playing. We normally have 4-6 tables of 4 persons.

Saturday 23 

Sunday 24 We attended services at our Iowa home Church, Union Park United Methodist Church. Tom went to Sunday School with the Valkommen Class while Ella had coffee and visited with friends until time for worship to start.

Monday 25

These are pictures of clouds before the rain rolled in. 2017-09-25_21.20.09We had 4 3/4″ of rain in our gauge when it was all over. Our lake at Cutty’s Campground  flooded over the road. Fortunately it went down nearly as fast as it went up.

If you’ve been following this blog then you know that we have been in the process of moving our things between 3 trailers all summer long. Well we’ve also been emptying a storage trailer also. Because of that there has been a constant amount of boxes, books and things stacked in the living area. Ella was moving some things, caught her foot in the straps of a purse on the floor. She fell face first into the edge of the table. 0925172054_HDRThis gave her a “fat lip” and an amazing bruise inside and outside of her mouth and down her chin. We loaded into the truck and drove to the emergency room at Methodist West. It was raining so hard and the windshield kept fogging over that I had trouble seeing. Because of this, I decided to stay off of the interstates and take back roads. There was water so deep on the roads that, even though I was going very slowly, the water sprayed out from under the truck a lot. It was also difficult to not hydroplane.

We were at the emergency room for around three hours … most of the time waiting to be seen. Ella was examined and x-rayed and nothing was broken. Thank God!

It had stopped raining when we left the hospital but started up again before we got home. We were both soaked to the skin … even with the umbrella.

Tuesday 262017-09-26_17.24.052017-09-26_19.14.41










Wednesday 27 Coffee, as usual in the morning. However this time we also had a breakfast pizza. We arrived at the Senior Center in time to help setup the tables (placemats, table decorations, napkins, straws and plastic “silverware”.  Then we played   games until  lunch.

We needed a new house battery for the Excel. We stopped at Interstate Batteries and got information on price and discharge time. From there we went across the street to Walmart and found a similar battery for about $30 less. I also purchased a new sewer hose (the one we have for the Excel is a little too short for the site we are in).

When we returned to the campground, I extend our stay until Monday, October 2nd.

After installing the house battery, the slide out would still not extend. Ella called the campground maintenance person (Travis). With his and Tom’s added muscle power, the slide out went out. After it was started, it continued out on it’s own.  I’ll need to add som silicone spray to the slide out rams.

Nap time arrived shortly after getting some things in the Excel organized, Then it was time to head to Village Inn for pie. When we arrived, Kara, our niece was there waiting for us. Sandy and Frances as well as Tom and Sue also joined us.

In the evening, we played  dominoes at the Adult center.

Thursday 28 /we

Friday 29

Saturday 302017-09-30_18.38.31 (1)FB_IMG_1506855181413FB_IMG_1506855198635pencil_sketch_1506816352195