Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Tonight I was reading a blog written by Louise Plummer.

Monday she discussed prayer, in addition to other things.

Prayers.  So many of us pray, and are at peace. And yet there are many, many more who have no clue what we are  are talking about: prayer.  Sometimes I think that some of us Christians don't even get it right.


I am in constant discussion with God throughout my day - be it trying, funny, hurtful, or joyful.  I am in prayer throughout my day.  My prayers at bedtime are my "goodnight sedative", which I have taught our kids:  Start w/ Gma and Gpa, pray about their well-being, dwelling on their blessings and needs, and then move on to each Uncle/Aunt, their kids, and then the next Uncle/Aunt and their kids, progressively through our immediate family. I guarantee that I fall asleep before I reach the end of the family tree.  And so, the next evening, I start with the other branch of our family tree. Vice-Versa Prayers.

And here's a favorite reminder for me: Matthew 6 (KJV):

King James Version (KJV)
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

 Here's a prayer for the week:

Eleanor Roosevelt
Oh! Almighty and Everlasting God, Creator of Heaven, Earth,
and the Universe: Help me to be, to think. To act what is right, because
it is right; make me truthful, honest, and honorable in all things; make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor without thought of reward to me. Give me the ability to be charitable, forgiving, and patient
with my fellowmen - help me to understand their motives and their short-comings - even as Thou understandest mine!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


What a week.

What a weekend.


Last week that Spouse o' Mine and I went to Kansas City for a couple of days. It was stinking hot, but I had fun doing the city things, and he had fun doing the scientific agricultural meeting stuff, inbetween which we met for dinner and drinks and swims in the hotel pool.

And a day later, off to the Rocky Mountains: my niece Melinda's wedding.  Whoo!  This was a lot of partying and celebration.  I mean partying in the great and fun sense; there were no drunkards lying by the wayside.  Rather, we celebrated brunch, lunch, and dinner, and mountain climbing and mountain biking and family and laughter and wonderful repartee the entire weekend.  We came from all parts of the world: rural Kansas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Seattle, D.C., London, Christ Church, Paris, Cape Cod... what a gathering. 

Niece Melinda and her fiance met years ago on a boat in Antarctica.  She, currently a PhD candidate specializing in sea ice, and he, a photographer for National Geographic.  (Backtrack to last year...daughter Claire's wedding: he generously photographed her wedding and reception.  What talent we enjoyed!) 

And now back to present-day celebration:

The piano.  Boreas Pass. (Google it.)

 I am not sure what it is I am laughing at...would this be the moment when I am telling the photographer NOT to photograph my shoes??  (Brooks Adrenaline Running Shoes.  At least they were black.  And anyway: I had my black leather heels lying in wait in the car for the reception, and they saw lots of movement on the Bluegrass dance floor that night!)  


You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you. - Frederick Buechner

Yep, family. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thither and Yon

Back from the city!  What a fun two days.  And one day back home to quickly regroup, put away the city duds and haul out the mountain gear:  off to Colorado!  Mountain bikes, hiking gear, Scrabble, RISK, Stratego, Chess, Score Four, and - oh, yes:

Wedding apparel, as well!  My niece Melinda is wedding the love of her life, a Kiwi!  We've known him for years, and he dovetails nicely into our familial fray.  They're getting married (lightning permitting) on Boreas Pass, south of Breckenridge.  What does one wear to a mountain-top wedding?  Well, I am wearing a nice dress.  Pearls.  Heels.  But I am packing black running shoes for the ceremony.  Yep, yep, yep.  I am not going to ruin a fine pair of heels scampering up a mountain pass.  Heels will appear for the reception, back at the house.

This was our family, only one short year ago:

And here is the Bride-to-be, my very lovely niece Melinda:

Melinda with two of her cousins, Jenny and Gillian:
 Off we go! 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Off to the City!

That Spouse o' Mine had meetings this week, and invited me to join him.  Out of rural Kansas, and into the city.  Be still my heart...Kansas City!

I was going to post photos, but...cities is cities.  I love cities!  Museums, plazas, fountains, sidewalk cafes...I love it all.  There are times that I embrace the great Flint Hills and all the cows, but there are times when a gal has to go where there is more humanity!  Arts and Humanity!  Food and Entertainment and Arts and Humanity!

And now I am back, complete with new (to me ) car, a blue Volvo station wagon to replace the white one.  If you look back a few posts, you will see the white station wagon in its demise.  Drive and don't drink, or drink and don't drive.  One or the other.  It sounds simple enough.  College Boy Graham says it just looks like we painted my old station wagon.  I wish that were true.  Blue car is newer and I should rejoice, but the old white station wagon still had year or two left on it...


Tonight I should be cleaning off the guest room bed and such.  We are having a couple of Virginia travelers coming our way - friends of our daughter Claire , overnighting on their way to their new home: Colorado.  A fun evening in store, I think. I love overnighters.  It seems to me that I never have an immaculate household when enjoying overnighters, but they never complain, either.  Win-win, I suppose.

And so: new car, household guests:

A good day/ night, overall.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Two Poems

Two poems,
to be read aloud:

The Blue Jay

O Blue Jay up in the maple tree,
Shaking your throat with such bursts of glee,
How did you happen to be so blue?
Did you steal a bit of the lake for your crest,
And fasten blue violets into your vest?
Tell me, I pray you,–tell me true!

Did you dip your wings in azure dye,
When April began to paint the sky,
That was pale with the winter’s stay?
Or were you hatched from a blue-bell bright,
‘Neath the warm, gold breast of a sunbeam light,
By the river one blue spring day?

O Blue Jay up in the maple tree,
A-tossing your saucy head at me,
With ne’er a word for my questioning,
Pray, cease for a moment your “ting-a-link,”
And hear when I tell you what I think,–
You bonniest bit of spring.

I think when the fairies made the flowers,
To grow in these mossy fields of ours,
Periwinkles and violets rare,
There was left of the spring’s own color, blue,
Plenty to fashion a flower whose hue
Would be richer than all and as fair.

So, putting their wits together, they
Made one great blossom so bright and gay,
The lily beside it seemed blurred:
And then they said, “We will toss it in air;
So many blue blossoms grow everywhere,
Let this pretty one be a bird.”

~ Susan Hartley Swett. 

When the scarlet cardinal tells
Her dream to the dragonfly,
And the lazy breeze makes a nest in the trees,
And murmurs a lullaby,
It's July.

When the tangled cobweb pulls
The cornflower's cap awry,
And the lilies tall lean over the wall
To bow to the butterfly,
It's July.

When the heat like a mist veil floats,
And poppies flame in the rye,
And the silver note in the streamlet's throat
Has softened almost to a sigh,
It's July.

When the hours are so still that time
Forgets them, and lets them lie
Underneath petals pink till the night stars wink
At the sunset in the sky,
It's July.
  by Susan Hartley Swett, ca.1880

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Our rural mailbox stands across the road from our house.  Mid-morning today I walked out to pick up our mail.

There was no mailbox!

After the initial shock (why was I shocked?  This is the Umpteenth time our rural mailbox has gone missing, run over or knocked down into the weedy ditch by passing trucks.), I found the mailbox.  Flat as a Flitter, as my Mom will say.  It was REALLY flat, and yet, I could tell it held our mail.  Hmmm.  I thought I knew who to blame: the Bridge Crew, the men with long trucks who use our intersection to back into and out of in order to make it the 1/4-mile down the road to the bridge.

Well.  It was hot and sunny, and my disposition was hot and not-so-sunny as I sashayed down the road carrying my flat mailbox.  I passed the first truck and frowned at the driver.  I passed the second truck and frowned at that driver.  I approached a bunch of burly bridge guys and called out, "Who is in charge!?"  They all stopped what they were doing and stared at me. They didn't say a word.  Just stared.

This is an exact replay of an early morning exchange two weeks ago between the Bridge Crew and myself.  I had left the house in the wee hour of not-quite dawn, and planned to walk/run 5.5 miles before the day's heat set in.  My last 1/4 mile was - you guessed it - the bridge.  That Spouse o' Mine had told me only the day before that we could walk across the bridge.  And so, I approached the bridge that at 7:00 am, and called out, "May I cross the bridge?"  And the bridge men all stopped what they were doing and stared at me.  No one said anything, so I repeated myself.  And again: only silent stares.  So I stepped down onto the makeshift footing of the "bridge", and one man bounded the length of the bridge over to me.  He explained that, No, I was not allowed onto the bridge.  I might sue them, apparently. So I gamely trod down the rocks and boulders off the side of the creek, and climbed up the other side.  It's not something I had not done before, but honestly: a perfectly good bridge (more-or-less) was right above me, and I'm having to clamber around like a billy goat?!  And this is not some shallow creekbed - it's like the Grand Canyon of hundreds of years of trickle-down erosion. 

Ok - so to get back to today's exchange with the Bridge Crew.  Finally a man stepped forward and said, "I'm in charge here."  And I held my mailbox high in the air:  "Would you look at this?!  It's my mailbox!  One of your trucks ran over it!"  "Are you sure it was one of our trucks?"  "This road is closed to traffic; you guys are the only ones backing in and out of that road.  Of COURSE I am sure it was one of your trucks!  And look!  I have MAIL in my mailbox!  How do you suppose I am going to get my mail?!""

He looked at my flat mailbox.  The silent bridge guys behind him began smiling.  REALLY BIG.

He put his hands up in the air.  Surrender.

He very nicely took my mailbox away, calling for a crow bar.  He pried my mailbox open.  And he assured me that a new mailbox was immediately in the works.  He followed me back to the scene of the truck-box collision.

This afternoon I returned home from a Lydia Circle (church) meeting and swimming (12 laps/day this week, by the way...) and two men from the Bridge Crew were across the road from our house, planting an 8-ft 4x4 into the ground.  Complete with a shiny new black mailbox.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Hitchin' a Ride

So you're headed to a concert (in my case it would be Yo Yo Ma or Andre Bocelli), when you come upon a cyclist on the side of the road.  With a mechanical.  If you are like most cyclists, you would pull over and offer whatever assistance you could - a spare tube (yes, we have them in our glove compartments), a pump or a CO2 cartridge, a spare water bottle, or a ride to wherever.

And that's just what this couple did:
Cyclist Hitch-hiker

So you see, some people thumbing a ride are just trying to get to their next job - even the famous!

My Dad used to thumb a ride from Oklahoma State University to his hometown of Deer Creek, Oklahoma on the weekends.

I once backpacked through Europe, and had a few occasions in which to stick a thumb out for a ride.  Would I do it nowdays?  Good question.  And I have no answer.  (I probably would?)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Veritable Forest

“Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”  ~ Warren Buffet
That someone who planted a tree a long time ago will be us Armstrongs.  Last year we planted 20 Austrian Pines along the south end of our yard.  They seemed to do well, even in the drought and the freezing winter months.  

This weekend, we bought forty more Austrian Pines.  We will use them on the other sides of the yard.  Anyone who knows rural Kansas knows the term "windbreak".  Why not have a pretty one?  
 Of course, this manual labor of planting and watering won't be an instant solution to the wind and the "Let's make this place pretty." concepts.  Nevertheless, someone, someday, will hopefully enjoy the wind whispering through the pine trees on this property. 

Here are some pine trees we planted eleven years ago when we first bought the property:

 And finally, one of the Capitol Hill Oaks that survived the squirrel ambush early this spring:

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday in Rural Kansas

Our morning began at 3:30 am, when the bridge crew arrived down the road, along with a slew of cement trucks.  The bridge is at the end of our property, 1/4 mile down the road.  Close enough to awaken the Bloodhound.  Who, in turn awakened me with his bay:

"Trolls!  There be trolls on yonder bridge!!"

I got up after about 15 minutes of hearing Beau bay.  In my stupor I thought a car was in our yard, parked with its lights on bright.  Somewhere in my early morning stupor I also thought coyotes were involved.  Heh.  It was actually the bridge folk and their nighttime lighting.  It looked like daylight down there!  It was amazingly bright.  The cement trucks arrived in droves, and in order to back down the road a quater of a mile to the bridge, they all had to make a T-turn in front of our house.  BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP...  in front of our house for the next couple of hours!  

Beau continued sounding the Troll-On-Bridge Alarm for 30 minutes, until that Spouse o' Mine got up and shut him up in the barn.  Beau was silent, but then, the two of us were awake.  And so our morning started...

That Spouse o' Mine went to work.  ("Wow," I remarked, "You'll be home by noon!")  As soon as a smidgeon of sunlight peeked above the horizon, I went out on a 2.5 mile jaunt.  Still dusky-dark, so pretty, and peaceful, and (the operative word) COOL.  I could hear the coyotes howling their morning greetings all along the creek just to the east of me.  They sounded in fine fettle.  A mile into my walk/run and a raccoon ran out into the road just in front of me.  Hmmm..much consternation on my part: is he rabid and will he chase me?  And what is the speed of a rabid raccoon?  And what is my speed in terror? 

Happily, Raccoon meandered away from the road and into a neighbor's pasture.

I returned home and commenced painting the west side of our house: trim work: priming.  So much to do, but I think I can see the wee distant light at the end of this summer tunnel.  With a house this old, sometimes it feels like one step forward, two steps back.  Now, I would never trade an old house with character for a newer home with no issues.  (Never say never - I know, I know.  Call me when I'm 90?)  But as I primed some window trim, I saw that a few ancient panes (the ones I love) are in need of re-glazing.  A call to that Spouse o' Mine, and an errand this afternoon by him, and I am in good stead for learning how to reglaze window panes.  Interestingly, I have saved all my old, old Martha Stewart magazines (the GOOD ones, where we actually learned from tutorials like this) and I know there is one article somewhere about old windows in old houses.  Oh - and the ancient panes I love?  The oldest ones where one can see how the glass has settled.  You see, glass is not a solid something.  It moves with age.  Wavy glass is old glass.  I have wavy glass in my house.

Last night a man named Mr. Songs came over to mow our pasture of brome (hay).  Tonight a man I shall call Sam is over, windrowing our hay.  I shall call him Sam because that's not his real name, and last night my 22-year old son admonished me for calling him Crazy Sam.  As in, "Tonight Mr. Songs came over to cut the hay and tomorrow Crazy Sam will be by to windrow."  "Mom, you really shouldn't call him Crazy Sam."  "But that's how he is known in these parts."  "But that is no good reason why you should call him that."

Ooh.  Corrected by my adult child.  He is right, though.  And so I stand corrected.  I guess I raised my kid right.  And...I am falling into an abyss of bad manners.  It's the summer heat, I tell you.

This week I renewed my Rec Center membership for the university natatorium.  (Read:  Let's go swim!)  I feel so good after a few laps in that pool.  I sleep better, too.  Highly recommended for anyone.

Here's the BEST recommendation I will come up with regarding swimming:
 There is nothing in the summer swim world more fun than a couple of kids with which to frolic!  I can go hours in a pool if I have a kid to be silly with.  This is me with my niece Amy, and her two fun daughters, Addison and Lilah.  What an active evening in the pool.  Thank you, Amy, for insisting I bring my swimsuit to this wedding reception!           

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Secret Garden

This is my vegetable garden:

It really looks awful.  It looks like there is more brome grass (hay) in there than anything else. 

But looks are decieving:

I planted only four tomato plants this spring.  I did not anticipate the 10-20 volunteer tomato plants that greeted me yesterday.  Or this one:

This is either a volunteer zucchini, pumpkin, or (what I am really hoping for...) a white acorn squash.  It's like Christmas in July, waiting to see what appears on this vine!

Yesterday the temperature was 105ยบ.   The heat puts me in doldrums.  I get up at 5:00 am, go out as soon as the sun peeks up from the horizon, and by 10:00 am, I am done.  Homebound for the duration of the day and evening...

Autumn cannot arrive too soon. 

Sunday, July 07, 2013

My Summer Vacation

Was it the tequila?

Perhaps it was the residue of "weed".  (I prefer to refer to it as marijuana.)

Was it the impromptu union of several personalities: a physician, his wife, a nurse, a terrifically funny gay guy, a woman my own age, with her own way of thinking... was this the highlight of my summer vacation?

Was it the presence of youth?

Under-age youth?

Was it the impromptu union of unlicensed, underage youth, with tequila bottles and marijuana (I just learned how to spell that) residue in the SUV that struck my "going-to-Colorado-for-a-short-vacation-all-by-my-lonesome" Volvo station wagon, and rendered it:

I am fine.  Really.  Fine.  I went to church tonight, Saturday night, because I had some Thanksgiving to do.

I am going to do a "Take Two" on this vacation idea in a couple of weeks.  As College Boy Graham so eloquently put it, "Yea, that's sort of a buzz-kill on a vacation, isn't it?"   

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Martin Meets a Turtle

 And finally, the turtle wandered away from all the excitement...

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