This Fourth of July began early in the morning to put out our flags and to take a quick tour of the ranch, to make sure all was well on the range.

I have the coolest app on my iPhone that let's you do all sorts of fun edits, one of which is a double exposure. 

I like how it turned out, except for the annoying power lines. I should have taken the flag from a different angle, I think that would have made for a much better composition. Oh, yeah, the app is Afterlight, you really should have it on your phone.

The Fourth of July is all about family, friends, and food. Hank's family has had a gathering on this day for, well, forever! There is always an enormous amount of food, as there always is at family gatherings. I decided to take a different approach to the here's-what-we're-eating speed. The aftermath!

It didn't take long for the dessert tables to look like the other one. Like locust in a field we are.

Then there are the friends and family, we are many. 

This handsome fella is one of the newest naturalized citizens, he became one a few days ago, I'm so happy for him. He's married to one of my dear friends, he's from England.

The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. I love the fireworks, especially the way Portland, Oregon does them, which I will be missing this year, (insert sad emoji here). I love the patriotic swell that happens today. Above all, I love that I can say that I am a citizen of what I think is the greatest nation. Perhaps that's a bit bold, but it's how I feel. 


Around Here

New month, new post. But I'm posting about what happened last month...because right now, that's how I roll.

Hank and I took a much needed trip to see Rocket Man and Larry. Our usual method of travel is to fly from our regional airport to DFW and then on to PHX. We thought we'd shake things up a bit this time and drive to Big D and fly Southwest. We've decided that we will not go this route again, unless absolutely necessary.  We aren't hayseeds afraid of big city traffic woes, but why subject yourself to them needlessly. Seriously, why? And, Hank agrees with me, middle seats should be outlawed. 

The last time Hank and I flew Southwest was four years ago, the trip there was an experience to be remembered.  We hit a torrential rain storm that caused highways to close and turned city streets into rivers. Oh, man, was that ever nerve wracking! Love Field has done some MAJOR renovations in preparation for the repeal of the Wright Amendment. I was very impressed.  

Tagging your own luggage was interesting, getting that little sticker straight is harder than it looks. But, then again it could have been the person putting the tag on.

After this trip to Arizona I've come to a conclusion, dry hot is worse that humid hot. In a couple of weeks time I've experienced both and I'd rather be in a sauna than an oven. You sweat in both, but humid keeps my face and skin from feeling as if it's on fire and about to flake off. I did go for a walk, once, while there. I was impressed with the plants that were in bloom, more than I expected. I've grown accustomed to seeing a lot of this...

...but not much of this.

I'm told that the south end of the Phoenix valley is much more green and lush, with nary a scorpion to be found...I don't believe it. It all looks brown from above. 

Of course, I would be remiss in not sharing photos of my beloved Rocket Man. He's learned that when the camera/iPhone is up that one must say 'cheese' (much like his mama did at his age) but hasn't mastered staying still long enough for the camera to capture the moment. 

He loves books, Thomas the Train (oy), fixing things with his tool kit, and most of all, hanging with his Papá. 

They are inseparable. And here's the reason why, I've decided they are twins separated by fifty two years. Hank is on the left, Rocket Man on the right. 

Am I right or what?!

On another note, in a previous post I told you that Hank was being released from his calling as stake president. That took place June 15,  it was most bittersweet. I know that I speak for him when I say that we were humbled by the outpouring of love and well wishes and concern of how we would manage once the dust settled. We are doing in fine. I will admit that it was a bit odd to have him seated next to me on Sunday, we haven't done this in over thirty years. I'm sure it was odd for him too. 


Adieu Au revoir Adios

I've been wanting to write this post for, oh, the past couple of months, but for one reason or another I couldn't or didn't. First, I couldn't because the time was not right to do so. Second, I didn't because I couldn't find the words to express what I feel and think.

As ominous as all this might sound, it's not. 

Okay, V, cut to the chase. 

After nine, almost ten, years of serving as the stake president, Bart, aka Hank, is going to be relieved, or in Mormon terms, released, from his service. Which is and isn't a big deal. It isn't a big deal because, as Mormons know, no calling is forever...well unless one is called to be an apostle and that's a whole different thing. But it is a big deal because we will miss being and see the people of this stake. I include myself in this because on the occasion that I traveled with Bart I was fortunate enough to get to know many of the members of our stake and I have grown to love them. And though I know I will see some again, others I may not. And this makes me sad.

Some have asked if Bart/Hank is ready for this, from my perspecitive I'd have to say yes and no. Yes because some of the matters of the stake have weighed heavily on him (rest assured, I do not know details, I just know from demeanor and an increase in gray hair that he has worried and prayed a lot over the last nine and a half years) and 'no' for the same reasons I mention I will miss his being the stake president.  

The love we have felt, Bart more directly than I, from the members of the stake is immeasurable. As with all things in life, the good always helps trump the bad. No matter how heavy the load was at times, there were always events and people that made that load lighter.

Today, for the last time as stake president and stake president's wife, we traveled to the farthest congregation in our stake, Idabel, Oklahoma, two hours one way from where we live. This is a small congregation, but that doesn't diminish the obvious love they have for the Gospel and their willingness to live it. The size of the congregation means that, sometimes, others have to pinch hit when someone is gone, Bart got to do that today. The Sunday school teacher was ill and no one else was prepared to teach the class, up to the plate, the stake prez. He was a natural, of course we wouldn't expect anything less. In this congregation there are many members from the Marshall Islands. They are warm, loving, and kind. Many are limited in their ability to speak English, but that doesn't stop them from expressing their love. Take a minute, well actually more like four, to watch this video.  Please forgive the sloppy camera work, I was bawling my eyes out and trying to shake hands at the same time.

To say that we felt honored and humbled is an understatement. Let me share with you the detail of some of the necklaces/ties Bart received.

I asked one of the ladies how long it took to make one of these, nonchalantly she said, 'twenty minutes, except for the wall hanging (that's the last photo), that took longer.' In my mind I yelled "TWENTY MINUTES", oh, wow. I'm always amazed at the handiwork of craftspeople. These lovely people also honored me with these...

The earrings are made of coconut shells, the bracelet and ring are made of waxed string. Beautiful.

I made the mistake of admiring a hair clip one of the ladies was wearing, before I knew it, she took it off and gave it to me. I said 'no, please, I was just admiring it and wondering if you'd made it.' Another member of the congregation admonished me to take it so that I wouldn't offend her. I was then told that it is their custom to give what has been admired. I was humbled. This too was handmade.

I've been asked by numerous people if I'm looking forward to having my husband back. I've never viewed his service to The Lord as a loss or that he's been 'gone'. Bart and I have been married for thirty two years, twenty seven of those years he has served in one capacity or another that has required that he travel extensively or be in one meeting or another. I don't know what it's like to have a husband at church, sitting on the same pew as me, every Sunday, or having him home after church every Sunday...this will take some getting used to. Wish me luck. 

Photos of Hank by Justin Hackworth (more on him later :) )


Coming Together

We had a little soiree at the ranch this weekend. It was a party six months in the making. We'd planned it for December, had the house all decked out with lights, all the Christmas decor was out (THAT hadn't happened in, ah, forever), I cleaned like a fiend, the whole shebang. And then it snowed. And iced. Way to ruin a party Mother Nature. So we rescheduled...six months later.

Six months later, I cleaned like a fiend again, inside and outside. Outside because, well, it's daylight now way longer than it is in December and people will see not only the inside of the house, but the outside as well.  I will let you in on a secret...I hired help to get the outside ready...yeah, I did...couple of young men from the old body isn't as spry as it once was. Bleh. 

Between, Hank, the hired help, and I, we got the place looking the best it's looked in years. 

Flowers and much, check.

As one of our hired helpers put it, they have younger backs and can move things better than us...truth hurts sometimes, but a sore back hurts much worse.  He meant his comment in the most loving of terms, Hank and I laughed for a good bit on that. A side note on one of the many flower beds we mulched and weeded. This particular flower bed has daylilies in it, rather full ones.  I told the helpers that this flower bed always gives me the heebie-jeebies because I fear there may be a snake in it. (You know where this is going don't you.) As we worked the bed, we were recounting snake stories and suddenly one of the helpers yelled rather loudly.  I said, 'what's wrong, are you okay?' He said, 'there's a snake!' I thought he might be joking, given the topic of conversation, but he wasn't. We all went to see where he'd been working and sure enough, there on top of the pulled weeds was a copperhead. Scary/funny thing, he'd picked it up not knowing he'd picked it up.  He said he felt something squishy through his glove, looked down and, there it was. Needless to say, Mr. copperhead met his demise.  Now before you go judging, had it been out in the open pasture and not right next to my house where he could have slithered his way in, we would have let him live. 

Next up, the pergola. It needed some freshening up. New paint on the bench, new chairs around the table, and some cushions, good to go.

The original plan for this late spring fete was to hold it outside. Once again, Mother Nature enjoyed toying with us. For the entire week leading up to Saturday there had been afternoon showers predicted and She did not disappoint. Rather than risk having everyone soaked, we moved the dinner inside. This meant moving furniture. Oy, old backs remember. But, Hank and I managed this on our own. 

Thirty six people required two rooms, but we all fit quite nicely. I'd forgotten how big these rooms were until we moved the furniture around...made me realize that I could actually fit more stuff in here..hmmm. 

Mother Nature was kind enough to provide the flowers, all I had to do was drive down the side of the road and help myself. She made up for her winter tantrum.

The black-eyed Susan, a.k.a rudbeckia hirta, and the daisy fleabane were perfect. 

One last thing to do before the guests arrived, put something out so that the sprinkler heads didn't get smashed! I can't tell you how many times we've had to replace them because UPS and FedEx drivers can't seem to steer clear of the edge of the lawn, sheesh! Pinwheels, lovely solution. They added just the right festive touch to the drive. Plus they looked really cool as the caught the slightest breeze.

Of course, the most important, our guests. We hosted thirty six of the nicest people, they made the party a success. 

After dinner, since Mother Nature was kind enough to keep the rain at bay and send a cool breeze or two, we stepped outside for a game. It is akin to charades, but rather than act out your clue you describe it and instead of movie titles or things you have people's names to describe without mentioning the name. Quite fun to say the least.

I'm glad Mother Nature had her tantrum in December, it allowed us to bask in Her Texas springtime which, sadly, is rather short lived.