Thursday, June 18, 2009

Visual Migraine Simulated

Not that I've researched them thoroughly, but as I sit here having my second visual migraine in three days, I thought I'd share:

Mine happen in black and white and start more peripherally.  Still, like sneezing in rush-hour traffic, not the thing you want to experience while driving.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lucrative Fender Benders & Driving 55

This blog entry could be called a lot of things, but I've had this particular title picked out for almost a month now. My second choice might be "Jeremiah 29:11, part 2." To reiterate, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you..."

Today, without apology, I am going to write long. This is the first day I've had free to blog since May 1st, and I need to process. This might be more of a blessing for me than you, but of course you're welcome to participate. Or not.

We're not risk takers. We don't pay interest, investing's not our thing, and we're not entrepreneurs. Business ventures don't give us a rush, and we never want to own our own. But there comes a time in every man's life when he's got to go after that thing for which he feels he was created. Hopefully, this is that time. Hopefully, our little purchase will help keep the economy going. Hopefully, we really are onto God's plan and not just deceiving ourselves, thinking it's His time for this dream because we want it too much. I'm excited to watch my husband fly.

The month of May is always crazy around here. Besides the spring cleaning, end-of-school year activities, graduations and weddings, we also have fishin' opener, sucker spearin', a big family birthday bash, and the end-of-year dance recital that completely consumes about a week. It's fun, but there's no margin for mishap or more activities.

Or so we thought. This year we were stretched, and managed to negotiate both mishap AND more! This year, when spring finally broke winter and we went through our normal "spring restlessness routines"--the restlessness that makes our good friend want to put his house up for sale, makes me feel like traveling, and makes my husband want to buy a portable welding rig so he can practice and test for pipeline work--we decided that of those three desires, which are annually as dependable as the changing of the season, the rig was the desire that had a decent chance of being lucrative (there're two new pipelines going through our state this year). So my husband updated his research; then we prayed, and got on eBay.

As it turned out, we got to travel and buy a welding rig. To make a long story short, in early May we found the welder.  It was more inclusive (and expensive) than we were expecting, and it was on the east end of Long Island, which was a long way away through places we never want to go. After much pondering, prayer, and nearly puking (remember, I'm making this short), by mid-May we'd reached an agreement with the seller. Besides agreeing on the price and payment method, he agreed to haul the equipment out of the metropolis and into Pennsylvania. We were scheduled to leave the Sunday evening of Memorial Day weekend, meet the seller Tuesday morning in PA, and be back in time for dance recital practice Wednesday afternoon. Theoretically, according to Mapquest, we had 38 hours to drive roundtrip. We had 65 hours to do it in, which meant we should be able to stop for at least eight hours of sleep each night.

Searching for the rig and making a 3-day trip to Pennsylvania added the "more" to our busy May. The mishap came the Friday before we left. Or more exactly, it came late on the Friday afternoon--the TGIF of TGIF's!--the Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend... 

It started at 2:55pm, when I lost my cell phone. It's missing captured my attention as I was gathering my normal "errand paraphernalia" to head out the door to an extra dance practice. It was time to I spent an extra ten minutes looking for that phone. Finally we left without it, pulling onto the highway into heavy holiday traffic just as the school buses were leaving the school. We still had 25 minutes to travel 15 miles (including in-town driving), so time was tight but we could make it. Halfway there, the bus in front of us braked to turn onto a country road.  The three or four vehicles directly behind it braked also, including the guy pulling his boat directly in front of us.

You understand the domino effect, right? And if you're of driving age, you've prob'ly experienced the domino effect in heavy traffic. The longer the line of braking vehicles, the less response time the next driver has? The stop came up fast and I had to brake hard, but I managed to stop a full car's length behind the boat motor's propellor. And I thank God! Because as I checked my rear-view mirror to see how the traffic behind me was handling the domino effect, I'm pretty sure my mouth hung open as I watched in surreal wonder the bright yellow bullet racing up.....uP.....UP!...and just barely beginning to slow right before it plowed into the back of our vehicle! No screeching brakes, not even a terribly loud crash--just a good solid thump. It's just a guess, but I think it hit us at about 40 mph. It pushed us forward about half the distance to the boat, then our daughter had time to yell from the very back seat an incredulous, "Did we just get hit?!" before it hit us a glancing blow on the rear right again so that we were pushed up to just shy of the boat's propellor. A second later I giggled with relief as that boat pulled away unscarred, its driver completely oblivious to the dramatic close-call that had just taken place... It was 3:20pm.

No one was injured (except perhaps an unseen angel?). No airbags went off. The other car had a lot of damage and a big hole in the radiator from our receiver hitch, but our vehicle was still drivable--just a sagging bumper and a few clinging flecks of sunny yellow paint.  Thankfully, the other driver, a sweet teen who was flustered but sincerely concerned about our welfare, had her cell phone, and the highway patrol arrived shortly. An hour after the accident, we arrived at practice. Everyone else was still there, and the other moms loved on us and kept my kids for another round of practice while I drove to the insurance office.

The next day the body shops were closed and we were busy getting ready for the family birthday party and our trip to PA. We looked up, down, inside, and out for my cell phone, calling it several more times, but it was nowhere. could that be? I could still remember places I'd "last seen it," and called the businesses in case I'd left it there. We had a second phone we could use on our trip, but that wasn't our favorite plan. Besides, again, this was surreal. We purchased cell phones primarily so we'd have them for emergencies, and the one time I had an emergency, I couldn't find my phone.  And it was because I couldn't find my phone that I had the emergency! If it'd been with my other errand paraphernalia where it "always is," I wouldn't have been in front of that teenager, behind that bus or that boat!

On Sunday afternoon just before we hosted the party, our daughter solved the Missing Phone Mystery. It a bag of potato chips?! 

Okay, yes--I'm caught and would be wise to confess: On the way home from my first batch of errands Friday, I snuck a grab bag of Lay's original potato chips. Potato chips have been my vice since I was eight, and they're a habit I've finally almost completely kicked. They are not at all a part of my functional medicine doctor's current plan for restoring function to a severely ailing part of my anatomy. However, it was lunchtime and I was desperately hungry, short on time, and chips were the best snack I could come up with since I had to stop for fuel and there was zero time for a second stop at a grocery store. No one was along for those errands--I was picking up surprise gifts to give our kids at the end of the recital--and when I got home I threw the bag of chips into the bag of surprises and went straight to my room. In my room, I ate a few--only a few!--while I quickly wrapped the surprises. Since everything about this errand was sneaky, my door was locked. That doesn't mean I was left alone, though. When someone pounded on my door for some emergency need, it frazzled me so much that I quickly threw everything on my bed into hiding...absentmindedly hiding my phone in the potato chip bag, then hiding the evidence of my guilt in the snack cupboard when no one was looking... On Sunday afternoon, just before our late birthday party luncheon, our daughter was famished, and, like-mother-like-daughter (thank God!), went for the chips.

And thus, she became the hero of the day. Amidst great gratefulness and celebrating, I let her eat the rest the chips in the bag right before lunch. (My little sister will vouch that coming from me, that's kind of a huge reward. When we were young I repeatedly conned her into sneaking down to the small grocery store on the corner to provide me with my habit. Her reward? A chip! Of course, I was saving her from my pain...)

Sunday at 6:00pm we said good-bye to our gracious guests, who took our kids and finished cleaning up the party as we headed east. By now we'd figured out the trip was going to take longer than Mapquest estimated. The truck we were driving is very low geared, and the fastest we could drive was...55 to 58mph.

2,300 miles, at 55 miles per hour...

Well, we had time to get a good look at the country!  ;~)

Just FYI, the roads in northern Illinois leave much to be desired. Avoid them if you can! Some of the toll roads are in better shape, but many are torn up for construction. And the signage around the toll booths, esp in the construction areas, is contradictory and confusing. On the way out we avoided Chicago, but on our return trip we tried cutting through on toll roads. At one interchange a 30mph ramp was blocked off at the bottom and traffic was actually directed OVER the median! And the reason we decided to try Chicago on the way back is because the roads we took to avoid it on the way out, even the major interstates, have lots of unmarked potholes--well, I wouldn't really call them potholes; they're HUGE 1'x2' holes, 8-12" deep!--that you can't see until you're almost in them. We were told the roads in southern Illinois are better.

Just FYI...

Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania were all 55mph. We stayed on the Indiana and Ohio tollways, stopping only at the oases/travel plazas where we didn't have to get off the toll roads. Fuel was reasonable, bathrooms were big and clean. The only food offered was fast, but it doesn't take long to get across those two states.  For those few hours, you could prob'ly survive on snacks you bring along. And since we were traveling at 55mph we didn't have the expected margin for sleep, so all we really needed for sustenance was caffeine. The treats we tried from the fancy chocolate stand seemed "lardy" and granular to us. And though I could not find fingernail clippers for sale at any of the eastbound plazas, I was finally able to purchase a pair at a westbound plaza on the way home.

We wiled away the hours collecting these travel advisory tidbits, enjoying the scenery, and comparing our thoughts on life, family, and the entertaining counsel we received via Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University CD's. We arrived in Snow Shoe, PA, at midnight Monday night, eased into a truck stop, snuggled in amongst semis, and slept in our truck. Sometime in the middle of the night we were wakened by squealing pigs, but they serenaded us right back to sleep and we were unaware of the semis leaving until we awoke for the day at 6am.

Breakfast with our new New York friends was unhurried and fun, and the welder was just as much a dream in actuality as it appeared to be online.

After a couple hours of going through the equipment and hooking up the trailer, we headed west just as it started raining. We treated ourselves to a late afternoon Campfire Meal at The Cracker Barrel, then pushed hard for home. Chicago traffic is mild at 1am, but let us remind you once more to expect the unexpected--interchange ramps that are closed but unmarked, bumpy medians, and the occasional five-lane toll road with two middle lanes removed. Our memories of these sights, plus a few more Dave Ramsey CD's (there are 11 in all), kept us entertained the rest the way 55mph. We didn't make it back in time for dance practice, but thankfully we have family with servants' hearts who were free to play chauffeur. We made it home Wednesday night in time for supper.

The days have flown since then. Dress rehearsal, getting estimates for the fender bender (which turned out to be quite lucrative!), filling out the state crash report (which is quite sobering), a grad party followed by an end-of-year dance party, two recital performances (the best ever!), our first organic garden (growing slow this year, but we've harvested our first radishes...), community ed classes in babysitting, drama, and manners(!), an end-of-year homeschooling picnic, pipewelding practice (for the whole family), 900 dance and 300 welding photos to sort, finishing up "44 days of finding and seeking" the audience for Alicia's new book, and even an afternoon of fishing at the bridge. Whew! I'm glad SUMMER will officially be here in a few days!