Thursday, August 29, 2013

Kate Miller 38: Father's Day

It's never "just another day" with the one you love...

38. Father’s Day (June, 2013)
            Kate sat in the airport, ready to go to Alaska. It was the beginning of July already. She opened her journal and browsed the last entries. She sighed, realizing that once again, she was woefully behind. When she was by herself in Williamsburg, she had been faithful to write a page of the day’s events and thoughts. It was nothing award-winning, just good notes to remember. But her last entry was June 16!
            Today is Father’s Day, she had written. I slept well last night! (So thankful to have power back on for the ceiling fan!) At church we had a great sermon on Psalm 1. I especially appreciated the side comments about how we spend time—“Quantity of time leads to quality time.” And, “You have time to do what you value the most.”
            Kate chuckled to herself, “Clearly that would not be keeping up with my journal!” But it was a good thing to remember, thinking about that day. She had driven to Richmond and back in order to spend the evening with Mister. That took a lot of time! Kate thought, with some sense of satisfaction. And that’s something I’ll always have time to do! It had been a fun evening, even with the hours of driving…and the maniacal drivers that had trouble sharing the road!
            After being apart for “only” three days, their reunion felt almost magical. Kate ran to meet Mister, coming out of the dorm where he was staying for the conference, and he lifted her up and swung her around. They kissed and cuddled and talked, and eventually their stomachs begged for some consideration. As with many dates and adventures, Kate and Mister just hopped in the car and chose a road. They drove down a main street, full of local shops and restaurant and pubs frequented by the many college students living in the area. They parked and walked down the street, trying to decide between Indian and Thai. It was dreadfully hot, and Kate could feel her feet actively swelling, but she held Mister’s hand and felt blissfully happy.
after dinner
            Thai won out, (mostly just because they reached it first) and as they sat waiting for their food, Kate took Mister’s hand in hers and said, “Happy Father’s Day…”
            Mister grinned.
            “So how does it feel to be a dad?”
            He thought for a moment and then nodded with his usual calm, matter of fact expression. “It feels good,” he said, smiling, “It’s intimidating, but exciting.”
            Two weeks later, Kate nodded as she reread her journal. Intimidating…but exciting. That pretty much sums it up, she had written. I just hope we can be GOOD parents…and also fun parents, at least when he’s old enough to have fun.
the train station
            The rest of Father’s Day had been uneventful but fun…not what anyone would say was overly special, but special all the same because Kate was able to spend it with her best friend, exploring the world. They drove around downtown Richmond, thinking to stop here or there and realizing that everything was closed because, after all, it was a Sunday and Father’s Day! But they drove by the capitol and looked at the monuments. And they stopped at the huge, beautiful old train station and marveled at the luxurious waiting rooms, outside balconies, and parlors. The station was still used, but hardly got enough traffic (or suitably dressed traffic) to restore the station’s atmosphere to former glory. It was a relic and a museum, still useful, but an icon of a different era. Kate had driven through Richmond a few times before and always wanted to see the inside of this ancient and imposing building.

That night she considered what had been so fun about the evening. It wasn’t just the train station…or going out for dinner…or exploring new places. It was simply being with Mister. It’s great, she wrote down in her journal, to be reminded of just how fun and natural it is to be together; that times apart are okay because they end and then we’re together again. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Kate Miller 37: Power Outage

No TV, no computers, no lights...what's left? (Food to eat, friends to talk with...old fashioned goodness.)

37. Power Outage (June 2013)
            In the middle of June, Mister had another conference to attend, only this one was in Richmond, and commuting between there and home was out of the question. And since Kate did not relish the idea of being home alone for five days, it was an easy option to drop him off in Richmond and drive the extra hour to Williamsburg to spend the time with her dear friends from Alaska, the Morttes. They always welcomed her (and Mister) with open arms, as family.
            But the drive down presented some difficulties of its own. Kate had never been one to check the weather, and as the rain began pouring, and traffic started backing up, and twigs and branches started falling on the road, she began to wonder if she was missing some vital information. Mrs. Mortte called Kate’s phone shortly after they pulled up to the university. “If you can wait a while before leaving again, you should,” she explained, “there’s a terrible storm due to hit any minute, and I hear that 64 is a crawl!”
            “Thanks for the tip!” Kate replied. “I’ll wait a while and call you when I’m leaving.”
            She and Mister strolled outside in the rain to explore the University of Richmond, a gorgeous old campus, built to be beautiful and inspire an awe of learning. They walked and talked and were almost unsure of what to do with themselves. It was like entering a strange time warp. There was a storm. And what was there to do but simply be together?
            Kate found that this was indeed the answer. When she got to Williamsburg that evening, all the lights down the main street were out. The neighborhoods and businesses alike were dark. Unmarked and unnoticed trees were down, completely blocking roads, pulling power lines down beneath them, uprooting fences, and sprawling across yards, decks, roofs, and cars.
            Wow, Kate breathed in awe. She could think of nothing else. Many of the trees and branches were impressively large and stout, not tall and thin like the birches of the north. When Kate pulled up to the Mortte’s house, everything there was dark too. But Mrs. Mortte threw open the door and said, “Welcome home!” as she always did. Kate grinned with pleasure at the familiarity and gave her a big hug.
            “Hello! This is exciting!” Kate said. “It looks like the power is out all over!”
            “Yes. You know the strangest thing is that the storm only lasted maybe twenty or thirty minutes. It just came up fast and furious and then left just as quickly!” Mrs. Mortte pointed to the trees in their backyard. “All of a sudden, all those trees were just blowing sideways! It was the strangest thing to see!”
            “It sounds incredible. But at least it’s cooled off, if the power has to be out!”
            The sky still held its rosy, after-storm glow, and for the rest of the evening, Kate and Mr. and Mrs. Mortte sat on the porch, relaxed in deck chairs, just talking. Again the thought occurred to her—what was there to do but just be together? It was pleasant, she thought, doing Williamsburg the “old fashioned way”. Sitting on the porch in the cool of the evening…all that was missing was a knitting project or a large bowl of green beans to leisurely snap as they talked.

            The power stayed off from Thursday afternoon until Saturday afternoon—but it felt longer than two days. Perhaps it was the limited options. Perhaps it was the heightened time of conversation and communion together. Kate imagined how in olden days children seemed to mature faster out of necessity. It must have been natural if two days without power can feel like five days with it! Kate thought. But the power mercifully came back with the hot weather. The temperature spiked from the low seventies to the upper eighties, and Kate, in spite of her delight in the “old time way”, was relieved to once again have an air conditioner at her disposal. After all, she thought, people can ‘just be together’ in the air conditioner too…

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Review: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

The “present” is the summer of 1936. The “past” is eighteen years earlier, during the years of 1917-1918, when the U.S. entered World War I.

Abilene Tucker has been sent to Manifest by her father, who up till now has seemed content to rove with her over hill and dell. But since she’s stuck there for the summer, she might as well try to discover all she can about her father and the town that came to life in his eyes when he told stories about it. The trouble is that Manifest is no longer the town “with a past and a bright future” as it had said on the sign back in the day. Now, it’s just a town “with a past.” Abilene Tucker has her work cut out for her in trying to unravel it.

She makes friends—some her own age, and some are older; people who had been there and known her father. The intimidating Miss Sadie seems to be the one who knows the most about Manifest “back then”, but Abilene can’t push her—she would tell the story in her own way and at her own pace. Moon Over Manifest is a simple story about the meeting and reconciling of the past with the present. Abilene learns about the people, her father along with them. And with Miss Sadie telling the story, Abilene sees that everyone has their own unique story. They fit together, criss-crossing, running parallel, starting and stopping, making history.

“Back then”, the story was about a town trying to free itself from under the thumb of the oppressive owner of the local mine—the only main source of jobs and income in the town. “Now” the town must wake up from its stagnant slumber before it fades away into nothing. “Back then”, almost everyone in Manifest was an immigrant. “Now”, Abilene has to research and learn about the various meanings of the word, “manifest” and why it’s an appropriate name for such a town.

Moon Over Manifest is a beautifully written book. Clare Vanderpool does a brilliant job of drawing out different characters and giving them each their own voice, making the reader feel as though he is actually meeting all these people, instead of reading about them. There are letters from one young man, newspaper columns, Abilene’s perspective, Miss Sadie’s story…the book, like the people of Manifest, is a hodgepodge that comes together with strength and unity to make a statement.

And what is that statement? What is the point of the town of Manifest and the unique style of the book? It’s this: A home can be found, and those you feel at home with are your family.

It’s a beautiful sentiment, and the story is certainly worth reading and considering. If the 2011 Newbery Medal isn’t recommendation enough, I definitely recommend it for all middle-grade readers! (9-12 years old.)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Best Potato Salad (Ever!)

It's high time I posted about this because I seriously cannot stop eating it! Some of you may chock it up to the whole pregnancy thing, which I grant you, may play a minor role in my fanaticism. BUT, almost everyone I've served this to has commented on how great and unusual it is! The best thing about it? (besides being insanely delicious)'s super easy to make!

Here's what I use (adapted from the recipe out of Falling Cloudberries by Tess Kiros):

6 medium potatoes (I usually use russet because they're always the cheapest)
3 small red onions
1 can small olives roughly chopped
1/3 cup capers (try getting some at Costco--the first time I made this, I used an entire jar of what they had at Target, and that adds up!)
1/2 cup (approximately) chopped fresh parsley

1) slice the red onions in half and then along the cross section, to make very thin slices. Set them in a bowl, sprinkle them generously with salt, and cover with water. Let them soak for at least half an hour to soften and draw out some of the bite.

2) chop the potatoes into the size you want for the salad and boil in a pot--but watch them carefully to take off the burner as soon as they are cooked through. If you boil them longer than necessary, they'll fall apart more easily in the salad, which doesn't matter from a flavor standpoint--but some would take aesthetic issue with that. Take the potatoes off and let them cool completely.

3. Drain the onions (don't bother rinsing them) and add them to the cooled potatoes. Then add everything else!

4. Top with 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil and 2-ish tablespoons of lemon juice. (but really, you just need enough to coat it and then make it to your taste. Depending on how salty your onions and capers are, you may want to add some salt too.)

That's it! And then you have an amazingly wonderful, tasty, beautiful, unusual potato salad to make your life and the entire world that much better off!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Book Review: Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

I shamelessly admit that I pulled this book out because of its cover. Little cottages stacked on a rocky mountainside…a string of girls in shapeless dresses holding hands…it seemed so unprincess-like that it caught my attention at the book store and I bought it. It helped my decision along that the book had won the Newberry Honor Award in 2006.

And I loved the book, which is completely deserving of the award, and am thrilled to have it on my shelf for easy rereading. Shannon Hale is a fabulous author, and her writing is filled with beautiful images and phrases—the sort that make you think “yes! I have always wanted a way to express that and could never come up with something so fitting!”

The premise of the book is simple: the sages of the kingdom of Danland have prophesied that the prince will marry a girl from the province of Mt. Eskel. But this highlights many problems. First, there are no eligible, noble girls! The trade of Mt. Eskel is mining, first and last, and while important and valuable, the society there produces young ladies who can hurl stones, but wouldn’t know the first thing about “the rules of conversation.” Which leads to the second problem: all the non-eligible girls have no education—making it very hard for them to become eligible! Solution? The Princess Academy.

Tutor Olana, who is charged with the responsibility of changing these mountain miners into pretty princesses is about the farthest thing from a bosom friend. Her rules are strict, severe, and merciless. The girls are taken three hours away from their village to a lodge large enough for them all, and though it is supposed to be an honor to be at the academy, it seems more like prison. Miri, our main character and heroine, quickly becomes estranged from the others because she dares to speak out against the unfairness and the entire group loses their rest day at home in punishment. What else is there for Miri to do but study hard? At the academy, she learns all her lessons and the secret of stone-speak, the mystery of the mines.

When the prince comes, they all acquit themselves beautifully, but he leaves again without choosing a bride. Miri is not sure whether to be pleased (doesn’t Peder, her best friend, back at the village maker her heart beat fast and her palms sweat?) or frustrated (didn’t the prince say that he enjoyed meeting her the best of all the girls?) Faced with another winter on the mountain, things start to unravel…and then bandits show up, believing easy money is theirs if they can get their hands on the future princess. Miri has to use all her wits and wile to save the girls and unite her small town once again. She learns the reason why her father never allowed her to work in the mines—the only meaningful occupation in the village. She learns to understand and care for those who are unlike her and look for things that she care share in common. And she learns where she really belongs. Learning, in fact, becomes her favorite thing.

At least after a first read, I would unhesitatingly put this on a list of stellar books that any middle-school girl would love (and most other girls besides!) 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kate Miller 36: The Raccoon Episode

Invaders in the night! Thieves! Scurrilous Scalawags! 

36. The Raccoon Episode (June 2013)
            Black masks entered the yard from all sides. It was dark, very dark. But that made no difference to them. They could see. They could smell. And the thick covering of night would hide their misdeeds.
            One of them snickered, “Hey Mac. What is this? A lily?” He knocked the pot over and dug the plant out.
            “Amaryllis. And, Dude! Enough with the flowers already.”
            “But I like flowers.” He munched on the leaves.
            “Do something useful for once and check out the trash.”
            Another mask piped up from a different part of the yard. “Hey Mac! Come check this out! What do you think it is?”
            Mac was the oldest of six siblings and took his responsibilities seriously. He ambled over the deck and found his brother holding a dilapidated black flip flop. “Mmm. That’s very nice, Sparky. It’s a shoe.” He grabbed it with his delicate hands and felt it, turned it over, and tasted it. “Not very tasty, but nice and squishy. Pack it up!”
            Soon, the light was beginning to dawn in the East, casting a hazy glow over the Miller’s backyard. “Roscoe! Brutus! Pack it up everybody, we’ve got to split.”
            “Awww, c’mon, Mac. We like it here.” But Roscoe and Brutus obediently gathered to their leader and carefully cleaned their paws and noses after digging in the dirt.
            “All right, all right. We’ll come back. But we’ve got to go now!”
            When Kate came downstairs, she yawned groggily and poured herself a cup of coffee. Then, as was her custom, she leaned over the edge of the cool granite countertop and gazed sleepily out at her backyard. Something was different…what was it?
            With a shock, she took in the devastation confronting her. She ran outside. Plants were dug up and dumped out of their pots. Huge holes were scattered all over her garden beds. Suspicious, muddy tracks decorated the porch. And…wait, where was her other flipflop? She couldn’t believe it! The little beggars had stolen her flip flop! Still in her pajamas, she set down her coffee on the patio table, grateful that that, at least, was too heavy and large to be carried away. She huffed and puffed and muttered and grumbled to herself as she hurriedly tried to replant and repot whatever she could salvage. Bending over was getting awkward. Her back was stiff and her legs were sore. “I’m getting too old for this sort of thing,” she complained to Mister.
            He grinned. “Don’t worry, dear. In another couple months, you’ll be young again.”
            That same night, Kate and Mister returned late and walked up the stairs to the kitchen without turning on the light. Mister saw a shadow, and whispered, “Kate, come here! It’s a raccoon!” Kate ran over to the sliding door. “Aww. It’s a baby raccoon! Well, maybe a teenager…oh my goodness!” she exclaimed, “There’s two, no three of them!”
            “There’s another!” Mister pointed over to the left fence.
            “And look, two more over there!” Kate pointed to the right. “Gosh they’re really cute.”
            Mister grinned and nodded. They looked down at the raccoons, several of which were scrunched up next to the door.
            “Hey Mac! It’s people!”
            “Don’t worry, they won’t get us. There’s a door in the way.”
            “Tzs-tzs-tzs” one of them chortled, “Look at that fat lady! She’s going to have baby coons! How many do you think she’ll have, Mac?”
            The raccoon looked Kate up and down. She held his gaze for a moment, and then he started to move off, herding his group toward a gap in the fence boards.
            “Well, there’s six of us,” Mac speculated. “I bet she’ll have a dozen at least!”
            The next morning, Mister found Kate outside, surveying the wide space between the fence boards that led from underneath their neighbor’s deck and into their yard. She shook her head. “We’d better put one of those paving bricks in front of it,” she suggested. Mister did as she asked, but looked sorrowful. “Do you think they’ll be trapped under there? What if they die?”
            Kate regarded him coolly. “They won’t be trapped,” she said with supreme confidence. She looked at him, wide-eyed, “You like them!” she said accusingly, but then changed her tone. “Well, I guess I like them too. But they do a lot of damage.”
            Mister sighed. “Yeah. But I like seeing the animals more than I care about your plants.”
            Kate gave him ‘the look’. “They stole my flip flop!"
            And that was the end of the matter. But deep down, (way deep down) Kate hoped that she would see the young raccoons again. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Kate Miller 35: Memorial Day Memories

Who says you need to have a cookout or go canoeing to have a memorable weekend?

35. Memorial Day Memories (May 2013)
            Kate had been surprised that her mother-in-law wanted to visit for her baby shower—especially knowing that she would never fly across the country just for a baby shower, and was pretty confident that her own mother wouldn’t either. But she was especially glad to have her company those several days after their travels were over and Mister was busy at his conference all day long. It was comfortable and relaxing with just the two of them.
Together, they did jigsaw puzzles, read, cooked, and watched TV shows on the computer, talking all the while (yes, often during the TV shows too.) Mom Miller was an enthusiastic story teller and delighted in recounting funny tales of Mister’s childhood…and pulling out many  relevant morals. Kate chuckled over one of her favorites—she could just see Mister, only three years old, coming to his mother with his childlike questions and impeccable logic.
“Mom?” he asked, “Can God do whatever he wants?”
“And he knows everything?”
“And…you’re sure he can do whatever he wants?”
“Yes…” Where were these questions going?
“I want to be God.”
Kate was excited to someday have her own store of outrageous (and profound) things her children would say…of course, this baby would have to be born first and then eventually learn to talk intelligibly. For now Kate could store up all the strange things that people feel comfortable saying to a pregnant lady: “You look enormous!” or, “You look fabulous!” or, “You look ready to pop.” Kate always had an urge to reply in kind with, “You look like you work in an office building” or, “You look like you spend an hour running for your life every day of the week…” But of course, she kept these responses discreetly to herself, and gave Paddington-sized hard stares to those who seemed to think she might imminently need to rush to the hospital.
On Memorial Day, after planning and list-making, Kate and Mom Miller took a trip to the nearest Costco Warehouse. Though it had occasionally made her feel uncomfortable, Kate considered it a great boon that Mister’s parents (like her own) seemed to love to buy them groceries, and she was deeply grateful for it. But, as they made their way into the parking lot, Kate noticed that it was eerily empty. “It’s just Memorial Day,” she said, confused. “How could it be closed?” She drove over to the entrance, which was, in defiance of all logic, most definitely closed. The hours were out front, indicating that it should have been open. And there was no helpful explanatory sign saying, “Happy Memorial Day” or “Closed for Memorial Day.” Yet here they were, in a line of disappointed cars driving slowly by the closed doors, as if they could somehow find a way in if they looked hard enough. They returned home feeling defeated.
On the phone, Dad Miller was properly outraged at the derelict company’s holiday policy, but had more interesting news about the Memorial Day race he had run that morning. How many people had run in it? “1000?” guessed Mom. “5000?” said Kate. No…50,000!!! Dad had started at a particular time and ended up passing lots of people. Very gratifying, that, especially when many of them were trim, preppy youngsters.
“For next year,” Dad Miller declared over the phone, “I’m going to make myself a T-shirt. On the back, it will say, ‘You just got passed by Grandpa!’
Kate laughed. It was so sweet to see her in-laws relishing their new role as grandparents! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Kate Miller 34: Baby Shower

After the shower I was given a little book with cards of people's advice and comments--some serious, many funny. If you want to write in your own, make a comment, and I will add it to the book! 

34. Baby Shower (May 2013)
It wasn’t without cause that Kate had a habit of wondering what she was forgetting. It came from a regrettable habit of forgetting things…a habit that seemed to have worsened with each month of pregnancy. She had been exceedingly proud of herself for remembering Mister’s conference—which would have been difficult to forget in any case, since it was the reason for returning from their vacation when they did. What she was exceedingly chagrined to forget was her baby shower!
They had only just arrived home yesterday, Mister was at the conference registering and hobnobbing with brilliant (and often boring) people. The next day, Kate had to go to the airport to pick up her mother-in-law (which she had also briefly forgotten about.) What was so shameful was that even when Kate remembered that her mother-in-law was coming and that she was coming for her baby shower, it didn’t sink in that her baby shower was actually going to happen in three days. Whoops! Good thing I don’t have to do anything for it, Kate thought, ...except show up. Which might prove difficult enough if I can’t even manage to remember that it’s happening!
But Kate did, in fact, manage to show up. Normally, she was not a baby shower sort of person. The thought of spending an afternoon with twenty other ladies, cooing over pastel blankies and onesies was not exactly her idea of a fun party. And though it was difficult to exclude a group of ladies and cooing from a genuine baby shower, Kate managed to have a good time, thanks to the excellent planning of her friends. The eats were great, the prayer time humbling, and the advice-giving helpful…or at least often humorous!
They played one game, which was very fun, in spite of Kate’s antipathy toward baby shower games. But this was a way of bringing Mister into the party. Her friend, Jill, who had planned the shower sent him an email requesting answers to a list of baby-related questions. Kate’s job? Not to get the answers right, but to guess what Mister’s answers were! She was surprised that she got many of them correct: “How much do you think the baby will weigh?” (8lbs…some oz.) “What food/smell repulsed Kate the most?” (uncooked salmon.) “How did Kate tell you she was pregnant?” (a strange look from the other room while playing a game with a friend.) Other answers were difficult to guess because neither Kate nor Mister knew what they were! “When do you want your baby given the Apgar test and what do you think he will score?” At this, Kate pressed for more information… “What is the Apgar test?” (Can’t tell you that…) “What is the range of scores?” (1-10.) “Did Mister give an answer in that range?” (No.) Kate laughed and picked something random, and then laughed harder after she heard what the Apgar test really is, and that Mister’s answer had been (8wks; average.) It was a truly a fun time, and Kate felt blessed to have so many ladies surrounding her with love and care, and especially to have some family there too.
But it was tiring. She got home and instantly felt ready for a nap. Goodness, what day was it anyway? May 26…that meant she was just now finishing her second trimester and heading into the third! Three months to go! I’m too tired for this, Kate thought unreasonably, how can I possibly even survive another three months? Mom Miller looked at her sympathetically, but said matter-of-factly, “Welcome to the third trimester. You get the energy back in the second just to lose it again in the third.”
“What?!” Kate stared at her in disbelief.
“Didn’t anyone tell you that? That you get tired again in the last trimester?”
“No, no one told me that!” Kate was so outraged she was starting to wake up again. “Of all the nerve,” she complained, “I want my energy back! There’s too much to do to be this tired.” Mister was gone at his conference. There was still unpacking to do. But her panicky feeling was gradually dulled by a great weight in her head that sunk down her forehead and around her eyes. She sighed as she sank into a chair, now only feebly resisting the inevitable. 
“I’m too tired to be tired…” 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Kate Miller 33: Home Again

The return to "real" life can always be a little jarring... 

33. Home Again (May 2013)

saying goodbye to the beach
            Their last morning in Prince Edward Island, Kate and the rest of the crew headed down one last time, to “say goodbye to the beach.” This was a tradition in Kelsey’s family, and Kate thought it fun and worthy of adopting whenever possible. The nature of the goodbye depended on the age of the traveler. Kate walked down the beach a way, looking at the red dirt cliffs and cute cottages. Young Kate also tromped down the beach, but not to look at the scenery. She was endeavoring to match footprints and stride with some earlier (and much larger) walker. Rose made a sandcastle. James Jr. ate sand.
            The goodbyes having been duly accomplished, they returned to the cottage and all three children “said goodbye” to the bathtub with much merriment and splashing. Kate made piles of things in the entry to be secured in the car, and packed up food from refrigerator and cupboards. They all ate a hasty lunch, put the sleepy children in their car seats, and set out for another very long drive. Kate was glad that she could spend the afternoon seeing the island geography, which had been obscured by darkness (and sleep) on the way up. It was rural, but not in the same unkempt, wild way that Alaska was. The island was beautiful and calming with its red roads and gently rolling hills and lines of evergreens dividing multi-colored farm plots.
red roads and cottages
            They arrived in Boston in the early hours of the morning, and after a few hours of wonderful coziness on what was once again “the most comfortable bed she had ever touched” Kate was up sorting out Miller belongings from the Wills’ and eating oatmeal pancakes. Kate hated to leave so quickly. It would have been perfect to spend a day or two in Boston to help Kelsey pack up for their trip home to Oregon, and to wind up a wonderful vacation. But Mister was starting a conference the next day, so it was important to get back to Virginia. So she sorted and packed and ate and thought about the coming week, wondering what she was forgetting, and feeling a little like a hamster running in his little ball…downhill.
            But after another nine hours of driving, Kate felt a little calmer and ready to take the coming days one at a time. They pulled up in the favorite of their two parking spots, got out, and went inside. Everything was still and quiet. Kate smelled the same familiar house scent that she had smelled when they first stepped into the place nearly two years before. She sighed. After two weeks of visiting and driving all over creation, home felt good. Mister set his keys and water bottle down on the small table by the door and put his arms around his wife’s shoulders. He held her close, then gave her a kiss and said with a smile, “It’s good to be home with you.”
            Since it was still early in the evening, Kate started to unpack their bag. She pulled out business cards or gifts they had been given back at Hillsdale, and Kate shook her head. It seemed so long ago that they had been there!
            “Can you believe all that’s happened since we left?”
            “Hmm?” Mister murmured, preoccupied with a mountain of mail.
            “So much has happened!” she repeated. “All the people we’ve seen, the places we’ve gone to, the number of states we’ve driven through!”
            Mister looked up and thought for a moment. “It’s been a very full trip. And very fun. But it’s nice to be home too. And now I have to get ready for this conference tomorrow.”
            Kate grimaced. “When does it start? Do you have a schedule?”
            Mister rummaged around. “This was in the mail,” he opened a pamphlet. “Oh wow. It looks busy. Except for tomorrow, it looks like it will probably be around 8AM to 9PM…ish.”
            Kate nodded, she wasn’t happy about it, but she understood. Their wonderful vacation was over for now. The hamster ball was rolling, the momentum was rising, and pretty soon she’d have to start running again.