Thursday, October 31, 2013

Yellow and Green

Wednesday, we painted. The small but nevertheless difficult to paint section of the Kitchen wall was bright yellow; now it's moss green. It wasn't a whole lot to paint, but most of it was up high and around corners.

Painting attire- always stunning. You can't really tell, but I'm standing on the counter.

The H's wanted to see me give my testimony in front of a group, something I've not done before(Someone back home laughed and told me "It's an arminian thing."). So I went to Wednesday night Chapel(which is on base) with Mr. H and the Grandpas and gave my testimony in front of forty blank-faced Army trainees. Don't worry, the Chaplain told me, they're a really responsive group. If that was a responsive group I'd hate to have been in front of a non-responsive group. I was way more nervous than I should have been, but it was a good learning experience.

The leaves are finally starting to turn here, and I have just one week left!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sunday: The Navy Retreat

On Sunday we had the Navy over. They didn't arrive until 2pm, so everyone was able to attend church. There must have been close to thirty people, guys and girls plus two Chaplains and an assistant. These were all Navy Reserves again: they come here for three weeks to get pre-deployment training. Most of them seemed to be supply or logistics, and several that I talked to had volunteered for deployment(is it just me, or is that crazy?). They were all college aged or older, and it seems most of them had been overseas before.

 This was a very full paddle boat. The little Asian guy in the back was afraid the boat was going to sink; I would have been too.

We served a snack, they had a devotional, and then came free time with fishing, napping, horseshoes, and boating. The weather was perfect. I ended up in a discussion with a career Filipino-American Navy woman. She tried all afternoon to convince me that I should join the Navy(so not happening). Then I rounded up a bunch of reluctant guys to play a drawing game around the table. Playing that game with a bunch of tattooed Navy guys was a first, but it went well.

We served dinner: White chicken chili and cornbread with peach crisp and ice cream for dessert. I sat next to an India-Indian-American from New York and a Haitian-American from some other big city. I had made the cornbread for dinner, and the guys at dinner tried to persuade me to open a bakery. I must look like I'm easily swayed, or something.They all headed out at 8pm, just before "Once Upon a Time."

Navy photo credits go to Grandma J.

The Grandpas and Mr. H chewing the fat after a long Monday.

Monday, we were tired. And there was a lizard in my bedroom . And I was just really tired. The Grandmas cleaned obsessively, and at the end of the day we said goodbye to the Mobleys as they packed up to move on down south.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Saturday: The Army Retreat

Saturday was the Army Men's Retreat at Victory Ranch.

Most of the guys were practically babies, but some of them still had pretty intense stories. Since this was a guys retreat, the three college guy volunteers, three grandparent guy volunteers, and Mr. H led the devotional groups and spent time getting to know the guys on a deeper level.

The icebreaker game. It was mildly violent.

I was officially "boss" of the kitchen crew on Saturday while Mrs. H was gone. The kitchen crew consisted of three grandmas with catering experience and a college student. I couldn't have done it without them! Since you're yearning to know what we served, I'll tell you: Cinnamon rolls for coffee break; chili dogs for lunch with fruit, squash, beans, and layered pudding for dessert; spaghetti and garlic bread with peanut butter cookies for dinner. We still have almost three twelve pound pans of spaghetti left. And lots of pudding too, but I don't think anyone is complaining about that.

I am so enjoying having three sets of grandparents here. It's really fun! They're so grandparenty, and not in the way that Grandma D is at home, either. And they have great testimonies.

First time I'd ever heard the phrase "married to Jesus" actually spoken(my room-mate for Friday night). First time I'd talked to a Christian counseling student who was actually not talkative(nice guy, but don't worry Mom and Dad, not that kind of nice). First time I walked on the nature trail here. First time I've seen up-close how unflattering Army issued PT clothes are. You thought the Army-issued glasses were bad? Check out the Poly-nylon exercise shorts.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Two Weeks Left

As soon as the H's returned all was activity again. My last two weeks look to be busy, and that's good. We currently have three retired couples staying as volunteers; we have the Army coming on Saturday and the Navy coming on Sunday, and Mrs. H is going to be away at a ladies' retreat.

I spent a quiet hour at Kensington Mansion in between baking projects yesterday. It's been a hard year, and since I have had some quiet times here someone encouraged me to spend it thinking and praying, though now that I'm entering into my last two weeks here I have fewer chances to get that time away. I'm so grateful that the Hs are such flexible, easygoing hosts!

Currently reading:
"When Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal, he first had the wood and sacrifice drenched with water and the trench around the alter filled to the brim. Then he prayed and brought fire from heaven to lick it up. In like manner, God may allow a flood of afflictions to pour upon His children; He then kindles that inward joy in their bosoms to consume all their sorrows. The very waters of affliction add a further sweetness to their spiritual joy."
-The Christian in Complete Armour, by William Gurnall. It's been two years since I picked this book up, and after reading it off and on I think I'm finally going to finish it this time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dracula and Drayton

Tuesday was my last day with Dracula. I didn't want a super long day out after spending all Monday in Augusta(I had to get up at 6am on Monday!) so I planned a relaxed day at Drayton Hall, though it was a still almost a two hour drive there. 

I had to stop for food(Oreos and chocolate milk) so now I can say I've been to a Piggly Wiggly. How can people take that place seriously? "Do you have a Pig card, Ma'am? It comes with Pig savings!"

As soon as I pulled up to the gate, the lady said, "I'm going to charge you the youth price, because you can get away with it." Three cheers for park attendant flexibility: My face saved me ten dollars! My second impression of the park service was seeing the sign saying "Do not feed the alligators."

Drayton Hall: You're driving down the driveway and then, BAM, you come over the hill, and see this, surrounded by small pools and huge old trees covered in Spanish moss, and backed by the slow-moving Ashley River.

"They descended the hill, crossed the bridge, and drove to the door; and, while examining the nearer aspect of the house, all her apprehensions of meeting its owner returned. She dreaded lest the chambermaid had been mistaken. On applying to see the place, they were admitted into the hall; and Elizabeth, as they waited for the housekeeper, had leisure to wonder at her being where she was." P&P, Ch. 43 

Drayton has been owned by the Historic Preservation Society for some years. The house is amazing in that it served as a headquarters for both British and American sides during the War for Independence, and also survived the Civil War. The house has been little changed since the Regency era, and even some of the original paint from the mid-eighteenth century is visible.

The weather was very gray and drizzly, so my poor old camera had a difficult time capturing good pictures. After the house tour I walked the path around the house and admired. There were several trees on the lawn that were just huge, and there really was Spanish moss everywhere, and there were benches down by the river for calm thinking. There were also palm trees. Apparently, and Nebraskans don't know these things, there are Palm trees, and there are Palmetto trees. Palm trees are tall and skinny, Palmetto trees are short and fat.

The river- once a road of commerce. Now an avenue for alligators? I kind of wanted to see an alligator; but not up close.

It was really interesting to see how this house is not being restored with modern take on history, but saved as carefully as possible to last as long as possible. The rooms are unfurnished, and there is no electricity.

I really enjoyed seeing this historical house. The grounds were beautiful; I can't imagine how amazing they must have looked in 1740. At that time there was a flower garden, all the way from the back entrance down to the river. I do think it's interesting how such a large house like this still has, by a modern standard, so few rooms. Each floor had one central room, and then two adjoining rooms on either side. Modern houses can be just as big, but somehow have twice as many rooms.
It started raining at the end. I delivered Dracula back to his owners and traveled home with Miss Shr. The H's arrive home tomorrow, and I think we'll all be glad to be busy and social again. I think the teen girls have gotten tired of me. I cramp their style, I guess.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Augusta in October

On Monday I met up with my old Friend H who now lives in Georgia. We met halfway and spent the day entertaining ourselves together in Augusta, GA/SC.

Remember Friend H? She's an old married woman now. We were remarking how all the places we've been in together have been have been rather unexpected: Russia, a dance in poor weather, and now Augusta.

This photo is for all those well-meaning people who say "Oh, maybe you'll meet someone(ie, a man) on your trip!" As if men grew on trees. Trust me, if they did, I'd have picked one by now. Anyway, one of our first stops was the Living History Park near downtown. It was not what I expected, but it was adorable. It actually was a children's park, a small well-kept public acre with miniature colonial reproduction building sprinkled throughout, and a playground nearby.

Being Monday, all the buildings were closed and everything was locked, including the stocks.

The delightful little church on the adorable little green by the darling little creek.

Friend H could not pass by the opportunity to have her picture taken as a bearded colonial-era man.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around and ended up at this, shall we say, unique local place.
Thanks, Friend H, for a fun day!

Sunday's Meanderings

Sunday I visited Rose Hill Presbyterian Church in Columbia.

Rose Hill PCA

The weather on Sunday was just the definition of perfect. Sunny but cool enough to wear a sweater. Sunday school was at 9:30 and church at 10:30. Most of the congregants were (ahem)elderly, and the building smelled decidedly musty. But everyone was very kind and welcoming. After church I skipped out and headed a few miles away back to Columbia Evangelical, where the church was hosting a missionary luncheon.  I sat across from a missionary couple who had worked many years at a fistula clinic in Niger.

After lunch I went out in search of the ever-elusive family gifts. Every time I travel I have the hardest time finding gifts for all my family!

It was, as I mentioned a really beautiful day.

Brattonsville on Saturday

 After my final harrowing efforts to get a car(you don't even want to know), GPS took me through a winding series of roads to spend the afternoon at Brattonsville, SC. Brattonsville is a series of surviving and reproduction historical buildings, mostly farm buildings, but also at least three family houses(not counting the slave quarters). All in all a good picture of family living in community.

For a $6 admittance fee, one gets a self-guided walking tour around the grounds. Saturday I saw around five volunteers working about the place to get ready for a halloween ghost tour that night. Because of the evening tour, the big house was decorated for a funeral. Besides the five volunteers there were also two nonchalant sheep and two very hairy pigs. And a great many spiders.

This is the porch: the porch where Martha Bratton stood and defied the British soldier who demanded to know her patriot husband's position. This story is what peaked my interest in Brattonsville years ago.

The cellar pantry, underneath the assembly room/DANCE FLOOR!

The Brattons, being Scots-Irish Presbyterians, did pretty well in America and kept upgrading their houses.

 Crooked fence and cotton field. If I had my way my brothers would fence our yard like this, but they seem to protest the labor involved.

Outbuildings. To summarize, South Carolina has in brick buildings what Nebraska has in corn: there seems to be lots of them.

On the lawn there was a big magnolia tree with one open blossom.

After wandering quietly around Brattonsville, I left, worn out, and made my way via errant GPS home. Never trust the GPS! When I got home that evening the girls had already left for ballet and babysitting, and locked all the doors behind them. I was so tired and disgusted with myself for being locked out, that I determined to climb through a window. It worked fine, and it wasn't until two days later that I found I still had the extra door key in my bag the whole time.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Frustrating Friday

We started off with a very calm week. There wasn't a whole lot of retreat work to be done since the Hs were focused on their upcoming trip. Mr.-Mrs. and BoyH left for a family reunion on Wednesday. While the girls were at youth group I thought about posting on facebook "I'm alone- talk to me" but paranoia sets in real fast when you're alone in the middle of nowhere so I refrained. Just so you know, I'm not alone anymore. And I have a knife.

A Presbyterian Cemetery shot, from my trip on Saturday. After which the GPS sent me in circles for a good long while. DON'T TRUST THE GPS!

On Tuesday we had surprise volunteers arrive from Alabama, Dale and Pat Mobley(Mr. H wanted to call the the Mowglis). For the first two days I wasn't sure which was Dale and which was Pat, but I got it figured out. The Mobleys are good workers and it's nice to have them here. Having Grandparentish people around helps me feel less old.

Meet Dracula, my rental car for the weekend. He sucks money out of people for a living.

Friday I was supposed to pick up the rental car I had reserved for the weekend. Everything went fine... until I got to the rental agency. I should have known, but they wouldn't allow me to rent the car without a credit card in my name. The whole venture was so frustrating to me, and a strong reminder that I am not in control. I am now in favor of the old alternative, hostages. It would have been so much easier to give a hostage than deal with our credit-dependent world. I ended up getting a car on Saturday from a different agency and paying quite a bit more than I anticipated.

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Self-control: the governing of one's desires; the ability to avoid excesses, to stay within reasonable bounds." "Self control is the exercise of inner strength under the direction of sound judgement that enables us to do, think, and say the things that are pleasing to God."

Sunday morning through a long train of events, some of them dramatic, I got to use the car again. I drove out to Columbia Evangelical Church, partly to meet Andrea, another Cadence missionary who is currently raising support for a two-year trip to Japan. And also partly because CEC is a Reformed church that the H's spoke well of(Reformed Churches for the win!). CEC is smaller than my church back home, and is situated next to several USC buildings. The church itself is made of a traditional sanctuary and then a Victorian-era house around the back that was converted to classrooms. I enjoyed the service and even more so the Sunday School. It didn't hurt any that our class was in one of the old bedrooms in the cool old house, with a really neat fireplace. Our Sunday school teacher spoke on Biblical Self-control, and I brought away two pages of great quotes and verses.

"Self control involves a much wider range of watchfulness than merely control of our bodily appetites and desires. We must also exercise self control of thoughts, emotions, and speech."

"The person without self control is easy prey to the invader: he yields himself to the first assault of his ungoverned passions, offering no resistance. Having no disciplines over himself, temptation becomes the occasion of sin, and hurries him on to fearful lengths that he has not contemplated."

Today's boring photo: Whether I travel across the ocean or just across the country, my dresser-top essentials stay the same.

By the time I got home Sunday, we were all pretty worn out from the weekend. Monday was only interesting in that Boy and Girl H were stressing over PSAT prep, the hot water heater broke, and the electricity went out. We also had surprise guests, which is, I keep reminding myself, normal.

My Third Weekend on the Ranch

Friday night the car was miraculously free, and the H's graciously let me use it to attend an English Country Dance in West Columbia. Call me pompous, but attending other dance groups just makes me fondly think that ours back home is the best! Legacy Dance group is older than ours but smaller. And there were a lot of girls vs. boys that particular night.

That's me in the picture. I'm still alive, I had no other pictures to post, and I absolutely cannot smile in self-photos.

So many people, mostly girls, came and went from the Ranch over the weekend that it would take a whole post just to list their names and connections to the Ranch. Suffice it to say, lots of females came and went. I even had a roommate for the weekend, and other than the time she talked in her sleep, that went well. Besides the girl crowd we had sixteen ladies from Ft. Jackson for the retreat on Saturday. They arrived before 10am and left at 7pm. Mrs. H led devotionals, we served lunch and dinner, and everyone had a relaxing time. I'm afraid I didn't take a single picture.

The lake by cloudlight

Most of the recruits seem to be just out of high school, or struggling with college expenses. Most of the girls who came on Saturday were joining the National Guard and not going active duty. Some of the more intense discussions I listened in on were from a very charismatic pentecostal from the inner city who thought all true Christians must speak in tongues; another woman had been raised in more than five foster homes and then abandoned by her real mother when she was sixteen. These girls were both eighteen.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Monday was a slow day. Tuesday was a rainy day, and our main job was to roast twelve chickens and de-bone them, in preparation for the upcoming retreat on Saturday. I cooked spaghetti for dinner, which was nice, because when I get to cook dinner I can arrange to have everyone sit at a set table and eat together, instead of everyone going every which way. Girl H has a very intense ballet schedule that involves five evenings classes a week, so dinners here tend to be a casual affair; I'm not used to that. I also had down-time to read a few chapters in my library book: "The Vikings" by Robert Ferguson. Vikings are so bloodthirstingly interesting, and I think the Viking conversion story is really neat.

Twelve little chickens, jumping in a pot. One fell out and lost it's skin. Mrs. H made me cut off the top of her head(just in the picture) because she said her hair was too messy. "Skinning chickens for Jesus" was Mrs. H's motivational mantra, since it's not her favorite thing to do.

Wednesday we spent a few hours at the SC State Fair. I'm not really a Fair person, but the weather was great. The girls went just for the food, and there really was a lot of food. They're planning to go back another day just for rides, which I will forgo. But there were at least thirty different food stands selling various types of deep-fat fried overpriced "food." They said the doughnut burger was good. I'm not sure I believe them.

Thursday was food bank and preparatory cooking for the female soldier's retreat on Saturday. Pictured above is the big kitchen on the ground floor. We made five Mexican layered casseroles and bean salad. Tomorrow we'll finish the desserts and housecleaning to be ready for whatever recruits end up coming.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ahhh, the Weekend

So on Sunday I was determined to attend church despite my red face, especially since I missed last week's service due to the flu(yes, my life is a constant train of calamity). A very sweet family offered me a ride, and so I visited Heritage Fellowship, a moderately small family-integrated church in Sumter, SC. The order of service seemed rather unplanned and the singing was rather weak, but I enjoyed the sermon. There was a baptism that morning too, so this Presbyterian got to see a dunking.

Victory Ranch, looking down at the lake from the front porch.

Sunday afternoon we had a group of thirty sailors at Victory Ranch. They were all Navy Reserves who had been called up for overseas deployment and were here in SC for training. It was a very diverse group- guys and girls from college-aged up to middle-aged, from several ethnic backgrounds and mostly from the north-west US. We served them a snack, they had a short devotional from the Chaplain, and then they had free time to relax until dinner. Some went swimming, others just sat on the deck or watched football. I thought it was funny how all of our electrical outlets were taken for charging cells phones and laptops, like a hotel. We served a hot dinner, and after another short devotional they were bussed back to the barracks. It was my first time to see the Ranch in action, beyond giving away food to those in need. It was encouraging and fulfilling to see how grateful the sailors were for a home setting and good meal. I keep beating myself over the head, though, about my weak conversation skills. Must work on that!

Closing up the blogpost with the back-yard view from the Heyward-Washington house in Charleston. I'm telling you, it's beautiful.


On Saturday we ladies visited Charleston. Mrs. H and I, and the other lady volunteer, who we'll call Miss ShR from this point on. Charleston is just under an easy two hour drive from our home spot.

"An easy distance do you call it? It is nearly fifty miles.''
"And what is fifty miles of good road? Little more than half a day's journey. Yes, I call it a very easy distance.''

We started out walking down the large indoor-outdoor market. Everything in the market was pretty pricey. What a contrast from the Russian market! American vendors can be so placid in comparison to those Russians. From there we walked down church street and saw all the old churches and burying grounds. Sad to say they were all locked.

The French Huguenot Church was pink. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Everywhere we looked there were gorgeous homes and mansions dating from the colonial period on. There was a great deal of Victorian wrought iron, and brick and cobblestone streets. We walked up and down the historical section, which goes right up to the waterfront. I could see why people would move off plantations to Charleston in the summer; it was warm but there was a stiff breeze off the water.

Mrs. H celebrating history at the Nathaniel Russell house. We enjoyed the garden, but didn't have time for the tour.

When I have my own house, it will need to have a floor like this.

We did pay for the tour at the Exchange building and Provost dungeon. There are placards of information over the first and second floors, and then a guided tour of the "dungeon". The first floor had two 18th century dresses and several waistcoats on display. The second floor was used as a combined meeting room/social hall. George Washington was entertained here during his tour in 1791, and there was most certainly dancing here, too. The dungeon was basically a basement, built on top of the 17th Century waterfront wall. The brick ceiling of the dungeon was made of roman arches. Patriots were held here during the British occupation of Charleston, and pirates were held here during Blackbeard's time.

The pineapple water fountain. My time in Charleston convinced me that I need to take home a pineapple-engraved souvenir. I just haven't found one within my budget yet.

We had lunch at a local seafood restaurant. I had crab legs for the first time, and if you must know I didn't like them. I'm going to stick to shrimp from now on.

Our last stop was the Heyward-Washington house. I took the tour while Mrs. H and Miss ShR sat out back in the lovely formal English garden. The picture above is from the back of the house, with the garden, outhouse/shed, kitchen/slave quarters, and finally the house. It was a short tour but a beautiful house, with some truly amazing custom woodwork furniture done by local craftsmen in the 18th century.

At the end of the day, footsore and warm, we stopped at the beach on Sullivan's Island and dipped our toes in the water. This was what Miss ShR had been waiting for all day, and it made my dragging her all over historic Charleston worth it, I think. My story has rather a more sad ending- apparently my poison ivy hadn't quite healed up, and being out in the 90F sunny day brought back my rash. I have a red face again.