2016: Perspective

IMG_7373I am sitting at the breakfast table across from my son.  He is 14 1/2, and has a set of glowing blue headphones on his ears.  We both have laptops in front of us.  He asked what I was looking at.  I told him my blog, then said, “I haven’t written anything in 7 months.”  At which point he applauded.  I asked why he was applauding that, and he said, “Well, at least you aren’t blogging every day like you used to.  You used to spend HOURS on the computer.”

Ah. . .how things have changed.  Now HE spends hours on the computer, and I was just pondering trying to write a post each day to get back into the swing of things.  I am not even really reading blogs anymore, but I need to.  It offers a different perspective on life–what people ponder and reveal and think.

So, on this first day of 2016, I will say that writing is a priority this year.  So is drinking plenty of water, getting good rest, continuing to take care of my body and spirit as well as the bodies and spirits of my little family.

This year is a biggie–Victoria will graduate in June and be off to college in August.  That is not a change I look forward to for me, but it is an adventure I look forward to for her. Thad begins high school in August–without his sister here to guide him and encourage him and make him laugh when we can’t.

Last school year, our principal (young guy) chose one word for 2015.  His word was “finish.” He was working on his doctorate, in the middle of his first year of being a principal, etc.  So, FINISH.  That was a good word.

I have thought about one word for 2016.  There were a couple in the running:  Endure, Faithfulness. . but sitting here just now with me bemoaning my lack of writing and Thad applauding it, I think I have chosen my One Word for 2016.  Perspective.  Much like a just right Christmas gift, or a new pair of shoes, I knew it when I saw it. It fit. It was right.

Perspective.  Perspective on the past and on the future.  Perspective on how my children, my husband and I all view a situation, an event, a memory.  Perspective on them growing up and us growing older.  Perspective on where I live and what I do and how I do it.  Perspective on the students I teach and how we interpret the same information differently.  Perspective on how long it’s taken me to develop or break habits. Perspective on events and choices and decisions.

There is a song by Garth Brooks that most people don’t know.  It was from his ill-fated, short-lived adventure as Chris Gaines.  The song is “That’s the Way I Remember It.”  It’s a song about perspective.

It’s only natural with time
Details can somehow slip your mind
Something so sweet, though incomplete
You fill the spaces in between

It never will be that way again
Maybe it wasn’t, way back when
To my heart and soul
This is the way the story has to be told

That’s the way, I remember it, I remember it that way
From the day, I was living it, I remember it that way

Some of our stories fade as we grow older
Some get sweeter every time they’re told
That’s the way, I’ll remember it that way.

2016:  Perspective

 

 

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The Same

Romans 8:11 “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

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Long time ago when Thad was barely 3, and I first went back to work, I drove Tony’s truck.  It was a five-speed, on the floor, Ford F150.  I also drove it when I was pregnant with Victoria which was interesting enough. . .but by the time it was “my” vehicle again, both the babies were born and riding to school with their Daddy every day.

Each morning, I would get up, get dressed–get the kids downstairs and fed and hugged and hugged some more, then I would leave for work dressed in  my cute, home-sewn skirt and some pastel top–teacher flats–hair coiffed, makeup applied, perfumed. . .and off I’d go.

More than once at a particular traffic light at FM1960 and Jones Rd., I would have to stop and wait several minutes to turn left to head to my campus.  During those times, I got more than one strange look.

Everyone from teenagers to truck drivers would look over at this beat up, faded, rusty, beleaguered pick-up (like people do who sit at four minute traffic lights), yet inside sat a  relatively young AND relatively plump lady dressed nicely for work–NOT the doo-rag/baseball cap wearing, scruffy, flannel-shirted geezer they expected to see.  (Nothing against doo-rags, caps, flannel, OR geezers).  Their faces registered sleepiness or boredom, then shock, then either surprise or humor–and quite often I received a wave or a thumbs up with their chuckles–a head shake as if to say, “Well, if that don’t beat all!” A curly-haired, 30-something lady was not the status-quo for a vehicle of such. . .character.

And that is how we are isn’t it?    To the outside world, at a glance, we are beleaguered.  Worn out.  Scarred.  Dusty.  Rusty.  Bent.  “Hard-pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. . .” (II Cor. 4:8&9) There is an expectation of how we will behave–respond–react.  Many days we, ourselves,  feel each dent and scratch.  We stutter and stop when the clutch is released rather than move along.

Yet a closer look–a time to stop and ponder–one more turn of the key with a firm foot to the gas shows those nearby and reminds us that we are NOT crushed or in despair or abandoned or destroyed.   “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made HIS light shine in our HEARTS to give us the LIGHT of the knowledge of the GLORY of God in the FACE of Christ.” (II Cor. 4:6) The LIGHT of the knowledge of the GLORY of God in the FACE of Christ is to shine from OUR  faces–from our smiles–from our eyes–from our souls–clean, shiny, dressed up, and smellin’ good!

“Therefore, we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (II Cor. 4:16)

Rusty, dusty, bent? Yes.  But on the inside–renewed, clean, whole, sanctified, and purring like a kitten!

 

Chopped Poetry: The results

This is an actual letter that I sent to three administrators and the P.A.S.S. teacher (a different take on adaptive behavior programs–kids who have very specific acting out tendencies) regarding one of the most surprising results from Chopped Poetry.  This came from an 8th grade student that I teach.

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I did an experimental lesson in my room last week over poetry.  It actually went pretty well, but I had to share this one with you.  The kids picked an envelope with “ingredients.”.  This student chose free verse.  In the envelope were the following items that HAD to be in their poem:

Type: Free Verse
Topic: Music
Figurative Language:  repetition, personification
As it runs through the wild
listen to him
 
The shriek of his roar,
his footsteps like thunder against the
ground.
 
When he runs
The wind whips by him with a cry.
 
This is Heavy Metal.
This is freedom.
by Zach Simpson (name changed)
 
Once I had completed the explanation and directions for the students, I went to wake  Zach up to tell him the directions.  When I shook his shoulder and said, “Zach?”  He didn’t even raise his head–he just whipped this paper out from under his face and held it aloft.  I let him finish his nap.
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Zach’s “target behaviors” that he must avoid to participate in Friday Funday are being verbally and physically aggressive toward teachers and students as well as leaving the instructional area or school building without permission.  I have seen none of those behaviors, but I do spend the better part of most days silently determining when to let him sleep and when it’s time to wake up and do work.  Some days this job is more rewarding than others.   Not only did Zach get a nap this day, he also got a 100.

A Word on Words

Back in March, I sent the following e-mail to Stephanie.

“I am trying out some new fonts for the luncheon invite, so I typed up my typical alphabet line

Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz

And totally realized how teeny, tiny are the building blocks of language.  Seriously.  It looks even smaller on a full sheet of paper.  Seriously.  How do we communicate with that?

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

That’s not much to work with.  No wonder communication is so precarious.”

This lightning bolt of revelation and awestruck surprise was much like the day Tony and I were driving out to our building site (otherwise known as our house now).  I was holding a smallish digital camera in my hand and was suddenly overwhelmed with the thought that the images I took with that camera were immediately visible to me.  I could save it or delete it, and did I have the means and equipment at my immediate disposal, could go and get a copy of that VERY IMAGE at that exact moment to travel down the road with us in real, actual form rather than digitally alone.  I said something of that sort to my husband–gushing as I normally do when things like that occur to me–

“Can you believe that I can take a photo of our children RIGHT NOW and then HERE IT IS—in my hands.  It’s just information on a tiny little card the size of a nickel, but it JUST happened, and now I can see it.  They are THERE in the back seat, and they are HERE in this little camera.  It blows my mind!!!  Isn’t that AMAZING????”

“No.”

“NO?????????????????  You don’t find that AMAZING???  HOW can you NOT find that amazing?”

“I watch Star Trek.”

Thus is the mystery that is communication.

I haven’t communicated on this blog much this past calendar year.  It has been a busy year.  In fact, I can say in all honesty that I has been chock full ‘o activity and exhaustion on various levels until JUST the last week or so.  Our summer has been a busy one–and that is good in and of itself with memory making and travel and summer time activities.  But LIFE has been busy for quite awhile now, and it is good to have it slow down.

Tony and Thad are in the gameroom playing Mario Cart.  Victoria is in San Antonio with her Girl Scout troop.  I have a moment to think–to read–to write–to communicate.  What a pleasant thing.

I want to write more.  And so, I am.

 

 

Truths: Inconvenient and Unvarnished

“The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment – to put things down without deliberation – without worrying about their style – without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote – wrote, wrote…By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.” ― Walt Whitman

I am not here to tell any inconvenient or unvarnished truths, but this thought has been coming up over and over the past few days.  Truth–truth of the moment, in one’s life story–is not always how we proceed.

I recently watched a documentary called “The Flat.”  It’s the autobiographical story of how a modern Jewish man, Arnon Goldfinger, in Israel begins to incidentally uncover his family history after the death of his 98 year old grandmother.  She was his maternal grandmother, and she and her husband and children, including Arnon’s mother, immigrated to Israel from Berlin at the outbreak of World War II.  As a mystery unfolds, he asks his mother, Hannah, questions.  Not only does Hannah not know the answers, but she doesn’t really care to learn them.  “Why?” she asks more than once.  This not asking why even extends to the fact that she doesn’t know what happened to her maternal grandmother, Susanna. When Arnon finds out what did, in fact, happen to Susanna, Hannah doesn’t believe him at first.

Later in the documentary he visits his grandmother’s last living friend in Israel, Gertrude.  She was also a German immigrant to Israel.  When he questions her about Nazi Germany she says that she and his grandmother “never discussed such things.”  Gertrude tells him that his grandmother, Gerda, never quite found a home in Israel and his grandfather, Kurt, certainly never did.  Gertrude, however, says that she was lucky to find such a home in Israel.  She could not forgive what had happened in Germany and was not “German in her soul.”  Gertrude says, “Why do only 3rd generation Germans ask questions?  The 2nd generation didn’t ask questions.”  Then she pauses and smiles at him as though he is very, very young (and to her 95+ years his 40+ years is very, very young) and says, ” You don’t understand, and I’m glad you don’t understand.”

The pain that the first generation endured was taboo to the second generation.  It is insinuated in the movie that Hannah was never directly TOLD not to ask, but somehow from a young age she got the message that you just don’t ask questions.  At all.  Ever.  Then, here comes Arnon who had never asked questions himself, until he begins to help clean out his grandmother’s flat and is faced with the evidence of a mystery.  He, of all of his siblings, is the only one interested in the why.

Here are two comments from others who watched it.

“This movie upset me, amazed me, and left me silently musing on just how complicated is the human heart. Our capacity for denial, for self-delusion, for both coldness and compassion truly make us a different kind of animal from any other. . .”

“This is so terribly disturbing… It’s not explicable by any terms. These were not bad people in any ways, they knew they had to go and they went yet they kept their friendship with the same couple they must have known somehow were part of the machine that killed so many and even their own. There are no words for this. The only question I have is why tell the world about this quite shameful state of past history of the family that could hurt for generations to come. It seems to me that this is the kind of thing one HIDES?” 

I agree with both of the comments.  The information that is uncovered is one that will only cause pain to those living who didn’t want to know in the first place, but it gives understanding and greater appreciation to those who didn’t live it in that first and second generation.  There are parts of the time I question why these things weren’t discussed, but then there is a section in the movie where Arnon is giving information to someone and want to stop him–I know that the information will only cause her pain and heartache that cannot be resolved in any way.

I know someone whose aunt has struggled with mental illness all of her adult life, and recently a distant family member asked to know the story.  As a child, this distant relation had been told that the aunt had “a lost love and just never recovered.”  While that is very true, it is the most passing version of truth.

So I have pondered on this as we all, eventually, want to be known by those who love us.  But the truth we share is not always whole.  Sometimes, I believe, it is because the whole, unvarnished truth is so painful that some people can’t handle it.  Other times I think it is because those who are involved face it head on, but then they must let it go.  Knowing the truth, accepting the truth, and then putting it to rest so one can get on with the business of living life seems to be how most humans deal with painful truths.

A little heavy for a Saturday night, but this documentary has made me think and wonder about my own story–the story of my life.  How much do I REALLY want others to know.  Am I brave enough to write the whole, unvarnished truth and set it aside for future generations–not just about myself, but about my family and friends?  Will it heal or hurt?  Will it inspire or overwhelm?  I think some of us are Arnons and some of us are Hannahs.

 

 

Forget being planted. Just. Bloom.

I’ve had a blog post rattling around in my brain for awhile, but I’ve been waiting for a time to get it all written just right with the exact pictures I want for it, and now–this second– I say enough!  I’m slingin’ it out there and will straighten it up later.

Three springs ago I bought some flowers for the librarian at my old school who was retiring.

May, 2011 Vinca the First along with other lovely flowers for Margaret upon her retirement still in their flimsy flats with rich, black soil.

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I guess I bought a couple of hot pink vinca for myself as well, but they broiled to death that summer. Or so I thought.

I just went out on the porch to take this photo.  It’s after 10 p.m., so I held a flashlight in my teeth and took  this abysmal shot with my iPad mini on which I am now typing with one finger.  (Twenty minutes later I have determined that until I get a keyboard to use with my iPad mini, I will not be using it to blog, no matter my level of determination. . .therefore I can now use actual photos of the vinca for real, but I give you this as a nod to my willingness to throw caution and good photography skills to the wind.)

Photo horriblus of the Vinca Volunteer.  Those are some whacked out colors there.

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You know that saying, “Bloom where you’re planted?”  That is what I’ve been thinking about for a very long time.  In fact, I think of it every time I step around this prodigious plant, ’cause this huge, blooming, survivor of a vinca was most certainly NOT planted.  It is what you call a volunteer.  Although why it would volunteer to plunk its roots down LITERALLY between a rock and a hard place , (aka: a brick walkway and a concrete slab)  is beyond me.  I assume the choices were put down some roots and get yourself a drink or die.  Obviously,  much like lantana and plumbago and some other hearty plants, this vinca is one that even I can’t kill.  But seriously, it didn’t HAVE to live.

I’m not even sure how it survived.  It volunteered itself the summer of the huge wildfire(s).  And SURVIVED a very, very long time with no one giving it water on purpose.  It IS growing right under the eve of our (gutterless) roof, therefore it gets watered a lot when it rains (which it didn’t from like March until the middle of September that first year).  It also  gets the ever loving daylights beaten out of it by the torrents pouring off the (gutterless) roof when it DOES rain.  The first time we got a for really, truly storm I nearly cried at it all pummeled and flattened to death.  Bye, bye, Sweet Vinca.

But the next morning, it had straightened itself up quite nicely and was putting out more blooms.  By the next day it was in a growth spurt and practically strutting–at least in essence.

This being my point.

Sometimes we aren’t planted. 

Sometimes we are tossed into the compost pile like some watermelon seeds I threw out at my old house.   Sometimes we are left in a pot awaiting transport or determination of where we are supposed to go permanently like some azaleas Tony hasn’t put into the ground yet.  Sometimes we are put somewhere that isn’t supposed to be our final spot, but negligence and forgetfulness  (and life) happen and before you know it, it’s either make it work or die.  Sometimes we end up being in an unlikely or  uncomfortable place where we really weren’t planning to be.  It may not even be where we are “supposed” to be.  The thing is–the watermelon seeds grew more watermelons, and we ate one that October which is NOT watermelon season.  Even in the south.  The azaleas are sitting in the pots in which they rode to our house March of 2012, but this spring when the ones in the ground bloomed, the homeless ones did too. The vinca  despite all odds survived rather than  burning slap up and is now a gorgeously, flowering plant that neither my order-loving husband nor I want to rip out of its unlikely home.

Why is there a Volunteer Vinca growing out of a quarter inch gap between our brick walkway and our concrete slab?  I really couldn’t tell you.   I can’t miss it–that’s for sure.  It’s large, covered in hot pink flowers, and is in. the. way.  But it makes me think.  And it makes me smile.

We can grow or we can die.  Those are the only options.  Merely existing is just a living death. And if there is enough life left for us to grow–even if we weren’t planted?  Well. . .we can still bloom.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”  Matthew 6:28 & 29

Volunteer Vinca:  A Photo Journey

You can see the Vinca Volunteer under Thad’s arm.  Obviously October of 2011.  Two little sproutlets that somehow grew despite horrible draught, burning heat, and downright neglect.  We were too lazy to even pull up the first shoots we saw.Vinca Blog

June, 2012.  Just a little over a year ago, we were astounded at how it had survived and grown.  At least I was.  You can still see it there between the rock and the hard place.Vinca Blog Summer, 2012 002

September, 2012 was when it really started showing off what with the rain and cooler temperatures.  This was when the thought began forming in my mind.Vinca Blog September 2012 014

And, tonight.  July21, 2013.  It’s a little beaten up due to a storm we had earlier today, but it’s already bouncing back.  We had some hard freezes over the winter so that at one point it was just brown sticks, yet here it is–about three feet across and the tallest stems about 12-16 inches high.  Amazing.Vinca Blog July, 2013 058

 

And beating a dead horse. . .this morning, July 22, 2013, in the light.

 

 

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It looks to me like the collective is giving this little offshoot a pep talk.Vinca Blog July 22, 2013 002

Big Sisters, Little Brothers

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Me in my “dog ears/pig tails” with Hal in front of the gardenia bush.

I have a brother. His name is Hal. He is exactly 12 months and four days younger than me. We shared a room until I was ten years old. We also shared birthday cakes. Chocolate with chocolate icing. Momma would make one big sheet cake, and decorate half for Hal and half for me. (There was nothing better than licking chocolate icing off the back of those hard, royal icing decorations. . .the kind in the cellophane pack that you have to peel off the cardboard? You’d meticulously lick the icing, then go to town crunching on all the little letters and numbers.) I spent a large majority of our childhood bossing him around. I was, after all, older than him–and born with an innate bent toward bossiness.  Really, for all accounts and purposes, we were twins separated by a year.  There were times we were sworn enemies and times we were fast friends, but we ALWAYS had each others’ backs when push came to shove–and still do.

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Easter, 1986 or 1987. Momma made my pretty dress, and Hal was sporting the skinny tie.

Obviously, Victoria has a younger brother. They are very nearly three years apart. Thad arrived just six weeks before Victoria turned three years old. The first words out of her mouth upon seeing him were, “He’s so cccccuuuuuttttteeee!!!!!! Can we keep him?” Yes, baby. We can keep him. And thankfully we had her to help us raise him. I’ve talked before about how she can get him to do pretty much anything. She is especially gifted at making him laugh so hard I fear for his safety. They are, at times, like an old married couple. And since they are young and in the middle of it and still get on each others’ nerves, they don’t know it yet, but they are best friends.

Victoria making her brother laugh.

Victoria making her brother laugh.

I also grew up in a smallish town. I went to church with a group of kids. There were some a little older and some a little younger, and a nice bunch of us that were the same age. I cannot say that our relationships were always rosy or pleasant, but there we were all together in the nursery and cradle roll and Sunday school and VBS and on the youth pew until I left for college. Our parents had grown up together–and in some instances, even our grandparents had grown up together, or at the very least been newlyweds together.

Anyway, one of this group was a girl named Missie. Missie had a younger brother named Max. At the time he seemed SO MUCH younger than us. . .and he was. About four years worth of younger, which is an eternity as children. I would go to Missie’s house sometimes to spend the night–or on a Sunday afternoon between morning service and evening service. I remember Max as a bundle of energy–a live wire–a bouncing ball of jumping and running and noise. He grew into a tall, strapping, buck of a man, married with a son of his own. Max and his 13 year old son and my brother shot guns together–pistol matches–accuracy.

I haven’t seen Missie since my kids were very small, but I have seen Max. He is what you would describe as a Good Guy. As in, “You know, that Max is a Good Guy–just a good, Good Guy.” He led singing at church and spent a lot of time with his family, and on Thursday afternoon, the plane he was in fell out of the sky just four miles short of its destination. He and the pilot and two other men who were on the plane with him all perished.  They were coming home from a business trip.

Someone wrote on a condolence page, “Max, the world cannot afford to lose men like you.” And that is the truth. At Christmas when I was home, I was walking around doing my normal “hug as many as you can before church, and get the rest after” routine. On my “after” run, midway back, near where his mom and grandparents still sit (which is where my Granny and PawPaw used to sit), I ran into Max. We spent maybe twenty seconds just acknowledging each other–glad to see the others’ face. I had to reach up to “hug his neck.” He was as solid and strong and real a human being as anyone could find. And now he is gone from this earth and is in heaven. But I don’t want him to be in heaven. I want him to be here. He is a 40 year old man with a wife and son and family who need him. It is very, very sad. It is tragic beyond measure and our hearts are broken for the people he left behind.

I told my sister yesterday (during one of our three phone calls) that I feel useless all the way over here in Texas. She said, “Well, at least you have the excuse of being 7 hours away. We all feel useless too, and we’re right here in the same town.” At least they get to take over cake and paper goods and let his loved ones see their faces. My sister understood my frustration, and call today to give me Missie’s number. I called Missie this afternoon. We talked for just a few minutes as they had gotten a call to come to a meeting for the victims’ families. I told her it was good to hear her voice. I told her how sorry I was. I told her that there were no words.

But there are words. They are few and simple and the only ones that have any power. “God, please help them.”

On the night of Max’s death, his wife told my sister, “Please, tell everyone to pray for us and don’t stop praying.” I have not stopped. I fell asleep Thursday night praying. I dreamed all night long about the family. I woke up yesterday morning already praying. I pray now as I type and hear my son laughing hysterically over something funny his sister just said to him. I know most of you who read this are my friends. And I ask you to please pray for Max’s family–especially his wife and son. Then go call your own brother or sister–and tell them a few, simple words too.

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Hal and Me, July, 2010

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Holding the deer’s ear in Grandaddy’s “Hustler.”

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Hal 4, Me 5

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Hal 5, Me 6

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Hal 6, Me 7

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Puppies in the house–one dressed up with a Dixie Cup on its head. The back of the photo said “Tom Boy” and “Angie.” Names we’d given them.

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I am sporting a Wonder Woman nightgown and am opening my “Bionic Woman” doll.

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I think this was the trip where Momma barely slept for fear that Hal was going to roll out the back of the camper.

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Show off Daddy’s big bass.

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More bass–and a pretty good crop of corn in the garden.

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This is included, because it’s the best soft serve anywhere, and also because my brother pulled over and took the photo for me when I didn’t have my camera. He also bought my ice cream–and Diet Coke. He’s a Good Guy too.