Day 2 in which timing, location and miracles are everything

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Before you delete or close this window, please know that I’m aware there’s nothing more droll than reading about other people’s vacations. But this isn’t that kind of post. I promise. I just have to tell you what God did today (Wednesday, July 30, 2014).

Since we didn’t know for sure when or if we would be making this trip, we didn’t make any hotel reservations until we got on the road. We also didn’t know that this is the same week that motorcyclists all over the United States would converge to South Dakota’s badlands for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

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Hotel reservations that a person can reasonably afford, are difficult enough to acquire this time of year. Families visit Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone Park every summer, and getting affordable rooms for five people isn’t easy. But couple that with the Sturgis event, and it’s nearly impossible.

But Praise God, we did find some rooms that allowed a roll-away bed! You have no idea how much of a miracle that is!

i_90Today we drove for twelve hours and if you know anything about I-90 going west through Minnesota and South Dakota, you know how desolate it is. There are very few towns along the route and I couldn’t get internet access most of the way. There weren’t a lot of places to stop for gas and nowhere that we could see to go when your tires shred and fall apart while going 70 mph.

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Not our tire but same thing happened to ours.

God is so amazing! We heard the thu-thunk of the tire shredding but the car stayed in its lane. What is even more amazing is that we were only about five miles from a Walmart Supercenter which has a tire replacement service. And even more and more amazing–there was not one customer in front of us!

I don’t know how many Walmart Supercenter’s are along rural I-90 , but I venture to guess our tire shredded near one of the only ones. Seriously.

Isaiah, my son with autism, told me that when he heard the tire shred he felt God telling him not to worry, that the angels were holding the tire together and the car on the road. Pretty cool.

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My grandmother had a copy of this painting of a guardian angel protecting children hanging on her living room wall. I always loved it.

Everyone is having a good time so far. Mama Ellen (who has Alzheimer’s) has kept me in stitches with her funny questions and comments. The twins have been amazingly good and patient. There wasn’t much to see along I-90 except beautiful prairie, corn and wheat. But there was a junk art exhibit near Montrose, South Dakota. Pretty weird stuff.

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Now we’re tucked into our beds ready to close our eyes and drift off to dreamland. I’m going to snuggle under my blankets content with a peace that God knows what He’s doing, and He’s never surprised. I can depend on Him to take care of me. No matter what happens.

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Family vacation–an exercise in character building

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We were supposed to leave yesterday. Finally, about an hour ago, we squeezed ourselves into the car. All five of us. We’re going to travel 5100 miles.

Together.

In a car.

5100 miles.

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Now, mind you, we all have special needs. Two have autism, one has Alzheimer’s, one has ADD (my husband) and one is riddled with a genetic propensity toward anxiety. (I come from a long line of nervous people.)

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My husband has ADD. I don’t know if you’ve ever ridden in a car driven by someone with ADD.Straight lines are an abstraction. I don’t know how we don’t get pulled over for suspicion of intoxication. Why on earth would God pair a woman with anxiety issues with an ADD man? The only explanation I can think of is that He thinks it’s funny. Especially when my spouse hits those rumble strips on the side of the road when I’m in deep thought/sleep.

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Or when I look up from reading and we’re 2.5 inches from the back of a semi trailer.

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Not to mention the stuff he listens to on the radio.

Oh, Dear Heavenly Father, deliver me.

If it’s not the comedy station singing songs about racoons praising God in church, it’s barber shop quartets. I mean, I don’t mind for ten minutes or so. I love all types of music. But after eight hours I’m ready to strap myself to the top of the car. It’d be much more tolerable, I assure you.

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Mothers take vacations to rest from getting ready for vacations. I’ve done more laundry in the last week than I did all year. And I’m one of those people that has to clean the house before a trip. I mean, what if I die and don’t come back? I can’t leave this earth with people thinking I’m a slob.

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And then there are the dogs and cats. Who will take care of them? Even as I type this I have a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat thinking about how much I’m going to miss them and how much they will miss me. I’m worried about the kittens going feral and the dogs’ hearts being broken. Two weeks is a long time to be away from one another!

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I did, of course, provide for someone to come in and interact with them each day, and to care for the house. My house won’t sit empty (so if you’re planning on robbing me, don’t try it. My dogs will eat you and my house sitters are armed and dangerous). But will those people cuddle the fur kids enough? I wish I had the money for a nanny cam! That way I could see them every day and make sure they aren’t being neglected. Unfortunately my house sitters don’t know how to use skype.

They’re low-tech folks with good aim.

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I did lose it once this morning when people were arguing over which flavor of Pop Tart to put in the trunk and which to put in the backseat. (Don’t worry, the gun was locked up at the time.) And I may have raised my voice a little when people ignored me about helping with chores. (Clean the house, people! Clean the house!)

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Now we’re finally on the road and I’m posting from inside the car. A first for me. I love my phone’s hotspot capabilities! (The bill, not so much.)

I need your help. I’ll be in the car with these characters for at least six to eight days. I need to know: how do you survive family vacations?

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The case of the disappearing fingerprints

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There’s nowhere to hide.

Unless, maybe, you don’t have fingerprints.

Years back I wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo where one of the characters had to scan her hand to access her office. I was rather proud of my cutting-edge technological knowledge back then. In those days, such a premise was nothing more than science fiction.

It ain’t no more.

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As I work toward my degree in Special Education, I have to go through an extensive background check to student teach. Part of this background check (required by my college, not the school–I already substitute teach with a basic background check), is to be fingerprinted.

image-2I was already feeling a little bit disappointed I was going to do this because I prided myself in living off the grid as far as my fingerprint identity goes. (Not that I could truly live off the grid. Google my name and there I am in all my glory.) I expected to go to the police station and do the ink fingerprint routine. I was worried about it ruining my manicure.

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I needn’t have worried. They no longer do ink fingerprinting for background checks in the United States. Now they use biometric scanning technology. The future is now.

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I was greeted by a very kind, older gentleman who looked a bit like a character from a sci-fi spaceship movie. He gently placed my hand on the scanner and manipulated it to get the right position and scan. We soon learned that I’m one of the difficult ones.

I’m missing fingerprints on my little finger and ring finger.

!!!

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Not my hand but this person has no fingerprints.

Turns out, not having fingerprints is actually a genetic condition called Adermatoglyphia.

But that’s not what I have because my other three fingers and my thumb have prints. Apparently, through years of playing the piano and typing, I’ve worn my fingerprints off on those two fingers! I thought it was piano playing but my husband reminded me that on my computer keyboard I wear the letters off where those two fingers on each hand land: q,w,a,s and o,p,l, and ;.

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If my fingerprints are rejected, I’ll have to go in and scan them again to prove that my fingerprints don’t scan. Then, I’ll have to submit paperwork to prove I exist as my name. (I don’t know why they don’t do this in the first place.)

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There are other reasons and occupations that causes our fingerprints to disappear. Aging causes us to lose fingerprints. Apparently it’s difficult for older people to use biometric identification technology because their skin is thinner and the ridges on the fingers not as pronounced.

Guess that means it’s official. I’m old.

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The elderly have a difficult time passing biometric screenings for visas and passports. India is having a difficult time identifying its residents with the now-required biometric scanning technology.

I was glad to learn I wasn’t alone. However, it’s now a major headache to get approved for much without your fingerprints. I’m sure they’ll eventually just scan our eyes or faces but it may take awhile to develop a database. Although, with facebook tagging, it may be closer than we think. (Each time I post a pic of my granddaughter, facebook thinks it’s her mother.) In regard to scanning our eyes, if someone has had cataracts removed, iris scanning doesn’t work, either.

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Bricklayers and massage therapists often wear off their fingerprints. It’s not a unique thing. Another problem I had with the scanner is that I have exceptionally small hands. It’s something I inherited from my grandmother and I’m rather proud of it. I should have much larger hands for someone my size. I wear a size 4.5 ring. It makes it difficult to buy costume rings, but it’s worth it.

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So when the guy did my fingerprints and had to roll my fingers for the second part of the scan, they weren’t read very well. I’m still waiting to hear if my fingerprints were rejected. The finger printer said they most likely would be.

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I have to drive 45 minutes to get to where they scan my fingerprints. It’s going to be a hassle to re-do them only to have them rejected again. Finger(prints) crossed the good prints will be enough to identify whether or not I’m a crook. In the meantime, I’m working on getting an original birth certificate sent to the powers-that-be to prove I’m a good egg.

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Here’s a good website to learn more about losing your fingerprints: Can You Lose Your Fingerprints? – Scientific American.

And here’s a video from Fox News:

Have you ever been fingerprinted for a passport or visa? For any other reason? How did it go?

What do you think is the next thing in biometric technology?

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Strong Girl: Malala Yousafzai

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Imagine riding the bus home from school and being ambushed by the taliban because you blog about girls getting an education.

This is what happened to Malala Yousafzai on a Tuesday, October 9, 2012.

The young militants opened fire on the bus, shot Malala in the head and neck, wounded two others, and left them for dead.

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They thought they’d silenced Malala forever but they were wrong. She survived and has continued to spread her message that a girls’ education benefits everyone. It reduces mortality rates, increases lifetime wage earnings, and strengthens democracy.

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Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. She is the youngest person to have ever been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Malala’s father sounds a lot like my dad. My dad never limited me because I was a girl. He always told me I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to. Malala’s dad owned a school and encouraged his daughter to write and go to school even though he lived in a society that prized sons more than daughters.

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In July 2013, on her 16th birthday, Malala addressed the United Nations General Assembly:

“We must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty, injustice and ignorance.  We must not forget that millions of children are out of schools.  We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright peaceful future.  So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens.  They are our most powerful weapons.”

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Malala reminds us that some girls face death for going to school. Terrorist groups in Afghanistan and other oppressed areas of the world continue to threaten and attack female students and teachers. Things were improving in some places but with limited presence of the United States in these oppressed areas, girls lives are in danger if they read books and go to school.

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Clearly, Malala is a strong girl with big dreams. The next time you’re tempted to skip school, think of the price other girls in the world pay for the right to learn. Strong girls are readers. Strong girls are educated. Strong girls, like Malala, have the courage to stand up and not sit down for what is right.

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How much better [is it] to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver! Proverbs 16:16

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Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan 5/5 stars

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There are just so many reasons why this book is epic.

  • First of all, it’s written by a dad.
  • Second, it’s written by a dad who loves his kids
  • Third, it’s written by a dad who adores his wife
  • Fourth, it’s written by a dad who is a conservative who takes his kids to church
  • Fifth, it’s written by a dad who is a comedian in secular clubs and on TV — and he’s clean.
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In the book, he talks about how he never intended to be “family friendly,” he just is.

It’s full of hilarious anecdotes and tons of love for his wife and kids.

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His wife loves children and he loves his wife. Now they have five children together. And he seems to be a wonderful husband and father. I hope it’s true. I hope it’s not hype.

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The writing is pretty average. But the humor combined with the fact that he’s writing about a rare thing these days–an intact family–he gets all five of my stars.

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I am always impressed when someone can take ordinary everyday things and tell a funny story. He does that in this book.

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This would make a great gift for fathers everywhere. And if they don’t like to read, this book is also on CD/audio. They might enjoy listening to it on a road trip or on the way to work.

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The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani — 4.5/5 stars

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I don’t know where I’ve been and why I’ve not heard of Adriana Trigiani but here is an author I can’t get enough of.

Actually, I think I have read her before, but until I re-read her Big Gap book, I’m not positive. Funny how that happens.

This book was kind of surreal for me because it mentioned places I had actually been while traveling from Indiana to New Jersey. And this is the same time I read the book. I spent the night in Youngstown, Ohio on my journey there and back and that’s where the Macaroni Company ends up being. So odd for it to mention several other locations I actually knew about. Ever have that happen?

Youngstown_OHAnd it also has scenes in Italy. Which is one of my fantasy vacation spots.

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Take me here NOW!

And then there’s the patient, older, Italian husband who is romantic and an excellent lover. <sigh>

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Yes, I have a terrible crush on Andrea Bocelli. It’s okay, my husband knows. (In case you don’t know, this is the ultimate example in my mind of an older, good looking Italian man…)

Anyway, as secular market books go, I loved this one. What’s not to love about shoes and romance and pasta? I love reading about families who have strong ethnic ties. Being very, very, very American, I don’t have those types of traditions. So I enjoy living vicariously through those who do in books.

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This isn’t a book I’d normally pick up and I wasn’t sure I’d like it. And to be honest, I was thinking, if a new author wrote it, no one would publish it. It’s not hooky for one thing. And it doesn’t have a spell-binding plot. But there’s just something about the main character, Valentine, that makes you want to know what happens to her next.

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Adriana Trigiani, Author

I’m excited to read more of Trigiani’s books. I’m packing seven or so of them to take with me on vacation week after next. For one thing, she writes southern fiction, too, which made the fact that this book (and I think this is a sequel to some others) are set in NYC.

I’ll let you know how it goes. There’s nothing I like more than books. And I absolutely love southern fiction. Next to books I love shoes.

Wide-Italian-ShoesThis book was a perfect fit.

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I’m baaaaaaack

It’s been too long since I got to blog and I miss it! Juggling life and a book deadline are a huge challenge. But with God’s grace, I’ve emerged from the cave with my mind still intact.

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(Okay, fine, so that’s a subjective opinion. But just because some people think sitting on the roof singing “Yellow Submarine” is crazy doesn’t mean it is.)

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This deadline was extremely difficult for Mr. Himself. I’m hoping next time I get a contract my deadline won’t be so pressing. But hey, when you get the rare-these-days publishing contract you can’t exactly make demands. If they need a book by a certain date, you’ve got to make it happen.  Still, Mr. Himself felt very neglected. Poor fellow. I felt bad.

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How my husband sees himself when I’m on a deadline

I have a lot to consider as I go forward. I need to somehow keep my family happy while I pursue the dream. And I think it’s harder for women than for men.

What say you?

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Happy Birthday, America! To celebrate, here are 46 facts about the first ladies you may not know

46 Facts About the First Ladies – mental_floss on YouTube (Ep.213) – YouTube.

 

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