In early August, we packed up the family minivan and headed north.
After stopping at Wall Drug (if you’ve ever driven through South Dakota, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about), we continued west through the Badlands and the Black Hills, swung by Mount Rushmore, trekked around Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and then headed east across North Dakota to visit the dear ones we affectionately refer to as “The Northern Flowers.”
About 2,400 miles later, we arrived safely back in Kansas. And it was only then that the belt that drives the air conditioner, alternator and water pump in our 2004 vehicle decided to snap in half. (See how a major annoyance suddenly morphs into a praise report? It’s all about perspective, even when you’re without AC and it’s 95 degrees outside.)
If I ever hear a sudden thudding noise under the hood of my car again, I’ll know it’s probably the serpentine belt breaking. Thankfully, that’s not the only lesson I learned this summer. Here are a few more:
• There are books about a child-age Amelia Bedelia.
I made this discovery at the public library in Ida Grove, Iowa, and I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it. Little Amelia is cute and as just as charmingly clueless as grown-up Amelia, but somehow, her kind of shtick just seems funnier coming from an adult.
Remember when Amelia drew the drapes and dressed the chicken and ran home in the middle of a baseball game? Maybe I’m just old school, but in my book, kid fiction doesn’t get any better than that.
• It is extremely windy at the geographic center of North America.
While we were on vacation, we stopped in Rugby, N.D., for a photo on our way to visit the town where Randy spent his younger years. And yes, the monument is as impressive as it looks.
• When it comes to the temperature of water in a swimming pool, a difference of 6 degrees is astronomical.
Last winter, our neighbor took out two large trees in her backyard that cast a wide swath of shade on our pool. We wondered whether the subsequent loss of privacy would bother us, but removing those trees was the best thing she could have done for our swimming enjoyment.
Eighty degrees in the shade is freezing; 86 degrees in the sun is heavenly.
• A burden shared is a burden lifted.
Several weeks ago, in a series of lengthy texts, I brought a loved one up to speed about a situation that had been weighing me down for months. I don’t know why I waited so long to do this—maybe it was the distance, the busyness of our schedules, or the emotional effort it required. As we texted back and forth, though, something remarkable happened.
The weight that I had been carrying somehow grew lighter.
Now I know. There’s strength that comes when you share the load—with someone who loves you, someone who can help or someone else with skin in the same game.
When impending change threatens to wreak havoc on my emotional equilibrium, praying for friends who are walking harder paths helps.
(Whereas constantly reminding myself how much I dislike change does not.)
• Lists are a great summer blogging strategy.
I didn’t intend to be so busy this summer. It was good and necessary busyness, but it didn’t leave much time for writing. Rather than take a blogging sabbatical, I put together several list posts—recounting biblical blessings, what I learned this spring, insights from the wilderness, what I wish someone would have told me when I was struggling as a mom—that kind of thing.
Turns out, this was just what I needed to keep things going here and still have plenty of time to handle the unexpected and enjoy a few lazy days in the pool with my girls.
• My happiness does not depend on someone else’s mood.
(And all the mothers of daughters everywhere said “amen.”)
• Cicada killer wasps are a thing.
In case you’ve never witnessed one, let’s just say these flying death machines—which can rival hummingbirds in size—are fascinating in theory but horrible in person. The female wasps sting their victims, then carry the paralyzed (though not yet dead) cicadas away—normally to an underground borrow—where they lay eggs in the cicadas’ bodies. (You can guess the dreadful rest or read more here.)
That’s all fine and dandy unless it happens in my yard, where—instead of going the usual borrow-in-the-ground route—the wasp decides to turn the spaces between the boards on my deck into a borrow. And yes, watching one of these creatures hover protectively over the 10 cicadas that she has deposited on my deck is just as disgusting, creepy and scary as it sounds.
So what did you learn this summer?