Saturday, October 26, 2013

On the Eve of Departure

"Where's that Shawn character? Iowa has gotten pretty quiet, lately."
-Various Humans on October 28th, 2013

I leave for Ghana tomorrow morning.

I can't express how grateful and excited I am about this opportunity. God has really shown His providence in this trip, and I haven't even left yet.

The trip was originally scheduled to take place in September, during my roommate Shane's wedding. I wasn't about to miss his marriage to Alaynna, so I just resigned myself to the fact that I'd be missing the trip to Ghana. God had other plans and ended up changing the dates for the trip. Awesome sauce. The trip dates are now October 27th through November 8th. For those of you too lazy to do the math, I will be gone for two weeks. (For those of you having difficulties knowing when you should use "two", "too", and "to", please use my previous sentence as an example.)

While in Ghana, West Africa, my team and I will be doing ministry outreach in several local villages. We'll do some rudimentary clinic work along with counseling in the day, and in the evening we'll be hosting crusades. (The revival-and-worship type of crusade, not the stabby-torture crusade.) The parent organization that we will be going with is Crusades for Christ, a ministry that has been pouring its heart and soul into Ghana's capitol, Accra. Missionaries live there for three-year terms, and I have the privilege of knowing both families that currently live there. I met Jon & Sara Sauder last year when I visited Ghana. Sara cooked delicious food for me and gave our team of rambunctious youth some valuable relationship advice. Jon coordinated the building project with Ron Bontrager. More recently, Jon saved my proverbial bacon by visiting the local medical clinic and getting me a copy of the Yellow Fever immunization card that I misplaced.

The other missionary family is Leon & Barb Geigley, who left for Ghana shortly after directing Prairie Camp in Indiana this summer. I worked as a counselor under them, and it was a serious quantity of fun. They tolerated my antics and didn't kick me out, so I took that as a sign of a prosperous friendship.

I keep saying "We" when referring to the mission team going over. Here are the others I'll be traveling with:

To Ghana, West Africa
October 27, 2013 to November 8, 2013

From Griner in Indiana                                         From Milford Chapel in Indiana
      Rachel Bauman                                                     Leroy Cross
      Arline Bontrager
      Jared Bontrager                                              From Sunnyside in Iowa
      Luetta Borkholder                                                 Shawn Graber
      Marie Borkholder
      Dan Borntreger                                               From New Covenant in Pennsylvania
      Maudeen Chupp                                                   Mary Weaver (Sara Sauder’s sister)
      Brianna Eggleston                                                Isabel Weaver (niece)
      Janae Horst                                                           Jaxon Weaver (nephew)
      Travis & Kayla Jenkins                                        Drake Weaver (nephew)
      Marion & Carolyn Nisley                                     Adrian Myer (former staff member)
      Theresa Yoder                                                      

I know a portion of these humans already, but I'm quite certain I'll know all of them by the time I return. You may pray that they aren't overpowered by my Graberish personality.

In all seriousness, please keep our team in your thoughts and prayers as we go! A large-sized thanks goes to my prayer warriors, Floyd Y., Leon S., John K., and Floyd H. Here are some prayer requests that were written up by Arline Bontrager, a wonderful woman doing a stupendous job of organizing our mass exodus.
Prayer Requests

1.       Pray for a hedge or a wall around each of us and our families, as we are preparing for ministry, that the angels of God will keep each of us safe, here in the U.S. and there in Ghana.

2.       Pray that Satan is bound, that he not be able to blind the eyes or close the ears of people that need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

3.       Pray that God prepares the hearts of the people that we are to minister to, that they will be open and receive Christ as their savior.

4.       Pray for the missionaries in Ghana as they prepare for us, as they host us, and as they lead us in our experiences in Ghana:    Leon & Barb Geigley and Carissa; and,  Jon & Sara Sauder and Max, Rory, Elle, Leila.

Thank you for all the intercessory prayers you have already spoken. I have definitely felt God's hand in this endeavor. I'm nervous. I've never done mission work like this before, and it's a decent jaunt outside of my comfort zone. I'm praying that God would use me how He sees fit, and that I won't get in the way of his awesome plot.

I'm also grateful that my Dad has blessed this trip and clearly expressed his enthusiasm for me going, even though he longs to go to Africa himself. With this recent cold snap, our family business is getting very, very busy. His permission to let me leave for two weeks promises a larger workload for himself. Save the prickly customers for me, Dad. I'll be right back!

Normally, each team member packs one check-in bag and lets the local churches pack the other full of much-needed supplies for the missionaries. The team is letting me use the mission-designated tote to pack a whole mountain of my food to take along. I'm taking some gluten free mixes, loaves of bread, and other assorted snackeries. My master plan is to live off the indescribable fruits over there, so I feel this food-packing is slightly unnecessary. I always pack too much on trips but 100 lbs of check-in is just too colossal for even me. So the tote contains some supplies for the missionaries, packed with care by Floyd and Charlene. I had just enough room left over to smuggle some bottles of delicious Frostop root beer for Jon, in thanks for going to all the hassle of getting my Yellow Fever card. Jon, seriously, I owe you big-time. Way more than just some top-quality suds. I've done quite a bit of research prior to this trip, with the research primarily focusing on the query "Do carbonated beverages explode in check-in bags?"

I'm fairly glad that it's getting cold here in Iowa, so I can enjoy the heat of Ghana. Yes, I possess an evil little grinchy heart.

Well, time to go look at my luggage and worry I've forgotten to pack something.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Caffienated Kryptonite

Ohhhhhhhhh maaaaaaaaaaaaan that was not white hot chocolate like I expected.

It was coffee.

I drank half of it, because I'm a Mennonite and I paid good money for the drink.

That was 4 hours ago.

So. Much. Caffeine.

"Autumn Delight" is my favorite flavor.

It has cinnamon and some type of delicious nutmeg? I don't even know.

And lots of whipped cream oh man that gets me.

I asked for it in white hot chocolate, because that's the proper way to drink it.

In fact, that's how it's sold. 'Autumn Delight' flavored white hot chocolate.

I enunciated that I'd prefer not to have coffee in it. "Not a mocha or anything, please."

Coffee sneaks up and attacks me when I least expect it.

I was meeting with a potential roommate. Ryan is a nice kid, he's going to move in with me.

We met at the coffee shop, but he asked for a tour of my place. I said, "Sure! But let me grab a drink first. Oh, and I don't have my car."

That was four hours and thirty-five minutes ago.

The first sip declared its betrayal. "I'm not what you thought I waaaaaas! Tee hee, I'm coffee!"

I had expected a creamy, chocolatey, sugar-coma in a cup.

I got this weirdish burnt flavor deeply inherent of coffee, desperately trying to hide behind the cheery "Autumn Delight" flavorings.

It was the best coffee I've had yet, but also the worst "Autumn Delight" flavored drink I've had yet.

So I gave the rest of it to my Dad when he came to pick me up. Ryan can't drive but Jesse can and so they drove me to my place but I was stranded there because my car was at Dad's place and he had dropped me off to meet with Ryan because work went late today and I had promised to meet at the coffee shop but I was late.

Dad liked the drink. "Wow, this is really good!" He said between sips.

My flight leaves for Ghana in 61 hours.

I calculate this caffeine will wear off at roughly the same time. Coincidental.

OH MAN WHAT WAS THAT NOISE oh it was just a mouse getting caught in the mousetrap I have hidden in the cupboard. That's the fourth mouse in two days.

I've got quite a bit of my packing done which is nice but I think I'm over-packing. I don't think my suitcase is near 50 lbs yet but I don't really know how to tell because I don't have a bathroom scale. If I could pick up myself and then just shoot for packing 5/17ths of that weight, I could probably figure it out, in 61 hours. Coincidental.

Coffee is like an evil arch-nemesis, taunting me. "I smell nice!" It shouts.

Coffee smells really nice.

"A hot drink on a cold day, eh?" it hisses pleasantly.

It was cold today. Windy and cold. 34 degrees maybe? I'm not used to the cold yet.

"You'll like me eventually!"

Evil, evil, evil. Maybe I will like coffee someday, but it'll take repeated surprises in which I was totally expecting a big cup of Not Coffee. 

"Just." My tongue is thick and won't behave. "Just. Lem, lemmesleep."

Our customers aren't used to the cold yet.

We've been busy at work. Busy, busy, busy. I'm going to be working on Saturday a little, to catch up.

"No big deal ya pansy."

Some people work every Saturday but I don't because that's my day to not work. That's a perk of my not-on-Saturday job. But it's okay this time because it's not the whole Saturday, just for a little bit to do paperwork before I leave for Ghana. Not coincidental, it just is that way. Plus I need extra hours for all the hours I've missed on my previous trips out-of-state.

I've put in a lot of hours this week. Over 40 and its not even Friday yet.

In the future people won't talk about how many hours-a-week they work. They'll inform people how many hours-a-week they sleep.

"I just put in a 15-hour week, Jesserting!"
"Impossible! You actually got 3 hours of sleep a night, Glasterson? Unheard of!"
"You better believe it, buddy."

There will be cool, weird names in the future but they'll still use the word "buddy" for some odd reason.

Oh I'm tired. So tired. So very very tired.

There's a large gnome or maybe a medium-sized midget with a tiny rubber hammer smacking my forehead.

Hey, rubber hammers hurt still, in case you were wondering.

All that to say, really, I have a headache.

Most likely the caffeine from the coffee is wearing off. But not in the usual "I'm just going to become less and less effective, passively." way. This particular caffeine trip is hanging by its claws to the edge of a cliff and it's using the creases in my forehead for hand-holds.

So instead of waiting for the caffeine to fall, I'll just jump into the crevasse. Because that crevasse looks like a queen-sized bed full of blankets.

The caffeine will never see it coming.

60.5 hours to go, but only for Ghana, not caffeine's grip on me.

Haha, I win, coffee.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Trip of Epic Proportions

I don't use the word "epic" much. In fact, it's on my list of "Words I Think are Silly." But in this post, you'll find me using the word "Epic" quite a bit. Stay tuned and you'll see why it's not necessarily a change of heart, I've just found something worthy of the title.

The trip to Oregon was over and I was fairly sick of travel. The deadline to submit my sleeps had expired and I was 50 hours behind-schedule. Months ago some of us men had plotted to go visit my friend Tyler in Madison on October 12th, but I was starting to check out my Excuse Options.

The week moved quickly enough, thanks to my return cutting Tuesday's workday in half. Friday sped right up and opened its glorious arms to embrace me. The trip to Madison was still on, and although several of my friends had successfully navigated their Excuse Option Menu and backed out of the trip, Jordan and I were going. I hadn't packed but hey, I've got all Friday evening, right? And then, at 4pm, my friend Nevin asked if I'd like to go drag racing with him and his awesome wife at the Cordova Racetrack in Illinois. They were leaving at 6pm and planning to return around 11pm.

Everybody knows that drag racing is more important than submitting overdue sleeps or packing luggage. I quickly told my Dad about the drag racing event, who immediately began to prepare to join. He informed Shaylon, who wasn't about to miss out on some Hot Rod action.

We all had a wonderful time in Cordova, a little town (population 700) just on the other side of the Mississippi. Small town, massive drag strip? Awesome. Friday evenings are open to the public, and anyone is welcome to test their ride's speed down the lane for qualification, tuning, practice, or just fun. The atmosphere is very casual. The vehicle must pass a rudimentary inspection and the driver has to pay $25. (Visitors just watching in the stands pay $8.) Helmets are required for drivers and riders if the vehicle is capable of hustling a quarter mile in less than 13 seconds, which several vehicles managed to do. (Note to all the ladies reading this blog post, that may not sound very impressive, but it's actually ear-blistering fast.) Dad got in on the action and peeled some rubber in his 5.7L Hemi 300C, which blasted a quarter mile in 14.9 seconds.

 Nevin's silver Subaru, pitted against Dad's 300C.

My roommate's brother Colton took his beautiful Toyota Supra that he's put hundreds of hours into. It's a monster, with a ridiculous amount of horsepower. This was Colton's first time at the track, and the first time is always the toughest. Colton's car ran extremely well, but he overshot the end of the track and came to a rest in the "Runaway Vehicle Gravel Pit". The pit is filled with 12" of smooth gravel that brings vehicles to a stop, safely and immediately. Colton and the car were unscathed, but there's no traction in the gravel pit. The duo were fished out of the pit quickly. 

We got home shortly past midnight, and I collapsed into a delicious sleep.

October 12th, 2013.

Travel around Iowa City and Coralville with Dylan, invite kids to Church.

Return, begin packing for impending weekend trip to Madison.
Deliberate about what clothing to wear for 1.5 days.
Pack 4-days-worth in ensuing indecision.

Search for Jordan at Korean Food Bazaar.
Meet traditionally-dressed Korean ladies, who properly bow in greeting.
Feel completely at loss for proper response to traditional bow greeting. Smile and say "thank you".
Find Jordan, who has purchased delicious Korean cuisine for dirt cheap.
Get offered some delicious cheap-as-dirt food.

Transfer Jordan's things to my vehicle, leave Iowa City.
Try a bite of traditional kimchi, a potent cabbage concoction obviously set on "Tonsil Melt"
Surprise Jordan by saying that kimchi is delicious.
Jordan's response, "It's an acquired taste! Hardly anyone likes it the first time."

Admire the beautiful cliffs while driving through Southern Wisconsin.

Arrive at Epic on the outskirts of Madison.
Have definition of the word "epic" permanently altered forever.

"Aw man you gotta see this vid! It's totally epic in every way."  
-Some Bumbling Teenager, circa 2009.

"You're looking at a video of a vast medical software campus in Madison, Wisconsin?"  
-Shawn Graber, Time-Traveling Noob-Correcter. 

 Photo courtesy of

Jordan and I met our friend Tyler in a parking ramp on the Epic Medical Software campus. But this was no ordinary parking ramp! Above this particular parking ramp are orderly rows of solar panels, providing nice shade for the cars. Thanks to multiple solar arrays and some wind turbines, Epic runs almost entirely on alternative energy means. Tyler asked us, "Would you like the short, 'only-the-essentials' tour, or the long tour?" We replied that we wanted to see EVERYTHING. I was just glad to get out of the car, and with good reason. I've been traveling quite a bit lately. Wisconsin is the 6th state I've visited this week. The others were Oregon, Nevada, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois.

That blue feat of engineering to the right of the photo is the solar panels above the parking garage. That particular parking ramp is one of the only ones above-ground. There are several underground parking ramps on Epic's campus.

Every building on Epic's campus has a different theme. The building sections are categorized in alphabetical order. Once they ran out of letters, they categorized the newer buildings with ASCII characters. But instead of just calling it "D Building" or "Sector J", the themes are titled with diverse celestial bodies, like "Fomalhaut."

We moseyed through the Indiana Jones-themed hallway. Around the bend is a little altar with a tiny golden idol perched on it. When you try to remove the idol, hidden speakers blast out noises that sound ominously like a giant boulder rolling toward you.

This grassy corridor is on the outside of the Indiana Jones Hallway. Thanks to sky walks, underground parking lots, and hallways connecting every building, Tyler rarely goes outside. We traveled down this outdoor walkway and discovered AWESOME SWINGS. Tyler hadn't seen them before, so we decided to ride them.

Swinging on a dragon made from a recycled tire automatically makes you feel noble.

There are several campfire spots in this courtyard, to be used whenever an employee feels like burning wood outside, since each building has at least one working fireplace inside


Tyler took us to a meeting room disguised as a SWEET TREE HOUSE AWMERGERDNESS. But his handy-dandy electronic key card couldn't open the door. A group was setting things up for a meeting in the tree house and didn't want visitors (AKA Jordan and myself) stealing all the tasty snacks.
Rustic old tree house blended with sweet electronic-key-card technology. 
The red light means "No snacks for you."

Perhaps you've gathered this already: some of my favorite parts of Epic's campus are the bridges, tunnels, and hallways. You may not realize this, but I'm displaying phenomenal restraint with the photos I'm sharing. I have a lot of bridge, hallway, and tunnel photos.

With it being a Saturday, most of the buildings and offices were vacant and the lights were off. But the lights silently turned on as we walked through, thanks to energy-saving motion sensors.

One entire set of buildings has the theme "Farm". In one section, there's an entire Farmall tractor broken down into its components and then tacked to the wall.

In every hallway, side room, lobby, and stairwell there's art. Loads and loads of art. Tyler told us that Epic's policy on art is "Basically touch whatever you want." So we did.

Boys and girls, study diligently and someday you may get to work in 
an office shaped like a massive barn.
The meeting rooms have themes as well. The first photo is from the "Farm" building, so the theme is obvious. But the second photo is from a separate building. This breathtaking meeting room is equipped with a massive stone fireplace and located beside a giant pool equipped with a two-story waterfall. If I worked here, I would be totally distracted during the entire work briefing.

Want to play a little music? Help yourself to a Martin guitar, several Biblical-looking stringed instruments, or a grand piano, located near the Cafeteria's coffee shop.

We were trekking all over Epic, which required quite a bit of hiking. Along the way, Tyler gave us rest stops in some remarkable chairs.

Tyler let us sit in what he called the "Most comfortable chair at Epic."
We agreed. That chair is magnificent.
These chairs, which Tyler dubbed "The Cone of Silence", were also comfy.

 The swinging hammock chairs were exceedingly nice.
The massive thrones in the Dungeons & Dragons-themed office building had some intricately carved armrests. We suspect that they were hand-made.

I even got to meet some special characters and props during my visit.

Hanging out with Darth Vader near the Star Wars meeting rooms. 

Gollum and I, fishing for fishes. 
A sweet replica of Dr. Who's TARDIS.

All of the tour-guiding while keeping Jordan and I out of trouble sapped Tyler of his energy. After we toured the massive 14,000-seat auditorium (did I mention it's completely underground?), we were exhausted. Perhaps it was because the massive auditorium is still under construction and the five flights of escalators weren't in operation, so we walked down them. It definitely brought one of my favorite quotations of Mitch Hedberg to mind:

"I like an escalator because an escalator can never break, it can only become stairs. There would never be an escalator temporarily out of order sign, only an escalator temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience."
Upon return up the flights of Temporary Stairs, we took a short break. 
"Gravity feels so good right now."

Other awesome sights were the giant steel tube slide, the spiral staircases, the refrigerators packed with juice, the closet-sized cupboards filled with packets of tea, the outdoor art...but this post is humongous enough as it is. 
We finished our tour of Epic, and it only took us 3 hours. We met up with Tyler's wonderful girlfriend Kelsey, who was kind enough to let us borrow Tyler for the day. 
Tyler, I told you there are consequences for frowning. One of those consequences 
is getting this photo pasted onto the internet.

We ate at a sweet pizzeria called the Glass Nickle Pizza Co, where I purchased a gluten-free pizza and a LITERAL POUND of fries. You should have seen the mountain of food. I forgot to take a picture, so you'll just have to imagine it. The pizza was a thin-crust Chicken Bacon Ranch, and it was tremendous. 
Sunday morning we went to The Vine, a wonderful church in Madison that was planted by Parkview Church here in Iowa City. The message was amazing, and I'm going to post a link to their sermon when it becomes available. The lesson was all about ministry outreach, and it really put a bug in my ear, in a good way. 
Tyler and a group of youth from the church went to lunch at Fuzzy's Tacos, which was pretty much the best. We had a wonderful time. I submitted a crayon drawing for a free kid's meal, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to win, despite the fact that I am exactly double the kid's menu 12-year-old limit. 

We toured the monstrous Madison Capitol building and discussed optimal sniper vantage points while on the outdoor balcony surrounding the Capitol's dome. Then we went to Brennan's in the afternoon, where we sampled fruits and cheeses. And then we bought some fruits and cheeses. We played some high-intensity rounds of Mao at Tyler's and then packed up to leave, thanking him and Kelsey for hosting us. 

Jordan's sister Hannah lives in Madison, since she and her husband were part of the church plant. We stopped at their place before returning to Iowa so Jordan could hang out with them for a bit. Hannah made us gluten-free peanut butter cookies, which we promptly devoured.

We got home shortly after midnight on Sunday/Monday morning, which was just enough time for me to conk out and rest before work on Monday began.

For those of you that are my friends on Facebook, I'll be posting these photos and far more, sometime in the future. You'll be able to yawn and say "Man, I already saw most of those photos."  because you bothered to read my blog. Thanks!

For those of you that are NOT my friends on Facebook, thank you for reading! How do you know about my blog? 

Here is my advice. Befriend Tyler, and then exploit that friendship for a tour of Epic. 

But don't tell him I said that.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Oregon Coast

Side note: I love blog stats, and I have discovered that three visitors have found my blog in the past by searching for "Creamy corn salsa for fish". I can't imagine the disappointment of finding a regular 'ol blog when I was expecting a tasty snack. Although I have never blogged about that, you are more than welcome here.  If one of you is currently reading this, thank you for pausing your quest for the best fish salsa to read my blog.

Oregonians never say, "Hey human beings! Let's go to the beach!" And rightfully so. Beaches are sunny places with lots of sand located near a large body of water. Oregon has the large body of water but little sand and less sun. "The Coast" is what you say when you want to go look at beautiful combinations of water and rock.

Compounding the issue, the Pacific is probably the most egotistical of all the oceans. The Pacific thinks it's all that and a bowl of candy.

Indian: Wheee! I'm an ocean!

Arctic: The only reason I get noticed is because of the giant melting ice cube I'm babysitting. And the animals that live around me. 

Atlantic: I do say, Arctic old boy. Would you quit stirring about? It's frightfully chilly up there. Mmm, now that's the spot, I'm getting a current from the Gulf of Mexico. Tally ho, what what!


Atlantic: Good show! How are your trade routes these days, Pacific old chap? Mine are doing just splendid when I'm not buggering them up with the occasional hurricane.


Arctic: I don't see why you two distinguish yourselves apart from me. We're essentially the same body of water.

Atlantic: Do calm down up there, Arctic. You're sending a dreadful chill down my coast.


After Jamison's wedding, we attended a fantastic church service at Fairview Mennonite, where Jamie was married and also where Randy and Shelley attend. After the service, Shannon's family, Shelley's family, Pastor Floyd's (partial) family, Shelby, and I took off for the coast. Myron and Alissa joined in, but since those two lovebugs had plans to travel into California, they drove separate. Our group (without Myron's) was 17, so we borrowed a 15-passenger van and Shelby's car.

Over the years, I've been to the coast a couple of times with my sisters. Each time we go out, we visit Newport, a charming town located roughly 70 miles from my sister Shelley's home. Newport is a tourist town, packed with delectable shops, restaurants, and deep-sea fishing charter offices. There are a few large factories that clean and package large quantities of fresh seafood, but those places are beneficial to the shops because they provide a giant salty, fishy smell-cloud that sets the tone for the coastal-themed tourism.

What better place to start being tourists than in one of the several salt-water taffy shops?

So much candy.

So much laxative.
Myron and Alissa briefly pause from their great quandary: which free sample to try?!
Definitely the pina colada. 
I'm grateful the candy shops let you have one free sample of salt water taffy because that's the maximum limit of sugar a diabetic should have in one sitting/standing. Sure, there's sugar free options available but they're mixed bags of less-tasty taffy! Initially, I was pretty skeptical of the flavors. How peanut-buttery does the "Peanut Butter" taffy taste? Answer: very.

We stopped at a cafe so Elaine could recharge her coffee-powered batteries. 
After checking out the local shops, we visited a pier in the nearby cove. This is a favorite spot of mine, where dozens of bachelor sea lions fight for position on prime bachelor real-estate. But they were all calm and quiet, which was preposterous! Where's the noisy, barking sea lions and who substituted them with these sacks of lard?!

Shelby tried offering Jocelyn to the sea lions, but they weren't having any of that nonsense.
This dude was catching crabs off the pier. 
Pastor Floyd was impressed. We don't have any piers in Iowa, much less piers 
you can catch crabs from. 
Carita (held by her father/my brother-in-law Konrad) wanted to let 
me know where all the sleeping sea lions were. 
 "What's the big deal?" Thinks Annika. "It's just some dumb 'ol sea lions. 
I wish there were more cows and pigs and cornfields around here..."

It was slightly disappointing to see the sea lions calm and quiet. I was hoping to see them fight and bark like they always do.

My sister Shannon leaned a little too close to the edge with Carita, who promptly kicked off one of her Crocs into the water to show how she felt about the crime of fashion adorning her feet.  Shannon removed her daughter's other Croc but didn't know what to do with it. Pitch it in the water so a sea bum could have a pair? Throw it away? Shop online for one heavily-used neon-green baby Croc?

I told Shannon I'd dive in for the Croc if she tossed one of my nieces or nephews down in there as well. Because I'm a good uncle and everything.

Carita cried for a little bit because she loves her Crocs. She's too young to realize that, as a woman, she's supposed to hate sensible, comfortable footwear and instead crave painful-yet-fashionable toe clothes. But then Carita forgot all about the Croc because, after all, she's not yet two and there were a lot of sleeping sea lions to watch.

HOLD ON TO YOUR PANTS! Shelby snatched a bucket from the crab fisherman and whisked the Croc out of the water. A decent crowd was present on the pier at that time and they all had seen the drama unfold over the little floating Croc. When Shelby successfully maneuvered the bucket to scoop up the Croc, they let out a cheer so loud, it awoke the sea lions, who immediately started fighting with each other. It was beautiful.
Hey guys, wake up. The humans are here to watch us fight 
over our seaweed-covered dock again.

After visiting the sea lions and safely stashing Carita's Crocs in a purse, we took off for the actual real coast.

The Oregon coast is usually windy and chilly, so instead of bringing suntan lotion and swimming trunks, I took an extra pair of jeans and a t-shirt that I didn't mind getting wet in. Shelby went cruising around in swimming trunks, because he's practically an Oregonian and he's used to the cold.


After photobombing my pastor and his beautiful wife, I started running for the ocean. You may have been told that the Pacific is saltwater, but actually it's fresh. As in freshly melted from an iceberg. I don't get to splash in the Pacific very often, so I can't be too picky.

I ran in ankle-deep at first, but Shelby started talking words at me and I couldn't understand him because the shock of the water had numbed my ears. So I ran back and he asked me if I had taken my phone out of my pocket. He's a cool brother like that, but since I'm not entirely stupid, I had already put my sensitive electronics in a safe place. I double-checked my pockets and gave him a napkin for safekeeping. Randy walked by and, noticing the water line had only gotten to an inch above my ankles, tossed the challenge, "Is that all you got, eh?"

Oh, it was on. I went into the ocean WAY past my belly button. Next Spring when I thaw out, I'll totally tell Randy he's got nothing on me. On the brisk retreat to shore, I kicked up a salty spray right into my mouth. It was liberating and awful at the same time.

We checked out some tide pools and poked some sea creatures.

To finish off our visit to the coast, we ate at Mo's. It's been a tradition to eat at one of the several Mo's restaurants along the coast, and as traditions go, it's one of my favorite.

Floyd shared some of his baked oysters with me and they were a 
lot better than my imagination told me they would be.
 This play-by-play account shows Christopher's reaction to eating 
buttery baked oyster for the first time in his life.
I had shrimp, mashed potatoes, and chili. Not the most seafoodish of choices, but that's because Mo has yet to create a gluten-free clam chowder option.
These two photos were taken MOMENTS apart. It's a good indicator of how ravenous I was. The camera couldn't keep up. My hands were like a blurred conveyor belt to my mouth.

After Mo's, we traveled back to Shannon's. Tourism is exhausting!

The following day, I took off for home. Shelby very kindly drove me to the airport because I had too much luggage to fit in with Floyd's carload. Let me just go on a giant tangent about how awesome Southwest airlines is.

They're the best.

I had two check-in bags FOR FREE on the way out, and since one of them was a giant cardboard care package from Grandma Debby, Shelby was able to send some of his luggage home with me. (Because he drove out two years ago and he will be coming home this January.) Southwest is not only totally chill about check-in bags, they let you sit wherever. Prior to boarding, I found a penny on the ground and could hardly contain my enthusiasm. My close friends know how much I love spare change, but this surprised the kind folks waiting to board. The discovery of the penny led to not one BUT TWO more pennies and a nickel! A sweet young lady had seen the other coins forlornly abandoned underneath the lobby bench we were sitting on, so since she pointed them out, I split the spoils with her: 4 cents apiece.

Oh yeah, Southwest lets you sit by whomever you wish, which is awesome. I got to sit by the girl that likes spare change as much as I do. (For my friends that antagonize me about my penny-pinching ways, you should start collecting coins.) We chatted the whole 4-hour flight to Las Vegas and I totally didn't forget to catch her name like I did with Christian Girl. This young lady's name was Erin and we're friends.

Erin declared that she didn't know how airplanes worked, but she didn't want to know. I am fairly knowledgeable about aerodynamics, lift vs. drag, wing shape, and thrust, but I refrained from saying anything about those (allegedly boring) topics and said "It's mostly wizard magic." A young man named David was sitting beside us on the flight. He is an engineer and was bursting at the seams to tell us about how airplanes work. I giggled inside because I met a lot of engineers like him when I was in college, and they're truly charming in their own socially-awkward way.

I got into Omaha around 11pm and drove to my cousin Kyle's. I slowed down as I popped over the hill that Kyle frequently monitors in his squad car. As I got to the bottom of the hill, there was the ominous Crown Vic sitting there, eyeballin' me. Kyle sent me a text: "61, tsk tsk." I told him that I was still on 9pm time and would keep him company if he'd like.

He picked me up and we cruised around looking for bad guys til 1am. But evidently bad guys go to bed early on Monday nights, so we just had some good conversations. I stayed the night at Kyle's, then drove home on Tuesday.

I really enjoyed my trip to Oregon and realized that I don't visit as much as I should. I should visit every other month, probably.

I should also fly Southwest more often. That company is the best.