Minister's Study

Ministering, writing, and wrestling in a land flowing with sweet tea and deep-fried food

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Coming to a quick halt

Nothing brings a car to a quick halt quite like having three big bumblebees hit the driver in the throat.

We were out on bus visitation this morning, driving our clunker with the windows open (beautiful day, and besides, the A/C doesn't work well). And three big bumblebees whipped in through the window, smacking into my throat (just about the only time I've ever been really glad for a necktie). Let me tell you, I stopped that car quick to let them out of there.

No one got stung, and the rest of visitation went on without a hitch (aside from my developing allergy problems -- here comes hay fever.)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Back from VA

I made it a quick trip. Drove up yesterday morning and spent some time with Dad in the afternoon. I spent the night at the ranch (well, it really is kinda like a ranch now), helped out with the critters in the morning, had another brief visit with Dad, then headed home so I can get the rental back tonight.

Dad's not looking too good. He's still mostly able to carry a reasonably coherent conversation (if you listen closely -- he can't really use his tongue to shape sounds), but he's lost a lot of weight and is very weak. The feeding tube has not been working, so he effectively hasn't eaten in about a month. If they can figure out a way to get nutrients into him, they may be able to deal with the breathing troubles and everything else. If not, it's just a matter of time. Keep him and my mom in your prayers, if you will.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Headed to Virginia again

My dad's condition is seesawing; my mom called, pretty concerned, tonight before church.

I'm picking up a car from Wilmington in the morning and heading up there for a day or two, on the chance that this is the last chance (not the first time I've done this, and it likely won't be the last).

Depending on circumstances, I'll be coming back either Friday or Saturday. Wife and daughter are staying this time.

Some days it just doesn't pay...

Well, okay, since I'm paid by the hour, I guess it technically pays to be in the newspaper business, no matter how far behind schedule we are. But still.

I finished my writing unusually early Monday (just before midnight -- I'd forgotten to write a brief update on all the ridiculousness surrounding Rep. Thomas Wright, but I didn't realize that then, and neither did the editor).

So I went home and got an unprecedented six or seven hours of sleep, I think, and went into Tuesday feeling unusually good, in spite of some holdover from the flu.

I came in early on Tuesday to help with the proof-reading, and when I got there, I was alone (usually I find my editor still squinting bleary-eyed at his computer). I turned on my editor's computer, and decided that him not being there wasn't a terribly good thing.

Almost none of the first five pages were laid out. His stories weren't on the page. Of course, then I remembered that my last one wasn't written yet, so I dashed it off (not much to write -- the board of elections isn't saying much about their investigation, and neither Wright nor his lawyer returned my calls).

The editor and rest of the crew still weren't there (like I said, I got there pretty early and finished that article quickly). I don't know how to do layout. So I just started proofing the back pages of the paper someone else laid out, and fixing the mistakes I knew how to fix.

Eventually, people started coming in. It turned out the editor had finally gone home to get some sleep (poor bloke hasn't been getting enough of that lately, and it's got to be draining to hardly sleep at all every single Monday night). He still probably only got three or four hours of sleep.

He came back in, and I figured we were going to be okay, because we had all the stories already and all the art (great photos, this week, by the way), and some layout was already done. Others trickled in to help proof the pages.

Then Senator Soles called. He had introduced a change to a bill that had the whole east side of the county up in arms, and it had to be handled by the editor (he wrote the story on the subject -- it would have taken him as long to catch one of us up on it as to do it himself). It had to be done yesterday, or we'd be scooped by the other papers, one of which goes to press between 12 and 24 hours after we do.

And we kept running into hitch after hitch. The paper wouldn't print from editor's computer for a while. There was only one other computer that could access the pages, so only one other person could be laying out or correcting problems at a time -- and the owner, the only other person who really knew how to lay out pages, didn't get there until pretty late.

A sweet old lady who writes feature pieces for us told one of her friends that she could stop by and talk to the editor that morning, and he couldn't get rid of her (he's too nice, sometimes, but hey, that's a nice switch from the steriotypical newspaper editor).

We finally had the pages almost done (quite a bit past deadline, of course), with just one jump (you know, the "continued on page 8") onto a sports page to finish. And when the editor put in the jump and went to put the page on the proper computer, it disappeared. Completely disappeared. Not in his trash can, not on his desktop or the destination desktop. Couldn't be found by a file search on either computer. Completely disappeared. We still have no idea what happened to it, even after a desperation call to the tech person at the owner's other newspaper.

The page had to be rebuilt by hand. And the person who had laid it out initially wasn't there (after her marathon workday on Monday, she's not scheduled for Tuesday morning).

Deadline is supposed to be about 12:30 p.m. We got that last page in about 4:30 p.m., I think.

The upside to the long delay on that page is that I managed to get a good bit of my work area at the office cleaned up. It turns out that the existence of a desk in that corner is more than a generally-agreed-upon hypothesis -- there really is one.

I'd hope this week will be much better, but unless someone does something crazy, there's nothing happening here newswise for the rest of the week, as best as I can tell. Ironically, that often means more work, rather than less, as we scramble around looking for something newsworthy to report.

*some edits made Monday, March 26 for clarification, context, and professionalism. Anyone who follows this blog knows I enjoy my second job -- where else do you get paid to go to a concert of the NC Symphony or blow up things? The people I work with are great, and we have a blast (not generally the blowing-things-up sort, though) a lot of the time. The fact that we aren't perfect doesn't mean we can't have fun most times, and the fact that days like this happen doesn't take away from all the great ones.*

Dad in ICU

Although there is still reason to believe that everything will be stabilized, there are apparently enough things going wrong that Dad was moved into ICU the other day.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Must be a software glitch

I'm not sure what's up with the paragraph breaks in posts that include pictures (such as my previous post). For some reason, whenever I include a picture, there is at least one pair of paragraphs that simply will not allow a hard return between them. I'm not sure how to contact a tech person about it, either. I say this just so you readers know, I'm well aware that those paragraphs aren't separated -- I just haven't been able to figure out how to fix it.

*edit* Now it is letting me fix the breaks in the previous post. I'm still not sure what's going on with those posts, though, so please bear with any that have too much space or not enough space between paragraphs.

My wife ain't a sissy

There's always a story behind a picture like this...

So the dog was going nuts in the backyard this afternoon, and our daughter comes trotting in to tell us, "Duchess found something!"

Here in rural southeast North Carolina, that could be anything from a baby possum to a funny-looking bush blowing in the wind to an alligator, bobcat, or water moccasin.

My wife and I dashed outside to see what was going on, and there was the dog, harassing a young snapping turtle.

The turtle was so covered in clumps of mud (it's been raining all day) that we could hardly tell what it was, though. I scooped it up in the sandbox lid, and then my wife grabbed a bucket and chivvied the turtle in with a stick.

She then carried it into the bathroom, where, placing the turtle in the bathtub, she scrubbed it off with the toilet brush. It may be the only time in history that confluence of objects has taken place.

The dog continued to carry on from the kitchen, quite concerned that we had gone into a room alone with that dangerous creature from the nether worlds.

Our daughter thought it was the greatest thing (she decided it was her "princess turtle") -- we had to emphasize very clearly to her that if she ever sees a turtle with that shaped shell and long tail, she must never try to touch it.

My wife's approach to dealing with the reptilian is so far removed from my mother's (sometime, I'll have to tell you about my captive crawfish in the kitchen), and most women's, for that matter, that I can only chuckle. My wife has even caught a small snake or two, after I taught her which ones were safe. I'm very proud. Now, if she can only learn how to deal with spiders...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dad still in hospital

Apparently some heart trouble has developed to go along with the pneumonia (which is something of a symptom of the trouble he has swallowing -- drainage runs into his lungs).

With my family fighting off the flu in its various incarnations, we're not really in a position to head up there again, and it sounds like he's not quite in life-threatening danger at this point. But it still doesn't sound comfortable at all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


This virus that has been hounding the people of our fair county has finally caught up with me. No fun (although I honestly don't think I've got it as bad so far as some people have).

I feel even worse, though, because this is only about the second time Pastor Gibbs has left for a conference since I've been here -- and it's the first time I've been possibly too sick to go to church (much less preach). At least there's another man in the church who is a preacher and in town.

Everyone (being defined as my wife and the fellow from the church I've talked with most) is telling me not to go, but I feel silly staying home if I'm physically capable of standing up and stringing words together. They keep saying something about no one else wanting this stuff. I guess I can understand that. But I don't have to like it.

Blowing things up

I've said before that I generally love my job with the newspaper. And part of that is because of the terrific variety of things I get to do. Last Wednesday, I was talking to the state senator (who managed to stir up a political firestorm in these parts). And last Friday, I got to detonate four pounds of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane (which makes a pretty impressive "boom").

On Friday, I spent the first half of the day riding with the county beaver trapper. I learned that beavers, even though us regular people don't see them very often, are becoming a real problem here. According to this guy, a pair of beaver, assuming no mortality, can produce 618 offspring in 10 years. And no mortality isn't far off -- there are very few natural predators for them and very little disease.

So to alleviate flooding around the county, this guy goes out and traps the beaver (killing them -- it's illegal to relocate them.) And then he brings in a certified explosives guy to blow up the dam. So I went along on Friday to watch, listen, interivew, and take pictures.

At the third or fourth stop, they even let me detonate one -- first time I've ever blown anything up (no, really, it is!)
No, this isn't the one I detonated (silly, it took two hands to operate the detonator.) This was just the only one that was in a good place to photograph the explosion. Most of them were rather buried back in swampy places with too much brush for good photography.


...and after. I was impressed by how focused the explosion was with properly placed explosives. It could throw nearly Volkswagon-sized chunks of debris treetop-high -- but brush just a few feet from the blast was unscathed.

Monday, March 12, 2007


I blew something up Friday. Literally. That was fun. More later.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Moores Creek reenactments

These pictures are from the 231st anniversary of the battle at Moores Creek, one of the earliest battles of the Revolutionary War, if not the earliest (February, 1776). It was a decisive defeat for the Loyalists, and prevented an early British victory in the South.

I was proudest of all of this shot -- it's tough to get muzzle blast.

Okay, so our daughter was less than enthralled some of the time. I think she still had fun for the most part.

This fife and drum corps is actually dressed in Colonial colors, not British. The musicians apparently dressed in the opposite color of the infantry. Since the British infantry wore red (the infamous "Redcoats"), the musicians wore blue. In the Colonial military, the opposite was true -- the infantry wore blue, while the musicians wore red.

The reenactors there really did live for two days like Colonials (and the Loyalists on the other side of the bridge). They pitched tents and slept in them, even doing their own cooking on the spot. The couple here is enjoying a meal that looked as good as anything I see in most Cajun restaurants, a low-country shrimp boil, I think they called it.

And then there is the adorableness of this little boy, practicing on his penny whistle while his dad plays the recorder. How do I know it's a boy? Well, for one, his mom told me. But for the other, she explained that children of both genders wore those dress-like garments. But the boys wore buttons, while the girls had things that closed with laces. This was in imitation of the parents -- men wore clothing with buttons, while women wore garments that laced up. This was because women got pregnant, meaning that their clothing needed to expand, and then contract -- and they couldn't go buy a maternity wardrobe. Men, on the other hand, were apparently expected to gain their weight once and keep it on.

Dad back in hospital

He's got to feel like a yo-yo by now. In. Out. In. Out.

After figuring out why the feeding tube wasn't working right, Dad has developed breathing trouble, so he's back in again. I don't know what the problem is at this point; could be minor, could be major.

I'll try to come back in a little bit and post a few pics from Moores Creek last week.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dad out of hospital

Dad is out of the hospital now. Apparently the pneumonia is either under control or eradicated. He says he is feeling better and able to read at least a little.

There is still a feeding tube, and he still can't swallow or control his tongue properly; the doctors aren't sure if the nerve damage from the operation is temporary or permanent yet, I guess.

Here, our Faith Promise pledge has grown another $2,000, which is terrific. We are also starting to get church people back in action from the latest round of flu; there are still some out, but the number returning is greater than the number missing, for the first time in a couple of weeks, I think.

I'll try to put up a meatier post or two in the next day or two, including some pics of Moores Creek's reenactors, now that the paper has had its shot at them.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Back on the ranch

I suppose it would be more accurate to say we're back from the ranch, since my parents' place in Virginia is much more like a ranch than our house here. Either way, we got back into Burgaw late last night.

My dad got the feeding tube in successfully, and they've started him on antibiotics for the pneumonia; he sounded much better than the last time I talked to him on the phone. I'll have to see if I can catch up with him some time today.

It's starting to seem like everyone is sick right now, though. My daughter woke us up at some awful hour of the morning today with a fever and vomiting. My wife stayed home from church with her this morning, although by the time I left, Chatterbox was practically back in full swing, in spite of the slight fever. We may take her to church tonight, since she insists she's better (keeping her distant from other folk -- although it seems like the whole church has already had it or currently has it).

We were missing a ridiculous number of people this morning; couldn't even have choir, we were missing so many, and teachers for both children's churches and my first choice substitute were all out. Fortunately, we had three visiting families and a couple of other families and people returning from illness that brought us back into the range of normal attendance numbers.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Headed to VA

Having gotten word that my dad is still in the hospital and has contracted pneumonia, we've decided to sprint up there tonight and come back tomorrow.

He's expected to recover, as far as I know, but it still seemed the thing to do. So I've picked up the rental (our car is still only making 2nd gear), and we're throwing things together to head out.

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