California, This is our Story . . .

Chapter Five:

On Friday morning, we got up and slowly got ourselves around.  We decided that we were going to get something for “brunch” at a place that could give us internet access, catch up on what was happening back at Shady Acres, then get on with our day.  The plan was to go up to Pasadena, pick up Mary Beth and Joanna (Sharp) and take them out for supper at a nice restaurant and then return them to their boarding place, and then come back to San Diego. 

Before we left Delaware, we had called Mary Beth and Joanna’s mother and asked if there was anything we could take for the girls from home.  Kathy said that there was a sweater that Mary Beth had left behind, and she also wanted to get some things together for them to eat.  She had brought the items to our house the day before we left, and Daniel had tucked them into the cracks and crannies of our suitcase that was going to be checked at the airport.  Friday morning, when we went to find all the things that we had brought, I couldn’t find the sweater.

“Did you pack a sweater?” I asked Daniel as I scrambled through the suitcase.

“I don’t remember a sweater in the things Kathy brought,” he said thoughtfully.  “I packed everything she brought, though, so if there was one with the things, I packed it.”

“I’m sure you did,” I said, a little amused, “because you even brought the one extra plastic bag that had nothing in it.”  I rustled around in the suitcase, and packed all the other stuff into a bag — popcorn, cake mixes, etc. and we were finally ready to go.  I didn’t bother to take that extra, flat, crumpled plastic Wal-mart bag that was obviously just there for packing.

We went into a nearby Starbucks and I got a great caramel steamer, and then we sat outside at a little round table on the patio.  I uploaded some pictures, and wrote an update on my Xanga site, but the wi-fi was slow and I finally gave up with a short update and pictures of the area that Lena lives in.  (This would be my February 11th update.)

There was a Mexican restaurant that shared the patio with Starbucks, and after a little discussion, we decided that we would grab an early lunch there.  Lena wanted a milkshake from McDonalds that was just across the way, so between her milkshake and our “little” lunch, we were soon finished and on our way north.

California is a land of so much diversity and interesting plants and landscape and PEOPLE.  We saw so many things to hold our attention on our way to Pasadena.  Passing through the one town, I looked out the window, just as the light turned green and saw this:

This is a Photography studio that appears to be doing really well.
And it has our Grandbaby’s unusual name!  How sweet is that?


Lena, with her small stature, has a modified car — and it was just a whole lot easier to let her drive than to alter the seat, the extensions and mirrors, etc.  It is an understatement to say that she has somewhat of a reputation as a daring driver.  (I kid you not, our children tell stories of escapades in that little Honda Civic that cause her family to KNOW the guardian angels fly along with her as she maneuvers the streets and freeways of Southern California.)  Daniel and I were passengers on almost all the miles driven in San Diego, and we truly had NO narrow escapes.  She has an ability to get places in a hurry, and in one piece.  It was Friday, though, and the traffic was heavy, so it took us longer than we had anticipated.  We did get just a little lost, too, right at the end, but that was exceedingly minor.  Between our late start, though, and the traffic, we got to Pasadena without any time for exploring, so we decided to go straight to their school and see about heading out for supper.

We pulled onto the campus of U.S. Center for World Missions and parked our car on a side street. 


It was an unpretentious building on a quiet street, but once inside the doors, there was a bustle as well as a sense of calm.  The USCWM is housed on the campus of the old Pasadena Nazarene College, and, in addition to their own ministry, offers space to many different organizations.  Founded in 1976 by Ralph and Roberta Winters, the U.S. Center for World Missions is “a place where mission organizations work together to strategize, research and promote ideas that will help to complete the unfinished task of reaching every people group with the Gospel.  It has been described as a missions think tank or a “Missions’ Pentagon.” (Wikipedia –If you are interested, look it up!  It’s a great article, well written, unbiased, and very informative.)

We came into the front doors to the sight of tables being set up for a community potluck information meeting, and were greeted warmly.  Mary Beth and Joanna were still in class, so we occupied ourselves looking at the various displays and reading some of the information pamphlets that were in abundance.  Then Joanna bounced in and announced that they still needed to attend a mandatory Bible Study before they would be allowed to leave, so Daniel and I opted to join the class for the study.  Lena fielded a few phone calls from friends and also work (for some reason, they just cannot make it without calling her!) and watched people and even caught a few winks, I think.  When the (very shortened!) Bible study was over, we asked the gals where they would like to eat.  They both said they didn’t much care as long as it was something “substantial” for a change.


  They live and usually eat off campus, and their little basement hovel has a microwave and they pretty much exist on what they can make in the microwave.  Frozen pizzas, popcorn, and similar foods.  Both girls look like they’ve lost considerable weight since leaving Delaware last fall, but of course, that probably is a good thing in their eyes.  (They look healthy enough, they just look so skinny to me!)  Daniel and I discussed it, and we decided that we would try to find a steak house.  Their affable professor made a few recommendations, and we decided to hunt down the one that was closest one that looked promising.

We squished the five of us into Lena’s little car, and off we went.  We searched high and low for this elusive place, and finally!  We found it.  We should have known we were in over heads when there was valet parking.  Two fellows stood by the door of this dimly lit establishment, and were taking keys from patrons as they drove into the driveway.

“They better not try to take my keys, “ muttered Lena.  “It just isn’t worth it!  Once they change my seat it is so difficult to get things back to where I have them.  Unless they insist, I’m going to park myself, and if they insist otherwise, I might just leave.”  That was what we should have done at that juncture.  If only we had known.

When we pulled up to the entrance, the eager valet parking fellows were all over us.  They probably saw Lena’s handicapped permit hanging from her mirror and felt really needed, but she stopped them before they could utter a word.   “I’d like to park myself,” she said with conviction.  “Is there a spot that isn‘t too far out where I could park?” 

They peered in at the five of us, looked at her, and quickly determined that this little lady wasn’t about to relinquish her position.   “Oh, sure, sure,” they said hurriedly, “You’re welcome to park right over there!” and they pointed to a spot that was close to the side of the restaurant.  “Just pull right in there, and you should be fine.”  We did just that, and unfolded ourselves out of the car and entered the restaurant.

Oh. Dear.

It smelled wonderful.  The atmosphere was definitely fine dining.  There were crisp linen tablecloths on the small square tables, with crystal wine glasses at each place.  Fancy folded linen napkins at every place setting. Dim lights.  People in expensive dinner dress and expensive jewelry sat in intimate little groupings of two.  While the girls and I stood back, Daniel and Lena approached to the host and said, “Could we have a table for five?”

“Well,” he said, looking us up and down, “I don’t have anything like that unless you are willing to be on the patio.  We could set something up there.”  I looked at the room full of empty tables and began to get a sick feeling in my stomach.  They really didn’t want us.

“The patio is fine,” said Lena and Daniel.  “We would be comfortable there.”  And so, it was decided.  The host sent a waiter to set up the table while we waited.  And waited.  A line had formed behind us, and they began seating those people, but not before I felt like they all sort of looked at our group with disdain.  I began to feel like a Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, like I was asking for a McDonald’s Happy Meal in the White House State Dining Room, like — well, you get the picture.  Lena had come back to stand beside me while we waited.

“I’m just a little worried about this,” I said to her quietly.  “I think we are just a little bit out of our league.”

“I’m wondering, too,” she murmured.  “I wonder how expensive things are here.”

“I am sure they are pretty high,” I said, “and while I want to get the girls a good meal, we can’t afford just anything.”

“I know,” said Lena, again, “It seems a little bit pricey.”

“I think I am going to ask to see a menu,” I said, feeling brave all of a sudden.

“That’s a good idea,” encouraged Lena.  “That way we can know before we are actually seated.”

I went up to the host and said, “I’m sorry.  But could we please see a menu?  We are a little concerned that we aren’t going to be able to afford this with five of us to feed.”

“Oh, sure, sure,” said the host soothingly.  But he made no move to hand me the menu that was lying right there in front of me.  I hesitated, then just reached out and took one from the top of the stack and opened it.  Oh, boy!  It wasn’t the menu.  It was the drink list.  I was feeling more and more out of place by the minute.  I felt like I was embarrassing our group, and all I wanted to do was just disappear from there and magically appear out in the car, ready to get out of there.  At that moment, a waiter appeared out of nowhere and put the leather bound menu in my hands and retrieved his precious drink menu.  I scurried back to our group and we opened the elegant missive and began to read.

Appetizers pretty much started at twenty dollars.  Steak was forty-two at the least.  Hamburgers were eighteen.  My eyes pretty much glassed over at that point.  I know that there are plenty of people reading this that don’t find those prices so unusual, but for this slower, lower Delaware gang whose idea of really eating out is considerably different, it was too much.  We looked at each other, and mutually agreed that we were not going to stay.  It was at that moment that the waiter appeared to tell us that our table was ready. He stood there expectantly,  looking at this crew of motley dressed people that had descended upon this fine establishment. I handed the menu back across the counter to the host.

“I’m sorry,” I said again.  “I really am.  But honestly, we cannot afford this.  We have these two college kids that we wanted to treat to a nice meal, but this is a lot more expensive than we expected, so we need to look  elsewhere.  Really, we are so sorry!”

“That’s just fine,” the host said graciously.  “I understand.  I truly do.  No problem!”

And we escaped.  We discussed at random where we could go, that would still give the girls a variety to choose from and would be good — and, of course, affordable.  We were all pretty hungry by this time, and so Lena steered her trusty little car in the direction of a small Italian restaurant that served steak and veggies and mashed potatoes along with pizza and lasagna and subs and Panini’s.  We had a little bit of a wait there, but it was worth the wait.  The five of us crowded into a four person booth and we talked and laughed and ate until we were stuffed.  We called for boxes so that we could take the leftovers and finally paid the bill and headed out.

We took Mary Beth and Joanna to their boarding place.  It was dark by now, so I didn’t take pictures.  We saw the rooms that the girls shared in a house that was close to campus, gave them the things their mother had sent, and prepared to leave.

“Wasn’t there supposed to be a sweater of some sort? I asked Mary Beth.

“Um, yeah.  I had left it at home, so when Mom asked if I wanted anything, I said she could send it.”

“We don’t remember seeing it, Mary Beth.  I thought she had said something about it, but we haven’t seen it.”

“Well, maybe she forgot to put it in, what with all the hubbub.  It really isn’t important, though.  I can get it later.”

It was hard for Daniel and I to tell the girls “good-bye.“  They are brave and resourceful girlies, and they are determined to make the most of their schooling and to stretch their dollars as far as possible.  You can endure a lot of hardship when you have a dream, and these girlies certainly have dreams.  It was just that their basement room seemed so incredibly dark and devoid of creature comforts.  They both were so ecstatic over the fact that they could live there so cheaply, and that is important, I know.  But both Daniel and I felt a great tugging when we left them there.  So far away from home, but so brave and enthusiastic and committed to serving this old world for Jesus sake.

Goodbyes are no easier when you drag them out, so we hugged the girls, and headed back to San Diego.  I crawled into the back seat and fell asleep.  Almost before I knew it, we were home.  Lena had made it home almost an hour quicker than it had taken us to get to Pasadena. And we were so tired, but so satisfied with our day.  Lena always enjoys meeting new people, especially young people and she really enjoyed the girls.  We made a few plans for Saturday before going to bed, but it didn‘t take long for us to get settled.  We wanted to do the African Safari the next day, and it closed at 5pm.  That made us want to get a decent start.

But the trip to Pasadena wasn’t truly finished when we pulled into Lena’s parking lot and made our way to her lair on the second floor.  When I was packing our suitcase to come home, I came across that flat, rumpled plastic bag.  I opened it up before throwing it away and saw that there was something in the bottom of almost no weight or substance.  I pulled it out.  Mary Beth’s sweater.  Oh, dear.

“Not to worry,” said Lena cheerfully.  “It is little enough that it will fit in a manilla envelope.  You get a mailing address and I will take it to the office and send it out with the office mail first thing in the morning.  It will take hardly any postage because it is so light, and I will be glad to take care of it.”

So, that’s exactly what happened.  Daniel got the address, and Lena mailed it and Mary Beth got it, all safe and sound a few days later.  With that, our mission to Pasadena was truly finished.

Next time:  The African Safari . . .


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5 responses to “California, This is our Story . . .

  1. California drivers are AMAZING! While we lived in the Bay Area we would often comment how they can drive sideways just as well is forward & backward!

  2. Yes, I understand about the higher end restaurant – we’d never be able to afford it either.  I used to dream about going on a date with Bill to a place like that, but then I always decide I could never pay that much money for a meal – no matter how scrumptious!!Your trip sounds like so much fun, and I’m having fun reading about your fun!!

  3. WHAT AN EVENING!!!!    I would never have enjoyed eating a meal that cost that much either!!!   I’d have done exactly as you did……LEAVE!!!   (o;    That sweater story is just too funny!!!

  4. We have friends who used to work at that center. They are on the East coast now, doing the same sort of work for a different organization.

  5. I’ve been waiting very eagerly for this installment. In fact, I was thinking of calling you and telling you that your public demanded it:) I was wondering what became of that sweater, because I talked to Mary after you left, and she said she hadn’t gotten it. I know I forget important things, but I was sure….This is one grateful mama for all you did for my girls. And so glad you didn’t stay at the 1st restaurant. My girls think of McDonald’s as a treat. Wouldn’t want that spoiled!

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