Been traveling a lot this summer—and when you’re away from home, you miss little things. Turns out I can get by without some stuff, but I really don’t want to live without:

1. Post-It Notes. Two weeks ago I nearly tore apart my parents’ house looking for even one of these sticky little miracles. They were like, “Can’t you just use a regular piece of paper?” No, no I can’t.

2. A Decent Shower. The youth mission trip to South Dakota was great, despite the fact that once a day they took us to an old locker room with, um, less-than-new faucets and standing water all over the floor. Somehow it’s hard to feel clean when you have to wear a swimsuit and flip-flops for a three-minute drizzle that foams up the soap but doesn’t rinse it off. Builds character, though.

3. A Map. First of all, despite what anyone says, I did not get us “lost” in the middle of Minnesota on the way to the mission trip (it’s not my fault they can’t use decent signs out there); I did not take an unnecessary “detour” looking for an address in Minneapolis where Dad was taking down some trees (I enjoy the sights of the city, OK?); I did not turn the “wrong” way after the annual Norwegian country church service and end up at Catholic Bingo in Tilden instead of Lutheran Chicken Dinner in Bloomer (the food line always takes forever; I had plenty of time for the scenic route); and I did not have to “backtrack” around the city when I took some of the high-school girls to a Convo Design Team meeting in Madison (I thought it was important that they tour the town). At all times, I always knew exactly where I was. Because I had a map. Of course, I’m not denying that a more detailed, less ancient map may have been helpful…

4. A Good Book. For a weekend visit with my new nephew, I packed four novels, thinking that would be more than enough to fill the time when the baby was sleeping—but they were all terrible. I had to give up after the first few chapters and was left with nothing to do but read “Goodnight Moon” for the 4,000th time, or take a nap. (Fortunately Lukie made up for it by generally being adorable.)

5. Rope. Make that: strong rope. Ellie has frayed, snapped, or chewed through at least six ropes and two leashes:

In June we were up at the lake and she took off into the swamp—which is so dense that there was no way for me to go in after her—and suddenly I heard this terrible snarling, hissing, roaring fight. She came calmly trotting out a few minutes later without a scratch. (Mom’s convinced it was a raccoon that was afraid of her growling and ran off. I think it was a bear that was laughing too hard at her to engage in a fight.)

Then in July she was “helping” Dad with firewood and wriggled free of her 30-foot rope and disappeared into the woods. He had to call me to come down and coordinate a county-wide manhunt—er, doghunt. We finally found her on the other side of the highway, covered in mud and completely unrepentant.

In August she escaped three times: Once she came back stinking of dead fish, once we had to tackle her to the ground in the middle of a poison ivy patch, and once she sliced her leg open and I almost fainted from all the blood.

She’s under house arrest for September.

And I’m glad to be home.

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