Toys to share

I like to share my sturdy, vintage Fisher-Price and Playskool toys with grandchildren. The unfinished wooden dollhouse stays home. Daisy likes the house so much that she bought it a miniature buffet for when she comes to play.

No dolls were needed for a recent visit with five grandsons and one nearly teenage granddaughter. I filled a tote with a variety of toys to share with twin two-year-old great-grandsons. I also took books for all ages, the board game ‘Clue’ and a tub of Legos for the guys who recently asked, “Can we take them home?”

“No you have Legos and Grandpa may want to play with these.” I may not want to give all my cool toys away, but we do know how to share our toys, so I brought them along.

The cousins’ parents set up an electronic video game. Legos and toys sat untouched as Titus, Henry and Sam played a few rounds of Clue. Sam, 10, played many rounds of Clue and asked, “Can I take it home?”

I handed him the box.

Trace and Tyler, who turn three this month, quickly found their favorites in the canvas tote. Trace repeatedly picked the wheeled toys. Time and again he brought us the hand sized back-hoe to manipulate. He also took ownership of the remote control for the choo-choo engine. He carried that engine around by its toddler proof antennae to grandpa.

“Push button,” he said and handed grandpa the steering wheel shaped control.

Grandpa pushed. “It needs new batteries.” He found some and said, “Let’s turn it on.”

The engine has two buttons. One initiates a horrendously loud song with toots, whistles and chugs. I clicked that button first and immediately slid it back to the off position. Any time that merry “whoo, whoo” jingle sounded, the nearest adult grabbed the engine muttering, “No way!” and slid the button off. We also slid on the motor button to make the red, yellow and blue engine move in straight lines and circles. Besides that awful song, simple maneuvers are all the train does. That’s quite enough for Trace who spent a lot of time pushing the button.

I heard Trace and Tyler talk about “choo-choo” a few times. A couple times Tyler wanted to play with it. An adult would insist Trace give him a turn. We watched as Tyler pushed the buttons, making the train go forward and in circles before we returned to our conversations. The next time we looked, Trace had the train again and Tyler stood at the toy box pulling out the magnetic building set – chubby plastic red and blue rods with magnets on the ends and yellow balls with iron inside.

He spent hours pushing the pieces together and pulling them apart. He never did figure out why the pieces refused to link when he pressed north pole to north pole. He just kept trying until someone turned the rod in his hand.

The twins played with toys. The big boys played video games until my son asked, “anyone want to play ‘Wing it?'” It’s a game where you get five cards with phrases or nouns and you have to use three to solve a challenge.”

“Sure let’s play it,” we said and spent a couple hours creating silly story solutions to the challenge cards’ impossible situations. For instance, “To get out of the sewer, I would take my 100 spools of thread and knit a cord using my baseball bat and hook it onto the plane flying overhead.” No matter how I tried, I could not find a way to work the ‘pancreas’ card into any solution. All the big folks enjoyed the game and hope he packs it the next time he visits. After all, if Trace has to share, so do we.

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Virtual is not the same as reality

It’s just not the same viewing life electronically. No matter how many proclaim the wonders of the Internet, nothing compares to experience.

Consider the difference of “seeing” the Grand Canyon in an Imax theater and actually going and looking over the precipice at that hole in the ground. I’ve done both. In the Imax theater, the audience catches a passing brush of feeling the depth and expanse of this magnificent canyon. That’s no comparison to touring the park, walking close to the edge of the rim or simply standing there watching the birds riding the wind currents into the canyons as the light plays with the layers of color. No camera can capture its expanse. I clicked a panoramic view from left to far right and failed to capture the plunging depth of the Canyon. A video misses the terror of seeing people play “chicken” with the edge of the Canyon. I went close, but I understood a middle school boy’s terror. He refused to walk anywhere near the edge. You have to be there to get that fear.

All that to say, while I am happy we have online school, business meetings, church and summer camp, it fails to compare. In recent months I watched sermons from the comfort of my lounge chair or on my phone. Anytime I decided I needed a break, I clicked it off and walked away.

I could not do that when I attended a church conference with a couple thousand other people. The internationally famous speaker described being in Korea and discovering a local church gathering in the early hours of the day to pray in a nearby stadium. Then, rather than urge us to pray in like manner, he cut his presentation short and said, “We will use the rest of my time to pray.” All around me I felt and heard people pray quietly, fervently, respectfully. The whole experience moved me more than it would have if I had been watching the recording from my lounge chair while the washing machine chugged in the background and the phone rang with another robo-call.

Many churches this year, including mine, have held online services, Daily Vacation Bible School and even camp via the Internet. The staff spent hours planning, videoing and editing. Good job, but it falls short of Hebrews 10:25 “let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” The Church is the people of the church interacting, not buildings or events.

I love going to camp, having time to talk with others about their experiences in the faith. I enjoy watching the children play together for hours. I relish time to sit for hours on the front porch of the dining hall and not feeling rushed to go home to fix another meal. There is no way I can duplicate the interchange of experiences and information with real people who respond to my questions, comments and facial expressions even as I do theirs. The topics change as we interact without a disembodied outsider deciding what we need to hear and discuss via the internet.

Years ago I watched a child who had had spent years cooped up in front of a television discover nature during his first weekend at camp. He ran, played, and explored from dawn to dusk and attended classes a couple times each day. At one point he walked up to us and declared, “this is heaven.” No way he would have said that if he had spent another day cooped up staring at a screen.

Covid-19 sent us home for a while. We do not need to stay there. It’s time to move beyond the electronic experience.

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A time to move

Every time I turn around this year I am updating some familiy member’s address. Our family simply will not stay put. The urge to move has spread through the family like a virus as infectious as COVID-19.

It began with son #2. For the past 15 years or so he has shared living quarters with parents, brother, nieces, daughters or friends. This spring’s circumstances landed him in a one bedroom apartment all by himself. He called a lot during his initial days of solitary housekeeping. Then he began meeting neighbors, and the phone did not ring.

Son #1’s roots go too deep to consider moving. His three daughters however all sought alternative housing. Their moves kept son #1 busy during his COVID-19 time off from work. He helped prepare their houses to sell, packed and moved one and has two more to go.

In June, Granddaughter #1 lost a rental and needed to move quickly. She and her husband and three children settled on her in-law’s property while they look for something more permanent.

Granddaughter #2 once said, “One and done” and settled into the perfect home. Then twin sons arrived and they began to say “Three and through, We need a different house.” They began spiffing up the place. “Look at these before and after pictures of our house,” she wrote after proudly posting pictures once they finished painting and prepping for potential buyers. It sold shortly after they listed.

Initially they said, “We want to move away.” Then they considered the advantages of living close to the grandparents of their twin pre-schoolers and elementary aged son. They found a house in a nearby neighborhood where they will move in August.

Granddaughter #3 from that family announced her fourth pregnancy and that the time had come to leave their small, starter home an hour away from family. After quarantine at home began, she wrote, “I am not working. I am painting, cleaning and packing.”

“Wears me out just reading about it,” I replied.

I perked up when Son #5 called, “Hey, you said something about having the kids come to your house. Can they come and stay with a couple weeks while we work on getting the house ready to sell?” They have decided they want a larger house in a better school district.

“Certainly! Bring them on down!” I began planning fun activities with the limitations imposed during the COVID-19 closings. His three visited a week. The next week my daughter’s four children joined them for a week of Cousin Camp. Meanwhile, Son #5’s wife packed, cleaned, prepped the house for presentation. The first week it was on the market the realtor called, “you have an offer at the price you asked.”

Last week, my son updated us, “the buyer did a walk through and made a list of things to fix. Sophie was accepted at the school where she interviewed. And we signed a contingency contract for a house in a better school district.”

He sent me a link to the realtor’s virtual tour of the house.“Wow! It looks really nice. Lots of space.” They hope to move in August.

Next week we will see Granddaughter #2 and Son #5 and their families. If moving fever is a virus we need to wear masks to avoid infection. After almost 40 years in the same place, we may be ripe for the fever to move into a smaller house, closer to family. The thought of all the work moving entails should work as a vaccine. From my La-Z-Boy that looks like way too much activity to even consider.

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India during COVID-19

This year it wasn’t snow or icy roads that closed schools, shut down businesses and kept folks at home. No, COVID-19 did all that with a vengeance. Grandchildren stayed home. Some parents went to work, others waited for the unemployment and stimulus checks.

On Sundays we watched the weekly church service from our lounge chairs and visited over Zoom. In the store, we stared at empty shelves once filled with paper products and signs rationing the sale of soup.

It was not the best of times.

It was not the worst of times. Not from my secure corner of retirement with plenty of food in the pantry and a working vehicle.

It was not the worst of times for most folks in America. Definitely not after I read a report from a couple who work in India with Youth with a Mission. They wrote, “When India entered a state of lockdown on March 24 (the largest lockdown in the world) more than 100 million men and women who had migrated from their rural towns and villages to look for work in big cities and slums such as Dharavi were suddenly left jobless.” Since many sleep where they work, they also were suddenly homeless.

“For these millions it was not simply facing an economic crisis but an existential one as they struggle to put food on their tables. These are the people who earn daily wages, work on a contract basis and have no safety net or personal insurance of any kind. They may not succomb to COVID-19, but they will succomb to lack of access to food and health care.”

In India the government lockdown included the trains many workers used to get home. Stranded, sometimes hundreds of miles from home, with no job and no place to stay, many simply began walking.

Images from across India started to emerge of a mass exodus of people walking hundreds of miles under the scorching sun to reach their hometowns. Lack of public transportation (because it was either unaffordable for many or closed due to the pandemic) forced parents to carry their children or tow them behind on carts or even luggage cases. Stories began to circulate of children dying due to exhaustion and starvation and of fatigued migrants falling asleep on railway tracks and being run over by trains. Others died in road accidents and from extreme exhaustion.

The YWAM people sent pictures of food distribution points set up along the main roads or at the bus stops. Yes, America saw lines forming for food distribution. But it was people waiting in cars to insure social distancing, not folks standing in line after a long day of walking.

Social distancing makes sense and seems easy until I read that many of these Indians live in apartment complexes with whole families crammed into one-room apartments. Locally folks express shock and dismay when they are buying groceries and encounter a maskless person who sneezes.

Consider life in Dharavi, India – one of the largest slums in the world. One million folks live within eight-tenths of a square mile. It is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Disease runs rampant in the confined, unsanitary conditions. Social distancing to avoid COVID-19 would be impossible in their already tenuous life.

For millions in India, every day is the worst of all times. Catching just a glimpse of the effect of the lockdown for COVID-19 in India really puts the past months into perspective. It really wasn’t the best of all times for us, but it definitely was not the worst of all times.

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Comfort food in isolation

“I had the strangest dream last night,” my husband said one morning (well actually he says that most mornings). “I dreamed about goulash. That sounds so good.”

“Hmm. I haven’t made that in a long time,” I replied. For some reason I had been thinking about goulash. My mother used to make it often: a cheap, easy, filling meal. I could not remember exactly how to make it.

The Internet yielded several ideas that I combined. I added special seasoning to cooked hamburger and sausage before adding heaps of chopped and sauteed onions, celery, broccoli, green peppers, cooked pasta shells and spaghetti sauce. It was not the way my mom used to prepare it. It was much more complicated. It smelled and tasted fantastic.

We each scarfed it up a large serving, considered seconds and decided we shouldn’t. With mandated social isolation on top of six weeks of home recovery from hip replacement, we had eaten more than our share of comfort food to remind us of happier days. We didn’t need extra servings.

We both liked it so much that I posted on Facebook, “Made goulash for the first time in a while. Tasty supper.”

My darling daughter replied, “I am not a picky eater AT ALL…. but goulash is by far my least favorite dish.”

And my little brother wrote, “I agree.” Humph, and I used to cook supper for him.

Okay so goulash did not make their favorite foods list. Still, it served as my comfort food that day. I define comfort food as, “I don’t care how many calories it has, I’m unhappy and I want this food. I will feel happier if I eat it.”

Evidently during social isolation I have needed comfort food. At least, that’s my explanation for the baking spree in the kitchen. First, I made chocolate cake with vanilla frosting like my mom made. Then, I made a spice cake with penuche frosting, just like Mom made. I cooked brown sugar with butter and milk in a saucepan over heat. I stirred until it thickened then quickly added confectionery sugar and vanilla to create a delightful, caramel fudge frosting. I wanted to eat all the frosting. I controlled myself and smoothed the frosting over the cake. I did make sure I left enough in the bowl to satisfy me. I also swiped a few spoonfuls from around the edge of the cake.

Seeking more comfort, I pulled a couple of pie shells from the chest freezer and decided it was time to use those peeled and frozen apples to make a Dutch apple pie. I enjoyed every bite I didn’t have to share with hubby.

The other crust I reserved for lemon pie. I couldn’t find a lemon pudding mix at the store. So I pulled out the old Betty Crocker cookbook and began measuring sugar, lemon, cornstarch and water to heat in a pan. I stirred, brought the mixture to a boil and poured it in the baked shell. I whipped the egg whites to shiny peaks and baked the meringue to a perfect brown top.

My pride in the perfect pie almost kept me from eating it. It only took one delightful bite to erase that silly notion.

I do like my carbs and desserts. Which probably explains why as a child I needed clothes sized for a chubby girl. Fortunately my baking spree of comfort foods ceased abruptly. Our oven stopped heating in the middle of baking the cornbread I really wanted for supper. About that same time strict social isolation ended. I’m not complaining, any more comfort food and I would have needed chubby old lady clothes.

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Hello, Grandma!

We love to hear from our family, but rarely do the grandchildren call us. So I was a bit surprised when I answered the phone to hear, “Hi, Grandma. I have been in an accident. I need some help with cash to get home.”

The caller sort of sounded like my grandson, but I usually just talk with his father.

“Hi,” I said hesitantly and asked, “Who is this calling?”

“Johnny.”

“Wrong name, Johnny. Good-bye.”

Later, I called my son and asked to speak with my grandson, “I need to be able to recognize his voice over the phone,” I explained the situation before chatting with the teen.

I wondered, “How do people get tricked by such calls?”

“Many would answer, ‘Hi, Johnny. How are you?’ and the caller has a grandchild’s name,” my friend explained.

I researched fake calls to grandparents on the Internet. I learned that in 2018, the Federal Trade Commission reported that folks 70 and older sent an average of $9,000 to fraudulent callers. That is significantly more than the average of $2,000 sent by younger people responding to imposter calls. Imposters trick them by saying, “the IRS wants back taxes paid with a gift card or a wire transfer.”

Remember, the IRS never operates that way.

Forwarned, my husband had a ready response when another imposter called. “Hi Grandpa. I need some cash. Can you wire it to me? Don’t tell Mom and Dad, please.”

Grandpa grinned and looked across the room at me. He had his own questions.

“How old are you?”
“24.” (We have no grandsons who are 24.)

“How old do you think I am?” he asked.

“90.”

“How about 27? And if I am 27, I can’t have a grandson who is 24.”

The caller hung up.

That caller obviously had not trolled my social media for information before calling. Some scam artists do and have a lot of information before they pose as a grandchild in trouble.

After asking, “Are you ok? Were you hurt?” some grandparents observe, “It does not sound like you.” Of course the imposter has an explanation. “I broke my nose in the accident,” or “I have been crying.”

Ask for more information, “Where are you calling from? What are you doing there?”

Give yourself time to think before sending money, “Give me your number. I will see what I can do and call back.”

If the caller says, “I have been arrested and need money for bail.” Do not simply use the number the caller gives you. Do not believe the ‘officer’ who takes the phone and validates the need for bail money. Get the name of the town and google information for the local police phone number.

Before sending money, no matter how desperate the caller sounded, call the parents or anyone else who would know whether the grandchild is traveling, at school or at home.

Once cash is wired, more pleas for cash will likely follow. Sometimes the caller wants a gift card.

Big box retailers like Walmart or Target direct requests for expensive gift cards to the office. There trained clerks should ask, “Did you receive a call from a family member who just had an acccident, was arrested or had some other crisis? This is often a scam to get your money.”

If you send funds using Western Union and before realizing it’s a scam, the transaction may be stopped by contacting the Western Union Fraud hotline at 1-800-448-1492.

Avoid being scammed, and call your real grandchild and have a real conversation with them.

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Cousin camp 2020

Last week we held a cousin camp with seven grandchidlren ages 4 to 13. Enough children for everyone to have a playmate.

The first day I said, “Those dolls in the bedroom need to be dressed for donation.” For the next couple of hours the girls combed the dolls’ hair and tried on outfits. “This is kinda fun,” Sophie, 12, declared.

Daisy, 9, picked out fabric to make blankets that coordinated with the outfits they wore. Every day, she also gathered dirty clothes and towels and kept the washing machine and dryer humming.

“I like doing laundry here. It’s fun.” she said holding a neatly folded stack of towels.

Every day, Eli, 13, nudged awake Sam, almost 10. “Come on, let’s go for a walk.”

The third day, Sam groaned, “Not today.”

“Come on. It’s more fun with you.”

“Okay.” Sam never refused again.

Chefs varied, “I’ll fix dinner, “ said Sophie, *** looking at the row of boxes of Hamburger Helper mixes and mac and cheese.

Caroline, 11, asked, “Do you have any chocolate chips? I want to make cookies.”

“I do,” I pulled out the chocolate chips. She climbed on the counter, examined the cupboard and found the ingredients. The cousins scarfed up the cookies. I helped clean the kitchen. Usually the cousins loaded, unloaded the dishwasher and cleaned counters.

One afternoon, Henry, 7, helped prepare snack bags. As he counted M&Ms he cheefully said, “This is fun. I like doing this.”

We mandated they memorize Bible verses and read books. Henry discovered The DogMan books and sat up late reading. Sophie finished reading the Hunger Games series and Caroline began reading it.

“Hurry up and read more,” Sophie urged her, “I want to gossip about the book with you.” Caroline, a voracious reader, zoomed through the book and had a good book gossip.

Henry, 7, and Katie, 4, gossiped about “The Twelve Days of Christmas” which expanded to “Twelve Days of Thanksgiving” and “Twelve Days of Halloween.”

Through the week the noise level in our house soared. One day I looked at the loudest child and said, “Okay, for the next hour, you whisper.” That child made even a whisper sound loud.

One night a child prayed, “Help us not to fight. And if we hit that it won’t hurt too much.”

I am not sure when they fought. Mostly they played including organizing business schemes in the sewing room. Several declared, “I’m the boss.” Even little Katie stood on the chair with a big grin and sweetly announced, “I am the boss. You have to do what I say.”

They ignored her as she had them. The big girls learned how to thread the machine, snarl the bobbin thread and call me when everything failed. Oh yes, and they made little stuffed creatures and blankets.

Sam and Henry spent hours sorting and asembling our Legos or their transformer parts. Forget the instructions books, they preferred to make their own contraptions. When Sam found an electric circuit kit he told me, “I think I know how to do it. Can I?” I nodded and within minutes he had the lights shining.

Eli mowed the lawn, picked blueberries and with Grandpa and Sam changed the oil filter. We often heard, “It is fun here.” It probably helped that we had a stair-step crew of cousins, a cupboard full of toys, overflowing bookshelves and a grandpa who hoisted the ladder so they could fly toy airplanes off the roof.

The last day one asked, “what are you going to do after we leave?”

I thought about quiet days with afternoon naps and said, “What we always do, putter around.” Mentally I added, “and plan another cousin camp.”

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reading the old newspapers, seeing prejudice

One of my first assignments at the El Dorado News-Times required me to read the old newspapers to find tidbits for “Today in History in El Dorado.” Since I am no longer in the office, I only have my impressions of articles and comments I read. I am unable to provide specic dates, but the following reflects my impressions of how racism touched the pages of newspapers through the first half of the 20th century.

For instance, around the 1900s, prior to an election, a writer urged his fellow party members to court the black population of the community in order to keep them from voting with the opposition. The writer acknowledged his adverse attitude towards the black community whom he wanted to vote for his party’s candidate while also acknowledging the party’s need for their votes. Prejudices and racism glared blatantly as I turned the brittle, aging pages of those huge, hard bound copies of old newspapers, I did not have to read between the lines to recognize the prevailing, accepted segregation and prejudices of the time.

The newspaper’s stories obviously emphasized racial differences by noting an arrested individual’s race. Black sports and activities clearly received much less coverage.

In the pre-World War I era, lynchings tarnished the country’s image. The vast majority of lynching victims were black, but they were not the only ones lynched prior to World War I, at least not according to the statistics I found one January. The story reported the national statistics on lynchings including how many died from each race or ethnic group. I studied the list. The lynchings involved many African-Americans with a scattering of Caucasians and Hispanics, and one man described as “Italian.” Such reports began the fueled a campaign against lynch mobs.

According to a biography about President Harry Truman, during his years in the Senate, Congress proposed laws to prosecute those who participated in lynch mobs. It failed to pass, as have 200 other proposed bills in the past 100 years. In the 1940s, after the federal government began prosecuting those involved, the lynchings began to decline.

One comment made at a school board meeting during segregation in the late 1930s caught my attention. The board looked at the yearly budget and raised the teacher’s salaries in the white schools but not the salaries in the black schools. One board member said he was sorry they did not have the funds to pay the black teachers. He really wished they had had the funds. I read that statement, yet in my mind I heard my husband saying, “People find money for what they think is important.”

Reading the El Dorado newspapers from the turbulent 1960s, I never saw any reports on the national unrest, riots, protests or sit downs. The local newspapers were silent about racial unrest while protests filled the land.

Another folder of papers, crossed my desk: The list of black and white schools’ superintendents and teachers before and after local school integration. A former black teachers summarized those lists best, “None of the administrators from the black schools retained their position.” All were demoted. Integration happened in the classrooms, not in the board room.

For some families, lessons regarding segregation began early. Twenty years ago, through my job, I met and interviewed a 70 year-old man who had lived in a logging camp back in the woods as a boy. Few children lived in the logging camp where he lived. One day he went to play with some black children in the camp. His parents’ reaction and discipline seared him forever. They would not tolerate that. Decades later, pain etched his voice as he told me his story. Things have changed in many ways since that man’s childhood. Still, racism remains an issue we must address with our attitudes, actions and willingness to think differently in how we will live together.

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So you have been missing church

For months quarantine has closed the church doors. We mailed letters and activity sheets to Sunday School students and never saw their responses. We have listened to sermons over the Internet, sung from our lounge chairs and dropped our offering in the mailbox. We have missed fellowship. Fellowship involves personal interaction like I experienced last week in a parking lot.

It began when I collected some old Sunday School literature from my daughter’s church. I offered them free on Facebook. Two women immediately wanted them. I split up the materials and set times to meet.

The first woman drove away just as my daughter sent me a message that I had taken one too many boxes. I had taken her new curriculum.

Oh.

I sent a message to the first woman. We set a time to meet again.

I pulled out the “bring it back” curriculum before I met the second person, the mother of an elementary student, “My daughter misses Sunday School so much. She loves Jesus. She will be so excited to have this. I will pass along what we don’t use,” she said.

I loved hearing that, and I do like gathering unwanted literature and re-homing it. Most of the Christian literature and Bibles I gather goes to Love Packages in Butler, Illinois where materials are shipped to third world countries that speak English. Sometimes I ask locally if anyone needs the materials.

Mary Shutes-Crosby met us on the shady side of the store parking lot.

“I will use these supplies to teach,” she said as she looked at the lesson packets.

“What do you need?” my husband asked. He had just packed our van with 18 boxes of literature for Love Packages.

“Devotionals, Bibles, Sunday School lessons,” she said. “We have to do what we can to teach them the Word.”

He helpfully found some of each and said, “Before you go, I want to tell you about a testimony I heard. I went to a funeral of a man I worked with years ago. He was rough around the edges – not a Christian. I attended his funeral recently. I was astounded to hear the pastor praise his faith. The pastor explained that 10 years ago, his granddaughter had said, ‘Grandpa I want you to be in heaven when I go.’ That touched this man. He became a believer, and his life changed.”

As he pulled another stack of books, my husband said, “That encouraged me. If a grandchild can pray for her grandfather and see God change his life, this grandfather can pray for grandchildren and see God change their lives.”

He turned to close the van door when another vehicle pulled up and Arthur Primm hopped out. Arthur wanted to share a testimony of God’s healing. I first met Arthur many years ago when I interviewed him after Guillain Barre Syndrome paralyzed him. This rare disorder comes, paralyzes and usually recedes. Primm had survived that. Recently cancer invaded his body. He had just had his lab reports and praised God that the numbers were down.

“God is not finished with me yet. I have more to do here.” He smiled broadly. He made sure that I heard how God had blessed him again.

I thanked him for his testimony. As I closed the van door, I realized that for the first time in weeks I had fellowshipped with believers. No sermon, no songs, no Bible reading. Simply sharing God’s impact on us. In time, we will slowly return to organized group Bible studies, songs and sermons. For now we encourage one another as we share our God moments with each other.

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Jean sews through social isolation

The orders to stay home during the pandemic shut down the sewing group at Marrable Hill Chapel as it did at many others. Stacks of fabric, boxes of thread, bags of lace, rick-rack and bias tape sat idle on shelves. A few members of the Thursday afternoon sewing group had taken home projects to finish before the next week’s sewing. The quarantine kept us from going back.

That did not bother Jean Tedford. She pulled fabric from her own stash and kept on stitching.

When I talked with her, she had finished sewing a few pairs of shorts and wanted to sew little dresses to put in the Operation Christmas Child boxes. Considering her health conditions, I went to church, pulled fabric for dresses and grabbed lace and trim to deliver to her to supplement her fabric.

It wasn’t enough. That woman sewed up a storm! Every time I talked with her, she said she needed more rick-rack, fabric and lace. She turned simple sun dresses into party dresses.

Every dress had coordinating borders, ruffled lace and/or rick-rack. “I am running out of these colors of rick-rack,” she said after she finished 20 dresses.

I sorted through my notions and those at the church. It wasn’t enough. I checked at the fabric section in town. No sewing machines, racks of thread yawned with empty spaces. Fabric included Halloween leftovers at full price. The demand for homemade face masks and other medical sewing projects had cleared the shelves.

Back at church I pulled more fabric. The Union County Extension Office and El Dorado Connections received fabric donations for volunteer projects such as the face masks. I collected bundles of fabric and shared them with masks makers who sewed and donated masks. I looked hard and long at some beautiful yardage. “Would it be okay if we used some of this to make dresses to give through Operation Christmas Child boxes?”

Yes.”

By the time I delivered the fabric, Jean had completed 35 dresses. Her eyes glowed with pleasure. “Oh my!” she said and began matching strips of complimentary colors with the bigger pieces. “I need more rick rack. I don’t have these colors.”

Maybe not the colors but she did have a heap of dresses in various sizes covering her couch.

Desperate, I put out a plea for more rick rack on Facebook. Debbie Langford and others pulled a pile of rick rack from their stashes.

Jean sighed happily and sorted colors.

I packed up the 52 dresses to take to church until we packed OCC boxes.

A week later, we chatted, “So how many dresses have you finished now?”

I have seven more done.”

Wow! How many do you do in a day?”

Ohhh, I can make about a dress and a half in a day,” her eyes twinkled.

You must be sewing all day.”

Well I was a bit tired Sunday, so I didn’t do any,” she said regretfully.

It is okay take a Sabbath rest,” I assured her.

She agreed, but her mind focuses on the stacks of fabric laid out, cut and awaiting her. Jean imagines little girls’ happy faces when they receive the pretty dresses. “I wish I could be there and see it,” she sighed.

Marrable Hill Chapel originally had a goal of over 100 dresses for this year’s boxes. I thought the quarantine would kill our goal.

I thought wrong. With no other activities to attend, Jean’s days of avid stitching guarantee we will have enough. Hurrah for Jean and her sewing machine. She is making it happen while staying at home and keeping healthy.

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