Celebrate more children

Respect for my elders went out the window that day. I usually listened respectfully to one particular woman who was old enough to be my mother. I admired her homemaking skills and Biblical knowledge gathered from years of sermons or Bible studies. She knew her Bible. She also knew and embraced the social mantra, “Responsible families have only two children.”

    My parents ignored that mantra. They had five children in less than seven years. Still, we heard the popular “two children” philosophy. Heard it enough to tell our mother, “We have too many kids in this family.”

    “And which ones should we get rid of?” my mom asked looking around.

    End of discussion.

    About the time of last of us finished high school, the Supreme Court declared the legality of abortion. Very quickly we learned “it” was not a child, “it” was a choice to be weighed in the balance against education, career and “can we afford it on our income?”

    A strange question considering the thousands of years families with very little have provided for more than two children. Meanwhile, in an era of excess clothes, food, entertainment, educational opportunities and help-wanted ads, people still emphasize the economic necessity of “two and through.”

    My four had already entered high school and college when the mother of three announced her fourth pregnancy. Someone mentioned the pregnancy during a small group meeting where the mother of two and grandmother of far more than four “tsked,” put on her judgmental look and proclaimed, “Two is enough. They shouldn’t….”

    That wasn’t the first time I had heard her say something like that. It was the first time I rashly burst out, “But we are Christians. As Christians we do not believe in the abortion to which your statement infers needs to happen. As Christians we cherish each child as a special gift from God and celebrate every new baby as a blessing.” I wasn’t even embarrassed for confronting her.

    The meeting’s leader bit back a smile and studied the ground. The older woman closed her mouth abruptly and never, and I do mean NEVER, said anything like that again – at least not when I was around. Having said it once, those words waited for anyone who dared parrot the mantra, “too many children.” I echoed my mother’s response. “Which one don’t we need anymore?”

    Consider that before declaring, “Not another child!” The parents obviously did not ask for your approval beforehand. They certainly don’t need it after conception. As believers in a God who forms each person in the womb, we need to step off the band wagon of today’s family planning guidelines and encourage the parents to cherish their third, fourth or even tenth child, whether planned or not.

    I write that with the understanding that the message speaks only to those who profess belief in the Bible including Psalm 127:3 “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.”

    As friends and neighbors we must strive to cherish and honor all children. Every infant promises a unique gift to the community.

    If nothing else, each infant assures another possible person in the workforce and one more to care for the aging population. China mandated and enforced its One Child policy for decades.  Parents wanted their one child to be a boy. So, they aborted girls. Reality came with a dwindling workforce and shrinking pool of eligible women for marriage. With godless leaders, the Chinese ignored the blessing of a full quiver. God never mandated “One and Done” or even “Two and Through.” He declared each child a heritage. So, embrace His heritage every time with a warm embrace and welcoming smile.

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Lane mini-cedar chest

A treasured box … resident hold priceless memories in Lane mini-cedar chests

By Joan Hershberger

El Dorado News-Times

A treasure box. A graduation gift. An incentive to purchase something much larger. A small memento from the past that many women (and men) have kept with them for years.

In the 1920s, the Lane Furniture Co.,began offering girls graduating from high school a mini-cedar chest. The mini-chest was free. Inside the chest, the company included a certificate for a reduced price on the much larger, cedar hope chest. The cost for a Lane Cedar chest in 1943 was $19.99, according to the magazine ad at the time. Today, a simple chest retails for $229 at Ivan Smith, and a more elaborate chest with a hidden jewelry panel costs $528 at Blackmon Furniture. Hope chests reflected the expectation for centuries that young women would marry and need to set up a house. With that in mind, the family would fill the hope chest with linens, dishes and other household items.

Through the years, Lane furniture Co., distributed the mini-cedar chests through the local furniture companies.

Nancy Reid, 83, received her mini-ceder chest on the occasion of her 1948 graduation from El Dorado High School She took the box with her to Ouachita Baptist University, where she studied for two years and met her husband, who became a pastor. They adopted two children: Marilyn and Marcus.

They first served at Three Creeks Baptist Church on the Haynesville Highway later transferring to churches in Kansas, South Dakota and finally to one in Illinois where her adopted daughter settled down.

In her later years, Reid returned to El Dorado as a widow to assist her aging mother. When her mother passed, Reid inherited the house on Liberty Street. Through 65 years of raising a family and moving back and forth across the country, Reid has always taken her Lane mini-cedar chest.

“This is one thing I am holding onto,” she said. They can put it in the casket with me.”

Reid smiled as she remembered having grown up in that home as a member of the Liberty Street Gang.

“There was a child in every house,” she recalled. “We were close in age. It was a good time to grow up. We always found something to do.”

She was living in that house when she finished high school and received the Lane graduation box. She still lived there when her health mandated she move to Courtyard Health and rehabilitation. Moving from a seven-room house to a room and a bed meant letting go of most everything, including all the family furniture that Reid had gathered over the years. She had not idea what happened to the cherished furniture from her husband’s parents nor to any of the other items. Except for volumes of photos, Reid has only her most treasured items, which she holds in the Lane mini-cedar chest she received from the McWilliams Furniture Co.

“if I had to leave quickly, this is the one thing I would grab to take with me. It holds what is important to me,” she said.

And what is important? A few odds and ends: a piece of costume jewelry, a not -mementos of her life.

She was especially pleased to discover that Joseph McWilliams, son of the late Joe Carol McWilliams, the owner of the McWilliams Furniture Store also resides at Courtyard.

“I wanted him to see that I have saved it and use it,” she said. “It sparked something in me. What a strange happening – to be in the same place and have this connection.”

McWilliams’ father retired in 1952 after 26 years in the furniture business.

IN researching this story, the New-Times Staff posted a query on Facebook asking if others had received a lane min-cedar chest. Dozens responded with the year they graduated and the school.

Heath Waldrop, coordinator of marketing and communications at South Arkansas Community College said, “By the time I graduated in 1993, it was a near the end of this promotion, I presume and it wasn’t a giveaway just for girls but for any high school senior who would sign an anti-drunk-driving pledge. I still have mine and the key, which was kind of a laugh since the chest never actually locked.”

Shawna Pill, class of 1992, said, “I still have the key somewhere.”

Marsha Parham, EHS 1972 from Garrett Furniture Co., said, “I also got a lane Cedar (hope) chest for graduation from my parents. I still have it, too.”

Shelly Johnson, a 1971 graduate of EHS, said she received one, as did her mother, a 1958 graduate.

Ellen Narramore, a 1974 graduate said she had her Lane chest, as well as her mother’s from her 1937 graduation.

Other responses to the Facebook query included graduates from 1960 through 1993. Most still had their in-cedar chests.

Respondents graduated from El Dorado, Junction City, Norphlet, Parkers Chapel Smackover, Parkview High in Little Rock, Bradley High School, Pine Bluff, South City. There was even a 1995 home school graduate. The question continues to be asked by respondents on their own Facebook pages. A simple gift, given to so many for decades .. and still cherished as Nancy red has shown.

Nov. 30, 2013

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Pajama party in the woods

In the darkened loft of the log cabin, the ten pajama clad kids whispered and suppressed laughter hoping the seven tired adults did not hear them. Laying there in jammies on four beds, two futons and two air mattresses, sleep eluded them. 

Hours before they had converged on this isolated cabin in the woods for the biggest, longest pajama party ever. Dads hauled in coolers of ham, turkey, chicken, eggs and milk along with boxes of cereal, bread, rolls, noodles, potatoes and salad fixings. Moms brought family news, recipes, child rearing tips and suddenly shy toddlers. Teenagers rolled their eyes when told, “help carry in those suitcases and blankets” before they grabbed and carried suitcases, bundles of favorite pillows, blankets and “just-in-case-we-have-time” games and crafts.

Everyone settled in for a weekend of fun. The counter held a supply of snacks including Grandma’s bottomless barrel of cookies and muffins. The TV remote lay unused. Grandchildren from one to fifteen each discovered the sleeping dorm, the outside shower and the huge pond surrounded by bright green ryegrass. Quickly the noise level rose as the little kids called out, “come on, let’s go” and “did you see…?” as they ran up and down the stairs.  

Well they ran the stairs until Grandma commanded, “go outside and play. Take a walk. Watch out for the alligators in the pond and do NOT leave food outside, There are bears out there.”

“What! Bears and alligators?!” The city folks gasped.

“Yes. This is like The Little House in the Big Woods. You are not in central park.”

“Stay out of the pond with the alligators,” dads emphasized. If they could not go in, well then the next generation would skip rocks.

Quickly the nineteen (plus five more that came later) broke into groups by age. The first graders and pre-schoolers walked the beams around the cabin, before breaking away for a game of hide and seek. Older children climbed the end poles of the cabin’s logs. Parties of four and five formed on the  balcony to share secrets, play dolls and view the pond stretched out before them.

The big boys told jokes, teased each other and sometimes offered piggy-back rides. The girls giggled, played dolls and painted their nails. As always, the aunts and Grandma chatted at the kitchen table. Inside and out, the uncles and grandpa sprawled on couches and chairs or leaned against porch pillars to swap stories.

Before bed, budding stars announced, “It’s time for the talent show.” Moms and Dads watched proudly as their children sang, performed magic and performed gymnastic feats. The MC of the evening announced, “And now for the intermission we have unusual talents.” Everyone laughed at the ear wiggling, nose twitching and eye rolling skills demonstrated.

Work schedules did not matter in the timelessness of the trees all around the family. With no Internet access and cell reception only possible in the middle of the yard, no one rushed. Children created games of “let’s pretend” and adults shared stories of “it happened when.”

The noise at the big pajama party in the not so little cabin in the woods resounded inside the cabin. Maybe it scared the bears and alligators away for no saw any large animals except the dead wild pig on the side of the road.

Those who stepped outside for a moment of quiet heard woodpeckers tapping and peepers singing. Another saw a blue heron skim over the water. Another stood and stared up at stars usually obliterated by city lights.

The last day everyone left the too short weekend in the forest with more stories added to the family lore.

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Tree of memories

                Christmas decorations emphasize the celebration of this time of year. Whether modern, traditional or nostalgic, each tree or display delights the eye. Arrangements remind us of the first Christmas or reflect popular songs or stories.

            I like a good story theme. Years ago, tiny teddy bears and miniature, ornament sized toys captured my attention. I collected enough to cover the tree and called it the “Teddy Bears’ Playground.” The tree displayed them until my daughter wanted something more sophisticated. Red ribbons and more sophisticated ornaments replaced the bears on our old, artificial tree. Made before pre-lit trees my husband tightly wound each branch with a string to skip the yearly chore. Then we stored it completely assembled. All our children roll their eyes at any mention of our forever tree. Eventually we bought a pre-lit tree and trashed the other.

At a church craft sale, I discovered table trees with glued on ornaments.  A short tree with hand-sized Madame Alexander dolls fascinated me. As a child I spent hours studying those dolls dressed beautifully in garments from countries around the world or ready for a party or playtime. I wanted one.

            As an adult my wish came true when McDonald’s issued a miniature series of the dolls. I bought a couple at the restaurant, more at yard sales, and then finally I bought the whole series off Ebay. I plastered our six-foot tree with the dolls and miniature teacups and teapots to make The Dolls’ Tea Party tree. For my husband, I added miniature rocking horses, wagons, bikes and tools.

            This year one tree sported a collection of White House ornaments and another pretty ornaments without a doll in sight. I suddenly did not like it either. I ousted all of it. I left only a quilt whose green, red and whilte blocks form a tree with strategically arranged buttons holding ornaments representing our 50 years of marriage. For instance, there are the last two of the flour and salt ornaments we cut, baked and painted during our early years of poverty. Also the remaining three of the dozens of tiny, stained glass ornaments my husband made by meticulously arranging teeny glass beads in frames to bake and melt in the oven.

            In recent years I have found ornaments of Bible stories: The first Christmas, the crucifixion nail, Moses holding the 10 commandments, plus Jonah and the whale. They reflect our beliefs and years of teaching children at church.

            Miniatures of our hobbies remain from the big tree: a ladder, paint brush, drill, screwdriver, and power tool for hubby. A mixer, sewing machines, typewriter and cross stitch angels for me. (Absolutely no scrub brushes, mops, or dust cloths on this tree.) Between those separate interests, dozens of souvenir ornaments reflect our travels to the Mammoth National Park in Waco, Texas; the Dinosaur National Park in Utah, our Alaskan cruise, visits to presidential libraries, and the visit to the first “modern” penal institution in the country. (The museum’s graphics showing the higher percentages of prisoners in the USA compared to other countries’ statistics deeply impacted my viewpoint of “three strikes and you are out” laws.)

            This cloth tree tells many stories. A small clay pot reminds me of my teen years in the desert and our trip to the Alamo. I still smile when I look at the ornament from the book “Make Way for Ducklings.” During a visit to Boston, we stumbled on the park depicted  in the book. So many other ornaments with stories, but time and space restrain me. My wall of memories will never win a prize for artistic technique. However, it does feel just right this year as we near our 50th wedding anniversary and reflect on our many Christmases together. 

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Thanks Marie Callender

Miss Manners dictates politely taking a couple bites of any food offered. It’s a great rule for holiday meals. The children who came over for Sunday dinner knew that rule. Their mom had emphasized, “no matter what the food is like, just eat and don’t say anything.”

The children tried to adhere to the rule. My cooking failures in triplicate that day sabotaged their determination to adhere to the rule. The potatoes did not cook long enough to mash and I served the gravy saying, “one lump or two?” Laughing in the face of my failures, we spent the rest of the meal laughing about imperfect food.

That is not exactly the way most people presented their Thanksgiving meals on Facebook last week. Most postings focused on golden turkeys, white mounds of potatoes and perfect pies: apple, pecan and of course, pumpkin pie. To ease the burden in the kitchen, grocery stores offer heat-and-eat options for everything from mashed potatoes to turkeys as well as the day’s featured dessert: pumpkin pie. Sharon Weiss chose a heat-and-eat pumpkin pie from Marie Callender.

Sharon turned on her oven and placed the pie inside to warm. Sometime later (no one knows how much later) she pulled out a completely blackened pie. After a quick look at her Facebook page, I quickly realized that Sharon had no problem laughing at life’s mix-ups and failures. She has posted many pictures and comments of her personal foibles. Before sitting down to the meal with a burnt pie, Weiss took a picture of her pumpkin pie’s thick skin of black with a tear exposing the pumpkin filling beneath. She posted her blackened pumpkin pie on Marie Callender’s Company Facebook page saying, “Thanks Marie Callender for ruining Thanksgiving dessert.”

No detailed explanation about the temperature she used or how long it had baked. A Marie Callender representative graciously responded, “Sorry to hear our pumpkin pie let you down this year. We’d like to get in touch with you. …” They probably offered her a coupon for another pie.

The rest of the Internet lacked such grace. It exploded with laughter and mocking remarks:

“Send her a larger version of the back of your box.” (so she can easily read the instructions.)

“How to ruin Thanksgiving in four words: ‘Sharon Weiss bringing dessert.’”

“Marie Callender, why are you sorry? You didn’t cremate your pie. You didn’t set her oven temperature to hell setting.”

“Ma’am, where in the recipe does it say you gotta bake it in the sun.”

One post shows a picture of a hand holding a lit torch over a pumpkin pie and asking, “am I doing this right?”

More than 22,000 folks logged on with humorous remarks before Marie Callender ended the post. Meanwhile, grocery store shelves cleared of Marie’s pumpkin pies. One picture showed the great gap on the shelves where pumpkin pie had sold out.

Observing this phenomena, Edwards Pies, Marie Callender’s direct competitor, wistfully wrote, “Here we are trying to go viral with our brand and it turns out you just need someone to burn one of your no-bake pies.”

The whole event inspired a woman to crochet a round circle of black with a spot of pumpkin orange and the words “thanks Marie Callender.”

Another quick-thinking entrepreneur created a humorous tree ornament: The hockey puck thick disk has “thanks Marie Callender” stamped across the image of a burnt pumpkin pie.

None of the responses would have pleased Miss Manners, but they certainly added a spot of humor and fun. 

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Lacking friends is true poverty

Friends and family provide the ultimate measure of wealth. Those without suffer greatly. We have encountered a few poor souls over the years.

The Runaway obviously suffered from a serious mental illness. As we drove him to the nearest truck stop he mumbled, “going West to my brother. I need to get a ride West. I forgot my meds.” We invited him to join us for breakfast at the fast food joint. He accepted the bag of food but reached eagerly for the cup of coffee. Then he walked away to find a trucker going West. We left wondering if we should have tried to find the facility he had left that morning. We hoped he found his brother.

Plenty of loved ones with mental illness and/or drug issues have literally “worn out their welcome” with one family member after another. At that point, either the Loved One accepts state help or he/she becomes Homeless.

We met the Homeless One at the restaurant’s entrance begging for a couple dollars to get some food. We don’t give money. We buy meals or food. After the meal, the Homeless One asked, “can you help me get a bit of milk and cereal for breakfast?” Okay. We could manage that. The cart quickly contained much more than groceries.

Helping Homeless One get the paperwork necessary to renew government assistance was incredibly difficult. No address makes a tedious process even more difficult. So, we loaned our address. In time we learned that The Homeless One had siblings living nearby, but she could not stay with them permanently. After a couple irrational refusals to use available resources, we concluded that The Homeless One had worn out her welcome. Long after The Homeless One disappeared off our radar, we still received her official mail.  When we took it to the siblings, one had died and the other moved without a forwarding address. Someone else, somewhere else will again begin the process for getting official paperwork needed for subsidized housing, food stamps and a monthly check. Hopefully The Homeless One will not wear out her welcome with the new friends before that is all accomplished.

Then we met The Sick One, whose basics were met and income supplemented with a few handyman jobs. Occasionally in our conversations we heard of a brother living elsewhere in the state. They had not really spoken in years. So, when The Sick One needed a ride for outpatient surgery, my husband became the designated driver. He waited in the lobby for hours before he asked, “How much longer?”

“Oh, he could not have the surgery until they corrected some issues. He is in a room.” By the end of the day, The Sick One was sedated in ICU and on a vent for breathing. Complications piled up. We said, “well he has a brother, somewhere in the state. We don’t know the name.” Although only a casual acquaintance, as the ‘contact-take home person’ my husband became The Sick One’s decision maker. After a couple of days, friends began contacting us asking about The Sick One. Everytime he asked, “do you know the brother’s name or phone number?”

Five days later a friend tracked down the information needed. We called the brother and the Sick One’s wealth of concerned folks improved. Besides friends, he had a brother who could make decisions we could not.

Family and friends can be very difficult at times. They bring blessings and pain. But when the chips are down, those contacts make a world of difference. Cherish and nurture your family and friends. You never know when you will need them.

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Thanksgiving surprise

 Second grade wonders for Jacob included Clint’s marvelous hearing aid. To ensure he heard everything, his parents gave a small microphone to Ms. Woodward to wear each day. They showed her how to turn the mic on when she taught. With the mic on, her words broadcasted to Clint’s hearing aid. When she went to work with another student, Ms. Woodward could push the mic to the off position to provide privacy. Clint did not need to hear everything in the classroom.

A couple days before Thanksgiving break the class noise level rose with energy and excitement as students counted down the minutes to the impending break. Assenting to the inevitable, Ms. Woordward handed out Thanksgiving worksheets for writing and math. Maybe reading about the Pilgrims and doing math problems with pictures of corn and pumpkins would redirect some of the energy.

Woodward explained the assignments with the mic on. Then, realizing she needed something from the copy room, she appointed a student to monitor the class while she stepped across the hall to work. The class worked diligently on their papers until Clint laughed. “Hey! I can hear Ms. Woodward!” Twenty children crowded around his desk, their interest piqued at listening to his personal of walkie talkie.

He pulled out one earpiece and held it up as a speaker so everyone could hear. They held their breath as they listened. Ms. Woodward had forgotten to turn off the mic. The class listened as Ms. Woodward unintentionally divulged a little secret.

Another teacher in the workroom asked: “you have a surprise?”

Ms. Woodward: “Yes, since tomorrow will be wild until they leave for Thanksgiving break I decided to have a Thanksgiving party. I have Thanksgiving plates, cups and napkins hidden in my supply closet.”

Teacher: “The students ?”

             Woodward: “Yes, I keep a lock on it most of the time. If I need something, I take it out.”

Teacher: “What are you going to eat?”

            Woodward: “Candy corn to remind them of the Pilgrim’s sparse meal that hard winter. I will tell them about that. I also have turkey, rolls and yams.’

Teacher: “What will you bring for a drink?”

Woodward: “Punch and apple cider, of course. It is the time of the year for it!”

The children heard the clatter of the copy machine closing. Woodward, “That’s done now I need to get back to class. I haven’t heard a peep from them, but you never know.”

In the classroom, the children quickly dashed back to their seats. Clint stuck the hearing aid back into his ear. Everyone picked up their pencils and began working quickly on their pages. They might have passed for little angels, except every child in the classroom wore a big grin and kept peeking around at the rest, hiding giggles. They knew Ms. Woodward’s surprise for them, but they were trying not to tell her.

Puzzled at the undercurrent of excitement, Ms. Woodward put the copied pages on her desk and looked around the room. The class couldn’t hold it anymore. They burst into laughter.

At that one little girl could not stop herself. “We know your secret, Ms. Woodward! You forgot to turn off the mic!”

Ms. Woodward looked at the students. She looked at the mic. Saw that it was still in the “on” position and shrugged, “well, I guess if you know already know about it, we don’t have to do it, now.”  The students fell silent, crestfallen at the idea of losing the surprise so quickly. Ms. Woodward winked, “I’m joking.” They all breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and Jacob said everyone enjoyed the Thanksgiving party the next afternoon.


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Pet bedtime

      My eyes would not stay awake after seven days of supervising grandchildren. I fell asleep right after sending the youngest to bed.  I woke up refreshed and alert at 10 p.m. with my husband sound sleep beside me and glimmers of lights in the hall. I slid out of bed to check on youngsters and turn off lights.

On the top bunk, Henry, 8, slept in his nest of blankets and herd of stuffed animals. His overhead light shone brightly over him. I turned it off.  Across the hall, no light shone on sleeping Sam, 11. Two boys down, one teenage girl to check.

I knocked at the door and peeped in. Sophie sat cross legged on the bed with papers strewn around her, “It’s 10 o’clock,” I said. “Henry is asleep with that bright light shining right in his eyes. It doesn’t bother him one bit to have the light shining in his eyes,” I chuckled.

Just then the fluffy yellow cat peeked through the door. Sophie  clicked her tongue at it. “Come, Chewy.” She patted the bed. Chewbacca, scampered through the open door and leapt on the bed ready to snuggle all night against a warm body.

 “That reminds me of your Aunt Sharon. She had a cat that slept with her for years. She took it to bed every night to rub its nose as she went to sleep. The cat, Kramer, became so accustomed to the nose rub that she would begin circling Sharon around 10 every night, nudging her towards the bedroom. Kramer wanted to go to bed with Sharon. Kramer did a better job escorting Sharon to bed at a decent hour than we did. At least she did until Sharon neared the end of high school. Then she found plenty to do until 11 or 12 each night. Having a cat herding her to bed did not suit. Sharon pushed the cat away. ‘No, I am not going to bed now.’ The cat insisted at first, but quickly Kramer learned to go to bed alone. The few times after that when Sharon wanted to take her to bed, Kramer wiggled impatiently and refused to join her.”

Sophie smiled, fussed over Chewy and switched off her lights for the night.

Wide awake I thought about the number of times in one short week when I had seen children grabbing one of the cats to go to their room for the night. Having grown up on a farm with only outside animals, it surprises me every time. Twice  I thought all the children had gone to sleep only to discover that first one night Sam and the next night Sophie chose the mid-sized dog Nutmeg at bedtime.

Nutmeg generally sleeps in a cage, quite ready to enter it after a vigorous play time. That works for keeping the dog on schedule. But given half a chance and a human body laying recumbent on the couch when nap time comes and Nutmeg heads for the couch. She hops up, circles once or twice, curls in a ball behind their knees, closes her eyes and sleeps.

Shades of Nana the nursemaid dog in Peter Pan. Kids and pets connect at sleep time. When the children want to rise in the middle of the night to explore, the sleepy animals object and nudge their wards back to their beds. Remember with Nana gone that fateful night the children followed Peter to Neverland. Not something likely to happen at this address. Not with two cats and a dog to ask Wee Willie Winkie’s question, “are the children in their beds? It’s now eight o’clock.”

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buffet our way

Given a choice between sitting down and ordering a meal in a restaurant and making his way through a buffet, Grandpa says he gets his money’s worth at a buffet. So, when the grandkids said, “We want to go to the buffet for supper,” Grandpa happily headed for the car.
I think the grands like the wealth of choices: Hamburgers, tacos, steak, slabs of ham, wedges of pizza, chicken: fried, baked, or grilled. The kids looked at all of that and went straight for the macaroni and cheese.
What is it with kids and mac and cheese? The week we visited half a dozen restaurants with a variety of grandchildren, most under 10 chose mac and cheese. I asked to try a bit at each restaurant. Each restaurant’s dish of mac and cheese failed horribly against the flavorful casserole version my mom taught me to make. Kids have no clue how good it can taste. Still buffets offer foods kids will eat – including the ubiquitous mac and cheese.
The kindergartener arrived with a big slab of ham, “My dad is going to help me eat it.” She ate two bites. Her dad presented her with a big fluffy roll, “Do you want this?”
“Oh yeah. I like butter rolls,” she said and ate two bites, flattened it and ignored it.
She said, I want cheese pizza.” She took a slice and did not eat two bites, insisting, “I don’t like pizza.”
The others tried pot roast, fried chicken sticks, hush puppies and beans. The adults each began with a healthy choice of green salads with very little dressing. Boring adults evidently had a good influence on the kids. Their second or third helpings included steamed carrots or green beans. For her second plate the 10 year-old returned with seven Brussel sprouts “You really like those?” I asked.
“Yep!” she said stuffing a sprout into her mouth. “Oww, It’s hot!” She gasped and gulped water before finishing all the sprouts.
By the time the kids headed for the dessert bar, the adults returned with entrees of steak, chicken, ham or fish with potatoes or rice.
Kids like the buffet’s food flexibility. The grandchildren built confections of Slushees with scoops of ice cream. I sampled at two bites and declared, “I don’t like it.”
The kids grinned and exaggerated big mouthfuls where I could see them eat theirs. I didn’t even bother sampling their next concoction of ice cream with gummies. They laughed at my face when they showed it to me. The kindergartener wanted the same. She settled on one small ice cream cone – which she did not finish.
Slowly used plates, napkins and thin plastic gloves piled up around us. Forget the anti-plastic slogans of “Save the Earth.” Since Covid, every buffet guest must wear disposable thin, oversized gloves at the buffet line. Although some buffets trust guests with real knives, forks, and spoons, many buffets now only offer disposable plastic in individually wrapped napkins.
By the time we finished, Dr. Seuss piles of plates teetered around us. One other time that happened at a buffet expedition with grandkids who competed to see who could stack plates the highest. They served themselves a cookie on one plate or a small serving of potatoes on a larger plate.
This time we lost our silverware in the piles of plates and napkins. The table looked like it held the detritus of a hard night of study, although no books were opened to produce this column. Still, we filled many stomachs and spent no time cooking beforehand or cleaning up afterward – which is ‘why’ I like a buffet any day.

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To answer or not to answer

In response to a  column I wrote about the onslaught of timeshare and car warranty calls, a man stopped me and said, “We answer those calls and ask, ‘What are you calling to scam me about today?’ They always hang up.”

Sounds like a good idea as the holiday season of giving approaches. Many try to tap into the season’s philanthropic mood for funds to tide them through winter. We receive many calls for what sound like good causes. We don’t give. It takes time to research what percentage of the funds go to the needy and how much for administration or fund raising. My friend used to support a program that helps children until they learned how much went for administration. 

Do not rush to give. Take time to investigate first. If it is a worthy cause, the leaders will accept funds after you have taken time to consider before you sign on the dotted line. Trying to decide while on the phone increases the urgency to put your money on the line. It is easy to respond now only to regret later. Unless you know the non-profit or the business, slow down and take time to study the situation.

With so many calls for good causes and investment programs during our retirement years, we must consider the limitations of our funds. No matter how good it all sounds on the phone or TV, we have determined that the simplest answer is, “Send us something in the mail about the fundraiser, the agency or non-profit.  We will read and decide what to do.”

It is easy to be swept up in the pressure of the moment. One can’t help but feel sympathetic through the long commercial using pathetic animals with sad eyes. I felt the tug the first several times, before I began switching channels. The emotional pressure to contribute highlights the necessity for weighing the pressure of promises or pathetic scenes with the organization’s management of their monies  and actual response to the need.

Many years ago we decided our response would be, “I do not make any commitments over the phone. Send me some information in the mail, and I will consider it. And please be sure to send the information in layman’s language if you want us to consider the request.”

Evidently most don’t want the funds that badly. Or maybe they do not want to take the time and money to send me a sealed stamped envelope with their specific proposal or request. If I linger long enough to learn more, I still won’t  commit over the phone. “Give me time and quiet to consider this without your sales person pressuring me. Maybe then I will get the item. If not, it’s because I decided I didn’t need it.”

We keep our guard up. Perhaps too much. When I received a call while visiting with my daughter, to avoid being sucked into a one-sided lengthy conversation, I answered the unknown number with a terse, “Yes?” I just wanted the bottom line, not the reasons for the plea.

It was my grandson on a new phone. We chatted a bit. Afterwards my daughter looked at me, “Miss Dot in manners class said you are supposed to answer with a ‘Hello’ and a smile.” She had a point.

“Okay, I will think about it.” 

I decided that the reader provided the best  answer message for any unknown caller “Hello. How are you? What are you calling to try to scam me about today?”

If they go any further than that, and I might be interested, I will give my standard response, ‘send me a letter with the details.”

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