conversations with Katie

             Kindergarten introduced Katie to a whole new world. “I have to go to school every day! I think you have to do that in first grade and in second grade, too, maybe,” she said with a budding sense of confidence in her newly expanded world.

Before this year, Katie attended two days of pre-school each week. Every day since she can remember, she has watched her brother and sisters grabbing lunches, backpacks and coats for their day of school. Joining them for the morning rush barely shook her little world; she was ready! No longer will she just do two days a week of school. She has her first hint that the daily grind continues twelve years and beyond. For now we will allow her time to absorb that “every day” continues beyond “another year or two.” 

I had other conversations with Katie the next couple of days when I visited her home to supervise and transport children. Her parents were travelling, so also heard about a previous conversation with her mom.

Katie always confidently shares her new-found information with others and has no room for discussion. Her mom told me that her five-year-old insisted she knew the after school pick-up routine, “You have to drive here and not there. You cannot come to this part of the school.” With all the changes in recent years topped with Covid-19 precautions, her mother paused to assess this new information. She looked back and forth between the kindergarten know-it-all and the more relaxed fifth grader who shook her head, “No, that is not how it is, Mom.” No drastic changes, just a kindergartener entering school.

Still, during the couple days I carried grandchildren to school and supervised them afterward, Katie importantly told me what needed to be done. She told me about her day. Frankly, she insisted she tell me about her day. When Katie knows something, she tells you with the cutest little confident twitch of the head.

Even simple things had to be explained to me. “This is my craft bag. I have to keep everything in my craft bag. It has markers and glue and crayons and popsicle sticks.” She opened the bag and showed me each item.

“Now, what should I draw?” She looked at me expectantly.

“A pickle,” I said feeling silly.

Out came a popsicle stick and a green marker. Katie colored the popsicle stick, took out a glue stick and glued it to a piece of paper. She also colored a bit around the stick commenting as she studiously colored, “I had to earn these crayons by being good.”

“They must be some fantastic crayons,” I murmured and picked up the box to see what was so different about them. I read, “Metallic crayons.”

“They are supposed to sparkle,” Katie said, studying the thin line she had drawn. I picked up a crayon and scribbled a lot in one corner. “Go look under the light and see if you can see the sparkle.”

Katie examined the page under the light, “it sparkles.” Satisfied the crayons warranted her effort at being good, she proceeded to write numbers on the page. “Is a one with a one 11?” She asked as she held the felt tip marker poise over a pad of paper.

“Yes.”

“And one with two is 12. One with three is 13.”

“Right.”

“Oh, and one with four is 14. Right? What is fifteen?”

“One with a five.”

She got to work and completed up to 19. “I don’t have room for 20. So I just wrote 70.” Made sense to her. Having finished telling me everything about her craft package and learning something new, Katie walked away. She probably went to tell someone how to write numbers between 11 and 20.

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Gathering Bibles for Love Packages

            It was a good week for gathering Bibles and Christian literature for Love Packages. Love Packages sends new and used literature to third world countries with English readers such a Ghana, India and Belize. With only a couple boxes in storage, we hardly had enough to justify the one hour detour before our next family visit.

          Then came a fall harvest of books. It began during the fall book sale at Barton Library. I volunteered to help Monday and also looked for Bibles and reference books for Bible teachers with limited resources. First I found four new, inexpensive paperback Bibles. By the time I left, I had a small box of books. I volunteered again on Wednesday and found more.

The harvest began in earnest when I saw pictures of the upcoming rummage sale at the Assembly of God Church. Their Facebook pictures showed three long steps lined with books. Surely the library included Bibles and Christian books for Love Packages. I arrived shortly after it opened at 7 a.m. Friday. So many books to consider. To make sure I did not miss any Bibles or important reference books, I literally touched every book and read every title. I began with a bushel of Bibles: paperback Bibles, leather covered Bibles, Children’s Picture Bibles, small New Testaments, plain covered Bibles, and old, usable Bibles. I hauled armfuls of Bibles and commentaries to the checkout table. It took me at least 45 minutes to select the books that filled three boxes. 

A couple hours later, a friend said, “I have some Bibles and books for you. She pulled out a sack of nearly new, quality Bibles to add to our collection of large print and study Bibles.

My quest for any and all Bibles and books has roots in my love of books, eagerness to share books and one story from Love Packages that reflects the need. Love Packages packs every nook and cranny of shipping containers with new and used literature. The organization also receives overruns from major Christian publishers. With the help of volunteers they sort, pack, label and ship out a couple of containers nearly every week. At the receiving port, a coordinator opens and distributes materials from the shipping containers to area ministries.

In one country, as the men began opening boxes, the representative asked the  local helper, “Do you have a Bible?”

“Oh yes, I have the book of Matthew. I will show you,” the man answered. He left and returned with a notebook of lined pages filled with his handwritten copy of the book of Matthew. 

The representative’s mouth dropped. “Let me get something.”

He walked over to a box and took out a Bible. “Here is a Bible.” He handed it to the man.

“How long are you going to be here?” the man asked.

“Three weeks.”

            “Thank you, I will copy everything I can before you leave,” the man held the Bible reverently.

            “You don’t have to copy anymore.. The Bible is yours to keep.”

Such joy can not be imagined.

So I returned for the last hour of the sale and asked, “Would you donate the rest of the literature to Love Packages?” They not only agreed but helped me pack and carry the eight boxes of books to the van. 

After this week of gathering, we have more than enough to warrant a side trip to Love Packages next month. I anticipate adding our boxes to their warehouse and catching a glimpse of possibly the 100th container packed this year with Chrisitian literature for folks who want a Bible badly enough to copy every word of it.

 

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The child with a wanderlust

             Recently Facebook exploded when the Bossier City Police asked for help identifying a little boy wandering alone outside. They could not find his parents or guardians. Within hours the police posted that the parents had been found. The initial posting went viral with over 4,000 shares and hundreds of comments. It probably will circulate forever. The child is okay. Not so sure about the parents. Hundreds of strangers with only that brief information condemned them or wrote comments remembering similar experiences in their own lives.

Some had harsh comments, “How does a parent not realize their child is missing? Give this child a new home.” “I hope someone can find him a safe home!” “She is going to have some explaining to do.” “How do you not know your child is missing? Poor baby!”

It happens.

            “I don’t believe anyone who has ever raised a 3 year-old has not had to look for them at some point,” wrote Teresa Hargis. So true. A parent’s heart leaps into panic when they cannot see their child. It only takes a minute for a child to disappear. Another video shows a 19 month-old climbing the fence to leave his ‘safe’ backyard play area. That child exhibits fantastic muscle tone and determination in his 15 second climb up the fence and over the wall. Child guard gates do not work for this type of childhood escape artists.

In “Stories I Couldn’t Tell While I was a Pastor,” Bruce McIver writes about his daughters. As toddlers, the two wanted to go everywhere and see everything. To keep them safe as preschoolers, he hired the best fencer in the area to close in the backyard. After the fencer completed a strong, safety fence, McIver stood out front thanking the man for his help. As they talked, the two little girls strolled around the house from the back to join the conversation. They scaled the fence within 15 minutes of its completion.

            Another mother wrote that her middle school child slept walked out the door to the bus stop in the middle of the night. The neighbors found him, still asleep. His mother put a lock high on his door to keep him safely inside the house during the night.

            A lengthy post told of a young child at 6 a.m. going outside on a cold, wintry day wearing short pajamas and slippers. He walked into a convenience store. No one identified him. The police were called. The short version of the event is that the toddler had pushed a chair to the door, unlatched the chain his parents had installed to keep him safely inside and then walked away to see the world. The parents needed an even better lock.

           One insightful commenter wrote: “Consider the likelihood that a very intelligent, curious child was exploring his world.” That best exemplifies the type of child that gets away from the safety of his home and parents. The parents will try other measures to keep him safe. It takes a very resourceful parent to protect a child this determined. Some children play happily in playpens, never trying to escape. Others stack their toys and climb out with complete disregard for the actual purpose of the playpen.

Beyond the details of this specific case, consider the reality of toddlers, their curiosity and complete unawareness of the dangers of the world. With that in mind, hold the negative comments until you know more. Even then, choose to compassionately extend grace as parents struggle to find the safe solution their child needs. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to raising children.

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Exercise at Champagnolle Landing

I have always said, “I am allergic to exercise – it makes me break out in sweat.” My gym teachers never found it funny. Neither did physical therapists who aim to generate sweat as part of the healing process. The therapists at the clinic expressed their deep concern for their clients’ pain with a two word sign, “No whining.”

Some disobeyed. One client left the staff rolling their eyes at the whiner. Still, the therapists and techs welcomed the newcomer and insisted exercise continue in spite of the complaints.

“My leg won’t bend,” the whiner said. I nodded understandingly. I had been doing three or four different exercises 30 times per session, three times a day at home or in the clinic. I needed to get my knee to bend after being in a brace for a few months. I learned that walking requires a flexible knee. I may not like exercise, but I do enjoy being able to walk freely

I told the whiner, “Riding a stationary bike three times a day for fifteen minutes at a time worked for me. I bought and put a used stationary bike in the laundry room so I could pedal fast to nowhere. My leg began bending more and more.”

I received a cross-eyed scoffing look in response.

Every time I left physical therapy I saw a letter from Champagnolle Landing (CL) tacked to the wall. It offered continued exercise opportunities. Although I had gone occasionally to CL before, I now planned my day around time to exercise there.

At first I rode the stationary bike, used the elliptical machine, treadmill and a couple other machines that build the leg muscles. As I cranked along on the machines, I watched the folks in the organized classes. They performed many of the same exercises done in physical therapy (PT) such as squeezing a plastic ball between the knees, squats and leg lifts. I decided to join the mostly sitting exercise class to rebuild my strength. The day I kicked my leg backwards to my hand, I glowed at the accomplishment. No one else had any clue how important that was to me. 

In a few months that class became easy so I quit and joined a standing exercise class. I huffed and puffed my way through more PT exercises such as stepping sideways and various flexions of the foot similar to those in PT. A year later, someone said, “you are walking much better.” The side steps and marching in place had worked their magic.

Last year, after a partial hip replacement, I returned to physical therapy. Covid had shut the doors to CL so I joined Planet Fitness. At first I could barely tolerate two minutes on the elliptical. By the time Champagnolle reopened, I rode it for much longer periods with no discomfort.

This week my husband’s partial knee replacement made our fifth round of PT. He hobbles now. I expect him to glide when he concludes his sessions. Eventually he will ease back into walking the circuit and doing the machines at CL.

The community is blessed to have Champagnolle Landing to assist them. Folks don’t have to have had physical therapy to go to CL. Besides exercising options, CL provides a place to exercise the mind with games, puzzles and social interaction with others.

For my husband and I, physical therapy followed by repeating the same exercises at Champagnolle Landing enhanced the healing process. It is not easy. It is not fun, but the results are worth the effort even for folks like me who break out in sweat when we exercise.

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Ready to go … almost

            If leaving an item or two behind hints a reluctance to depart, Dear One obviously had mixed feelings about attending a men’s retreat last weekend. Whatever his feelings about the weekend’s events, I welcomed the prospect of a couple days by myself.

Before Dear One could go, we needed to drop a couple packages off at the post office and then pick up our other vehicle from the mechanic.

“I put my suitcase in the van so I can go on to camp from the shop. I will be leaving for camp in plenty of time to be there early,” he said as slid in behind the wheel. He drove down the street, onto the highway and took a left to the post office. As we approached the building he asked, “Hand me the packages.”

I reached behind the seat and came up empty handed.

“I don’t see them.”

He stopped, got out, looked under his camp gear and behind the seats. “I guess we left them at home. We have time to go home and get them.”

We veered away from the post office, turned off the highway and drove down our street. I found the packages where I had laid them down while I looked for a book to read in the van.

Back in the van we went back down the street, onto the highway and to the post office to drop off the packages. He still had plenty of time to pick up the car and arrive at camp early.

At the mechanic’s shop, we parked near the repaired car. He hauled out his suitcase. When he started to close the door, I thought I saw something partially hidden and forgotten, “Did you get your sheets and blankets?”

“Ohhh. I forgot them. I will come back to the house and get them.”

“All right. See you there.” I held out my hand for the key. I was ready to go home and have the house to myself for the evening.

At the house, I gathered up a blanket, sheets, towel and washcloth and a couple pillows (one for his head, one for his knees.)  As soon as he drove into the driveway, I scooped up the bundle and carried it out to the car so that he did not lose any more time.

“There’s your sheet, towels, blanket, pillows. Did you get your toothbrush? And comb?” I asked about the comb only because when we travel he frequently misplaces his and asks if I have a spare. Last year I went on the offense and bought a package of combs to distribute in the cars and suitcases.

“I have my comb,” he said as he started for the door. Then he stopped turned around, “I need to get my toothbrush.”

“Take this glass,” I said, handing him a plastic cup. I knew he would want one every time he took his medication.

I held my breath as he walked out the door, climbed in the car and backed out of the garage for the third time in an hour.

The garage door rumbled down. I flopped on the couch and sighed with contentment. I had begun searching for a show to watch when the garage door began grinding gears again.

He poked his head in the door, “I forgot my Bible.”

I waved hello and good-bye from the couch.

Again he climbed into the car. He had suitcase, clothes, toothbrush, comb, linens and Bible. He did not return. Dear One arrived at camp in time for a short chat with the other guys before the dinner bell rang.

And me? Well, I remembered everything I needed to revel in some peace and quiet: I simply laid back on the couch, pulled up a blanket and soaked up some alone time.

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Laundry then and now

 I watched the young woman hoist a basket of laundry, and I commented, “More wash to do?”

“With children, there is laundry every day,” she said abruptly.

Somehow it reminded me of a conversation with a friend who picked up her sons after a morning at my house. “So what did you do?”

“I washed clothes,” she said.

I didn’t say it, but I thought, “you had all morning and all you did was laundry? The washing machine and dryer do all the work.”

I knew that was not all. I did laundry for our boys who were the same age. I did laundry on automatic pilot. That began with the first baby. Before any middle of the night feeding, I sleepily shoved a load of jeans or white clothes into a machine. In the morning I had a stack of jeans, shirts and nappies to fold. Years later, when one son decided he would use the extra space in the laundry room as his bedroom, I tiptoed in each morning to start a load of wash before he awoke. Later, before work I switched clothes and sorted clean clothes into piles. Laundry happened every day.

Still, I experienced nothing like what my grandparents and mother tackled. My mother once said, “At first, I had to take the diapers down to the creek to rinse out.”

I am sure she welcomed the convenience of a wringer washer to agitate the clothes before she fed them between the rollers to wring out the water. Today laundry detergents and fabric softeners emphasize “fresh smells.” Mom, my grandmothers and my mother-in-law hung clothes to dry and never needed anything for a “fresh smell.” Their clotheslines insured fresh smelling clothes from spring to fall and freeze dried clothes in the winter. Have you ever seen frozen jeans and shirts? They stack up like cards and stand stiff as a board without a body in them.

In the days before wrinkle free clothing, laundry chores included ironing. While my grandmother, born in the late 1880s, knew the drudgery of needing to heat her iron on the stove, the electrical iron cut time and effort for the next generation. With all that in mind, most folks wore outfits more than one day rather than today’s habit of a couple outfits every day. To facilitate ironing, Mom sprinkled my dresses with water then rolled them tight to let the moisture saturate the garment.

Of course with five little ones, she did not always finish ironing in one day. To keep the clothes from drying out she stuck them in the freezer or the refrigerator until she had time to iron. My sisters and I began ironing handkerchiefs very young. I used to iron every week. Now, if clothes cool in the dryer, I turn the dial to “de-wrinkle” and wait for the “all done” signal to tell me to grab hangers for them before they wrinkle again.

Laundry is much easier now. Last year, my nine year-old granddaughter quietly washed everyone’s clothes during Cousin Camp.

The first day she simply asked, “How do I start the machines?”

“Push the Power button and then the Start button.” She stuffed machines, pushed buttons and distributed clean t-shirts and shorts to the others and declared it “Fun!”

Fun or not, clothes and linens must be gathered. Someone must sort clothes, place them in machines, add detergent and put them away. That someone can be mom, dad or a child. My granddaughter found it easier and quicker than my grandmother did. Still the chore takes time. One thing that will always remain true, no matter how automated laundry becomes: children guarantee that the laundry basket never stays empty for long. 

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The seatbelt that saved her life twice

The screech of tires, smashing of glass and impact of metal against metal abruptly ended my friend’s ride home from work. Having her car totaled and herself bruised shocked her. In time however it revealed a life saving miracle. 

 “A school bus was crossing in front of me at the crossing. I stopped. A truck came into the construction zone behind me. The driver was messing with the radio. He did not see the bus and ran into the back of my red Toyota Corolla.”

The safety belt stopped her body from flying forward. The impact left her bruised and shaken.

“The seat belt pressed across my chest at an angle,” she traced the line on her torso. “My back hurt. I went to the Emergency Room where I was X-rayed. Nothing was broken. That was in the spring. I did not need to return to the doctor for injuries.”

Her car would never drive her home again. She was sore for days. Still she looks back on the accident with thanksgiving and declares, “That was the accident that saved my life.”

“Four months later, my breast hurt. I went to the doctor.  He did an ultrasound, examined me and traced a line of blood clots from the shoulder across the breast and to the side. The blood clots were from the pressure of the seat belt. He said, ‘It usually goes away on its own. But if it is bothering you, you can have surgery to remove it.’”

After four months of the clots not dissolving and the pain persisting, my friend wanted to be done with the pain. She asked for the surgery. They made the arrangements and she checked in for the procedure.

After surgery, the doctor came to the recovery room. “It’s a good thing you had that accident. When we opened you up we found cancer behind the blood clot. We removed the clot and the cancer.” He had sent it to the lab where it tested positive for cancer.

Of course, she made an appointment with an oncologist who asked to have the biopsy and the records forwarded. During her appointment, the specialist checked her lymph nodes to see if the cancer had spread. It hadn’t 

“Just to make sure there are no stray cancerous cells, you could have chemotherapy and radiation to address any potential problems,” the specialist said.

By the end of the year my friend was still cancer free and finished with the chemotherapy and radiation. Since then, every year she has had another check-up and another “all clear” report. She rejoices exuberantly, “Jesus is still working miracles. He used the common things to work His miracle. The accident happened, but I was wearing a seatbelt and stopped when I was supposed to stop. I followed the rules and did what the experts said to do.”

         Another blessing came in the form of  no complications after her surgery plus she remains cancer free in the years since then.

“Only Jesus knew I had the lump. He used a student messing with the radio, the accident, the seat belt and the doctor to cure me. The specialist said that the seat belt that caused the blood clot also cut off the blood supply to the cancer.”

Some people would call it all a fantastic coincidence.

My friend declares, “Jesus still does miracles. He used the seat belt to save my life twice.”

Not the best of circumstances but one that proves the truth of First Thessalonians 5:18 “In Everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

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to vax or no to vax

            To be vaccinated or not to be vaccinated. Whichever you choose, someone will declare it wrong. In January, my husband had Covid. We both quarantined. For three weeks, he laid around the house coughing, totally drained of energy. I rested with him for a couple days and then made a quilt.       During those weeks, vaccines slowly trickled across the nation for certain folks given “first dibs.” As the list of approved recipients grew, hubby, 81, weighed the issue back and forth. With his recovery so recent and his body full of anti-bodies, he decided, “I have already had it. Besides I haven’t a flu shot since my one and only shot in the 1960s.”

         Some reports suggested waiting to be vaccinated if you had the Covid. He chose to wait. He felt confident that he had immunity.

         As Covid variations crept into the headlines this summer, he again debating vaccination. Weary of the discussion I emailed three sons: the pharmacist, the avid researcher and the one who works in social work every day. They all wrote back, “Get the vaccine.”

         “I think I’ll get the shot before we go to Texas,” hubby announced bravely. He hates shots.

         “You should wait until we return. Sometimes people don’t feel well for a couple days after a vaccination.” I explained. We traveled. Then he went to the County Health Unit.

         “The needle was so small, I did not even feel it,” he announced when he returned. He pulled out a large card and said, “I could have had $20 toward another fishing license, but I already have a lifetime license.” He handed me a million-dollar scratch off ticket. “I debated accepting it. Then I realized I didn’t buy it, so I would not be gambling. Do with it what you want.”

         He is a statistician. He knows the odds of losing the lottery.

         I googled “How to play” and watched a YouTube video on what to do. Holding a pair of blunt scissors, I scraped just enough of the symbols to see if anything matched or had a symbol that meant, “look closer you might have won.”

         “Looks like you might have $50 for this spot,” I mumbled.

         I carefully matched all the top numbers with the bottom ones and found one match. “I think you won $50 for this match.” I held out the ticket.

         He blandly looked at it. “Now what?”

         “Take it to the corner store. They should cash it.”

         “Okay,” he headed out the door.

         Fifteen minutes later he returned, grinning, laughing and waving a $100 bill. “Look! At this!” He looked like the kid who just grabbed the brass ring on the merry-go-round.

         “The man asked if I wanted to buy more lottery tickets with it,” he laughed. “Of course not. That would be gambling. This is an unexpected gift.” He really had only expected the shot and the band-aid on his arm.

         I snapped a picture of his huge grin, the crisp $100 and the band-aid. I posted it on Facebook. Some liked it. Some didn’t. He missed all of it. The next couple days he slept round the clock as his body adjusted to the vaccine. The third day he hopped out of bed, “I am going to mow the lawn before it gets hot.” And he did.

         In a month or so, he will do it all over again: the lawn and another vaccination. He is not planning on winning another lottery prize. He does however plan on doing what he can to avoid a bout with Covid for another three weeks like he suffered in January.

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Traveling to Texas

An ad for Chip and Joanna Gaines’ “Fixer-Upper” show in Waco, Texas flicked across the screen. “I want to go see the Magnolia Silo someday,” hubby said.

“Okay. Let’s go this week,” I opened my computer and googled distances. “We could also go to the Dinosaur State Park. You want to see the footprints in the rocks. It’s an hour west of Waco.”

His face lit up at the mention of another item on his bucket list. He opened a hotel reservation website and began comparing prices.

Wednesday morning we found a parking spot near the bakery beside Magnolia Market at the Silos and purchased a breakfast cookie to eat outside on the patio of cement and artificial turf. The Gaines like artificial turf. It even covers the child-sized baseball field surrounded by food trucks. Artificial turf maintains the image of a perfectly-trimmed village green between the small shops and the quaint chapel Joanna had disassembled and moved to the site.

Inside the shops, I found perfectly matched and balanced color schemes in neutral colors. The furniture layouts feature perfectly coordinated 1960s hues of hospital green, grey and tan with books wrapped in papers of the same colors on the shelves. Obviously, the shop is not a bibliophile’s dream living room arrangement.  I pierced the sterile setting and pulled books off the shelf, opened them to read the titles and glance at the contents. 

Because we visited the week after summer vacation ended, we only had a 15 minute wait for seats at Magnolia Table. The gourmet dishes looked and tasted delightful. A perfect way to check off another item on the bucket list.

We left the Magnolia complex to visit the Waco Mammoth Excavation site. The flood that buried the mammoths and other animals eons ago left a jumble of bones for archeologists to carefully scrape, brush and remove. I stood on a balcony overlooking the mammoth tusks attached to the skull. I tried to conceptualize the mammoth’s legs, possibly buried 16 feet below. There were giants in the land, in those days. The park guide said archeologists anticipated more mammoths buried all around us in graves yet to be discovered. The first bones of this nursery herd appeared in 1978. Subsequent excavations found bones for a Western camel, alligator, giant tortoise and saber-toothed cat. So many stories yet to be uncovered.

The next morning we took a path rarely traveled east of Waco and drove by the vast fields and one-room chapel built where the Branch Davidian compound stood before the 1993 encounter between the cult and the FBI and ATF. Only a small memorial wall hints at the story where the 80 Branch Davidian members and four federal agents died during the siege. Wikipedia filled in the details of the cult’s activities, leaders and its current decline.

My husband wanted to visit one other place before we headed home: Dinosaur State Park and the nearby Creation Museum in Glen Rose, Texas. The park guide directed us to the footprints in the stone. He warned us, “It has rained, so the water is muddy and you can’t see much.” We drove to the river. My husband walked down to the water, studied the rocks and declared he had found a footprint beside the water. The museum displayed molds of the prints for anything we missed and a petrified tree whose shape had been pressed from round to oval during the catastrophic flood that wiped out the mammoths and other animals.

With our daily science lesson complete, we stopped at an estate sale with a financial lesson. The estate sale’s staff said the two year old house recently sold for two million dollars. The previous owner used to drive a Ferrari and now drives a Mercedes. The sale offered appliances, furniture and pre-school children’s clothing and toys, including 27 different train themed toys. 

The ride home after checking off those bucket list items, we spent reviewing all we had seen and realized anew how dramatically life can change, disappear even and yet leave its mark for the ages to come. Flood, fire, financial ruin and paint can leave indelible marks on the landscape and lives of those around us. 

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Dr. Leo Carson Davis

When I consider the upcoming school year, I recall Dr. Leo Carson Davis’ rigorous academic expectations. The first day of Geology 101, he informed us we would study rocks and write a weekly journal to improve our written communication. One man wrote “The train went down the track going ‘chooo, choo, choo.’” He filled the remaining pages with choo choos. I wrote and thought about rocks. I thought about rocks a lot that semester. Labs focused on identifying various rocks. Dr. Davis never inflicted us with the “identify all these different black rocks” test. He just scared us by saying his professor had promised it as the final exam.

I studied rocks, read about rocks and geological formations. I immersed myself into rocks that semester. I know I also had three or four other classes, but Geology 101 consumed me. Dr. Davis would not allow it to be otherwise. He lived and breathed his science. For at least a semester his fascination with rocks, nature and caves would be ours.

As a National Merit Scholar, he perpetually and instinctively studied. He said he started out with another major until he realized he spent his spare time spelunking, studying caves and rocks. He switched to geology. His office overflowed with boxes of rocks and scientific wonders. At one point, Dr. Davis told us where we could find crystals on a hill next to a highway. I described it to my husband. Our family went there and returned with a collection of fascinating crystals to add to other rocks we had gathered through the years.

I would have taken Geology 102 if I had had the time and energy for another semester with Dr. Leo Carson Davis. Instead I avoided the commitment needed to study under him until my certification for teaching science required the pre-med anatomy and physiology course. Taking a deep breath, I signed up for another Dr. Davis science class.

He had taken a refresher course before teaching the class for the first time. He transferred the information to us. The three bright young pre-med students and I, (mother of children almost their age) plunged into absorbing in one semester the circulatory, digestive, neurological and other systems of the body. My hand cramped taking notes l, which I later typed up and memorized to pass his tests. Pre-med students left his class adequately prepared for med school.

The labs proved equally challenging and interesting. One lab began with each of us consuming a quart of water with or without salt. I lucked out and got the all water assignment. To the one who received the saltiest water, Dr. Davis said, “If you can’t drink it all just do your best.” He didn’t want the guy to get sick.

We drank. Thirty minutes later we went to the bathroom and then walked back down the hall carrying beakers of urine to test for viscosity or salt or something. I don’t know. I just remember how silly we felt walking down the hall carrying those beakers and Dr. Davis’ serious face every time we did it.

When we studied the blood circulatory system, Dr. Davis grimaced and bit his tongue as I pumped and pumped and pumped the thing. His face said, “enough!” I guess it takes a bit of practice to get the hang of using a blood pressure cuff.

For years after, I kept my meticulous notes, graphs and labs. I kept them long after I tossed remnants from other classes. I have forgotten much of the geology and anatomy I learned for my hard-won As, but Dr. Leo Carson Davis’ lessons in academic excellence remain to this day. With these reflections on Dr. Davis in mind, I wish all students a great new school year. May you be challenged and inspired by your teachers and professors.

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