A breakfast conversation


Bored after the night shift at the hotel desk, the night clerk “Mack” eagerly greeted us as the first guests arriving for breakfast.

I have three sons and three jobs,” he said. His list included three nights a week at the hotel desk and part time, light work on construction sites.

I can’t do heavy lifting since I nearly lost my leg 10 years ago,” he said.

What happened?”

He related the following.

I worked for a company that went around the country putting together tongue and groove log cabins that use big lag bolts and screws to hold them in place. The contractor insisted that his crew be provided a house with a bedroom for each man.

“We ate breakfast at the house, had lunch meat in the refrigerator for lunches, and his wife would make us a supper each night. I didn’t have to pay for room and board. I was making good money and enjoying it.”

The contractor took the crew to an island off Maine to build and live during the build. They had no way to leave the island. Since the men spent their days building, it worked well. Or it did until Mack developed a pain in his leg. He could barely stand it hurt so much. The contractor insisted he was faking to get out of work.

I wasn’t. I was literally curled up in misery,” Mack said.

Still he forced himself to try to keep up with the job until he could not stand on the leg. It hurt so much. 

I need to go to the mainland. I need to go to a doctor,” he pled with the boss.

The contractor negated him as a shiftless, lazy bum.

When the contractor left, the man’s wife quietly said, “Come, I’ll take you to shore.”

She took him to the door of the emergency room and left him saying, “I have to get back.” He hopped in alone.

I was like an episode of the TV show ‘House.’ They could not figure out what was wrong with me. The diagnosis they gave me basically meant that they did not know what caused it.” He could see the red streaks of infection creeping up his leg and medications did not help.

If this does not get better we will have to cut off your leg to save your life,” the doctor said.

Mack got scared and mad. He called the doctor names. He threw a fit. He picked up the phone and called his own doctor back in Indiana.

I know what you need, you need prednisone,” the Indiana doctor said after hearing the situation.

Mack told the Maine doctor he needed prednisone.

The doctor rejected the idea. Mac called his Indiana doctor. The Indiana doctor talked with the doctor in Maine. Mack got the prednisone and the infection subsided.

The Indiana doctor gently scolded Mack, “You were rather rough on the doctor.”

Yes, I was, but it’s my leg and my life we are talking about. She was not listening.

She is a young fairly new doctor don’t be so rough on her.”

Mack improved, hired a taxi to take him to the airport and flew home to Indiana.

He spent the next three years in therapy rebuilding the leg. “I could not take a shower for three years. When I finally took a shower, I crumbled to the floor in pain. The doctor said it was because the damaged nerves felt all the water droplets.”

Now, every time I see my doctor, I thank him for saving my life,” Mack concluded.

His days of heavy lifting jobs in construction are over, but Mack is alive, has both legs, three sons and a story to tell travelers in the early hours of the day.

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healing to help others

Our trip compass pointed north, so we added boxes of Christian literature and Bibles and planned a detour to Love Packages in Butler, Ill. I like to read and share books so I collect to give to Love Packages which provides literature for individuals, churches, schools and pastors in third world countries. At the warehouse, we backed up to the delivery dock and, with the secretary’s help, hoisted boxes of books into bins.

“How’s Steve doing?” I asked as I passed a box of books.

“He’s fine. He had surgery and is here today.”

“Really?’

It seemed only a couple weeks ago he asked for prayer after a diagnosis of throat cancer. The doctor said the cancer’s location ruled out surgery because it could damage his vocal chords and rob him of speech. Not good news for Steve Schmidt who preaches often about God directing his prayers, the ministry and shipments of books since the 1970s.

“Yes, he is here. You can go speak with him. He is on the forklift helping load the shipping container.” She walked us to the loading dock where Steve manipulated a fork lift to wedge boxes into a metal shipping container. He slid off the forklift. A volunteer took his seat. The left side of his neck bore a long surgical wound. “They tried to cut off my head,” he joked before explaining. “My PET scan lit up with cancer. Monday, the doctor planned a biopsy to determine the kind of cancer and treatment.”

The day of his outpatient surgery, as Steve prepared to go, he said, “I thought about people who had said that their cancer was just hanging by a thread. I started to pray, ‘Lord make it so it is just hanging by a thread. I stopped. That didn’t seem right. I stopped and began again, ‘may it just be hanging there.’ That seemed like the way to pray.”

Steven went into the operating theater for his 15 minute biopsy. The anesthesiologist inserted the IV to put him to sleep for a short time. The doctor touched the nodule to snip it. It moved. “It’s just dangling there. Let’s take it out today,” he said.

The staff stared at him.

“You know what to do. I know what to do. I’ve done it many times before. We have what we need here. You get him ready. I am going to go talk with his wife.”

Steve’s wife Jeanie listened to the surgeon and with her sons’ input agreed to have the dangling cancer removed immediately. Four hours later, Steve woke to learn that instead of a 15 minute biopsy, he had had a dangling cancerous node removed along with 10 other lymph nodes.

“Unless there was a stray cancer cell, I am 99.99 percent sure you are cancer free,” the surgeon told him.

Steve stayed in the hospital that night and went home the next. Two days after surgery he was back at Love Packages. “I’m just operating the fork life. After we finish, I will work in the office until noon and then go home to rest.”

With tons of books, Bibles, Christian literature and lessons awaiting shipment to folks who desperately need them, Steve has no time to waste.

We praised God with him and returned to our van where the rural route mail carrier waited in her SUV for our van to leave the receiving dock. She needed to unload dozens of boxes of Christian literature packed into her SUV. As we drove away we saw the mail lady and secretary unloading boxes from across the country. Each held Bibles and books that churches and individuals had shipped to Love Packages to share around the world.

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a time to gather, a time to distribute

The rotary cutter I needed hid somewhere in the pile of quilting fabric. A box overflowing with cloth that could not fit into the overstuffed fabric closet blocked my path. I shoved aside quilt blocks to find the sewing machine. The time had long since come for me to re-organize and reduce my stash of fabric, sewing notions, equipment and spools of thread. I put away the quilt project and began sorting.

I don’t know why I bought that fabric, I do not even like it,” I muttered as I tossed it into the give away pile.

Why would anyone fold fabric to hide the ragged edges after cutting out a blouse?” I sighed and slashed off strips too small for even a string quilt.

I don’t need four large spools of green thread. I have never used this tool,” I added them to yet another large tote box. It was time to talk with family members who sew. I found four who eagerly volunteered to relieve me of anything and everything: fabric, zippers, buttons, patterns, “Oh, and by the way do you have a sewing machine you could contribute?” one asked.

Well, I might,” I studied the seven sewing machines in the sewing room before choosing one to share. I did not consider sharing the two sewing machines on the work bench.

I folded fabric, packaged zippers and bagged buttons. I filled a rolling sewing case with fabric, thread, accessories and a sewing machine. We lined up boxes for the anticipated deliveries. 

Time donate to the thrift stores where I buy fabric,” I said. I proudly surveyed my clean shelves with neatly re-folded fabric organized by colors and themes. It only took four days to clean deep enough to dust the corners usually blocked with fabric. 

I am done!” I announced, walking out of a room that now echoed my footsteps.

The doorbell rang.

Do you want some fabric for the sewing group?” my smiling friend asked. She had just sorted out her excess sewing supplies. 

The fabriholic inside me jumped up and down with joy! More fabric. I like fabric.

We chatted as I picked up various fibers, mentally cataloging where each piece needed to go. After she left, I began adding her surplus to the piles.

The size and number of piles overwhelmed me. It was time to pack for our drive to deliver stuff. Before we packed, I went to one of my sewing groups to use a special sewing machine. They welcomed me with open arms, “We have been waiting for you! We saved this fabric for you,” they indicated a heap of fabric, thread and other notions. “We knew you would know where to take it.”

I took a deep breath, thought about the size of our van, my very tidy sewing room and how very much I like fabric and sewing stuff. “Let me look.”

The entire lot filled my car’s trunk and back seat. Having just completed a four day training in sorting, I carried everything into my living room and quickly arranged more piles including a bundle for yet another sewing group. I only slipped a few pieces into my personal stash. Half a bushel of spools of thread became half a dozen designated piles. I filled and delivered bags to my favorite thrift stores and kept my sewing room neat, tidy and echoing footsteps.

A day later I went to four estate sales. I didn’t need a thing. I just wanted to look. I came home with another sewing basket. It really helps reduce the echo of footsteps in the sewing room.

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Is it hot enough?

“Is it hot enough for you?”

Yes, it is. It’s hot enough to stay inside, squeeze a lemon and sip ice cold lemonade under the ceiling fan. It’s hot enough to remember being a teenager and tossing hay bales in upstate New York and be thankful I don’t have to do that anymore. Very few farmers do it that way now with today’s technology.

It’s hot enough to recall a summer in Arizona when my brothers earned extra money picking grapefruit in the citrus orchards. Even with the desert’s nearly nil humidity, in that heat I preferred an afternoon at the swimming pool over cash.

Is it hot enough for you?

Well, my son-in-love didn’t think it was too hot when he signed up for the annual July New York City Triathlon. To prepare for these grueling races, he runs up and down the hills of Arkansas, pedals vigorously on his bike and cools off with laps in the pool. He practices through the chill of winter and the heat of summer so he has the endurance to participate in Triathlons. He didn’t think it was too hot to take his four children and my daughter to NYC for walking tours of the city in the days before and after the race.

The kids whine, “It’s hot!” as they strolled down the streets of New York exploring the stores, the sites and the history.

“We walked nine miles today,” my daughter reported the day before the race. The kids complained about the heat until they saw a street performer doing gymnastics and invited an audience member to join them. One granddaughter raised her hand, tucked in her shirt and copied him in movements and somersaults down the sidewalk. It wasn’t too hot to move then.

But weather predictions looked too hot for NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. He asked the directors of the triathlon to call it off. The directors considered all the racers coming from around the city and the nation. They decided the predicted heat wave was hot enough to call off the race three days before the event.

The decision came too late for the racers, like my son-in-love, who had already arrived for the race. Not everyone was happy to cancel a year of planning because someone else decided, “It’s hot enough for us.” Or, as my daughter protested the day of the cancellation, “It was cool today!”

The directors canceled this year but they still plan on holding it in July next year simply because these things have to be scheduled two and three years in advance. Other race directors joined the NYC-Tri in canceling long scheduled weekend races. According to Runners World, races included the NYC marathon training race, horse races in New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Even auto racing in Kalamazoo, Michigan was canceled due to concerns of drivers overheating.

Is it hot enough for you?

Well it is a deadly heat this summer as we realized with the news that former Arkansas football player Mitch Petrus, 32, died after suffering a heat-related illness. He reported feeling sick after working outside all day and in the shop. The official cause of his death is listed as heat stroke, according to the Associated Press. While the thermometer read in the 90s, the heat index that day rose over 100. That’s too hot and humid for even trained athletes on a day when conditions match the temperatures expected on the days of the canceled races.

Is it hot enough for you? Yes, it is folks, Hot enough for you to stay in the shade, drink plenty of lemonade and keep cool. Before you know it someone will ask, “is it cold enough for you?”

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Nothing can go wrong


I have no need for another cookbook and yet for fifty cents at a yard sale, I could not resist buying two: “The Non-chew Cookbook” and “The Four Ingredient Cookbook.” 

Non-chewing cooking tickled my funny bone. Chewing always follows cooking, right? I laughed until I read the introduction. This is a serious cookbook for folks prescribed a soft diet for some digestive issue. My uncle actually could have used some of its ideas the year he had his broken jaw wired shut and drank his meals while it healed. He did not feast that Thanksgiving. And Uncle let the preacher know so when he rhetorically asked from the pulpit, “We all had more than enough to eat on Thursday, right?” My uncle raised his hand and shook his head. Everyone in the church laughed.

With that in mind, I studied the book and found some soft casseroles that I mentally marked to try.

My granddaughter, Caroline, 10, studied and marked recipes in the complete collection of “Four Ingredients Cookbooks” by Coffee and Cale. The authors included everything from appetizers to dessert. She marked recipes because I had asked earlier if she would like to do a video of her cooking and testing the recipes on her family. 

Yes!” She agreed.

I took the book when I went to visit. She propped the cookbook against her knees and turned the pages looking for a recipe with the ingredients her mom already had.

Caramel popcorn looks good,” she mused, flipping the pages

Or how about this?” she showed her mom a dish, “Do we have the ingredients?”

No. Keep looking.”

They settled on Mexican Hamburgers: ground meat, tomato soup, chili powder and a large onion. How can anything go wrong? 

If you want Grandma to stop the video, just stand still and smile,” her mom advised. 

I tapped the video option.

She opened with a big smile, “Welcome to ‘Cooking with Caroline.’ Today we are going to make Mexican Hambugers.” She listed the ingredients, stopped and smiled. I stopped.

Her mom said, “Let me show you a trick I learned for cutting an onion.” She pinched her fingers into a claw to hold the onion while she halved and chopped half of the onion. On video, Caroline repeated the claw hold as she chopped with the other half. She scraped the onion bits off the chopping board and stirred them into the ground meat.

She smiled. We stopped to let the meat brown while she measured out the chili seasoning and opened the soup.

Caroline yanked the soup can’s ring back and forth, pulling it off. She looked at me, “now what do I do?”

You take the handle of a spoon and pry it off the rest of the way,” I demonstrated.

We returned to filming her pouring, stirring, and tasting. She pursed her lips, “too much spice. I need to stir this more.” She washed the spoon, tested again and pronounced it ready. Scooping meat, she spread it on hamburger buns, closed it, neatly sliced off a polite bite, tasted and smiled her approval and completion. I pushed stop.

Now I just have to figure out how to edit it. First, let’s look at what we have,” I hit play.

One bright and smiling 10 year-old held up the cookbook. Her lips moved but we heard nothing the entire15 minutes. It took a while to discover I had never chosen the option to record sound on my new phone.

Something could go wrong when I was in charge of the project, but Caroline did just fine with the Mexican Hamburgers. She is looking for another recipe to try, and next time I will push the button. We may even try cooking and eating a recipe from the Non-chew Cookbook, just for fun.

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Katie wants to help cook

The results may not be pretty, but with practice, a child’s household skills do improve. 

My daughter encourages eagerness. So when Katie, 3, shoved the chair to the counter at my house saying, “I wanna help cook” I said, “you can cut up these peaches.” 

I have to wash my hands first,” she held out her hands for the ritual before taking the knife to cut fruit. She finished and watched me measure waffle mix, “I wanna help.”

Okay.” I placed the bowl of waffle mix in the sink so she could stir without splattering everywhere. 

Do you know how to break an egg?” She nodded, took the egg and smashed it on the counter.

I guess you haven’t done that very often,” I mumbled. I tossed the shell in the trash, scooped up egg goo and added it to the waffle batter. She stirred, splashed batter and announced, “It’s done.”

I gave it another swirl and poured it on the waffle iron.

When her sisters and brother asked if they could do a chore and earn a couple dollars, I said, “Will you wash the bathroom and kitchen floors?” I hate that chore. They agreed, took turns filling a bucket and scrubbing floors on their hands and knees.

At their mom’s insistence they also, for no pay, set the table, cleared the dishwasher and swept the floor. Everyone has to do a chore everyday at their house.

Katie’s chore is to match up and put away clean silverware. She emphatically told me, “I do not like to take care of the silverware.” I already knew that. I have seen her fuss about the simple task. 

No pouts though when cooking begins. She shoves her chair close, “I wanna help.”

Okay, you can help me make 7-Up biscuits.” I gathered biscuit mix, sour cream and lemon-lime soda.

I need an apron.” she informed me.

I found the pink apron her mom had tied on her the day before and slipped it over her head. I pulled the strings around to tie in front.

It’s not s’posed to be like that.”

I re-tied it in the back.

It’s too tight.”

I loosened it. Satisfied, she waited while I plopped sour cream on top of the biscuit mix and handed her a chopper to mix it all together. 

She tapped the chopper lightly into the biscuit mix. Flour flew out of the bowl to the counter. I swept it back into the bowl and helped her finish mixing.

Now let’s pour in the soda.”

Katie poured and watched the soda foam across the top of the biscuit mix. We stirred it again. “Now we have to knead the dough,” I scraped it all onto a well floured pastry sheet. Katie touched the dough and pulled her hand back, “It’s sticky!”

Yes, it is. Let’s add a bit more flour,” I said and began kneading it into the mix.

I wanna help,” Katie kneaded the dough. Looked at her hands and said, “I need to wash my hands.”

You need to rub your hands with flour,” I said.

The sticky disappeared and we patted out dough to cut biscuits. She aimed the cutter for the middle of the dough. I directed her hand to the edge of the dough.

She cut. I lifted raw biscuits to the pan.

She aimed for the middle of the dough again. I moved her hand to the edge of the dough again.

The third time she began at the edge of the dough and after cutting it insisted, “I want to put it in the pan.”

It wasn’t a perfect biscuit, but it was her biscuit that went into the oven to bake. While it baked, we added ham and jam, and the breakfast Katie had helped make was ready to eat.

 

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What’s in a name? A lot of fun evidently

If you ask my husband his name be prepared to settle down for a long, long, long discourse of an answer.

“Well, my first name was Hershberger,” he responds.

They look at him a bit puzzled. “Hershberger?”

“Yes, before I was born and before they knew whether I was a boy or girl, I already had the name Hershberger after my father’s side of the family.”

“Oh, yes,” they stutter.

“And then my second name was supposed to be Rosemary. After having had two boys, my parents were sure that this time it would be a girl and so they intended to call me Rosemary.

“Obviously I was not a girl,” says this father of six. “So they chose the next best thing to it ‘Marion’ and tacked on my father’s name of ‘Joseph’ so I was named Marion Joseph at birth.”

“And you know it is a Biblical name,” he goes on to say,

Before they can puzzle that out, he tells about one of his pastors who asked everyone with a Bible name to stand up.

“I stood up. The pastor looked at me and asked, ‘What is your biblical name?’”

“Marion Joseph.”

The pastor started to dismiss him as another overly eager little kid.

“You know, Mary ‘n’ Joseph, but no baby Jesus,” my punster laughs.

The pastor gave him the look that said, “You have had your fun, now sit down.”

He thought it was funny then and the older he gets, the more he laughs.

Everyone for years called him Marion. Through school, through half a dozen different jobs he was ‘Marion’. Then he met me. I already had two Marions in my family – an Aunt Marion, my mother’s sister, and Marian, the mother of a cousin my age. I could not call a guy Marion with an ‘a’ or an ‘o’. For the longest time I simply called him Mr. Hershberger or Hershberger or Hershy.

When we became engaged my friend thought I needed to change that.

“I will call you ‘Joseph’,” I declared. One of his older brothers uses his middle name, so I extended the practice to the third son, then my finance and now my husband.

So the saga of answering the question about his name continues, “Then, when I met Joan I became ‘Joseph.’”

He’s right. I changed the name for calling him to supper. I have persisted with the nomenclature ‘Joseph’ except when I am angry, then he becomes “Marion.” Or if I am really weary his long story about his first name being ‘Hershberger’, he becomes, “Mr. Hershberger.” Plus, I have a few other names for him depending on the day’s mood. Hershey, Hershenberger or even Josephus all suffice, but never ‘Joe.’ That was his dad’s name.

Somehow in the south where many have two names, there are folks who find it nearly impossible to add that second syllable to his name. So he is ‘Joe’ to folks who know both of us in Arkansas; ‘Marion’ to those who knew him in Arkansas in the work place and always ‘Marion’ to the family and friends from his Indiana home town.

Take it or leave it, my husband, with a name reflecting the adults in the holy family, whose first name always was Hershberger, really does fit the name Joseph as far as I’m concerned. As he says, I gave him the name because he’s a dreamer. He has had great dreams for lots of traveling, remodeling, and finding as many people as he can who will listen to his pun and the saga he spiels when asked, “what is your name?”

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Thunder and lightning wake us up

The boom of thunder and flash of lightning woke me. Rain pounded the windows, and lightning pierced the darkness. I laid there listening to the storm, added my observations about the storm to my Facebook page along with other storm comments about electrical outages and upset children.

Been through a storm or two with children. Our daughter was three the night thunder loudly smashed over us and startled her awake and scared her so much that she ran crying to the safest place in the house: mom and dad’s bed. I patted her on the back. She snuggled in for the night. I thought we had settled it.

We hadn’t.

The next time the thunder clouds rolled they were many miles away. Nonetheless, I heard a terrified cry erupt in her room. I ran to comfort her. She settled down and, after the storm waned, she fell asleep. For the next couple months the noise of any heavy rainstorm would wake me on high alert mode awaiting the inevitable explosion of tears and screams from the bedroom down the hall.

I am not fond of screams in the night or the daytime. And yes, even daytime thunderstorms when wide awake terrorized that child. I thought it would pass. I thought she would adjust to the repitition of the sky’s loud, noisy show.

She didn’t. The rain and thunder startled her and sent me into a defensive mode to find some way to calm and soothe her because, I admit, this was not my favorite part of parenting. Once or twice fine, I could deal with it happening every time for months on end. I had had enough. The tipping point came as we drove in town one afternoon when a heavy summer storm broke. From the back seat I heard the gasp of fright.

No, no, no, you have it all wrong. This is fun!” I insisted. “When it booms you yell back as loud as you can. BOOM! BOOM!”

She stopped crying and looked at me.

Give it a yell.” I encouraged.

Drenching rain covered the car. Puddles formed along the road.

Lots of rain and noise means lots of fun,” I said and aimed for the puddle on the side of the road. “Whee! Look at that splash!”

Between the tears a smile tugged at her mouth.

Rain! And thunder!” I exclaimed. “Look outside. See the lightning? Smile, God’s taking your picture.”

She looked and listened as I exulted in the storm.

The next time we sat on the porch sprayed with a mist of rain as the storm roared around us. Another time we stood at the patio window in awe of the wind sweeping the trees around.

Yes, bad things can happen in a thunderstorm with heavy winds. Still it is quite a show of unscripted movement, noise and water so we may as well enjoy it. The electricity went out? Time to pull out those dozen candles up on the shelf for a night of shadowy fun and conversation, or go to bed early since no electronics or lights exist to interfere with sleep.

It took a while, but after that fun ride in the rain yelling at the noisy clouds, I no longer heard cries of terror in the night when a thunderstorm hit. The night she slept through a storm, I knew she had conquered her fear. The day she ran to watch the turmoil in the backyard caused by the rain, I smiled, picked up my book and enjoyed the stillness of an electric-free house and the sound of rain on the roof.

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One more year as camp counselor

 Two years ago my hubby declared himself too old to be a camp counselor. This year, the day our St. Louis grandchildren signed up to join their Little Rock cousins at church camp, he immediately said, “I’ll be a counselor this year.”

Before going, he filled his pill box with morning and evening medicines to keep his heart beating regularly. 

Do you want an extra pad for your camp bed?” I asked. He shook his head and grabbed a recently finished Minnie Mouse quilt, his toothbrush and Bible.

On Sunday he made up his bunk and welcomed two grandsons into his cabin of five boys. They settled in for a week of lessons, crafts, sports and fun.

Tuesday morning, he came home for an appointment with his heart specialist and a business meeting. He returned to camp in time for evening devotions. 

Wednesday, one grandson challenged him to play tether ball. Easy game, unless you are 79 and have a partial knee replacement. He turned too fast and wrenched his leg.

Thursday, camp ended. He limped into the house with the St. Louis grandchildren, Sophie and Sam, and dropped his suitcase. “I can not lift anything. I am so tired,” he coughed. The sun had not even set when he fell into bed. I gave him a pillow to prop his swollen knee and closed the bedroom door.

Friday morning, Sam and I left the house to check out a couple yard sales. Sam found small star shaped tins, “we can make star shaped chocolate chip cookies in these!” he decided.

Then we need chocolate chips,” I turned the car toward the grocery store.

Grandpa slept as Sophie mixed up cookie dough. He slept as I prepared hash and poured milk on cereal. 

At 11:30 he awoke to find the old fashion upright typewriter on the dining table and the treadle sewing machine open. 

Have you ever used a treadle?” I asked Sophie.

Well, I wasn’t supposed to…” she said.

Oh don’t worry about this one, you really can’t hurt it. They built these things to last.”

She and Sam treadled out rows of stitching, typed a bit on the manual typewriter and then switched to an electric sewing machine to make pillowcases. Sam looked at the hole in the knee of his jeans and said, “I used to like the holes, but now they are just annoying. Can you mend my jeans? You will have to hand sew a patch on it.” I studied his jeans. I have patched plenty of torn jeans with a machine.

Grandpa slumped in his chair watching Sam sort through Lego blocks. He listened to Sophie work her way through the first book for piano players. He tasted cookies, checked his email and went to the doctor for his cough and not as swollen leg. 

We went to the MAD playscape. He went to pick up pills for his cough. At bedtime the house looked like a wreck. My husband felt like one. His mind defies his age, but his body knows it’s 79 and counting.

Saturday morning, I tiptoed out of our bedroom, opened the sewing machine and sewed five patches on Sam’s jeans and fixed the hem before we left to meet his mom and brother. 

We had so much fun!” the campers declared. Their little brother Henry bragged about his week as an only child.

We swapped stories, ate lunch, transferred luggage, exchanged hugs good-bye and then hubby announced, “This was Sam’s first year at camp and my last year as camp counselor.” Today he thinks he needs to pass the job on to the next generation. Maybe he means it this time. Maybe.

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One boy’s story

He walked alongside the road, huddled beside his mother to ward off the air whipping around him hearing the swoosh of cars passing him as they walked to school. No car and no bus meant they walked from their tiny home and hoped to be offered a ride.

The daily walk ended the day their small school closed due to deficiencies.

“We will home school,” his parents declared, certain they knew enough to teach an elementary student. Perhaps they did. They did not, however, know how to deal with the daily grind of sitting down with a child and covering lessons every single. Too quickly excuses piled higher than unfinished homework. Too many days began, “Today let’s have a break” until a week, a month and and then two passed with no lessons.

Unexpectedly they had to leave their small house due to deficiencies. The boy’s family gathered up their meager belongings and rented a room by the day in an area where Stranger Danger lurked outside the door. A kid needs to run and play. There was no room. Not in the parking lot or on the sidewalk in front of the buildings all around him.

“No! You can’t go outside and play. It’s too dangerous,” his mother always said when he asked. “Go watch TV and be quiet.”

He watched and waited. Waited for something more than the television’s constant drone in the dim room. Despair set in and hope faded until a concerned friend made calls insisting that something be done, “Move to a bigger place with room for play and a school nearby.”

The bigger place did not have electricity for warming food or family.

“We can sleep on the floor in sleeping bags. We can fix it up. Lots of people have lived on less,” his parents said. Friends offered the child a bed while they fixed things.

The sleeping bags never became beds. The friends emphatically insisted he live with them until the situation improved. There he had his own bed, a yard big enough for any boy to explore and a large school with the daily routine of lessons to study and recess with other kids. The seeping sadness once invading the child lifted. He began to glimpse the possibilities his parents had ignored.

Then he received a scholarship to a church camp far from the city with its one room habitat surrounded with Stranger Danger.

Driving into the camp he saw massive trees, acres of green grass, a basketball court and tether ball court. He could see forever. No walls broke his vision. No huge parking lot filled with cars forbade his presence. No tvs or electronics were allowed to distract campers. A circle of cabins, dining hall and activity buildings awaited him at the edge of the forest. He wanted to try everything: baseball, volleyball, swimming and horse riding.

Until time to leave he barely stopped for meetings and meals. He explored everything: the trees, the trails, the games. The adults sat and visited. He walked everywhere, played everything and smiled constantly. The first night in the the cabin, he joyfully declared, “I feel like I have gone to heaven.”

He had escaped the bleakness of days of sitting in front of a television set in a darkened room waiting for some action. At camp he discovered the world beyond his past. He found freedom to roam, play and learn. He heard again that the Son will set you free. He embraced the woods, the sunshine and the message of God’s love. He found hope and welcomed it completely.

He walked alongside the road, huddled beside his mother to ward off the air whipping around him hearing the swoosh of cars passing him as they walked to school. No car and no bus meant they walked from their tiny home and hoped to be offered a ride.

The daily walk ended the day their small school closed due to deficiencies.

“We will home school,” his parents declared, certain they knew enough to teach an elementary student. Perhaps they did. They did not, however, know how to deal with the daily grind of sitting down with a child and covering lessons every single. Too quickly excuses piled higher than unfinished homework. Too many days began, “Today let’s have a break” until a week, a month and and then two passed with no lessons.

Unexpectedly they had to leave their small house due to deficiencies. The boy’s family gathered up their meager belongings and rented a room by the day in an area where Stranger Danger lurked outside the door. A kid needs to run and play. There was no room. Not in the parking lot or on the sidewalk in front of the buildings all around him.

“No! You can’t go outside and play. It’s too dangerous,” his mother always said when he asked. “Go watch TV and be quiet.”

He watched and waited. Waited for something more than the television’s constant drone in the dim room. Despair set in and hope faded until a concerned friend made calls insisting that something be done, “Move to a bigger place with room for play and a school nearby.”

The bigger place did not have electricity for warming food or family.

“We can sleep on the floor in sleeping bags. We can fix it up. Lots of people have lived on less,” his parents said. Friends offered the child a bed while they fixed things.

The sleeping bags never became beds. The friends emphatically insisted he live with them until the situation improved. There he had his own bed, a yard big enough for any boy to explore and a large school with the daily routine of lessons to study and recess with other kids. The seeping sadness once invading the child lifted. He began to glimpse the possibilities his parents had ignored.

Then he received a scholarship to a church camp far from the city with its one room habitat surrounded with Stranger Danger.

Driving into the camp he saw massive trees, acres of green grass, a basketball court and tether ball court. He could see forever. No walls broke his vision. No huge parking lot filled with cars forbade his presence. No tvs or electronics were allowed to distract campers. A circle of cabins, dining hall and activity buildings awaited him at the edge of the forest. He wanted to try everything: baseball, volleyball, swimming and horse riding.

Until time to leave he barely stopped for meetings and meals. He explored everything: the trees, the trails, the games. The adults sat and visited. He walked everywhere, played everything and smiled constantly. The first night in the the cabin, he joyfully declared, “I feel like I have gone to heaven.”

He had escaped the bleakness of days of sitting in front of a television set in a darkened room waiting for some action. At camp he discovered the world beyond his past. He found freedom to roam, play and learn. He heard again that the Son will set you free. He embraced the woods, the sunshine and the message of God’s love. He found hope and welcomed it completely.

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