First job etches permanent mark

In 1959 working as a pickler cleaning brass fittings for use in the production of thermostats may not have been the dirtiest job ever, but my husband’s first full time job out of high school definitely left an impression on him.

As a pickler he said, “I cleaned corrosion from the brass fittings before they were soldered. It was a day time job. I earned my first real money – $1.55 an hour,” he said.

The supervisor really wanted me to stay. He often came over asked me ‘is there anything we need to get you?’ They wanted to make it comfortable for me to be there.” He laughed. “People did not like that job. They would bid off as soon as they could.”

During the brief three months he worked as a pickler, he received a nickel an hour pay increase to encourage him to stay and work the job nobody wanted.

The despicable job used a heavy metal bucket. “It weighed about 15, maybe 20, pounds. The steel buckets were woven of probably an eighth-inch steel with leads every half inch for the brass fittings for the heating and cooling units. I would load them up and dunk them in the caustic acid.”

He walked a circuit from one dunking container to another. “I would dunk them into a pit and leave them there for a certain period of time. Take it out, dunk it into water, lift it out and put it into a neutralizing chemical. All day long I was putting in and taking out these heavy buckets of metal. Then I had to put the fittings on a tray, blow them dry, take them from there and put them in barrels for processing. I did that all day long. Every activity was timed. I had to keep going from one bucket to another, all day, switching each batch to the next phase. I gained a lot of strength doing that. I could do 25 push-ups easily by the time I quit.”

“I wore rubber gloves and a heavy rubber apron to keep the acid from getting onto me. Every week I changed out the acid. I carried it in a five gallon bucket. I went out back, opened a lid in the ground and dumped the used acid into the tank beneath it.”

“And the fumes! The fumes were there all the time. The fumes would eat the skin from your nose if you worked the job long enough. There was a vent or a hood over it all but no mask was provided or even suggested to be worn.”

“I didn’t stay there long enough for the fumes to eat at my nose, but there were people who said it would over time.”

Instead he quickly found a second full time job, one more appealing to him: building cabinet frames in a woodworking shop. Eventually he settled into his life-time career of quality control in the polymer and carbon black industries.

Many years later another company bought out the thermostat plant and production moved away, leaving the facility dormant. Sixty years after his three month stint as a pickler, he heard that the nearby community had once considered building a football field on the site where the plant once stood. It was the perfect location until soil studies revealed the extent of the contamination from the production process and its waste disposal.

Even in 1959, freshly hired picklers quickly realized cleaning brass was dangerous, dirty work and found safer jobs. They left; the company stayed and permanently etched its mark in the earth.

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One pair of stinky ole sneakers

My husband came in from the late summer heat and slumped onto the couch exhausted from a morning of yard work.

He began untying his grungy, battle scarred work sneakers. He sat them neatly beside the couch. I could smell them clear across the room.

“What is that smell?” I asked.

He sniffed and looked down at the sneaker. “The yard is wet. It’s the sneakers.”

“Well take those sneakers outside. They reek! And they look awful. Completely worn out.”

“I just wear them for yard work.”

“We can afford a new pair of sneakers. Those stink!”

He picked up the stinky sneakers and studied the brown creases on the formerly white tennis shoes.

“I’ll throw them away.” He picked up the sneakers and headed for the garbage bin.

“No, wait. Put them outside the door for now. I want to take a picture and see if someone really is crazy enough to buy them off Ebay.”

It would only take a couple seconds to try duplicating the story of a seller who made over $4,000 selling smelly sneakers.

I lined up a white sheet, artistically arranged the work worn sneakers, snapped a couple photos and listed: “Stinky ole worn out men’s sneakers size 10.5 medium.” They did have a kind of quaint look about them in the picture, so I added, “art, craft and photography.” Some artistically minded soul might think they spoke volumes about hard labor, of a summer of mowing, extensive house maintenance and hauling a mountain of debris out to the burning pile. A hard working person had worn those sneakers.

They really needed to go in the trash bin, but if someone actually wanted to buy worn out shoes, we would use the cash to buy a new pair.

And then we had to pack to visit all the folks we had not seen while he slaved away residing the house this summer. The shoes stayed on our steps, in the sunshine and rain while we were traveled.

Midway through our trip an Ebay shopper sent me a question, “How bad do the sneakers smell? What do they smell like?’

Really? You want to know, I thought.

I realized I could not exactly remember so I responded, “something like old sweat, only really ripe after having walked through a wet yard. But I am away from home and can’t sniff to verify the odor.”

We came home to a clean, fresh smelling house. Then I stepped outside and saw the sneakers. I had forgotten the query. I thought the shopper had as well until they asked, “Are these still being worn?”

“No. We left them outside for a month and the smell of old sweat diminished greatly. I could soak them a while and see if the room drenching smell returns. LOL,” I responded.

“Ok, don’t post this comment on eBay, but you have severely diminished the value of the shoes. LOL,” the former prospective buyer wrote.

“I know, but I simply could not stand the smell of them anymore.”

“I respect that you have standards,” the invisible shopper concluded the conversation.

I shared the emails with my husband. He shook his head. “I can’t fathom why anyone would want them.”

“Where are the sneakers anyway?” I asked him.

He found them about 10 feet away from me. No smell. The sun had worked its magic.

“Just throw them away,” I said.

“No, they don’t smell now. I’ll wear them, get them stinking again and then we can sell them.” He triumphantly reclaimed the sneakers he never had wanted to trash in the first place.

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Stroke at 28

Debby cannot remember the name of the movie showing when a massive stroke hit her hard. All she recalls is “I was watching a movie and I woke up three days later in the hospital. Everyone says it was a good movie. If I can ever remember the name, I want to see the end of it,” she laughed.

The three years since then, “kind of feel like I jumped out of an airplane without a parachute,” she said.

The friend watching the movie with her called her parents in a panic when Debby slumped over did not respond.

They took her to the hospital. Debby needed the intensive care unit of a larger hospital 90 minutes away. Three days later she recalls, “I woke up in the hospital and could not talk. I had to use the thumbs up for many days.” Recovery began with weaning off the feeding tube. Ironically Debby, who needed to lose weight, had to consume many calories during that process.

Over the next six weeks Debby went from the ICU to intermediate care and finally to rehabilitation. “I had to learn how to walk, eat and talk.”

Looking back, only a couple events foreshadowed the massive stroke that left her right side paralyzed at the age of 28. Three weeks before she had pain in her neck, flu-like symptoms and vertigo so bad that she went home early from work. Doctors speculate she had a couple small strokes at that time. Debby attributes the stroke to smoking and being overweight.

“I quit smoking the day I had the stroke,” she said.

“She lived on junk food and lead a very sedentary life style that brought on the high blood pressure,” her mother said.

Debby recovered remarkably. Her hypothalamus did not. That affects her body’s ability to warm itself, so Debby is cold all the time. She bundles up in layers and still has cold hands and feet.

She has had a year of vision therapy to correct the stroke induced double vision and now wears a prism on the left lens of her glasses to modify the double vision.

“My vision really slows things. I have to work on my balance,” she said. She moves much slower to be secure with her moves.

“At one point, I felt sorry for myself a lot. I tried to blame God. I had to stop doing that. I had to take responsibility for myself.”

Besides recently venturing back into the work environment, Debbie does needlework and plays video games. “I got a job that way. I am better because the games increase eye-hand coordination and I do cross word puzzles.”

“I enjoyed my life before I had my stroke.” Debby said. However, the stroke changed her circumstances and her outlook. Looking back she says she would not have started smoking and dated the people she dated. “My stroke was because of the way I was living. God let’s us do what we want,” she said reflectively. “I know a lot of people that get away with it. Self discipline is so inconvenient. I never thought it would happen to me.

Living with her mom “the Diet Nazi” Debby has lost 40 pounds and said, “I have been trying to get back on my feet. I definitely have come back to the Lord. I have been trying to give it all to the Lord instead of dwelling on it and feeling sorry for myself.” She joins her parents in daily prayers and Bible reading and has seen God use the past three years to bring her to Him.

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Driving and listening to an audio book about EMP effect

I grabbed a lengthy audio book as we left to visit folks in the Northeast and Midwest. Nothing like a good book to while away the miles of Interstate Highway. And William Forstchen definitely wrote a mile burner with his novel “One Second After.” His story describes the answer to the question, “What if an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) bomb exploded in the atmosphere over the United States?” Using a worst case scenario, Forstchen caught our attention from the minute the lights went out in the suburban home of history professor John Matherson. In a moment, the EMP silently burns out all electrical and computerized machinery with a finality that lasts through the rest of the year in the narrative. Only battery run gadgets, antique machinery or vehicles without computers survive.

The bomb kills electrical components not people and the nation jumps back into the 16th century. Not the 19th because many of the skills and tools of that era disappeared as electricity simplified everything.

The first deaths come as the EMP affects airplanes dependent on computers. On the Interstate, vehicles stop when the computerized injectors quit. Interstate highways become parking lots.

We thought about the novel when we stopped at a nursing home to visit a loved one dependent on machines and medicines. In the novel, Matherson’s father-in-law lives in a nursing homes. Quickly supplies and medicines dwindle and, without working cars, the staff disappears. The town’s leading doctor observes that without modern medicine the residents would have already died.

Before visiting loved ones, we texted and called on our cell phones. What a convenience we enjoy and now consider pretty much essential. The loss of power and cell phones abruptly truncated the teenage daughter’s life in the novel. Looking at the room of thumbs twiddling over their phones, I could only imagine their shock if an EMP bomb cut off their phones.

Stopping to pay the tab at the drive-through, I wondered how long the clerk would take to figure the cost and the taxes without the digital shortcut of the computer. Could the restaurant even exist if all the modes of transportation suddenly ceased bringing in fresh food and the electricity stayed off. Worse yet, what would I eat if such a bomb caught us a few hundred miles away from home in a strange community struggling to survive with nothing to spare?

For sure, my country kin would enjoy their gardens and be able to hunt in the woods surrounding their property. Or they could, if they did not run out of bullets and had seeds to plant. Still, how long would the acres of forest last as thousands around them struggle to keep warm and to cook food after the propane gas tanks emptied? All those situations arose in that “One Second After.”

At first we simply listened. Then near the end of the book, I read a hard news story considering the effect of an EMP. Say what!? This book was not just another science fiction? No, it wasn’t. In the afterward, the author says he based his novel on a 2004 report to Congress about the threat of an EMP. The hard news story, the novel and the report all project a potential 90 percent death rate within a year.

Suddenly the novel was all too possible: a non-lethal bomb could disrupt modern life and cause death through deprivation of food, medicine, transportation and clean water and battles to gain these basics.

Yes, we caught up with folks during our travels. We also caught a deeper view of the destructive possibilities of modern weapons.

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Shadow’s Saga continues

Shadow returns

“We were on track to be out the door to school on time that day,” my daughter recalled. “then Jacob came to the door of the kitchen in his underwear saying, “C’mere quick.’”

“They ran. If their dad said “Come, quick!” It had to be good.

The four children and Sharon followed him upstairs to the bathroom being remodeled.

“Everybody crowded into our bathroom where tools and trash lay everywhere. On top of the tools and trash was my leopard print robe, a basket and a box” Sharon said.

“Shh… look, I caught Shadow,” Jacob announced. “Shadow is under there,” Jacob indicated the basket and box and awaited his family’s accolades.

Shadow, a white mouse, came to the family last Christmas as a gift for Caroline. He lived in a cage for a couple months, then escaped and disappeared somewhere in the bedrooms, bathrooms and closets of the second floor. A few weeks ago, bedtime was postponed when Shadow appeared and the family tried to capture one little mouse that ran between toddler Katie’s legs and disappeared. For days afterwards Katie talked about, “A mouse. A mouse.”

Since then Shadow has appeared a couple other times, yet still remained at large. So, if Jacob said he had the mouse on top of the robe, under the basket held down with a toolbox, well Sharon better find the unused cage.

She put the cage near the mouse caught inside the turned-over plastic basket and prepared to sweep one mouse into its cage. Jacob explained, “I came in and saw a shadow move. I looked behind the toilet and there it was. It ran behind to the closet. I pulled out the suitcases. I got a small plastic basket and popped it down on the mouse.”

“When I lifted it up the mouse scooted out.” He recaptured the mouse and put a heavy box on the basket to hold it in place.

Sharon undid the basket and shook the mouse into the cage.

The mouse lay there with its legs splayed out straight.

“Uhhh, Did you catch it dead?” Sharon asked.

“What? No, it wasn’t dead,” Jacob declared.

“Well it’s dead now.”

“What? No!” He protested. Caroline started crying.

“Maybe he is just stunned,” someone suggested. With no further time to fuss before school, Caroline put fresh food and wood chips in the cage with the stiff legged mouse. The children arrived at school five minutes late.

After school the unmoved mouse again presented the obvious truth: It was dead. Caroline began crying. “I’m sorry. That does happen,” Sharon aid. “We will have a funeral.”

Caroline stopped crying and began planning a funeral including a eulogy, miniature floral headstone, original song lyrics and refreshments following the graveside service. The whole family attended.

“He brightened up my day every time I saw him,” Caroline said.

Eli recalled, “I would wake up at night and hear Shadow playing in the Legos in my room.”

Daisy quietly said, “He was a nice mouse.”

Katy simply stated, “Daddy killed mouse.”

Caroline wrote a song about Shadow:

Shadow, Shadow, Oh Shadow, why are you gone?

Shadow, Shadow. Why did you do this to me, Shadow?

Shadow, why did you do this to me?”

With all the pathos 8-year-old can muster, Caroline sang it out loud and clear and expected the rest of the family to join her in the funeral dirge.

“Quite entertaining,” her mom reported.

Caroline asked for another mouse this Christmas. Sharon assured her, “There will not be another Christmas mouse.” The saga of Shadow has ended and there will not be second verse.

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Tasting feast

Wiping my mouth and tossing the Styrofoam plate and bowl into the trash at the motel, I gather up my suitcase, pocketbook and laptop. Time to hit the road for another day of traveling to see the family. Seeing the family is great. I love to have the face time with them..

Traveling down the highway past one restaurant after another, glimpsing huge, delectable pictures of sausage filled biscuits or three scoops of ice cream on a waffle cone may explain ‘why’ I return from most trips weighing five pounds more than when I left.

Having fueled our bodies with the breakfast at the hotel, we needed to fuel the car. We stopped at a station a few miles down the road with huge ads for pumpkin latte and pumpkin shake.

I wanted both. My stomach didn’t. It sank like an anchor and held me in the car. No way could I eat anything else right then. I had reached “full enough.”

Still it looked so good. And that is the problem on every trip. We hit new cities with new foods and every bite looks temptingly delicious.

So I welcomed my son’s invitation to a tasting event for every dish offered at a chain restaurant with 16 basic entrees. We skipped lunch and waited for the early supper. The brightly lit restaurant featured a colorful display of food options. Lucky us, we did not have to choose anything. The manager had set aside a corner booth with a “Reserved” sign on the table and a card showing all of our options. We could have anything we wanted on the menu.

“I usually skip the salads and soups and begin with the appetizers,” he said. We glanced at the salads and agreed we knew Caesar salad and vegetable soup. We took about half of each appetizer and placed the rest into carry-out boxes.

I should have stopped then and there. I didn’t. When would I ever again get a chance to have just a taste of every dish on the menu? Never.

Clearing away the empty appetizers the smiling manager brought us our first four entrees. Dishes from the Orient. We each grabbed a dish and began scooping out a small serving – a taste. A taste usually infers at least a teaspoon, no more than a tablespoon of the dish. We did not stop with one, we took two and sometimes three. We should have stopped with one.

A taste for all still left plenty of food in each dish. Adding four more boxes made a small stack of carry-out containers with 12 more entrees to test.

Like the sorcerer’s apprentice, the manager brought us four more entrees. Mediterranean this time. We tried a taste of each. The stack of take-away cartons grew taller.

He brought four American dishes. We looked at each other desperately. Could we do it again?

We did. We ate one tablespoon of each and four more boxes topped the stack of take-aways.

We declined two of the final four entrees as too common to taste. We miserably, quietly groaned when two more offerings of food appeared.

Finally, barely able to burp, we accepted a take-home dessert from our host and waddled away. My son took home all but four of the boxes.

We drove away holding our stomachs, whispering, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”

We headed for the Interstate and hit the road hard. We added many miles stopping only for gas. Even well into the next day not even the pumpkin spice latte looked tempting after our tasting feast.

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The painful tour of dental clinics

Some people go on a “Tour of Homes” recently my daughter took a “Tour of Dental Clinics.” It started with a sensitive tooth a week before her regular visit.

She described the tour as follows:

The sensitivity turned into an ache and then excruciating pain radiating through my jaw. I went to a medical clinic for antibiotics and pain medicine. I hoped they would hold me until my check-up. I had too many meetings and commitments to be sick. I needed sleep.

Midnight, still not asleep, I moaned, kicked the blankets off, crawled out of bed, applied more gel, more heat and took more medicine. No relief, no sleep. My husband gently said, “You need to go to the dentist tomorrow instead of Bible Study.”

“They need me! I will wait.” I stubbornly responded.

1:30 a.m. Still awake, still in pain and I’m mad. I have four kids, a part time job and volunteer positions. Zero sleep is ridiculous.

3 a.m. I resign myself and text my Bible Study leader with the bad news.

Before dawn, I trudge downstairs to moan and pace and consider the pliers.

I steel myself for pain the rest of my life, or that the dentist will pull all my teeth.

8 a.m. my friend at the dentist’s office called to say, “you can see the dentist at 10. “

I pace. I cry. I wait until my chauffeur can take me to the first stop of my “Tour of Dental Clinics.” Through the doors of a crisp, modern dentist’s office the receptionist who chirps, “How are you today?”

I melt into tears and hold my cheek.

Her eyes widen, “Just hand me your insurance and ID cards. I’ll do the rest.”

While the dentist looked at my x-rays, I tried to remain calm. He suggested I needed to wait until the infection subsided before he could take action. I burst out in tears. He called the oral surgeon to schedule an extraction and asked, “Would you like some pain pills?”

Noon: my chauffeur stopped at the outdated, dark waiting room of an oral surgeon who looked at a new set of x-rays. “I don’t extract a tooth if it can be saved by a root canal. You can get an appointment with an endodontist … in three days.”

More waiting?

More tears. Sympathetically, my friend called another endodontist to see that day. The oral surgeon called in a prescription for stronger antibiotics.

3 p.m. We arrived at an endodontist’s office with an obvious taste for modern art. He tapped my teeth and took yet another x-ray.

“You need a root canal,” he said, started the gas and prepped my mouth. With a dental dam and bite block in place, I ignored my phone when my chauffeur called to ask how long it would take.

After 5 p.m. the endodontist, pulled off his gloves.

“I can’t finish the root canal today. The infection won’t stop bleeding.”

He invited me to return. I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue my tour of dental offices, but I knew I didn’t want a half-finished root canal. He printed off three more prescriptions.

By 7 p.m. my chauffeur had been to the pharmacist twice for me.

9:00 p.m. dosed with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and pain medication, I fell asleep.

The next afternoon: alert and lucid, I drove myself to the endodontist’s office to conclude my root canal. My chauffeur returned to his day-job and I ended My “Tour of Dental Clinics” free of excruciating pain and hoping I never take another such tour ever again.

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Soup for the sick and weary

Obsessively I pulled dairy products, leftover food, fresh fruits and vegetables out of the refrigerator and packed all of it in a cooler to take to my daughter’s house. With four children she could use it. I did not want to return home from a week’s vacation to rotten food or outdated milk and yogurt. I never have emptied the fridge so thoroughly as I did before that trip last year when a spring cleaning mood swept over me.

A good thing I did though because I broke my leg miles away from home. I needed surgery and recovery time. We chose to do the initial repairs near my daughter. We didn’t need any food at our house. We ate, slept and lived with her (or in the hospital) for more than a month. The month of living away from home and being my primary caregiver exhausted my husband.

Finally, the doctor replaced the open cast with a brace and released me go home to exercise. We packed up our luggage, the shower chair, wheelchair and walker. I shoved myself across the back seat of the car surrounded by a dozen pillows. Halfway home, we stopped to buy gas and I begged him to unpack the walker so I could slide out and just stand for a while. The drive home exhausted me.

We dragged into the house late in the afternoon. I slumped into the lounge chair with my foot propped up high. My husband sank into the couch. We stared at each other. We were home. We did not have anything for supper. We needed groceries. My husband looked so tired. He knew he would have to do the grocery shopping. Just the thought of dragging out of the house again that day burdened him.

I had begun mentally scrambling for ideas when the phone rang. “Hello?”

“You don’t know me, but I read your column and have been reading about your accident. I wanted to bring you some taco soup. I wanted to come bring something earlier but I couldn’t,” the caller quickly explained.

“Well, thank you. That would be greatly appreciated. You would not have been able to bring it to us before today anyway We just got home from staying in Little Rock for a month. Let me tell you where we live.”

The reader came promptly with a warm pot emitting a delicious smell. Hubby quickly transferred it to one of our containers and thanked her profusely. “You have no idea how much we really needed that soup today,” I said looking at my relieved husband.

She left, and we enjoyed taco soup and chips. Hubby slid the leftovers into the refrigerator.

That taco soup lasted a long time. Not that she gave us so much. No, by the next day friends heard and neighbors saw that we had returned and took turns bringing us prepared meals. Most meals included a hot vegetable. Several included freshly made rolls. We enjoyed the meals and added any leftover vegetables to the soup. We ate leftover soup with homemade rolls about once a day for the next couple weeks.

I recalled that Soup for the Sick last week as I emptied cans of vegetables over sauteed and seasoned ground meat to make soup. Such a blessing we enjoyed last spring from the time that first dinner arrived shortly after we realized how desperately we needed it. And blessing piled on blessing as other meals followed through my summer of healing. Our once very empty refrigerator overflowed with the kindness of many until I returned to the kitchen.

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Retired and missing work

How’s retirement? Folks ask me. Well, retirement feels like a week of Saturdays with another six following that week. Retirement provides time to tackle my “bucket list.” Retirement says good-bye to the nine to five routine.

That’s somewhat true, but I did not stop working one day and begin retirement the next. No, I transitioned into retirement with a six month recovery after breaking my shin bone and wrist. It took three months of daily working my way through four to six hours of exercise before I spent all my accrued vacation time and sick leave. Still I went to my retirement party in a wheelchair and spent another three months building up my muscles and learning how to maintain my balance when walking.

Before I ever officially retired, I had already slept a lot, read a ton of books, watched mindless television shows and YouTube videos. Or, as Hubby observed, “I have never seen you watch so much TV” Because I traded work for exercise, I eased into retirement so smoothly that I can only describe retirement as “my days are too full to miss work.”

Still, I do miss some things about going to work.

I miss twiddling my thumbs on the steering wheel as I wait on the rush of school traffic to give me a break so I can turn onto the highway to go to work. I miss having to wear a sweater during a summer spent in a refrigerated office. I miss the pressure of a looming newspaper deadline as I wait for someone else to finish using the computer I need to do my work.

I am perfectly fine with missing all of that. I have enough to do: daily exercises for my leg, a weekly column, Bible lessons for three classes at church, sewing, cooking and family picture albums to prepare.

I don’t miss the expectation that I must sit upright in a chair at a desk to write. I finally can write laid back in a lounge chair or propped up on my elbows on the bed or while riding in the car as my chauffeur drives.

I don’t miss fighting the after lunch slump. Now, if I feel sleepy, I take a nap just like I did when the children were little. I have always embraced afternoon siestas.

I do miss reading a week’s worth of cartoons ahead of time. I miss doing interviews and taking intelligent phone calls. Now I answer robo-calls, scam calls and calls wanting me to donate to yet another organization.

I miss the opportunity to jerk awake, rush to dress and leave after my husband would ask, “Aren’t you going to work today?” Now he asks, “Do you have your column ready?”

I lounged on the couch reading a novel the last time he asked that.

Nope,” I said and turned the page. I had absolutely no urge to jump up, dash to the computer and begin typing. I did wake up 12 hours later with a full blown idea and began writing in my jammies in the middle of the night.

I don’t miss work clothes.

I can’t miss most of my co-workers. Most have retired or resigned. I barely recognize the office staff anymore.

And for sure, I don’t miss seeing the grandchildren, not anymore. Now that I don’t have to be at work, I can go see them in the middle of the week and stay for a while. Someone has to help make the cookies and cakes with the kids, and my name is Someone. Someone at home and available.

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kids say the cutest things

Where do you live?” I asked a four-year-old child.

She looked at me quite seriously and answered, “Earth.”

Okay. So where is your house?”


I gave up, but speaking of earth another pre-schooler knows it has gravity.

He said, “My house has a LOT of gravity. When I walk around in my socks I keep slipping and falling down.”

Later I was talking with older children in Sunday School about their grade, one boy confidently announced, “I’m in first grade, and I know everything.”

We still taught him the day’s lesson, just as my daughter Sharon keeps explaining facts to her fifth grader Elijah.

Last week, Eli opened a yogurt with a topping compartment for breakfast.

After a bit he said, “This honey is so slow. It’s taking forever to pour!”

Yep, slowness is one of honey’s characteristics,” Sharon said.

“I guess that’s why you call me ‘Honey’,” Eli answered.

So true,” she wrote on Facebook page.

The day I ate breakfast with Eli’s baby sister Katie, she finished eating her nectarine, pinched off a piece, smiled and held it up to my mouth. I accepted it. She clapped and said, “Yahh!” and proceeded to feed me more pieces, each time applauding when I ate. When I had enough, she wiped my face and her hands with a napkin.

She is a very helpful child, as is Daisy who helped her dad Jacob relocate some gravel from the driveway to the swing set.

Eventually Jacob, looking around for more clean rocks, said, “We are running out of nice rocks.”

Daisy said, “Yeah, I’m just finding all the mean ones.”

Differentiating mean or naughty activities begins early. Tiffany, the mother of a one-year-old wrote, “I just had an E.T. Moment with Tait. I was loading the dishwasher and trying to keep him out. I pointed my finger, shook it at him, said, ‘No,’ held it there and looked at him sternly. He looked at me for two seconds, then raised his pointer finger to mine until they touched tip to tip.” Her laughter ruined her newly achieved, maternal stern face.

In September my 4 year-old grandson Henry had the happy face. After watching his older siblings go to school every day, he finally began pre-school. He returned from his first day and repeatedly told his mother, “Thank you, Mom for my school. Thank you, Mom, for my school.”

He told me he likes the toys at his school.

Besides toys, he also learns new concepts as do my nephew’s children who recently moved to England. They now call cookies, ‘biscuits.’ It sounds sugar free but Momma Tara knows the truth.

The day her youngest bit his much older sister, Tara declared, “Benji, you’re not going to have sugar for two days because you bit Mary.”

But can I have some of these biscuits?” he asked.

Those have sugar in them.”

Can I have some biscuits with no sugar?” he wheedled.

We don’t have any of those.”

Benji took out a biscuit package and asked, “Can I have one of these?”

These have sugar in them.”

Benji inspected the cookies (biscuits), “I don’t see any.”

His mother shook her head, “You may have a crumpet.”

He had to ask, “With jam?”

No! No jam.” she said.

With peanut butter?” he raised his eyebrows.

Weeelllll…” she wavered.

Sensing an opening, Benji pushed his agenda, “Peanut butter has protein in it!”

And that’s where we will leave them – with the little kid really knowing everything important about peanut butter.

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