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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Free pizza!

Last September, second grader Titus told his parents, “If I go to school every day, at the end of the month, I get a free pizza!” Titus likes pizza.

September, October, November and December, Titus ate pizza. His classroom celebrated nine weeks of everyone having perfect attendance. 

The flu hit. Kids in school one day stayed home the next. Titus could not avoid the germs. He got sick after school Friday. Monday morning he popped out of bed healthy and ready to chalk up another day toward pizza.

January and February, Titus ate free pizza.

In March, Titus, according to his mother, “was trying to do something with his jacket at school and he fell out of his chair. He got up and fell again. He teacher said he was seizing for five seconds. She sent him to the nurse’s room. The nurse thought it might be that he stood up too fast after hitting his head and so fell again.” 

He went to the emergency room. The doctor said he had a concussion. “I don’t see any seizure activity. Stay home tomorrow and rest.”

Thinking of free pizza, Titus looked at the doctor, “I don’t want to stay home. I want to go to school.”

Well, you can go just don’t do any sports or gym. Stay indoor for recess,” the doctor advised.

I think he also wanted the bragging rights,” his mom said. “Everybody was telling him ‘you were passed on the floor.’”

His teacher looked at Titus with astonishment. “You came today?”

He nodded. “No sports or outside recess.”

Okay, and you also will not work on any computers or electronic screens today,” she decided.

Titus ate pizza in March.

He almost had earned another pizza in April when he fell off his bike and broke his arm. His screams pierced the neighborhood. His mom said, “I ran, got Titus and his bike off the road and back to the house. He calmed down and looked okay when he went to bed.” He woke up crying from pain.

An x-ray showed that two bones in his arm had broken.. He left the ER with a temporary cast and took Ibuprofen for the pain.

After that one pain pill, he declined any more. He insisted he wanted to go to school. He wanted pizza and he wanted his friends to sign his cast.

A week later he was back on his bike and on the trampoline,” his mom said. “It was his right arm so he had to learn to write left handed and how to dribble and shoot left handed.”

Titus ate pizza in April. The cast came off before school ended in May. 

The last day of school Titus attended an award ceremony recognizing the academic achievements of students who improved the most or scored the highest in a subject. One student in each class received the outstanding student award for a great attitude.

Finally the principal held up the sheaf of perfect attendance awards. Titus wiggled to the front of his seat. He knew his name would be called. He had gone to school the whole year and had feasted on pizza every month. Now he, and a few others, stood on the stage while everyone watched them receive a perfect attendance award for the past year.

To get on stage took determination, a love of pizza and the daily routine of crawling out of bed, boarding the bus and showing up at school even after a concussion and broken arm. Titus earned his perfect attendance certificate and every bite of his free pizza.

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The Jinx returns

Just when I thought it was safe to come in out of the cold and enjoy a quiet meal in a restaurant, The Jinx returned. 

I prefer eating at home. I like grocery shopping, making desserts, seasoning meats and chopping fresh fruits and vegetables. I like getting what I want when I want it. 

I knew exactly what I wanted before I entered a restaurant recently. I had a coupon for the day’s special. I just did not know The Jinx clung to that coupon. My husband and I went to eat a late lunch when the few cars in the parking lot and sparsely populated tables predicted little competition for server’s attention.

Before the hostess could motion the waitress over we said, “We want the special of the day.”

The waitress handed us a menu. We looked, folded it shut and repeated, “We want the special and water.”

She took the information, walked away and returned with water and forks wrapped in napkins. “Do you want anything else?”

A knife,” I stated.

You don’t really need one. The food is already cut up.”

I like to use a knife to slide food onto the fork.”

Oh,” she said and wandered away. We picked up the menus she had not taken and glanced through them again. The dish of the day still looked sufficient.

A couple other guests entered and ordered. 

The clock ticked. The waitress returned, “How are you doing?”

We looked at our empty table, “We’re fine.” 

She disappeared.

Meals arrived for other patrons. 

The clock crept forward another 10 minutes.

The befuddled server drifted back. “Are you doing okay? Do you need some more water?”

No. Just food,” we said. 

We waited. I mused, “Maybe we should have ordered an appetizer.” 

The server reappeared, pulled out the bill and laid it on the stack of menus topped with our coupon for the meal of the day. “’Was everything okay?” 

We don’t need the bill. We haven’t received any food. ”

Startled, she studied at our pristine table and clean forks. “It was the other table?” she mumbled as she wandered over to the computer to enter something.

I looked at the clock. Thirty minutes had passed in the dining room with its scattering of patrons.

The server returned. “ I’m sorry it is taking so long. It’s a new dish. Do you want any more water?”

We did not need any more water for our melting ice cubes. We watched other patrons leave.

The server place anther glass of water between us. “I’m sorry it’s taking so long. It will be here in 15 seconds.” 

She left. We chuckled, “It’s not going to be 15 seconds.”

Four minutes later the steaming hot platters of food arrived. 

The rest of the food is coming,” she promised.

Another server brought the food, “do you need there anything else?”

Yes. I would like a knife and some extra napkins, please.”

Within seconds, she returned with knives wrapped in napkins.

We settled into eating a great meal and the server returned presented the bill and a to-go box.

We handed her the coupon.

She studied it, went to the cash register and returned, “I have to wait for the manager to enter that coupon.”

We stacked the empty dishes neatly and sipped more water until the server returned with a new bill and announced, “The manager adjusted the bill.” 

I figured a tip and signed.

An hour after we arrived for a quick, late lunch, we left the still nearly empty restaurant with another story about The Jinx.

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The Paxton Family remembers

Tomorrow, on Memorial Day we will remember the soldiers who fell in battle to protect our freedoms. One of those who remembers is Lester Paxton Jr. His uncles and father Lester Paxton Sr. fought in World War II. Paxton Jr. served as a gunner during the Berlin crisis. His grandchildren joined the Army Reserves.

His father served on the Phoenix in the Seventh Fleet in the Pacific. Worried about his brother on another ship, Paxton Sr. would run “After every exchange of fire, to see if his brother’s ship was hit. When the island had been secured, he found his brother and they had a picture in the Philippines,” Paxton Jr. said.

“He kept a diary through the war. (Years later) when he was reading about a kamikaze strike, he closed the diary and tossed it in the trash. He did not want to talk about it.”

Paxton Sr. told Jr. that during the battle for Corregidor Island he was on watch and saw a lot of paratroopers coming down. “When they were hit, they just folded up as they came down.”

In the heat of battle, gunners received sandwiches as they worked the guns, except for the time when a stateside strike delayed the delivery of supplies. Then Sr. had to eat rice for 13 days. “After the war, he refused to eat rice,” his son said.

Lester Paxton, Sr. did talk about the Japanese kamikaze planes. “Some of the men would get so scared that they would jump overboard. One Sunday, they were having services on the bow of the ship with orders to cease fire. One sailor saw the plane and just kept firing until he knocked the plane away from the ship. One of the wings landed on the deck. They chopped it up and handed out pieces as souvenirs.”

During his time in the Pacific, the chaplain came to tell Paxton Sr. that his brother Earl had been killed and buried in Europe. “Four brothers went in the service and three came home,” Paxton concluded. With that in mind Lester Paxton, Jr. says “I enlisted because I wanted to go Europe and Belgium to see the grave of my father’s baby brother Earl.”

Assigned to Company C of the 66th battalion at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas Paxton Jr. waited and, as a gunner, “fired tanks in demonstrations for officers from overseas.

Then the Berlin Crisis came. “We went over to Germany and out on the Autobahn about six miles from the Russian border. They sent the 2nd armored division to show the Russians we could put an armored division on their doorstep in 24 hours. We thought we would have to fight. We were there for seven months with operation ‘Big Lift.’”

“I did go to Belgium to Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery. There are at least 8,000 soldiers buried there. I took a picture of Earl’s marker with his name and serial number. He was in his 20s, a young boy. I gave the picture to my grandfather. My grandfather really thanked me a lot for that. I am the only family member that has ever been to his grave.”

While there, his wife had an appendectomy. “The Red Cross came and told me what was going on and suggested they get me home. My tank commander said, ‘You can forget about that.’ So just as soon as I got back from Germany, I got in my VW and went to see her.”

With the family history in mind (and with two grandchildren serving in the Army Reserves) this Memorial Day, Lester Paxton will again pause and remember, as should we all.

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