Lacking friends is true poverty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thanksgiving surprise

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teacher: “The students ?”

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

Teacher: “What are you going to eat?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Pet bedtime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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buffet our way

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

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To answer or not to answer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, I will think about it.” 

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

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

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Halloween parade in Jasper

Every Halloween at Jasper Elementary in New York I hoped my costume would win in the class costume parade. I really wanted the judges sitting on the sidelines of the gym to pick me. School Halloween parties in that rural area of upstate New York began after lunch. We wiggled and giggled our way through the morning classwork while thinking about the cupcakes, cookies and candy the room mothers would bring that afternoon. We whispered to each other about our costumes hidden in paper sacks in the cloakroom. Who had time to learn arithmetic? We had costumes and candy coming!

One year, I said, “Mom, I want to be an Indian this year. Can you make an Indian costume for me. I want to dress like Pocahantas.”

I can try.” Mom agreed. She did not have soft pliable leather and no way could she afford that much money for a garment to be worn for an hour. Being resourceful and creative, Mom went out to the barn, picked up an empty burlap feed sack and washed it. It was brown and sheath-like. She studied it, marked off a hole for my head on the closed end and holes on the sides for my arms. She showed me the sack dress.

It needed to look like it had beadwork. She pulled out the iron-on patches in many colors which were popular at the time for covering holes in clothing. (I know, I know today people deliberately put holes in clothes, but at that time ripped, holey clothes reflected an impoverished life or a lazy mom who did not care if her child went to school with holes in the knees of their britches.) She cut out diamonds, squares and circles. She plugged in the iron and pressed the hot iron down on those patches to attach them one after another to the burlap.

It did look sort of like an Indian girl’s dress. I was happy until I tried it on. That thing was itchy! And I do mean with an exclamation point. Burlap for feed sacks is rough, minimally prepared threads made into disposable bags. Mom put it through the wash again with extra fabric softener. That helped a little  bit.

Still I had asked for an Indian costume. Mom had made the outfit. We did not make or buy multiple outfits for Halloween. I packed up my burlap sack and planned to wear it over soft cotton clothes.

            Somehow we made it through lunch. When the teacher asked, “Who needs to go to the restroom to change into their costume?” I raised my hand. In the girl’s room, I laid my bag on the ground with the others and began changing. Excitement and competitive hope filled the air.

Once all the students returned to the classroom, we lined up and marched eagerly to the gym. Each class took a turn walking around the gym so the judges could see us. I marched happily until I saw that girl. The one whose mother made her a crepe paper dress with ruffles, frills, bows and a matching hat. Or was that last year’s costume all over again? She always won with her mother’s sewing skills, and she won again that year.

My mom had tried. I went back to the room, ate my candy, cookies and cupcakes, Drank the punch and went home. As farm kids who lived way out in the country, trick or treat routes rarely went beyond our grandparents’ houses. The party was over. I did not have a blue ribbon costume, but I do have the memory of a mom who tried.

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conversations with Katie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A pickle,” I said feeling silly.

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

“Right.”

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

“One with a five.”

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

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Gathering Bibles for Love Packages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Three weeks.”

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

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

Such joy can not be imagined.

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

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

 

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The child with a wanderlust

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

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

It happens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Exercise at Champagnolle Landing

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

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

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

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

I received a cross-eyed scoffing look in response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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