To diet or not to diet: intermittent fasting

December flew by with a feast of chocolate covered nut clusters, pecan pies and sugar cookies. Now, it’s January with resolutions to lose the holiday weight. Except for me, I enjoyed the treats and the weight remained stable through the feasting season. It only took me 40 years to figure out how to lose and keep off weight.

That lesson began last spring. I went to bed with the flu. I drank chicken broth, nibbled crackers, and slowly sipped a glass of Sprite to help settle my stomach. I stood up and quickly sat down. My chest felt explosive. For the next half hour I entertained my husband with loud, rumbling belches. It was months before I drank another carbonated beverage.

Several days of the flu convinced me I needed to go to the clinic. I received a prescription and an x-ray for possible digestive issues. The x-ray showed lots of gas and no food. Of course, I hadn’t had much after that glass of Sprite.

For six or eight weeks, I ate little more than a couple bites at any meal, drank lots of chicken broth and a spoonful of sauerkraut. For some reason, pickled cabbage helped. I lost weight. Not from eating sauerkraut – I lost it from not eating. Not from exercising, I had no energy for that.

Finally, I learned I didn’t have the flu, digestive or gall bladder issues. I had an infection. By the time a couple rounds of antibiotics fixed me, I had lost 25 pounds. I absolutely do not recommend the method.

I did want to keep the weight off though so I practiced my hard earned lesson: eat a third or a half of what I usually ate. When I bake cookies, I eat half a cookie instead of half a dozen. I returned to my thrice weekly exercise class at Champagnolle Landing. When we traveled, instead of gaining five, I lost five.

About the time I started eating too much, I read a couple articles about intermittent fasting. The studies showed that folks who did not eat anything for 14-16 hours each day, could pretty much eat as normal and some lost a bit. For me it meant cutting out early morning breakfasts and bedtime snacks.

I have no forbidden foods. However, I always eat lots of fruits and vegetables, including a large green salad most days. Some days I quit eating earlier than 6 because I feel full and realize I have eaten quite enough for one day.

During the feasting season I continued exercising and enjoyed pecan pie, dressing and my share of holiday treats. I never went to bed saying, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing …”

I did say, “I feel great!”

And I should. Looking at old photos, I no longer have a spare tire, “just the tube … and a small one at that,” as my husband says. I could still lose another 10 or 15 pounds. I might. Still, after losing those 30 pounds, I feel healthier and am quite pleased with this no forbidden food diet which gives my digestive system a daily 14-hour rest.
A couple years ago, I joined an exercise class at Champagnolle Landing after breaking my leg. With the weight loss, I realized I could jog again. Thank you, Lord, for good health. It is a greater blessing than great riches and laying in bed sick. I saw recently that Healthworks begins an Intermittent Fasting program this week. It worked for me. May this be the year you find a healthy life style that works for you.

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KFC here we come!

If you die before me, I am going to go to Kentucky Fried Chicken every Monday for their special,” my husband confided

I knew exactly how to respond. Years before he had said, “When my mom dies, I want her balance beam doctor’s scales.” I bought him a medical scale for weighing himself. His mom lived another decade and he enjoyed his scales every day without waiting for her to die. Some other family member inherited the scales.

So I knew what to do about that Monday special. “You want that kind of chicken, we will go to KFC every Monday. I’d hate for you to be waiting for me to die so you can eat there,” I said.

We ate there several weeks, then circumstances and increasing numbers on the scales dictated cutting back.

Still, many Mondays as we drive through town, I ask if he wants to go to KFC for lunch. If I don’t ask, as we turn toward home he’ll say, “I thought about going …”

You’re driving. We can go if you want.”

I don’t need to,” his voice slumps as he resigns himself to salad and water.

My man likes his KFC. He always wants to take friends and family there when we visit. His preference for chicken over steak has saved us a lot of money over the years. So when we took a trip to Kentucky to see the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, it was no surprise that he mentioned ahead of time, “we will be close to the original Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.”

“Whatever,” I said and promptly forgot about it.

He did not. It was now on his bucket list.

We walked through the Ark, studied the displays and enjoyed the plays. The next day we explored the Creation Museum. Then my husband said, “We can go south to the original KFC or we can go north to the quilt shop in Paducah.”

I compared the price of walking into a fabric store versus a meal at KFC. I have lots of fabric. We needed lunch. We went to Corbin, Kentuckey to Colonel Sanders’ original restaurant with its addition of a modern KFC. We ate at one of the dozen tables in the original dining room.

Sanders had a motel and a restaurant. Because wives always wanted to see the rooms before staying, he built a model motel unit onto the restaurant – now a part of the museum. The 1940s style motel room had a pay phone in the closet, an impressive feature at the time.

On the other side of the room we viewed the original kitchen with its pressure cookers, sinks, pots and pans. In a separate booth sat an old cash register – just like Sanders used. I snapped a photo of my husband sitting right beside a seated statue of Sanders in his classic white suit and string tie. They appear to be having an afternoon chat about the odds and ends in the museum display case and the model of the original restaurant and motel.

It took us an hour to eat and look at everything before we hit the road home. We had not only visited the original KFC, we ate a meal there. We could now check one more item off his bucket list. (If someone did not keep adding to the list, we would have finished that list a long time ago.)

Now when we enjoy an occasional KFC Monday special, we do so with the satisfaction of having personally experienced the origins of my guy’s favorite dinner.

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A Grinch-y attack on Christmas

In this season, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” will be read or viewed as a movie innumerable times. Dr. Seuss’ classic story portrays a creature who had a heart too small. He did not like Christmas, the noise, the presents or the feast. Why, he didn’t even like the roast beast.

After 53 years of enduring his neighbors’ Christmas festivities, the Grinch determines how to stop Christmas and all its excesses from happening. That night he dresses up like Santa, ties antlers on his dog, drives a sleigh to the village, and steals everything from everybody. He returns home, quite confident that Christmas can not happen because he has all the trees, gifts and food.

Gloating in his victory over those noisy, festive neighbors, the Grinch leans his ear to hear the wail of the awakening villagers. He hears something, but not wails. The villagers have gathered and are singing their Christmas songs together – the one thing he really hated. It took him three hours to puzzle through the fact that Christmas had come in spite of everything he had done. And then he thought, “Maybe Christmas is more than gifts, trees and food. Maybe Christmas does not come from a store. Maybe Christmas is something more.”

With that his heart grew three sizes and the Grinch takes his overflowing sleigh back to the village, returns everything and he, himself, the Grinch carves the roast beast.

As I prepare to carve a small roast beast, I think back to a recent study in our series about Women in the Bible. You would have to call her a Bad Woman of the Bible: Athaliah. I call her the Grinch who tried to stop Christmas from ever arriving in the first place.

Like Herod, the second Grinch who tries to kill off Christmas by attacking all the boys under two, Athaliah the queen mother orders all the male relatives killed after her son Ahaziah dies one year into his reign. Athaliah liked being in the palace. She liked the power it gave her and wanted more. This descendant of Jezebel, this worshiper of idols, succeeds in her grab for the throne. She becomes the only female monarch over Israel. Her story can be found in II Kings 11.

How would this have stopped Christmas from coming? She ordered the death of all the descendants of King David. God had promised that through David, the promised Messiah, the eternal king would come. With all of David’s heirs destroyed, there would have been no Mary to be His mother or Joseph to wed and protect her.

Athaliah dictated death to all; but God preserved one life.

“She began by massacring the entire royal family. But Jehosheba, daughter of King Joram and sister of Ahaziah, took Ahaziah’s son Joash and kidnapped him from among the king’s sons slated for slaughter.”

That phrase “the king’s sons slated for slaughter” catches my attention every time. I envision a room or building of guys gathered for the executioner. Somehow in slips Jehoseheba (Ahaziah’s sister and possibly Athaliah’s daugher). This is the only time she is mentioned, this brave woman who is married to a temple priest, She grabs and runs with the child Joash taking him to her husband a priest at the temple.

One woman doing a Grinchy things and grabbing the sons of the king to kill them; another woman grabbing one son to hide in the temple and save him. Jehosheba, like the Who villagers, does not slump down in defeat during  this political coup. She dares to defy the circumstances. In Whoville they sang. In Jerusalem, they hid the child king in the temple until he turns seven and then they shouted and sang.

When Jehoiada, declares it is time to celebrate and have a coronation for the king, the citizens of Jerusalem gather and sing like the Whos. The palace guards protectively circle the child king and blow the trumpets announcing his arrival. (As the trumpet will sound when our eternal King and Lord arrives to take over this wicked world.)

Athaliah hears the sound of victory, runs to the temple she has never visited before (she is a Baal worshiper), sees the coronation and cries out “Treason! Treason!” The priest Jehoida orders her taken out of the temple and killed. No one comes to her rescue. No one mourns her degrading death at the Horse Gate. No one buries her. Unlike the Grinch, the longer she reigned, the more her heart shrank.

And so through a young woman, Jehosheba, Christmas was saved because she believed in God’s promise and risked her life to save the baby’s life. Because of her, Christmas did arrive hundreds of years later with the birth of Christ, a descendant of King David. Because of her, and her husband’s protection during the next six years, the line of David returned to the throne.

Because Christ came at Christmas, we each can embrace our Messiah and Savior, the one sent to die for our sins. The Grinch may try to steal Christmas from our hearts, but if we stop and listen to the music of God’s love, our hearts too can grow three sizes, big enough to accept Christ as our Savior and eternal King.

And then we, like the Grinch, can join in the wedding feast God has promised to those who believe.

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The phone rings

Never ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for retirees. … not exactly what John Donne said, but it’s close to my reality.

I do not ask for whom the phone rings, I already know it rings to remind me of a medical appointment or it is a telemarketer, a fundraiser or some outright scam artist who begins, “We have detected a problem with the Microsoft on your computer. We can help fix it.”

Sounds so helpful, doesn’t it? My husband responded once because obviously this caller from Microsoft had our computer’s best interests at heart. He walked over to the computer sat down and step by step proceeded to do as instructed until something made him stop. Puzzled at their procedure, he hung up and called our local technician. That ever so helpful caller had initiated problems that the technician looked at, sighed and said, “next time, hang up immediately and call me. I can check it out from the office.”

We now answer those calls with, “We already have a contract with a local computer support group who monitors and fixes anything wrong with the computer.”

That phone call comes to anybody including my friend who does not have a computer. She has a cell phone and that suffices for what she needs to do digitally. Still the scammers call to alert her, “We see you have a problem with Microsoft on your computer. If you will go over to your computer, we can help you fix it.”

“I do?” she responds with a shocked, concerned voice. “I will have my secretary get right on that. Thank you for calling,” and she hangs up.

After she told me that she said, “I felt awful that I lied to them, but then I realized they had lied to me. I don’t have a computer, how could I have a problem with Microsoft?”

“One day they they called me back on the same day to say the same thing. I said, ‘What?! I told my secretary to fix that this morning. I am going to write her a note, leave it on her desk and tell her to fix it this afternoon. Thank you.’ and I hung up.” she said. Of course she had as much of a secretary as the person on the phone had seen a problem with her Microsoft.

Still if it weren’t for telemarketers and scammers, the phones in our old folks’ home rarely rings. Over the years we have developed one response for fundraisers and telemarketers toll the bell, “we do not make any financial commitments over the phone.”

But wait there’s more to our exciting phone calls! We also receive robo-calls reminding us of our next medical appointment. I think we retired to have time for medical appointments. I don’t need a check-up, but obviously someone thinks I am about to fall apart. My first year of retirement I counted four physicals and a mini-physical every other month when I donated blood. Ten times that year someone measured my vitals, asked if I have any problems and asked a list of specific questions about disorders. Four, count them, four regular physicals: two that are mandatory for retirees on Medicare, one simply because I am a woman and once a year our insurance company bribes us to let them come to our house and check us out in person.

So yes, the bell tolls for us: to check our computer, check our health, drain our checkbook and every once in a while someone calls to check on us, chat and make our day.

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That Mom

Standing at the counter signing her child into the Mother’s Day out program my daughter Sharon met a flustered mom who declared, “I’m sorry my daughter looks like a mess. She slept in until 8:15. We had to hurry, so I did not get her clothes ironed before she came. Today I am That Mom.”

The child’s clean, frilly cotton shirt had a couple wrinkles, but no big deal.

Sharon silently laughed. She is That Mom all the time. If she purchases clothes from the thrift store that need ironing, she donates them back. She never irons.

Other moms post pictures of children in “mismatched” and label themselves That Mom for allowing it this time. Sharon prefers being That Mom who lets her children choose their clothes, dress themselves and save her time every day.

For Sharon the That Mom label was an insult. It said, “If you do not iron, then you do not have it all together and you have low standards for your children.”

The That Mom label just depends on perspective. After spending three years of fussing about everything, Sharon realized, “I was That Mom who had to have it all together and my child had to meet every growth point. It frustrated us. I quit. I am That Mom who does not insist that her children be in every activity, but reads books to them every day.”

“I am That Mom who is not worried about kid soccer teams. I do not let others set my standards or dictate how I parent. For me, That Mom dusts the base boards, is never frazzled, has everything tucked in, matched and a bow on top. That Mom lives a Pinterest perfect life.”

“I’m fine with being That Mom: the one with low standards; who does not iron and lets kids dress themselves. I am That Mom who lets her kids learn and do in the kitchen, even if the food looks a mess.”

Sharon remembers her years of perfect parenting. “There was always a schedule of what people said we should be doing. I was over stressed until I realized my child would not fit the square hole, and we would have to find the shape of hole that fit.”

“Different moms have different standards. It is okay to be the mom who has it all together or the one who does not.”

“That other mom’s words said I fell below her standard. They also conveyed to her child, ‘you are not enough today because I did not have time to iron.’ She sets a standard her daughter may not be able to meet in the future.”

During a course on family finances, a friend exclaimed, “I have been lied to my whole life. I don’t have to own and do certain things. I don’t have to keep up. My kids don’t have to be in every sport.” The insight gave her financial freedom.

“If I had been newer as a parent, when I heard the mom at MDO,” Sharon said, “I could have been heart broken and wondered, ‘What is wrong with me?’ Today I know nothing is wrong with me. If you like to iron, go for it, but that does not make you a better mom. Just like I’m not a better mom for allowing my kids to make giant messes.”

These days Sharon prefers to ask “Is this going to matter in 30 years? Will my kid need counseling because I did not iron his shirt? Will my actions point him to Christ, or help him be a light in a dark world? That’s what is important, not the freshly ironed shirt.”

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Red Neck Christmas and more

Some events hubby begs to attend such as the Finney’s Christmas Wonderland in Crossett and the Red Neck Parade in Monroe, La. He found both while surfing the Internet. I agreed to go if we could check off items on our ‘to do list’ while near each.
Tuesday, a few friends accompanied us to Finney’s and exclaimed many times, “Oh look over here …” as we traveled down the lane of brightly lit displays. In 2015 the Finneys won the ABC light show contest. The 20 minute drive begins with lights announcing, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Nativity scenes, wooden cut-outs spell the names of Christ from Isaiah, enlarged Bible passages cover Christ’s birth, and angels high in the trees reiterate the theme. In between we looked fast to see the winter wonderland light show with elves, a train, snowmen, merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, decorated trees, a tunnel of lights, reindeer, huge snow globes and projected light shows. Definitely worth the drive.
Saturday, we checked off the last item on the ‘to do’ list and lined up along the four lane highway to watch the Bawcomville Red Neck Parade. We stood beside young parents and lots of little girls with pig tails wearing summer clothes. The sun shone bright as police cars cleared the street. Most of the parade watchers carried a flimsy shopping bag, sturdy orange bucket from Halloween or a stiff paper Christmas bag to carry parade throws.
Being in competition with pre-schoolers on either side of us, only a few parade folks tossed things our way. One took pity, “this is for Grandpa.” and tossed him a bundle that proved to be a black, slightly used polo t-shirt, in his size. Guys on the mud spattered four-wheelers and jeeps flung us paper wrapped candies. A girl sitting high up in the truck cab tossed us a plastic ball. A package of Ramen Noodles came out of a four-wheeler jacked up a couple extra feet. The man tossing toilet paper, unwrapped each package, loosened the end and then hefted it our way. His vehicle trailed streams of snagged TP. Someone sitting on a plaid covered couch tossed us an individual serving box of Frosted Mini-wheats. When the lady on the plain wooden float motioned, I walked over and she handed me canned fruit. Not something I wanted flying through the air at me. With few decorations, no costumed riders or fancy floats, recycled beads, past freshness dates on some sweet rolls, this event met expectations for its title “Red Neck Parade”. Horses announced the end of the parade and the surge of a couple miles of cars caught behind the parade.
We gathered up our haul and prepared to go home. “Next week is that live display of the ‘Streets of Bethlehem’ at the mall,” my ever eager travel companion said. I googled the event. Wrong. It started in a couple hours.
We went to lunch and then to the mall where first we heard the singing of a group of Baptists before we saw them dressed in robes, sandals and head cloths. The merchants of the re-enactment of the first Christmas town eagerly told us, “a baby was born in the stable of the inn.” We wandered the streets where a carpenter made holes using a primitive wood drill, the money changers guarded their coins and sellers offered live donkeys, goats and birds .
And then our energy and enthusiasm faltered. We had seen and checked it all off our lists. It was time to drive home, flop into grandpas’ lounge chairs and take a nap. So we did.
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Yes, kids can help in the kitchen

Toddlers want to help. Often they can only use plastic toys as my Pennsylvania toddler did. She filled her arms with leaves to place in her plastic wheelbarrow to carry to her dad’s leaf pile.

Last week, Katie, 2, begged, “Can I help?” Her mom handed her a cutting board, a paring knife, and a sliced apple, then took her picture for Facebook.

“We start them out early,” I commented.

“She was VERY eager to try this out. She did a great job! She cut up a whole apple into bite-sized pieces. No blood. No cuts, Just one proud little girl!” her mom responded.

Katie began helping last year. I snapped a picture of her carefully emptying a can of green beans into a glass dish before going to play. My daughter blames me for her cavalier attitude.

Guilty as charged. Years ago the father of seven and I were talking in the kitchen while I cut up food. His toddler joined us and wanted to help. I gave her a knife and food. She chopped confidently. Her momma came to the kitchen, saw her daughter, did a double take and gasped. The child blithely kept slicing food as Daddy watched.

I blame it on the caption under a picture caption of an Alaskan native child using a knife explaining that the culture believes reincarnation means children are born knowing how to handle a knife.

So of course, Katie chopped up an apple.

Actually, for centuries children have done more, much more. My brothers and cousins learned to drive a tractor long before the law allowed them to drive a car. The day they passed their written test, they drove home. I read books or fixed meals during hay season and skipped tractor driving. My dad did not realize it until I passed my written test and he motioned me to take the wheel, “Let’s go home.”

I looked at the clutch, the brake, the accelerator and the manual transmission. I looked at him. “What do I do first?”

He drove home. I learned to drive a manual transmission on steep farm hills before I drove back to town. I still would rather read than drive.

I missed early driving lessons, but I began sewing at 4. Mom gave me a large threaded needled, a handkerchief and said, “sew around the edge.”

I bent over my work and made looping stitches the along the edge until I ran out of thread. So, of course, I frequently offer a threaded needle, fabric and buttons to children, grandchildren and church kids. I know they will be okay, and their stitching skills will improve with practice.

I have only shocked a few adults with my blatant assumption – as my daughter did when she posted her picture of Katie earnestly bending over the knife. So young! Sharon shrugged it off, “She wanted to try when she saw her big sisters and brother (12, 9, 7) helping.”

Sharon will expect her to help prepare other meals. Just as I did when her friends visited. I did not realize they did not even know how to make Ramen noodles. They did after they met me.

I insisted all my children help when we lived too far away to join family for Thanksgiving. I assigned a dish to each child, “You make pumpkin pie. You have nut bread. You fix a salad. And, you stuff the bird.” My son is now boss of the bird.

From toddler to adult, every new skill gained increases their self-confidence and it begins when we find a way to let them help.

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Truman library and museum

At the end of the movie ‘Truman’, my husband and I agreed, “We must visit his library.” Recently we visited Independence, MO. the hometown of former President Harry Truman. We learned he claimed he read all the books in the library. As an adult he read five newspapers daily and read history and biographies prolifically. He spoke like the farm child he was – earthy and to the point. His reading and experiences directed his controversial decisions.

He saw the results of the severe disciplinary decisions against Germany after World War I. As president he laid the groundwork for lasting peace with the Marshal Plan to restore Europe and Japan. After WWII, returning African-American veterans were attacked. One veteran suffered a severe beating that blinded him. Truman took the one step he could to reduce racial tension: he integrated the military. As president at the end of WWII, Truman received reports about the Jewish holocaust. The day Israel declared itself a sovereign nation, he recognized it, even if it meant trouble with oil-rich Arabic nations. As a WWI veteran, Truman understood the military served under the president. As president, he pulled General MacArthur out of Korea when the general flaunted his commands as the nation’s commander-in-chief.

Due to his controversial decisions the democratic party split during the 1948 election. Lacking the full party’s support did not deter Truman. He campaigned extensively. Election night he listened to newscasts predicting he would lose. At 4 a.m. the Secret Service woke him to say he had won the electoral college. His popularity did not improve during the next four years. He left office with the lowest ranking in popularity of any president then and for decades afterwards.

His tenacity in the face of constant rejection began decades before when he courted Bess Wallace who rejected his initial marriage proposal. He called on her every week for nine years. Before he entered WWI as a 33 year-old, she finally agreed to marry him when he returned.

The brigade in France did not expect their new Captain Truman to last two weeks. Instead, he won their respect and lifelong friendship. No one died in battle under his leadership.

Truman considered himself an ordinary citizen who happened to become president. The guide at his home said, “His grandson did not know Harry had been president. He came home from first grade to ask his mother if it was true that his grandfather was president. She said, ‘Yes, he was. That just shows that anyone’s grandfather can become president.’”

After leaving the White House, Truman refused to demean the office and profit from his former position. He supervised the building of his library. He went to the finished library every day to work in his office and often told guests, “I’m the man.”

As we drove around Independence, we followed large signs marking the streets of Harry’s daily walk. We enjoyed a sundae in the Clinton Soda Shop where Harry had his first job as a soda jerk and bought Harry’s favorite orange flavored Polly’s Pop – a locally manufactured soda.

Bess and Harry never owned a home. They lived with her family and inherited a house from Bess’s mother who never approved of Truman. Our guide said, “At every dinner she sat at one end of the table and Truman at the other end. Perhaps they learned diplomacy.” His wife felt uncomfortable in the public eye and returned often to Independence and her mother.

We came, we saw and we returned eager to read more about the man who knew the reality of the sentence he popularized, “the buck stops here.”

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Tidy Willie

In every corner of the world ordinary folks quietly help where they can. At The Food Pantry at Southside Baptist Church one of those folks is Willie Lee Williams, 61, a man with a penchant for neatness. Clutter propels Willie into action. He must straighten any disarray.

“I am always straightening up things. I go to people’s houses, and sometimes they wonder what I be doing. I don’t tell them. I just start. I pick up the paper on the floor. I get the broom and start sweeping. I’m not meddling. That’s just who I am. I ain’t living dirty.” This is not something new. At 18, Willie joined the Texas Job Corps and spent three years cleaning houses. He knows it need to be done and says, “I don’t wait on nobody to do for me.”

Which is exactly what happened at The Food Pantry. He came, he saw, he straightened up things without being asked. He returned every time to help ‘Miss Linda’ keep the front room in order, “and the coffee pot drained,” one of the workers said with a smile. “And, I help keep the kids in line when they come,” Willie added. Miss Linda welcomed his help and gave him a worker’s badge to wear each Tuesday and Thursday during the food and clothing distributions.

“I clean at my church, too. I go early. About 9:30 before the people get there. I make sure the bathroom and everything is in order. I do all that before church. Then I go to church and listen to my preacher. Some take advantage. That is wrong. I just try to back off from them. I like people and I like to see people treat them right. I try to get along with people,” he said.

“My mother sure was nice. I kind of am like her. I hate to see somebody get hurt.” He paused, “I sure do miss my folks. We lived in Louisiana. There were four brothers older than me. They are all dead. I am the oldest boy living. I got a baby brother and sisters living. I been doing pretty good, the only thing that bothers me is my feet,” he announced.

In the past, Willie worked on factory lines at the GP paper factory and the chicken processing plant, did landscaping and as an employee at McDonald’s. His resume also includes a time of boxing professionally. That began after, “People talked to me about boxing, The next thing I know, I am going out to box at three or four schools. A man comes and wants to see me box. I boxed and won that fight and they take me to the rings. I was ’bout 25. I was called ‘Buck.’ I used to box in Little Rock in matches where people look at you. I won one. I knocked the person out. I never did get knocked out. I got a [boxing] trophy with a globe on top – about that tall,” he holds his hand a couple feet above the floor.

I had to quit boxing because of my feet.” He indicates the side of his foot inside a well worn sneaker with loose laces. “At night when I go to bed, I have pain. I don’t take no medications, no aspirin or nothing. Those feet are bad. It takes me 15 minutes to walk from home to here (The Food Pantry).” A place where he serves faithfully every week, using his bad feet and good attitude to do his part to help maintain order in his corner of the world.

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The dark and stormy night

It was a dark and stormy night with river levels rising rapidly. That night, 20 years ago, Enelda Cary and her husband went to Houston to meet her nephew flying into Houston from Panama. They expected to begin the drive home in the late afternoon. That was not to be due to a delay. “We got there in time, but the immigration took two hours. By the time they cleared him and we could leave, it was dark,” Enelda said.

“When we left the airport, we headed straight to Shreveport,” Enelda recalled. That plan fell apart at the Trinity River. A driver had landed in the river.

“She could not see that it was flooded,” Enelda said. It was that dark.

“We decided it was time to stop. We saw a post office. It was after hours so it was closed but the lobby was open and the parking lot filled with cars pulled over to wait out the storm.”

Enelda and her husband climbed out of the car and joined others inside the post office lobby to stretch and get out of the weather. “My nephew had not slept in two days. He decided to sleep in the passenger seat while we went in.”

Going inside offered little relief. “There were so many people there that we could hardly get in. Still we stood there for 45 minutes to an hour until somebody said. ‘I know how to get across the river. Follow me.’”

Nearly everyone followed him out of the lobby into the rain to their cars and down the road. “When we got close to the river there was a police blockade. We could not go on. The policeman sent us another way to higher ground where there were restaurants. We parked in the parking lot of a pizza place near the Mexican restaurant. The Mexican restaurant was open.”

“The staff were nice. They said, ‘We will serve as long as we have food.’ We had a good supper,” she recalled. The restaurant owners took food out of the freezer until they ran out of food. Still everyone stayed inside because the rain kept falling and the river kept rising. The manager said the women and children could sleep on the tables as long as there was room.”

The Carys chose to go back to their car to sleep and wait for the river levels to subside. Their nephew greeted them and said the wind had blown so hard that the car had been shaking.

Eventually they all settled down as best they could and slept for the rest of the night. “My husband slept behind the wheel. I went to sleep in the back seat. When we woke up, it was morning and almost everyone had gone,” Enelda recalled.

This time the Carys could cross the river and head to Shreveport. As they approached Minden they slowed in astonishment at the carnage they saw: roofs ripped off buildings, buildings with the top story removed, mattresses in trees and clothes strewn across the landscape. A tornado had hit during the night. That surprised the Carys. They had heard nothing about a tornado, only about flooded roads.

“If we had not been delayed by immigration we probably would have been there when the tornado came. We missed the tornado,” Enelda said still surprised 20 years later. The annoying, lengthy delay at the airport kept them at the airport. The rising river levels that dark and stormy night stopped their journey north and forced them off the road, safely away from the destructive path of the previous day’s tornado.

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