Just like Mom

Mother’s Day generates many memories. For me they begin in the kitchen as I use metal measuring cups just like Mom’s to measure shortening and sugar into the medium-sized white, Tupperware bowl – just like Mom’s. I snap the beaters into a hand mixer – just like Mom’s. As the machine mixes, I reflect. “I have owned standing mixers with heavy glass bowls. I sold the last one because I always reach for the hand mixer. I have a great set of modern measuring cups, yet I use my vintage measuring cups.”

That white plastic bowl was just right for cake mixes 60 years ago and still is. The large white Tupperware bowl still holds a double batch of chocolate chip cookies. For picnics in the deep woods, Mom used the smallest white Tupperware bowl filled with water and a wash cloth. In those days before wipes, she made sure we had clean hands and faces.

I have stainless steel pots and pans – just like Mom. Microwave cooking shoved them aside. But for frying, I reach for one of my six cast iron skillets in three sizes – just like Mom’s. My first skillet came from Grandma after I announced my engagement. Grandma reached to the back of her stove for her well seasoned, flavor-encrusted skillet. She never saw the black crust. She saw only that her oldest granddaughter needed a cast iron skillet for her new home. We cleaned it up, and I proceeded to build my own layers of seasoning. I now have six skillets in three sizes. I don’t need any more, but every time I see one at a yard sale, I am tempted.

My kitchen says, “Mom and Grandma knew best. Their way worked.” I wish I remembered the way my mom made that orange-lemonade she carried to picnics in a white Tupperware gallon holder with a lidded spout. I bought an identical one. I could not make orange-lemonade just like mom’s. I sold the container, though I still have the cookie sheets that I begged away from her kitchen. Originally, these were the disposable ends of a stainless steel container at a factory where my dad worked. I have had and donated plenty of other cookie sheets. I keep these. I just prefer the way they bake cookies and pizza. Memories of Mom litter my kitchen, but the sewing room definitely says “Grandma Hibbard,” especially now that I have her black Singer sewing machine in a wooden cabinet with its matching storage bench.

I have it because a couple years ago I asked my cousin Susie, “what happened to Grandma’s sewing machine?”

“It’s been sitting unused at my mom’s house since Grandma died,” Susie said. The next time I visited she gave it to me. We hauled it from New York back home in Arkansas. When we set up the machine, seeds and nest fixings fell to the floor. Hubby doused it with penetrating oil to loosen its gears. I pressed the pedal. It slowly began stitching.

“It does not sound very energetic,” I said, still pressing the pedal. Slowly its speed increased. Then it sort of shook its head like Rip Van Winkle, waking up and taking off lickety split. During mask-making last year, I thrilled at the way it sped down a seam. Now I find myself gravitating to this straight-stitch machine for 95 percent of my sewing. As I sew, I think about the dresses, jumpers and blouses Grandma Hibbard made for us.

Having these kitchen and sewing items at my house isn’t the same as having Grandma or Mom here on Mother’s Day, but with these little reminders, each day truly is Mother’s Day with them.

 

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He climbs because it is there

Men climb Mount Everest because it is there. Kids climb everything else for the same reason, which explains the ladder my daughter found on the patio table by the carport and her son Eli perched upon the roof.

She posted on Facebook, “You know you better brace yourself when your teenager has put a ladder on a table near the roof.” She posted pictures of the ladder and her son grinning down at her. She included pictures of him walking around the roof viewing the neighborhood. She concluded with a video of him entering the house through the window of the upstairs bathroom.

Good thing he has long legs and arms because he had a long stretch from the window to the floor. He leaned into the room, placed one hand on the closed commode, the other on the counter and angled himself into the room, reaching his knee across the sill down the wall to the floor and then lifted his other leg into the room.

“Was that your best idea ever?” his mom asked in the video.

He answered a breathless, bemused, “yeah…er….no.”

A few days later she posted a new picture of him laying on the peak over their carport on the day he earned a 100 on a math test.

Then, suddenly, the roof escapades ended. “I had to put a kibosh on ladder-use for minors after the girls started climbing, too. They were up there acting like it’s a block party.” She posted a picture of sisters and brother perched above the carport before she stored the ladder permanently.

That boy’s mind ascends the heights. He keeps pulling and pushing to find his limit, including grabbing the metal bar installed above his bedroom door. Better that than the door frame. Those teen muscles need movement and stress to develop along with his imagination and insight.

Before his sister’s soccer game at a hidden field, he discovered an abandoned, towering brick building. He and some others had to check out the three floors. Vultures lived on the third floor.

A bunch of concerned adults told the kids they had to to come out, or exploration would have continued. We watched the game before meeting at a food shack with picnic tables. We all parked in front of the three billboards that outlined the shallow parking lot. As we waited for our number to be called, the adults sat. The kids explored the area behind the billboards. They found an abandoned railroad track. “Let’s go to the railroad track! Look! There is a homeless colony!”

Eli followed his sisters until he saw the ladder on the backside of the billboards. Soon, he called from behind the billboard, “Hey mom! I can go to the top. It’s safe.”

Give the lad a ladder and he will climb it – even if the end of the ladder hangs above the ground.

“No, you shouldn’t do that,” she said without looking.

He urged her, “Come. See the ladder.”

She went. I thought she kiboshed that idea until I saw Eli peering over the top of the billboard, casually leaning his arm on the top of the sign as he watched the traffic pass. He had found an access ladder that workers use to change the sign. Eli simply reached high and pulled himself to the first ledge, accessed the hidden ladder and began ascending places his sisters could not reach.

“One of the advantages of being tall,” his mom said and posted a picture of him smiling as he casually watched the traffic. Today a smile on the sign. Perhaps tomorrow a flag on top of Everest.

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Sidewalk supervisor

My sidewalk supervisor put his stamp of approval on the new bridge at Calion. For years, every time he drove that way, he inspected the work and muttered suggestions. The project began years ago with widening the road. “They are cutting down trees,” he observed as we drove by miles of fallen trees. “They are preparing to make a wider road and bridge.”

The next several trips to Little Rock, he pointed, “Look at that heap of trees burning. Such a waste.”

It has taken years to complete this wonderful new bridge, years of my sidewalk supervisor muttering, “when are they going to get it done? How long have they been working on those girders? I thought they would be done by now.” And “I guess they aren’t working today,” as he passed backhoes, trucks and cranes lining the road on a rainy day or Saturday afternoon.

Sometimes he skipped supervising. “Let’s go through Camden this time. That road work ties up traffic.”

My sidewalk supervisor approved the improvements, “Remember when we first came down this road? It had no shoulder. They called it the ‘dump road.’ I wonder if that was because they dumped so many loads of dirt to build up the road or because you sure could get dumped off the road with one small error?”

“This road is so much better than when we first came, and now it’s a four lane.”

Finally he could dust the dirt of the job off his hands, “They finished paving the new road. I guess work on the old road comes next.” He peered through the windshield at the other side of the road as he steered around the orange cones.

The orange cones got a lot of attention through the years. Noticing their placement, he remarked, “They put out the cones. They are going to start working on the next part now, I guess.”

When the cones had been there a while, “I wonder when they are going to begin? Watch out for the quick turn through the cones to the other side of the road.”

As we drove over finished paving, he noted, “The cones are still here. They just have to paint the stripes and the road will be done.”

And then last week, surprise, surprise! No more orange cones! With only yellow and white lines to guide us, a brand, spanking new road stretched before us and into the blue sky on the bridge to Heaven. Every time we start up that steep slope at 50 miles per hour, I see only blue sky in front of us and beside us. No trees, no water, no land. And, now, no worries about being stuck behind a slow lumber truck with half a dozen wobbly logs hanging out the end or fearing cars invisibly coming up the other side of the bridge on the my side of the road.

At the crest of the bridge a wave of concrete appears, revealing the rest of the bridge and the highway before us. Four lane luxury. Such a relief after a narrow two lane highway that demanded we carefully observe the double yellow stripe, stay on our side of the bridge and watch for anyone driving up from the other direction to meet us in the middle. With two bridges, we soar upwards, confident that all the traffic on our bridge flows the same way.

It’s done. The Calion bridge is completed. For this, my sidewalk supervisor, and everyone else traveling between El Dorado and Fordyce, are truly grateful.

Now my sidewalk supervisor only has to inspect the work on the four lanes being built around Fordyce. It will take a while. The Supervisor’s job is not over yet.

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Natural healing works, or does it?

 

So many promises are made in books, magazines and weblogs advocating the fantastic results from using herbs, spices, minerals and oils. They sound so great until I turn to the index searching for specific, chronic problems. There the promises fade into oblivion, especially for those of us who have had first-hand encounters with serious mental illness. Several decades ago, I first started looking everywhere for help for my relative’s mental illness, including books on natural healing. Those books never discuss prescriptions such as the natural element lithium, which helps some with bi-polar disorder. Lithium requires regular blood tests to avoid serious side effects.

For any other serious mental illness, don’t bother to buy the natural cure literature or products. A “natural cure” does not exist for psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. Natural healing platforms offer nothing in this category. Some individuals suffering from these disorders self-medicate with alcohol or street drugs. Those options numb them for a while but do not help the individual live normally.

It’s not that the psychiatrists did not try natural cures. In the 1960s, many advocated for vitamins to fix mental illness by supplying what the body surely must lack. Vitamin B did calm anxiety. It failed to fix the psychosis.

In the 1990s new medications began entering the market that truly did allow a semblance of ordinary life for the severely mentally ill. The website for Everyday Health states, “Schizophrenia is a serious and chronic mental illness that generally requires anti-psychotic medication to keep it under control.” Chemically unbalanced minds need more than herbs, oils, supplements or vitamins. They need a qualified, trained clinician to find each individual’s best fit with a modern medication.

The natural healing advisors also have ideas for diabetes. Practically speaking, many sufferers in this overfed country need to put down that candy bar, grab a carrot, take a walk and lose the weight. Still, plenty of folks with diabetes need more than that, including some thin, active folks who make healthy choices and still develop diabetes. Before the discovery of insulin in 1921, the only recourse for individuals with diabetes was a very strict diet with very few carbs. Even then they potentially faced a shorter life expectancy. In “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom, one of the aunts developed diabetes. The doctor trained Corrie to test the aunt’s urine regularly. Eventually, the test results diagnosed her as terminal. In that era before insulin, she knew nothing could reverse the sentence. Her aunt needed a prescription for insulin, which was not available at the time.

As I worked on this column, I came across a medical advice column by Walt Larimore, MD. He supports natural medicines (herbs, vitamins and supplements.) The questioner asked about products sold to boost the immune system against the flu, a cold or Covid-19. Larimore recognized that 25 to 30 percent of the population take supplements for their immune systems. “Unfortunately they’re wasting their hard-earned dollars,” he wrote. He went on to quote Harvard Heath “For now there are no scientifically proven (products to enhance) immune function.” He added that even the makers are aware that the natural medicines are not working. Which is why they use words such as “supports immune health” or “supplements.”

So, I scan the books, read the blogs and social media chatter. I listen to short videos (except the ones that take an hour to convey one sentence of information). I refuse to believe their hype because while some supplements help, others take your cash and pay little in curative power. I eat healthy, drag myself to exercise regularly, take a couple supplements and follow the common sense approach of folks like Dr. Larimore.

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Monetary miseries

    “Why didn’t you stop me?” the woman asked the banker.

    “I tried,” he reminded her of the questions asked when she withdrew $5,000 cash from her account. She had answered the questions confidently, packaged the cash and mailed it to a new online “friend” in another state. After a few online conversations, she felt connected and wanted to respond when asked to help out in a pinch. “You can help? Oh man! That would be so great. Can you send me cash in the  mail?”

    She could, and she did. Only after dropping the package in the mail did she question anything. Too late. The package went to an empty lot in a state far away.

    Tricked, hurt and stung, the customer, asked “Why didn’t you stop me?”

    The banker had done his due diligence. But, it was her account, her money and she had, afterall, answered the questions confidently. Since then, if she withdraws a couple thousand or so, he asks, “Is everything okay?”

    As a banker, he has seen it happen all too often to folks of every age.

    A young adult found a part time job on Craigslist. “They applied and were accepted. The employer wanted help with an out-of-state move into the area. He wanted a local person to deal with the details of moving into a rental. He sent the new employee a couple thousand to make the payments. Only the check wasn’t from a funded account. She got the check, and he needed $500 back for some reason. The shadowy, Craigslist “employer,” says, “Send me that $500 electronically,” which means “immediately.”

    “Since the ’employer’ did not send a valid check, the target sent back $500 of their own money. The check they deposited did not clear the bank. Sometimes they want you to send a money order or to buy a gift card and read them the numbers. The Craigslist fraudster will immediately go and spend the card.”

    Young people get fooled. Middle-aged folks are tricked. And sadly the elderly, especially the lonely, and those with declining mental health get scammed.

    The banker said, “We had one woman come in who had sent $10,000 in cash to another state. She had a healthy account. The voice on the other end of the phone said the IRS was after her because she owed money. They would be coming to arrest her if she didn’t respond immediately.

    “They told her to get cash, wrap it in several sheets of paper and send the $10,000 in an envelope from the post office. ‘If you don’t you will be arrested.’ they said to scare her.”

    “They usually have a foreign accent,” the banker shook his head. “People need to remember, the IRS will ALWAYS mail you notices. The IRS will NEVER call. Unfortunately, the customer believed the caller. She went to the bank, got the $10,000 in cash and mailed it. Only then did the elderly woman mention it to her son. He called the post office in the recipient’s city. That post master general found the envelope before it was delivered, verified it was hers and returned it to the sender. The family member asked that a block be put on her account to stop her from being able to do that again.    

    Maybe you find yourself in a similar situation at a bank, at risk of being scammed. The questions may feel annoyingly nosy or unnecessary, but, if asked, stop and consider the urgency for the large amount of cash or the request to return a portion of the money sent to you. If the banker asks, remember he or she is simply trying to keep ou and your money safe. Thank them for their concern, be glad they noticed and review the situation with others before sending anything.

 

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Help wanted in Indiana

Reading and hearing about all the companies’ desperately searching for employees in northern Indiana, I repeat what my mother-in-law said nearly 50 years ago, “I’m retired, but with all the ads in the newspaper for jobs, I feel like I should go get a job and help out.”

Many of our family – children, grandchildren and in-laws – live in that same area which is a major production area for recreational vehicles. Back 50 years ago, I worked for a short time with a company that sewed cushions for camper trailers. My future husband took a second job cutting through dozens of layers of floral fabric for the cushions which I stitched into cushion covers.

During our recent visit, we met a son who helps set doors on smaller RV’s and his son-in-law who helps build the high end quarter to half a million dollar RV’s. Another of his sons-in-law works in the warehouse that supplies parts for RV factories. They all work overtime every week to meet demand. Perhaps because the pandemic forbade so many inside activities this past year, the demand for the RVs has exceeded the supply. Employees work overtime 5 days a week and Saturdays.

We listened to stories of folks walking away from their jobs because they received a stimulus check or knew an unemployment check would cover basics. They know they could quickly and easily land another job somewhere else when they decide to work again. Unlike last year when many factories closed, it is now an employee’s market.

With that in mind, companies issue incentives to get and keep employees. One of the relatives, a five year employee who has done the same job for five years, recently received a $4 an hour pay increase for just staying at the plant. The company saw a crisis coming when six employees abruptly quit. Any business needs steady, trained workers who will stay. So now this young father earns significantly above even the proposed minimum of $15 an hour.

The pay increases and long hours include fast-food restaurants, big box stores and gas stations. Most places sought folks to apply, join and then show up to work faithfully. So at the big box store the child who once struggled with school, recently welcomed a $2 pay increase along with everyone else. The day before she learned of the leap in pay, she completed the final step to land a new job. She wanted a different working environment, “but $2 an hour more! I couldn’t turn that down,” she grinned. She enjoys her full insurance and retirement benefits and will stay … for now.

Another grandchild went to work at a gas station recently. “If I refer a friend and they are hired, I get a $100 finder fee and another bonus if they stay 90 days,” she said.

Seems logical, especially as we drove through the business section. “Look at the sign in front of the fast food place,” I said. “They want applications and promise a sign on bonuses of $500 as well as pay beginning at $11 an hour for part time and $13 an hour for full time.”

Such a flush economic time for the area. I left agreeing with my mother-in-law, “I could easily feel like I need to find a job and help. So many companies need employees.” The pandemic may have slowed down work. It did close the non-essential factories last year, but the demand for those companies’s products never stopped. This year folks are working long and hard to catch up with the demand, and companies will pay plenty to hire and keep folks on the job.

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Winner, winner, chicken dinner

    Midday, we paused in packing for another road trip when I asked my husband, “Are you going to get the chicken special today?” Any day of the week, my guy chooses chicken over steak, especially when it is a bargain.

    “No. I lost weight when I had Covid. I want to keep it off, and tomorrow we start traveling.” He sighed. He really likes his chicken.

    “Good idea. Let’s both try to come home weighing the same or less,” I challenged him. The open road of the Interstate can erode any healthy habits resolve. I prepped carrots and celery for the trip. Not exactly chicken, but it would hold off the five pounds we usually gain when traveling. I added apples, granola bars and low-calorie drinks.

    For a couple days, we shared meals and took modest servings of my daughter-in-law’s delightful cooking. As we left our youngest son’s house, he offered us a breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast. “No, we really ate too much last night. It was so good, but we need to trim back a bit today.” We did take a couple bananas and oranges for breakfast.

    We ate a healthy lunch because the hostess at the restaurant greeted us saying, “It will be a while before you can come in.” We went into a nearby grocery store instead and bought a couple of salads and a vegetable tray. Dear hubby dutifully ate the salad and opened the small tray of vegetables. He crunched down on celery sticks, carrots and tomatoes as I fell asleep.

    When I woke up, all that remained were the broccoli florets. I finished those off. We definitely were eating healthy until about for o’clock that afternoon when we stopped at a roadside rest with a food court. I stared at the offerings inside the doughnut shop. He drooled over the Asian food counter.

    “Do you want an egg roll?” he asked.

    I wanted doughnuts. I didn’t need anything.

    He asked again.

    “Okay, get two.”

    He returned to the car with egg rolls, spring rolls and crab rangoons. I returned with six doughnut bites. We split our purchases. I felt stuffed.

    We arrived at the next older son’s home and suddenly it was an hour later and we had missed supper. “We are okay,” I thought. “We have had enough.”

    Hubby asked, “What about a burrito?”

    “Not me, I had supper.” Sonny said. “Too bad, we passed the burrito place.”

    “What about chicken? We could go there and get a piece of chicken,” my guy persisted.

    “It is late. You really don’t need one,” I said.

    He looked pathetically disappointed.

    “Oh, go get a piece of chicken.”

    He knew exactly where to go. He drove up to the squawk box. “I want a piece of chicken.”

    “We are closed.” said a voice inside the brightly lit restaurant.

    “I just want one dried up piece of chicken.”

    Silence and then, “I could give you a bargain.”

    “Like what?”

    “Eight pieces for half of the usual price.”

    “I’ll take it.”

    “Now you have eight pieces of dried up chicken,” I said.

    “I have chicken.”

    He drove to the window, paid, opened the bag and gloated over his eight pieces of bargain chicken. He pulled out a leg and tore into it. It smelled delicious, but I really had eaten enough.

    He carried his ‘end of the day chicken’ into the hotel room, ate another piece and put the rest away. Our son declined even one piece before my husband drove him back to his house. While he was gone, I slipped over to the tiny fridge and pulled out a piece of chicken. It was still warm, delicious and not one bit dried up. We’re still traveling. We’ll see if we can stick to our “don’t gain any weight” resolve. Those chicken specials get us every time. 

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Estate Sale Nostalgia

The imperfect seams of the yellow baby rompers at the estate sale carried no monetary value. They simply held enough sentimental value to justify keeping them long after the baby boy had children of his own.

The little outfit reminded me of the red rompers I made for my own son. As I struggled to button down the shoulder straps, he wiggled to get down and go play. He didn’t care what he wore. He wanted to run and play.

I’m sure similar memories kept the late seamstress from donating or trashing the rompers. She had made them. Her son had worn them. They meant a lot to her. I bought them for the story of the love she stitched into them.

At another estate sale, I discovered a cherry red, size four, ruffled dress with a ruffled white pinafore: the only child’s clothing in a closet stuffed with women’s clothing. This perfect princess dress for Christmas even had a simple white cotton slip with a white embroidered flower on it. No little girl had worn that outfit in decades. Just as no one had worn the pale yellow, ruffled dress that fit my daughter nearly forty years ago. I have it tucked away somewhere. Nostalgia retains clothing long past its time of usefulness.

I bought the red ruffled dress and pinafore. It spoke to me like paintings speak to art lovers. The image of the child who once fit the tiny outfits lingers. A similar, nostalgic image lingered when my cousin gave me a tiny pair of leather high-top shoes which my father wore in the 1930s. Years ago, my grandmother tied those brown laces into secure knots before letting him down to go play. He ran. He played. He grew too big for the shoes. My father passed more than a decade ago. His baby shoes remain to remind us of him and my grandmother.

Feeling of nostalgia get me in trouble at estate sales. The detritus of decades of memories attracts me. I peruse dishes, linens, furniture, knick knacks and décor – each hinting at one person’s unique story. Some kept everything, changing little over the years. Others evolve over the years. At one sale, a family member reminisced, “she used to love to entertain and set a table with linens, good china and silverware. The last few years, she used paper plates and napkins and plastic utensils.” According to the price tags on everything, none of the family intended to carry on the tradition of elaborate table settings.

Evolving preferences explains why another sale offered the 1940s book for teens, “Your Manners are Showing.”  I discovered it in a corner where someone had tucked it long ago. I put it on my pile of “must have this.” I consider it a good reference book of expectations from the years before my birth and a sharp contrast to today’s acceptable behavior.

Sometimes an item for sale reflects good intentions that died after writing the check for the pristine set of classic literature relegated to the bottom shelf; the records, cassettes and DVDs never opened or the dusty 60 year-old dress with the price tag attached. With each sale, I catch a glimpse of the another family’s past activities, interests and memories of days when their now adult children blithely wore whatever mommy gave them to wear, read books popular at the time or played with toys now long-neglected.

Parents’ memories of a child’s fussy times fade; the clothing and toys remain with memories of the good times wearing the sweet little outfit, playing with a favorite toy or reading a book. We can’t turn the clock back. We can hold the rompers and remember.

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The controversy in the library

Across the nation, kids celebrated Read Across America the week of Dr. Seuss’s March 2 birthday. Students and teachers dress up in red and white striped hats, wear Dr. Seuss inspired clothing and hairdos and read his books as well as many others. The fun week emphasizes books. This year on his birthday, the company controlling the late Dr. Seuss’ estate announced that six of his books will no longer be published because they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” Facebook lit up with folks protesting “the ban on Dr. Seuss books.”

“No, no, no,” better informed folks wrote, “Not banned and not all Dr. Seuss books. Just six will no longer be published: ‘If I Ran the Zoo,’ ‘The Cat’s Quizzer,’ ‘On Beyond Zebra,’ ‘Scrambled Eggs Super,’ ‘And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street’ and ‘McElligot’s Pool’.”

Within hours, Internet book-selling sites like eBay, Amazon and Abebooks saw books which sold for five dollars on Monday leap to four hundred dollars and more on Tuesday. When an acquaintance discovered the price surge, she found several, listed them and quickly sold several at a tidy profit. Another woman listed four as auctions only to have eBay remove each for “offensive material.” A quick look for the books on eBay shows that many more have escaped the censors. Looking at the hundreds of unsold Dr. Seuss books, it’s also obvious that while eBay management removed many listings of the six books, just as many slipped past and sold in the week’s buying frenzy.

Meanwhile, the Amazon and Abebooks websites continued to sell the same books at the astonishing prices without recrimination. Across the country, bookstores sold any Dr. Seuss books they had. Before the announcement and after his “I Can Read Books” held top positions on the best seller lists. In fact, according to, CBR.org, “None of the six (no longer to be published) books are particularly big sellers, with If I Ran the Zoo selling the most copies in 2020 with 7,000. … Some of the books sold as little as single digits in 2020. Seuss’ most popular books, like Green Eggs and Ham, sell over 10,000 copies a week.”

While some folks paid astronomical prices to make sure they have a copy of Mulberry Street or ‘McElligot’s Pool’ for their children, others questioned eBay’s professed, “removal of potentially offensive and hurtful material.” They specifically found and protested that the more blatantly racist books which eBay allowed to be sold such as the serious adult book “Mein Kampf” by Adolf Hitler and light hearted children’s books like “Peter Pan” (remember the Indians on the island?) and the “Little House on the Prairie” series.

EBay management listened and began pulling listings for Mein Kampf. However, the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and Peter Pan in every form continue to be sold on eBay. Perhaps because both became popular shows with a plethora of spin-off in books and recordings.

Shunning, outlawing or banning books is not new. Remember “Banned in Boston?” That was one city’s quest to refuse the sale of literature, songs or plays with questionable content. Publishing companies welcomed the label – it guaranteed a surge of sales outside Boston. For centuries dictators and absolute authoritarian leaders sought to maintain control by burning certain books. They knew the truth that “that pen is mightier than the sword.”

The power of the written word is exactly why the nation continues to celebrate a national week of reading. We need students to read novels, biographies and essays for enjoyment now and to develop the skills to discern subtle or blatant messages and consider their social, emotional, spiritual and political impact. To that end, dear readers, thank you for reading.

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Tower of Debt destroyed

     Sometimes I wish I could grab a magic wand to wave over my loved ones. I wondered if I needed one the day my son began a conversations saying, “Joy said I should call you.”

    “What did she want us to know?”

    “That we have paid off our school loans.” he said.

    “Congratulations!” I had daydreamed of waving the wand over those loans. “So you only have the house payments left?”

    “Yes. We will have to buy another car pretty soon. Both cars were in the shop last week,” he said. I recalled that last fall he had said, “We hope the van lasts until we get the school loans paid.”

    The van puttered along until the week he paid the last few dollars of school loans.

    We rejoiced to see that monkey off his back.

    His success, like others’ successes in the family, make me glad I never found a wand to transform the rags of indebtedness into the gown of financial freedom. Each has discovered how to make their own magic.

    One family learned to wave away ‘must have’ expenses. “Just because the clothing store sends me a $5 off coupon to use with their credit card, doesn’t mean I have to go there and spend 25 dollars so I can save five,” one said. That magic wand of realization slowly swept away credit card debt.

    “The kids have learned to make their own pizzas for Friday night pizzas and movie,” another said as she spread out ingredients for build-your-own pizza. It saves the cost of carry-out and makes their budget fit better.

    In the past, cost seemed to be no object in one family. Then they realized that buying needed items at a fraction of a cost magically stretches five or ten dollars into twenty. “Now, he always has a coupon when we go out to eat. The other day I was going with a friend, and he asked, ‘do you want a coupon?’” A magical, hard won change from “Sales rack? What sales rack?”

    I discovered the most impressive waving of a personal magic wand four or five years ago when I noticed a Dr. Seuss-looking arrangement of Lego Blocks resting on Nate’s living room shelf.

    “That’s our Tower of Debt. Each block represents so many dollars of debt,” he explained.

    It was not very pretty. Debt never is. Each block represented a small portion of the debt incurred during years of studying for post-graduate degrees, a major medical crisis and the multiplying expenses of a growing family.

    The Tower of Debt visually reminded his family, “This is ‘why’ are not buying everything we want, when we want it.”

    With each payment toward that big debt, Nate removed a few blocks from the Tower of Debt. Every time a major bill reached zero, the family celebrated at a restaurant then returned to home cooked meals. That dedication led to last week’s phone call,

    “Great!” I could quit daydreaming about finding a magic money wand for them.

    I thought of many conversations Nate and I had discussing how they had cut expenses and added work to increase income. I remembered a couple visits at the time they shed another big debt. Each time I watched Nate, his wife and children removed Lego Blocks off the Tower of Debt before dressing up for their ritual celebratory restaurant meal.

    With that in mind, after the last loan payment was made his daughter said, “so this means we are going out to eat?”     Yes. It did and I am sure it tasted much sweeter than any meal a magic wand could ever produce.

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