New Age Cars and Flashing Lights

       People tend to say, automobiles- they just don’t make them like they used to. Growing up I can remember learning to drive a “stick” shift, and having to memorize the directions.  I can even remember the transmission having three forwards, and one reverse. You see, no one ever had the factory issued cover for their shifter.  I can remember one shifter that had an 8 ball to move from one direction to another. The elderly gentleman showed it to me and said “straight from the pool table!”  Surely he expected us to believe him, as he smiled so bright. Politely we smiled as well.

In this day, there are lift kits to raise trucks up 20-26 inches off of the ground, and the reverse, low riders that have a vehicle sitting a mere 12 inches above the ground.  Pretty ironic when you see people barely five feet tall jumping from running boards to the truck seat. And then others close to six-feet tall will shrink to fit into these vehicles. And both will give you the explanation “to look cool!”  

Now there are products called window glass paint and window glass tint. The window paint reads, for windows only and can cause damage to the exterior paint of your vehicle. Does anyone see this as a warning? The window tint provides shade to your window. However some people have it so tinted, they cannot see the areas around them.   I, having worked in Insurance Claims before, and having realized that both have caused accidents. I have come to understand, safety is not an issue, for the issue is all about style. Style has brought the return of “muscle cars” illuminating colors and addictions to car collectors of the past and the future.

The one thing that hasn’t changed though is the basic structure of vehicles today. Scott and I were driving back from IHOP one evening, when one of my best friends Jessa called. Jessa is known for her car related bumps, bruises and zany adventures. So it was no surprise when she called and said, “Scott, you have got to help me. My friend and I are on our way back from Shreveport, and we broke down right outside the Choudrant exit. Can you come help us?” Most people call Scott in times of emergency as they think he carries a spare cape with him all the time. Especially for any doggone time there is a damsel in distress, so, he charged forward. 

As we passed the Choudrant exit, I asked, “I thought you said she was in Choudrant?” “She said she was.” Now Jessa, has been known on occasion to be directionally challenged, even with a GPS. Sure enough less than three miles from Ruston, we spotted the five damsels in distress, and the “broken down vehicle.”  It seems during their travels, the “low gas” engine light came on somewhere around Minden, which is approximately 60 miles from where they are, and well, Chevrolet just don’t make them like the used to. Not when it comes to the tests of a truck load of traveling females, especially with my “Jessa” around. If a truck needs gas, it better do more than beep, and make a flashing light. For my Jessa, it better do it simultaneously every five miles until she stops. Otherwise, it will just have to stop on the side of the road. But that’s okay, five gallons of gas later, and all was well. Five damsels in distress were on their way back to West Monroe.

Published December 15, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.


Second Glance Gratuities

It is a great opportunity in life to have the chance to experience something in life that one would say is so “unimaginable” that it renders the viewer to take a second glance. I know for me, this is an experience, that is not only welcomed, but it is invited, as I truly love to laugh. And if I have someone to share it with, it makes it all that much better.

Just recently I was conversing with an old co-worker and still friend and confidant, Tom Berry (T-Berry). Tom works out of Mississippi and we used to work homeowners claims together. While we were talking, the topic entered my mind of all of those times throughout the years I had worked with people in this area. Scott Robinson – left one company, and I took his place, only to find our office closed a year later and we had to find new jobs. I found another job, and as I looked across the departments, I took a second glance when who should I see, but Scott Robinson.

I quickly met my desk partner there – Kermit Barber Sr. We quickly learned that every time we went out we would find there was something. We drove to the town I came from. I had no more told him how all of those rumors about this backwards town was not true, when we passed a lone guitar man wearing a cowboy hat, blue-jean shorts and suspenders, and cowboy boots, strumming along; he had one foot on the ground, and one on the side of the house. I looked back again, and allowed myself to be corrected.

 My boss told me it was just Kermit, but I didn’t listen. I tagged along with him to Union parish one day to view 6 claims in one day. We were trying to really covering the territory or being heroes or something. However, we came upon this house that appeared to have a type of shingles that I was not accustomed to. I am never one to voice my inability, so I charged the ladder, locked myself in place, and up I went. My first step let me, and Kermit, knowing this was troublesome yelled, “You got it kid?” and then he burst into laughter. I was not to be defeated, so I steadied my footing and started up the roof.

    Now, if you know anything about roofs, then you know it is not so much as the shingle that can get you, as it is the slope. And let me tell say, I was slowly moving up, and Kermit was still standing there laughing. I yelled, “Well, are you coming, I am here?” He said, “Yep, you and your friend!” I just glanced around the perimeter and then I saw him. I stared at him a moment, and yes, in the next yard in a pen was a little baby goat, also referred to as a “kid”, standing on top of the roof of the house in his pen. Kermit admitted “I didn’t realize until you started up that roof like “Catwoman” that you hadn’t seen “Billy the Kid” over there.” He did give me credit, as he said “I wouldn’t have tried that slope, but you did alright.”

I know I was thinking about T-Berry and how I need to go harass Kermit on my way to the park. I sure miss having that fuel man card too. I am happy about those falling gas prices. I recently read where the average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. is $3.27, according to AAA. This is an 11 cent decline from 2 weeks ago and a 20 cent decrease since Halloween. For those who drive trucks  to get back and forth, all I could think of was, keep it coming, Santa – Jingle, Jingle, Jingle.

That is when it happened, people on bikes, people in boats paddling across the waters of Lincoln Parish Park’s waters, people running through the trees. I was taking a second glance every two seconds. All I could think of was, “what is this?” And I wish I was in better shape? And I hope they don’t mistake me for one of? (Like that would happen) Who are these people, and man, where is a camera when you need one? “I am asking Santa one for Christmas,” then I saw a sign. Jingle in the Woods Adventure Race, and once more, a second glance, a man with a camera.

I quickly approached the young fellow, and grabbed his camera! No, I did not grab his camera, but he did take some pictures, because I am only a writer, not a photographer, for the moment. I do plan to get one, so I can catch friends across the office that I haven’t seen in a while. I also plan to shoot people playing guitars on their houses in boots and shorts with suspenders. I can’t forget Billy the Kid, and co-workers you move on away from. I will definitely capture the shot of the gas pump when the price of gas gets below $2.50 again. And for events like this where people are running, riding, and paddling in 40 degree weather, and giving it their all. I will make sure I capture the spirit within the person that keeps them going, and makes me take a second glance.

            Published December 15, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

Dear Santa, Shares Smiles

Oh, the wonders of Christmas that whirl about us. Everyone finds something that makes them marvel at such wonder. For some it is snow on the ground, as here we hardly get any. For others it is lights that string what seems like forever. I’ve seen others in Dallas, Texas staring at the Christmas tree in the middle of the mall centered in a skating rink. For me, it is a line of children, waiting to get their photograph taken with Santa. Simple, you might think. As for me, it is a picture of realism, fiction and imagination, with a touch of innocence all wrapped up in a moment you can’t get back.

I never had my picture made with Santa. Then again, my mother had Sheri and me that everyone we did not know was an axe murderer or a potential child abductor. And Santa wasn’t real at all he was just some man sitting up there waiting to add you to his collection of children to come after. My mother quite easily took the imagination out of everything and replaced it with realism and potential thoughts that led to fear in the minds of children our age.

I look back and think of all of the things my mother told me and I think about the reality of the way things are now. The Pew Research Center completed a study on people today and yesterday, ages 18-24 showed that the wealth gap between America’s young and old is now at its widest point ever. The State of Young America Poll was asked the age group 18-34, about their generation, and they believed their generation to be worse off than their parents.

Adults are seeing the high unemployment, the housing market going into a slump, and the rising costs for college tuition, rents, medical coverage and child care. Young people are now facing these tough hurdles and having to overcome freedom and independent adult life to a few more years so that they can make it without inflated student loan debts, increased rent with longer leases, and for those who are fresh out of college and ready to start a life either as a single or as a couple, the future isn’t quite as bright. Some college graduates are working two jobs to make ends meet or one job out of their field just to pay the bills.  The American Dream can be achieved, is what some people are saying, but for others, the future is a little bleak at times.

What are the experts saying?  Take out as least as you can on student loans. If you don’t have to leave home, don’t. Stay home a little longer and invest that extra money you are making from your side job into other causes. Learn how to budget for a home, while you are at home. Most people these days are waiting until they are 25 to leave home. Why? Because they are on to what others have found. They are looking to find a way to manage their money, so they are not in debt when they are on their own with a wife or a husband, trying to raise kids, and save money to take those little vacations you will need with stress gets high at work. You will want to load the car up or take a plane and take the family and go on a vacation somewhere. You want to be able to do this and not have to worry about expenses when you return because you have budgeted for it.     Oh, and don’t forget about Christmas. Take those kids to the mall. Take them and tell them the stories of St. Nicholas. Tell them about the three wise men. Tell them about the picture you want every year as they grow up and get too old to sit on Santa’s knee, but never too old to ask for Christmas presents.            

I know last year, Sheri and I took the whole crew for Christmas pictures for my parents or Christmas. Cameron, he is a stem-winder, was running around and Sheri was about to have to take him out, when all of a sudden the most gracious and polite man sat down beside me. He spoke with me for a few moments. It was at that time Sheri noticed Cameron was quietly sitting. She had his hand and he was pulling back, then she noticed he was staring at the new visitor, Santa Claus. He saw Allyson stroking his beard and how she jerked back and giggled when she realized it was real.

They called us next, so I told Santa thank you, his family would make a lovely photo. He told me mine would as well. As we started in, Santa gave Jessica, Sheri, Cameron, Eugene, and Allyson a piece of peppermint. Cameron said, “Hey Santa, you forgot to give Aunt B one.” Santa smiled, touched his finger to his nose and said “Aunt B doesn’t eat peppermints.” I smiled and looked at Cameron, and said, “Santa remembers everything Cameron.”

         Published December 8, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

The Presence of Christmas Brings Memories

Christmas is right around the corner and yet, there are so many things left to be done before I feel I have completed my home and tidings of joy for the season. Everyone has their last-minute stops that take priority, while others work to complete as many job obligations, so that they have many opportunities to begin new family traditions for the New Year. Just last week my friend Georgia was talking about her sisters and her mother, all taking some time to whisk and whirl about the Coates’ family kitchen. She wondered if this might be a new tradition, as this 2010’ year had taken her grandmother and her father; although the bowls were full, the tears were full that day with joy and sadness.

I’m sure many people will share this same sentiment. Some of us have memories to carry from years before, but it really is tomorrows when families come to visit that we must remember what truly has brought us together. Oh, the wonders of Christmas tidings, with love and laughter and hope for many tomorrows. Hope for a faith that twinkle in the lights on the trees. The star on top of my tree will forever remind me these next few days of people with empty hands extended, more than extended hands full of grace. I will forever remember a lesson learned, “You will never give more grace, than you have received,” and you cannot give that grace if your hands are full of resentment and such. 

It is the next few days that I do treasure. Wednesday I will wrap presents, and finish baking. I will try to steal a moment in the park on Wednesday and Thursday if open.  Friday, I will spend with my friend David. David is here studying at Louisiana Tech University from Uganda. His roommate, Anky and he came to Tech a few years ago when I worked there. I have seen others come there from Bangladesh – Abir, Arafat, and Shafaeat, Abena from Guiana, Chen from China, and Brian, and Chuka from Nigeria, who has now come and gone. David and Anky, and came first and later, Abdul came over from Uganda. I will spend Christmas with David on Friday

For now it will be David and I. It may not be more than dinner and a movie, but the time to sit and laugh is a welcome break for a truly remarkable young man, who endures so much of his time and countless hours working to become the best in his field. It is such an opportunity to realize how wonderful people are from around the world.

I know with the talks of this “really” being the final ending of the war and the troops coming home, everyone sits with bated breath. The United States military reported 1,735 deaths in Afghanistan. The United States military reported 4,485 members had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003. This includes a figure of 9 military civilians killed in action. Since the United States military operations in Iraq started, 32,226, United States Service members have been wounded in hostile action.

This country has lost so many wonderful people. I used to stop by Wiley Tower often as I could to drop by and speak with Sherry Jones. She has a son in the United States Military. She rarely gets to speak to him, as much as some do, and as much as mothers would like. I do not see her now, but I pray Ryan makes it home safely.

I will light a candle for their family this year. I will light a candle for those gone before us, those born on Christmas tonight, unable to light the world by a family, or even a mother, and one to adorn the birthday cake it shall be made for.

If you haven’t made a tradition with your family, do it this year. Next year could be too late. If you haven’t met someone from another country, meet someone. You might be surprised, how happy, and humbling of an experience it is for both of you. If you haven’t had a minute to stop running with all of the things you have going on – the family, the in-laws, the countless people coming and going in your life, even the Fed-Ex man? Stop, whisper under your breath, Thank You! They may not be there tomorrow.  Like yesterday’s shoes, or the way those shoes look new by the light of those who will love us always; brush the dust off, put them on, and keep on walking. Immanuel, God with Us.

 Published December 1, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.










Decorations for December

With November leaving us, we have already started decorating for December. Trees, lights, fences, and some yards with angels and mine, a huge Snoopy adorn the porch walkway. For some people it is a way of life at the end of the year to do this, for others, it is a task, or a burden of some sort. I have driven by some houses thinking, “How many strings of lights did it take to put that up?”

Well if you are anything like me, you close everything up with the utmost care. You place it in the boxes, as you will not want to bend a cord, or break bulb. However, when you pull the candy canes out, one of the stakes is broken. Then you have pull out the wreath that you do not remember how you had it strung last year, but you test it, and it works perfectly. Oh my, wouldn’t you know it, the one thing, that works, you can’t find way to get electricity to it. So you abandon the old for the new, and agree with yourself, as you have been muttering underneath your breath, and having a verbal conversation with yourself about the matter for the last 20 minutes, so that even family and neighbors are wondering if you need some mental help.

The three new boxes contain 120 icicle lights.  A rational person would be thinking, nothing else works, why would I think a brand new product right out of the box would work? But on this day, around 40 degrees in the afternoon, Scott is out there in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. One of these though processes would be his motivation. He would hurry, as he was so cold, he would have to, or he would be working so hard he would exceed the temperature outside and build up a sweat. I have never understood a man’s line of thinking, and I am not going to start now.

I do know that of the strands, not one worked, completely. He was began packing everything up and abandoned the rest of the project altogether. He packed up the lights to return and said, here you are. There is a glitch in my system, and I can’t do what I wanted to in my yard. No, I do not want anymore.

I kind of thought “Get up Scott, don’t stop now. Don’t let Christmas decorations defeat you! Call my mother, Laverne for motivation!” My dad used to tell us my mother should have been a drill sergeant by trade. Man, that woman can tell you what to do. And you can get a lot done under her command. It is just one of those agreements where you do as you are told, and don’t question her, and everything works out just fine.

I was saddened when dad told me she was too sick to go shopping on “Black Friday,” My mother is one of those people who can spend money with both hands. So when I read this past Cyber Monday was a record-breaking online shopping day. Sales were up 15% over the same period last year. Clearly more holiday shoppers turned to online retailers to get through their Christmas shopping complete than ever before. I knew my mother was a devious part of this team of top shoppers in a game against each other to bid against items.

          I was hoping she would be part of the 7% in retail sales of 2010. She normally is out at midnight shopping for the best deals. It was reported that buyers spent that 11.4% at stores and malls, which is an increase of $1 billion from last year.  We spent $18.00 on lights that didn’t work. The rest I spent on my giant Snoopy, and food to be prepared for the Thanksgiving feast.

       I didn’t go shopping, as I am not the fight the mall kind of person, and I am prevented to do so without assistance. I will go sometime over the next two weeks. This week will be time for Christmas candy baking. I hope to have the aid of my friends, and together we will begin the “sweet” part of Christmas. Christmas isn’t Christmas without fudge.

Go ahead, splurge a little, and then go to Lincoln Parish Park, take a walk, and have a seat on a park bench, if you need to take a break.

         Published November 24, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

School Lunches Show Promise

     With another holiday looming up ahead, and getting us ready for the Christmas rush, everyone goes through the same ideas. What to cook? How much to cook? Who will come? Oh, and the leftovers, what will we do with them? Yes, those are already on the minds of the cook.

     I happen to be the cook. Oh, how such a fitting role it is for me. I have been cooking under my grandmother’s skirts since I was a mere child. She told me, “You stand there and watch and you won’t learn a thing.” “Get in here and I will teach you everything you need to know.” It must be true, as I spoke with my oldest daughter recently who stated she was sick of hamburger helper and the manwich was not a meal.

     She advised she would not be able to come in for Thanksgiving dinner, but she would be in sometime in December, just not for Christmas. I was promptly told I would cook stuffed French toast for breakfast and for lunch we would be out-of-town, but for dinner we would be cooking home-burgers and French fries as she would need these two mastered before she went home. The rest she would call for as needed.

     I thought about how this child was the least likely to own a stove in her home, unless it was for resale value only. But she had actually taken a shine to cooking. So I guess I will just keep filling her little kitchen with all of “momma’s” cooking until she can take no more. She did say she found she could bake a cake pretty well.

     A small group of us met next door at my neighbor, Joann’s a few nights back. Uncle Larry was there, which was quite a treat. Uncle Larry Billberry is always entertaining with his boastful voice, because he knows exactly what to say and the “when” to say it and after 37 years of service in the military, it has that effect on you.

The proper time is when it will cause a deafening silence. This time his comment was for John Croswell. John was hammering away at the toast before Uncle Larry made a comment about his “hammering” work. It was then John read the title of Uncle Larry’s shirt and the more he read, the bigger his eyes grew. Kind of like a kid, on Christmas morning. Yes, it was all I could do to keep myself from falling out of the chair. You know everyone has an Uncle Larry. He is the one that at just the right moment can deliver a question or comment so riveting, you almost wish you had listen to those old service generals and wore brown pants.

    However, Joann made a delightful dinner that took about three baskets of bread. I think she is joining Congress on healthier lunches for school. The final version was released just two weeks back, included limiting the use of potatoes on the lunch line, putting new restrictions on sodium and boosting the use of whole grains. This would allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable. Nutritionists have noticed advocating for healthier school lunches and a group of retired generals brought it to the board that poor nutrition was the leading medical disqualifiers for military service. And here I was thinking it has taken the military to tell Congress school lunches tastes like cardboard? They were better when I was a kid.

     My child takes a lunch every day and has for most of her school years. I could hardly argue with her. As a school teacher for five years, I was scarcely found in the lunchroom, unless I had school duty. My lunches were brought from home and consumed in the privacy of my own classroom. The students would stand outside of my door, begging for me to let them in so they could have just a morsel of what I had brought. I had to hide in the corner and eat to grade papers so I didn’t feel so bad for the children eating the food that was served.

     The new agreement ensures nutrient-rich vegetables such as potatoes, corn and peas as part of a balanced and healthy diet will remain. Tomato paste, potassium, vitamins A and C, and fiber will keep healthy meals in school, but at the same time, these meals will be consumed by the students. If approved, the school lunch provisions will be part of a final House-Senate compromise on a $182 billion measure. I pray out of $182 billion somebody can prepare some meals the kids will eat, and meet the measures of malnutrition. If they need any help, they can contact Joann. She always says, “I hope I made enough.” “I just threw it together.”  And you sit down to a nine course meal that if she just threw that together, then yes, she will have the kids weighing in for sure.

                 Published November 17, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

Seasons of Change

     October is budding, right around the corner. Summer is gone and a new Season is stirring about, and you can ask any child and they will tell you that it is almost Christmas. Yes, they skip around in search of the perfect Halloween costume. Thanksgiving and the gobbling of turkey and dressing in November, and go right to December. What a perfect month! A month of colors and weather that seem to change overnight, but most of all, the change comes when you least expect it.

For me, I am thinking about cooler weather, the way the park looks when the colors of the season brush strokes of orange, yellow and brown over the green of the tree leaves. These are the days I will spend a few extra moments with a drawing pad of my own attempting to create a masterpiece for my study, or even my dining room. I don’t call this column The Park Bench for nothing, you know.

My deck is quite inviting. It is 25 feet and 30 feet long. It stands approximately six feet off the ground, and in the evening, it is a good place to be when the sun goes down. You can watch those tree limbs, swaying slightly in the evening wind.  Whether it is a good book in hand, browsing on the laptop computer, listening to a radio playing and sitting and talking with friends, there is no place you would rather be.

My friend, Micky lives in Kentucky. I will be flying up for a visit with him in October. He keeps telling me there are four scenic drives that will just take your breath away. I was in the midst of allowing him to make that point, when I was notified by our local law enforcement a train had derailed. So for the current time, the only thing I was worried about taking my breath away was some toxic or chemical substance that was airborne due to the train derailment. Oh, I guess stranger things have happened, and will.

So, back to what I was saying. Funny isn’t it, just how seasons change in an instance. I mean, in one minute you are sitting in your home, tucked away with nothing to do. The next thing you are pushed from your door with a handbag under one arm, and Fred, the dachshund under the other.

I could tell by the looks on the faces of the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Deputies, their job wasn’t what they expected, and their night had changed as well. So, just in case someone forgot to tell you, “Thank you for helping us out. And for putting our safety in front of yours,” as it that devotion that makes them deputies. 

You know I was never a deputy. But I know a lot of people who are. And I know a few who were. I was part of the North Delta 58th Regional Training Academy, as an agent for another Department. The unit was ran daily by Carl Gregory during the daytime, and by Dr. Harold Williamson at night. The seasons have changed for both of these two gentlemen, and they now rest in peace. But the legacy left behind by those who graduated from this academy, and from the criminal justice classes taught on campus, will always be remembered.

Published November 10, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

Back Burner Common Sense

     Last evening Jess called to check on her sister Allyson.  You see Allyson has been out of school now with mono for two weeks in total misery. She talked how it had been a while since Ally and I had gotten the chance to just “hang out” with mom. I, of course threatened to remove all of her favorite treats for when she comes in on summer break. I love spending quality time with my children, but every mother knows when your child is sick, it is not just “time spent.” It becomes more like a vigil.

Every since Jess left for college I have been worried over things as such. What if she gets sick? What is she runs a fever? What if she needs to see a doctor? What is she gets dehydrated? What is she can’t open a can of chicken noodle soup because she purchased the can you have to open with the opener, instead of the pull back tab? Yes, these things run rapidly through my mind. It is not because I think she does not have the mental capacity, it is because I feel it is my “momly” duty to take care of these things. It doesn’t really matter if the store is 30 miles away either, or in college in the same state, I think I would still worry.

I guess we all go through this separation in life. You cry as they go to school for the first time. When they leave for college, it is another separation. Then they decide to get married. A whole new kind of separation; one in which you relinquish your child, the responsibility of providing unconditional love, a shoulder to cry on when your child is worried or scared, someone to cling to when he or she has a bad dream in the middle of the night.

You think, it is all over, isn’t it? No, actually it isn’t. Because then your child becomes a parent. When you were the parent of your child and their spouse, at times, you were still “super parent” – able to leap to the ATM in a single bound. But now, your child feels the responsibility nudge. The couple of kids are now the couple of parents raising your grandchild. You want to spend time with your child, but your child can’t, because their child has needs.

Strangely enough, this is the tight rope of life. When you started along the way there was some slack in the rope. But now, your child sees their child as grown independent adults and they begin to mimic those same feelings you once experienced.

I see Jess growing into a college person now. In a few years she will graduate and get married. She will then start her on family. She will be so busy; mom and dad will be put on the back burner, so to speak. As her kids grow and evolve into teenagers, and then off to college they go; she will realize they don’t need me anymore. That’s when you get them back. The phone rings, and that little girl voice will be there saying, “Mom, my baby is in college, and is getting married in the fall.” I asked if they needed any help. He said she was taking care of everything, and he was just hanging out. He would let me know if something comes up though.

I guess no one ever knew there was an evolutionary cycle in being a parent. With all the talk shows, self-help books and psychological theorists, you’d thought they’d have come up with something by now. Some Freudian type of Humanity Vs Displacement theory to justify the shift back into the population, and the return to the Nurturing stage after the dislocation of the grown child’s children reciprocated instead of trying to lump it all into “empty nest syndrome,” because there’s way too much action in and out of the nest for that one.

    Published November 3, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.


Celebrating Halloween

     With another holiday looming up ahead, and getting us ready for the autumn rush.  So there I was in the middle of candy corn – candy corn in shapes of triangles, candy corn in shapes of pumpkins; it really doesn’t matter as long as I can make a meal out of it, and oh yes, I can definitely make a meal out of it.

     I had to once again argue with Allyson how I thought she was too old to trick or treat. I just know there has to be a cut off limit. She said she wanted to take her cousin, who is only 5, trick or treating at the fall festival. It does give my sister somewhat of a break. And it does leave the candy table exposed. Candy apples, caramel apples, toffee apples, popcorn balls, bobbing for apples, assorted treatments of candy at the miscellaneous games, elephant ears, hot dogs, nachos, and my contribution, Goblin treats.

     Everyone has a favorite, and of course mine is an apple covered in anything. Now you have to do the troll stroll down Main Street. Some of those little ones are too darned cute to be scary. And let me tell you, there are some hideous creatures down the streets where I grew up. That doesn’t even begin to include the ones there that are dressed up with their kids. Yikes!

        Cameron said he was dressing as “Captain America!” Allyson said she would go as a witch again. I’m sure she will get the same jokes as last year, “Trying to look like twin sisters, huh?” “Don’t you know you have to be taller?” I am pretty sure Jess will be glad to sit this one out. Eugene will be able to do most of the sitting this year as Allyson rounds the tables with Cameron. He just loves to say, “I am Captain America!” I don’t really think he is concerned about getting candy in his bag. I don’t really


thinks he is worried so much about playing the game as he is, just as long as he gets to make his entrance. He will turn and say “This is Ally, shush- she is a witch.” “But don’t tell anybody.”

     Either way, it makes for a fun evening. The Harvest Fall Festival begins early enough so you can tell your ghoul from another. You would hate to clean off one, and have brought home the wrong one. Some people may rather keep the one they brought home, instead of keep the one that belongs to them.

     Down the road a ways, they will have the park walk closed off so you can walk the whole street. Either sides of the street, kids can go side to side and grab from either side with both hands, more candy than their bags will hold. The whole road is blocked off for traffic, for safety reasons.

     Joyce, the lady who makes my hair beautiful one day, for me to make a catastrophe of it the following morning, lives on this street. Her Jimmy is up early to set up tables full of candy in Ziploc bags. He even brings extra bags from the local dollar stores in the event, one of the little ones overfill and there is a burst during overload, or there is not enough to bring home. Jimmy lets no child go home unattended to. Each child will go home with a full bag, a full belly, and probably a parent with a full trash bag the next morning.

     You see the child will eat this one, mom will eat that and dad will eat the rest. There is one extra sized bag of candy that gets tossed away the following day, because we have to blame it on mom or dad, when the child notices his bag is smaller. It keeps kids in school, parents at work, and no doctor’s appointments for overstuffed children the next day.

         Published October 27, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.

Cell Phone Dependency

    It never seems to end, you know?

Phones! Just this morning, the first thing that jumped on the Yahoo page browser was a new announcement about phones. Just yesterday there was a write-up about the Apple Phone 5, no 4SI. Who really knows what it is called? All I know is it is called dependency. Before long there will be rehabilitation centers for phone dependency.     

I can’t be serious, right? Oh yes! Very serious, because you ask yourself how many times you have left your house, and forgot to take your cell phone? Okay, now out of those times, how many times did you go back and get it? Did you leave it because you are in a hurry? I remember one time I left the house, dropped off Ally, and was traveling off of Rough Edge Road to hit the Sonic for my Cherry Sprite Zero, and thought, oh man, I forgot my cell phone. Oh well, I am not going back to get it now. Besides I have a phone on my desk, if someone really needs to call me.

My day hadn’t begun before my mother, Laverne had not called and said, “Did you forget to charge your phone again?” I am notorious for doing this, so I skipped the jab and said, “No, left it at the house, and didn’t have time to go back and get it.”  So then she started with the reasons you should have your phone with you when you leave the house. I started to give her the reasons she had told us why we shouldn’t stop if the car broke down, or if I had been in a wreck and was killed, how I wouldn’t really need the phone, but I saved those to humor my sister and Delores, post aspirin, later in the morning. Then I was saved from more pleasant conversation by my cheery office professor who worked next door.

The one thing that still remains is the

Love-Hate relationship we have with the phone/text mobile command with us approximately 18 hours of the day. Unless it is charging, it is with you. Without regards to other people, it is with you. I have lost friends for a period of time until they realize that if they are talking to me, I deserve the 15 minutes of time. If the phone rings, that is what voice mail is for. Make me a priority and finish our conversation. If they say, “Hang on, I gotta get this.” I leave. Get in my car and leave. That was my time. Apparently, I am only worth your time if I call you, so I will just call you if I want to talk to you again. They usually get the picture.

     It is called Phone Etiquette. I think people should realize it. But some people are so dependent on their phones they would rather have a relationship with a phone than a person. For instance, I went to the physician’s office. I was sitting beside a nice lady, we had greeted each other as strangers do, and I began to read. Then, there it was the toast sound from an Apple phone when a person has a text. I glance to the right, and there is a young girl signing in, with two ladies behind her waiting, and she is filling out the sign in form, but her phone had clinked. And the “gotta get this” began.

Every time it clinked, she stopped to text. After the third time, it seemed to stop. But I was enjoying the game. So I set my text to toast, and I moved as if looking through the magazines and sent myself a message. With the clink, she stopped to check. So, I did it again. And once more, she checked. The third time, she looked and the lady behind her said, can we sign in please? She apologized and I thought, if I do it again, will she look once more, taking the chance on being throttled, or keep writing? But then the nurse called my name. And as I walked by and placed the magazine on the table, I smiled at the lady, who had told the clerk upon my arrival she was 72. She smiled back and said, “I wish I had her number.” “I wanted to see what happened next.” “This is better than the soaps.” I just winked at her and snickered as I went to the back.

Published October 20, 2011, Ruston Daily Leader, The Park Bench.