Hello! I’m back, freshly deposited from the mountains of Idaho. Boy, do I have an eternity’s worth of stories to tell you, but first, let’s revisit a classic movie. The scene begins with a disheveled Richard Gere, his back to a concrete slab, doing reverse crunches as Louis Gossett, Jr. berates him, screaming insults, barking orders, and demanding he acknowledge defeat. It’s a snippet from 1982’s An Officer and a Gentleman. Gossett is drill sergeant Foley. Gere is Zack Mayo, a Navy aviation officer candidate who wants to fly jets. The culmination of this scene, which still brings me to tears, shows Mayo finally cracking. He has refused to turn in his DOR (drop on request), submitting himself to the Sergeant’s never ending physical challenges. Since he won’t quit, Sergeant Foley heatedly tells him he’s kicking him out of the program. Candidate Mayo sits up, wet, filthy, and exhausted, and says these words. “I got nowhere else to go.” The military has a long-standing focus of breaking soldiers down to build them back up. There are many reasons for this culture. Drill instructors are looking for areas of strength, sure, but more so areas of weakness. After all, soldiers are going to put their lives on the line. To be successful, they have to move as a cohesive unit. To be a triumphant unit, everyone must give their all, in support of the mission and for each other. The complete and total breakdown of a person leads to surrender leads to a rebuilding within that unit. That’s my best novice, very un-military explanation. How does this apply to my trip to Idaho? It’s all about that settling in period of trying something new. You have to get broken in first. In my case, it was more akin to broken down.
“God puts people into our lives who lead us to Jesus,” says Maggie, 11. “They may show his love by hugging, helping them out, telling them that God loves them, and being kind to them.”
Peaches are ripening across the state. Picking at the “turning” stage can help improve taste. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Michael Miller)
Growing watermelons should be checked daily so they can be picked at the perfect time to maximize taste and sweetness. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Laura McKenzie)
While good taste may always be in season, the same cannot be said for seasonal fruits and vegetables. Timing when picking summer crops is key to maximizing their flavor. Since each person’s palate is personal, learning more about when to pick is key to fully enjoying your garden’s harvest.
From the hearty and warm flavors of winter to the bold, rich and bright flavors of summer, herbs and spices are not only a delicious and better-foryou addition to any dish, they can transform it into unforgettable memories.
Using a portable generator can keep major appliances working during a power outage.
B Dear Aunt B, I know when our kids were small, we always had regular health physicals to make sure all was well with their health. Do we still need a regular physical when we are adults? I don’t especially like to go to the doctor, but I don’t want to be stupid. I think I am basically healthy. Are annual physicals overkill?
“Jesus meant that if you believe in Him, you will not be hungry spiritually!” says Megan, age 11.
It was an unseasonably cool day in April of 2022, as I recall. I was sitting, alone, in my husband’s truck, in front of a mobile home, inside of a trailer park, in a distant city. It reminded me, even then, of that children’s song about the hole in the log on the floor at the bottom of the sea. I hummed nervously and these words ran through my mind. “There’s a woman in a truck at a trailer in a trailer park in a city nowhere near the bottom of the sea.” Brilliant lyricist I am not. I could no longer see my husband. He had stepped inside of the home with a man I did not know. There had been a confusing attempt at conversation using various forms of broken English (the man), shattered Spanish (my husband), and a translation phone app. It was taking forever, this errand. Plus, the dog factors into this. Granted, I had not seen the dog. But, I’d heard it barking, barking, barking. I bet you’re wondering what sort of underworld crime, podcast worthy danger we’d gotten ourselves into. Same. We were worried, too. But, no crimes were involved. Well, that’s not entirely true. Still, we were just two people who hate spending money trying to buy a used car. But first, we must go back to where this all began. I call it the ultimate saga of coincidences.
The United States flag was first imagined after the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The Continental Congress authorized creation of the first national flag on June 14, 1777. It was decided that the flag should have 13 stripes, alternating red and white, to represent the original 13 colonies, and that the new union be represented by 13 white stars in a blue field to signify a “new constellation.” Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, is most often credited with the original design.
My mom spent her last year living in a tiny house in my back yard. That’s a lie, but it’s easier than saying she lived with me for almost a year, until I felt I could no longer keep her safe, then in a nursing home until she became very ill and passed away. Those are really the only details I have. Hospice via Medicare is a wonderful program, but I’m not sure if most people understand the particulars. Hospice is for making people comfortable, not for curing them. My mom’s nurse thought maybe she had suffered a stroke. All the signs seemed to agree though Medicare elected not to test her. What would the reason be in knowing the problem with no intent to solve? The point in all of this is more about the aftermath of losing a parent. I am still going through boxes and finding my mother’s treasures. Each time I think I’ve boxed everything up, there’s always something else to find. This past week was a doozy.
“God is pleased with works that bring other people to Him,” says Maggie, 11.
B Dear Aunt B, I have a family of four. We eat out at fast food or restaurants almost all the time. When we aren’t eating out, we eat processed food and anything out of a box. I hear that isn’t good for you either. I’m not a cook. Any ideas? This is breaking our bank. I Will Have Fries With That Dear I Will Have Fries With That, You will be able to save so much food with just a little bit of work that you won’t believe it. Of course you can still spend tons of money and spend a lot of time in the kitchen. The key is planning and some good, basic recipes.
“When I am scared or don’t know what to do. I ask Jesus to give me power to not be afraid,” says Kaleb, 7.
I am the memory keeper. It is the cross I bear. I never set out to be the person who rarely forgets things. In fact, so many times, I am barraged by the things I wish I could forget: the dark things, the heavy things, the things ridden with the sins of the unfortunate. Yet, there they are and here am I. Early on, I realized things made better sense to me in picture format. Words are difficult to process, but if I can create a mental painting of your words, they tend to make more sense. They also tuck themselves into the crevices of my brain like a computer with an everincreasing prepaid Google photo membership. I don’t remember everything, either. Try me. If it happened in the last 15 years, game over. I won’t have the faintest idea. But if you wanted to know the color of the Easter outfit I wore when I was two, it was blue and it was actually pants. There were ducks on the waistband. The Peter Pan collar was white. On my first date with my husband, I wore Tommy Hilfiger low rise flare jeans with a white scoop neck T-shirt from a store called The Rave. I had The Rachel haircut parted on my left side. We both ordered Tecate and were told they didn’t carry that brand. He tripped over my large mom purse that had slid off the back of the restaurant chair, almost hitting his head on the corner of the table. I can see it like a scene in a movie. And, I remember the day in 1984 when my best friend Mary Kay told me the name of her favorite song.