Catfish, Honey

June 25 was declared National Catfish Day (for farm-raised catfish) by President Ronald Reagan in 1987. Farm-raised catfish doesn’t fish well by us, coming from Louisiana, near Lac Des Allemands and Spahr’s Restaurant on Highway 90, in the heart of the Catfish Capital of the Universe, so decreed by Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards in 1975. Where else can you nosh on some of the sweetest catfish you will ever taste other than in a converted gas station that overlooks a picturesque bayou filled with alligators. Des Allemands, LA is the place and home of an annual Catfish Festival to go along with their “out of this world” catfish title.

A St. Cloud, Florida restaurant gives wild catfish a very good try, no farm-raised catfish here either. Their catfish are imported from Lake Okeechobee and other local bodies of water. The restaurant, like Spahr’s is a throwback to another era, but they boast a long list of famous people who have dined there. Our names did not make the list.

We were in the area to purchase local honey from 3Beez Honey Farm, from their small storefront off Grape Avenue in St. Cloud. 3Beez, in oBeeur opinion, has the purest, best tasting honey in the area.

On the way home after the honey buy, we stopped at the St. Cloud restaurant for lunch. Catfish entrees were half price in honor of National Catfish Day. We hit a small jackpot with the size of the restaurant’s abundant portions, bringing half a meal home to our refrigerator.

We reminisced about dear friends now living in Georgia who love this restaurant.

Pass the catfish, honey. It’s been a good day.

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Back to School

 

Lonesome for Children's Voices

Do you sense fall in the air? Have you noticed the sun’s amber glow? The summer heat is waning. Last month, many families shopped for school and dorm supplies, anticipating the beginning of a new school year.

Yet many families didn’t have money to purchase new clothing or supplies. Their children will have to make do with what they have. Their children need clothing in larger sizes; they have outgrown already worn-out shoes.

Anticipation of a new school year is a joyful time for most children. For children living in poverty, it will be another year of being left behind, receiving leftovers, used clothing, maybe a new pair of shoes, receiving a donated backpack filled with school supplies.

Lining Up for Assistance before 8:30am

People Lining Up for Assistance

Poverty is a constant uphill battle, a formidable foe. It affects a child’s ability to learn. Poverty creates subtle stress in families. If parents can’t put food on the table for their families, how can they afford to provide needed clothing and shoes for their children much less afford to buy school supplies?

You can ease the cycle of poverty:

  • Volunteer at your local school.
  • Find out what a teacher needs for the classroom and donate it.
  • Be a mentor for a child.
  • Help a child learn to read.
  • Donate food to a local pantry.

Be generous to the poor—you’ll never go hungry; shut your eyes to their needs, and run a gauntlet of curses. (Proverbs 28:27, The Message)

 

Just Enough

Just Enough

Your heart melts, looking into her beautiful green eyes watching her lift each of three young friends to the table to choose a donated danish, cinnamon roll or chocolate chip cookie. She is nine years old, but acts more responsible than some adults. She steers another child to the front of the line, “She’s new. She doesn’t know what to do,” she says. Nine people are in her family. We give her a loaf of raisin bread dusted with powdered sugar to make French Toast. Walking away, she is smiling. Your heart melts a second time.

Today, there was just enough bread and pastries for everyone. A woman, a regular, was missing. We wonder where she is. Has she moved?

“You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, Common English Bible)

You are the Light

You are the Light

A green-eyed child taking care to see that other children get a sweet treat on a hot Florida evening is a light in a dark world. Her light shines in spite of the darkness of poverty around her. Just enough good things shut out darkness.

Travel Adventures, on the Road in Charleston, SC

Industrial Fumes, Sluggish Drains, and Wasps

The afternoon we checked into our hotel, it was filled with young baseball teams and Sweet 16 Party guests. The hotel was overflowing with people, young and old. Leaving for dinner, we watched eight moms in trendy boots and casual slacks walk through the parking lot. Welcome to Charleston. Our dinner was at a place receiving high marks on a website we frequent when traveling. My highest marks for this establishment were for my table location. I faced the women’s restroom.

The next morning we drove to one of the historic areas of Charleston, leaving our hotel room window open for the day. Returning to our room after sightseeing, a chemical smell stung my nose the second my husband opened the door. He didn’t notice. I hurriedly re-opened the window and door, propping them open to get rid of the odor. I called the front desk. They sent the housekeeping director to see us. She said, “Oh, now I remember, there was a bunch of wasps in the room. Maintenance sprayed to kill them.” I thought great, now what? She offered us dinner while she brought in an ozone machine to deodorize our room. “Give me 45 minutes,” she said. “This is a powerful machine.” The odor still lingered when we returned from dinner. Deciding to change rooms to get away from the smell, we quietly moved to the vacant room next door during a lively reception two doors from our now chemically enhanced room. The door to the reception was open. Reception guests probably didn’t realize that a nearby neighbor had moved.

View from Fleet's Landing Restaurant, Charleston

View from Fleet’s Landing Restaurant, Charleston

The next morning, my husband took his shower in a growing pool of water. The tub drain was clogged. He went to breakfast leaving me to wait for maintenance to clear the drain before I showered. A mid-thirty year old man who could have been a double for actor Peter Lorre arrived. He left the security latch open, keeping his hands clasped like a clamshell both times he walked out of the bathroom carrying something. “The drain was clogged with hair. I cleaned it out, he said.” I imagined the dripping water from his clamshell hands hitting the carpet like breadcrumbs dropping through a hole in the bottom of a bag. Never forget to pack flip flops in case a Peter Lorre look alike shows up posing as a maintenance man.

The maid arrives early. “I’ll need five minutes,” I said. I open the door to leave, she is sitting on the couch, in the smelly dark room we evacuated the evening before. I interrupt her time on her cell phone to tell her I am leaving. I check both ends of the hall to make a quick dash for the elevator. I’m going to Starbucks, looking forward to finding some normal people.

Night three, we discovered that the toilet leaks Our friendly neighbors are hosting another reception. We can’t change rooms. An unsuspecting guest has occupied the fumigated, now ozonated room we evacuated. We’re sleeping with the window open, thinking the wasps that survived the Peter Lorre and associates fumigation will be sleeping unless the neighbor’s party wakes them.

Hope

Have you helped someone get along a little better today?

My family picks up bread from a local Panera Sunday nights. Monday morning, we package the bread into family friendly portions. Monday afternoons, we take the bread to local motels filled with homeless families and children. Today we had an abundance of bread, french baguettes, dozens of bagels, loaves and loaves of sliced bread. Almost every week, regardless of the quantity of Panera’s donated leftovers, God provides the exact amount of bread to serve the children and families who stand in line to receive.

Today was no different except we had 3 bags of bagels left. At the last minute, we encountered a mom and her children who were grateful to receive the bagels, stuffing them into their school backpacks.

My niece’s son is a freshman at college. We “face timed” with him last night, meeting his roommates and a study partner. Introduced to amazing college freshmen planning majors in biomedical, aerospace and other engineering specialties, we talked and laughed together.

We talked about the perspective of the Block “O” of Life, its purposes and goals.

A Block "O" for Life

A Block “O” for Life

This afternoon, I texted my nephew with a visual of the Block “O.” He was preparing to donate blood. I was humbled by his giving spirit. I recalled times he visited us, helping us package bread, pass it out, helping to deliver Christmas and Easter meals to families living in poverty. I am grateful that there is a new generation that realizes the importance of caring and giving to people living on the fringes of society, those who are marginalized through uncontrollable and unforeseen circumstances. There is hope.

Because the poor won’t be forgotten forever, the hope of those who suffer won’t be lost for all time. Psalm 9:18, CEB

 

I Was a Graduation Party “Stage Hand”

I Was a Graduation Party “Stage Hand”

On touchdown, 3 days before graduation, I felt like a roadie touring with a sophisticated rock band sitting in the last seat of a tour bus. “What do you want me to do next?” was my mantra. I rounded corners on photos for photo boards, swept floors and observed divas preparing delicious dishes for a graduation celebration. I had become a graduation party stage hand. I loved every minute of it.

Two divas rode in on clouds of expertise, taking over the kitchen to prepare mac and cheese and cheesy potatoes from family recipes. One of the diva’s sons was graduating the same day. Giggles and fairy dust filled the kitchen as macaroni cooked and potatoes were prepared filling the kitchen with aromas of comfort food. Within an hour, several casseroles complete with baking instructions were relayed to us “roadies.” The kitchen was left cleaner than before the divas arrived. Excited chaos reigned as we watched clouds carry the divas of delicious dishes to the next destination.

On the day of the party, a family friend drove up carrying more fruit than Brazilian Bombshell Carmen Miranda could fit on one of her signature fruit hats. If you want fruit kabobs that could grace the cover of any food magazine, you will need to call Melissa.

I don’t know what would we have done without the graduate’s friend David. He schlepped piping hot casseroles and kabobs to a neighbor’s waiting garage. It is encouraging to know that David goes to the same university that our high school graduate will be attending in the fall.

Rocco and Ginger Watch as soon to be Graduate Leaves.

Rocco and Ginger Watch as soon to be Graduate Leaves.

But wait, it is graduation day! Rocco and Ginger watch as the graduate leaves the house for the formal graduation ceremony. A pot of geraniums sit on the porch. (Geraniums have all sorts of meanings but according to the International Geranium Society, the flowers Americans most commonly refer to as “geraniums” are not true geraniums at all, but are actually pelargoniums. Both belong to the Geraniaceae family and both are native to South Africa, imported to America in the 1700s. Though similar in appearance they have notable differences.) Doesn’t this description of geraniums sound like the human race? Aren’t we all similar in appearance but have notable differences? Don’t we all belong to God’s family whether we were “imported or were born here?”

Dad Hugs Son Leaving for Graduation Ceremony

Dad Hugs Son Leaving for Graduation Ceremony

I’m a good “roadie” who takes instructions well, especially for celebration preparations. Congratulations to all Graduates. To some of you, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your celebrations.

Twenty-two Graduates in One Community

Twenty-two Graduates in One Area of the Community

Every day is a cause for celebration. How are you celebrating God’s amazing gifts He has given you?

Graduate with Parents

Graduate with Parents

Marching Orders

“What time will you be home? I would like to leave right away to avoid school traffic.” Taking a brief trip to Vero Beach, I received my “marching orders” on Sunday.

What time will you be home Tuesday? He’s ready for the hustle to accomplish his mission, finding nesting turtles. My Tuesday mornings start in a Centering Prayer Group made up of amazing men and women who s-l-o-w down to listen for God’s voice.

Inside I chuckle. He is on a mission to discover nesting turtle sites. I’m the laid back observer, taking it all in, seeking the Spiritual signs around the Atlantic Ocean waters, in the wind and on the sand.

Part of his planned itinerary, “We’ll go to Ocean Grill for dinner Tuesday night.” Okay. Centering Prayer is a disciplined practice that encourages “Letting Go” of the chatter, noise, sometimes chaos that impedes our ability to hear God. To quote Thomas Keating, “God’s first language is silence.”

I love it. I’ll be in my own space, working with whatever comes along, searching for nesting turtles. He’s on a mission. I will be open to where the Spirit leads.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalms 46:10, NIV)

Above one of the doors at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, Orlando, FL

Above one of the doors at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, Orlando, FL