Teaching children

English: Children of migrant cotton field work...

English: Children of migrant cotton field workers from Sweetwater, Oklahoma. Eight children in the family. Note the housing. Near Casa Grande project, Pinal County, Arizona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, another Sunday come and gone.  It wasn’t like those Sundays in the past, when Joe was still around.  But it was a good day in its own way.  Esther took the children out in the woods where they gathered a basketful of poke weed, pulled some wild onions, and found a good berry patch where lots of the berries were bigger than Esther’s thumb, big and juicy, just right for eatin’ fresh with enough to make a nice cobbler too.  The kids sure did enjoy that.

She showed ’em the elderberry bushes, not quite ripe yet, but loaded with flowers that would soon become berries.  They’d have to fight the birds for ’em, but it’d be worth it.  Looks like they’ll be able to get plenty for jelly later on.  They also walked under several persimmon trees.  The tiny fruit on those trees wouldn’t be ripe until fall, but it sure did look like there would be lots of it.  They all had a good laugh when Joey told the younger kids about him eating a green persimmon one time…wooeee, if that don’t make you pucker, nothin’ will.

While they were out in the woods, Esther smelled an old ripe cucumber smell.  She knew what that meant and knew it was up to her to teach her kids what it meant too.  She told ’em all to stand still, right where they were at.  Then she asked ’em if they could smell it.  When they all figured they could, she told ’em what that meant out there in the middle of the woods.  Nothin’ to be too scared of, no need to take off runnin’, just be sure to notice it and keep still.  When ya smell that old cucumber smell out in the woods or fields, it means there’s a copperhead around abouts somewhere.  Usually a copperhead will be more scared of you than you are of him.  Just stay still and give him time to get away from ya and you’ll be okay.

Later that evening, after the kids were in bed, Esther was sitting at the kitchen table remembering the day.  She was thinkin’ about how the children all paid attention to what she’d told ’em and that now they all knew what to do when a copperhead was around.  Yep, Joe, trying my best to teach our kids what they need to know to get along in this old world.  Sure do wish you was here with me.  Every kid needs a daddy, that’s for sure.  But I’ll do the best I can to be momma and daddy both to these kids.  I sure do miss you, Joe.  Miss sittin’ here talkin’ about the day after all the work is done and the kids are down for the night.  Miss yer quiet laugh when one of the children did somethin’ funny.  Miss sharin’ the work with ya, and the good times too.  Oh Joe, why?  Why’d ya have to go and die on me?  Sometimes I just don’t know if I can do this without ya, but…I know I have to…if you can hear me, Joe, just know I still love ya, we all do.  And I’m doin’ the best I can.

Esther leaned over the table and blew out the candle.  Wiping a tear from her cheek, she slowly made her way to her empty bed.

Scrounging for food for the children

Some of the family eat Sunday dinner, on Sunda...

Some of the family eat Sunday dinner, on Sundays the two married sons of the Sergents, their wives and children often… – NARA – 541343 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunday.  The one day of the week that’s different.  For one thing, the diner is always closed on Sunday.  As tired as she is, Esther appreciates having a day off, but that means no table scraps to bring home to feed the kids.  So Esther knows she’ll have to come up with somethin’ else to fill those little tummies today.

As she sits at the kitchen table in the quiet of the early morning, Esther thinks back to how Sundays used to be, back when Joe was still alive and they lived on their farm.  She still got out of bed early in those days.  Lots of cooking to do for a family of seven, that’s for sure.  She’d get her bread kneaded and set it to rise in a warm spot in the kitchen.  Nothing like the smell of yeast bread to get a mouth to waterin’.  Sometimes she’d put on a big pot of beans early in the morning so they could have beans and cornbread, but not on Sunday.

On Sundays, after taking the whole family to church dressed in their Sunday go-to-meetin’ duds,  they’d have fried chicken, mashed taters and white gravy, green beans cooked with bacon, corn on the cob, sliced maters and maybe a nice juicy berry cobbler for dessert.  Oh my, thinkin’ back to those meals sure did get her stomach to growlin’.  Esther shakes her head, places her hands palm down on the table and pushes herself away, knowing she’s got to get busy.

Today they’ll have that beans and cornbread.  Too bad there’s no ham to put into the beans and no butter for the cornbread.  Esther decides to gather the kids later and go out and find some poke weed to cook up for their supper.  Of course there’ll be wild onions to add to the beans.  And maybe, just maybe, they’ll get lucky and find some blackberries.  She might be able to scrounge up enough sugar to make a little blackberry cobbler in the old cast iron skillet, at least enough for a few bites for each of the young’uns.

Esther whispers a quiet prayer thanking the Lord that her children won’t have to go hungry today, trying to keep her faith strong in the face of life’s trials and tribulations.  It’s not an easy thing to do, but Esther knows that’s what Joe would expect of her. She asks the Lord’s forgiveness for not taking the children to church these days.  It’s just that she’s noticed some of the church women looking down their noses at her and the kids.  She overheard the banker’s wife talking to several of the women, telling them she didn’t think it was right to walk into the Lord’s house dressed in rags and not wearing shoes.  Esther held her head high that day, but the tears flowed freely once she got home and went to bed.  She felt such shame, shame that people would think that way about her kids, shame that she couldn’t do a better job of providing for the kids, shame that she hadn’t been able to hold everything together once she lost Joe.  No, she wouldn’t take her kids to any church where they weren’t welcome.  The Lord would just have to understand.

Live below the line, day 4

These children live in a garbage dump

These children live in a garbage dump (Photo credit: GlacierTim)

I’m not sure if today was easier or harder…I had the day off work, so was actually surrounded by food and all of the possibilities that presents…I thought I’d go in the kitchen and bake a batch of cookies (hmm…with chocolate, anyone?).  And maybe prepare a pizza for dinner.  I actually have all of the ingredients for both in my kitchen right now, so I wouldn’t have to buy anything.  But I think that kind of goes against what this challenge is all about.  Yes, I have the food in my kitchen, but if I had to live on only $1.50 a day long-term, chances are I wouldn’t have what I need to make those yummy cookies. So I resisted, telling myself it’s just today and tomorrow.

And that’s where I think we can learn a lesson.  For us, it’s just today and tomorrow.  For the chronically impoverished, there is no end in sight.  They can’t say “I’ll make it through today and tomorrow on only $1.50 a day, then I can spend whatever I want on food and drink.”  For them, it’s a matter of how can I possibly stretch this money?  How can I buy the basics?  What do I have to give up in order to buy food today?  Where can I come up with a few cents extra today?

This really makes me sad.  When I think of how much money our country spends on our elected officials’ pet projects, all of the waste in our government, I get angry.  Angry that the people we elect have turned their backs on the poor and needy among us and are falling all over themselves to give additional breaks to the super wealthy and multi-national corporations.  Children, in our country, or anywhere else, shouldn’t have to go to bed hungry.  I would love to see some of my tax money going to provide additional funds for community gardens, for providing free seeds so people could grow a few vegetable plants on their patio or windowsill.   Helping people help themselves.

I always tell people to get out there and vote.  That voting the lousy politicians out is the only way we can implement the programs with which we agree.  But what if none of the politicians are supporting an agenda with which you agree?

Anyhow, stepping down from my political soap box now…how did I do today?  Fairly well…despite the desire for something sweet and yummy.


(Surprise, surprise)…2 slices of toast  10¢,  1 T peanut butter  6¢,  6 oz oj  14¢,  hot tea  4¢

Total for breakfast…34¢


1 chicken tender  30¢, 1 slice bread  5¢, radishes (free), celery  8¢, 1/2 banana  9¢, hot tea 4¢

Total for lunch…56¢


bowl of cereal  8¢, 8 oz milk  15¢, 1/2 banana 9¢

Total for dinner…32¢


hot air-popped popcorn…16¢, butter  2¢, Parmesan cheese  3¢, hot tea  4¢

Total for snack…25¢

Total for the day  $1.47

The popcorn really tasted good…I may actually eat that as a snack more often rather than microwave (convenient) popcorn.  So I managed to make it through another day…wow…this sure makes me appreciate my grandmother and her struggles a lot more…I bet she could have done this challenge easily…and probably preparing better food than I’ve been eating.

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Live below the line, day 2

Picture of siblings living in extreme poverty ...

Picture of siblings living in extreme poverty in El Salvador. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wow…it was much more difficult to do this today…just 2 days in…I kept thinking about getting something from the vending machine…then had to keep telling myself that someone living in extreme poverty probably wouldn’t have the dollar to waste.  So I did manage to resist.  But I did find myself hungry this afternoon while I was working, really hungry by the time I made it home.

Today’s food and costs are as follows…


2 slices toast .10, 1T peanut butter  .06,  6 oz oj  .14, cup of hot tea  .04

Total for breakfast  34 cents


pot pie  .35, 1 celery stalk .08, carrots  .07, water  free

Total for lunch  50 cents


1/2 serving crackers  .07, water free


baked potato .20, 1/4 C cottage cheese  .18, hot tea  .04,  banana  .18

Total cost for the day…$1.51

So, I did eat a little healthier today, but it wasn’t the tastiest of diets.  I think it would take some major planning for me to eat like this all of the time…well, that or extreme poverty, I suppose.  This kind of makes me think that we should have cooking, shopping, gardening, food preservation, and nutrition classes for the poorest among us…something to help them eat as healthy a diet as possible given the financial limitations they face. Of course, in our current political climate, people don’t seem to be willing to provide any kind of funding to help the people who are faced with abject poverty.  Do I think this is a political issue?  You bet I do.

Homelessness in my home town

A Roma woman with her dog in a street of Rome.

Image via Wikipedia

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I believe we all have an obligation to help people who are less fortunate.  I like to think I do my fair share, but an incident on the way in to work yesterday has me reconsidering whether or not I do enough.

When Donna and  I were walking up to the front door of the store yesterday morning, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a little movement over in the cart area. When I looked directly toward that area, I was surprised to see a guy peering at us from under the cover of a sleeping bag.  It kind of startled me, to say the least.  I’ve known, for a long time, of a homeless kind of village off in the woods behind one of the nearby shopping centers, but had never really seen anyone sleeping on the sidewalk in our part of town.  As I thought about it, I realized we’d had some storms roll through over night and the man was probably just trying to find a dry place to sleep.  He also probably assumed that no one would be around until at least 9 am, since most of the stores in our strip open at 10 am or later on Sunday.  I wonder if he was as surprised to see us as we were to see him?!

Our town has a multitude of homeless shelters and services to help people overcome the issues that lead to homelessness.  With the terrible economy of the past several years, you can understand how someone could become temporarily homeless.  But there are also the chronic, long-term homeless people.  I often hear people ask why they just don’t get a job.  But how easy is that if you don’t have an address or a phone when you go to apply for a job?  Or proper clothes?  Or a way to clean up?   And many of the people who fall in to the category of the long-term homeless are also dealing with other serious issues such as addictions or various forms of  mental illness.  I’m glad I live in a city that’s progressive enough to make concerted efforts to help those in need, but what can be done about the people who aren’t willing to avail themselves of the proffered help?  If they only cause discomfort to others (by virtue of simply being homeless and on the street) and no real harm, can we force them to accept help?  I can’t see how we can as long as we continue to believe in individual rights and freedom.

I don’t know what the solution is for the people who have to deal with these problems, but I feel profound sadness for them.  Yesterday’s near encounter with a homeless man left me wondering what else I can do to make life a little easier for people who don’t have the comfort of a roof over their heads, a bed to sleep in, running water to drink and bathe in, heat in winter and air conditioning in the summer.  I donate food and toiletries to the food pantry, but is that really enough?

Stamp Out Hunger

LA: NALC "Stamp out Hunger" Annual F...

Image by aflcio via Flickr

We live in the wealthiest country in the world, and still, there are children who go to bed hungry,  parents who don’t eat so that their children can,  elderly people who can’t afford even the basics.  I know it can be overwhelming to think about this.  The problem of hunger in our country continues to grow while our personal resources diminish. 

 This is part of why I am an avid couponer.  I’ve always donated to the local food pantry, but now I can donate so much more because I’ve learned how to maximize my dollars through couponing.  Am I an “extreme couponer”?  Not even close.  But I do have a sizable donation box ready to donate to the National Association of Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger campaign next month…May 14 to be exact.  To find out more, check out this link…


I hope you’ll consider taking part in this campaign. Remember, every can, every box, every single donation makes a difference in someone’s life.  All you have to do is leave your donation at your mailbox that day.  Your letter carrier will pick it up and everything will go to support the needs of people in your community.  We’re all in this together, and together, we can perform small miracles in our own communities.