A Veterans Day Thank You from Shady Pines

A Veterans Day Thank You from Shady Pines

We Appreciate Your Service

Do you know what we should all be doing this Friday, November 11th? I’ll give you a hint. That’s Veterans Day. We need to say thank you to the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces of this country. I’m Zulah Talmadge, Editor of The Shady Pines Gazette news.

I will be thinking about my father on that day. He’s a retired Colonel in the Army. Since he’s not actively serving that makes him a veteran.

I haven’t seen him in a while ’cause he lives up north. But you can be dang on certain I will call him this Friday. He says he learned important life lessons in the army like teamwork, achieving goals, honor and the importance of service to others.

How Veterans Day Started

We have to go way back to the year 1919 to find out how it began. This national observance used to be called Armistice Day — a day to celebrate the end of World War I.

The name was later changed to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor veterans of all wars.

It’s kinda sad to realize just how many wars the United States has been involved in, isn’t it? So many men and women have made a lot of sacrifices for the freedom we enjoy today. Any chance we get, we should recognize them for their service.

Do You Know the Difference Between Veterans Day and Memorial Day?

I don’t know about you, but most people confuse Veterans Day and Memorial Day. They’re actually very different. I did some digging and discovered the difference is important to keep in mind.

I found some information from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  “Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country. This is especially true for those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.

“While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military — in wartime or peacetime.”

Remember To Thank Them

I know we’re busy doing other things. We don’t stop and appreciate all that we have. Let’s face it. We tend to forget the thousands of Americans who have done so much to make our lives a little better.

Here’s an idea. Even if you know someone who is  currently serving, Veterans Day is a great time to tell them “Thank You For Your Service.” 

Why, here in Shady Pines, seven year old Ray Robinson’s dad is away right now serving overseas. Ray says on Veterans Day he’s going to write to his dad and make sure he knows how much Ray and his mom love him and hope he can come home soon.

Ray is very proud of his dad who taught him to be honest, kind and respectful of others. His dad reminded Ray to help out around the house and be good to his mother while he’s gone.

This  Friday let’s all take a moment to remember that someone’s family member may be a long way from home right now serving our country.

And their kids are waiting for them.

– Zulah out

Falling for Fall in Shady Pines

Falling for Fall in Shady Pines

 Fall Is In The Air

This can’t be possible. It seems like Labor Day was just yesterday.

Now kids are back in school, football is once again on TV,  and warm clothing is popping up on racks everywhere you look.

Not only that, the days are getting shorter and Halloween candy already packs the store shevles. It’s only mid September people!

So what does all of this mean?

Don’t look now but the start of Fall is nearly upon us. Mark your calendar for September 22nd. This third season the year just happens to be a favorite in the small Southern town of Shady Pines.

Fun Facts to Share

Over at The Shady Pines Gazette News office, editor Zulah Talmadge has received a special request. It seems the teachers at Shady Pines Elementary want her to write about some fun Fall facts that children would enjoy. Here’s what she discovered.

Fall and Autumn are the same season! Autumn is just the formal way of saying it. Fall is when the weather starts getting cooler, the leaves change and some animals search for food to store up for Winter.

Colors associated with this season are red, orange, yellow, brown and black. Do you wear those colors in Fall?

Cue Fall To Begin

Throughout history Fall begins on what’s known as the Autumnal Equinox. It’s a fancy way of saying that on the Equinox, the sun spends as much time above the hoizon as it does below.  On that day (September 22) the sunrise and sunset are about 12 hours apart everywhere on the earth. The daylight hours are just a smidge longer.

Because this happens late in September, October is actually the first full month of Fall.

So when does Fall end? That happens on the Winter Soltice which is December 21st. That day is not only the start of Winter but it is the shortest day of the year becuse it has the least amount of daylight.

Believe me when I tell you it can get really cold here in Shady Pines in the Winter. Does that happen where you live? Wait. Before we get to all that, let’s get back to the season at hand.

Fun Fall Things To Do

For many Shady Pines families it’s become a tradition to take the children out to pick pumpkins and apples this time of year.

Besides carving pumpkins (sometimes for prizes) there are some wonderful recipes out there for pumpkin bread and apple cider. We found a recipe for pumpkin bread with walnuts that is really tasty. You can leave the nuts out if you or someone in your family is allergic.


We mentioned clothing earlier. If your wardrobe could use a little fall overhaul this is the time to do it. Sweater weather is on its way.

You might want to stock up on warm hats, mittens, boots and galoshes. Yes even those big rubbery boots will come in handy. Kids can find so much to do on those rainy, puddle filled days.

One more thing to remember. With each new season comes another chance to think about ways to be kind to our family members, neighbors and friends. Of course, that shouldn’t be just a Fall thing. Here in Shady Pines we try to make it an everyday thing!  Happy Fall y’all!!!


Can’t Buck What’s Happening In the Skies Above Shady Pines

Can’t Buck What’s Happening In the Skies Above Shady Pines

Starry, Starry, Night

This is so exciting! Folks in Shady Pines are all a twitter about what’s going on in the skies above our town this week and even waaaay beyond that.

Hi I’m Zulah Talmadge with The Shady Pines Gazette and I have news from the National Space Agency (NASA) Have you seen the incredible photos of galaxies and more they’ve just shared with all of us? These images are out of this world – literally!

They were taken with the powerful James Webb Space Telescope and show the deepest images of space we’ve ever seen.

If you want to know more about the many discoveries from the telescope and see some more amazing photos just CLICK HERE

It was the famous astronomer Carl Sagan who once said, “We are made of star stuff.” An astronomer is someone who studies stars and galaxies and all the science that goes with it.  So when Sagan said that famous line, he was reminding people that much of the matter of our bodies was created within the stars a really long time ago. He wanted people to know, we are marvelous, and our story is too.

This is the kind of message we want everyone in Shady Pines to realize. It doesn’t  matter if you’re young or old, rich or poor, you’re important and we value you. That’s goes for our animals, too!

Don’t Buck It

Here’s the other bit of news you need to know so you’ll be sure to look skyward starting tomorrow night. There’s a Buck Moon rising. What’s that you ask?

Well, it just happens to be July’s Supermoon and it’s the biggest and brightest of the year! Supermoons are normally bigger and brighter than regular ‘ole moons.  But this one is supposed to be the whopper. And according to various space websites Wednesday, July 13th is when you should be able to see it the best.

I bet you’re wondering how this moon got its name.  According to legend it’s because the antlers of male deer, or bucks, are in full-growth mode during this time. According to Almanac.com, bucks shed and regrow their antlers each year, forming a larger pair as the years pass.

Other names given this Buck super moon include: Feather Moulting Moon, Salmon Moon, Thunder Moon, and Halfway Summer Moon. Whatever you choose to call it, just remember to look up tomorrow night after sunset.

If you have binoculars or a telescope handy, you’ll be able to see the moon’s craters, mountains, ridges, and finer details.

Now, closer to home, Scoop the Cub Reporter and I will be out and about asking neighbors what they think of all this.

Think about it. What a wonderful way to get the kids and all the rest of us more excited about the world around us. We’re all connected you know. That’s why we need the moon and the stars to guide us!

***Please leave us a comment below***


Storm Clouds Threaten Fun on the Fourth in Shady Pines

Storm Clouds Threaten Fun on the Fourth in Shady Pines

Could Storms Drench The Fourth?

It’s won’t be long now.  That very American holiday, the Fourth of July is right around the corner.  Excitement is building in the small Southern town of Shady Pines, but so are storm clouds.
This is the frst time our residents are welcoming visitors back to enjoy the festivities since the pandemic began two years ago.
As you can imagine, Mayor Beauregard P. Fibbs is thrilled. He loves to celebrate our nation’s Independance Day and to promote the good things about our story tellin’ town. Oh, and, let’s face it, he likes to ride in his big ‘ole car in the parade down Main Street.
Our mayor will tell anyone who will listen that we’re a tight knit community dedicated to kindness, caring and working together to solve problems. But one problem we didn’t plan for is brewing off the coast.
Tropical Storm Colin is churning in the Atlantic and threatening to deliver a wallop of rain and punishing winds over the holiday weekend. Those rains are already soaking the coastal regions in the South.
Mayor Fibbs and other Shady Pines leaders will  track this storm system closely to make sure they can still go ahead with everything that’s supposed to happen on Monday.

Monday’s Schedule

Besides the parade in the morning which is always a hoot, the Community Center is set to host an afternoon ice cream social for the kids.
Director Rita Morena says this year she’s adding water balloon tossing. The children will get into two straight lines as they form teams.
Then, each player takes a big step back from their teammate and tosses the balloon to them.
The opposite player must catch the balloon without popping it. If a balloon pops, that team is out.
“The idea is to have fun,” says Rita. “At the same time we show the kids the importance of teamwork to achieve their goals.”

Picnics and Sailing

Around 5 o’clock folks head down to Stonewall Park with their picnic baskets and coolers. A lot of our local business like Maggie’s Diner, Fred’s Corner Grocer and Cup ‘O Joe’s coffee shop donate food and drinks.
But everyone is encouraged to make somethig to share with others.  After all, sharing is a form of kindness. We’re all about that in Shady Pines.
Meanwhile, some teenagers will be taking part in the regional sailing races that are held on our lake every year on the Fourth. 
The folks attending the picnic in the park provide a built in cheering section for the kids and their racing boats.  And the winners of each division get a trophy.

Safety First On The Fourth

Once the sailboats are off the water and darkness falls it’s time for fireworks. This is one of our favorite traditions. We love to say, “Ah!” when seeing the explosions of color reflect off the lake.
It’s also a time to remind everyone that our pets and veterans can really be bothered by the sound of those booming explosions. Our small animals get scared, shiver with fear and look everywhere for a place to hide. If you know your neighbors have pets who respond negatively to fireworks, please be respectful.

Pets, Vets, and Kids

Likewise, men and women who have been to war, hear those sounds and it takes them right back to the horror of the battlefield. Look for a sign like this in front of someone’s house. If you see it make sure you don’t shoot off any backyard fireworks anywhere near their home.
Besides pets and veterans don’t forget to watch out for the safety of children as well.Shady Pines Story Town logo  Bottom line, in Shady Pines no matter what the weather or the holiday Compassion Never Takes a Holiday!
May Your Milestones Be Celebrated

May Your Milestones Be Celebrated

Shady Pines Celebrates With Gusto

May is one of those months where there’s so much going on. We just got finished with May Day, Cinco de Mayo, the Kentucky Derby and Mother’s Day. Whew! And now there’s more on the calendar with graduations, anniversaries, birthdays and more.

I’m Zulah Talmadge with The Shady Pines Gazette and we have it all covered for you.

Look over there. Why at the Shady Pines Elementary School there’s a graduation going on. All those little tykes have been looking forward to this day.

Graduation Day

But first, they present a play the’ve been working on for months. The moms, dads, family members and friends are just tickled pink to see them perform on the stage at the Shady Pines Community Center next door to the school.

Their version of Peter Pan included the messages that ‘anything is possible’ and ‘dreams do come true.’

Next is the actual graduation ceremony. You’ve never seen so many cameras and phones fly out of purses and pockets. This is an event that a family wants to preserve for all time. And don’t the kids look cute in their caps and gowns? It was a fairly small graduation class this year but there was nothing small about the joyous celebration.

Congratulations to our Class of 2022! Rejoice in your accomplishments.

Wedding Anniversary

Over at Boomer and Halley’s house, their parents are celebrating 16 years of marriage. Harold and Edna Sanders met at a Fall dance back in the day and have been great partners ever since.

Of course they didn’t have children for most of their marriage. Then they adopted the energetic Australian Shepherd dog, Boomerang, and the silver streak of a cat, Halley’s Comet. There hasn’t been a quiet moment since.

“Are we supposed to get them something for their anniversary, Halley?” asks Boomer.

Halley is busy batting her rubber lizard across the hardwood floor. “How would I know?” shes asks. “I’m not sure what an anniversary is in the first place!”

Boomer cannot believe what he’s hearing. “What’s the matter with you?”

Halley snaps her head around. “Whaaat?”

“It’s when dad and mom got married. That day.”

Halley looks confused. “Well, when was THAT day?”

“I dunno,” says Boomer.

Halley licks her paws. “Remember the day we met?”

Boomer shakes his whole body. “That’s not a memory worth celebrating.”

Meanwhile, Harold is watching TV and Edna is sitting in her favorite chair in the den looking at a poster.  “Honey have you seen this?”

Harold turns his head to look at her. “What is it?”  Edna holds it up to show him. “Mayor Fibbs is using this poster of us to promote the idea that people should visit Shady Pines.”

Harold beams with pride. “Well, it is a very spiffy little ‘ole Southern town. And that’s a swell lookin’ family if I do say so myself.”

Edna smiles. “I know. Let’s frame it. This can be our anniversary gift since we’re all in it!”

Boomer barks his approval. And Halley meows.

Birthdays Galore

The other thing to know is that May is chalk full of birthdays around here. Why Maggie, who runs Maggie’s Diner has a birthday coming up on Friday the 20th. And Fred, who own’s Fred’s Corner Grocer has one right after that on Sunday the 22nd.

And just in case you want to start thinking about a birthday gift for a certain Editor of the Gazette, well, um, my birthday is Wednesday May, 25th.

Whatever you’re celebrating this merry month of May remember that kindness is one of the best gifts anyone can give or receive!

Shady Pines Gets Ready for May Day

Shady Pines Gets Ready for May Day

Some May Day Magic

You really know it’s spring in Shady Pines Story Town when the first day of May rolls around. In fact, it’s such a big deal our mayor, Beauregard P. Fibbs, is declaring May Day the start of a month long celebration.

“I Mayor Beauregard Fibbs decalre the month of May 2022 be filled with dancing, flowers, good food, and even better get togethers. We will start off with an event on Sunday, the first day of May, downtown at Stonewall Park. Vendors will sell everything from clothing to jewelrey, artwork, pottery and so much more. There will be live music and food trucks. Bring the family and let’s enjoy this marvelous month in a very Shady Pines way!”

Activities For Everyone

A group gathering is welcome news after folks around here had to spend so much time apart because of the pandemic. Now the small Southern town can kick up its heels at a party or kick back and smell those bright, wonderful, spring flowers.

Over at the Shady Pines Community Center Director Rita Malena has something she’s planning for the kids.

“That’s right. “We’re going to have an ice cream social for the kids on the first Friday in May. They’ll put together their own ice cream cones. We’ll have all sorts of flavors available like chocolate, strawberry and vanilla, plus rocky road, pepermint, and so much more.  After that, we’ll dance around the maypole.”

Maypole Dancing

The tradition of maypole dancing dates back hundreds of years. Traditionally the dancers split into pairs of boys and girls before beginning their routine. The dance creates a multi-coloured pattern which creeps steadily down the pole.

The dancers then reverse their steps to undo the ribbons. This is said to represent the days getting longer as summer approaches. But the whole reason for the pole itself is not really known. Some communities have a permanent maypole up all year round on village greens and in squares.

Over at the Post Office Kimberly Dunworthy is working on her own May celebration set for Thursday the 5th. Can you guess what it is? That’s right! Kim is organizing a Cinco De Mayo party. Kim grew up in nearby River City just over the McCaw River, but one of her best friends is from Mexico.

This party is sure to be lively, colorful and have really good food. We’ll have more on that, a Kentucky Derby watch party, and other goings on. But in the meantime, Happy May Day everyone!

**Please Leave A Comment Below**

She Started It! The Woman Behind Father’s Day

She Started It! The Woman Behind Father’s Day

A Devotion To Dad

Hi everyone! Do you want to meet the woman who started Father’s Day? Sure you do.

Scoop the Reporter here with news from The Shady Pines Gazette office.Breaking News Father’s Day is coming up this weekend on Sunday, June 21st so my editor, Zulah Talmadge, gave me a fun assignment. She asked me to find out who came up with the idea of giving fathers their own special day.

I did some research and guess what I found out? It was started by an American woman. I’ve added a couple of pictures of her. They’re in black and white ’cause she lived a long time ago. Her name was Sonora Smart Dodd. She was born in Sebastian County in Arkansas in 1892. Her mother, Ellen Victoria Cheek Smart, died when Sonora was only 16 years old. That’s just a little older than me!

Dodd’s father was a Civil War veteran named, William Smart. When Sonora’s mom died giving birth to a sixth child, that left William Smart a widower. From then on he would have to raise six children on his own at their home in Spokane, Washington. Can you imagine this single dad having to raise six children by himself way back then?

When Sonora Dodd married and had kids of her own, she realized what a tremendous job her father had done in raising her and her and her brothers.

Honoring Her Dad

One Sunday in 1909 Sonora was listening to a Mother’s Day sermon with her father at the Central Methodist Church where they lived. Sonora got really upset. The way she saw it, her dad had worked so hard to to raise all his kids, so why wasn’t there a day to honor fathers? She decided to do something about that.

Dodd wanted the celebration to be held on June 5, her father’s birthday. Unfortunately, putting that plan into place ran into some difficulties. So the first Father’s Day celebration was pushed back to Sunday, June 19, 1910.

President Woodrow Wilson got behind the idea of celebrating Father’s Day in 1913 and visited Spokane to join the celebration in 1916. President Calvin Coolidge chimed in with his support in 1924, as well.

In 1957, US Senator Margaret Chase Smith from Maine introduced a bill to create a national day writing:  “Either we honour both our parents, mother and father, or let us stop honouring either one.” You see Senator Smith agreed with Sonora that to celebrate moms on a special day, but not dads, was just not right.

In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson, along with his wife and two daughters, signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance of the day in 1972.

Sonora Dodd died in 1978 at the age of 96. The mother-of-one was remembered as a children’s book author, sculptor, and a business owner. Her gravestone reads, ‘Founder of Father’s Day.’

To this day, you can visit her home in Spokane Washington.

There you have it. A grateful daughter way back in 1909 came up with the idea for Father’s Day. And, we’re still celebrating dads to this day.

What do you think of that?

Please Leave Us A Comment Below 

Survey Says!

Survey Says!


Shady Pines is a wonderful community filled with all sorts of story tellin’ characters. These human and animals of all ages and backgrounds help to inspire us to be our best selves.

They especially like to help kids discover how to make good choices in life.

But we know we need to bring that positive message to you in a way you can really use. As you guide your children through these complicated times, we want to be a trusted resource of love, laughter, and bedrock values.

Your kids deserve nothing but the best!

Will you please take a moment to answer this very simple survey? Just click on the SURVEY image. It’s very important that we deliver content that addresses the charactertraits you value most. It only takes a second.

We really appreciate your input and will let you know the results soon!



A Sherlock Holmes Mystery in Shady Pines

A Sherlock Holmes Mystery in Shady Pines


The calendar reads January 6th. You know what that means? It’s Sherlock Holmes’ birthday! He may be a crime fighting character out of books from a long time ago. But, through movies and television dramas people all over the world still follow this famous detective as he travels around London, England solving mysteries. In fact, Sherlock Holmes has a real fan living in Shady Pines Story Town.

When Edna Sanders looks out her kitchen window, all see sees is thick fog blanketing her home on Dogwood Drive across from Copy Cat Lane. “It’s dense as pea soup outside. Looks like I could be living in England. They have nothing but fog over there,” she thinks to herself.

Edna sips her morning coffee and reads the latest edition of The Shady Pines Gazette newspaper. On the second page near the bottom there’s an image and it says, ‘Happy Birthday Sherlock.’


Edna stares at the page. “Oh, golly. Oh, boy. This is great!” She claps her hands for joy. Edna is really excited. She’d forgotten what day it is. Her favorite detective of all time was born on Januray 6, 1861. Everyone knows how much Edna loves these stories. Why, one of her best friends just sent her a book for Christmas called, The Adventures of Sherlcok Holmes.

I’ve got to tell Boomer and Halley. Just then, an Australian Shepherd dog wanders in followed by a silver streak of a cat. “Good. There you are. I have big news to share,”says Edna.

Boomerang cocks his head to one side and wags his bobbed tail while Halley rubs against Edna’s leg.

“What’s up with mom?” asks Halley’s Comet.

Boomer is trying to figure that out. “I have no idea. Hope we get treats.”

Halley looks up. “Is that a book?”

“I dunno,” says Boomer.

Edna sits at the kitchen table stroking their heads. “Kids, today is Sherlock Holmes’ birthday.” Boomer and Halley just stare at one another. “Huh?”


“Let me get your chew bone Boomer, and Halley I’ll get you some tuna. Then, I’ll tell you all about him and his famous partner, Dr. Watson. He was a retired army officer, don’t you know.”

With both animals happily chewing and snacking, Edna contines. “You see kids, Sherlock Holmes is a character from books written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His most famous story was The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

Edna pours herself another cup of coffee. Halley now snoozes on her window seat and Boomer and his bone are under the table. Edna is thinking of so many things. “Here’s the deal. Sherlock is a genius. He soves crimes no one else can figure out.  That’s what’s so fun! He’s also known for that tweed hat he wears, the pipe he smokes and the magnifying glass he uses to look for clues.”


Edna continues. “Sherlock lives and works out of his home at 221b Baker Street.” All of a sudden Edna stops talking.

“That’s it! In honor of his birthday I’m going to create a mystery right here in our house. I’ll leave clues all over the place and then when Harold gets home, you guys can help him solve the case.”

Edna is very pleased with herself. “I’d better call Harold and let him know what I have in mind.” The phone rings by the cash register at the check out desk.


“Nuts ‘N Bolts hardware. This is Harold, how may I help you?”

Edna clears her throat. “Hi honey. Are you having a good day?”

Harold know Edna very well. He can tell something’s up. “I everything all right, dear? Are the kids okay?”

“Yes. Everything’s fine. It’s well… you might want to be prepared to solve a mystery when you get home,” says Edna.

“EDNA!” says Harold.

“No, nothing bad,” says Edna quickly. “You’ll just need to use all your skills to figure things out. You know, like a really smart detective. Boomer and Halley will help.”

Harold shakes his head. “What? Oh, that makes it so much better.”

“Bye, honey. See ya later,” says Edna as she ends the call. She looks from Boomer to Halley then back again. “Kids, as first rate detectives, we’ve got a crime to create and solve. We must think like Sherlock Holmes. So, let’s get to it my dear, Watson!”

What’s Up with Advent Calendars?

What’s Up with Advent Calendars?

Time For Advent Calendars!

Oh, boy, the big day will be here soon. The countdown is on for Christmas and advent calendars are popping up everywhere. These are the calendars that kids love because they include a hidden treat or toy behind every day of the week from the first of December right up to Christmas Eve. Hi everyone, Zulah Talmadge with you for The Shady Pines Gazette News. Now that Thanksgiving is in our rear view mirror the holiday season is in full gear.  

What Is The Season of Advent?

Do you know about the Season of Advent and the reason why these calendars are fun for kids and adults alike? Let’s start at the beginning. Traditionally, the Season of Advent begins on the final Sunday in November and lasts into that third week in December.

It has been seen by Christians around the world as a way to get ready for the coming birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas. That’s why each day on an Avent Calendar is its own celebration to reflect the joy and hope of this very special season. You also may even see Avent Wreaths with four or five purple, pink and white candles. Like the calendars, these wreaths are also used to symbolize a scared time of year. Each candle has a separate meaning.

Typically, during the Season of Advent, one candle on the wreath is lit each Sunday as a part of Sunday church services. But you don’t have to be a practicing Christian to honor the spirit of Advent. The Advent Calender started in the mid-19th century when Germans marked the countdown to Christmas with chalk marks on doors or by lighting a candle.

Advent Calendars Are All Different

These days, most Advent Calendars have numbered paper doors or pockets that open to reveal an image, chocolate or other small object. Some of the folks here in Shady Pines Story Town will hide messages of kindness, caring and love behind those colorful doors.

There is no one way to make a calendar. They look as different as the people who create them. For instance, a long time ago you might have seen a really old fashioned calendar that looks like your great, great, grandmother might have made it. 

These days, there all kinds of Advent Calendars you can buy or make for yourself. But one thing remains the same. These holiday calendars are fun. And just like the spiritual theme of the season, they offer anticipation, hope and joy of discovery.

How to Use an Advent Calendar

Best of all, for parents, it’s something  you can use to keep the kids busy and a way to promote conversation around issues you might want to discuss.

We did a story for The Gazette not long ago about parents and grandparents who are concerned that kids are more focused on getting toys, video games and stuff for Christmas, rather than what they can do for others in need.

It’s normal for kids to get so excited while wating for Christmas to arrive. But, in 2020 with many of our neighbors going through hard times, consider using an Advent Calendar to focus those young people in your life on what you and your family values most.

That’s what we try to do each and every day here in the small Southern town of Shady Pines!

Election Stress During Kindness Week

Election Stress During Kindness Week


I want you to know about two events that are happening at the same time. You really should be paying attention to both. Zulah Talmage with you from The Shady Pines Gazette news team. On the one hand, our nation is still waiting to hear the results of the 2020 presidential election. Unlike other elections, this one is taking a long time.

So many people voted by mail, it’s taking a good deal of time to count all those additional votes. Volunteers are working around the clock to make sure they do everything they can to be accurate about the vote totals.

Meanwhile, people are marching in the streets to demonstrate to officials how importat they feel it is their vote be counted. It’s clear that a lot of voters are really stressed out right now. They desperately want to find out as soon as possible whether their candidate won.


At the same time all that’s happening, we’re heading into International Kindness Week. It wraps up next Friday, November 13th. That day is known as World Kindness Day. This week people all over the world are being asked to pay attention to the way they act and speak to one another. One of the slogans you might hear is this: “If you can’t find a kind person – be one.” Isn’t that great? Here’s another one: “In a world where you can be anything, Be Kind.”

Listen, I get it. Scoop, The Cub Reporter and I have been all over Shady Pines Story Town covering this election. People have very strong ideas about who should be our next president. You’ll meet people who’ll tell you all the reasons why we should re-elect our current president, Donald Trump.

Then just like that, you’ll bump into someone else who thinks the country needs a different direction. They will tell you in no uncertain terms why former Vice President, Joe Biden, is the right man for the job. Because emotions are so high, we sometimes forget to consider that eveyone is concerned about how this election will be decided. We tend to forget that just like everyone’s vote counts, so do their opinions – even if we don’t agree with them.

As this week, or weeks go along, Scoop and I will continue to cover all the twists and turns that this year’s presidential election will throw our way. There will probably be calls for states to hold re-counts of votes and who-knows-what else? 2020 has been an unusual year, and there’s no reason to expect a “normal” election, is there?

But along with all the election madness, we know it will come to an end. It may not be the result you were hoping for when you cast your ballot. 

We need to remember that our co-workers, friends, neighbors and family members feel strongly about the candidate they wanted to win. So, since this is International Kindness Week and all, maybe we can focus on compassion. We don’t want to lose and neither does anyone else.

This week, like every week in Shady Pines, kindness and caring can go a long way!

Let’s Go to the Pumpkin Patch

Let’s Go to the Pumpkin Patch

Get The Scoop from the Pumpkin Patch

Fall is such a wonderful time of year in Shady Pines. Everywhere you look there’s an explosion of color.  And I really like the cooler weather, don’t you? I’m Scoop the Cub Reporter for The Shady Pines Gazette.

With Halloween just around the corner, a lot of folks are off to the local Pumpkin Patch.  I’m headed that way right now. My assignment is to discover why so many folks say this is one of their favorite things to do each year as a family.

One thing I’ve noticed is that from toddlers to teens, like myself, a pumpkin patch is fun for everyone. First of all, you get some exercise and you’re outside.

And, most of these working farms are so big you don’t have to worry about social distancing. You should bring your mask along anyway. At some point you will have to pay for the pumpkins you’re going to take home. That puts you close to the person who checks you out. Okay, I’m here. I’ve gotta interview people.

One mom I met told said, “If your kids don’t explore the outdoors very often, this is a great way for them to discover nature. Seeing how pumpkins grow out of the ground and are attached to vines is very educational. It helps them understand that pumpkins don’t just show up at the grocery store automatically.”

I can already see for myself that this is one place where children can run around and discover things for themselves. That’s really important. I know I like to find those unexpected, special, moments. For instance, take a look at this shot I got. Do you see the colors of that butterfly next to the pumpkin? Being out on the farm you can just be amazed at Mother Nature. I think this kind of stuff is really cool!

I met another mom who told me, “From the second we arrived, my children ran off with smiles, but quickly, they realized how much work it was to be in a field of pumpkins. Even running took work since the vines were everywhere, waiting to trip little, toddler-sized running feet.”

It turns out that not only is this a great way to spend time with the family, there are also some lessons to be learned. There aren’t a whole bunch of people working the farms these days. So a lot of  kids don’t realize it takes hard work to be a farmer. One young girl I met was getting a little taste of that. Just trying to push a wheelbarrow with a big ‘ole pumpkin was something she hadn’t done before. The other thing she said was that she didn’t know pumpkins grew from tiny seeds. She also didn’t realize that they come in so many shapes, sizes and colors. “It’s kinda like people, isn’t it?” she asked.

I have to admit, I’d never thought of that before.  It seems there are a lot of things to find in the pumpkin patch. One couple I met said they love coming out here each October. But this year it was especially important to them. “We know so many farms and other small businesses are struggling right now because of the pandemic. It was important to us to come out and support them.”

That’s reason enought for me to go home with some pumpkins of my own. I don’t know about you, but our family usually has a pumpkin carving contest. Last year my dad won. It’s time for me to take the title back! The other reason I need to pick up some pumpkins is to inspire my mom. Around Halloween she likes to scare up some pumpkin dishes for us. I’m talking about everything from pumpkin pies to pumpkin pancakes. Here are some recipes for you to try: PUMPKIN RECIPES

There’s one more thing I want to mention.

These pumpkin patch visits make for some great family photos. Everywhere I look I’m seeing parents taking all sorts of shots.

Oh, look at the time. I’ve got to get back to the Gazette office. My editor, Zulah Talmadge, is probably wondering why I’ve been gone so long.  But this is just so darn much fun. Hope you’ve enjoyed it!

– Scoop out.


Batten Down the Hatches

Batten Down the Hatches

Batten down the hatches it’s coming! Oh sure, it’s calm in Shady Pines right now. But if the folks who forecast the weather are right, later this evening the small Southern town could be dealing with a hurricane.

‘Ole Tropical Storm Isaias is battering the Florida coast and heading this way. It’s expected to pick up steam and get even stronger by the time it arrives.

Living in the South means you get used to dealing with strong storms. When you live anywhere close to the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico during hurricane season, it’s stomething you learn to expect from June ’til the end of November.

But this year, with a pandemic and all, it’s just the kind of thing no one needs.

Over on Dogwood Drive across from Copy Cat Lane, Edna Sanders is getting ready. She’s already put all the back and front porch furniture into the garage so they won’t blow away.

Next, she makes sure to pick up the planters with thier beautiful flowers and bring them inside, too.

“I sure don’t want to see anything happen to them,” says Edna to herself.” It  seems like this Isaias fellow is something we need to take seriously.”

While she’s doing all this, her Australian Shepherd dog, Boomerang, follows her around.

“Boom, are trying to help?

At the sound of his name, the sweet dog drops he bone he’d been carrying around and looks right at her. He wags his bobbed tail.


Edna laughs. “That’s what I thought. She reaches down and gives him a big hug. “You are the best helper a gal could ever want. What do you say we go into the kitchen? I need to make a list of the food, water, and other supplies we’re going to need.”

As Edna and her faithful companion enter the kitchen, Edna looks around. “Boomer, where’s Halley? I don’t think I’ve seen her in hours.” Just then, a silver and white cat jumps down from her window seat and strolls across the room. Halley’s Comet rubs against Edna’s leg, a sure sign she wants some attention. Edna picks her up and hugs and kisses her.

“There you are,” says Edna. “I knew you had to be around here somewhere.”

Boomer growls gently.

“Oh, keep quiet you overgrown furball,” says Halley.

“Halley, you are such a pain. Mom and I have been working to get ready for the storm. And what have you done to help? Nothing.”

“Boomer, you know darn well that I will pitch in when the time comes.”

“And what time will that be, exactly?” asks Boomer.

“When it’s the right time.” says Halley.

Edna’s husband, Harold, owns the Nuts ‘N Bolts hardware store on Main Street downtown. He left for work early this morning knowing it would be busy with people grabbing last-minute items.

They’ll nee flash lights, batteries, coolers for ice, that sort of thing.

The phone rings at the counter. One of the guys who works there picks it up. “Hey Harold, it’s for you. Edna’s calling.”

Harold is busy stocking shelves. “OK. I’ll be right there, George.”

Harold puts the last extension chord on the shelf and walks over to the phone. “Hi, honey. Everything all right?”

Normally, Edna doesn’t call on days when she knows he’s really busy. So Harold is a little bit worried.

“Everything’s fine, sweetie. I’m just finishing getting dressed and I thought I’d drop by for a minute. I’ve put together a list of things I’d like for you to bring home from the store,” says Edna.

Harold is relieved. “Oh, sure. That’s fine. I’ll see you when I see you.”

“Harold, I was planning to leave Boomer with you while I take Halley grocery shopping with me. Is that all right?” asks Edna.

Harold smiles. “Of course it is. You know how much I love to have my buddy with me at the store. He’ll be a nice distraction for all the customers who are getting a bit anxious about this storm,” says Harold.

“He does have a way of calming people down, doesn’t he?”

“Edna, I have to go. Someone needs me. I’ll see you when you get here.”

“See you in a bit,” says Edna.

And with that, Edna heads out to the garage where her car, Sweet Pea, is waiting for them. She has Halley in her travelling crate. She puts that in the back seat and secures it with a seatbelt. Next, she guides Boomer to sit on the floor in front of the passenger seat. With both animals safe and in their places, they’re ready to go.

“All right kids,” says Edna. “Our first stop is the hardware store, then to Fred’s Corner Grocer.”

For a moment, Edna pauses. Did she bring her list? Edna always has lists of one thing or another. But on a day like this, she wants to be extra sure.

“Oh, good here it is. All the things we’ll need to get before the storm hits. Here we go!”

Want to see what’s on Edna’s list and know what you need to prepare for a large storm? This is even more complete than Edna’s:  Hurricane Guide

***We’ll have more on what happens after the storm next time. Stay Tuned. 

Could Coronavirus Close Ray’s School?

Could Coronavirus Close Ray’s School?

Every day seems to bring new concerns about the Coronavirus. It’s no different in Shady Pines Story Town. Seven-year-old Ray Robinson looks at a flier he found on the school’s bulletin board.chool. It has a bunch of instructions about what to expect if the elementary school has to close down for awhile.

So far there are no known cases of Coronavirus here, but folks in the small Southern town want to be prepared in case that changes. Schools in other states have had to close because someone tested positive.

The The Shady Pines Gazette news team has been reporting all the latest developments. Most recently, editor and reporter, Zulah Talmadge, brought us preventative steps you should be taking like washing your hands thoroughly, not touching your face with your hands and keeping surfaces on devices and around the house super clean. You can read the whole list HERE.

Meanwhile, Edna Sanders brought us 17 tips about the best foods to eat right now to help boost your immune system and keep sickness at bay. You can read all about that in her latest edition of, EDNA’S KITCHEN.

Now as Ray reads through what might happen if his school is forced to close for a couple of weeks or more, he has a lot of questions. If someone at school does get Coronavirus, will he have to be tested? What do they do to test you? He knows that kids aren’t really getting sick from the virus, but they might be spreading it without knowing.

“Oh, my gosh, what else might have to change?” Ray wonders. Will he still be able to go to the Shady Pines Community Center and play with Boomer and Halley? Edna Sanders works at the Center and often brings her “kids” Boomerang, an Australian Shepherd dog, and Halley’s Comet, a silver streak of a cat, with her. Ray loves to go on rounds with them at the Center after school and sometimes they play in nearby Stonewall Park. 

Will the Center stay open? Oh, no! What about his mom? Ray’s mom works two jobs to make ends meet. What will she do if Shady Pines Elementary does close and Ray has to stay home for two weeks? Ray tells people that his mom works a lot to stay busy so she won’t worry about her husband. Ray’s dad is in the military and is deployed again. They aren’t sure where he is except he’s somewhere overseas. He’s been gone a long time already and they don’t know when he’ll be back. “Oh, my gosh,” says Ray, “what happens if he is quarantined overseas?”

Ray used to worry a lot about his dad, too. In fact, it got so bad that the young boy wouldn’t even speak. He just shut down. It was Boomer and Halley who helped him find his voice again. They are really important because he loves them so much.

Ray’s mom says the animals have brought out some wonderful qualities in her son. He’s always been kind, but now he goes out of his way to do nice things for people. He’s also more compassionate and caring of others than he was before meeting those two lively critters.

In fact, Ray’s mom found an article about a kindness campaign that was started to urge people to be kinder to one another during the coronavirus outbreak. She cut out this quote and is posting it everywhere she goes.

      “Kindness, and care and concern for each other should be very much part of our lives. The Covid-19 outbreak is not just a test  of our medical response system but is also a test of the character and values of our people.”

Ray really likes the quote because that’s The Shady Pines Way!

***Please take a moment and leave a comment below. We appreciate it!

Proud To Be a Girl Dad

Proud To Be a Girl Dad

Until this week, I’d never heard the term, “Girl Dad,” but now it’s popping up everywhere on social media and beyond! Hi everyone, I’m Zulah Talmadge with news for you from The Shady Pines Gazette office.

The death this week of basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna (known as Gigi), and seven other wonderful people, has been a big topic of convesation. Bryant was only 41 at the time and his daughter was just 13 years old. The helicopter in which they were flying fell to the ground in the hills of Calabasas, California. 

The shock of this deadly event could be felt all across the country. How did this happen? Was it the dense fog at the time? Was that the reason? It may take investigators a long time to answer that question.

In the meantime, memorials have been springing up in public places, including outside the Staples Center where the Los Angeles Lakers play. Kobe was king of that court for the twenty years he wore the purple and gold Lakers’ uniform. People of all ages and backgrounds have expressed their grief and shared memories of a man who was an icon and sports legend. In a city filled with celebrities, Kobe Bryant managed to stand out.

He was not a perfect man. But he was a Lakers hero and was working on giving back to others in his second act.

Since his retirement from basketball, Kobe has put his family first. He and his wife, Vanessa, have four daughters. His devotion to his wife and to his girls was obvious to everyone who talked to him.

He was a very proud, Girl Dad.

Even when interviewers would ask him if he wished he had a son to carry on his basketball legacy, he would just smile and say, “No. She’s got this.” He was referring to his second daughter who he said was even better than he was at the same age. Gigi wanted to a professional women’s basketball player when she grew up.

That’s why it was even more painful to learn that the daughter who loved playing basketball and being coached by her famous father, died alongside him on their way to a game.

One of the tributes, along with all the others that have poured in since this unfortunate event, has started a viral sensation. The hashtag,#GirlDad, is trending on social media like crazy. Inspired by Kobe’s example, famous and not-so-famous dads are posting pictures and messages in support of their daughters.

It all started when a reporter with ESPN Sports Center, Elle Duncan, posted an emotional video. In it, she shared her encounter with Kobe Bryant when she was eight months pregnant with her daughter. Her video can be seen in this report from Yahoo Entertainment, along with some of the responses she’s been getting. You’ve gotta see this.     GO HERE

If you’re a proud Girl Dad, or if you known one, please leave us a comment to inspire others. This spreading of kindness is The Shady Pines Way!

New Year’s Resolutions for Kids

New Year’s Resolutions for Kids

What are your goals this year? How do you help your kids with goal setting? I’m Scoop the Cub Reporter and I’m on the story. You see, we’re fast approaching 2022 and the good folks of Shady Pines Story Town are looking ahead. We’re getting all kinds of ideas here in The Shady Pines Gazette news office about New Year’s Resolutions. Most people think these first-of-the-year goals are fun to discuss and write down, but how many of us follow them all year long?

I’ve interviewed some parents who want to know how to guide children to make good resolutions. I turned to parenting experts for their advice. They say it’s important to be upbeat, make it a fun activity, and try not to force ideas but let kids come up with their own. Here’s how they say you should get started:

Lead by Example

  • If you want your family to make healthy eating a priority this year, explain what that a healthy diet means for you with examples like:

“You know how much your dad and I love pizza. This year we’re going to eat less pizza and have more fruits and vegetables instead.” “We want to have more family dinners. So, we’re going to limit the amount of fast food we eat, and instead make more meals together.”

Be Specific by Setting Goals

  • Start with some broad categories like personal, friendship, helping and school goals.

Asking questions can help you gauge which of these categories are most important to them. Some examples: “Can you think of some things you might do better or differently? Do you remember a time when you might have been nicer to someone at school? Or, treated your brother or sister better? Are there ways to share more with your friends? How about helping out more around the house?”

Attach Action to the Resolutions

Let’s say your child’s resolution is to keep his or her room clean. Have them write down six easy steps they can practice each week, like:

Week #1:  I will put my shoes in the closet at night
Week #2:  I will put my toys away after playing with them

Some other ideas:

  • I will help around the house – by doing the dishes
  • I will improve my reading – by reading 15 minutes before I go to bed
  • I will eat more healthy foods – by eating one fruit at breakfast and one vegetable at dinner

Build Upon Success

Experts agree it takes up to six weeks to create a habit so do this for a month and a half and see how things are going. You and the kids can always start adding things to build upon successes.

If you want to know how Boomer and Halley’s family are setting their goals, READ THE STORY HERE

Let’s Have a Great 2020!!!

***Leave a comment Below and let us know your goals this year.


Shady Pines New Year’s Resolutions with Boomer & Halley

Shady Pines New Year’s Resolutions with Boomer & Halley


Shadows deepen earlier each day in late December. Streetlights around Shady Pines come on just after 5 pm as the night approaches. Why, before you know it, it’ll be New Year’s Day!

Edna Sanders hums a little tune as she prepares dinner in her kitchen. She has the radio on and music fills the home on Dogwood Drive across from Copy Cat Lane.

Halley’s Comet is up on her window seat licking her paws. The silver streak of a cat has just had her dinner of dry and wet cat food mixed together, taken a sip of water, and is settling in for a nap.

Before long, Edna’s husband, Harold, will be home from work. He usually closes up his Nuts ‘N Bolts hardware store on Main Street around 6 pm. Once he switches the front window sign to CLOSED and locks the door, it’s just a short walk to the Sanders’ house. This evening, the family dog, Boomerang, will be at his side.

“It was fun having you at the store today, Boomer,” says Harold as he pats the Australian Shepherd’s head. “You were a lot of help today.” Harold gives him a dog treat from one of the many wooden barrels near the cash register. “Ruff,” says Boomer. Harold laughs. “I didn’t forget. I’ve got the calendar right here to bring home to mom. You ready to go?” Boomer wags his bobbed tail.

Once outside, the night air hits them. “Ooh. It’s a good thing I have my jacket, scarf and gloves. It’s a bit chilly this evening.” Boomer pulls on the leash. “You’re right. Let’s walk a little faster, shall we?”

In just a matter of minutes, Harold is reaching for his key to unlock the back door of the Sander’s house. “Honey, we’re home.”

Edna turns. “Hi sweetie. Come here Boom, let me give you a hug. Did you take care of dad today?”

Halley rolls her eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Boomer gives her a look. “What’s with you?”

Halley sits up and looks right at him. “Boomer, you can’t even take care of yourself.”

Boomer sits quietly as Edna unhooks the leash from his collar and hangs it on the hook next to the door.

“Halley, you’re just jealous ‘cause people make a fuss over me at dad’s store,” says Boomerang.

Halley sighs. “No. Not jealous. Just amazed that humans can’t see you’re such a knucklehead.”

Boomer growls softly under his breath.

Meanwhile Harold puts away his jacket, scarf and gloves and goes over to Edna. He takes her in his arms and gives her a kiss. “I love you.”

Halley puts her paws over her eyes. “Oh, no. Boomer, they’re getting mushy again.”

Boomer looks away. “Is it over?”

Edna sees Harold has something in his hand. “What’s that?” she asks.

“Next year’s calendar. It’s the one you asked me to get for you,” says Harold.

“Oh, thank you dear. After dinner I want us to start thinking about our New Year’s Resolutions.”

Harold nods. “We can try. You know we’re not too good at following through with those.”

As he talks, Edna scoops dog food into Boomer’s bowl. “Here you go, boy.” Boomer chows down. He didn’t realize he was so hungry.

“Harold, our dinner will be ready in just a few minutes,” says Edna. “Halley’s already eaten.”

Harold crosses the room and strokes Halley’s head. She jumps into his arms. “And how’s our princess this evening, huh? Have you had a good day?”

Halley purrs and rubs her head against Harold’s cheek.

Boomer can’t believe what he’s hearing. “Princess? Did he just call you princess?”

Halley grins at Boomer.  “Cool it, will ya? Clearly the man has good taste.”

Boomer groans. “Oh, brother.”

Once dinner is over and the dishes cleared, washed and put away, it’s time for some goal setting. Edna has her notepad and pen ready to go.

“All right. Where shall we begin?”

Harold clears his throat. “Well let’s start with some categories like personal, home, and work.”

Edna is thrilled. “That’s a great idea. We’ll list maybe two or three resolutions per category. Let’s keep it simple.”

With that, Edna rips off a couple of pages of paper and gives Harold a pen.

“This just might work. We’ve had too many New Year’s resolutions in the past and we don’t keep up.”

Edna is already writing. “Exactly. And, I think we should have some for Boomer and Halley, too.”

Both pets look up at the same time.

“Did she just say we’re going to be part of this?” asks Boomer.

Halley is worried. “What do they have in mind?”

Harold has a question. “What are you thinking for the kids?”

“Well,” says Edna, “I’m thinking agility classes for Boomer and walking on a leash classes for Halley. She still doesn’t have the hang of it yet.”

Harold likes these ideas. “By golly, woman. That could be fun!”

“Fun?” says Halley. “I know how to walk on a leash. But no self-respecting cat should be asked to do it!”

Boomer is confused. “Isn’t agility the same thing as my herding skills?”

Halley shakes her head. “Apparently not. You’re going to have to jump over things and crawl through stuff while running full out!”

“Why?” asks Boomer.

“Don’t ask me,” says Halley. “I don’t know why I have to wear a harness and be pulled down a sidewalk.”

Edna is happy that Harold likes her ideas. “This way we can build on what the kids already do well. We know Boomer runs fast, and he uses all his athletic skills to round up humans like nobody else.”

Boomer cocks his head. “Well, that’s true.”

Harold agrees with his wife. “Yes, and Halley likes to show she can do things other cats can’t do. It gets people to notice her and she adores being the center of attention.”

Halley sighs. “He knows me so well.”

The thought of Halley strutting down Main Street makes Edna smile. “So, now that we’ve figured out what the kids will do, what about us?”

Harold thinks for a moment. “Well, under the personal column, I want to get in better shape, spend more time with you and the kids, and take my Cub Scout troop on a special outing.”

Edna has some thoughts for that column, too. “I want to lose about 10 pounds, come up with new recipes for the Edna’s Kitchen cookbook I’m writing, and find ways to better show how much I appreciate my family, friends, and this wonderful community.”

Edna looks at Harold. “What’s wrong?”

“Absolutely nothing. Have I told you lately that you are a wonderful person?”

Edna responds. “I feel the same way about you. You know, we’re really lucky.”

Harold nods.

And that’s where we leave the Sanders’ family on this evening in late December. Harold and Edna continue to write down the rest of their resolutions.

Halley snoozes soundly on her window seat. Boomer curls up on his dog bed right below her and yawns. A new year is right around the corner. There will be celebrations and many more opportunities for expressing kindness and caring from the good folks in the small Southern town of Shady Pines.

That’s The Shady Pines Way!



Heisman Trophy Winner Inspires Generosity

Heisman Trophy Winner Inspires Generosity

Using The Spotlight To Do Good

Hi everyone, I’m Zulah Talmadge with The Shady Pines Gazette and I have a news flash. This story will touch your heart. Did you hear about the college football player who won the 2019 Heisman Trophy? Well, Joe Burrow not only won the biggest award, but it’s what he said during his acceptance speech that will really get to you.

He took his moment in the spotlight to lift up others less fortunate and it nearly brought me to tears. That’s the sort of thing we celebrate in Shady Pines Story Town. Not only that, but because of his speech, he’s inspired a movement highlighting the generosity of others.


Here’s the story as reported by, Allison Slater Tate for TODAY

It was hard not to be moved watching 23-year-old Louisiana State University quarterback Joe Burrow accept the 2019 Heisman trophy. The record-breaking player from Athens, Ohio, who began his college football career at Ohio State and then transferred to Louisiana State University, gave much of his speech through tears.

What he managed to say in just a few sentences, though, would make a “huge impact” on his hometown, Athens County Food Pantry board president Karin Bright told TODAY Parents.

“Coming from Southeast Ohio — it’s a very, very impoverished area, and the poverty rate is almost two times the national average, and there’s so many people there that don’t have a lot,” Burrow said, apparently without planning to, according to interviews with his father afterward.

“I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school. You guys can be up here too.”

The donations starting pouring in and five days later, the Athens County Food Pantry has accepted over $450,000 in donations, Bright said.

“You don’t usually associate hunger and food insecurity with football,” Bright acknowledged. Like many in Burrow’s hometown, Bright was watching when he won the Heisman, but she said no one expected what happened next.

“After I came home from church the next morning, I had a message that someone had started a fundraiser,” she said. “It started to take off in such a huge way throughout the day, and then all these generous people from all over the country and then the world started calling and making donations.”

Well represented among the donors were residents of Burrow’s new home state, whom Burrows thanked in his speech. “All these LSU fans believe the sun rises and sets with Joe now,” said Bright. “They were all talking about what he said at the ceremony. ‘Thank you for loaning him to us,’ they told me. ‘He’s a good one.’

The poverty rates in Athens County are even higher than Burrow cited, Bright said. Over 30% of the county’s residents live in poverty, and 20% are food insecure — the highest rate in the state of Ohio. The problem, Bright said, is the lack of industry and jobs in Athens, where the biggest employer is Ohio University.

“This is a big problem here,” Bright said. “This is not just a few people. And it’s not that they aren’t working. They might have jobs, but they cannot get ahead. They are the definition of the ‘working poor.'” The Athens County Food Pantry serves residents in four locations and includes a focus on groups like veterans and those affected by mental illness. 

Next up: The food pantry’s board is working out how best to use the donations. Bright said they have sought counsel from other organizations on how they can make a long-term impact on their area.

“We want to honor the generosity of all these people and help in as big a way we can,” she said. “We are going to take the time to gather solid advice and make wise decisions.

“I know I speak for all of us at the food pantry when I say we would be thrilled to be out of a job because hunger is no longer an issue,” she said. “We need to do better.”

Click here for more information on how to donate to the Athens County Food Pantry. 

The Shady Pines Gratitude Tree

The Shady Pines Gratitude Tree

The holidays jump up on our calendars come at us with increasing speed, and turn up the volume on stress –– so much to do, and so little time. We’re barely beyond Thanksgiving gatherings, and now we’re in the middle of brightly wrapped presents, and holiday travel. Amidst the hubbub, folks in Shady Pines take time to focus on something really important: Gratitude. This is the story of our gratitude tree.

Giant candy canes stand at attention along Main Street, and a big, red bow hangs on the front door of Cup ‘O Joe’s coffee shop. On a quiet Tuesday afternoon, Pete, owner of Pets Galore, drops in for a mocha-flavored cappuccino. One of his favorite clients, Joan MacGilicutty, has a dollop of whipped cream added to her frozen frappé drink.

‘Hi ya, Pete.”

“Well, hi yourself, Joan. How’s that pretty little poodle of yours?”

“Oh, Precious is fine. Thank you. Are you still planning the pet adoption this season?”

The annual Pet Adoption at Pets Galore is always popular. A lot of children ask Santa to bring them puppies for Christmas. And while a pet can be a wonderful addition to a family, an animal companion is also a big responsibility. Pete likes to educate kids early about being kind and caring to their critters.

“Hey, Pete. We’re grateful for our pets, right?”


“And the kids from the grade school are working on a gratitude tree.”

“Over at the Community Center. Joan, are you thinking about combining the two events?”

“C’mon, Pete. Let’s go!”

The arts and crafts room at the Shady Pines Community Center is a cluttered mess. Volunteers try their best to create order, but holiday decorations litter the big open room, and construction noise fills the air.

Harold Sanders and a couple of his employees at the Nuts ‘N’ Bolts hardware store come clanging and banging through the double doors. They carry a man-made tree that must be at least six feet tall. The triangular-shaped tree of sturdy oak has branches from real, longleaf pine trees nailed on tight. The men haul the tree on its side and try to wedge it through the opening.

“I think it’s going to fit, Harold, branches and all,” says Mack.

“That’s great, Mack. Hey, Hank, do you have the stand?”

“Right here.”

“Good,” Mack says. “Let’s put the tree over there where it’s out of the way.” As he swings the tree around to place it in the stand, one of the branches hits Harold in the head.

“Hey, watch out!” says Harold.

“Whoops! Sorry, Harold!”

“I’ll be okay, Hank. May have knocked a little sense into me.”

All three men chuckle and hoist the tree up onto its stand.

“Does it look straight, Harold?”

“Hank, you’d better ask Mack. I’m still seeing stars.”

“A little more to the left, Hank,” says Mack. “There. That’s good.”

They take a few steps back to admire their creation. Soon the children will arrive to cut out paper pinecones. After writing on them what they’re thankful for in their lives, they will tie them to the tree branches with red ribbons.

Harold and the guys didn’t notice that Joan and Pete are right behind them. Pete clears his throat to get their attention.

“Not bad for amateurs.”

“You know what, Pete? Joan says. “I think it’s even better than last year.”

The three men turn around at the same time.

“Hey, look who’s here,” says Harold.

“It’s Joan and Pete,” Hank says.

“Are you going to help out?” asks Mack.

“We sure are!” Joan and Pete say together.

They all fall toward one another hugging and shaking hands. These friends are bonded by a common goal –– to help kids have the best holiday ever. Many of the children who enjoy the annual event at the Community Center have absent parents, for one reason or another. The circle of love and support that this project represents lifts their spirits during the holiday season.

“Hey, where do you want me to put these?” One of the volunteers helping to decorate carries an armload of ornament boxes. The fragile, colorful balls will decorate the Center’s Christmas tree later on. The trouble is, right now, he can barely see above the top box and shuffles right towards the tree. Before anyone can yell, “Look out,” the man bumps right into the tree. Swaying uncontrollably on its stand, rocking from one side to the other, the tree lurches to the right before toppling to the floor. The boxes fly across the room, crashing to the earth in an almost musical tinkling of breaking ornaments.

Harold and the guys are stunned. Pieces of branches are strewn everywhere and the trunk lands with a crashing thud.

“Wow,” Harold says.

Mack gently whistles through his teeth.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry!” says the volunteer. “I didn’t see –– all the boxes –– I’ll help clean up,” he says, kneeling to the floor.

The group stares at him, the boxes, the tree and shattered glass.

“Guess there’s only one thing to do,” says Harold. “Guys, get your tools. There’s a lot of work to be done, and the kids are due anytime.”

“Hey, Pete,” Joan says. “Why don’t we get the kids to work on their pine cone messages in the other room?”

“That’s a great idea. What are we waiting for?”

As Pete and Joan dash to the next room to set up, Harold, Hank, and Mack get to work. They have to reassemble branches and part of the tree trunk as fast as they can. Soon they hear laughter and giggling coming from the other side of the wall. Joan claps her hands to get the kids’ attention.

“All right, everyone. Listen up. Shhhh. Pete is going to explain what to do.”

“Kids, we all have something that we are grateful for in our lives, right?”


“Good. Now Joan and I will help you if you need it. We want you to write down one thing that you are thankful for this year.”

Serious young faces turn their attention to the paper pine cones they’ve just cut out of colorful paper. Joan and Pete circle the room and see that the children have written a variety of answers: friends, family, my dog, my cat, school, my mom, my dad, my bed, my baby sister, macaroni and cheese, church, my house, peanut butter, and grandma and grandpa.

Everyone was quiet and working, until they weren’t. The mood in the room changed the moment a little girl turned to the little boy next to her. He’d written down “my pet snake.”

“That answer is stupid.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Is, too.”

“Is not!”

Joan and Pete jump up and try to separate the two, but not before both children wad up some unused paper and start throwing it.

“Hey, pine cone fight!” someone says, and soon balls of orange and blue and red and yellow fly everywhere. Youngsters duck out of the way, laughing and screeching at the same time.

Anticipating that something like this might happen, Joan wears a whistle tied around her neck by a piece of red ribbon. In one swift, motion, she brings it to her mouth and BLOWS! She picks it up and blows. Everyone stops and covers their ears. Pete’s mouth drops open, shocked at the shrill noise.

“All right. That’s enough,” Joan says. “Listen up. I want each of you to return to your seat. The kids shuffle over to their tables, and the sound of chair legs dragging across the floor fill the awkward silence.

“Pick up your pine cone messages and follow Pete and me into the next room. And, most of all, do it quietly.”

The sound of little, shuffling feet alert Harold and the guys that the kids are heading their way. They hammer the last branch back into place. When the children look up at the tall tree they are amazed. It’s bigger than the one last year.

“That’s ginormous,” one little girl says.

“Huge,” says another.

One of the smaller boys, clutching his pine cone, tugs on Harold’s tool belt. “I want to put mine up high,” he says, and soon the adults are lifting the smallest children up on their shoulders so they can tie their pine cones to the tallest branches. Old and young alike smile and help one another.

The gratitude project is the brainchild of the Community Center Director, Rita Mallena. It was her hope that during the rushing around and the hoopla of the holiday season, people would stop for a moment to appreciate the true gifts of the season. In this moment, with messages of thanks swaying from the branches of the gratitude tree, it seems, once again: Mission Accomplished! 

Please leave a comment and let us know what you’re grateful for this season.

Cheaters Never Prosper

Cheaters Never Prosper

Here’s the latest: Devin Sloane, a Los Angles business executive, was sentenced this week to four months in prison for paying $250,000 to get his son accepted into the University of Southern California as a fake water polo recruit.

He is the second parent to be sentenced in Boston federal court in the nation’s college admissions scandal after actress Felicity Huffman received 14 days in prison this month.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani also sentenced Sloane to 500 hours of community service over two years and a $95,000 fine.

Remember, the kids didn’t have to have good grades or take tests to get into college the right way. The parents just went around the system by writing a big ‘ole check. They didn’t play by the rules. That’s cheating. It’s illegal.


Our neighbors here in Shady Pines Story Town have been talking about this situation for months. I decided to check in with our mail carrier, Kimberly Dunworthy, to find out what she’s hearing. After all, she talks to a lot of people every day. I’ll call her cell phone and see where she is on her mail route.

Oh, there she is now. “Hey Kim!”

Scoop watches as Kim measures the distance of a mail box to the street. “Hi ya Scoop. Will you hold that end of the tape measure for me?”

The lanky teenager with the red hair jumps in to help. “Sure. What are we doing?”

Kim writes something in the notebook she carries. “Well, mail boxes are supposed to be a specific distance from the road. You can’t believe how many people don’t follow the rules.”

Scoop shakes his head. “I had no idea. But, playing by the rules is why I wanted to talk to you.”

Kim closes her notebook and looks straight at him. ” Oh, yea? What’s the topic?’

“Those parents getting their kids into colleges by paying big bucks and going around the system. What are you hearing around town?” asks Scoop.

Kim checks her watch. “It’s a big story. I’ve still got more mail to deliver. Why don’t you ride with me and we can talk?”

“Sounds good to me,” says Scoop. They hop into the mail truck and off they go.

“Just about everyone I talk to was first surprised, and then angry, to hear about the scandal,” says Kim. “You know the folks here in Shady Pines. They try to do what’s right. And what those parents did was wrong.”

Scoop is busy taking notes as Kim talks. “Why were our neighbors surprised?”

Stopping at a mailbox on a tree-lined street, Kim reaches into the box at Scoop’s feet. She grabs some mail and places the envelopes into the mailbox. “Well, take the Mulberry’s who live at this house. They have two kids. They don’t have a lot of money, so they’ve been saving up for years so they can send their kids to college. They were shocked to hear that these people with a lot of money could just write a check and BOOM! Their children get into a top school even if they didn’t have good grades.”

Scoop hands Kim another batch of mail for their next stop. “Isn’t this where the Gutierrez family lives?” he asks.

Before she can answer, a woman walks out the front door and waves at them. “Hi Mrs. Gutierrez,” Kim and Scoop say at the same time.  Nellie Gutierrez approaches the truck. “Kimberly, I see you have a passenger today. How are you, Scoop?”

Scoop reaches to shake her hand. “Just fine ma’am. Would you mind if I asked you what you think about the college cheating scandal? I’m working on a story.”

Nellie shakes her head. “Just awful what those parents did. You know the worst thing? They showed their kids that it’s OK to lie to get what you want. What message does that send? I don’t care if you’re an actress like that Felicity Huffman or some business big shot, it’s wrong.”

What Felicity Huffman’s prison sentence means for other parents in college admissions scandal

Scoop and Kim look at one another.

“That may be the best question of all. Thank you so much,” says Scoop.

By the time Kim drops Scoop off back at his car, the teenage reporter knows a lot more about what people feel about this topic.

“Wow. I had a feeling this scandal had people talking and boy was I right. Now my question for you is, what do you think?”

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

-Scoop out!

Cheaters Never Prosper

Kindness Has a Canine Connection!

 Hi. Scoop, the cub reporter from the Shady Pines Gazette. Have I got news for you!

I just found out that there is an art project you have to see to believe. I’ll give you a hint. This is one doggone good assignment for me.  I’m heading over to our local author, Mary Jane McKittrick’s, house right now. Seems Mary Jane has a friend with some  artwork that might just unleash a whole new trend. Have you guessed what it is yet?

Here’s Mary Jane’s friend, Jan Maresh Saunders, with the artist herself – Polly the dog! 

Well, to be clear, Polly didn’t actually do the drawings herself. She had a little help from a friend of Jan’s who clearly has some real talent. Still, it turns out that Polly’s paws are the inspiration for the designs. Folks here in Shady Pines Story Town are buzzing about these creations. It seems when you combine beautiful art, with an owner’s loving connection to their dog, you have a winning combination.

These are original works of art. Do you see how the paw prints make up the flowers?

I’m told that over at the Shady Pines Elementary School the kids are being encouraged to use Polly’s Art as an idea for a project. The art teacher is showing the students how to make something like this by using their own pets as inspiration.

And, you know, the beauty of this is that you can use your cat’s paws if you don’t have a dog. Isn’t that cool?

Wait a minute. I wonder if Harold and Edna Sanders have seen these drawings. After all, there is no more famous cat and dog in Shady Pines than Boomer and Halley. Boomerang, the Australian Shepherd dog and Halley’s Comet, a silver streak of a cat, have their own book series for cryin’ out loud.

Hey, I’ve got to talk with the critters’ parents. If Harold and Edna haven’t seen Polly’s art, they’re missing out. Oh, wow. I just thought of something. Now that Mary Jane has met Polly the dog, maybe the artistic canine will wind up in one of her stories. Wouldn’t that be something? Stranger things have happened in our small Southern town that’s for sure.

You can’t buy Polly’s art. At least not yet. But you can check out the wacky adventures of the Sanders family.  Harold and Edna had no idea how challenging parenting could be ’til they adopted those two rascals. You can find out more about the Mom’s Choice Gold Award-winning Boomer and Halley books HERE

Loving connections is the Shady Pines Way.

-Scoop out.

Time to Fall Back with those Clocks in Shady Pines

Time to Fall Back with those Clocks in Shady Pines

Let’s Fall Back Y’all!

It’s that time again. The days are shorter and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. You know what you need to do. Here’s our mayor, Beauregard P. Fibbs with a reminder.

Hello good people of Shady Pines. This Sunday November 6th at 2am, Daylight Savings Time ends and the clocks turn back one hour.  Some of you think this is a bonus. After all, you get that extra hour to sleep in.

But some parents in town tell me when you have young children, it’s just one more thing you have to navigate.

If you think about it, when the clock turns back one hour, what used to be 7:00am is now 6:00am.  So it’s lighter earlier in the morning and darker sooner in the evening. Are your kids are early risers? Well, they will probably rise even earlier. EEE-Gads!

To help get ahead of “Fall Back”, I’ve got 4 tips to help your child adjust to the end of Daylight Saving Time.

#1 Plan a Few Days Ahead

Start a few days ahead of time to get the family ready for change. Move your child’s entire daytime schedule  a bit. On Thursday morning, have breakfast ready 15 minutes later than normal, then naptime 15 minutes later and so on until the entire daytime schedule has been shifted.

If your kids normally go to bed at 7pm, they should be going to bed at 7:15pm.  Do the same thing the next day but move their schedule later another 15 minutes.  The gradual shift helps their internal clocks adjust. They will be less likely to wake an hour early on Sunday morning.

#2 Block The Morning Light

Make sure your child’s bedroom is really dark. In fact, consider using some blackout curtains so the new early morning light doesn’t wake your child.  Experts say by keeping the room dark you encourage the production of melatonin. With that one change you help them stay sleeping.

#3 Avoid Rushing In

If your kids wake earlier than you would like, try to leave them alone until the normal wake up time. This gives their internal clocks a chance to reset.  By leaving them a little longer than normal, you also give them the opportunity to go back to sleep.

That should help you, too!

#4 Expose Them to Plenty of Daylight

If you can, expose your child to plenty of bright light, especially in the early evening. When you do that, it will shift their clock. That makes it easier for them to fall asleep later and wake up later.

Something else to keep in mind. Try not to worry if your children aren’t making the shift as fast as you think they should.  Kids who are easy going when it comes to schedules may adjust in just a day or two.

Children who are more sleep sensitive may have more trouble adjusting. Be patient and consistent and before you know it your kids will be back on track.

This advice may also apply to your four-legged family members. Why Harold and Edna Sanders tell me when the time changes, they have their hands full with Boomer and Halley.

Those two critters are a caution most days. But when their routine is messed with, it can be a whole ‘nother layer of commotion!

So take it easy out there and let’s all FALL BACK TOGETHER.

**Please leave us a comment below**

Let’s Go to the Pumpkin Patch

Let’s Play in The Pumpkin Patch Shady Pines

Get The Scoop from the Pumpkin Patch

It’s that time people! Halloween week is special in Shady Pines. All around town folks are coming up with costumes and pickng up pumpkins to decorate. Plus when there’s a combination of an explosion of fall colors and cooler weather, there’s something else you gotta do. Yep. Let’s head to the local Pumpkin Patch.

I’m Scoop, the Cub Reporter with The Shady Pines Gazette and I’m going there now. My assignment is to discover why so many people say this is one of their favorite things to do each year as a family.

One thing I’ve noticed is it doesn’t matter if you’re a toddler or a teen like me, a pumpkin patch is fun for everyone. 

Good To Be Outside

We picked a beautiful day to be on the hunt for an orange orb. Most of these working farms are so big you don’t have to worry about bumping into people. Besides, running around looking for the perfect pumpkin is good exercise for kids  isn’t it?  Okay, I’m here. I’ve gotta interview people.

I interviewed a mom of two who made my point for me. If your kids don’t explore the outdoors very often, this is a great way for them to discover nature. Seeing how pumpkins grow out of the ground and are attached to vines is very educational. It helps them understand that pumpkins don’t just show up at the grocery store automatically.”

Here’s something else that’s good about a pumpkin patch. Around every corner children can discover things for themselves. That’s really important. I know I like to find those unexpected, special, moments.

For instance, take a look at this shot I got. Do you see the colors of that butterfly next to the pumpkin? Being out on the farm you can just be amazed at Mother Nature. I think this kind of stuff is really cool!

I met another mom who told me, “From the second we arrived, my children ran off with smiles, but quickly, they realized how much work it was to be in a field of pumpkins. Even running took work since the vines were everywhere, waiting to trip little, toddler-sized running feet.”

It turns out that not only is this a great way to spend time with the family, there are also some lessons to be learned. There aren’t a whole bunch of people working the farms these days. So a lot of  kids don’t realize it takes hard work to be a farmer.

One young girl I met was getting a little taste of that. Just trying to push a wheelbarrow with a big ‘ole pumpkin was something she hadn’t done before. She said she didn’t know pumpkins grew from tiny seeds. She also didn’t realize that they come in so many shapes, sizes and colors. “It’s kinda like people, isn’t it?” she asked.

I have to admit, I’d never thought of that before. One couple I met said they love coming out here each October. But this year it was especially important to them. “We know so many farms and other small businesses are struggling right now. It was important to us to come out and support them.”

Pumpkin Carving and Fun Recipes

That’s reason enought for me to go home with some pumpkins of my own. I don’t know about you, but our family usually has a pumpkin carving contest. Last year my dad won. It’s time for me to take the title back! The other reason I need to pick up some pumpkins is to inspire my mom. Around Halloween she likes to scare up some pumpkin dishes for us. I’m talking about everything from pumpkin pies to pumpkin pancakes. Here are some recipes for you to try: PUMPKIN RECIPES

There’s one more thing I want to mention.

These pumpkin patch visits make for some great family photos. Everywhere I look I’m seeing parents taking all sorts of shots.

Oh, look at the time. I’ve got to get back to the Gazette office. My editor, Zulah Talmadge, is probably wondering why I’ve been gone so long.  But this is just so darn much fun. Hope you’ve enjoyed it!

– Scoop out.

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Summer Begins In Shady Pines!

Summer Begins In Shady Pines!

Summer Blazes In

It’s here! The actual start of summer has arrived. But for many folks in Shady Pines Story Town, it’s felt like summer for weeks now. Temperatures this June and even before that, have been soaring into the high 90’s. The air often feels like it’s 100 degrees or more.

Over at The Shady Pines Gazette news office, editor Zulah Talmadge has made a decision. She needs to get out and report on summer heat in the South.

“You have to admit this region has all sorts of weather extremes,” says Zulah as she looks for her tape recorder. “I mean we have tornadoes, droughts, fires, and of course we’re smack dab into hurricane season right now. But heat is a separate category!”

She heads downtown to Main Street to see what people are saying about this toasty start to the summer season.

Before she can pop into Maggie’s Diner where gosssip is served up right along with that day’s special sandwich, Zulah runs into Kim Dunworthy. Mail carrier Kim is coming out of Cup ‘O Joe’s coffee shop.

Clearly she has her hands full.

“Hey Kim, may I help you?” asks Zulah.

“Oh, yes Ms. Zulah. That’s very kind of you,” says Kim as she stoops and tries to collect the packages and letters she’s dropped. “I think I got a little ambitious about the number of things I could carry at one time.”

Zulah leans down and helps her collect the scattered items. “While you’re here Kim, maybe you can help me out.”

“Sure. What do you need?”

“I’m doing a story about summer heat in the South, ” says Zulah. “You grew up in neighboring River City, what’s your take?”

“I look at the summer heat as our very own sweat badge of courage,” says Kim. “We seem to cope with sweltering heat that would undo most folks. And, in the words of my momma, we handle it gracefully.”

Zulah chukles as she makes notes in her reporter’s notebook. “That’s great. Thank you Kim. See ya later.”

“See ya Ms. Zulah.”

It’s not enough for Southerners to bravely endure the heat. One thing Zulah knows for sure. They love to talk about it. She decides to do some man – and women – on the street interviews.

“Excuse me ma’am. I’m Zulah Talmadge with The Shady Pines Gazette. When I say summer heat, what comes to mind?”

The stately lady in the flowing dress and wide brimmed hat dabs her face with her hankerchief. “As a Southern woman, I say we don’t sweat. We glisten.”

Zulah nods. “Got it.”

Here are some other reactions Zulah heard.

People Are Talking

  • It’s not the heat – it’s the humidity
  • It’s hotter than Blue Blazes
  • Is it hot enough for ya?
  • Man, it’s hot as all get-out!
  • It must be 90 in the shade
  • This one’s gonna be a sorcher
  • You could fry an egg on the sidewalk

How Hot Is It Really?

  • It’s so hot the swimming pool is boiling
  • It’s so hot the ice cream truck has melted
  • It’s like a steam bath out here
  • I’m wilting
  • I’m burning slap up
  • Could I stick my face in your deep freeze for just a second?

Be Careful In The Heat

After listening to all the colorful ways her neighbors talk about extreme heat, Zulah wants her article to include a reminder. “This kind of extreme heat can be dangerous, especially to kids, the elderly and to our pets. We really need to take some precautions.”

Zulah finds an article: ‘High temperatures and extreme heat can cause children to become sick very quickly in several ways. It can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke​, which is a medical emergency.’  For more information go to: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Protecting-Children-from-Extreme-Heat-Information-for-Parents.aspx

Final Thoughts

Zulah heads back to The Gazette office with loads of information for her article. She’s discovered some important things.

“It’s amazing how many expressions Southerners can haul out to explain just how dang uncomfortable it really is in our neck of the woods,” says Zulah. “We seem to use humor as a way to deal with extreme situations. At the same time, we need to take dangerous summer heat seriously and watch out for one another.”

And that’s the the most important takeaway of all in the small Southern town of Shady Pines.

A Father’s Day Salute to Shady Pines’ Favorite Dad

A Father’s Day Salute to Shady Pines’ Favorite Dad

 A Father’s Day Gift of Love

We’re just days away now from an important date on the calendar. Father’s Day is celebrated nationwide on Sunday, June 19th.

In Shady Pines on this lazy Sunday afternoon in the Sanders’ home, Harold Sanders is feeling a little down.

He’s in the den slouched on his big, comfy chair watching his favorite baseball team on TV.

It’s late in the game and Harold’s guys are two runs ahead of the other team. What’s so bad?

Harold should be happy. But it’s the commercials that are affecting his mood.

Selling The Day

“Why do they make such a fuss about Father’s Day?” he wonders out loud. “It’s ridiculous.”

Harold’s wife, Edna, is across the room lounging on the couch. She’s looking through recipes in her latest cooking magazine while listening to the ballgame. “What’s that dear?”

Harold swivels and faces her. “I’m sick and tired of all the fuss these advertisements make to get people to buy the right gift for Father’s Day. What IS the Right gift? It’s just a way for companies to sell stuff and make money.”

Edna can see that he’s upset. “Honey, what’s really wrong?” she asks.

Harold turns the volume down on the TV. “What’s supposed to happen when your children are covered in fur? They’re not going to buy me a mower.”

When The Kids Have 4 Legs

Before Edna can answer, a silver cat in full flight charges into the room chased by a handsome Australian Shepherd dog. “Halley, you are such a pain. Give me my toy back!”

Halley’s Comet carries a small chew toy in her mouth. In one clean leap she lands on the wooden desk in the corner of the room. “I don’t see your name on it, Booo-mer-rang!”

“You know darn well that’s my toy,” says Boomer. “Dad gave it to me for my birthday.”

“Funny, I don’t remember that,” says Halley looking down at the angry pooch.

Boomer points at the toy. “Well look at it, will ya!”

Harold sighs, gets up, and walks over to the desk. He throws the birthday cake toy down to Boomer and slings Halley over his shoulder while stroking her back.  “Halley my girl, you love to taunt him, don’t you?”

Edna agrees. “Yes she does. Sibling rivalry just like human brothers and sisters.”

Harold delivers Halley to Edna’s lap and then gets down on the floor to address Boomer. He pets the dog’s head. “Boomer my boy. I love you but you don’t need to get so riled up. Halley lives for that.”

Harold moves over to sift through the toy basket under the desk. “He holds up Mr. rubber lizard. “C’mon Halley. Come here, girl.”

It’s All About Love and Kindness

Halley jumps off of Edna’s lap and trots happily across the room. Harold gives her the toy. “You know I love you, too, girl. But, please, play with your own toys.”

Harold looks over at Edna who is smiling. “What?” he asks.

“Do you know what a wonderful father you are? You show our kids love and kindness everyday. And they love you right back. Look at them.”

Harold still sits on the floor and realizes that his children are beside him.

Harold lowers and shakes his head. “What’s the matter with me?” he asks. “I have a wonderful wife and a couple of rambuctious, terrific kids who love me. I am a lucky husband and father indeed!”

Edna joins him on the floor and hugs him. “Yes, and besides that, they may have something for you next Sunday that you’re not expecting.”

Be Careful What You Wish For

Harold looks straight into her eys. “Oh, please tell me it will not be crawling, slithering or flying through the house. You know how our daughter likes to surprise us!”

Edna laughs. Boomer barks. Halley tilts her head and thinks about what “gift” she can catch and bring to dad. Birds are fun…

And that’s how we leave the Sanders on a lovely Sunday in the small Southern town of Shady Pines!

Boomer and Halley Worry. Are We Safe in Shady Pines?

Boomer and Halley Worry. Are We Safe in Shady Pines?

Are We Safe?

Troubling images flicker across the TV at the Sanders house near downtown Shady Pines. It’s the same in households across the country.

Edna Sanders tries to prepare dinner. But her attention keeps being drawn to the screen on the kitchen counter.

It’s been this way ever since news of the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas was first broadcast. Nineteen elementary students and two teachers gunned down by an 18 year old man with an assault rifle.


“This is horrible,” says Edna. “Those poor little kids. Their parents and families. Those brave teachers. That town. It’s just too much.” Edna buries her face in her hands.

The back door opens and Edna’s husband, Harold arrives with the family’s dog, Boomerang. He took the handsome Australian Shepherd with him to work at his Nut’s ‘N Bolts hardware store. “Honey, we’re home.”

Harold unclicks the leash from Boomer’s collar, hangs it on its hook, and strokes the dog’s head. “I’m proud of you, Boomer. You were a very good boy today.”

Meanwhile, Halley’s Comet has been snoozing on her favorite window seat. The silver streak of a cat is worried. “Why’s mom so emotional? What is she watching on TV that has her in tears?” Once Halley sees Boomer coming through the door, the elegant cat has a complete change of mood.

Offering Comfort

“What on earth could you have done to make dad proud of you?” asks an annoyed Halley.

“Oh, wouldn’t you like to know?” snarls Boomer.

“Not really.”

“I greeted everyone. A lot of them were upset. They petted me and seemed to calm down.”

“That’s surprising. You have the opposite effect on me.” But it got Halley’s attention. “Mom’s been really upset, too.”

Harold takes one look at his wife and rushes to her. “Edna, sweetie, what wrong?”

Edna gets up from sitting at the kitchen table and gives him a hug. “I feel such deep sorrow for everyone in Uvalde. I can’t help wonder, what if that happened here?”

Harold looks at her. “I know what you mean. That’s what everyone is talking about at the store.”

Edna dabs her eyes with a paper napkin. “We like to feel we’re safe in our small Southern town.”

Harold nods. “Yea, except, these mass shootings keep happening at stores, malls, concerts, places where people worship, and again at an elementary school!”

A Loving Family

Boomer crosses the room and plops his favorite rawhide bone at the feet of his parents.

“Why did ya do that?” asks Halley.

“I want them to know I love them.”

With that, Halley wanders over and rubs against her parent’s legs. “Okay, that is actually kinda nice.”

Both Harold and Edna reach down and hug their four-legged children.

“We love you two SO much,” says Edna.

Harold agrees. “And we will do whatever we can to keep you both safe. I just hope it will always be enough.”

**Please Leave a Comment Below**

Shady Pines Asks: What Is Your Memorial Day Celebration Missing?

Shady Pines Asks: What Is Your Memorial Day Celebration Missing?

 Setting The Right Tone for Memorial Day


Hi everyone. I’m Mayor Beauregard Fibbs here today with a message that’s a little more serious than usual. You see I have a family member serving in the Marine Corps.

That’s why I’m asking you to use a slightly different approach to this upcoming holiday.

Memorial Day in Shady Pines usually includes a weekend filled with celebrations. It’s also a time to mark the unofficial start of summer.

Teach The Children Well

But there’s something beyond the parades, the picnics, and the family gatherings that often gets lost.

What about the true meaning of Memorial Day?

Do we tell the kids what this national holiday means to our country’s history, our nation’s warriors, and their families?

This is a really awesome learning opportunity not to be missed. Here are some ideas that can make it fun, too!

1) Create and fly the American flag

Help the kids make an American flag craft using construction paper or simply have your kids each draw their best American flag on paper. Staple the completed flags onto straws for flying.

If you own an American flag, you can teach older kids how to fly and fold the flag. There are 13 folds to the American flag and each has a special meaning. Hey adults, here’s where you may even learn something new too!

2) Visit and pay tribute 

You can visit a local Veteran’s cemetery or war memorial. To show honor and respect, bring flowers to place on a grave or at the memorial in remembrance of our nation’s fallen heroes. I’ll be doing this.

If you feel comfortable, as a family you can pray pray for the Veterans lost during service and sacrifice.

3) Sing a few patriotic songs

Why not teach your children America the Beautiful, the National Anthem or say the Pledge of Allegiance, and talk about the meaning behind each one.

Remind your kids to stand and place their hands over their hearts during these songs. This is a perfect way to show them the importance of honoring the sacrifices made by those in our military to protect our nation’s freedom.

4)  Observe a Memorial Day Tradition

Our nation’s flag is flown at half staff until noon to remember Amrica’s fallen soldiers. Aftern noon it is raised to full staff as a symbol to show hope beyond death and to honor the heroes that are still with us. Did you know that?

5) Take a Moment for Silence

Finally, in 2000, Congress passed “The National Moment of Rememberance.”  It asks that “Americans voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of rememberance and respect.”

The idea is for you to stop whatever you’re doing and bow your head for a moment of silent remembering.

Or, you can listen to the playing of “Taps. It’s all done at 3PM local time as a symbol of national unity.


From all of us in Shady Pines Story Town we wish you and your loved ones a safe and meaningful Memorial Day weekend!

– Mayor Beauregard P. Fibbs