Paramount elementary school inspires literacy during annual book fair

Wesley Gaines Elementary Principal Michael Naruko reads to students during the school’s annual book fair.

Wesley Gaines Elementary Principal Michael Naruko reads to students during the school’s annual book fair.

PARAMOUNT – Wesley Gaines Elementary School first-grader Julia Roman couldn’t wait to get her hands on her favorite book, “How Do Dinosaurs Write Their ABCs with Chalk.” Roman excitedly flipped through the pages, laughing at the familiar moments.

Roman was one of the many Wesley Gaines students who took thrill in the school’s annual Book Fair, which was held Oct. 31-Nov. 3 in the school’s library.

Students visited the fair during their normal library time throughout the week and received special access to nearly 3,000 books, as well as school supplies and posters. All sales raised money for student services.

“I like the books because I like to learn new words,” Roman said. “It’s fun to read about adventures that happen to characters.”

Each grade level visited the book fair during their normal library hours. Roman joined her classmates as they navigated through the library of sprawling titles like “Aliens Love Dinopaints” and the “Koala Who Could.” Posters for purchase covered the walls and included Pokémon and Star Wars themes.

“Our students really come to life when they enter the library and see all of their favorite tales in one place,” Wesley Gaines Principal Michael Naruko said. “Our book fair coincided with parent/teacher conferences and allowed kids to share in the joy with their parents as we promoted literacy in homes.”

The District has placed an emphasis on early literacy and encourages parents to read to their children at home. Programs like ‘Get Your A’s Up’, a literacy Academy at Jackson Middle School, inspires students through team building and dialogue exercises.

“Reading empowers our young learners to dream and set new goals for themselves,” Paramount Unified Board of Education President Linda Garcia said. “As we inspire each student’s imagination we reinforce that there are no limits to what they can achieve.”

The books at the Wesley Gaines fair were provided by Scholastic, which puts on literacy events throughout the country. Wesley Gaines has enjoyed its annual event for more than 10 years. 
 
“The book fair at Wesley Gaines is a special tradition that allows our students to indulge in their love of reading,” Paramount Superintendent Ruth Pérez said. “If we can inspire our students and stoke their fire for learning at an early age we can help them unlock a world of successful possibilities for the future.”

Paging Dr. Frischer: Overeating

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It reminds me to focus on gratitude, and to spend time with dear family and friends. For most of us, it’s also about…the food. 

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Do you leave the table feeling tired, bloated, overstuffed? This holiday marks the beginning of a food glut. We bake cookies, pies, and fruitcakes; give gifts of chocolates; go to parties; and gather for holiday meals. Is pigging out during the holidays a harmless
indulgence, or a real health concern?

Every morsel of food we ingest, whether part of a Thanksgiving feast or a small healthful snack, travels through the body and causes the release of hormones, chemicals, and digestive fluids. The average meal takes between one and three hours to exit the stomach. A large meal can take between eight and 12 hours! On a typical day, the average American consumes about 40 to 50 grams of fat in about 2,000 calories. I find it shocking that those figures can skyrocket to some 4,500 calories and 230 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day.

The obvious side effects of overeating include indigestion, flatulence, post-meal fatigue (food coma), and perhaps that extra pound or two. However, there can be a more significant price to pay for eating vast helpings of turkey, stuffing, and candied sweet potatoes:

·Overeating makes our bodies work harder. To process the extra food, the heart pumps more blood to the stomach and intestines. At the same time, heavy fat consumption may lead to a higher risk of blood clots. The risk of heart attack surges, with some studies showing a four-fold increased risk of heart attack, two hours after consuming a large meal.

·As the stomach releases food into the intestines, the gallbladder squeezes out bile to help digest the fat. The extra demand for bile may result in a gallstone or sludge being painfully squeezed into the narrow duct that leads to the intestine.

·A large meal can trigger the release of norepinephrine, a stress hormone that raises blood pressure and heart rate.

·For a diabetic, a large meal will not only increase blood sugar levels, but will also impair the ability to process those sugars.

·For those who are prone to heartburn, a large meal can lead to painful gastric reflux.

·Consider that the average stomach holds about eight cups of food. When it is stretched, chemicals are released that inform our brain that we are full. Many of us ignore that signal and just keep on eating. At some point the body will send out nausea signals. Continuing to eat, and stretching the stomach beyond its capacity, can (but very rarely does) lead to an actual rupture!

Here are some classic suggestions for the upcoming holiday season: Don’t arrive at the meal ravenous. Eat slowly and consume lots of filling foods with a high water content, such as soups, salads, and other vegetables and fruits. 

If you are hosting, use smaller plates. Keep the serving dishes in the kitchen, not on the table. Use smaller serving spoons and serving dishes. Serve foods that require utensils (as we tend to overeat finger foods). And finally…push away from the table before you feel completely full, and take a relaxing, sociable walk after dinner.
 

Opening a temporary homeless shelter in Norwalk is the right thing to do

The Southern California Youth Correctional Reception Center & Clinic opened in Norwalk in 1954, a sprawling campus on Bloomfield Avenue between Imperial Highway and Foster Road that housed juvenile offenders convicted or accused of various crimes, violent or otherwise. 

A homeless encampment under the 605 Freeway in Norwalk. Photo by Alex Dominguez

A homeless encampment under the 605 Freeway in Norwalk. Photo by Alex Dominguez

For 58 years the facility aimed to rehabilitate wayward children, even as it simultaneously dealt with allegations of abusive voluntary confinement, violence among staff and prisoners, and rampant suicide attempts within its walls. 

When the center was shut down Dec. 31, 2011, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights called the closure “a monumental achievement in our ongoing campaign to shut down California’s dangerous, expensive, and ineffective youth prisons.”

But for all its infamy, the prison operated relatively free of public scrutiny during its nearly six decades in Norwalk. Its closure was the result of ubiquitous budget cuts, a decision by the state of California that had nothing to do with shuttering an allegedly violent detention center and everything to do with dollars and cents. 

Six years later, state and county officials have drawn up a plan to repurpose the facility as a wintertime homeless shelter. It would open in December or January and provide approximately 112 homeless residents with overnight shelter, through April. 

These homeless residents would be bussed into the facility at 5 p.m. and bussed out at 7 a.m. the following day to designated locations throughout Southern California. The program would be professionally managed by an agency that specializes in dealing with the homeless population. 

Initial reaction to the proposal has been mixed, with opponents utilizing the NIMBY argument – Not In My Backyard! Any plan that would bring more homeless to Norwalk is a non-starter, they say. 

The problem is, the homeless are already here. They are on Firestone Boulevard, loitering outside the Imperial Manor. They are behind Office Depot, sheltering in tents underneath the shadow of the 605 Freeway. They are on Studebaker Road, sprawled on the concrete floor at a bus stop. 

They are everywhere. 

The state/county proposal simply takes these people off the streets – or at least up to 112 of them – and offers them a warm, safe place to lay at night. It’s the humane, compassionate thing to do. 

Homelessness is a pandemic afflicting the entire region and citizens have indicated they are willing to finance effective solutions. 

By giving its blessing to the shelter, Norwalk can be a leader in the battle to make homelessness extinct in Los Angeles County. It can serve as a model to other communities – communities that too often prefer to kick the can down the road and make this regional issue someone else’s problem. 

Homelessness is not someone else’s problem. It’s our problem.

If Norwalk could house a juvenile prison for 58 years with nary a peep of controversy from residents, repurposing the facility into a temporary homeless shelter for 4 months seems like a no-brainer.

It’s simply the right thing to do. 

OP-ED: Thank you for your service

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On Veterans Day, November 11, 1988, President Ronald Reagan said, “We remember those who were called upon to give all a person can give, and we remember those who were prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them in the line of duty, though it never was. Most of all, we remember the devotion and gallantry with which all of them ennobled their nation as they became champions of a noble cause.”
 
As America recognizes Veterans Day this Nov. 11, I hope we can all understand what this day really means. Current estimates have the total population of United States military veterans at 18.5 million with female veterans accounting for 1.6 million of this honorable group and veterans over the age of 65 at 9.2 million. It’s an obvious statement to say these individuals may be your mother, father, brother, sister and/or grandparent, or, at the very least, that of someone you know.

But as a group, our veterans are often overlooked, not just for their service but for the challenges facing them upon their return as civilians.
 
As citizens, we reap the benefits of our veterans' bravery and dedication to preserve our democracy and protect our constitution. When we see enlisted members enjoying leave in our communities, some of us are inclined to shake their hand, buy them a meal or simply say thank you. But what happens when our veterans take off the uniform? Unfortunately, they become invisible to many of us. And this is a problem.
 
The veteran homeless population in Los Angeles alone is estimated between 5,000 and 8,000 souls. These are hard numbers to grasp. Our veterans deserve absolute respect for carrying on a tradition of service and valor that keeps our nation safe and strong.

I recently saw a movie called "Thank You for Your Service." This film tells the very important story of veterans' lives once they return home. Their struggle is one that can only be truly understood by the brave men and women who have seen the horrific events of war and battle. It is a reminder to us all that the way we treat our Veterans should not be something we recognize one day a year, it’s about how they are treated every single day.
 
This Veterans Day, I encourage all of us to do a simple task of helping one soldier or veteran. It can be by writing to an active member of our service (a future veteran), help sponsor a companion dog to support a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD), donate accumulated frequent flier miles, or offer to take a veteran to a doctor’s appointment.

You can also make a difference by calling 1-877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838) to help veterans on the streets or on the verge of becoming homeless. Call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to get information from the local VA.
 
You can also donate to the Wounded Warriors Project (www.woundedwarriorproject.org) and the Living Tree Foundation.
 
Lastly, on the top of a hill in Arlington Cemetery stands a tombstone that simply reads: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” We must not let those veterans around us become forgotten and do our part to honor them and their families. Thank you for your service to our country.
 
Mario A. Guerra is a former mayor of Downey and current Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. He is also the author of "Embracing Change; An Immigrant Saga" and can be reached at www.marioaguerra.com

Jewel performing in Cerritos with father and brothers

CERRITOS -- Grammy Award nominated singer Jewel will perform at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, Dec. 3, where he’ll be joined on stage by his father and brothers. 

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In the spirit of the holiday season, the concert will feature a pet adoption area and arts and crafts in the theater lobby prior to the show. 

When Jewel’s first album, “Pieces of You,” topped the charts in 1995, she drew comparisons to icons Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. Jewel’s emotional voice and vulnerable performance were groundbreaking on full display in the record’s soulful songs, including the hits “Who Will Save Your Soul”, “You Were Meant for Me” and “Foolish Games.” 

It had been an arduous road to success for the singer-songwriter who lived in her van at age 18 while trying to break into the music industry. Her lucky break came when a radio disc jockey played a bootlegged version of one of her songs, launching her career into the stratosphere. By age 21, she was a multi-Platinum household name. Jewel went on to win the American Music Award and released the “Perfectly Clear” album, which topped the Country music charts and featured the hits “Stronger Woman,” “I Do,” and “’Til It Feels Like Cheating.”  

Jewel’s acclaimed works include “Night Without Armor,” a collection of her poetry. Her sophomore set, “Spirit,” a string-heavy sentimental record, delivered the popular single Hands. Her other albums include “Joy: A Holiday Collection;” “Chasing Down the Dawn,” a spoken-word record featuring unabridged selections from the book of the same name; and “This Way,” which featured the hit “Standing Still.”

Her version of “Serve the Ego” topped the American dance/club charts, and she followed with “0304,” a slick dance-pop album. The singer returned to her earlier sound in “Goodbye Alice in Wonderland,” which debuted in the Billboard Top 10. 

Jewel’s other works included “Sweet & Wild;” the children’s album, “The Merry Goes ’Round;” and another holiday compilation, “Let It Snow: A Holiday Collection.” 

In her autobiography, “Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story,” Jewel explores her unconventional upbringing and the rocky journey from childhood to fame, marriage, and motherhood. The memoir earned her the title of New York Times bestselling author. The songstress appears in the “Fixer Upper Mystery Series” on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel in March 2018.

Joining Jewel on stage in Cerrito will be her father, singer-songwriter Atz Kilcher, and brothers, who appear in Discovery Channel’s hit show “Alaska: The Last Frontier.” 

For tickets or more information on the performance, call (562) 916-8500 or go to cerritoscenter.com.

Gordon Enlow passes away

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DOWNEY -- Gordon Kay Enlow, of Downey, passed away Oct. 24 after a lengthy illness. He was 80.

Gordon was born in Long Beach. 

He is survived by his wife Mary Lou Bailey Enlow, daughter Kerry Pettit of Arizona, sister Janice Ballinger of California, grandchildren Ian Michael Pettit and Kyra Lyn Pettit of Arizona, step-daughters Karen Flores, Peggy Nebares and Briget Hill.

Gordon is preceded in death by his parents, Velma Enlow and Franklin Enlow, and his brother Richard Enlow.
 

Downey offense too much for Warren to handle

DOWNEY – The Downey High School football team defeated cross-town rival Warren at Warren last Friday night, 48-27. With the win, the Vikings improved to 7-2 overall and 3-1 in S.G.V.L play while the Bears fell to 5-4 overall and 1-3 in league play. 

Downey traveled to Gahr (7-2, 3-1) last night to play the Gladiators and Warren traveled to Compton College to play the Dons (2-7, 0-4). Neither final score was available at press time.

In the Downey/Warren game the Vikings scored first and led 7-0. The score remained 7-0 at the end of the first quarter. Both teams scored two touchdowns in the second quarter. Downey missed an extra point conversion but still led 20-14 going into the locker room at halftime.

The Vikings blew the game open in the third quarter, outscoring the Bears 21-0. The score was 41-14 as the third quarter ended. 

Downey scored and converted the extra point early in the fourth quarter to extend their lead to 48-14. Warren scored two late touchdowns and cut the score to 48-27. That is as close as it got for the Bears and Downey claimed the 48-27 win.

Viking quarterback Kijjon Foots completed 8/11 pass attempts for 160 yards and one touchdown. Foots also ran the ball 16 times for 160 yards and three touchdowns. His passer rating was 145.1.

Baraq Ross had 28 carries for 141 yards and one touchdown and Shane Olden had two carries for 55 yards and one touchdown. 

The Viking receiving corps was led by Christopher Atkins’ three catches for 113 yards and one touchdown.

The Viking defense was led by Noah Skobis’ five solo and one assisted tackle, Jack Chapman’s five solo and one assisted tackle, Robert Barron’s four solo and two assisted tackles and Nicholas Whitney’s two solo and four assisted tackles. 

Coach Williams, his staff and players concluded their regular season schedule last night at Gahr. The C.I.F. Division 4 playoff bracket will be released this weekend.

DOWNEY GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: The Downey High School girls’ volleyball team finished their season with an overall record of 18-10 and were 10-0 in San Gabriel Valley League play. 

For their efforts, Downey is the 2017 San Gabriel Valley League champion. 

The Lady Vikings were defeated by El Segundo at Downey 3-1 (12-25, 20-25, 26-24 and 19-25) on Tuesday night in the first round of the C.I.F. Division 4 playoffs. El Segundo is the number three entry from the Ocean League and finished their regular season schedule with an overall record of 17-11 and a league record of 6-4.

Gahr and Warren also competed in the Division 4 playoffs. Gahr is the number two entry from the S.G.V.L. and finished their regular season schedule with an overall record of 9-15 and were 7-3 in league play. The Lady Gladiators traveled to Valley Christian on Tuesday night and were defeated in three sets 25-11, 25-18 and 25-15. 

Valley Christian is the number two entry from the Olympic League and finished their regular season schedule with an overall record of 21-8 and a league record of 6-2.

Warren is the number three entry from the S.G.V.L. and finished their season with an overall record of 9-7 and were 6-4 in league play. Warren was defeated by Mayfair at Mayfair 3-0 (25-16, 25-13 and 25-16) on Tuesday afternoon. 

Mayfair is the number one entry from the Suburban League and finished their regular season schedule with an overall record of 23-5 and a Suburban League record of 12-0.

All three San Gabriel Valley League entries were eliminated in the first round of the C.I.F. Division 4 playoffs on Tuesday.

WARREN GIRLS TENNIS: The Warren High School girls’ tennis team finished their regular season schedule with an overall record of 10-5-1 and a San Gabriel Valley League record of 8-3-1. 

The Bears were defeated by Downey once, Paramount once and Gahr once. The lone tie was to Downey in their first matchup at Warren.

Over Warren’s last five matches the Bears defeated Lynwood at Lynwood 11-7 on 10/10, were defeated by Paramount at Warren 10-8 on 10/12, were defeated by Gahr at Gahr 11-7 on 10/13, defeated Downey at Warren 10-8 on 10/17 and defeated Lynwood at Warren 10-8 on 10/20.

WARREN GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: The Warren High School girls’ volleyball team finished their regular season schedule with an overall record of 9-7 and were 6-4 in San Gabriel Valley League play. 

The Lady Bears were the No. 3 entry from the San Gabriel Valley League in the C.I.F. Division 4 playoffs. 

Warren was defeated by Millikan at Millikan 3-0 (25-16, 25-13 and 25-16) on Tuesday in the first round. Their season is now over. Downey and Gahr were the first and second place entries from the S.G.V.L., respectively.

WARREN BOYS WATER POLO: The Warren High School boys’ water polo team has concluded their season. The Bears finished with an overall record of 6-16 and were 1-4 in San Gabriel Valley League play. 

Warren did not qualify for postseason competition. Cerritos is the 2017 league champion. 
Downey finished second, Paramount finished third, Gahr and Warren finished tied for fourth and Whitney finished sixth.

The Bears did enjoy a new pool this season. The Murdoch Fraser Aquatics Center is an excellent venue to swim and play water polo in. Warren will look to qualify for postseason play next season.  

OUTSTANDING SERVICE AWARD: Warren High School awarded its Outstanding Service Award last week. Below are the remarks made during the presentation:

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Tonight, Warren would like to honor a community business with its highest honor.
Principal Rivas and the whole Warren Family would like to present the Warren High School Outstanding Service Award.

This year’s recipient goes to MVP Family Practice and Sports Medicine for their service to the students and athletes of the Downey Unified School District, their unwavering support of Warren athletics, and their commitment to the athletes and parents within the City of Downey.

As so many of you know, MVP Family Practice and Sports Medicine works with both public high schools here in Downey.  They provide the schools with unmatched service and programs for our students, they support each school every week with training and doctor support at every game, they provide concussion protocols and impact testing for our kids, and they consistently provide physicals and services while donating almost all the money they earn back to the schools.

Tonight, please welcome Dr. Bryan Payne and Ray Gonzalez, both work tirelessly for our City, our District, and our schools.  Can we all please give a rousing applause to MVP Family Practice and Sports Medicine for they do for our district and our kids.

Thank you.

Calvin Richard DeCuir

June 6, 1925 - July 19, 2017

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The Greatest Generation continues to dwindle with the passing of Calvin Richard DeCuir. Calvin passed away July 19th, 2017 at the age of 92. Calvin was born in New Iberia, Louisiana and raised in Lennox, California.


Calvin was a World War II veteran having served in the Pacific Theater of Operations with the United States Marine Corps. He was a veteran of the Battle of Saipan, Okinawa and of the post-war occupation of China.


Calvin attended UC Berkeley, UCLA and USC after returning from overseas ultimately receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Clinical Laboratory Science from USC. He married Gloria and settled in Downey, California. They remained in Downey, raising their children there, until Calvin’s retirement from Downey Community Hospital. After retirement, Calvin and Gloria moved to Lake Havasu City, Arizona.


Calvin was predeceased by wife, Gloria Lee (Appleton), and son Charles DeCuir. He is survived by daughter, Tonita DeCuir of Lake Havasu City, daughter Elizabeth Louise (Betty Lou) Tabb of Placentia California and son Joseph DeCuir of Downey California. Calvin also left behind three grandchildren, Tara Crawford of Lake Havasu City, Ayse Knowles of Oak Park California and Daniel deJulio of Phoenix Arizona and two great grandchildren, Porter Wayne Knowles and Kira Noelle Knowles.


In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in Calvin’s memory to the Hospice of Havasu Foundation.

 

Mary Louise “Licha” McLaughlin

August 20, 1935 - September 18, 2017

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Mary Louise “Licha” McLaughlin entered peacefully into eternity on September 18, 2017 at Chino Valley Medical Center.  She was born in Los Angeles, California, the youngest of 9 children, on August 20, 1935.  Mary grew up in what is now Watts and was a Downey resident for 48 years.  She loved “oldies” music and family gatherings.  She drove a bus for Maywood Dial-A-Ride serving the senior/disabled community for 20 years.  She lived in Chino the last 10 months to be closer to her family.  Mary will be dearly missed by her daughter, Lisa Garcia, son-in-law, Jimmy, two sisters Marina (Luis) Valdez & Irene Rocha, and two grandchildren, Jake & Violet, and many nieces and nephews.  Services scheduled for November 7th at All Souls Cemetery in Long Beach at 1:00 pm.

Robert Wallace Vinyard

May 11, 1929 - October 28, 2017

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Robert was born May 11, 1929 in Chicago, Illinois to Margaret & Weldon Vinyard. At 18 he joined the navy serving on the U.S.S. Hambleton, a destroyer mine sweeper as a gunners mate.


Bob was a capable man of many talents. He once dismantled a 1946 Cadillac, lining the parts along a driveway then reassembled it to perfect running condition. He was proud to have served as a Grand Knight in the Knights of Columbus and was a 4th Degree Knight. He loved to work and owned “Master Handyman” in Downey, CA as a licensed general contractor for many years.


While he loved to hammer, he considered his life’s work was making his wife Carmen the happiest woman on Earth. As in all his endeavors, he was successful.


Robert passed away on October 28, 2017. Services will be held at Miller Mies Mortuary Downey on November 10th at 10:30am.

 

Shared Stories: Intrepid Traveler

Katie Troy has had MS for 15 years, and she is known for her independent spirit and her commitment to a healthy diet.  Not much can slow her down as she travels around town in a motorized wheelchair, but an airplane trip to a family reunion was a special challenge.  Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center.  Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program.  Curated by Carol Kearns

By Katy Troy

On July 13, 2017, I left for Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh, the “Burgh.” My boyfriend Larry drove me to LAX with my suitcase, my purse, my walker, and a coat for the airplane ride.  My mom and dad would have a manual wheelchair when I got there in Chippewa.

The reason for the chair and walker is that I have had MS for 15 years, but it doesn’t have me. I wished that I could bring my motorized chair but I couldn’t.  I wouldn’t get to use it like I do in California, cruising the streets the way I do.

When we got to the airport there was a lot of construction going on. We couldn’t figure out how to get to the terminal. Larry found the way to get there through all the mess. So he pushed me to where we had to check in and I could go to the John. Then he had to go back to the car and get my coat, walker, and suitcase. They gave us a wheelchair at the airport to borrow.  Larry soon had to say his goodbyes after we checked my things in and got my ticket.
I had a very nice lade escort me through the X-ray machine to make sure I wasn’t carrying any ammo or bombs.  I left that at home, LOL. I didn’t have to take my moccasins off.  They didn’t even frisk me this trip. They just had to swipe the palms of my hands.  All I had for carry-on was my purse and my furry coat to use as a blanket for the 4 ½ hour ride.

I totally forgot to bring some money to tip my little lady who took me to my boarding place. She just said, “That’s okay. Just bless me.” She was so sweet.  We talked a while. More me than her.  I was telling her about my vinegar and health foods. She put all that information I gave her into her phone.  

When we got to my gate a lady was there in a wheelchair also.  Her name was Nel. She was going home to Pittsburgh. She had been visiting her kids in California.

I had to go to the John again, so I wheeled myself there and back. Thank God I could do that because in Pittsburgh, they gave me a chair on wheels, but I couldn’t move it. I was stuck. It was horrible. The only way it could go was if somebody pushed you. I was totally immobile (handicapped) Big Time. I couldn’t go to the john, go shopping for the Burgh T-shirts, or magnets, nothing.  I was stuck.

When it was time to load me on Southwest Airlines, a man who works there pushed me to the plane. I was the second one on. Nel was the first. She could walk pretty well. Her legs were arthritic and had other problems.  They strapped me in a tiny wheelchair that could fit in the aisles. They didn’t have to go far. I sat in the first seat, close to the John and it had lots of leg room.

Nel and I talked almost the whole flight. Like I said, she was leaving her family, I was going to mine.

When we landed, I let everyone go before me. I had to wait for a wheelchair and my sister Marianne was probably on her way to meet me at baggage claim, while her husband Rick was waiting at the car.

I got to the baggage claim with assistance from a man who took me there with one of those wheelchairs I can’t control.  It was okay because my sister was waiting at baggage claim.
The man got my luggage for me and my sister asked me if I had any money.  I didn’t, so she tipped the guy who helped us.  Rick and Marianne helped me get into the front seat of their car, and then loaded my walker and luggage.

They were taking me to my mom and dad’s house. It was 2 a.m. Pennsylvania time. It was only 11 o’clock California time. It had rained before I landed and was kind of muggy, humid already. It was about a 40-minute ride to my mom and dad’s. They greeted me. My brother Carl was at Rick and Marianne’s.

The next day we all went to a very cool restaurant for a family reunion on my Irish mom’s side. You could see the machines that make the beer right underneath your feet.

My mom would always tell me not to bring up food. I don’t, and I didn’t.  But the very first thing that happened when my sister wheeled me into the restaurant was that my cousin Maureen came right up to me and said, “So you’re a Vegan. Tell me what you eat and I want to try your vinegar cocktail.”

Another cousin John told me that his son Pat wanted to know if he would join him in going Vegan. They’ve been on the plan for 90 days and loving it. John lost 191 lbs. so far and he says he feels so much better. I wonder how much more he would have lost if he was taking vinegar cocktails also, and coconut oil.

My sisters Marianne and Patty and I stayed at a motel so we could go to the reunion.
My cousin John had formed what we call the Irish Open! It was pretty crazy how this all started 27 years ago. There was this wedding scheduled that never took place.  The bride-to-be, Karen, and the groom decided against it at the last minute.  

“What are we going to do now?” my cousin John asked.  

Another cousin said, “Let’s go golfing.”

John said, “I don’t know how to golf.”

That’s how the Irish Open started. The girls and guys would go play golf and the others with their kids and older people would hang out in the club house and talk and eat snacks. And there was a bar, of course.  

We played Bingo and won prizes. My cousin Eileen would call the numbers, and if we got Bingo, we had to yell, “Ognib!” That’s Bingo spelled backwards.  

When the others came back from golfing we had dinner.  The golfers had won trophies and my brother Mike’s team had come in first place!

After dinner about seven or eight kids come up and did pushups.  They got a dollar for each one they did.  I believe that one did 54, and another 49!  I should have done it and got at least five bucks!

A sweet little girl was asking earlier if I had anything to report for John to announce later. I wasn’t thinking, but I should have said something about my mom and dad’s 63rd wedding anniversary (Pat and Carl) and my dad’s 90th birthday.

John was up on the podium reading all the things that people wrote about their loved ones who have passed, like my Uncle Jim.  He was a real character.  He was full of jokes.
When John was all done, his son Pat came up and was talking and thanking everyone for coming and pointed at me saying that he found a new vegan friend.

I also had to announce that I didn’t put on paper that it was my mom and dad’s 63rd anniversary and my dad’s 90th birthday.

I really hope to go again next year and make it to my dad’s Italian side of the family.  I’ll have to stay about a month to make it to both reunions.