Favorite #180: Bounce City, Salisbury, NC

Bounce City lights up the night sky.

Bounce City lights up the night sky. Photo used with permission.

A Fun Place to Play

Bounce City, located at 120 N. Church St., in Salisbury, NC, is a magical place that consists of wall-to-wall inflatables children can bounce on, climb on and slide down to their heart’s content. I learned of Bounce City when my daughter, Kristin Saine, booked one of the rooms for a birthday party for my two grandsons. Their birthdays are only days apart, so that seemed like an easy way to celebrate. Just show up with cookies, cake and snacks and let the kids have fun.

The owners, Guanah and Jehan Davis opened this indoor playground two years ago. After graduating from North Rowan High School in Spencer, only a few miles from Salisbury, Guanah went off to college, graduating with a Masters Degree. It was while pursuing a business career as an executive in places like Boston and Washington, DC, that he met his wife, Jehan. She was practicing law in California at the time. Once they married and had children, Guanah felt it time to move back home. While most of Jehan’s family is in California, she has grandparents close by in Augusta, Ga.

Guanah said before the move to NC, he and Jehan lived in Philadelphia, often taking their children to a place similar to Bounce City. Once in Salisbury they began looking around, discovering they had to drive to the next town for that kind of play. After giving it some thought and consideration, they decided to go into business and Bounce City was born.

Bounce City not only has wall-to-wall inflatables for kids 13 and under, but also has arcade games, a separate area for toys and rooms for birthday parties, sporting events, and family reunions, including both large and small groups. Fundraising opportunities are available for schools and organizations.

I recently spent an afternoon with my youngest daughter, Kelly Key, and my two granddaughters at this indoor playground. Kelly said she loves Bounce City because it brings out the best in children. Not only can children enjoy simple play in climbing and using their imagination, but they are learning social skills by taking turns and interacting with others. She also likes Bounce City because of the friendly staff and the variety of activities.

If you’re looking for a great time for your children in the Salisbury area, try Bounce City. My grandkids love it and I’m sure your children and grandchildren will, too.

What activities do you recommend for children in your area? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.







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Favorite #179: West Rowan Farm Home and Garden Store

Something for everyone at West Rowan Farm, Home and Garden Store.

Something for everyone at the West Rowan Farm Home and Garden Store.

         Hometown Pride

Imagine an atmosphere with friendly conversation, a game of checkers and a warm brownie smothered in ice cream. If you can imagine that you have imagined the West Rowan Farm Home and Garden Store at the corner of Hwy 801 and Graham Rd. in Bear Poplar, NC. The owners, Brian and Elsie Bennett, have made this is a favorite place to stop and relax.

When Elsie and Brian bought the store three years ago, they wanted a place where customers could come, shop and sit a spell. From corn hole bean bags to decorative flags to candles and farm items, whatever you’re looking for you probably can find it here. Cozy sitting areas invite customers to come in and stay awhile.

My grandsons, Carson and Garrett, love going to the store. Not only do they love the ice cream, but they also enjoy seeing friends.  My daughter, Kristin Saine, said, “We love to go to West Rowan Farm Home and Garden as much as we can. The ice cream and deserts are amazing. They treat us like family and the boys love it. It has such a hometown atmosphere and one that always welcomes us. I’m especially appreciative they have dairy- free options for our son Garrett who has diet restrictions. It’s a blessing to have a local place that accommodates him.”

Brian Bennett explained, “When we heard there was a young boy in the community who couldn’t have dairy, we decided to carry dairy-free ice cream so he could have the same experience like everyone else.” 

Kristin believes that says a lot about Brian and Elsie and their servant hearts.

One of Elsie’s favorite things is to see families come to the store together. She said not long ago an entire family came in with the great-grandmother and the great-grandchildren.  After eating ice cream they enjoyed an afternoon of fellowship and a game of checkers.

Recently, I stopped by to chat and while there had conversations with several members of the community. One mother of four shared how her family always stops by on their way home from ball practice to get a treat. The practice is at Mt Ulla Elementary School, which is only a few miles away.

I was a music teacher at Mt Ulla for nineteen years, so I was happy when I saw one of my past students, Wyatt Martin, in the store.  Wyatt shared that his dad, Darin, and brother, Ethan, sometimes play and sing country/bluegrass music on weekends at West Rowan Farm Home and Garden. Wyatt said he plays guitar.

Others that also play on weekends include Dale Mills on banjo, Colton Sherrill, guitar, The Back Creek Boys and Steve Dixon, guitar. Elsie never knows who’s going to show up, but when they do she posts a message on Facebook to let everyone know the music has arrived.

Like the sign on the wall says, “West Rowan Farm Home and Garden isn’t just an old store … it’s a community.” What a great place to relax and forget the cares of the day.

Is there a special place in your community that incorporates the spirit of the people like the West Rowan Farm Home and Garden Store? Leave a message below, comment on Facebook or email me at dicysm@yahoo.com.







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Favorite #178: Vacation Bible School

Learning new songs at Vacation Bible School. Sandi is far left and her daughter, Kathi, far right.

Having fun at VBS. Sandi is far left and her daughter, Kathi, far right. Photo by Taylor Williams, used with permission.


A Time of Learning

As a child one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to go to Vacation Bible School.  I still remember standing in a line outside Trading Ford Baptist Church waiting to hear the music so we could march in. Memories of teachers like Mrs. Barker, Mrs. Queen, Mrs. Alley, Mrs. Gobble, Mrs. Massey and Mrs. Mullis will forever be etched in my mind. I loved listening to the Bible stories and then doing the related activities. I’m happy to see that tradition being passed down to my grandkids.

My grandsons, Carson and Garrett, go to Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cleveland, NC. Their mom and dad, Kristin and Brian Saine, volunteered to help with VBS this year. When I asked what they did, Kristin said they were guides for the fifth grade Cave Quest. I’m not sure exactly what that is, but it sounds like fun. Kelly Fero, the director, always works hard to make sure the children have fun through games and activities as they learn about Jesus and his love. 

When I asked Carson what he liked best, he said, “Making flashlights.” I suppose the flashlights were for the cave. 

When I asked Garrett what he liked best, he said, “Singing.” Then, he added, “My favorite song was “This Little Light of Mine”. 

While my grandsons went to VBS at Cornerstone, my granddaughters went to Franklin Baptist Church in Salisbury. The theme at their Bible School was “Submerged”. As you might guess, all the children loved this theme because they had plenty of chances to play in the water.

Sandi Hache has been the director of VBS at Franklin for a number of years and like Kelly works hard to prepare. One day I overheard her daughter, Kathi Majors, talking about going out to eat with her mom a few weeks before Bible School and telling her not to talk about VBS during the meal.  Knowing how much Sandi loves preparing for VBS, I knew that would be hard for her. I laughed when Kathi said, “Mom reluctantly agreed not to talk about it but as soon as the meal was over she began making plans again.”

That kind of commitment is what it takes to have a successful program because a lot must happen before the children arrive such as preparing materials, decorating the church and lining up teachers to teach. Sandi said, “Every minute of preparation is always worth it. This year eight children made a decision for Christ. That’s what it’s all about.”

My daughter, Kelly Key, taught the preschool class this year at Franklin and agrees with Sandi. She said, “Since our nation was founded on Christian principles it is important as parents to teach our children to walk in the way of the Lord and against the tide of the world.” As a guide to this philosophy, Kelly made reference to Psalm 71:17. O God Thou has taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared Thy wondrous works. (KJV)

When I was seven years old I walked forward during Vacation Bible School at Trading Ford Baptist Church and received Jesus in my heart. I’m grateful for VBS and how it made a difference in my life and I know there are many others both young and old who feel the same way.

Thanks to all the churches, teachers and volunteers who unselfishly give of time, money and effort to make Vacation Bible School a success each year. By giving children a chance to discover there’s more to life than the here and now, you’re giving them the best gift of all.

What does Vacation Bible School mean to you? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.






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Favorite #177: Cosmetologists

A day in the life of a cosmetologist, fixing hair and being a friend. In this photo, Debbie is fixing my mom's hair.

A day in the life of a cosmetologist. In this photo, Debbie is curling Mom’s hair.


The Local Beauty Shop

As we look around our communities we often see people willing to serve. Some are visible, like policemen and firemen, while others are not so visible. Have you ever thought about how much a cosmetologist does for others in their community? 

As a child I often went with my mom to Melda’s Beauty Shop in Salisbury, NC. Her daughter, Diane, remembers those days well. She especially remembers being the guinea pig for new “hairdos” and laughs thinking about what her mom called the magazine game.

While waiting their turn, customers often passed the time reading the latest gossip magazines. Since sometimes they wanted to take the magazines home to finish, Melda developed a system for checking them out, with the understanding the magazines were to be brought back at the next appointment. Diane admits she sometimes slipped and read the articles, saying according to today’s standards they were pretty tame.

Through the years many of Melda’s customers became friends, sharing stories of good times and bad. Mom was one of those customers. When Melda passed away in 1998 from cancer, Mom took it hard. Everyone always appreciated Melda’s fighting spirit, knowing even when she didn’t feel well she was in the shop serving her customers with a smile.

When Melda passed away Mom began going to Mildred Smith in Spencer, NC, at Hair USA. The environment of a beauty shop seems to be a safe place to share hopes, dreams and secrets, so like with Melda, mom began building a relationship with Mildred. 

Last October, due to Mom’s failing health, she moved in with me. Since Mildred’s shop is about 15 miles away, I knew it would be easier if I could find something closer. Debbie Fleming’s shop in Woodleaf is only about two miles, so I called to see if she had any openings.

Seeing the relationship Mom built with each of her hair dressers, even Debbie in this short time, I began thinking about how cosmetologists go the extra mile for their customers. Not only do they shampoo, cut, perm and style hair, but they lend a listening ear. When serving mostly senior citizens, they tend to keep their prices low and rarely increase fees. If one of their customers is sick they check on them through phone calls and cards, sometimes making house calls to fix their hair at home.

Sharing with Debbie I wanted to write a blog about cosmetologists, I asked for her thoughts. She said, “Well, it’s not a glamorous job because you’re on your feet all day sometimes working from early morning into the night. Adapting to different personalities throughout the day can be stressful. Yet, I love it because I enjoy helping others. It’s rewarding to see someone come in who might have had a bad day, and, then, after getting their hair fixed, leave with a smile. I like to think I had a part in making them feel better.”

Cosmetologists do so much behind the scenes most people aren’t aware of, quietly making the world a better place one hairdo at a time.  That should be a lesson for all of us. To make the world a better place right where we are.

In what ways does your cosmetologist go the extra mile? Leave a comment, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.









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Favorite #176: Sea Paws Pet Store

Sarah, Jeff, Earl and Tooter in front of Sea Paws.

Sarah, Jeff, Earl and Trooper in front of their pet store, Sea Paws.

Unexpected Treasures at the Beach

There’s nothing I enjoy more than sitting on the shore at the beach listening to the ocean waves with the sand between my toes.

This past May I spent a week with friends and family in Atlantic Beach, NC, at the resort, A Place at the Beach III. We enjoyed an oceanfront condo with onsite activities such as ping pong, putt putt and a water slide.

One morning Charlotte Huntington, Betsy Safrit and I walked about a mile down the beach to the pier. Once there we noticed two surfer dudes surfing. We had a good time watching them, showing our approval with thumbs up.

After about an hour we began walking back down the beach to our condo. On the way we saw two beautiful dogs walking with their owner. They were so cute, I asked if I could pet them. After saying it was okay, Jeff Vaughn, their owner, then explained that Earl and Trooper were rescue dogs. He also shared that he and his wife, Sarah, own a pet store in Morehead City. Morehead City is just across the bridge from Atlantic Beach.  

Jeff went on to explain that he and Sarah recently moved from Greensboro, leaving the world of finance behind. They chose Morehead City because Jeff had fond memories visiting his grandmother as a child in the waterfront community. To him it felt like coming home.

Once the decision was made to move Jeff and Sarah began to think about what they wanted to do. Since Earl has stomach issues they decided to open a pet store that carries healthy choices of dog and cat food.

During our conversation, Jeff invited me to visit Sea Paws and I’m glad I did. In the store I saw not only dog and cat food, but also items made by local patrons with a dog and cat theme. In addition, there were items that are a good fit for animal lovers at the beach and their pets. For example, items such as life jackets for dogs and toys that won’t get waterlogged or sink are part of the inventory.  My children’s books have dogs as the main characters, so I’m happy to say Sea Paws now carries them as well. My latest book, Tired of Being Obedient, has tips for training dogs in the back.

This just goes to show you never know what unexpected treasures you may find at the beach. If you’re ever in Morehead City, stop by the pet store, Sea Paws. I’m sure Earl and Trooper and of course, Jeff and Sarah will be glad to see you. Check out their website at, www.seapaws.org. In addition, Sea Paws Facebook page has daily updates of pets that need adopting in the surrounding area.

Do you have a favorite pet store? What makes it special? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.







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Favorite #175: Robinson Elementary School

Had a great time sharing my books and ideas for writing with the students at Robinson Elementary School.

I enjoyed sharing my books with kindergarten and first grade students at Robinson Elementary School.

     A Day of Reading, Writing and Fun

Earlier this spring I was invited by kindergarten teacher, Lorna Poe to share my books with the kindergarten and first grade classes at Robinson Elementary School in Gastonia, NC.  I had never met Lorna before, but was childhood friends with her mother, Linda Smith. Linda is a retired middle-school teacher who also taught in Gastonia. After Linda shared with her daughter that I was a children’s author, Lorna reached out to me.

On the day of my visit, I was surprised to see both Linda and Lorna standing at the front door to greet me. Once I checked in at the office, they helped me set-up in the library.  As we worked we had a great time talking and sharing memories.

The kindergarten classes were scheduled for the first presentation. Once they arrived, Lorna introduced me and then explained that her mom and I had been childhood friends. It was great fun watching the children’s faces as they processed that bit of information. As I read my books, they were attentive and well-behaved, eager to learn how I developed the story line and characters in the series. This helped them better understand how each book built upon the next.

After the kindergarten presentation, the next group to arrive was first grade. They were well-prepared because the questions they asked were similar to second or third grade classes. For example, they wanted to know where I got my ideas and how long it took to write a book. I answered by saying, “My children’s books generally take about a year to write and I get my ideas from real life.”

In addition to sharing my books, I also gave tips for writing. One of the most important things a writer can do to improve his craft  is to read. Books and stories can transport a person to a different place or time, sparking a thought or idea for a story.

I enjoyed my visit at Robinson Elementary School because not only were the students  well-behaved, but the staff was friendly and even the principal, Mr. Bill Kessler, took time out of his busy schedule to stop by the library for a presentation.

It’s great to see schools willing to reach out into the community for resources that will broaden and enhance a child’s education. That shouldn’t surprise parents of students at Robinson since the theme for the year was helping students explore new learning. Hopefully, I was a part of that new learning.

Thanks, Robinson Elementary School and Miss Poe for inviting me to your school.

If  you could visit with an author, what questions would you ask? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.

If you’d like to schedule an author visit to your preschool, church or organization, check out my homepage.







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Favorite #174: Mother’s Day Everyday

My grandson, Garrett, having a conversation with his great-grandma, my mom.

My grandson, Garrett, sharing a conversation and a treat with his great-grandma Smith, my mom.

Time Together

It’s fun to see the different ways mothers are surprised or pampered on Mother’s Day.  Even though  flowers, candy and presents are great, most mothers are happy just to spend time with their families.

Now that my mom lives with me, technically every day at my house is mother’s day. At ninety-five, she has enjoyed a long life with the blessings of good health and friends and family who love her. Last October we knew the time had come for her to move in with me.

I’m not going to say this has been an easy transition, but we’re learning to manage. It’s hard seeing someone you love in decline, especially if they’ve always been active and a vital part of their community. Mom longs for that time and hopes her health will improve so she can go back home again someday. While we both would love for that to happen, deep down we know that’s not a reality.

One of her favorite things to do on Sunday mornings is watch  Joel Osteen.  This past week he had a message that hit home for both of us. He said oftentimes we hurry through one stage of life looking to the next while misssing the blessings of the season we’re in. He went on to say with blessings come burdens. For example, it may be hard for parents to think of a baby as a blessing when they’re tired or frustrated from losing sleep.  

While it’s true this season of life as a care giver has its own unique burdens, there are unique blessings as well. I see those blessings every time Mom laughs or has a twinkle in her eye from some secret joke.  That happened recently when we were out eating at a local pizza parlor. A teenage girl walked by wearing short-shorts. Mom took one look at her, laughed and said, “Those aren’t nothing but bloomers.” Yes, there was a twinkle in her eye.  

One of my favorite blessings in this journey has been watching Mom interact with her great-grandchildren. The love exchanged speaks volumes as can be seen in the photo above.

 I don’t know how long Mom and I have together or what the future holds, but one thing I know is who holds the future and that’s all that matters.

Special thanks to the staff of Community Home Care and Hospice of Statesville, NC for the loving care and attention they give Mom each week. You lift us up every day.

What experience(s) can you share in caring for a loved one? Where did you find your strength? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.








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Favorite #173: Touch a Truck

There's nothing more fun than driving a truck.

There’s nothing more fun than driving a truck.

A Boy and his Toys

When my oldest daughter, Kristin, recently invited me to the Touch a Truck event in Salisbury, NC, I said, “What’s that?” She laughed and said, “It’s where children get to touch and climb on big trucks.” I thought that sounded like fun, so one Saturday morning in April, my two grandsons, my daughter and I set out for the 10th Annual Touch a Truck event in Salisbury.

Sponsored by the City of Salisbury Parks and Recreation Department, the free event was held in several parking lots in front of the Rowan Public Library. We parked on a side street and as soon as we started walking heard horns and sirens. Kids love climbing and loud noises, so it didn’t take long for my grandsons to realize how much fun this was going to be. Some of the trucks included a bulldozer, a transfer truck, a garbage truck, firetrucks, a lawnmower, a power boat and a bus. My grandsons loved the firetrucks and especially loved ringing the bell on the older trucks.

One of the most anticipated events of the day was the landing of the helicopter. Even though the wind blew up dust and dirt, no one seemed to mind. Everyone was amazed that such a large machine could land in such a tiny spot. Since it was a medical helicopter, almost as soon as it landed, it was on its way again. This gave parents the opportunity to talk to their children about how this helicopter helps people and saves lives.

The event was not only enjoyable for kids, but grown-ups, too. I had a wonderful time watching my grandkids climb and explore as well as a wonderful time reconnecting with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Many came with their grandkids like I did. By 12:00 we were hungry and finished our day with lunch at Go Burrito across the street from the event. 

Linda M. McElroy, the Communications Director for the City of Salisbury said Touch a Truck is just one of the many activities sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Dept.  A good way to keep up with scheduled events is to check out the city’s website and Facebook page.

With all the fun my grandsons and I had at Touch a Truck, I’m excited about next year’s event, but will be sure to bring ear plugs next time just in case they get carried away with ringing the bell.

What special event(s) does your hometown sponsor? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.





 I had a great time sharing my books recently at China Grove Elementary School. Thanks Media Coordinator, Beverly Litke for the invite. China Grove rocks. To view photos of that visit, check out the media twitter page @CGESMedia (April 25, 2016).

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Favorite #172: Camping at Dan Nicholas Park

There's nothing more fun than camping with friends and family.

There’s nothing more fun than camping with friends and family.

Time Together

I experienced my first and only camping trip in my early twenties, spending a night under the stars on a blanket with nothing to cover my head but the night sky. Uncomfortable on the hard ground with the dew falling in my face, I couldn’t wait until sunrise.

My oldest daughter’s first camping trip was a little different than mine. Kristin had that experience during a church youth retreat when she and a friend (Laura) spent the night in a tent on the back of a pick-up truck. The pick-up truck belonged to Laura’s dad. About half way through it started raining. As tents began falling, kids started running.

Ten years passed before Kristin went camping again. This time it was with her new husband, Brian. Brian grew up camping and couldn’t wait to share this love with Kristin, so not long after they were married, plans were made to go on a two-week-camping trip out west with his parents in the family RV.

Loving it, Kristin called me daily to share their adventures. We talked about that trip, recently. She said, “I especially loved Wyoming. Coyotes and mule deer were everywhere and the scenery was breathtaking. It was almost like a painting, especially in the lower falls of Yellowstone National Park. I also enjoyed the rodeos. They truly had a western feel.”

Since that first trip, Brian and Kristin have taken many other trips to the beach and the mountains. Now with two sons of their own, Carson and Garrett, five and three, one of their favorite places to go camping is Dan Nicholas Park, about an hour away. Set in a rural community east of Salisbury, NC, Dan Nicholas Park offers a variety of activities including, fishing, paddle boats, miniature golf, a petting zoo, a carousel, a train and a big playground.

Kristin said, “The nights are especially fun as we sit around the campfire sharing stories with friends and family.” When asked what they liked best about camping, Carson said, “Making s’mores.” Garrett said, “Riding my bike.”

Now that I see all the fun my grandsons have camping, who knows maybe one day I’ll give it another try. There’s no doubt it’s a great way to connect with friends and family. Just ask Kristin. She’ll tell you. And, if you ask them, so will the boys.

What’s your favorite place to go camping? What’s your favorite memory? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.




Don’t forget to check out my “Tired Books” on the website home page. They each have a moral lesson appropriate for teaching children in a non-threatening way.




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Favorite #171: Easter

Having a great time finding eggs and making memories.

Having a great time finding eggs.

Friends, Family and Time for Worship

If you were to ask five different people what Easter means to them, you would probably get five different answers. Children often think Easter means bunny rabbits and baskets full of candy. Moms view it as the perfect opportunity to dress everyone up for pictures. Christians believe Easter was when Jesus rose from the dead. The women at the empty tomb were sad, until the angel said, “He’s not here, but risen.” Even nature seems to notice there’s something different about Easter with signs of “new” life everywhere.

Because as Christians we have hope Easter is a great time for a celebration. This year on Facebook I saw tons of pictures of families in their Easter best. There were also lots of photos of activities such as egg hunts. One of the most popular in our area was the Easter Eggstravaganza at Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooresville, NC. This event included all kinds of activities such as dropping eggs from a helicopter. Both of my grandsons went and had a blast. In the photo to the right, my grandson, Carson, is at his church (Cornerstone Baptist) running as fast as he can to find Easter eggs. It looks like one of his friends might have found one first.

Tremayne Smith, one of my past students at Cleveland Elementary School in Cleveland, NC, recently shared a memory on Facebook of an Easter egg hunt that happened when he was in kindergarten over twenty years ago. I was his music teacher and can remember when Tremayne and his twin brother, Dewayne, competed against each other, in a friendly way of course. Used with permission, here’s how Tremayne remembers that egg hunt.

A belated and true story for your amusement:

Spring 1993 when my brother Dewayne Smith and I were in Ms. Everhart’s and Mrs. Annette Gurley’s kindergarten class, we had an Easter egg hunt on the playground of Cleveland Elementary School.

The HOLY GRAIL was a hidden silver egg, which contained a coupon for a free ice cream cup in the cafeteria. I WANTED THAT EGG! After a great hunt, of all people, my twin brother found the egg. Like a ‘good little brother’, he came and reported it to me immediately. Now I had no interest in that ice cream because I am lactose intolerant but I did want the sweet glory of having been the one to find the egg. My brother could care less about the glory of finding that egg. He really just wanted the ice cream.

So I suggested the following: “Dewayne, give me the egg. I will claim credit for finding it and at lunch I will give you the ice cream.” Dewayne agreed.

I, with shrieks of joy and cartwheels exclaimed I had found the egg. I was lauded a hero, finder of the egg. Dewayne enjoyed the fruits of his labor later at lunch.

Although this happened more than twenty years ago, Tremayne remembers it like it was yesterday. I bet Dewayne does, too. What about you? How do you celebrate Easter?  Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email dicysm@yahoo.com.








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