December 2008


31 Dec 2008 02:18 am


This past December 21st my niece, Maine and her two brothers, Eric and Kevin sang, “O Holy Night” at our church’s Night of Christmas Carols. My sister, Lucy, my daughter, Kate, and niece, Maine and I also sang three carols together, “Away in a Manger”, “Silent Night” and “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree.” My daughter, Kate and I sang Ave Maria together.

My brother, Guy sang “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”, my father sang “A Blue Christmas”, and my niece, Olivia sang “Silent Night”. My niece, Elizabeth played the flute in a duet. Kevin played “Carol of the Bells” on the zylophone. Eric very debonairly sang, “Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas”.

In other words, our family performed half of the program.

It was the first time in many years that so many of us participated and sang so many songs at church. That is one of the most precious memories of this Christmas for me. My eleven month old grandson, Noah loves music and he really enjoyed it and was singing along with all the songs.

It’s a shame we have to wait until just a few weeks a year to sing these beautiful Christmas carols.

28 Dec 2008 01:29 am

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The wonderful Sissy Willis and her husband, Tuck have had the saddest news today. Their beloved cat, Babe has died. Babe along with his sibling, Tiny have been the sweet stars of Sissy’s blog, sisu and her whimsical photography and writing about the two zany and beautiful kitties have always brightened the darkest day for many.

I count myself among the many.

Babe was born in an attic closet twelve years ago in Sissy and Tuck’s home. Thanks to Sissy there was no hiding Babe’s dazzling light under a bushel.

Babe recently starred in Sissy’s latest beautiful Christmas card.

I send my sincere condolences to the Willis family. It always hurts to lose a pet because they are members of the family but to lose them in the Christmas season is an even deeper hurt.

Sissy’s blog friend, Ellison offered a loving tribute.

Oh, Babe, I will miss you.

26 Dec 2008 09:26 pm

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While other family members are out shopping I am content to stay home this day, full of comfort and joy, taking stock of our wonderful Christmas.

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Choirs of angels are singing as they stand on a remnant of French made fabric from a little shop in Ribeauvillé, France.

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In the kitchen the deer gazes at the tree decked with redbirds. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen today catching up on things that were neglected in the frantic attempt to get everything wrapped before Christmas Eve. The dishes were washed. The laundry folded and put away.

Later I took time to have a cup of coffee and a piece of rum cake. I’m trying to renew the old silver tea service we stored in my brother’s attic when we left for Germany in 1999.

I neglected to retrieve it when we came home in 2002 until finally this past Thanksgiving my brother brought it down from his attic and we brought it home. It is so tarnished that I am ashamed I neglected it so badly. I have been polishing and polishing. I actually like to polish silver but this task is a very big one. So far there are no pits. That says something for Reed and Barton.

Okay, it’s not that valuable being silverplate but I should have taken better care of it.

One of the nicest things about having a two week vacation is having time to do things at home that I just wouldn’t do on a weekend.

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Asta watches out the window for birds and other interesting visitors. He, Amos and Sabby have been excited about the returns of their favorites, Charlotte and Maine to the Charlotte Wing and the other whimsical visitors bringing music into our home.

Lucy, my sister is a special favorite of Sabby’s (a story which needs to be told) and he’s spent a lot of time on her lap this Christmas season. The cats seemed to know from Thanksgiving on that special days were approaching. Like Sissy Willis’ Babe, they have been high with expectancy, and scampering around the house like kittens.

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A gift of heirloom crystal from their aunt is a Christmas surprise for the girls.

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O Christmas Tree is the theme of the Donoho Mantle this year. It’s a more streamlined Christmas for us. We gave the angels their own pride of place on the piano and put out less Christmas frills this year.

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One of my favorite gifts received this Christmas is The Book of Exodus, inscribed and illustrated by Sam Fink. The calligraphy is exquisite.

I loved all my gifts of course, especially the beautiful photograph of my gorgeous grandson, Noah and the gift I always need and always ask for, socks.

The best part of Christmas for me was watching the faces of my loved ones as they opened their gifts. When my son, daughter-in-law and five year old grandson return from Louisiana and open up their gifts, then Christmas will be complete for me.

The strangest gift I got this year? A Carney Lansford Bobblehead.

What is next? The annual Fletcher Family Football Tournament. My husband and I are the hosts for this annual event and it is coming up very soon. I take care of the food, my brother takes care of drawing up the tournament roster, my husband provides the half-time band entertainment and my Dad takes care of the prizes.

26 Dec 2008 12:04 am

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May this Christmas Day bring all those who visit here at the Wide Awake Cafe the happiest and most joyful blessings of the season.

24 Dec 2008 10:58 am

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I painted Santa on my parents’ mailbox a long time ago. His image is still there, although weathered by the years.

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I still believe in the Child born in a manger who brought all of this hope into the world and inspired a Christian bishop to give gifts to children.

On this Christmas Eve take a pause that truly refreshes. Visit The Carnival of Christmas for posts that will inspire, entertain, and provide delicious new Christmas cookie recipes, as well as a host of other Christmas surprises.

Have a blessed Christmas.

22 Dec 2008 04:44 pm

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From Hearsay, the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law Alumni Magazine 2008, 2009 Graduating Class, page 19

This past Friday, our daughter, Charlotte turned in her last paper in her long two and a half year paper chase at the UALR William H Bowen School of Law, an achievement that could not go unacknowleged by her Mom at The Wide Awake Cafe.

Over the weekend Charlotte and her boyfriend, Adam and sister, Kate and brother-in-law, Mike packed up her belongings at the Barrister Court Law School Apartments and put them in a U-Haul to move her west where she will be studying for the Oklahoma Bar. It was a cold weekend. But there were warm hearts all around rejoicing over Charlotte’s determined perseverance in achieving academic excellence in her legal education.

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I took this photo of Charlotte when I visited her in her first year at law school.

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Charlotte and Adam as Nick and Nora at the Barrister Ball.

Congratulations Charlotte!

17 Dec 2008 02:01 am

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My brother, Bobby and I, visiting Santa when we were three and four years old.

I was never a practical little girl.

One Christmas Season when I was ten years old I was jittery with excitement because I was going to get to go Christmas shopping for the first time in my life, with money I had earned. I had saved the money and was going to spend it on my mother.

My mother was going to be the recipient of my hard earned money. I cannot remember how I earned it but I suspect it must have had something to do with my paternal grandmother. She was everyone’s fairy godmother in our family and, for that matter, everyone who lived within ten miles of her were beneficiaries of her kindness.

My grandmother was a one woman Salvation Army. She most likely put me to work separating buttons or safety pins from straight pins or something like that at her dry cleaners. I was always eager to work and earn some money.

So when I found out that we were going Christmas shopping, I decided to spend my Christmas money on my mother. I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She told me that she wanted something practical for the kitchen. That suggestion went in one ear and out the other. I can’t even remember what that practical something was and I doubt I even remembered back then. I knew I had no plans to give my mother anything that even remotely resembled a small household appliance.

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Santa always came last.

We went downtown one evening for the annual Christmas parade and had plans to shop afterwards. Back then there were no malls, no big shopping centers, no K-Marts, no Wal-Marts, no Marts at all. Just the Kress Store, McCrorys, Woolworths and the elegant Boston Store where we would have our picture taken with Santa Claus.

The city merchants firmly believed in decorating their windows for Christmas. I was in awe of the lights and sounds as we walked down the main street of town. There were crowds of people but they were not unruly. Moms and Dads had their children firmly in hand. Families and kids walked down the sidewalks peering in the windows resplendent with merchandise of all kinds. Beautiful dolls, dollhouses, and elegant clothing were displayed in windows. I paused to look and almost found myself lost until I got a tug on my shoulder. My little brother always had to play the big brother with me.

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Christmas in 1957. My brother was five, I was six, and my doll loving, little sister was three years old.

On to another store. We went from window shopping to serious store shopping. This became much more serious. So much more serious for a very unpractical young lady with five dollars burning a hole in her handbag.

My mother kept steering us by the practical kitchen things and I kept wandering away from them. Potato peelers were boring. Collanders were boring. All of my hard earned money was not going to be spent for something so work-a-day.

I wanted to get my Mother something pretty.

My mother’s Aunt Ivy was very rich. When we went to visit her home she always had beautiful dishes set on her tables. On the rare occasions Aunt Ivy came to visit us my Mother was always in a full state of panic, urging us to clean our rooms and have everything in our tiny home perfect. I wanted to find one pretty platter that Mother could set on the table with pride. Surely McCrory’s would have something like that. I saw an eight inch milk white round platter with gold trim. It had a price tag that was within my price range. I looked at it and turned and walked away.

I suppose I wanted to do some comparison shopping. I found myself in the doll aisle. McCrory’s didn’t carry Madame Alexander dolls, only The Boston Store carried that kind of elegant doll. I wanted a Jo doll more than anything. Jo was the practical sister in Louisia May Alcott’s Little Women series and since I had already read the book I was captivated by the main character, Jo.

I’d had a glimpse of Jo earlier in the week when we’d taken the bus downtown to visit my maternal grandparents at their business, The Rightway Cleaners. As always, Mamaw Webster took us to The Wide Awake Cafe for coffee and cream and then we went to the Boston Store.

My grandmother picked out some beautiful blue velvet fabric to make some pretty dresses for my sister and me. While there, we passed through the toy department and I saw the section full of the inimitable blue boxes. I hoped there were still some Jo dolls left. I didn’t care for Amy or Beth or Meg. They were fine of course being Alcott characters but Jo was the character that captured my imagination because she thought for herself and was a tomboy.

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The Fletcher Kids going to Church in 1957, my snaggletooth smile brought to you by my brother’s left hook

I was a tomboy too. I was the second fastest female runner in school. At that age I could outrun my brother. I’d put on boxing gloves and boxed my brother when I was seven years old. So what if he’d knocked out my front tooth and I’d swallowed it, missing the visit of the tooth fairy? I got him back a few years later when he didn’t want to go to football practice. I put on his football uniform, put my hair up under the helmet and went to his practice. I’d managed to fool the coach until I got tackled and the hair fell out of my helmet.

I also identified with Jo in Alcott’s depiction of the March sisters’ haughty, Aunt March. I’d thought of my Aunt Ivy when I first read about Jo’s wealthy aunt. Of course, all my silly notions were part and parcel of my vivid imagination. Except for Santa, I’d told no one that I wanted Jo for Christmas. Not even my sister, Lucy. I pretty much lived inside my head back in those days.

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Still, my mother always seemed to know everything. If I didn’t tell her about something that was worrying me she seemed to read my mind anyway because she was a quiet person who always had her eyes on her children and was always listening to us.

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The Fletcher Family in 1956, thanks to Kodacolor

In the Boston Store I passed by the boxes of dolls and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw a Jo doll inside one of them. My brother tugged me on the arm and we walked back to the Rightway Cleaners where I found the little wooden box toy my Grandfather always had for me to play with. I thought about the doll a lot since that day and the pretty satin dress and blue and white striped pinafore she was wearing. She would be a perfect Christmas present. Why hadn’t I told my family about her anyway?

I wandered around the aisles of McCrory’s, looking at the china figurines. None of them would do. My mother really wouldn’t like them because they would serve no useful purpose whatsoever. I sensed that somehow. I knew that my Aunt Ivy would turn her nose up at them and sniff something about dime store pottery and how would that help my mother? Besides, my mother’s mashed potatoes were delicious the way they were. She really didn’t need a new potato masher or peeler, but that pretty milk white glass platter with the gold trim needed another look.

Looking back I was a natural at rationalization.

We can bake some delicious peppermint cookies, I thought, with white icing and sprinkles and then we’ll place them on the platter next Christmas and when Aunt Ivy and Uncle Roy come over they will see how delicious and pretty they look.

I walked back to the aisle and picked up the white platter and examined it again. It was made in Japan. There were platters just like it that were in boxes under the shelves so I picked up one of them and headed to the cash register. I made my purchase and looked for my brother. He was buying a gift for our Dad. I can’t remember what it was but it probably had something to do with sports.

We met up with our parents and little sister and went home. As I wrapped the present for my mother I imagined how happy she would be when she opened her gift. I tried to make the wrapping as pretty as I could. I painted a watercolor picture for a card.

Christmas couldn’t come soon enough. My brother and sister and I counted the days. We went outside at night to breathe the cold December air and look at the Christmas scene our Dad had created.

We looked up into the sky for the star of Bethlehem.

When Daddy came home with a new issue of Christmas Ideals we gathered around to see it. Later Mother would pull out an older issue which had the illustrated version of The Little Match Girl. That story had quickly become a tradition in our family. The line drawings illustrating the poor little girl in that particular issue still stay in my memory and spurred me on in my desire to be an artist.

When there was a newly wrapped gift under the tree we were worse than our dog, Cookie at sniffing around it. When our mother wasn’t looking we picked up the gift to examine it. One of the bolder siblings would shake the gift. A certain little sister would actually take the tape off the end of the box and with her skillful fingers would open up the paper to discover the treasure inside the box.

I preferred the element of surprise.

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On Christmas morning I woke up early, but not as early as my little brother. I crept into the living room and there he was, asleep under the tree. He did it every year. He woke up sometime during the night excited about Christmas and went into the living room to wait on everyone to wake up, then when we didn’t wake up, he would fall asleep under the tree.

So there was my brother under the tree.

And there was Jo.

Santa had listened. I knew he would. Even though kids at school had argued with me, telling me, I was stupid, I was a little kid, and I needed to grow up, I wouldn’t listen to them, I argued with them that there is a Santa Claus. I had more than one reason to believe you see. I was the oldest in our family. I had had my doubts and skepticisms but for the sake of my little brothers and my sister I chose to believe.

And that Christmas morning I had proof. There was my Jo, my Madame Alexander Doll. Yes, there were also some other sweet gifts too. A jewelry box, and a bride doll. (I’ve always loved bride dolls) And as always, the night before at our traditional Christmas Eve get together at my paternal grandparents’ house I had received a pair of knitted socks from my great grandmother, Kathryn Ford Mackey Morrison. Other things too but those knitted socks I could always depend upon.

I woke up my brother and we both went to wake up our sister, Lucy but we had to wait on our parents to awaken because we had a year old baby brother who was sleeping.

I couldn’t wait for my mother to open up her present from me. Meanwhile we could enjoy all the presents Santa had left for us because they were not wrapped. We three kids whispered oohs and ahhs until we got too loud and our bleary eyed parents came walking into the room with our little brother Guy.

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Now there were four of us

That Christmas morning was bliss. Mother made hot chocolate and biscuits. We opened our wrapped presents and laughed as Guy opened his presents. Daddy asked Lucy and me to sing some Christmas carols. We had discovered our ability to harmonize and we were regular wrens, singing all the time around the house.

Then the moment came. It was time for our parents to open their presents. I don’t remember what my father received from my brother. The only thing remembered from that Christmas is what I gave and what I received. I wish I could say that my mother beamed with joy when she saw the beautiful white platter with gold trim but I would be fibbing.

It wouldn’t be true. My Mother smiled at me, and gave me a hug and said thanks but later in the kitchen she reminded me that she had asked for something practical.

My heart sank.

I had failed my first big test of giving and the irony was that this was the Christmas that I had received my most favorite gift. I was heart sick that I had let my mother down. I hadn’t listened to her when she told me what she wanted for Christmas. She had explained to me that she wanted something practical because there was not enough money for her to spend anything on kitchen things so she wanted them as gifts. I had ignored that. My parents were always generous with us but not so with themselves. I remember wondering why my mother wore the same coat for five years in a row.

Now I knew.

So my Mother didn’t pretend to be overjoyed by the milk white round platter with gold trim. My mother was always honest with me. That is how our parents raised us.

Unpractical little girls can learn.

The next Christmas I listened when my mother mentioned in passing what she wanted for Christmas. I wrote her wishes down in my diary. I saved my money and I bought what she wanted and yes, it was a practical kitchen appliance. She was very happy with her gift. My mother was always a skillful and ambitious cook and the things she wanted for her kitchen made it easier for her to cook. And bake. And what a mighty baker was she! My mother’s pies are still in demand.

One day Aunt Ivy came over and as usual we scurried around to clean up the house before she arrived. I walked into the living room and there on the coffee table was the eight inch milk white round platter with gold trim. We weren’t given enough notice to make homemade cookies so we had to make do with Lemon sandwich cookies.

In recent years I’ve discovered that I am my Mother in more ways than one. I’ve caught myself being too frank and honest when I have received a gift from my children that wasn’t quite up to my hopes or standards. (although, I will admit, I never give them much guidance) That it is more blessed to give than to receive is so true. I admit I love to give to those I love. I have found joy in giving gifts to friends and family.

To this very day the eight inch milk white round platter with gold trim has a place of honor on the center shelf of my Mother’s china cabinet. I noticed it a couple of years ago and it brought back the remembrance of my first Christmas shopping trip. I remain hopelessly impractical but I am thankful my Mother gave me the guidance, direction, advice and practicality I needed when I was growing up.

Christmas is about God coming down to earth from Heaven in the person of a tiny baby. Through Jesus Christ the world gained pure Love, forgiveness, and reconciliation to God through Him. In our little Fletcher Family we experienced all that joy every Christmas, no matter how much or how little we had and we continue to do so but that Christmas when I was ten, I began to awaken to the world, and to get a small glimpse of the worries and the sacrifices that Mothers and Fathers make for their children because of their great love for them.

That was the last year I asked Santa for a doll but it wasn’t the last year I asked Santa for a present. My doll, Jo wisely supervised my daughter’s dolls as they grew up and she sits in the pink room in our house, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our granddaughter this coming March.

Merry Christmas!

Welcome visitors from The Carnival of Christmas!

16 Dec 2008 05:23 pm

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A photo from my cousin, Nancy in Iowa. She got it in an email from a friend. Poor cat. The things they have to deal with when their humans decide no fences are needed.

13 Dec 2008 02:15 am

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I don’t know what’s happened to Detroit.

All the years of my youth and adulthood I’ve been driving cars American automakers have been putting out and loving to drive them. That the leaders of such a quintessentially American industry has had to resort to begging at the feet of the most unpopular Congress in American history for a financial bailout is unspeakably sad.

That the UAW refused to make wage and benefit concessions with negotiators Thursday night is even sadder. Whether or not President Bush agrees to use bank bailout funds to aid the carmakers, after January 20th 2009, the new Democrat regime will. The American automobile industry will never be the same which is the saddest prospect of all of our economic woes.

The day I turned sixteen I got my drivers license and talked my dad into letting me drive one of his old cars. All of his cars were American made. The first car I drove into its very grave was an old white Ford station wagon. I commuted in it to college one summer for summer school.

It was pretty old at the time and just about on its last legs but it took me through the summer. It broke down once on me and luckily it was near a turn off to a Stuckey’s and my sister was with me. There was an auto mechanic working next to the Stuckey’s store so we were able to get it repaired while we waited and luckily, it only cost me forty five dollars. The alternator had gone out. I remember that fact because it cost me a weeks’ pay to fix the car. I was working part time at a grocery store that summer on evenings and weekends.

I think my brother and sister had their turns with that old car too.

While I was in college I drove a 1962 Buick Skylark two door coupe. It was a sweet car and I loved it. I dated my husband for one year before he went to West Point and during that time I remember that winter getting a call from him one snowy day to pick him up. He had lost his drivers license for six months because he had been caught racing in his Corvette. It was snowing and he wanted to come over to see me. I got in my sweet Skylark and took to the icy, snowy roads and drove over to his house to get him. On the way over I found him walking along the road. It was the first time I drove him in that car. Romantic memories seem to be entangled with these cars.

When my husband and I were married he had a 1974 Audi LS 100. He had bought it while a cadet at West Point and had special ordered it to come with air conditioning. German made autos didn’t come with air conditioning back then and the car kept over heating. It gave Bob fits and he only kept it a year.

Meanwhile I had a 1973 Ford Maverick. I loved that car. I had to give it up when we got orders to move to Germany in 1977.

When we lived in Germany we bought used American cars. They were very popular overseas and Americans could sell them easily after they shipped them over from the states. Back then there weren’t as many restrictions against buying German cars and shipping them back to the states and many American service people liked to buy old Mercedes to ship home.

That’s pretty difficult to do now.

When we moved home we bought my husband’s Mom’s old Oldsmobile which was a pretty elegant car. Later on, for a second car, we bought a Volkswagon Van which I would later regret since I was the one who had to drive it. It was a standard shift vehicle which was okay but the van always smelled of gasoline, was not air conditioned and for some reason the heater didn’t seem to work in the winter but it did in the summer.

I hated that van.

When we traded it in for an extended version, Chrysler Van I was thrilled. We had three children and being a military family, we were always on the go. By this time we were moving every one to two years so we spent a lot of time in that van. We kept it for ten years. Our Chrysler Van gave us ten solid years and 210,000 miles of safety, travel and fun. It never once broke down or gave us any trouble. We took the van from Indianapolis to Virginia to Panama to New York.

When our son was a senior in high school he would sometimes drive himself and his sisters to school in that van through the snow in upstate New York. You could almost say the old van had so much experience it drove him.

It was a sad day when we had to say goodbye to the van. I believe it was my favorite vehicle of all.

Our next vehicle was a pretty audacious choice but fun. We bought another van, a Chrysler Dodge extended conversion van with a tv/vcr combination. We still had many miles to travel and our kids really enjoyed watching movies on our long trips. We kept the van until 1997 when we traded it in for a mini-van, one which would become another world traveler van and big favorite, a Chevy Venture.

This mini van would go to Germany with us and I would take it all over Europe, throughout Germany, Austria and France. I lived in Heidelberg and taught first grade in a DoDDs elementary school in Stuttgart, Germany and commuted down the autobahn everyday in the minivan.

My husband was interested in buying another car while we were in Germany but I was cool to the idea because I really liked the Venture and preferred to drive cars as long as they could be driven. We kept the Venture for six years, then I gave it to my parents. They are still driving it.

Next up was a Chevrolet Trailblazer. I loved that car. I would still have it but I needed to economize with our daughter in law school. She needed a new car and so I was able to trade her old Chevy and my Trailblazer in for two Chevy Aveos for under the price of the monthly payment of my Trailblazer.

Two weeks after I bought my Chevy Aveo I was hit from behind on Interstate and the car really proved what the manufacturers have claimed about the cars’ safety rating. I had some neck pain but the car had minimal damage. One scratch the size of my little finger nail on the bumper was all that I could find. I took the car in to the insurance adjusters to be sure and they issued a check for three hundred dollars to fix the paint job. After two and a half years I am still happy with the Aveo.

We never considered buying foreign cars, being happy with American made products. Besides, the Hondas, the Toyotas and the Mitsubishis were all pretty pricey and much smaller than a family of five needed. Americans should have the right to make their own choices when it comes to the vehicles they choose to buy and it is time that Congress get the message that we are tired of their interference, red tape, rules and regulations, and green standards, that have worked along with the UAW to kill the American Car Industry.

My husband has also preferred American made cars, he likes economy cars now but when he graduated from high school his father bought him a 1969 gold Corvette Stingray.

It’s hard to imagine a world without cars like that.

11 Dec 2008 01:08 pm

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It’s my brother, the Sgt. Major’s birthday. He’s home this year to celebrate it. He was home to celebrate it last year, but just barely.

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He has two granddaughters to run for now.

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Happy Birthday to the best Sgt. Major/Brother in the U.S.A.!

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