Tag Archives: Betty Jenkins

A Rocky Start: Chapter Five Continued

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Soggy Sunday was followed by muggy Monday. The rain had halted for a bit, but the clouds remained, and Amber was sure it would rain again. She took her umbrella with her on her way to school. The class had been progressing through the career unit as Ms. McGuire had said they would. The first careers they explored were jobs in health care. Amber knew that there were doctors and nurses, but she never thought about all the different types of jobs there were in health care. The EMTs who ride in ambulances, people who operate x-ray machines, and those who test blood are all health care workers. Some of them sounded pretty interesting, but some seemed too gory, like those working in emergency rooms.

Many of the students in Amber’s class had already signed up for their career reports. Laura had quickly taken chef before someone else chose it. Melissa had decided to report on marine biology, thinking it meant swimming with dolphins. Logan chose architecture as his career interest, and Chris decided on construction. Chris said that Logan could design the buildings, and he would build them. Spike had signed up for astronaut. That seemed appropriate to the girls as they weren’t sure he was from this planet anyway. Amber was the only one still thinking about what to choose, and she was really feeling the pressure of not being able to make up her mind.

Amber was almost halfway home when the downpour started. The rain was coming down so hard that her umbrella proved useless. At first, she tried to run, but the wind was blowing against her so that all she could do was push forward. As she passed Betty Jenkins’s house, she heard a familiar voice calling to her.

“Amber,” Betty yelled, “get in here out of the rain.”

Without hesitating, Amber did as Betty said, and a few seconds later, she was dripping water on the tile entryway inside Betty’s house. Betty took a towel out of the closet in the hallway and put it around Amber’s shoulders. “Here, dry off,” she said. “I’ve got some cookies in the oven. I’ll be right back.”

By the time Betty returned, Amber had dried her hair as best as she could. Her clothes were still wet, and she was shivering.

“Come in the kitchen,” Betty suggested. “It’s warmer in there with the oven on.”

Amber could already smell the delicious chocolate chip cookies and hoped that Betty would offer her one. Betty told her to sit down at the table, and without even asking, she set a glass of milk and a plate with two cookies in front of Amber.

“So what exciting things happened at school today?” Betty wanted to know.

“We’re studying careers right now,” Amber told her. “Today Dr. Stevens, a veterinarian, came to talk to the class. She told us that she became a vet because she loves animals, especially dogs. She said most of what she does is routine, like giving shots and operating on dogs and cats so they can’t have babies. Chris asked her what the worst part of her job was. She said putting pets to sleep when they were old and suffering. The family is always crying and it is so sad, but it still has to be done.”

“She sounds like a very caring person,” Betty said.

“She’s the vet who gave Domino his shots. Next week she’s going to fix Domino so he won’t be able to make puppies.”

“That is a good thing to do,” Betty said. “You’re being a responsible pet owner.”

“It’s a good thing Domino doesn’t know what’s going to happen,” Amber said. “When I had my tonsils out, I had a week to worry about it. That was the longest week of my life. Why don’t you have any pets?”

“Paul and I had a dog,” Betty explained. “He was just a mutt we got at the animal shelter, maybe a collie and German shepherd mix. We called him Pepper because he was sort of black, white, and gray. Pepper got hip dysplasia like German shepherds do sometimes. Eventually, we had to put him to sleep.”

“I hope that doesn’t happen to Domino,” Amber said.

“He’s a young dog, so you won’t have to worry about that for years,” Betty assured her.

“There’s one part of the career unit that I’m not looking forward to.” Amber sighed a big sigh. “We have to choose a career we are interested in and give a report.”

“What career did you choose?” Betty asked.

“That’s the problem,” Amber said. “I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up.”

“You have lots of time for that,” Betty said. “Your teacher is probably just trying to get you started thinking about what you might be interested in. What’s your favorite subject in school?”

“That’s easy,” Amber said with enthusiasm. “Art is my favorite subject.”

“There are lots of careers that involve art,” Betty said. “You could be an artist or sell art supplies. You could work in a museum or even be an art teacher.”

“You hear a lot about starving artists,” Amber said seriously. “What if I’m not good enough to make money being an artist?”

“I love art too,” Betty told her. “In fact, I have a little studio behind the house. That’s where I keep my paint supplies and my paintings.”

“Was that your career?” Amber asked.

“Not really,” Betty said. “Usually I just give my paintings away. Once in a while, someone pays me, mostly for the supplies. My real job was delivering mail when we lived in Kansas.”

“Did you like that job?” Amber asked.

“I liked it very much. I was out in the fresh air every day. Some days, it was cold and snowy. Once I was even chased by a tornado. But I got to visit with lots of people. I got to know their dogs too. It was a great job, and I miss it sometimes.”

“I’d love to see some of your paintings,” Amber said. “Would you show them to me sometime?”

“I sure will,” Betty said. “When it’s not so rainy outside.”

“Speaking of rain,” Amber said. “It looks like it stopped for a little while. I think I had better get home before my mom starts to worry.”

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Five

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Betty Jenkins’s weather prediction turned out to be correct. The rain started at about five o’clock Saturday evening and continued most of the night. Amber awoke to a soggy Sunday morning. She jumped out of bed and ran to the window to check on the bird family. There she saw the parents huddled together on the nest. The branch the nest was hanging from provided some protection, but the birds had to be getting wet.

“Guess we’ll be taking the car to church this morning,” John said at breakfast.

Melissa and Chris also attended the Community Christian Church. Laura went to the Catholic church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, on the other side of Bluesky. When Amber arrived for Sunday school, Melissa and Chris were already there. Amber took a seat next to Melissa.

“That was kind of fun yesterday, watching the shuffleboard tournament,” Melissa said.

“I thought you said it was boring,” Amber reminded her.

“That was when the boys were there,” Melissa said. “I pretend like everything is boring when boys are around.”

“Why?” Amber asked.

“I just do,” Melissa said. “It’s part of my mystique.”

“What’s that?”

“That’s something the boys have to figure out.”

“You’ve lost me,” Amber sighed. “I can’t figure it out either.”

“We were surprised to see you girls at the shuffleboard tournament yesterday,” Chris said as he walked over to where they were sitting.

“We were surprised to see you there too,” Amber responded. “Do you like volunteering?”

“Actually, it’s a lot of fun.” Chris smiled. “Most of the seniors are pretty cool, especially Gus. He’s a funny guy.”

“How about the other seniors? Are they cool about having you help them?” Melissa asked.

“Most of them,” Chris told her. “Some of the seniors can be grouchy, and they think we’re noisy. But most of them are friendly and happy to see us.”

“Is that why you do it?” Amber asked.

“When we first moved to Bluesky, I was riding my bike past some old guy’s house. I was on the street, not on his property. But he came out and yelled at me. He told me to get away or he’d call the police.”

“That’s awful,” Melissa said. “I’m surprised you want to help them at all.”

“When we started our Boy Scout project, I told my scoutmaster about it. He said that some people think all kids are troublemakers. Of course, that isn’t true. It’s easy to think that all old folks are grouchy. But that isn’t true either.”

After church, while the family was eating lunch, Amber talked about the Sunday school lesson. “There were two brothers. One did everything he was supposed to do. The other brother made a big mistake. He asked his father for his inheritance. Then he went off on his own and wasted it on the wrong kinds of things. When he ran out of money, he was very poor and starving. He decided to go back to his father and beg his father to give him a lowly job. Instead, his father forgave him and threw a big party because his son was home.”

“What do you think the story means?” John asked.

“I think that God is like the father. He forgives us no matter how big a mistake we make, and he is always happy when we come back to him,” Amber answered.

“That’s exactly right,” John said with enthusiasm.

“What about paying his dues for his don’ts?” Amber looked at her mother.

“Did he get his inheritance back?” Mary asked.

“No,” Amber said thoughtfully. “So he paid for his don’ts by losing his inheritance?”

“That’s right,” Mary said. “He had his father’s forgiveness, but there are always consequences when we don’t choose to do what is right.”

“I hope I only make little mistakes,” Amber said.

“Me too,” Mary added. “But remember, you have a family that loves you no matter what mistakes you make. We’ll always be here for you.”

It was still raining a little after lunch. The Snyder family settled down in front of the television to watch a baseball game. Everyone, that is, except Amber. She decided to go up to her room and work on some of her sketches. The colored-pencil set she received for her birthday would come in handy coloring the bird sketches she had made earlier.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Four Continued

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Saturday morning arrived at last, but Amber looked out her window at a sunless day. Clouds had moved in overnight and threatened to pour rain on her plans for the day. After breakfast, Amber made a quick phone call to Betty Jenkins to make sure the shuffleboard tournament was going to take place.

“Rain or shine,” Betty assured her. “The shuffleboard courts are covered, so we’ll stay dry. Anyway, I don’t think it will rain until this evening.”

Two hours later, Amber and her friends rode their bikes to the senior center. “Where’s Mrs. Jenkins?” Melissa asked.

“She likes to be called Betty,” Amber reminded her.

“Oh, I forgot. Well, is Betty here?”

“She’s right over there. I think they are choosing up sides or something,” Amber said.

Laura noticed a list of names posted on a wall. After looking down the list, she saw Betty Jenkins’s name in the singles column.

“Do you know anything about shuffleboard?” Laura asked Amber.

“No, not really. Maybe Betty will have time to fill us in before the tournament starts.”

“I can do that for you,” said a little man wearing Bermuda shorts and a straw hat. “Name’s Gus. And who would you lovely young ladies be?”

“I’m Amber, and these are my friends, Melissa and Laura. We’re here for our friend Betty Jenkins, but we don’t really know anything about shuffleboard. We won’t even know when it’s time to cheer for Betty.”

“Well,” Gus began, “if you take a look at the shuffleboard court, you’ll see triangles at both ends. Each shooter uses a stick called a tang to push a disk called a biscuit to the triangle at the other end of the court. You can see the point values in the triangle. Landing in the smallest space earns ten points. There are two seven-point spaces and two eight-point spaces. If the biscuit lands completely inside one of those zones without touching any of the lines, the shooter scores that many points. It takes a score of seventy-five points to win. ”

“That sounds pretty difficult,” Laura observed.

“Believe me, it is. Even if the shooter manages to put the biscuit in a zone, the opponent has a chance to knock it out.”

“Wow,” Melissa said. “Is Betty Jenkins a good shuffleboard player?”

“One of the best,” Gus told them.

“What is the ten-off space?” Amber asked.

“If the biscuit lands there, the shooter loses ten points.”

“Oh, dear,” Amber said, “I hope that doesn’t happen to Betty.”

“Even if it does,” Melissa added, “we’ll yell and cheer for her anyway.”

“I wouldn’t recommend that,” Gus warned. “We take shuffleboard very seriously. You’ll need to be quiet, just like the spectators at a golf tournament.”

“Thanks for letting us know that,” Laura said. “We wouldn’t want to get Betty disqualified or something.”

“You’ll be fine,” Gus assured them. “Just watch from over there.” He pointed to some chairs along the sidelines. Most of them were already occupied. “You better find a seat, it looks like we’re about ready to start.”

The girls found some seats on the sideline. On the shuffleboard court, they noticed some boys lining up yellow and black disks in the ten-off spaces. “Look who that is,” Amber said. “It’s Logan, Chris, and Spike.”

“It sure is,” Melissa said, surprised. “I wonder why they’re here.”

“Those boys help out around here all the time,” Gus informed them. “They’re our junior volunteers.”

As the tournament started, the girls watched Betty Jenkins push a yellow disk from her end of the court toward the triangle at the other end. The disk stopped on the line between the ten-point space and an eight-point space. That meant no points. The other player, a dark-haired woman a little taller than Betty, wearing bright-pink capris and a flowered shirt, took her shot with the black disk, which landed inside the seven-point space. Betty’s next disk pushed the black disk off the seven-point space, but once again, it landed on a line. A man with a movie camera seemed to be catching all the action on film. Amber wondered if he was from the television station in Marshallville.

“That’s Clarisse’s husband, Hank.” Gus seemed to be reading her thoughts. “He got a new video camera last Christmas. He hardly goes anywhere without it. Hank certainly wouldn’t miss Clarisse’s big moment if she finally beats Betty at shuffleboard.”

Play continued until each shooter had used her four disks. Betty had seven points. But Clarisse had fifteen. The two women walked to the opposite end of the court where Spike had lined up the disks again in the starting position.

When there was a break in the tournament play, the girls went over to talk to Betty. “It’s so nice to have you girls here today. You are sweet to give up your Saturday morning like this.”

“It’s been fun watching you play,” Amber said. “How is it going?”

“Clarisse Anderson is a very good shooter,” Betty said. “She has me by eight points, but I still have a chance to win.”

“We’re cheering for you,” Melissa said.

“Quietly,” Laura added.

“Yes, I should have warned you that spectators have to be quiet.”

The girls returned to their seats for the second half of the tournament. Logan, Chris, and Spike were busy putting the disks at the starting point. When they had finished, they walked over to where the girls were seated.

“How do you like watching shuffleboard?” Logan asked.

“It’s a little bit boring to watch,” Melissa said. “It might be more fun if we were helping like you guys.”

“Yeah,” Spike said. “We help out here a lot. In fact, we’re three handy guys.”

“You don’t have to brag about it,” Melissa scolded.

“He’s not bragging,” Chris told her. “That’s what we call ourselves. It’s on our flyer on the bulletin board inside the senior center. We’re Three Handy Guys. When a senior needs our help, he calls us up. We wash windows, mow lawns, and rake leaves. In the winter, we even shovel snow. We do the things that are hard for seniors to do for themselves.”

“Do they pay you?” Laura asked.

“No,” Chris responded. “We do it for free. We do it because we like helping.”

“It started as a Boy Scout project,” Logan explained. “Our troop did some work around the senior center. That was when we realized there are a lot of seniors living in Bluesky, and they need our help.”

“We do that too,” Amber said. “Last Saturday, we pulled weeds for Betty Jenkins.”

“Do you have a name and a flyer like we do?” Spike asked.

“Not yet,” Laura said, “but we’re going to.”

“You could call yourselves Three Useless Girls,” Spike laughed.

Just then, Gus came over and asked them to be quiet.

 

By the end of the tournament, Betty was still ten points behind. She congratulated her opponent on the win and came over to where the girls were waiting for her.

“You played a good game,” Amber said. “It was really close.”

“Clarisse is a good player,” Betty said. “I’ve been lucky before, but I think she’s been practicing a lot. She told me she was going to win, and she did.”

“Will you get a chance for a rematch?” Laura asked.

“We have one more tournament next month,” Betty said. “We’ll see what happens then.”

 

Betty headed into the senior center for lunch, and the girls walked to their bikes. Gus waved to them from across the lawn. “See you later, alligator,” he called to them.

“Bye, see you later,” the girls shouted back with a wave.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Four

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“Good morning out there.” The voice on the radio woke Amber as her alarm came on. “It’s another beautiful Monday. Rise and shine.”

Monday, Amber thought with a sigh. A check of the tree outside her window showed no baby birds yet. She dressed quickly and went downstairs to have a bowl of cereal. Soon, Melissa and Laura were knocking on the door since the three of them had planned to ride their bikes to school together.

“Do you have your homework?” Laura reminded Amber.

“No, just a minute, I’ll get it.”

After a few minutes, Amber shouted. “Mom, do you know what happened to my homework?”

“No, Amber, where did you put it?”

“It was right here on the desk yesterday.”

“I saw some torn-up bits of paper in the laundry room by Domino’s bed,” her dad shouted out. “Do you think he might have gotten it?”

“I don’t know,” Amber said. “What did you do with the torn pieces of paper?”

“I threw them in the trash.”

Amber looked in the trash can. There were tiny pieces of paper mixed with eggshells and other goo from breakfast. “Nothing I can salvage out of that,” she said.

On the way to school, Amber thought about what she was going to say to Ms. McGuire. This was the second time this month that she was missing her homework. The first time, it must have dropped out of her binder on the way to school. Ms. McGuire had been understanding and given her credit for it anyway. Maybe she would do that again.

As the girls locked their bikes into the bike rack, they noticed Logan Green and his two friends, Chris Bishop and Spike Smith. Spike’s real name is Mike (actually Michael), but everyone calls him Spike because of his spiked hair. (Melissa says it is because of his spiked tongue.) The boys were looking at Amber and laughing about something.

Amber sometimes wondered why these three boys were friends. They seemed so different from each other. Logan and Chris are about the same height, but that is where the similarities stopped. Logan, who is tall and thin, always looks so neat with his polo shirt tucked into his jeans. He wears his light-brown hair short in a tidy crew cut. Chris is more friendly and easygoing than his two friends. His appearance is kind of casual, with baggier jeans and long T-shirts. His longer brown hair is usually brushed to the side or combed over his forehead. Spike likes to use plenty of gel in his hair and, sometimes, even colored hair spray. The other students are no longer shocked to see him with a red or purple spike. His other way of showing off is to wear shirts with sayings. Today he was wearing a shirt that said, “Homework destroys trees.”

 

“Like he really cares about the environment,” Melissa said when she saw it.

When Amber thought about it though, she realized that her friends were different from her in lots of ways. Although Amber and her two friends dress pretty much the same every day—in jeans and T-shirts—Melissa calls hers designer jeans and fashion tops. Even more important are her accessories. She is always loaded down with jewelry, shiny belts, and fancy headbands. Amber’s mom called it dressing to the nines. Amber thought that sometimes Melissa dressed to the eighteens or even twenty-sevens.

Laura is the smart one who always gets good grades. If Amber or Melissa come up with an idea that might get them in trouble, Laura is the one who talks them out of it. When she wasn’t around, Melissa called Laura “the goody-goody girl.”

Their teacher Ms. McGuire was young, probably in her late twenties. She has been a teacher at Bluesky Elementary for the past three years. Amber thought she was lucky to have a nice teacher like Ms. McGuire. She also liked the way Ms. McGuire dressed. Sometimes she wears skirts with cowboy boots, but most of the time, she wears tan, khaki pants and shirts with buttons. Some days she pulls her shoulder-length brown hair into a ponytail, but most of the time, she wears it down in soft waves.

Ms. McGuire seemed especially enthusiastic for a Monday morning, and Amber wondered what she could possibly be that excited about.

“Today, class,” Ms. McGuire began, “we are going to start a unit on careers. There will be several parts to the unit. We will be reading some stories about people in different careers, and later, we will have some guest speakers, maybe even some of your parents.” Most of the kids groaned when they heard that.

“The most exciting part of the unit will be the oral report. Each one of you will select a different career to research. Then you will give an oral report to the class.” Amber was thinking that didn’t sound too exciting, and looking around the room, she felt pretty sure her classmates didn’t either.

At lunch, the girls talked about what careers they might choose. Laura didn’t have to think twice about what she wanted to do for her report. Laura’s favorite thing to do is cooking. Amber and Melissa weren’t at all surprised when she chose to give her report on becoming a chef. Melissa loves swimming, and she loves dolphins. She was thinking about doing her report on marine biology. Amber listened to them talk about their ideas, but her mind was blank when it came to deciding what she would like to do.

“I have a career suggestion for you.” Spike was sitting nearby and overheard their conversation. “How about mud wrestling?” Then he and Chris doubled over in laughter. Amber shot a dirty look at Logan, who only shrugged.

“What was that all about?” Melissa asked when the boys were gone.

“I fell in the mud yesterday at the park,” Amber explained. “Logan saw it, and I guess he told his friends about it.”

“What a jerk,” Laura fumed. “Boys, who needs them?”

“I like boys,” Melissa said. “Especially mature ones like Kyle.”

“If Kyle was your brother,” Amber said, “you’d change your mind about that.”

Their first class after lunch was math. Amber hadn’t told Ms. McGuire about her homework yet, but she couldn’t put it off any longer. As the students filed into the classroom, Amber went up to Ms. McGuire’s desk.

“What is it?” Ms. McGuire looked up from her paperwork.

“I don’t have my homework,” Amber admitted.

“Why not?”

“My dog ate it.” Amber stared at her shoes.

“That’s the oldest excuse in the book,” Ms. McGuire told her. “What do you expect me to do?”

“Could you take my word for it that I did my homework?”

“Didn’t you have a similar problem a few weeks ago? It seems like your homework fell out of your binder that time. I did accept your explanation and gave you credit for doing the homework. Now you’re here with another excuse. I think you need to take responsibility for turning in your work. I can’t give you a break this time.”

Amber thanked Ms. McGuire anyway and went to her seat. “I sure hope Domino enjoyed his snack,” Amber said under her breath.

 

After school, Amber told Melissa and Laura about the shuffleboard tournament on Saturday.

“Would you like to go with me?” she asked. “We could be the cheering section for Betty Jenkins.”

“I’m not sure shuffleboard is a very exciting sport,” Melissa said. “It’s just for old people.”

“I don’t think that matters,” Laura said. “Mrs. Jenkins is our friend, and we can support her in the tournament.”

“Okay,” Melissa sighed. “I guess you’re right.”

 

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Three Continued

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After lunch, they all sat around for a while, letting their food digest, and planned the football game. Kyle had already marked off the goal lines at each end of the field. Before they began, he reminded everyone of the rules,

“This is tag football, no tackling allowed. Tagging means tapping someone on the back with both hands. The quarterback stands at one goal line and passes the ball to someone on his team. The other team tries to block the pass or intercept it. If the ball is caught, the player can say ‘down.’ Then no one can tag him. The person catching the ball can run with it. If he is tagged, the ball is down at the spot where he was tagged. If a team makes a touchdown or if there are four downs with no touchdown, the other team takes over at the other end of the field.”

“Do you really think it’s fair to make your mother and Amber play against the two of us?” John asked Kyle.

“What do you mean, make us?” Mary scolded. “What makes you think we won’t beat you?”

“Is this girls against guys?” Mrs. Jenkins asked. “I can throw a pretty mean football.”

“What about running?” Amber asked, concerned.

“You said the quarterback stands at the goal line,” Mrs. Jenkins reminded her. “Let me be the quarterback. You’ll see.”

The girls took the ball first, with Mrs. Jenkins on the goal line. Amber ran out for a pass, and Mrs. Jenkins threw a bomb right to her. Amber caught it and said, “Down.” There was a short delay in the game as Mrs. Jenkins walked to a new position downfield. Amber threw the ball to her mother, who managed to run a few feet before Kyle tagged her. From there, she threw a short pass to Amber, which didn’t advance the ball very far. Everyone seemed to have forgotten about Mrs. Jenkins who was now in the end zone. Amber faked a pass to her mother, but instead threw it to Mrs. Jenkins who made a beautiful catch for a touchdown.

Both John and Kyle were wearing shocked looks on their faces as they realized what had happened. Just then, Kyle noticed Logan Green walking by.

“Hey, Logan, want to play tag football? We need some help. The women are beating us.”

Logan looked at the three victors cheering and high-fiving each other in the end zone. “Sure,” he said. “Where do you want me to play?”

Logan was a student in Amber’s class, but she hadn’t really talked to him very much. He was usually quiet in class and mostly talked to his friends Chris and Spike during lunch or recess. Amber knew that Logan was very organized and always prepared for class. The teacher called on him a lot, and he usually had the right answer.

Now that the guys had the ball, they showed no mercy. Kyle threw the ball to John, who threw it sideways to Logan, who ran it in for a touchdown. The girls just stood there, unable to do anything about it. Then Mary was the quarterback. She told Amber to run out for a pass. Amber was running backward, not really seeing where she was going. Her mother saw it first and tried to yell, but it was too late. When Amber hit the mud, she couldn’t stay on her feet. Slipping and sliding, she let out a yell. That brought Domino to his feet, and within seconds, he was loose from where Kyle had him tied up. As Amber landed seat-first in the mud, Domino pounced on her with his muddy paws.

At first the others stared in shock, but when they were sure Amber was okay, they started laughing. Amber got up and headed for the restroom without even looking their way. That was the end of the football game. At least it ended in a tie.

“You’re a pretty good football player, Mrs. Jenkins,” John was saying as Amber returned from the restroom.

“Call me Betty,” she said. “I raised three boys, so I played a lot of football in my day.”

“Where are your boys now?” Mary asked.

“Calvin lives in Oakland, California. He’s a stockbroker and has two boys of his own. Sam is in the air force, stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson. Robert is a chef in a fancy restaurant in San Francisco. He has three children, two girls and a boy.”

“You must really miss them,” Mary commented.

“They visit when they can. At least they aren’t that far away. My husband, Paul, and I moved here when he retired. After Paul passed away, I thought of moving closer to one of my sons, but I like living in Bluesky.”

John offered Betty a ride home, but she said it was just a short walk to her house. Amber, now passably clean, asked if she could walk with Betty.

“Come straight home after that,” Mary told her. “I don’t want you out after dark.”

“I will,” Amber assured her.

“I can’t believe you made that catch!” Amber exclaimed as the two walked along.

“I wasn’t sure I could stay on my feet,” Betty said. “It was sort of a one-handed catch.”

“Well, at least we scored,” Amber said enthusiastically. “If I hadn’t fallen in the mud, we might have won.”

“I’m pretty sure the guys weren’t going to let that happen. Anyway, we made a decent showing.”

“That was so embarrassing in front of Logan.”

“I think he likes you,” Betty said.

“Logan? Why would you say that?” Amber asked.

“He was looking at you a lot. But the main reason is that when you fell in the mud, he was the only one who didn’t laugh.”

“He was probably too disgusted to laugh. He probably never had something like that happen to him in his life!”

“I think you might be surprised,” Betty went on. “Everybody has things like that happen from time to time.”

“Not as often as I do,” Amber sighed. “You must have been good at sports when you were younger.”

“I played softball in high school,” Betty told her. “Now my sport is shuffleboard.”

“Really?” Amber looked surprised. “I’ve never heard of shuffleboard. Where do you play it?”

“Come around to the Bluesky Senior Center at ten o’clock next Saturday,” Betty invited. “You can cheer me on in the shuffleboard tournament.”

“I’ll ask my mom,” Amber assured her. “If she says it’s okay, I’ll be there.”

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start–Chapter Two

Image1-17_edited-1          Amber awoke to a beautiful spring morning with the sound of birds outside her window. She pulled back the curtain to look at the nest in the sycamore tree. Earlier in the spring, she had watched as two parents-to-be built their nest from pieces of dry grass and straw. The male bird was orange and black, and the female was black and yellow. Both birds had black wings with white stripes. Amber’s dad said that he thought they were orioles. But he took Amber to the library to get a bird book so they could find out for sure. After reading about all the different types, they decided the birds must be hooded orioles. The black face and orange head that looked like a hood kind of gave it away. In her sketchbook, Amber had drawn several pictures of the birds, some flying and some sitting on a branch.

In the nest, Amber could see five bluish-gray eggs with black specks. The male was sitting on the nest, but Amber knew that the two birds took turns. A few weeks after they had spotted the birds in the tree, Amber’s mom brought home an oriole feeder, which she hung in another tree in the backyard. Other birds used the feeder as well, but Amber could always pick out her pair.

The smell of pancakes brought Amber down to breakfast. Her mom made pancakes almost every Saturday. After breakfast, she would have to do her Saturday chores. This week, it was cleaning the bathrooms. Her mother always cleaned the kitchen and did the laundry. Amber, Kyle, and their dad rotated the other chores. Today Kyle had to vacuum, and Dad was dusting.

As Amber walked outside to begin pulling weeds in the front yard, she saw two girls on bikes, riding toward her house. As they came closer, she recognized her two best friends, Melissa Peterson and Laura Thomas. Both girls were dressed in jeans and T-shirts. Melissa was almost a foot taller than Laura and Amber. She had her long straight blond hair pulled back and held by a clip with a flower on it. Laura’s short brown hair was covered by a baseball cap.

Her friends left their bikes in the driveway and started across the grass to where Amber was. They were both pulling gloves out of their pockets and putting them on.

“We’re here to help you with the weeds,” Laura said. “Then maybe you can go with us to the pond.”

“I’ll have to ask my mom,” Amber said with a smile. “But I’m pretty sure she will let me.”

“What’s Kyle doing today?” Melissa wanted to know.

“He’s going to Fox Creek with some of his friends,” Amber told her. “He’s in there packing a lunch right now. I think he’s taking Domino with him.”

“Maybe we could go to Fox Creek too,” Melissa said hopefully.

“I know my mom would say no to that,” Amber shook her head.

“Mine too,” Laura chimed in. “Fox Creek is definitely out-of-bounds for me.”

About a half hour later, Amber pulled out the last weed from the front yard. She carried the bag of weeds over to the trash can.

“That didn’t take long at all,” Laura said.

“No, it didn’t,” Amber agreed. “I’ve got an idea. Yesterday, I met Mrs. Jenkins. She lives on Hope Street, and I was walking past her house when she asked me to get her newspaper out of the bushes.”

“She must have the same paperboy we have,” Melissa interrupted. “Derrick Carson. He always throws our paper in the bushes too.”

“Well, anyway,” Amber continued, “Mrs. Jenkins seems really nice, and I noticed she has some weeds in her yard. She couldn’t bend down to get her newspaper, so it’s probably hard for her to pull weeds. Maybe we could do that for her before we go down to the pond.”

Melissa and Laura both agreed that would be a good thing to do. After Amber checked in with her mom, the three girls got on their bikes and headed for Mrs. Jenkins’s house. They found her sitting in the glider on her front porch.

“Mrs. Jenkins,” Amber called out as she laid her bike down, “these are my friends, Melissa and Laura. We’ve been pulling weeds in my yard, and we thought you might like some help with your weeds.”

“That is a very nice offer, but are you sure that’s what you want to be doing on a fine Saturday morning?”

“It won’t take long,” Laura assured her. “And we love to help people.”

“In that case,” Mrs. Jenkins said, “I think I’ll take you up on your offer. That is, if you’ll have some lemonade and cookies with me when you’re done.”

“That’s a deal,” the girls responded with glee.

Amber, Melissa, and Laura started to work on the lawn, and Mrs. Jenkins went into the house. It hadn’t rained for quite a while, so there weren’t too many weeds. It didn’t take the girls long to finish. When Mrs. Jenkins returned, she was carrying a tray with a pitcher of lemonade, four glasses, and a plate of cookies. When Melissa saw her trying to get through the door with the tray, she ran over to help.

“Let me take that for you,” Melissa said. “Those cookies smell awfully good.”

“It’s my special recipe for chocolate chip cookies,” Mrs. Jenkins told her. “No one can ever guess my secret ingredient.” She told the girls to go inside and wash their hands. Then she poured the lemonade into glasses.

“These are the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had,” Amber said. “What is your secret ingredient?”

“I can’t tell you.” Mrs. Jenkins smiled a sly smile. “Or it wouldn’t be a secret, would it?”

“We wouldn’t tell anyone,” Laura pleaded.

“Sorry, you’ll just have to try guessing.”

“Is it cinnamon?” suggested Melissa.

“No, any other guesses?”

“What about nutmegan?” added Amber.

“You mean nutmeg,” Laura corrected. “I think it’s something exotic like cardamom.”

“Good guesses,” said Mrs. Jenkins, “but you’re all wrong.”

For a few moments, everyone ate the cookies in silence. Then Mrs. Jenkins said, “The yard looks much better. I don’t know how to thank you girls. When my husband, Paul, was alive, he always took such good care of our lawn. If a weed popped up, he would snatch it out of the ground right away. I think the weeds finally gave up and decided not to grow in our yard. Since I’ve had to use this cane, I haven’t been able to keep up like he did. I hire a neighbor boy to mow the lawn once a month. That’s about all I can manage.”

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

Meet Betty Jenkins

IMG_0426The first senior you will meet in A Rocky Start is Betty Jenkins and you meet her as Amber does on the second page. She is having trouble retrieving her newspaper from the bushes and asks Amber for help. That’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Betty is a retired mail carrier who moved from Kansas to Bluesky with her husband Paul.  When Paul passed away, Betty made the decision to remain in Bluesky. She has three sons. Calvin is a stockbroker in Oakland, California and has three boys. Sam is in the air force, stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Robert, who has two girls and a boy, is a chef in San Francisco.

Amber and Betty quickly develop a strong bond, due partly to their mutual love of art. Betty has a small studio behind her house where she paints landscapes. She sells a few of her paintings, but she gives many of them away. Amber is also drawn to Betty because Betty accepts and supports Amber as she is. While Amber’s family is loving and supportive, they can sometimes be a little overbearing. Betty is more likely to help Amber find her own way through situations.

There are two things Betty is famous for in Bluesky. First is her special chocolate chip cookies. She has a secret ingredient that she never tells to anyone–well, maybe just one person. The other thing Betty is famous for is shuffleboard. She invites Amber to her shuffleboard match at the senior center. Amber brings her friends along to cheer for Betty. Not only do they learn about shuffleboard, but they also discover the opportunity to become junior volunteers.

Betty is the best example of “love your neighbor.” When Doris Duncan hurts her back, Betty is right there to lend a hand. In this way, she is a role model to the Handy Helpers. Mary Snyder’s failed attempts at planting a garden lead her to enlist the help of Betty’s green thumb. Betty is there, hoe in hand, to lead the Snyders toward a bountiful garden.

It is Betty’s sense of humor that draws others–including the Handy Helpers–to her. She has a talent for lightening up any situation. When Amber has a mishap with her spinach salad, Betty tells a funny story on herself to make Amber feel better. Betty is the kind of friend and neighbor everyone would wish to have.

A Rocky Start and all the Handy Helper books are available at amazon