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Helping the troops with a late-summer twist
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 Have you noticed that it's begun? Summer is finally loosening its death grip and it's a little easier to breathe again. After a particularly brutal August, the heat is beginning its slow retreat. Seasonal allergies be damned - my windows are open to the refreshing breeze that cleanses my house on these beautiful, cool mornings. How grateful I am that fall is waving hello, sending notes of its return even though it's still weeks away.

September is one of my favorite months, and this year, my schedule is full of good things. For starters, today is Grandparents' Day. If you're blessed enough to still have your grandparents with you, I'm sure they would love to hear from you today. I'm going to bake a homemade apple crisp and take it over to my grandmother's house this afternoon. We're lucky that my mom is in town this year, so my kids will get to hang out with one of their grandparents, too.

 If you're as eager as I am to celebrate fall, please join me this Friday night for the annual grand opening of Colonel Cob's Corn Maze in Oxford. I can't think of anywhere that personifies autumn more than this place.

 The good Colonel has invited my friends at Operation Sandbox to have a fundraiser for our deployed soldiers that evening. All proceeds will be used to send care packages to our men and women fighting overseas.

If you come, I hope you'll take a moment to say hello. I should be easy to find as I've volunteered to do face painting for the event. So please come see me, and for a small donation to Operation Sandbox, I'll paint a little something for you. I found some great new designs online today and it will be fun to share them.

Rest assured that there is no chance that I'll wander away from my post to navigate that six-acre corn maze. I can barely find my way out of a paper bag, and just looking at the aerial photo of the maze online made my stomach hurt. It's a really neat thing they made-one of the coolest things I've seen. But I am an absolute coward when it comes to stuff like that.

I think it stems from the time I got lost in a haystack maze as a teenager. It was part of an elaborate Halloween haunted house built inside a barn. Some boys we liked were staffing the maze, and quite naturally, they thought it was hilarious to follow us through and scare us more often than they did the other patrons. But it wasn't funny to me, and I've suffered from maze-o-phobia since.

My husband Donnie says that he's going to cheat and use his GPS to help direct him and our sons through the corn maze. I'm all for cheating in this case because - like most men - my husband would rather curl up under a corn stalk and be pecked to death by crows all winter long than ask anyone for directions. And I really would like for my family to come home with me Friday night.

The fundraiser begins at 6 PM and lasts until 10 PM. More information can be found on their website:, or call the Corn Maze Hotline at (770) 855-1530. I can't think of a better reason to come enjoy this preview of fall than to help make autumn in the desert a little more bearable for our troops.

My family will get one more taste of summer toward the end of the month, when we attend my brother in law's long-anticipated wedding on the beach in Florida. The perpetual bachelor is finally getting married, and we're so happy for him.

I just hope that I can keep my son Eli quiet and out of the ocean during the ceremony. He's getting to be a big boy, but he's still young enough to feel tortured by having to sit still when there's an aqua blue sea calling his name just a few feet away.

He's sweet, but sneaky, and we can't outrun him. Maybe I'll bribe him with a return trip to Colonel Cob's if he behaves?

Kari Apted can be reached at