Was I the April Fool?

April Fool’s Day is upon us, watch out! I have not played any April Fool pranks but I have assisted my daughter once or twice. When my overly intelligent middle daughter (whom I shall call Piper) was in 5th grade, she decided she would go to school on April 1st on crutches, pretending that she had a badly sprained ankle. So she did. All day long her friends carried her books, students and teachers asked her what was the matter with her leg. She had a plausible story ready and did not break character all day. In fact Piper never broke character. She did not ever tell anyone at that school that her sprained ankle was a prank. She contended with the crutches on the stairs to her class that day. She even sat out recess, a great sacrifice for the sake of her “art.” That she could carry this off without so much as cracking a smile might worry some parents, but I was rather proud of her.
The day after April Fool’s Day she went to school walking fine as if nothing had ever happened to her leg. Of course she was asked about being fully recovered but she just said her leg was better. No teacher suspected anything afoul, not expecting that a 5th grader would pull such a prank and do so with the knowledge of her mother. I knew she could do it, though. I was just glad she well knew the difference between a prank and lying. I had taught my children that lying to me was the worst thing they could do, and carried the strongest discipline that I would dish out. Well, lying and defiance, for I didn’t punish my kids for childishness or accidents, they were children; I just trained them how to do better.
But though they were to be honest with me (this was tested sorely when they became teenagers) I saw nothing wrong with a victimless joke. Fortunate for me, Piper knew that I would not react favorably to having a prank played on me. I don’t like surprises.

Piper did not like being in the spotlight. She was a very early talker but so shy she wouldn’t talk in public to the point that one of my friends asked me if Piper was “slow.”  The summer after the April Fool prank our church held acting and music classes for the summer. She decided to take acting and that was fine until the class changed from acting techniques to putting on a play. My daughter was persuaded by the teacher to read for the main female part. I got very nervous about then. She wasn’t a toddler anymore but she still did not like the spotlight. What if she got the part? Would she be willing to get up on stage when it came time for the actual performance? If she did not want to, she could not be made to. She could not be made to do anything even as a small child. She had to be told the reasons behind rules and expected behaviors and come to a point of acceptance based on understanding. Training and disciplining Piper often brought me to my knees in prayer. But though the girl was (is) strong willed, she has no malice in her.

I had a nervous stomach as I sat and listened to several girls read for the part of the mother. The other girls  mothers were probably a little nervous that their daughters would not get the part and be disappointed. I was hoping my child wouldn’t get the part. When Piper read I thought “Oh no, she’s going to get the part, she’s great.” And she was, she blew all the other girls out of the water. She got the part.
I was a nervous wreck during the two weeks of rehearsal. Piper complained often that she had let herself get into such a thing, having to get up on stage in front of the church. Motivated by fear, I strongly encouraged her that she could do it. I could just imagine her refusing to get on stage the day of the play out of fear. I have sung in public and know about stage fright. You have to want to perform more than you are afraid. I didn’t know if this would be the case for Piper.
There was no understudy; this wasn’t Broadway or even high school. Would they have to cancel the play if she bolted? Well, the play was mercifully short. Piper did her duty and got onstage, and she was very good. However, I made it a point to encourage her toward lower profile group activities for a while. I needed a break. But I was still proud of my Piper.

C.G.

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Reading Fiction Makes People More Empathetic

According to Canadian studies sited in Time Magazine, regularly reading fiction makes a person understand people better. I believe it, it makes senseImage. Read the entire article at :   http://ideas.time.com/2013/06/03/why-we-should-read-literature/

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Daddy and Universal Truth

My Daddy, he was so unique. He was cheerful, though that didn’t mean that we five children didn’t upset him with our squabbling, oh once or twice a year.  He had a younger brother and they were polar opposites. Even as babies, Daddy widely grinned in photographs of him while his younger brother never smiled in any photo.

Daddy was no wimp, far from it. He was a frogman during World War II (under water demolition, UDTs), an elite special-purpose force established by the United States Navy during the war. These were the precursors of the Navy Seals, the best of the best. Their primary function was to reconnoiter and destroy enemy defensive obstacles, usually with explosives, on beaches prior to amphibious landings. As the U.S. Navy’s elite combat swimmer pioneers, they surface swam without a breathing apparatus as they infiltrated ships, beaches, or harbors. They tore down the cables and nets protecting enemy harbors and planted magnetic mines on the bottoms of enemy ships, without being seen of course. They also located and marked mines for clearing by minesweepers. They had to have incredible endurance and courage.

Therefore Daddy spent much of his time in the Pacific field of operations wearing bathing trunks. Not everyone can say that about their father. The frogmen did not wear wetsuits; the suits weren’t invented until the mid1950s. They just wore their trunks, a large knife on their belt and a revolver, which Daddy said was just to make them feel safer because after being in the water the gun did not work. And then of course there was the TNT they carried to attach to enemy ships in enemy harbors, in complete darkness, geez.

Of course Daddy was buff, but just nicely so, yet more than his buddies. He lifted weights to keep it that way. When I was in elementary school we belonged to a small country club that had an Olympic size pool and a small gym. Daddy wanted a place to swim. But at the gym occasionally he would jump up on the steady rings and do a few exercises such as holding his body parallel to the ground at ring height with arms extended; this without any practice. If he had had the desire he could have been an Olympic athlete, for he certainly had the innate ability.

Daddy could have been tough and rude and few would dare to cross him, but it wasn’t in him. He was Mr. Friendly. He loved to talk to strangers. This friendliness, his athletic abilities and a bit of wisdom were to pay off in an amazing way. When I was a baby and my brother was about five years old, we moved from a small frame house to a slightly larger one to accommodate our growing family. We soon found out that the 10 and 12-year-old brothers that lived next door were known as the neighborhood bullies. Their father was an alcoholic and their mother had lost control of them. Daddy didn’t want them bothering his kids, but instead of being stern with them and telling them to leave us alone, he made friends with them. He took them with our family to the pool and taught them to swim.

Daddy taught each of his kids to swim as we became old enough. He took us girls into the shallow end and held us up as we learned to stroke. With my brother, after minimum verbal instruction, Daddy tied a rope around the boy’s waist and threw him in the deep end. Well, I guess Daddy wasn’t above a little double standard. Though I don’t think that is how he had previously taught the neighbor boys to swim.

That fall, after the pool was closed, the city decided to rebuild our street, down to the six foot round pipes underground. At two points on our short, block-long street were new six-foot wide manholes. Of course it happened to rain so construction was halted with the manhole pipes wide open. Now such holes would not be left uncovered but back in the dark ages when I was a baby, they were. Saw horses were put around the holes with the old smoke pots as warning lights. The holes were 8 to 10 feet deep and had filled more than half full of water. Back then all children played outside with little supervision other than the older kids. Of course the manholes drew the neighborhood children like flies to honey. A bunch of the children were standing around one of these very intriguing holes, looking in at the opaque muddy water. At five years old my brother wasn’t as cautious as the older ones and leaned over too far, falling in. Remember, this water was at least five feet deep, deeper than my brother was tall. The level of the water was also several feet from the street above.

The two brothers that my father had taught to swim were there. One jumped in and treading water, grabbed my brother from under the muddy water and saved him from drowning. The boy and my brother had their pictures in the newspaper. I remember seeing the clipping that my mother kept for years.

Daddy had reaped the kindness he had sowed into those neglected neighbor boys and reaped it back a hundredfold with the life of his son. This true family story has been more than an example for me to follow. It has been a shining beacon of one of the universe’s basic laws, a comfort and an admonition. “Don’t be deceived, God will not be mocked, a person reaps what he sows”( Galatians 6:7).

C.G.

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You So Reap What You Sow

You So Reap What You Sow

Remember the oppressed, the poor, the fatherless.

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Nature’s Winter Art

Nature's Winter Art

My favorite place in winter

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Christmas Vacation

Ah, I just made it through my favorite time of year, unemployed, again. Technically, I am not unemployed at the moment because I obtained a temporary seasonal position at a big box store making minimum wage. In an earlier post I said unemployment was like a long vacation with no money to spend. Well, working the Christmas season at a retail establishment for minimum wage basically takes away all your time and contributes very little money. Retail work is shift work; you seldom have the same schedule two days in a row, and you seldom have two days off in a row. So working a minimum wage retail job, you have no extra time and still very little money. It almost seems a poor trade off. I also had to get used to doing physical labor again, which probably is a good thing, being forced to exercise. But tiring.

It is humbling though, to be at the bottom of the totem pole, again. Such a job is not exactly why I returned to college as an adult to finish my degree, why myself and my children lived on ramen noodles while I was in school and why I will have student debt to pay into my retirement.

Hmmm, paying student loans with my Social Security check, interesting. I waited too late to finish my degree. Between my first year of college and my graduation was 32 years. I’d wager you don’t know anyone who can beat that. But I assumed a degree would open doors for me, that I would be better able to support myself and any dependents. And it did for a while. After graduating, I began growing a nice career for seven years. I would obtain a job in less than a week when needed. Then I was laid off near the end of the recession, and a poor economy and ageism hit, hard. I have had many interviews. It used to be if I obtained an interview, I got the job. Now, though I sound young on my resume, having graduated in 2004, when I walk into an interview it is obvious that I am not in my thirties. Many people have told me that I look good for my age, but there is the problem, “for my AGE.”  There is not much I can do about the years passing. Yet, I hadn’t had time to develop much of a network, but that is the best way to get employment. I will work on it. Hey, I am meeting you, in a manner of speaking, and the pleasure is all mine.

C.G.

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Thanksgiving Walk

Today was not only a day to be grateful to God but it was as beautiful as a day could be. I am sorry for all of you who are having storms but here in Texas the  sun was shining, the sky blue and the air was crisp and dry with the temperature in the mid 50s. This beauty left us no choice to take an after feast walk in a park, (We pay for glorious days in fall and winter by the temperatures getting to over 100 degrees for about three months in the summer and also it was in the 30s last week.)

There were ducks and herons in the pond but my phone camera wasn’t fond of the shade they were in so we move on to other sights that we encountered on our short excursion. The sun was low in the sky and insisted on making lovely star bursts of light through the trees. The walk was sweet but short as the tryptophan began to take effect and a nap was called for. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

C.G.

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A creek runs through it

Picture3

What is a park without a creek? This was a lovely scene as the sun set through the trees boarding the creek. I love afternoon light. Click on this photo to see its detail.

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A tree with delicate red leaves

A tree with delicate red leaves

I was surprised when I got to this tree in the park to find the red was not fall leaves but small berries, thousands of them.

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At the start of my walk

At the start of my walk

While still in the neighborhood the sun was playing peek-a-boo with this large tree.

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