Tag: 2019 March Group Writing

Men and Women: Together in Perfect Harmony?


I first heard “Suzanne” on Judy Collins’ 1972 compilation album, Colors of the Day. In my youth, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was especially captured by the beauty of the voices of some songstresses. I remember getting to Judy Collins’ Fifth Album by way of Bob Dylan, whose songs and, shall we say vocal stylings, I appreciated.

[Fair warning, we have a few great recordings to work through here, any one of which may lead you down a rabbit hole. No, hopefully not that one! So, if you are too busy midweek, bookmark this post for your end-of-week wind-down.]

The Unexpected Gift of Weakness


As I have bragged on this site before, around 6 am most mornings, my 15-year-old son brings me a mug of coffee that he brewed himself, along with a heated lavender wrap. This boy is not a naturally compassionate person like one of his brothers (known by all his acquaintances as a sweetheart and delicious individual but also one who sleeps late in the morning), but he has learned to be kind because he knows I am weak.

Let me explain.

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Once upon a time, there were three sisters. Now, each of these sisters was gifted in her own way, and all would grow into lovely, independent, powerful women. Their mother and father loved them, each as they were and for what they were becoming. The mother decreed, with the full backing of the father, that […]

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McDonald’s, or, What You Can Learn from Work as a Teenager


I went to high school in Marquette, Michigan, a town of 22,000 in the Upper Peninsula. It is the largest city in the UP and is supported by a decent tourism industry in addition to mining and timber. The high school had about 1,200 students when I was there in the 1970s. Late in my sophomore year, a friend started working for the McDonald’s in town. I decided to apply and was given a minimum wage job.

I started work in the grill area, dressing burgers. The training was good, and I liked getting some money. I kind of just slid along, getting four-eight hours a week in two shifts on the weekend. Then an interesting thing happened. The general manager, not a particularly nice guy, asked me to clean the bathrooms. I went through the motions – mop, ice in the urinal, wipe things down, and came back to my post in the grill.

Unexpected Gift: The Gifts From Trees


When we first got married, my wife and I lived in a one bedroom apartment. A couple of years later, we moved to a new house that was part of a large development mostly built on open farmland. As a result, the only trees we had were those that we planted.

After 25 years, we finally found a “different” type of house in the country and have lived there for the last nineteen years. This house and property were part of a larger farm and is about 3.5 Acres, with about an acre of woods included in the back. As a result, I couldn’t begin to count the number of trees that we “own” – or own us.

Angel of the Battlefield: An Unexpected Gift


As a child, I was addicted to a series of biographies written for children. They were undersized volumes, with a textured blue cover and the name of the featured person written in a kind of script. One of those books told the story of Clara Barton. Her courage, determination, and devotion to the soldiers of the Civil War have stayed with me all these years.

Clara Barton, 1905

An Unexpected Gift of Speech


https://ametia.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/dr-martin-luther-king-i-have-a-dream-speech4.jpgIn the American government’s secular liturgical calendar, February is African-American History Month, and March is Women’s History Month. The subjects of these two observances converge in a historical event we think we know, but which actually was an unexpected gift to the nation: Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Over the years, the secularist left has not only erased King’s religious identity, they have also blotted out her-story. She was uncompromisingly faithful to her Lord and Savior in her music, so the leftists hated her words then and buried herstory.

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom marked the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and was driven by the long series of unfulfilled promises and setbacks since that moment. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a senior leader in the civil rights movement, but recognized as a powerful younger voice. The impetus for the march, then, came from A. Philip Randolph, who founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and who had driven limited concessions with a threatened march on Washington twenty years earlier.

Unexpected Gifts: Sometimes There Is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch


The summer Papa Toad and I traveled out to Oregon from New York, before we had kids, we lived out of our car. The back seat held most of our worldly possessions, including three plants that we brought successfully from New York to Oregon. I had the trunk packed perfectly so that our camping gear and climbing gear were easily accessible. With little savings and no jobs for three months, we lived frugally, camping or staying with friends along the way. After more than two months on the road, we were in beautiful Pinedale, WY. For a radical and fun change of pace, we decided to splurge in an uncharacteristic and shamelessly self-indulgent way and go out for lunch, spending money we didn’t have and putting it on our credit card. We knew that in a couple of weeks we would be gainfully employed again, and we were tired of cookstove camp fare.

We ordered appetizers. We ordered beers. We got dessert. We had cappuccinos. We ate and drank and had a great time. Papa Toad and I were enjoying ourselves mightily. The waitress was charming and made us laugh, the afternoon was filled with golden light and we were filled up to the brim with the pleasure of living.

Unexpected Gift on the Ides of March?


What unexpected gifts could we celebrate on the Ides of March? The day is best known for the assassination of Julius Caesar in the Roman Senate by other Roman leaders. One of the leaders, Brutus, commemorated the assassination two years later with a coin remembering the Ides of March with two daggers and a common cap, a pileus.

The cap had become associated with the emancipation of slaves. It is still featured in some images of Lady Liberty. So, we could celebrate the unexpected gift of liberty, liberty won by literally striking down the tyrant. However, none of the conspirators covered themselves in glory as republican heroes, let along Heroes of the Roman Republic.

We cannot blame them, really. After all, the Roman Republic had bled out long before the blood of Caesar flowed over its ground. The Republic had committed slow suicide by a thousand self-cuts. Its institutions had become so corrupt and dysfunctional that they invited Julius Caesar to be dictator for life. In the years following his assassination, there was no uprising to restore the Republic. The Senate was contemptuous and contemptible in its corruption. The Roman people ended up being best served by the first emperor, Caesar Augustus, the adopted son and legal heir of Julius Caesar.

Unexpected Gifts: An Unlikely Troubadour


Thomas Mallare, of Newbold Revel in the County of Warwickshire, died 548 years ago on March 14, 1471. He was born fifty-six years before that, with a bit of a silver spoon in his mouth, to a Midlands Justice of the Peace and his heiress wife. Mallare had an uneventful childhood, was knighted in 1441 at the age of 26, and distinguished himself in his early career as a professional soldier.

“Well,” you might say, “he’s a made man.” You might think it was all settled, all done and dusted. Fast forward to wife, children, a retreat to an estate in the country after a successful military career, a bit of local politicking or a judicial appointment of his own, too much fine food and drink, and an early death from apoplexy or a “surfeit of eels.” That’s generally how it went, back in olden days, right?

Not so fast.

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We have plenty of days open for your stories, recollections, or musings on gifts of all sorts. Please do tell. Click through to “March 2019 Group Writing Theme: Unexpected Gifts” and sign up for a day or so. ‘Tis the gift to be simple, and to the point. This forum exists to encourage members to […]

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In the 1970s, many companies advertised jobs for Engineers with two to five years of experience. Their rationale was that it takes a couple of years to transition from the academic world into the real world of costs, schedules, and proven designs. In bigger companies, the experienced engineers would offload easier but more mundane tasks […]

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Partnering: An Unexpected Gift


I don’t think I’m especially good at partnerships, except in my marriage (I think). I’m too stubborn, am not always prepared to compromise, and have a short attention span. So I rarely partner with a person, because I generally fear the worst—damaging or losing a friendship.

This opportunity was no exception.

One day I was exchanging emails with @iwe, and casually mentioned that if he ever took on another book project, I’d be glad to serve as proofreader and/or editor. Looking back, it’s a miracle that the heavens didn’t erupt with thunder and lightning.

Unexpected Gifts: The Stepmother Diaries


With very few exceptions over the years, I’ve never minded being defined in terms of my familial relationships. Dad’s daughter. Mr. She’s wife. Peachy’s granny. Sam, Mike and Jenny’s stepmother. I’ve never thought of myself as an appendage or a cipher, nor do I function as anybody’s foil. Although by no means perfect, I’m generally appropriately assertive, fairly well put together, and reasonably rational. Those who are determined to find fault certainly will, and I’m happy to keep them occupied; but I always try to keep in mind that they’re not perfect either. In general, I believe it’s better to get along than not, so I try to go through life as prescribed in Romans 12:18 (insofar as it “lieth in me,” anyway).

Some of the roles I’ve mentioned have, in fact, been among the most rewarding “jobs” of my life, and I’d much rather talk about them than my multi-decade career as an IT manager. Some of those roles have brought immeasurable joy; some of them have ended in heartbreak and tragedy. Some of the stories’ endings aren’t written yet, and the coda won’t be played until I pass on to my eternal reward (or not). All of them live in the chaos that is my feminine brain on a daily basis, and all of them are among the elements of what makes up, I think, a pretty well-lived and generally happy life.

Today, I’d like to tell you about one of those elements. If reminds you of the plot of a Hollywood movie, well, it does, doesn’t it? But every word of it is my story, and every word of it is true. I promise. And my father’s daughter does not lie.

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We have plenty of open days this month for your story of unexpected gifts: large or small, serious or humorous, wonderful or awful. Please join our Group Writing Series under the March 2019 Group Writing Theme: Unexpected Gifts. Tell us about anything from a hidden talent to a white elephant. Share a great surprise or […]

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It does not take much money, just a little thought, to make a member of your office staff’s day, or even week. The point is to find the right token, to which your meaning can be attached. It certainly helps if the recipient, and the rest of the office, gets the meaning immediately. There are […]

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An Unexpected Gift: A Legacy Handed Down


It was in the early 1950s when Sonny and Julia met. Sonny was a lineman for the local electric utility. On their first date, Sonny wore a shirt with French cuffs, and Julia took note of it; she liked a sharp-dressed man. On some gift-giving occasion along the way in their courtship, Julia bought a matching tie bar and cuff links for Sonny. They were gold, each with a couple pieces of thick-gauge gold wire worked into a loose square knot. Simple. Elegant. Classy. After they were married, Julia found out that Sonny had only ever had the one shirt with French cuffs, and as an electrical lineman, was not much of one for dressing up, nor did he have much call for it. Still, he had that jewelry and kept it safe throughout his life.

Sonny and Julia were together for around forty years, I cannot tell the exact dates or length. They had two daughters, the younger of whom eventually became my wife.

Unexpected Gifts: Taking Care of the Pennies


File:Loose Change (67916265).jpeg“Take care of the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves,” was one of Dad’s favorite expressions. He was, not to put too fine a point on it, thrifty (I attribute this aspect of his character to the Fraser strain in the family. Or perhaps it was growing up when times were a bit tough. Or maybe the War. Or something. Anyway, he was thrifty).

So I enjoyed this report about Young S. New, a Canadian immigrant from Korea, who took his own father’s advice (“respect the penny”), and has picked up hundreds of dollars in loose change he’s found lying on the city streets of Montreal and donated it to charity (“see a penny, pick it up, and all the day you’ll have good luck.”)

Ah, the power of a good example:

An Unexpected Gift: A Culture of Appropriation


Years ago I was told about a family letter. In it, a relative had asked another who was into genealogy about the family history. The letter began:

When a man steals a loaf of bread, one calls him a thief. When a man steals a kingdom, one calls him “The Conqueror.”