Tag: Unexpected Gifts

USS Thoughtful


I met Jimmy in my second year of teaching. He missed the first day of school. When he arrived on the second day, he said it was because he didn’t know that school started yesterday. That should have been a sign.

Teaching was my second career. At this point in life, I’d already spent 20 years as mother. I’d gone back to college when my children were in school all day because I knew that I’d be seeking full-time paid employment again some time, and I wanted to be qualified for a job that was salaried, not hourly. I chose teaching because I thought that it would fit into a mother’s schedule better. Obviously, I had no idea what being a full-time teacher involved!

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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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 – Sons


Today is my middle son’s 33rd birthday, the one I call Pipeliner because he is a pipeline engineer. I have three sons, born four and a half years apart. All of them are unexpected gifts. They were not unexpected in the sense of their arrival, we wanted all three. Rather, the unexpected gifts are the delightful surprises all three have provided.

My oldest is a genius, literally, he tested as such (it runs in the family, my two brothers are geniuses. I am not. That makes me the dumb one in the family.) He is even smart enough to understand the limitations of genius. (Too many smart people treat genius the way a bandit treats a firearm. They act as if all you have to do is wave it around and you get what you want, even when you do not use it.) It was an unexpected gift to have someone with whom I could engage intellectually over the dinner table.

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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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.

Unexpected Gifts: Turning Eleven Away from Home


The bike I rode at our Chiang Mai, Thailand, boarding school was inherited from my older brother. He had received it it already well-used, and he and his buddy Steve had not exactly gone easy on it back when we lived in the village. So it was not much to look at: faded red, maybe pretty once, with worn front basket and backseat long gone. The wheel rims were rusted, I remember, because I used to stare at them and think about rust–what made it happen, how blighted it made the wheels look, and how odd that my brother could rub it off with some compound on a rag. It was like a toothless, blotchy, gaunt, yet sinewy older woman.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed that bike from the time I arrived at the dorm as an eight-year-old. It was serviceable for cruising around the network of side streets (soi is the Thai word for something like an alleyway) and perfectly good for trips to the corner store, where we bought cheap sweets for one baht. It was best, though, for joining the boys in the street in front of the dormitory. We rode back and forth and in circles, refining our stunts. Although it was no BMX, this bike of mine could be coaxed do wheelies. Next, I mastered the skill of riding around with my hands at my sides. I loved the joke, probably from our dorm’s old copies of Boys’ Life, where each time a kid pedals past his mom, he announces a new trick: “Look, Mom, no hands.” He progresses through his repertoire until he says, “Look, Mom, no teeth!” None of us thought of wearing helmets, but nobody seemed to get hurt.

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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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This is a tale of unexpected gifts of grub, indeed tasty treats, while in the field on military duty. Each is an unexpected relief from planned, forecast, resourced Army chow. None of these, well almost none, were going to win any awards, but they were gifts of sweet relief from the grind of standard Army […]

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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: The Gifts You Give


In 2002, I was out of a job. My employer closed shop in September 2001, and immediately after 9-11 no one else was hiring. By the time businesses were again hiring, I had been unemployed six months.

In technology industries six months is forever. The longer I was out of work, less likely it was that I would get hired. I was rapidly becoming unemployable.

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: