Grateful! Discovery Prompts Day 30!

Well, I’ve reached the end of the Discover Prompts provided by WordPress. They do this every April, but since I wasn’t blogging like a fiend in April, I started using the prompts thirty days ago. So, does that mean I have nothing else to write about because no one is giving me a topic? Oh, no, my friends. I have sooo much to expound upon in literary prose that I will keep busy for a very long time.

The final prompt is grateful. There are so many things for which to be grateful, it is not difficult to begin. It will actually be difficult to end. Just when I think I’ve exhausted the list, more thoughts arise. So, here goes.

I’m thankful to have a neck. If it weren’t for my neck, my head would be attached directly to my shoulders, making it very difficult to turn when someone calls my name. Obviously, I could turn my whole body around, which I would have to do if I didn’t have a neck, but then I might trip over something that was previously in front of me but is now behind me.

I’m thankful my name is not Sigmund. I have never liked the name Dale, but I dislike the name Sigmund even more. I would have grown up being called Sig, (no one would have ever called me Mund), and that would have been very annoying. I have been called all kinds of things, many of which can’t be listed here. But I would prefer being called Dork, or almost anything else to being called Sigmund.

I’m grateful for knees. Stick figures illustrate how important it is to have knees. We should all be thankful. If it weren’t for knees, our walking would be stilted. Falling would be particularly dangerous and landing on our faces would be more frequent.

I’m thankful for tortilla chips. They are the perfect snack when I want something but I don’t know what. Chocolate? No. Milk? No. Spaghetti? No. Egg Plant? No. Tortilla chips are the go-to every time I just need something to chew. Crunchy.

I’m grateful for doorknobs. I’ve have been locked out of the house, by my own doing, and getting back into the house would be far more difficult if there were no doorknobs.

I’m grateful for paint stir sticks. When I forget to have paint stirred at the store, I have to mix it myself. I would have to use my hand if there were no stir sticks. I take so many things for granted, it’s good to remind myself about all the things I am grateful for.

I’m grate for toothbrush handles. If it weren’t for the handles, I would have to hold the bristles between my fingers. It would be so much more tedious to brush my teeth without a toothbrush handle.

I’m grateful for spoons. I do occasionally eat ice cream with a fork if I’m eating it right out of the carton. My wife prefers that I not do this, but when she’s not around, she doesn’t know. I get our ice cream at night when we’re watching our new Netflix or Amazon Prime series, so she doesn’t see the little fork marks in the ice cream. Ice cream inevitably melts as you’re eating it. So eating it with a fork would be difficult. It would also be hard to put a bite of ice cream in your mouth and take it out while smoothing the top, like everyone does, with a fork. I’m grateful ice cream is the only food we put into our mouths and then take it out.

I’m grateful for plastic milk bottles. Drinking out of a carton with the triangle opening at the top is difficult. Most often the milk pours out the sides and runs down my cheeks and onto my shirt. Drinking out of a plastic milk bottle is much easier. Not that I actually do that anymore.

I’m grateful for toast and frosted mini-wheats. One piece of toast and about ten frosted mini-wheats with a cup of hot tea is an incredible snack late at night while we’re watching TV. Of course I have to give at least one to Maggie as she loves mini-wheats. I usually take out a few extra to share because I’m not will to have less than ten. I try to chew them quietly. They can be noisy if I’m not careful.

Extension cords deserve more gratitude. If it weren’t for extension cords, our walls would be far more crowded with things that have to be plugged in. All of our furniture would have to be the height that anything electric placed on top would have a cord long enough to reach the plug. Electric items would have to take turns because there probably wouldn’t be enough wall plugs for everything.

I’m grateful for radio stations. When I’m turning the dial on the radio trying to find something to listen to, its gratifying to hear plenty of choices vying for attention before I finally decide to listen to Pandora.

I’m definitely grateful for bubble wrap. The joy of sitting and popping the bubbles in bubble wrap is hard to beat.

I’m grateful my childhood dentist was wrong. He said I wouldn’t have any teeth by the time I was sixty. I’m way over sixty and I still have my own teeth. Most of them have been repaired, capped, crowned, drilled, filled, ground and polished, but they’re mine and I’m proud to have them.

I’m grateful for taste, smells, food, drinks, coffee, mochas, water, tea, jokes, tears, yawns, sneezes, kleenex, napkins, egg cartons, Tupperware, refrigerators, ice cream, bread, butter, jam, cheese, frying pans, cinnamon rolls, deep-fried pieces of cinnamon rolls with powdered sugar icing on them, extra powdered sugar icing, sidewalks, tires, trees, flowers, ants, bees, (not wasps), wood, grass, lawnmowers, birds, squirrels, dogs, movies, music, Netflix, computers, iPads, tin cans and string, sticks, dirt, stones, asphalt, highways, dirt roads, pathways, wooden docks, donuts, candy, M&Ms, almonds, Oreos, chocolate chips, Oatmeal, Cocoa-Puffs, gum, turn signals, stop signs, “Signs” the movie, instruments, those who play instruments, teachers, doctors, nurses, neighbors, friends, police officers, store owners, gas stations, jobs, paychecks, careers, laughter, hunger, thirst, fishing poles, bobbers, empty fields, tractors, hay, tomatoes, lettuce, bacon, pepper, avocado, plastic, rubber, glass, blankets, t-shirts, dishwashers, clothes dryers, two-by-fours, nails, glasses, suspenders, pants, hats, and pancakes.

It’s impossible to list all we are grateful for. When we try, it is a powerful reminder.

There is nothing for which I am
more grateful than our family.



Dale Parsons

Discover Prompts, Day 13: Teach

When I think about my teachers, there are two who always come to mind. And, I suspect, they always will. Both were at the same school, Mackinaw Middle School in Saginaw, Michigan.

Both teachers came into my life when I was in the 5th grade. The impact of events during that school year have kept the memories new. Mrs. Vassold was my classroom teacher. Looking back now, she wasn’t old, but she seemed so then. Of course, to a ten-year-old, adults all seem old.

Mrs. Vassold was a caring, kind, and encouraging teacher. Everything seemed doable in her class. She had a real gift of instilling confidence in her students, something that I lacked. I didn’t realize until many years later how much Mrs. Vassold meant to me. As I think of her now, there is still a sense of calm connected to my memory of her.

Harry B. Wallerstein was our middle school band teacher. He was another educator with a gift of reaching into students’ hearts and planting seeds of confidence they might not otherwise ever experience. My chosen instrument was the cornet, which I played because my uncle had a horn I could use. It seemed like no time at all and our band was playing real songs. Mr. Wallerstein was my band teacher four years.

Mrs. Vassold and Mr. Wallerstein were on the same team. They may not have literally planned together, but the results of their teaching strategies and caring spirit changed lives forever.

Through many years of music experience, I am amazed at the music Mr. Wallerstein inspired us to play at such a young age. Those songs were tough! We played them beautifully. I’ll never forget Mr. Wallerstein playing a tape recording of a new song that had just burst on the airwaves. It was called, “Yesterday”, by Paul McCartney.

Mr. Wallerstein made learning music such fun. Every day he was on the lookout for students who were chewing gum, which was forbidden. Right in the middle of a song he would point at the offender and yell, “Ten cents!” He wrote their name on the board. There was always a long list. He collected all those dimes throughout the year. On the last day of school, he brought in a clawfoot tub, filled it with all kinds of pop and provided lots of potato chips. We were welcome to come in throughout the day, as many times as we wished.

I really didn’t realize how much I had learned from Mr. Wallerstein until I was asked to be a band director at a private school. The only training I had was what I had seen Mr. Wallerstein do. I did the same.

In 1997, I found Mr. Wallerstein’s address on the internet, he was living in Florida. I wrote him a letter, not knowing for sure if it was really Harry B. Wallerstein of Mackinaw Middle School fame. My letter began, “Dear Mr. Wallerstein, my name is Dale Parsons. From 1963 to 1967, I was in your band. I don’t know if you’ll remember me…” I was thrilled beyond words when I received a several page, hand-written letter. “Dear Dale, of course I remember you! When I read your name, I immediately saw your face…” I still have that letter and will always treasure it.

A few years ago, I looked up Mr. Wallerstein on the internet again. This time, I found a picture and a record of his obituary. I have looked for Mrs. Vassold over the years, but since I don’t know her first name, I have never been able to find any record of her.

Now, more than fifty-five years later, I can still see their faces. Mr. Wallerstein and Mrs. Vassold. I remain thankful for all my teachers, but these two have a high place in my memory.

That year is etched in my mind forever. I was in Mrs. Vassold’s class, during Social Studies, and the principal spoke on the PA. “Staff and students, I am sorry to inform you that President John F. Kennedy has been assassinated.”

Discover Prompt Day 4: Our Street

We have actually moved to the small town where we live three separate times. No, I’m not joking. We purposely moved here three times. The picture on the left is beautiful. The old buildings in our little village don’t look anything like it. But it’s our town, and we love it.

One of the things we loved to do as our children were growing up was going “alley riding”. One of the communities we lived in had a pretty large business district for a rather small town, and there were lots of alleys. We rode our bikes down one alley after another. If we rode all of them, it took about an hour.

What I loved most about alley riding was ending up at the “big parking lot”, next to the railroad tracks. The parking lot wasn’t that big, but that’s what we called it. Our three boys loved riding in the open space. I loved watching trains roll by.

One day I decided to go alley riding from our little street where we live now. It took ten minutes. I wasn’t disappointed though, we love our street. We love our town. It’s a great feeling.

The first time we moved to our town was 1987. Our daughter was ten, our triplet sons were three. I taught in a private Christian school and was the youth director and assistant pastor at the school’s sponsoring church. We moved a year later. I was invited to return to town in 1996 to become the senior pastor of the same church. We lived here eight years. After thirty-one years in ministry, I retired in 2004. We moved again, to another small community thirty minutes away. My wife, who began teaching in our public middle school here in 1997, made the thirty-mile drive every day. After four years, we moved back again. This time, we bought a beautiful two-story bungalow that we loved for nine years.

In fact, we still love the house, even though we moved again, three years ago. My wife has always been wonderful at making our house, wherever it was, our home. The house had French doors between the dining and living rooms. We loved the long front porch and spent many hours rocking.

Now we live on our street. She is old and bent over, but she’s ours. She has a family name, well-known in town, also carried by the hardware store, a lumber yard everyone remembers, but no one sees because it was lost in a fire twenty years ago, and a museum. She is mostly pleasant but sometimes allows younger drivers to go too fast. Something frowned upon by people like us.

We actually have two lots, which is very nice because we only have a close neighbor on one side. The house on the other side, although occupied by lots of stuff (we’ve been informed) has no people. Our back yard looks like a park. We have bird feeders that squirrels enjoy. Deer have visited several times. There is a creek that flows across the back of our property, so there is just a hint of sound, if the water is high enough, of water trickling over rocks.

Streets get old. People do too. People on the street come and go, the street stays. Sometimes streets need repair, just like people. Streets do feel bad when people they have loved leave, but it’s part of life.

If we listen to our street, we learn a lot.

“I may look old and broken, but my foundation is still strong.”

“I need fixing sometimes, but my path is always the same.”

“There is a beginning, and an end. Both matter, but real living is somewhere in between.”

“Lots and lots of people helped me be what I am.”

“A street without people is just a connection. It’s the people that make being a street fun.”

“My name is just a tag so people can find me. Who I am is the people around me.”

We love our street, and our town.

When Your Kids Outshine You

Graffiti Rock

It’s a gift to be able to watch our own children becoming all they want to be. With a daughter and triplet sons, and now a son-in-law, three daughters-in-law, and eight grandchildren, it’s hard to imagine life getting even better.

Our daughter has been drawing since she was little. She used to love playing with a “Spiro-graph”, an art toy that was popular in the 70s. She was always doodling and we still have many of her early drawings.

As our children were growing up, we loved spending time at Lake Huron. Actually, it’s Saginaw Bay, since we are west of Pt. Austin, the “Tip of the Thumb” of Michigan. There is a huge rock that has changed a great deal over the years, that is a favorite destination for walks along the beach. We always called it “the big rock”, but now it is referred to as Graffiti Rock, since, sadly, years of spray painting has changed it’s appearance drastically.

With constant changes in lake levels over the years, we have seen times when the rock was completely out of the water. Now it is surrounded. On the outside, the water is deep enough for brave (?) ones to jump from the top. I sure wouldn’t do it.

As a middle school art teacher, our daughter has encouraged and motivated students for many years. At the same time, she has continued to use her skills to create her own beautiful work. Recently, her painting, “Graffiti Rock”, was chosen by the National Art Education Association to be included in the NAEA Virtual Art Exhibit. Over six hundred works were submitted. We couldn’t be more proud.

Nothing makes us happier than watching and being included in the lives of our children and grandchildren. All of our kids have made us incredibly proud.

“Graffiti Rock” hangs in our daughter’s home. It’s a constant reminder of just how blessed we are.