Not Long Tales … August 27th, 2019

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3.

The Assignment

Miss Tamara Taylor was thirteen days into her sixth year of teaching third grade at the John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Shimmering Pines, Virginia.

She was a single woman—not by design. She did favor the attention of a male admirer. Matter of fact, in her twenty-six years of being “the great American girl,” she had encountered three lovers, one actually a suitable suitor. He had been willing to share her bed and consider “wed,” until all at once, he got frightened by the specter of a never-ending future, and bought himself a one-way ticket to oblivion. He hadn’t been heard of since.

Tamara had not given up on possibilities but had learned the charm of dinner for one. She told her closest friend that she “didn’t mind dealing with children at work but did not want to come home to one.”

After six years of teaching, she found it beneficial to develop a philosophy. Some of her fellow educators were intent on the program, the knowledge, the books or the discipline. Tamara’s thoughts were much simpler. She decided the best way to teach young children was: don’t harm them and awaken something. She permitted her students call her “Miss T.” She didn’t mind at all, and being part of the present generation, they were absolutely enthralled with the abbreviation.

After thirteen days of cafeteria lunches, her class was gradually getting used to seating assignments and her style of conveying information. So Miss T decided to offer an assignment. She phrased it this way: Write two hundred words on ‘If You Had to Decide Today What or Who You Would Want to Be When You Are Old Like Me.”

The whole class giggled when they heard the title, which was her intent. It didn’t stop them from grumbling over the notion of having to put together a paragraph or two, but the subject matter certainly stirred their brains in the direction their hearts were already mounting a desire.

The papers were turned in yesterday, and she spent the night reading them. She found that the choices her students made fell into categories. When it came to the matter of who or what they wanted to be, king or queen were quite popular. Of course, President made an appearance. Ballerina and rock star were favored—one girl dreaming of being a ballerina by day and a pop diva by night.

There were a couple of firemen, a doctor, a nurse. Money was brought up quite often. Several wanted to be a mommy and a couple, a daddy. And for some reason, one student wanted to manufacture ukuleles.

Then she came to Andrew. He was a quiet, shy, frightened, bullied, smiling lad. Andrew was thoughtful. Andrew refused to follow the color scheme of the common playground. Andrew noticed bugs on the sidewalk. Andrew was the only one who observed that Miss T had changed her hair.

So Andrew’s essay was as different as his choices. It was entitled, “Not Sour.” It read:

My dad likes grapefruit. It is sour. One day he asked me to eat some. He had that smile on his face that told me it was a trick. I took a bite. My mouth puckered. He laughed as I tried to spit the bad taste out. He said, “Grapefruit is sour.”

Dad told me that people can be that way, too. He said that grapefruit needs something to make it sweet. Sugar, honey, that pink stuff, or the blue. Is there one that’s yellow? Or maybe green? Anyway, every sour needs a sweet. The Chinese people figured that out.

My Dad said it’s our job to make our grapefruit taste good. But remember, sweet isn’t good all by itself. It needs a job. It needs to sweeten something.

I don’t want to be sad about the sour in life. I want to sprinkle. I looked that word up. I want to be a sweetener. Maybe I can just go out and join the mess but make things sweeter. I hope that’s not too weird. I don’t think I want to live in a sour world, but I don’t think it will get sweet by itself. So I guess if I have to grow up and do something, I want to be a sweetener. Yeah, I think that’s it.

But maybe driving a limousine, too.

Miss T finished reading the essay and sat back, engulfed in smiling tears. It was so beautiful that she knew all the teachers and grown-ups would want to hang it up, print it or ask young Andrew to read it at some sort of assembly. This was a problem. He was already battling being different and bullied. What would the rest of the kids do if they found out that he wanted to be a sweetener? Clever is a wonderful thing, unless you live around people who are dull.

Miss T wanted to reward his beautiful thoughts.

Miss T wanted to stimulate his budding creative energy.

Miss T desired to have the essay read and understood by everyone at John F. Kennedy Elementary School.

Miss T even knew that the citizens of Shimmering Pines, Virginia, could profit from listening to little Andrew’s ideas.

But Miss T also knew that what was a solution for others could be a huge problem for Andrew.

She took a solid hour considering what to do. Finally, on his paper she wrote A+ Good Work, and tucked it away in her folder.

She needed time to think about it.

 

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G-Poppers … January 19th, 2018

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Several years back, G-Pop was traveling on the road staying in a motel, and decided to go up to the lobby and partake of their continental breakfast. Upon finishing their humble offering, he headed back to his room and discovered that the maid had come in and cleaned the whole space while he was sipping coffee.

Smelled good, looked good. There was only one problem–she had taken it upon herself to move things around. Nothing was where G-Pop had left it. It took him a solid hour to find his materials and relocate them back to his favorite positions.

It was a bit aggravating.

This is the sensation G-Pop had this year as he began Tour 2018 of the United States. He spent 2017 traveling in Florida, writing a couple new novels and interacting with his Davie extended family.

So G-Pop didn’t really give much thought to going back on the road in 2018–because he has done this with Janet Clazzy for twenty years.

But something was different.

Nothing was where he left it. The road was tainted. Motels had increased in price. And without him knowing it, during his little hiatus in the Sunshine State, America left the Gold Standard–that being a deep respect, honor and reverence for the idea of “love your neighbor as yourself.”

During 365 days of turmoil, argument, resistance and a general bitchiness among the multitudes, the consensus became that “love your neighbor as yourself” was not a reasonable aspiration, but rather, an unrealistic pursuit.

Yes–Americans traveled from feeling repentant when they fell short of including their brothers and sisters to limiting the size of their appreciation down to family, color or culture.

It was ugly.

So G-Pop realized he could either take on this problem one town at a time as he journeyed across the States, or he could return home and try to handle it in bigger ways and littler ways.

Bigger–expanding his audience and outreach.

And littler, by applying the Gold Standard to all of his nearby neighbors.

America is not how G-Pop left it in 2016. It has changed. Things that were once considered obtuse or ridiculous now are accepted as normal–merely “human nature.”

G-Pop is going back to wage a conflict against conflict more efficiently. It’s a good time to do it.

Since America is not the way he left it, now is the season to find creative ways for G-Pop–and all of us–to pursue the Gold.

 

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G-Poppers … January 27th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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18 years of age.

G-Pop’s granddaughter is celebrating today.

She is so excited. She has waited a lifetime for it–at least, her lifetime.

She is ready to be a person instead of a passenger.

A participant rather than a daughter.

A mover and not just a child.

G-Pop could share many superlatives about this young woman and bore you to tears.

She is intelligent to the point of being sharp.

She is clever and creative.

She is tender-hearted and allows tears to flow without shame.

Even though her life has been peppered with missteps, she went back, corrected them and took responsibility for the stumbles.

She is talented, she can sing, and dear Lord, she even plays the ukulele.

The canvas set before her is prepared for the beautiful colorations of her dreams.

But she is still plagued by one concern:

She doesn’t want to miss anything.

She doesn’t want to be considered an “also ran.”

She does not want people to believe she’s just a preacher’s daughter who cushioned herself from the realities of human life.

She wants to do it all.

She is frightened of becoming a “goody-two-shoes.”

It is a sensation that jolts the heart of every person who dares to pursue goodness. Can you chase the star of purity and still enjoy the cosmic journey?

But here’s the reality: nothing bad ever made anything good.

No vice ever actually promoted a versa.

No inhalation stimulated respiration.

No liquid spirit ever conjured a Holy Spirit.

Side-tracks. That’s what all those are–little temptations to distraction that we’ve convinced ourselves are necessary to add to our diary to make our lives seem plausible instead of merely a fairy tale.

What G-Pop would like to tell his granddaughter on this glorious day is that good is the only thing worth living for.

But you must never preach it.

Preaching good always leads to self-righteousness, selfishness and anger over missing out over some sort of sinful delicacy.

The more the reverend reverberates against iniquity, the more he is drawn to it. It is a historical fact.

God never gave us permission to preach good–thus the warning, “Don’t judge other people.”

G-Pop would also tell his granddaughter that being good is the curse of a thousand yearnings.

None of us are good. No, not one.

So every time we try to be good, we punish ourselves, incriminate our hearts and tear down our confidence. It’s why the phrase, “I’m sorry” needs to be at our tongue-tip, prepared to be uttered at any moment.

We’re just not good.

And those who try to be good often end up either lying or preaching. (I’m not sure if there’s a difference there.)

What G-Pop wants to wish to his beautiful, creative, gentle, comical granddaughter is the mission of doing good.

Good becomes very obvious because it’s always the thing that includes somebody besides yourself. It’s not hard to find–and even though you’re not going to preach against evil nor claim to be pure, the least you can do for a battered, bewildered and betrayed mankind is grant them the touch of grace brought by a moment of goodness.

I’m always enamored by the story that comes out of the 1969 music festival, Woodstock. Even though all the parents were critical of their young ones who went off to this “den of iniquity”–and perhaps there was a farm-load of sin being perpetuated in every field–when it was discovered that the purple acid was hurting people, they interrupted the concert and got on the microphone to warn their brothers and sisters to stay away from it.

They did good.

I suppose some pious parents might suggest that if the children were not taking acid in the first place, there would be no reason to avoid the purple.

But you see, that’s not life.

Life is realizing that wherever you are, whoever you’re working with, and whatever the rules for that environment, there is still a way to do good.

It does not make you a goody-two-shoes.

It means that you walk with feet of blessing.

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Cracked 5 … June 28th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reasons Norman Bates Loved His Mother

A. She pretty much let him have the run of the Bates Motel

 

B. She was very quiet unless he wanted to hear from her

 

C. She didn’t criticize him for killing girls.

 

D. Having similar coloration, they looked good in the same wigs.

 

E. She encouraged him to be creative with shower time.

 

Cracked 5 Norman Bates

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Jonathan’s Latest Book Release!

PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant

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Ask Jonathots … February 25th, 2016

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My parents and I got into a fierce argument in which they claimed that the Baby Boomers were the best generation–the most politically aware, socially progressive, and creative. I said they were sell-outs who only protested because they didn’t want to get drafted. What do you think?

And on the other hand, the Baby Boomers were greatly pissed off that their parents believed that winning World War II made them a superior generation.

I think there’s only one criterion for determining the quality of any group of people.

How well did they avoid distractions?

Distraction is what causes us to believe that the temporary situation will become permanent.

Saying that, I will tell you that technology and pseudo-intellectualism has distracted us more and more into believing that we are smart and non-prejudiced.

There has never been a greater amount of bigotry, racism, clamoring for war and intolerance than there is today. Yet the Baby Boomers had an opportunity to free our culture of much of this foolishness, but instead, mimicked their parents’ materialism just as soon as the threat of blood and mayhem in Vietnam had passed.

So the question is, can our generation–the new generation–avoid distraction?

Can we refuse to allow Facebook to be the well of our understanding?

Can we rightly judge within ourselves what still remains of selfishness and superiority?

Because if we can’t, the distractions will take this generation and cause it to sell out just as much as the Baby Boomers and the WWII heroes.

So how do we avoid distraction? Everything in our lives needs to be run through the prism of two ideas. If it is run through this prism and comes out with flying colors, then it is worthy of our consideration. If not, it’s a distraction.

  1. Does this new thing, new idea or new approach cause us to love people more?
  2. Does this possibility make us want to do better with our lives?

If the answer to these two questions is yes, then it is not a distraction. It is a pathway to progress.

If the answer ends up being no, then it is a dangerous detour which will only take us further away from understanding and peaceful coexistence.

  • The WWII generation thought owning a house and having a family was the most powerful thing in the world.
  • The Baby Boomers were convinced that a blending of social consciousness and financial prosperity was the key.

Today’s question is this:

Can we find our hearts, to touch our own souls, to renew our minds to grant us legitimate strength?

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Ask Jonathots … February 18th, 2016

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Parenting question: What is the best way to discipline young children? Do you believe in time-outs? How about spanking?

If you arrived on a new job and your boss walked in the room and said, “Don’t touch the water cooler, the copy machine and don’t drink more than three cups of coffee,” and then strolled out of the room, what would you think?

Well, since it was a new job, you wouldn’t know exactly what you were supposed to do–only informed of what was forbidden.

That’s the mistake we make with parenting.

A child, who is full of energy, hopes, dreams and wants to have a good time, is instructed in all the things that are unacceptable, without being channeled in a direction to use all of the creative explosion bursting within.

Although you may want to discuss discipline, I think the most important thing for any parent to consider are ways to avoid needing discipline.

By the time you get to the point of discipline, the issue is usually too much or too little, no matter how hard you try. So how can we avoid disciplining our children so much, and still have them grow up to be fantastic human beings?

It’s a two-step process:

  1. Decide what you want them to do.
  2. Shrink the situation and give them a chance to practice.

In other words, if you want your kids to play with a puzzle for an hour, find an area where you want them to play, provide a snack, and do puzzles with them until you ignite their interest.

Put a time limit on it, and then come and retrieve them for the next project.

You cannot expect to leave a child in a room with no guidance, no floor plan for activities, only telling them what’s bad, and think you won’t have a mess.

Find what you want them to do and then shrink the room to that activity.

Remember: life is based on a reward system, not a punishment.

So just as you are given a paycheck because you followed the rules of the company, which includes doing your job, your kids should likewise be rewarded for good behavior and contributing to the cause.

So the answer to your question?

Try to eliminate discipline, but when you do find a need to do so, make sure you have created a reward system.

Tell your children, “If you will play with this puzzle for thirty minutes and then pick up your toys in the corner and throw away this trash by the time I get back, I will let you watch your favorite show.” Then follow up on it.

  • You control the food.
  • You control the entertainment.
  • You even control the water.

Use it to your advantage.

But don’t expect children to follow rules without having a plan of action to fill their time and exhaust their energy.

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Ask Jonathots … August 20th, 2015

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I know the Bible says not to worry, but I worry about money all the time. I really don’t have enough to pay everything. Every month I juggle something out of rotation, and then wait through all the notices. I hardly have any debt–I have one credit card, so that’s not the issue. I’m talking about rent, utilities, cable, phones, car, insurance and childcare (two of them, ages six and eight). I just don’t make enough money to get by. Suggestions?

Brain space.

Long before you solve a problem, you have to make room in your brain for creative consideration.

Jesus told us not to worry. He didn’t say this because he was some sort of air-head who believed we should live off our faith in God, with no consideration for being responsible for our needs. He was just enlightening us that worry, fear, apprehension and too much budgeting take up humongous amounts of space in our minds, closing the door on inspiration.

Someone asked me the other day what I thought about welfare. Here’s what I think: if someone is unable to work, finds it difficult to live on the money they make from working when daycare is included, then, they should be given assistance–as long as they realize that this blessing requires a lifestyle of using what they have instead of what they want.

In my lifetime I’ve had much money and literally no money. When I had no money, my main problem was feeling cheated out of the things I wanted, and therefore I was unable to creatively address what I needed.

The first thing I would suggest that you do is figure out how much real money you have coming in each and every month. Get a number.

Then take a look at your responsibilities, and subtract them. If you end up in the red, go back again, trim things up, and see if you can get yourself within striking distance of your own budget.

I understand that with children there are always surprises, but you won’t know what to look for, ask for and seek out until you understand how you must live within your means.

I know it’s not popular to say this, but you just don’t get to eat Hamburger Helper if your budget only allows for hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. And you certainly don’t get to eat chicken and steak if your intake only allows for Hamburger Helper.

The best way to get assistance from agencies–or even friends–is to ask for a specific portion of your living expense that you’re having trouble with, instead of coming in general desperation.

To do this, you must free up your brain space.

To free up your brain space, you have to transfer your fear of money (or the lack thereof) and change it into numbers.

As long as money is about feelings instead of numbers, you will fail.

  • Money is a number thing.
  • Your feelings should be reserved for creative solutions.

So keep in mind that Jesus was not trying to get you to spend hours in prayer, waiting for the miracle of a big check. Jesus was asking you to take the brain space you’re using for worry and fear, change your need into numbers, and use your ideas to find solutions.

If it doesn’t work out on paper, don’t start worrying.

Instead, get it out of your head and onto paper … so you are freed up to seek out solutions.

 

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