Father’s Day: Lessons and Love.

Verna and John Fussner002


Father’s Day ❤  Lessons and Love. ❤

A neighbor complimented me recently on the way I greeted his dog, back of hand presented for sniffing, and I thought of my dad, who taught us to do that and to approach new animals and new people with respect and friendship.  He and Mom also allowed us to enjoy and care for a variety of pets, including the mouse that Mom found in the bathtub and a baby bird my brothers found, and my brothers’ snakes, which did teach me not to be afraid of them.  A box turtle who spent one winter in our house would bite my mom’s toe if she hadn’t noticed it waiting by the refrigerator when it wanted to be fed.

Dad taught lessons at convenient teaching moments.  When a drunk neighbor shouted from the street for my dad to come fight him, my father told us that would be foolish, and then the man didn’t know what he was doing, and then moved us away from the front room to be safe.  Walking away from a fight as the sensible option . . . which is just what I did when dealing with a girl who was inexplicably eager to fight with me; I changed our route home, assuring my brothers that Mom would approve when I explained.  She did, and probably did “mom negotiations” to resolve the problem.

Probably the most important lessons had to do with safe driving and dealing with reckless drivers and other hazards. Dad would say, as an aggressive driver passed us, “Good.  I’d rather have him up ahead where I can keep an eye on him.”  He’d also hope that when the inevitable accident happened, they wouldn’t take some innocent family with them.  Dad never had an accident in all his years of driving.  I wish I could say the same, that we could all say the same.

It seemed nearly every year I taught at the high school we would lose a student to reckless driving, new drivers showing off new skills in new cars.  Our activities director recommended old, slow, sturdy cars for new drivers.  I shared with students that my dad had told my brothers he’d put a governor on their cars if he heard of them speeding, then wondered if that could still be done with newer cars.  “Oh yes it can,” said one young man, but didn’t share how he knew.

I remember family picnics at the Saint Louis Zoo, which has no admission charge, so everyone can afford to go. Dad used to encourage us to have fun rolling down a grassy hill, a fun memory.  When I mentioned it to Mom she told me that it helped us burn off energy while she and Dad got a little rest on a bench.  Parents have to be clever.

I don’t know if picnics are allowed inside the zoo now, but Forest Park has many open spots for gathering nearby, including the site of the outdoor Shakespeare Festival St. Louis.

** Also remembering the sweet southern wife of the Prudential manager in Minneapolis, who explained how her fastidious husband came to be a willing diaper-changer of their three girls.  “I told him that I didn’t like diapers either, but I loved my daughter and wanted her to be healthy and comfortable.  I said I thought he loved her as much as I did, but if he didn’t, that was fine and I would do it.”   ❤




Black-Eyed Susie’s Honey

One bright summer day, two pretty little flowers were standing in a field near the edge of the woods.  The flowers were Black-Eyed Susies, members of the daisy family.  They have a dark brown or black center with a single row of yellow petals around them.

One of the daisies said, “Isn’t this a lovely day, so clear and bright?  Look at the beautiful blue sky and the pretty white clouds.  It’s like a big ocean with lots of sail boats.  Oh, it’s so big and beautiful!”

“It’s nothing of the sort,” said the other daisy.  “The sun is so hot that it’s about to cook me.  I don’t like the blue sky.  I don’t like anything that’s blue.”

“Well, well,” said a little Jack-in-the-Pulpit standing nearby, “then you don’t even like yourself, because in a way you are blue except for your head.”

“That’s right,” said the shy little violet.  “The green color is made up of yellow and blue; so from your neck down, you are mostly blue.”

“Oh I don’t believe it,” said the second daisy.  “Besides, we were talking about the sky.  I don’t care for the white clouds.  I’ve seen too many white clouds turn black with rage and cry all over.  Just yesterday, I got all wet when a little baby cloud got lost from his mother and cried all over the place.”

“Now, now,” said Sweet William.  “You’ve sort of mixed things up a bit.  If it wasn’t for the crying clouds making rain and the hot sun making it warm, we couldn’t be here.”

“That’s true,” said Morning Glory, climbing a nearby tree.  “Everything and everybody is part of a big thing, and we all have our jobs to do and our rewards to receive.”

What is our so-called job?” Asked daisy number two.  “I can’t do anything with my roots buried in the ground and my head cooking in the sun.”

“Oh yes you can do something,” said the first daisy.  “You can look pretty for everyone to see, and you can make honey for the bees.”

“I’ll admit I’m the prettiest flower in the woods and I have the sweetest honey that ever was, but if you think I’ll have a dirty old bee walking on my head, you are badly mistaken.  I’ll give no honey to the bees or to anyone else.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” said Morning Glory, climbing still higher up the tree and opening more blossoms.  “I’m climbing as high as I can and wearing dozens of honey-filled flowers for the bees so that my reward will be big.”

“Reward, reward!” shouted the second daisy.  “What reward can you hope to receive?  You know as well as I do that all summer long, the bees will run all over your head gathering honey, the bugs and worms will eat your leaves, and then old Jack Frost will paint you so Old Man Winter can freeze you.”

“That’s partly true,” answered Jack-in-the-Pulpit.  “Some of us will die, but as a reward for giving honey to the bees, we will be given the chance to make seeds which will grow next year.”

“Oh!” cried the second little daisy.  “How foolish can you be!  I suppose the bugs and worms we’ve been feeding all summer will wade around in the snow, planting the seeds we leave for next year.”

“No,” answered the Morning Glory, “the birds will eat most of them.  You see, the birds must live, too, and they live on bugs, worms, and seeds, mostly.”

“Oho,” moaned the second little daisy, “so now we have to feed our hard-earned seeds to the birds.  After they get finished, what reward do we have left?”

“Now wait up a minute,” answered the first little daisy.  “The birds don’t eat all the seed.  Most of the seed is dropped on the ground.  When the birds scratch around looking for them, they bury many more than they eat.”

“That’s right, they do us far more good than harm,” wisely stated Jack-in-the-Pulpit.

“I care not what you say, do, or think.  I’ll not give any of my honey to the bees,” angrily shouted the second little daisy.  “Look, here comes one now.”  With that, she quickly closed her petals, keeping the bee away.

The bee flew to the first little daisy and took some honey, saying, “Thank you.  I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“What about us?” asked the other flowers.

“I only take honey from Black-Eyed Susies.  There will soon be other bees along for your honey.  Bye now,” said the bee, and away he flew.

The second little daisy refused all day long to give honey to any of the many bees that came her way.  Just about sundown, a little boy came along. Seeing the two daisies, he reached down and picked the second little daisy.  Walking along, he pulled the petals off one by one, saying, “She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not . .  .”

☼♡ HaPpY ThAnksGiVing ♡☼

☼♡ HaPpY  ThAnksGiVing or Thanukkah and may every day be glorious! ♡☼Image

(Numbers/dates should start with 11th . . . but what do numbers really matter? 🙂

  1. Storyteller friendships, and especially the wisdom of Elizabeth Ellis, who has helped me more times than I can count.
  2. Sustenance and beauty in life . . . . Reminder from Renée Tompkins — Bread and Roses  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWkVcaAGCi0    The birthday cake Lisa made for me, the first in many years! . . . and ongoing friendship, including last night’s  small but interesting story swap at McClay.   . . .  interesting date 11/12/13  . . . I read that there are many weddings scheduled for today. I’ll think of something memorable to do . . . but not that.  Maybe teaching tai chi is special enough . . .  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  3.   Coffee and chocolate!!  There were those few years when I could have no caffeine, and yet somehow I did function . . . I don’t know how.
  4. Big thank you to whoever (Marie?)  recommended _Waitress_ and _Strangers in Good Company_ (and to my library for lending them to me) — marvelous!!  . . .   Healthy living gives us more time to do the things we love.  One easy step for me, a lesson from my Aunt Yoko,  was making real, not instant oatmeal, with cinnamon and sometimes ginger and a splash of milk . . . better tasting than the over-sugared little instant packets.
  5.   Years of wonderful students, wonderful fellow teachers, and a few good administrators.  Jan Freeman, my favorite assistant principal taught me, “Choose your battles.”  Only so much energy and time . . . and taught students, “The best discipline is self-discipline.”  Wayne Gronefeld taught so much calm competence and humor, and trusted us that, even when our classes might look chaotic, our junior high students were learning in the best, most active, way.  Every spring, he gave timely warning to be extra vigilant because, “the sap is rising.”
  6.   I love ordinary, quiet days.  As I learned about some of my students‘ difficult lives, I’d thank my mother for our “boring, ordinary life.”  Chinese curse, may you live in interesting times . . .   I have learned that many of the things I worry about are actually “doesn’t matter.”
  7. Gratitude:  My nieces’ wisdom (beyond their years?) Any time there’s a techie question, young friends and relatives are the ones with answers, and they are also good with the people problems.  Jill once said to me, when a friend dropped me for not wanting to boycott _The Golden Compass_, “She wasn’t a real friend then, was she?”  Moriah put into perspective my angst over new, impossible for me, testing requirement for teaching aqua, “Why are you worrying about it?  It’s the worst-paying job in town.”    ** I learned the trick of “fake” early deadlines when Jill was little and Bill needed my help on the nights he was working.  Papers done early meant I could play without worrying about schoolwork.  Even then, she had good ideas, and once when I complimented her cleverness, Jill summed up life’s wisdom well, “I may not know it all, but I know some things.”  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  8. Grateful for the hard lessons and for the foreshadowing in books and stories to prepare me for real life lessons:  Listening again to _Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire_, Jim Dale’s wonderful reading.  As Stephen said, “The man’s a genius!”  I am enjoying revisiting parts that I had forgotten and/or that were different in the movie, and a realization of life’s lessons.  At the end, when Ministry official and others are denying Harry’s report on the return of Voldemort, I realized that I can understand that part a bit better now, thanks to someone I thought was a friend . . . My close friends know they can trust the truth of whatever I say to be true, to the extent that no one ever assigned me to bring someone to a surprise party. (“a glass face” Outlander series)  This person taught me how it feels to be told, “Shame on you.  That can’t be true” . . . a valuable lesson, just one of many that life has taught, whether I wanted it to or not.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  9.   Retirement means time to read . . .  whole series in order . . . and savor the levels. In  Laurie R King‘s _A Grave Talent_ (first of the Kate Martinelli series), I was struck by this apt and lovely metaphor for love, “getting to the end of a puzzle and finding you’d been given the wrong pieces, and then finding the right ones, and it all falls smoothly, naturally into place.”
  10.   I love the hand-made gifts I receive, socks, decorations, candles.  I used to make sweaters for the little ones, now mostly stick to easy baby hats . . . but they are all special, full of the love that went into them ❤   Two former neighbors at the condo laughed one day as they talked about throwing away “horrible” handmade gifts they’d received.  Those who don’t appreciate deserve not to get more and remind me of Walker’s “Everyday Use.”  http://faculty.weber.edu/jyoung/English%206710/Everyday%20Use.pdf
  11.   I am grateful for KDL What’s Next http://ww2.kdl.org/libcat/whatsnext.asp  It does help to read series in order, though not impossible to put facts together out of order, if one can remember long enough.  A student and I decided long ago that books were a benign addiction. ❤
  12.   Quiet . . . and company.  There is a Hoja story in which, desiring quiet, the Hoja told everyone that there were free seeds in the market.  Then, as all rushed off for the free seeds, he wondered if there might really be free seeds . . .  and went to the marketplace himself.  I’m reminded of times I opted out of excursions to catch up on grading (teachers’ particular Sisyphean task) and then wished I had gone.
  13.   Grateful for roads taken . . . and not . . .  Frost’s poem can be interpreted multiple ways: a sigh . . . of contentment?  or regret?    “What if?” seems such a useless phrase, unless one had Hermione’s time-turner to back it up.  There are some decisions or accidents I might want to redo, but on the whole, I’m happy where I am, and the journey’s side trips got me here.
  14. Gratitude for fun times singing this with my niece Joy Hahn  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAfCQ-t7xY0    and mixed-up versions of Hey Diddle Diddle with Robin and Christopher and Nicolas, and “It’s behind us now” sightings of the impossible with Moriah and Stephen.  Mom used to call me Auntie Mame when I’d return from an adventure with kids.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  15. Gratitude:  I recently found a green round tablecloth at Goodwill to add to the collection . . . I’ve started keeping a cloth on my glass table, not to be fancy but because my eyes do not like the glare off the glass . . . each birthday seems to bring a new challenge.  Grateful for all the stages and seasons of life.  Almost time to switch from the oranges of fall to red and green (Celtic/Christmas), then red for Valentine’s Day, then green for St. Pat.  A friend used to separate red/green M&Ms (half price after Christmas) to make Valentine and St. Pat’s treats later).
  16.   Grateful for pretty sunsets, ripples on the little pond (now visible since leaves have fallen), birds finding food and resting spots . . . time to notice the beauty . . .  Our family home had westward-facing windows in living room and kitchen, good planning by a father who was raised on a farm and appreciated nature.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  17. Wishing for McCoy’s medical tricorder for my own little troubles and for friends who are fighting more serious battles . . .  Meanwhile, grateful for Dr. Albers, chiropractor, and Dr. Cannon, allergist, and Dr. Siler and Janelle for breath and sleep . . .  and all the other healers out there  ❤  and for my new frog ballerina from Lucy, and catching up on frog stories http://www.youtube.com/user/storytellermary/videos     Gateway Storytellers meeting was great last night — lunch today with Janelle Shahid — life is good!  Interesting that I’m going out to lunch with friends more now that I’m not committed to teaching at noon M/W/F . . . though I do hope to make it to aqua on Friday, to make up for so much feasting.
  18. Grateful for close friends (Mary Ellen’s for Thanksgiving dinner) and for travel . . . I’ve adopted a strategy of stopping any mental negativity by recalling places I’ve been . . . where I have met so many kind and loving people.  GPS keeps me on track better now, but whenever I became “temporarily mislaid,”  I met so many nice people in so many nice places.  ❤  and grateful for  good, strong people.  This reminds me of Joseph’s Good Samaritan story.   http://www.viralnova.com/protective-bikers/
  19. Grateful to be cosy at home drinking coffee . . . and grateful for the fun of following Marisa’s thrift store makeover designs, and inspiration to try my own small projects.  Contest right now for fancy coffee maker . . . we’ve come a long way from Mom’s percolator (though I did like the sounds of the coffee perking away).  http://www.newdressaday.com/2013/11/27/holiday-giveaway-tassimo-brewing-system/
  20. and one more “to grow on”  http://www.mysteryloverskitchen.com/2013/11/Doctor-Who-Wedding-Cake-Chipotle-Cranberry-Sauce.html

Gratitude for November . . . for always!


It’s the season of thankfulness, a mind set to carry forward throughout the year.  Mel Davenport (thanks, Mel) brought up  the idea of posting an item of gratitude each day, in preparation for Thanksgiving.  I’ll give it a try, in combination with some thoughts I’ve been gathering for a while, a bit disconnected, and may take more than one blog post . . . but it’s only week one of November . . .

Being kind costs nothing and makes such a difference.

Looking up, I see the dream cards Holly Gault made for me and realize that many of those dreams have come true.

I also see the beautiful Sheherazade graphics that Jackie Baldwin sent, with the suggestion that I collect good wishes for the storytelling concert at the NSN conference in L.A.

Sheherazade wishes

When my sister was in the hospital, I was in the elevator, leaving after a reassuring visit.  I started to thoughtlessly mutter, “I hate hospitals” (face it, never anyone’s favorite place to be).  Just in time, I realized there were hard-working staff members in that elevator.  I changed my sentence to “I’m so glad there are people here to help my sister,” which was a far better message for all of us . . . and I have to say, she did get good care and is now much healthier.

A hospice nurse recently used my CD to ease a distressed patient.  I was touched to hear it.  I had given it to my mail carrier, who passed it on to her daughter.  Easing someone’s last days feels like a special gift.

Years back, I knitted little sweaters for dolls and bears while I sat in Mom’s hospital room.  When she was awake, she’d offer suggestions on them, one more loving piece of connection to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren . . . heart for Jill’s, truck for Stephen’s bear, kitty for Moriah’s . . .  It was a sweet distraction.



Teaching was a special joy to me, and giving and receiving thanks with students, parents, and other teachers made it special.  A friend encouraged me to find as many things as possible to compliment, and we made a point of passing along good comments we overheard, knowing that people are sometimes too shy to share them in person .

I tried to give students recognition of their creativity.  One of my sweetest moments was when a student told me I’d helped her see that she could express herself in writing just as she did in dance.

When I announced that I’d be retiring from teaching, a student expressed dismay until I reminded her that she was graduating, so we “graduated” together.  I told my students that year that I had to go because they couldn’t possibly be matched by any future group.

Here’s to new adventures!


You keep what you’ve shared.  A friend in college was always generous with cuttings from her houseplants, insurance against future disasters, knowing she could restart with cuttings from the transplants . . .

I’ve been giving away CDs, to every place that hires me to tell, and also to people I meet out and about.  It’s delightful fun, people are so pleased, and these days many can’t afford treats.  When I give them away, I’m also passing along the help of many other people.

At last spring’s Festival, I thought to give one CD to Lynn Rubright*, who taught the very first storytelling class I attended.  In return, I received words I will treasure.

I gave another to Michael Parent**, who started me on the CD project with his workshop on doing big projects one step at a time.  That was at the Tejas Conference in Denton, Texas, and I had been given a scholarship to attend that workshop — one more thing to be oh so grateful for.

Cynthia Changaris and Mary Hamilton’s WOW Weekend helped me with planning, and was great fun as well . . . and so very nurturing!

Elizabeth Ellis shared permission to tell one of her stories, and gentle advice when I most needed it.

Some words from my mentors:

*Mary,   I listened carefully to Courage and Wisdom CD –  (in my car, where I do all my listening)….and enjoyed each and every story.   I  very much like your forthright style –  each a story a story well told.   Good tempo  (cadence) to each story, allowing the listener to visualize the setting, characters and setting.  You allowed listeners time to internalize the tale as it was unfolding.  I can see how your high school students were drawn into story and storytelling.  They will not forget their “storytelling teacher”….or the stories you told and the “lessons” embedded within them.  I like Heaven and Hell parable  (Chinese version).  Can you lead me to some other versions of this story?    Your love for the art form,  and respect for your stories and listeners is evident.  Thank you for your gift to me of tales well told.

Lynn Rubright


** Hiya, Mary,

Finally got around to listening to your CDs, and enjoyed them both.

You seem to understand that the best gift we can give to children is to tell them stories.

All the best,

Michael Parent