Thankful Thursday – Granny, a Typewriter, and Me

I inherited my granny’s old typewriter when I was in Fifth Grade.

It came in a hard-sided olive green case.

I loved the sound of the keys when I worked out the staccato of my thoughts into words.

The bell at the end of the line was music to my ears.

I miss typing on an authentic typewriter, which may be why I still insist on a keyboard with the old style, raised keys.

Granny never saw my book, she never knew that I had written one.

Despite that, her influence is seen on every page.

My granny gave me an incredible gift when she gave me that old typewriter.

She gave me permission to daydream and imagine life as an author.

Her old green typewriter is long gone; and I still sigh over not being able to staccato out my thoughts and hear that melodious bell at the end of every line, but I am thankful for the way that her indulgence of a child’s whim fashioned me into the woman that I am today.

Typewriter, not the green one I had.

An old Royal Typewriter


Thankful Thursday – Lilacs and Healing

I am thankful that

God heals memories.

Lilacs were once my favorite flowers,

until they were

ruined by my first husband’s choices.

You can read about how their fragrance only held mockery for me


However, starting that day, in that chapter of my life,

lilacs have reminded me of happy childhood days

and nights.

When my son and I visited Mackinaw Island on a field trip,

everyone went out of their way on the Island to make us feel like royalty.

The scent of lilacs accompanied us everywhere we went.

On many of our walks in Holland, James and I have been pleased

to catch their familiar fragrance wafting over.

Recently on our trip up north,

I marveled at how often we were surprised

to discover wild lilacs.

Their heady fragrance was almost intoxicating as I smiled

and genuinely

celebrated my healing.

My heart was no longer scarred or shackled.

Instead, I discovered that it has been stretched

to hold more love than I ever imagined.

I only wish that I could somehow

post their beautiful fragrance

online for you.

May your scars be healed, may your heart be stretched and never shackled,

and may love and goodness

heal your wounds.


Gracie K.

McGulpin Point Overflow Lilacs

McGulpin Point Overflow Lilacs

McGulpin Point Overflow Lilacs

McGulpin Point Overflow Lilacs

“Piñatas and Gringos”

southwest mountain view

“mountain view” (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

“Piñatas and Gringos”

By Gracie K. Harold

I was seven years old in the early 1980’s when my family moved from the Lakeshore living of the Midwest to the Southwestern Desert of Arizona.  To say that we had culture shock is an understatement. We had driven cross country, towing a car behind us while the moving truck transported all of our belongings.  I remember my parents waking me up around 11:00 pm to show me the view from the mountainside gas station as we reached the “valley side” of the mountain range and began our descent into the city of Phoenix.  The lights from below us were a magical panorama of adventures to come.  Above us, the stars were breathtaking.  The scent of desert sage and citrus trees greeted us in the night air; and suddenly we were all wide awake with excitement.

We arrived at our new home just before midnight, and my brother and I barely contained our excitement when we discovered an in-ground swimming pool in our backyard.  Our parents jumped up and down as they squealed like children, “Time for a midnight swim!”  We had our swimsuits on in a heartbeat and ran out to the backyard, where celebration ensued in the pool.

Simultaneously, like a cheesy horror film; three things happened.  The floodlights turned on, blinding us with brightness.  The underground sprinkler system turned on in the little yard adjoining the pool, showering us at full pressure with cold water as we stared stupidly from the pool.  Next, we heard the creepy sound of a whirring motor and turned to see a mechanical floating thing emerge from the shadows under the diving board.  It started zipping through the water, with tentacles whipping back and forth underwater like twin anacondas.  The round part that was above water looked to be the same dimensions as my brother’s head; and the tentacles reached underneath at least 5 feet in each direction.  We thought we had all fallen into a science fiction nightmare in the middle of the desert.  My dad yanked me out by my arm as my mom screamed to my brother to “Get out! Quick! Swim to the side!”  I had never seen a little boy swim like a cartoon character until that moment.  His little arms went over his body as if he were a windmill; and both of my parents were waiting at the side of the pool to pull him out of harm’s way.  We grabbed our towels like they were combat helmets and made a hasty retreat into the house; where the sliding door was locked down like Fort Knox.  We changed into pajamas and huddled together on the living room floor until we fell asleep.

One minute after the realtor’s office opened the next morning; my parents were on the phone.

The realtor came over and showed my parents where to find (and also how to reset) the timers for the sprinklers and floodlights.  She adeptly redirected the spray from the sprinklers; and then she had the oddest smirk on her face when she heard my parents’ description of the motorized pool beast that almost ate my brother.  It turns out “the pool beast” was in reality a “pool porpoise”, otherwise known as a “pool sweep”.  It was designed to be a self-propelled pool cleaner; and would automatically move around obstacles in the pool while it cleaned.  In other words, it would never eat anyone, but would adjust its route around us. In the weeks and years to come, my brother and I actually grew comfortable enough with the “monster”  that we would race to grab the tentacles from underwater and drench each other with the pool spray.

Our next adventure happened when we were outside later that day.  Some old railroad ties were stacked on each other to mark our property line; and my brother and I went over to them to investigate the little creatures which dotted our makeshift “fence”.  We were overjoyed to watch the lizards of all sizes as they sunned themselves.  It was only a matter of time before we dared each other to pick one up.  On the count of three, we both courageously grabbed a lizard by the tail and grinned at each other in triumph.  The lizards unceremoniously snapped free of their tails and scampered away as we stood in shock staring at each other.  A split second later, we screamed in horror at the sight of our sibling holding a flailing tail which was somehow broken off of a lizard.  Realization sunk in, and we each looked at the flailing tail in our own hand; screaming in bloodcurdling yelps.  Our mother came running out of the house, certain that her beloved children were being kidnapped or stung by scorpions.

Instead, she opened the door to find us shrieking and waving our hands as the lizard tails convulsed between our fingers.  “Drop it! Drop it! Drop it RIGHT NOW!” she commanded. Neither one of us had thought of that.  We obliged, and ran to her as the tails finished their writhing on the ground.  We didn’t know what was worse; thinking that we had killed the cute little lizards, or being so freaked out by their tails moving in our hands while disconnected from their bodies.   Once again, my parents were relieved when their local source of truth assured them that the lizards would indeed grow new tails; and that they were harmless little animals.

One of the most interesting places to visit was the local supermarket.  We had never seen piñatas in real life before.  Our hometown in Michigan had been largely influenced by European settlers; and the largest cultural experience that we had was once a year at the local art festival when we sampled egg rolls from the food booths.

I remember looking over our heads at the piñatas as they danced in the breeze of the air conditioning unit.  My dad asked a sales clerk, “What are those things hanging in the air?” She explained that they were piñatas, and that children hit them with broomsticks to get candy out of them for their birthdays.  My brother and I dropped our jaws and widened our eyes in amazement!  What a great idea!

My dad thanked the salesclerk, and the whole way home, my brother was quietly plotting something.  I didn’t have to wait long before he pulled my parents aside at home.  “Hey, my birthday is coming up; and I really want one of those candy things from the store!”  My dad answered, “Oh, you want a piñata? (It is very important at this point in my recollection to tell you that my father, and eventually everyone in my family pronounced it “PIN~a~teh”, as in a straight PIN, “a” as in the A in hat, and “teh” like the t sound. It was said through a Midwestern nasally voice; but with the arrogance of all of us who thought we were accomplishing assimilation with the locals.)

Weeks came and went, and my brother’s birthday was upon us.  With much pomp and carryings-on; the store bought piñata was hung up on our back patio amid whoops of celebration.  My parents decided NOT to blindfold my 5 year old brother, reasoning that giving a healthy boy a broomstick was close enough to living on the edge.  A quiet hush fell over us as he recoiled and swung, hitting the piñata. His hits became more fierce and determined until he knocked the thing off of the hook; and proceeded to pound it on the ground.  Still wielding the broomstick, he looked up from the tattered mess of crepe paper and voiced what we had just realized, “This PIN-a-teh has NO CANDY in it!!!!”  My dad cussed under his breath, my mother scooped up the battered remains into a bag, and took off in the car.

We later learned that she drove to the supermarket, marched up to the service desk; and refused to talk with anyone less than a manager.  When the hierarchy of the store arrived, mom recounted our story; demanding a refund because our PIN-a-teh was missing its candy!  Mom came home with a new PIN-a-teh, which she had stuffed with newly-purchased candy.  The birthday was redeemed; but I overheard mom telling dad that the salesgirl and manager actually giggled as she walked away.  “And they said something about me obviously being a ‘gringo’.  I wonder what ‘gringo’ means?”

Years later when I was enrolled in Spanish class, I recalled that conversation and laughed at how aptly that described us.  (If you don’t know what “gringo” means, it’s a Spanish slang word for a non-native; it can be also taken like the term “Rookie”). We were the epitome of a family of gringos.  We wanted so badly to fit in and acclimate well; yet we had done a comically horrible job.  Our family’s missteps, however; are minimal compared to the experience that my father’s co-worker had.

The co-worker and his wife were out for a peaceful weekend walk along one of the irrigation canals that ran around town.  As they strolled; the wife noticed a bedraggled, matted, soaking wet little animal that appeared to have been in a fight.  Their hearts went out to the poor creature; and the wife wondered how someone could abandon such a helpless Chihuahua.  They tried to call a veterinary clinic, but they couldn’t locate anyone in town that offered weekend hours.

They brought the animal to their house, gave it a bath; used their blow dryer on low heat; and let the pitiful critter sleep on their bed.  Monday morning, they brought their found animal into the vet clinic.  They were astonished when the veterinarian started laughing uncontrollably.  He finally caught his breath enough to explain that they had found an overgrown Mexican sewer rat!

Yes, literally, a Mexican sewer rat!!!

I have to say it…..EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!

Can you imagine?!

As realization dawned on them, they were horrified! Their sheets!  Their towels! Their house!!!!  They had unwittingly brought a wild rodent into their home!  I think that their experience deserves the “Gringo Trophy”!  From that point on; when we would misstep in the name of acclimating; we would laugh and say, “At least I didn’t bring home a sewer rat!”

Eventually, we relaxed enough to really enjoy our new surroundings.  The car that we had towed behind us on our cross-country move was a Classic convertible.  Some of my favorite memories are of the Sunday afternoons we would spend exploring Route 66 and the other back roads of Arizona.

We also learned that if we were going to the bank, it was wisest to bring a book because the wait with just one person ahead of us would easily be 15 to 20 minutes.  This was because Arizona natives never seemed to be in a hurry for anything.  We learned how to slow down and enjoy the people around us.

Our favorite epiphany involved the beauty of simply sitting and watching the sunset; whether it was sitting on our patio or atop South Mountain.  The desert silhouettes provided the perfect foreground for the most gorgeous skies we had ever seen.

We still had misadventures along the way, and we still laugh at the mistakes that were made; but our experience taught me that when you are getting used to a new place or a new situation, things will probably go awry.  In our new life together, as in Arizona; things go smoother when I can laugh at myself and learn from my mistakes.  Honestly, I think that slowing down to simply enjoy one another as we discover this new life together will be the best part of our journey.

Below is a link to an Arneson pool sweep ad:

and here’s an image of our “pool monster”:

In reality, this measures approximately 4 feet from front to back.

Thankful Thursday – Family Tree

Almost thirty years ago, my grandparents bought a home that overlooked a natural, spring-fed creek.

The creek ended in their backyard (or started, depending on your perspective), and a pathway led around the water to a rock-filled peninsula which could be seen from their back yard.

Grandpapa purchased that peninsula from the city for a dollar.  $1.00.  He jokingly told Grandma that she could have the gardening area in front of the water, and he would take over the peninsula.

She did, and he did.

Every Arbor Day, each of us 16 cousins would proudly bring a sapling over to Grandpapa.  He would beam with pride as he dug a hole for his newest addition.

“Well, I think I have just the place for that,” he would say jovially while winking his eye.

Fall through Spring, we could almost bet that we could find him either in his “woods” or in the garden that he had planted in his self-proclaimed clearing.

My fondest memories are of joining him on that hill, picking up rocks, loading up the wheelbarrow, or even weeding.

I daydreamed in those woods, and had a safe place to run from my preteen questions.  His woods brought me solace, and taught me how to simply be still in nature.

It was my sanctuary, my cathedral, and my prayer chapel all in one.

It was the birthplace of my imagination, and the incubator of my writer’s heart.

Somehow, as the trees grew and reached for the sky, my heart grew stalwart, and my passions were birthed.

Walking through the woods these last ten years never fails to produce the haunting ache of loss.  Simultaneously, though, is the quiet calm that comes from unconditional love.  I am his beloved granddaughter.

Death may have claimed his body for this decade, but there is nothing that will ever sever the cords of his love for me, or the memories that he made for me.

I think back on the desolate peninsula that was, and marvel at his faith.

He saw what could be, and poured his life into seeing it happen.

He left me an irreplaceable legacy.

I am thankful that he had faith for the generations yet to be.  My kids love running through Grandpapa’s woods, enjoying the shade and the mystery of the now-giant trees that he planted long before they were born.

I am thankful that he directed my gaze back to my Creator, whatever season of life I was in.

I can only pray that I have the same legacy of faith, that I invest in those around me the way that he poured life and love into me.

Today, I am thankful for my Family Tree(s).

"Family Tree"

“Family Tree”