Category Archives: happiness

That Bluebird of Happiness

Blue birds

I often go back and re-read old posts, particularly when I discover that someone else has read them.  It is amazing to me how differently I perceive things from when I actually wrote the post.  As you write, squeezing huge, boulder-sized portions of hot, magma-like burning ideas and passions out through writing orifices not nearly big enough to accommodate, you usually hate what you wrote and are still writhing in pain from the creation of it as you try to edit it, trim it and brush its unruly hair.  (How’s that for a mixed metaphor to make you cringe?)  But given time and distance, you can really appreciate what you wrote more than ever before.  Things that you thought were the stupidest idea a man ever put in words suddenly have the power to make you laugh, or make you cry.  You are able to feel the things the writing was intended to make you feel.  You begin to think things like, “Maybe you are not the worst writer that ever lived, and maybe that’s not why nobody ever reads your books.”  But then, of course, your sister reads the post and tells you that you write like a really old, really crabby, really ancient old man.  And you use the word “really” too much too.  I know I deserve that, Sis.  Especially the “really” part.

12080357_972883126091737_890351697960018123_o

Here’s a post that I reread and liked today about Bob Ross.

This is the thing about happiness;  It is elusive and rare as a real-life blue bird. But capturing it for a moment is not impossible.  And as long as you don’t try to salt its tail and keep it prisoner, you can encourage it to sing for you.  (Much better metaphor this time, don’t you think?)  vintage-coca-cola-ad-1950s-1960s-clownb

When I am accused of being gloomy, old, and boring, I can happily admit it and make it into something funny.  I am something of a conspiracy nut, but not so serious that I believe all my own assertions.  For those people who took offense at this conspiracy theory of mine; Coca-Cola Mind Control, I would like to point out that “Hey, I was joking.  I actually like clowns.”  Even though there is a serious side to everything and there can’t be laughter without some tears, I am basically happy with the way things are.

GiveAgift_web_ad1_0

I started listening to “Live Happy Radio” on Sunday mornings on KLUV in Dallas.  They point out on their program of endlessly droning happy-talk that happiness is something that you can work at.  Like humor writing in blogs, it takes practice and practice and time.  They even asked me to share the word about their happy magazine and products, so I am doing exactly that right here.  Sometimes you simply have to put your cynicism in a jar on the shelf next to the lock box where you keep depression and self-loathing.  So you can find their Live-Happy folderol right here.

So I am bird-watching again with an eye out for the bluebird.  You know the one.  It is out there somewhere.  And I need to hear that song one more time.

Blue birds

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Filed under artwork, goofy thoughts, happiness, humor, insight, inspiration, irony, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Mr. Happy

I know that I am probably the last person you would think of to ask for advice on how to be happy. I am a crotchety old coot, a former middle-school English teacher, a grumpy old-enough-to-be-a-grandpa non-grandpa, an atheist, a nudist, and a conspiracy theorist. You would expect someone like me to be out in his yard in his underwear yelling at pigeons for pooping on his car more than they do his wife’s car. Be that as it may, I am also basically happy.

You know what happy looks like, surely. After Christmas day is over you see two kinds of kids. One kind is miserable and grumbling in his or her room about their Christmas gift that they didn’t get, in spite of the five expensive toys they did get. Yeah, that one’s never going to be happy. Then there’s the other kind, the one happily breaking or playing with the few cheap toys their parents could afford, using more of their own imagination than the imagination the toy companies pay someone to put into their TV or YouTube toy commercials. That one is going to be somebody you can rely on for years to come. That’s the kind of kid I like to think I was. Of course, I’m probably wrong about that too. Being a middle-school teacher gives you plenty of opportunity to learn the lesson that you are actually wrong about everything in life, and like Socrates, you know absolutely nothing for sure about anything.

Years upon years of being a public school teacher, the butt of comedians’ best school-memory jokes, the target of Republican spending cuts for saving enough money to give massive tax cuts to billionaires, and having to be every kind of professional for every kind of kid, no matter how ugly and unlovable they are, teaches you where true happiness comes from.

A. You have to learn to love the job you are trying to do. And…

B. You need to do the job you love with every resource you can squeeze out of your poor, battery-powered soul.

I did that. I did the job all the way from deluded and idealistic days of youth to cynical and caustic old age hanging onto your job by the fingernails until you have to choose between dying in front of the whole classroom of horrified kiddos you have learned to love, or going kicking and screaming into retirement to maybe live a bit longer than you would have if you had stayed at your work station in the idiot-to-income-earner factory for young minds.

Being satisfied with the career you chose and the success or failure you made of it is not the only factor in being happy. Teachers don’t earn much compared to corporate informational presenters who do the same job for a lot more money in front of a lot less hostile audiences far fewer times a day. So, it helps if you can manage to need less stuff in life. After all, stuff costs lots of money. Especially stuff you don’t really need.

That is why being a nudist and not having to worry about how much you spend on clothes helps a lot with your basic level of happiness and peace of mind. Also, lots of vitamin D soaked up through your nude all-togetherness produces happy-hormones in the brain.

Being an avowed pessimist is good for being happier in life as well. After all, the pessimist is always prepared for the worst to happen. And since the worst rarely is what actually happens, the pessimist is never shocked and dismayed and is frequently pleasantly surprised.

And so, here is Mr. Happy’s secret to a long and happy life;

  1. Tell yourself that the job you have to do is the job you love to do often enough that you actually begin to believe it.
  2. Do that job you love as hard and as well as it is possible for you to do.
  3. Love the people you work for and the people you work with, even if you have to pretend really hard until it becomes real to you too.
  4. Be satisfied with the stuff you need, and try to need as little as possible. The man whose paycheck is bigger than his bills is happier than the man whose paycheck only pays for a portion of the interest on his wife’s credit cards.
  5. Wear fewer clothes. You don’t need them in a quickly warming world. And you should love the skin you’re in.
  6. Expect the worst possible outcome from everything in life, and then there is nowhere to go but upwards.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, happiness, humor, insight, inspiration, Paffooney, philosophy

A Mr. Holland Moment

Life is making music.  We hum, we sing to ourselves, movie music plays in our head as the soundtrack to our daily life. At least, it does if we stop for a moment and dare to listen.   We make music in many different ways.  Some play guitar.  Some are piano players.  And some of us are only player pianos.  Some of us make music by writing a themed paragraph like this one.  Others make an engine sing in the automotive shop.  Still others plant gardens and make flowers or tomatoes grow.  I chose teaching kids to read and write.  The music still swells in my ears four years after retiring.

The 1995 movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus, is about a musician who thinks he is going to write a magnificent classical orchestra opus while teaching music at a public high school to bring in money and allow him time to compose and be with his young wife as they start a new family.

But teaching is not, of course, what he thought it was.  He has to learn the hard way that it is not an easy thing to open up the closed little clam shells that are the minds of students and put music in.  You have to learn who they are as people first.  You have to learn to care about what goes on in their lives, and how the world around them makes them feel… and react to what you have to teach.  Mr. Holland has to learn to pull them into music appreciation using rock and roll and music they like to listen to, teaching them to understand the sparkles and beats and elements that make it up and can be found in all music throughout their lives.  They can even begin to find those things in classical music, and appreciate why it has taken hold of our attention for centuries.

And teaching is not easy.  You have to make sacrifices.  Big dreams, such as a magnum opus called “An American Symphony”, have to be put on the shelf until later.  You have children, and you find that parenting isn’t easy either.  Mr. Holland’s son is deaf and can never actually hear the music that his father writes from the center of his soul.  And the issue of the importance of what you have to teach becomes something you have to fight for.  Budget cuts and lack of funding cripples teachers in every field, especially if you teach the arts.  Principals don’t often appreciate the value of the life lessons you have to give.  Being in high school band doesn’t get you a high paying job later.

But in the end, at the climax of the movie, the students all come back to honor Mr. Holland.  They provide a public performance of his magnum opus, his life’s work.  And the movie ends with a feeling that it was all worth it, because what he built was eternal, and will be there long after the last note of his music is completely forgotten.  It is in the lives and loves and memories of his students, and they will pass it on.

But this post isn’t a movie review.  This post is about my movie, my music.  I was a teacher in the same way Mr. Holland was.  I learned the same lessons about being a teacher as he did.  I had the same struggles to learn to reach kids.  And my Mr. Holland moment wasn’t anywhere near as big and as loud as Mr. Holland’s.  His was performed on a stage in front of the whole school and alumni.  His won Richard Dreyfus an Academy Award for Best Actor.  But his was only fictional.

Mine was real.  It happened in a portable building on the Naaman Forest High School campus.  The students and the teacher in the classroom next door threw a surprise party for me.  They made a lot of food to share, almost all of which I couldn’t eat because of diabetes.  And they told me how much they would miss me, and that they would never forget me.  And I had promised myself I would never cry about having to retire.  But I broke my promise.  In fact, I am crying now four years later.  But they are not tears of sadness.  My masterwork has now reached its last, bitter-sweet notes.  The crescendos have all faded.  But the music of our lives will still keep playing.  And not even death can silence it completely.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, commentary, happiness, insight, kids, movie review, teaching

Positivity

Yesterday I kinda suggested that the world was doomed and I didn’t care.

In my defense, I have been undergoing an onslaught of misfortune and the endless persecutions of getting older and less healthy. I got bit by a spider and didn’t even get spider strength or any other super powers.

But I am not a double-dark downer by nature. In fact, from early on I was always a creature defined by positivity. I know that seems like an oxymoron, Mickey the Positive, since I am a dedicated pessimist.

But pessimism is only a pragmatic method of always being prepared for anything. Like being a Boy Scout.

I am happy with life.

I am fine.

The world is fine.

The world is mine.

Unfurled with swine

Wait! What?

I guess I am still being positive in spite of flag-wrapped pigs. Because I unrolled them and set them free. Metaphors can be happy, good things too.

I was a school teacher for 31 years. It was a job I loved because I loved the kids they gave me every year to teach. It was a fulfilling and life-affirming job. So what if I never got rich or famous? I lived a good life. I did good things. I have nothing to regret. Well, maybe I regret having to give it up for health reasons. I know teachers who taught for 40+ years. And some of them hated kids.

But, in my considered opinion, life on this planet is a good thing. I am glad I got to partake of the experience. And even if we do all die from climate change, it is a very good thing that intelligent life developed on the planet Earth. It is a part of the soul of the universe. And the universe having a soul is a very good thing..

The fact is, even though we face many terrible things in the near future, there are ways to overcome it. We can turn to solar power, wind power, and nuclear power to transform the way we live and maybe save life on Earth. There are good people out there trying to do that I know that for a fact because I taught some of them. You can always take what’s bad in life, and with a bit of work, you can make it come out better.

My mother is having a bad day health-wise today. But she is still alive. And the last two days have been good for her.

And after two days of rain in Texas, the sun is shining again. Life is good. Mickey the Non-negative.

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Ode to Joy

My mother responded well to treatment. Her heart is doing better. Instead of going into hospice care to prepare for the end, she will be going back to skilled care in the local hospital where she can recover enough to be allowed to go home again. It qualifies as a miracle in my book.

In general we have come to expect life to be mostly a compounding of pain and sadness, back-breaking toil followed by disheartening disappointment. But, oh! Those times when we unexpectedly receive by grace those moments of ecstasy and purest joy!

It is like riding a dolphin naked in the open sea. There is a lot of salt water in your eyes. It is hard to hang on. And going underwater threatens your very existence. But the resulting leap into the bright sunshine and bracing air raises the power of your heart to feel the best of what life offers for you to feel.

And it is as simple as that.

Joy.

We live for love. And those moments when the clouds suddenly part and the sunlight shines upon us. We are, totally without warning, no longer alone in the dark.

So, please, today… won’t you be happy for me? You deserve it even more than I do. Today is a good day. Today there is joy in Muddville.

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How to be Happy as you Grow Old and Loony

Every day I get a little bit older. Something new hurts that never hurt me before. An earlobe, a small toe on my right foot, a red spot on the back of my hand… a spider bite on my belly.

Something flits like a butterfly across my field of vision, caught only by my severely imperfect peripheral vision. Of course my keen old mind, sharpened by 31 years of teaching in Texas public schools, knows instantly that it is not a butterfly… No, it must be a little naked girl with butterfly wings. A fairy. What else could it be?

“It’s a bug,” the dog says affirmatively. “And if I can catch it, I’m gonna eat it! I hope it tastes like bacon.”

And then I try to argue that you shouldn’t snack on fairies. They are too much like little people, and you should not eat people.

But she insists you cannot argue about a dog’s right to eat what she catches because there is no such thing as a talking dog.

And she has a point. But she is old too. She’s going blind in one eye with a milk-white cataract. So, if it is a little naked girl with butterfly wings, she will never actually be able to catch it.

I guess I should seriously stop arguing with dogs who can’t really talk because I suppose it is evidence of an old man going a bit loony and losing his mind.

So, I dropped in on my old friend and noted chemist trying to create a happiness potion, Milton G. Dogwhiffle. He lives in that yellow house in our neighborhood that I only seem to be able to find when my blood sugar is a little bit low and I find it really easy to get lost… and see fairies in the bushes.

“Simon, my old friend, how’s the happiness potion coming?” I say in my silliest old-man voice.

“My name is not Simon,” Gilliam says with a surprised look on his face, “But the happiness formula is nearly perfected. It is, however, a potion for turning dogs into people which means they will then be able to work can openers and refrigerator doors which is the part that makes them the happiest.”

“I volunteer as a test subject,” my dog says.

“You can’t really talk, remember,” I tell her.

“It doesn’t matter anyway,” said Ralph. “I am testing it on myself first. I used to be a cocker spaniel, you know.”

And this confused me further since I was almost sure Milton’s name used to be Chester P. Dogwhipple… not Ralph.

So, the dog and I wandered around the neighborhood for a while aimlessly, until I happened to remember where our house was. And that made me happy.

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Filed under fairies, happiness, humor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

That Bluebird of Happiness

Blue birds

I often go back and re-read old posts, particularly when I discover that someone else has read them.  It is amazing to me how differently I perceive things from when I actually wrote the post.  As you write, squeezing huge, boulder-sized portions of hot, magma-like burning ideas and passions out through writing orifices not nearly big enough to accommodate, you usually hate what you wrote and are still writhing in pain from the creation of it as you try to edit it, trim it and brush its unruly hair.  (How’s that for a mixed metaphor to make you cringe?)  But given time and distance, you can really appreciate what you wrote more than ever before.  Things that you thought were the stupidest idea a man ever put in words suddenly have the power to make you laugh, or make you cry.  You are able to feel the things the writing was intended to make you feel.  You begin to think things like, “Maybe you are not the worst writer that ever lived, and maybe that’s not why nobody ever reads your books.”  But then, of course, your sister reads the post and tells you that you write like a really old, really crabby, really ancient old man.  And you use the word “really” too much too.  I know I deserve that, Sis.  Especially the “really” part.

12080357_972883126091737_890351697960018123_o

Here’s a post that I reread and liked today about Bob Ross.

This is the thing about happiness;  It is elusive and rare as a real-life blue bird. But capturing it for a moment is not impossible.  And as long as you don’t try to salt its tail and keep it prisoner, you can encourage it to sing for you.  (Much better metaphor this time, don’t you think?)  vintage-coca-cola-ad-1950s-1960s-clownb

When I am accused of being gloomy, old, and boring, I can happily admit it and make it into something funny.  I am something of a conspiracy nut, but not so serious that I believe all my own assertions.  For those people who took offense at this conspiracy theory of mine; Coca-Cola Mind Control, I would like to point out that “Hey, I was joking.  I actually like clowns.”  Even though there is a serious side to everything and there can’t be laughter without some tears, I am basically happy with the way things are.

GiveAgift_web_ad1_0

I started listening to “Live Happy Radio” on Sunday mornings on KLUV in Dallas.  They point out on their program of endlessly droning happy-talk that happiness is something that you can work at.  Like humor writing in blogs, it takes practice and practice and time.  They even asked me to share the word about their happy magazine and products, so I am doing exactly that right here.  Sometimes you simply have to put your cynicism in a jar on the shelf next to the lock box where you keep depression and self-loathing.  So you can find their Live-Happy folderol right here.

So I am bird-watching again with an eye out for the bluebird.  You know the one.  It is out there somewhere.  And I need to hear that song one more time.

Blue birds

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Filed under artwork, goofy thoughts, happiness, humor, insight, inspiration, irony, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Apple Blossom Time

When you get to be old and burdened with deteriorating health like I am, you appreciate the renewal of spring with a new intensity.  This year has been like that.  Cold weather and dehydrating cold were worse this winter than I can remember… especially since I feel it in the marrow of my bones now more than ever before.  But the inevitable rebirth did eventually come.  The apple tree my wife planted in the hope that Texas heat would not destroy it is putting out more blossoms than ever before.

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The first flowers to put out their winter-weary heads this year were relatively stupid daffodils.  They came out in February only a day before an ice storm came along to slay them for their daffy dunderheadedness.   I didn’t take their demise very well.  I suffered a lot this winter and was looking for the sun with desperation.

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But then, in March, dandelions poked out their bright, dandy heads and decided to stay.

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And, though we have had plenty of wet weather and rain, the flowers apparently all had a big meeting and decided the time had come to make their yearly assault and wrench the world out of the hands of Jack Frost and his icy minions.

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Wisteria began climbing the back corner of the house.  They like to spread their purple majesty out over the area by the cracked and derelict swimming pool.  It is moist and shaded out there, somewhat protected from our cruel Texas sun.

My wife’s bed of roses, both red and yellow marched out into the open air and began to dance gently in the wind like grand ladies decked out in their Easter best , showing off their color and their sass for all the world to see.

I am coming back now too… less seriously depressed.  I completed a doll collection last week.  The educational problems my children were facing are now seemingly straightening out.  It is a time of rebirth… happiness… and flowers.  My smile has returned.

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Blueberries of Happiness

I know I am mixing metaphors again. It is supposed to be blueBIRDS of happiness. But not only am I starting this essay with a berry theme, I happen to be allergic to blueberries, thus solidly symbolizing my somewhat complicated relationship to the state of being truly happy.

https://chopra.com/articles/8-surprising-benefits-of-blueberries

You see, blueberries are full of antioxidants that are beneficial in so many ways that I really need that it seems absolutely a bitter irony that they make me sick to my stomach and constrict my lungs. I used to love eating blueberry muffins and blueberry pancakes, as well as fresh, cold ripe berries. They are good for my strained urinary tract and my glaucoma-plagued eyes. They help stave off cancer and help circulation to prevent heart disease. They are good for your blood pressure. But I also learned the hard way that they can stop me from breathing, a habit I really don’t wish to give up.

Mike Murphy and his girlfriend, Blueberry Bates

It is, unfortunately, a universal fact that no human life ever ran on one-hundred percent happiness. It is not possible to be a living, breathing, feeling human bean without knowing a little sadness… a little tragedy… a fair share of sorrow. In fact, I think it must be a rule that the happiest people you know have faced some of the hardest things you can imagine. My Great Uncle Harry was never able to talk about his experiences in Normandy during World War II. But I never knew a man who appreciated a good joke and a laugh more. My Grandpa Aldrich, my mother’s father, was probably the happiest man I ever knew, but his childhood was made difficult because of his mother’s dark secret, and how his father handled the truth about his birth. I too am a generally happy person. Did you know I have been in a psychiatric hospital after midnight admitting someone I love to the suicide-prevention ward? And I have had serious discussions on more than one occasion with more than one other person who was seriously discussing self-harm with me. I think there is probably no one in this life who truly appreciates happiness that hasn’t stared at least once into the dark eyes of despair.

It goes a long way towards explaining why I included a picture of Blueberry Bates in this essay. She’s a character in more than one of my novels, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, Magical Miss Morgan, and Kingdoms Under the Earth.

Blueberry blames herself for the death of her mother. She was born a cyanotic, or blue, baby at the same time that her mother went into cardiac arrest during childbirth. The tragedy of her birth broke her father’s relationship to reality. He rejected the little boy who had been born to him because the mother, his beloved wife had died in the process. It fell to Blueberry’s two older sisters to take the baby, care for it, and give it a name.

You’ve probably figured out by now that Blueberry was raised as a girl even though she had a penis because her father would never have accepted the son whose birth killed his wife. He secretly blamed himself because the only reason they had a third child was because he so desperately wanted a son. So, he ended up with three daughters, the youngest one with a terrible secret that she really didn’t understand. And Mr. Bates never really came around to accepting that third daughter either. She was raised by her sisters Becky and Carla, and her Aunt Wilma, her father’s unmarried sister. And it took years of therapy and visits to the specialist in Minnesota who became the expert on gender dysphoria to reach the determination that Blueberry was going to be a girl and would transition when she was old enough. You are probably aware that this is a hard thing to deal with, especially when you don’t have any actual parents to help you deal with it.

But Blueberry is one of the happiest characters I have created in my fiction so far. She loves to draw, especially with colored pencil. She loves her boyfriend, Mike Murphy, to whom she revealed the truth, and in spite of Mike’s struggles with it, he eventually came to accept her not only as a girl, but as a girl he was in love with. That was a choice that didn’t sit well with Mike’s best friend, Tim Kellogg. Tim would have to come to terms with either accepting Blue as a girl, or losing his best friend. And that took more than one novel to decide.

Happiness is like that. The higher your kite flies in the April breeze, the harder it crashes to the ground. And if it is not destroyed in the fall, it longs to fly high again.

Happiness is a blueberry. And I like the taste very much. But I am also allergic to blueberries.

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, characters, Depression, happiness, health, humor, Paffooney

Love ‘Em While You Got ‘Em

Renfatootie Paffenboingey does not really look like this.

My wife is an immigrant from the Philippines, come to this country in 1993 to be a Texas public school teacher. Like the other members of the Filipino colonization of the United States, she came here with family. And more are coming every year. You go to a family gathering and meet cousins by the dozens, friends from this country, and friends from that country, and their relatives, and lots and lots of kids… that must belong to somebody somewhere.

They get together and talk, tell jokes, eat, talk some more, sing karaoke, mostly off key, tell stories about the Philippines in English, and stories about the Philippines in Tagalog, and stories about the Philippines in Kapampangan, and even stories about the Philippines in Ilocano (but nobody listens to him anyway… He’s from the North) and sing more karaoke, and definitely take a group photo while eating and talking.

And one time at one of these family gatherings, while others were singing karaoke, somebody put a baby girl in my lap. She was Renfatootie Paffenboingey. (Obviously not her real name… even in Kapampangan.) She was the daughter of my wife’s cousin and her Greek husband. She was only about a month old then. My own daughter had not yet been born. She was, in fact, not even certain to be a daughter at that point in the pregnancy.

“You need to get used to holding one of those,” Renfatootie’s mother told me.

And then the sweet little thing looked at me and smiled (though she was not old enough to focus her eyes and what she did was probably more gas bubble than smile.) I am told that you are not supposed to fall in love with other people’s children, so I didn’t. Or I did and just lied about it afterwords.

There were several other times that baby Ren was put in my lap. I rocked her to sleep and sang softly to her more than once at family gatherings and picnics and barbecues and… they do a lot of eating in Filipino families.

As Ren got older they began to call her “Tweety” because of the big forehead and big eyes and the Tweety-bird grin she always wore. I didn’t see her often, and talked to her even less. I really thought she didn’t know who I was. She was not my kid. She smiled at me a lot, but she smiled at everybody.

This is not Renfatootie in her bathing suit either. This is an alien girl in her scaly skin.

Then one day we were at a picnic in New Braunfels where the families were all taking advantage of the cold spring water in the creek in the park on hot South Texas day. I was talked into putting on swim trunks and getting in the water with my kids and all the other kids. Renfatootie had a squirt gun. She was about ten then. And as malevolent as a ten-year-old is made by God to be. Every opportunity she found she used to squirt me directly in the face. And then she giggled and ducked the splashes of my weakly attempted revenge. It almost got to the point of being more irritating than cute.

Later I had put clothes back on and most everyone was settled into eating and talking and taking group photos while eating for the rest of the afternoon. Renfatootie “Tweety” Paffenboingey came after me soaking wet from her most recent dip in the cold water.

“Michael! Give me a hug!” she commanded, throwing her arms out wide for me. I took hold. And the wet little thing soaked my clothes in chilled water as she gave me such a squeeze that my eyes nearly popped out of my head.

“You did that just to get me wet again,” I said, with a smile rather than anger.

“Nah. You gotta love ’em while you got ’em. I don’t get to love you near enough.”

I was not the only one she pulled the wet-hug trick on that day. But she left me admiring her philosophy of life in a big way. I may not seize the opportunity as much as she does. But I have resolved to try.

It’s been a few years since I saw her last. She’s a big girl now. Graduated from high school and everything. But remembering her brings a smile to my face even now.

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