Totally St. Augustine #6 (July 24, 2014)

I’m Grumpy. Don’t make it worse.

In spite of my usually affable nature, I suspect I may actually be a closet curmudgeon. For Father’s Day my family gave me a T-shirt with a caricature of one of the Seven Dwarfs and a warning, “I’m Grumpy. Don’t make it worse.” My family might be on to something.

I looked up curmudgeon in an online dictionary. The first definition listed was, “someone who gets annoyed easily, especially an old person.” Methinks I’ve been busted.

As long as I’ve been branded a curmudgeon I think it’s only appropriate that I list some of the things that have annoyed me recently. I have a feeling I’m not alone.

I vote so I get a lot of political mailers. Got one yesterday from an incumbent county commissioner who listed awards that St. Johns County received from three separate news organizations and intimated he had something to do with it. Earth to county commissioner … you didn’t.

Speaking of politics, I subscribe to an online local “news” service that accepts paid advertisements from local candidates and then presents them as letters to the editor and/or news. The political disclaimer is buried in an “election information” paragraph following the letter or news. Only the thorough and motivated reader realizes what he or she just read is actually a paid advertisement.

At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, I will admit to frustration at calling our local cable company (that no longer has a local office) with a problem and finally connecting with an agent for whom English is a second language. It seems that these agents have as much trouble understanding me as I do them because the cable company’s service technicians have missed two scheduled appointments with me in the last 10 days alone. I can’t wait to call them back to fight for the two $20 “missed appointment credits” that will undoubtedly fail to find their way to my next billing.

Here’s a peeve that can be summed up in one incomplete sentence: Bicyclists who ride the wrong way in bicycle lanes and/or completely ignore traffic rules, signals and signs.

Generally speaking, I like the supermarket where my family does most of its shopping. Nonetheless, I would like to make it illegal for cashiers to ask me either of these questions when I check out: Did you find everything OK? Would you like to contribute a dollar to (fill in the otherwise deserving charity)?

If I didn’t find everything OK, it’s now too late. And, although some might disagree, I think it’s inappropriate to be asked for charitable donations by a merchant simply because you have your wallet open. Perhaps the supermarket should install a booth where an employee could answer questions about grocery locations and also accept charitable contributions.

I could list my response to several other situations that would certify me as a curmudgeon but I’ve probably already qualified. And as one of our incumbent county commissioners has noted, “USA Today reports that St. Augustine is the second best place to retire in the nation.”

I’ll count my blessings instead.

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Totally St. Augustine #5 (July 14, 2014)

The simpler days of a Princess phone

My wife and I are beginning to succumb to societal, corporate, peer and dependent pressure to soon provide our rising fifth grader with a cell phone. Rather than debate the pros and cons of doing so, I thought it might be interesting to briefly explore how telephones, and their use, have so dramatically changed in the last 50 years.

A reader warning here: There was no painstaking research completed by this writer in the formulation of this column. I have relied primarily on my recollections and experiences with telephones beginning in the early 1960s. So if said recollections and experiences are not universally accurate, please cut me a bit of slack. I did, however, start off with an experiment. Having not dialed an “operator” in more than 10 years, I attempted to do so earlier today. We’ll discuss “dialing” in a moment.

I punched “0” on my cordless home phone and, after about 15 seconds of silence, finally got a busy signal. I tried this a few more times with the same result. Does anybody know when the demise of the telephone operator came about? Or does it depend on what phone company you use?

Speaking of dialing, do people under the age of 21 ever use that term when talking about the process of placing a call? If not, do they even know what we older folks are talking about when we say things like, “we’re gonna dial up the pizza place?”

I suppose there are enough old movies and television shows still being broadcast (we’ll discuss “broadcast” another time) that allow echo boomers and generation Z members to connect the dots when they see telephones containing dials and large finger holes. By the way, call me sentimental because I have a dialer app on my cell phone. And yes, I sometimes use it.

I can remember when pushbutton phones became all the rage during the 1960s. You could rent them from your phone companies (yes, just about all phones were rentals back them) and the fee was higher than for dial, or rotary phones. Your wiring also had to be able to handle the tones fabricated by pushbutton phones.

When phone service began transitioning to having customers purchase their own phones, the early pushbutton phones had a switch on the side or back that allowed you to toggle between rotary (produced rapid clicks) and tones. Again, to use tones you had to have appropriate wiring and pay extra.

Directory assistance (if you didn’t have a phone book) used to be a free service provided by phone companies. You could dial 411 or, for numbers outside your area, enter 1-(area code) 555-1212 and tell them what city you wanted.

In the 1980s, home phones began transitioning from corded to cordless. At first, answer machines, caller ID software and speaker phone options came as separate pieces of hardware. As time progressed, all of these embellishments were built into a single piece of telephone equipment.

Car phones were around in the 1960s but were extremely rare and I haven’t the foggiest idea how they worked. They began to proliferate in the late 1980s and early 1990s as people adapted their portable “bag” phones for use in their automobiles.

In the mid to late 1990s the cellular revolution began taking shape with portable phones shrinking in size. Flip phones became popular and with the advent of iPhones and their ilk, phones started doubling as email, texting and gaming devices, cameras and Internet browsers. As I write this, some new feature is undoubtedly being formulated and/or introduced for the cell phone user.

As phones have become more complicated, certain aspects have become simpler. Long distance used to cost extra. Calling overseas used to be prohibitively expensive. You used to be able to charge a phone call to the person you were calling (with their consent). This was termed a collect call. You could call someone “person-to-person,” and if they weren’t available, you didn’t pay for the call. If they were available, you would pay extra. Operators would assist with collect and person-to-person calls. Maybe that’s why I got a busy signal when I tried to dial one earlier.

The jury is still out as to whether we will get our daughter a cell phone as she enters middle school. The cellular companies have run the numbers and what is fairly certain is whatever plan we might choose will not be cheap. If only our daughter would be happy (as my younger sister was) with a pink, pushbutton Princess phone. Not a chance.

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Totally St. Augustine #4 (June 29, 2014)

Altruistic deals at The Attic

With apologies to The Eagles, “there’s a new store in town … everybody’s talking ‘bout the new store in town.”

And what’s so special about this new store? How about a large stuffed animal for 99 cents? New or gently used logo apparel for 99 cents? Some pretty neat DVD titles for $2.99? Even an antique violin where the asking price is $150?

The new store in town is the Haven Hospice Attic Upscale Resale Store located in the old Mikee’s building just a few storefronts down from Planet Fitness on U.S. 1 South. And the really cool thing is that every cent of the store’s net proceeds goes to support unfunded hospice care and programs in the St. Augustine community.

The local Attic is one of five operated by Haven Hospice with the others located in Gainesville, Orange Park, Chiefland and Lake City. It opened in March and word of mouth (and large billboards on U.S. 1 and state Route 207) have brought a steady stream of customers who have discovered a shopping experience a notch above what one ordinarily expects from a “thrift” store.

The inventory depends largely on donated items that are scrupulously screened before making their way to the sales floor. Many of the items are new with the original tags still attached. If cleaning and/or refurbishing are necessary, a group of volunteers makes it happen. Many shoppers have commented that the Attic more closely resembles a consignment shop than a thrift store.

“I want to sell items that, given the opportunity, I would unhesitatingly purchase for my own family,” said Pam Strickland, Attic manager. “Whether you’re shopping for furniture, housewares, clothing or jewelry, you’ll probably be able to find something that fits your needs at the Attic.”

Haven Hospice is always seeking dedicated volunteers to provide support, companionship and assistance to patients and families in St. Augustine. Haven Attic volunteers make a difference by sorting donations, stocking the floor and making friends. Through their hard work, patients and families benefit throughout the Haven Hospice community and those who have challenging economic circumstances have an affordable place to shop.

Haven is also currently looking for volunteer photographers to help with the Haven Legacy Project which involves taking hand portraits of patients, families and friends at no charge to them.

Haven Hospice provides care to individuals diagnosed with a life-limiting illness as well as supportive services to their loved ones. Physical, medical, emotional and spiritual care and support are provided during the last stages of illness for the patient and during bereavement for the family and loved ones.

For more information on volunteering at the Attic Resale Store, please call Kathy Furney at 904-810-2377 or go online at to begin the application process.

The Attic is located at 2497 U.S. Hwy 1 South. Hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The store is closed on Sundays. Donations are currently being accepted at the store Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please call 904-417-1337 for more information.

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Totally St. Augustine #3 (June 18, 2014)

Dance Dad

Those who know me well most likely guessed that it wouldn’t be long before I finagled a mention of my 11-year-old daughter in one of my Totally St. Augustine columns. Actually I exerted considerable restraint in waiting until this, my third column. As a professional, however, I am required to make the content of my writing something more than simply a public display of the fact I am uncontrollably smitten with my daughter. Patience, readers.

This past weekend I was able to watch my daughter, Jenny, in a year-ending dance gala showcasing the talents of students who attend Abella’s School of Dance. The gala was performed at Murray Middle School where Jenny will be participating in the Arts Program next year. As I sat in the very warm auditorium (maybe air-conditioning was a rental upgrade) I thought about how fortunate we are in St. Augustine to have so many opportunities for our children to pursue dance education.

When Jenny was in pre-K in 2007, she was picked up a couple of times per week and transported the few blocks from the CPEEC to Sally Walton’s dance studio. That studio no longer exists but it’s safe to say that at one time each little girl in this town who was interested in dance received her first lesson from Sally Walton.

When Jenny began kindergarten at Otis Mason Elementary School, we were in the process of renovating our mainland home and found a condo on the beach that served as our temporary home (actually three condos, to be precise). While living on the beach, Jenny continued her dance education at the Dance Company, located near the pier. She danced there for a little more than a year before deciding she required the presence of at least one parent at each class to maintain her comfort level. Her parents’ employment responsibilities made this quite impossible.

So Jenny took some time off from formal dance training but maintained an interest by annual trips to Jacksonville to attend the First Coast Nutcracker. She then spent hours, make that weeks, make that months in front of the television screen dancing to a DVD of Mikhail Baryshnikov’s 1977 production of the Nutcracker. Of course she emulated Gelsey Kirkland in the role of Clara.

As Jenny was about to enter third grade we learned of a relatively new dance school in town. The previous December Abella’s School of Dance, in conjunction with the St. Augustine Ballet, had produced the inaugural St. Augustine Community Nutcracker. Jenny auditioned for the 2011 production and has been dancing with the company ever since. She has been together with girls in her age group for three years and the school has a family-like atmosphere. It is nothing like the cable-TV show, Dance Moms, which I have tried to avoid watching at all costs.

Before my daughter became involved in dance, specifically ballet, you would have to drag me, kicking and screaming, to a ballet or recital. Now I have professional ballet dancers as Facebook friends and assist my wife in her fund-raising efforts to support the St. Augustine Ballet.

Whether you choose Abella’s School of Dance, the Dance Company or another of the several dancing studios available for dancers of all ages in our community, I think we should take a moment to understand how lucky we are these opportunities exist. All of the youngsters I have met through Jenny’s involvement with dance fit my definition of “good kids.” Maybe the same is true for other endeavors but I’ll leave it to a soccer mom, a lacrosse dad or a skate-park aficionado to write about it.

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Totally St. Augustine #2 (June 9, 2014)

Who you gonna call? Leafbusters

One of my favorite things to do in this beautiful place we call St. Augustine is to take a quiet walk through my neighborhood. Sometimes I bond with nature and listen to the sounds provided by the birds, insects and winds ruffling through the trees. At other times I’ll plug into my iPod and listen to a good book.

My neighborhood is pushing 40 years old and is overrun with oaks, pines, palmettos and a variety of other flora I simply call trees and bushes. They produce an abundant ambience but also produce another commodity that is not as desirable. Leaves.

I’m pretty sure that temperatures aside, autumn is a year-round season in St. Augustine. There are leaves in the fall. There are leaves in the spring. There are leaves every time I set foot outdoors. And with the leaves comes something else that I wish would go away. The leaf blowers.

I have to confess. I recently went over to the dark side and purchased the smallest gas-powered leaf blower I could find. I was wearing out rakes and brooms at a record pace and had to do something. I found a refurbished 25cc model that weighs about eight pounds. Years ago I owned an electric leaf blower but found it no more effective or convenient than carrying around a box fan attached to multiple extension cords. I use my new gas-powered blower sparingly.

Professional yardmen (and women) have taken leaf blowing to new heights. Picture Dan Ackroyd in his Ghostbuster garb zapping ghastly ghouls. These leaf-blowing professionals roam the streets and yards of my neighborhood with massive backpacks concentrating hurricane-force winds into tiny wands. I’ve seen some with NASCAR decals attached and accompanied by a “3” or “24” decal. Even when idling, the “vroom” is capable of causing hearing loss.

“If you’re seein’ some leaves, fallin’ to the ground. Who you gonna call? Leafbusters. A ton of pollen, fallin’ on your head. Who can you call? Leafbusters.”

Of course the next step is for homeowners to emulate the professionals. We’ll need $700 leaf blowers to go along with our $2,000 riding mowers. Leaves will be blown from one side of the street to the other, and then back again. No leaf will be safe.

We will win a few of the battles but in the long run, Mother Nature will prevail. Even when a batch of leaves is picked up and discarded, a new crop will take its place. Leaves, like water, will rise to their desired level.

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First post for (May 30, 2014)

A totally new column

My pen has been its holster for nearly a year. Those who read the St. Augustine Record might remember the two months I served in 2013 as its opinion editor before being asked to leave to accommodate some staffing needs of the new publisher. It was a totally fabulous two months and I’m wished them well when I left.

And some of you who follow agriculture might recall the 13 years I spent as editor of FloridAgriculture magazine before I left that publication in 2012 to spend more time raising my young daughter. That, too, was a totally great run but I truly haven’t looked back.

All of which brings us to the present and the launch of this totally new website by my good friend, Renee Mathe Unsworth, who also served some time at the Record. Compass magazine became an entity unto itself during Renee’s tenure and it perplexes me how the newspaper could let her get away. Letting me get away, I can understand. But letting Renee get away … what were they thinking? All of us now understand, however, their loss in this new venture’s gain. And, in my view, this new venture will prove to be totally marvelous.

In what may turn out to be her undoing, Renee has agreed to let me contribute a regular column for her totally new online project. I love to write so it gave me a totally good feeling to unsheathe my pen and see if it had retained any of its sharpness. Time will tell.

I told Renee I would try to produce columns that blended the styles of Andy Rooney, Johns Stossel and Brian Thompson (who at last check, has not been permitted by the Record to get away). I said I would try to inject some humor into my writing and sprinkle it with a dash of self-deprecation. I probably need to rethink the “self-deprecation” part. Nonetheless, Renee thought we might have a fit.

You may or may not totally agree, but I am totally committed to producing a regular column for this website that will fit in with the other, more valuable, content provided.

I wanted to say the experience will prove to be totally awesome but I think we overuse that word. Let’s make it totally stupefying.

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Study notes for The Wish Stealers

(My daughter and I independently read a marvelous book by Tracy Trivas titled, “The Wish Stealers.” To assist my daughter with the review of what she had read I took some notes. While it’s usually easy to find reviews of children’s books, it’s more challenging to find complete summaries. I know. I’ve searched for them. This summary has received little editing but it’s reasonably accurate and may help others who are looking to review what’s happened in a book. This summary is not meant to replace the reading. So read the book first. It’s a good one, which will be enjoyed by young and older alike.)

The Wish Stealers

Griffin Penshine – 6th grader; Griffin’s mom is an astronomer and pregnant. Her turtle is Charlemagne.

Mr. Schmidt Collectibles Shop; his great aunt, Mariah. She gave Griffin Indian-head penny and box of polishing cloths. Under velvet in box were 10 more pennies with people’s wishes. Mariah took pennies from fountain and stole coins and people’s wishes. Three rules to wish stealing: 1) Stealer’s good wishes won’t come true. 2) Stealer’s evil wishes will come true. 3) Stealer will be cursed for life if she tells anyone about curse and those she tells will never have wishes come true.

Griffin’s good wishes weren’t coming true. Back molars would have to be pulled. School didn’t smell like chocolate chip cookies.

Libby is BFF. She wanted to be an artist. Griffin wanted to be a rocket scientist.

Mariah left her a gold key at the office. Griffin went to Mr. Schmidt’s house and tried to return box. Learned that Mariah had died.

Samantha was pretty blonde student who wasn’t very nice. Was chosen to welcome kids to school and went on stage with toilet paper dragging from shoe.

Mrs. Gideon is English teacher. Teaching the play, Macbeth. Three actors dressed as witches. One gave Griffin the spell book with instructions how to steal and return wishes.

Samantha put toilet paper in Griffin’s locker. Handsome boy, Garrett Forrester walked by and noticed photo of Griffin playing bass guitar. Said it was awesome. Griffin blushed.

Griffin wanted to return wishes to people “on same journey.” Nine minutes for rocket to reach outer space. Mr. Luckner (science teacher) gave class no homework after picking up penny. Assigned science project. Garrett was Griffin’s partner.

Griffin went to bakery with dad. She met girl (Kristina) who wanted to be ballerina. Saw Samantha and friends in bakery and wished she looked like a queen lizard with warts.

Griffin gave Kristina penny with “most beautiful” wish. Penny dropped down water fountain. Samantha said Griffin was trying to buy friends. Samantha passed out cookie invitations to her party.

Dentist called and said he didn’t have to pull Griffin’s molars. Garrett suggested they blow something up for science project. Griffin wanted to do project on environment. Libby told Griffin that Samantha didn’t win “fresh face” contest because she broke out in a rash.

Griffin met Garrett as library. Books about alchemy (turning metals into gold). Maybe experiment could turn penny into gold. Mrs. Eve, the librarian, let Griffin and Garrett look at old books in library basement. Four metals – lead, tin, silver and copper  – into gold.  Read about magic mirror to see future. Griffin saw mirror like it in Mr. Schmidt’s shop.

Griffin told street violinist his music was beautiful. Garrett’s mom works late and his dad is fisherman in Alaska. Griffin’s mom took her and Garrett to dinner at Friendly’s. Garrett ordered a double-decker and Reese’s Pieces Sundae. They saw the witches there. Hurlyburly means “everything upside down, lots of confusion.”

Pennies for the Planet project. Kids collecting pennies to help save rainforest. Maybe could help science project.

Griffin’s grandmother to give art lessons to Griffin and Libby. They met Samantha at the art store and she bought all the paints for her birthday sign. Last tube squeezed on Griffin’s sneaker. Griffin wishes Samantha’s party would be a “total bomb.” Grandma told Griffin not to stoop to Samantha’s level. Griffin’s eyes were yellowish. Grandma said wishes are like snowflakes, powerful but fragile. Grandma grasped for breath.

Griffin worried about Grandma and coughing attack. She slipped “change the world” penny into her loafer. Paintball cartridges exploded at Samantha’s party. Garrett was dragged to party. Griffin and Garrett asked Mr. Blackwell for approval of science project. He wasn’t impressed. Griffin showed Mr. Blackwell “change the world” penny. He asked if they were numismatists.  Mr. Reasoner saw shiny penny and said it was probably worth $150. Dropped in janitor’s bucket. Mr. Blackwell approved project and said, “Let the band play.” Garrett wanted to change band’s name from “Five Cool Guys” to Alchemists. Garrett talked about rock concert “for the planet. Mr. Reasoner gave Griffin box for penny. Freckled-face redhead eavesdropped on conversation between Mr. Reasoner and Griffin.

Garrett read about alchemists turning lead into gold. Griffin tried to give Garrett penny that said, “dad.” He didn’t want it.

Griffin texted Garrett to apologize about penny. He wasn’t mad. Mr. Schmidt gave Griffin box that Mariah had left. It was labeled Mariah W.S. (wish stealer?). Lock was opened using golden key that Mariah had given her. Box contained Topeka Inn guest book register, red garnet ring, skein of old gray yarn and the black obsidian disc (mirror) to see into future.

Guest register had names with wishes written next to them. Next to Florence L. Daniellson was “puppy.” Griffin’s mom had mini-observatory on the roof. She said she would name baby Caelum or Caela after a constellation (means “the heavens” or an old instrument for engraving on copper). Griffin gave her mom the “baby” penny and she made a wish. Griffin put penny in box on high shelf in nursery.

Garrett’s band practiced in his garage. Griffin brought video of herself playing bass guitar but didn’t bring guitar. Garrett thought Griffin didn’t like his band. Another band member, Jason, said they would play for free at the science fair. Garrett’s mom said she couldn’t afford to send him to the music center for lessons.

A wish stealer is someone who makes people afraid to try. Griffin’s mom will forward email to Garrett’s mom about reduced rates at music center for really good students. Griffin listened closely to her mom’s suggestion that there are always a couple of ways to solve a problem.

Griffin Googled Florence Daniellson and Garrett’s dad. She learned Florence’s husband just died and that a story about Garrett’s dad catching a big fish just appeared in the Nome, Alaska, newspaper. She wrote to the funeral home and to the newspaper to contact both people. She wanted Florence to write back if she made the puppy wish. She wanted to tell Garrett’s dad something. Earlier she had learned that Garrett wanted a dog.

Griffin gave the street violinist the penny marked, “success.” He wished to be successful doing what he loved, playing the violin. He threw the penny in the air and it dazzled among the sprinklers. Griffin examined the ring, yarn and disc from the box again and found them creepy. She wondered if she would be a wish stealer like Mariah.

Samantha had invited Libby to her party but Libby told Griffin she wasn’t going. Some of the kids were angry at Griffin because Mr. Luckner used her “no homework” idea and had given them a month-long poster project. Griffin did her project on Marie Curie who discovered radium. Curie never gave up even when people thought she was crazy. Mr. Luckner liked the poster and Griffin’s face turned as red as her hair and the cardboard Mars whirling over her head.

Griffin found a “not invited” sticker on her locker. Kristina was angry at Griffin because her wishes didn’t come true. Griffin hoped Libby was still her BFF and was a little sad.

Griffin met Aurora, harp player, at her music lesson. Griffin wasn’t doing well on her guitar and Mr. Castanara told her to practice. Jason was angry at Griffin because he thought she said their bank stunk. Griffin went home and her mom gave her soup. They looked at constellation Draco (dragon). She dreamt of dragons with faces of kids at school.

Griffin went to school and saw posters about band playing at Science Night. Garrett apologized to Griffin. Libby told Griffin she was invited to her sleepover on Saturday night. Samantha asked Griffin if Garrett was her boyfriend and made fun of their collecting pennies for the earth. Garrett asked Samantha and her friends why they were so nasty.

Griffin went to crowded library and gave her classmates some suggestions for science project topics. Griffin looked for Stanley (violin player) outside library but he wasn’t there. Samantha asked if Stanley was Griffin’s other boyfriend. Kristina apologized to Griffin and said she was taking ballet lessons. Griffin’s mom invited Garrett and his mom over for turkey dinner to celebrate Garrett’s getting music lessons (drum) for free.

Griffin and Garrett broke wishbone and Garrett got bigger half and made a wish. Griffin’s mom gave the kids a tour of her observatory. Learned about Perseus and Andromeda.

Griffin and Libby went to Griffin’s grandma’s house for art lesson. Three witches came to the front door.  Grandma said her favorite quote from Hamlet was “Angels and ministers of grace defend us.” This made the sun burst through the clouds and the witches shielded their eyes and left. Grandma spoke about artist, Giorgione, from the 1400s. He painted clouds. Grandma asked for her shawl and the weather started getting worse. Griffin had made questions, including “why did her grandma have the same yarn as Mariah and why did the three witches come to her grandma’s house?”

Samantha put fake note from Garrett in Griffin’s locker. Griffin got letter from Mrs. Daniellson, who did make a wish for a puppy. She wanted Griffin to contact her. Griffin asked her mom if she could get a puppy for a friend.

Griffin got a FedEx package at her grandma’s. It was from Garrett’s dad who asked Griffin to FedEx him back and enclosed an envelope. Griffin asked her Grandma about helping people too much and her grandma told her about not helping a butterfly escape from a cocoon. It made butterfly stronger.

Griffin wrote Garrett’s dad and said that she gave Garrett a lucky penny. She mailed it at the school office (FedEx box). Griffin told Mrs. Davis that her grandma was writing to Garrett’s dad.

Garrett found out that Griffin wrote to his dad and was furious. He said he didn’t want to be Griffin’s science partner. Samantha and her friends made fun of them and said they were having a fight. Griffin ended up being tardy for class and had to go to detention.

Garrett’s mom told story about letter to Griffin’s mom. Her mom and dad wanted to talk to her. Her parents wanted to know what was going on so Griffin hesitatingly told her about Mariah and the box. He parents understood Griffin’s intentions were good but she shouldn’t have invaded others’ privacy. Griffin’s mom saw Mrs. Daniellson’s name in guest book and guessed that’s what the puppy stuff was all about. Griffin’s parents suggested she apologize and give Garrett time to calm down. They also suggested she sell the ring, which was very valuable, and use funds for Pennies for the Planet.

Griffin took the “popular” penny to school.  Samantha and her friends made fun of the “popular” penny. It burned in Griffin’s hand. Samantha dumped water on the penny and sarcastically wished that Griffin become super-popular. The penny flew through the air and landed in the water jug and the container lit up from within.

Science night at the school. Samantha’s project promoted her dad’s dermatology business although her face still had warts. Her mom was there and seemed nastier than Samantha.  Audrey had project about birds on Galapagos Islands. Griffin’s mom helped her set up her project. Had a moat of pennies surrounding a jar with the ring, which they sold for $1,100.  Garrett’s mom was there and said his dad would be coming to the science fair. Griffin met Garrett’s dad and he thanked her for writing.

Jason told Griffin that Kurt, the bass player, was sick and asked if she could take his place. She agreed if Garrett would help with her science project … deal! All the band member had their faces painted half in gold. The band played well.

Mr. Reasoner introduced the silent boy from the back of the metal shop, Alfred Coombs. He had been collecting pennies since he was five. He donated two full containers of pennies worth $350 to Pennies for the Planet. The Alchemists played one more song … Celebration.

School smelled like chocolate chip cookies the next day. Griffin and Garrett didn’t win the science prize but collected a total of more than $5,000 for Pennies for the Planet, including a anonymous donation of $250 from Nome, Alaska. The newspaper and TV stations were going to do stories. Griffin received a thank-you note from Garrett who said his dad was really cool.

Griffin’s mom arranged for Garrett’s dad to take the two kids to the Humane Society and pick out a two puppies, one for Garrett and one for Mrs. Daniellson. The picked two from a litter. Garrett said he would name his dog Nick (after Nicolas Flamel) or maybe Zosimos.

Garrett’s dad drove the kids and other puppy to Mrs. Daniellson’s rest home. Director Regan welcomed them and the two kids met Mrs. Daniellson in her room. Griffin told her about being given her puppy penny by Mariah. Then Garrett’s dad walked in with puppy. She cried and named the puppy, Penny.

Griffin arrived home to a locked house. She checked her cell phone and had voicemail from her dad that the baby was coming and that he was taking mom to the hospital. He told her to go to Mrs. Jasper’s house next door. Mrs. Jasper told Griffin her grandma was also in the hospital. Griffin worried about the three pennies she still had; “STOP,” “world peace” and the unlabeled one.

Dad called and told Griffin she had baby brother, Caelum. He was almost born in the car. Dad told Griffin grandma wasn’t doing well. She fell and hit her head. Griffin couldn’t stop crying.

Griffin visited mom in hospital and met Caelum. Mom and Caelum would be there two days. Then dad and Griffin went to visit Grandma. Grandma was in intensive care with lots of wires and tubes attached. Grandma told Griffin to find a box on her bureau dresser and look inside it. Grandma said it was almost time to be with grandpa and that all her wishes have already come true. She told Griffin about her dream with two white doves.

Griffin’s mom put baby penny in silver cup. Griffin went to Grandma’s house with her dad and opened box. It contained a penny, yarn, a blue ring and a flat white stone. Grandma’s health had improved and they moved her to the riverside of the hospital (Riviera). Grandma told Griffin about the time she met Mariah. She was young with red hair and saw her stealing coins from the fountain at the Inn in Topeka. Grandma asked her dad for three coins and wished “STOP” so Mariah would stop stealing wishes. Her second wish was for all lost wishes to be returned.  Grandma kept the third penny and decided to make her own luck in life. That was the penny in her box.

Grandma took the STOP and unlabeled pennies and tossed them into the river and made the same exact wishes. Grandma said the ring was given to her by Griffin’s grandpa and the stone was part of a red/blue stone combination that a jeweler had separated. Grandma gave the ring to Griffin. Grandma said a carnival man sold her the yarn and it was supposed to give you a long life. Griffin was going to put the polished stone in Charlemagne’s terrarium for a throne. Grandma was going to take the broken pieces of the black mirror and mix it with the potting mixture for her orchids. Grandma had wished for a long, healthy life full of love with her last penny.

Celebration of pennies for the planet had people eating organic popcorn and licking raspberry clouds of cotton candy. Wristbands were handed out (even to Samantha and her friends). Mrs. Gideon wore a Chinese skirt with good luck symbols and gave Griffin a copy of one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Stanley had met Aurora and they were now playing music together. His wish had been granted. The bank matched the money collected for a total of $10,000. Alfred, Garrett and Griffin spoke at the ceremony. Griffin tossed the “world peace” penny into the town fountain and everyone in the crowd wished for world peace.

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