Grayczyk: Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels


Written by: Shari Grayczyk

Since my father passed some years ago, Father’s Day has become both bitter and sweet.

My dad and I were not close. I won’t even pretend that we were.

We weren’t necessarily distant, just not connected.

He lived his life as an agnostic.

I lived mine as a Christian.

Sad? Yes! You bet.

So, as I spend time thinking about my dad, I  have a lot of memories.

Some good.

Some not-so-good.

I choose to remember the good.

I think about my dad.

A lot.

A whole lot.

And I am finding that the more I think about my dad, and concentrate on our relationship, the more good memories surface. That’s great, considering I can barely even remember what I had for dinner last night

And, you know what? He did teach me a lot of things that I remember to this day.

Things that I have repeatedly taught my children.

Things that have helped shape me into the woman I am today.

Things that I find myself saying to others.

And then…

I remember, with fondness, the man who fathered me.

1. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.


This may be my all time favorite lesson from my dad.

It’s fun. It’s useful. It can be passed down.

It was his lifestyle.

And it has become mine.

And my childrens’.

It’s one of those lessons that every one of my dad’s children has engrained into them.

Why buy retail when it can be bought on sale, used, or even found in someone’s trash?


We were one of those families.

Most evenings would find my dad, at least 1 kid in tow, trolling the streets of Detroit, at dusk, looking at what others had thrown out in the trash.  And oh, the memories of what we would find.

Treasures that couldn’t compare to anything purchased at Federals or Woolworth.

Yes, we were the family who only shopped at garage sales and second hand shops. Who took your old washer or refrigerator, strapped it onto our old truck and turned it into cash, via the scrap junkyard.

The ones who came to get your leftover garage sale items, and could not wait to wear whatever we found inside.

To this day, my children and I frequent Good Will, Salvation Army, Garage Sales and Savers.

Before we attempt to shop retail.

I adore that about my practical kids. Never waste a dime.

And when there was something that we had outgrown, out used, or just didn’t need any longer, we gave it away.


My heart for missions was birthed by watching my father.

He helped anyone and everyone who needed it. The majority of the time, others just needed stuff. Food, drink, companionship, car repair, a place to play, etc.

My dad was always there.

To give whatever he could.

And I love that about my dad.

 2.  Don’t take any wooden nickels.


What is a wooden nickel anyway?

Do people actually use them?

I’m here to say, “Yes, people actually do use them.” Ah…..dishonest people, that is.

I have found them in many a gumball machine and pay phone. Remember those?

This was definitely one of my dad’s absolute favorite sayings.


As I would walk out the door to go to school, or to work (when I got older).

When I went on a date.

When I just went to the store.

It was his way of saying, don’t be gullible.

Don’t be deceived.

Be wary.

Kind of like being as ferocious as a lion, yet gentle as a lamb.

Be ready and on guard.

Just in case.

Just because something may look one way, it doesn’t mean it is.

I translate that to mean, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

The cover may be deceptive.

When it comes to people, it usually is.

My dad chose to focus on the best in others. He noticed the worst, but tried to focus on the best.

Thanks, dad.  This is where my focus tends to lie today.

  1.      Invite ‘em over.


Growing up, we always had people over. Not necessarily for formal dinners.  I can’t even remember any of those, although I am sure we had those, too

For a drink at the picnic table.

To jump on the trampoline or the tramp (as we would call it).

To take a quick swim.

To sit on the porch and chat.

Yes. Virtually anyone and everyone knew they were always welcome at our home. The mailman didn’t know how to deliver mail to our home without coming in the gate and sitting down for an hour at our picnic table for a drink.

This inviting environment birthed the spirit of hospitality in me.

That is definitely my gifting, and I love it.

I love having people over.

For food.

For fun.

For fellowship.

I love making my home an open door.

For virtually anyone and everyone.

Just last night, while I was relaxing on the hammock on the patio, my girlfriend stopped over for 2 hours. Simultaneously, a former neighbor randomly stopped in for an hour.

I love that.

Good, old fashioned fellowship time.

My children are always inviting college kids over.

The student whose parents are neglectful.

Who lives far from home.

Who just needs a hug.

I believe this has birthed the spirit of hospitality in my children.

And this makes me smile.

A lot!

  1.      If it’s broken, fix it.


This adage was borne out of necessity.

We couldn’t afford the luxury of new things, so my dad would fix literally everything.

The microwave.

The toaster.

The squeaky door.

The garage door.

The porch.

The vehicles. At one point, my parents had 5 children, replete with driver’s licenses, living under their roof, and parking their vehicles on the same, small neighborhood plot.

And the list goes on

And on.

We never worried that my dad couldn’t fix something, because he always could.

And he did.

When one of our cars broke down, no worries, dad fixed it.

I knew I could count on him and on his 6th grade educational expertise.

I believe this lit a spark in me to consider homeschooling.

So my kids could learn about life in a practical sense.

So they could not only survive, but thrive in society.

So they could learn some of the skills my father taught his children.

5.  Close the door. You weren’t raised in a barn.


I now realize this was a money saving thing, but at the time, I wished I had been raised in a barn.

Wouldn’t that have been nice?

On the Northwest Side of Detroit.

He taught me the value of a dollar.

We didn’t have air conditioning, and we didn’t even miss it.

We ran window fans.

In every room.

All the time.

I have had central air conditioning since I moved into my home 24 years ago

I only use it about 2 days a year.


I turn it on to ensure it is still working

Leave it on for a day or two.

Then, switch the off switch.

I know that I would get too accustomed to it, so I shut it off.

I’d rather spend my money on something else, so why would I even go there?

Instead, my children and I have learned to love fans.

Actually we ADORE fans.

Ceiling fans.

I have one in nearly every room of the house.

Window fans.

We love those, too.

All because of learning the value of a dollar from dad.

6. Always do your best.


My son, Jonathan, working hard on the mission field.

My dad worked hard.

He expected no less from his children.

We didn’t dare approach him with our project half done, even 99% done.

It had to be 100% complete.

With excellence.

We must have done our best, or……back to the beginning.

We knew that if we were capable of attaining A’s in school, then A’s would be required. If we weren’t capable, as long as we did our best, he was content.

My dad was a man who seemed to care more about the practical job at hand than the academics.

To this day, I have tried to instill that in my children.

I was a great student.

No, I was a fantastic student.

In elementary, middle, high school and college.

And yet, I chose to homeschool my children.

And every one of them are excellent students.

But…..they realize that academics is only one facet of their life.

It shouldn’t define them.

Instead, they should focus on excellence in every thing they do.

Practicality of daily living.

Their relationship with the Lord.

And life is good.

 7. Work hard and then play hard.


For as long as I can remember, my dad would get up, take his lunch and walk to work.

Any day.

Every day.

Six days a week.

In later years, he would drive his old red flatbed truck.  He would work in a factory all day, and then come home to work in his garage the remainder of the daylight hours.

But……my dad also valued play.

He valued his children.

All five of them.

Having fun.

That’s why, even though money was scarce, we owned a huge, rectangular, Olympic sized trampoline.

And boy, did we every know how to use it. My parents may have used reverse psychology on this purchase, as all five of us, along with many of our charges (my mom always babysat others), would jump until the cows came home

Or until our energy was spent.

Whichever came first.

Then, he bought a pool.

And a swing set.

And he ensured they were kept in good, working order.

We knew the rules:

Work first.

Then play.

Then jumping, swimming, riding or swinging.

Now, there’s some great memories.

And this is where I learned the value of down time and play time.

My sister once said, “Busy people make busy adults.”

She’s right.

I never forgotten that.

That’s why I always tell my children to take some down time.

Rest from working all of the time.

Enjoy playing.

And I tell myself the same thing.

 8.  Don’t spend it all in one place.


I still say this to my kids.

$5 or $50

These words spill from my mouth.

I know that money can be difficult to acquire.

This is where I learned how to be wise with my possessions.

To not have the proverbial, “hole in my pocket.”

I remember my middle daughter always wanted to immediately spend her allowance on the ice cream truck or nearby candy store.

I would generally say, “No. Not today.”

And then, the following day.

Or a few days later.

I would ask her if she still wanted to go spend her allowance on ice cream.

With a resounding, “Yes!” We would go.

To this day, my children are savers.

And so am I.

9. If I’d of known I was gonna live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.


My dad had diabetes.

And he did not take care of himself.

At all.

After many heart attacks.

After having leukemia.

After extreme complications from diabetes.

And amputations.

One by one.


He died two weeks before his 65th birthday.

Leaving behind

•5 children.

•18 grandchildren

And he has missed meeting–

•His adopted granddaughter.

•His 17 great grandchildren (including one on the way).

This has taught me to value the life God has given me

Don’t take it for granted.

Take care of it

Eat right.And the best…..Most important…..Lesson of all….

10. Be patient. God is a God of the last minute.


My dad proclaimed atheism.

I considered him to be agnostic because he would sometimes, albeit rarely, allow himself to be included in prayer.

After 39 years of praying for my dad’s salvation.

My dad had still not accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

I just couldn’t comprehend this.

Another heart attack.

Another amputation.

Still atheism.

Whaddup, God?

There were hundreds, if not thousands, of people fervently praying for this man.

For him to change his ways.

To just accept the Lord.

And yet, he laid in his hospital bed, writhing in pain, calling on the underworld to just come take him.

That was very unsettling.

And tragic.

He had missed the fact that Jesus had died for his sins.

That acceptance of Jesus into his soul gained him entrance into heaven.

That mercy and grace, Forgiveness and healing

Overcame any and all of his sins.

And so, he continued.

Writing in pain, calling on the underworld, sadly withering away.

And we cried.

And we prayed.

And prayed.

And then……..


Just seconds before his last breath.

He accepted Jesus Christ into his heart.

And I will see him again in heaven.

I knew then that God was a God of patience.

Of the last minute.

Of the 11th hour 59th minute.

And I smiled.

And I never forget.

My dad’s ‘last minute’ salvation experience.

God’s answer to our prayers.

At the very last minute.

As I am ending this post, I can’t help but remember one more thing from my father. One that has been engrained in me since the day I was brought home from the nursery. It has always held true for me, my siblings, my nieces and nephews, and now, my children.

11.  Always own a dog. Or two.

I do.

Here’s Koda. Our 3 1/2 year old wild child of a White Golden Retriever mixed with Great Pyrenees.


And then there’s Domino. Our 13+ year old Lab, Husky, Shepherd mix.


We always owned and housed animals.

Rabbits. Tons of them.

A squirrel named Oscar.

And yet, we lived in the city.

My dad taught me we can never overvalue the companionship of an animal.

To that I say, “Amen.”

Regardless of what your relationship is or was with your father, I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Be blessed, and a Happy Father’s Day—especially to the single moms pulling double duty.



Hi. I’m Shari. I’m a Grants Accountant at UT, Missionary to Jamaica, Christ-follower, High School and College girls mentor, writer, author, and the owner of many dogs. I will be traveling to Modolva in June, 2014, as a Missionary, as well. I adore single parenting my three young adult children—Joy (22) is a Senior Majoring in Special Education at UT; Bethany (21) is a 4th year student Double Majoring in Bio-Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at UT. Jonathan (18) recently graduated from Cardinal Stritch High School and is getting ready to Play Soccer for and Double Major in Chemistry/Physics and Education in the Fall, 2014, at Bluffton University. I love the Lord, my family, my boyfriend and friends—in that order. I am passionate about writing, homeschooling, mentoring, saving unborn babies, helping struggling young moms, and Jesus.

Posted in Column, Discussion, Family, Fatherhood, Life, Parenting, Religion

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