Category Archives: Thoughts and Tales

I have at least one decent thought daily. These-here thoughts/stories generated from life experiences or writing prompts.

Giants will fall, that’s the way of the world

It’s not going to stop.  It’s the order of things, the circle of this hard life, the order of the world.  Somewhere on earth, seems it’s always a time for the giants to keep falling.  Our elders pass away, take leave of earth—sometimes way too soon—and many are left behind to mourn and remember.

Jerry Lewis (1926–2017) was part of my childhood movie reel.

With all the foolishness that’s going on these chaotic days, it’s good to keep humor in the scabbard of sharpened coping mechanisms to help maneuver through the world with sanity intact.

As a child, Jerry Lewis movies gave me plenty of laughs and taught me that the underdog nerd-guy/person really can win.   And that was music to my soul.  Music I still need to hear every now and again.

I got a kick out of the slapstick comedy, but my favorite scene of all his movies is from “The Patsy.

Can’t say why this portion of the movie tickles my funny bone, and has done so since I was 10 years old or so.  Maybe it’s because the trio wasn’t what I expected.  Don’t know what I expected to see as a 10-year-old, but that sure wasn’t it.

Lewis’ annual telethon to benefit muscular dystrophy is another thing I’ll remember.  I hated telethons as a child, and did all I could to avoid them.  But even so, what stuck with me is that this star-figure, who could be doing anything with his time, chose to raise funds for research to benefit others. Because I hardly ever watched, I never picked up on reasons others weren’t fans of the annual event.

But what cemented Lewis as a funny, but curmudgeonly figure in my mind is this Hollywood Reporter interview.  First of all, I don’t know why someone granted this interview.  He wasn’t having it.  And let the whole world know.  And it made me laugh.  But made me feel for the reporter.

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Using verbal arts to eliminate violence

A reaction to stories I covered for work earlier this week… and a possible solution to a human problem. 


(During a Commute Home)—So my workday was going pretty well, for the most part. And then they sent me to cover the investigation after a shooting. So I drove to the Metro station that straddles the D.C./Maryland line where it happened. Now it wasn’t a gory or bloody area that we could see.  Of course, the police kept us far enough away from the crime scene, which was on board a train car. My guess is that it was to preserve the integrity of that crime scene so they can pick up whatever bits and pieces of evidence, gun shells and casings and you know, maybe bits of hair or fragments of flesh or whatever else it is that they needed in order to complete the investigation.  And they were looking for three suspects. And according to the pictures that I saw, that Metro pushed out, they seem to be pretty young people.  A spokesman for the transit agency told reporters the guy who got shot was a teenager. At that time, I didn’t know exactly how old, if he was a young teen like 13 or 14 or if he was an old teen like 19… That all had to come out in the wash.  And it did.  It still is coming out in an unfortunate wash.

Argument leads to shooting. So cliche. Why couldn’t they have bus(ted)-out in a parking lot rap… Click To Tweet

Continue reading Using verbal arts to eliminate violence

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Good, better, best: One of them-there stick-to-your-ribs quotes

Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.

My third grade teacher taught this to her students. I’m not sure if she repetitiously implanted this into the minds of all her students through the years, but I certainly remember her drilling this into our little 7 and 8 year old brains.  She was insistent that we repeat it until we knew it by heart.

Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.

And then she wanted us to act like we knew it.  Sista-girl leaned on us, pressed us to produce our best work.

And if we didn’t, she leaned more.

When running down the roster of beloved teachers during class reunions, she’s up there at the top. She’s also on that list of folks who “don’t play.”  Then and now.  That means you’re not slipping anything past her, getting over on her, getting away with anything.  Her tone was (still is) loving, but firm.  But if you found her wrath via disobedience or laziness, it was as if the world were ending. Five minutes later, you’d vow never to revisit that backside apocalypse again.


“If you miss more than three on any homework assignment or test, you’re going to get it.”


It was our first week of school.  Yes, she said that to us. My almond-shaped eyes went round for 2 seconds after that pronouncement.  If I were outdoors, I probably would have caught a fly in my mouth.  And she let our parents know.

Yes, teachers could still paddle their students back then, and we did our darnedest to make sure that tape-wrapped walloper didn’t find our little asses. So we tried.  Hard. To get it right.  That type of discipline may seem harsh by today’s standards, but it was what it was back then.  Careful, deliberate, meticulous work was the key to a comfy heinie.

Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.

If I was the unlucky recipient of said swats more than one time, I really don’t recall. Maybe that’s one of those painful memories folks exhume with therapy, but I don’t think it was more than a couple of times, if even that many.

However, years  later, this saying is still stashed in my mental mantra chest.


Good..okay… that’s fine, but get better.  Do your best.  Keep pushing until your good becomes better and your better becomes your best.


And I still see things that way.   One thing I appreciate about this instructor: I don’t recall her sparking competition between her students, but she did push us toward excellence.  Even if some of us had to push through learning curves.  The goal was still the same:

Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.

This is my Day 21 post for the 30 Day Writing Challenge in the Speak Write Now Community

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Go ’till you get it right

Life lessons can be extracted from the most mundane everyday occurrences.   Even a roller skating rink that smells like a bundle of hot, sweaty, funky feet.

A college friend invited me to a skating fundraiser one Saturday night.  Her text-vite was right on time.

I was quite excited to get back out on the rink, but when I saw people dropping like flies and resurrecting from the floor—coupled with the clack-clack-clack-splat of stumbling stakes and skin meeting the shiny wooden floor, along with the occasional thud of an @$$-crash, I purposed in my heart I would re-learn the way I learned to skate backwards  while in college:  Head first, then heart.  Visualize it, then do it.

In the meantime, while I glided to the middle of the rink, I noticed an older man helping a young girl—likely his daughter—stumble her way toward balance.  Their hands stayed lightly connected throughout the night.  Close enough for comfort, yet light enough for independence to take root.

There was also a little boy with a light-weight grey and white striped long-sleeved hoodie.  That boy clicked-and-splat his way around the rink.

Then there was my friend, and another college acquaintance who had recently moved back to the States.  We all were individually trying to awaken the muscle memory that brought us so much fun and relaxation during our college years.

“Hey, do you remember how to do that move?”

“Which one?”

“You know, that one  like this?” (*Insert noisy, slippery attempt at fancy footwork.*)

“I was trying, but I still don’t have it.”

“I don’t know what I’m even doing.”

“I know, right?  I still am trying to remember how to skate backwards.”

Conversations like that.

At one point a group of about 10 old people (most  in their 30s or older) kept stumbling around, trying to remember their former fancy footwork from more limber years.

But if we don’t get back out there, we will never relearn what brought us so much joy in the first… Click To Tweet

All while the little striped-shirt boy, kept clanking around the rink, but falling less and less.  His brows were stuck on furrowed, and at first,  I thought he was an angry little child.  But after a while, watching him clack-and-fall the entire night—My mind changed.  I was wrong.  That was likely his look of determination.  Determination to stay on his feet.  Determination to improve every clack of the way.

Life is not a practice around, and if we don’t know how to execute life’s moves, we must figure it out along the way, clacking and falling, sometimes rolling and flailing and stomping with furrowed brows as we develop and grow along our chosen paths.

I also learned that the further along we get on a path, a slip and fall might be more risky.  We may have more to lose, especially if we grow less limber and less open to change even along once-familiar paths.   But if we don’t get back out there, we will never relearn what brought us so much joy in the first place.  It’s important to get out on life’s rink, persist, and go ‘till we get it right.

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Buttery ways to heal the skin you’re in

Screenshot of  http://biggsandfeather.com homepage

Big-ups to Biggs and Featherbelle!

They saved my skin!  Literally… Okay, their products helped restore a patch of skin to its former glory.  As much glory as palm-of-hand skin can achieve.
Something went awry when I was visiting my folks a few years ago.  I was glancing at my hands one spring afternoon, and noticed my skin birthing a flake inside my left hand between my thumb and index finger.

What the what? I thought, picking at it.  Ehhhh, nothing much there, ’twas only dry skin.  I left it alone.  After I got back to the East Coast, that spot on my hand started flaking more.

Whatever, I thought.  Lotion to the rescue!  I massaged and rubbed that stuff several times a day.

Only it didn’t help.  Not only did it not help, my skin got worse. It started looking slightly inflamed and purple-ish.
What the WHAT?
I told my mom.
I told my sister.
I asked the Internet.
I asked friends.

“Go to a dermatologist,” some recommended.  Sure, that makes since, because… skin.  And something was obviously wrong with my left hand’s epidermis.

So I went, was handed an eczema diagnosis for that patch of skin, was gifted steroid samples which whipped that hand back into shape real quick.  Relief!

However, when I stopped using it, the irritation revved up again, with a vengeance— wheelies and all.

This is a bunch of foolishness, I thought.  Nothing is working.  So I  returned to searching the only bastion of earth’s certainties: The Internet.
“Natural remedies for eczema,” I Googled, Binged, maybe even Netscaped.
Then this brilliant idea popped into my head:  Shea Butter!
But where would I buy it?  Didn’t know, so I asked the Internet for help.

THAT’S how I met Biggs and Featherbelle products.

They’re based in Baltimore, Md., and are sold in a slew of stores locally and elsewhere; according to their website it’s 33 states and the District of Columbia.

I also started using Shea Moisture soaps, and soaps from Trader Joe’s, stopped using my hand soap and traded it for one of these natural bar soaps.  When I showered or washed my hands throughout the day, I massaged a bit of Biggs and Featherbelle’s scented seasonal Shea butters or cocoa/shea butter combos into the irritated patch on my hand.

These products, especially the Shea and cocoa butter products,  were the things that gave my skin much relief.  That patch healed itself when nothing else worked, thanks to nature’s enabling emollients.

This is my Day 10 post for the 30 Day Writing Challenge in the Speak Write Now Community

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A surprise win and being enough

It was October, nineteen some-ty something.

Calendars marked that day as Halloween, but at my parochial school it was Hat Day.  I was a Kindergarten wreck because I hated my hat.

The night before, my dad brought out supplies to help my sister and I create our contest entries.

With construction and wrapping paper, glue, scissors, fluffy, colorful vintage yarn ribbons (that weren’t yet vintage, to my knowledge) and other crafting supplies gathered on the dining room table, we got to work.

Daddy showed us how to roll our hats to create cone-shaped construction-paper hennin.

My older sister got set making and decorating her own hat, but my little five-year-old hands needed Daddy’s help.

Sissy found a pattern of Christmas wrapping paper she liked, glowing candles, and she started cutting those out and glueing them on her conical hat.  The cutout paper candles seemed so warm, and they were Christmassy, and my sister liked them, so I wanted them, too.

But, Daddy was looking through other crafting items to help me with my hat design.  I wasn’t having it. I wanted to be like my older sister, so I grumbled a bit while my dad kept decorating my hat.  He was having more fun than I was.

We completed our hats (actually, my dad completed mine… my sister completed hers) and left them on the dining table to dry overnight.

The next morning, it was up and at-em to get us to school on time.  Our mom dropped us off, and Sissy and I walked toward our separate classrooms.

I was still distraught over my hat. I still wanted it to be like my sister’s.  Mine was too different.  No one would like it.  People would laugh at it.  It wouldn’t fit in.

It was almost time to enter the classroom, but I didn’t want to go anywhere near the Kindergarten yard.  I was in tears, dragging my hat through the grass and dirt between the first and second grade classrooms.  One of the other teachers or an aide saw me and wondered why I was crying.

“I don’t like my hat,” I wept.

Apparently, she didn’t think was that deep, because she didn’t seem as out of sorts as this poor weepy kid.  She consoled me a bit and got me where I belonged. Inside that-there classroom.

Fast forward to our Hat Day assembly. The entire school gathered in the auditorium and each class, from K-8 paraded their hats before the entire school.  From the dull to the creative, it was always a fun experience.  When It was time for our class to parade our hats on stage, the excitement took over, and I don’t recall being puddle of tears anymore.  Seeing all the enjoyment packed into that one room was a reason to smile.

When the best hat creations were announced for each age group, I was among the winners.  I didn’t go into this to win a thing. I thought what I had to offer, what Daddy crafted for me to present in public, wasn’t up to standard. It was too ugly. It was too different. It didn’t fit in.  This word wasn’t in my vocabulary at that time, but it was way too eclectic.

But I was a winner because I took what my Dad poured his heart and enjoyment into and did what I could do with it.  I wore it.  Can’t say I wore it with pride, but I wore it, I walked the stage and sat down.

That evening, I vaguely remember my sister and I telling Daddy that I was among the winners.  I also recall this distinct thought/feeling. Maybe Daddy or Sissy said it, or maybe it was a divine whisper:  You may secretly think what you have to present to others isn’t up to par, but you might be surprised.  It might be a winner.

This is my Day 7 post for the 30 Day Writing Challenge in the Speak Write Now Community

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Persistence, perseverance, success, motivation.  Ain’t going nowhere without ’em

 

screenshot from brainy quotes.com

Isn’t this a relief?  But what if you’re your own worst critic and don’t have the luxury of thinking your first pieces are “good stuff?”  Whether or not you think your words beat out bread slicers for best innovation, it won’t matter if you don’t persist in getting those words out of your head and into the world for folks to see, visit with and imbibe.

Yes, the words you use are accessible to vast hordes of people.  Yes, lots of folks know what they mean.  Yes, they’re common as joy and pain, and swathe open spaces like sunshine and rain (random song reference… sorry).  Thing is, no on can compile words into story like you can.  Just like no one has your handwriting, the distinct timbre and lilt of your voice, your exact mannerisms, or brow furrows, no one can construct your story like you can. If you gave several different artists the same color palette, all their works would be distinct.


No one can color that verbal canvas like you


So persist, because no one can color that verbal canvas like you. Doesn’t matter if your word-paintings start out like stick figures in primary colors.  Keep writing, reading, and learning for access to greater word palettes and more nuanced gradation.  When it comes to learning, no one ever “arrives,” so keep the heart of a student.

And stay motivated, because change will come if you keep honing your chosen craft.

And persevere, because your words, your writing can help color someone else’s understanding of this journey called life.  It’s possible the timbre of your writing, the lilt of your tone can strike the heart of another for good like no one else’s can.  It’s not your job to figure that out, though.  Just write.  Hone.  Craft. Improve.  Seek feedback, and after you do all that, keep writing.

This is my Day 5 post for the 30 Day Writing Challenge in the Speak Write Now Community.

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Knowing what you know now, what are the top 5 things you would tell your 16 year old self?

There are so many things I’d tell my younger self!  Things to remember, reassure, and redirect.  Life is full of teachable moments.  Here are five things I’d tell 16-year-old me.

    1. When you start working for more than school credits, save more money so you won’t have to play catch-up later. Retirement looks far away, but the years will hop, skip, and jump away from you. Whatever you decide to save with those upcoming paid jobs, you really can up the amount and save more. Wondering where you’ll find it? In your wallet when you pay for lunch at the food court 5 days a week. Drop that to one or two days and save the rest of those dollars. Trust me, it’ll add up over time.
    • Just live. Your soul mate will show up when it’s time. Be open to your meeting not looking like an animated film about princesses or mermaids. Huntee, know that love ain’t like TV or movies. Sometimes it requires warm-fuzzies, other times it requires forgiveness and grit…and maybe grits even now and again. SIDEBAR: Practice making sweet AND savory pots so good, it’ll make you want to slap yourself.
    • Speaking of slaps, let’s go from the food-related humorous figurative sayings to the really serious issue. Your already know to NEVER accept that behavior from any romantic interest. But baby, add this to your quiver of self-preservation. RUN at the first sign of emotional abuse. No one’s perfect, but if that person tries to ascribe traits to your character that don’t exist based on their insecurities, bounce. For example, if that person accuses you of cheating because your smartphone battery died, you fell asleep, and he could’t reach you, but you’ve been nothing but faithful, bounce. You’re not a counselor. I can say with authority, you won’t choose that profession, so don’t feel bad that it’s not your job to walk them through their emotional morass. Tell them (with love and kindness) to take that to a counselor… and to the Lord in prayer.
    • Let’s talk about those after school routines… the ones you hate. Hon, I know you want to be “good and grown” and make your own choices, but the need for routine will never go away. It’s the one way to make sure you keep focusing on and plugging away at your goals.
    • Adults aren’t lying when they say “This too, shall pass.” Some sayings withstand time’s tests.  This is one.  Sounds trite, but it’s true.

This is my Day 5 post for the 30 Day Writing Challenge in the Speak Write Now Community.

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Why do you do what you do?

Need drives me. A need to achieve everything on Maslow’s entire hierarchy.

Work feeds my wallet so I can feed my face. Can’t recall how many times my parents reminded me of 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (NIV).

The thought of going without Mom’s peach cobbler or sweet potato pie (not really pressing needs) or even her stick-to-the ribs casseroles was enough to propel me to work. As an adult, I work for the same reasons. Money buys food, shelter, water to bathe and keep my living spaces clean. Those dollars also buy power to warm my home and provide a comfy place to rest, recharge and go at it again.

Yes, need drives me. But it’s not the only thing. I also work to afford as much safety as possible.

Unfortunately, that won’t provide me with another type of warmth. Psychological warmth, which isn’t the same as trying to psych myself out when I’m cold. For me, it means those intimate, reciprocal relationships that make me feel warm and fuzzy, in tune with and accepted by others. From the connection with my immediate and extended family and fiancé, to my longtime friends and other loved ones, that need for connection and to impart warm fuzzies to others drives me to pick up the phone to just say hello.

From there, I do the specific work I do because maybe one thing I write and report will cause someone to smile, to peek at or examine life through a different lens or to look at others with more compassion and kindness. Maybe it’ll cause someone to say “Hey, I never thought about it like that before.” Or “I’ve never met anyone like that before, but we seem have things in common.”

The small part I play in the universe may cause someone to consider something, anything from a different perspective. Changing the world is hardly the goal, but maybe something I write or say can cause positive ripples, change someone else’s mind, and propel them to do great things in the world. That’s the kind of change I may never know. We may never know all the lives we reach with our kind words, smiles, or our written words.

There’s also the accomplishment factor. I recall one of the proudest moments during my teen years when I edited our high school yearbook as a sophomore. It was produced and delivered on time. It had been some years since that had happened at my school. That was THE goal that year, and I did everything I could to make it happen, including staying many an afternoon after school to make sure deadlines were met. At the end of that school year, we gathered everyone in the school cafeteria to make an announcement. It was worded in such a way to gear up folks for a disappointment.

“I just wanted to tell you…(BIG PAUSE) that the yearbooks… are here.” There was another palpable pause. One of my friends let out a scream, then the room was an avalanche of cheers. That, right there? Gave me the one of the biggest senses of accomplishment. These days, I experience that in multiple small doses peppered with the opposite emotion.

These Days…
I love the feeling when I finish a writing project, be it a blog post in my spare time, a writing challenge, or something written for work. I’m driven because I love the feeling of setting a goal and meeting it, be it large or small. Doesn’t really matter if it’s writing and mailing cards to others, to shredding that pile of old mail, to washing and folding that laundry to cooking or baking something something that tastes so good, it makes me want the slap myself.

From tiny things to the more weighty matters, completing goals reaffirms the idea that I am more than capable of doing what I set my mind to do, including reaching my potential as purposeful writer and storyteller. But walking into that purposeful and confident writing starts with putting one word on one piece of paper, or typing a word into a document. Then a phrase, sentence, paragraph, and giving the mind freedom to let the story unfold. Keeping my basic needs met, those on the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs keep me going, as well as the intrinsic need to accomplish everything inside and sometimes just outside my wheelhouse of potential.

From: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/33/MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds.svg/2000px-MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds.svg.png

Doing what I do daily is the only way “do” will transform into “done”. “Done” breeds that sense of accomplishment which motivates me to… do more.

This is my Day 3 post for the 30 Day Writing Challenge in the Speak Write Now Community.

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If you could change ONE THING that would make the world better, what would it be?

2 April 2017

Because any question or comment is liable to get me singing the closest related tune floating through my mind, I started singing Change the World by Eric Clapton.

Yup, “If I could change the world, I would be the sunlight in your universe.  You would think my love was really something good, baby if I could change the world.”

Then I got stuck on the love being something good.  Wouldn’t it, if there were more of it?

Here’s why my mind is stuck on love.

Both of my stories for work dealt with tragic anniversaries.  A new exhibit at Arlington National Cemetery marks the centennial of United Sates involvement in World War I.  One hundred years since 116,000 lives were claimed during the Great War from combat and disease. Those were just folks from the USA. Looking at each country, the number totals spike into the tens of millions. That’s a LOT of people.

Sunday’s second story covered the kickoff event for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in a local county.  The whole thing made me want to go weep in the station vehicle. Nine photos were perched on concrete stairs leading to a stage in the middle of a town-center style shopping center.  Each photo represented a life cut short by criminal activity.  From the cute little boy with chubby-looking cheeks, to the 18-year-old young lady who perished in the Virginia Tech shooting nearly a decade ago, to a 22-year-old who was gunned down, and his family still doesn’t know why.

Each photo represents an unknown number of family members and friends who are left to grieve absences that will never be filled by another human being on this planet.  Ever.  Each photo possibly represents an unknown number of first responders who may never be the same after working the crime scenes where these victims died.

Where do the tragic ripples end?  I have no answer for that, but what seems certain is that somewhere, somehow, love for these victims was absent during the slivers of time it took to commit each crime.  Can’t help but think that’s a truism, whether any victim’s life is taken by a stranger, an acquaintance, spouse, lover, or parent.

It’s not up to me to hash out each case and condemn any person.  What I deduce is rooted in another song.  The world just needs more love dipped in compassion and sprinkled with patience.

If I could change one thing to make the world better, that would definitely be it.  Love.  More of it.  I’ll let it begin with me, and put it to practice the next time I want to curse out an awful driver on the Beltway.

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