Tag Archives: writing

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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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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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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Who inspires you?

1 APRIL 2017

There’s a reason some folks list parents among the most inspiring figures in their lives. I’m no different. My mother and father are two of the people who continually animate me in my quest to keep pursuing my goals. Whether I gather that inspiration when I speak with them or by simply reflecting on their sacrifices for their children, they consistently top that list of personal influencers who keep me trying my best. When I grow weary, their example and kind words remind me to rest awhile, regroup and get up and back to chipping away at making those goals reality.

She, as the oldest of 11 children, was the first to leave home to build a life for herself. Fresh from high school, she traveled west from California’s Imperial Valley to “the big city,” San Diego. Those years were filled with school, work, socializing and dates. She saved up and bought her first car there and ended up teaching a cool Deep South fellow, the sweetheart she met there, how to drive. Mr. Deep South Navy man eventually became her husband… and my dad. My dad would occasionally regale us with tales about olden day driving lessons, and how my mom could stretch her money as a young single woman. She was no crybaby, though. Mom was persistent and she really could (and still can) make a dollar out of 15 cents.

Mom’s inspiration is especially palpable now. With a recent cancer diagnosis, the strength she’s showed in this post-operative period has cemented her place as one of the greatest people I know. She’s a woman with a faith which, from what I can tell, has not wavered during this challenging period. Not only has she not drop kicked her God belief during the ordeal, she also shows a resolve to regain her former strength and ease back into her daily routines with the help of my siblings and my Dad.

Speaking of Daddy, his brand of inspiration got on my nerves when I was a kid. I didn’t realize his influence was taking hold way back then. See, he would leave work every weekday, some days a bit before dawn when he used the city bus to hop across town to work. He got on my nerves because if we were supposed to do chores before he got home he would always arrive too soon. Wasn’t really too soon. We were just too busy lollygagging instead of working on our tasks.

But his consistency and example during my childhood helped impress in me the importance of routine: To work, back home. To church, back home. To the grocery store to get something Mom forgot and needed for holiday meals, back home. Of course we broke the routine every now and again, but that early example left an enduring mark in my mind.

There are many more personal influencers in my life from a longtime friend from church who is battling Multiple Sclerosis, to elementary, high school and college pals who are living their dreams, and to my dear fiancé—they all inspire me to keep plugging away at my goals and developing into the best version of myself.

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