Category Archives: Challenges

Smoke gets in your eyes, retasked

They asked me how I knew

Walking, I must doooooooooo…..oh oh

I of course replied

Stomach over-rides

Must now be denied!


They said someday I’ll find

I have over-dined, oh no!

Calories you burn

Tend to then return

Sweat gets in your eyes.


So I Huffed and then I bravely puffed

upon my big hill trail, (gasp…gasp)

And today, the chiggers had their way,

I have not lost a pound!


Now, laughing friends deride

bite marks on my hide!  (Scratch…scratch)

As my red skin fries

And my momentum dies…

Sweat gets in my eyes.



I’m messed up

My world view has skewed.  I was watching (with tears in my eyes) the story of 3 little kids in this impoverished country.  The little boy was about 10 or 12 and had 2 little sisters.  Every day, they had to walk 2 miles to get water.  The path has snakes that can kill you if they bite you, so the little boy goes in front to make sure the path is safe for his sisters.  All the kids are sick, the water is not really safe to drink.  None of the kids has had anything to eat all day.  “Send money!  for $19.00/month, you can send $190 worth of food and medicine to save these children!”  If you don’t get out your checkbook right away, they will guilt you some more.  Food for the Poor will give 95% of the donations to the poor and save so many lives!

I didn’t get out my checkbook.  I didn’t do a money order.  I didn’t go on line to the site and pledge my undying support.  I didn’t adopt these poor kids.  I am a HORRIBLE person.

What I was thinking was this:  If you give them food and medicine, are they any less poor?  They are alive but dependent.  What happens when the shipment of food or medicine is derailed or delayed?  What happens if this charity goes under?  What happens if the economy bottoms out and donors are harder to find?  They’re still poor.  They are still desperate.  We just don’t feel guilty for having water and food and jobs and clothing and shelter any more.

What would happen if we sent a pair of goats or sheep or whatever indigenous food-type animal there–something that wouldn’t cost much to raise and would still be able to feed these people?  What would happen if they were taught to make flamboyant t-shirts to sell to rich Americans?  They could make as many or as few as they wanted.  What if we investigated their folklore on medicinal plants and learned how they survived up to that point?  Their ancestors had a reason for settling in that place.  Has it changed so much that it no longer supports that community?  Do they need to relocate (preferably closer to the water)?  Do they just go get water and sit and wait in their inadequate housing to die?  I can’t believe they would.  Could they make products out of the surrounding materials that they could sell?  Could they start farming crops that grow in that environment?  Don’t they have a shaman or wise person in the village that can teach the children?  Since they obviously do not have contact with modern societies, why would they need a stereotypical school?

Why is it our duty to “save” these people?  What if our idea of salvation is their idea of obliteration of their culture and their way of life?

Could we survive without TV’s, computers, internet, cars, fast food?  If we were suddenly plunged into a life like that, would these people who live without these critical objects show us how to live on nothing?  If I was living like them,  I would point and laugh and whisper, “City Folk..,” but then I’d help them anyway.  How can we help these unfortunates if we don’t change their living conditions?  How do we make them Not Poor?

Instead of just sending donations, can we send people to improve their living conditions?  Doctors without Borders brings health care to people in need, but then they leave.  Do they train people to take their places?  Do they teach people how to MAKE the medicines and how to treat infections?

Once again, these desperately poor people didn’t just appear.  Their ancestors survived there.  Why can’t they?  What would it take to make them self sufficient?  You can’t just throw money at them and change their fates!

So I am a HORRIBLE person.  I want to fix the cause, not just treat the symptom.

The Sketch

7th grade art class assignment:  We’re going outside to the bridge to draw a tree.


The bridge was rickety, it was plain.

It crossed a creek you could step over.

But the trees around it were tall and stately,

So we all drew tall stately trees.

The instructor was drawing as well.

But when he finished, we knew exactly which tree he’d drawn.

Ours were blobs of green on brown sticks.

He smiled and said, “Draw the space between the leaves,

Draw what you don’t see.”

THEN we drew our trees.

He taught us how to see.


You find a note

I was in fast food once…ok, 5 years of fast food…

I did everything from back line to front line to management.  I know how the process works.  It’s not supposed to work like this…

It had been a long day and I didn’t want to cook.  I had been teaching, and doing an investment for a nice couple who didn’t have a clue how money works.  I spent nearly 2 weeks explaining how to budget, how much insurance they’d need, how to pay down their debt over a shorter time, and they finally got a glimpse of how their lives could be!  We finished up that night after 2 hours of questions and answers and paperwork.  It was late.  I went to the drive through and sat at the order window.  No one answered.  No, “WelcometoblahblahblahourspecialisblahblahblahcanItakeyourorderplease?” in auctioneerspeak.  No “Hold for a bit, I’ll be right with you.”  I was confused and mad just staring at this screen.  I wanted to go home.

“HEY!  Anyone there?!!!”

Someone whispered urgently, “I have to take the order or someone will get suspicious.”  Then into the mic, “Welcome to Wendy’s!  Can I take your order please?”  I ordered my favorite; she read it back and told me my total and to pay at the 1st window.  I pulled up and got out my money.  The lady at the window was not young.  She was all business.  I recognized her as a manager by her name tag and button down shirt.

Managers do not work the window at that time of night.  They’re busy doing register counts.  I became more suspicious.  I said, “Yeah, I used to be on that side of the window, I don’t have to do that any more.  How’s your night going?”

She looked nervously over her shoulder, smiled and replied, “Good as it could be!  Here’s your food and your Mountain Dew.  You can check your order in the pull in over there.”

?? Why would I pull into a parking spot to check my order?  I mouthed, “Are you ok?” and  saw her shake her head ‘no’ almost imperceptibly. I said “Thanks” as I drove over to the drive-through queue for wait orders and checked my bag.  As I was moving away from the window, I heard her saying that this was policy since there were so many bad orders and complaints at this store.  Ah…she was a substitute that was trying to fix a badly managed store.  I used to do that.  I checked my order and there was a note stuffed inside.

“We’re being robbed!  Call 911!”

Oh crap.  I called 911.  Then I did something stupid.

I drove around to the drive through order board and said, “Hey?  It’s me again.  I’m sorry.  I forgot that I needed to order my fries without salt.  Since I’m the only one in line, can you make me up some fries?”

A boy’s voice said, “We’re Closed.  Go away.”

“Bull!  your sign is still on!  It’s only 8:30 and your hours are until 11:00!  I ain’t leaving until you give me some fries–no salt!”

“What the …?” the woman’s voice chimed in.  “Get away from that mic you idiot!  I’m sorry ma’am, we’ll get some right out to you!”  She left the call button on and said, “You WANT some problems?  You’re not very good at this robbery thing are you!  Roberto drop some fries, small batch, no salt.

I pulled up to the window and whispered,  “I’ll keep you distracted so he can’t do anything stupid.”  Then I put my mad face on.  She nodded and leaned out the window.  I yelled, “What kind of stupid store is this that you have line people answering the drive through?  What’s taking so long?”

“I’m sorry ma’am.  He’s new.  Jorge!  Come here and apologize to the lady!  Yes now!  This is what good service looks like! and GET YOUR HAT ON!”  She through a hat at him and he put it on.

Jorge was wearing a Wendy’s hat but not the shirt and had no badge…trainee or otherwise.  He seemed very young.  “I’m not apologizing to no drive through bitch!  Get away from the window!”  He threw down the hat.  Thank you!  Now I had a clearer view of him.  He hit the manager with the back of his hand, then he leaned out the window and aimed his gun at me.  “Get the hell out of here!”

“Well I NEVER!  I’m going to call corporate about this you can be sure of it!!!!”  I pulled into the exit to block it and got out of the car.  My car is dark, so he couldn’t see what I’d done.  The cops arrived without lights or siren and I told them that protocol was to let him take the money and get out of the store so there would be no hostages and no casualties.  I also told them there were 3 crew members, and a manager, but no customers in the dining room.  Then I indicated where the cameras were.  I didn’t know if he was watching the monitor or not, but if he was, he might panic.  They blocked off the other entrance into the parking lot.  I then moved my car and another patrol car blocked the exit I’d vacated.  I pulled into the parking lot of the box store next door and watched the “show.”  They staged a couple of officers by the dumpster, one by the back door and one at the main entrance.  EXACTLY WHERE I TOLD THEM NOT TO GO.  If he was watching the monitors, that was where the lot cameras pointed.  Oh crap.

Luckily, Jorge was new at this and it never occurred to him to check the lot monitors. He walked out with a carry-out bag.  He got about 1/2 way to his car and the officer came up behind him and very gently said, “I’m with the police.  I’m armed and my gun is aimed at your back.  Stop, drop the bag and the gun and get on your knees.”  He was so close to Jorge when he said it, that Jorge freaked out and froze.  The other officers came out from their hiding places and walked slowly and quietly up to him, guns raised.  The black officer said, calmly, “Boy, you the wrong color to resist.  Do what he said.”  Jorge nodded and went to his knees.  There was no yelling, no panic.  The only tension I could feel was that of the boy on the ground.  This was NOT at ALL like what they did on TV.  They cuffed him and escorted him to the police car, and I think I heard Jorge crying.  The lead cop then went inside to assure the owner that the culprit had been caught and to take statements and such.  So I left.

Of course, my burger was cold…



Jungle Book musings

I had a student tell me this.  He wanted to be like me.  He wanted to have a quick wit, an infectious laugh, an insane imagination.  He wanted to be comfortable in front of people, and be funny at the drop of a hat.  He wanted encyclopedic knowledge so he could riff on any subject.

I was surprised.

Here’s why:  When he says, “Let’s go this way!” crowds of people follow him.  When he inspires people, they go and do stuff.  When he makes suggestions, people listen politely.

When I say, “Let’s go this way!”  I get responses like, “Why?” or no response and I’m by myself.  When I inspire people they’re inspired for about 37 seconds then don’t do anything.  When I make suggestions, I get laughs…they think I’m joking.  I don’t get taken seriously except by people who know me really well.  There aren’t many people that know me that well.

There was a story about a guy who saw this professional golfer on the driving range.  He walked up and said, “MAN!  I wish I could drive like that!  I’d give anything to be as good as you!”  The pro stopped what he was doing and addressed the guy.  “Would you really?  Would you practice your drives until your hands bled?  Would you practice putting for hours at a time?  Would you spend thousands of dollars on coaching, specially made clubs, and greens fees?  Would you spend 180 days on the road touring and competing?  Would you be willing to lose 90% of the competitions you enter?”  The man stammered.  The pro said, “If you want to be like me, you have to work like me, you have to think like me, and you have to desire it like me.”  Then he went back to practicing his drives.

Let me introduce myself.

I am a self improvement junkie.  When you go to a law office, you will see their collection of books–hundreds of them.  I would posit that most lawyers have never read all the books.  I have hundreds of leadership books, tapes (yes the cassette type) CD’s, DVD’s, and workbooks.  I have read and re-read every one of them.  I went to Orlando to be certified in leadership training by John Maxwell.  I have studied Jim Rohn and Zig Ziglar.  I have listened to webinars and watched videos of leaders in my profession (which is finance by the way). I have even written a leadership program with a workbook for use in Churches.

I also have a curiosity about EVERYTHING!  So I read articles about scientific subjects–global warming, physics, conservation, animal behavior, kinesiology, anatomy, acoustics…I’m interested in how things work.  I read and study human behavior like psychology and interpersonal communication.  I am fascinated by economics (thanks to William Snyder from Peru State) and the financial markets, especially investments.  I have 2 bachelor’s degrees–one in music and one in business finance.  I am certified in many financial areas.

I like to connect things that normally aren’t connected…Toastmasters and Ballet for instance.  Choreography is choreography.  Use of the space when speaking is the same as use of the space for dancing.  I adore observational humor–George Carlin and Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters are my favorites.  My friend, George, and I do a bit about driving in Omaha which is observational in manner.

So if my student wanted to be like me, he’d have to read the things I have read, study the things I have studied, travel the places I have traveled, and associate with the people with whom I have associated.  He’d have to develop an observational eye and a curiosity.  But even if he did all that, he’d still be ‘him trying to be like me’ and not a better version of himself.

In order for me to be a leader like he is, I’d have to give up the humor and the impulsiveness that makes me uniquely me.  Would that be a bad thing?  No, actually.  I would like to be taken seriously.  What’s curious is that when people DO take me seriously, I get confused.  “What?  You mean that you DO think I’m intelligent?  That I DO make sense?  That I HAVE changed your perspective and you ARE going to act on it?”  Then I shoot myself in the foot and say something dismissive or silly which makes people doubt my veracity.  Being taken seriously is scary!  At the same time, when I offer some insight or advice to someone that will drastically change their situation in life, and they laugh it off, IT BUGS THE HECK OUT OF ME!

Don’t be like someone, be the best version of you. To do that, you have to work on yourself to mold your mind and body into the person you want to grow into.

Finish Something

Grand Plans

Beautiful visions

Creative need

Cravings of accomplishment

On the drawing board

In the bags of yarn

In the calendar

Honest effort

Inconsistency brings frustration


Self hate

Everything is left undone

1/2 finished


Best Intentions but

No Action

Finish Something!

Just 1 thing

Start the ball rolling

Keep the ball rolling

Finish it.


via Daily Prompt: Thin


In anything else, thin is bad.  Thin walls, thin logic, thin resume.  All indications of insufficiency.  Thinly veiled threats don’t fool anyone.  Thinned paint shows the old color beneath.  “It’s a thin line between ___ and ___…”  Fill in the blanks.  Sanity and Madness, Love and Hate, Order and Chaos.  The thin line represents a precarious balance.  No one talks about the bold line, the thick line, the substantial line.

Thick, substantial walls protect.  Substantial logic has weight in arguments.  A thick resume indicates loads of education and experience.  All these things are considered good.  A bold character gets the leads in movies and plays.

So why do women want to fit into a size 0?  Why are ribs sexy?  Why don’t you want your thighs to touch?  It’s better to be rich and thin?  If I were rich, I would EAT BETTER!  I wouldn’t stay thin for very long–that’s for sure!  When so many are starving to death because they can’t get food, why do we emulate them in a rich country where people can walk into a grocery store and buy ANY food they want?  It makes no sense to me for anyone (male or female) would want to look like they haven’t had a good meal in months when they have access to anything they’d want to eat.

Skinny people exist.  They have high metabolism and cannot gain weight.  They are not half-starved because they eat a tiny piece of lettuce and spit it out.  They are healthy as far as their bodies are concerned.  Can you be healthy and not thin or skinny.  Of course!  Look at the athletes at any Olympics.  They have honed their bodies so that the demands of their sports are met.  They are flexible where they need to be flexible, they are powerful and fast.  Dancers should be the same way, but still some will starve themselves to look good on stage.

It is in my humble opinion that people want to be thin because of whom they think are watching.  If they weren’t on stage, on TV, in the movies, in the magazines, basically ON DISPLAY like a manikin in a store, they would not obsess on how much weight they appear to carry.   You should be comfortable in your skin, able to move and do the things you love without the side effects of too much or too little weight.  Your dance partner shouldn’t wonder if he’ll drop you because you’re too big.  He should also not worry about accidentally throwing you through the ceiling.

Not a big fan of “thin.”

Melody, Harmony, Rhythm

via Daily Prompt: Song

Music Major!  Wait. Can a song be something not musical?

The Song of Myself by Walt Whitman is 52 verses long! Would this guy be a narcissist?  Or is he exploring every nuance of his being:  what it means to be a person, to be a human, to be a man?  We do that don’t we?  We think deep thoughts and then craft them into a whole.  All our experiences and adventures become us.  All of the little bits of information and insight are interwoven into our being.  Our philosophies are developed atom by atom.  We envision big events as being catalysts for our lives’ direction, when in fact, it’s the looks from friends and parents, the Sunday school lesson, the fall off the bike, the first times–walking, climbing, writing…

Would you be the same person you are now if the first time you wrote your name, you did it with red crayon instead of a pencil?  Would you be the same if your parents had read Beetle Bailey out loud instead of Peanuts?  What kind of person would you be if your parents played Sinatra instead of Elvis?  Would you respond the same to bullies or would you be the bully?  Nature vs. Nurture has been an ongoing philosophical discussion for decades.  They cannot be separated.  2 infants with the same types of parents going through the same events would still turn out completely different due to their nature, and 2 infants of the same nature would turn out completely different due to their upbringing and surroundings.  Look up “What a piece of work is Man” by Shakespeare.

Let’s get into music then, as I am an expert.  (You put those eyebrows down!  I AM an expert!)  How many notes are there?  88 on a standard piano.  What about all the quarter tones…the notes between the notes?  What about the notes that are higher than one can whistle that you can play on a violin?  Are there notes so low that you can only feel them?  Of course.  So this is a huge palette of  sounds as pitches are available.  Then look at the rhythm instruments!  Continuous sound vs rhythmic repetition can make a difference in the ambiance of the music.  A rain stick is an example of continuous sound and a drum kit is typical of rhythmic repetition.  Then there are tuned rhythmic instruments like the piano or the xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel, you can think of hundreds of others.  The rhythm can be untuned or tuned then!  The bass guitar acts as a rhythm instrument as does the strumming guitar even though neither would be considered a percussion instrument.  Do you see the possibilities of musical themes?  They would be limitless and as you add more elements such as orchestration (assigning aspects of the music to different instruments or voices) counter melodies, chord progressions…the number of songs goes to infinity.   What happens if we rearrange the songs so the melodies stay constant and the harmonies change?  Look at all the covers of “Don’t you worry ’bout a thing” by Stevie Wonder! In addition, we can find the same chord progressions in multiple songs  but notice the melodies are all different?

What does that have to do with the premise?  Each person is the melody of their own existence.  The depth and breadth of their growth is the harmony and rhythm that each person builds with each day they live, each book they read, each thought they contemplate, each tune they listen to, each task they perform, each interaction with the world that surrounds them.  At the end of life, this song can be as simple as a nursery rhyme or as complicated as a symphony.

Make your song beautiful!

Flying Fingers CW

Evelyn Miller.  I haven’t thought of her in years!  She was my neighbor in my formative years and from the time I was 12 until we moved, she was my knitting mentor.  She knitted traditional style, throwing the yarn with her right hand.  She knit a coat with 5 different types and colors of yarn.  It was amazing…and heavy!  Her fingers flew!

After we moved, I learned how to knit continental style holding the yarn in my left hand.  I have to be careful the type of yarn I knit with now because certain brands are not much more than acrylic rope.  This means that I get rope burns on the back of my finger.  It is rather annoying.  My specialties are Aran patterns and Fair Isle patterns.  I can do this while watching TV or just sitting watching kids play.  The hardest part is establishing the 1st row of the pattern.  My fingers fly…1st class on the Concorde.

I have a friend that does American Sign Language for guest speakers and such.  It’s like choreography for the hands!  So beautiful to watch!  Her fingers also fly.

My mother taught music for nearly all her adult life, and her favorite composers were Bach, Chopin and Brahms.  When she played Bach’s Inventions, her hands flew!  In fact if you watch any type of instrumentalist, there are songs that require phenomenal technique and their hands have to fly.  I remember playing in a pit orchestra and we were doing Man of La Mancha, Caberet, Carousel, and Hello Dolly and I tell you there were some songs in there that when you finished, you’d worked up a sweat!  I love watching especially Eddy Van Halen because he’s having fun when he’s playing, and Bella Fleck because who knew you could play Debussy on the banjo?!  (I’m sorry you couldn’t see him actually play this.  But you can hear him.)  Then there’s this guy!

So many people’s fingers fly.  They are amazing to watch because it is so beautifully graceful and expressive in just the movement.  Pay attention to the way people’s hands move when they talk, when they dance, when they play an instrument, when they type, when they play their instruments.  Be in awe!  What a piece of work is man!