What You Don’t Know. . .


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“You don’t know diddly-squat!”

Did you ever wonder where that expression came from?  I have, so I looked it up. I assure you, I will never, ever use this expression, or any part thereof, again. Good grief.

You can look it up for yourself. I won’t be posting it.




Night Noises


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Maisie was always hearing sounds in the night. Spooky sounds, unexplained sounds; sounds that made her want to hide under the covers,  afraid of what she couldn’t see.

There was a new sound tonight.  It was a sound like brittle branches scraping a window. It was terrifying. She had no tree close enough to touch her bedroom windows. Thoughts of every murder she’d ever heard of crowded into her mind, but then the sound stopped and her hears slowed to normal, and she drifted off to sleep. . . .until scratchscratchscratch, there it was again!

Image result for afraid of noises at night

After the fourth time this cycle happened, Maisie got mad. She wasn’t going to sleep a wink until she figured out what that noise was!  She threw off her blankets, pushed her feet into her slippers, and switched on her bedside light. Sitting perfectly still, she listened. Nothing. Not a sound.  No heavy breathing, no creaky boards, nothing.

But THERE!  There it was again, and it was right.There. In. Her. Room!

She rolled her eyes, took the offending piece of cellophane wrap out of her wastebasket and took it across the hall to the bathroom and left it in the trash there. Crinkly cellophane from the box of candy Josh had given her, all wadded up, and coming undone.

Good grief!



Friday Fictioneers Photo Prompt:



Two little boys were running through the underbrush along the river’s edge, with no particular destination. Just running, as boys will.

They stopped short when they saw the head. Someone had left it there; someone who had been smoking and drinking. Terrified, they thought it was real. A closer look showed that it was only  plastic, but their hearts still raced.

Then they glanced at each other, and the light of deviltry appeared in their eyes like a candle flame.

“Let’s go find the girls!” Glee filled their little heads. Fun times!

Raise/Lower the Bar


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First thought:  Dickens’ novel Great Expectations. But I’m not going to write about that.

Second thought:  In my office, I sometimes suggest to people that they might consider changing, even lowering, their expectations. Sometimes they just give me a blank look. Sometimes, they object strongly to the idea of accepting less than they had hoped, whether it’s in a relationship, career, health, or something else.  Shouldn’t they expect more, raising the bar rather than lowering it?


That depends. Someone who needs to lose 100  pounds is just asking for disappointment when they plan to do that in three months or less.  That’s too high an expectation. Changing that expectation to maybe one pound a week is much more reasonable and achievable.

In relationships, it is easy to sabotage any possibility of a good outcome if we expect way more of the other person than we do of ourselves. The thing is, not everyone is going to love you. Some people, even  family or in-laws, may simply not “take” to you.  If you persist, demanding that the person adore you, you’re going to be in trouble. And you’re going to blame the other person, when really the problem is that you just can’t believe anyone wouldn’t want to spend every moment basking in your sunshine.  There’s a lot better chance of success if you back off, back down, and give the other person some space.

When Terry and I were dating, he did some very romantic things. But the longer I knew him, I realized that it wasn’t his comfort zone at all to do the hearts and flowers routine. He was much more comfortable when he could fix something, or help me do something that I was having trouble with. He’s still that way, and I learned to change my expectations about what was romantic.  Every now and then, he astonishes me with the unexpected, like the other week when he brought me a bag of Dove Dark Chocolates. May not seem like a big deal if your guy showers you with flowers, candy, jewelry, etc., but for me?  Very big deal, indeed.

How about personal achievement, either yours or that of someone close to you?  Shouldn’t you raise the bar very high?

I don’t know.  What are you innate abilities?  Were you born a rocket scientist, rattling off equations and scientific data with your first breath?  No?  Well, then, you would be foolish to believe you should be right up there with Einstein and all his buddies. However, if you show a keen interest in some–or all– sports, and you can outrun, out-throw, out-wrestle, out-do every kid on the block, then maybe you should push yourself to improve and achieve great things in that arena.  Maybe the Olympics are in your future. It’s great to dream, as long as the  desire and the ability are commensurate with the dream.

For years, I wished I had a rich, mellow, high soprano voice. Dreamed about it. Tried to sing all the high notes.   But as I grew up, it became clear that my natural place in the choir was with the second altos, and I learned to love to harmonize. In fact, it came so naturally to me that other kids my age had no idea what I was doing and looked at me funny when I dropped into a harmony part. My expectations changed, and I’ve enjoyed hundreds of opportunities to sing alto in duets, trios, and other ensembles for many years, even including doing low-voice solo work. I still envy those who can soar up into the stratosphere and sound wonderful doing so, but that’s just not my gift. If I hadn’t lowered my expectations–no pun intended–I would be disappointed and unhappy, probably blaming all those people who didn’t recognize my talent 🙂

Bottom line:  If you’re a fish, don’t try to climb trees.  If you’re a bird,  don’t expect to run in the Preakness.  Well, unless you’re a Roadrunner. If you’re a math genius, find work that fulfills your passion. Don’t try to be a romance novelist. It’s probably not a good fit.

If you insist that everyone who knows you MUST adore you, please consider reducing that expectation. Your family and friends will like you a whole lot better.




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I have been told I am my own worst critic.  I tend to criticize everything about myself, all that I do.  This criticism is not for the purpose of doing better next time; no, it is simply looking at things negatively, and making sure no one thinks I think too much of myself.

Where does such a habit come from?  Well, I could go into all the deep  psychological roots, I suppose, but that would be boring and counterproductive.  And very personal, not really meant to be shared in a public forum.

Some wise soul has said that all behavior is caused, and causes are always multiple.

For me, the battle is to learn to stop it.  Just stop it. Stop being so quick to tear down who I am, what I do, how I do it. Start learning to accept a compliment graciously, as I try to encourage others to do just that.

Image result for accepting a compliment with grace

The other night, someone commented that I look as if I’d lost a little weight. I was taken aback, because four months of inactivity have surely not helped in the battle of the bulge. I immediately began  explaining away her perception that I looked slimmer:  It was the pattern on my sweater, it was the color block, it was nice of her to say so, but. . . .

She laughed. She said, “Thank you for noticing!” and we laughed together because I’ve been helping her learn to accept similar compliments.  So I replied in kind, and I felt pretty good that at least SHE is learning not to deflect a compliment.

Criticism can be so harsh, and heard often enough, we sometimes believe we must deserve it. The trick is to sort out the helpful from the hurtful, and to leave the hurtful behind us. Easy to say, hard to do.




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“Shh!  I heard something!”

“What?  What did you hear?”

“Shush!  I don’t know!  Just listen!”

They were completely still and quiet for several heartbeats. There was no sound.

“Brandon, you have to leave. If my parents find you in my room, I’ll be grounded for life!”

“Okay, okay, but there’s no one here but us—“

With a bang, Jessica’s bedroom door flew open and light flooded the room. Jessica stifled a scream while Brandon scrambled to button his shirt.

“You’re right, Jess. Grounded for life. Brandon, you’d better get out of here before I lose my temper.  I’ll be in touch with your parents.”


Not Leavin’!

Here’s the photo prompt for this week’s Friday Fictioneers :

mystery-chair-ted-strutzphoto@Ted Strutz

Not Leavin’!

“Nope!” declared Old Harry. “I’m not leavin’! They took my  land and gave me pennies on the acre. They robbed me, and I’m not leavin’! They’ll flood my land for their idiot “recreational lake” over my dead body!”

Old Harry took a chair from his kitchen table, plopped it down in the path of the coming lake. sat down, folded his arms over his scrawny chest, set his jaw, and waited.

Twelve days later, the reservoir was opened. No one ever saw Harry again, but his chair was unmoved.











What Makes You Tremble

One-word prompt for today:  Tremble


Now, here’s an interesting word!  So many different things can cause a person to tremble. To shiver, shake, have tremors,  even lose control of one’s muscles; sometimes the breathing is affected, the heart races, the palms become cold and clammy.

What makes us tremble?  Fear.  Excitement. A first-ever date. Nerves–performing, speaking, singing  for an audience.  Stress can make us tremble. I’ve seen students who are facing a test they’re worried about whose hands are trembling with nerves.

Trembling in fear is not a pleasant experience.  I don’t have many experiences of actually being so afraid that   I tremble.  I guess I’ve led a pretty protected life.  Some of my fellow counselors have mentioned clients who make them very nervous. I’ve never felt like that. I don’t tend to be afraid of people. It is more likely that I need to curb my irritation and my quick tongue when I have someone in my office who is trying to dominate the situation.

Having nervous trembles when I have to do something in front of people, and I don’t feel capable or prepared–that is something I understand.  Speaking to a crowd is easy for me, and I find it enjoyable and exhilarating. But it took me years to come to a place of singing or playing the piano without a shaky voice and shaky hands. I can do it now, and I remain calm. At some point along my lifeline, I just quit worrying about what anyone else may think.

Snakes can give me the shivers.  So can being up high, with no barrier between me and the long drop to the ground.  I hate that.

I know that evil exists in our world, and that there are people who commit evil acts with no concern for anyone else. I haven’t had to face that kind of evil on a personal level.  I read about it:  Nazi Germany, Aleppo, the killing fields of Cambodia, the political massacres in any number of places across the course of human history. Maybe that kind of evil will come to America.  No reason it shouldn’t.

I fear much more for my children and grandchildren than I do for myself.  The sand in my hourglass is much heavier on the bottom than it is on the top. I do, however, wonder what kind of world my precious grandchildren are going to inherit. Thinking on that too much can make me tremble for their future. The degree of lawlessness in our country is astonishing; it is especially frightening when the police have been told to stand down, to not interfere. I don’t understand that at all.

Isn’t it amazing how one little word can take us from the simple to the complicated?