There are times when we may think we are the center of the universe. We place an enormous sense of importance in our work and words. Every once in a while it is good to have a healthy dose of humility. This YouTube video produced by IBM is a lesson in human perspective and our place in this wonderful Cosmos.
La Flor, who’s on again with Little Carmen, had the stray puppy follow her throughout one of San Antonio’s outdoor mecca shopping malls. Little Carmen had to enthusiastically like everything La Flor liked. He was the designated bag carrier. And, according to her set of ground rules he signed, he can’t complain. He only can flirt with her.
As for me, I found an Italian trattoria, had a very tasty leisurely lunch, and after lunch, I did this and that, which I will not divulge because La Flor reads these blogs and counts the number of times she is mentioned. If I divulge this and that, she will know this and that and I will have no getaway places. If La Flor does not have the highest name mentioned count, all hell breaks loose, the bleep hits the fan, and the familiar saying, ‘You haven’t heard the last of this’ is repeatedly repeated.
I returned home around three thirty. I walked into the living room and froze. I wasn’t ready for what I saw. La Flor and Little Carmen sat in swivel chairs, about a foot and half apart. That’s not what stopped me.
They are staring at a camera on a tripod. Operating the camera is Thompson Thomas. He’s the Dr. Phil alt ego who looks like a pencil, receding hairline, has a high-pitched voice. It wasn’t always high pitched. It started sometime after Little Carmen found out he was gaga over La Flor. Little Carmen persuaded him, after a bit of twisting and turning and his voice rising with each twist to let go of his fixation on La Flor. I found this unusual, but not out of the ordinary as far as La Flor is concerned.
I looked at La Flor, frozen in my tracks and said, “What are you doing in a sports bra and bikini bottom? Do you have a sand volleyball game in your future? And, what is Little Carmen doing bare-chested in a bathing suit next to you? He looks like a wooly mammoth.”
“Is that a good look?” asked Little Carmen.
La Flor nodded her head, and said, “We are so adorable and cute, right, Ray?”
“Remember, this is a family blog,” I said.
“We belong on TV. I have a new career and LC is going to the top with me.”
“That’s right, Ray-mo. The beautiful, tough, and edgy sportscaster said, I’m a hanger-goner.”
“You called Little Carmen a hanger-goner?”
“That’s right, Ray. I have high standards. He misses making one compliment to me, he’s a goner.”
“I got to agree with the beautiful, tough, and edgy sportscaster. How’d I do?”
“I gots to learn, Spanish,” said Little Carmen.
“How many TV sportscasters look as good as LC and me? Don’t answer. The answer is obvious. Zero, zero, zero,” La Flor said, making a zero with the thumb and forefinger of each hand, then looking at Little Carmen until he made the third zero.
“How is this going to happen? How will you be discovered?” I said.
“We will be discovered. TT is filming our demo. He’s going to send it to all his contacts. Dr. Phil for one. Dr. Oz for two. And, he knows Bobby Filet. He quit Dr. Phil to work exclusively with us.”
“I think it’s Bobby Flay.”
“No, it’s Filet,” she said.
“I turned to TT, “You did?”
“Uh huh. La Flor promised to set me up with one of her hot girlfriends. She only has hot girlfriends.”
“Let it go, Ray. TT you ready to record our demo?” said La Flor.
“Yes, beautiful, tough, and edgy sportscaster,” said the soprano voiced TT.
“TT not to worry about the voice, it returns to normal in a day or three,” said Little Carmen.
“Thanks, LC. Ready, three, two, one, action,” squeaked TT.
“Welcome to the world’s hottest and cutest sportscasters,” said La Flor.
“Yah, welcome. Check out how beautiful the beautiful, tough, and edgy sportscaster looks today. Can I say you looks more beautiful than you did ten minutes ago?”
La Flor does a half turn, gives Little Carmen a big smile, “You may.”
“You looks more beautiful than you did ten minutes ago.”
La Flor turns back toward the camera, “Here is breaking sports news.”
“Yes, breaking news,” said Little Carmen.
“I am going to the spa tomorrow and getting a seaweed wrap, facial, and massage.”
“That’s terrific beautiful, tough, and edgy sportscaster. Can I gives some breaking news?”
“We only have time for one quick item, LC. Make it a good one.”
“Okay. Breaking news. Tonight’s special at Carmen’s Pizzeria is a double topping of Uncle Gino’s homemade sausage. Use gets a large for eighteen ninety-five and if use says LC sent use, use gets it for five ninety-five.”
“What do you think, Ray? Awesome, right? We’ll probably be leaving here as soon as the sports networks see the demo.”
“You going to take TT with you?”
“Please take me,” squeaked TT.
An irony of life is that often it is in our brokenness where we discover life’s goodness. It is as if our suffering becomes a teacher of life’s great lessons. In the following YouTube video, a soldier suffering from PTSD and a service dog come together to tell a beautiful story.
Twenty-four hours later, the max for La Flor’s attention span. I can forget about her wanting to use the blog for whistleblowing. Besides, who’s she going to blow the whistle on, Dr. Phil’s alt ego? Her mystery writer friend? Big Carmen? I decided to write a reflection on the meaning of life. . . .
“Ray, Ray, Ray! You promised I could be the whistleblower today. You promised. You promised. You know what happens to people when they break their promises to me?”
“I won’t let you forget it, ever. I mean longer than ever. I mean I will remind you when you wake up. I will remind you every five minutes. I will remind you when you go to bed. I will keep saying it over and over while you sleep.”
“Won’t you get tired of reminding me?” I asked.
The beautiful, tough, and edgy whistleblower knows how to get her way. I said, “It’s all yours, La Flor. Try not to make it too long. WordPress has a thing against long whistleblowing blogs.” Okay, I admit I wasn’t telling the truth about WordPress. Don’t tell her, por favor. I’m only trying to help you.
La Flor sat in front of the laptop. She said, “I’m all over this like perfect eyebrows on me. Like perfect pouty lips on me. Like the way I fit into the edgiest of clothes.”
“I get the point,” I said. I began to silently pray.
“Will I bother you if I speak aloud while I’m writing? It helps my creative spirit.”
“What you’re writing is all true? You’re not creating anything, are you?” I asked. A bit timidity in my voice.
“Every word. Make sure all the doors and windows are locked. Turn your smartphone off. I want no interruptions, especially from you know who.”
“Your mystery writer friend? Dr. Phil’s alt ego?”
“No. No. No. LC.”
La Flor turned her attention to the blog. She began writing her whistleblower piece, “Your so vain, LC. You probably think this post is about you. Don’t you. Don’t You. Well, I hear you went to Vegas. You played craps and naturally, won. Then you flew up to Chicago to see how deep dish pizza is done. Then, you strolled into my party like you’re walking on air. You had one eye on your smartphone, the other on the girls wanting to be your partner. Your so vain, LC. You probably think this post is about you. Don’t you. Don’t you.”
“Stop. Stop. You’re plagiarizing,” I shouted.
La Flor turned to me, “No, I’m not. I got permission from Carly Simon’s alt ego after I told her all about LC flirting with two of my competitors. I’m blowing the whistle on that two timing, sweet talking, hunk of muscle, and all man.”
“It sounds like you’re talking your way back to him,” I said.
“Only after he crawls back to me on all fours and begs me to take him back,” said La Flor.
“Then you’ll take him back?” I asked.
“No, I just want him to crawl back. Besides, I’ve got another guy.”
“You do? Who is he? Where did you meet him?” I asked.
“I don’t have trouble getting guys. They’re always hitting on me. It’s a curse I have to live with since I’m beautiful, tough, and edgy.”
“Somebody has to do it,” I said.
“I decided to go with brains over looks and muscle.”
“You’re using him, right?” I said.
“How did you know?” asked La Flor.
“Just a feeling. Do you think it’s fair?” I asked.
“Yes. Next question,” said La Flor getting ready to hit the publish button.
“Do you think Little Carmen will be jealous?”
“That’s the point, Ray. What planet do you live on?”
“Will Little Carmen confront your new faux boyfriend?” I said, think La Flor’s game might be dangerous for the unwitting guy who fell for her.
“All I can do is hope.”
“Survival of the fittest, Ray.”
“Is it Dr. Phil’s script writer? The skinny, geeky looking guy who’s very shy?”
“Perfect choice, don’t you think? You forgot to mention, receding hairline, and has the shape of a pencil.”
“A lamb being led to the slaughter,” I said.
“I like to think of it as the most meaningful thing he’ll ever do in his life.”
“La Flor don’t hit the publish button.”
I’ve always liked sports. I enjoyed the competition, comradery, and the discipline participation taught me. The athletes who participate in sporting events often offer great metaphors for us. In the following YouTube video, the athlete could have easily quit, no one would have noticed except her teammates. She could have given less than full effort. Instead, her 110% effort becomes our metaphor to never quit, no matter how dire the circumstances. The only time failure is certain is when we quit. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Give it all you’ve got.
I’m putting the finishing touches on my blog. I’m quite taken with my brilliance. My ability to twist facts into fiction. My complete understanding of human nature and its nuances, until . . .
“Ray! Ray! Ray!” The voice. The blaring, unceasing tonal demand. The refusal to take no for an answer. To cop a phrase, “She’s more beautiful than a runway model. She’s tougher than a tank of barracudas. She’s edgy enough to pull off any look. It’s La Flor.
“What’s up?” La Flor. I said softly and calmly. I watched a PBS special where I learned speaking softly and calmly works wonders on others.
“Whatever you’re doing, stop. Stop! Stop!” she shouted. So much for soft and quiet.
“Do you mean what am I doing now? Or, do you mean what was I doing?” I’m learning with La Flor. I want to get this right. If I don’t, we’ll carry on for four or five paragraphs.
“Tell me it’s not too late. See, I used too correctly. Please, tell me I’m not too late,” La Flor is pleading with me.
“Too late for what? Dinner? Coffee? Desert? Your favorite reality show? Give me a little help,” I said.
“If only LC were here. He would have reached you on time. I can’t run as fast as LC when I’m wearing stilettos.”
I looked at her feet, “Nice stilettos, how much they set you back?”
“Nothing, I used your card.”
“How much did it set me back?” I asked.
“Not as much as my earrings. Like them,” she said placing her palms behind her ears and pushing the lobs a bit forward.
“Tell me they’re zirconium.”
“Seriously, do you think La Flor is going to wear zirconium?”
Opps, back to speaking in the third person. What am I going to do? Get upset over it. Not a chance. I’ll report the card stolen, I thought.
“And, don’t you dare report the card stolen or lost,” she said.
What is she a mind reader?
“I’m listening to mind reading podcasts, and it seems to be working.”
I needed to change the topic, “Is this an emergency?” I asked.
“Of the first, second, and third order. Maybe the fourth, fifth and sixth orders. Maybe a takeout order,” she said.
Remember, I’m a sensitive guy. At least in my own mind. “Sit down La Flor. I’ll get you a glass of water.”
“Something stronger, por favor.”
“What I would give for a sensitive male,” she hollered.
“That’s me,” I said.
“Get real,” La Flor answered.
What choice did I have? I brought La Flor a glass of white wine and handed it to her. She took a sip. “Where did you buy this? What did you pay, a dollar seventy-five?”
“Hold on. It was on sale for three ninety-eight.”
She set the wine glass down, reached into her expensive leather, made in Italy, handbag, pulled out a tin of breath mints and took at least a half dozen out and chewed them as if she hadn’t tasted food for six weeks. “I’ll never lose the taste. If you ruined my wine tasting buds, I’ll, I’ll ….”
I finished her sentence, “Tell Ray about the emergency.”
Fortunately, La Flor’s attention span is a tad better than mine, that’s not saying much. She said, “Did you publish the blog?”
“As soon as we’re done I’m going to publish it.”
“I’m in time. Hold it. Keep it in draft. Save it for a slow day. Give it away.”
“I’m turning whistleblower,” she said.
“Whistleblower?” I am happy Little Carmen has to deliver pizzas today. I can only imagine what he would have done with the word whistleblower.
“I’m going to tear down walls. I going to bring the big shots down. I’m going to be famous. Maybe I’ll win a Pulitzer Piñata.”
I knew it was too good to last. The doorbell rang.
“Get it, Ray. It’ll be LC. I asked him to bring me an iced skinny latte while on his pizza deliveries.”
I didn’t have to answer the door. “Hey use guys, I gots your skinny, ninny, latte beautiful, tough, and edgy make me drool all over myself. BT, I can never remember the last letter. Anyways, I made this pie all by myself except for the dough, sauce, cheese, and toppings. Oh, I think it was S.”
“S? No, it’s W,” I said.
“What’s W?” a confused Little Carmen said.
“A letter. BTW, we didn’t order a pizza,” I said.
“It’s okay. It’s already paid for. The guy paid by credit card. I think use got it wrong, Ray-Mo. It’s BTS.”
“He won’t get his pizza,” I said.
“Not if he wants this one,” Little Carmen laughed.
La Flor stared at Little Carmen with a cross between a sense of awe and awful. I couldn’t quite make it out. She said, “Come over here and keep me company LC. Don’t talk while I’m talking. Did you know Ray gave me cheap wine?”
Little Carmen had a look of horror on his face, “Ray-mo. Cheap wine. You gotta nerve.”
La Flor put her forefinger to Little Carmen’s lips, “That’s enough, have a piece of pie and play with your smartphone. Ray, where was I?”
I wanted to say ‘the fourth level of insanity but didn’t. “So,” I said, “You are going to be a whistleblower.”
“Is that like those guys with the striped shirts at the football games?” said Little Carmen.
“Sorry, beautiful, tough, and edgy whistleblower.”
Come back tomorrow for the whistleblower’s story.
How many times have you felt like giving up? The dream, which once grabbed hold of your heart, lost its pull on you and faded away like the morning dew. Hold on to the dream. Hold it tight with both hands. Hold it so tight that even the jaws of life couldn’t pry it loose from you. The following YouTube video illustrates how never quitting, never giving up, and giving it our best every second turns a seeming defeat into triumph.
I woke up at two in the morning and wondered if it was to in the morning, or too in the morning, or two in the morning. La Flor and Little Carmen are sucking me into the vortex of misused and abused uses of two, too, and to. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I tried counting to hundred, but couldn’t get past to, or is it too, or two. At four twenty to or too or two, I decided La Flor and Little Carmen were going to attend my class to learn about two, too, and to.
The three of us sat in the living room. I thought a comfortable atmosphere might help them learn. La Flor and Little Carmen sat on the sofa. I sat on a chair off to La Flor’s right, but where we could all see each other.
“No holding hands. It won’t take long if you tw …” I caught myself and said, “both pay attention.”
Little Carmen took his hand away from La Flor and put his arm around her shoulders. She snuggled closer to him and rested her head against his shoulder.
I felt exasperated. I said, “You two separate. Little Carmen, you move to that end, and La Flor you move to the other end.”
“Ray?” asked La Flor.
“I don’t want too correct the teacher, but you should have said, ‘You to.” And, you should have said move two the other end. Maybe I should teach this class.”
“That’s just it, La Flor you have it wrong. You’ve got your two, to, and too’s mixed up.”
Little Carmen was taking selfies and didn’t hear a word I said to La Flor. La Flor followed my eyes to Little Carmen. She said, “I want too do that to.” She reached in her handbag and pulled out her smartphone.
Little Carmen looked at her, “Text me a selfie and I’ll text use a selfie. Ray-mo, use wants too borrows my smarty phone after I text a selfie two the beautiful, tough, and edgy woman?”
Am I experiencing the life of a classroom teacher? I make a silent promise to support higher teacher salaries and an automatic entry into heaven at journey’s end.
“Break time,” I said. “I’ll get the coffee, bagels, and cream cheese.”
“Don’t forget the fruit and my Greek yogurt,” said La Flor.
“I want my Danish and donuts,” said Little Carmen.
“What about the bagels and cream cheese?” I asked.
“Is this a trick question?” asked La Flor, now laying on the sofa with her head on Little Carmen’s lap. She was scrolling through her selfies. There are thousands of them. She only has photos of herself. She deleted Little Carmen’s selfie as soon as it arrived.
“Break’s over,” I said.
“When are we gonna have recess?” said Little Carmen.
A good idea to teach about two, too, and to? No, it was not a good idea. Maybe flash cards would help. Big Bird singing a ditty about two, too, and to. A prize to anyone who passed the final exam. I should have thought of incentives.
La Flor, whose head was still on Little Carmen’s lap, lifted her eyes from her smartphone to look at Little Carmen. This is something she’d never done before. She stared into two large nostrils reminding her of a tunnel that goes through the Rocky Mountains, a two-day grunge beard, eyebrows marching toward the midway point to connect. She sat up as if she woke from a nightmare.
“Ray, send LC to the office. He’s disrupting class,” she said.
“What office?” I said.
“Use wants me to sits in use office, Ray-mo until we can talk? You’re not gonna call Big Carmen and tell on me, right?” asked Little Carmen.
“No, I’m not getting parents involved,” I said. Maybe I should under the sofa for my mind. I’m sure I lost it.
I knew La Flor needed to talk. Remember, I’m the sensitive male in this blog. Granted, my only competition is Little Carmen. I said, “Little Carmen, it is time for recess. There’s a pool hall five blocks over.”
“Geez, Ray-mo, this is better than real school. I gets to leave campus and play pool.”
After Little Carmen left, I asked La Flor, “What’s up?”
“Okay, first things first. Two is the number two. Too is used for also, very, or more than. To is a prepositional phrase and it can used as part of an infinitive. Did I pass?”
“Yes. But why did you use them incorrectly?” I asked.
“I thought I was in love with LC. I fell out of love with him again.”
“When I looked up his nose. Did you realize how big it is? Then I saw his eyebrows. I wanted you to spray them with whatever you use to get rid of bugs, you know, PAM. I thought his eyebrows were caterpillars. When he said he wanted recess, Ray, I couldn’t take anymore.”
“It’s okay if your alt ego girlfriends get their hands on him?” I asked.
“I didn’t think of that. You confused me.”
“LC won’t survive. He’s vulnerable. He’s naïve. He’s too much for any of them. He’s all mine. All, I tell you. And, I’m not sharing any of him with any of them.”
“Are you back in love?” I asked.
“No. I’ll bring up a nose job at the right time. Talk about some laser work on the brows.”
“Why are you going to stay with him?” I asked.
“You pushed my helper button.”
“It was so big, I couldn’t miss it.”
“I really am a good person, Ray.”
“Mother Teresa could have used you.”
A grateful attitude is a pathway to happiness, joy, and love. When I view life through my heart’s lens, I see all life as a gift I have no time for sorrow, no time for envy, no time to crawl inside a personal prison. I jump for joy, for each moment is Christmas – it is all gift. Please enjoy this powerful YouTube video about gratitude.
“Our planning sessions are a step in the right direction, Ray. We need to do more of these. Like every day. I want fewer of your ideas in the blog, like none. And more of my ideas in the blog, like all,” said La Flor.
“What planning session? We only went out for coffee,” I said.
La Flor looks over at Little Carmen, “Isn’t he cute. Look at him dipping a biscotti into his coffee and watching the excess coffee drip off with the amazed look of a two-year-old child. He can do that for hours.”
“Hours?” I said. Then I attempted to redirect the conversation, “I thought the blog was about you,” I said then taking a sip of my cappuccino.
“Not the real me. Between you and me, there’s to much of him in it (the to instead of too deal again),” La Flor pointing her spoon at Little Carmen. Little Carmen came out of his trance. He followed the tip of the spoon apparently thought it went through him to whoever might be behind him. He turned around and stared an eighty something year old with a beautiful twentyish woman.
He turned back to La Flor, pointed his right thumb into his chest, and said, “The guy with the cute chick, but not as cute as use, giving use the willies, beautiful, tough, and edgy?”
La Flor took a sip of her chai latte then stared at Little Carmen thinking he was pointing to himself. “That is so introspective of you, LC. Would you please tell him to stay out of my conversation with Ray because it’s going to be all about me.”
“Where did you get the word introspection?”
“Either, Ellen, Oprah, or The View. It could have been on Oxygen or Lifetime. Maybe Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz. I’m not sure.” I rarely pay attention to those two when they are attempting the art of communication. Instead, I was sipping my cappuccino and thinking how nice it might be to come to this coffee shop with someone with whom I could have a nice conversation.
“Do you watch TV all day?”
“No, I tell LC to watch my shows and give me a summary. I’m two busy talking too my girlfriends (There’s that to, too, and two thing again – I’m going to have to teach them the difference. It’s driving me nuts). La Flor turned to me and said, “I’ve got this great idea and I want to tell you all about it. I’m going to make the blog a gossip column.”
She continued, “I’ve got this great idea. I’m going to make the blog an alt ego gossip column.”
“Alt ego gossip column? I don’t like gossip,” I said.
“Yah, right, Ray. I watch you reading the headlines on People, Inquirer, and all the other gossip mags at the store,” said La Flor.
“Those are legitimate news sources,” I said defensively. Then I added, “I don’t pick them up off the rack, I only read the headlines and look at the pictures on the cover.”
A slight commotion to my left, or La Flor’s right. We synchronically turned toward where Little Carmen sat, except he wasn’t sitting there. He was standing at the table behind us. He was talking to the beautiful, by any standards, alt ego woman who sat with the old guy, “Listen, babe, dis guy’s old enough to be use grandfather, grandfather. Use can do better.”
She looked at him, “You, for instance?”
“To be perfectly franklin about it, I wood (yes, he confuses wood and would) say yes, but I am taken with the beautiful, tough, and edgy one behind me.”
The old guy was fiddling with his hearing aid. He looked at the woman with him and said, “Tell him the bathroom is over there?” The old timer pointed toward the rear of the coffee shop. “They’re out of toilet paper. It’ll be better if he holds it.”
Little Carmen looked at the old guy, “I don’t has to go number to.”
The old guy yanked the hearing aid out of his ear, then wiped the excess ear wax off on his napkin. “I think I found the problem,” he said.
He looked at Little Carmen, “Can you help me put it back in my ear?”
“Do I looks like a proctologist?” Then he turned back to the woman, “Since use are now heartbroken since I am taken, I will talk two your boyfriends.”
“I do not have two boyfriends (she heard it the way he said it). He’s not my boyfriend, he’s my grandfather,” she said.
La Flor jumped in, “Don’t get any ideas about LC, sister.”
“La Flor!” I said.
“If you want to take it out on the street …” before La Flor continued, I jumped in. “Your tab is on me. I apologize for my guests.”
The old guy accidentally dropped his hearing aid in his coffee and was now trying to fish it out with a spoon.
Little Carmen was watching the action the way a third grader pays attention to a Sunday sermon. He really needs to sharpen his listening skills. He wasn’t sure if he should talk to the woman or to the old guy. He pulled out a quarter and flipped it. He said, “It’s heads.”
La Flor, the old guy, the woman, and I looked at him. Little Carmen didn’t quite know how to handle the attention, he said, “The other side is tails, but not a real tale, I’m not sure what tale or tail I should use here if use don’t mind my depression from the main topic which is I don’t wants use to take sneak peaks on my girl’s blog.”
“Whose girl are you talking about?” said La Flor.
“You go girl,” said the woman with the old guy.
“Thank you, sister,” said La Flor.
Little Carmen said, “Use, my darling.”
La Flor said, “Repeat everything I say.”
“Repeat everything I say,” replied Little Carmen.
“No, you repeat everything I say,” said La Flor a bit of an edge to her voice.
“Do I have to put the edgy on the voice like use, beautiful, tough, and edgy?”
“I am not your darling,” said La Flor.
“I am not your darling,” said Little Carmen. Then he added, “Who is your darling if I am not your darling?” Little Carmen’s eyes looked like a large dog’s sad brown eyes.
“Me,” said La Flor.
“Me?” asked Little Carmen.
“No, not you, me,” said La Flor.
“No, not you, me,” said Little Carmen believing he was still under the repeat everything I say edict.
This could go on for three pages if I didn’t intervene. I called to the waiter, “Can you bring three more biscotti’s, and three fresh coffees?
They both looked at me, “Use gonna share?” asked Little Carmen.
“I prefer a croissant with some butter and real blackberry jelly,” said La Flor.
“As I was saying, Ray. It’s all about me.”
“It is, La Flor. It is,” I agreed.