Courage Comes In All Sizes

We humans are an amazing species! When we refuse to quit; when we don’t return the RSVP to the pity party; when we dig down deep grabbing hold of handful of determination, courage, and desire. nothing will stop us. Are you stuck? Running in place? Feeling sorry for yourself because things are not going your way? A young woman, Jessica, without any arms, learned to fly a plane and lives a full, meaning-filled life. Go Jessica, you are a wonderful example for us.


He Didn’t Fall Far From The Olive Tree

I’m beginning to think I need to call my home Carmen’s East. Big Carmen and some associate, mostly Lil Carlo show up on a daily basis. He walks in without knocking. It doesn’t matter if the doors locked, the alarm triggered, or I have a welcoming mat for him.

I’m vacuuming when I hear, “Use don’t have to do dat.”

“Who’s going to do it?” I asked.

“My manager, TT. He can use the extra work. Hey, what a friends for?”

I said, “Is that a question you want me to answer or a statement?”

Big Carmen scratched his head, “It’s what I call don’t forget the favors I does for use or else. The reason I’m hear now is I’m keeping my bad eye on my kid, and my good eye on the beautiful, tough, and edgy one. Know what I mean?”

Fool number one says, “No.” Fool number two, “Do you think that’s appropriate.” Before I answer I see Lil Carlo rubbing his hand gun against his cheek. His nose is almost as long as the gun’s barrel. I say, “Know what you mean.”

“Besides, I wants to hear her read the scriptomatic.”

Where does he come up with these words? Who understands him? I said, “You fellows want a beer? Wine? Kale chips? Carrot sticks? Protein Bar? Figs? Raw Almonds?’

Big Carmen interrupts, “Don’t use have no real food like my today’s special, tomato and basil vegetarian pizza with double sausage. Get a large one for three ninety-nine. Have us pick the sausage off, twenty-two seventy-one.”

“No. I didn’t realize it was today’s special,” I said.

“I’m gonna call Rocko. He’ll give us one of the pizza’s he’s delivering.”

“Do you think that’s fair to person waiting for the pizza?” I asked.

“Yah. If they’s gots a complaint, I send them to the complaint department.”

“You have a complaint department?” I asked.

“It’s me,” said Lil Carlo sliding a bullet into the chamber.

A voice from behind the bedroom door, “I’m ready. Are you boys ready? I’m only wearing jeans and a shirt. LC cut class yesterday, he didn’t want to miss two days in a row even though Chef Vigeli said he was tops in his class.

I wanted to shout, ‘He’s being tutored one on one, of course he’s tops and the bottom as well.’  Not worth it.

“Okay beautiful, tough, and edgy, We are disappointed we won’t get the full eye candy treatment but we understands,” said Big Carmen.

La Flor struts out in her poured into jeans, a white button shirt tied just above her navel, and her spikes. I thought both men were going to reach for angina tabs.

She walks to front of the TV, unbuttons the two top buttons of her shirt.

“This is a good start. People gonna love you. I don’t thinks use need LC.”

“I was thinking the same thing, you adorable creature.”

Big Carmen nudges Lil Carlo, “She got a way with the words.”

La Flor reads her script, “You girls want to look as good as me? Sorry, I won’t lie. It’s impossible. But, you can look lot better than you look now if you take the Post Puberty Pill, that’s PPP.  I made the tramp, my former protege, take this pill for a week, and you should see the difference. Firmer in the right places, all the cellulite gone in the wrong places, and her cell is busy with losers calling her for a date. What are you waiting for? You’ve been tied up with your loser for how long? The answer, long enough. Ask your doctor about a prescription. Don’t worry about the side effects. We have a cream for facial hair. An ointment for outrageously big pimples, and you won’t need birth control, you’ll be sterile after two doses.

“How did I do with the rewrites?” La Flor waiting anxiously for the applause.

Saved by the door crashing into the living room wall. Good thing I have the handyman on retainer.

“Did I miss it beautiful, tough, and edgy woman?” said Little Carmen carrying a pizza box.

Big Carmen forgot about his critique of La Flor’s rewrites, jumped up and went to embrace Little Carmen.

“Use did not fall far from the olive tree. Use making pizza at Vigeli’s? I’m so proud of use.”

“Nah. I grabbed it from Rocko. He was about to come in.”

“How did cooking class go today,” asked Big Carmen.

“Bass Clef Vigeli wants a parent conference.”

You Can’t Handle Da Tooth

Big Carmen and Lil Carlo sit on the sofa in my living room. Big Carmen has a bottle of beer in his right hand and slice of pepperoni pizza in his left. Lil Carlo’s has his gun resting on the coffee table. He has a blue plastic cup of house (not my house, Carmen’s) red wine in his left hand, and a slice of the pepperoni pizza in his right.

“When’s the beautiful, tough, and edgy one gonna read her scripto?” ask Big Carmen. Before I answered, he added, “How come use is not eating a slice of my pie?”

When am I going to learn. Think first, speak second. Not today. I said, “Pepperoni is not good for you. It has nitrates. It has fats. It has other stuff, which will mess with your veins.”

“You tink so? I don’t. It’s the foundation for any good pizza. The secret is in the grease drippings. Sees, it’s the grease drippings that acts like Roto Rooter and cleans use colon. They sticks to the bad stuff. Let me asks use, how clean is use colon?”

Did Big Carmen move into the colon cleansing business? I don’t want to go there. Do you know anyone who checks the cleanliness of their colon? I hate my annual physical, know what I mean? I haven’t met a single person who wants to talk about how the cleanliness of their colon. Big Carmen and Lil Carlo are staring at me. Lil Carlo places his blue plastic cup next to his gun. His right hand rests on the gun with the kind of affection a mother gives to a baby. I wondered if it was possible to nurse a gun.


The door to La Flor’s bedroom swings open, bangs against the wall. I’ll have to call the handyman to fix the dent in the wall where the door nob hit.

“Every body and I means all the bodies within my speaking vocals, the beautiful, tough, and edgy famous model will makes her day beaut entrance with me of course.”

La Flor, wearing what I’d call – no, I’m not going to call it anything. I’m not going to try to describe it. She’s being carried out by a bare chested black bear who is barefooted and wearing, I am grateful, a men’s bathing suit. La Flor’s left arm is draped around Little Carmen’s neck, her right hand carrying her script. The paper offers as much cover as the cloth. Little Carmen cradles his precious cargo.

Big Carmen and Lil Carlo stand and start applauding. Applauding? What are they applauding? Big Carmen gives me a look, I stand and applaud. The queen, AKA La Flor blows Big Carmen a kiss. I thought he was going to collapse back onto the sofa.

The audience takes their seats on the sofa. Little Carmen carries La Flor to the TV and stops and pivots so they face the three of us.

“How do you like it so far?” said La Flor.

“Use knocked all my socks off and I wears about four pair,” said Big Carmen.

“Use knocked all my boxers off and I wears six pair,” said Lil Carlo.

Lil Carlo wears boxers? I didn’t know they sold boxers in the kid’s clothing section. I keep quiet.

“What about you, Ray.” La Flor won’t let me keep quiet. Four sets of eyes stare at me.

“Uh, ah, um. I’m speechless. You knocked all my words out of me,” again I am pleased with my brilliant mind. My ability to turn tragedy in triumph.

“You can’t handle my sexuality. Can you, Ray?” said La Flor.

“Yes, I can,” I countered weakly.

“You can’t handle da tooth,” said Little Carmen. “Did I get it right, beautiful, tough, and edgy one?”

“Close enough.”

La Flor said, “I’m tired. My perfect entrance took it all out of me. Can I read the script tomorrow you handsome man?”

“Any ting for use. Use beautiful, tough, and edgy one,” said Big Carmen.

“Can I come wit use?” Asked Lil Carlo to Big Carmen.

“Sure ting.”

Grateful, Always Grateful

Every person I’ve met who exudes peace, compassion, and a sense of emotional wellness that often escapes me have at their core a sense of gratefulness. They are my teachers. They the are poor and well to do. They’ve never experienced worldly success and they’ve been on top. They’re black, white, brown, and yellow. They’re men and women. Young and old. They represent all religions and ethnicities. They’re grateful for sun and blue sky. They’re grateful for a glass of water. They’re grateful for you and me. I want to be like them. Gratefulness is a way of life. Enjoy Rita Ora’s Oscar performance her Grateful Song.


My Puffed Male Ego Popped

“Life’s much better for me, Ray, now that LC is in Chef Vigeli’s Culinary School,” said La Flor skimming through hairstyles photos on her iPad. She turned her iPad toward me, “Think this style will look good on me?” she asked.

This is a no win question for any guy. We lose either way. I summed up my guy knowledge and said, “You are beautiful, tough, and edgy. You’d make any hairstyle look good.” I impressed myself. Nice answer, Ray.

“I suppose. But I want the truth,” said La Flor with a knowing look that I was scamming her.

I wanted to say “You can’t handle the truth,” just like Jack Nicholson. Bad move. I let it go. Here’s the truth, I was only singing half a song, “You choose your hairstyle. I will write the blog so that every alt ego woman wants to copy your style. You’ll be the trendsetter.” I  am getting very good at this. I answered La Flor’s comeback with a sure fire win.

La Flor didn’t waste a second before she sent her volley to my backhand side, “I don’t care about them. I want to see LC drool. I want to hear him sigh. I want to see his knees get weak, buckle, and watch him collapse to the floor overcome with my beauty. I’m almost there. One more teeny push and he’s over the edge. As for you, drop the cute answers. Any woman can see right through them.”

“Oh.” La Flor took a knife and stuck it into my puffed male ego and I heard it pop.

Saved by …

“I didn’t knock because I use my burglar tools to get in,” said Big Carmen. “I also disarmed your alarm system. Reminds me to alarm it when I leave.”

I pay fifty bucks a month for an alarm system Big Carmen treats as Lego Blocks, the ads said burglars better beware, Something is wrong with this picture.

“How you doing good looking stud,” said La Flor speaking to Big Carmen. I was hoping she was talking to me.

“I’m doing a lots better now that I sees the beautiful, tough, and edgy woman of Little Carmen’s dreams.”

“Hi, Big Carmen,” I said.

“I didn’t come to talk to you, but since use is polite enough to say hi, hi,” said Big Carmen. He turned back to La Flor, “I gots a once in a lifeline propo for use.”

“I’m worn out from lawyering. My caseload is all booked up,” said La Flor.

“We got’s nobody under arrest. We do have a number of my business associates as persons of interest, but that is another matter.”

“What’s your propo?” said La Flor picking up on Big Carmen’s vocab.

“Charlie Sevini heads up LCM Pharmo. Charlie gots a problem. He likes to gamble, he loses a lot. He owes me lots and lots and so I now own half his company. I told him I wants use to be the company’s star in a nationwide ad for a beauty drug that will air on all the NFL games on opening week. I tooks the liberty to write the script for use. It will be on a teleprompter. Use will be dressed in such attire as to show the world your physical assets if use knows what I means.”

La Flor, playing it cool, took a sip of her coffee, “I’m really, really booked up, BC.”

“Do this as a fav for me and I will makes sure use gets your own dressing room, makeup artist, nail tech, hairstylist, and jewelry even if you’re not wearing it in the shoot. And, use get top dollar.”

“I want LC to be holding me in his arms and admiring my body with a glassy, lost look in his eyes,” said La Flor.

“Use got the hole (yes, he said hole) package.”

“Let me see the script,” said La Flor.

Big Carmen hands it to her. She starts reading it. “Hmmm. Hmmm. Hmmm. I don’t know. That’s got to go.” She looks up at Big Carmen. I’ll do it if I can make a few insignificant changes to the script.”

“Use is my angel, beautiful, tough, and edgy. When does use want to shoots it?”

“Come by tomorrow so we can go over the script. You’ll love the changes I made. I have to check with LC since he’s going to be holding me in the shoot. He should be home any second from Chef school.”

“it’s good to see the boy has a drop of ambition. I tink dats all he’s got.”

The front door slams, “I’m home. Did use know the alarm is off, Ray?”

“Uh huh.”

“Let me tells use all what I learned to today. It’s ground beef breaking. It’s funnel a normal” (I think he meant phenomenal).

“How so,” I said.

“I learned two tings. One, if the toast is hot, the peanut butter melts on it. Not many people know that. Second, did use know jelly goes with peanut butter? Who would have figured. Clef Vigeli is so creativity.”

“Dis is what Leo is teaching use? How to makes peanut butter and jelly toast?” said Big Carmen. “He’s gonna have peanuts when I gets through with him.”

“Hey, it’s a family blog,” I said.

“I apple gees. I forgets,” said Big Carmen.

“I brought home the peanut butter and jelly toast I made so use guys can try it,” said Little Carmen opening up a Tupperware container with three triangles of peanut butter and jelly toast. He offered each one of us a piece.

“Not bad,” I said.

“Very good, how did use do the swirl with the peanut butter. Makes me think we could add a swirl to the mozzarella on the pizza. Did I mention tonight’s special is a large build it any style for seven ninety-two when use add a small salad for six eighty-four?” said Big Carmen.

“I prefer chocolate,” said La Flor. Then she added, “With white wine.”



Life Is Tough – But You’re Tougher!

Years ago, I began reading a book by M. Scott Peck and the first sentence was, “Life is difficult.” I called to Babe (my wife) and hollered, “This guy knows what he’s talking about.” Yes, life is tough. We each have moments. The tough times can knock us down. They can knock the wind out of us. They can leave us for dead. But, you and I are strong. We get up again and again. We don’t quit. The following Vimeo video provides a great pep talk on getting up and not quitting for any reason.

I’m Admiring My Hands

“I haven’t seen your main squeeze all day. Did you guys split?” I asked La Flor.

“No, we didn’t split. But we’re not engaged anymore because you made me give the ring back. It was such a beautiful ring. It was so right on my finger and so wrong of you to take it away. I can only guess you don’t understand love,” said La Flor as she texted.

“Who are you texting?” I asked.

“Are you bored? Don’t you have something to do? I know I’m interesting, beautiful, tough, and edgy but I need some space. I was texting LC, if you must know. He’s at Vigeli’s School of Culinary Artists. Today’s his first day. He should be home any minute,” she said.

“I’m impressed. Vigeli’s school is exclusive. He only takes the most promising chef candidates into his classes. How did Little Carmen get in? He doesn’t seem like chef material.”

“The power of persuasion is the way I’d put it,” said La Flor.

“Little Carmen persuaded Chef Vigeli to take him into his classes?”

“No, LC is not in class. He has a better arrangement. Vigeli was persuaded to tutor LC one on one,” said La Flor now unfollowing every woman with what La Flor considered a bad hairdo.

“One on one tutoring? I don’t believe it. Chef Vigeli is a snob. He’s an elitist. He could never handle Little Carmen one on one.”

“He could if Big Carmen persuaded him,” said La Flor.

“Oh,” I said.

Then, the voice from the living room, “I’m home from school, beautiful, tough, and edgy lawyer, model, PI. Did I get them all?” said Little Carmen.

“Come in and give me a hug and kiss, I’m admiring my hands and don’t want to get up,” said La Flor.

Little Carmen bounded in as if he were a dog and the dog’s master said, “Let’s go for a walk.”

Kiss, hug, and squeeze.

“Now, LC. Sit down and tell Ray and me everything you learned at school today,” said La Flor.

I think I heard my mom ask me that same question, years ago.

“It was very thought prefabricating,” said LC. Did he mean provoking?

“How so,” I said.

“Clef Vigeli talked to me for five minutes then said we was going to do advance breakfast meals.”

“Treble or Bass Clef,” I asked.

“I’m not sure what’s his first name is. Reminds me to ask him tomorrow,” said LC. He got up went to the fridge, pulled out a beer. “I’m tursty, anybody else want something. He only got cheap wine, beautiful, tough, and edgy wine colonoscopy.”

I’m sure he mean connoisseur.

“Hurry up and tell Ray what you learned so we can get out of here. I’m getting the heebie-jeebies.”

Little Carmen took a long pull on his beer, hit his chest, and burped.

La Flor made a face. She started breathing through her mouth and fanning herself with her hands, “What is that smell? It’s awful? If you’re going to kiss me, you better brush and gargle.”

“Use smells my first creation, which I hads to eat. Lets me tell use. I would never make it or puts it on a menu. I figured it’s one of those breakfasts the snobbels eat.”

I also caught a whiff of the burp, started breathing through my mouth. I now have a hunch about Little Carmen’s first cooked meal.

Little Carmen sat up proud as a peacock, “Dis is exciting and complicit (I think he meant complicated). First I had to get a flat plate. There’s lots of them. I couldn’t choose one too big or one too small. It had to be just right (Is this a Goldilocks redo?). Then I had to put a piece of bread in the toaster. It seems simple, but it’s worse. Use can’t put it in sideways or upside down. Then I had to make sure the toast was perfectly brown on both sides. This took me six loaves to master. But I learned it. Then I had to spread peanut butter on the toast and give it a little twist at the end. I went through seven jars of peanut butter before I got it right. Vigeli was crying, he must have been so proud of me. Then I had to eat the peanut butter toast. I hates peanut butter almost as much as I hates toast.”

“What’s he going to teach you tomorrow?” I asked.

“I advance to putting jelly on top of the peanut butter.”

“Let’s get out of here. You and I need to talk.”

“Where to, beautiful, tough, and edgy one?”

“The closest wine shop,” said La Flor.