A polished beetle shell

I saw my first Palo Verde beetle for the year.

These are large, glossy black, spiky looking insects, about three inches long not including their formidable antennae. They are gentle creatures, though, despite their looks, and rarely eat anything besides a bit of fruit nectar during their roughly month-long adult lives.

When Palo Verde Beetles hatch, they start out as large, six inch or longer larvae that live and burrow inside tree roots. Once they pupate, they emerge from their root burrows and bumble around looking for a partner, laying their eggs just before monsoon season, to start the whole cycle again.

My sighting occurred outside the laundromat. It was about midnight, and I saw a shiny black beetle trundling along the gritty pavement, occasionally trying to fly. She wasn’t hard to miss, being about the length of my thumb. Every time she took off the breeze would knock her down again, usually into a solid object like a window. Undeterred, she kept going. By the time I came out with my laundry, I saw she’d made it quite a ways – farther than I’d expected. I paused a moment, watching her run her beetle errands, wishing I could communicate with her so I could give her a free lift.

Making that wish gave me a thought. What if there were other beings observing me that were as much more advanced from me as I am from this beetle? What if they understood something of my life, as I do with this beetle, but couldn’t communicate? What if they in fact wished to help me out but there was no common ground between us? It made me think about myself, the value of persistence, and what purpose meant to me. It was a lot to get from watching a beetle.

Palo verde beetles may look scary but there’s a lot to learn by watching these silly, bumbling creatures. It’s amazing that they’ve been around for this many millions of years.

I guess they’re doing something right!






via Daily Prompt: Polish


What would you be before your distant end?

One of my favorite bloggers just posed an interesting question.  Rather than listing five things you would like to do before you die, what are five things you would like to be before you die?

Here’s the post, if you’re curious:


I thought this sounded like an excellent writing prompt.  Thinking of things to do can be useful and great, however actions and tasks usually have an ending and being something doesn’t have to.  I’ve been thinking a lot about who I really am lately, and I’ve been disappointed with the results.  So who would I like to be?  Setting my course toward that so that I can become a better version of me is something I’m working on.


5 things I’d like to be before I die

To be known as a writer and make a good portion of my income from it

To be a far better artist than I am, as good as some of my favorite artists

To be someone who lives mindfully and thinks before every action

To be someone who contains both compassion and strength

To be fit in both mind and body – meditating and exercising daily



There are my five.  Do you have any you’d like to share?



via Daily Prompt: Distant


Not yet the day for detonations

We aren’t quite to the point where everyone sets off fireworks for the US Independence Day, but today is still a day where we honor the men and women who fight for us.

Today is Memorial Day in the US.  For many people, that means the first day of summer, a day for camping and barbecues.  It’s also a day for giving respect to the armed forces.

Most think only of the dead, as they fly flags, lay wreaths and put flowers on the graves of our fallen soldiers.  However, there is another aspect to this day.  Traditionally, the time from dawn until noon is devoted to honoring the living men and women of the armed forces, and only the time between noon and sunset is devoted to those who have passed from this life.

In that tradition, I want to highlight one very special part of the US armed forces – the Marine Corps.

I am not a member of the military, but every Marine I have ever met, even the ones I didn’t like, has been a special person with unique and valuable qualities.

To do their jobs well, Marines must be brave and steadfast. They are taught to think on their feet. They are also taught to never give up and that attitude carries through all aspects of life. They have a drive to make sure things are done right. They value their friends. They are loyal. They make great friends. A Marine is always a Marine, even after they retire.

My uncle is a Marine. He still keeps fit and trim even though he’s in his sixties. I never got along with him but I can appreciate his tidy house, his physical fitness, his success in life, and his sense of mission.

A good friend of mine is also a Marine. She entered in the seventies, and even though she was a female Marine she learned the same Core Values that other Marines learn. She’s brave, loyal, trustworthy, intelligent and dedicated.

My wife is an honorary Marine by virtue of training, and she learned much from her grandfather, who was a Marine. She’s taught me a lot about what it means to be a good person. I value her insights about life.

Today, I want to raise a toast to Marines everywhere. The Corps is the US’s oldest armed force. All volunteers, they’ve protected this country since the beginning. The few, the proud, the Marines!



Infusing sense into grocery store management

Has anyone else noticed how hard it is to find some things in grocery stores that were once common?

Today was the Great Battle of the Mushrooms and Pearl Onions.

My mission: to make pickled eggs with pearl onions and mushrooms.

I needed pearl onions and loose mushrooms.

My grocery store, which is otherwise pretty good, absolutely didn’t have pearl onions.  I recall when they were easy to find, nestled in their little net bags.  Also, there were no loose mushrooms.  Instead, all they had were those prepackaged cardboard trays, covered with plastic wrap that holds condensation!

Does anyone else remember when the mushrooms were all loose and they had little paper bags to put them in, because everyone knows a damp mushroom is a sad, soggy mushroom?

I searched across three grocery chains and didn’t find better.  I had to buy “knob onions” at three times the price and some of those odious little cardboard trays.

The spouse was mad, I was mad.  Nobody listened when I complained.

More and more, grocery stores (and other stores too) choose what they want me to have, in what quantities they want me to have it in, all in plastic packaging.  If I want to get away from that, I have to go to the incredibly expensive high end stores, even though bulk food should cost far less because there’s less packaging and less waste.

The real problem I have is not so much the food, but the fact that I can’t get anything to change no matter how many managers I talk to.  Even as I submit my feedback forms and am thanked for my opinion, nothing changes.  I make calls till I’m blue in the face and still nothing changes.  What’s a dissatisfied shopper to do?

I shouldn’t be surprised.  After all, customer service is a barrier between you and the people who make decisions.

The real key here is to get to the decision makers.

I realized there is a potential solution here.  I am going to take it higher, and if you share my frustration, you can too.  Enter the old fashioned letter!  I’ll be searching for corporate hierarchy, finding names and addresses to people who really do make decisions.  I send letters by registered mail, so that they actually get into the hands of the people I’m sending them to, instead of getting lost in the mailroom.

Little by little, that gets results.

I found that if I can get past the ramparts of customer service, past the corporate donjon, and into the actual throne room, then my letter lands in the hands of the actual rulers of the corporate kingdom – and my lonely letter heads arrow straight to the place where all the calls, forms and emails couldn’t reach.

The more we all do this, the more we will make ourselves heard.  The actual views of the customer will be infused into the corporate system and be heeded, perhaps someday even more than any number of useless focus groups.


via Daily Prompt: Infuse


Unmoor from emotion, find mental peace


So many times we yearn for peace. We want a true serenity that makes our problems seem far away. This is possible – though meditation, it can be possible. Walks in nature, a good back rub, time with kids or pets, a good book that takes you away. All these things can help.

It is quite possible to live much of your life in a calm and harmonious way. Eastern traditions often teach this. The key is mindfulness. To be mindful, observe your emotions. Watch how they work. Think about why they are. This practice, in itself, will help you to be at peace.

If a person lets their emotions run them, their life can be highly turbulent. It can be difficult to relax or get going, relationships suffer, projects only are worked on when the person is “in the mood.” It’s also much easier to be angry or offended and it’s far too easy to feel threatened and lash out verbally or even physically.

Emotions shouldn’t rule things. They are a fickle master. If a person observes them and notices what causes them, emotions can be beneficial. After a time, emotions add spice to life but don’t make up the whole dish. Who would eat a meal that was all spices? Better to have a good solid base with spices as an accent.  Put another way, being ruled by emotion is like being tossed on a stormy sea when you have no oars.

An analytical mind may sound cold and unfeeling. It isn’t. An analytical mind merely decides what the person is going to do, using emotions as information but not letting them run the show. The best place to start is, as mentioned before to be mindful and observe how things work. This is a great way to face fears, ease emotional difficulties, banish anxieties. If attention wanders, refocus. “Failure” is okay. Giving up isn’t.

One of the best parts of living mindfully and thinking about everything is not only will you feel more peaceful, you will learn faster. Your life will run more smoothly. People’s opinions won’t sting as much. Fears won’t loom as large. You will know peace that is based on fact not fantasy. Your brain is your greatest tool, the more you use it the better.

Being guided by your mind and not your emotions is like getting two oars and a motor in your boat tossed on a stormy sea.  Suddenly, you can move about and get to calmer waters!




via Daily Prompt: Unmoored


Temporary Profit – an open letter to department stores

Many of you are rightfully concerned by online competition. Retailers such as Amazon have taken a lot of your market share. So I have a suggestion to increase your profitability in a way that will endure.

Instead of doing more of what you already do, or engaging in progressively more intrusive and annoying advertising, how about capitalizing on your strengths? The strength of a local store is responsiveness. Workers at a store can answer questions, find things for customers, and set up orders for things not in stock. Knowledgeable, personable employees are the difference between a successful business and a faceless set of walls and aisles.

Central planning is the bane of many shoppers’ existence. How many shoppers have gone into a store to buy something and discovered that it wasn’t available in the style they liked because Corporate didn’t carry it? Usually, that just sends shoppers online because comment cards and suggestion boxes do nothing to put the goods they want in the store.

As a business, why not put the human touch back into the department store and be truly responsive to customers? Then they will have a reason not to send all their money to online retailers.  Engage your workers, encourage them to become experts about what they sell, and encourage them to order what customers actually ask for.   The result may be a slightly lower, but more enduring profit, and more importantly, customer loyalty.

Customer loyalty can be all too temporary when they aren’t getting what they need.  Move with the times and with customer demand, and your future will be secure.


via Daily Prompt: Temporary