statistically, in today’s world, each of us shares the same birthday with about 20 million other people that’s a lot of birthday candles imagine that everyone in your city has the same birthday as you imagine that 20 million birthday buddies are celebrating simultaneously imagine that you and the 20 million inhabitants of Mexico City are partying and shouting “felice cumpleanos!” or you and your 20 million birthday buddies in New Delhi are greeting each other with मुबारक wow! 20 million people having one huge party Every person you meet singing out “happy birthday!” and you joyfully respond “happy birthday!” this thought made me so warm and fuzzy I decided to try it in my own town not a megalopolis by any measure but the best I can do for now walking down Main Street, I greeted each passerby with an exultant “happy birthday!” Sadly, the odd responses did not live up to my hopes which is why I’m back to a party for one I wonder what my 20 million other birthday buddies are doing tio stib You might also enjoy: Inspiration; Life in Reverse
As the line raced from his fishing reel, the boy grabbed on to his pole with both hands and held on. Far out in the glassy smooth water, a fish erupted into the bright sunlight, breaking the quiet with a giant splash of rainbows as it fell back into the river.
The reel stopped whirring and the boy quickly wound line in. Then, the line zipped away once more. The fish launched itself into the blue sky and danced across the shattered water on its tail. The boy was so awed by this acrobatic display, he nearly let go of his pole, but when the line stopped moving, he wound in once more only to have the reel scream as the fish took another run, pulling line after it.
And so it went, back and forth, the boy lost track of time until he realized that the fish was tiring and slowly it was getting closer and closer, until, with a final backward thrust of his pole, the boy landed the fish on the sand in front of him.
Breathless, the boy fell to his knees and stared in amazement. The fish was half as big as he was and its dazzling gold scales nearly blinded him.
The boy froze, where did that voice come from?
The boy leaned down closer to the fish’s gasping mouth.
Henry’s eyes snapped open.
“Henry, get in here, your dinner’s getting cold.”
He looked down at his pole lying in the grass beside him and the line running limp out into the still water. He stood, picked up his pole and began reeling line in.
The boy smiled, “Coming mama, just one more cast.”
Moral: If you seek to befriend an optimist, find a fisherman.
most think the challenge of climbing mountains
is reaching the top
pushing past fear
step by step
to finally stand victorious
in the rare air
above the clouds of ordinary being
surrounded by distant views
of unclaimed summits
with each descending step
the real work begins
returning to the valley of everyday existence
the spirit begins to shrink
for it can no longer be fed
by ordinary life
the real challenge of climbing mountains
is never surrendering the summits of our dreams
to stand alone
bold and free
with only mountaintops
2016, 2019, 2020
Goldilocks stared at the big banner in the window of the Three Bears Mattress Company store.
“Try us, comfort guaranteed.”
Having missed a good night’s sleep for over a week, she didn’t hesitate and pushed open the door.
Studying her teenage fashion magazine, the girl at the reception counter never looked up as Goldilocks passed by. She stopped chewing her gum long enough to mutter, “Go ahead, look around. I’m here if you have questions.”
“Fat chance,” thought Goldilocks as she hurried past, eyes scanning the large showroom and what seemed like an infinite sea of mattresses.
* * *
It was an hour later when the three bear brothers returned from lunch. Miles, the oldest, who had enjoyed his usual meatloaf sandwich, queried the counter girl.
“What’s up, Celeste, sold any mattresses while we were gone?”
The girl looked up from her magazine and shrugged. She obviously had no future in sales, but she was the best hire the brothers could make quickly after their last receptionist had won the lottery.
Giles, the middle brother, rubbed his furry stomach contentedly. He’d really enjoyed the broccoli soup and steak sandwich special. Sure, these long lunches were noticeably expanding his girth, but he jokingly told his wife he was fattening up for hibernation.
Her retort was that urban bears no longer needed to hibernate. True, but Grandpa Bear had known all about hibernation. He’d come to the big city from the wilderness and started the family mattress business with the slogan, “Come to Bear Mattress, we know sleep.”
The company was now in its third generation and Junior, the youngest of the brothers and most financially astute, was the CEO. He was also the only brother who paid any attention to his diet, if only because his fiance, Brownie, was always nagging him about his weight. Today, he’d forced himself to endure another green salad with tuna and avocado. Looking around the store, something caught his eye in the far corner. He went to investigate.
Under the big “Our Bear Best” sign, three mattresses lay in disarray. Sure enough , someone had been trying them out. The California King was rumpled with tossed pillows and sheets. Beside it, the Standard King, was also a mess. Junior moved to the Queen size mattress which was covered with a mound of pillows and blankets. He noticed a pair of well worn sneakers at the foot of the bed. Gently lifting the corner of a blanket, he saw two feet clad in socks with holes in the heels. He softly set the blanket down and poked at the mound of covers.
Something moaned. Junior backed up in surprise. Then, poked again.
“Hey, cut it out, can’t you see I’m taking a nap?”
Max and Giles joined Junior as he pulled back a blanket to reveal a head of golden curls. a head which suddenly turned and snarled at them.
“What kind of clip joint is this? The sign out front says ‘try us” and that’s exactly what I’m doing!”
“Well of course,” stammered Junior, “take all the time you want.”
The awakened girl propped herself up on her elbows, “Is this an inner spring or foam mattress?”
“Foam,” replied Junior, quickly slipping into sales mode.
“Memory foam or not?”
“Memory, of course.”
“How many layers of foam?”
“Four, graded from firm at the bottom to soft on top.”
The girl pondered, “Nice. And how much for the Queen?”
“I’ll pay $500, not a penny more.”
Junior stroked his chin as his brothers watched a master in action. “You drive a hard bargain,” countered Junior.
“Take it or leave it, bear.”
“And where will we deliver the mattress?”
This seemed to stop the girl cold, there was no answer.
Junior continued, “Will that be cash or credit?”
Goldilocks came back to life, “You can’t deliver the mattress because I’m homeless and I can’t pay with cash or credit because I’m broke.”
She threw off the blankets and bent down to put on her shoes, then looked up and said, “But I’ve got to give you guys credit, this has been my best sleep in days. You’ve got an excellent line of merchandise. Your prices are reasonable but I think you could add to your profits by pushing your pillows and linens .”
With that, Goldilocks stood up and headed for the front door.
The three brothers looked at each other, smiled, then Junior called out-
And so Three Bears Mattress Company hired the most prolific salesperson in the history of the franchise. Franchise? Yes, due to Goldilocks’ spectacular success in selling mattresses and related wares, both in store and online, the company soon expanded to a profitable chain with outlets all across the Rocky Mountain West.
No, Celeste did not find fame and fortune as a fashion designer. Last seen, she was chewing gum and packing boxes at an amazon distribution center.
Moral: The truth shall set you free or, at least, it might get you a job in sales.
Lizzie was frustrated. Once again, her domineering mother had put her in an impossible position. As she had many times before, her mom had bragged about her daughter’s talents, how Liz could do anything she set her mind to, leaving her to prove she was, indeed, special.
“Oh, my Liz is a whiz at spelling. Go ahead, dear, spell supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
And the dutiful daughter did.
“Oh, my Lizzie can jump rope for hours and hours. Go ahead, sweetheart, jump rope.”
And that’s what Liz did for hours and hours and . . .
But this time, her mother had gone too far. This time, Mom had gotten the ear of the king, and eager to impress him, had taken up the king’s impossible challenge.
“Can your daughter turn this room full of straw into gold?” he’d asked, thinking this question would certainly shut the mouthy woman up.
“Of course she can,” replied the boastful mother, “my Lizzie can do anything.”
“Fine,” said the king, motioning for a guard to push the distraught Liz into the straw filled room and lock the door behind her.
“But…” retorted the mother, suddenly realizing the predicament her bragging had created.
The king parted with, “I’ll be back in the morning for the gold. If it’s not here, off comes her head.”
Liz looked around the room, empty except for a mound of straw and a loom. The straw would have made for a nice night’s sleep, except the coming morning did not promise to be pleasant.
A cloud of smoke appeared in the room, along with a strong smell of men’s aftershave. A deep voice spoke from within the cloud.
“Well, Lizzie, seems you have a problem.”
Then, much to the surprised girl’s amazement, a dwarf stepped out of the mist. He had a large, bulbous nose with a wart on its tip, a line of dark eyebrows that stretched across his forehead, unruly hair poking out from under a New York Mets baseball cap, and a smile that revealed a mouthful of yellowed crooked teeth. He wore a sweatshirt that announced “Life’s too short to drink cheap beer,” jeans with patches on the knees, and black high topped tennis shoes with pink shoe laces.
Open mouthed, Liz was still gaping when the visitor, hands on hips, announced, “I’m here to help.”
Dumbfounded, Lizzie stared in disbelief, then shrieked, “Help! Are you kidding me? Like you can turn this pile of straw into gold?!”
Unfazed, the little man simply replied, “No problem.”
Losing it, Lizzie screamed, “Too much! My big mouthed mother tells the king I can turn straw into gold and then a pint size guy appears in a puff of smoke, reeking of Bay Rum, and says ‘No problem.’”
Liz buried her head in her hands and sobbed.
The dwarf did not reply, instead, he sat down at the loom, took up a handful of straw, and with a few words and some razzle dazzle, began weaving. Moments later, he handed Liz a small piece of finely woven fabric.
She stopped crying and fingered the fabric, then muttered a single amazed word-
The dwarf just smiled.
Her second word was, “How?”
“My mother was a witch and my dad a tailor, and I spent awhile in a textile mill in Bangladesh.”
Lizzie’s third word was, “Wow!” Then she erupted with a series of questions.
* * *
It was morning when the door was unlocked and creaked open. There stood the king, with Liz’s mom beside him. He looked into the room. The straw was gone and there stood Liz, smiling, holding up a stunning gold tunic.
“Will this do?” she asked helping the astonished king into the dazzling garment.
Looking down at the brilliant gold cloth, the likes of which he’d never seen before, the king purred, “Oh yes, this will do very, very well.”
For the first time in her life, Liz’s mother had nothing to say, which was good, for she was summarily shunted outside the room and left alone as the door closed.
Liz was done having her mother speak for her and she began negotiating a deal with the king. An hour later, discussions over, she had a new warehouse in the free trade zone with a ten year break on property taxes. From this location, she’d run her new fashion clothing business which would supply the king with the latest designs to keep him the best dressed man in the kingdom. Also, Liz had suggested the king needed to work on his public image and the vain monarch agreed to take on Liz’s mother as his new director of public relations.
The king, enamored with this deal, left to show off his new garb to the court’s elite, a guard dragging Lizzie’s protesting mother behind him.
“Well, what do you think?” asked Liz of the strange little man with the magic touch who once again appeared in a puff of smoke.
“Perfect!” exclaimed the dwarf, producing two bottles of ice cold pale ale, popping the tops, and handing one to Liz.
“By the way,” she asked, “you never did mention your name.”
“Oh, that,” her savior said, “it’s Rumpelstiltskin
“That’s a mouthful.”
“You can call me Al.”
And with a clink of their bottles, the unlikely duo birthed “Rumpelstiltskins,” the specialty clothing company which now has outlets in Beverly Hills, Paris, and Dubai.
Moral: You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but you can turn straw to gold with a little magic and some razzle dazzle.
Peter Pan was bored.
Not much was happening in Never Land. The Indians and Lost Boys Coalition had defeated the ultra nationalist Never Never party in the last election, and political stability seemed assured for at least four more years. The pirates were in disarray after their leader, Captain Hook, had lost another limb to Tic Tock, the man-eating crocodile. On a whim, Peter decided to fly back to London, hoping to reunite with the Darling family kids, with whom he’d shared many past adventures.
Arriving in night’s darkness, Peter landed on the sill of the open playroom window. With his longtime fairy friend, Tinker Bell, hovering on his shoulder, the two travelers peeked inside.
Peter smiled and whispered, “look Tink, they’re all here.”
One boy sat at a desk, eyes glued to a bright screen. A smaller boy sat on the floor, playing with a toy. An older girl, legs tucked underneath her, lounged on a couch with another bright screen on her lap.
“Yeah! Gottcha!” yelled the first boy, shooting his arms skyward.
Peter interrupted this celebration by flying into the room and announcing himself, “Hello.”
All three children turned to face the visitor.
“Who are you?” the kids asked in unison.
“I’m Peter, Peter pan, the boy from Never Land, don’t you remember me?
The children looked at each other, then the girl spoke, “it’s that flying boy from some far off place that Grandma used to tell us about.”
“Grandma?” asked Peter.
The girl replied, “Grandma Wendy.”
Peter’s face brightened, “Wendy, where is she ?”
“She’s long gone,” answered the little boy, still struggling to make the toy in his lap work.
“Gone?” replied the suddenly sad Peter, “then who are you?
“I’m Wendy Ann,” said the girl.
“And I’m John Junior, JJ”, said the older boy, “and he’s Mikey,” pointing to the boy on the floor.
“Oh,” said Peter, reassessing the situation, then, deciding all was not lost, put an offer on the table, “hey, would you like to fly with me, I can take you to a really neat place?”
JJ looked back at the computer screen in front of him, “does this place have Galactic Invaders?”
Puzzled, Peter answered, “Well, no, but it’s got pirates and Indians and lots of really cool kids.”
“I don’t think so,” replied JJ, starting to punch the computer keys, “I just shot down the Death Star and now I’m up to level three, I need to keep going to get to Star Flight Commander.”
Wendy Ann looked at Peter, “Does Amazon deliver to this place you want to take us? I’ve got a trippy outfit I want and with expedited delivery, it can be here tomorrow.”
Even more puzzled, Peter replied, “Amazon? Well we do have jungles and tropical birds.”
“No thanks,” said Wendy, scrolling through more fashion options on her laptop, “I need to keep up my social standing at school.”
Tinker Bell was about to whisper something in Peter’s ear when Mikey, screamed, “I’ve got it!” and his toy came to life.
With a whir, a toy flying machine took off and buzzed around the room.
“Yippee!” shouted Mikey as he directed the little helicopter up, down, and all around with its remote control. Then, Mikey noticed Tinker Bell, “what’s that, he asked, pointing at the pixie?”
Peter answered, “that’s my friend Tinker bell. She’s a fairy.”
Mikey’s face lit up, “does she want to play?”
Not waiting for an answer, the toy helicopter began chasing Tinker Bell around the room. Tink, having never encountered such a device, freaked out, darting and dodging to avoid a collision with the whirring menace.
Mikey’s face contorted into a sadistic smile. “I’m going to flatten you, fairy girl!”
But, Tink, having recovered her composure, realized that the mechanized attacker was no different than the many other predators who’d tried to get her. She froze in front of Wendy Ann’s dressing mirror. Mikey, seeing his chance, gave full throttle to the helicopter to annihilate the fairy. The toy was going full tilt when Tinker Bell slipped sideways and the helicopter crashed headlong into its reflection in the mirror, falling to the floor in many more pieces than all the King’s men would ever put together again.
Mikey howled, “You broke it!”
JJ never looked up, simply uttering “Damn!” as a black moth enemy fighter blew him out of the sky.
Oblivious to the twin tragedies around her, Wendy Ann declared, “Oh, look at that, those shoes would be so perfect with my new dress, and they come in pink, too.”
Tinker Bell whispered something in Peter’s ear.
The boy who would never grow up replied, “Yes, Tink, you can pinch me the next time I’m bored.”
Their departure went unnoticed.
Moral: Boring is a world without fantasies and fairies.
A poem by Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)
There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.
by Shel Silverstein, 1974
When I start slipping into seriousness, I turn to Shel Silverstein to lighten up. Reading his poems with kids is better than blowing bubbles on San francisco’s BART train.
Want more fun? Watch this link on YouTube-
You might also enjoy: Inspiration
After weeks of fighting off flying demons, fire breathing dragons, and a very itchy case of poison ivy, the handsome prince stood before the lovely Sleeping Beauty. He admired her comely figure, her long golden hair, and her delicate ears. He had a thing about ears.
Bending down, he stretched to plant a kiss on her enticing lips, the kiss that, by all accounts, would bring Sleeping Beauty back to life.
A small bell sounded from his back pocket.
Feeling that the prince was no longer hovering over her, Sleeping Beauty slowly opened one eye. She’d been awake for months, ever since that nasty little frog stuck his slimy tongue down her throat and she’d jolted awake to find the green creature planted on her bosom, staring at her, saying-
“I’m a prince! I’m a prince!”
The rudely awakened princess heard nothing, but instead hurled the frog towards Hannibal, the castle’s maleficent cat. Hannibal liked to bat little creatures around and toss them into the air before biting their heads off.
She could still hear the frog’s last words, “really, I’m a …”
Since then, Sleeping Beauty had practiced her sham sleep routine in preparation for a real prince showing up. Noiselessly, she gazed at her would be savior who was intently eyeing the screen of his cell phone. Suddenly, he grinned, turned to her , an exclaimed-
“Can you believe it? My team has just won the Fantasy Football playoffs and we’re in the Super Bowl!”
He stopped abruptly as he realized that the previously sleeping beauty wasn’t sleeping anymore.
“You moron!” she screamed, “you chose Fantasy Football over me?”
The prince’s jaw dropped. His phone buzzed again. He slowly turned his head and tried to sneak a peek at the screen.
Needless to say, the conversation deteriorated from here as the princess wondered if she’d been a bit rash with the little frog.
Moral: Texting vs. kissing? No contest.
Some are vanilla,
always the same
Some are exotic
sherbets with fireworks lives
to check others’ eyes
then the specials
like bubblegum treat
Yes, chocolate, strawberry,
and rocky road too
friends of all flavors
some licked and
like ice cream
I taste them
each one of a kind
then off on their way
they melt in my mind
Yet over the years
a few friends remain
these flavors I savor
2014, 2016, 2018, 2020
Aladdin had been furiously rubbing the lamp all the way home from the bazaar. The old man had assured the boy that the lamp was, indeed, magical. Just rub it and a genie would appear and grant him three wishes.
Not born yesterday, the boy had asked the trader why, if the lamp was so marvelous, the price was so cheap.
The white bearded man smiled and said, “this lamp is quite old and sometimes it takes a bit to get it started. Besides, I like you and so, a special deal.”
Aladdin could hear his mother’s admonishments when he got home, reminding him of the goose that didn’t lay golden eggs, and the carpet that didn’t fly.
He paid a handful of shekels and took his prize.
Now, locked in the bathroom to avoid his mother’s questions, sweat dripping from his brow from endless rubbing, he stared at the naive face in the mirror and thought-
He looked again in the mirror. There was something written on the bottom of the lamp. He’d seen the strange symbols before, but they’d made no sense. But in the reverse reflected image in the mirror, he could read a message-
“Rub me and your wish will be my command.”
Aladdin smirked, he’d been rubbing the damn lamp for an hour and nothing had happened.
Then, he saw some fine print below, “Note-this is a left handed lamp and it likes to be rubbed counterclockwise.”
“Oh,” exclaimed the boy, who was right handed, and he quickly resumed caressing the lamp with his left hand in a counter clockwise direction.
Another hour later, sweat pouring down his face, the frustrated boy screamed, “that’s it lamp! I give up!”
Angry, he slapped the lamp hard.
Aladdin looked at the lamp. He’d heard a voice.
“Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Did you really have to hit me that hard!”
Stunned, the boy watched as a wisp of smoke rose from the lamp’s spout, then grew into a foul smelling cloud that slowly evolved into the form of a grimacing genie rubbing her head. Aladdin couldn’t help but think, the creature floating in the air above him looked a lot like Whoopi Goldberg.
“Geez kid, you really know how to ruin a good dream. I was just getting it on with that sexy prince from Madagascar when, ‘Whap!” you slapped me on the side of the head and woke me up.”
Sniffing the air around her the genie added, “Ugh! A hundred years without a bath can lead to a big stink.”
Aladdin stared wide eyed, the lamp really was magic.
Reading his mind, the genie said, “that’s right, it really is a magic lamp. Sadly, it’s an old model, doesn’t even have a solid state hard drive, so it’s slow compared to the new 5G models. But, hey, I’m here and I still do the wish thing.”
“Wish thing?” queried the boy.
“I’ll grant you three wishes, anything you want. Well, almost anything,” said the genie, now peering closely at Aladdin, “are you eighteen years or older?”
Aladdin blushed, “not exactly.”
“Look, kid, you are or you aren’t. Which is it?”
The boy shook his head.
“Well, there are things I just can’t do for minors. Didn’t you read the fine print on the lamp?”
The boy’s blank face gave the answer.
“Can’t really blame you, it takes a microscope to make it out. Briefly, the lamp and its magic are not responsible for any damage you may cause. You may not sue us and any tax liabilities created by your wishes are your responsibility and yours alone. There are no refunds or exchanges after your wishes expire. Do you agree to these conditions?”
Aladdin slowly nodded his head.
“Great, now let’s get to it, I’d really like to get back to sleep and find out what’s going to happen with that prince.”
“Well,” the boy said, scratching his chin, “My mom would like a new house.”
Shazaam! Suddenly Aladdin found himself standing in the plush living area of a grand house with a large pool outside surrounded by lush gardens.
“Wow!” exclaimed the boy in amazement.
“You think she’ll like it?” questioned the genie, I modeled it after the latest cover home on architectural Digest. I hope she’s fond of pink.”
Aladdin noticed all the walls were covered in pink velvet. He wondered whose house had been on that magazine cover.
“Okay, let’s keep moving,” urged the genie, “ what’s wish number two?”
The boy looked down at his ragged clothes, “perhaps some new…”
Shazaam! Aladdin found himself standing in a huge bedroom, looking into a walk in closet filled with new clothes of all colors and types, including one wall entirely covered with shoes. He gaped at the impressively clad young man standing before him in the full length mirror. Slowly turning, he touched the sparkling diamond in the center of his silver turban, then ran his finger over the gold embroidery on his tunic. Not bad, he thought, not bad at all.
“You like it! Of course you do, it’s all the latest fashion from Paris, although most of it was made in Bangladesh. Sorry about the slippers, we’ve been having supply chain problems in Magic Land.”
Aladdin looked down at his gleaming golden slippers. They were at least size sixteen. He wore size eight.
“Better too big than too small,” noted the genie, “now, what’s it going to be for wish number three?”
Suddenly sure of himself, Aladdin looked at the genie and said, “true love.”
Shazaam! Aladdin found himself outside, standing next to the pool looking out across its sparkling azure blue water to the spectacular view of distant mountains.
But, thought Aladdin, true love, where was she?
“Turn around, kid, you’re facing the wrong way.”
Aladdin turned and was hit full on by a leaping Labrador retriever. The collision carried man and beast into the pool. Even half immersed, the dog still managed to joyfully lick Aladdin’s face in spite of the turban which mostly covered it.
“No truer love than a dog for its master, kid. Her name is Scheherazade,” added the genie as she slipped back into the lamp, “gotta be going, all the best!”
Moral: You don’t always get what you want, but you always get what you need.