The Bare Bones of Courage, Compassion and Hope Define Us

"Queen of Diamonds" mixed-media 20x20

“Queen of Diamonds” mixed-media 20×20

I’m finishing another book “The girl from Krakow” about hatred and war. These dire circumstances often bring out the depraved character of desperate people.

When basic needs are not met, there is little else to occupy the mind. The gnawing in your stomach. The loneliness and fear. The lack of creature comforts. Separation from family and friends. The loss of loved ones.

In that scenario, the brutal, the corrupt and the vicious crawl out from their slimy hiding places along with the courageous, the stalwart and the survivors. The skeletal structure of a country is laid bare. The degeneration of basic values such as honesty, morality, and tolerance are exposed. Some acquiesce to get along or because of fear. Others become enmeshed in their own greed for power and succumb to evil.

As the English poet, Alexander Pope (1688-1744) penned:

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien As to be hated needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Family Soldiers0002

Will you be one of those people who get lost in the evil around you and wallow in depravity? Will you become a survivor willing to do anything to stay alive? How will you carve out a life for yourself that will stand you in good stead when the crisis is over?

Character is formed in the heated fire of decision. There are those who manage to summon courage not only for themselves, but for others. When the battle rages, there are those who lift spirits, shelter strangers and comfort the lost.

Those who prey on the needy are the neediest of all. They bully and threaten their way to the top, scrambling over the arms and legs of their victims. When the battle is over, they slink back to their dark corners waiting for the next opportunity to take what isn’t theirs, even if it’s only a man or woman’s dignity.

Evil is cowardly. Evil attacks us from behind. Prowess disguised as strength uses criticism and character assassination to bring others down to their puny size. Unrelenting in their pursuit of domination, the attacker wields authority, power, and rage to destroy and denigrate. Some are able to withstand the assault and pressure others are not.

I read about these horrible times in history with a great deal of empathy and understanding. Will I be able to endure should the fight be brought to our shores?

My grandson serving in the Navy and then working with the Coast Guard.

My grandson serving in the Navy and then working with the Coast Guard.

We all wonder “What is my mettle? Will I end up a hero, a coward, or a chameleon blending in with evil and doing nothing to change it? In preparing for disaster, we must calculate our strengths and build a reserve of courage, compassion and faith. It is only in the present that we may work to change the future.

Handles, Nicknames and Monikers – Bullying or Harmless Fun?


“Mother and Child” brush drawing in oils

When my kids were young, I made up silly names for them. It was a playful way of adding extra affection and fun to our relationship. The handles were cute and harmless and never said outside of our home. They were just between us.

I soon discovered that my children had shared them with their friends. When my oldest son got married, he asked me to tell his new wife a few of them because he couldn’t say them the way I did. They wore those nicknames like a badge of honor which said: “My mother loves me.”


“Moody Blues” mixed media on canvas

Some names can also be a form of bullying. They go from the playful into teasing and taunting. One of my daughters was called “fat Pat” by her brothers because they knew it irritated her. She was far from fat, but over time she began to believe them. She fretted over her weight and it became a negative focus into her teen years.

My youngest son was dressed up in a girl’s dress by his sister when he was only three years old. She even burdened him with a feminine name. When his siblings teased him and chanted this name, he grew angry, especially as he got older. Calling him this after knowing it made him angry was really a form of bullying. To this day he hates this name and cringes whenever he hears it.

Another daughter had a severe case of chicken pox. They were so bad that even the bottoms of her feet were covered and her tongue. Afterward she was left with a large scar on her cheek.


“Broken Hearted” 11×14 Pastel, matted and ready to frame.

Before that time she had been full of spunk and self-confidence. But one day a boy at school called her “crater face” and she shriveled into a door mouse. The scar and the teasing made her feel inferior and ugly; not a good way to enter the teenage years. Eventually she outgrew this hurt as the scar grew smaller and she became a beautiful young woman.

I know how she felt. When I got my first pair of glasses as a child, I was called “four-eyes” and learned the negative quip: “Boys seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.” Even when a young admirer told me I had beautiful eyes, I didn’t believe him. “How could he see my eyes,” I wondered. “I’m wearing glasses?”

We all have battle scars and memories of being picked on or made to feel different. For some it’s a disability. For others, it’s a behavior, a personality quirk or an actual physical characteristic that others may find odd or funny. “Freckle face,” Carrot Top,” “Cowboy” (for bowed legs), “gimpy,” “hunch back,” and “sissy” are stings that you never outgrow. They stick in your mind and may hurt for a lifetime.


“Broken” mixed media (SOLD) Prints available

Childhood is filled with pain until we finally grow up and discover who we really are. But for some, the burden of pain stays hidden beneath a wall of self-protection making relationships and friendships hard to come by and difficult, perhaps even dangerous if it pushes someone over the edge.

Wild Bill Hickok was one of those people. That’s right: The “Bill” part of his name was just as much a nickname as “Wild” — his full name wasn’t William, but James Butler Hickok. Bill was actually a wisecrack about his appearance, and specifically on his giant slope of a nose and protruding upper lip. The first version of Hickok’s nickname was actually “Duck Bill.” He changed it to Wild Bill to divert people’s attention from his nose to his skills.


Wild Bill Hickok became one of the most famous figures to emerge from the American Old West, his legend reaching mythical proportions. Hickok fought with the North in the Civil War. He was best known as a gunfighter, a scout, a professional gambler and a lawman. But for his contemporaries, and his sub-conscious, he would always be known as Wild Bill – the guy with the big schnozola.

Positive nicknames can actually enhance someone’s image. Here is a partial list of famous people and their monikers. If you want to see more, go to this site:

Sportsman/Sportswoman Their Profession
Jim Corbett GENTLEMAN JIM Boxer
Muhammad Ali LOUISVILLE LIP Boxer, US greatest ever arguably, now in his 50’s sadly suffers from Parkinson’s Disease
Nigel Benn DARK DESTROYER Boxer Eng
Georges Carpentier ORCHID KID Boxer Fra
Thomas Hearns HITMAN Boxer US
Ricky Hatton HITMAN Boxer Eng
Primo Carnera AMBLING ALP Boxer
Rocky Marciano BROCKTON BOMBER Boxer
Joe Louis BROWN BOMBER Boxer
Barry McGuigan CLONES CYCLONE Boxer
Eddie Edwards THE EAGLE Ski-Jumper, famous for his poor performance
Sergio Garcia EL NINO Spanish golfer
Florence Griffith-Joiner FLO JO Athlete, US 100m died aged just 38 after heavy drug use
Paavo Nurmi THE FLYING FINN Finnish Ski-Jumper
Ference Puskas THE GALLOPING MAJOR Hungarian Footballer, peaked around mid 50’s early 60’s
Jimmy Hill RABII Footballer UK, and later TV presenter and Football pundit
David Beckham GOLDENBALLS Footballer, Eng World Superstar off the pitch
Eusebio BLACK PANTHER Footballer
Stanley Matthews WIZARD OF DRIBBLE Footballer Eng, one of the greats of the 50’s, played league football at 50 yrs of age.
Duncan Ferguson DUNCAN DISORDERLY Footballer for Everton
Lev Yashin THE BLACK PANTHER Football Rus Goalkeeper
Norman Hunter BITES YOUR LEGS Footballer for Leeds
Dennis Law THE LAWMAN Football Sco prolific striker Man Utd & Scotland
Stuart Pearce PSYCHO Footballer Eng, England International left back, moved on to management
Paul Gascoigne GAZZA England Footballer, career blighted by addictions but still reached superstar status as much for his character as his skills.
Eddy Mercyx THE CANNIBAL Cycling Bel, winner of Tour De France 5 times
Martin Offiah CHARIOTS Rugby League and Union Eng Winger, one of fastest most elusive wingers in the game

Professional nicknames are fun, but they prevent us from remembering a person’s name which is more personal. Here are a few you’ve probably used yourself (note that most of them are disrespectful).

  • Bones for a surgeon or mortician
  • Sawbones for an orthopedic surgeon
  • Doc for a doctor or dentist
  • Sparky for an electrician or radio operator
  • Geek for a computer technician, a brainy person or nerd
  • Sarge for a military sergeant
  • Chief for a police or fire chief
  • Teach for a teacher
  • Prof for a Professor
  • Brains for someone who is clever or a genius
  • Moneybags for a wealthy person

You may enjoy creating your own nicknames and handles that describe someone in a positive way. Heaven knows we have enough sadness caused from bullying and name calling. Handles may lift someone’s self-esteem or tear it down.

I was never a good athlete. I’d be the last chosen for a team because in those days I was the shortest kid in my class. To this day I cringe when I hear someone called a sissy or the cat calls “Bet she throws like a girl.”


“With These Hands — Hope”

Revenge is sweet. Some of these girl’s (and boys) grow into powerhouses! One day this gangly uncoordinated girl will look down on you when she’s the CEO of Yahoo, or Hewlett Packard, or GM. You better look out! “What goes around, comes around.”

Those Awkward Moments – Filling in the Gaps

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel

A Joyful Heart, 11 x 14 pastel

Some things, if repeated often enough, catch on. Take the word “awkward” said in a sing song voice after someone puts their foot in their mouth or there’s a lapse in conversation.

It happens to all of us. When my husband and I were dating, he’d fill in those silent spaces by saying: “Yup, yup, yup.” I tease him about it now; but obviously, when we were getting to know each other, he felt uneasy when there was a “pregnant pause” between our exchanges.

I’m a writer and an artist by trade so I’m better on paper and canvas than in verbal discussions where the bold and the loud hold sway. Maturity and life hurdles have given me muster, but essentially “chit chat” is not one of my strong suits.

Once I bumped into a mirrored pillar in a department store and said “excuse me.” When I looked up and saw that the open-mouthed face staring back was mine, I laughed in surprise. It’s healthy to laugh at yourself. When things go wrong seeing the humor can soften a bad situation.

Like the time my teenaged boyfriend walked me home from school and the elastic around my waist band snapped. I felt my slip crumple to the ground. Hey, at least it wasn’t panties! I stepped out of the slip, rolled it in a ball and carried it under my arm as we walked home. Nothing to fret about. Just another reason to make light of an embarrassing scene.

"Kindred Spirits" 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

“Kindred Spirits” 30 x 24 mixed media on canvas

Another time I wore my skirt inside out to a meeting. I didn’t notice until half-way through the speaker’s message, and then I turned three shades of red thinking that the frayed seams and ragged hemline announced my stupidity. A quick trip to the girl’s room fixed my dilemma before any fuss could be made of it.

Waiters and waitresses are notorious for being on the receiving end of complaints by getting skimpy tips and insults. A waitress once spilled a glass of soda into my lap and apologized profusely. I could tell by her body language and facial expression that she expected an irate tongue lashing. When I smiled and said, “Everyone makes mistakes,” she breathed a sigh of relief. How could I not forgive her when I’m a klutz myself by nature?

On the news recently, someone pulled out a gun and shot someone for spilling a cocktail on his expensive suit. Many people take offense at far less than this. The world is turning into a population of whiny, short-tempered egoists who want their lives to progress without any problems. Pity the person who gets in their way.

Awkwardness is part of growing up, for Heaven’s sake; a stage of life prone to accidents. Arms and legs grow faster than we know how to use them. One day we’re short people with the perspective of a pup, and before we know it we’re towering over our parents but still under their rule and command. This odd time needs to be handled with patience and good humor.

"Shimmy Shake" 11 x 14 acrylic in black box frame

“Shimmy Shake” 11 x 14 acrylic in red box frame

My first marriage died from lack of humor. When you can’t laugh at yourself, or you resent other people teasing you or playfully trying to ease you out of a bad moment, you’ve got a compatibility problem.

Irritable, touchy people hate it when you try to cheer them up. They’re afraid that if they laugh or give into humor they might lose control and compromise their dictatorship.

Shouting from behind may get people to move, but real leadership beckons from the front with words of encouragement that say: “You can do it! Come on – follow me; I’ll show you how. Let’s do it together.”

Patience and kindness can bridge those awkward times we find ourselves in. No one has a “right” to make other people miserable or to constantly demand his or her own way. Relationships require that both parties get something out of it. Unpleasant personal encounters and dealings with other people should always be courteous and respectful, period!

"And All that Jazz" 11 x 14 acrylic in red box frame

“And All that Jazz” 11 x 14 acrylic in red box frame