The Right Words

My friend Michael and I had not a dinner together in a while. We had a regular dinner appointment on the second Tuesday of the month for years. But, then, life got in the way — mostly Michael’s. It changed rather dramatically a few months back. Not the least of which was being in a new relationship after years of not having been in one. So, I was willing to let our dinners take back seat. We’ve known each other for almost 20 years. He’d do the same for me.

So, it was great that we were finally able to get together recently over at a bistro near me. Dinner was great! Made especially good by the conversation. There was lot’s of catching up to do. We talked about life and love and creating the element of surprise in the seemingly mundane. We reminisced about the past and talked with excitement about future plans. Such things are what make a meal memorable.

But the memory of the evening that will stick out in my mind — the one that will last — came with desert. The waiter came over to ask if we wanted desert and describe our options. Among these was a type of pie neither Michael nor I had heard of before — Buttermilk Pie.

“What is that? I’ve never heard of it before.”, I asked. “What does it taste like?”

“It’s really hard to describe.”, explained the waiter. “But, I had a slice the other day and it is my new favorite pie. And, I’m not a big pie guy. If you order a slice. maybe you can weigh in.”

And, with that a gauntlet was thrown down — a challenge neither Michael nor I could refuse. The slices of pie were brought out and happily consumed. It was delicious. Yet, it was also immediately apparent why the waiter had such a hard time describing the taste. It was almost purposely elusive. The flavor was delicate. Not quite vanilla. Not sharp enough to even compare to a cheesecake. Nor was it creamy enough or sour enough or sweet enough to make an even comparison to anything else. It was almost cloud-like — etherial. Michael and I were both still at a loss when the waiter appeared again to take away our now empty plates.

“So, how’d you like it?”

“It was really good.”, I replied. Still unsure as to the answer to the obvious next question from the waiter.

“How would you describe it?”, he asked.

“It whispers tapioca.” Michael said with a sly smile after a considered pause. With those three words he completely nailed it. He managed to capture the entire experience of eating that slice of pie. He nailed the flavor, suggested the texture… All of it. The brilliance and exquisiteness of those three words left us speechless. Only nodding our heads in agreement and repeating them. It gave us all pause.

It is moments like this that I am reminded why I am a writer. I’m in love with and in awe of the power of language. The way a single word or just the right ones strung together can capture the whole of something otherwise only imagined. An entire experience can be encapsulated, examined, and then set free for others to bear witness to, all in an instant, with just three simple words.

This is why, as a writer, I keep a record of such reminders of this power. It’s a text file titled “Bits of Words and Wisdom”. Upon leaving the restaurant, adding “It whispers tapioca” to my file was my first priority. When I hear a cool word or interesting phrase that makes me stop and take notice — especially something that captures the imagination — I add it to this list. Sometimes, it is something from a conversation like the above. Increasingly, it is something I read — be it a book, a Tweet, or on a blog post. Sometimes it is from a video or something recorded. No matter the source it is added to this file soon after encountering it. Expedience is key, lest I forget it and lose it forever. Because these are the times to remember that words matter. Words mean things far beyond what you may find in a dictionary. Words are triggers and keys that blow open barriers and unlock doors to entire unknown universes.

The right ones are, at least.


I’m a writer. Writing is how I make this world better, friendlier, stronger place. If these words improved your day, please let me know by contributing here.

Sleepwatching (An Ode To Beatrix)

Sometimes, I watch you sleep. I hear you, restless, saying something incoherent over the buzzing monitor box that has never quite worked but has never been bad enough to replace. I wait for a few seconds because, sometimes, you settle and the buzzing box is silent for the remainder of the night. But, occasionally, the restless, incoherent, mumbling continues and sounds like, possibly, you could be having a bad dream. So I venture up the back stairs into your room to check on you. I put my hand on your shoulder or rub your back and let you know that you are OK — you’re just having a dream. You rarely wake up. Though it often, but not always, settles you. Yet, I remain for a few minutes more, to watch you.

I watch and wonder what someone at your age might dream about. I watch because you are just as beautiful, captivating, and as full of life as each moment you are awake. I marvel at how I, we, could have produced something, someone, so magical. I watch to listen to you breathe and to smell the shampoo in your recently washed hair. I watch and envision what you might one day become once you find out that Cowgirl Princess Ballerina’s aren’t in very high demand in this modern economy. Yet, I’m sure, you could probably make it work with the same grace and charm you use with deft skill on anyone who meets you.

I hope to be there, one day, to watch you live every one of those crazy dreams that you dream and watch your every desire lay itself prostrate before you. I know that one day, it will no longer be my job to watch you sleep but, instead, be that of another who I hope will love and cherish you as much as I do and will be filled with the same overwhelming emotions I have in these few moments I spend here watching you. Before I leave the room and close the door and let the angels I’m sure surround you resume their place — watching you sleep.

Random Notes and Recent Thoughts #3

I haven’t done one of these in a while. Here are some short ideas I have yet to fully flesh out but are complete enough to share right now anyway. Perhaps in doing so they will drive a discussion that will lead to a longer post.

  • When “No” is your default, the things that fight their way to “Yes” have a deeper value and meaning. They not only have to earn their place, they have to maintain their worth to keep it. “Yes” is important. “Yes” means that something really matters to me. But, this is only the case — and I would argue only can be the case — when “Yes” is not easy and “No” is the default.

  • It is not enough to simply accept, put-up-with, or ignore those things that might drive us nuts about our partners in a relationship. We must learn to appreciate them. Find the ways in which those things might, in fact, be a part of what makes the other person so great. Unless we do, we risk it becoming the chink that becomes a hole that, under pressure, breaks the dam.

  • Like wide margins in a book makes it easier and more pleasurable to read, leaving wide margins in your life makes it easier and more pleasurable to live. Also, having margins in a book leaves lots of room to make notes, observations, doodle, and offer your thoughts. So goes margins in life, too.

  • The reason for quantifying your commitments, and making the time and space for them on a calendar, is as much about committing to your tasks and projects as it is to committing to the margins.

  • The gulf between irresponsibility and opportunity is bridged by intention.

  • Kindness is a habit. One that is strengthened and improved the more you are so.

  • Always get the best paint you can buy. The difference between the good stuff and everything else is measured in decades and, in some cases, centuries.

  • Just a little bit more effort goes such a long way because so many do so much less than the minimum required.

home/ books/ newsletter/ dash/plus/ archives/ info/ rss