The Difference Between Penguins and Lions

I put forth a challenge at the first of August (2014), asking you to submit your story titles and I would in turn write five hundred words or more just from the title. One of my personal tricks to keep the writers block at bay is to come up with just a title. I keep an ongoing list of titles to spark the creative juices. As promised I will use one each week to pen a new story. The list of titles is listed below. Thanks for all your input. While I can’t write to all of these, I do hope that you get to see yours in print.

The Blue Truck Across the Street – While Waiting

The Difference Between Penguins and Lions

Talking Heads – Floating Heads – If God Is In Front of Us – My Lullaby Was Rhiannon

At the Crossroad – You’re Not Going to Believe This

When I Thought It Was Over, the Adventure Had Just Started – Finding Dead End Roads

Secrets in Every Man’s Life – 21 Year Journey

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The Difference Between Penguins and Lions
Submitted by Paul Jarvis – www.pjrvs.com

Would you rather be the Penguin or the Lion?

When I asked for title submissions that I could use to write a story I hadn’t imagined all the peculiar possibilities I might encounter. The Difference Between Penguins and Lions came across as quite an interesting idea. As a matter of fact I’ve contemplated this title, this topic far more than others that were suggested and possibly to the point of obsession. Crazy huh?

It just got me thinking; what is the difference between Penguins and Lions? Come on! Isn’t it quite obvious the extreme variations in these two creatures? Huge difference here. It seemed too simple on the surface. One is a bird, the other is a cat. (Not a good mix on any level I’m sure.) One likes cold climates, the other prefers the African heat. One eats almost purely fish and the other, well, Lions prefer much larger prey; though I’m sure being carnivores a fish on a plate might be a nice change of pace.

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Upon further consideration I realized I wasn’t dealing with two animals that happen to be at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of habitat, hunting abilities or physical characteristics. I realized that we are actually talking about people here.

What really is different about Penguins and Lions is how they relate to one another. In the wild male lions have very lose relationships with their female counterparts. The male lion is the leader of a pride of females and their cubs. To become that leader he has to battle the reigning male for that pride. Winner take all. They seldom do the hunting and they tend to take whatever they want; even to the point of allowing the females and cubs to starve. They will also eat the cubs in tough times. While I tend to admire cats of all sorts, this kind of behavior makes lions less attractive.

Penguins are not territorial but rather very social. They are exceptionally family oriented, supportive of each other and the group. True, a pride of lions work together to hunt for food, (usually while the males lay back and watch) they babysit for one another and share most everything. Even their men. Male lions will mate up to twenty-five times a day. Woe!

Most species of Penguins mate for life. They have a sense of loyalty that is a rare trait in almost all other creatures. Male penguins assist in nest building and child raising. Penguin parents work together as a team and most of their efforts are in support of their young.

Another interesting characteristic of lions is that fifty percent of their diet, or more depending on availability, is scavenged. They often stalk the hunt of other animals and then take their catch by force. The male eats first and the females and cubs pick the bones of his leftovers. Penguins on the other hand hunt purely for themselves, male and female, and primarily for the benefit of their young. They will at times go without nourishment of their own in order to feed their offspring.

Again, I can’t help but translate these two different animals into the characteristics of humans. Here we are, a single species, yet various people tend to act in similar ways to these two animals. Some people are rather arrogant and self-serving, taking for themselves whatever it is they want, seemingly connected to their family but selfish and independent nonetheless. On the other hand some people are dedicated to family, they are loyal, dependable, monogamous and steadfast.

Interestingly enough, before you started reading this I asked you to consider which of these creatures you might choose to be. Have you changed your mind?

At the Crossroad

I put forth a challenge at the first of August (2014), asking you to submit your story titles and I would in turn write five hundred words or more just from the title. One of my personal tricks to keep the writers block at bay is to come up with just a title. I keep an ongoing list of titles to spark the creative juices. As promised I will use one each week for the month of August to pen a new story. The list of titles is listed below. Thanks for all your input. While I can’t write to all of these, I do hope that you get to see yours in print.

The Blue Truck Across the Street – While Waiting

The Difference Between Penguins and Lions

Talking Heads – Floating Heads – If God Is In Front of Us – My Lullaby Was Rhiannon

At the Crossroad – You’re Not Going to Believe This

When I Thought It Was Over, the Adventure Had Just Started – Finding Dead End Roads

Secrets in Every Man’s Life – 21 Year Journey

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At the Crossroad
Submitted by Kathleen Woodruff Esguerra

Life is about choices.

There are a lot of every day choices that are relatively non consequential. Mostly so because we have made up a basic set of guidelines we intend to follow. We decide what time we get up in the morning, what we have for breakfast, what clothes we put on, which route we take to get to work, what we say to people in response to their comments and questions. Most of these choices are decisions we make on autopilot. We don’t have to think about them because we’ve set up guidelines that we unwittingly adhere to without much thought.

Some choices become a form of habit; what we watch on television, the products we buy, the foods we eat and drink. At some point we made choices about these things, but for the most part they become routine answers that we tend to follow without much thought. These are all the easy choices.

Then we come to places in life where we know our choices are profound. We have to decide between one college or another or what curriculum we choose to follow. We have to decide if and how to punish a child for mistakes they have made. We have to decide to accept a marriage proposal, or break up with the person because they seem to have choices in mind that don’t fit with our own. We have to make hard decisions sometimes that are life changing. What becomes even more profound is when we have to make choices that go against what we want, what we believe and how we feel.

We don’t always have the luxury of time in many cases. Sometimes we have hours, minutes or only a moment to make decisions that are life changing. Then other times we are in places where we really don’t have to make any choice at all; which of course is a choice in itself.

crossroadsStanding at the crossroad, looking down the path of different choices, we attempt to discern which road leads us in the most comforting, the most productive and/or most rewarding direction. We stop to ponder the details that lay before us to contemplate the journey and the destination. We inevitably find that we simply have no way of knowing what lies at the end of either of those roads. Try as we might, we weigh, measure and reason to the best of our ability, yet we can not know where either of these roads will ultimately take us. And just as we know we are not able to predict the future, we struggle with these choices because we know we can not change the past. Once the choice is made that decision becomes a part of our record. It also becomes a reference to good and bad decisions.

The first important thing in coming to a crossroad is to know we are standing at the junction. Some people pass them by without any thought whatsoever, without any realization they had any choice at all. For others, they figuratively or physical fall to their knees in desperation and confusion. They find it virtually impossible to make a decision; becoming paralyzed by their choices.

The answer to which direction we take has little or nothing to do with the moment. The crossroads always depend on the destination. We have to decide which road leads us closer to our goals, and which roads lead us away from our goals.

If we want to lose weight we have to choose between the fatty foods or the healthy foods, and how much of those we will eat. If we want to save money for our dreams we have to decide to place that money aside or spend it one small piece at a time on frivolous momentary satisfactions. If we want to have a strong marriage, a happy family, successful children or rewarding careers we have to be true to our goals. We have to base the choices we make on the goals, not on the momentary rewards. We have to keep the big picture in mind.

Life isn’t about the choices as much as it is about the goals. When we set up our goals we need to carve them in stone and resolve ourselves to reaching them, then the choices become much easier.

When we come to the crossroad there is really only one choice; follow your goals and reach for your dreams. Do things that take you closer to your goal, and avoid paths that lead you astray.

Finding Dead End Roads

In last week’s blog I put forth a challenge, more to myself than to others, but a challenge nonetheless. I asked you to submit your story titles and I would in turn write five hundred words or more just from the title. Some of you elaborated on what you expected to see in the story; that wasn’t part of the rules. One of my personal tricks to keep the writers block at bay is to come up with just a title, then let ideas start to flow from there. I in fact keep an ongoing list of titles to spark the creative juices. Anyway, you submitted some great story titles and as promised I will use one each week for the month of August to pen a new story. The list of titles is listed below. Thanks for all your input. While I can’t write to all of these, I do hope that you get to see yours in print.

The Blue Truck Across the Street – While Waiting

The Difference Between Penguins and Lions

Talking Heads – Floating Heads – If God Is In Front of Us – My Lullaby Was Rhiannon

At the Crossroad – You’re Not Going to Believe This

When I Thought It Was Over, the Adventure Had Just Started – Finding Dead End Roads

Secrets in Every Man’s Life – 21 Year Journey

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Finding Dead End Roads
Submitted by Corke J Lockard

It seems a bit difficult in these modern times to actually get lost. With GPS on every smartphone and answers to every question we imagine found on Google, getting lost is a matter of losing one’s self.

There is a sense of beauty in getting lost, exploring new places, new ideas, new recipes, new things of all sorts. Sometimes though, getting lost is the best way to find what you’re actually looking for.

This week I uncovered a video that talks about failures. It mentions some of the greatest achievers, the greatest minds and talent we’ve ever known and points out their personal discouragements. Yet all these people managed to become someone special. That really struck a note with me. Maybe like you, I get down on myself and the things I’m trying to achieve, and I forget how so many others have failed miserably before they finally achieved their famous success.

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Click the Image to See the Video http://youtu.be/zLYECIjmnQs

Maybe the problem with most of us is rejection. Many a great writer has gone unpublished and unknown because those first few manuscripts were turned down one time too many before they ended up in the trash. The famous Dr. Seuss met with twenty seven rejections of his first manuscripts and yet today his name is a household word. I don’t much like rejection but some of my greatest work has come from the things people didn’t like.

Spending hours pouring over your work only to be told it isn’t good enough seems like a huge waste of time; been there done that a lot!

I’ve been down a lot of dead end roads. Dead end jobs, dead end projects, dead end relationships and dead end convictions. But the one thing I’ve done without change is to get back up, to turn around and move in a different direction, to keep my legs moving, my mind thinking and my heart filled with ambition.

Sometimes we get knocked down so many times we wonder, “why bother to get up?” Sometimes staying down seems a lot more comforting than facing failure again and again.

It’s very important to remember that dead end roads are in themselves a form of success. We discover things about ourselves, our methods and emotions, our abilities and skills, our hopes and dreams. We discover who we are by the things we fail at. The only real mistake is not learning from our mistakes.

As a matter of fact that’s why we practice things. Failure is what teaches us to be stronger, to build character and determination. Making mistakes fine tunes our ability to know the difference between what works and what doesn’t work. Falling down serves as a reminder what not to do.

I love to go hiking. Getting outdoors and walking nature trails is one of my great passions. I’ve hiked miles of the Appalachian Trail and I’ve been down a lot of paths that looked promising and ended up going nowhere. But no matter how far off track I got there was always the one thing that remained. I was in my element, I was outdoors doing something I enjoyed in an environment that gave me a thrill. It was the scenery I loved along the way.

Life is all about the scenery. It’s about finding dead end roads and turning around to walk a new path.

There’s no promise that there will be a pot of gold at the end of your trail. But there is a promise that if you don’t keep trying there will never be a pot of gold and you’ll miss a lot the scenery along the journey.

What’s Your Story

What IS your story. I’m curious to hear it. In fact I’d like to write it.

Facebook is filled with all sorts of posts about finding your true self, about doing what makes you happy, and being who you are no matter what others think. I have for a long time been on a mission to do what I love. And what I genuinely love most is writing. I’d have to say I’m pretty good at it too.

I know the difference between to, too and two. I can define theirs and there’s, its and it’s and I have an enormous lexicon (if you don’t know what that is then you probably don’t). I’ve got a pretty solid handle on grammar and at times I’m a damn good story teller; in fact I’m getting ready to publish a couple of books soon. But like many writers, I come up short sometimes on what to write about next. That’s why I would really like to enlist your help.

yourstoryI’m on the lookout for good stories. If you have one you’d like to share, I’d love to read it. More so what I’m looking for are some good titles. That seems to be one of my strengths; to take nothing more than a title and pen a story based on those few short words. In fact, one of the tricks I use to keep writers block at bay is to make up lists of titles, then later pull them out and think about what they might turn into.

Here’s the challenge I want to put to you. Send me your titles. Jot down a few short words to serve as a title and I will write five hundred words or more based on nothing else but the title. I can’t promise it’s going to turn out anything like you imagined; then again isn’t that part of the fun in this? So let me see what you’ve got.

I’m open to just about anything you want to throw my way. I must first acknowledge that I won’t be able to do this for every title that is sent to me. I plan to choose one to write each Sunday for the month of August. That’s four, and if I’m compelled, I’ll do another one or two for the kicks.

I can’t promise any cash rewards. I’m just an aspiring author at this point who publishes three different blogs of various topics. What I can promise is to give you kudos for giving me good titles. And if by some far out chance one of those stories turns into a published work (other than my own blog pages or sites I post on for free) then I will in the very least buy you a night on the town. Sure, if it makes me rich I’ll give you greater rewards. Just don’t be holding your breath on that account.

So let’s have at it. Show me what you’ve got. I want to see some great title ideas. Anything spiritual, funny, enlightening, scary or even depressing. Don’t send me politics, that’s one subject I stay away from; even though I am passionate about my politics. I just leave that one to the professionals.

Post them to this thread on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google; or send them by email if you know me and prefer.

I’m sure there are some great ideas out there and I’m looking forward to bringing them to life. Now get to work on ideas and next Sunday I’ll share the first of those with you and maybe even some trailers of those to come.

It Doesn’t Matter What You Are

Over the years there have been some phrases I’ve coined, not that any of them have actually caught on outside my circle, but profound and powerful nonetheless.

This one has been a part of me for quite some time. I use it to defend myself at times, and I use it to try and help others recognize the power they have over themselves to change.

“It doesn’t matter what you are, as long as YOU know what that is….”

The powerful part of this statement is what it connotes rather than what it actually says. Because, if you’re a mass murderer, knowing what you are does not justify what you do. In fact nothing is simply justified by what you do. We are justified because knowing what we are gives us the power to take the first step towards change.

changeI’ve had several friends who battled alcoholism. Those who overcame their addiction will tell you that the very first step was admitting they had a problem.

If you’re an alcoholic, a drug addict, a sex addict, a wife beater, a thief, a liar or an asshole of any sort, it’s okay. The important thing is that you recognize these faults within yourself and make a genuine effort to act on that knowledge and affect change.

Everybody has room for improvement. In fact what some people are is blind to knowing what they are; too arrogant and too selfish to think for a moment that they have anything to overcome.

Meanwhile, I don’t want to suggest that we are constantly down on ourselves for our habits and failings. That’s counter productive in itself. Rather, find joy in the fact that you have the power and insight to know what you are. Rejoice that you have the strength and courage to change who you are and better yourself, your character, your circumstances and your life for your own well being, and for the sake of others.

Me? I have a very low tolerance for people. I don’t like selfishness, arrogance or stupidity on any level. Knowing this about myself helps me to better deal with those things in people. I’m overly kind to others and often allow them to walk over me because I’m really trying to overcome my own failings; the desire to smack them upside the head. I often get myself into personal (and professional) situations where my failure to speak up causes things to get worse rather than better. So for me, it’s a delicate balance where I need to learn more patience and more tact.

I have two step sons. It has been a challenge for me to be the kind of father I feel I need to be for them while trying not to upset the balance of being a stand-in father. All kids need to have things pointed out to them at times and they need to be guided in knowing what they are; all in the spirit of change.

We’re all human, we all make mistakes, and we all need to strive to be better people. Maybe the next time some arrogant soul points out your failings you can look at them and say, “You know? I never realized that about myself, but I want to thank you for pointing it out.” That puts the power back in your hands to become a better person. And maybe they’ll recognize their own failings in that moment and put some time and attention to their own character.

Tornadoes and Hurricanes and Floods, Oh My!

From the bank, under the shade of big trees, I watched the sun come up over the lake, the mist rising off the water as fishermen made their way across the calm to find a rewarding spot of their own.

It was a stark contrast to the rural communities we had passed through on the trip here. One side of their streets boasting small town America and the other, ravaged by recent tornadoes, looked like the aftermath of Hiroshima.

There was a feeling of peace, a sense of hope sitting here, a renewed determination to change my stars. Becoming a successful writer has been my lifelong passion.

Most of my career has revolved around sales. I hate sales. I’m an excellent marketing person, persuasive writer and exceptional graphic artist. But every time I’ve tried to land marketing jobs employers continue to equate marketing to sales. My portfolio is full of successful web sites, logos and marketing materials and my pocket is empty trying to be a salesman.

When I came across the Barefoot Writers Club it changed my paradigm with an epiphany. Copywriting is my specialty and that’s what I do. I’m certainly not a sales person. It was time to adjust my focus and leave the office and daily routine behind for my copywriting career.

barefoot-hikingI am a humble man. I don’t have a passion for big houses and fancy cars. I was raised in a Country Club neighborhood by successful parents. Yet I am more at home wearing a backpack and sleeping in cabins.

I like to travel and I love the freedom to experience new things; mostly nature and natural wonders. I blog about my nature trips and have hiked a large portion of the Appalachian Trail. There’s something about being consumed by open spaces that ignites my soul.

But my deeper passion is to help other people, to go disaster zones where hurricanes and tornadoes, floods and famines have left a wake of people in need. And not in some foreign land, but right here at home in America.

My wife is a counselor, a life coach, and I’m training with her to be a part of that. Our Independence Day is being able to hop in the RV and go to places where we are needed, to travel across this great country and be a part of helping others to overcome their struggles, providing resources and services to get them back on their feet. We want to live campsite to campsite making new friends, helping others and spending extended periods close to family.

We both have a passion to be writers. We want to be able to reach out through our experiences into the lives of others and bring them hope and inspiration, both in our words and through our actions.

Our day of freedom will be when we can afford to do nothing but travel, making a great living writing, coaching and helping people to rebuild their lives.

This post is my entry to the Barefoot Writers Club monthly contest. No more than 500 words on what my Writer’s Independence Day would look like; What am I seeking independence from? What do I want to escape? What will my new life look like? — I think I nailed it.

Congested Area Ahead

congestedMost of my life I’ve lived in big cities. Quite a contrast when you consider my roots are in some of the smallest towns in America; one I recently had the opportunity to revisit.

As we left the resort area along the winding two lane road we passed a temporary road sign that read, “Congested Area Ahead”. I sort of chuckled at that point knowing that what I considered “congested” was not likely to be what we encountered at all. In fact we probably didn’t pass a hundred people on the road during our whole trip that day.

As we arrived in the small town my grandparents once lived in the sign read, “Crossville 500”. My wife asked, “Is that how many people live here?” The answer of course is yes, and no. I would venture to say that since that sign was posted, about half the people (or more) have left for greener pastures.

The town is called Crossville because it resides, quite literally, at the intersection of State Route 1 and 2. It is a very VERY small town.

We had gone to just poke around and afford my wife the opportunity to experience the culture I came from. It was a rather brief tour, one blinking light and if you blink, you’ll miss it. There is quite literally nothing there. We stopped long enough for her to take her photo next to the street sign where my grandparents once lived which bears the family name.

Before heading out of town we needed to get some gas. There’s only one stop in town to do that which is also the local convenience store. The closest Wal-Mart is twelve miles away; which isn’t so far in contrast. There is a small supermarket in town, but you won’t find much more than staples and very limited brands.

We pulled up to the gas pump (one of two) and there was no place to swipe your credit card. Just a regular old gas pump with three grades to choose from; just lift the handle and start pumping. My wife was quite impressed by this event.

“You don’t have to take the money in first? Isn’t anyone watching?” I handed her twenty dollars and a dime since I went a little bit over the twenty mark. She was again amazed when she walked the money in and nobody was anticipating her arrival. She had to call them out and tell them we got gas, handed them the money and walked out simply shocked they were so casual.

As we drove down to the ferry at the Ohio River, headed back to our resort in Kentucky, crossing the vast farmlands of Illinois, I commented that the traffic was exceptionally light. We hadn’t passed a car in five miles or more and there was only one ahead of us, maybe a mile or more down the road. Yeah, we could see that far ahead pretty easy.

What comes to mind over all is a conversation I had with a New York, NY, friend of mine who was working with me in Washington, D.C., some many years ago. He was remarking how, at the time, Southeast D.C. had become the murder capital of the nation. He didn’t understand why people would kill each other so easily at such an alarming rate.

In D.C., like most modern cities, people live on top of each other and honestly are not very kind or thoughtful to one another. Big cities seem to be brutal places.

When my New York friend made his comment I fired back with a simple realistic statement. I am reminded of that comment all these years later as I contemplate the contrast between our home in Orlando and our visit to Crossville. The reality seems to be coming home with more sincerity than it did when I first said it.

Put 2.4 million people onto a small piece of real estate, take away their jobs, their education and feed them on government assistance and it doesn’t matter what race or nationality they are; they will eventually start killing each other like rats in a cage.

More Americans now live in big cities than in rural areas. Logically, crime rates and murder statistics are higher in more populated areas. It’s all about the numbers. I’m sure a detailed study of these things might reveal some interesting revelations. But I don’t need a study to help me see that people are far different creatures by nature when they have more space to roam.

We are fortunate in America to have a lot of wide open spaces. It’s a shame we don’t put them to better use. We can live with more passion and compassion and stop the killing by avoiding the congested areas.