The Always-Never Syndrome

The Ragtag Daily Prompt is IMPECCABLE
The Word of the Day Prompt is KNIFE
and the Discovery Prompt is TEACH

When I saw these three prompts, the first few lines of my story fell into place naturally, but then I needed the rest of the story to deal with…

The Dreaded Always-Never Syndrome

Her kitchen counter was impeccable, except for a jammy knife and a scattering of bread crumbs on the counter. The sight made her furious.

When she screeched Nick came running, toast in hand. “Mom. What happened?”

“What’s this doing here?” She pointed to the knife. “Didn’t we teach you to put dishes in the dishwasher and wipe the counter when you’re done making food?” She glared at him.

“Is that all? I thought somebody stepped on Nero’s tail again. You sound just like him when you screech like that.”

“You never clean up after yourself. You always leave a mess that I have to clean up!”

“I’ll get it. You don’t always need make such a huge thing of such a small mess. Anyway, you never squawk like that when Uncle James leaves a mess on your precious pristine counter.”

“It’s not my job to teach Uncle James. He’s a temporary fixture here until he gets work again.”

“He’s been here four months now. He’ll never find work. Especially when the food’s free and you always wait on him hand and foot.”

“I DO NOT wait on him hand and foot! I never…”

“Whoa, people,” Dad said as he walked into the kitchen. “It sounds like the Always-Never Syndrome has attacked again. Break away. Let’s get back to reality.”

“Nick left this grubby knife on the counter.” Mom pointed. “And crumbs. Again.”

Dad nodded at Nick. “Clean it up.”

Under Mom’s scowl Nick grabbed the knife and stuck it in the dishwasher. He wiped the crumbs off the counter, then quickly left the room to avoid further rehearsal of his faults.

Dad put his arm around Mom. “He does clean up most of the time, doesn’t he?”

“Well…I guess…”

“He’s trying. I don’t always remember to do things I should, either. And maybe you don’t, either?”

Mom was still irritated. “He said James will never find a job. That I wait on him hand and foot.”

Dad sighed. “Once always and never start flying, truth hides in a closet somewhere. It’s okay to help James now while he needs it. He’s sill job-hunting, maybe gets a little discouraged, but he’s persistent and will find one. He will move out — I promise — and when he does we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief. Someday we may even talk about ‘the good times we had while Uncle James stayed with us’.”

“I suppose…”

“Nick will remember to clean up most of the time. And someday he’ll get a job, too, and make his own messes in his own place. Then we’ll be on our own and you’ll have only me to pick up after. Who knows? I may have even caught on by then, too.” He gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “And I’ll always love you.”

She threw her arms around him. “Now I remember why I married you.”

The Big Event


The “Quill & Quaver” mystery writers group in Los Delitos held their last-before summer meeting at the end of March. When the suggestion was made that they, together with the Sangfroid Writers from Los Calidos, should host a joint Writers Conference the following year, it received hearty support. When presented to the Sangfroids, they were just as enthused.

A committee was chosen to do the ground work, choosing a suitable date and seeing which speakers and venues might be available for that time. Someone suggested that this event be held in early April, before folks started to spend time at their cottages and outdoor sports were getting underway. A vote was held and a date chosen; a joint committee of four was selected to orchestrate the event.

The venue was spoken for and the committee found a plenary speaker available during that time. Workshop topics were suggested and voted on. Chosen were:
— “Crime Scene Details You Need to Know”
— “Combining Crime & Romance”
— “Red Herrings and Other Plotting Devices”
— “Compelling Writing”
— “Tie Up Those Loose Ends”
— “Setting Up Your Author Website.”

When club members heard that Jarrold Heppner had agreed to be the plenary speaker they were overjoyed. An author with 45 novels under his belt, he’d be the perfect “Rah-rah, get out there and write!” motivator. Various other published authors were contacted find those who’d be willing to conduct a workshop on each topic; half a dozen of these were selected as presenters.

Finally the details fell into place. The Writers Conference would take place April 10th-11th at the Ice Palace Hotel in Los Calidos. Catering was all arranged. At the last meeting there were some worried souls who feared some detail may have been missed, or some other, bigger crowd-drawing event might overshadow theirs, but everyone came away from the meeting reassured that all precautions had been taken and the event would be a success.

As the date approached, everyone took up their roles with enthusiasm. A few months ahead, advertising leaflets were printed; these were distributed around both cities. The club secretaries e-mailed hundreds of different groups and organizations that might be interested. Registrations began coming in. Last minute changes were made to the menu to accommodate particular dietary needs. Name tags were printed and assembled.

And then Covid-19 reared its ugly head.


The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is FINALLY
The Discover writing prompt is: ORCHESTRATE
This story is fiction, though I do know about organizing writers conferences. And I’m categorizing this as HUMOR. May as well, right? 😉

Categories & Tags: Advice for New Bloggers

The WordPress Discover prompt for today is BELOW.

If you look BELOW every WordPress post, you’ll see a list of words: the categories and tags the blogger has chosen to describe the subject matter of their post. WordPress allows us to use up to fifteen of these on each post, so choose them wisely. WordPress says these multi-tagged posts will automatically be sent to SPAM.

Some bloggers seem to think “the more the better” and plaster oodles of tags on their posts — a lot of them worthless for actually finding the post. This is like coming to a beach party in tux and tails, gold cuff-links and a flashy silk tie. Too much is overkill. Go home and change.


Back when WordPress had their First Friday feature, I’d drop in now and then to meet and greet some new bloggers. Since they were learning the ropes and open to a little guidance, I often left this advice about categories and tags. I’ll publish it here in case some new bloggers are reading this; maybe some long-time bloggers who haven’t bothered much with C’s & T’s can benefit, too.

The purpose of Categories and Tags is two-fold:
— Primarily, they help other people to find your posts
— Secondly, they become, over time, your blog’s filing system

When it comes to choosing those fifteen C’s & T’s, my first question is:
When was the last time you searched cyberspace for “MY AUNT?” Or “NOTES”? Or PETER?

Does anyone else in the world care about MY AUNT or my NOTES or some generic PETER? You might get posts about some famous performer, or the Apostle Peter, but otherwise…

Categories & Tags are very useful creatures. New bloggers can create them when they publish each post, using the sidebar on the right. For those of us who’ve been around the block a few times, we already have a list to pick from, and can add others.

Tagging our posts is how we invite other bloggers to check out what we’ve written. For example, if I add an ARTICLE or EDUCATION tag for my post, it will send my post title and a couple of lines to the Reader. Other bloggers searching for posts on Articles or Education will see mine listed and hopefully come and read what I’ve written.

C’s & T’s & TITLES: Working Together

Choose clear, catchy post titles. Are you going to be interested in a post titled “AUNT LINDA’S IDEA ABOUT WHAT HER FRIEND NEEDS” and goes on to say: “Yesterday my Aunt Linda stopped in for a brief visit and she said we should check up on…”?

But if a parent sees a title like “WORKABLE IDEAS FOR HOME-SCHOOLING” and the opening line reads, “It’s a real challenge for parents who find themselves with several children to teach at home, but I’ve found a few things that may help…” they’ll very likely want to read more.


Some bloggers use C’s and T’s; some may use only one or the other. It’s up to you. Both go to the Reader. However, categories and tags also become, over time, your blog’s filing system. I wish I’d understood better how they work when I started blogging. In fact, after a few years I started a brand new site and slowly reposted all my writing so I could use suitable categories and tags for each item.

I use CATEGORIES as the drawers of my “filing cabinet.” The C’s you see in the Menu below my Header, like Poetry, Fiction, Books. My tags are like files within the drawer. Under Poetry you’ll see tags like: Nature, Seasons, Home, Inspiration, etc. Under the Fiction category you’ll find tags like Stories, Children, Family, etc

Among the Widgets there is one bloggers can install that puts a list of Categories on your blog’s front page, or you can create a visible Menu of them as I’ve done. Or you can display them in your sidebar. Another option is to install the widget that gives you a Tag Cloud. You can choose how many tags will display.

To each his own, but in my opinion it’s better to limit the number displayed, or choose “Display as a drop-down list,” rather than having a list of seventy-five tags running down the Home Page sidebar. Generally speaking, try to make things as simple as possible for your visitors. I’ve stopped to have a look at some sites, but they were so cluttered I just left again.

Be selective when choosing C’s & T’s. Pick something pertinent to your post, topics people are actually going to be looking for. “Aunt Sue” may be an intriguing person, but not a very compelling tag for someone who doesn’t even know who YOU are. Ditto with Flowers or My trip. Titling your post Cheap Vacation Spots and tagging it Travel, Adventure, River rafting, Timbuktu adventure would be far more apt to draw visitors than simply Vacation. The specific English language tag will draw readers more than the general Grammar. Here’s a good place to go for more ideas on what C’s and T’s to use:


The Ragtag Daily Prompt word today is SHAMBLES, and this describes the hodge-podge that goes into Uncategorized. Uncategorized is the default setting that comes with every new blog. It tells no one anything about your post.

I consider this the waste of a perfectly good tag. Like dropping a luscious ice cream cone in a puddle. My advice: get rid of it.

A blogger can change their default by going to the left hand sidebar and selecting Settings. Next you see a screen where, across the center at top are four words: General, Writing, Discussion, Traffic. Click on Writing

The first line under writing is for Categories. You’ll see how many you have and what the Default is. Click on the arrow at right. Now you get to add more categories and also change the default to something that better suits your blog’s general theme. If there’s a Save Changes button somewhere on the screen, hit it. You should be good to go.

I’ve chosen Reflections as my default, because most of my posts are of a reflective nature. If you’re a poet, choose POETRY. If you like giving your thoughts on this and that, choose OPINIONS. If your choice doesn’t suit a particular post, you can click the check mark on the Default to take it off that particular post.

And now I shall choose for this post as many pertinent categories and tags as possible, and hit publish. 🙂

Only One Who Got It

The Discover prompt today is STREET

I’ve told this tale at some point in the past, but will retell it as my response to this prompt:

I got married after I finished Grade Eleven, so never did get my Grade Twelve. About twenty years back I decided to write the GED test to get my General Equivalency Diploma. This certificate proves to employers that you have the equivalent of a Grade Twelve knowledge.

I did it just for anyhow. In retrospect it was a more of an interesting diversion than anything, because what you need to know to pass Grade Twelve now was about what we knew in Grade Ten when I went to school. And to top it all off, when I did get my certificate, the printer had spelled “Congratulations” wrong!

Anyway, I signed up for the GED test prep evening classes, about ten in all, held at a school not far from where we lived. There were at least twenty people, almost all under 30, I’d say, and we had an enthusiastic and very patient instructor, a teacher about 35 years old. We all enjoyed him.

He and I had a few interesting exchanges in the hall before or after class, not so much about religion, but some leaning that way. You know how sometimes you meet a person and somehow sense that the two of you are on the same wavelength? I knew he was a modern Catholic and felt somewhat of a kindred spirit from him; I think he felt the same.

But the particular class incident that still makes me smile is the one where he announced to us that he was going to tell us a joke. Everyone sat up and listened, eager for the joke and of course the punch line. This was a very clean joke, he assured us. (I later learned that this is an old joke but it was new to me that evening, too.)

“There was once a very rich man who was on his death bed. He wanted to go to Heaven, but he just couldn’t bear to leave all his wealth behind. So he begged God, “Can’t I take some of my money — even a little?”

Finally God relented. “Okay, I”ll let you bring ONE suitcase. You can bring as much wealth along as will fit in that one suitcase. But that’s all.”

The rich man was delighted and converted his cash into gold bars enough to fill the suitcase. He had it by his bed when he died.

Now he gets to those pearly gates lugging this heavy suitcase and St Peter’s waiting there. “Hold it. You can come in, but you can’t bring that suitcase in. Nothing of earth enters in here.”

“I’ve talked to God about this and He’s given me permission to bring one suitcase.”

“So what’s in it,” St Peter asks. “Open it up and let’s see what you’re carrying in.” The man opens the suitcase and proudly shows him all those gold bars gleaming.

St Peter appears bewildered, and says, “You’ve brought pavement?”

Our teacher paused for us to get and respond to the punch line. I got it. I laughed.

It feels funny to be the only one in a group of over twenty who gets the punch line. But all the others sat there as bewildered as St Peter and the teacher had to explain that, according to the Bible, the streets of Heaven are paved with gold. So this rich man had brought more pavement. Get it? No wonder St Peter was stunned.

The class smiled politely, but the kernel of truth — all this stuff of earth, even the most precious of commodities, is worth nothing on those “Streets of Gold” — was lost to them. The joke had fallen as flat as the pavement.

I still think it’s funny — and yet so true. We’re so inclined to hold onto, to hoard. These days we’re even hoarding toilet paper and sanitizer. Heaven must laugh!

Another Stray

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is LONELY
and the Discover prompt: Day 2 is OPEN
Plus, it’s National Poetry Month, so here’s my response:


A cold wind rattles
me and the dying leaves
as I pass, going nowhere,
alone and unseen in the dark.

The glow from a window
a jab of memory: I see again
Mom’s kitchen door open for me,
and feel her warm hug,
smell the gingerbread cookies
She knew I was so fond of.

I walk away from the warmth;
like I did years back – crazy kid!
Farther down the street I find
a scrawny cat by a garbage can,
another stray with no home.
I wonder if he’s found
anything worth eating there?

Perhaps some prodigal mouse
will venture too far from home
searching for some idiotic thrill
and find only the claws
of an insatiably hungry cat.

An Old Joke, Slightly Enhanced

The DISCOVER writing prompt for today is JOKE, so I’m retelling an old joke for you.

When Jane’s husband came into the house one afternoon, she grabbed his arm in a tight squeeze. “I think we’d better do some serious talking, Pat,” she told him, dabbing at a tear. “I’ve just talked to the doctor and I get the impression I may not be with you much longer.”

Pat was stunned. He knew Jane had just been to the doctor a few days before and had a test done. “Is this about your test results? What did he tell you?”

“No, this is about the prescription he gave me. He definitely told me I’d need to take these pills for the rest of my life. But when I looked at the bottle I saw he’d given me a thirty-day supply — and it says NO REFILLS!”

Pat gasped. “It can’t be.”

“I had to know the truth, so I called and asked if I really have only a month left in this old world.”

“And what did he say,” Pat asked anxiously.

Jane grabbed a tissue and blew her nose. “He laughed.”

“Laughed! You’re dying and he laughs about it? Did he give any explanation?”

“I was so disturbed just I hung up. I was knocked for a loop for a minute, but then I decided to call the florist and order a $200 bouquet to cheer me up. And then I thought, why not live a bit while I’m still here, so I called Splash Pools and Saunas and ordered us a hot tub. Then I made an appointment for us to go on an airplane ride next week. I’ve always dreamed of doing that.”

Poor Pat almost fell over. Just then the phone rang. Pat answered and listened a moment. “I see. Yes, I see.” He heaved a sigh of relief. “Well, thank you doctor. We were so worried for a bit there. I’m glad to hear it’s all a misunderstanding.”

He paused and whispered to Jane. “Doctor says you’re good for twenty years yet. There’s no need to panic; you can get all the refills you need.”

Then he spoke to the doctor again, “Thanks so much for calling. This will set Jane’s mind at rest. However, I’m afraid my wallet just had a heart attack.”