The value of examining your core beliefs regularly

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The world is flat.

Applying leeches will get rid of a patient’s illness.

If someone takes your picture, they’ll steal your soul.

At one time, each of these statements was believed by groups of people. Today, we scoff at these theories because we know them to be untrue.

But the people who believed these things were not stupid.

The world’s best scientists believed the world was flat. Experienced, caring doctors believed leeches got rid of “bad” blood. Wise community leaders believed that spirits could be captured by cameras.

So what changed? How did people come to accept a different reality…


What else have I forgotten?

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The ’70s was the era of canned tuna and cottage cheese and peach slices for the calorie-conscious woman. My mom was a fan. When I was growing up, she served cottage cheese with supper, maybe five or six times a month.

I liked it fine, but once I moved out, I don’t remember ever buying curds OR whey for my tuffet. It seemed like old-people food. And my meager food budget was allocated to only the basic necessities: pasta, chicken, bagels, frozen veggies, cereal, milk, chocolate, and Diet Coke. Mostly pasta and Diet Coke, to be honest.

A curd in the hand…

A few years…


And, of course, she left us with a story

Mom, mid-laugh. Photo by Andy Greenwell.

We got the call Tuesday morning. Mom had passed overnight…very suddenly. She was 88. She had some health issues, but nothing imminently threatening. We thought we had three or four more years with her. At least.

As with every aspect of her life, even her death was a story. She would have laughed to hear us tell it with embellishment. She’d have added funny details. In a nutshell, she spilled shredded cheese on the floor, rolled the vacuum cleaner out, and then, something happened. She sat down in her recliner in reaction to whatever she felt and then passed immediately…


Confessions of an incompetent homeowner

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WHEN I GOT DIVORCED AND BOUGHT A HOUSE, my ex said to me, “I can’t wait until it snows and you have to shovel. I’m going to bring a chair over to sit and watch!”

Yes, he had done most of the snow removal during our marriage, but it’s not like it’s rocket science. Shovel, snow, muscle. That’s all there is to it.

Here in Michigan, where snowfalls can be a foot or more, I handled the post-divorce snow just fine for many years, thank you very much. And the mowing. And the gutter cleaning. And even painting the exterior…

Sometimes, it’s not about us

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“Do you like your job, Tina?”

My grandfather asked me the question at dinner after my first day of a professional conference — my first as a young communications pro. I’d found one in Phoenix so that I could stay and spend time with my grandparents. They’d moved there after retiring when I was 13, and I still missed living next door to them. They’d been responsible for much of the joy and laughter in my childhood.

“I do! I like it a lot,” I gushed, telling about how great my boss was and the interesting projects I was working…

Space + air = life

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I lay still in a reclined chair, a clear plastic hood inches from my face. The sound of my own breathing was absurdly magnified inside the bubble. I could hear nothing but rushing air, labored and echoey. Would there be enough air for me after the next breath? Or the next breath. Or the next one. Where was the air? How would it get to me?

The lights were low in the lab. The research study technicians measuring my resting metabolic rate had left the room. With every breath, I willed myself not to rip off the hood and run…

Sometimes all you can do is be strong

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My beloved’s mother is dying. Her incredible strength is fading — a stoic woman whose own mother died when she was five, who lost her daughter to a drunk driver, who raised a special-needs son in a small, rural town with no support or resources, who helped three children become the first generation in their family to graduate from college, who cared for a husband with debilitating Parkinson’s, who soldiered through COVID-19 infection without complaint. At 90, her mind is gone, and her body is aching to follow.

I’ve known him for seven years; I met her almost seven years…


Exactly how many pronouns does one person need to use?

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My third career — at the age of 19, following stints as a janitor and a fast-food worker — was secretarial work. I worked for two homeowners insurance companies while attending college, mostly in the claims department.

Part of my job was typing letters to insureds (er, customers) informing them that their claim was being paid or denied. This was an old-school job. Paper, carbon copies, IBM Selectric typewriter, envelopes, postage meter,…you name it. It was vintage office work. Insurance adjusters dropped thick, manila claims folders into the wire in-box at the corner of my desk throughout the day. …

Punctuation passion strikes again…or is it something more?

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Writers are passionate about punctuation. Somehow, commas, semi-colons, and even the lowly hyphen sit at our emotional center. We have strong feelings about how and when to use various marks, and we will fight to the death over, say, the serial comma. (Pro-serial, btw. I feel like that could go alongside my “she/her” notation so that people are clear about where I stand.)

No one ever said writers are normal people. So I should know better than to joke about punctuation. It’s dangerous territory.

Last night, as I browsed LinkedIn, I found a survey about whether one should send a…

Tina L. Smith

Writer, humorist, animal lover, lifelong language geek (er, I proofread for fun). I write on diverse topics that catch my fancy. Everything but haiku(tm). [she]

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