Mind Your Words

Mind Your Words

My brain screeches with righteous indignation while my heart burns with empathy in reaction to the careless onslaught of one man’s opinionated insult.  Unfortunately, situations like the following are a reminder that our world teems with bigotry and intolerance.  Under the guise of freedom of speech, bullying appears to continue on the adult playground.

I don’t normally react to current events.  In fact, I avoid the daily barrage of negative news.  With my pessimistic challenges, these stories knock me down a rung on my day’s climb.  The story of a hero came into my internet world though, and I love heroes.

So I was reeled in by the plight of a young lady who was fat shamed on a recent airline flight by a man who texted in clear sight that he was sitting next to a “smelly fatty”.   Fortunately, there was someone who cared enough to notice her sadness, and rescued the situation.  But the damage had been done, both to her and the perpetrator of the text.

As we travel through this commune called life, consideration should be given to how simple words can affect our fellow humans.  It is probable we have all been guilty at one time or another of forming thoughtless words, possibly because a toddler “me-first” attitude remains in the history of our psyches.  Especially within our families, the urge to ‘say it like it is’, as we compose it in our own minds, can unintentionally cause irreparable harm or at the very least, dents in overall confidence.  I’m guilty. 

An old story taken from Cherokee folklore of two wolves comes to mind; I repeat as I recall.

There was a grandfather who was speaking with his grandson about a battle that goes on inside each person’s mind. 

He tells him,“You will find there are two wolves fighting inside all of us.  One has evil qualities, such as anger, envy, pride, superiority, ego…etc.

The other is filled with good qualities like joy, peace, love, humility, kindness…etc.”

The little grandson after thoughtfully considering, asked: “Well, which wolf wins?”

The grandfather answered simply, “the one you feed”.

How does this relate?  It reminds me that at times it’s not easy to choose to respond to the call to love our human neighbors.  It can even represent a battle in our deepest selves. 

Superiority and the ugly actions that follow in words have no place in a world where love for others drives common decency.  Sadly, fertilizing the seeds of the evil wolf’s qualities only causes non-retractive

indiscretions hurting everyone in the process. 

And the lesson that sticks in my mind, while reading about the impact of a seemingly harmless expression of discomfort in a text message, is how our words become our actions when we inflict insults upon others, and how our actions clearly define which wolf we are feeding.

-Erika K Rothwell



I need more than a writing coach; I need a writing therapist.

Writing is supposed to make me feel better.  It does for a minute, and then the anxiety bubbles up in me, calling me to write more. 

Stories, cry to be written.  I feel dragged on a submissive voyage crossing the sea of hope as I allow the pen to keep me afloat.  Wanting to explain something that can’t be explained and surrendering to the glimmers of thoughts outlined with an introduction and a conclusion grants me a momentary sliver of peace as I bask in its completion.

Yet it’s never finished.  It only opens up another door, that must be walked through.  Sometimes there are multiple doors opening at the same time and I don’t know if I can choose.   

I write myself out of the negative.  I write myself right side up.  Most of the time, I write to convince myself there is a silver lining. Encouraging you encourages me.

The bubbles are always there, floating.  Sometimes I’m able to capture them before they pop.  Other times they float away too quickly to even be recognized fully. 

Effervescent bubbles build pressure.  Rising to the top, I write.

Inner debates and philosophical arguments need to be won, positioned in word pieces grasping for perfect tempo.  Reflections become what I want to see.  The words rescue me.


Prisms, capturing air

take flight

wind directs

bubbles playfully invite   

follow slowly, gently

don’t hold too tight,

delicate ideas

disappear from sight

-Erika K Rothwell




Odie, in his younger days

Love Story

I knew I shouldn’t have acquiesced.  But who can deny your little girl’s begging, “Please Mom, please…just for a minute.  I had always said no.  I did not like compromising situations, nor the call of my heart which often led to non-analytical decisions that could impact the rest of my life.

She didn’t give in.  It was if her whole world of happiness rested on me saying yes.  And so, I was coerced by my love for her to enter the forbidden zone.

And then, it happened.  I heard the cry.  A tiny little puppy, the size of a beanie baby, looked at me with his El Zorro mask and apparent underbite continuing to whimper.  I congratulated the lady holding him asking, “Oh, how cute, did you just adopt him?”.   

She then told me the most heart-wrenching tale of his first few weeks on this earth, by saying, “Oh, no…he’s crying because all of his seven brothers and sisters were adopted and he is the only one left.  He has no one”.  As if that wasn’t distressing enough already, she continued “These puppies were left by the roadside, so we don’t know where his mother is or what breed he is, possibly beagle.”

What happened next, I don’t think I need to explain.  It’s a love story.

He clearly wasn’t a beagle.  He was a maniac.  Most of the time a loving maniac, but he had a button that you didn’t want to ever push.  He was the classic, ‘bark worse than his bite’ type of dog.  We were always afraid that he might, but when he warned it was a snarl and rough kiss that you felt for a day.  His apology always came with a sad, downward glance, as if to say, “I’m not sure what I did or why I did it, but I’m sure I’m sorry.”

No, he wasn’t the perfect dog.  He was the classic ‘need the dog whisperer’ case.   And one came along.  He needed to be understood, and a dear friend took on the job.  We left him for a weekend and returned to an almost civilized companion.

As days turned into years, our research turned up that he may be a rat terrier.  He never chased rats, but the backyard squirrel crazed him.  He would spend hours barking and chasing it along the fence line.

We remember the few field trips he accompanied us on, picturing him riding nervously but sitting up proudly like the captain of the car, pushing excitedly forward to be in the front seat peering at the window, as if he was driving. 

He stayed small, but fierce as he continued to add badges of honor on his shiny black coat.  He once fended off a coyote, loyally saving his master during an early morning run…that same master who yelled and screamed when he was brought home by his love-struck wife.  Next, he barked an incessant warning as he stood by an enormous snake wrapped around our backyard tree.  And finally, he saved his little sister (a rather unsuspecting bichon-poodle) from a hungry bobcat that had jumped our fence, by using all of his napoleon-syndrome traits to corner it by our kitchen door, until his master arrived.

And did I mention the word walk?  “Oh joy”, sarcastically said, those words brought on the most intense yelps of delight and the, all too familiar, tazmanian dance.  It was not easy to get the leash on at that point.

This pint-sized fur ball of furious love was in our lives for almost 14 years.  He greeted us with emphatic tail wagging and learned to go with the family flow, which was pretty loud sometimes.  His anxiety issues stayed at bay most of the time, but when aroused he accepted his family’s love and it was enough to calm him.

He knew we loved him.  Although he was at home outside, his last days brought him inside most of the time, while he would stare out the window or door as if longing for the days of chasing the ‘dang’ squirrel. 

The last run inside and up the stairs to greet his master proved to be too strenuous for his overworked heart.  He went unconscious.  It appeared we had lost our beloved pet.  But not so, he heard my voice and lifted his head as to say, “I’m not dead yet!  Are you bringing me a treat?”

He went on for a few days, tiring with each routine step.  His last walk was actually a ride in the wagon.  Still, he wouldn’t give in to his weakness, jumping out a couple of times before submitting to his obvious lack of strength.  And yet, his fight wasn’t over.  Although, he had trouble getting up, his last evening he turned on his protect mode, when the doorbell rang,  jumping up to run to the door barking his warning as if he wasn’t even ill. 

He was a fighter, struggling to stay strong for us, but he was willing to surrender in the end and pass as he lay down on the grass in the sun for his final nap.

Grieving on the way to the vet,  my son shared that he had searched for proof that pets go to heaven.  I couldn’t help but tearfully relay what I knew in my heart.  Pets, especially dogs, are brought to us in love.  They teach us their whole lives how to be loving by showing unconditional trust in our care and giving us empathetic, and sometimes undeserving devotion.  I believe they come from love and go back to love when they leave us.

He loved us.  We loved him.  He was part of our family.  Odie, our little guy, we will forever miss you.

In folklore, the red cardinal is believed to be a messenger from heaven.  As I sat back down to write today, I looked out to the spot where he had laid motionless in the warm rays of early day.  A red cardinal was walking where he had this morning.

-Erika K Rothwell



The white bird, egret it’s called.  It walks sticking its neck out with every step.  Around my pond, it spends its days reminding me of heaven, and I’m not sure why.

My husband feels the same.  On unsuspecting quiet mornings, the bird finds his mourning soul.  He smiles while he cries, remembering the man he admired.

My father was not only paternal to me, but he told me one day, “I kind of love him”.  Those words were strong, love was not a word used often.  My father loved my husband, and my husband loved him too. 

His 50th birthday would not pass, without the white bird and all his friends.  It was a white bird convention.  He cried and drove to the church, where my father’s humble memorial service had been held in a tiny room with a large bible and Jesus looking over.  Only the family was there, sharing the gifts of our hearts.  My husband remembered and relived it on his 50th.

Sticking his neck out, my father escaped a war-torn country to suffer homelessness and loneliness.  He arrived in our country as a migratory bird.  He walked tirelessly, not without aggravation to provide for his family.  His neck was strong.  He continued to stick it out, teaching the unteachable.  We loved him, but he did not receive the applause he deserved.  Like the white bird, he was always there.  We counted on him but we did not cheer for him.  He was a constant.  And then he left. 

We still feel him.  And the white bird reminds us.  Love never dies.


– Erika K Rothwell