This and That

Today I’m posting eight short pieces I call “this and that.”

1.“Ask Marilyn” is a weekly column by Marilyn vos Savant. Once she asked her readers to write a sensible, 100-word paragraph without repeating any words. More than 5,000 replied. Most relied on lists and really weird constructions. But here’s the winning paragraph by Jon Murie of Milford, MA:

Trying to type one hundred distinct words in a single paragraph is really tough. If I cannot repeat any of them, then probably those with many letters should be used. Maybe some readers will utilize dictionaries, thesauruses (thesauri?) or possibly encyclopedias, but my preference has always been that gray matter between your ears. Seriously, Marilyn, challenges such as this require skills beyond math, science and physics. So, what do you ask: reading comprehension, writing ability, good old-fashioned elbow grease? Scientists don’t care about structure; they want results. Hey, look! Only eleven more left! Five, four, three, two… done.


2. From How Good Do We Have to Be by Harold Kushner: Boston Globe columnist Linda Weltner makes this point in a story she tells. She remembers sitting in a park watching children at play. Two children get into an argument, and one says to the other, “I hate you! I’m never going to play with you again!” For a few minutes, they play separately, and then they are back sharing their toys with each other. Ms. Weltner remarks to another mother, “How do children do that? How do they manage to be so angry with each other one minute, and best of friends the next?” The other mother answers, “It’s easy. They choose happiness over righteousness.”


3. From “Earthweek: Diary of a Changing World”: The epic migration of a tiny bird was tracked as it traveled 12,400 miles back and forth between Alaska and the Amazon. The 0.4-ounce blackpoll warbler was observed taking 18 days to fly from Nome, Alaska, to the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas, where it rested and fattened up for almost a month. The bird then endured a non-stop 2.5-day flight across open water of the Atlantic toward its wintering grounds in South America.

Blackpoll warbler


4. The longest word in the English language has 189,819 letters. It’s the technical name of a protein, which lists its entire amino acid sequence and would take about 3 1/2 hours to say aloud. (And you thought supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was long!)


5. Will O’Brien’s 16-year-old daughter was talking about getting a tattoo. She already knew her father’s “law”: No tattoos before 18. When the family pressed her into telling what her tattoo would be and where on her body would it be, she said, “I want it on my wrist, and I want it to say ‘I will always love you’—in Dad’s handwriting.” She explained: she wanted to be able to glance at this reminder whenever she needed it.


6. You can’t hum while holding your nose. You just tested it, didn’t you? You might be able to get a note or two out, but good luck with trying to hum a full song. Normally when you hum, the air is able to escape through your nose to create the sound and, of course, it can’t do that when you’re holding your nose.


7. Short pieces of wisdom: Prayer: don’t give God instructions—just report for duty… God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage… Quit griping about the church; if it was perfect, you couldn’t belong… If God is your co-pilot, switch seats… When you get to your wit’s end, you’ll find God lives there.


8. And finally, the humorist Erma Bombeck, wrote “If I Had Life to Live Over Again” shortly after she was diagnosed with cancer. Here are a few of her words:

If I had life to live over again, I would have talked less and listened more… I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage… I would have cried and laughed less while watching TV and more while watching life… I would have taken time to listen to my grandfather ramble on about his youth… There would have been more “I love you’s” and “I’m sorry’s”… But mostly I would seize every minute… look at it and really see it… live it… and never give it back.

Did any of these short paragraphs touch you today? If so, which one(s) and why?

If you decided to get a tattoo, where would it be and what would it be or say? (If you already have one, where is it and what is it or what does it say?)

If you had life to live over again, what are some of the things that would be on your list?

I chose one of my favorite songs by Mercyme: “Word of God Speak.” It gently reminds me that prayer is mostly being still… being with… and listening… May you find God today in your place—whatever that place is for you today…

As usual, I invite you to respond below to anything in today’s post. We love hearing from you!


  1. Michelle on August 17, 2020 at 5:00 am

    All of the above short paragraphs made me smile. Especially the one regarding the bird, tattoo and Erma Bombeck. I have five tattoos all family related and on my back. One on each shoulder in memory of my paternal grandpa (heart with teardrops with what I called him G-pops in the middle)the other shoulder in memory of my maternal grandmother (angel wings with what I called her in middle Gram) both my family Crests my dad’s side is left, my mom side is right. Then the Italy boot with Sicily where mom’s side is from. Won’t regret any, since family is what makes you. Look forward to you devotion’s every Monday. Have a blessed day

  2. Thomas DeFreitas on August 17, 2020 at 5:25 am

    My tattoo would probably say “miserando atque eligendo” or “AMDG.” Probably on the arm between shoulder and elbow.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 17, 2020 at 6:52 am

      For those not familiar with Latin, I’ll translate Tom’s words. “Miserando atque eligendo” is Pope Francis’ motto on his coat of arms. Roughly translated: “by having mercy, by choosing (him).” It refers to the call of St. Matthew where Jesus “mercifully chooses” Matthew to be his disciple. The AMDG stands for “ad majorem dei gloriam,” which means “for the greater glory of God,” the Jesuit motto. Jesuit students (and others) were sometimes taught to put AMDG at the top of all their test and homework papers.

      • Judy S on August 17, 2020 at 8:25 pm

        and when I was in parochial grade and high school – Iowa – taught by the Presentations (PBVM), we were taught to put J M J at the top of our papers.

        • Pat T on August 23, 2020 at 10:29 am

          In grade school and high school in Queens, NY, I was taught my the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood. We put JMJ on top of our papers.

  3. Kathleen on August 17, 2020 at 5:52 am

    So many good ones but I like “Prayer: don’t give God instructions—just report for duty…” I need that one this week. Several elderly people around me have died, are dying, or could die. All wonderful people that I am close to in my life and are models of faith.

    I am just reporting for duty today. God bless.


  4. John Hopkins on August 17, 2020 at 6:04 am

    Good morning, Sr. Melannie…
    Good morning, all…

    Like Michelle, I liked the one about the Blackpoll warbler and Erma Bombeck’s words of wisdom, words worthy of reflection to be sure! That little bird, though, stirs the spirit, the imagination, and maybe even our faith. If God guides the warbler on its journey, let’s pray
    God guides us too!

  5. Ed Johnson on August 17, 2020 at 6:11 am

    Sister Melannie,
    So delightful to read your words accompanied by my 1st cup of coffee this, and every, Monday morning. My favorites: #7, Wisdom, especially “If God is your copilot, change seats.” And, #8, the incomparable Erma Bombeck. As a fellow Daytonian, I was introduced to Mrs. Bombeck’s writing at a young age…….none better than Erma. Had opportunities to see her in person twice; what treats. Thanks, Sister! Peace, Blessings, Wisdom, and Good Humor to all this week.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 17, 2020 at 6:56 am

      Ed, Years ago one of my college students surprised me with an autographed copy of one of Erma’s books, because she knew how much I liked Erma. Here is Erma’s wisdom for me: “To Sister Melannie, I’ve made it through life through prayer and a sense of humor—in that order! Love, Erma.” Melannie

  6. Denise on August 17, 2020 at 6:22 am

    I am searching for my “inner name” Sr.Macrina writes about in her book The Flowing Grace of Now. Once found, I would have it on my left forearm to prompt me to be authentic and to live as I was created.

  7. Linda Marie on August 17, 2020 at 7:28 am

    Good morning Sister Melanie and all. I look forward to starting my week with your reflection and song. I also like the insights of your readers. I like the fact that children can so easily let go of the hurts. My family is experiencing a great deal of hurt from years gone buy and finding it hard to forgive. Praying for that child-like forgiveness.

  8. Donna on August 17, 2020 at 7:51 am

    Hope you had a smooth move and are settling in. Thanks for your meaningful words each week. Blessings!

  9. Dee Lewis on August 17, 2020 at 8:08 am

    Choose happiness over righteousness. Possibly the best advice I’ve ever been given! Don’t give God instructions, just report for duty…brilliant!
    I have the full text of Erma Bombeck’s column. I keep it in my journal from way back because I think it’s wonderful.
    I love your weekly email…always gives so much food for thought. The comments are equally thought provoking.

  10. Anne Munnik on August 17, 2020 at 8:40 am

    All eight pieces had something wonderful, meaningful or interesting in them. But, what I loved most of all was the song ‘Let God Speak’ by Mercyme. Bellissima!
    Thank you Sister Melannie for each week’s inspiration. So look forward to it.

  11. Anne Munnik on August 17, 2020 at 8:43 am

    Sorry Sister … the song title is: ‘Word of God Speak’

  12. Mary on August 17, 2020 at 9:11 am

    St. Melannie,
    You’ve inspired, delighted, challenged me for some years with your sunflower seeds of wisdom. This is my first comment.
    #7 struck deeply today: Quit griping about the church; if it were perfect, you couldn’t belong.
    Thank you! I needed that reminder, for so many reasons.
    PS Generations of my family are in or from Chardon.

  13. anita compagnone on August 17, 2020 at 9:18 am

    All were great! I especially enjoyed the paragraph by the gentleman from Milford, MA since I was born and raised there. Thanks sister!

  14. Rose on August 17, 2020 at 9:59 am

    As an English teacher, #4 just about killed me! As for wisdom, if anyone has read Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache books, you will know the 4 sentences he lives by, teaching the young officers he trains to say: I am sorry. I was wrong. I don’t know. I need help.

  15. Kathy on August 17, 2020 at 10:30 am

    Thank you for another joyful morning read. I related to all of the stories, especially let God be the pilot. I do not have tattoos but my kids do. My oldest daughter has several. As an artist, she has a tattoo representing all 6 or our immediate family members – she has a needle and spool of thread for me as I see and make quilts. My middle daughter, who spent a few years doing mission work, has a single tattoo on her wrist that simply says Fiat – represents Mary’s response.
    Thanks again to you and to all others who respond. I do enjoy reading all.

    • Kathy on August 17, 2020 at 5:37 pm

      And please excuse the typos! I have such trouble typing on my phone.

  16. Pam on August 17, 2020 at 10:41 am

    Good Morning,
    I particularly like the story about the bird,prayer and the tattoo. Form then first time in my life of 74 years…I would love to have something in my mom or dads writing for a tattoo… you are always a great way to start the week…
    God bless…

  17. Jean Canatsey on August 17, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    Good morning, Sr. Melannie!
    As usual, you started my week with a smile! I liked all the short pieces but I especially enjoyed #8 by Emma Bombeck (She always had such good advice!) and #2 “Children choose happiness over righteousness.” If only adults could operate in that manner!
    I’ve never gotten a tattoo and probably never will but if I did… would be on my ankle and it would be a butterfly.
    Thanks for the song by “Mercy Me”. I always enjoy them.

  18. Pete on August 17, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    Isn’t it amazing how a small bird like the Warbler can stay with that migratory route? An inspiration for us all. Patience and direction. I never wore a wedding ring for various reasons, but on my 55th anniversary I had a wedding ring tattooed on my finger with my wife’s initials. We just celebrated our 58th and on to eternity! She’s a keeper! Thanks again Sister for starting my week.

  19. Annie on August 17, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    That little bird is amazing! I recognized the song as soon as I saw the title. Good choices, as always!

  20. Sr. Lucille Blais on August 18, 2020 at 9:42 am

    I could identify with each paragraph but now especially with :Don’t give God instructions.. Just report for duty. ” I tend to do that and need to let Him be present to me. He knows what I need.

    I don’t have and never would get a tatoo, but it would say: Be still and know that I am God.

    • Georgia on August 18, 2020 at 12:45 pm

      I love #7, all those words of wisdom!
      Good luck with your move Sister Melanie! Changes are hard for me but life sure brings changes! You’d think we would get used to it!

  21. Daniel on August 18, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    I was touched by the tattoo story. However I was wondering : Did the girl get permission ?

  22. Lynda on August 18, 2020 at 3:11 pm

    I would have my children’s 1st and middle names as an ankle bracelet

  23. Roseann on August 21, 2020 at 10:06 am

    Relicta sunt duo: Misera et Misericordia + St. Augustine

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 22, 2020 at 1:05 pm

      Readers: The Latin phrase is from St. Augustine’s commentary on the story of the woman caught in adultery. It says, “Only two remained: affliction and mercy.” Affliction refers to the woman and mercy refers to Jesus. Jesus’ mercy frees the woman to start a new life. Melannie

  24. Anne on August 24, 2020 at 11:25 am

    Sr. Melanie,
    I am a part of the St. Timothy Free to Be group and loved your book Traits of a Healthy Spirituality, as well as your Zoom visit to the group. My home parish is St. Edwards, Dana Point. I am also a writer and the editor of the San Clemente Journal ( Your messages speak to me right where I am living and give me much pause for thought! Thank you for this beautiful writing ministry!

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