Tag Archives: fear


DEAR READERS: Guess what?  It has been seven years since I started my blog, and I’ve decided to change the format from the “Discovery Series (Do You Know What I Discovered Today)” to “Attempted Phone Calls to God from Down Below.”  These are desperate times, and because I increasingly wonder what or where God is in the mighty scheme of things (does he care, is he on vacation, or is he just late to the party?), I’ve decided to harangue God more than I usually do. My “voicemail messages” will be very short essays of universal questions I wish God would answer about life, and observations of evil and stupidity that I wish he would simply acknowledge and fix or summarily eradicate. The good news is, even though I’m changing the format, I plan to keep the cartoons which everybody seems to enjoy. 

Who knows, maybe I’ll start trending: #AREYOULISTENINGGOD

Woman Praying Silly Bunt Meme


VOICEMAIL GREETING:  “You’ve reached the voicemail box of Jehovah at 1-800-PRA-TOME. I am experiencing a high call volume at this time—especially from the United States—but I will return your call as soon as is heavenly possible.  Please note that I operate on a triage system (‘the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition’). Leave your name, number, prayer request, and I will get back to you at some point.  May I bless you!”


HELLO, GOD.  IT’S ME, ELEANOR.  Looks like you’re out again or something.  We seem to be playing phone tag as of late.  (I noticed that slight dig about a preponderance of calls from the United States on your voicemail message.  Were you talking about me?)  You’re the one who once said, “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me.  I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.”

Well, Oasis, no disrespect intended, but where are you?  In case you haven’t noticed, the United States is being led by a madman, and the rest of the world is getting its ass kicked by the Devil.

God asleep Angel Boligan El Universal Mexico City www caglecartoons com

Cartoon used by permission: Angel Boligan, El Universal Mexico City,

I don’t mean to be impertinent, but if I don’t call you—who am I going to call–Ghostbusters?  You’ve said that I should “pray without ceasing.”  Well, every day—every single freakin’ day—I pray that you will save us and deliver us from Donald J. Trump.

And yet, heeeee’s still heeeerrre!

Although these last couple of days have had a weird patina about them—as if the end might be near.  Which is why I’m calling you.  Is this the end of the Trump madness?  Is the anonymous op-ed piece in the NY Times the last stages of Trump’s undoing or, even better, will the scathing, meticulously researched book, Fear, by Bob Woodward be the final nail in his coffin?

I’m sure you have an advanced copy of Fear (mine doesn’t arrive until Sept. 12th), but did you see that quote by Woodward:

“The reality was that the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader. Members of his staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses. It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.”

The End is near Marian Kamensky Austria

Cartoon used by permission: Marian Kamensky, Austria

Oh, my God, God!  And a portion of the anonymous op-ed to the NY Times pretty much says the same thing:

“The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.”

Right before “Anonymous” wrote that damning sentence, the NY Times quoted him/her as saying:

“…the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

Fear by Bob Woodward Stephane Peray Thailand

Cartoon used by permission: Stephane Peray, Thailand

So, I’m calling to ask two questions:  1) who is “Anonymous”—our 2018 “Deep Throat,” and 2) are you in the process of busting Trump’s balls and breaking his knee caps?  (Need I remind you that you don’t let me get away with anything?)  All I have to do is think something catty about another human being while sipping my morning coffee, and you give me heartburn for the rest of the day.   I’m just sayin’:  Donald J. Trump’s litany list for a passport into Hell is endless and worthy of your damnation.

Anyway, if you tell me who “anonymous” is, I won’t tell anybody.  I promise.  I personally think it is Melania.   She didn’t write it, of course—she can barely speak English.  But I can see her dictating it to her staff, can’t you?   I’d be willing to bet my angel’s wings that she is the one because I secretly think she hates The Donald’s guts and has been waiting for a way and time to tell him “You’re fired!” for years.

Deep State Throat John Darko, Columbia MO

Cartoon used by permission: John Darkow, Columbia MO

Before I hang up, I just want to let you know that your White Right-wing Evangelicals have drunk the Kool-Aid–again.  Please, please, please ignore their prayers.  They are pinning all of their Trump Devil worship on being “God’s will.”  In fact, it would be fabulous if you purged them, and started all over again when you bring down Trump.  They’ve sold their souls lock, stock, and barrel to the Cheese-ball in Chief’s racism, cruelty, and lying which pretty much makes Trump Satan’s spawn and his supportive Evangelicals his demonic minions.  I know I’m not supposed to judge, but when something walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and acts like a duck, well then…

Evangelicals and the Devil David Fitzsimmons The Arizona Star Tucson AZ

Cartoon used by permission: David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star, Tucson, AZ

Anyway, God, stay tuned.  If I don’t hear from you by Thursday, I’ll be calling you again because Hurricane Florence is headed my way.  Lord, have mercy!


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Traitor Friends Pat Bagley The Salt Lake Tribune UT

Cartoon used by permission: Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake, Tribune, UT

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on September 9, 2018 in Uncategorized


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Zombie Apocalypse (“Encore”)

(This Halloween post is a modified recap of a story from two years ago with updated cartoons and fresh information.  My fears are still the same—having my brains sucked out by Zombies—but I’ve become more intelligent about how to flush them into the light before they scare me to death.  Enjoy!)

Do you know what I discovered this week?   There is something to fear that will destroy you every damn day!  This week it is bacon, pastrami, and a nice juicy med-rare steak or a delicious hamburger.  Apparently, we are all going to get colon cancer and die if we don’t cut these foods from our diets, and I say:  Go to Hell, you fear mongers!  I’ve already had to give up bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, popcorn, cheese, hot peppers, eggs, and butter.  If anyone tries to come after my Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon, you are doing down, Mofos!

Halloween FB Bacon Nate Beeler The Columbus Dispatch

Cartoon used by permission:  Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch/Cagle Cartoons

I’ve dealt with enough monsters in my journey on this Earth that I’ve learned how to kick their butts and live to see another day.  (Check out Monsters’ Throwdown* and Fleeing Oz* if you want to read about me in kung fu action against the terrors in my life.)  In fact, after what I’ve been through in life, I have a theory that all fear is simply one thing (or stems from one entity, great and small)—evil—and it reinvents itself and morphs into something else when it can no longer scare the recipient.  (“Maybe this time, by jove, I’ll scare the bejesus out of her, and if not, I’ll have to figure out another ‘BOO’ . . .” )  This Halloween, I’m only afraid of Zombies, but Zombies can encompass many things, which I’ll get to later.

I read recently that scientists equate fear with conditioning, environment, and lack of knowledge.  What scares some people doesn’t necessarily scare others—it depends on how they have been conditioned to interact with that fear.  There is an unethical case study known as the “Little Albert Experiment,” which took place in the early 1900s at Johns Hopkins Hospital by one of their doctors.  The doctor took a nine-month-old baby from the nursery (his mother was reported to be a wet nurse employed by the hospital and afraid to interfere on behalf of her son) and introduced him to “. . . a white rabbit, a rat, a dog, a monkey, masks (with and without hair), cotton, wool, burning newspapers, and other stimuli,” according to Wikipedia.  In the beginning, the baby showed no fear.  In fact, when everything was taken away except a white lab rat, the baby played with it endlessly—stroking its fur and giggling with delight when the rat appeared in the room.  The baby engaged the rat without the slightest bit of hesitation or trepidation . . . until . . . dun, dun, dun . . .  the ersatz “Dr. Mengele” and his assistant introduced a loud clanging sound every time Baby Albert came in contact with the lab rat.  In a very short time, the poor baby began to fear the mere appearance of the rat because he associated his former playmate with the terrible, startling noise which scared him.  Even after the noise was extracted from the experiment,  Baby Albert would try to crawl away from the rat and start to cry.  And get this:  Baby Albert started associating anything with fur and beards as scary and something to be avoided.  Even Santa was to be feared by poor Baby Albert!

Little albert

“Little-albert” by John B Watson – Akron psychology archives. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons/Wikipedia

As I mulled over this experiment, I thought about my own current fears, and I realized that this is what has happened with me and the Tea Party.  When some of my friends became Tea Party members in 2010, I continued to play with them and enjoyed their company because they seemed rather innocuous, harmless little rats and looked rather cute in their revolutionary hats trimmed with tea bags.  But then they started to make all sorts of irrational noises and stupid, meaningless sounds, and pretty soon the sight of them made me cry and afraid to be around them.  I finally had to eradicate them from my life altogether.

Tea Party Deevolution David Fitzsimmons The Arizona Star Cagle

Cartoon used by permission: David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star, Cagle Cartoons

Since my husband and I used to be Republicans (operative words: used to be), I tried to give my friends in the Tea Party the benefit of the doubt in the early days.  But it didn’t take me long to realize that something was very wrong with them, and I figured out what it was:  They were the first manifestation of the Zombie Apocalypse!   I noticed their trademark skills of sucking out brains and eating human hearts when the likes of Palin, Bachmann, Herman Cain, Cruz, and Perry first hit the scene.   I especially stood up and took notice when some of my friends started turning into zombies.  I mean their bodies were still there, but I’d be talking to them on the phone and suddenly they’d blurt out a zombie statement in a staccato-like vocal pattern (something stupid and inane usually accredited to Fox News), and it made me cry just like Baby Albert.

By the time I figured out what was going on with my friends, they were at a point of no return—beyond the pale.  I grew up with zombies trying to mess with me, so I should have known better and seen the signs sooner—maybe I could have saved them.  But now it is too late—they have all lost their minds and are completely brain dead now (final brain suck happened in 2012 after the reelection of Barack Obama—did you not hear their screams?).  Now they are mindlessly rallying around Trump and Carson and have become full-blown zombies.

Carson John Cole The Scranton Times Tribune

Cartoon used by permission:  John Cole, The Scranton Times Tribune/Cagle Cartoon

I know a lot about zombies because I met the head zombie in my basement when I was just four years old.  In my day, he was called the “Boogeyman” and he lived in cellars in the ghetto, while his counterparts lived in the graveyards.  Every poor black child knew of The Boogey’s existence, which is why no child in her right mind spent too much time below the first floor.  (None of this man-cave crap existed back in the day when I was a kid, and the thought that one day I’d own a house with a basement boasting a surround-sound home theater would have blown my little mind.)

The basement of my childhood was a dirt floor and housed the wringer-washer and the giant furnace which fed on coal that slid down a chute.  I imagined The Boogey lived behind the furnace and practiced his brain-sucking and heart-munching techniques on little kids who were unlucky enough to be sent down into the basement for punishment.  I am one of the few who ever saw him in the neighborhood and lived to tell the story.

It still gives me chills.

Boogeyman Meme

Motifake Demotivational Poster

The floor of the basement of my childhood was made of packed dirt, and it is my theory that the house had been built over a small family graveyard.  The walls were stone with rough beams in the ceiling.  There was only one light at the top of the stairs that cast shadows here, there, and everywhere, but especially against the coal chute next to where the vegetables had been canned and stored.  One night I was sent down to the basement by my guardian from Hell to fetch a jar of pickled okra.  Even though I begged and pleaded, screamed and yelled, I was still threatened within an inch of my life to do as I was told.  So I tip-toed down the steps, across the basement floor as quietly as possible, hoping The Boogey was out on his nightly rounds, and we wouldn’t run into each other.  My heart pounded so loudly that I could hardly hear myself think.  I deduced that if I was as quiet as a field mouse, I might escape the head zombie’s detection.  I think my plan would have worked too, but the furnace let out a sudden fiery red blast that scared the shit out of me, and I screamed and dropped the jar of okra which shattered all over the floor in front of me.  At that very moment something brushed across my feet, and I swear that I saw the silhouette of a monster’s reflection on the jars of vegetables.  His hands began to crawl up my legs, and faster than I could say, “Oh Lord Jesus, help the poor child,” I turned and took the basement steps in what seemed like a single bound as The Boogey’s other hand scampered over my shoulder and slid down the front of my overalls and went back into the darkness.  I didn’t stop running until I ended up in my bedroom under the covers on the second floor, and I didn’t stop screaming for an hour.  I got two beatings that night for refusing to go back down into the basement to fetch another jar of okra, but it was worth it because I know what I saw and so did my caretakers, which is why none of them went into the basement after dark—ever again!


Until this day, I can’t go into any basement—including my own—unless there are plenty of windows, and all the lights are on (and I do mean all).  I never encountered The Boogey again until the election of our first black president.  Suddenly, I started hearing of zombie uprisings bearing the name of The Tea Party who were instantly disrespectful and disruptive to our Commander in Chief (remember the Zombie that screamed out “You lie” in the middle of President Obama’s State of the Union address?).  And every time the Tea Party Zombies seemed to have been beaten back, another surge would happen and a new leader would emerge:  first Palin and Bachmann—and now Cruz, Trump, and Carson.  I can’t prove it, but I think the Boogeyman came out of hiding in the basement of my house, and he started recruiting for the Tea Party zombies which is why my friends bit the dust to the TP extremism so easily.  I don’t know whether it is because Halloween is just around the corner and we’re headed for a Zombie Apocalypse that I think I’m beginning to see them everywhere, including in the Republican presidential campaigns, but sometimes on a foggy night I think I can see them amongst the trees waiting for me—trying to get ahold of my head and heart like they did some of my friends, and I am afraid—very, very afraid!

Zombies Appear Meme knowyourmeme com

Courtesy of


I am discovering that I might be onto something with these Tea Party wingnuts being the first of the Zombie invasion.  Seeing the destruction they’ve done to our country these past eight years, the Tea Party Zombies make about as much sense as the Boogey Man did in my basement as a child.  But if you turn on enough lights to show them up for who they really are, they will actually turn out to be just rats hiding in the dark amongst the pickled okra and canned string beans.   

Anyway, all this talk about zombies is really making me feel kind of weird—so I think I’ll go and lay down and take a nap.  In the meantime, Happy Halloween to all my readers, and keep your brains and hearts safe from the zombies because the Tea Party would love to suck out your brains and eat up your heart so that you can no longer think or feel anything for your fellowman!

American Poor vs Paul Ryan Pat Bagley Salt Lake Tribune

Cartoon used by permission:  Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune/Cagle Cartoons


“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”—Plato

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”—H. P. Lovecraft

“Fear can be good when you’re walking past an alley at night or when you need to check the locks on your doors before you go to bed, but it’s not good when you have a goal and you’re fearful of obstacles. We often get trapped by our fears, but anyone who has had success has failed before.”—Queen Latifah

“I think zombies have always been an easy metaphor for hard times. Because they’re this big, faceless, brainless group of evil things that will work tirelessly to destroy you and think of nothing else.”—Seth Grahame-Smith





No Sleep Monster Meme

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on October 27, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Exit Stage Left

Do you know what I’ve discovered?    There are 7 major transitions in life, barring a religious conversion, barring any unforeseen mayhem such as war or the world coming to an end, or barring Jesus coming back sporting a T-shirt that says:  “Listen up everybody—I’m back and I’m majorly pissed!”  IMHO there is:

  1. Birth
  2. Marriage/divorce
  3. Having children
  4. Menopause/male mid-life crisis
  5. Becoming empty nesters
  6. Retirement
  7. Death

I’ve completed the first five transitions, and I have two more weeks to go before I exit stage left and enter transition #6 from my job of 14 years that I really enjoy.   It has been interesting watching the reaction of my co-workers to my retirement announcement:

“Listen up, everybody, I’m blowin’ this Popsicle stand, and I’m going to become an entity!”

Each person starts with the same opening line: “Gosh, you’re so lucky, and I’m so jealous—I’ve always wanted to become an ‘entity.’  What exactly is an entity?”   They go on to ask:  “Are you excited?”  Then I watch their eyes widen and the inside voice of their thought-bubble say to their souls:  “I sure hope she knows what the fuck she’s doing, because she’ll never get another job like this. She can’t possibly have enough money to retire at such a young age; what in the hell will she do in the future—work at Wal-Mart?”  Their outside voice says:  “Anyway, you can always get a job somewhere if the writing thingie doesn’t work out.”  Their personal fear of the unknown is palpable.

Retirement Savings raymondjames dot com

To resist being pummeled by their fear, I remembered two things:

  1. I’m younger looking than I really am (thank God, Black don’t crack!), so I don’t have as long on this Earth as they think.  In other words, time is of the essence.
  2. Transitions—from birth to death—are only for the learning, not the be-all or end-all of the journey.  I know this because I’ve been through five other transitions—none of them was the destination—all of them were my personal journey of spiritual growth.

So I go to my happy place which is usually repeating the courageous lyrics of some well-worn spiritual (“Didn’t my Lord deliver Daniel—then he will deliver poor-ass me”) or a country music tune (Donald Alan “Don” Schlitz, Jr’s “The Gambler,”), and I try to propel my spirit away from their anxious auras:

“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,

Know when to walk away, know when to run.

 You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table,

 There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”

But being asked the same question in the same manner, day after day, will start to wear down the nerves of Jesus, and before you know it, fear begins to seep in—other people’s fear.  Consequently, I started thinking about all the rejection notices I’ve already received for my manuscript, how the publishing industry is dying, how even if you get published your book will most likely languish on the shelves, how there is already a plethora of opinionated black women on the scene dispensing “Mother-Earth” advice to the culture (Oprah, Whoopi, Wendy, Iyanla), and the Supreme Court has ruled that we can only have four such black women like this flooding the airwaves with their opinions at any given time.  (Just kidding, trolls; save your hate mail!)  All these realities make me want to run back into the comforting arms of my employer and beg to be kept on until I’m 102 doing anything, even if my soul shriveled up in the process.  That would be safe; that would be predictable.

snoopy rejection III

Retirement Writer mysteryreadersinc dot blogspot dot com

And when I am awash in the worries of others, I become a cast member in my own “Amazing Race” episode, and I start to dream.  Two nights ago I dreamt that WW (my husband) and I were stranded in the hinterlands of Alaska (if you knew me, you’d know that being stranded in Alaska would be my definition of Hell—especially if Sarah P. was anywhere within 100 miles of me).  We were told by some amorphous voice, which sounded suspiciously like Sarah Palin’s, that the only way to get to our next destination was to pilot our own plane out of there.  There was only one problem:  neither one of us had ever flown a plane before.  Also, the rules stated that we could not both fly in the same plane—each person had to pilot their own aircraft.   After much consternation, a retired old WWII pilot volunteered to help WW fly his plane since it was bigger and more complicated (a 12-seater that was won by a coin toss that could make it all the way to New York City).  I was given a 7-seater plane (all they had left) that could just make it to Seattle, but if I lived I could hop on a commercial flight to New York.  WW’s plane took off first and after a lot of spinning around on the tarmac like a dog chasing its tail, I managed to get my plane aloft.   I watched WW’s plane scale the high mountain in front of us, but no matter what I did, no matter how I maneuvered, no matter how much I cried and prayed, I couldn’t pull my plane up high enough to fly over the mountain.  To say I lost the nightmare game would be an understatement.*


Shaken, but not deterred, I went to work the next day determined to shake off the fear-fest that I kept running into.  After all, I knew that the remarks from my co-workers were made out of genuine concern for me as well as the thought of what they too would someday have to face.   All my “counselors” could hear the voices of their mothers and fathers decades ago saying to them as they went off to college:  “Pick something to study and an occupation that you can make money from, not something that tickles your fancy.  Tickling your fancy won’t pay the bills, young lady.”

But that night, I dreamt again.  This time it was about Death.  I had skipped retirement completely and was now headed to the great beyond—whether Heaven or Hell, I could not tell.

ME:                        Excuse me, please, where am I?

DEATH:                 For lack of a better word:  Purgatory.

ME:                        How can that be?  I’m not Catholic.  I don’t believe in Purgatory.  In my belief system, I go straight to the top.

DEATH:                 Seriously?  Did you ever think you might be wrong?

ME:                        Hell, no!  What’s the point in having a religion if you might be wrong?

DEATH:                 Oh, this is sweet!  This will be a good one for my blog titled, “Another one bites the dust and is surprised to find out she didn’t have all the correct answers”!

ME:                        You have a blog?  Does the whole damn world AND the underworld have bloggers?

DEATH:                 Does a bear shit in the woods?

ME:                        Fine, Mr. Smart-Ass!  Can you at least tell me what I’m doing here?    I had no warning, and I don’t even remember going through transition 6:  retirement.

DEATH:                 Warning?  Your entire life was a warning that I’d be dropping by at some point.  You knew transition #7 was coming—it waits for no man.  My orders were to pick up a mouthy, slightly chunky, blinged-out diva who was retiring in a couple of weeks, but whose time had come to an end.

ME:                        That’s the point.  My time didn’t come to an end.  I never got to retire.  I didn’t get my book published, and I didn’t become a humorous, joy-spewing, life-enforcing motivational speaker.  Look at all the millions of people I didn’t get to encourage in their life’s journey.  You interfered, you S.O.B!

DEATH:                 Hey, hey, hey—don’t blame me.   From what little I could see, you got all wrapped up in other people’s fears and “what ifs,” and you got frozen in place due to fear of the unknown and the naysayers. You thought you could take protected incremental steps rather than leaping with full abandonment into the great unknown to explore the rest of your pathetic little life.   You assumed you had more time than you did—big mistake—huge!

ME:                        You mean I should have exited the stage when first given the opportunity?

DEATH:                 Yep, stage left no less.

ME:                        Would I have reached my goals?

DEATH:                 How the fuck would I know?  My name’s Death, not God Almighty.  Speaking of which, you’re being summoned to give an account of your life.   Get that spirit moving, because its best not to keep the powers that be waiting.


I am discovering that I’ve always known when to “exit stage left” at any given point in life—most people do, but not everybody listens to that still small voice in their inner being.  And the couple times that I have ignored that instinct and overstayed my welcome, those times have been my most regrettable mistakes and time wasted that I’d love to take back again.  It takes a lot of courage to move on to the next level and walk into the unknown, but refusing to do so is not living—its treading water, and once you’re tired, the end result is that you drown.  All I know is that there is never enough time, never enough money, and never enough daylight to do everything we want to do.  But because I am fully aware that it is later than I could possibly imagine, I must take a giant leap into that wild abyss and explore what lies ahead.

Calvin and Hobbes lets go exploring

Calvin and Hobbes||Cartoonist Bill Watterson


“Now ev’ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin’

Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowin’ what to keep.

‘Cause ev’ry hand’s a winner and ev’ry hand’s a loser,

And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”

Songwriter:  Donald Alan “Don” Schlitz, Jr.

“There are two ways you can live: you can devote your life to staying in your comfort zone, or you can work on your freedom.” –Michael A. Singer

“It is truly a great cosmic paradox that one of the best teachers in all of life turns out to be death. No person or situation could ever teach you as much as death has to teach you. While someone could tell you that you are not your body, death shows you. While someone could remind you of the insignificance of the things that you cling to, death takes them all away in a second. While people can teach you that men and women of all races are equal and that there is no difference between the rich and the poor, death instantly makes us all the same.”Michael A. Singer from The Untethered Soul

Fear of the unknown mylifeasafocusgroup dot com

*The dream about the airplanes was an actual dream that happened a couple nights ago.  The discussions with Death were not—praise God!

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Posted by on March 3, 2013 in Uncategorized


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How Then Shall We Live?

Do you know what I’ve discovered?  I have to believe in a God because I am obsessed with the concept of chaos emerging out of nowhere and steam-rolling my life—“Cheese and Rice”!  On any given day, something that you couldn’t possibly know about can come out of the blue, bite you in the ass, and take you out.  If I didn’t believe in God, I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning (unless there were bed bugs and there is nothing I hate worse than bed bugs except roaches, rats, serial killers, and pedophiles).

I’m not an End Times nut, nor am I a conspiracy theorist, but if you’ve ever taken a gander at Revelation in the Bible (from which many a fantasy tale has been woven through the millennium), you’ve got to admit that those Four Horses of the Apocalypse (white, red, black, and pale) who wreak havoc on the Earth through conquest (people stealing your shit), war (people waging mayhem on you and your countrymen’s asses and stealing all y’all shit), famine (people starving you to death because of mismanagement—just ask Africa—and stealing the shit you were going to eat), and death (from diseases both known and unknown to random crap and planned attacks, and then fighting over your shit when you’re gone).

Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov—Painted in 1887||Wikipedia Image


First, you’ve got your phobiashomichlophobia (fear of fog); chronophobia (fear of time); homophobia (fear of the gays—see Westboro Baptist Church for full-blown phobia on crack); socerophobia (fear of in-laws—if you had met my mother-in-law, you’d understand why this fear exists);

Engagement proposal card||

. . . triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number thirteen); metrophobia (fear of poetry, sorry M. Angelou and e.e. cummings); hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (fear of long words); agoraphobia (fear of the “market place” or crowds); aquaphobia (fear of water); vasovagal syncope (fear of sight of blood); claustrophobia (fear of tight spaces); anuptaphobia (fear of staying single); acrophobia (fear of heights); pantophobia (fear of everything!) just to name a few out of a list that goes on and on until Jesus comes back!

Healthtips from

And then if you haven’t had a stroke from the fear of your phobias, you’ve got your diseases: Necrotizing Fasciitis (fleshing-eating disease caused by bacteria getting into a cut or wound from brackish water, dirt, or body fluids—probably the mother of MRSA, but don’t quote me); Progeria (rapid and premature aging in children); Acanthamoeba keratitis (common amoeba found in tap water that invades the cornea and can cause blindness and is excruciatingly painful); Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP) (found in the tissue of some shellfish—death can occur within 30 minutes); and Candiru fish—aka, “the penis fish” (you must live near the Amazon River and swim in it if you’re human, pee in the water, where a translucent tiny fish will follow the stream of urine that will lodge in your penis and grow up to six inches long while feeding on your blood—moral of the story: never, ever pee in a body of water again, you nasty boys!); and Prion Disease (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy) which can hit us in one or two forms, just to name a few of the gazillion diseases on the Earth:

  • Fatal familial insomnia (genetic condition in which you will never fall asleep again—EVER!)
  • Kuru (disease from eating the flesh of another human—extremely rare unless you are a cannibal, so you should be good to go)*

If we can manage to pull yourself out of bed after these revelations, then we’ve got our animals gone wild and opening up a can of whup ass on us when we least expect it (Google “Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin killed by Stingray”).  Oh sure, they look all cute and cuddly when they are babies:

Baby Platypus||M. Mentry Photo||

“The baby platypus (platypi?) are adorable when they are little but the male platypus has venom strong enough to kill a small dog, or cause excruciating pain and leave humans writhing in pain for months.  The platypus is Mother Nature’s way of saying, ‘I made this thing out of spare parts I found on the workshop floor, and it can still fucking cripple you.’”—The 6 Cutest Animals That Can Still Destroy You |

I always thought baby hippos were so cute and harmless—too fat to do anything but eat and float about.  Baby-girl, my younger daughter, has had an inordinate fear of hippos since she was a baby, which didn’t make any sense because we live in the Northeastern part of the US and hippos generally hang tough in Africa.  She hated them from the first moment she laid eyes on them at the zoo and I have since learned why the “instinctual” repulsion.

Author’s perspective of a hippo’s non-violent life||pinned by Yvette Thorne on Pinterest

. . . And then just when I was contemplating a trip to Africa, I saw this video and I “got the joke” that Baby-girl had known all along—hippos are some angry sons-of-a-bitches:

Photo of YouTube video—“pissed-off hippo chasing a park ranger”|Google Image

“It turns out in the real world, hippos fucking kill people.” ”—The 6 Cutest Animals That Can Still Destroy You

Sigh!  And so, burdened with my life teetering on an apocalyptic precipice, and fearing injury and death from every corner, I went to Liberty University last weekend to support the graduation of someone near and dear to me.  Not having totally made up my mind about the fiber of one Mitt Romney to be the leader of the free world (I have Mormon friends who are the salt of the Earth and who we would be well-suited to be leaders in our government, so I don’t have “Mormonphobia”), I was hoping to take a measurement of Mitt’s character.  I went to the graduation hoping Mr. Romney would prove his critics wrong and throw me a freakin’ bone out of his Mormon heritage and roots to give me and the thousands of graduates some encouragement or revelation about “getting over” on this scary planet of conquest, war, famine, and death.  Ol’ Mitt followed the octogenarian CEO of Chick-fil-A who had brought down the house with a one-line homily:  “I decided long ago that a good name was better to have than riches.”  All Mitty-boy needed to show me was that he could at least match the chicken guy’s compassion for his community—a man who never went to college (S. Truett Cathy) but who has managed to provide 125 local students with college scholarships and sponsored and built fourteen foster homes in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Brazil.  Hell, Mitt just had to show me he had a human heart and not the core of a robot underneath his commencement gown.

Well, I’m here to officially announce that Mitt gave a gift to the audience—thousands of graduates and I left the stadium with a new phobia:  mittromaphobia (fear of Mitt Romney becoming our next president).

Mitt Romney||Liberty University Commencement Speaker

 “I saw that the President and Mitt Romney both gave commencement speeches over the last few days.  Obama was like:  ‘You can be whatever you want to be,’ while Romney was like: ‘I can be whatever you want me to be.’  But actually during his commencement speech at Liberty University, Mitt Romney revealed his campaign staff loves Chick-fil-A—the other thing that he revealed is that he doesn’t know what to say in a commencement speech.”—Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon/NBC


Oh well, maybe I should give Romney the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe he has Glossophobia (the fear of public speaking)!


I am discovering that most people just want to raise their families, have enough to eat, put a roof that doesn’t leak over their heads, worship the god of their choice, live in peace with their neighbors, have a little merriment with their friends every once and awhile, live a long and fruitful life, and die a peaceful death—scary trauma and drama need not apply.  We are pretty much the same underneath when it comes to our core desires in life under our different color skin, the veils, the turbans, the pe’ot (side curls of orthodox Jewish men), the Western suits, and the Eastern saris . . . until we are overcome with fear of the unknown (“we’re all going to die!”), and then more often than not, we make the choice to succumb to the choas and add our individualized mayhem to the mix.

Happy Children &

Fear of the past (atrocities from those who hate us for no reason other than being different than they), fear of the present (attacks from those who hurt us to “get over”), and fear of the future (disastrous things of which we have no control) make us go crazy.  Reason alone fails to stand up to our own personal holocausts and reign in the phobias that overwhelming fear and hopelessness engender (sorry my Four “atheist” HorsemenHitchens, Harris, Dawkins, and Dennett).   Even though the fierceness of evil’s atrocity should make us want to sucker punch God for seemingly hanging us out to dry at times, it is only the ability to “trust” in a higher power that gives us hope beyond what we can see (faith) for another day, another generation, and another burst of “joie de vivre.”

The consummate expression of “Joie de vivre” on the face of a three-year-old||J Tomczyk Photo


“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”Mark Twain

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”—Nelson Mandela

“I shall never believe that God plays dice with the world.”—Albert Einstein

“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.”—Albert Einstein

“I fear one day I’ll meet God, he’ll sneeze and I won’t know what to say.”—Ronnie Shakes

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Posted by on May 18, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Into the Woods (Hello Fear)!

To my loyal readers:  This story is based on two of the characters from my memoir (When Monsters Come Out to Play)

Do you know what I’ve discovered?   There are various methods one should use when being attacked by bears.  If it is a grizzly bear, you are supposed to fall down, curl into a fetal position with fingers and hands tucked in between your tummy and the ground and pretend to be dead.  Even when The Grizzly is poking your body with his massive claws and sniffing and growling to see if you’re really dead, you’re not to lose control of your bodily functions, nor should you proceed to become “undead.”  You should simply play possum in the hopes that The Grizzly isn’t one of the smart ones in the family of bears and eats your death-poser ass anyway.  However, if you are attacked by a brown or black bear, you are advised to turn and face the sucker, puff up as large as you can make yourself (arms and hands in attack mode above head), yell aggressively (“HY-YAH”), and beat the bear about the face (snout, eyes, head) with anything heavy you can find (rock, tree branch, or heavy Coach purse) until it hollers “ouch” and runs way.  But don’t ever, ever run away from any color or kind of bear because they are so much faster than humans they will catch you and eat you for sure.


Although I occasionally hike, I don’t know much about woods or bears.  My “how to thwart a bear philosophy” is “it is better to never encounter a bear in the first place than have to figure out what to do with one when you do.”  So when I’m hiking, I jingle my car keys incessantly and talk a mile a minute as loudly as I can (without taking a breath) about any and everything (sort of like whistling in the dark) so that if there are any bears in the area, they run the other away.  I don’t know if it’s really effective against bears — I do know it makes my husband’s head explode.

What I know a lot about is growing up poor, black, and parentless in the inner city.   In the ghetto the Bear Survival Manual instructions actually work rather well because that’s how I “got over” and lived to tell about it.

My mother’s mind got eaten by a mental grizzly bear when my good-for-nothing-father vanished when I was three years old (let’s hope my father’s sorry ass got completely eaten by The Grizzly).  This left my sister and me homeless — touring the Cleveland foster care system of the 1950s and 60s – only slightly one step up from a Charles Dickens work-house story of the 1800s.  I learned two things when I was growing up about the fear of monsters: some of the monsters that cross your path aren’t worth a moment’s notice (they are powerless to harm you even though they have loud aggressive roars), but a few of the monsters are truly deadly and are meant to be faced head-on with the enlarged stature of a warrior who knows something that bears don’t:  you may be small and you may be scared, but you’ll fight to win.

As a Ward of the State, I journeyed through more than a half-dozen foster homes and a children’s receiving home (temporary orphanage) before reaching adulthood.  No other foster mother personified the type of monster or bear that just needed ignoring like Edwina Burley.

Edwina Burley, “Burley-pig,” as she was derisively known to me, had the looks of a female Idi Amin, the body of a giant walrus, and the skin-color of asphalt.  Her face bore a jagged scar from the right corner of her lip to the top of her right ear — souvenir of a knife attack from an intruder in a mansion in Shaker Heights where she had once worked as a domestic.

The first time I met Mrs. Burley was when my caseworker of the hour took me for a visit to see if I would hit it off with the Burleys and their child – a ten-year-old wallflower of a boy.  Rowena Burley proudly took us on the grand tour of her tiny cookie-cutter 1940’s house that had been ordered as a kit from the Sears and Roebuck Catalogue by a previous owner.   The minute she opened her mouth I knew she was a poser in everything from her furnishings to her bastardization of the King’s English.

“Why don’t y’all come into the livin’ room and make yo’selves declinable.”

Burley-pig practically sang her next line as she impersonated what she thought a rich white woman would say as we toured her “mansion”:

“I gots whore-doors and drinks for allllllllll.”

As we stepped onto the carpet (covered entirely in thick plastic), her son took a running leap to an organ bench while the rest of us made our way through a living room so full of Sears Catalogue items (lamps, end tables, a miniature organ, coffee table, and a buffet side board all covered in plastic), we had to walk single-file in order to get to a couch and two chairs.  Our feet burped their way across the plastic on the floor, while my caseworker’s high heels hole-punched their way in and out of the plastic runway to the nearest chair. When I sank into the couch, my butt connected with the plastic seat cushions and without warning my ass emitted the sound of a
plastic-fart that could have been a replica of a giant passing gas had we all known what that sounded like.  I recognized that I had entered plastic hell as the preening Mrs. Burley’s lard-ass connected to the couch that belched her final plastic-fart pronouncement:

“This here’s our anointed livin’ room that we constrains for our most impotents of guests!”

When my caseworker asked me if “this seemed like a foster home I could be happy in,” what the hell was I supposed to say? It seemed like a plastic insane asylum, but I was already seasoned enough in the foster-home-visit-drill to know they would all turn out the same:  I’d live there for six months to a year — max — and then get thrown out for my “bull-headedness or sassy mouth (code for ‘she wouldn’t let us abuse and use her without putting up a fight’).”   I had no choice but to stay; it was either the obsequious Mrs. Burley or the orphanage. However, I’d been in enough foster homes to know there would be an “unveiling” of the lady of the manor.  Within forty-eight hours, the lilting, preening, malapropism-spewing Rowena Burley gave way to the caustic, mean-spirited, ignorant Burley-pig of a bitch who posted what she called the “Rules of My Domain, or How to Get Along to Get Along.”

Primarilyist:  My boy is the onlyest one ‘lowed in the livin’ room so that he cans play with his organ. He’s
gonna be famous like Nat King Cole someday — a true dignitary of our race. I betta’ not catch yo’ little fat ass in my parlor messin’ wit my boy’s instrument.

“Secondarily:  Elnura, let’s me give you some advertisement, chil’. You way too ugly and stupid to have the friends you do. You needs to hang out wit people uglier and stupeedier than you is (if you can find ‘em – hee, hee, hee), ‘cause it don’t help yo’ case none to have smart, glamor-pussing friends — it jes pontificates both yo’ ugliness and yo’ ignrance.

“Thirdesly:  My boy gets the chicken thighs — you gets the neck bones and the chicken’s butt, and you best be happy wit’ it, cause in most places you wouldn’t even get that. It’s only cause I’m a good Christian woman and considers it my God-fearin’ dutability to provide a home for wayward chilrens of the worl’ that I even lets you into my manor born — so’s you best be grateful for everythin’ I gives you.”

Burley-pig was a monster I was never afraid of.  Her words and actions were hurtful but what she called me I never responded to because I didn’t believe her.  On one hand, I knew I was intelligent and someday that intelligence would prove her wrong.  I just needed time and a miracle.   On the other hand, I didn’t know if I was pretty or not; I just knew the Burley-pig was as ugly as sin and a pot sure couldn’t call a kettle black.


“What they call you is one thing; what you answer to is something else.”

Lucille Clifton
(Poet, writer, educator/1936-2010)


I did run into other bears in my childhood who caused me great fear and a grizzly bear or two that almost destroyed me.  Those encounters made me realize that some bears aren’t just out to protect their territory; some are out to destroy you and your destiny.  Usually, the grizzly bears of life (debilitating addictions, poverty, racism, illiteracy, childhood sexual and physical abuse, abandonment, mental illness,  to name a few) endeavor to swallow you whole no matter what you try and do to thwart them. I found that I personally needed a power higher than myself and a couple of mentors to help me get over a few of these or I’d be a carcass in the woods today.   A major grizzly bear that attacked me during my most formative years was a racist social worker who had been assigned to me when I was sixteen years old.  Defeating her has made all the difference in my life.

SWOTW (Social-worker-of-the-week):  “Eleanor, I asked you to come see me today because, as you know, you’re being asked to leave your last foster home due to an insubordinate attitude and behavioral
problems,” said SWOTW, barely able to contain her ennui.  She didn’t even bother to look up from her papers when she delivered my fate.

“In all honesty, we have nowhere else to place you because the Court no longer has responsibility for its wards once they’ve turned sixteen. However, we have some terrific news for you.  We have decided to provide a
stipend for you to rent a room at a boarding facility that is kind of like a Colored Women’s YWCA for homeless women. We’ll pay for a room there until you’re eighteen and supplement your income with an allowance for a pass to eat in the cafeteria. It has been decided since you are somewhat articulate we can help get you a job at the telephone company as a switchboard operator.  That should give you what you need for bus fare, clothing, and incidentals.”

ELEANOR:  “No,” I said, trembling from head to toe while turning to face the bear (bear tactic one).

SWOTW:  “What do you mean, ‘no?’” asked SWOTW.

ELEANOR:  “NO as in N-O! I want to stay in school. You didn’t say anything about staying in school. I have two more years before I graduate high school,” I said, puffing up my body to appear larger than I was (bear tactic two).

SWOTW:  “And do what? You can legally leave school at sixteen and given your prospects, getting out of school now and getting a secure job is nothing to sneeze at, young lady. As a Colored girl, whether you leave school now or two years from now, the outcome will be the same. Now, I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.”

ELEANOR:  “HELL, NO! I make all A’s. You can’t do this to me. Have you even bothered to check my report cards or talk to my teachers or principal?” I said, frantically looking around for something to clobber the
bear with (bear tactic three).

SWOTW:  “I don’t need to check with your school about this decision, because according to the aptitude test you took with Human Services last month, you scored only two points above the retardation level.  Do you get it – you’re considered feeble-minded?  You should be grateful I can get you a job at the telephone company, and you don’t have to become a domestic.”

ELEANOR:  “NO, YOU’RE THE IDIOT!” I screamed in a gruff voice (bear tactic five). “I don’t know anything about your stupid tests or even if they are accurate.  What I do know is what I have in my book bag:  A copy of A Tale of Two Cities that is ‘fun reading’ for me, a book of Langston Hughes poetry, and a German language test that I’ve just aced.  Oh, and by the way, I just found out I’m in the top 1% of my class academically,” I said as I picked up the “book bag of my future” and metaphorically clobbered the SWOTW bear repeatedly on her nose (bear tactic six).

SWOTW:  “Well, that’s not the point; you’re a Colored girl and this is as good as it is going to get . . . .”  

ELEANOR:  “Fuck you! FUCK YOU — that is precisely the point!  This is not as good as it is going to get for me.  I’m going to talk to my guidance counselor, my principal, my voice teacher, and my mentor; they won’t let this happen to me because they say I’ve got real potential and that I’m going to college – even if they have to help pay for it themselves” (bear tactic seven).

The SWOTW was so pissed she cut me off from any stipend except housing (I don’t think she could legally do otherwise). I was able to stay in school because of one of those liberal government programs from heaven that let me work in my school before and after classes.  As in all great “into the woods stories,” the monster briefly reappeared in my life during my senior year in the form of the pissed-off caseworker who tried to reassert her authority over me and challenge what she considered the folly of misguided busybodies.  But when a village
takes up arms to fight the grizzly bear trying to destroy a child (a surrogate mother and mentor, a visionary principal, a tireless guidance counselor, a wealthy patron, and a passionate young voice teacher), they did what villagers often do to monsters, and they kicked the social worker’s ass.  I never heard from her again and neither did they.

It’s been more than forty-seven years since I sailed into my future.   In fact, I’m rapidly coming to the end of it.  I have discovered that “living well” truly is “the best revenge” against all the bears in the land – the ones who aren’t worth our attention and especially the ones who try to destroy us on the spot.   Burley-pig and the SWOTW’s heads would have exploded if they could have seen what the future held for me and how beautiful on the outside and the inside I would become.   With the SWOTW I didn’t have to wait too long because within five years of the altercation in her office, the Cleveland newspapers would run an article with my picture about how I’d made the dean’s list at the liberal arts college where I was a junior — having gone to that particular college on a full scholarship: INNER-CITY KID ELECTED TO WHO’S WHO IN AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES.  And on one of those rare, sweet, self-indulgent moments in life, I returned to Cleveland after an eighteen year absence and showed Rowena Burley just how much she had miscalculated me as well.

My mother died at age seventy, completely losing her battle with schizophrenia, and I went back to bury her. I discovered that Burley-pig still lived in the same Sears and Roebuck house, was still a domestic for white folks, except she’d gotten even fatter; and her only child was uneducated and aimless. She was one of the deaconesses at the church where my mother’s funeral was held, and she purposely placed herself in front of the casket, so she wouldn’t miss me.  I imagined she did so to gloat in case I had become what she and the SWOTW predicted.

As I glided into the funeral home like a rock star, accompanied by my handsome, brilliant, and successful husband (WW), my beautiful little sister, and one of my major mentors in my color-coordinated, black and white suit that had been designed for my athletic size-eight body, Burley-pig’s jaw dropped to her feet.  I had become a runner, a college honors graduate, a music teacher, and if I do say so myself, I looked like a freakin’ fashion model for a “Black is Beautiful” centerfold in Jet magazine. As the preacher crowed about my career accom-plishments from the pulpit, the stupefied look on Burley-pig’s face was a gift from heaven — absolutely, fucking priceless!


I discovered when I had children that the victories of courage I had in my childhood weren’t necessarily transferable to them.  I could give them my stories as a legacy and my faith as a beacon, but they had to choose not to give in or run away from their monsters, choose to use the proper fighting tactics, and choose to stand up to their own bears and save themselves.  I can’t save anyone:  That has been the hardest part about being a parent and an into-the-woods bear slayer.

“There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.”   Andre Gide


“I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of
change. . . .I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back.
”  Erica Jong 

All text and photos

 by Eleanor and John Tomczyk © 2011

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Uncategorized


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