Communication

 
 

Something the Cat Dragged In

Cute, yes?

Cute, yes?

One of the four cutest kids I know has a cat at her house, named Penelope Buttercup. Also, there’s a dog named Pabst, which you should imagine as a teddy bear that Penelope has targeted as arch-enemy number one. Oh, and this sweet girl also has a stuffed toy mouse who goes by the name of, well, Mouse.

When I’ve been lucky enough to spend time at her home she uses some big words for such a little girl. And by big, I mean loud. If the cat walks past she’ll yell “TAAAAAT!” If the dog walks by she hollers, “PAAAAAAAP!” And if you show her the stuffed mouse she proclaims, “MOWW!”

There’s no question which of those three she’s referring to. Not sure why the dog isn’t called “DAWG!” I suppose “PAAAAAP!” can be shouted easier. Who knows what goes on in those little computer brains of babies these days.

When I see a cat now I automatically yell in my head “TAAAAAAAT!” It’s my little equivalent of seeing a moon and thinking someone else I love who lives far away is seeing the same moon. I see a cat and know that my little palindrome grand-daughter sees a cat during her day, too.

Every I look I see cats. Especially online. Cats, cats, cats, cats, cats.

Why?

These aren’t particularly friendly critters. Hardly. They’re standoffish and snooty. And yet the human race seems to embrace the furballs with unbridled ridiculousness.

Of course, I used to be the same way. As a tweenager I adopted a stray cat every time the last stray disappeared. Which was often. Weird. They were various combinations of black and white, whose names I don’t remember except for Zorro, which, of course, sported a little black mask around his eyes. And there was Tom, the feral cat, who was horse cat of a different color.

The term “something the cat dragged in” could have and often did refer to my Tom. You can read about him here if you’re curious.

My oldest daughter’s cat, pre-Penelope, would bring lizards and live birds in through the cat door at her house. Things got a bit exciting then, especially with multiple cats and a dog or two living there.

In Washington state we had neighbor cats that used to leave dead birds on our doorstep as a gesture of friendship. How sweet. We felt so…loved, or some other emotion. Just recently I thought that some human relationships are just like that. One person presents what they perceive as astounding gifts of love and sacrifice and the receiver only sees mayhem and grossness. That’s one of the saddest kinds of stories I know.

MSH hasn’t ever been a cat person. In fact, he taught my son at a very young age about the “handle” on a cat. SMH (Shaking My Head.) I’m afraid he took too well to that teaching and hauled many a neighborhood cat around by its tail.

My middle daughter and I once watched a cat play with a mouse in a sloped driveway. It was all kinds of fascinating. That is until the cat bit off the mouse’s head and played with that for a while. When the crunching started we left the area.

In a similar tone my parents’ cat leaves dismembered field critters on the driveway, proving his usefulness in spite of all proof to the contrary.

Sweet half-size Oreo.

Sweet half-size Oreo.

A notable exception to uppity cats is my son’s recently adopted dwarf cat, Oreo. He’s fully grown but still quite small, with a smooshy face and no meow. He doesn’t really jump or climb or do much of anything cat-like. That is, except for taunting the grand-dog Blondie by walking near the dog food dish. Subtle but effective snark there, if you ask me. (This little guy belonged to my brother who has five kids at home and has now rehomed of all the pets.)

Figuratively speaking, I often look like something the cat dragged in after a few hours of yard work, but then, don’t we all? Actually I think I look that way first thing in the morning too, but a bike helmet covers that up pretty well.

Some days I feel like something the cat dragged in, discombobulated, disoriented and “dis” in general. Days like that I kind of wish I were a cat, able to lounge about in odd places, soaking up some sun, or sprawled along the top of the couch. Maybe curled into a ball in a dark corner somewhere. Those days I just want someone to rub my neck and reassure me that I’m worthwhile and useful and loved and that yes, that “everything is gonna be okay.”

Ever so un-catlike, I have to actually be useful. I go about my days and nights fulfilling my obligations, contributing to society and the well-being of a few people I know and attempt to stay cheerful. I think I’m more like a dog than a cat. But that’s not all bad.

If all else fails I can always watch funny cat videos on YouTube, right?

~~~~~

“Meow” means “woof” in cat.” 
 ~ George Carlin

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Categories: Being Human, Communication | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Finding Words Everywhere

Being a fan of words I look for and read them everywhere. I think it all started ages ago while reading the backs of cereal boxes. Now I read everything: signs, plaques, memorials, directions, chalkboards, menus, whiteboards, magnets, carvings, raised metal, blocks, imprints, impressions, sidewalk chalk, train graffiti, book spines, air fresheners, notices, refrigerators, headlines. Even the occasional book.

Words hang out everywhere and in some surprising places. Some even smell good.

Here’s a few words I’ve run into lately:

The good and the bad.

The good and the bad.

“There are places I remember all my life, Though some have changed, Some forever, not for better, Some have gone and some remain.” ~ From the Beatles”In My Life.” 

 

Such a tiny word...

Such a tiny word…

“Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.” But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” ~Khalil Gibran

Life began here.

Life began here.

“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.” ~Bill Mollison

 

Don't ask me to choose just one kind.

Don’t ask me to choose just one kind.

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” ~ David Mamet

 

A concrete idea.

A concrete idea.

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” ~ Michelangelo

 

I believe I can fly, somedays.

Wings, roots, reasons.

“Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.” ~ Dalai Lama 

 

Such a big word.

Such a big word.

“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

~*~~*~~*~

Categories: Communication, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lost in the Translation or Perfectly Rendered?

photo 1-5 copy 9

Yesterday my favorite three-year old gifted me some drawings from pages of her “books.” These books of hers consist simply of a nine by twelve sheet of paper folded in half, then folded again, creating a four page book. Not bad work for a budding artist. I admit to some partiality.

I didn’t take the time to ask her about each drawing, which I should have done. I suspect one is a ghost and another a pumpkin since she’s been into Halloween stuff recently. I like that her people are smiling. That’s a good sign.

photo 3-4 copy 16Do people really look like that when she sees them through her young eyes? I doubt it. Round orbs with sticks for legs and arms. No. I’m sure she sees what you and I see, a fully fleshed out body with nuances and structure and complexity. But with her raw young skills with crayon and pencil the translation of what she sees into what ends up on paper captures only the barest essentials. Eyes, a smile, stick limbs, a scratched scruff of hair convert successfully, for her anyway, into a person.

It struck me this morning as I looked over her drawings, that we all lose something in the translation of what we see and think and feel as we try to communicate it. We also stumble in translating and converting desires and dreams into reality.

I often have ideas I want to convey but try as I might the words fall short in giving skin, bones and muscles to an idea sufficiently so that anyone else can understand. Or I might get the gist of it, but not the whole as I thought of it. That can frustrate an artist, a writer, a musician, a human.

If as an adult I struggle with this translating process, imagine how frustrating it is for young children to try to convey thoughts and feelings into understandable ideas and words.

The secret, I would guess, lies in not giving up too soon. Not giving up in conveying the ideas, as well as not giving up in trying to understand them.

Her momma, perhaps, since she has long flowing hair.

Her momma maybe, who has long flowing hair.

In fifteen years my favorite three-year old will look at these drawings of hers and scoff at their simplicity, and that’s a shame. She’ll compare it to her artistic abilities after years of practice and lessons and laugh at her young self. I would hope she’d also see the purity in her efforts.

We all struggle to translate what’s inside our heads and hearts into understandable terms that forge relationships and communicate ideas. We’re all at different ages and stages of skill at making sense of the world. We wrestle making tangible the visions of who we are or want to be.

A secret life-decoder ring would come in handy wouldn’t it? Dial a few codes in, and read an outcome, carry out the instructions and voilà. But, that’s not how it works. Ever.

We explain, puzzle out, infer, deduce, interpret all the time. And so often, so very often, the messages end up lost in translation.

My take on all this?

1. We’re all drawing the best we can, with what we have, where we are.

If that isn’t true, if we aren’t putting our best efforts into being and doing what’s before us then we sharpen our colored pencils, or peel back some paper on our crayons. Then we pull out a sheet of paper, and see what sort of drawing we can come up with when we try a little harder.

2. Everyone else’s drawing means something to them and probably something slightly different to us. Maybe I ought to ask what their drawing, words, music or actions mean so I can understand better.

It shouldn’t hurt to ask. It only takes a second. “So tell me about this,” you could say. Or maybe, “I like your color choice, any particular reason you picked that color?” A thousand other questions could clarify, untangle and help us understand better.

That’s all.

Maybe I’ve overthought this whole thing. That’s certainly a strong possibility.

Sometimes a stick person is just a stick person.

~~~~~

“Art is as natural as sunshine and as vital as nourishment.”

-MaryAnn F. Kohl

Categories: Books, Communication, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Car Talk

Friday Letter to My Kids (yup, on Saturday)

Dear J, J, L and L,

Ya’ll remember the Datsun, right? Or as someone used to call it, the Grasshopper, due to it’s non-functioning shocks. Well, at one point in its colorful existence, it was a brand new baby car, fresh off the showroom floor. Hard to believe, I know. Okay, maybe not totally fresh, it’d been on some test drives, so it had one thousand miles on the odometer.

Two doors, yes. Can you say "clueless future parents?"

Two doors, yes. Can you say “clueless future parents?”

I only bring this up because so many happy things occurred in that car. Conversations being the chief among them.

When Little J first found her voice she told stories that would start at Grandma’s house and not end until we arrived at our place thirty minutes later. Big J and I didn’t get a word in edgewise. Unless Whitney Houston came on the radio, then Little J would stop talking long enough to sing along with the lyrics to “The Greatest Love of All.” She loved, loved, loved that song. (She was three years old.)

But I digress.

Something about sitting in the confines of a vehicle brings out the conversationalist in each of you. Or at least, it did.

Maybe being side by side but without eye contact did the trick. Or perhaps the steady hum of the engine and scenery rolling past triggered some reflex in the larynx. It’s even possible that some chemical in the car interior prompted a letting down of emotional defenses.

It didn’t always work that way, but when we got a good one on one conversation going, it usually happened in a car with just two of us going somewhere.

I’d guess some of us logged more miles together than others. Daily drives to and from school, and fairly regular trips back and forth from lessons, sports, church stuff, doctor appointments, errands, performances and more. Some of you even endured/enjoyed a few just-one-of-you and me road trips. Maybe it all balances out to the same mileage for each of you.

I loved those talks.

Well, mostly.

To be honest a few arguments and screaming matches happened, too. We won’t pretend that never happened.

Some pretty loud silences filled the car on occasion as well.

There’s definitely conversations we should have had that never happened. And probably a few discussions that shouldn’t have occurred, although I can’t think of anything specific. And I ought to have been much more direct and less wishy-washy on more than a few occasions.

If you can learn anything from my mistakes that’d be great. I’m guessing you’ll make your own unique set of communication errors as a parent or as a spouse.

Not our actual car. Ours had a sunroof, remember?

Not our actual car. Ours had a sunroof, remember?

One thing I try to do when I look back at those good times and at those dang-it-I-shoulda-done-better times, I liken myself to our fresh-off-the-showroom-floor Datsun. The first ten to fifteen years of parenting I had hardly any miles worth noting. Not until I’d experienced  *frillions of bumps, detours, twists, construction zones, shortcuts, hills, side roads and breakdowns did I even begin to know what I was doing.  Even then, well, I’m an imperfect and many splendored flawed person grasshoppering down the freeway.

Having your good company has made all the difference as the numbers have skyrocketed on my odometer o’life.

I look forward to many more conversations with each of you in years to come. Here’s hoping you enjoy the many chats you get to have with your own little traveling companions.

All my love,

Mom

photo-23 copy 5

* Frillion: a psychological/mathematical term combining an astronomically high number with near insanity level nonsense and stress

~~~~~

“Sometimes I wish that I was the weather, you’d bring me up in conversation forever. And when it rained, I’d be the talk of the day.” ~ John Mayer

Categories: Communication, Family, Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Vocabulary Lessons for Me

It’s Gratituesday! I’m thankful today for a chance to visit my parents. The need to get here  nagged at me for nearly two months. Now I’m finally standing in their home and seeing their faces, giving hugs, talking, basking. My heart can relax a little.

At last, I can put experience together with all the information I’ve gotten by phone, text and messaging about Mom’s latest medical adventures and get a full picture. Part of me feels relieved and part of me feels more worry.

Mostly, I find I’m becoming better acquainted with another medical phrase I thought I could put behind us.

  • Expressive aphasia – you know what you want to say, but you have trouble saying or writing what you mean

For a writer that would be called a massive writer’s block.

For someone who’s had a stroke it means not being able to communicate as well as you’d like, if at all. It can lead to frustration and depression and anxiety. But it can also be a source of laughter and bonding. I suppose it depends on the attitude of all involved as well as the medication cocktail the patient taking.

My mother manages to laugh about most of her verbal roadblocks. But frustration and perseverance work themselves into the picture as well. She’s human, after all. (Even though I’ve often thought she was wonder woman.)

A few days ago one of my sisters and I decided that carrying on a conversation with Mom, sometimes, is like playing the game of “Catchphrase” or “Charades.” Lots of gesturing, guessing, backtracking and logic leaps. When communication becomes clear and we all understand what’s been said I feel like cheering, or ringing a bell, or declaring a winner.

Some violas growing in a sidewalk crack. Amazing what nature can do when obstacles are in the way.

Violas growing in a sidewalk crack. Amazing what nature can do when obstacles are in the way.

But when words won’t materialize in spite of how much her brain knows what it wants to say you can cry or you can laugh or you can hope the words show up eventually. My sister and I still aren’t sure what the flowers in the front yard have to do with the piano in the living room, but in Mom’s mind they are somehow connected.

The thing is, those connections got rerouted, detoured, and dead-ended last summer with her first stroke. Then a couple of months ago, with her seizure that occurred in the same area as the stroke, all those connections experienced even more deconstruction and rerouting. All the repairs and healing that happened over the past nine months took a sideways step or two, if not a step backwards as well.

  • Post-stroke seizures – When stroke injures part of the brain, it leaves a scar, which can then trigger abnormal electrical activity that can start a seizure. Up to twenty-two percent of stroke patients experience these types of seizures.

Reminds me of a pothole repaired over and over again. Extra bumpy and almost as bad as the pothole itself.

Sometimes it’s not merely communication that takes a hit. In Mom’s case there’s also some memory loss.  All sorts of traffic jams happen just within her own brain. Fixing lunch can take a long time because each step of the process requires incredible focus and follow-through. Her mind gets sidetracked between the silverware drawer and the refrigerator two feet away from each other.

Breakfast this morning, cereal and some fruit, ended up involving six or seven spoons of various sizes. I think my presence in the room threw off her routine, or made her nervous.

I suppose it’s like watching a young child learn to walk. Part of you wants to take their hand, catch every fall, help every step, even though you know the process of figuring it out builds neural pathways and muscles that make real walking possible. Letting Mom thrash through some of the mental tangle helps connections reform, gives her a sense of accomplishment and courage to try again, and develops new pathways for logic and sequencing. Eventually the communication will improve more. At least, that’s the hope.

But oh, my heart hurts watching this woman who once took care of me, and all my siblings, struggle so much with basic tasks. Tasks she already relearned last year.

And yet today, between the two of us, she sewed two simple aprons. Mostly I watched, threaded the machine, made a few suggestions, pointed out where the scissors were hiding. It took much longer for her to do it herself. I could have whipped them out in fifteen minutes. But the sense of satisfaction she gained from the effort did us both good.

There’s a house for sale next door to them. I would buy it up and move in if resources made it possible. But, as usual, real life intervenes with wishes and dreams. They have good neighbors and friends who check in often. And I have a brother and his wife who live in town, thank goodness! But part of my heart will now always hang out here, worrying and wondering.

I’m afraid I’d be a “helicopter daughter,” hovering and not letting her do for herself.

Mostly, I’m simply grateful and I’m enjoying the few days I have to hang out here. It’s a peaceful, calming, mountain view spot. But best of all it’s where Mom and Dad continue learn and love.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Communication, Family, Gratitude, Gratituesday, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Not So Great Pretender

I often walk through life thinking someone will find out the truth about me. They’ll find out that I’m all fluff and nonsense, a shell without substance, cotton candy. My nutritional value is exactly zero.

I am just like my yard, the front public view blooms with bright colors and lovely swept walks, while the back yard grass overgrows its bounds, weeds replicate in frightful numbers and a dead Christmas tree in April houses countless spiders.

Oh, look, it’s not a secret anymore. I just blogged the truth right here for all to see. (Bet you didn’t realize the subtitle of this blog is “True Confessions.”)

Seriously, don’t you ever feel like a fake? I do, all the time. I know all my failings, all my shortcomings, all my whininess and nitpickiness. I hear all those thoughts I never actually say out loud. I think those thoughts. I’m not a nice person. I’m not someone anyone should trust with anything precious or private or close to the heart.

This hangs in my kitchen, you'd think it would sink in to my subconscious mind.

This hangs in my kitchen, you’d think it would sink in.

For example, I often say “Yes” with a sincere smile, when my heart, mind and soul all want to scream “NO!!!! Are you crazy? Why would you ask such a thing of me?”

It’s almost as if some other entity has taken over my brain and formed my lips into the “yes” word. It’s automatic, instinctual, mindless. Where logic dictates a “no” answer, i.e. my schedule can’t squeeze another drop into it, I blithely, trippingly, child-without-a-care-in-the-world answer, “sure, I’d be happy to.”

Then I promptly and privately find a brick wall and bash my head against it, repeatedly. What a fool I am.

I end up letting people down because I’m overscheduled, unorganized and undisciplined. Then I really hate myself as the truth about me leaks out. I’m not reliable or consistent or kind or helpful or anything good at all.

I can’t decide if I’m super easy-going, lacking a back bone, or simply bonkers.

There’s also the reverse problem. I finally, blessedly, miraculously say “no” to something or someone. You’d think I’d breathe a huge sigh, pat myself on the back and get on with my life. You’d think wrong. I second-guess myself, feel guilty for saying “no,” feel selfish for standing up for myself and generally berate my decision and my no-ingness.

I can’t say “yes” and I can’t say “no” without repercussions. Oh, brother.

My kids know and recognize the truth. They know that mending projects may never get finished, regardless of my deeply sincere intentions. They know that “I’m going to bed early tonight” actually means I’ll probably be awake until two or three a.m. They know and have sadly lived with the raving lunatic driver who wishes her car came equipped with a bazooka and a bullhorn. They’ve seen this angry rock-hurling, lawnchair-throwing maniac pushed past her limits.

Lucky for them, they escaped and now live elsewhere. Miraculously, they still call and drop by occasionally, bless their hearts.

I also agree to things that I’m deathly afraid of. (Snake handling, spider killing, heights, skydiving. Sorry, no way. I can say no to those obvious things. That’s easy.) But, ask me to talk to a stranger, I about disintegrate. My insides shatter like so much safety glass. Try something new and different? My legs turn to jelly and I all but fall to the floor in a puddle of goo.

I’m sure people exist who are exactly what you see. No smoke, no mirrors. A secret hidden camera in their home would reveal nothing new or surprising. The public person would exactly mirror the private person. At least I hope so. I hope most people aren’t like me. Happy on the outside, roiling and gurgling on the inside.

It's like I'm intentionally bonkers, it just happens.

It’s not like I’m intentionally bonkers, it just happens.

I only have my own inner battle as evidence. I want to be the same inside and outside. I want to be consistent in public and in private. My inconsistency often overwhelms me and a kind of self-loathing takes over. A huge, overpowering self-excoriating  “how can I live in my own skin” kind of muck happens. It’s not pretty.

I can’t blame hormones, grief, sleep deprivation, lack of chocolate or the weather. I’ve been like this my whole flipping life. I want to convince myself that everyone battles inner demons like this, but I don’t have any evidence to support such a lame thesis. All I have are these boxes of depositions against myself, double stacked nearly to the ceiling, of how I’ve failed to live up to my own expectations, stand up for myself, be honest about my life and feelings, say what I’m really thinking, do what I really want to do, be the real me.

I’m sure some psychologist or talk show host would have a heyday with this scenario.

Even my computer understands my lack of back bone.

Even my computer understands my lack of back bone.

I’m a mess. I admit it. I’m the first to admit it. Well, MSH would also admit it, maybe. Although he says he still loves me. I’m not sure how he manages to do that. Pity or desperation, perhaps. Maybe he’s a little nuts, too. I don’t love me, so how can he?

Life makes me so tired.

Can I just crawl back into bed today and stay there until Saturday?

Does anyone have any chocolate?

How about a spare life-long around the world cruise ticket? I could use one of those. I’m sure it would help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Communication, Humor, Mental Health, self-image | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

You Say Tomato, I Say Tamato

More ways than ever to pass on information hasn’t made communicating all that much clearer has it? Or has it? Here’s a few thoughts by other people about how humans attempt to interact.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said” ~ Peter Drucker

in utero email

 *****

“It’s hard to communicate anything exactly and that’s why perfect relationships

between people are difficult to find.” ~ Gustave Flaubert 

computer joke

If only…

“So much of language is unspoken. So much of language is comprised of looks and gestures and sounds that are not words. People are ignorant of the vast complexity of their own communication.”~ Garth Stein

honk-text

There are definitely some dangerous side-effects to certain ways of communicating.

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

Reminds me of Abelia Bedelia. Remember her?

Reminds me of Abelia Bedelia. Remember her?

Categories: Communication | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Words, Glorious Words!

Tumbling through the internet I fell across a list of words that lit up the room with their possibilities. I am all about having just the right word to say exactly what I’m thinking.

Half the time the tip of my tongue and my brain lose their connection and I am lost, speechless and even worse, wordless. Like that feeling of something just slightly out of grasp. Or the puzzle piece almost sliding into place. Or dreams you don’t get to quite get to the end of. That’s me when the right word eludes me.

So a list of new or semi-familiar words lights up my world and sends “gimme” fingers reaching. I want, I want, I want.

A new book, waiting for discovery can have the same effect. Delicious!

I decided I should share. That’s the kind and thoughtful thing to do with something you really, really covet. A box of chocolates I would share, too, if that were possible to do through the internet, and if I had any, which I don’t. Sadly.

But I have words!! Consider these words as my creamy, chewy, nutty box of chocolates I’m sharing with you. Yummy!!

English: A Swedish box of chocolates called &q...

Querulous: cranky, whining, cross, crabby, moody.

Not what I thought querulous meant. I could probably get away with calling someone querulous. Not so if I accused them of being crabby. My favorite two-year old has been querulous this week, but then, she’s had a runny nose and a cough, so who can blame her?

Dilatory: causing delay, tardy, slow, unhurried.

Odd, but this word also applies to my favorite two-year old as well. Little kids aren’t generally in a hurry to go anywhere or do anything. Dilatory applies equally to teens, unless it’s something they want to do, then the adult providing the ride can’t move fast enough. MSH leans toward the dilatory, mostly because he’s meticulous and detailed. I’ve had to learn to go with the flow on that one. Some things just don’t ever change.

Nefarious: wicked, evil, vile, despicable.

Never in my wildest dreams would I consider a two-year old as nefarious. Their particular brand of driving people nuts stems from purely innocent, albeit selfish, motivations. Unlike some businessmen or politicians, who could very rightly be considered nefarious for their actions and words which deceive and manipulate and harm. I’m afraid the word nefarious may crop up more often in many more vocabularies than just mine.

Don’t confuse the word nefarious with Dr. Nafario from “Despicable Me” who seems to have a difficult time following directions. Maybe he’s slightly hard of hearing. Either way, both maladies could be rendered moot with a more varied vocabulary.

Friable: brittle, easily crumbled.

See, I thought friable was what I am in the desert. I feel fried, I also feel brittle, but apparently that’s not at all what it means. I also feel fried after spending too much time with a querulous and dilatory two-year old. Friable has more to do with the state of your garden soil. Ideally the soil will be crumbly and fluffy and break into small pieces easily. That is surely not the state my garden soil is in after six months of desert summer heat. And it’s supposedly our planting season about now. Not sure it’s gonna happen since we’re still hitting 105 during the day. To summarize: I’m fried, my soil is not friable.

photo-17 copy 5Cerulean: sky blue.

Ah, my favorite color. Of course, the blue of the sky varies throughout the day and with the level of dust and such in the air. And there are days I’d give anything for a sky full of black ominous rain clouds.  But cerulean even sounds relaxing and gentle, doesn’t it? As in, I’m going to go lay in a hammock and enjoy the cerulean flavor of the cool afternoon breeze. Can you tell I’m ready for the heat to end? I am. If it doesn’t end soon I may turn into the querulous person ranting and raving about the silly weather.

Had enough vocabulary words for the day?

Me too.

I’m going to go pour myself a nice icy glass of something and let the air conditioner waft over my overheated brain.

Happy Saturdaying!

Categories: Communication, Fun | Leave a comment

I Vote for the Grawlix

I’m convinced that the only reason children are given middle names is so that parents have a way of letting the child know when they are really, really, really in trouble. Who hasn’t overheard some dialog like the following:

“JJ, we keep out hands to ourselves now, don’t we.”

“Jimmy, don’t touch that.”

“Jimmy B…Are you listening to me?”

“James, I said don’t touch that, get over here now. Don’t you run away!”

“James Henry Beelzebub! You are in BIG trouble now!”

Did you notice the escalation? From everyday to formal, from easygoing to insistent?

I made the error of not giving three of my children a middle name. That middle name would have come in handy, on many an occasion. Instead, I had to employ some serious creativity to get my point across. Or make up a middle name so they’d know they were in trouble.

Some kids have more than one middle name. Does that give the parents more emphasis? Or does it give the child more chances before things ramp up to utter chaos? Just curious.

If a parent often or always used all three or more names to address their child, then that middle name wouldn’t hold any more power than a single name. The rare frequency of use is what imbues that middle name with meaning and emphasis.

In the same way, swear words lose their punch, power, meaning and impact when used too often.

Like the tale of the boy who cried wolf, swearing, if it becomes common or too frequent, or out of context, loses its efficacy.

“Oh, that’s just the way he is. He doesn’t mean anything by it,” is something often said about those who swear without thought. The only meaning conveyed is anger or thoughtlessness or lack of vocabulary.

Swear

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While living in another state, we used a fantastic mechanic friend who worked on cars from his home garage. We got to know his family, his kids, his wife. Nice people. Surprisingly, he swore like a sailor, meaning, nearly every third word was a vulgarity. The first few times I spent any time around him I thought he was in a bad mood. Turned out that was just how he talked, happy, sad, angry, indifferent. That’s how he was raised. The swear words served as fillers for him, like most people use the words “uh”or “hmm” or “like” or “y’know.” It wasn’t easy to tune out or filter the sense from what he said. It was distracting and often uncomfortable. Surprisingly, he was the most tender-hearted, kind, generous person I’d met in ages. His words didn’t match who he was. Consequently, many people kept themselves from getting to know him, the real man behind the angry sounding words. What a loss.

 “Your own words are the bricks and mortar of the dreams you want to realize. Your words are the greatest power you have. The words you choose and their use establish the life you experience.” – Sonia Choquette.

I admit I’m kind of a word snob. I select words with probably too much care and precision. I get told I use “big words” too much. I blame that on all the reading I’ve done over a lifetime. There are so many words to use in every possible situation! And I keep learning new ones!

photo-14There are some words that aren’t even swear words that make me cringe; misspelled words, grammar errors, typos. That’s just me being silly and picky. A word that means something else other than what the speaker thinks what it means can make me wince. A swear word when nearly any other word would be adequate just feels lazy and pointless. Certain swear words are like a punch in the gut, a word out-of-place in a sentence, meaningless, almost silly.

Here’s a brief example of the many word choices out there that could replace just the word vulgarity: rudeness, tastelessness, uncouthness, offensiveness, crude, impropriety, indecency, cuss, execration, expletive, profanity, obscenity, cuss word, four-letter word, rude word, dirty word, vulgarism, sacrilege, curse, oath, and lets not forget ^*$#(@&**!!

That’s twenty-one word choices! Why would a person, particularly a writer, always use the same three or four words when there are twenty-one or more options? It doesn’t take a boatload of effort to look up words in a thesaurus or dictionary anymore.

Don’t get me wrong here.

I’m no purist. My mouth surely has needed a soap washing on many an occasion. Just ask MSH or my kids. When I get really, really angry half my brain cells shut down and what I say comes across as all but meaningless. I’m not proud of it. I am after all a wordsmith. I have the skills to get my ideas across without the &*#$*%#$ thrown in as empty fillers.

That’s a grawlix.

That string of punctuation marks that signify cussing is called a grawlix, by the way.

I like that. You’re free to fill in the blanks or let it slide. I picture Yosemite Sam grumbling under his breath as “that durn rabbit” gets away again. I get his anger without taking a hit to my gut and my sensibilities.

As for bleeping out cuss words, I’m not much of a fan of that. There isn’t much left to the imagination when lip-reading is obvious. And blanking out the middle letters of expletives doesn’t lessen the angry meaningless of the word.

English: A black ink splatter with slightly bl...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I guess I just wish we all tried a little harder to say what we really meant. Swear words just feel like so much anger spewed on the page, like ink splatted out of a quill pen. What a mess where there’s so much potential. I’d like to think we’re all better writers and better communicators.

I know, it’s supposedly cool and sophisticated to freely pepper our sentences with those words we wouldn’t normally use in front of our grandmother, our minister, a potential employer or small children. Why is it we don’t say them in such company, I wonder.

Does that say something about our sense of propriety? Does it say something about us? Does it say anything?

Do our word choices say anything at all?

Categories: Communication, Humor, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Proof That Humans Can Work Magic

I used to try to wiggle my nose to make something magical happen. I couldn’t wiggle my nose, so naturally, no magic. Then I tried holding my arms folded in front of me and blinking my eyes to make magic. Didn’t have much luck with that one either.

Magic words like “Alakazam!” and “Open Sesame!” and “Bibbity Bobbity Boo” didn’t have any effect, much to my chagrin.

I resorted to mind control. Thinking until it hurt my brain, I’d try to move a spoon, or make the salt shaker float. I’d stare at a pitcher of water and will it with my eyes to pour. No luck.

No magic.

Nada.

Then I discovered books.

“A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called “leaves”) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time ― proof that humans can work magic.”

Carl Sagan

January 10, 2013 - Antique Books

(Photo credit: eric.langhorst)

Carl Sagan always intrigued me with his “billions and billions” talk. And now I find, with this quote that he was magical too, talking to me across time, from his past to my present. Letting me know that I, too, am a magician after all.

After discovering books I decided I could make that kind of magic if I practiced enough.

So now, I write. That’s my magic.

It might not always be magical, but it’s working right now.

Categories: Books, Communication | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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