Slashing Syllables

person-1281651_1920

That tears it. When not one, not two, but three to five friends tell me I use a lot of big words in my books, I have to throw up my hands and fess up.
I am a big-word fiend.
Not a big word SNOB.
Don’t think I mean to make you think I am smart.
I’m not, you know. Smart, that is.
But words are SO GREAT.
Some are JUST RIGHT.
Why not, I think, use one big word if it fits? If it says what I want to say?

Now I know why. Folks don’t like the big words. At least not the way I use them. Not in the light weight books I write about love and crime and snow and dogs.
I hear you.

So as of this date I turn o’er a new leaf.
I vow to tone down the length and breadth and width of the terms I use in the books I write.
I shall look at each word.
If it won’t pass the snob test I pledge to slash and burn. To pare down to words that make the heart glad of each gal (or guy) who reads my work. Words that don’t tax the brain past where it wants to be taxed.

Of course, I would not have known how vexed folk can get, had not I asked some of those good folks to proof read my tales (those not yet in book form). They seemed to think I have a poor chance that these tales get put to print lest I cut the fluff of out sized words.

So it starts. I wrote this blog post to work on my vow to toss those big words. Only one beat per word. Feel free to proof read. Did I miss some long words? Are some still so big that you must clap twice or more as you read each one?
Give me your feed back. Please. Feel free, too, to use words with more than one beat. ‘Cuz it is quite tough to keep those beats down to one. Trust me on that.

(I made free with the name of this post. A two beat word and a three beat word. At times, one must be kind to ones self.)

Oily Grace

blake-cheek-x6frcUJoiXo-unsplash

Blog post titles are so hard for me.
Here’s a confession.
Oily Grace” is my version of clickbait.

Unfortunately it sounds like the name of a slimy gang member’s repellent girlfriend.

That is not what I’m writing about, although gang members and their girlfriends need grace.
My focus isn’t even how much I need grace.
I know.
I’ve got grace. By the bucketfuls.

God rains grace on me. I’m forgiven, justified, in the process of being sanctified, someday to be glorified. All showered on me by grace.

It’s the giving of grace to others that I struggle with.
You’d think someone drenched in it would be able to give big ol’ soggy grace hugs to others.
But no.
Grace pours over me, refreshes and rehydrates me. And then it seems to dry up before I can extend it.

I could swear I’m made of microfiber.

Here’s what a Christian like me needs.
Oily grace.
The kind that doesn’t absorb right away.
I need the kind of grace that will drip off from me onto others.
So anyone who gets close to me can’t help but walk away soothed and softened by
the essential oil of grace that I have in abundance. So I leave footprints and fingerprints of grace everywhere I go and on everything I touch.

Not that I haven’t been known to extend grace. And to gracious people, it is SO EASY to give. It’s trying to grant grace to everyone else that dries me up like a potato chip.
By ‘everyone else’ I mean all humans from the ungracious, nasty types to the person in front of me in the checkout lane. Whose sole fault is that they are in front of me in the checkout lane.

One of my favorite hymns starts like this:
“Gracious Spirit, dwell with me, I myself would gracious be;”
It’s a favorite not so much because of the tune or great poetic phrases.
It is my heart’s cry.
And yet every day—EVERY DAY—I grasp more grace for myself than I spare for others.

This is getting old. I’m getting old.
And I don’t want to be one of those greedy, grasping old women who behave as though grace were so limited it needs to be hoarded and stockpiled and hidden.

Lord, let me ooze grace. Let me shine with it. Let them smell me coming a mile away.
Let my oily grace be a sweet aroma, let it improve flavor, let it make hurts slide off me, let it give light and energy and let it reflect and refract your iridescence.

I’m too self-absorbent for grace like rain, dear Lord. Give me oily grace, please.

40 Winks and the Woman

Refurbished from an old post (November 1, 2012) on my old blog.

Want to see a twinkle in the eye of a lady on the plus side of 50?
Brawny-chested men won’t do it.
Chocolate? Possibly, but there is a more immediate craving.
Jewels? Vacations? A lifetime supply of Oil of Olay Deep Wrinkle Remover? Is that the best you have?
Fuzzy slippers, an afghan and a recliner?
Oooooohhhh.
Now you are talking.
We don’t always want our pulses to race, our taste buds to quiver or our social status to elevate.

We want a nap.

elizabeth-lies-6702-unsplash(1)

Not a long one. Enough to release stress but not so long that we forget what year it is. Or which millennium.
Our sleep should be deep enough for little cherubs to do a happy dance in the corners of our mind, but not so deep that the cherubs metamorphose into winged dust globules with digestive issues.

A satisfying nap will do a woman more good than a shot of Botox, a shot of 5 Hour Energy or a Valium shot. It will give her brain a chance to clear, her creativity and energy a chance to recharge and those funny little wrinkles along her top lip a chance to relax.

We’ve been storing away missed nap opportunities for years. Now, with kids a bit older and fewer commitments, we want to cash in on all the naps we pined for during our education years, our child-rearing years, our career-building years.

The nap helps build stamina. It is good for our hearts. It helps make up for sleep lost at night because of demented hormones, a snoring spouse or a barking dog.

Ladies. Throw off the shackles of guilt, the fear that we’ll be labelled as lazy and libeled as slugs.
Stonewall Jackson, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, JFK, and Napoleon Bonaparte all benefited from naps. They achieved greatness.
And they are all men.
This, my friends, is why women our age do not get the notice we deserve.

We aren’t famous because we’re behind on our naps.

Let’s change all that, starting about 1pm today.
Cuddle down, cover up, and snooze. Rise up, go forth, and change the world.

A grateful nation may name an airport for you.

Or at the very least, a dessert.

 

 

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

Embracing the Inner Sloth

sloth-2759724_1920

I was an early reader. Not because of any particular excess of brain cells. It was a great activity for sloths.
Because my natural inclination leans toward the old saying of “Why run when you can walk, why walk can you can stand, why stand when you can sit and why sit when you can lie down?”SONY DSC
You might have heard it the other way around. I blame Benjamin Franklin. The man is the bane of us sloths and constantly took perfectly logical old sayings and galloped them backwards to suit his frenzied need to make every stinking second count.

 

For years, decades even, I despised this tendency to indolence. It was sinful, unattractive, unambitious. The cool kids were industrious, energetic. They were zippy.
I hated zippy. But I also hated the thought that I was lazy.

So I faked zip.

And, while no one would ever mistake me for a Type A workaholic (because when the slothful imitate the industrious, they do it at half-speed. It’s about all we can muster.), I don’t think people who know me would describe me as a layabout couch potato.

The faking works up to a point. I like to call that point “Point Adequate.” Stuff gets done by me. People get loved. Again by me. And while I cast longing eyes at my sofa, my book, my fluffy slippers, I’ve learned to fight the inner sloth who calls, (and always at adagio speed) “Just sit for a few minutes. One more chapter. One…more…chapter.”

But now that I’m older, even slower, and hopefully a bit wiser, I’ve come to the understanding that I didn’t ask for this lethargic nature. I was born to it. It is born in me. Maybe—now that my kids are grown, my husband and I don’t generate small mountains of laundry a day and I don’t need to grocery shop and cook for 800 pounds of menfolk, run to hundreds of sporting events or lose precious moments of sleep waiting for a teen’s car to come in the driveway—maybe now I can appreciate sloths.

They are cute. Admit it.
Sloths are really in tune with wherever they are at the moment because they are never anywhere for just a moment. They’re there for a long time. Long enough to not only smell the roses, but to count each thorn and check for insects.
Sloths don’t make people nervous.
Sloths don’t make anyone feel guilty or inadequate. Because who can do less than a sloth?
A sloth will do what a sloth was created to do. Maybe no more, but definitely no less.

So. Now that I’m old enough to not have to prove anything to anyone, now that I am well past the cool kid stage, I’m going to go with it. Do what I was created to do. No more, but no less.

******************

Permit me to close with a joke. My dad (the antithesis of a sloth) told it to me, and probably because of my affinity for the hero of the joke, it’s one of the few I remember.

A traveler to the mountains came across a young man lying on a hillock alongside the road, admiring the sky. The traveler explained he was lost, and asked, “Could you give me directions to the nearest town?”
The young man, not lifting his leg from where it rested on his other knee, pointed his foot south.
The incredulous traveler said, “If you can show me anything lazier than that, I’ll give you a fiver.”
The young man said, “Roll me over and put it in my back pocket.”

dreams-1015613_1920

A Surfeit of Archies

feedback-2849602_1920

Ask any author. Naming characters is a solemn task. Some of us agonize for hours. Days. Consider and cast away dozens of names till we are satisfied.
But.
Sometimes the name drops from the sky and flutters down onto the shoulders of our protagonist or antagonist or bit player and it is JUST RIGHT.

So when an ex-punk rocker showed up in the book I’m writing, I needed a name that would suit his pierced, tattooed, working class Brit persona. It came to me out of the blue.
Archie.

 

Perfect!!!!!

Archie

No, this is not my Archie.

 

Archie Bunker

This isn’t my Archie either

The more I wrote about my Archie the more I liked him. His name buried itself into his psyche and mine and now whenever I write—or rewrite—a scene with this particular character, he is the personification of all things Archie. The name has shaped the man.

Well, too bad. I’m going to have to perform major surgery and remove “Archie” from Archie and give him a new name. It is all the fault of a 7 pound infant born in England.

I blame his parents. Prince Harry and Meghan, in spite of hundreds and hundreds of names available, chose my punk-rocker’s name and that has changed everything.

Don’t try to convince me to keep the name. I have my pride. Even though my Archie was named before the couple even got married, anyone reading the book (if it gets published. Please let it get published) will be reading it AFTER the world has fawned all over that other Archie. And will assume I got my name from little Mr. Popularity.

Am I bitter? You betcha. This has happened to me before. In my first book, my wonderful hero was originally named Tubal. After Tubal in the Bible. My publisher thought it was after tubal—a woman’s surgical procedure. (Note: my Tubal’s Biblical namesake was around thousands of years before the first woman had her tubes tied.)

I could see her point, though, and after agonizing and searching Scripture I came up with “Ezra.” But he will always remain Tubal in my heart.

So anyway. My Archie needs a new name. A great sort of Cockney or maybe Scots working-class kind of name. It has to be just right for him. He isn’t any happier than I am about this and we are both trying not to hold it against that newborn living in Frogmore Cottage across the pond. We assume him to be unaware that he just stripped my Archie of his name. Nay. His whole identity. Nothing suits my Archie as well as Archie.

So blessings to Baby Archie and his royal family. Maybe I will get literary vengeance if, when he hits 16, he wants to look like MY Archie.

punk-147586_1280

THIS IS MY ARCHIE

Top Image by Mihai Surdu from Pixabay

The n-word (or, the fully unclothed truth)

The “n” in the title is deliberately lower case, to differentiate it from the very Nasty N-word that makes most of us grit our teeth.

Nevertheless, this particular lower case n-word has great power over me. The power to make me blush.

No. I am not going to write it out. I’m relying on my favorite way of dealing with words that offend my prudish sensibilities—
the euphemism.

Two of my favorites for this particular n-word are “birthday suit” and “in the altogether.”
Figured out what it is yet?
No? How about a synonym.
Never mind. I don’t like any of those either.

Here’s one of my own.
“Fully unclothed”

The first time I remember reading the n-word was maybe in 2nd grade? One of the Little House books, I think. The description of a tornado and the devastation it left hit me hard. I’ve been terrified of twisters ever since. But then. THEN. The narration described a survivor of the storm as being “n-word as a jaybird.”

Well. Yuck. That was my first reaction. I didn’t want to be caught up in a tornado and I especially didn’t want it dropping me off fully unclothed.
Hot on the heels of that gut-level prude reaction came judgement.
How could a book for kids print a word like that? I think I half expected it to incinerate before my eyes.

Cartoon birth

“Ick” and “that wasn’t nice!” are two of the natural-born prude’s natural reactions to things of the flesh. The final is embarrassment. What if someone—say God—caught me reading the n-word?

(This is a good time to take the blame for my prudishness off my parents and put it squarely where it belongs. An unknown genetic anomaly that develops freeform and randomly in a limited number of human children. [The animal kingdom appears immune. To my consternation. Many is the time I wished Rhesus monkeys were partial to pants.] If you’re worried that your offspring might be susceptible, don’t be. The prude gene is becoming increasingly extinct. My point is, my parents, although never given to swearing or vulgarity, are not responsible for my prudish nature. I was born this way.)

Maybe other prudes can handle the n-word. Prudes who don’t so closely link spoken or written words with mental images. When I hear or read the term “birthday suit,” a picture of someone crowned with icing and a candle on the head cavorting in confetti pops into my mind. The phrase ‘In the altogether’ springs into my minds eye a pleasingly plump individual, slightly pink, and tastefully blurred from the neck down. No, I don’t know why.

Cartoon Buster

But the n-word? Or any of its synonyms? When I hear or see it or its associates— say ‘nudy-rudy’ word or the homonym for “bear”—and my mind runs madly for a beach towel or nice opaque sheet to cover the vision flashing in my head.

I have never been happy with the mess Adam and Eve led us into, but I’ve always been intensely grateful that in the aftermath, God at least let us wear clothes.

 

Note- the above cartoons are from “Cartoon Cavalcade” edited by Thomas Craven and published by Consolidated Book Publishers in 1945. Which means that although the cartoons I used were created before 1919 they may not actually be in the public domain and I could be in violation of copyright.  But dug-nub-it. I worked so hard on finding appropriate—in more  ways than one—images and adding text. I’m going to live dangerously.

Stand before kings, or stoop before peasants?

Proverbs 22:29 reads like this: “Do you see any truly competent workers? They will serve kings rather than working for ordinary people. ” (New Living Translation)

king-1267710_1920

How do we reconcile this verse with Jesus’ demand that we wash each other’s feet, as He stooped to wash the (no doubt smelly and dirty) feet of His disciples? After all, they were “ordinary people.” The unimportant, the powerless, the peasants. Do we stand? Or do we stoop?

The Scripture verse above gained some notoriety about a decade ago. At least that’s when I started hearing it batted around homeschool circles. It became a life verse that many teens chose for themselves. Or the teen’s parents believed heartily that it would apply to their child as they “launched” him or her into the world.
Work hard! Be diligent! You’ll stand before kings! Or at least presidents, legislators, or CEOs.
It’s a great verse! How can it not be? It’s Scripture. From the book of wise sayings. Work hard, be diligent, have confidence. And you’ll stand before kings. Or presidents, or legislators, or CEOs. It describes a lofty, world-changing goal.

May I share a story?

Recently I spoke to a friend who works in a school system as a paraprofessional educator in a high school classroom of special needs students. Students who are fully grown but need diaper changes regularly. Students who can only communicate with grunts. Students who sometimes leave bruises on her arms and scratches on her face.

She stoops to tie shoes and wipe up “accidents” on the floor. My friend is a grandmother and goes home at the end of the day exhausted. Her rewards are measured on a different scale than say, those assessed of the “gifted and talented” classes. On a good day, she will be rewarded with a sloppy kiss on her ear or a smile of recognition from a child who for months stared right through her.

Think of those who work in nursing homes. Not the lovely resort type homes with spas and golf courses and movie theaters. They labor where the destitute go to live out their days. You know, the places that reek of disinfectant vainly trying to cover the smell of urine. And worse. They feed, clean, clothe, diaper, and salve those who can no longer care for themselves.

They stoop to pull on slippers, trim toenails, place swollen feet on wheelchair footrests. On a good day, their gentle hug will be returned, a tender brushing of the hair will elicit a slurred “thank you,” or a carefully-tended bedsore will heal.

We all know those who work, who volunteer, who live lives of stooping to help those who can’t help themselves—-much less help the helper. The rewards are rated on a different scale than the usual success stories.

Please follow the link to Heartwings to read how I believe God reconciles the promise we will stand before kings and the directive that we stoop before the needy.

http://www.heartwingsblog.com/2019/05/stand-before-kings-or-stoop-before-peasants/#comment-20912