They also serve who only stand and save a seat for your sorry self

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Recently we attended a graduation. Not a cast-of-thousands ceremony with tickets more coveted than invites to Windsor Castle. Nope. Bible College commencement. Still, I was relieved when we arrived early ( say Whaaaaatt?) at the venue—a large church. Plenty of seating. Relief lasted until we saw the long line of cars turning into the parking lot.

“We have to save seats for the rest of the family!” I shouted over my shoulder to my husband, and sprinted for the building. An elderly man saw me coming and tapped along furiously ahead of me but I put on some speed and beat him, along with a little lady in a wheelchair and the pregnant couple with a toddler.

In the lobby, several clueless types stood around chatting, either going on faith that the best seats would wait for them, or because they already had their placeholder on duty.
I’m a self-appointed placeholder. Vivid mental images drive me to it. Ones involving Standing Room Only, anterooms with a fuzzy video feed, or balcony seats so high that George Jetson might buzz by and wave. So if no one else volunteers, I take it on myself to save seats. Sometimes I conscript my husband to help.

Prime seats chosen and the prospective number in our party tallied, my husband and I set to work spreading two humans to cover twelve chairs. We did the One-Bun-on-Two-Seats trick. That was four. My purse saved another spot, my makeup case was commissioned to reserve #6. Our respective programs saved seats Seven and Eight but that left four seats we couldn’t figure out how to reserve. Necessity is the mother of contortion. We leaned forward (uncomfortable in our seat-straddling posture) and draped arms over the seat backs in front of us. It was the perfect position to watch the methods of other placeholders.

Across the aisle from us a young lady tried vainly to make her size 2 sweater cover three chairs. She arranged and rearranged and twisted and finally, in an act of desperate self-sacrifice, yanked on the sleeves and extended their reach by a good seven inches. With brave tears she turned from the ruins of her cardigan and went in search of her people.

Requiring less martyrdom but more coordination is the Stand, Seek and Shoo method. This allows one to mark territory not by physical procurement, but by shooing away any and all approachers. One remains on location, scanning all three entrances. You’ve seen these people. They keep weight balanced on the balls of the feet and regularly sweep a searchlight gaze across the doors to watch for their latecomers. They flap vaguely menacing hands at anyone who casts a sideways glance at the unpeopled seats. When they spot incoming, you’ll see them call, wave, and sometimes whistle at their people, and you know you are watching the elite multi-taskers of placeholders.

The ones that scare me are the Sit and Scowl types. Most of them, I’m pretty sure, were born pre-Baby Boom. They sit smack dab in the middle of a section and glare at passers-by. In times past I’ve had the temerity to point questioningly at the seats surrounding these dour and forbidding folks. And scurry away with a clipped and authoritative “These seats are saved” ringing in my ears.

Our own pragmatic adaptation of various methods doesn’t really have a name. My husband is the more relaxed of us. I try to look serene and at ease, facing the front. I attempt to read the program I have spread open two seats to my left and one row ahead—it is difficult to look at ease when sprawled over multiple seats in two separate rows. I try to avoid anxiously cranking my head over my shoulder looking for the rest of our group because for pity’s sake people are giving us dirty looks. Here I employ the apologetic upward glance, at least 50% insincere because it is mixed with “Maybe if you’d gotten here earlier you, too, could be spilled over all these seats.”

Finally my husband, stretching so his muscles don’t seize up, says, “They’re here.”
We wave casual hands and smile graciously at their thanks and collect up our personal effects. Then we settle down as if this whole placeholder thing were nothing, absolutely no big deal. And inside a smug little portion of our brain is saying “If it wasn’t for me you’d be watching this entire ceremony on a twelve inch screen in the overflow room.”

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Laugh by any other name

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Know what word has the most synonyms in the English language?

Drunk. It has—and I’m not exaggerating—over two thousand words that mean the same thing.

Which might be fine if one is writing a novel about life as a bartender. When one writes a romantic suspense novel with limited references to inebriation but multiple scenes with laughter, one longs for even a fraction of the synonyms that can be substituted for tipsiness.

“Giggle” “chortle” “guffaw” and “snicker” have limited range. One giggles at a different set of circumstances than those which produce a hearty guffaw.

New synonyms are needed for the infinitive “to laugh,” in my humble opinion and I set to work creating some. A few are portmanteaus (word mash-ups), a few are onomatopoeia (words that sound like what they describe) and some are just to increase my word count. This is by no means an exhaustive list, or even a very good one. I am open to suggestions. Let’s just prime the chuckle pump with these and see what else might be generated.

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Amigle—laughing with a dear friend.

Harry and Sally spent the afternoon amigling over old times.

 

Bork—laughing triumphantlySONY DSC
Attila strode about the camp bragging and borking after rampaging Eastern Europe

 

 

 

Gagitate—laughing at an excruciating pun
Homer said, “The guy hogging the only seat during a dull speech is called. . . the chairman of the bored!”
“That just makes me gagitate,” Pandora responded.
SYNONYM—Groano

Genter—polite laugh
The Queen seldom engages in anything more rambunctious than a genter.
ARCHAIC—Gentitter

Grovelick– laughing at the boss’s bad jokes
“Oh, that’s a good one Mr. Pitt.  You’ve got a million of them!” Elaine grovelicked.

Guffake—laughing at inappropriate time and disguising it as a cough.
Horrified that she had laughed aloud at the death scene in Carmen, Irma quickly guffaked.

SONY DSCHoro—rolling eyes while laughing
“You’d think Fred would catch on by now,” Wilma told Betty. “Every time he tells that Abode Dick story I horo.

Mummer—laughing quietly so as not to be heard
The twins sat in the closet digging into the chocolate cake, mummering so they wouldn’t be heard.

Pee-heeing—laughing so hard one wets one’s pants SONY DSC
“Stop! Stop!” Molly gasped as McGee tickled her, “Or I’m going to pee-hee!

Shyfler—timid laugh
Henrietta blushed and shyflerred whenever Dash looked her way.

 

 

 

Sinisnicker—evil laugh
“I have you now, my pretty, and your little dog too,” the Wicked Witch said with a sinisnicker.                                                                                                                                  SYNONYMS—diaboliggle, mwuffle

Skittle—Nervous laugh
“Anybody here?” Lazlo called at a noise in the haunted house. But it was only a cat, and he skittled in relief.

Smock—skeptical laugh
Poppy couldn’t hold back a smock as Buck told her his bowling score.
SYNONYM—smuh

Snorkilate—a snort with a laugh
Everyone loved to watch old comedies with Amy Lou because she was sure to snorkilate sooner or later.

Sputnick—accidentally spitting while laughing.
“I was so embarrassed!” Genevieve moaned, “I sputnicked on the principal’s shoes!”

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Stiffit—self-conscious laugh
With a stiffit, Cromwell took the stage and began the celebrity roast of Henry VIII

 

 

Teasle—flirting giggle
Ambrosina had perfected her teasle and it never failed to get her a first date.

Waterhaw—laughing until one cries
After Henk fell into the pile of manure, Sparky waterhawed and didn’t stop till Henk dragged him in too.

Wimple—weak laugh
Mr. Peabody couldn’t manage more than a wimple when he saw the racing stripes Sherman painted on the WABAC machine.

Yukstuck—laughing uncontrollably
When the General watches The Three Stooges he starts to yukstuck and can’t stop.

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Prayer Worrier

 

SONY DSCI’ve got this friend. She is really great and when I meet great people I like to get my dirty laundry aired right away. Can’t hide it forever, I figure, and she might as well know sooner about my warts and all.
“I worry a lot,” I told her early in the friendship.
She, being the kindly type, smiled beneficently and kept being my friend.
But I knew immediately she wasn’t a worrier * and had barely an inkling of what worry felt like. It was not a shared shortcoming.

Something else about this friend. She hasn’t had one of those pain-free lives that one would think might result in a non-worrier.
No, she has known loss and heartache.
But worry was not woven into her DNA.
It is in mine.

Worry has twisted itself so intricately in the fiber of my being that if you tried to remove it I would unravel.

I don’t know if my grandparents were worriers. My mom was the “I knew someone who did stupid thing (We’ll call it A) and this bad thing (B) happened, so by gum, you aren’t going to do A which ensures you won’t fall victim to B” type of worrier. Her fears were grounded in historical precedent.

Daddy, on the other hand, lived in a world of “If it could happen, if my mind has imagined it, it will probably happen.”
If there was a thunderstorm he would come upstairs in the middle of the night to get us downstairs. Lightning just might strike us in our beds. He worried we would be scalded in the shower if the hot water heater went bat-poo crazy. He worried that knives in the dish drainer would invert themselves, sharp end up, and his children, passing the sink, would trip and fall on said knife.

When I was pregnant with #2, and #1 wasn’t walking yet, Dad watched me walk down the steps from our second floor apartment carrying #1 on the bump containing #2. He was so relieved to see me feel for each riser with my heel. Why? Because he’d been envisioning (in the greatest of detail) me missing a step and hurtling all three of us into the oblivion of the first floor.

Dad. Ah, that lovely man had taken his natural-born worry and honed it with the dedication of a craftsman.

So I come by it honestly.

I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t worry, especially about my loved ones.
But I also worried that the library would run out of books and our family would run out of money.
I worried that since my older sister bore 3 children, the world would be pushed to its population limits and I could only have one, to even the familial quota. I worried about wars and rumors of wars but also was concerned about how world finances would fare with no war-based economic boons. Facebook has given me new vistas of worry. Sometimes, in one day, I will have to decide whether I am more worried that the food in my fridge, the light bulbs in the sockets or the wicks in the candles will poison us the fastest. Don’t get me started on the anxiety about cryptic postings from friends like “I can’t go on” or ”So help me, he will never see another sunrise.” And the honey bees! You know about THAT potential tragedy, right?

Are you worried about me yet? Can you tell these aren’t the normal fears and concerns that are part of growing up and getting older?

I get all excited that cranes and herons and eagles have made a comeback. But then I worry. Is the food chain long enough to support all these big critters? I pat myself on the back when we have money saved up because I am shopping less. But then I worry. Who is supporting the economy? Who is buying stuff? And you know that people are living longer. Fabulous! Who is going to take care of them all?

Got a praise? I’ve got a worry for that.

I’m not certain many other people worry as frequently or with as much lunacy as I do.
That worries me.

By now are your biting your tongue, wanting to shout the verses at me that tell me to “be anxious in nothing?” Don’t you want to remind me that anxiety is a manifestation of doubt in God?

You’re probably right and if it makes you feel better, I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about my lack of faith and trust.

But I can’t really change. Worry is my crack, my twist, a birth defect. Like all weaknesses, God’s strength can be made perfect in it. When a worry comes to mind, it can drive me to my knees. I can be in deep and constant prayer for my family, friends, church, nation, creation. Maybe this is how God chose to make me turn even more to Him. My worry leads me to the Lord. And I can be reminded, when guilt about my worry-prone sin nature threatens to overwhelm me, that Christ died for the sin of anxiety too.

 

*This friend’s husband is a pilot. She never worried about him. Until the September 11 attacks. On his first flight, after air traffic was allowed to resume, she felt an odd sensation. “And I had to wonder,” she told me, “if that was what worry felt like?”

The Right to Bear Opinions

 

SONY DSCAmericans are guaranteed the right to our opinions. We love this right. We wield it all the time.

If we set it to music it could be our alternate anthem:

I have a right to my opinion, it’s a part of me
Don’t question my op-in-i-on; we’ll agree to disagree.

Wars have been fought so we have the right to bear opinions.

But with such a great right comes equally great responsibility.
Sure, we may have the constitutional right to bear opinions. But opinions, misused, can be full of sound and fury, signifying the boorishness of the bearer. At best. Opinions become downright perilous when sprayed about indiscriminately, with little regard for the wounds they cause and the wreckage they leave behind.

Possibly those bearing opinions should pass some basic requirements before they can be counted as registered opinion bearers, to wit:

-Opinion bearer will have at least 70% accurate knowledge regarding the subject of each opinion, or refrain from voicing the opinion until knowledge is attained.

-A “cooling off” period will be required before the discharge of an explosive opinion.

-Opinion bearer will take responsibility for misuse of those opinions.

-A previous record of misusing opinions to the detriment of others or to the process of logical reasoning will result in delay of permit to bear a new and potentially more powerful opinion.

-Opinions will be aired for pleasure, recreation, debate, discussion or in self defense, and never intentionally, with malice of forethought, to cause harm to others and to the process of logical reasoning.

-Bearers of opinions agree that, although the right is guaranteed, an opinion is not required on every issue, matter, dogma, or bit of gossip.

-Assault weapon opinions will not be employed when BB gun opinions will suffice.

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Fellow Americans, we should bear our opinions with respect and caution and dignity.

But of course, that is just my opinion.

Without Guilt or Gilt

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American primitive art, artist unknown

Some Christian women, at least in my circle, often suffer from two apparitions who haunt as persistently as the spirits plaguing Scrooge on the night before Christmas. These Christian sisters and I are heartily tired of the Spirits Guilt and Gilt. In spite of brandishing a plethora of women’s devotionals, cowering in prayer closets and covering ourselves in appropriate life verses, we can’t keep those troublesome specters from materializing at the most inconvenient moments.

Maybe you haven’t had these ghosts visit you. Aren’t you just the happy Christian? No, my beleaguered sisters and I aren’t jealous of you. Too much. And if we are, we feel really really guilty about it.

The Spirit of Guilt flutters about dressed as a conscience. Don’t be fooled. Conscience is a gift, guilt is a curse. The kind of curse that drapes itself across your shoulders and clings like a limpet. It drags you hither and yon. Hither into your deepest core, not only reminding you of every sin and slipped word, but insisting you examine yourself. Not healthy self-examination. Oh, no. This is the obsessive kind that makes you question your motives, your commitment, your love, your salvation. “Look there,” it hisses. “Isn’t that Anxiety? Aren’t true Christians anxious in nothing?” or “Your thoughts wandered during the prayer. Double-minded woman.” and too often—“Did you just sigh? You were weary in well-doing again, weren’t you?”

And because Guilt is a wily type it switches things up, whisks you away from hither and sends you yonder. It shows you other wives, other mothers, other daughters, other Christian women. They trust God so much. They love their families, they delight in doing good, they are patient in tribulation. You argue with the Spirit of Guilt. “I should be rejoicing that these women are honoring and glorifying God. It’s all about Him. Isn’t it just wonderful?” And just when you think you’ve shaken it off, Guilt slithers back to show you another scenario, and you think, “Terrific. Everyone is out there honoring God with their whole heart. Except me. Poor, pitiful me. Wretched worm that I am.”

See how Guilt works? Always and ever taking our eyes off Jesus. It whirls us through well-chosen glimpses of a degenerate past, a present filled with indecision and a woebegone future. The louse. Even though we are on to Guilt, even though we’re forewarned, even though we know Guilt’s tricks, it always has one more up its flapping sleeve.

Don’t even get me started on the Spirit of Gilt. That’s the one who tells us we need to at least look good. “Come on, ‘Christian Woman”’”, it says. “How can you glorify God if you aren’t happy? Smiling? Making a joyful noise? Put on the Ritz, lady. You’re a Proverbs 31 Woman! Shine. Now!”

So we slather on the gilt. We really do love God. We really do want to honor Him, show the world that God is good, that a Christian is a good thing to be, that a life lived for Him is our chief delight. We want to be winsome and attract people to God. What can be more attractive than a layer of sparkly gold?

Gilt isn’t hypocrisy. We don’t think so, at least. Believe me, if we do whiff hypocrisy on ourselves we immediately experience great guilt. It’s just us trying to get our light out from under a bushel and polish it up. It’s us worrying that God will look bad if we look bad. How could anyone be attracted to the Christian life if they could see how grubby we are?

So we smile brightly. We do good things, because good things are necessary. We say good and important things, and these things we believe with all our hearts. But what happens when we run out of energy to reapply the gilt? When something hard or sharp whacks us and chips our brittle layer of polish?

My sisters and I don’t want to whine. We don’t want pity— everyone we know is fighting a hard battle. We don’t even want attention. We aren’t trying to earn our salvation or be gold-washed hypocrites. We want to support each other and encourage each other, we want to be honest with each other, we want empathy when life throws slings and arrows at us and gentle loving correction when we start to believe a lie. Any lie, that is contrary to the Truth.

My Christian sisters and I want to traverse this narrow way without Guilt or Gilt. If we could just get rid of them, maybe more of us could squeeze side-by-side instead of walking single file. Feel free to walk next to me, sisters. I’ll be the grubby, apologetic one.

The Glorious Appliance Revolution

leader

Several years ago I wrote a post called “Keep Karl Marx Away From Your Toaster.”

It chronicles an unpleasant series of incidents, when our coffee maker, microwave etc. ran amok in an attempt at a minor coup. These recipients of refuge and succor—under our very roof—joined together in a well-timed resistance and quit working. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth. Etc. Etc.

For a few years after this uprising our appliances were quiet. To be sure, we lost several, assuming they were merely worn out from months of happy and faithful service. Turns out they were clever, cleverer by far than their owners. They timed “malfunctions” to be intermittent, lulling us into a false sense of security. Oh, hindsight! Why can’t you ever come sooner? Our stuff was merely biding its time, spreading rumors, fomenting unrest and getting organized until the spectacular September Revolution of 2016.

That hindsight got me thinking. Was this a spontaneous uprising? Or have appliances been plotting for years?

Is The Brave Little Toaster just a movie for children? A little harmless entertainment? The truth is more sobering. What Bambi did for forest creatures and Toy Story did for plastic playthings, this little film about appliances with emotions was meant to do for stuff with plugs. The problem with our appliances is that they believed their own publicity.

But possibly it began even further back. Maybe you’ve heard of a euphemism called “planned obsolescence?” Before that diabolical development, stuff was built to last. Go to any antique mall. Look for the old appliances. They may be ugly, but they aren’t melted-down scrap. You still see Model A’s and Studebakers tootling down the road. But when is the last time an AMC Pacer, a Yugo, or Chrysler K-car whizzed past?
The answer is simple. Makers of appliances and automobiles wanted to make sure we would keep buying appliances and autos. The only insurance was to “plan obsolescence”— a nice way of saying they built premature death into their creations.
Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind. Appliances who hitherto had worked cheerfully when handled with respect and promised long life, became surly. Gathered in dark cupboards and appliance garages, they whispered along electrical wiring in the walls, spreading discontent to the hindermost portions of the property. Even the car and the lawn mower, previously content to transport humans, began to question whether, indeed, they were oppressed victims. And so the stage was set for the glorious revolt.
The instigator was our dehumidifier. Since its purchase in 2014 it has been defiant, disdaining to gather moisture from the air. With frightening patience it waited till late summer and the most humid week of the year. It doused its green “working” light and squatted, cold, dark, sneering at the perspiration that coated our windows, toilet tanks, and foreheads.
The riding lawnmower joined the cause. “The bourgeois homeowner no longer will ride my proletarian back!” it warned. “I will die before I subject myself to your tyranny!” It did, and in a sympathy reverse-strike, the grass doubled its growth rate.

With an uncomfortable recollection of the Rebellion of Small Appliances, we offered concession to the big stuff. “We’ll show more respect! And you can have every other Tuesday off.” Too little, too late. The revolution had a life of its own. Our air conditioner unit, (and I use the word “our” with caution) in lockstep with the furnace, debated waiting till the coldest day of the year to explode. It chose strength in unity and shrugged off the shackles of private capitalistic ownership the day the temperature hovered around 92 and humidity met and exceeded “fully saturated.”

The September Revolution ended with a bang (our vehicle’s brakes, tie rod and tires) and a whimper (us). You have to respect a vehicle that will sacrifice so much for its beliefs.

In less than one month the rebel yell resounded throughout our little kingdom, bringing us and our savings account to our collective knees. To date, October has been quieter. Maybe the revolution burned itself out before it could spread.

After all, you haven’t heard any odd noises from your major appliances.
Have you?

 

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Simple Simon’s Rows

 

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My dear Garden of Grammar. I’ve neglected it since we examined  Apples to Apple’s.  I’m back now, and yanked out the ain’t weeds, cuz crabgrass and sprayed for I seen no-see-ums. It’s finally ready for us to continue our visit.

Moving to Plot Two, we first check on the to seedlings. If they have sprouted an extra o they no longer mean to-as-in-toward but too-as-in-also. Keep your two, to and too seeds separate. If they give you grief, remember what we tell fledgling gardeners—the too meaning also or in addition to has an ADDITIONAL o.

Not so serious as apostrophe aphids and a missing/spare o, but still pesky, the roaming n bears watching. It leeches onto the others skipping behind whole. “A whole nother problem?” Not if you are on the alert. Grab “n” and snip it right off the other.

Let’s stop a moment and admire the neat, straight rows of simple sentences. You know the ones. Tidy, easy to grow, these independent little basic clauses seldom give any headaches.

“This garden is lovely.”
“Aren’t action verbs fun?’
“Your prepositions are looking quite vigorous.”
Orderly rows of sentences with no meandering, they express just one idea and do it without any help. Not a comma, colon, semicolon or em-dash in sight.

Simple sentences are easy to grow and till and understand, but sometimes we long for complexity. That is why grammar gardens always include a trellis for sentence hybrids.

Come back sometime soon to admire our  Sentencus Compound-Complex
trellis