Could you toss me that roll of ellipsis tape?

Writers have a host of tools at their disposal*
In their box of power and hand tools, writers may use any or all of the following:
– The Synonym Screwdriver, with interchangeable tips, also called bits.
– The Sneer Quote “Hammer”
-The Adjustable Active Voice Wrench by which passive voice sections are removed
-The Comma Unsplicer is a great tool, it helps even the most novice of writers look as though she passed her grammar classes.
-I would also recommend that the Unnecessary Words Extractor should be found in any writers’ toolbox as it is very useful for tightening up sentences that drone on and on.
-This particular writer refuses to get rid of her Nuts and Bolts of Miscellaneous Adverbs no matter how vociferously anyone pronounces them obsolete.
Oh, and my up and coming favorite—I highly recommend this one—the Em dash Staple Gun. Holds sentences together.
But today we will examine one of my favorite tools of all time.
A roll of Ellipsis Tape. To cover something that for some reason we don’t want to write out.
An ellipsis is easy to use. Look:   …
3 dots. On the computer it is even easier than by hand.
Just depress the period key 3 times.
If you want to make more than one ellipsis, you can, but you have to refer to them as ‘ellipSES’ and you run the danger of over-kill taping.
But…or did I mention this already…ONE NEEDN’T BE A WRITER TO OWN AND OPERATE ELLLIPSIS TAPE!
Ellipsis Tape can also cover something we want to imply without really saying it.  ‘OK, honey, if you think that shirt you bought in 1984 still fits you…”

Ellipsis Tape can extend a grievance indefinitely. “Even Wilma Flintstone and Aunt Bea have garbage disposals. Why I still don’t have one, I have to wonder…”

Ellipsis Tape patches together the disparate thoughts that zing simultaneously through our heads as we struggle to communicate. “Drive carefully, watch out for deer and drunk drivers, and…you’re wearing THAT to go out tonight?”

Ellipsis Tape is a temporary fix for faulty memory. “I could have sworn I had enough gas to get us there…”

Ellipsis Tape can make one look more intelligent than one really is. We can appear to mull over a significant notion when really we just totally lost track of what we were about to say. “I was just reflecting the other day that…ah…hmmm…yes…deep reflection. Deep…deep…”

As a chatterer and a long-winded writer, I use my Ellipsis Tape all the time because I never know how to close out a conversation or a scene.
A period puts a direct and speedy end to a thought, idea, comment, or statement.
But the ellipsis lets me put that thought, idea, comment or statement on limitless hold until I return with something else to stick onto it.

If anyone wants to borrow my Ellipsis Tape, let me know…

*DISCLAIMER: IF A CERTAIN TOOL FALLS TO THE BOTTOM OF THE BOX, CERTAIN WRITERS MAY BE TOO LAZY TO FISH IT OUT. HENCE, BAD WRITING

I See Your Lek and Raise You a Qindarka

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How do you like those fracti?

 

You immediately knew what is wrong with the title of this post, don’t you?

Since a qindarka, as anyone in outer Albania knows, is equal to 100 lek, this would be a pretty lopsided game of poker.

And you no doubt had a pretty good yock at my expense.

But does it hurt my feelings that you laughed boisterously at me? Nah. I’ll just boff heartily along with you.

Your ordinary man-about-town may not recognize the above bold-faced words, but a devoted Scrabble player who is eidetic (possessed of vivid recall) will have at least a nodding acquaintance with some.

That which is pyic is often xanthic, which means pus-ish stuff tends to be yellow.

If you see a chacma in a cwm on the side of a jebel you are, in the non-Scrabble world of language, looking at a baboon in a hollow on the side of a mountain.

You want to write a scathing commentary on the state of humankind via analogy using the chacma stuck, through no fault of its own, in the cwm which is stuck, through no fault of its own (but rather the fault of a cold and heartless glacier) in the mountain.

But with one thing (preparing to celebrate the yahrzeit—anniversary of the death of an ancestor celebrated by Jews) and another (you are part of a busy and creative krewe, a private group participating in Mardi Gras) your magnum opus has shrunk to the size of a opuscule (a minor work).

Fracti are ragged clouds and gjetost is hard brown cheese and a fyke is a bag-shaped fishnet and all are acceptable in Scrabble.

pfft and psst and sh and hm? Legit.

Alif, bubu, and a thousand others have no meaning but are still recognized. No doubt some ambitious Scrabble player with connections in the Scrabble Word Approval Department begged for them.

The Prude plans to cozy up to someone with clout at the Scrabble Dictionary and get ca approved. It’s the sound made by the chacma trapped in the cwm.

The stumble after the fall

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Decades of experience have proven that a blessing can, conversely, work as a curse.

Take the old Irish benediction ‘May the road rise up to meet you.’
Think about it. One is walking, in a carefree, guileless manner along a road/path/sidewalk/carpeted hallway, and it rears up to meet one in the form of a bump/stone/protuberance/wrinkle.
What happens then? Anything from a face plant to a gyrating series of stumbles, bobs, weaves and windmilling arms. It’s never pretty. If you ever see me do any of the above—please be kind and pretend you didn’t. Don’t offer me a hand up or ask if I am all right.

Because pride hurts worse than the fall.

What is worse than the physical pain of bruised shins, bloodied knees or chipped teeth?
Metaphorical falls.
They occur, with irritating regularity, on the twisting, booby-trapped, buckling road of daily life. We are tripped up by bumps of:
-forgetting stuff
-mispronouncing stuff
-acting out of ignorance
-making faulty judgements based on incomplete facts
-speaking loudly and publicly and foolishly using those faulty judgments
-social blunders
-at a baby shower, during a game,  announcing ‘Myrtle’ as a name to  never name a baby, forgetting the hostess’s name is Myrtle.*

Unless you are a hermit, perfect, or have the gift of flight, you can no doubt remember one or two figurative stumbles of your own.
When we fall—spraining hubris, skinning egos, and banging up pride, we hope no one noticed.

Just in case though, we take ridiculous measures to maintain some semblance of dignity. Instead of rising to our feet, smiling ruefully and taking note of what precipitated the fall so we don’t repeat it, we might:
-make excuses for our forgetfulness so we don’t appear at fault
-stubbornly cover slips of tongue or mangling of words so we don’t appear less than clever
-huffily defend ignorant behavior so we don’t have to appear humble
-bluster through wrong assumptions so we don’t appear ignorant
-blather on with foolish pronouncements so we don’t appear…foolish
-grumble past our social blunders as if society where at fault instead of ourselves
-refuse to apologize profusely for an unintentional personal insult because we might appear vulnerable—i.e.—mortal

A fall is embarrassing and it can hurt. But it happens, and it isn’t irremediable.
Unless.
Unless we pretend we meant to fall.
Unless we sacrifice others to save face.
Unless we blame the road instead of our own inattention.
Unless we never look at what caused the fall to avoid it in the future.

The stumble after the fall is worse than the accident itself.
It compounds the topple, hurts the onlookers, and ensures we’ll continue, in spite of bobbing and weaving and windmilling, to fall flat on our faces.

Let’s stop deluding ourselves. Clumsy, prideful, defensive methods to make certain no one noticed serve to only prolong the stumble.
Let’s turn that curse back to a blessing.
When the road rises to meet us, grin, and thank it for pointing out that the clumsiest of humans can rise after the fall, a better person.

*An all-too humbling real-life experience that occurred in the distant past of the Tuesday Prude.

Can Bombs Burst in my Hair?

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Bonny

Here is my pup.

Awwww, you say, she is so cute!
What doesn’t show up on photos is the yellow streak running down her back, her lily liver, or her chicken attitude.

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The little girl is a coward.

Now firecracker season is upon us and I’ll spend the next several days trying to convince the pup that the Fireworks are Not Out to Get Her.

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The pup won’t believe a word.

We’ll head out to fireworks tomorrow night. Without her. We’ve learned from the experience of the last several years.

We would weigh our options:
1) Take her along into the thick of the battle, where at least we can hold her and try to comfort her?
Or
2) Leave her home alone, where she can hear the bangs and booms, but in a more muted form?
When she is home and hears the pop of a gun, a backfiring car or–heaven forbid–continuous fireworks set off by patriotic neighbors, she panics and tries to insert herself into the smallest hole in the deepest corner of the house.

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If she could, she would stuff her paws in her ears.

We worried that someday we would return from fireworks to discover the dog with only her nose sticking out of a toilet paper tube.

So we would take her along.
This is what ensued:

Family: “Oh look, Doggie! Fireworks in the sky! Far away! Aren’t they pretty?
Family Dog: “Not again! We just went through this 7 dog years ago!”

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Family: “You’re OK! See? We’re cuddling you tight!”
Family Dog: “If you really loved me you would throw yourself of top of those bombs.”

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F: “It’s almost over! You can make it!”
FD: “Possibly…if that gopher over there will share his hole with me…”

F: “All done! Let’s go home!”
FD: “Could you check and make sure I still have all my extremities? Oh, and by the way. You’ll be hearing from my SPCA representative.”

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We’re leaving her home this year, and working on a new business venture. Soundproof pet cages.

The Disgraced Dutchwoman wakes up

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Dutchwomen are known for being tall.
Maybe blonde.
Clean. Really clean.
And thrifty.

I am a Dutchwoman.
I can do tall. I used to be 5’7”. And a bit.
Truly.
But the shrinking economy is doing something odd to yardsticks. They’ve gone all stingy and now they say I’m 5’6’. And nothing.

Did you know not all the Dutch are blonde? Oodles and oodles have dark hair, or hair that was dark a decade or so ago.

That clean part, now—
My mother-in-law is a Dutchwoman. She cleans her bathtub on hands and knees and then dismantles the drain to clean down it.
Not because it is plugged. Not because anybody will ever look down her drain.
But because dirt might have assembled there, all smug, thinking she could never reach it.
She cannot shower in peace knowing something grubby lurks just beyond her toes.

Please, dear mother-in-law, don’t peer down my drains. Don’t pull the vegetable drawer from my fridge to see if rogue spills escaped detection. They did. Crumbs cluster on my butter dish and dust lives in peace for weeks—sometimes months—under the spare bed.
Do I scrub my front stoop? Do you need to ask?

The Dutch can be fabulously thrifty. (Some might even say tight.) And while I can brag up garage sale finds and 90% off end-of-season deals, I’ll invite ten people for dinner and buy enough food for the US Olympic team. And store the leftovers till they get freezer burn and I don’t feel as guilty dumping them.

In spite of my hundred-proof Dutch blood, I make a poor showing. But when my credit card bill showed a $99 yearly charge for ‘The Tuesday Prude’ where I post, at best, once each season, something in that sluggish Netherlands blood began to trickle, then swirl, then positively surge through my veins.
Almost a hundred dollars for something I never use?
This shall not be.

The plan is to blog more. Maybe, like the dirt in my mother-in-law’s drain, no one will ever see. But I’ll rest easier knowing ninety-nine dollars didn’t just chug down the pipes and into the blog sewer.

Man’s Work

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Daddy (who would have been 100 this Friday) had a wealth of old sayings, aphorisms and proverbs.

One he quoted often while looking fondly at Mom:

“Man’s work goes from sun to sun, woman’s work is never done.”

We never quite made sense of that, since Mom, for most of her adult life, worked outside the home, while Dad made dinner, did dishes and laundry, yard work and handyman stuff.

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But despite all evidence to the contrary, old sayings are old sayings. And Dad believed every pithy word.Scan 150770001

When you’ve only got 100 years to—

This week, had he lived, my dad would have turned 100.

It was hard to let him go. I’d take him back in a heartbeat, but I know he wouldn’t come.

But I see him everywhere. Not just in the way-too-many-but not-nearly-enough photos I have of him. In the redwing blackbird I spotted. For him that was the true harbinger of spring.

There are bits of him in all three of my boys.

Favorite hymns, harmonicas and accordions.

And whimsey.

Here is one of his favorite sayings:

“A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING AND EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE”

Here is one of my favorite photos:

dad spaghetti

He dropped a box of spaghetti in the pantry. It wasn’t edible. What to do, what to do?

And here is the answer. The place for spilled spaghetti. According to a 70-something retired schoolteacher. (And preserve it for posterity with a Polaroid)

Mom said they had to walk around the spaghetti house  for a week.

Changing…Garfunkel…

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Last week I shared my pre-teen dream of achieving peace and love via Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sounds of Silence.’ It remained just a beautiful dream until I learned that my Calvinette troupe would be hosting the Calvinette banquet. And I knew what had to be done.

What is a ‘Calvinette?’ Pretty much what it says. A little, female follower of John Calvin. Although we owed more to the Girl Scouts than we did the worthy reformer. My particular Calvinist denomination had a Calvinette troupe in each church. Sort of like Awanas for preteen girls. We had a motto. (Grace is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears Jehovah, she shall be praised.) We had a song. ‘Oh Calvinettes March Forward.’
We got badges. I learned to darn a sock over a lightbulb. And every year or so, all the Calvinettes in the state came together for a banquet. As hosts this year, our duty was to provide entertainment.

There was the plum. Sitting in my lap, smiling up at me. “You need a place to start changing the world? Here you go!”
Almost a hundred other junior high girls would be there. They would hear ‘Sounds of Silence.’ It had been off the airwaves since we were mere third graders. But now, on the cusp of teenhood, the world would soon be ours. WE COULD MAKE IT NICE. Every girl in that room couldn’t help, on hearing The Song, to be moved. To go home and cry. And then begin the change that would change everything.
I gathered my friends to share my vision. My vision may have lost something in translation, but no one argued when I suggested that, as the Dream-transmitter, I would sing lead and accompany on guitar. Like polite girls (Calvinettes were well-mannered and supportive) my friends agreed. There were half a dozen of us united on this giddy venture to set world kindness in motion.

At the first practice, only 5 girls showed up. The second had 4 and by the third, it was me and my friend Nan. Who I forbade, on the force of my (actually underwhelming) personality, to drop out.

Why, when offered a chance to achieve greatness and love and flowers and puppies via a song, did those Calvinettes skedaddle? Some had parents who, foreseeing disaster, wouldn’t let them participate. The rest were smitten by self-preservation combined with common sense. Did I mention that I am thiscloseto tone deaf? And that my guitar prowess was the result of 6 half-hour lessons?

Poor Nan. She tried everything to make our duo work. “How about I sing harmony?”
Did you know that to the musically-impaired, harmony sounds like a pig wailing over a stolen corn cob?
I laughed her to scorn. Me. Who had the nickname ‘Gravel Gurdy’ as a child.

But she hung in there, agreeing to sing melody. An octave higher than me.
The night came. THE NIGHT. The night when the tentacles of love would go out and—

“Girls.” One of our long-suffering Calvinette leaders beckoned Nan and I into a private corner. Just before the festivities began.
“We’ve been listening to the lyrics.” Her matter-of-fact tone didn’t fool us. It concealed the deep discomfort of an adult addressing juveniles on carnal matters. “The verse about ‘written on the subway walls’ is not appropriate.”
We looked at her blankly. We barely knew what a subway was. She fidgeted and straightened my Calvinette scarf. “It isn’t nice.”
We obviously were not getting it. She sighed.
“Subway walls have things that aren’t…appropriate…written on them. You’ll have to eliminate that verse.”

My vision of a brighter future crumbled at the edges. But I would not give in. I would not let the music die.

Our names were announced.
Nan stood with the air of one facing the guillotine. I marched forward, guitar hugged to my ribcage.
We turned to face a sea of 11-13 year old female faces. Our Calvinette leaders’ faces were buried in their hands.
I plucked at strings for the opening I’d painstakingly created.

I strummed. I sang. Somewhere around the key of ‘bottom of a deep dark pit.’

Nan, thankful that video phones and youtube were decades in the future, was possibly singing, or possibly just frozen. I couldn’t tell. The blood burbled in my ears and drowned out even my own rumbling tone.
We stopped signing abruptly, just short of the final verse. I faded out with the same soulful, ‘I’m a Little Teapot’ sort of notes I’d started with. The audience sat stunned. I was surrounded by the sounds of silence. Then, grateful it was over, my kind-hearted Calvinette leaders began to clap. The rest of my club joined, and soon the entire room was gently patting their hands together.

Nan and I found our ways to our seats. Banquet-type stuff happened. I went home. But something died in me that night. Right about the second verse of ‘The Sounds of Silence.’

Please come back tomorrow to learn the moral of the story.

Aging Like a Conifer

‘Let me grow lovely, growing old”

is a poem by Karle Wilson Baker, which I’m not sure I can reprint because I’m not sure it’s public domain. (Prudes thrive on assessing and evaluating each potential action they might take, then searching for laws that could prohibit such action.)

The poem goes on to extol other beautiful, fine old things, like lace. Trees make the list.

Oak trees grow lovely, sure.SONY DSCMaples? You bet.

The venerable weeping willow droops gracefully as she sheds her final tears. SONY DSC

Elms, even those untidy, drop-their-messes-everywhere mountain ashes—

hardwoods wear their age well.

 

 

 

 

 

The leaves these old deciduous trees dropped the previous autumn might not all be replaced in the spring. Come late summer, their scant leaves fade into fall hues even as their younger compatriots still flaunt green foliage.SONY DSC

But sparser leaf covering serves only to accentuate the splendid outlines of these trees.

There is dignity in the gnarled, scarred trunks.

Branches, some of them more fragile now, still extend with grace and beauty. More of the basic structure is being revealed, and it is beautiful.

The deciduous tree is stately.

Its oldness has a fine quality.

Even the most elderly of these, naked and alone, can provide a perch for the majestic bald eagle.

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With the exception of the giant redwood, maybe the grand cedars of Lebanon, very few elderly needle-producing, cone-bearing softwoods inspire poets.

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The ancient fir suddenly realizes he is more bark than bite.

Pines fight a losing battle with needles turning from verdant green to unattractive rust.

Or worse, the needles fall out, never to return.

 

Think ‘Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.’

 

The tall conifer looks over its shoulder one day and realizes it has developed a distinct dowager’s hump.SONY DSC

Your yew (just let that phrase roll off your tongue), along with cousins cypress and hemlock, realize they are getting bald and spindly.

And the lowly arborvitae is just a bedraggled mass of sepia-colored scales drooping from veiny branches.

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Brittle needles.

Unnatural color.

Unattractive veins and spindly shanks and drooping limbs.

That’s how a conifer ages.

 

 

Some of us, as we wend our way through mid-middle age, mature like hardwood deciduous trees.

Fine, elegant, stately.

And some of us, as we approach our pre-old age years, can’t help but notice we are getting scaly and droopy and rusty and prickly.

None of us have total control over how we’ll age.

It’s built into our DNA.

Plant an acorn and an oak grows.

Plant a scale-covered seed and you get a conifer.

Oak trees, maple trees, birch—they grow lovely, growing old.

Conifers just . . . grow old.

But little birds lighting on the numerous exposed branches of an old conifer don’t care what it looks like.

Their unlovely tree provides rest and shelter and doesn’t mind being swarmed with small bodies as long as the little ones don’t take the prickliness personally.

Old oaks, ancient maples, venerable elms, grizzled birches—still delight the senses with their beauty.

But the  sparrows in the branches of an aging conifer don’t care about dropping needles or sagging limbs or spidery veins.

Like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, the conifer might not have grown lovely, growing old,

but it has grown love.

Grace for the Chatterbox

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A strong, silent type and a chatterbox

Recently the pastor preached on Mark 9.
Jesus took 3 disciples up a mountain.
His clothes became white as light,
God spoke audibly from heaven,
and Moses and Elijah, who had been dead several hundreds of years, came to discuss issues of life and especially death with Jesus.
It appears that while these three phenomenal, unprecedented events were occurring, James and John stood silent.
Then we have Peter.
In the pastor’s words, he suggested they build tents and camp out up there. With the Son of God and…the guys who had died.
WHY this inane comment?
Because ‘he did not know what to say…’

So, when Peter had nothing whatsoever of value to contribute to the conversation,
he opted to say something of absolutely no value.
Peter suffered from ‘Fill the Silence with Sounds Syndrome. (FSSS)
He is the patron saint of chatterboxes.

A chatterbox, to boil the definition down to its solid state, talks a lot.
Unlike politicians, who talk a lot to get elected, stay elected, or confound anyone who questions their record/stance/expense account/dalliances,
a chatterbox has no firm agenda in mind.
We don’t aspire to impart the wisdom accumulated by ourselves or others, as teachers do, and our verbiage doesn’t expound on the ultimate Word in the way of pastors.

We part our lips. A lot of stuff comes out. It is as simple as that.

Chatterboxes differ from windbags. We don’t just want to hear ourselves speak.
We aren’t egomaniacs. We aren’t driven by a need to convince you of our fabulousness.
Under that steady stream of babbling syllables often lies a bedrock of intelligence.
We do care about people, and express it is via a plethora of utterances.

Are chatterers a product of nature or nurture? No empirical data to back this up, but I’m guessing we are either/or, possibly both/and.
Just don’t assume that every chatterer you meet was born that way.
Many of us, in our essence, are wallflowers.
Tuck us in a quiet corner with a book.
Please.
But another psyche wars within us, a little harder to identify.
The nature that abhors a vacuum of silence.
Many non-stop talkers I know have a fascination with the written word.
Has it metamorphosed into a need for generating the spoken word?
Or maybe us FSSS sufferers harbor an unattractive, latent god-complex.
Anyone’s slings and arrows of outrageous fortune can be repelled if we only speak enough words over them.
Share a problem or concern with us and, even as part of our brain says, “Can you just keep quiet and listen, for pity’s sake?” our mouths are positively burbling with advice or sympathy or a similar woe shared by a great aunt.

The wisdom of the world sides with that portion of our brain begging for silence:

“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. “ Proverbs 17:28

Aesop made the dictum pithy:
“Fine clothes may disguise, but silly words will disclose a fool”

George Eliot expanded on the adage.
“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.”

Even the Mad Hatter gets his digs in.
“I don’t think…”
“then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter.

Compulsive talkers are surrounded by this kind of stuff. We want to appear wise and sage and prudent. Really we do. But like Peter, when we don’t know what to do, we say.

Quiet people suffer from no such urges. And they look like we want to. Intelligent.

But here is the problem. Say there is a party. A baby shower. The in-laws’ 50th anniversary.
One of our ilk sits down at a table with 3 or 4 silent types, each a quiet, wise-looking little iceberg.
Like the Titanic propelled on a turbine of words, our chatterbox steams into view and, unlike the Titanic, breaks the ice. While the icebergs don’t necessarily interact with each other much, they are tolerant of, and even engaging with the icebreaker.
Really, there isn’t much they need do. The chatterer will fill the air with a perpetual tumble of anecdotes and questions and comments.

At the end of the evening the quiet ones head for home. It was a successful evening. They hadn’t been bored. They could socialize gently. They haven’t appeared shy or been accused of being stuck-up.
The chatterbox leaves with her usual host of regrets.
‘I talked too much. Again’
‘I said such STUPID stuff.’
‘Why can’t I develop laryngitis?’
Chattererboxes find comfort where they can:
We are generally liked.
We can patter lightly on about almost any topic.
Occasionally we give offense—how could we not? The odds will catch up to us and we’ll eventually put words end-to-end that hurt someone’s feelings.
But it is almost always inadvertent. Our chief function is to care for others by filling empty space with syllables.

Sometimes we surprise ourselves by saying something worthwhile.
St. Peter burst out with the profession that Christ is the Son of the Living God. And even though he almost immediately blundered into saying something really, really stupid, God used this compulsive chatterer as a foundation to build His church.

Yes, there is ‘a time to keep silence.’
But blessedly, there is also ‘a time to speak;’