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?”

Three Little Words (are not enough)

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Even the most eloquent of us recognize that brevity has its place.
Take Benjamin Franklin.

In 1754, as the French and Indian War loomed, he designed a political cartoon of a dismembered snake, to remind the colonists they needed to join each other and Britain in the battle.

But what to put for a caption? He may have tried “The Confidence of the French in this Undertaking seems well-grounded on the present disunited State of the British Colonies, and the extreme Difficulty of bringing so many different Governments and Assemblies to agree in any speedy and effectual Measures for our common defense and Security; while our Enemies have the very great Advantage of being under one. Direction, with one Council, and one Purse”

Too long.
He came up with “Join, or Die.”3a12149r

Undeniably ominous. But pithy and pointed. Three little words. Easy to remember.

Slogans are meant to communicate a larger, more complex truth or belief system.
But not without hazards. A slogan is only a hook with a limited function. A lot of hats might be hung on the slogan without fully comprehending the wall that supports it.

Take “Join, or Die.”
It could be interpreted as a threat, a promise, or blanket permission to storm the streets with musket in hand, rooting out non-joiners.

More than ten years after the slogan hit the colonies, Patriots advocating for revolution adopted it. Franklin, at first, reminded colonists that it was intended to unite them in “management of Indian relations.” Be careful, folks, he was saying. Don’t grab the slogan without knowing what comes along with it.

No one listened. “Join, or Die” came to represent vigilance and loyalty and revolution to Patriots, but treachery to the Loyalists.
Same hook, different interpretations, world-altering repercussions.

Another thing about hooks. They’re attached to walls. Sometimes the wall is made of solid oak and other times it’s cardboard painted to look like sheetrock. That hook might be pretty. Or maybe not so much, but if we really want to know what is holding it up we need to look behind it.

Second Amendment Forever” might hang from a wall built of hate and barbed wire and love of violence.
It could also be attached to a solid structure of respect for the Constitution and wisdom of Founding Fathers and honor for the rule of law.
The slogan can’t represent the entire belief system any more than a hook reveals the composition of the wall.

Some slogans appear to be at odds with each other.
Black Lives Matter” and “Police Lives Matter,” for example.

A sense of outrage and hopelessness may have fueled the first, desire for orderly society and respect for those in uniform the second.
Plenty of people want to hang hats on both hooks, maybe looped with an “All Lives Matter” braid connecting them.
Plenty more, gathered around one or the other, don’t care about the wall behind the opposite hook. They just want to burn it.

They see only the three little words, not the host of words they represent.

Some hooks generate such strong responses that we automatically nail them to the wall we assume they belong on. Hey you! “No Vaccinations Please” proponent! Step over to the “We Hate Autism.” “Vaccinations Cause Autism” and “Pot Smoking Airhead” walls.

The appropriate one, though, is often more complex and layered than an across-the-board mishmash designed by loopy plant-eaters and antisocial homeschoolers. Nor are the “Vaccinations Save Lives” hooks all supported by “Vaccines for Everything” or “I Trust Government” or “Big Pharmaceuticals=God.” Many walls behind each hook are built with equal parts trust and research and concern.

Tree huggers don’t all hate loggers and all loggers don’t hate the spotted owl and all Democrats don’t want to sack the Bill of Rights and all Republicans don’t bow at the feet of big business and all Libertarians don’t smoke weed. But when slogans like “Save the Trees” or “Lock and Load” or “Government Kills Freedom” are nailed to their walls they have trouble conveying the supporting mesh of facts and experiences and beliefs and passions and dreams.

Hooks make hate easy. They are small, serve only one function, are easy to damage.
In this post-election America we are seeing a lot of hooks being gouged out of their walls. A single ballot is supposed to reveal the complex infrastructure that led to that vote? No way. But the angry assumptions made about the person casting the vote is leaving gaping holes in vandalized walls.

The slogan hook doesn’t deliberately set out to confuse. It just can’t provide an analysis of its wall. It can be a rallying point but is too flimsy to hold the weight of an entire ideology.

I love you” is a charming little hook. Unless attached to the brick and mortar of concern and action and compassion and camaraderie, it isn’t worth the rivet used to attach it.

God is love” isn’t even a stand-alone slogan. The Bible needs almost 800,000 words to demonstrate the fact.

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The Enchanted Granny

 

DSC06066.jpgIt was a bad idea. My husband said, “This is a bad idea.” But I suffer from an enchanted condition called ‘Grandmother.’ The spell works differently in different grandmas, but I’ve been told that, when fully under its power, I am blinded to any defects in my grandchildren. Past disasters are blotted from my memory and possible future chaoses are bedazzled by blind optimism.

My two oldest grandsons, ages 2 and 3, both wanted to sit with my husband (Grampy) my youngest son (Uncle K) and myself (Granny) in church.
I said yes and led the two small boys to our customary seat.
Families with small children usually sit in back.
Our customary seat is middling-front.
In the area frequented by people who came that day foolishly assuming they were going to hear an entire worship service.

My husband slipped in to my left. “This is a bad idea.”

“No. It will be fine! Three adults and only two little ones? We can separate them. Besides, they are playing with their church toys.”

I folded my hands as the pastor began to pray, ready to offer a silent postscript of gratitude for these wonderful little blessings.
We didn’t even make it through “Dear Father in Heaven.”

Did you know that church toys, contrary to all that is right and good and expected, are cursed with a dreadful spell?
EACH TOY is under enchantment to make it alluring and desirable ONLY WHEN ONE’S COUSIN IS PLAYING WITH IT.
As soon as the magical toy is wrest from the grip of the other, its enchantment dissipates.

Did you know that small children are shape-shifters? They change into eels that slither around and between adult legs to reach each other. Their 30-pound frames transmute to several tons of bonelessness when an adult attempts a leverage-and-lift.

You know how beavers have that extra eyelid that closes in water?
The magical human variety have a mudflap that descends over the eardrum in public.
It flips down  at the first sound of “SHHHHH! We’re praying!” or “It’s not your turn” or “Do you want a timeout?”
The mudflap rolls back up at the smallest vibration of a fruit snack package crinkled anywhere in the building, which triggers the vocal chords which immediately demand, in a roar also heard to the limits of the building, “I want a snack, Granny!”

I have a magic bag of tricks. I call it my purse and it contains everything that could address any conceivable physical emergency. It contained fruit snacks. The magical children made them disappear in 3.7 ( blessedly silent) seconds. Then these amazing creatures turned the purse upside down and— ABRACADABRA! 28 sq. liters of stuff came out of my 8”x10” handbag.

For their next trick, they levitated my artfully-tied fashion scarf from around my neck. A lively discussion between the cousins ensued. #1 thought he should wear the scarf around his head. Pirate style. #2 disagreed. It should be around #1’s neck. Hangman’s noose style.
For a brief moment my Enchanted Grandmother brain cleared and I remembered how dangerous anything around the neck of a child can potentially be.
I reclaimed the scarf, hissed words of warning,
and all billy h-e-double hockey sticks broke out.
#1 transformed into a shrieking hydra, squirting tears in a three-foot swath. Then he saw Cousin looking smug and his resulting howls registered on sonar equipment.

Grampy hustled #1 down the aisle and into the back.
Uncle K busied himself comforting a sobbing #2 who, now that he’d gotten exactly what he wanted, no longer wanted it.
I smiled assurance at the tense people around us. Things will settle down now. Only one little boy. You may even catch the last few lines of the sermon.

Grampy, who’d forgotten he needed to collect offering, hustled back up the aisle and deposited #1 next to me in the pew.
Only a few minutes to go. I could do this.
Did you know that time, under enchantment, expands?
The few minutes lasted well into the next century.

Ignoring the urgent cries of the little Faeries of Common Sense fluttering around my head, I handed each boy a quarter to put in the collection plate.
Once the quarters hit the warm hands of the magical children they fell under the spell. They multiplied. For the next seven minutes quarters hit the floor 220 times.

The pastor pronounced the benediction and dismissed us with the Lord’s blessing. Our grandchildren’s parents came to reclaim their offspring. The little boys hugged our legs, looked up with sweetly trusting eyes, and lisped, “Love you Granny. We sit with you again.”

Anyone have a good counter-spell for ‘Enchanted Grandmother?’

The perennial middle child

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Know what prudes don’t like? Short-shrifting months.
Know what short shrift means? To give little consideration to.
Know where it came from? A shrift was the penance imposed by a priest to provide absolution.
Death row in the good old days of jolly old England didn’t last for years.
Usually one went from the trial to the sentence to the gallows.
So they only had time to perform a short penance, or shrift, before facing the hangman.
Every cloud has a silver lining.

The short-shrifted month to which I refer is, of course, November. Squeezed right on the back of Halloween, most participants in November are too sugar-dazed with trick-or-treat candy to notice its arrival. This year it has the ignominious distinction of being the first day when the sun set before Sunday brunch was digested.

Poor November grew up believing its real name was ‘Only a few dozen shopping days till Christmas.’
The typical middle child. Sandwiched between the over-achiever and everybody’s favorite.

November isn’t much to look at, at least in most parts of the northern hemisphere. October is a flamboyant exhibitionist, with its “look at me, everybody!” attitude.December gets grace and affection and enough twinkle lights to give Jupiter a migraine. But the eleventh month is drab and modest and unmemorable. It shies away from weather extremes. Every few years it works up a doozy of a blizzard, or a few balmy, halcyon days, but they are soon forgotten in the gray chilliness.

No matter what November does, its reputation is set. It is the awkward, frumpy month. Occasionally it can be found huddling with March and grousing about ingratitude and kiss-up months like May and June that everyone likes even though they have no major holidays to commend them.

November may be disgruntled at times. It might indulge in spates of self-pity and drizzle its misery all over our windows, but it still has reasons to hold its head high. Cheer up November. Look what you’ve got to offer!

Veterans Day
After a shameful period beginning about 50 years ago, when the armed services were treated with disdain, veterans are finally, in some quarters, given the homage due them. November is the perfect month to recognize these men and women. Humble enough so as not to obstruct their honor under a plethora of picnics and three day weekends. Sturdy enough to support them on matching 11/11 legs.

Deer Hunting Season
While the season has been extended so far that Pilgrims are now applying for licenses, its apex is November. The quiet sky (bereft of birds that have sought out the warmer fraternal twin of November somewhere ‘down south’ ) is filled with the ringing of shotgun blasts. The drab woods are brightened with jackets, vests, hats and pants in that glowing color affectionately known as ‘blaze orange.’

Thanksgiving
The shining jewel in November’s dowdy crown. The holiday that exempts us from buying gifts, sending cards, and untangling two hundred miles of twinkle lights. The holiday that only requires us to cook our turkey till it reaches an internal temperature of 165°, include at least one menu item that vaguely resembles a vegetable, and watch football games through a poultry and carb-induced stupor.

November is waving its unprepossessing hand and wants to say something.
Don’t forget to be thankful. Don’t forget to articulate the thanks. If you have the breath of life in you, there is something to be thankful for.
November remains out of the limelight and lets Thanksgiving take center stage, and Thanksgiving will gladly step back and showcase what really matters.
Gratitude. Hearts filled and overflowing and bursting with so much thankfulness that voices are raised to God and hands outstretch with shared bounty.

Never give the middle child a short shrift. A meek nature can hide a heart of gold.

The Evolution of Rewrites or, Can I have that conversation back please?

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Forsooth! Toss that dog-eared word back to me and I’ll send back its better!

Commenders recommend, viewers review, tractors retract, and writers rewrite. It’s what we’ve always done. Somewhere out there are the perfect words to express the abstractions roaming our brains.
Between the rough draft and the final draft are more do-overs than Kardashian relationships.

This isn’t a new problem. With few exceptions, writers as a breed can’t leave well enough alone.

Cave Writer: “Ooga, hand me some charcoal. I’m changing this bull to a reindeer. It adds some vulnerability to the wall, don’t you think?”

Aesop: “I should have left it an elephant in donkey’s clothing. So satirical. But I had to revise it and now I’m out of papyrus. A wolf in sheep’s clothing! What was I thinking?”

Shakespeare: “‘A nose by any other name might as well bleat.’ No no no. Bring me another bit of parchment! ‘A nose by any other name could smell feet.’ Good, but not perfect. Rose! More parchment! Bless you dear Rose, you’re sweet. Say…”

Mark Twain:The Adventeres of Tom Sawyer. That doesn’t look right.” (Unrolls paper. Crumbles. Inserts fresh sheet. Rerolls.) “O.K. The Adventures of Yo, Saqyer. Blast these newfangled typewriters! Who put the letters in that order?”

Agatha Christie: “Dear Ms. Christie, Thank you for the submission of your most recent manuscript. The mystery is engaging and we are all stumped. Really stumped. When you whited out the name of the killer (Spelling error?) you neglected to re-type it. The entire office at our publishing company has placed wagers on the identity of the villain and we hope to hear from you before the Gaming Commission hears about us.”

Stephen King: #sickofwritinghorror #newstyle #rewrite #CookingwithCarrie

The Bright and Distant Future: “I can’t believe I said that. In front of all my friends. Awkward syntax, inane content, and way too many ‘uh’s.’ I’ll just recall that conversation, erase it from my friends’ memories, and substitute deep, cleverly worded, effortless sentences”

Writers know the clean joy of the rewrite. The pleasure of taking not-quite-right words and replacing them with choice tidbits of wisdom, perfectly balanced alliteration and assonance, and deft bits of punctuation.

Writers, at least this writer, are less impressive in face-to-face conversation. We grasp for words, mutter cliches, and embarrass ourselves with injudicious, frivolous, tedious pronouncements.

We want the power of the re-articulation. The super power that would allow us to recall every insipid word, replace it with the synonym of choice and no one would be the wiser.
I look forward to the day, friends.
We can dream, and anticipate.
We long for the era of a word fitly spoken.

Until then, this particular writer could try to speak less, listen more and hope against hope that conversation-mates will allot an extra measure of grace to season my plethora of rough draft words.

Camping with Ancient Philosophers

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The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. So says the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, and who am I to argue with him?

Well, nobody. But I manage to confound this proverb in ways that would make the venerable Lao spin his mustaches.

I take that single step a thousand times over and never get further than my front door.

Any guesses as to how many diets I have begun? Calculate how many days in three plus decades and you’ll be close.
Maybe you’d like to see the knitting project I’ve undertaken with a single row of stitches, pulled out and started over. And over. And over.
The weekly house cleaning schedule has been attempted and abandoned partial week after partial week for most of my married life.

‘How do people get to this clandestine Archipelago?’
Will I ever find out?
It would mean reading all 682 pages of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s masterpiece “The Gulag Archipelago” (received in 11th grade when I was going to change the world one teardrop at a time).
Does it count to read that first sentence 682 times?

We-as-in-I resolve each New Year to do that savings program where you put aside a dollar for each week of the year. By Christmas there is extra money to spoil grandchildren. One dollar on week one is no problem. Coming up with thirty dollars to add on week 30 makes me long for those single-digit weeks of January. So I take the mere $28 in my purse and use it for pizza night and give up the entire project, comforting myself that I will try again next year.

Good intentions, great resolutions, magnificent goals.
They begin with one refused donut, one saved dollar, one important book.
However, an unconsumed pastry, a buck in the pot and “Vanity Fair” on the night stand do not
make me healthy, wealthy or wise.

What I need, and what I propose, are way stations on this journey of a thousand miles. I could camp out each night at the spot I’ve progressed to with my single step. Instead of heading back to my comfy bed with stout-hearted but never realized ambitions to take two hundred steps tomorrow, I will spend the first night on my front doorstep.

The next morning when I wake up, maybe once again I’ll refuse the French cruller, even though I couldn’t resist the cheesecake at dinner last night. At least I am not taking two steps back.

Monday washday is under my belt but in the past I never conquered Tuesday ironing to get to Wednesday cleaning. By Saturday I face a household of streaked windows and rapidly proliferating dust bunnies, and the doggone laundry is piling up again. (I realize few people will relate to my desire to iron. As my then-college son once said “Wrinkled is the new pressed”).

The point is that those of us who struggle to make progress also struggle with our failure to progress in a perfectly predetermined pattern.
If we fail at one point we fail at it all, give up and go to bed with a pack of Oreos, because a few more crumbs and another set of dirty sheets will never be noticed.

How about instead I camp out beside those stacks of clean laundry—or better yet the folded clean laundry? My first step the next day might be an organized drawer or even, because the sky is the limit, a color coded closet.

(This wasn’t intended to be a how-to post but Prudes are bossy and can’t help giving advice.)

I haven’t been wildly successful at that dollar saving scheme but when I throw loose change in a jar and leave it there because it is too heavy for my purse, by December I dump it into Tupperware, take it to the bank and get a nice little bounce to my holiday budget.

I might have trouble getting past the first sentence or paragraph or chapter of a book everyone swears I need to read. And while not every classic is for every person, some things—think coffee, blue jeans and sneakers—deserve my effort. I needn’t consume “War and Peace” in one sitting. Maybe I’ll try to read it consecutively, and cumulatively.

Old Lao was on to something here.
Let’s take a thousand mile journey, my friends.
Let’s get there a step at a time. One after another after another.
Let’s meet at the roadside campground tonight. I’ll bring the hotdogs.