A Chansonette

Photo by Charles on Pexels.com

Here begins this chansonette.

This may be higgledy-piggledy,

A verse prone to rejectamenta,

A bit of flapdoodle-doo,

With lots of squiggle-diggle-ty.

I nearly spewed my mawkish tea,

While expanding my vocabulary,

The word-of-the-day’s speciality,

This assignment is now

quite ready to go, you see? 

yet I have mispronounced thee. 

Please forgive.

Most of this piece

does not rhyme.

But if I can do it,

I will find and make

the thyme

for this silly little

chansonette.

Please forgive.

MS PGothic

MS PGothic- I think I love you

Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

I have got to say

When I see you naked

On the sheet so bare

My heart-rate rushes

Oh stop!

No, don’t stop.

Should I bold you?

Highlight you?

Underline you?

Make you blue?

No, there’s something special 

‘bout ebony and ivory.

I will celebrate life with you

Ah, heck! You are so much more

I will live; and live

My life thru you.

Should I bold you?

Highlight you?

Underline you?

Make you blue?

No, there’s something special 

‘bout ebony and ivory.

On a sheet so bare.

The Factotum’s Procrustean Bed

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Years ago, I had purchased an audio lecture course for word nerds via Audible. I quit listening for reasons I don’t remember, but it’s most likely a new semester had begun. Now that I am a certified university graduate, I decided to form a new habit of learning one new word each week in 2022.  

I do love words; yes, I am a nerd. I just don’t know enough of them to make me sound like a pretentious, and pompous windbag, yet I am willing to learn how to be one. Just kidding.  I love how one skilled in language use can string words together, forming into an exquisite and rare-jeweled necklace adorning the page.  Like how a blob of paint upon a canvas can be pushed, pulled, and squished around to form an abstract or still life. Or how a musical note layered one upon another can become an enchanting melody transporting me to a third or fourth dimension. 

I am also inspired by a long-time friend, a genuine Einstein level of genius who has a vocabulary the size of a real, hard copy, 8” thick Webster’s dictionary: The self-proclaimed and humble Master of None (https://rongiesecke.com/?s=giesecke). In my opinion, you are master of the English vocabulary, whose use of language I admire.  (And yes, 8-inch-thick dictionaries really exist. My mother owned one yet was most often used in our family as a toddler’s booster seat at the table.)

But I digress.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

After rediscovering and listening to the introductory chapter of the course, I remembered what had attracted me to the lectures; the technique of teaching was finally a process that I could remember a word’s meaning far beyond that of knowing long enough for a test and promptly flushing.  

Therefore, what and when I write here is something I cannot take credit for––another’s idea yet put into my own words.  That credit belongs solely on the instructor, Kevin Flanigan, PH.D., West Chester University of Pennsylvania. The title of the audio course and the accompanying eBook in PDF format is “Building a Better Vocabulary.” 

His method involves 1) defining the word 2) using the word in context 3) breaking down the morphology and/or etymology 4) making connection: the new with what you already know 5) chunking or learning by groups of similar words. Words that are very often used together are collocates and aids memory by learning synonyms that can be connected in meaning.  

 I have four new words saved to memory: factotum, procrustean, circumspect, and factitious. Following in the footsteps of Prof. Flanigan, I explain my two favorite words from the first four weeks of 2022. These I will remember 50 years from now. (Ask me then.)

Factotum

1. Definition: a factotum is a person who performs many kinds of tasks, or a general servant; a jack-of-all trades. 

2. Context: Modern society would not typically use the word factotum to describe a butler, girl- Friday, or a go-fer, but in fact, that is precise meaning of a factotum––one who performs many different types of tasks. 

3. Morphology: Latin; fac, make, do + totum; all, of the whole. 

Etymology: first used in the 1500s, Martin Luther used factotum in his commentary on            Galatians in 1535. (Merriam -Webster dictionary app.)

4. Making connection: take the new word and connect it to what is already known. We know that mothers are nursemaids, cooks, housecleaners, laundresses, chauffeurs, bookkeepers and more. Picture your mother and now you can make a connection of the new word factotum. Moms do a little bit of everything. 

5. Chunking: category of words that mean servant, jack-of all-trades, man/girl Friday, personal assistant, or a handyman/woman. 

Procrustean

Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

1. Definition:  Tending to produce conformity by violent or arbitrary means. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means to enforce uniformity or conformity without regard to natural variation or individuality. 

2. Context: Many U.S leaders have instituted mandates they equate with constitutional law and enforce by tyrannical means of denying basic human rights such prescription drugs, loss of employment, or denying people to be in public places without proof of receiving a particular injection. Many people view these as being placed on the procrustean bed of leadership by coercing individuals to comply, regardless of personal belief or health status, with the specious argument of keeping every citizen “safe.”  

3. Morphology: Procrustean is an adjective derived from Greek mythology of a robber named Procrustes who was known to force victims to lie on a bed and made them fit or by chopping off limbs. Etymology: first known recorded use c.1640s; Procrustes+an (Dictionary.com).

4. Connection: The authoritarian ruler often metes out punishments to young children with procrustean methods such as spanking with a willow tree branch. My personal connection is a memory of an angry mother chasing me around the yard while my calves stung with each strike of a willow branch and an involuntary corresponding yelp. I envision a weeping willow tree and see Procrustes. 

5. Chunking with words that mean ruthless, tyrannical conformity, unmerciful, inexorable. 

I’m excited to think that by this time next year, I will have 52+ new words to insert into my writing. I suppose at the year’s end that the next challenge is to see how many new words I can use in one blog and be coherent. 

Photo by Liza Ulyanova on Pexels.com

Futility

Futile Efforts

I am trying to write a poem

But not having much luck

Fruitless time spent pondering

And a lot of time spent wandering

Through Webster’s Dictionary

Along side Roget’s Thesaurus.

This journey leaves me knowing 

I know nothing much at all.

These lines reflect desperation

I’m sure this will not pass

For many a poet gone before

Prolific writers and so much more

Shakespeare, Frost and Yeats,

T.S. Eliot makes me feel an idiot.

Words penned with eloquence

Profound my weak intelligence.

This journey leaves me knowing

I know nothing much at all.

Nothing much at all. 

Ye Ol’ Switcheroo

The Relentless Search For Balance

Twenty Minutes to Eleven

My most recent post of eons ago, I wrote of my journey that began in the early months of 2020 of developing new habits; tasks performed daily in increments of 20 minutes each day. I slapped the tongue-in-cheek title “How I Changed the World,” due to a rousing motivational speech by Naval Admiral William H. McRaven. Prior to viewing the speech, I had read the book 5 Things Successful People Do Before 8 a.m. by Terri Savelle Foy. Needless to say, this proved to be fodder to cancel my couch potato life and strive to accomplish a few goals. But never before 8 a.m. It is not for lack of trying: I am, after all, a retiree!

It doesn’t really have to be 5 things; it can be as many or few as habits one wants to form. The commonality between the most successful ones, according to Mrs. Foy, choose exercise, meditation or prayer, and reading in 20 minute increments. This is referred to as the golden hour. (I noticed there is no mention of where coffee places, first or after, but I place it first and foremost!) I chose to include the habits of writing and tracking things I am grateful for each day.

But I made changes to that schedule in 2021. As stated in my previous post, I learned of forming habits in shorter time frames. I assume this for people who like to brag about the tally of mini habits they keep each day. Based upon that theory, I made a decision to reduce the minimum time to 11 minutes. It was an arbitrary number pulled from the thin, gray air of winter––the January doldrums.

I began my new system thinking I had relieved myself from some imaginary and self-imposed burden. (I am slowly realizing that I have a time-management problem.)

Yet something I had not accounted for began to manifest the very first day. Chalk it up to the Middle-Child Syndrome. Yep, the drive to achieve beyond that of an older brother and a younger sister in order to get NOTICED. Allow me to digress.

Growing up, it was futile to try to outdo my brother; hard as I may hindsight has revealed I was only kicking against the pricks, as Apostle Paul was fond of saying. Being the baby, almost literally, my sister was the “cute one” as she so dutifully reminded anyone is earshot. I guess Mom and Dad (God rest their souls) thought so too. I was reminded every Christmas when brother got something shiny and new like a red bike, sister got a pretty pink blanket while mine was diaper yellow color, or a 3-foot-tall deaf and dumb doll. I was not the I-want-a fake-baby-kind of little girl. My imagination spectrum did run in the vein of making plastic babies come alive, no matter how tall or short.

So what was going on with to 20 to 11 switcheroo?  One should be overjoyed to know time commitments down from 20 minutes to 11 minutes to be freeing.  The problem is pure and simple; the old it’s not good enough mindset. The backstory (a semi-fancy word meaning to digress) is that my childhood report card grades were always honor roll worthy. If I got a B+, Dad always ––and I mean every stinking time––asked why it wasn’t an A. If an A-, why not an A, if an A, why not an A+?  The memo was loud and clear: my work was never good enough. I’m sure my father was completely unaware of the silent message transmitted. I think his motivation came from a place that didn’t want me to get “too big for my britches” as these types of things were often said.  He wasn’t my loudest cheerleader. But again, I digress. 

For me, the simple solution of extending time beyond those 11 minutes never seem to quite work out. I tried that a few times and went to the far-beyond side like into the evening. Ok, that’s pure hyperbole.  You go too far, a complaint I have heard a few times. It has been a frustrating and vicious cycle of searching for balance. 

It wasn’t but two days into the new time that I realized 11 minutes of exercise isn’t going to profit the body much, so that I did relent and returned to 20-minute sessions. The dirty little secret is that I really don’t exercise every day: usually 4 days of the week. SHHHH!

Reading and writing sessions were difficult to adapt because when the timer sounded, I was just getting to the meat of the story––time to quit. Torn between patting myself on the back and that inner monologue “this isn’t good enough” created major tension. Why is that stupid, self-incriminating voice in my head? 

Guilt and self-condemnation because I did not carry out each task for 20 minutes? Unbelievable. Who sets the bar?  Oh, yes that’s right: I did. Who lowered the bar? Hmm, let me think. 11 minutes wasn’t good enough with or without self-permission. Does this perception relate back to that not-quite-good enough, middle-child syndrome? Or is this phenom much more sinister?  Probably. I suspect I am not the only one to deal with this, and why therapists are making lots of money. And I realize I may have unconsciously passed this onto the next generation. Sorry, kids! 

I went back to YouTube and viewed the original motivational speeches that inspired me to buy the book about 5 habits, etc. I have my tube settings set to auto play the next video and low and behold! It is titled “Goal Setting: 11 minutes that can change your life.” Fed up with it all, I chose not to watch that one but feel free.

Go figure. 

I did mention previously that I would report on a goal for 2021 to form the habit of eating dinner at the table, just like the old days. That lasted about 7 days. Why? Because the OLD habit was so ingrained in my mind that the pure comfort of the Lazy Boy Reclining love-seat proved too powerful that I just plain forgot. Try again in 2022.

After working through the many drafts of this piece, I have come to the conclusion that maybe less IS more. Maybe it’s true I am my own best psychiatrist. And maybe, just maybe, it is better to do and develop habits NO MATTER if 20 minutes, 11 minutes or 5 minutes. Some famous film character once said “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Admiral McRaven’s Rousing speech:

Photo by Vickie Intili on Pexels.com

Bedpans and Walther P38s–Part Two

BedPans and Walther P38s
(Part Two of a Christmas Past)

image_563655577775967
Photo Credit: Jessica McCollam jessicasvisionsphotography.com

It was seven days before Christmas, and I still had to purchase gifts for 21 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and 10 adults. Technically, Christmas was eight days away, but our family gathers for dinner on Christmas Eve, opening gifts after the grandchildren wash the dishes.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Oh, here I go. I snuggled into my favorite love-seat position: blanket; feather-pillow; pajamas; steaming mug of coffee latte at the ready, with the Amazon page brightly shining and resting on my lap. Christmas / Saravejo 12/24 by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra transmitted via Apple TV. The music  was so loud that I thought I heard the neighbors singing along.

I read that Amazon Prime members were extended an offer-of-the-day to have purchases gift- wrapped for free. I started to clap my hands. I had forgotten I was holding the latte, and nearly doused my shopping cart.

The doorbell rang. I was greeted by a small crowd; my third-born daughter, Angela, her six-month-old twin daughters, Annakate and Adeline, and her ten-year-old son, Dylan. I welcomed them in, and as they were seated, Dylan spied my computer and asked if he could play Minecraft on it.

“Of course,” I said with a wink at the platinum-haired boy, “That’s why I downloaded it, silly Dilly.”

He carried the laptop to the dining table and I set my attention to oohing and awing over the twins.

They left. I returned to my Amazon shopping, made my selections and set about washing dishes, making the bed, and tossing clothes into the washing machine.  As I cleaned, I made a mental grocery list for the big dinner. Then, it came to me; a jolting revelation, so jolting I swear I heard the angels sing. I could order all my groceries on Amazon.

*     *      *     *     *

I opened the door to the UPS delivery truck driver asking for my signature and I happily signed, although I wasn’t sure why this particular delivery required a signature; she didn’t look happy. She must have made 12 jaunts––truck to doorstep, using a dolly–– getting more red-faced each time, as I gawped. Her parting words were something about why I thought I needed 42 Christmas hams and concluded with a caustic Merry Christmas as she offered a hand signal that may or may not have signified her IQ level.

I smiled, dripping with saccharine to shield my consternation, I called out something about her job security. I ogled (my face as frozen as the hams) for a few minutes at the mass covering the front porch and decided the Amazon SNAFU could be dealt with in the morning and began dragging the boxes inside.

The new day arrived; the sun shining in a clear blue sky despite putting my order with the Big Guy for snow. I wondered if I should have checked for availability with Amazon Prime.  I hoped and prayed that the one special gift would arrive before dinner as I baked all day for the expectant, hungry horde.  The gift was delivered at last, and I placed it upon the swollen mound that exceeded the ‘under the tree’ notion.

I rang the Amazon office contact number only to reach an automated response: closed for the holidays, please try again December 26, 2017.

Quest

 

 

Letters float and bubble up,
they string on weathered thread,
like popcorn strands on Christmas trees.
I clutch and nick and chomp and chew,
subsequently disintegrate,
with painful, funny, contorting moue.

Letter float and bubble up,
black on white in cytoplasmic fill,
they string and coil as DNA that replicate
I mush and mash and press and pound
a finger-tip from coherence,
little faith, am I not to be crowned?

Letters float and bubble up,
with orange threads of goo
like momma’s lava lamp.
Before my eyes I mesmerize,
I hook and hasp and snap and clasp,
Exasperated, I bowdlerize.

Q hovers and glides aside.
Me thinks Q is longing for U.

 

Day 364

I am ending day 364 doing what I love: writing for the pure joy of writing.  The little ditty below contains 16 names familiar to my childhood. Can you guess what they refer to?*

IMG_0767
16 Candles.  Who am I kidding? It’s 61 candles.

Through the days of my life,
I have ascribed to a guiding light,
While leading all my children
through the edge of night.

The young and the restless,
Search for tomorrow.
The bold and the beautiful,
Look in dark shadows.

As the world turns,
Ryan’s hope rests
In another world,
In secret storm.

One life to live,
Yet, love of life
May end within the general hospital
Hounded by the doctors.

* Before the days of talk shows, cooking shows, courtroom dramas and game shows, American day-time television was dominated by the juicy drama of the soap opera. The sixteen listed above are some of the longest running. A few soaps continue today: General Hospital (1963); Days of Our Lives (1965); The Young and the Restless (1973); The Bold and the Beautiful (1987). My mother loved to watch As the World Turns. I can still see the spinning globe on the small electronic box as the show came on the air as I was scurried outside to play.

Ode to September

September

IMG_0456
Jaydan

We wonder, September, who, what star will sing new,
And who, what star will wax far away.

Your third sapphire day’s star arose shimmering bright
only to apex and implode
into the heavens and dissipated.
The black it left is as bright as the light.
This, too, is to your ode.

Star light, star bright,
We wonder how you are tonight.

A new sapphire day’s star birthed and shines high, distant,
As if this new star would behold
The morning’s glory for an instant,
Our witness that we forget-you-not.
This, too, is to your ode.

September, your eleventh sapphire day’s star
Has darkened halls, the crowds gaze
Ever looking with mouths agape,
Searching beyond black heavens mar;
The blackness in the night stays.

Stars light, stars bright,
We wonder how you are tonight.

Sapphire days, autumn’s equinox, falling foliage,
chilly beginning, sweltering afternoon, asters wilting,
brown and spent. September sapphire days have
forever changed the history of our family lineage.
This, too, is to your ode.

A niece and an uncle’s star away were scurried
To mark the anniversary of my September birth,
Grand-ma-ma’s star flittered away one day after
the thirteenth anniversary of the same. All buried.
This, too, is to your ode.

Stars light, stars bright,
We wonder how you are tonight.

Your third sapphire day’s star arose shimmering bright
only to apex and implode
into the heavens and dissipate.
The black it left is as bright as the light.
This, too, is to your ode.

We wonder, September, who, what star will sing new,
And who, what star will wax far away.

Reviled and cursed is your third sapphire day, September.
Jaydan Anthony, we wonder how you are tonight.
On earth where you mingled, was your glowing ember.
May you light the heavens beyond our sight.
This, too, is to your ode:

WE MISS YOU JAYDAN.