LETTERS

Laid to rest day memories

Letter to My Mom

(On the eve of the 7th anniversary of her death)

Dear Mom,

You tried. I tried. You gave up. I gave up. You were the adult. I was the child.

But you did not have the emotional tools or knowhow to figure us out. Neither did I. Nor I with my own. 

It is all in the past. I forgive you; you didn’t know what you were doing. You are in heaven; no pain in the memory, no bitterness in the recollection. No resentment to purge from your soul. No, no more. 

I’m happy for you. Be happy for me. God has cleansed my sin of hatred for you and carried my wounds under His blood. 

See ya later but not soon.

Love (I can say it now),

The daughter you always wanted.

Letter to My Daughter

Dear Daughter, *

You are the daughter I always wanted. When you didn’t act in the ways I was taught a little girl should, I didn’t know what to do. You faced cultural norms my generation never had to endure. I thought it was my job to control you, and shape you into what society said. I was wrong. It took heaven to show me. 

It’s all in the past, blurred, for here in my forever home, I have no pain, no bitterness nor resentment of your rejection of me. All is at peace. 

I am happy for you. I am happy you stood for yourself and your convictions even though I thought they were convoluted. I secretly admired you for that, but conventions would not allow me to put it on display. 

Be happy for me. I too have the festered wounds placed under His blood

Until we meet again in the distant future,

Love, (I also can say it now),

Your Mom, the only mama you had.

PS: Don’t forget to change your underwear every day!

*Yes, this an edited version. I tried to strikethrough the errors in this edit but I could not make it make sense.

Even Writers Must Clean House Sometime!

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When I am not backspacing the black keys with whited letters and deleting an error that I find essential to be wiped out; a letter, word, phrase, an entire sentence, or paragraph, the dust is piling up.  I can NEVER bring myself to delete an entire page or document––that is asking too much.  I hit save and forever in cyber space, up and into the cloud it floats. It floats until I go searching and demanding its return. Errors float upward and dust floats downward. 

I, the industrious error-saver, need to refer to former mistakes.  That is how I learn to do better. The problem lies within black font on the white page: How do I know it is indeed a mistake, or just what someone says is?  One must ponder many hours for an answer, and I don’t have time. (I have dusting to do.) 

A good place to begin trusting is the red squiggly line in the body of text––who can miss it? Or the blue double-underline. Thanks to a nefarious software update, I now must fight the purple line indicating a grammar usage error. Au contraire my friend!  I sit before the screen . . . smug and self-righteous knowing this program is not always correct! I wonder what Tolkien, Shakespeare, or Hemingway would have done with this purple monster.  I wish to write outside the box, of sentence structure extraordinaire. (Hmm. Maybe I should wait until I’m famous because no one seems to appreciate this flair.)  

These colors bring as much anxiety of the returned, red-inked homework in grade school. It is the first clue that someone, rather, someone ‘out there’ believes it to be an error and must be obliterated like the dust off an entertainment center. Whoosh! Gone with the wind. 

A clean household requires furniture and objects resting on them be dusted with a puff of ostrich feathers. While performing this sneeze-inducing chore, I pretend that I am deleting phrases, misspellings, dangling modifiers, and comma splices with the flick of my wrist––believe me, there are plenty of both. Yet the feather duster sends it to the cloud and unlike The Cloud, dust returns all on its own––no searching for it finds me! 

In my white-glove post-dusting test, a phenomenon had come to light. Perhaps it was the white of the glove trailing through the overlooked dust upon the black table that invoked the revelation: I love black upon white and vice versa!  

I love problems that can be solved with black and white precision. I love a white page on the computer screen filled with black text. (Unless it is an unpaid invoice.) I love white vehicles (like my Toyota) trimmed in black. I love my house of white with windows trimmed in black.  I love my kitchen cabinets painted white with black pulls on them. I’m guessing that you, dear reader, can guess the color of the countertop.

It is safe to say, “Janet loves white things trimmed with black.”  Most theorize it reflects her tendency to interpret life in black and white. Who am I kidding? No one ‘out there’ is sitting posed as the thinker sculpture ruminating the psychology of my idiosyncrasy.  

 I do tend to take things quite literally. Yet I have learned life is not that way. Everything is gray and covered in dust.”

A Chansonette

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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. 

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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. 

BedPans and Walther P38s

(The conclusion)

The families were leaving, and I was informed by unanimous consensus I was to send a screenshot prior to all purchases for their children. My four-year-old self’s inner monologue screamed, “You’re not the boss of me.”

Instead, I shouted that I wasn’t in an assisted living home yet and asked, “What’s next? Taking car keys away?  Don’t forget who will be having to taxi me around town, if that’s what you’re thinking!” 

I stopped just short of threatening to have an appointment every day when I remembered the party scheduled the next day and abruptly changed my tone to be as sweet as Royal Icing on a sugar cookie. I reminded them to drop the littles off at 4:00 p.m. They weren’t sure if that would happen.

“But we always have a Mad Hatter’s Tea party on Christmas Day,” I implored, “Since you were knee high to a grasshopper. It’s a thirty-something-year tradition.” 

They weren’t convinced. I slammed the door. I heard engines roar and tires squeal. 

Four o’clock Christmas Day came, and grandkids filed into the house, all in smiles and costumes appropriate for the Mad Hatter. But I suspected their attendance had more to do with quiet time and free babysitting––their parents looked quite disgruntled and no one spoke. 

“Don’t mind them,” Holliss, a precocious child, piped up and hugged me with the strength of a baboon and within a split second I was cocooned in a group hug, “You’re the best Gram ever. Parents just don’t understand.” 

Bedpans and Walther P38s–Part Two

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

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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?*

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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

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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.