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words where i’m from. [k.s. friday]

with a peace sign dangling around her neck and a bandana wrapping her hair, andrea would stress how important it was to choose our words wisely, to weigh those choices carefully, to take time, to be thoughtful. she was the.most.amazing. english teacher. her words still echo in my mind and there are so many moments that i wish i could sit with her, have coffee with her, ponder life with her. that she is on some other plane of existence for a few years now is too much, too soon, and too late for me. john glenn high school was fortunate to have her and those of us who sat in the chairs in her classroom were gifted with a spirit that generously still swirls around me and i’m sure many others. it’s where i’m from.

“watch what you say,” momma would tell me. “you can’t take it back.” yes, once those words are out there, they are out there. no one can erase them and the damage or good they do is a part of the universe-story. my sweet momma adored words. in her later years, sometimes we’d have to have a chuckle as the wrong word would surface and the right word would stay in that moat i always profess is surrounding our synapses. we would search for the right word while swimming in the wrong one, but we’d eventually get there. her words echo in my heart. it’s where i’m from.

now, i have to say that there are many among us – i’m sure myself included – who are not choosing our words wisely, who are not consistently watching what we say. and in these times, in every single arena, that matters.

this morning we read an article about the terrifying january 6 insurrection at the united states capitol: “some of you have recognized that this was such an egregious incident that you have turned in your own friends and family members,” the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s washington dc field office stated. an appropriate use of the word “egregious”.

egregious: (adj) outstandingly bad; shocking.

from dictionary.com: egregious: extraordinary in some bad way, glaring, flagrant.

according to legaldictionary.net: “in a legal context, the term egregious refers to actions or behaviors that are staggeringly bad, or obviously wrong, beyond any reasonable degree.”

now there’s a word. “egregious.” one would think that the divvying out of such a word would be with great forethought, with a deference to reality and the measure of truth, with reserve and adherence to its definition, without exuberant overuse. yet in these times it is appearing in more than just cameo roles.

the washington post had an article titled, “the egregious gaslighting around trump’s handling of the pandemic” (philip bump). an appropriate use of the word “egregious”.

hillary clinton has been quoted saying that impeachment was placed in the constitution in the event that there would be “a leader whose behavior would be so egregious, so threatening to the republic, that there had to be a remedy.” yet another appropriate use of the word “egregious”.

i have used the word “egregious” twice in my own blogpost-writing. once was in my post “indecency keeps getting rewarded” and the other time was in my post “what moms (i) want“. both times i weighed this word, tossing it around in my brain, checking its definition, making certain it was the right word. because – that’s where i’m from. i could hear andrea and my sweet momma cautioning me, “once it’s out there, it’s out there.”

because these times are really not at all ordinary, we are seeing the use of strong adjectives, heavy-hitting adverbs. we are reading and hearing people-who-are-trying-to-make-a-point wax poetic or spew rhetoric, both. we grant them an audience as we read, as we listen – ourselves. it is up to us to decide if the words that they choose are appropriate, wreaking an equal action or reaction, if they are exaggerated, wreaking panic, if they are scandalous, wreaking havoc, if they are slanderous, wreaking destruction. we are responsible persons – capable of question-asking, fact-checking, stepping back from drama and observing through eyes of truth-telling.

i guess it all depends on where we’re from.

incidentally, the archaic definition of egregious is: remarkably good.

“choose wisely.” (andrea)

*****

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it’s where i’m from. [k.s. friday]

i come from make-it-work stock. my sweet momma and poppo were children of the great depression and were not wasteful sorts. soap socks, squeezing every last vestige of shampoo from the bottle, re-using boxes, rube-goldberg fixes, not a lot of retail therapy. they made do with what they had and never complained. latest trends were mostly lost on them and competing for the best lawn/decor/car/wardrobe/jewels/stuff was not a thing. as the youngest child, with siblings much older than me who both married by the time i was eleven, i had much time to glean and learn to mimic their ways. making-it-work. it’s where i’m from.

and so now, empowered by these two forces of nature – my mom and my dad – with a new brace on my wrist, i am making do. after breaking both wrists the end of january in a snowboarding accident, i finally had healed fractures. the pandemic had interrupted all my occupational therapy and, thus, i’ve been frustrated by a lack of range of motion in my right wrist, so my old brace was often my companion. but i made it work. it’s where i’m from.

and then i fell.

the floor was wet and, unfortunately, unmarked as such. my feet flew out from underneath me and, in natural reflex action, i fell…on my right wrist. i felt right away something was wrong but waited to contact my dr for 48 hours, hoping for quick residing of the new pain. i’m pretty tough and it takes a lot for pain to get to me. d says i have a high tolerance for pain. i blame my mom and dad. they were tough and endured much in their lives. but this isn’t a post about my wrist – soon an MRI and a hand specialist will tell me what is now going on, post-fall. in the meanwhile, i keep on keeping on, just the same as after i simultaneously broke both wrists. making do. it’s where i’m from.

as we hiked along trails in aspen’s woods of color, we mused on how easily we were, well, amused. simply hiking, sitting alongside a creek, smelling the scent of autumn forest – these things were sheer entertainment for us. no restaurants, no bars, no shops, no shows required. (and, in the middle of a pandemic, not even considered.) i thought of all the times i had spent simply being outside, picking apples with my momma and poppo, taking drives, having picnics in parks at wooden tables carved with initials of people we would never know. as we sat around the table out on the balcony or socially-distanced in the condo, i thought of all the times i just spent simply coffee-sitting with my mom and dad, talking long over dinner, late-night conversations on the phone. as my daughter and i talked about my parents, her beaky and pa, i thought of their sacrifices, of their belief in all peoples regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, economic status, religion. i thought of their altruism, their open-mindedness, their embracing of new ideas and their love of learning new things and going new places, and i see their eyes reflected in both my daughter’s and son’s eyes. it’s where i’m from. and it’s where they’re from.

as we approach this very important time of voting, i worry about the narrative others are hearing, but not researching. i worry about the rhetoric coming from this white house, the absolute lies, the warping of truths, the sickening twist of stories, the re-defining of the definition of words, the lack of understanding, the self-serving agenda, the out and out falling prey to gross exaggerations of misinformation. i worry about those people listening to this, believing it, voting with this toxic barrage of falsehoods in their hearts.

and i think about my mom, who always, always, always said, “look it up.” yes. look further. research. find objective, factual resources and immerse in those. look. it. up.

yes. make do. look it up. it’s where i’m from.

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words. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

kawaii raccoons

“look it up,” my sweet momma would say.  i blame her.  for my word-curiosity.  for my policing of spelling, punctuation, grammar.  for my love of dictionaries and my commitment to learning.  at 93 she was still asking questions, being curious, looking it up.

black and white composition books, of both thick and thin variety, populated my growing up, my teenage years, my college years, and ever since.  though i do have a thready fondness of using My Girl’s and My Boy’s old unfinished spiral notebooks these days, we have piles of waiting-to-be-used composition books and they beckon when i open the supply cabinet in the sunlit office upstairs.  places to jot poetry, thoughts, reflections, stories, lyrics, these composition books always make me think of my mom.  they are places to process, to remember, to dream, to sort.  they are the beginnings of stories, lyrics to ponder, the coda to the song.  to someone else they are simply words on the page.  to me, it is my breath that gives them life.  we each have stories to tell, songs to write.

in the last few days i have had the frustration of feeling silenced.  as i wrote in yesterday’s post, someone marked all five of my blogposts of last week on facebook as “spam” and that somehow triggered facebook to pull every last one of my blogposts – and any mention of my blogsite – down.  every word – the simple ones, the ones that require looking-it-up – pulled down.  with 650 posts, even averaging 500 words, that is 325,000 words.  MY 325,000 words.  gone.

in these times of chaos and unrest and pandemic, there are plenty of words out there.  foul words, words of peaceful mantras, words of untruth, twisted words of conspiracy theories, imploring words, scientific words, words of wisdom from giants of wisdom, accessible words, words we have to look up, words we can hardly believe we’ve heard from various people-in-the-spotlight, words at which we roll our eyes, words we find reassuring.

in a daily email he receives, david shares a new word with me.  “kawaii,” he reports, “means cute.”

the baby raccoons, most definitely kawaii, peeked out from behind the tree trunk.  upon seeing us on the trail, they had scrambled from the little pond up the tree.  they stared at us; we stared at them.  they didn’t move, quizzically grasping onto bark and watching quietly.  we didn’t move either.  we just stood quietly on the trail and watched.  the story they would tell about our encounter wouldn’t have many words.  all was silent.  all was motionless.  they were safe; we were safe.  for a few minutes, we shared the serene woods together, a little eye contact in hushed regard of each other.  maybe, in their re-telling, in their speckled composition book, they would just tell the coda – “and then they left.”

every now and again i take out an old composition book.  it’s astounding.  i was so…..wordy.

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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“voter freud” [flawed wednesday]

voter freud

my sweet momma taught me to use a dictionary when i was very young.  “look it up,” she would tell me.  the dictionary held an esteemed place in our house.  if i didn’t know what ‘it’ meant or how ‘it’ was spelled, i knew where to go.  i developed a love for dictionaries, thesauruses, all manners of the tools of research.

now, it seems dictionaries have lost their status and spellcheck has become a way of life for those too lazy to ‘look it up’.  spellcheck has a few obvious limitations; context, usage and intent presenting the biggest challenges.  if only spellcheck and auto-correct could reach out of the device screen and (gently) slap the person committing the spellingcrime, life’s communications could be better understood.  punctuation joins the game of laziness and, i must say, punctuation makes a difference.  consider “i’m sorry i love you” or “i’m sorry.  i love you.”  there is a marked difference.

so when people, who never graced me, the nerdy-look-it-up-type, with even one word in high school but who have ‘friended’ me on facebook, post multiple nonsensical, poorly articulated and division-inciting arguments using the term “voter Freud”, it raises the hair on the back of my neck.  i want to post back “look it up!” but i refrain.  borrowing leonard pitts’ words, there seems to be a “matchless capacity for mental mediocrity” in the united states these days.

i suspect if this not-really-a-friend-just-a-friend-on-facebook was standing across from me (mind you, at least six feet across) she would be screaming at me in a loud raucous voice.  i wonder if she would call it – this thing she has taken from fox news and run full speed with, never looking to see if she had a spotter or even a bottle of water in her full-out sprint to falsificationland – “voter Freud” in person.  or would she actually say “voter fraud” in her zeal to make me a believer of her layered cake of conspiracies.

this is not just about lazy writing.  this seems an indicator of a bigger problem.  it’s the metaphoric tip of the iceberg.  i’m not just kvetching about spelling and punctuation, much as i wish that were the whole problem.  it’s an imploring plea to ask questions.  in today’s deep-fake world, a reminder to not make quick assumptions.  to not jump onto a band wagon stoked with tear gas, rubber bullets and flash bangs to quell those speaking out, enable dictatorial nationalism, silence what needs to be said.

in this pandemic-laden-chaos-wreaked-leaderless-divisive country of ours i would encourage research.  i would encourage fact-checking.  i would encourage dictionaries.  i would encourage more listening and less reactionism.  i would hope that each of us would understand that every word we utter, every word we write matters, every attitude, every nuance.  we are not in a world of one; we each affect and effect the next.  over and over.

and i don’t know.  last time i checked, john glenn high school in elwood, new york – more than four decades ago – had pretty high standards in english class, in sciences, in history, in math, not the least learning of which was how to use deductive reasoning.  i, for one, was paying attention.  because it mattered.  “voter Freud?”  indeed.  it still matters.

read DAVID’s thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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