First Love

For Danny
© Bonnie Staiger 2003

Born one day apart
our Moms in labor together
we rode bikes in 2nd grade
in 6th grade we played kick-the-can

As freshman we danced cheek-to-cheek
I wore a yellow dress and
a corsage from him

Peggy Helfinstein said
I stole her boyfriend
Me? Not Danny

He drove all night from Montana
when he learned of my divorce
just to remind me
that we are soul mates

He called every year on our birthday
even when he had to drive
down the mountain to a payphone
sometimes he was drunk

The last time he called
I didn’t tell him about
my breast cancer
afraid he’d worry

And he didn’t tell me
that he was dying

Three weeks later
he was gone

Verbal Abuse of the English Language

Gentle Reader: The annual List of Banished Words— a release by Lake Superior State University—has caught my attention again. Fortunately, normal people can take consolation that much of the blame for this year’s list goes to politicians and the news media.

For the rest of us, the advent of texting, instant messaging, and Facebook has created another media which has leeched into our more formal writing and punctuation. While I must admit to the fun of using some fad words, I also take notice when slang begins to unknowingly permeate my conversational speaking and, worse, shows up in my professional writing.

Here is my personal list of top 6 offending words and phrases for 2012 and if I were queen they would be banished.

#6.  Right, right, right or Yes, yes, yes—(said rapid-fire.) Why isn’t just one yes or right enough? What’s possibly more offensive is ‘No, no, no’ because it is dismissive to the 3rd power.

#5.  At the end of the day— This phrase has replaced other weary words: ‘the bottom line’ and ‘when all is said and done.’ There you have it.

#4.  Look . . .— Sometimes said at the beginning of a sentence to stop others in a group from over-talking, but more often it’s a maneuver to convince others what he/she is about to say is really important. Usually, others are not convinced.

#3.  Breaking News— Why is Day 2 of an oversaturated story still breaking news?

#2.  Clearly— Among many intensifiers that are overused, ‘obviously’ is another. While making the writer feel more effective, both can render the words powerless rather than more powerful.

#1. Green— Including all variations, such as: ‘going green,’ ‘green buildings,’ ‘greening,’ ‘green technology,’ ‘green products’, topped the LSSU list in 2009. However, I would be willing to let the term ‘greenwashed’ (yes, a form of brainwashed) be overused until all the others fade.

As long as I’m on a soapbox, here are some grammatical fingernails on my proverbial chalkboard:

Invite— While some dictionary sources have relaxed this rule, the word is more properly used as a noun not a verb. I wrote a poem about this for a daily poetry contest on the subject of pet peeves. (See below)

Impacted— Just think of bowels or wisdom teeth as a reminder not to misuse this word. Better to use ‘had an impact on’ or use the words affect and effect correctly.

Golfing— A few dictionary sources have also softened the rule but it’s not the queen’s English, albeit this queen. We play golf. We don’t say hockeying, tennising, or wiiing*.

* Wiiing could only be remotely acceptable if one is toilet training a child.

REGRETS ONLY
© Bonnie Staiger

Oh, Peeve, My Pet!
You may INVITE me
to your party.
But don’t you dare
send me an INVITE.

For fear I shall bite
Your head off
for sloppily using
the verb instead
of the noun.

However, an INVITATION,
Yes, I shall gladly accept.
And secretly extol
That you have the class
to know the difference.

Friday Rituals – In Search of Work/Life Balance

Here on the Upper Great Plains and the 46th Parallel, work/life balance comes easier in the warmer months. Being nearer the Land of the Midnight Sun gives us almost 17 hours of sunlight in June. As a result, the scale tips heavily to business during the colder/darker months but come spring, there is an unwritten understanding: lots of flex time to enjoy the best summers on the planet. We be gone!

Until then, we (meaning: some of us—more than others) need to find ways to break out of that work routine. For those of us (moi?) whose office is in their home, the act of leaving the office can present a blurred line.

Insert departure rituals. Come 5:00pm, some of us have resorted to shutting the lights off on ourselves or literally closing the door of the office as a reminder that the day is done. Personally, even more helpful is a business/accountability partner who also has a home office and we have agreed to “be a stand” for departing at an appropriate hour. Of course, a glass of wine never hurts.

Friday rituals are a bit more elaborate to signal the end of the work week. My routine starts with deliberate switching gears: making declarative statements relating to a successful week with missions accomplished, turning on jazz music, and focusing on weekend activities.

This afternoon, the jazz is playing, cabernet sauvignon is poured, and activities with friends and family are planned. The best part is the chokecherry tree outside my office window has leafed out to the point where I can’t see down the road anymore. Summer is just around the corner and we be gone.

Weather Report: Lost and Found

Gentle Reader: Got a sec? Yes, I know you are busy but give me 4 minutes for a Thought for the Day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Fall is a very busy time in North Dakota. Everyone shifts from enjoying our summers of 15 hours of sunlight to getting back to business. We are coming out of a very busy 2 months and getting caught up both in the office and at home. Life has been–do this, do that. To-Do lists. Do you notice even in our small talk how often we ask people how or what are they doing? Sometimes I think we are better classified as human doings rather than human beings.

Pause for a moment to consider the distinction between DOING and BEING. What if we re-think all that busy-ness and our need to DO things? Inside my kitchen cupboard door—all yellow and cracked, is this clipping: “I do not love you for what you do, but who you are.”

What if we create a To-Be List? BE creative, BE courageous, BE happy, and BE a stand for something. This list does not have required elements in order to happen—they are not about the pursuit of anything. They are simply choices.

Look closer at Shakespeare’s famous quote–especially the last part:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them.

By choosing, we create what we choose. I choose a perfect life. I choose abundance. I choose peace-ful. There are no required criteria to fulfill these. Once I choose it–it exists.

Next time you see a friend, don’t ask how they are but ask instead: “Who are you? What is amazing in your life? Please take the time to tell me.”

Quietly humming: “Do be do be do . . . “

The Long Green Line

Gentle reader: After 6 inches of powder fell today there has been a lot of chatter about snow removal equipment and tractors of various sizes. I was reminded of this converastion of almost 25 years ago.

I had taken my daughter, about age 5, to the clinic for the usual URI. The pediatrician on call that day was the locally famous and well-loved, Dr. Pieter Smeenk. That particular day he was wearing a toy John Deere tractor clipped to his necktie–as only a clever pediatrician would do. The conversation ensued as follows.

Mom to Daughter: Look, Dr. Smeenk has a John Deere tractor too!

Dr. Smeenk to Daughter: Do you have a big green tractor?

Daughter, shyly: Yes, it’s really noisy.

Dr. Smeenk: What does it sound like?

Daughter abandons her coyness, proudly fills her lungs and says loudly: Bup, bup , wheeeeeeee . . . BUMP , BUMP, BUMP, WRRROOOOAARRRRRR!

Dr. Smeenk: Oh My!, that sounds like a diesel engine with an gasoline starting motor!

Mom: Yes, indeed. It’s a 720.

Finale (after much giggling and laughter):

Daughter says matter-of-factly to Dr. Smeenk: Grampie says naughty words when the big noise doesn’t go.

Like Sands through the Hourglass, So are . . .

Gentle Reader: Here in North Dakota we have the privilege of four distinct seasons which clearly helps her citizens mark time and the passage of years. Still the days drip, drip, drip through that hourglass and evaporate at an alarming speed. While we attempt to pack our lives full of dreams and aspirations, too often we find ourselves living for some future mystery like, “once I get ____, I’ll be happy/successful/fulfilled.”

Consider the reverse. Living in the past is nothing more than rewinding the DVR and wastes today while watching the re-play. “If only I could do _____ over again.” Mourning the loss of time in squandered lives is also about as productive as shoveling smoke.

Being a 9-year survivor of breast cancer, my concept of time has simplified. The notion that “every day is a gift” is one of the more profound realizations one can absorb and has become my mantra. The recent news about a friend’s serious illness has her cohorts reeling from the shock. I, among them, find myself reflecting again on the intrinsic value of each day as more than just a commodity or something to be managed and plugged into my Outlook program.

In the current issue’s editorial Christopher Kimball, founder and editor of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, wrote,

“My guess is that whatever we think we’ve lost we never had, that waiting to find it again is as stupid as expecting trout to rise to the same dry fly two days in a row, and that life is best lived between the lost and the found, just this side of hope and on the other side of nostalgia.”

Distilled to its essence, all we have is today.

Barley’s Biscuits at Bonnie’s

Gentle Reader: Part of my growing family is my grand dog, Barley. She’s a 95 lb. yellow lab who loves the world and everything in it. Occasionally she gets to come for sleep-overs. About a year ago, I decided I wanted her to have special toys and treats when she is here. Well,  the toys were easy to accommodate with a power trip to Pet Smart.

On to the next item: treats. She knows that word means Milk Bones at home. So I also decided the operative word at my house would be cookies. Of course they were going to be gourmet and homemade. I ventured online and found a couple of targets at Bulwinkle.com. More about the Breath Saver version another time. For today I’m talking about Everyday Biscuits.

Barley loves Everyday Biscuits so much that her mouth waters to the point of drooling all over the kitchen floor . . . aka Pavlov’s dog. Say the word cookies and simultaneously get the paper towels.

Of course I needed to buy the cool bone-shaped cookie cutters and learned the hard way to make them thicker and bigger. The first attempt made dozens and took a full afternoon to accomplish. Good thing she didn’t know then how good they were or I would have needed a personal floatation device to get out of the kitchen.

If you are interested in the recipe, here’s the link: http://www.bullwrinkle.com/Assets/Recipes/Everyday%20Biscuits.htm