2023_BlogPrompt #28 – Discarded objects

If you’ve ever spent much time examining trash on the side of the road, perhaps you have wondered about the objects that are discarded. We’ve all seen the shoes in the middle of the road, the coffee cups, the cassette tapes—all most likely placed on the top of the car and forgotten. But some things, they are a little harder to explain. Have you ever found an object on the side of the road and wondered about it? As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Photo by Jasmin Egger on Unsplash 

I have spent a fair amount of time navigating the side of the road. I was a runner for many years, and I learned the literal ups and downs of the sides of the road in four or five different states.

But even after all these years and thousands of miles logged, there is something I have yet to figure out. The strangest things end up on the side of the road, and I am deeply curious as tohow they end up there.

Last Friday, for example, it was crazy cold outside. I was out for my morning walk, and I was on a stretch of road where there are no houses. On the side of the road, I passed a clear plastic egg carton—the food-warehouse super-size container that holds 18 eggs. It was just sitting on the side of the road, as if it fell out of someone’s car. Through the plastic, it was obvious that many of the eggs were broken, and the inside of the container was smeared with frozen yellow yolk.

So I ask you this. How do you lose a carton of eggs on the side of the road with no houses in sight? Are you driving along and have an argument with your passenger and start tossing the just-purchased groceries out the window? Because you would have to actually have a carton of eggs in your car to lose one out the window, and that’s only likely to be the case when you are on the way home from the store. Are you out walking and just happen to be carrying a dozen-and-a-half eggs with you when you slip on the ice and fall? HOW do you lose eggs on the side of the road?? I have a deep curiosity and need to know.

Then again, one day long ago, on this same stretch of road, there was a pair of discarded dress pants. I made up a story about those pants. But the eggs… I’m just baffled.


2023_#27: Weird Word Wednesday – Burstiness

This week’s Weird Word is burstiness. I came across this word through an interaction with technology, and I decided it should be a new word for me. Burstiness (not in a technology context) means, “the degree to which something occurs in abrupt bursts.” Yes, this is definitely a new and lovely word to add to my vocabulary! If you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Burstiness is a term I came across in a technological context. According to Collins dictionary, burstiness means “the transmission of data in short, uneven bursts.” Technology. And I was disappointed because this word immediately spoke to me. The sound of the word rolling off the tongue is upbeat and happy. I can see myself finding reasons to use this word.

For example, I think about the way children play… or do anything, really. They play hard for a bit, then sit. But before long, they are back up, playing. If that isn’t bustiness, I don’t know what is. There are days when I, too, do things with burstiness. Especially on the days I clean the house. A burst of cleaning, and then I get distracted and move on to something else. Oops, but wait… I was cleaning, so I focus on another burst of cleaning. Now that I think about it, that might not be burstiness. That might be more like distraction.

2023_BlogPrompt #26 – Reading

Reading. One of my favorite activities, and one that has followed me through my life. Perhaps one day I’ll write about my life through the various books I’ve read because it’s a fun and fascinating journey. What is your experience with reading? As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

I’m leafing through the pages of an old, outdated textbook, not paying attention to what I’m doing. Words on the page. Page after page. So many words. How many of these words actually matter? How many of these words build meaning and insight? Perception and critical thinking?

When I was a child, my parents read to me nearly every day. Those early moments with books instilled in me a love of reading before I could even read, back before we could get information from anything but books and magazines and newspapers and journals. And an hour a day of television news—30 minutes of local news followed by 30 minutes of national news. If you wanted substance, you had to read—books, encyclopedias, newspapers—often on microfiche. You had to read.

And so I did. I spent hours at the local library, first in the spacious children’s room and then in the little pass-through room that housed the teen books, before they were classified “YA.” It was a small room—an in-between space for those who were no longer children but not quite adults. Then we moved on to the general book stacks which filled a large back area. My younger days were loaded with books.

There are some books I remember vividly—scenes and characters. Things that happened and the way I felt when I was reading. Some were silly, like Pippi Longstocking. Others were deep and sorrowful—Across Five Aprils comes to mind. There were some books that were just okay and some I barely remember.

Then there were the magazines, the articles, the newspapers, the long days spent deep in research for paper after paper as I learned how to distinguish fact from fiction. I learned to parse words, sentences, and paragraphs. I analyzed text for the important elements so I could use these to create impact in my own writing. I learned to take the ideas of others and weave them together with my own to build and support an argument so I could discuss topics more deeply with others.

As I leaf through this old textbook, and I stare at the words, I don’t really have to wonder how many of the words matter. How many of them build meaning and help develop critical thinking. I already know the answer.

The answer is all of them. All the words I’ve ever read—they matter. They taught me how to distinguish the good texts from the bad. They taught me to move beyond the fluff to the depths of the text. They taught me to dig deep, to find meaning, and to persevere.

But the most important thing words taught me? How to make magic. When you pick up a book, study all the black squiggles on the white page, and produce a mind full of colorful images and vivid stories, fascinating characters and music and laughter and a full range of emotions, you realize reading is truly a magical experience.  

2023_BlogPrompt #25 – Adjustment

The word of the day is adjustment. We all have things in our lives or ourselves that need to be adjusted. Or maybe we have had to adjust to something we didn’t anticipate. What adjustments are you making or have you had to make? As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash

I’m working on an attitude adjustment.

Seriously, sometimes we begin to realize things have gone sideways—in fact, they might have been going that way for a while. It is then that we realize we must focus on re-direction, a process that always starts from within. It has to.

Now, I know I’m not so far off track that major adjustments are needed. No, as I evaluate the issue, I see that some gears have become misaligned. I may be moving sideways, but I am doing so in a forward direction. Therefore, I’m not moving forward as quickly and smoothly as I might be.

So I’ve gathered some tools and rolled up my sleeves. I’ve stepped into the “machine room”—where the workings of my brain can be examined—and I’m digging in. If you’ve ever seen those movies or scenes of movies that take place inside the clock face of a clock tower, this is what I’m faced with. Mechanical pieces that are large and cumbersome. Massive gears constantly (albeit slowly) moving. But in here, I have a chance to walk around and inspect the parts to find those that might need adjustment.

Here, I see some rust has built up on some of the cogs, and I carefully scrape it off, adding a bit of oil for good measure. I make an adjustment to two pieces that don’t seem to be seated quite right, and I straighten out some parts that have bowed and bent a bit from the stressors of everyday life. Then I go through and clean and polish everything, so it looks nearly as good as new. Finishing touches are often the detail that brings clarity and confidence to the process. Not only did I do the work, but the work looks good because of all that I’ve put into it—the sweat, the frustration, the love, and the tears.

One thing I’ve learned, if nothing else, is that the good and the bad, the easy and the hard, the happy and the sad… they are all inextricably intertwined in all tasks that are worth completing. Re-adjustments are not always fun, but sometimes they are necessary.

And the learning that comes through the examination and evaluation process? That will be the key to a more efficient adjustment the next time!

2023_BlogPrompt #24 – Today

The word of the day is today. What will you/did you do today? What will you dream? What will you see? What crazy adventures will you experience? As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Today’s sunset

Today, I dreamed that I was superman, lifted up and flying high on the winds of change. The things I once knew passed below me as I sped through the sky on the way to new adventures. My cape flapped loudly behind me, shaking off all the things that hold me back. Flight frees me to be authentic, real, and determined in my dealings with the world.

Today, I planted a garden, digging deep through the icy snow and tapping the ground, frozen solid from the bitterness of winter. The seeds were resistant, clinging to the warmth of my fingers, and who can blame them? What they don’t know is that spring will bring growth and possibilities they cannot currently imagine.

Today, I lit a spark of kindness in hopes it would spread like wildfire. A moment of thought and a simple act can change a life. And as it spreads, it can create a movement, a shift in the cosmos. Perhaps my spark will bring happiness to one or two or more people who are surfing the wave of good intentions.

Today, I spent a few extra minutes with someone who needed a friend to listen, to hear, to care. Words spoken from a place of anxiety landed in a meadow of soft grass and wildflowers. A place where worries go to be eased and hopefully forgotten.  

Today, I created a moment of magic. Or maybe more. There was the thought that surprised even myself. Then a conversation full of brainstorming and idea generation and moving forward. There was a moment of peace and a walk in the park.

Today, there were many small, ordinary moments. Moments that could almost seem like magic. Moments that made today a good day.

2023_BlogPrompt #23 – I Wonder…

I was out for a walk recently, and my mind started to wander, as it so often does. It wandered, yet again, into I wonder…. So today we are playing the I wonder game. What crazy things do you wonder about? As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash 

There are a lot of things I wonder about, and my wonderings tend to lead me down a rabbit hole in which I sometimes get stuck.

Think about this for a moment. You are living in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the early colonial days. For reference, these are the days of a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel—17th century or thereabouts. It is frigid January when daylight lasts a hot minute before night falls dark and impenetrable. You were visiting with a friend, and now you have to get home before supper. The path leads through the woods. In the dark. Pitch dark.

You bundle up as best you can and begin your trek. The dim yellow light of the windows of your friend’s house grow increasingly small and distant until they are specks and then no more. You have a lantern, so at least that’s good. (Though I’m not sure if you’ve ever paid attention to how much light an old-fashioned whale blubber lantern or tallow candle throws out? Not much, I’m sure).

Anyway, the only way home is through the woods since the early settlement is basically only woods with a few scattered clearings for houses here and there. So through the woods you go, traversing the thickening and darkening forest with the feeble little flame as your only source of light.

Off in the distance, you hear the chilling scream of a fisher cat or a fox, but you only hear the scream and have no knowledge what could possibly make such a horrible, haunting noise. Someone, you think, was just eaten alive! Your body tightens in fear as a chill passes over your skin, and you break into a run, trying hard to keep your lantern steady as you go. By the time you get home, you are simultaneously shivering from both fear and cold and sweating, ready to pass out from the exertion of the run and from breathing too hard for too long in the frigid night air.

I wonder what the early settlers thought was in the woods making such horrific and terrifying noises. They had no way of looking it up. Obviously, there was no internet, but there was not even a local library at the time. Someone would literally have to see a fisher cat scream in order to know what it was. But again… it would be dark with only feeble light sources. How long did it take them to figure this out?

I wonder.

2023_#22: Weird Word Wednesday – Gauche

This week’s Weird Word Wednesday is gauche. This word is somewhat common and not all that weird, but I find the etymology is interesting. While it’s a word I have used in French, I don’t remember ever using it in English. But maybe I have an idea for how I might use it…. Is there a weird word that you find… well, awkward? If you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash 

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, gauche means “lacking social experience or grace.” Other meanings are crude or awkward.  Gauche, in French, means “left,” but it can also mean awkward or clumsy.

The etymology of gauche includes “ties to old suspicions and negative associations relating to the left side and use of the left hand” (Merriam-Webster.com). Back in the day, left-handed people had to be careful or they could be tried as witches. Then again, many activities could pinpoint one as a witch. But it’s funny that we built a right-handed world and then labeled the left-handers “awkward.” And it’s also funny how words come to have meaning, and the meaning sticks. Forever.

Studying the word gauche and learning its origins doesn’t make me more likely to use it. In fact, I am less likely to use it now. You know the way the kids these days will respond to a situation with one word, “Awk-ward!” drawn out in a way to make the situation even more awkward? Maybe “gauche” would be an equally effective response in such a situation.

But upon further thought, the word’s monosyllabic briefness makes it a gauche alternative.

2023_BlogPrompt #21 – Choice

Over the weekend, I read this statement, “You always have a choice.” This statement resonated with me, perhaps because of where I am in my life, but also because of what I want my children to know as they navigate their young adult lives. “You always have a choice.” Remember that; it’s important. Write about a choice you made… or one you didn’t.As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash 

Sometimes, I think about advice I would give my younger self. Advice to my younger self might not help me much now, but as a parent of young adults and someone who works with young people, I have ample opportunity to influence the lives of others. So if you are navigating the early years of your adulthood—or even the later years—it’s important to remember, “You always have a choice.”

When I was very young, it was not uncommon for people to choose a career path and stick with it throughout their lives. People would work in the same job, even at the same company and with the same co-workers, for thirty or forty or more years. I don’t know that there were fewer career options at the time, but there were different expectations.

You don’t need to stay in one place. There is much greater movement than ever before, within career fields, within companies, and within ourselves about what we want to do, where we need to be, and what we’re willing to put up with. Our lives change and evolve as the world changes and evolves. Our ideas and our identities are constantly in flux. But we often fail to remember that our choices might also change and evolve over time.

My advice to my younger self—and to my current self, if I’m being honest—is to always know what your choices are. Evaluate and re-evaluate so you can always consider what you might be doing if you were doing something different. We don’t spend enough time examining our options, taking advantage of our choices. Instead, we tend to settle for something that is comfortable, often sacrificing what we really want or who we are for the “good enough.” Then we grow comfortable, and we forget to ask ourselves, “Is this really what I want?”

Pay attention! What are your emotions trying to tell you? What is that thing that is not sitting right in your brain? Why are you feeling unmotivated? Unfulfilled? Sad? Lonely? If you want to know what these feelings are trying to tell you, pay attention! You might just realize that you’ve squelched a dream because you were afraid to take a risk. It’s okay to move on and take risks. It’s okay to change things up. It’s okay to make choices that are best for you and will allow you to be your best.

You always have a choice. Don’t be afraid to change things up.

2023_BlogPrompt #20 – Forever

Some things are forever, and that’s a good thing. But some things are forever, and it’s not so good. This is my funny, frustrating forever. As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash 

God help me!

I’m sitting at my kitchen table eating dinner with one cat on my lap and one cat intently watching me as if she will gobble up any morsel of the curry I’m eating should it drop on the floor. I think not. Cats are much too finicky for that. Even if I were eating something she absolutely loved and I dropped a bit, she would smear it around on the floor and walk away. Then the other cats would come and sniff it and walk away, as well. That’s the way cats are.

But that’s not the point of this piece. I am sitting here minding my own business eating my dinner, and suddenly, I start to become uncomfortably hot. Like I-need-to-take-off-my-sweater hot. Dang hot flashes. Honestly, I am far beyond the point at which I should still be experiencing hot flashes.

So I google, “How long do hot flashes last?” because I’m becoming pretty sick of them. And I need to know. As I google, the thought randomly crosses my mind that should the police ever decide they need to review my search history (for whatever reason), this is the very type of excitement they will find. Well, there are also the writerly searches. And the searches with my criminal justice students about the cannibal cop…. My work search history is much more interesting, but that’s a story for another day.

Of course, all the medical sites came up when I googled my question—Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, Harvard. So I click on the Cleveland Clinic. Do you know what it says? “Your hot flashes could end once you’re post-menopausal. In other cases, they could last for the rest of your life.” In other words, forever! Are you kidding??

I seem to be trending on the forever side of this one. God help me!

2023_BlogPrompt #19 – Passion

It’s so important to discover your passion in life. Your passion may not be something you do to earn a living, but it is something you feel you cannot live without. A passion is something that makes you feel alive, that brings meaning to your life, and allows you to express yourself as nothing else does. Do you know what your passion is? As always, if you choose to take up the challenge, please add a pingback to this prompt.

Paintings by my friend, Jodee, shared with her permission

On my way home from work the other day, I stopped by the library art gallery. In fact, I didn’t know the library has an art gallery, so there’s that. A friend of mine is having an art show, and I had timed my commute home to correspond with the opening. I love this woman’s work, and I wanted to see it hung up and displayed, museum-like.

I have watched her journey back into art after getting lost in the intensity and chaos that is parenthood. In a first step, she committed to completing one post-it note sketch per day for a year, and from there she has jumped all in. Because reclaiming your passion takes a single step. That single step can re-ignite the spark for whatever it is that feeds your soul—art, writing, exercise, communing with Nature.

The art show did not disappoint. Beautiful bright colors, painting after painting, all hanging in one place. Before I left, we had a brief conversation about exactly these things. We talked about how easy it is to lose yourself in the daily tasks of motherhood. We agreed that is so important to take care of yourself and to reclaim whatever it is that speaks to the essence of your being, that feeds your soul. For me, that passion is writing. When I’m not writing, I feel like something is missing in my life.

I hope that you will take some time this weekend to connect with (or reconnect with) your passion.