A Fault-full Analysis

“Confess your faults on to another that ye may be healed.” So says the Apostle John.

And now our Word Press daily prompt is in agreement with this wisdom.

“How do I have them? Let me count the ways.
I have them to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach…”
(With apologies to Liz Browning)

But which is actually my worst fault? Maybe that depends on who you ask. The ones that cause me personally the most trouble?

The first thing that came to mind was Wishy-washy-ness. Being indecisive. I wobble around decisions like a calf on ice.
Going hand-in-glove with this fault is Procrastination — which links together indivisibly with my Poor concept of time.

Should you ask my family which fault causes them the most trouble they may list another, one I don’t consider anywhere near major. They may even say, “Spends too much time on the computer — responding to WP daily prompts.”

If you ask God what my worst quality is… Well, He knows me through and through. He’d likely say Pride and/or Self-justification. (As in Always Making Excuses.) It’s pretty hard to separate those two.

A fault or not a fault. That is the question!
Whether it be nobler in the mind to jump on board and later rue,
or hesitate until all the facts are in and miss the boat…
(My apologies to Will S.)

Being Analytical is one of my major faults. Like not being able to read a daily prompt without going into some deep analysis of exactly what a fault is, really — and to whom — and looking at the subject from different directions. (I missed my calling as political speech-writer.)

Being so analytical, I could have been a terrific research scientist, right? Being wishy-washy (or hesitant)? Well, they say “fools rush in.” Some “decisive” people jump to conclusions, land in wet cement, and stay there.

Your worst quality is often the flip side of your best quality.

My mother-in-law prided herself in being Stubborn. She was born in 1908, long before x-rays and other diagnostic tests that would have explained her deformity. An x-ray, when they were finally invented, revealed that she had no hip joints. They just never formed.

The only suggestion doctors back in 1910 could give her parents was, “Somebody must have dropped this baby.” This made her mother angry, for Grandma knew this wasn’t the case at all. Still, nothing could be done for the child back then; they just had to accept it.

In spite of that, and enduring constant pain, she did walk. Being number six in a family of fourteen, she wasn’t going to be left out of the action. She wasn’t catered to, either, though she was accepted and well treated at home. Her father was blind and she was less mobile than her siblings, so she became his eyes, read to him and did the family farm book-work.

She dared to marry and have a baby, a 9-lb boy born by cesarean. “That’s it!” the doctor ordered. “You can’t put your body through this again.”

Mom ignored the pain and walked almost all her life, cooking, canning, cleaning, playing ball with her son — all the things a normal farm wife would do. And she kept walking right up into her 90s. She walked long after arthritis had immobilized some of her cronies. When people would marvel at her ability, she’d answer, “I’m just so stubborn.”

The rest of us marveled at her amazing determination. Then again, there were times when her stubbornness really annoyed us, too. 🙂

It’s the Side Trips Along the Way

Today’s prompt asks us what way we were prefer to see the country. I have actually crossed our nation by plane. One year Bob and I flew from Montreal to Vancouver. We certainly appreciated the few hours it took to get there, compared to what we would have been facing by car.

If it’s a clear day you can look down on the prairie patchwork and marvel at all those creatures scurrying around down there, building up their little bits of property. If it’s not a clear day, a person can see some amazing clouds. One day I looked out the plane window and saw, reflected onto the white mass beside us, a great big rainbow doughnut. Awesome!

As an adult I’ve taken the train across half the country on several occasions. Pulling out of Toronto, going through three days of rock, pond, bush, rock, pond, bush, rock, pond, bush —with the Great Superior Lake thrown in. Then suddenly the land opens up onto the flat prairie and you can see a hundred miles ahead.

And we’ve traveled by car, both across Canada and into the US. This definitely affords the best trip in my estimation. Gives lots of chances to stop and admire the scenery. And you never know when you may come across a sign that says, Twelve Foot Falls. 

(Warning to you folks in northern Wisconsin. I’m about to expose a local joke.)

We’d left Michigan that morning and gone north, crossed over the Mackinac Bridge, intending to have supper and spend the night with friends in Barron, Wisconsin. Now it was early afternoon and we were in no hurry, when we came upon the sign that read Twelve Foot Falls Road ½ mile, with an arrow pointing left.

Bob and I discussed this a minute and decided we had time for a little side trip. Half a mile later there was a sign designating the Twelve Foot Falls Road, and it appeared to be a nice gravel road, so we took it. After all, a twelve-foot waterfall would be an interesting sight to see, right?

Those of you who have been there know that the main highway through northern Michigan and Wisconsin cuts through a solid pine forest. Lining the road for miles ahead and behind, all you see is pine forest with the ribbon of highway running through. Thankfully it’s cut back far enough that people who suffer a bit from claustrophobia, as I do, can still breathe.

The gravel road we turned off on was more of the same, only not cut back very far from the roadway. In other words unless you’re very fond of pine green this is not the scenic route. And we drove and we drove and we drove.

After about fifteen minutes there was another sign saying Twelve Foot Falls with the arrow pointing ahead. So at least we weren’t lost. And we drove and we drove and we drove. The only thing is, the road narrowed down to a logging trail. We drove through this green tunnel for another while, then we saw another sign. Twelve Foot Falls, with the arrow pointing left. Ah! We’re getting there.

We turned as indicated and drove a short distance, right into a clearing. And there, ahead of us was… Twelve Foot Falls? We all groaned.

The locals must have measured the “falls” by its length instead of its height. As I recall the water from a little creek came over a rocky ledge and fell about four feet down, then over a bunch more rocks. It seems to me there were several small ledges and drops.

It was a very pretty spot, I’m sure it would be great for picnics if you want to take all that time cruising through a tunnel get there.

And then there was the time we were driving through an unfamiliar town in the dark (Bob thinks it was Shippensburg, PA) and we took a road on  a poorly lit street than angled down. We were going slow, thank goodness.

Suddenly, with no warning sign or rail or wall, our headlights reflected off water. We were facing a river, with a drop-off about three yards ahead. Had we been going at a normal street speed…

Bob came to an abrupt stop and we stared out over what must have been the arm of a local river that meandered through this park-like area. I believe there was a sidewalk ahead, such as people might want to take to walk alongside the river.

By all means, travel by car. you’ll see so many interesting sights along the way — and it gives you something to blog about later.

Seven Words? Dream On!

The WordPress Daily Prompt is asking us an unusual question today:
Khalil Gibran once said that people will never understand one another unless language is reduced to seven words. What would your seven words be?

My first thought on the subject:
Poets need words! How can it be that a poet like Gibran would subject himself to a seven-word limit? This idea would have put him out of business in no time flat.

And what about the “I think, therefore I am” concept? How much could you think if you only had a seven-word vocabulary?

My second contemplation:
Words in which language? In referring to “people” the poet was talking about something universal, right? His idea was universal understanding and harmony. We English tend to think we have a monopoly on the international language, so of course they should be our words. The folks in China may well dispute this and want to give us their seven words. Then we’d have an argument which would defeat the purpose of international harmony.

My third cynical contemplation:
Talk is cheap. Words can sound so pleasant to the ear, so inspiring. Writers may rhapsodize about universal love and harmony, but reality is a whole ‘nother ball game. I think of John Lennon singing “All we need is love,” while carrying on an extra-marital affair, divorcing his wife and abandoning his son. Yeah. Feel the love.

In my mind, “all we need is seven words” would fit in this irresponsibly romantic category.

Now that I’ve dealt with the negative side of my meditations, I think about the words themselves. Choose seven? Basic nouns & verbs like water, food, hot, cold, no, yes, later, behave yourself? (Mothers definitely need this last one.) We’d sure use a lot of facial expressions!

Anecdote ahead:
I have a friend born in Denmark who told me one day, “My Dad said that when the Danes arrived in England centuries ago they found a people who couldn’t talk at all. They could only grunt. It was the Danes who taught the English how to talk.”

A history lesson that’s been omitted from our English history textbooks. (Or maybe the English did have seven words back then?)

Maybe we should skip nouns and verbs and go for adjectives. We’re getting to that now, you know. Awesome! Wonderful! Yuck! Cool! Gross! Sweet! Terrible! Weird!

Trouble is, slang changes every so often according to the whims of the younger generation, so our whole vocabulary would soon be obsolete and the generation gap would be unbridgeable. (Mind you, if the expression “generation gap” would disappear from our language, it might not be so bad.)

My next thought was, “What would we do about all our inflections?”
Unlike some other languages, English lends itself so well to shades of meaning via the use of inflection. For example:
She went to the afternoon ball game — emphasis on she — tells you that it was really odd for this girl/woman to go to a ball game.
By putting the emphasis on afternoon I’m giving you the impression the timing was unusual. Like she may go in the evening, but what was she doing there in the afternoon? Playing hookey from school or work?
With the emphasis on ball, you get the idea she’d go to a tennis match or a swim meet, but normally wouldn’t be interested in watching a ball game.

Given all the shades of meaning we can bring into our inflections, it’s no wonder we’re often misunderstood.

My last thought was that we get into as much trouble for the things we don’t say, things we should say, as what we do for the things we do say. (Here go those inflections again.)

I’m afraid thinking that we could understand each other better with only seven words to express our feelings is an impractical dream. I doubt the poet could have stood this restriction himself for even a day.

I don’t believe my friends dad’s story about the speechless English, either.

The Incredible Semi!

The Incredible Semi

Today’s Word Press prompt asks about our punctuation quirks.  Of course the proper use of punctuation is a must.  According to all the rules given out between Grade Two and the priciest university writing courses, punctuation is essential if you want people to understand  your meaning clearly.  Know what you want to say, punctuate it properly, and you’ll get your message across.

Commas are marvelous things that serve to divide sentences into bite-sized pieces for the reader’s brain and no one will dispute the value of the periods, question marks, etc., that end our sentences.  However, my thought today centers on one sadly neglected key: the semi colon.  And we can’t ignore its upper case version, the colon.

The colon is the more straightforward of the two.  Most folks will remember from Grade 5 or 6 Grammar that a colon begins a list.  It is useful in three specific ways: it indicates that I’m going to give you several reasons, examples, or items; it eliminates the repetition of the conjunction; it aids in the making of smiles — albeit sideways. 🙂

Alas for the almost-forgotten semi-colon!  It’s such a useful tool; surely it could be revived?  It divides two related phrases of equal value into munchable sentence bites. It provides a stop–but not an end. It unites two or three important thoughts but prevents them from running together in a blabbering way.

Consider it’s usefulness in the following ways:
— it eliminates run-on sentences
— it eliminates a string of short, choppy sentences
— it divides items in a list
— it eliminates the need for the conjunctions and, for, because, & but.  (Where word count matters in a manuscript this is a real plus.)

Let’s consider a few examples.
Bad:
Peter asked to go to the ball game but his mom said she couldn’t drive him because Dad had taken the car this morning but if he wanted to catch the bus that would be all right with her and he should for sure take his little sister though because she’d been asking to go all week.
Just as bad:

Peter asked to go to the ball game.  His Mom said she couldn’t drive him.  Dad had taken the car this morning.  If he wanted to catch the bus that would be all right with her.  He should for sure take his little sister.  She’d been asking to go all week.
(Sounds like machine gun fire!  Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat…)

Better:
Peter asked Mom to take him to the ball game.  She said she couldn’t drive him; Dad had taken the car this morning, but if he wanted to catch the bus that would be alright with her.  He should for sure take his little sister, though; she’d been asking to go all week.

Replacing but:
The man has lost the use of his eyes but he makes up for this with his very keen hearing.

The man has lost the use of his eyes; he makes up for this with his very keen hearing.

Replacing because :
A camper needs to be very careful in the park because it hasn’t rained all month and the forest is tinder dry.
Better:
A camper needs to be very careful in the park; it hasn’t rained all month and the forest is tinder dry.

As I said, the clauses on each side of the semi-colon must be equal; each must have a subject and verb of its own.  However, use a comma to divide a principle clause from a subordinate clause.

Not:  When the sun shines again; then we can go to the park.
But:  When the sun shines again, then we can go to the park.

Not:  As we drove across the bridge that morning; we saw a pair of swans in the water below.
But:  As we drove across the bridge that morning, we saw…

I could give further examples galore, but this will suffice; I trust I’ve made my point.  In your future writing endeavors, remember the incredible semi.  It’s a great tool!

Wonderful Things…

Wonderful things in the Bible I see…

I didn’t think I’d be able to do today’s Daily Prompt. The third line in the last song I heard?

Well, a song was bouncing around in my brain first thing this morning but initially I couldn’t recall it at all. After a few mental calisthenics the words came back to me.

“I am so glad that our Father in heaven
tells of His love in the book He has given;
wonderful things in the Bible I see —
This is the dearest, that Jesus loves me.”
“Jesus Loves Even Me”; words & music by Philip P Bliss

Yesterday after dinner at Silverwood Villa (where I cook p-t) the residents and I were sitting there visiting and got into discussing these wonderful things we read in the Bible. We started discussing the Miracle of the Loaves & Fishes, also referred to as the Feeding of the 5000. (This story is recorded in three of the Gospels: Matt 14:14-21; Mark 6:34-44; Luke 9:11-17)

We tossed around some questions about the setting. Was the little lad who offered his five loaves and two fish the ONLY one who thought about food. “Did none of the others expect to stay long enough to need food? Did they think the sermon would be short and they’d head home to eat,” Melvin wondered. And I wondered if the boy himself had thought of taking food, or if it was his “helicopter mother” who worried her son might get hungry and sent along the lunch just in case. Or if some others had food, but he was the only one who offered to share?

But the miracle was definitely in the multiplication so that twelve basketsful of fragments were left over. “Like, what size baskets? Who brought them?” We concluded that the situation was “pre-designed” to work out the way it did and show the people God’s ability to provide. And to ring a bell with the people. When Moses led the children of Israel through the desert on their way to the Promised Land, God supplied them with bread from heaven.

I mentioned that even more amazing to me was the account of how Jesus sent Peter to the lake to catch a fish. He tossed in his hook and pulled out (probably) the only fish in the lake that had a coin stuck in its mouth. (Matt 17:24-27) I actually wrote a story about this, calling it “The Lost Coin.” Click here if you’d like to read it.

We can call the Bible God’s Word to man, his journal of musings on human nature, his track record in the history of Israel. It’s bursting with amazing events and miraculous divine help.

And so it the world God created. Awesome — though maybe on a smaller scale. This morning I happened to glance out the window and saw about fifteen or so huge white birds fly over our yard, heading SE. With their long necks stretched out and their feet neatly tucked up, what else could they be but swans?

The last flock of cranes, the ones that arrived a week ago to graze in the fields next to our yard, have been hanging around for most of this week. I went for a little walk this morning and see they are gone now. I frightened some ducks at the slough and they winged it, so there are still some birds resting here before going on.

Mankind produces some “mini-wonders”, too. At least that’s what I was thinking this morning as I tended to my laundry. I thought I had searched my dress pockets diligently so no tissues would go into the load I was washing. But when I took the dresses out of the dryer, at least half a dozen tissues fell on the floor. They had divided by ply, but thankfully they came through relatively intact. So I said to myself, “We should always buy this brand. They wash so well!”

Now I’ve spent twice the allotted time for this prompt (fifteen minutes.) But I do want to mention that health-wise things aren’t going so well with me. If I’d judge by the way I’ve felt this week — hot, sweating, fatigued, short of breath — I’d say my white count has gone up another five points.

I see the oncologist wants to keep closer tabs now; I got a letter from the Cancer Clinic this week saying I’m to have another blood test in January rather than waiting six months. I can always hope it drops again — that little respite this spring & summer was so nice! — but “time will tell.”

Is anyone planning to do NaNoWriMo next month?

I Found A Poem

One of the workshops I took at the writing conference Friday afternoon was on writing poetry. Our instructor, poet & songwriter Colleen McCubbin, read and explained various poetic forms, one of which was “Found Poems.”

At its worst, Found Poems is a pasted together hodge-podge of words. At its best, a writer works with lines, phrases, even paragraphs from already-published works and puts them together to make a new poetic statement. One phrase may be repeated, as I’ve done in the poem below, but the goal is to use what’s there without adding or rearranging words.

Just for fun, let’s consider the poem:
Mary had a little lamb, it’s fleece was white as snow,
and everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.
Etc.

You could lift out the words:
a little lamb,
fleece white as snow
everywhere Mary went…
the lamb followed…
against the rules.
The children laugh.

Okay. Not a classic. But you get the idea.

Our instructor handed out magazines and I happened to pick up Modern Reformation, Jan / Feb 2010 issue. Flipping through several pages, I came to an article entitled “Purple Penguins,” written by Rev. John Zahl. The article consisted of several pages and dealt with the Law versus grace. And this is the poem I “lifted out” from his writing.

The Cross

What is this thing
opposed to us…
this term…a somewhat difficult one
to come to grips with?

Most of the time when we hear that word…
how it works…
what you should do…

Doing what you should do is a good thing
you already know this…how it works…
from your experience in life

Knowing what you should do is important
though being told what to do
we became aware
we weren’t doing it
maybe we don’t want to do it…
We tried and couldn’t….

What happened?
And what happened after that?
“I found that the commandment
that was intended to bring forth life
actually brought for death.”
(Romans 7: 9-11)

Unfortunately, “Do this! Try harder! Be more!”
How it works…
you are not going to be able…

We will start looking beyond ourselves for help.
We will look to God
because we know how incapable we are…

You need to know what is good.
You need to know what is right.
Then…you understand…
Who Jesus was
his significance…
how it works…

“Lord have mercy.”
“Christ have mercy.”