I confess, I am a piddler

There are a few people out there that are super focused and busy producing 24/7, but most people have their downtime, their piddling time, their fiddling time, their dallying time, their tinkering time, their puttering time. Whatever people want to call their time, I don’t think it’s a waste of time.

Personally, I piddle. I can piddle hours away at the computer or looking through magazines or old papers or sketching rooms of furniture or daydreaming and outlining stories to write. I think piddling is important. All my piddling is a precursor to actually doing “something”, whatever that “thing” is. Sometimes, I need to stop working so I can piddle for awhile. I think my brain can only go full speed for so long, then I have to stop. I have to piddle. I have to let my brain relax so I can continue with the work at hand.

Now, I am not a fiddler and I am not a tinkerer. I view people who fiddle or tinker as having some work at hand to examine it, try to fix a broken piece. I think some of our great inventors — from Edison to Einstein to Fermi — were tinkerers. The tinkerers of the labs. Webster states both words, fiddle and tinker, denote passing time aimlessly. I disagree. I believe that there may not be an aim in the fiddling or tinkering, but I believe with time the aimless becomes an aim. I can see Cartier tinkering with the inners of a watch or a mechanic tinkering with the inners of the motor. I do not see a doctor tinkering with the inners of a human body (or at least I hope not).

I am not a putterer either, but I know a lot of putterers, especially during spring, summer and fall. There are Debbie and Kathy and Sue, Jim and Doug and Dave — they all putter in their gardens. They deweed and plan and buy and plant and paint and build and putter away their time. But, wow, go by their houses and you can view some beautiful gardens or landscaping. Their puttering has been put to good use. Beauty use. They do not dawdle their time away or fritter about their puttering, they just putter in their gardens.

Dawdle and dally mean basically the same, and I am not a dawdler or a dallier. I don’t know many of these people. These are your loiterers, the people who simply hang out and do nothing, the couch potatoes, the people who have their back against the building holding the building up, the loiterers. Now, within the piddling, the puttering, the fiddling, the tinkering, we may have moments to dawdle or dally, but those are moments, not the piddling, puttering, fiddling, tinkering time to sort through, fix, or tend to. I probably dawdle in the morning, trying to get myself awake to start the day, and I may dally at night when I become the couch potato piddling with the computer. But, basically, I am a piddler. A happy piddler. Right now, I need to piddle.

Have a great day, a piddling I will go….

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To text or not to text

2good2bforgotten. I remember that text precursor — I was in grade school and we would fold a piece of paper to open with the words spelled on the folded parts. It was fun. Then, when my sister went to work, she was a whiz at shorthand and I would see all those squiggly marks on a piece of paper and wonder what they all meant. Later, when I studied Journalism and then worked in the field, I made up my own abbreviations so I could take as many notes and quotes as my hand could write. Now, I drive down the road and look at license plates and try to figure out what the letters could mean. It’s fun, and probably the result of all those road trips the family took when I was young when we would call out letters or words we saw on billboards as we went down the highway,

Then there is today or should I write 2day. I will say that I probably text more than I call because sometimes I just need to ask a question or make a comment, and I know once I get on the phone there is at least a 30-60 minute conversation, so I text, unless if I have the time to converse or the topic warrants a conversation. Usually, though, my conversations entail a f2f that also includes food and :-D or LOL.

I remember the first time I was aware of text symbols — I was reading some trash mag and Paris Hilton was fighting with her BFF Nicole Richey. I thought BFF meant best female friend until I started seeing the males use it. I was saying to myself, these are not girls, so BFF does not mean best female friend. After research, I found it means best friends forever. Whew! Got that one. And I do not feel alone after watching a recent commercial on the tele where this one man is trying to figure out what the IDK means on his phone. His neighbor pipes in and says, “I don’t know” with the original guy saying, “I don’t know either”.

There’s a whole new way to converse today, and it is called texting. I have heard that students are trying to incorporate the text symbols into their school papers, but so far, they are unacceptable (and I hope 4e). I have seen the texting in the written word, I have heard the abbreviations in conversation (BRB) and I will assume that if not already, there will be text words assimilated into the English language dictionary. I will have 2CIO and report BTU.

If you are interested in learning more texting symbols, I found a huge list on http://www.netlingo.com, and some on http://www.mob1le.com. You will find mom is a 303, and 9 is parent watching while a 99 is a parent no longer watching. You can spell an angel as o:-) or maybe you are playing around and need to stick out your tongue, :-P. Of course, when you want to be heard you can :@ from the rooftops, but please do not be %-} when you are on that roof or u may fall off. I was under the impression that 7K meant 7,000 but today it means “sick”, and I am way too old to say A3.

IOW, have a GR8 day, and you can always give me your 02 or (m.02) FWIW. LOL.


On another note (completely unrelated but for my love of words) the H2 channel will continue with the series “America’s Slang” this Saturday night.

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Times have changed

Wow! I had not realized it has been this long since I posted. I have been taking care of business, which turned out to be more involved than I anticipated, but now all is under control and once again I have time to write. Hope everyone is doing good and looking forward to a fantastic summer.

The seasons have changed as well as our language. Recently, I learned that English grammar rules have changed. My acceptance about this change did not come easy — actually, I yelled a little, talked about it to anyone who would listen (which very few would listen to my grammar rants), cried over all the rules I knew and was so proud to say I knew. Then after some time, begrudgingly, I started accepting the changes. For Pete’s sake! they decided to change grammar rules after 150 years, and it had to happen during my lifetime! I guess I will whine for days on end! Time will tell. So, if you know the new rules, I will not be insulted if you correct my grammar. I have decided that I am not going to take a class to learn the new rules; I am going to follow the old rules and leave the new rules to the young, the editors who make a living by knowing commas and capitalization and subject/verb agreement and pronoun reference and …etc ., etc., etc. That was my life then, now I will simply put words together to tell a story, to share information, and not worry about new rules. It  hurts my heart to say that, but I can change, I can be adaptable. I keep telling myself this, over and over. I am a broken record!

Whether we are aware of idioms or not, I used four in the above paragraph — “for Pete’s sake”, “days on end”, “time will tell”, and “a broken record”. I’ve always wondered who Pete was, and one night while I was watching a program on the History channel (one of my favorite channels) the narrator explained that the phrase “for Pete’s sake” references the Apostle Peter. So, now I know who Pete is, but could you imagine coming to a new country and trying to understand all those little phrases/idioms we have and what they actually mean and then now and again, throw in a name. Of course, “for Pete’s sake” is a term used when one is frustrated or annoyed, the same as “for crying out loud” or “for goodness sake”. No one is crying out loud and the word “sake” is not a goodness, but someone is frustrated with an outcome and since we live in America, we tag a saying with a feeling. How about I’m blue over you? Might as well add some color to the phrase.

Look at “time will tell”. I have never known time to tell anything except the hour of the day, but if I need to defer my understanding of an outcome, time will tell. In the course of life, sometimes a situation becomes clearer with time — time will tell. The word “time” is widely used in our language — do you have time to kill? It has nothing to do with murder, but everything to do with the blotting out of time because there is nothing to do at that moment in time — or maybe the time is ripe, I have time on my hands, or it’s the time of my life. Time marches on.

So does “days on end”. Now, what in the world does that mean? Since I am whining for days on end, I will need to whine continually for days without stopping. I do, just not out loud. My grammar rules changed, remember? But. I doubt if I will whine forever, which “on end” means forever,  “without end”. I will end the whining in my head someday when I truly realize that someone else can do my job teaching the rules of grammar.

There I go again, the “broken record”, going on and on and on about the rules, It’s like I’m stuck in a thought and I can’t get out — I’m a broken record. The record is not broken, my thought is stuck, broken, won’t move forward. I’ll need to pick up the pieces once time heals my wounds.

Have a great day!





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Rigmarole and all that Jazz

Not long ago I was discussing the college process with a freshman attending the U.of I. I mentioned that I was glad I was finished with all that rigmarole, and she just looked at me as if I spoke Klion. She had never heard the word, rigmarole — or, rather, how some people like to pronounce the word, rigamarole. — adding an extra syllable to feel the word move around and from the tongue. I explained that the word meant the annoying process of waiting in line, in this case, to register for a class, etc.only to be told to go to another line to wait there. Sounds like our motor registration office! Hurry up and wait. 

Actually, rigmarole is more than waiting in line, it is the long, complicated process of anything — from filling out applications for college, or a job or filing for disability or preparing your tax returns. If there is one thing you can count on it will be that you will feel frustrated and annoyed by the process. That is a guarantee.

Then, the conversation started me thinking. So many of our words are changing. Take the word “brood”. The first definition that comes to mind is a brood of kids, lots of kids. But, how many times have we heard or seen the word meaning “to think alone”. Yet, it is a definition, actually a verb for all those English majors out there. Personally, I brood on many subjects. An ingénue is that näive young girl who we simply refer to as a teen in today’s standard of language. By using the word ingénue, though, we are defining the young girl. I have never heard a teen girl being described as an ingénue, yet I know many who are näive. 

Sure, we do not use words like erstwhile (at one time) or wherewhital (the means), but they are a part of our language. For the time being. I am sure they will soon go to the obsolete pile.

An obsolete word includes chirography. This word, meaning the art of handwriting, is gone, and I can bet the actual art of handwriting is nearly obsolete. I wonder how often the elementary teachers teach cursive. Cursive is being replaced with the typing of words on a computer. But that is another story altogether. Going back to words — another word that is obsolete is “battologist” meaning someone who repeats the same thing needlessly. Today, the word is perseverate, repeating a word or phrase over and over. Different words, similar meanings. Either word, you will feel irrirtated when you have to listen to the speaker battologizing, perseverating for hours on end, battologizing, perseverating for hours on end, battologizing, perseverating for hours on end…

The point is that times are changing. Words are being added and deleted from the dictionary on a yearly basis. Today’s youths have never seen or heard some words, and since words are a source of communication, a receptor for intelligence, an inroad to higher education, they are important and should be weighed. At the very least, youth should be exposed to words, lots of words. And, maybe, just maybe, the next time the young college freshman hears rigmarole, she will know what it means. Exposure. Then, there is the New York Times. Exposure. 

Until next time…

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The Scots-Irish and the Hillbilly

I am always looking for good programming on tv, and found “America’s Secret Slang” on the H2 channel. Since I love words, the title aroused my senses, and I had to watch. What followed is worth mentioning. In this blog I basically write about how we use words, cliches, idioms in our language; in this program, it explains where words come from, not emphasizing the etymology (origin of a word), but the story behind the word, like “cop”. This word is Irish, coming from the Celtic word, “ceap” which means “chief”, so our word cop is a word of respect in Irish language. A totally different connotation than how we use the word today!

Onward to the story of “hillbilly”. You will be surprised how this word came into being. According to Zach Selwyn, host of “American’s Secret Slang”, some men, farmers, who fought for King William III of Scotland against England in the late 17th century came from Ulster, Scotland, the lowlands. King William was nicknamed King Billy, and the men who fought for him were referred to as “Billy Boys”. 

After the war, the King wanted the Scots, his “Billy Boys”, to go to Ireland and convert the Irish to the Scottish Presbyterian religion, so off they went to Ireland. They tried but were never accepted by the Irish and did not succeed at converting the inhabitants from Catholicism, and eventually (after being labeled as Scots-Irish) fled to America. 

They did not fare better in America because word spread when they immigrated of what they attempted in Ireland. Once again, they moved from the east coast, this time to the Appalachians, the hills, and this is where they made their home. Remember the timing, this is the beginning of our nation, when land had to be cleared and houses built from the lumber they cut. So, our derogatory “hillbilly” was really a soldier for the King, who obeyed his King by going to another country to convert the inhabitants to a protestant religion. Instead of going home, which was filled with wars and rumors of wars, they continued to a new land called America. It wasn’t easy for them here, either, but they found a life in the hills around Tennessee, and they continued with their customs, their term of endearment, “Billy Boy”, and their music.

This music eventually gave us some great music and musicians — from Elvis to Hank Williams to Loretta Lynn to Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton. Today those Scots-Irish fiddles and banjos are assimilated into the music we know as country.

This program is worth watching. Usually, I do not promote a series, but this so correlates to what I do here that I had to share. I have looked to see when the next episode airs, and the shows I found (and recorded) were from the 2013 season. It looks like more will air in April, 2014, but I am not for sure. I will keep you posted, but in between time, if the series airs as reruns, they will be worth your watch.




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Once more, I am going to hunker down!

Here, in Chiberia, we had a reprieve from the weather, and we did — for a fleeting moment. Then, during that moment, I dreamt of temperatures hovering around freezing, sunshine, and tempting myself with thoughts of a balmy 40. I didn’t think I was unrealistic — it is winter. Now, reality has set in — the forecast is prepping us for another round of snow and ice with the most on Saturday (all day Saturday) with a possible total of a foot of snow by Tuesday. It has started, but not enough to mention.Then, after we have more of the winter white piled on our driveway, we return to the frigid air. Me — I am preparing to hunker down. Again! Gas is in my car, food is bought, made a list of projects to work on, and, hopefully, I will get out on Sunday. But, there is no doubt, I will be hunkering down.

Strange word, isn’t it? — hunker — the connotation is even stranger. We live in a world where we are to be active, get the muscles moving, stay strong, and yet, when we anticipate we need protection, we hunker down. Literally, according to the Oxford Dictionary, it means to “squat, with the haunches, knees, and ankles acutely bent, so as to bring the hams near the heels, and throw the whole weight upon the fore part of the feet.” (That’s a pretty detailed description of “squat”). 

Personally, I am not going to squat. I am going to simply stay inside for as long as necessary — do a few calisthenics, read a book, write a page or two. And not a minute longer. I am tired of hunkering down; I am getting cabin fever — that claustrophobic feeling when I am in one place too long. If this continues I will be ready to cast my cares to the wind, become the captain of my own vessel. I visualize myself as Kate Winslet, the young Rose, standing at the tip of life, the tip of the Titanic before its impending doom (Maybe I should rethink that scene considering the outcome!)  If I were younger, I would consider sowing my oats, but that is for the young before they settle down. Right now, though, I am hunkering down, readying for the next storm to pass. 

I have a feeling this spring will be more active than most. That is, if we ever get to spring.


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Writing the short story

It has been longer than I wanted since I have written my blog. I have thought about posts, jotted notes on sayings and what I have observed in my surroundings, my blog has been on my mind. So why haven’t I sat down, opened my laptop, and posted those small words or cliches that I have heard and stored in the niches of my mind. What have I been doing? Writing, traveling, teaching, tutoring — and researching my story — don’t forget the research, traveling to the libraries and special publications of those libraries  whose keepers have opened the doors to give me the information I needed to make my latest story reliable, filled with facts of times gone by — in other word, I have been doing what I do best. What I love to do. With that in mind, I thought I would write today about the short story that I have been working on — give you the first couple of paragraphs of a short story turned novelette (a story over 7500 words). There is another story (my final story for this collection) that will also be of this length, but the rest of the stories are short so you can read them during a break from routine. Enjoy this beginning. And let me know your thoughts. Do you want more? If so, I will give you excerpts.


John Doe #32

The old man, shrunken and withered with age, shuffled down the timeworn maroon carpeted hall, caressing his fingertips, mumbling, “It’s all Tom Sawyers fault, you know. Damn Tom Sawyer. It’s all your fault, Tom Sawyer. You know that, don’t you?” Over and over, hour after waking hour, day after day, the old man continued his ritual, continued his litany cursing Tom Sawyer.

     No one was mindful of his body. Simply, he was a worn ornament dressing the halls of the nursing home — a state-paid bed for the displaced residents of the nearby shuttered mental institution, a bed and a body among the people who needed more care than what family members could provide. He was John Doe #32 — nameless, faceless, and lost to society and mankind like those who were lost in Alzheimer’s; only, they had names and faces, and they would have reveled in their memories, shared their life with anyone who would listen. No one stopped John Doe, no one asked him a question; rather, everyone allowed him to roam the halls, mouthing his litany, reinforcing the nameless, faceless, invisible man. They never brushed against him, touched his skin or clothes, made a direct contact with his body; instead, they walked around and by him, talking, laughing, singing their songs of life.

     It was then that mother worked at the nursing home as Activity Director. Her job was to provide games and enjoyment for those who made those walls their home…


Well, how do you like the opening?

Gotta go — get back to what I do best….






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