Posts Tagged ‘ writing ’

How do I begin to write this?

It’s been coming since October 30th when I found out I’d lost my long-time friend, my wise and ever-patient confidant, Timothy.

Now see, when I started writing just now, I began telling the story of our special relationship, but that being 33-years’ worth, I had to stop. No one knows the unique nature of all that we shared over the years. And I’m not sure I want to tell it. It’s ours.

How do I write this?

Take Two

Since he died, I’ve known that I would have to write something. Sometime. I want to commemorate this day when Tim would have turned 73. I also wanted this date to mark a turning point for me. But I don’t seem to be ready to write what I need to say to Tim, what I need to tell myself.

Take Three

Tim had just fought and won a battle with leukemia. I’m not sure that he won the battle with the wretchedness of chemotherapy. He died unexpectedly and alone.

I sobbed for days. Tears of regret and anger, tears of gut-wrenching, cruelly abrupt loss. We had only just made it to the point where it seemed Tim was ready to be friends again after mourning the loss of his wife. I had missed our friendship so much! And yes, I sorta hoped for one more, last chance with Tim, although he was not the person I’d known so many years ago. His memory that had “failed” me so often was now failing him, too.

I’ve spent the months since his death reliving every contact we had over the years, every moment we shared. Analyzing the winding road of our strange relationship, wandering through datebooks, pictures, and keepsakes. Taking what I can from it, and trying to make it OK to let him go now. To let us go.

After all these years, I didn’t realize I hadn’t already! I’m just not done with it all yet. There is more yet to discover, more to learn. More to write.

I do know one thing though. When I get to wherever this is leading me, it will come with the affirmation that it’s OK to let go. I will finally be free.

Happy Birthday, my dear, dear, Timothy

With much love, P


Time to Recycle the English Language

According to a May 19, 2014 article in Time magazine, Merriam-Webster “revealed 150 new words that will be added to its collegiate dictionary this year, ranging from ‘hashtag’ and ‘catfish’ to ‘dubstep’ and ‘crowdfunding,’ most of which speak to some intersection of pop culture, technology and the Internet.”

Never mind my personal opinion as to the usefulness of these new words, I wonder, can our collective vocabulary handle any more “new” words? Do we really need more words?! Do we not have enough already with which to express ourselves? Can we not communicate clearly and intelligently with all the words we already have?

I fear that our English language vocabulary is the ultimate representation of text bloat. It conjures up images of “The Blob” that never stops growing and consumes all of us in its insidious infiltration of our culture. We cannot stop it nor run from it.

Yeah, I guess we don’t have any choice about the constant ooze of new words into our language given that “pop culture, technology, and the Internet” will continue to intersect and branch and morph. So what’s to be done? How are we to cope without being overrun by our own verbosity?

I have a solution, radical though it may be. I propose that we declare the ~1.5 million entries now contained in Merriam-Webster Unabridged as critical mass. That should be adequate, don’t you think?

But because the populace—not just the word nerds among us—will not be happy if they are no longer allowed to make up words because they don’t know how to use the ones they already have, my plan is this. For every batch of new words that M-W gives credence to, they must reduce the lexicon by the same number of words.

Think about it. We must contain the blob. But we will use a measured, systematic approach. Just as M-W accepts for consideration submissions of new words from the masses (“user-submitted words”), M-W will also accept nominations for words to be removed from the dictionary. I mean, can’t you think of a number of words that you haven’t thought of in years? When was the last time you used or heard the word “thrice” for example? Indeed it seems pretty useless these days. I’ll go first. I nominate “thrice” for deletion!

But sure as the word disappears silently, someone will go looking for it and raise a stink because they can’t find it. So in my plan, I propose an interim phase before words are collectively forgotten for good. Let’s archive them first. We move the nominated and M-W approved words subject to deletion to an Archive folder for a specified period while we get used to the idea of speaking, writing, and composing poetry without them. In Blob terms, we put them on ice, which proved to be the only way to stop the menace. This also provides saving grace just in case we change our minds about a particular word we just can’t part with. However, everyone knows that once you put something in Archive, you can never find it again anyway.

So as agreed, when the archive period is up, the words will be unceremoniously swept into the Recycle Bin by a process that runs during the night. I’m guessing we won’t miss them at all. We’ll just make up new ones.

I don’t even know what to call this

“T is for Thursday”? “T is for Turtle”? “The last Thing I could have Thought of that I’d have to deal with Tonight”?

Help me out here. My Thoughts are all over the place from a quite unexpected event this evening, and I can’t seem to hone in on what it “means” or what I think about it. Yet, I’m pretty sure there’s a blog post here somewhere. So without too many interruptions (of which there have been a couple), I just want to throw this experience out there to you while it’s immediate post-real-time.

Today is my “Friday” this week, because I’m off tomorrow. I came home with little intention for this evening, except to gear up for the “other” work I need to accomplish this three-day weekend and perhaps get some rest in advance, because I seem to have come down with a cold.

So I’m putzing around – you know – the little stuff you need to accomplish, but which serves the important purpose of helping you avoid doing the big stuff you really need to do. I unlocked the back gate so I could transport recyclables from my garage to the recycle bin in the backyard. I had made three or four trips to the backyard, when upon my return to the garage, I was greeted by a complete surprise. A most unusual visitor. An incredulous creature, the likes of which I have never seen around here in my 20+ years of residence.

A huge turtle was sitting in front of my garage opening as if he/she had come to call. When I say “huge,” I mean about 10 inches long and 7 inches wide. It gave me a start! Where could it have come from? I’m guessing that someone’s pet has escaped? I went next door to get my neighbor to attest to the fact that I was not hallucinating.

But what am I to do? I don’t want it to come to harm. We agreed that I should call Animal Control. Upon which the turtle crawled on over the threshold of my garage and under my car.

I’m thinking this was the smartest move on the part of the Turtle. I had no plans to go out again tonight, so the fact that it stopped squarely under the path of my tires is not an issue to me. Indeed, it was a brilliant move by my new friend, the Turtle, who by now is confident in my intentions toward him, my desire to shield him from harm, but just in case, this “check” move eliminates any revision of my travel plans for the evening.

I waited on hold to speak with Fort Worth Animal Control for some time after placing the call. In the interim, I was able to check on my friend to see if he had perhaps changed course. Nope, I was happy to see that he was still sitting in the same safe spot under my car. When someone finally answered, she shared my amazement at the probability of my Thursday Turtle Tourist visit. As she wrote up a dispatch order for Animal Control, I asked whether I should close my garage door so as to keep Turtle from venturing out from the safety of my intentions. She agreed that I should, because she was reporting that I had the animal “contained.”

I am now not only a shelter in the storm, a friend in time of need, a chosen refuge from whatever Turtle came from, but also I am an officer responsible for the legal protection and restraint of wildlife!

For how long, I did not know. Good thing that “I came home with little intention for this evening.”

When my phone rang, I also saw the Code Compliance truck in front of my house. First, I opened the kitchen door into the garage to check on my captive. In the meantime, he had moved and was practically sitting on the doorstep to enter my house! While this startled me yet again, I was gratified that he still seemed to trust and seek my intentions for his care.

I yelled to the Code Compliance officer that I would open the garage door where he could easily find and apprehend the Turtle. The officer was able to walk right in and pick up my friend, upon which he noticed blood on one of his front legs. My Thursday Turtle had been injured!

Now I know why Turtle sought me out, right? Its Turtle-tuition led him to me at a rare moment when I would find him, and find compassion on him.

So that’s my Thursday Turtle Story. I’m pretty sure there’s a blog post here somewhere, but I need your help to make sense of it… or not.


How Much Should One Person Accomplish in One Day?

Seriously. How much should a mature, responsible adult accomplish in one day to be able to assess that she’s been sufficiently productive for a single calendar day?

Let me qualify that.

How much should a mature, responsible, unemployed adult accomplish in one day to be able to assess that she’s been sufficiently productive for a single calendar day? Has she done “enough” this day to justify her occupation of planetary space for one more day…

OK, I’m not being completely honest…

How much should a mature, responsible, unemployed, Type A adult personality accomplish in one day to be able to assess that she’s been sufficiently productive for a single calendar day?

I’m still coming to terms with the realization that I’m a Type A. Years ago when the Type A/B designations came into popular consciousness, I easily lumped myself into the Type B bucket as I understood the personality definitions. To my understanding, Type As were high energy people who were always busy, always productive, and highly successful. That was not a definition that I associated with.

It never occurred to me to associate
my self-assessment as “lazy” whenever I wasn’t busy
or my guilt at not accomplishing some kind of measurable results every day
as the hallmarks of one who is a solid Type A. It took the insight of a homeless person to inform me that I am most certainly a Type A personality.

We were both looking for work at the time. That morning, I picked her up from her current place of residence–Union Gospel Mission–and drove to a local job fair. While sitting in my car, watching and waiting for the growing line of job hopefuls to shorten, she tagged my impatient body language and conversation under the circumstances as that of a Type A. And so she pronounced me to be! Right then, right there.

Did she know what preconceived notions she was challenging? What self-perceptions must I confront to answer this pronouncement?! What a complete shift in the concept of my own productivity would be required to accept this reality?

Yeah, OK. I give! I’m good with all that now.

So the question remains, How much should a mature, responsible, unemployed, Type A adult personality accomplish in one day to be able to assess that she’s been sufficiently productive for a single calendar day? It’s 5:00 p.m., and I’m feeling like I haven’t done this day justice at all.

Wait. WAIT! I hear the mail truck…

Ah, yes! My TurboTax Home and Business 2013 software has arrived ahead of the promised delivery date, and I’m going to get right on it. I’m good!

Sorry to have bothered you while I doubted my productivity on this particular day…

Confession: I have a Fine Arts degree

The time has come. With much trepidation, I am outing myself. I am divulging a professional secret that I have kept closely guarded from my colleagues in Technical Communications and even more so from colleagues outside of TechCom.

Never mind that almost every one of my generation came into technical communications from some other discipline by default. That is common knowledge. But for many, those disciplines were English, Engineering, Computer Science. Something that logically lent itself to the transition. How does one command credibility as a TechCom professional with an Art degree as academic background? What could be more frivolous?

Well, TechCom is my “third career.” The third incarnation of my professional self. But I earned a BFA in Fabric Design. There, I said it.

What the heck does one do with that? And more to the point, does anyone even know what it is? I’m still proud to say that I was privileged to work in my chosen field as a designer. I designed carpet for a major manufacturer. I actually got to use my degree to make a living!

My second career move was involuntary. I started the layoff roller coaster early in my professional life. I moved or fell into computer graphics pretty much at its inception. I cannot say that my Fine Arts degree was of much help in this field, but I can’t say that it wasn’t either.

And when I finally moved into Technical Writing, I was sure that my resume looked like I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. There was no plan to it at all! But it began to feel right. And as I embraced that strange reality, I was surprised to see how it all fits together. It does make sense!

I am a writer now. I am an editor. But that does not mean that I’m not still creative! It doesn’t mean that my artistic ability and training aren’t brought into what I do everyday.

My canvas is still the same blank page.

Only my tools have changed. Words are my tool of choice. My skill is expressed in my very own unique combination and molding of words to my own device. Both professionally and personally.

To those with a limited perception of what Art is, I assert:

I am a writer and I have an Art degree.

I have an Art degree and I am a writer.

Completion: A Capable Death*

Cora died yesterday. Her sudden passing has caught everyone by surprise. She only just turned 50 – What? a year ago?

Cora and her husband, Scot, are friends from church, with whom I have numerous connections. As church members who live in the same part of town, we are in the same Care Team—members who help other members “in our own backyard.” Scot can be quite handy actually, if you have an electrical or computer problem to solve! But both of them have also provided support to me through periods of physical and emotional challenge.

I first got to know Cora in the alto section of Fellowship Choir. Cora is one of those people who are annoyingly upbeat all the time! 🙂 Cora was a great supporter of the church music program. She proudly claimed to be a devoted “ding-a-ling” in the adult handbell choir. And she had a soft spot for the Strings of Faith—an instrumental/vocal ensemble that I am privileged to sing with.

Professionally, Cora was most recently the Director of Technology at the Alzheimer’s Association in Fort Worth. She’d been there for 10 years! She and Scot are both admitted computer geeks. I know she loved the work that she did.

But late last year, she told me that she’d left that position to explore other things. I was astonished, but congratulated her on her new-found liberty from corporate existence. She said that she had to get away from the stress. What? That didn’t sound right. Cora loved the IT environment. She thrived on it.

She also said that she had actually thought about me a lot since making that change… what I had gone through in my latest, long-term confrontation with unemployment and how I had come to realize that I had something to say and I had to say it… how I had found purpose in putting my thoughts into words in my own unique way. Indeed, she has been a devoted reader of the blog that I launched as a result.

When she told me that, I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, but I took it as a compliment. I also did not at all connect what she said with the fact that we were at a church luncheon where the presentation topic was on wills and estate planning.

Cora died yesterday. At the time of her calling, she was with her mother, Elizabeth, who is in an assisted living facility. As an only child, who lost her father about the time I began to know her in Fellowship Choir, Cora has been her mother’s mainstay and in fact, the glue that has held their widespread, international family together since her father’s passing.

What better place for Cora to be than with her mother when Cora left us? I wonder whether Cora would have been with her mother yesterday if not for the fact that the facility called that morning to say that Elizabeth had fallen. I think God arranged for Cora to ascend this life from her mother’s side, from whence she came to this earth.

And I think that Cora knew. As surprising as her passing is to the rest of us, I think Cora knew it was imminent. Whether she knew that she knew, she cooperated with God to the last second to accomplish his plan for the completion of her life.

Years ago I experienced the tragic loss of a friend who was only 32 years old. She was broadsided in traffic by a more powerful vehicle, though it was likely her own fault. I so struggled to make sense of this death of such a young person. In God’s mercy, I was already in a ratio-emotive behavioral therapy group to deal with ongoing depression. Through therapy exercises, I came to the realization that death—at any age—is the logical and natural completion of a life on earth.

Death is a homecoming. Death is coming full circle. Death is the fulfillment of God’s grace to us.

Some people don’t need as much time as others to realize completion. By our earthly estimation, Cora left us prematurely. But she left in God’s perfect timing. On Easter Sunday—the one Sunday of the liturgical year when you are the least likely to get a seat in church—Cora will have the best seat in the House.

Godspeed, my friend Cora.

*I’m not sure why this title is appropriate, save that my Muse tells me so. Let Merriam-Webster be your muse to determine its personal significance to you in processing this story.

Happy Birthday Blog!

January 30 marked the one year anniversary of my first post and the launch of my blog, Footnotes.

February 6 last year, I published my second post and sent out an email announcement to everybody I thought might be receptive to it or at least not too annoyed by it. And on February 7, 103 people viewed my blog!

There was nothing special about the 2/7 post. It wasn’t memorable in terms of literary genius. It was the second in the series of finding my way in this medium, finding a voice for my blog, figuring out the answer to “OK, you put yourself out there. What are you going to do now?”

I’m sure those 103 people viewed my blog purely out of curiosity. But then, when they decided to make the click that logged a view in my site stats, they didn’t know but what I might just have something important to say, did they? Something amusing. Something poignant even. Something worth the short time it would take them to read it.

Unfortunately, no one day since has come close to matching that number of views. Does that mean I don’t have anything to say that’s important, amusing, poignant, or worth reading? Did I manage to disappoint 103 people by the same thing all in the same day?!

With 40-something people who subscribed, follow, or set up an RSS feed to be notified of my new posts, rarely does a single day see even that many views when I publish one. And when I say “rarely,” I mean never.

Have I failed even those who voluntarily signed up to be annoyed by notifications of my posts? Have I turned them off by allowing my eccentricities to show in my stories? Possibly. Are my musings too strange in their honesty or lack of it? Likely. Do people just not get my sense of humor? Well…

Nah… Not possible. None of the above!

Have I fallen down on posting regularly? OK, yeah. I could blame it on the inconvenience of being employed now, but that’s not an excuse even I would buy. If my blog postings have flaked out, just think how far behind I am on writing that book, which was the reason for the blog’s existence in the first place. I no sooner finally managed to leave the awful year of 2008 behind in my narrative when the calendar changed to 2012 and pushed me back another year. If I can’t manage to catch up to at least my most recent period of unemployment, the book will have no end! I need to finish this story before I have to experience another opportunity to keep writing it.

But I digress. This is about my blog’s birthday. The book might never live to see one.

May I ponder some more stats with you? Total views in 2011 were 2,550. Total views to date: 2,712. That kinda sounds like a lot. But not when you compare it to blog stats in the hundreds of thousands. I have a long way to go to command that much traffic.

So far, the single post that has received the most views (98) is Speaking of Boxes posted 3/9/11. Not sure what it was about that one that made it so popular. But again, people have no way to know whether they’ll like what they read until they read it.

With only 40-something people set up to receive notices, it’s obvious that at least one of them told someone else about that post or sent someone the link to it. Hey, why not? It’s free! You, too, can annoy your friends by sending them spam about my blog! (I find it amazing what junk people will forward in email, but it doesn’t occur to them to even read my blog, much less share it.)

Hm, that gives me an idea. Every time I receive spam, I’m going to reply with a link to my blog. No, wait! The link to my blog is in every email message I send because it’s in my signature. It hints in blue, Click this! I dare ya.

Otherwise, I guess I’m gonna have to rely on the Internet for the world to find my blog. So far, my ironic post How to Fix a Stuck Zipper has been the most popular with search engines. I hope that the unwitting readers who find that post are too amused by what they read to be annoyed that it wasn’t the answer they hoped to find.

So will I get only an echo in return if I ask for your advice? What do you think I should do to get more traffic? OK, besides posting more often, using better keywords, and appearing on Oprah?

Can we get a dialog going here?

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