Book Review: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

I have no idea how many times I have read “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff … and it’s all small stuff” by Richard Carlson, Ph.D., but it’s a lot.

Carlson was a psychotherapist and motivational speaker. Sadly, he died (pulmonary embolism) on December 13, 2006. He was only 45 years old, but he found enough time to write 25 other books. Some of his other titles include “Shortcut Through Therapy” (Plume, 1995), “Don’t Worry, Make Money” (Hyperion, 1997) and “Slowing Down to the Speed of Life” (Harper Collins, 1998).

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I keep the book in the magazine rack (has no actual magazines in it) beside my chair for a quick pick-me-up when I’m feeling particularly disgusted with myself, life, the universe, and everything and anything else you can think of. The book was USA Today’s bestselling book for two consecutive years, and spent over 101 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list.

The advice Carlson has to offer is, in many ways, simple and yet also profound.

There are one hundred short chapters. Most are only a page or two long. The book itself is small and only about 250 pages. But Carlson packs a lot into those few pages.

He presents his thoughts with examples from his own life and the lives of others. He is cogent and non-judgmental.

I will often pick up the book and randomly flip to a chapter and read it through. Sometimes it will uncannily apply to what is going on in my life at that precise moment. At others, it is just interesting.

While Carlson touches on many different topics, the book always seems to me to have a main theme. That theme might be summed up as how to find peace and contentment in your life while increasing your compassion and understanding of the people around you.

Just today, I flipped the book open to “Chapter 60: Turn Your Melodrama into a Mellow-Drama.”  He writes: “In dramatic fashion, we blow things out of proportion, and make a big deal out of little things. We forget that life isn’t as bad as we’re making it out to be. We also forget that when we’re blowing things out of proportion, we are the ones doing the blowing.

He continues with:  “I’ve found that simply reminding myself that life doesn’t have to be a soap opera is a powerful method of calming down. When I get too worked up or start taking myself too seriously (which happens more than I like to admit), I say to myself something like, ‘Here I go again. My soap opera is starting.’ Almost always, this takes the edge off my seriousness and helps me laugh at myself.”

The book is copyrighted in 1997 and while some of his solutions and suggestions might seem overly simplistic in the framework of the complicated world we find ourselves in today, I still believe it has value. I know that it has helped me throughout the years and will probably continue to help me in the future as well.

If you are looking for a little inspiration to get you through whatever sort of rough patch you find yourself in right now, I can recommend this book. If nothing else, it will take you outside of yourself for a few minutes and sometimes that is all anyone ever needs.

Daria’s Tale, Chapter 2

The view off our back deck. Seems like I always have my head in the clouds.

Recently, I posted chapter one of “Daria’s Tale,” a story I have been working on off and on for several years now. Mostly in between other projects.

I was hoping to get some feedback. I wanted to know if it is too pompous? Is it relevant? Is it at all entertaining?

The post garnered a couple of likes and one actual comment. So I decided to go ahead and post chapter two and see if I could get a little more feedback.

So, here it is. I hope you enjoy it.

Daria’s Tale

Chapter 2: Finding what You are Looking For

“Hello. This is …”

That was all Daria heard before she hung up the phone. She let go of the handset as if it were a hot potato. She missed the body of the phone and the handset hit the counter top with a crack. Luckily, it did not actually crack.

It had taken her days just to work up the courage to place the call. Now she would just have to work up the courage to talk to the person on the other end of the connection. She wondered how many interminable days that would require. She sat for a few moments, barely breathing, with her eyes tightly shut.

When she had left the bridge several nights ago after her encounter with Andrew Nolan, she had tucked the business card he had given her into an outside pocket of her purse. Why she had even taken her purse with her that evening, she did not know. Habit probably.

It wasn’t until much later that night, when the meatloaf and mashed potatoes with asparagus on the side had been eaten and the dishes cleared and washed that she thought about the card. Her husband, Louie, was sitting in the living room watching some silly sitcom with a laugh track on the television. So she went into the bedroom and took out the card and read what was printed there for the first time: Nedra Ellsworth, Spiritual Guidance and Life Coaching. There was a phone number, email address and physical address given as well. The card was a serene blue-green color and when she turned it over, she saw that there was a mandala on the back. It smelled ever so slightly of incense. Sandalwood maybe.

It can be very difficult to find what you are looking for if you do not know exactly for what you are looking. Daria conceded that a spiritual guide might be just the thing she needed. But then the rational side of her, the one her father had tried so hard to foster, would come out and tell her it was all hogwash. She could picture him, though now long dead, standing before her and telling her that spiritual guides are charlatans and that all that bunkum was just a sleazy way to cheat people out of their hard earned cash. Or in her case, her husband’s hard earned cash.

Sitting at the breakfast bar with the windows of the dining area bright behind her, she stared at the telephone before her. She looked into her spotlessly clean kitchen with everything in its place and wondered if perhaps the bathrooms needed touching up. Or maybe it was a good day to go out into the yard and begin to clean up winter’s debris and get ready for spring to flourish. Anything but picking up the phone and dialing that number again.

Daria and Louie have a fairly traditional sort of marriage. He earns the money and she manages the household. Louie has always wanted it that way. He has a stressful job in middle management with thirty people under him and five above him. When he gets home from a difficult day at work (and to listen to him, you would think every single day was difficult), he doesn’t want to have to think about whether or not the house needs painting, if the plants need trimming or tend to some plumbing or electrical repair. He wants that all handled so he can spend a couple of hours in front of the television and then go to bed. On the weekends, he wants to play and do man-things which often do not include Daria. Daria often reflects that what he really needs is a housekeeper … but then he’d have to pay her.

Daria loves Louie and she is pretty sure he loves her. And besides, what would she do if she were to leave him. She has no skills to speak of, beyond being a housewife. She has no résumé. Who would hire her? But the thought has crossed her mind a time or two. That and the idea of getting a job of her own and money of her own. But Louie would probably never let her do that.

In a fit of uncommon resolve with any number of odd thoughts flitting through her mind, Daria picks up the handset of the phone once more and dials the number from the business card. She has decided that she definitely will talk to Nedra Ellsworth, and Louie and her father be damned.

The phone rings twice at the other end and a very pleasant and low pitched voice says, “Hello, Daria.” Daria is so shocked that she once again hangs up the phone and sits there staring at it with as much consternation and fear as if it had suddenly morphed into a hand grenade. Daria says out loud to herself, “Well, that’s it then.” And she unplugs the phone from the wall jack and heads outside to clean up the last of the fallen leaves that had not all blown away over the winter (she doesn’t believe in gathering them all up and putting them into plastic trash bags where they will do no one and no thing any good) and see what else might need tending. A couple of the bushes along the drive could use a little trimming back before the growing season takes off.

She finds that the irises are beginning to grow. She works the leaves she gathered into the soil of her small vegetable garden plot and pulls the few weeds that have sprouted. Soon, she reflects, it will be time to plant the peas and set out the tomatoes. And maybe cucumbers would be nice this year. Before she knows it, it is time to go inside, clean herself up and begin preparing dinner. Louie requested lasagna and that always takes a long time to make.

P. S. Hey, dad. I think about you all the time. Maybe not every day anymore. But especially on this day. Today marks 51 years since you departed this earth and I still miss you. Thanks for all you taught me. Love you.

Daria’s Tale

What is Enlightenment? 4 Yoga Teachers Share Their Definitions ...
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There is a short novel (probably more of a novelette) that I have been working on for a number of years now. Mostly I work on it when I am between other projects.

It is a huge departure from what I normally write. But it is basically a labor of love and a longing for meaning in a world that seems intent on pressing the meaning out of everything.

The working title for it is “Daria’s Tale” for lack of inspiration for something better. It is what most people these days would call women’s fiction. It’s about change and growth. It’s about finding what matters most and seeing the mystery and wonder in the world. The wonder that is always there if we are only open to it.

I thought that I would publish the first chapter here to see what others might think of it. So if you read it, I would really like your opinion.

Thanks, in advance.

Daria’s Tale

Part One

Chapter 1:  A Reason to Be

“A penny for your thoughts.”

Daria looked over, startled, at the tall, young man standing next to her. He was wearing a grey hoodie, dark green T-shirt and blue jeans and she wondered how he had come to be standing next to her without her noticing. But then she thought to herself, she had been bound up in her own thoughts for a very long time now. And standing here, attempting to take in the view, she was no less bound. She thought that a nuclear warhead could have gone off right next to her and she might not have noticed, so deep was her contemplation.

The young man saw a bit more in her than Daria did in him. He saw a woman, older than him, maybe into middle age for a few years now. Her eyes were sad and a bit puffy. There was a tightness around her mouth that looked like it had been there for some time. And he saw resignation and quiet defeat in the set of her shoulders. She was dressed plainly with her longish hair pulled back into a severe little ponytail.

Having received no response from the woman, the tall young man repeated his first line, but this time with a bemused smile and the inflection of a question at the end, “A penny for your thoughts?”

She had written off his posture as non-threatening without realizing it and so Daria replied without looking at him, “It would be a penny wasted. They’re not even worth that to me.”

A small and fleeting frown crossed the face of the tall young man and then he smiled and enthusiastically stuck out his hand to Daria for a shake saying, “Hi, I’m Andrew Nolan. Pleased to meet you. Isn’t the view from here amazing?”

Daria stared at his hand for a moment and then thought “oh what the heck.” She took his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Daria Ingramm. Do you come here often?”

“Actually, no,” Andrew replied. “This is my first time. How about you? Do you come here often?”

“I do,” said Daria. “More often lately than in the past. This is a particularly fine time of the evening with the sun close to setting. The shadows on the buildings are striking and the golden light makes everything look … oh, I don’t know … just right somehow.”

Andrew was silent for a while and so was Daria. Then Andrew said, “Yes, I think I see what you mean.” And they both continued to stare out into the distance. Daria’s eyes, however, were focused on nothing. Andrew’s left eye was watching her surreptitiously with his peripheral vision.

After a time, Andrew said nonchalantly, “What is it you are looking for?”

Daria drew in her breath sharply and experienced a moment of deep concern. Could this stranger know?

We are all looking for something … meaning … a purpose … a reason for being. We may not always know it, but we are. We seek fulfillment in our children, our jobs, our creative endeavors. Maybe we find solace in a clean house and a neat garden. We need meaning and we need needing.

There are different levels of needing. Some need meaning more than others. For some it is akin to the need for a new pair of shoes that one just saw in the department store display. For others it is akin to the need for oxygen or food or water. For the latter, life can sometimes be a burden.

Daria didn’t really have to think about Andrew’s question. She knew what the answer was. She had been struggling with the answer for so long now that she had come to think of it as her silent friend or maybe her enemy. It was sometimes hard to tell. But could she confide in this complete stranger? In some ways that might be easier than talking to her husband or her sister about it. And besides talking about it would just make it real. Then what would she do.

She looked up and into his face without really meeting his eyes. She saw a serious young man and a kind face with no hint of superciliousness. Yet, she just did not know. This was such a hard thing for her to wrap her mind around. How could she even begin to tell someone about it? Still …

Andrew broke into her reverie, “I know someone you should meet. She might have what you need. Her name is Nedra. Nedra Ellsworth.”

Daria looked at Andrew once again and found that he was holding a business card out to her. In the fading light before the lamps came on automatically, she could not read what was printed on it. She took in a very deep breath and held it for a very long time. When she took the card from him, she expelled her breath in a rush; almost as if she had been punched in the stomach. She stood staring at the card for long moments and into her silence, Andrew said, “You do not have to do it, you know.”

There are angels and there are angels. There are people who see through you and there are people who see into you. There are people who know what they need from you and there are people who know what you need.

When Daria looked up from the card in her hand, Andrew was gone … just as silently as he had arrived. She looked out at the skyline once more and the water rushing by below the bridge and decided it was time to head home and prepare dinner. Her husband would be home soon and she had promised him meatloaf.

Jerrold George Walter Edward Aldrich

Lucius Annaeus Seneca - Life, if well lived, is long...
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Jerry, to his friends, was born on July 23, 1920 and died on August 4, 1969. If he were still alive today, he would be 100 years old. He was born in Wesley, Iowa at a time when it was common for young boys to wear knickers and knee socks and lace-up ankle-high boots.

He sported a bowl cut much like Moe of the Three Stooges. He looked a little like Alfred E. Neuman, the fictitious mascot of Mad Magazine. He had a wickedly impish grin and it was a rare treat to see it.

Later in life, he was a huge fan of the Three Stooges and slapstick humor in general. He’d sit in front of our small television set on Saturday mornings and laugh out loud at Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner.

He served in World War II as a reconnaissance photographer. He would lie in the belly of an airplane and take photographs of the islands and any distinguishing features of the Pacific Ocean. My sister and I have maps printed on silk with indelible inks that were made from his photographs.

He worked for the government all of his life. He didn’t make a lot of money, but he seemed to be fulfilled by what he did. He was a quality control engineer overseeing government contracts with private sector companies that produced missiles and missile delivery systems. In the 1960s that was a big deal.

He was very smart. He taught himself calculus as it related to quality control. He was so good at it that he taught a night course at a local community college.

He was also bigoted. And not terribly tolerant of views outside of his own.

He was never wrong. Even when I could prove to him that he was wrong, he would never admit it.

He was a hard man and a stern father. I’m not sure he knew the meaning of the term “unconditional love.”

He had high standards. He applied them to himself and to others. I always felt that I never quite measured up.

He saw a lot of changes in his short lifetime. He thought of himself as a man of science and he delighted in every new thing that came along. He lived just long enough to see the first men to land on the moon. There wasn’t much that thrilled him, but that sure did.

He was an aficionado of stereo sound. He had a great system in which he took much pride. But he tended toward what some today might call elevator music. We had every album the Ray Coniff orchestra and singers put out. He wouldn’t let my sister and me listen to the Beatles. But he bought us every Monkees album that came out, sometimes the very day that it was released.

He continued to be a photography nut after his service. He had an 8mm movie camera and a light bar for it. He had several reflex cameras and knew how to get the most out of all of it. We had a slide projector, movie projector and a screen. We’d all sometimes sit for hours looking at times long past.

I still miss him. He’s been gone from my life for almost 51 years. He never saw me fall in love and get married. He never got to use a cell phone (he would have loved that) or a personal computer (probably would have loved that even more). I have no idea what he would make of today’s Internet. Shoot, it still amazes me from time to time.

Shortly before he died, in a lucid moment which were becoming fewer and fewer as his brain was invaded by the cancer, he told me that his only regret about dying was that he was leaving us to fend for ourselves. At the time, it made me cry. But today, I think he wasn’t giving us enough credit. It was hard for a while. I won’t say it wasn’t. But Mom, my sister and I did just fine.

The day he died, I thought the world had ended. I didn’t know who I was without my dad in my life. I didn’t know who I was supposed to be. But I got it figured out. Because as critical as he was of everything I did, he also constantly told me that I could do anything I set my mind to. I owe him a lot for that.

Despite how difficult it was to be a daughter of Jerrold George Walter Edward Aldrich, I loved him deeply and unreservedly.

So here’s to you, Dad, on the 100th anniversary of your birth. Thanks for all you taught me. Thanks for being my dad.

Creativity

Maddie is a small, brown dog. She is easily lost to sight in tall, dry grass. So I like to “dress” her in bright colors to make it easier to spot her if she gets away from me. Plus, I just like bright colors.

I don’t just write.

I have a number of other outlets for my creative spirit. I like to crochet. I just finished making a new leash for Maddie. My sister doesn’t know it yet, but I am making an afghan for her. Well, I suppose she knows it now. She likes greens and browns together. Hopefully, she will like these particular greens and browns.

Hey, Sis! Hope you like it.

I also like to make jewelry. My husband does too. We are fortunate to have a walk-out basement and we have tricked it out as a jewelry making shop. There is also a ping pong table down there that we need to use more often.

I love agate. It comes in so many colors and forms. This is a Montana agate. It’s an alluvial agate found in the Yellowstone River. The faceted stone is a plagioclase. The rest is sterling silver and copper.

We are both silversmiths and lapidaries (cutters and polishers of stone); although we don’t do faceting. Mostly we make cabochons. When my husband wants a faceted stone for something he is making, he buys it. But just about every cabochon in anything we make, we have cut and polished laboriously by hand.

One of Bernd’s more recent creations. It’s a garnet druse (lots of small crystals on a substrate). He made the setting from round wire and set three sapphires on the bail and a small diamond near the bottom.
This is another of Bernd’s pieces. Made from hammered round wire with an amethyst and a peridot.

I also do stringing, pearl knotting, and wire wrapping. I make a lot of my own findings (jump rings, clasps and the like) and I’ve made of lot of chain. Chain making can be a pain, but it’s worth it. Especially when you can’t find the perfect chain ready-made for a necklace or bracelet.

Here is a clasp I made from sterling silver sheet and round wire.

My husband also does watercolors. I’ve written a bit about that in the past.

I’ve heard some people say that they are not creative at all. I think those people are judging themselves harshly and ignoring the areas in which they do actually display creativity. The act of creating something doesn’t have to produce a painting to hang on the wall or a sculpture to set in a garden. You don’t have to have a novel written and complete to hold in your hand to be considered creative.

Creativity can be on a grand scale sometimes. But it’s also in the small things that a person does on a daily basis. Simply putting a meal together is an act of creation. If it is pleasing to look at as well as tasty, well there you go.

Arranging the furniture in your living room well doesn’t rely only on functionality; it also requires an artistic sense. It doesn’t matter if it works well if the arrangement doesn’t also please the senses. Aesthetics are involved in how you place the chairs, sofas and tables. This requires creativity.

Sewing a garment. Knitting a sock. Building a birdhouse. These are all acts of creation. And not just because you have made something. You had to envision the item. You had to conceive its execution. You had to bring it into existence. You had to dream it up and then make it real.

Beyond that, there is creating and enriching environment. Or making a peaceful spot to spend a few rejuvenating minutes.

I think we are all, each and every one of us, creative. I think it is as essential to living as is breathing. I believe we are at our best when we are thinking creatively; challenging our minds to come up with something new or something beautiful or something useful. Creating a better way to do a task also qualifies.

What have you created today? I bet you can think of at least half a dozen things if you give it a try.

Would the World be a Better Place without Mosquitoes?

nozzlenolen.com

In a poll of one, me, the answer would be a resounding “yes.” At least on the surface. But when I think about it for a moment, maybe not.

Mosquitoes are flies. They belong to the order Diptera; DI (two) plus PTERA (wing). They are distinguished from most other insects by the number of wings that they have, most insects having four wings altogether. Well except for the beetles where one set of wings is chitonized and protects the other set of wings. And then there are the Hemiptera in which only half of the one set of wings is hardened. Well, actually that’s mainly in the suborder Heteroptera. But I digress.

This is a fly trying to look like a bee, but note the one set of wings. janemming.com
Bee Terms — B.A.S.C.
A true bee. beekeeprsassociationofsoutherncalifornia.org

I don’t much like the Hemiptera either. They mostly have piercing mouthparts and can impart a nasty and painful “bite.” I know from experience. Been there. Done that. Don’t ever want to do it again.

Order Hemiptera Suborder Heteroptera | ENT 425 – General Entomology
Saw this Heteroptera on a plant in my front yard the other day. genent.cals.ncsu.edu

Actually, I don’t much like any kind of fly either. Horse flies are nasty. Their bites really hurt. But at least I’m not allergic to them. Some people are though.

Video: Close up footage shows a horsefly feasting on human blood ...
Horsefly biting a human. dailymail.co.uk
The horse-fly has returned to the UK - here's everything you need ...
This is kind of what a mosquito bite does to me, but this is actually a horsefly bite. nottinghampost.com

Okay, back to mosquitoes. I am moved to write about them because both my husband and I have recently received a number of mosquito bites. There are some 3,500 different species of mosquito. As far as I’m concerned that’s about 3,499 too many.

Only the female mosquitoes bite. To produce and lay their eggs, they need the blood of vertebrates (that includes all mammals and birds, reptiles, amphibians and some fish) and certain invertebrates; mainly arthropods:  Insects (you know what those are), myriapods (centipedes and millipedes), arachnids (spiders, mites and scorpions), and crustaceans (you know what those are too).

The mosquito’s saliva (which contains an anticoagulant) is transferred to the host during a bite. This is what causes the itchy rash (and also transfers disease vectors). Some people are more allergic to the mosquito’s saliva than others. I’m one of those unlucky people. To add insult to injury, I also seem to be very attractive to the little menaces.

When we lived in California, it was the other way around than it is now. My husband was more allergic and more attractive (he’s still more attractive, but that’s another story) than I was. Or maybe it’s just the difference between Arizonan mosquitoes and Californian mosquitoes.

And it seems like the mosquitoes here are smaller, quieter and just generally stealthier than those we had in California. Not a happy situation for me.

Every year it’s the same thing. I get bit. The area turns bright red and swells up like crazy. If it’s over a bone and the swelling has nowhere to go, say on my forehead, it looks like someone hit me in the head with a bat minus the bruising.

In a couple of days, the swelling is still there, but the bite site has blistered. The blisters burst on their own and then the whole thing is a weepy crusty mess for several days. To top it all off, it itches so badly that I want to rip my skin off and touching it in any way (like to apply some nice soothing anti-histamine cream or some numbing lidocaine ointment) hurts so much I almost can’t do it.

And then there are the mosquito-vectored diseases to worry about. It is claimed that half of the people that have ever lived have died from diseases from mosquito bites. More conservative estimates place the death toll at something more like 5%. That’s still a lot of people.

So if there is anyone who would benefit from the sudden and very welcome vanishing of all mosquitoes from this earth, it would be me.

Mexican Free-Tailed Bats | Arizona Highways
Mexican free-tailed bat. arizonahighways.com

But. We have a large population of large, brown Mexican bats in our area. They winter in Mexico and every spring they come back here. They rely on the mosquitoes and other flying insects for their three square meals a day. There are also a huge number of birds that eat the mosquitoes. I’ve even seen hummingbirds plucking mosquitoes and gnats out of the air.

lansingwbu.blogspot.com

 I’ve seen lizards snap them up (hear me cheering “Go, lizard! Go!”). Dragonfly nymphs eat the mosquito nymphs as do trout and other fishes along with any mosquito landing upon the water to lay her eggs. So a large part of the ecosystem relies on those nasty little flies for their livelihoods.

Here’s an interesting tidbit. Adult mosquitoes of both sexes eat nectar, aphid honeydew and plant juices in order to keep their metabolic processes ticking over. In the process, they help pollinate flowers. There are no plants that rely solely on mosquitoes for pollination, but they do make a contribution to the production of food.

photographytalk.com

So I guess we are stuck with them for now. And the answer to the question in the title is a solid “no.” Dang.

Weird Words, Part 12

definition of the word catawampus
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1972 edition

Bumfuzzle

I like the way this word sounds. I can’t recall ever using it in a conversation, but one day I might. You never know. Apparently, I’d be in good company. Read on.

I looked for it in my 1972 edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, but it was not listed. So my guess was that it is a fairly recent addition into the English language or what passes for it here in the United States. Who knows what the Brits think of our mangling of their fine language. Anyway, my guess turned out to be wrong. Story of my life.

The short definition for it is to confuse, perplex or fluster according to merriam-webster.com. Looking at that just now, webster strikes me as a little bit odd. Could a person who makes great use of the Internet be called a webster? So I had to look up the name. It’s a boy’s name, English in origin, and as you might guess it means “weaver.”

If you ask Google if bumfuzzle is a real word, you get this from dictionary.com:  To bumfuzzle is to confuse or fluster. Bumfuzzle is most often used in the dialect of the Southern United States. It is colloquial, meaning it is typically used in informal conversation. It is very similar to bamboozle, and may be derived from it.

Slate.com ran a story in October of 1999 in which it mentioned that Bill Clinton had said that the Republican budget passed by the House, which he intended to veto, “totally bumfuzzled” the American voters on the topic of whether or not Social Security funds would be tapped for current spending. I don’t recall what happened at that time, but I’d bet the answer was “yes.”

In any case, what Slate was reporting was actually from Chatterbox and they quoted a passage from the American Heritage Dictionary (not my edition, obviously):  The American Heritage dictionary says that bumfuzzle, apparently used chiefly in the southern United States, means “to confuse,” and probably derives from some combination of “bamboozle,” “fuddle,” and “fuzzy.”

Most sources agree that the word first came into use around 1900 (so why isn’t it in my 1972 edition?). Other sources link it to a British word, bumf (a shortened form of bumfodder meaning toilet paper). With that, Chatterbox went on to wonder whether or not Clinton was slyly using the word bumfuzzle to say that the Republican budget was just so much toilet paper.

Cattywampus

This is another great weird word that I don’t recall having used in everyday conversation. As usual, I went straight to my dictionary first. It indicated that cattywampus is a variant of catawampus. Catawampus, it said, means cater-cornered or slantwise. It also listed as a second meaning evil or malicious. I’ve never had the impression that the word had anything to do with evil. Mostly, I’ve felt it meant off kilter (kilter comes from kelter which is an English dialect word meaning good health or good condition) or in disarray.

Once again, Internet to the rescue.

I liked what yourdictionary.com had to say about cattywampus:   The definition of cattywampus, often spelled catawampus, is not lined up or not arranged correctly, or diagonally. An example of something cattywampus are the positions of the items on the top of a coffee table after a two year old has been playing with them and moving them around. Or maybe they are acquainted with my husband.

But if you ask for the definition of catawampus instead of cattywampus, you get something quite different. According to merriam-webster.com the first definition is something that is fierce, savage, or destructive. The second definition is askew, awry, cater-cornered. Both are listed as dialectical.

Etymonline suggest that the word is a combination of two relatively archaic words: cater and wampish.

The first, cater, means to set or move diagonally. Wampish is a Scottish word that basically means to wriggle, twist or swerve about.

Cattywampus, in any of its spellings is older than Bumfuzzle by about half a century. It was first used as an adverb (catawampusly) around 1834 and then as a noun around 1843 where it appears as a name for an imaginary hobgoblin or fright, perhaps influenced by catamount.

Collywobbles

My old and obviously out of date dictionary had this word in it also. It defines collywobbles as a pain in the bowels or stomach, a bellyache. My ancient dictionary suggests it might be from New Latin cholera morbus, the disease cholera, and influenced by colic and wobble.

In horses, colic describes a number of symptoms of distress usually centered in the horse’s intestines. When I had a horse, I had to call the vet out on a number of occasions when she colicked really badly. My dictionary defines colic this way: acute, paroxysmal pain in the abdomen caused by spasm, obstruction, or distention of any of the hollow viscera. That definition doesn’t really do justice to the kind of pain my horse exhibited.

Wobble is defined thusly: to move erratically from side to side; to tremble or quaver; to shake, as a voice; to waver or vacillate in one’s opinions, feelings, or the like.

I’m not really sure how putting colic and wobble together get you to the more accepted meaning (according to numerous online sources) of intense anxiety or nervousness particularly with stomach queasiness. I will say though that I have upon occasion been so frightened as to feel a looseness in my intestines that was not at all pleasant. So maybe it does track.

As for the origin of the word, most sources agree that it is a combination of colic and wobble. But phrases.org.uk has this to say: Colly is an English dialect word meaning coal dust. Blackbirds were hence known as colly birds. … Colly-wobbles could have derived from indisposition caused by breathing coal dust. It is more likely that this is a nonsense word formed from colic and wobble.

Ultimately, no one is really certain how the word came about.

So, here I sit, a bit bumfuzzled about the origins of the word collywobbles and wondering if this post has gone totally cattywampus.

Ask versus Request

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1972 edition, lists the word “ask” and only a verb. I haven’t looked in a newer print dictionary. Maybe I should do that.

When did that happen? Am I the only one who thinks it’s odd? How did a very solid verb seemingly suddenly become a noun? And why? Especially when we’ve always had a perfectly fine noun for that very thing.

I’m talking about two words: ask and request.

Being the kind of person that I am, I decided to do a little research. I love the Internet.

I requested the definition of the word “ask” to begin with. The first definition given listed it as a verb, which in my mind it is and shall forever be only and solely that. Call me old-fashioned.

And, yes, I am stubborn too. Although, I don’t have a problem with adding new words into the English language. And yes, I know that language is fluid and changes by usage. Okay, so yeah. This is a pet peeve of mine.

Along with listing “ask” as a verb, the online source I looked at also listed a definition of it as a noun with the notation that it is only used that way in the good old United States of America. Specifically it said “a request, especially for a donation.” And the example, “It was an awkward ask for more funding,” was given. And see, even Microsoft Word doesn’t want anyone to use “ask” in that way. When I typed in the quote of the example, MS Word underscored the word “ask” with a green line. The program didn’t really know what to do with it. It thought it should be “asks.”

I’m sorry, but I’m never going to get onboard with using “ask” in this way.

Request would seem to me to be more than adequate. It is both a verb and a noun. Always has been. Why do we need to misappropriate the word “ask” when we already have “request?”

I would like to note that in the definitions for both the verb request and the noun request, the issue of politeness was addressed:  “an act of asking politely or formally for something” for the noun and “politely or formally ask for” for the verb.

That alone recommends to me that using “request” instead of “ask” is a much better choice. I think that relationships of all kinds can always use a little more politeness. Don’t you?

The Re-release of Millie

I finally finished fixing the errors in “Millie’s Adventures in Time.” This time around, I had the help of my sister, Debbie Todd, who made note of all the typos, wrong words, and grammatical errors that she noticed.

She then sent them to me in an email and I implemented 95% of them. In some cases, I let a word stand as I had written it. But for the most part, her suggestions were spot on and helped to improve the story. I’m very grateful to my sister for her help.

I was put on to the fact that the first edition had a lot of errors by a friend who bought the paperback and read it. She told me there were a lot of mistakes. I was totally disheartened to hear that. My husband and I had spent so much time reading and re-reading the manuscript that we were sure we had found them all. Hah! I should have known better.

It wasn’t hubris. It was just lack of experience with this sort of thing. I know now how easy it is to miss all the little problems.

Another friend, Chris Woods, read it and mentioned I had a problem with tenses. He said I kind of mushed them all together, sometimes in the same paragraph.

Because of how I chose to tell the story, I let a lot of the mush of tenses stand. But there were a few places where I did straighten them out … more or less. I was grateful for the heads up about that and so when I read the novel again (this time from a hard copy), I kept it in mind and was able to make the necessary changes.

I’ve uploaded it to Kindle Direct Publishing. The eBook is live again, but the paperback version is still in review as I write this. Hopefully, it won’t take as long to go live this time as it did last time. Also, hopefully, it won’t take as long for the two versions to link on Amazon.

It feels good to have finally finished the updating of “Millie’s Adventures in Time.” Did we catch all the errors? Probably not. But at least Millie is now better than it was. That’s all I can ask for.

Now I can begin working on the sequel again.

If You can Afford It

Taken with my Fuji FinePix digital camera

Here’s my advice. If you can afford it, absolutely go with a professional proofreading service. Also, seriously consider having your novel professionally edited.

Most people advise that you have your manuscript edited first. Typically, editors have the power to change just about anything up to eliminating whole paragraphs. Ultimately, the final product is more readable than previously. This has always given me cause to pause and consider. When I make a piece of jewelry, I don’t want someone to come along and change something about it. I feel somewhat the same way about what I write. But, in reality, it’s a moot point for me.

In any case, proof reading is the final step that ensures a “perfect” document.

So, given all that …

A few days ago, I finished proof reading … again … “Millie’s Adventures in Time.” Then I had to go into the formatted digital copy and fix all the mistakes and make all the edits.

Because I was reading my author’s copy (I just love writing that I’m an author), and the print-on-demand version has a blank page (page 347) that I could not fix in the original version (hopefully, in the second edition that will magically fix itself but probably not) no matter what I did, the two versions don’t match up and I had to re-re-reread the digital version from page 347 on while trying to keep in mind the edits I wanted to make. Was not fun.

Once I did that, though, I went through the whole manuscript once more while looking at all the grammar snafus that the Microsoft Word program so conveniently underscores in green. Most of what it found was sentence fragments that, for the most part, I let stand.

I just finished that yesterday. I could have uploaded the new version (it has a note in the front matter that it is a second edition), but I am waiting to hear more from my sister. She is a wiz at grammar and found some uses of pronouns that I needed to correct. She said she would make note of any others that she found. She still works for a living and doesn’t have a lot of spare time so it might be a while.

It’s a convenient excuse.

Because I let go of it the first time before it was really ready, I have all sorts of worries about it not being ready this time either. Especially since I found a couple typos while looking through it for the grammar errors. Bummer.

This is why people hire professionals to do this. And why you should if you can afford it. Wish I had the money for that.

In any case, it should be out in its corrected, if not perfected, form before the end of July.

Proofreading (v.) We do it best after we've hit send.: Blank Lined ...