Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Less Bayonets and Horses? Fact Check!

Grammar Woman Watching (the Debate)
Less Bayonets and Horses?
Fact Check: Wrong!

A Conscious Choice of the Correct Word

Does the United States Navy have more ships than it did in 1917 or less ships? Does the United States military have more bayonets and horses or less bayonets and horses? If you win the Battleship game, is it because you have more ships or less ships?
Board games (and debates) aside, Grammar Woman’s fact check rates you wrong, wrong, and wrong if you answer less ships, less horses, and less bayonets. (You're also wrong if you ask the question using the word less.)
Grammar Woman, however, gives President Obama an A+ for his debate comment. He is correct: We do, indeed, have fewer bayonets and horses. It’s an important distinction to note: Few is used when counting, for example, the U.S. Navy could give us an accurate count of how many ships we had in 1917 and how many we have today, and advise whether we have more or fewer. To measure things in other ways, use less. The United States Navy was less powerful in 1917 than it is today, even though we had more, not fewer, ships.
Continuing the distinction, which is important in any fact-checking exercise, the United States Military indeed does have fewer “bayonets and horses,” and rather than being less powerful, our military is the strongest in the world. Few international leaders would dare to say any differently.
Debate or not, incorrect grammar or slang, horses or bayonets, I imagine most folks more or less (not few) have decided for whom they will vote this year. And on Election Day, Tuesday, November 6, at the end of the day, the loser of the presidential contest will not have less votes; he will have fewer votes.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Show-Off-y Self Versus Conscious Self

Diamonds Sparkling in the Pre-Dawn Sky
Tiffany’s Bracelet Sparkling on My Wrist

A Conscious Choice Regarding Value

Tiffany's Bracelet (and others) on Battenburg Lace...
What Really Has Value? Nothing Here...

Tiffany’s—Breakfast or Jewelry? The name conjures images of glamour—wearing, doing, being several cuts above the mundane. So it was easy on Saturday to be rather show-off-y when my sisters-in-law admired my Tiffany’s bracelet. It’s a splendid piece of jewelry with its thick gold links and heavy single charm dangling in a classic pose from the bracelet’s edge. Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, moon, and birthing, is pictured on the front, and the words “Courage” and “Ree” (my childhood nickname) are etched on the back, along with the signature Tiffany’s brand name.
It’s easy to tack my ego to this hunk of gold and puff myself up like I have valuable—that is, rich—friends who gift me with such treasures. Sphinx-like, I wanted to create a riddle regarding the gifter because along with my sisters-in-law, my ex also was at the table eyeing the bracelet they admired. I wanted that aura of mystery; I wanted him to wonder, “So who gave her that?” when I said “a friend.” My sister gave it to me, and we’re friends, so that’s not too far from the truth, right? Okay, not right, but at least I’m fessing up here.
In most areas of my life, I’m pretty transparent, so I felt guilty about attaching my sense of self to all that glitters. I carried the guilt for several hours and then forgot it, certain that like all the guilt I carry it would resurface soon.
Resurface it did, fewer than 24 hours later. I woke Sunday in the pre-dawn hours and half-asleep stumbled outside to walk the dogs. I noted that although it was still dark, it wasn’t black-dark. I looked up and the sky was filled with stars more brilliant than I’ve seen since September 2001, when I was on a dark island an hour’s ferry from the mainland. I was stunned awake by the spectacle of the starlit sky. I remembered the meteor shower I had read about and realized I slept through it, but what remained was a gift for my first waking moments.
Later, I spied the Tiffany’s bracelet on the blue-and-white ceramic tray in my bathroom. I remembered the morning sky and my show-off-y actions the previous day. I recalled the gift of the sky and asked myself what mattered more—the stars or the bracelet? If a balding, gold-hoop-earring-wearing genie popped out of the mist and said to me, “You know that starlit sky you saw 6 a.m., Sunday, October 21, 2012? You can either keep this bracelet or continue seeing those diamonds in the sky.”
Which would I choose? I’d not hesitate a second. Right hand over to left wrist, I’d unclasp the bracelet, hand it over to Mr. Genie, and never look back, because in this case, it’s more valuable to look up.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Zen and the Art of Cleaning the Litter Box

(With apologies to Robert Pirsig)

Seeking a Better Approach—A Conscious Choice
P.S. It Didn’t Help a Whit

Try Zen. He struggled to find the perfect toaster setting. The toasting choices of the words Pastry and Frozen were stacked on top of each other. Finally, he achieved toasty toast by arranging the levers until try and zen were arranged so:
Trying zen and a positive focus is appealing, especially when faced with a daunting task. Wash the dish, paint the fence, wax on, wax off. And the zen approach works most of the time. However, it does not work with all noxious tasks. In fact, the words zen and litter box don’t belong in the same neighborhood, much less the same sentence.

This cat-bathing outfit would have worked well for my dreaded chore.
Faced with the clumps, the lumps, and the overwhelming odor, scooping and refilling were no longer an option. The plastic case of crud cried out to be scrubbed. A dreaded task, a loathsome task. Could I seek a different approach? Could I find the joy in cleaning the litter box? No, I could not, because that kind of joy simply does not exist.
The positive approach demands that we meet challenges with a smile, and a grin, and an eye toward some cosmic lesson learned. That approach is valuable in much of life. But some things need to be tackled head-on, eyes squinted, nose plugged, hands gloved. The joy of doing is not present in some situations. The muck, mud, guts, grease, and gore of life happen. In those cases, finding the peace, finding the joy, happen only when the experience ends.
In this case, a different approach did not work, did not help. The zen came only when the job was done . . . and a sense of accomplishment silenced the yelling yuck. Now, on to wax on, wax off, paint the fence, wash the dish . . .

Monday, October 15, 2012

Done! Without Coming Undone

 Done or Coming Undone?

Seeking a Better Approach—A Conscious Choice

Answers to Sunday’s Question

Priorities, priorities . . . Clean up this mess!

Sunday’s list loomed large. "To do or not to do" was my question as I scanned it. I was tired before I crossed out item number one. I decided to approach the dreaded list with a positive attitude. Did it help? Yes, and no. A positive attitude helped because I took the pressure off and got things done without coming undone. The list was long, too long. I knew I’d never check off every item. What did I check off?

Sunday's list beckoned me.

Decluttering the dining room and kitchen were priorities. I thoroughly cleaned the dining room and dusted and waxed all the furniture. My favorite blue-flowered retro tablecloth was scented with sun and breeze after line drying, so I spread it on the table and added the orchids I purchased Saturday. It's such a pretty, pleasant room, even if the table has no space for a meal. We can feast our eyes on flowers.

      An evil mess awaited me in the kitchen. Twenty-four hours earlier, the sink was clean and the counters were clear. I don’t have toddlers in the house, although 19- and 22-year-olds have commonalties with that age group, but even I was responsible for some of the mess. It was overwhelming no matter who was the guilty party. Rather than take my time and zen the room as I did in the dining room, I set a timer for 42 minutes and blasted my way through the room.

Dare I even share this mess? Mess happens...
Cleaning it up also happens.
       Forty-two minutes wasn’t long enough, even though my son helped dry and put away the dishes. Forty-nine minutes and viola! Clean sinks, counters, dishes, pots, pans. The list—the damnable list—still had too few things that weren't crossed off. The bread wasn’t rising properly because it was too cool in the corner of the kitchen where the bowl sat. I turned on the oven light for some added warmth and put the bowl inside. By the time the kitchen was clean, the dough had risen, but I wanted to take a break, so I punched it down and let it rise for the third time.

      Writing was on the infernal list, but it was one of the few things I wanted to do so. I was hungry for some time at the ocean’s edge with pen in hand. I made it a priority and shortly after this . . .

       I arrived here . . .

       Brisk winds brushed my hair away from my face as I gazed at the breaking waves and listened to the rush of water, sand, and shells when they met at the shore. Sand crunched beneath the pen's tip and smeared the ink as words found their way to the page.

       Dusk approached and little time remained for the list, which was forgotten during my time at the ocean’s edge. Rising dough awaited my return, so, refreshed in spirit, I headed home.

       The third time isn’t always the charm, I noted with disappointment at the appearance of these loaves. However, all day I had focused on looking within to find a more positive approach to whatever I did, to find something that wasn’t evident in my usual cursory glance at life--or bread. That approach enticed me to slice this bread and get a whiff of fresh-baked aroma mingled with the steam coming from the first cut. Sliced and spread with butter, one taste revealed the magic within this bread.

Even when not so pretty, fresh bread holds treasure within.

Primitive Society

Words of Hope for the Future

Long Past Now and Far Away

Strolling the sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean in Central Florida, a woman and her young child spy blue and white pieces of an odd substance stuck within the pods and strands of seaweed on the shore. “Mama, what is that? What are those blue and white chips?”
“Primitive societies used something called plastic. It’s rare to see it now, but that’s what it is. I’m so grateful we no longer have such a pollutant to mar the beauty of our planet.”

Sunday, October 14, 2012

To Do or Not to Do?

Seeking a Better Approach—A Conscious Choice

To Do List or Not To Do?
Today’s Question

I feel tired already as I scan my looming, lengthening list of things to do. Can I approach everything with a positive attitude instead of a groan and a sense of fatigue? Can I instead anticipate how much more peaceful, relaxed, and less pressured I’ll feel when all these things are done? I do love crossing off each item, and even more, I love the results when each task is completed.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Calling This Heathen

A Call Toward This Christian
Who Has a Touch of the Heathen in Her

I’m a heathen… not a huge sinning heathen, but in spite of being a Christian, I tend toward some rather contentious views. Nonetheless, most churches have welcomed me (and my oddities) with open arms. One member of my church in New Hampshire joked that I should be “excommunicated” when he saw my pierced nose, but he honestly was kidding. He and the rest of the church accepted me—and all my quirks.
Heathen I am in one respect for sure. I haven’t been to church—in a long time. It’s been hard to find a good fit since I moved back to Florida. I pretty much gave up. One church, however, keeps drawing me toward it. I’ve been a handful of times and after each service I feel blessed and fulfilled. Lazy heathen that I am, I last went during Lent—in March. Drawn again I was last Sunday, so I dressed my lazy, unmotivated self and went to church.
My spirit was hungry. It had been far too long since I’d been fed in any spiritual way. Little was I to know that I would be served my favorite meal. I don’t know a lot of hymns and only some resonate for me. I’ve been told my favorite is difficult to play, so I know I will not hear it often during services. I don’t even remember the last time I heard it. I recognized it instantly when the first notes were played Sunday morning. I was stunned. I was filled with spirit and wholeness. I felt like I had come home after being away for a long, long time.
I don’t know where I’ll find myself next Sunday morning. I hope it’s in the pew of the Episcopal church where I continue to be drawn. In some ways I feel called… and I want to be able to answer, “Here I am, Lord.”

The hymn’s title is “Here I am, Lord,” but I always call it, “I, the Lord of sea and sky.” It’s based on Isaiah 6:8: “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”

I spent some time listening to You Tube versions and the following is the best I found: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdFqzPBaDJA

Here I am, Lord

I, the Lord of sea and sky, 
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save.
I who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people's pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my Word to them.
Whom shall I send?

I the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide
Till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?
Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.
 ~ Daniel L Schutte