Friday, April 29, 2011

Not What you Expected?

The other day I posted about being three days behind in the A to Z Blogging Challenge and vowed to catch up. Well, so much for that. Even though I posted, I missed a few more days and am now four days behind. I hadn't planned on that. Perhaps my U word for today should be unplanned. That would be fitting.

For today's post, I'd like to welcome you into my world. I live in a small village in Germany. I'm not sure what the current population is but I would guess it is less than 800 people. In former times many farmers lived here, the unpaved roads saw more tractor traffic than cars, and the hills I can see from my kitchen window were once home to rows and rows of grapes. How things change. In the past few years much talk regarding the heavy traffic on the main road has been discussed. We still have tractor traffic occasionally, but these are more of what you might call hobby farmers. There is only one man that I'd consider a real farmer since he has several cows and fields, but one can no longer call this a farming community. Also, though the hills still remain, there are no vineyards there. Well, not real vineyards. There are two plots of land which have grapes planted.

For the past several years, he has been making wine. Sometimes red, sometimes white. Both were good, but I thought the white was exceptional. He only made enough for our own consumption and entertaining, and he got the grapes from a winery. You can do that here. Buy grapes, pressed, from local vintners. Then we had the great fortune of acquiring a plot of land in the hills. We noticed that another family had several rows of grapes growing, so my husband, Stefan, decided the plant some as well. Since good, inexpensive red wine is readily available in Germany (there are wineries all over Rems-Murr-Kreis and we often go for long strolls through the vineyards on a Sunday afternoon) we decided to grow white grapes, a variety called Johanniter. I am not sure of the English translation and the online translator offered no help.

If you are a wine-lover, you'll know that it takes about seven years until the vines produce grapes worthy of wine. Our young grapevines are coming along fine, and we often walk up to check on them. Once a few wild boar had trampled through our property and made a mess but the saplings were unharmed. After the first winter, two plants didn't survive. We are glad the early stages are going well.

Two weeks ago we drove the car up, a bunch of gardening equipment in the trunk. We spent about an hour working, then took a few minutes to admire the view. We have a great vantage point over the village. Then we pack our supplies and started driving down the narrow, winding paths. When we got to where the path meets the main road into town, my husband turned right instead of left. “If you're not in a hurry to get home, I'd like to show you something,” he said. I agreed, and we continued out of town, up through the next town and down some winding country roads. When we got out to the motorcycle course where we watch the International Motorcross competition each year, I started to wonder where heck he was taking me. I asked but he only replied with, “You'll see.” So I sat and wondered a bit more. As I pondered our destination, a flower field came into view. These are common in our area. We even have a small one in our own village. The owners, possibly farmers, plant a variety of flowers. When they are in bloom, you can go pick them. A small stand has a can or wooden container set under the sign indicating the price. Often a knife also is made available for cutting the stalks. Yep...I said knife. Just sitting there waiting for someone to use it. It makes me laugh a bit, because I know a few of my American friends would be screaming, “Oh, my God. They have a knife just sitting there and anyone could pick it up and use it!!!” Well, to be honest, it happens a lot. Crazy people come out and use cut flowers! In the ten years we've been here, I haven't heard of any being stolen or any incidents happening.

In any case, this huge field came into view, full of nothing but tulips, several varieities and many colors. Cream-colored, yellow, mandarin, deep violet, pink. Of course, there were several shades of red-- a true red, crimson, scarlet, burgundy. I mentioned how beautiful it looked and he said, “I thought you'd like it. Want to pick some?” He pulled over into the lot, and we did just that. Two other people were also building bouquets as they walked up one row and down the other.

On the way home I sat thinking what a beautiful bunch of flowers we'd selected and how it is those unplanned moments, those little extras that we sandwich in between all the routine and common, that make life enjoyable. (It also helps to have an awesome husband, but that is another story.) Speaking of stories, here is a word of advice for all my writer friends. Don't forget the unplanned. No one wants to read a short story or book where everything the plot is predictable. Even characters shouldn't be totally predictable. A protagonist can't be bad all the time. Let the poor guy shed a tear when he thinks about that tragic moment in his past. Let him help some old lady cross the street. Heck, he could even have a dog that he treats like a King. And that main character you love so much—guess what? He or she has flaws. Let them show. Your characters need to be realistic. No one can be brave all the time or always confident or eternally cheerful. Let them test their boundaries, show their fears, make mistakes. After all, no one is perfect. The moment one of your lead subjects steps out of character is the time our interest peaks. We think, “Gee, I wasn't expecting that.”

And another thing...step out of character yourself some times. Go ahead. Have a little fun. Maybe try something new. You might freak your friends out a bit. Of course, you might surprise them in a good way. One thing is for certain. You'll learn something about yourself in the process.

In my O post, I spoke about how I learned the meaning of ornery. I learned it when I stepped out of character, and I learned a lot about myself that day. Do you have a tale about a time you stepped out of character. If so, share it will me in the comments section. I'd love to hear it. Hey, even if you hadn't planned on commenting here, I dare you. Go ahead and do it. Make me smile.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Surprise Gift for YOU!

Do you like surprises? Let's imagine you receive a surprise. You come home one day and there it is, a package the size of a shoe box waiting for you. Don't you just love getting real mail every once in a while? And yep, it is definitely for YOU. Your name and address are right there scribbled under the canceled stamps. If it were me, I'd immediately assume it was from my mother. She sends me packages every now and then. What are thinking? Is it from a best friend? An aunt or uncle? The strange guy at work who keeps asking you out regardless how many times you say no? Why won't he just get the hint! Or maybe...maybe it's from someone you don't officially know yet. It could be from anybody.

Now, let's go back in time a bit. Instead of you being the current you, you are the old you, the you that you were way back in high school. Let's say, perhaps 16 or 17. This package with your name on it is just sitting on your doorstep waiting for you to open it. And the kicker is, there is no return address. Hmmm...quite a mystery. Now, don't worry. I know that all of you reading this were super great people at that age. Right? You never picked on the “band nerds” or told that girl with acne problems that she had more craters than the moon. Right? You never flirted with someone until they fell for you and then dropped them like a hot potato. Right? And you certainly never laughed at that nice boy who sat behind you in math class, the one who stuttered when he got nervous. Right? And if you did those things, let's pretend you didn't. Okay? You are a nice person so don't be afraid that inside this box is a bottle with homemade explosives waiting to burst in your face. You don't need to worry.

Now, let's open it up and see what's inside (rip, snip, open the lid). Aaah, how interesting! Wrapped in some packaging paper are a few audio tapes. No. Not Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. These are the ones you buy and record things on yourself. There are several of them, all marked with red numbers. It looks sort of like the red was done with...could it be...nail polish? Each side has a number. The first cassette begins with the number 1 on side A and 2 on side B and they continue in sequence up to the last tape which has a 13 on one side and no marking on the backside. Thirteen parts. Thirteen sides to listen to.

This actually happened. Not to me but to Clay Jensen. Clay is a nice guy, just like you. Clay is curious, just as you might be, so he pops in the first tape and what does he hear? He hears her voice, the voice of Hannah Baker. Hannah, his school crush, is speaking to him. The only problem is that Hannah committed suicide two weeks ago. He's still pretty distraught about it, and now her voice is speaking, like a ghost slipping out of the speakers and into ears. Sort of eery, dontcha think? Especially when he listens to her says something like "There are thirteen reasons why I killed myself and if you are receiving these tapes, then you are one of those reasons."

(gulp) Me? What did I do? Say it isn't so!!!

That is the storyline of the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I bought this book, because I noticed it won many awards. To see a list of the those awards, click here. It is actually listed as a book for teens/young adults, but I read it anyway. Yeah...I read children's literature. So what...go ahead and laugh. I don't care. I like to read books first before recommending them to my daughter. She will turn 13 this summer, and though I think this is a book every teenager should read, I think she is a bit young for it now. I will keep it on my shelf until she is a bit older. Adults might also benefit from reading it, because it list many signs to look for in troubled teens, signs that might help you prevent a child from taking his or her life.

I enjoyed this book very much and do you want to know something else? I cried when I read it. (Yeah...go ahead and call me a softy. But I tell you this: go read other people's reviews and they will say the same thing. Bit of a tear-jerker.) Even though this is/was Asher's first book (I''m not sure if he has any other books out yet, guess I should have done my research before posting), he did a wonderful job of developing his characters. As I read the story, many of them reminded me of teenagers I knew growing up. The personalities and situations presented were so true to life. The plot is presented in what we might call dueling dialogue, flip-flopping between Hannah and Clay throughout, yet allowing you to get to know the other characters in the process. By the time you've reached the end, you will know the all the reasons why Hannah decided to take her own life. It might make you sit and think about someone who did the same thing. It might make you question the way you interact with those around you. It might make you feel anger or sadness or disbelief. A few online reviews I read came from teenagers saying they still didn't know why Hannah did it, that she made a mountain out of a molehill. Personally, I think they missed the whole point of the book. Regardless of whether or not one "gets it" it is still a page-turner. It keeps you guessing what will come next.

If you want to here the author himself speak about writing the book, there is a nice audio clip of him at his website here. It is listed under the title "Listen to two of Jay's friends interview him about his book". I would post a link here but, to be honest, I couldn't figure it out. 

If you have a teenager (or even if you don't) you might want to visit your local bookstore or public library and pick up a copy of this book. You won't be disappointed. If you want to order one through Amazon, click here.

That's my T post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. T is for thirteen.

Do you ever read literature written for a younger audience? If so, what might you recommend for a 13-year old girl? Since our local bookstores only have a limited number of English books, we usually have them order specific titles for us. Any ideas are appreciated.

S is for eggs! Well, sort of.

I know this is supposed to be a language blog, but I'm going off-topic today. This is just too neat. My S post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge is about the fountain in the town of Schechingen.

The day before Easter my family went to Schechingen to see the Easter fountain. Each year the town's fountain is a bright and colorfully decorated twist and twirl of Easter eggs. These eggs are real eggs (a combination of chicken, goose and ostrich eggs) which are hand-painted. Each egg takes from one to 40 hours to paint. Eighteen to twenty people spend up to 25 days creating these stunning eggs and then many more hours to attach them to the fountain. All together there are over 9,600 eggs!

One thing I liked about the fountain is that the eggs were often grouped according to a certain theme. Some eggs were put together based on a color scheme such as these red and white eggs.

Others, appropriately, depicted religious figures and scenes.

Then there were Hummel characters

and eggs showing different Handwerker (tradesmen).

Even eggs based on various beers or products.

My daughter got excited when she saw Hello, Kitty.

There were even artsy eggs like these. Do you know the original paintings they are based on and the artists that painted them?


There were so many varieties from German culture, the arts, animals, soccer, cartoon characters, and so on.
Some were climbing the green leafy arches while others were hanging; some had the viewpoint of blue sky as a background, others the clear blue water in the fountain. 

All the eggs were so wonderfully created, that it is hard to pick a favorite theme or favorite egg, but here are a few which caught my eye.

I liked these flowery eggs.

This ostrich egg also caught my eye.

And this egg made me laugh. It's red stuck out like a sore thumb among the blue eggs and it was the last thing I was expecting to see on an Easter egg in Germany.

I hope you enjoyed the photos. I wish I could paint eggs as nicely as these. Last year we made rainbow eggs and golden eggs. This year we colored most in pastel colors and another batch we did in turquoise with silver highlights. Each year we like to try something different. How did you color your eggs this year?

Monday, April 25, 2011

An award for me? Really?

What a surprise! I've been awarded a Versatile Blogger Award by Debra Ann Elliott. Thank you so much, Debra.

To check out Debra's blog Writing with Debra, click here.

Of course, I can't just accept the award. This award comes with rules. Who knew awards had rules? Anyway, here they are:

Rules for The Versatile Blogger Award 

Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.

Share seven things about you.

Pass the award along to other deserving bloggers. (I've seen some rules state 15 other blogs, others say 10, some just say pass it on. I will try to pick ten.)

Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.

Seven Things About Me
  1. I believe in equality. When it is time for dessert, my portion should be just as big as yours
  2. I believe that if people were meant to pop out of bed in the morning, we'd all sleep in toasters.
  3. I believe in unicorns. They are all grey and fat and some people call them rhinos.
  4. I know Kung fu and 20 other dangerous words.
  5. I dream of a better tomorrow, a world where chickens can cross the road and not have their motives questioned.
  6. My parents always told me I could become anything I wanted, so I became a blogger.
  7. Sometimes when it is very quiet, I can hear my brain cells die. Poof! Gone.
But seriously, I should make it a bit more personal, shouldn't I? And perhaps...serious? Okay, let's try again.

Seven Things About Me

1. I have very long eye lashes.
2. I get together with my mother every Friday afternoon.
3. I have a cat named Shadow.
4. I can speak four languages—English, German, Italian, and Japanese.
5. My children's book, The Secret Life of Mrs. Kormann, will be released in October.
6. I have trouble shopping for clothing because I am a size 5 and the selection is always limited.
7. I am lucky enough to have inherited a bit of money that allows me to stay home and write, write, write. Yeah, I hate me right now.

Oh, and if I could add one more, it would be that I wish all the above things were true. Aah...delusions of grandeur...aren't they...grand? How I wish some of those things were true.

All right. Here it is. My last list. THE list. This one is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Of course, that means it is a lot less interesting than the other lists.

1. I don't like raw tomatoes.
2. I love the smell of honeysuckle.
3. I enjoy the sound of birds chirping. I am also a big fan of music composed by humans.
4. I have one sister, three brothers, and three step-sisters. Most of them have 2 or 3 children. All of them live thousands of miles away. It's just me, my wonderful husband, and our daughter here. Some days I find that good, others not so good.
5. I think I am allergic to mornings. That may have something to do with me being a night owl.
6. My middle name is Ann. I hate it. It think it is so boring.
7. Before studying to be a teacher, I worked as a secretary for a lawyer.

Now that that is finished, here are the people I feel are deserving of this award (or at least those that I read and enjoy and who don't have a kazillion of this award already).

Laurie Kolp. She has two blogs. One is called Conversations with Laurie, where she posts poetry and other writing, and the second blog is Conversations with a Cardinal, where she shares life stories.

Michelle Hed. On her blog, The Pen, Lens and Brush, Michelle highlights all her artistic talents—writing, photography and painting.

Terri French. Terri also shares her wonderful photos and combines them with haiku on her blog themullingmuse. She teaches courses in haiku and writes articles for a local newspaper (among her many other talents.)

Margo Jodyne Dills. On her blog, It's Always Something, she shares her poetry. I love popping in to see her latest work. At the moment she is busy on revisions for a novel.

Beth R+V. Her blogis Rhubarb and Venison. A North Dakota food blog? You betcha. Here you can find loads of great recipes and interesting cooking tidbits.

Katarina Hofke at the blog totallykati. Yeah, okay...I admit. She is my daughter. But I think it is cool that a 12-year old blogs on a range of subjects from make-up, movie tips, books, and friendship. She blogs in German and never seems to use the spell check (let's call it creative spelling?), but I give her a thumbs up for for creative thinking and effort. At least she doesn't just write about herself.

Greg Johnson. His blog is My Journey to Wellness. Diagnosed with MS but more likely, in his belief, aspartame poisoning, he talks about the dietary and life changes he has made on the way to recovery. These ideas are not just helpful for him, but can benefit us all. A wealth of nutritional and health information is listed.

Joyce Shor Johnson whose blog has the same name as her. What can I say about this blog? She blogs about a variety of different topics and always holds my interest. If you want to know what those topics might be, go check it out.

E.J. Wesley at The Open Vein. For the month of April he has written about various topics regarding writing but done so intertwined with humor. I came across his blog through the A to Z Blogging Challenge and am glad I did. I like his style. Always a good read.

Matt Conlon at =]V[=. He considers himself a a Bostonian father, network technician, and all around geek and writes about diversified subjects. I love this blog. He also has a beer blog. I am not a beer drinker myself but if you are, why not see what he has to say there. (yeah, I know you already have a few of these, Matt, but I think you deserve another)

That's ten. Sure, I could think of others. I also enjoy the book reviews at Discriminating Reader and the poems at Enthusiastic Soul or The Poet Tree. I get a real kick out of The Alliterative Allomorph this month. Each day a new mystery word is defined/presented for everyone to guess. That's fun. I also like Fudge me..that's good! The title alone makes me laugh and the recipes/photos look delicious. I could go on and on and on. I am hoping someone will hand out awards to them sometime. If not, I guess they will be on the list for the next time I receive one.  :-)

Thanks again, Debra Ann Elliott, and congratulations to my recipients. Keep on blogging!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

R is for River

Happy Easter, everyone!

I know I am a few days behind (three, I believe) in the A to Z Blogging Challenge but I promise to play "catch-up" soon and finish my Z post before the month ends. In the meantime, today's letter is R which is for river.

In January I took part in the River of Stones challenge organized by Fiona Robyn. The task was to engage with the world through writing a small stone every day during the month. “A small stone?” you might ask. “What is that?”

A small stone is an observation or "a polished moment of proper paying attention." It might be a few words, a sentence, a haiku or tank. The form doesn't matter. What matters is the observation one makes. The practice of writing it down just serves as reinforcement. The point is that by being fully in the moment and acknowledging just one person, place, thing, feeling, or experience each day you will have a greater appreciation for the world around you.

Most of the members of my writing group took part. Some of us even combined our stones with photos. Here is one of the stones I wrote and combined with a photograph I took from our plot of land nearby. 

                                                                         this perspective
                                                                the tree branches
                                                                       reach down,
                                                                           gnarly wood lightning
                                                               hitting the town.

The River of Stones turned out to be a wonderful experience for all who took part. Not only did we pay closer attention to the world around us, but we made some new friends in the process. Fiona even used one of my stones in Pay Attention: A River of Stones, a book which highlights work from many of the participants.

For those of you who are saying, “Darn...I missed it!”, there is no need to feel left out. You have the chance to participate, because Fiona is holding the challenge again in July. If you'd like to take part, you can find further information here. It's simple.

Fiona is also a published author who has written the books A Year of Questions: how to slow down and fall in love with life, Living Things, The LettersThe Blue Handbag, and small stones: a year of moments. In addition to that, she is a super nice person. To find out how why she began writing stones and how she started the river, watch this video.

So now I am posting a challenge. I challenge all my A to Z Blogger friends to take part. Go it! It will be fun to connect again in July.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Quicksand and other Quirky Words

Before I started teaching EFL, I never realized how difficult the English language can be. Afterall, how often do we take time to think about the words that leave our mouths before we say them. (Some people should do that more often, if you know what I mean.) Have you ever thought about the word quicksand? As a child I remember watching shows where someone accidentally ends up in quicksand and they slowly sink deeper and deeper. In most cases, someone would wander by and either fall into the muck with them or attempt to save them from a slow, messy death. Now if you think about it, that is what makes quicksand such a quirky word. It can work slowly. So why call it quicksand?

They are many words in English that just don't make sense. For instance, burgers. We have chicken burgers, bison burgers, vegetarian burgers. We have the classic of all burgers—the hamburger. But if they are hamburgers, why aren't they made from ham instead of beef? And what about pineapples? There is no pine nor apples in them.

When I studied at University in the Lake District of England, my British friends would laugh at me because we Americans call an aubergine an eggplant. I must admit, it is rather odd. It makes you think of an egg-growing vine of sorts. Then again, they all eat mincemeat pie which has no meat in it. So, let's call it even.

Sweetbreads is another crazy word. The first time I heard this word I thought, “Mmmmm...sugar glazed bread with raisins or nuts. Oh, yeah, gimme some.” Of course, when I found out that sweetbreads are calf pancreas (or sometimes the term is used in a broader way to cover other animal organs) I declined. Years later I did have one bite out of curiosity, but that didn't help sway me.

English is full of words that just can't be explained. Beyond the examples I listed, we also have homophones, homonyms, idioms, and other tricky parts of written or spoken English that can make learning English as a foreign language a real challenge. Terms like “hit the road” cannot be translated word for word. Well, I guess they could but they wouldn't have the correct meaning, now would they?

One of my students, Susanne, worked as an au pair in California when she was younger. She loved all the fresh produce and the ocean. The family she lived with ate a lot of celery. She said they ate it all the time—as an appetizer, an afternoon snack, in tuna fish and egg salad. She'd never tasted it before. In Germany, celery root is more popular. One day when she was chatting with one of the neighbors, she was asked if she liked her work and the family she was staying with. “Oh, yes.” she replied. Then, the lady inquired, “Do you mind if I ask about salary? Do you get enough?” Susanne thought this was an odd thing to be asked but replied, “Oh, I get plenty. We have celery at almost every meal.” We got a good laugh out of that one. Susanne is always good for a laugh and a good time. She doesn't even mind me sharing that with you. In fact, she could probably tell the story much better than I did.

Quicksand. Sweetbreads. Celery. All quirky words if you think about them a bit. Boxing rings, too. If they are rings then why are they square? I will leave you to ponder that for a while while I think of a post for R.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Letter P and the Big Ten

Can you count to ten? I betcha can.

Do you know what syllables are (or should I say sil-la-bulls?)? I remember in grade school having to clap out the syllables of our names. It's so easy that kindergarten children do it.

Now let's combine the two-- can you count syllables and lines? Well, of course you can. And that's what you need to do for the latest challenge posted at Poetic Asides. Well, that and write a poem. It needs to be 10 lines long and each lines must consist of 10 syllables. Other than that, there are no other rules. How cool is that? If your poem is picked as the winner, it will be featured in Writer's Digest. The deadline is April 29. For further details, click here.

That's my P word for today. Poetry. April is National Poetry Month. So read a poem or write a poem. Submit or subscribe to a literary journal. Share some silly poetry with a child. With that in mind, I offer you this—the earliest poem I remember from childhood. I thought it was so funny.

The Purple Cow by Gelett Burgess

I NEVER saw a Purple Cow;    
I never hope to See One; 
But I can Tell you, Anyhow,    
I'd rather See than Be One.

Well, ain't that the truth.

That's all for today. Short and sweet. The Easter vacation begins today and the weather is beautiful.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My First Experience with a certain O Word

It's funny how some moments stick with you for life. Some words as well. Finding a word for the letter O was no problem at all. This word popped into my head immediately. I learned this particular O word when I was 16. Yep, all the way back in high school (and please don't ask how many years ago that was).

The day started off pretty rotten. Snow had covered the ground and underneath, on the surface of the roads and sidewalks, slippery ice was hidden. I had the misfortune of living in a nook of town quite a distance from the school that had no school bus service. On days like this one, it irritated me that some people who lived closer got to ride a school bus and I had to walk. In any case, I ventured off to school with my heavy backpack, unaware of the ice until I walked down the hill. Slip, slide, and BOOM! I fell and landed hard. I got up, brushed myself off, and trudged on a bit more slowly. My jeans were a bit damp from the snow and my ankle hurt. I had hoped a friend or neighbor might pass by and offer me a ride but no such luck. When I arrived at school, I was 2 minutes late. Two lousy minutes. But I was late and ended up with a detention slip. Being known as “a good kid”, I hoped to use this to my advantage and talk my way out of it. I explained what happened but to no avail. As I took the slip from the teacher I groaned, “Fine. Next time I fall on the ice, I'll just turn around and go home.” I don't think they really cared.

So I sat through morning detention and as soon as it was over, I took a detour on the way to my next class. I stopped by Mr. Rendina's room. He taught math classes, but I had him for a computer programming course. Our current project was a doozy, and I needed a pass to come into the computer lab after lunch to work on it. Our task was to program the computer to play chess. There were so many kinks to work out, it seemed like an impossible task and the deadline was steadily approaching. When I requested a lab pass, he turned me down saying, “My rules clearly state that to receive a lab pass you must come before school starts. Otherwise, you're out of luck.” Well, he got that one right. Luck didn't seem to be on my side that day. So, even though my pity act didn't work on the other teacher, I tried it out on him. I should have known better, because he had a reputation for sticking to what he said. He turned me down again.

I don't know what got into me, but finally I had had enough. I told him, in a very snippy voice, that what kind of world is this that punishes an injured kid for hobbling off to school on a cold, winter day. They should be glad I even showed up considering they don't even have the decency to supply a school bus. (Actually, they had for all of three days but since only two people in my neighborhood took advantage of it, they didn't think it was worth stopping there.) I think I may have even mentioned that the school bus is paid in part by my parents tax dollars. Nice touch, eh? I went on to argue that I was unable to come for the pass, because my fall made me late—two stinkin' minutes late--and that I had already “paid my dues” for this tardiness by attending detention. I didn't feel it was right to receive a “double whammy”, especially when what I was asking for a bit of time to further my educational knowledge (or some kinda bullshit line like that). Gosh, it's not like I was asking to go home early to watch television or to look at next week's math test or something. I just wanted to try to finish this obsurdly difficult assignment if at all possible. I was ticked off and I didn't really give a damn that I was speaking in a disrespectful tone to a teacher. He gave me one final authoritative “No” and I stomped off to gym class.

While changing into my gym uniform, a girl came up to me and said, “Mr. Rendina said I should give this to “that ornery girl” who just left. Then she handed me a lab pass. I smiled but thought, “Ornery! Ornery! Who is he to call me ornery? I am not some little brat. I am an honor roll student. Not only that, I am freakin' secretary of the honor society. I am a team player, a long-standing member of the lacrosse team. On the tennis team, too, not to mention the yearbook staff and newspaper staff. I am not some little twerp. And gosh, darn it, I am captain of the cheerleading squad. And beyond that I.AM ANGRY!”

So I did what any teenage kid in my position might do. Immediately after gym class, I marched right up to the library and looked up ornery in the dictionary. said “having a difficult and contrary disposition.” Then I smiled the biggest smile and wasn't angry any more. After all, by that definition he spoke the truth and, to be honest, I liked being ornery. It felt good to forget that sweet tone of voice, to disregard all the rules, to not give a damn what anyone thought and just explode (and more importantly, to defend myself). AND to top it all off, I got what I wanted. I got him to change his mind, and I knew that was a great feat. He didn't budge often. This time a student had won an argument with him, and it was me.

Don't get me wrong. He wasn't a complete jerk. Sometimes he made us laugh in class. He was all right, as far as teachers go. Yet, he had a reputation for being a strict S.O.B.. Then again, a lot of teachers do, don't they? (Do I really want to admit that---after all, I am a certified teacher myself now.)

In any case, that is the story of how I learned the word ornery. I have never forgotten that word. I've even been known to use it on occasion.

Do you have a word you learned through an experience that stuck with you? I bet you have. Tell me about it. I love a good story, especially if there is a bit of humor involved. Of course, I accept regular comments as well. Yep. Comments are always welcome. 

Oh, and for those of you who were expecting a different O word...shame on you. A "nice girl" like me doesn't write about things like that. You should know better than that...but I do like to toy with you.  For my F word post, click here. Or for my earlier post on wizards, whacky weed, and jelly beans, click here. 

Now it's off to bed for me. Good-night, world! I'm off to dream about P (the word, people!!! the word)

We have a winner...

On April 6, I posted about the Devil's Dictionary and the unusual definitions listed in it. I also challenged you to make up your own definitions of the word education, and offered a prize to the person who wrote the best one. To read that post, please click here.

The task of picking a winner ended up being quite a challenge for me. All the definitions were so good. I wasn't sure what to do so I enlisted the help of a few friends. After tallying up the votes, I am happy to announce that our winner is Siv Maria.  I sent an email to her this morning with prize options. She will be receiving a decorative center tablecloth from the German lady...uh, me.

Congratulations, Siv.

To those of you who didn't win this time, don't be discouraged. I am sure I will have another contest sometime this year. Maybe you could play along and win some tasty German chocolates.

Well, that's all for now. I am off to eat some tasty German chocolates and write my post for the letter O. Oh, yes I am.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Maybe a Lanyard?

Before I know it, it will be here. I need to buy a gift for my mom for Mother's Day. Yeah, I know it's in May. And, yes, I know that it is only the middle of April. The problem is that overseas mail service is not always predictable, timely. I'd like to sent a package by the end of April just to make sure it isn't late.

Of course, each year gets harder and harder. We are at the point where she has almost everything and what she doesn't have, she goes and buys herself. I've already sent her lots of German embroidered tablecloths and doilies which she loves. But how many of those can one have? And we've done the German chocolates and candies. Hand-blown vases from Bodenmais and wood carvings from Oberammergau.  All the typical gifts as well. I've even resorted to sending gift certificates for Christmas--to the bookstore, a restaurant, even the grocery store. But Mother's Day is different. I need to find something special. Something with meaning. Something that says "Thanks for putting up with me all those years. I appreciate and love you." Something that she will go crazy about.

Unfortunately, each time I try to think about it, I get stuck and it is all Billy Collin's fault. That clip of him reading "The Lanyard" keeps running through my head. You know the one...the one about him going to camp and sitting at a bench and making a gift for his mother. The one where... WHAT? Did you just say you have no clue what I am talking about??? Okay. Whoever said that should watch this:

Well, somehow I don't think a lanyard would be her gift of choice. Only if my daughter made it.

The search goes on, but don't worry. If I get to the end of my rope, I'll just hold it tight in my hands, grab the other end, and skip rope for a while. Maybe an idea will jump out at me. Until then I'll be thinking of what to do for the letter N.

How about these?

I am a bit behind on my posts for the A to Z Blogging Challenge so I will make this brief in hopes of getting to M and N. Today's post for L is literature. Specifically, children's literature. Here are a few recommendations. Whether you've heard of them or not, you might want to check them out.

Happy reading!

I Wish That I Had Duck Feet by Dr. Seuss.
A little boy wishes he had different animals parts and explains the wonderful ways he would use them. But each one has a problem, so in the end he decides he is happy being himself. . A silly and insightful tale told in classic Dr. Seuss rhyme.

The Baby's Animal Party by Katharine Ross, illustrated by Lisa McCue
This was our absolute favorite. My daughter wanted me to read it to her over and over again, and when she was older she would read it herself. The pictures, illustrated my Lisa McCue are delightful, full of color and oh so cute. In the story a new baby animal is born and the other animals (field mice, raccoons, skunk, bunny, bear, etc.) gather gifts to take to the baby. They bring berries, nuts, fish, even laughter. It isn't until the end that you learn who the new baby animal is.

One Hungry Monster by Susan Heyboer O'Keefe
It begins with one hungry monster underneath the bed, moaning and groaning and begging to be fed. Then two and three and so on. They search the house for food and make mischief —chewing on shoes, swinging from the chandeliers, spitting out sticky watermelon seeds, braiding wigs out of spaghetti.. This was one of our favorites when my daughter was a child. The story is creative, funny, and exciting, and the illustrations make it even better.

Moosetache by Margie Palatini.
Good hair days, bad hair days. That's what this moose has with his moustache. And it is always in his way, making him trip, obscuring his face. What a nuisance! “He simply could not flambe his souffle with all of those whiskers in the way." To be honest, my daughter didn't get a lot of the play on words but loved it just the same. It's a bit of a tongue-twister to read at times, but that's part of the fun.

The Tenth Good Thing about Barney by Judith Voirst
No, not the big purple dinosaur. Barney was a cat. When he dies his family plans to have a funeral for him and remember all the good things about him. The little boy can think of nine things but not a tenth...and then, the day of the funeral, the tenth thing becomes clear. This is a great tale for anyone who has ever loved and lost a pet. The other is we is well-known for writing Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. This book, though lesser known, is just as good.

It's Raining Pigs and Noodles by Jack Prelutsky

This book features over 100 silly rhyming poems which include Grungy Grace (a girl who refuses to brush her teeth), hippos that dance ballet, a pilot who is afraid of flying and, as the title suggests, rain that comes down as pigs, noodles, and various odd things. Other titles include Never Poke your Uncle with a Fork, Sniffing Snutterwudds, I Chased a Dragon through the Woods, and more. You don't need to be a lover of poetry to enjoy this book. There's a bit of something for everyone.

Unicorns! Unicorns! by Geraldine McCaughrean

This is a great Noah's Ark tale with a twist. When Noah calls for all the animals, the unicorns are no where to be found. Are they dilly-dallying? No. Instead they are busy with tasks such as saving a deer stuck in the mud or drying a butterfly's waterlogged wings. Everyone reaches the ark in time except the unicorns. They are left behind, but their kindness is not left unnoticed and they are rewarded in an unusual way.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for...

Today's letter for the A to Z Blogging Challenge is K, and though I hate to disappoint a few of you, there will be no silliness today. Today is serious business. Today we will explore form poetry. What type of poem starts with K? The kyrielle.

The kyrielle is written in quatrains (four-lined stanzas), each line having only 8 syllables, and using a refrain. There are a number of possible rhyme schemes for the kyrielle. To see one rhyme scheme and an example at Poetic Asides, click here.

About three years ago, I needed to write a kyrielle for a poetry challenge. At that time, I was using Germany as a broad topic for all my writing, and this is what I came up with. The title, Waisenkinder Kyrielle, translates as The Orphans' Kyrielle.

Waisenkinder Kyrielle

Ever since he made his debut
his following steadily grew,
and though we don't mean to complain--
we other orphans wait in vain.

We need love and attention, too,
and we respectfully maintain:
while you spend time at the zoo,
we other orphans wait in vain.

What are we lonesome souls to do?
Without white fur we slip from view.
Your priorities are askew.
We other orphans wait in vain.

We adore Knut just like you
but find it somewhat inhumane
a bear captures people's hearts while
we other orphans wait in vain.

Not too long ago, Knut died suddenly. He is, no doubt, in polar bear heaven, playing with his daddy. Poor, Knut. But there are many orphans still out there, living each day, waiting and wondering if they will ever have a mom or dad, brothers or sisters, or an extended family to call their own. Though I admit I haven't adopted any, I do have several friends who are either adopted or have adopted children and they are all just as loveable as Knut.

Each year my daughter participates in a program through one of the children's television networks. She, and other kids across Germany, donate their old toys. These items are then sold, and the money is used to buy gifts for orphans and poor children. It gives her a sense of purpose and helps to clear out some of the mess in her room.

What do you do to help others?

i'm gonna' freak ya'll out with wizards, wacky weed, and jellybeans

Today is not my day. i barely had any sleep last night, because my daughter was sick again. i was on bucket duty. Not my idea of fun. After finally getting a few hours of shut-eye, i wake to find our beautiful weather has been chased away but a downpour of rain. To make matters worse, yesterday i forgot to bring the wash in. It's still hanging out there on the line, all damp now. I am almost afraid to open the mailbox for fear of receiving a pile of rejections letters.

That's how i started my J post yesterday. You might be wondering where the J part is. Well, i had planned to go on to say that all writer's receive those letters at one time or another. Even well-known writers have experienced this and survived. To read about some famous authors' struggles to be published, clink on this link. If you do, you will notice that J.K. Rowling is one of them. Aaaah...there is the J. Yes, Joanne Rowling's wonderful tales of Harry Potter were initially rejected. And not just once.

So, i had planned to write about rejection and JKR, but other matters came up. When i finally had time to get back to writing the post, i pushed it off and read other people's blog posts instead. That was not a good idea. Not only did i not finish my post, i noticed that other A to Z Blogging Challenge bloggers had not only written about J.K. Rowling/Harry Potter but some had also written about rejection. So i went up to say good night to my daughter and figured i'd just blow this one off until tomorrow. i needed something original.

As i tucked my girl in, we talked and i told her what had happened. We started thinking of new J words. Finally we stumbled upon jelly beans and i made up a silly jelly bean poem. Katarina said, “That's it! That's it! You've got your post.” But considering that poem was on a kindergarten level (and i no longer remember it) i am forced to do this. i am going to use joint as my J word. Yep, I said joint. And to make it even more interesting, i will tie it in with J.K. Rowling, rejection, AND jellybeans.

Initially i refused to read the Harry Potter books. Basically, i felt it wasn't my genre. Who wants to read about some little twerp who goes to wizard school. Whoop-de-doo, i thought. i didn't get it. Why were these books so popular?

Eventually, i broke down and borrowed Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone from our local library. They even had it in English. Well, after i finished it i realized that J.K. Rowling is not just a fantasy writer but a freakin' genius!!! It was as if she'd given me a literary joint to smoke. What is a literary joint? Firstly, it is something i made up. The thought just popped into my head. Right now. Yet, it makes perfect sense. Here is why:

    Reading a good book makes you feel high. You are so intrigued by it that you are in an altered state, a totally different world. Connection number one. Also, things aren't as they seem. i once watched a person pet a dog and insist that it was some sort of big, mutant cat. No matter how much we'd explain that it was a dog, this person (who we could all tell from sight and smell was completely high) insisted it couldn't be. A great book will do that as well. Circumstances and characters are never really who they seem. Guess what? This person that you thought was a person is really a wizard. And that person you thought was perhaps a wizard is actually a werewolf. And the other person, well, we don't know what the hell he is!! Lastly, a literary joint (or wonderful book) will leave you hungry for more. i got addicted to the Harry Potter books. After i read the first one, i went to the library the next day and signed out book two, then three, and so on. i simply could not stop until i had read them all. And lucky me—since they had all been written already, i didn't have to wait for the next book to be released like my friends did. (Nah-nah, nah-nah-nah.) So, if you haven't read the Harry Potter series yet, i urge you to do so. Even if you never read fantasy books or you are not into series or you only read magazines, you'll probably like it. And if you want, you can even eat a few jelly beans while you're reading. After all, i've heard that literary joints give people the munchies. Honestly. Happens every time.

Oh, and before i forget...have you noticed that i am only using the lower case i today. There is a reason for that. Those of you who read yesterday's post know the reason but if you happened to miss it, you can read about it by clicking here.

That's all for now. I hope no one found this offensive.While the smoke clears, I'll be off writing my K post. Till then...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Is I better than you and should i freak you out?

Before I begin my next post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I would like to say two things. First, I am extending the deadline for my blog contest (originally this evening) to midnight tomorrow evening (Tuesday, April 12) at midnight EST. All you need to do is write a short definition of the word education. For complete details and to enter (or to read a bit of the competition) please click here.

Secondly, the third round of Germany's reading contest took place today. My daughter represented our county (Rems-Murr-Kreis) and competed against 13 other sixth-graders. Many of you emailed or wrote comments on my blog wishing her luck. I would like to extend my thanks to all of you. She gave a great performance and receive a book prize and a certificate. Unfortunately, she did not win the number one spot. She was terribly disappointed since she dreamed of winning this ever since the third grade. Since it only takes place in the sixth grade, the dream has come to an end. Nonetheless, I am extremely proud of her. KATARINA, YOU ROCK AND I LOVE YOU!

Now, on to the letter I.

When pondering which “I” word to discuss, it didn't take long. Immediately I thought of the word I. Yes, it is both a letter and a word. You might argue that B (bee), C (see) and even G (gee whiz) are words. What about the names J (Jay) and K (Kay)? Oooh, what about O? Uh, let's not even talk about P. Are ( R) you (U) going to give me a line about T (tea) being a word? Now why (Y) would you want to do that? Really, folks...I is the only letter than can stand alone as a word.

Have you ever stopped to consider how often we use the word I in our lifetimes? As children we proudly announce “I can count to 100!” or “I can tie my shoes all by myself”. At Christmas we recite our wishes as we sit on Santa's lap. “I would like a doll that talks” or “I want a brand new fishing rod and roller blades and the newest electronic game”.

When we are teenagers we can brag “I got an A+ on the Geometry test. And you?” Don't ask. The girls hang around in their cliques babbling “Oh, my gosh. I can't believe (insert name of school quarterback or other popular boy) wants to go out with ME”. In response one jealous girl will snapped, “I can't believe it either, you bitch.”

On a job interview--“I feel that I am qualified for this job because...”. As parents—I don't care what so-and-so is allowed to do. I am your mother and I said NO”. Yep....always I, I, I. Even when we aren't even focusing on ourselves we use it. For instance, when we thinking about food. “I love sushi”. “I would like the lobster bisque as an appetizer.” “Sweetbreads? I have never tried those before.” Probably none of us could get through the day without using I at least once.

That brings me to a memory from a few years ago. I had just begun teaching English as a foreign language and one of my students made a joke about English-speaking people feeling self-important. When I asked her to explain she pointed out the difference in the usage of “I” between German and English. In German if I wanted to say, “Should I begin now?” it would be “Soll ich jetzt beginnen?” As you might notice, the word ich (German for I) is not capitalized. Hmmmm. We don't use upper case letters for you or he or she or it nor we or they or us. Yet, I is always written with a capital letter. I had never thought about it before. In fact, the only other reference to someone other than a proper name (like Linda or Stefan) that I have seen capitalized in German is der Herr (the Lord). Jeepers. When one looks at it that way, we English-speaking people really are full of ourselves. Who is to say that I am more important that you or anyone else for that matter. And I certainly wouldn't compare myself to God. Yet, the word I is somehow deserving of being eternally capitalized.

I wonder how other languages treat the word I. Is it capitalized in Spanish or Italian or French? If I remember correctly from what little of those languages I once learned, it isn't. Do you speak a language other than English? If so, please let me know how the word I is written. I am curious. I want to know. I...I...I....or should I say ay-yay-yay? Perhaps tomorrow I will only use lower case i in my post. Now that would freak everyone out. Oh, and i do so love to freak people out.Yes, i do.

Quick Note

Hi, everyone! I noticed I have a few new followers. Welcome! I hope you enjoy my ramblings. 

Older followers might remember my post "Books, Twists of Fate, and Sushi" that discussed the reading competition held nationwide in Germany. My daughter is participating and will be taking part in the next round (Bezirksentscheid) TODAY. Please join me in thinking positive thoughts for her. This competition means very much to her. My bookworm wants to win!

If we don't get home too late this evening, I will post my next A to Z Blogging Challenge post (letter I). Otherwise, I will posts both I and J on Tuesday.

I appreciate any positive energy you can send our way.

Thanks :-)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

How to "how to" and other filler

One way to break into magazine publishing is by writing filler. Filler can be an anecdote or joke, a short story, poem, or even a recipe that is used to fill the empty space on a page. Since most feature articles don't fill a page exactly, editors are always looking for fillers.

One advantage to writing filler is that these short pieces, ranging anywhere from 20 to 250 words (sometimes longer), do not take much time to write. Sometimes they are based on personal experience--something funny that happened to you or that you observed, a helpful hint, or a family recipe--therefore, you need to do little research (if any at all). Editors rely on freelancers for these short pieces, because their staff writers are too busy writing feature articles to do so. Since there is always a need for filler, your chances of being accepted are higher than for longer pieces, and will help you gather published clips (which may one day help you when querying for a feature).

The major disadvantage of writing filler is that it tends to pay poorly.  Pay might be as minimal as only $5, though much of the information I have seen lists $25 to $50. Considering there is much less work involved than larger pieces, one can't expect much. Some publications only offer a copy of the issue in which it is featured. However, Reader's Digest pays up to $300 for some types of filler.

Another way to break into a magazine is with the ever-popular, short "how to" article. If you are a beginning writer you've certainly come across those articles that promise to help you in your effort to write well and establish yourself in the publishing world. How to Write Good Dialogue, How to Develop your Main Characters, How to Write a Query Letter--c' know what I mean. Writer's magazines and the internet are flooded with them. But these type of articles aren't just marketed to wanna-be-writers. With the hectic lifestyles most people lead these days, most people are eager to read short pieces such as How to Save Money on Food and still Eat Well, How to Cut Your Cleaning Time in Half, or How to Declutter and Take Back Your Life. Of course, "how to"s aren't just about saving time and/or money. Some highlight basic knowledge such as How to Change a Flat Tire, How to Land Your Dream Job, or How to Get Your Toddler to Sleep at Night in Three Easy Steps.

Many "how to" pieces have already been done. So it is good to find a way to update them in some way or to provide a new twist. Instead of how to save money with coupons, how about writing guidelines for beginning a coupon exchange group. Pay attention to current events, either within your country or community. If there is an issue which needs addressing, whether that be the increase in bullying in schools or even an overabundance of ladybugs, there is always a how-to piece in the making. Sure, the past year has given us plenty of articles on how to protect your child from bullying, but what about how to approach your school teacher/principal about bullying?

Of course, my favorite how-to articles are the humorous lists written for the sole purpose of entertainment. How to Tell if Your Cat is Two-Timing You, How to Trick Your Kids on April Fool's Day, or How to Tell if You are Old makes much better reading for me than How to Lose Weight (though I probably should be reading the latter).

So, here is my "how to" for today.

How to Avoid Feeling Bad about your Weight

1. Go through women's magazines and find as many of those "I lost 75 lbs. on the blah-blah-blah diet". Cut out the before photos and hang them on your refrigerator. Every time you walk by or want to open the door for a tasty chocolate pudding or bacon or whatever you shouldn't eat, you can think "Thank goodness I am not THAT overweight."

2. Go to a circus or carnival. Ask if you can purchase one of those mirrors from the Fun House than makes you look like a 20- foot tall human hot dog. Ahh, optical illusions DO have a purpose in life.

3. Go shopping and buy an inexpensive outfit that is one size too big. Try it on from time to time to reassure yourself how thin you are.

4. Agree to pay your kids 10 cents for every time they say "Gee, mom. I hope I look as good as you when I am your age."

5. Use one of those self-help, hypnotic tapes that tells you "You are wonderful the way you are" while you sleep. Hopefully your subconscious will hear.

6. Set your scale so it says you are 5 pounds lighter. Sure, it's a lie but what's a little white lie when it makes someone happy? So what if the person is yourself.

Okay, okay...or you could actually lose weight. That's it. No evening snack for me tonight. Just a cup of herbal tea and my vitamins...

yeah, right.


Oh, I almost forgot...I would like to write about how to surprise someone and how to make someone happy. Dierdra Eden Coppel did both today. I got an email from her saying she visited my blog and enjoyed it very much. She sent me a Creative Blog Award.

Thank you, Deirdra!

Deirdra also has her own blog called A Storybook World. If you'd like to take a look, click here.

Give it a Try

Here is a challenge for all my writer friends. Write a paragraph or story which focuses on one letter. Since today is day 8 of the A to Z challenge, I am using the letter G in my example. You may use any letter you wish. It may be any length but must follow this rule. The first word of the first sentence must begin with that letter as well as the second word in the second sentence, third word in the third sentence, etc. After you get to sentence 10, you then go backwards (1,2...10, 9, 8...2,1). This pattern continues as many times as needed. You may end the story at any point in the sequence.Give it a try sometime. It's not as easy as you think. He is my feable attempt:

George has a problem. A girl problem. It is Gwen. He just can't get her to off his mind. Gwen isn't like other girls who are afraid of bugs and spiders and who wear frilly dresses. She is a tall, short-haired girl who plays hockey. In fact, she's the league's best goalie. In two years only three pucks have gone past her swift body. She's one tough cookie; bother her and she'll give you a mean left hook faster than you can say sorry. Most people under-estimate her at first, because she's absolutely gorgeous. Gosh, those pale green eyes and perfect smile fool them every time. Yet, George knows better. He knows Gwen better than anyone, because she is his little sister. And she knows George's big secret. She said that when Grandma and Grandpa come to visit for Thanksgiving, she'll announce it as dad carves into the bird. If that happens, then his goose is cooked. 

Now I ask you...what might George's secret be? Post your ideas in the comment section.

Also, if you are willing to give the exercise a try, feel free to post your paragraph in the comment section as well.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 7 of the A to Z Challenge: F---

Fudge! Please forgive me for my failure to post yesterday. I didn't forget. In fact, I thought about it from the time I woke up. Unfortunately, my daughter had a fever, cough, and other symptoms. As we were sitting in the waiting room of the doctor's office, Katarina and I were throwing around ideas of what starts with F. We thought of friends and family, but I wanted something more original. We considered Facebook and the value of it to both beginning and established writers. We thought of fiction stories and fairy tales. Ah, yes. Fairy tales. That is something we are all familiar with. Who doesn't know the story of Cinderella or Snow White or Hansel and Gretel? And there are hundreds more.

So, we are sitting there (and it is always a looooong wait) and discussing fairy tales. Then I mentioned The Stinky Cheese-Man and that made us think of food and then fish sticks. We remembered the Junie B. Jones book where Junie B. takes a fish stick to school for pet day. Silly, Junie B.! And then we decided to be silly ourselves. We began to create our own crazy fairy tales. Right before the nurse came to get us, we had imagined the most hilarious tale that we were laughing, very hard, and tears were coming to my eyes. The nurse probably thought she couldn't be that sick if we were giggling so much, but we just couldn't help it. The tale is just so funny. I wanted to share it with you, but Katarina protested. It was her idea, title and all, and she is putting it in her list of storylines and doesn't want anyone stealing it before she can write it. She's sure it will be a best-seller one day.

That brought me back to square one. I needed an F word. Unfortunately, I had English class in the evening and by the time I got home, it was late. I was tired. I went to bed and neglected to post. I guess if marks were given for punctuality in this challenge, I would end up with an F. F for Failure. But just like in school, one F during the course of the school year doesn't spell instant disaster. I can still turn this around. I've got 19 days to go yet. I can move forward. .

Ironically, I received a link from a friend today which concerns an important  F word. 

Okay, so it wasn't the F word you expected. If you are disappointed, or (even worse) offended, I apologize. I thought it was rather clever and funny but realize not everyone might agree. Forgive me :-)

Fiddle-sticks! I am out of time. Off to the next matter at hand. The future awaits...and the letter G as well. I guess I'll need to brainstorm what to post this evening. Gee, what could it be?

P.S. If anyone wants to write a new fairy tale for adults, considering sending it to The Fairy Tale Review. Their submission period is not open at this time but by the time you write and revise it, your timing might be perfect. You can find guidelines and other information here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Win a Prize in the Education Challenge

Today's post for the A to Z challenge must relate to the letter E in some way. As a teacher, my first thought turned to education. Going to school is something we must all do, and a proper education can help us in many aspects of our lives.

How would you define education? One dictionary lists the meaning of education as "the act or process of acquiring knowledge, especially systematically during childhood and adolescence." That's one way of saying it, but I am not looking for a straight forward definition. I want something more creative, something that could be listed in the Devil's Dictionary. If you are not aware what that is, then please read yesterday's post here.

Ambrose Bierce used this definition:

Education, n.: That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.

Can you do better than that? I challenge you. Write something to make me smile. Write something to make me laugh. Better yet, knock my socks off! And if you do, you could win a prize.
Here is how it works:
1) Write a funny definition of education. It must be your own work.
2) If you are not already signed up as a follower of this blog, sign up. Then post your definition in the comments section.
3) Step three...nothing. It's that easy!
If I pick your definition as my favorite, I will send you a surprise. Please post your definitions by midnight April 11. I will announce the winner by midnight April 13.
Good luck!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dictionary anyone?

Welcome to Day 4 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Today's letter is D. If you read yesterday's post, then you know that I ended with "Yes, that lovely letter called D is dandy and D stands for much more than dictionary. I am sure I'll come up with something." Well, guess what, folks. After careful consideration I've decided on (drumroll, please) the dictionary. The best part is that dictionaries consist of something else that begins with D...definitions.

Some words can be difficult to define. Take the word beauty, for example. The first thought that comes to my mind is something that is aesthetically pleasing. Of course, if one doesn't understand what aesthetically means, this wording would not serve the purpose of definiton very well, would it? So I decided to search online. At I found this:

beauty [ˈbjuːtɪ]
n pl -ties
1. the combination of all the qualities of a person or thing that delight the senses and please the mind
2. a very attractive and well-formed girl or woman
3. Informal an outstanding example of its kind the horse is a beauty
4. Informal an advantageous feature one beauty of the job is the short hours
5. Informal, old-fashioned a light-hearted and affectionate term of address hello, my old beauty!

I could leave it at that, go on to explain the importance of the dictionary in learning language and in checking spelling. I could even give more examples if I wanted. But why bore you to death?. Instead, I would like to introduce you to another type of dictionary, one that will make things a bit more interesting. 

Have you ever heard of the Devil's Dictionary? It is a satirical lexicon written by Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913).  Originally published in 1906 as The Cynics Word Book, it was retitled in 1911.
A century later the unabridged version (which includes definitions not listed in shorter versions) still remains popular. 

For the sake of comparing apples with apples, this is how Bierce defines beauty.

Beauty, n: the power by which a woman charms a lover and terrifies a husband.

The definition is not as complete as our earlier example but certainly holds true.  How about a few more:

Coward: One who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs.

Acquaintance. A person whom we know well enough to borrow from, but not well enough to lend to.
Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.

Belladonna, n.: In Italian a beautiful lady; in English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues.

And perhaps his most famous:

Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage.

If you like these examples, why not visit your local library and borrow a copy or consider buying a copy here to keep at home. You never know when it might come in handy. Party hit a lull? Pull it off the shelf and start reading. Then just say a word and let people guess what the definition might be. Making up your own silly explanations can be loads of fun. If you'd like to start practicing, then stay tuned for tomorrow's post. We'll be exploring the letter E, and I will issue a challenge to all of you.

So, as Ernie and Bert sing...and now I'm dee-dee-dee DONE.