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Valentine’s Foolishness With Words: Ovation February 18, 2016

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Hello and welcome to “Foolishness With Words,” the blog where I take a concept and tickle it to laughter and utter senselessness.  Today’s word is “ovation.”  Ovation, you all know, is a spontaneous outpouring of applause.  What you may not know are the limits of my folly as I dissect such a word.  Fair warning.

Here is the definition from Dictionary.Reference.com.  I took the word, thinking it would work like gestation (the process of gestating, to gestate) or like oration (the process of orating, to orate), and thought, until I looked it up, that ovate might be the root English verb.  If it followed the pattern, ovate should mean, “to applaud.”  But no.

Ovate means “egg shaped.”

But the roots of ovation, says the website above, are:

Origin-   from Latin ovātiō rejoicing, from ovāre to exult.

Anyone else looking at ovāre and seeing something a little too similar to “ovary?” Hmmm. ‘haps I wasn’t far off in drawing a parallel.

I love eggs.  Are we supposed to celebrate the egg, or the hatching, or the hatchling?  Or, the chicken.  Or, the female in general, whatever the species?

I didn’t write anything for Valentine’s day, but if I did, it would be something celebrating my favorite female, my wife.  She’s the best, the pinnacle of God’s creation, and if anyone is worthy of a standing ovation, it is she.  When we’re all treating each other nicely, I celebrate her, and her “hatchlings.”

(Also, I celebrate that she’s not egg shaped, but rather, more complicated.)


What? January 14, 2015

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The last post left readers saying, “what?”  Yesterday I tried to write analytically about emotions and that’s very difficult for me to do, especially when I’m just feeling hurt and angry, or reflecting hurt and anger from recent experience.  I wonder if any of my readers ever wrote a letter and then decided a day later not to send it because of the damage it might do.  In the modern age of instant delivery, we rant and shoot off an email or a tweet without much thought of how it might hurt the person it’s being sent to.  Or bounce back and hurt the sender.

Most people I know are all genuinely beautiful, fragile creatures who put on a hard exterior show because they don’t want to get hurt.  Most people I like are those I’ve embarked on the journey of real friendship and we’ve lowered our guard.  There’s a language to friendship just like there’s a language to love.  The scary part of that is that everyone seems to speak their own languages and we’re all like travelers in another country when we start that conversation.  We know some of the words because we were curious, but we aren’t by any means fluent.

Maybe that’s half of the problem.

If you don’t speak the language you don’t know what’s offensive.  It could be a word, a phrase, a laugh at the wrong time, even a gesture or a facial expression.  We all come with baggage of our past histories.  I’ve probably offended people unintentionally just by expressing my opinions on this blog.  But my opinion is as valid as the next persons.  I don’t claim to be expert at anything, but I know what I know, think what I think, and believe what I believe, and I try to be logical.

Love doesn’t mean validating a behavior choice.  People say they don’t choose certain habits, they are born with them, and I agree.  When we are children our habit betrays us- we like to do the thing, whatever it is, that is dangerous, and it’s a parent’s job to intervene.  The parent who is wise knows a destructive direction, and either has to divert the child, or pick up the pieces in the aftermath.  The child doesn’t know and is curious, but chooses to do the thing.  So a loving parent does not validate the child’s curious behavior choice.  The parent either corrects, or diverts, or sweeps the brokenness up later.  I can love you and not validate the way you choose to behave, if I think it’s unwise.  If you ask me, I can teach you that there’s a better choice.  And you, another adult, can tell me where I can shove it.  And I can choose to point out that it’s impossible to do that.  It’s your choice as an adult to reject wise counsel.

This opinion of mine doubtless offends people who need or want my validation of their behavior choice.  I’m a Christ follower, I read the New Testament, and I think there’s wisdom there.  I read the Old Testament and there’s wisdom there too, but I don’t get all nit-picky with those details of God’s instructions to the Hebrews, lest someone decide I’m a bigger hypocrite than I am.  I’ve said it before.  If my wisdom, that I didn’t write down for myself, proves right and your house crumbles, call me and I won’t say I told you so.  I’ll just sweep up the pieces with you.  (and if mine does, kindly do the same.) When my child grabbed my coffee cup and accidentally dropped it from counter to floor, first I checked to make sure the child hadn’t been burned by hot coffee.  Then I removed the child from the dangerous broken shards, and swept.  I did tell my child to please be more careful in the future, and I did say, “I love you,” just so the child knew they were more important than a coffee cup.

OK, the pre(r)amble is over.

Q:  Who has offended me, who has disappointed me, who has lied to me, that I ranted so long and weird about yesterday?

A:  Lots of people.  I learn, and these lessons perpetually assert themselves annoyingly into my life, on a regular basis.

These are my lessons, my laws of relationships, not yours, but maybe there’s a kernel of wisdom in them for you to apply for yourself.  When I say “you,” insert “the writer,” if they don’t fit your experience.  With a proverbial grain of salt, here they are:
Postulate:  People are naturally critical.  One thing that unravels a relationship faster than anything else is a critical spirit.  It’s equally fatal at work and in a relationship.  But we’re naturally critical creatures.  I’m not pointing a finger of blame, but if you go into a room that’s freshly painted, you’re going to notice the spots the painter missed, before you commend them on the beauty of the coat of paint that covers the rest.  It’s natural.  But it’s dangerous, if taken to an important relationship.  If you are overly, or publicly, critical of an employer, they’ll very likely fire you in favor of someone who supports the company goals (or the bosses desire to get what he wants out of the relationship).  If you are critical of your spouse, they might try harder next time, but if the criticism continues it’ll fester and boil and bubble and eventually burst. If you want it to work, try praise, or constructive criticism.  A little honey goes a long way.  But this builds the foundation for:

Law 1:  People are going to disappoint you.
People have a funny way of showing you they love you, if they love you.  They’re going to communicate it in their own language, which is not going to match what you want or need from a loving relationship.  That’s going to disappoint you.  They’re going to give you what THEY need, not what YOU need.  It’s going to disappoint you unless you get a clue and start to give them what they want, which is what they gave you.  There’s time along the way, unless you take some drastic love-amputation action, to discuss as loving adults, what you want.  And when you do, they’re going to further disappoint you when they don’t change.  Your expectations and hopes are not going to be realized unless the person already speaks love in your language, and they don’t.  They have to learn it.

Law 1, Corollary Theorem A:  People don’t change.  They’ll try hard if they really love you, and they might even learn how to speak that love language for you, but it’ll be the hardest thing they ever do, and old habits die hard.  They’re going to relapse, or hate you for asking them for what you need.  (Whoa, “postulate?”  “Law?”  “Corollary theorem?”  Who knew this was going to be like your math or science book? – cue my involuntary flashback to Sam Cooke’s “(What a) Wonderful World (This Would Be).”  The truth is, we don’t know much about any of those subjects and love is possibly the most difficult class, even for those who are avid students.

Corollary Theorem B:  People lie.  I know why that is.  They love themselves.  They want what they want, even if it’s a short-term quick fix.  People go into life with their own agendas.  Sometimes they are transparent, other times it takes a little layer-peeling to figure out if they’re hiding something, or a few bad experiences.  Have I ever lied?  Sure.  Who lies?  People who want what they want, with reckless disregard for other people.  Who has lied to me?  Lots of people.  They got what they wanted, I learned what I learned, and I got out of the relationship as quickly as was possible for me.  Or I’m getting out, if I’m stuck there for some reason.  No, I’m not leaving my wife.  She’s quirky and speaks my language with this weird accent, I’m trying to get used to it and also learn her language.  She knows me better than anyone else, and if there’s a lie that would wreck it from my viewpoint, I haven’t figured it out yet.  It’s been 22 years, and in 22 more we’ll probably still have weird accents when we communicate that we love each other.

If an employer lies, it’s a bit more difficult to unravel, and to extricate yourself.  One needs an income stream, even if the employer lacks integrity.  That is on them.  So employers that have lied to me have gotten away with it until I was able to get out, which leads me to:

Law 2:  Get it in writing.  They have employment contracts, and they have marriage contracts.  If you really want it, get it in writing, or refer to Law 1.  If your would-be employer verbally communicates some promise before you sign on the dotted line, get that in writing before you sign or it’ll be worthless and they’ll do what their integrity (or lack of it) allows.  If your marriage is built on some foundational pillars that are different than mine, get that in writing too.

I have a verbal contract with God that should properly govern my conduct within our relationship.  I also have a verbal contract with my wife.  It doesn’t always get me what I want, and I don’t always do everything I promised in the way that I originally intended.  But we’re still working through, and occasionally enjoying, the relationship.  It’s very difficult, maintaining the effort.  And if I say that it means she’d say it too.  But when Pastor Hosea said “as long as you both shall live,” and I said “I will,” I meant it.  He was a great pastor.  For her, under his wise counsel, I memorized the entire chapter of Ephesians 5.

Guys love the part where it says “Wives, submit to your husbands as unto the Lord.”  But it says “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for her.”  All she has to do is render respectful submission.  But he has to love her to death, to earn the respect!  Ugh.  So difficult to love, even if, and especially when, it means putting my wants to death.  The wants keep resurrecting, don’t get me wrong, and she has her ways, with that accent, of keeping me quite content.  But it’s with an accent, meaning it’s not spoken the way I think I want it spoken.  And if you asked her she’d say the same about me.  I hope. (Makes me a little fearful just thinking about it.  It’s why the character Tevia from Fiddler on the Roof was written the song to his wife, asking if she loved him.)

I have a verbal contract with my wife.  I agreed to stay married to her for a term of 99 years, with the option of 99 more if she agrees to it, unless one of us dies in which case our contract is dissolved.  I also contracted that if she ever decided to divorce me she gets full custody of the kids.  And she also gets full custody of me.  Because I don’t really ever want out.  Compared to every other relationship I hear about, ours is pretty awesome.  I don’t ever want to leave what I know, for the level of uncertainty that comes from starting again.  I feel very much completed, by her.  If there was a missing piece in me, before we were married, it was her.  I don’t believe, when I’m happy with her, that I could be happier with anyone else.  And I could be much less happy if I tried with someone else.  The eye candy shimmers and glitters in the window.  It’s beautiful, and I leave it in the showroom.  Tomorrow it’s still shimmering and glittering and beautiful.  Sometimes I wonder, and sometimes maybe even doubt my choice.  And I leave it in the showroom because I can’t afford it.  Trust me, you don’t want to pay that cost, and if you’re paying it, or if you’ve paid it, you know what I am talking about.

Law 3:  God is not a vending machine.  Sadly, the truth is that I’ve even been disappointed with God.  As the rain falls on the unjust, so also it falls on the just.  I won’t claim to fit in the just category.  But I’ll say that when I read the Bible, things I read into the promises aren’t always intended in that contract.  I’m misinterpreting when I read it that way.  Just because I ask God for something doesn’t obligate him to give that to me.  Contrary to some preachers, God doesn’t seem to intend that all of his followers be rich and successful and happy with their circumstances.

I wish they were right, but Jesus taught, “you will always have the poor.”  Many, maybe most, of His early followers in the church were very poor.  Who’s to say that by modern standards you might find yourself rained on economically, just as everyone else is?  And while persecution and martyrdom may mark a “success,” it’s not a happy circumstance.  And just because I can see the words in the Bible that some use to justify their opinion or their belief (or mine) doesn’t make it a correct way of handling the Word of Truth.  It’s not so much that God allows bad things to happen to good people, so much as that God allows people to be selfish and evil and in His mercy waits and doesn’t destroy the wicked immediately.  And thank God for that, because I have moments of selfishness and evil.  Not that any of you ever would.

So although my prayers have been answered with “no,” or “wait,” it only makes God a good Heavenly Father, a good Heavenly parent, redirecting or correcting.  My spiritual three year old still wants what he wants, but can’t have it.  I wish I could say I haven’t ever thrown a temper-tantrum about circumstances as an adult or as a child.  I can’t say that.  I wish I had that wise fatherly view over myself, to understand how His “no” or “wait,” whichever one it is, was in my best interests.  But I don’t get it.

God is intervening, redirecting, diverting me when I’m choosing a thing, because that thing isn’t His best, or my best, for my spiritual growth and development as a child of God.  I have to trust Him and believe that He loves me.  I’m not on His level, nor do I understand things the way He does.  It sounds so cliche, but He knows what is best, and we have to learn what He says is right, or tell Him where to shove it.  And He will then gently let us know why that’s impossible.  Or not- He’s not required to answer.  “Because I said so,” is a perfectly valid answer for a parent to offer their child.  At some level, a child trusts their parent, at least until they’re maybe 14.  Maybe I’m not a three year old, I’ve become that self-reliant, petulant, mistrustful, disrespectful, eye-rolling 14 year old- I still need His help, but I wish I didn’t.  It makes me angry that I haven’t inherited independence and strength sufficient to go on my own.  Trying to be entirely self-reliant only leaves me wishing I had remembered to do my homework, and dreading the failing grade that’s coming.  And I wish I understood what He knows and what direction I should take.  I wish I just trusted and knew what He wanted me to do.  I wish I could communicate in His love language.

And in human love, and in human friendships, we have to trust each other, try to figure out how to say what we need to say to each other, how to say it so it’s understood, , and work hard not to betray that trust.  We need to speak the truth in love, not just the harsh, critical sounding truth.  We need to encourage one another.  If we fail, we’re going to break.  If we succeed, by our labor, we’ll grow up well, and become stronger together.

Dang April 25, 2014

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I know an absolutely beautiful lady, who writes beautifully about life.  She has books published, I am so jealous.  And I’m married, or I might tell you she’s a complete knock out.  I hear my single readers saying, who is this lady?  You need to introduce me.  Nope.  If it’s right, she’ll find you and she is absolutely worth every second you’d wait.  She has her flaws and scars, just like all humans do.  They make her more interesting, more humble, more experienced.  More attractive.  Seriously, without exaggeration, she has the second prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen an adult possess, and I dare not get descriptive about any other observations I may or may not have made.  I’ll plead the 5th amendment.  The prettiest eyes, for the record, are my wife’s.  They aren’t just an inspiration for poetry, they ARE poetry.

My writer friend writes about dating guys and she is hilarious.  So far, she’s only writing about the reject pile of resumes applying for the title, “winner.”  She gets to observe, take her time, write it down, mull it over.  What did he just say?  What does that mean?  How did he behave?  Is that a lie?  Because ladies have a b.s. detector.  Hemmingway said a writer has to have that to make sure his characters sound real.  And women need that because guys are frequently full of it.  Or full of themselves, which isn’t far enough away from full of it.  Women have a b.s. detector, and occasionally guys will find the girl to be so desperate as to have shut theirs off.  Lucky for the guy, maybe, but how long is that going to last?  When she finds out you’re a liar, she should rightly kick you to the curb.  My friend’s detector is fine-tuned and permanently on.  Ladies, take a lesson.

And then her way of describing these poor guys is hilarious.  And sad.  Notice I said, “these poor guys.”  Because I really do pity them. As a married man, I’ve won.  The text says “He who finds a wife finds what is good, and receives favor from the Lord.”  (Proverbs 18:22)  No place anywhere does the text say anything about “she who finds a husband.”  Dang.  So I understand where these guys are.  Single. Un-chosen.  Alone.  And then they meet this priceless woman, whose presence takes them so off guard…  And they do what us guys do.  They screw it up.  

They lie.  Loser.  They brag.  Loser.  They don’t want to hear more about her.  Loser.  Worse, they minimize what she does.  Loser. They’re shallow.  Loser.  They’re illiterate.  Loser.  They don’t think there’s room for self-improvement.  Loser.  Momma’s boy.  Loser. They want too much, and they offer too little.  Loser.  They are pushy, or downright aggressive.  Loser.  (Having power doesn’t mean you have to assert it.)  Or they try a little too hard, too desperate.  Loser.  Or they’re scary.  Loser.

This woman is really brilliant.  And did I mention beautiful?  Yeah, guys are just dumb schlubs, even if they clean up nice and can wear a suit. I watch her, I read her writing, and I think, it must be nice to have the self-confidence to wait and take your pick.  And then I have to ask, how in blazes did I get so lucky as to fall into my wife’s life, and better still into her arms, which I now affectionately refer to as “my spot.”  You know, Dr Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory calls that spot on the couch “my spot,” and demands everyone respect it as “in a state of permanent dibs.”  My wife is so beautiful.  More than 20 years and she just gets prettier to me, it’s awesome.  It’s a profound mystery to me.  If I never figure it out, I don’t care as long as I don’t mess it up.  Every time I’m in “my spot,” I feel like I’ve won the lottery somehow, because she chose me.  In the same way, whoever my friend chooses is a winner.

Note To All Women Everywhere:  You are the treasure.  Don’t let the losers drag you down.  You choose the winner.  You have the power to do that, and not him.  Sorry, guys.  Ladies, like the nursery rhyme and your “mother told [you], to[, you should wait and] pick the very best one.” In my childhood I never knew you could say “my mother told me,” or “my mother said.” These options change the final outcome of the selection process, which seemed random to me when I was young. Oh, childhood. I am still pretty naïve. When will I become wise, and why does it have to be after the hornet-stings, before I learn they’re mean? After the “match burn twice” trick burned me when I was a kid, and after learning what bullies people can be, I learned people can be mean too. But I still put out a courageous vibe, bravely meeting other people despite my profoundly deep introversion and fear of being burned by something that looks harmless.  You have the power of the choice:  “my mother told me,” or “my mother said.”  Choose wisely.  Reject the losers.

So my friend writes and she says things like “rugged” and “hunk,” and how hot the room feels, and I realize, she’s talking about one of the losers.  And I think, Dang.  I wish I was a “rugged hunk” who made the temperature of the room go up.  Alas, I’m only a hopeless romantic poetry writing schlub who worships the ground my wife walks on, and her eyes, and as another poet has aptly described, “all her curves and all her edges.”  Thank you, John Legend.  That song, “All of You,” is the kind of poetry I want to be writing. Sadly, writing poetry hasn’t make me rugged or hunky or rich.  (Yet?)  Nope.  I’m still slightly overweight, grey-bearded, and approaching 50 at warp speed.

The songwriters get rich and famous writing about women who like their tequila and their whiskey, or who like to dig for gold, or who live exciting lives spending lots of money and looking good.  I’m not hearing a lot about 22 years of stability, working hard, making a brilliant choice and staying with it, and living for solid good old-fashioned true love.  I’m there, writing about it and not making myself rich or famous.  (Yet?)  Because whiskey and tequila and money and clothes and cars and shallowness aren’t the things that turn her on.

I’m in a stage of my relationship where I want to rekindle whatever fire she felt when she said “I do.”  I’ve been there, working on the rekindling for 27 years.  We’ve been married 22 years.  There’s no magic elixir or spell.  She doesn’t like my poetry, which is about all I have to offer. Drinks put her to sleep.  There are acts of service–washed feet (a great flirtation device) put her to sleep; back rubs (another one) put her to sleep, household chores, which I do cheerfully as long as I’m not half-asleep myself.  And I tell the truth:  I’m a slightly overweight, grey-bearded (she hates the beard but I hate shaving more), guy approaching 50 at warp speed, a hopeless romantic poet and novel-in-progress-ist, who dearly and desperately loves his wife and family.  I do all of that, and it’s not enough.  She’s hard to turn on.  Worth it, but hard.  Those moments when the moon and stars miraculously align and my kids don’t bang on the door…

There’s plenty to repair if I were any good at that.  Cars and plumbing and computers, sure would be nice to be able to fix those things myself.  I’m good with electricity, now, finally.  I can wire some things, or fix a short circuit.  I can repair our vacuum cleaner, and I can clean things you wouldn’t believe.  But if you start telling people how I do windows, I’ll plead the 5th again, claim Mission Impossible, and disavow all knowledge of my actions.  I used to change the diapers and coddle the kids, when they were of that age.  Now I put notes in their school backpacks and try to encourage them when I’m not working.  It’s not enough.  If I had enough money, I could have a proper midlife crisis, with the new sports car (I’d choose a Prius, and how lame is that?), and the new career (I’d choose poet and published novelist instead of day job worker and writer-by-night, and how lame is that?).  If I were cool, and rich, there’d be a Ferrari and I’d be a famous singer/songwriter like John Legend.  A lot of guys choose a new wife.  But if I were rich, and if I did have the crisis, if I were wise, I’d still choose my wife.  Though I loved her first, she made this loser feel like a winner, and she still loves me best.  So maybe, just maybe, it’s enough.

But, Dang!  It sure would be nice to be a sexy, rich, rugged hunk, whose presence heats up the room.