23 words · Writing


ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha (<—-that’s-me-laughing-maniacally-because-I-figured-out-a-way-to-cheat-this-stupid-self

Grief · poetry · Writing

Ordinarily, I Just Blather

I lied
I promised a poem and blather
I may just blather
I won’t give you a poem
Not today
I can do this thing
Next Saturday

Yesterday, the prompt was “reversal” and, like an idiot, I all-too-quickly decided I would write a reverse poem. I used the word reversal instead of reverse because it actually shows up that way in the interwebs.

Last night I sketched out my idea — two opposing thoughts to put at each end with a few middle-ish words. This morning, I filled that page with words and arrows and crossing-things-out and carets to insert new words. It was a mess. It definitely needs more work.

So I got out my computer and stream-of-consciously wrote the intro to this post — which CAN be read forward and backwards, but it’s not really two opposing ideas.

Next Saturday, I hope to have a worthy poem to accompany my blather.

If we were having coffee this morning, I would bore you with all the new words and concepts I learned this week.

Check out this one: AESTIVATION. It has two definitions. In zoology, it’s a state of dormancy during hot weather, as compared with hibernation, which is that dormant state in cold weather. Snakes in the desert aestivate.

But the second definition is the one I fell in love with. In botany, aestivation is the arrangement of petals and sepals in a bud before it opens.

I love flowers

We have words for the coolest things.

I also learned the concept “Homo Faber” which means “Man the Maker.” One definition I found talked about man making tools to “control” their environment. I prefer to think about it more along the lines of Dorothy Sayers in her book The Mind of the Maker. There she talks about us being made in the image of God and the only thing we really knew about God at that point in the scriptures is that He created. We were made to be creative.

After my father passed away in 2019, I had some pretty serious struggles. In the spring of 2020, I found myself going for frequent walks to think — but more and more my thoughts were dark and morbid. Finally, I reached out for help and found a mental health counselor. We talked A LOT — and we still talk. I also admitted my struggles to my primary care provider who prescribed an anti-depressant. It helped, too.

There were a few times that I tried to wean myself off the anti-depressant, but quickly saw the dark road again. Then, this past fall, I found that I was forgetting to take it. I tried a bunch of different systems to help me remember, but none of them worked.

And the truth was that this time I was not seeing the darkness. Instead, I found myself feeling creative again. I mean, look at me! I’m writing here again!

I talked to my counselor about it. “I think I’m doing really well,” I told her. I showed her some of the Christmas gifts I had made — MADE — for my co-workers. “Do you think it’s okay if I just stop the anti-depressant? I promise to start again if I see the darkness or feel the darkness or have those dark, dark thoughts. I just refilled the prescription so I have a supply ready.”

She gave me her blessing — with a thousand caveats, of course, as I presume she must. She confirmed that the anti-depressant could also stifle creativity. I would have talked to my primary care provider, too, but she has since moved on to another city.

I say all this not to give my own blessing to anyone who stops taking a prescribed medication. Always have someone else in your loop who can monitor you and keep an eye on you!

I say all this because I feel alive again. Grief threw me into a period of aestivation. Now I’m ready for my petals to start opening.

This post has been brought to you by true Stream-of-Consciousness writing (thanks, Linda Hill). 49% of me says that I still have time to delete, but the 51% wins. I’m leaving the blather in the hopes it will be what someone else today needs to hear.

elderly · Life · people · Writing

Out of the Hole

First, let me just say HOLY COW!! WRITING ONLY 23 WORDS IS A CHALLENGE!!

There. Got that off my chest!

I was thinking about Sabbaths and how we need to take breaks — regular breaks — from hard things. There’s discipline and then there are nutso compulsions. I work at a gym, so I see a lot of those people who are very disciplined about their training, but I also see people who compulsively overtrain to a point where it’s pretty unhealthy.

Writing 23 words is not unhealthy. It’s hard, though! But I decided that I would be disciplined about it six days a week and on the seventh I would blather. Uncontrollably blather. And use Linda Hill’s Stream of Consciousness (SoCS) writing prompt as my excuse.

Today’s prompt: “out of the box.” This isn’t really an out of the box story, but it’s the first thing that came to my mind so I’m going to run with it.

Over the last few weeks I have found myself.

I know that sounds ridiculously pop-psychology 1980s, but when you’ve lost yourself and found yourself again, it’s kind of amazing.

For my regular readers, remember when I wrote this post: What’s Your Goal? I was incredibly frustrated by someone trying to help me by asking me about my goals. I was too lost in the darkness of a deep forest of I-don’t-know-what to even understand that question.

Fast forward to maybe two weeks ago.

No wait — in the intervening time — about 9 months — I took on some new duties with my job. I’m helping bring some senior programming to the facility where I work. To do that, I’ve been working with a woman who has been running a senior program at another location. This past Thursday, January 5, was the big day of inviting seniors in for an Open House.

Like I said, leading up to it, I’ve been meeting regularly with a woman who has been doing this job elsewhere. We’ve discussed rooms to hold events and places to store materials. We’ve discussed personnel to be involved and practical safety issues for the population we’ll be working with. It’s all been so good.

Then the lightbulb went on a couple weeks ago. I was talking to one of my daughters about it, about a few ideas I had. Specifically, I said, “We should have a ‘Bird’ month of programming. We could have one of the artists lead an art project involving birds. We could maybe build some birdhouses, We could have someone speak on backyard birding and ways to attract birds.”

I was on a roll and getting excited as the ideas started to flow. “We could go out birding. We could get out the badminton nets if people wanted to hit the birdie back and forth.”

“Mom,” my daughter said, “this is what you do.”

And she was so right. I’m an idea person.

That free flow of ideas had been so stuffed in for so long, for so many reasons.

Not everyone likes idea people. One of the people I work with is an idea-shutter-downer. “Stay in your lane,” she said to me when I made suggestions.

Truly I have been clogged.

Out of the box may not be the right term for what I’m feeling.

Maybe out of the dark forest. Or out of a hole.

I feel alive again. The Open House was a HUGE success.

What’s my goal? To use my unique giftedness to serve other people. I LOVE doing that. Now I have an outlet for it with the senior programs where I work.

23 words · poetry · Writing

23 Words

“Hey, Sally, you’re a writer, aren’t you?”

A guy asked me this at the front desk the other morning. I’m not exactly sure what he had heard about me or where. I hesitated.

“Umm… I’ve done some writing,” I said.

“Do you have a blog? Do you have followers?” he asked.

Is that what makes a person a writer? A blog? Followers?

“I used to write every day,” I told him, “but once I dropped the habit, it was really hard to pick it back up.”

Is that true, or what? I don’t care what the habit is, but once you give yourself permission to break it, it’s all downhill.

Every diet I have ever tried has fallen prey to just-this-once permission.


“I have a plan for writing next year,” I told the man. “I’m going to write 23 words every day.”

He looked at me like I had just said I was going to hop on one foot barefoot in the snow every single day. Problem #1: there’s no snow here in July therefore I couldn’t possibly do THAT every day.

“23?” he repeated back to me.

“Yes! I can write 23 words,” I said.

He looked puzzled. “But why 23? Is that like the 23rd Psalm or something?”

I laughed. “No, because it’s 2023. And 23 well-chosen words sounds like a good challenge, and one I can do.”

“Just 23?”

“That’s the challenge — don’t you see? To choose 23 words — just 23 — no more, no less,” I replied.

“What are you going to do with them?” he asked, clearly still bewildered.

“I’ll post them on my blog,” I said.

“You know, some people just write in a journal,” he said.

I sighed.

I DO write in a journal. Every day. Journalling is, for me, a form of remembering and processing. It’s not writing.

Not like 23 words.

Hopefully this will go better for me than my last personal challenge.

Anyone care to join me?

A sample —

23 words I wrote today after a busy, busy day at the gym where I work:

So many visitors!
In that sea of unfamiliar faces
it is nice
to see a familiar one
a smile
a wave
a friend

A to Z Blogging Challenge · Faith · Writing


I like words.

If you think about it, they’re pretty amazing things.

I remember as a child being amazed at my father’s vast vocabulary. He knew a lot of words. I forget what the exact challenge was, but I was scouring the dictionary for a word he didn’t know. (Aside: I realized as I wrote those words that kids today don’t have that dictionary-searching experience. If they need to look up a word, they don’t pull out an enormous heavy book; they simply type the word into a search bar, or click on the word, and ~ poof! ~ there’s the definition.)

Anyway, I was searching the dictionary and found a word that I was sure he wouldn’t know: Quisling. He not only knew the word, he knew the origins. For the record, a quisling is a traitor who collaborates with an enemy occupying force for personal gain. Vidkun Quisling did just that in Norway in WWII.

That kind of word is called an eponym, a word that was a person’s name. In looking up the definition of eponym, I found that the word boycott is an eponym. Charles Boycott, an English landowner in Ireland back in 1880 treated his tenants so badly that they decided just to ignore him.

Fascinating, right?

Last Sunday, I was preparing for a class at church. For a year or more I’ve been attending an Episcopal church, but honestly, I still don’t know what I’m doing. All this standing, kneeling, sitting, genuflecting, making-the-sign-of-the-cross stuff gets confusing. I’m pretty sure that God doesn’t entirely care if I forget to genuflect before I enter the pew. Still, I’d like to understand the whys and try to be respectful. So the rector invited me to a book study on Walk In Love: Episcopal Beliefs & Practices (by Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe). The topic last week was the Eucharist.

It turns out that the prayer book has six different terms for this thing that we do in church. “The Holy Eucharist is called the Lord’s Supper, and Holy Communion; it is also known as the Divine Liturgy, the Mass, and the Great Offering.”

I love when other languages have words for which we have no English equivalent. For example, there’s Danish hygge (warm, fuzzy, sitting-by-the-fire feeling), German schadenfreude (getting pleasure from someone’s misfortune), and Hawaiian pana po’o (scratching your head when you can’t find something). I particularly liked discovering this Halloween-y word, vybafnout, Czech for jumping out and saying “Boo!”.

Back to Eucharist, though, I can’t help but wonder if we don’t have a human equivalent of what God intended in this sacrament. We don’t have one word for it. We don’t have even one way of doing it.

I’ve taking communion with matzo crackers and little individual cups of grape juice, hunks of leavened bread ripped from a whole loaf and dunked in juice, little round wafers dipped in real wine, and even Girl Scout cookies with a little milk. You may think that last one sacrilegious, but I’d go back to God looking at our hearts.

In the class someone asked about the elements becoming the body and blood of Christ. “Is it magic?” she asked.

“It’s mystery,” I blurted out, and Father went with that, expounding on sacramental mystery.

In preparing for class, I followed rabbit trails, as I am wont to do. I came across the word aumbry and looked it up (not in a dictionary, but in the search bar). An aumbry is a recessed cupboard in a church where sacred vessels and vestments are stored.

From there I found pyx, a small round container where the consecrated host can be stored.

And then I came across monstrance. Such a Halloween-y word with such a non-Halloween-y meaning. No monsters, but instead a vessel in which the consecrated host is displayed.


Words — they’re pretty amazing, right?

But I also don’t like when people’s words don’t match their lives (my own included).

I recently came across a quote from Thomas Fuller that I keep thinking about: “How easy is pen and paper piety for one to write religiously! I will not say it costeth nothing, but it is far cheaper to work one’s head than one’s heart to goodness.”

Surely somewhere there is a word for just that.

Blogging Challenge · Life · Writing

Dear Kim

Gah — It’s New Year’s Day and I really want to get back into writing.

“I resolve to write every day in 2022.”

That sounds so pretentious. And lofty. And ridiculous. Yes, that’s it — utterly ridiculous because I barely posted anything in 2021 and I probably made the same resolution.

That’s where you come in, Kim. As I sat here squirming in my chair, feeling knots in my stomach — knots of both of anticipation and dread — I thought, what if I just wrote a letter to Kim every day?

I can picture you reading it. I know you’ll be kind in your responses. I owe you so much.

I think that‘s it, too. I owe you so much. So many thank you’s. So many responses to your faithful checking in on me. You know the road I’m walking — and you know how to encourage me on it. Have I ever thanked you for all that?

And here you are — unbeknownst to you at the time of my writing this — helping me again.

For the month of January 2022, I resolve to write to Kim every day. I’m going to use the prompts from Linda G. Hill’s blog. She calls Saturdays “Stream of Consciousness” and I’m not allowed to go back and edit. This may explain some of the blather in this post. I would ordinarily cut some of it out. But, then again, I probably wouldn’t end up posting because I would say, This is total blathering. Or blithering as the Scots might say.

Wednesdays are “One Liner Wednesdays.” Not exactly sure what happens there, but I’ll jump in and give it a go. At least for January.

All the other weekdays will have a prompt. So if I write to you about gobbledygook or unicorns, just know that that may be the prompt and I’ll try to work it into something meaningful I’d like to say to you.

Because I do have so many things I want to say to you — most of them centered around gratitude. You’ve been a good friend.

And if I fail to write you any of the days of January, just know that the failing is mine, not yours.

You’re the best.



Remember this?
Faith · Writing

A Gentle Answer

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

I’ve been fighting the Snark Monster in my heart the past few days.

Every response that I begin to form in my mind to an on-line discussion goes snarky after the first few words. I remind myself, “A gentle answer turns away anger,” and try again — always with the same outcome.

Things that bother me — glibness and condescension. For those of you who want to get under my skin, try those two together.

Be glib; be shallow; don’t put any deeper thought into your comment; spit back answers that I’ve probably heard in 37 sermons. Yep — that will irk me.

Pair that with a little condescension by assuming that I don’t know anything and I’m sunk. A condescending tone and, if we’re talking in person, an accompanying smirk will bug the bejeebers out of me.

Things I don’t know anything about and therefore have zero-risk of condescension — automobile engines and living in the heart of a megalopolis. Feel free to explain as much as you want on those topics, but be forewarned — my eyes will glaze over when you talk about engines.

And now I’m bordering on snarky. Sorry. Maybe it doesn’t sound blatantly snarky, but if you could see my heart… ew.

One of the things I love about the way Jesus taught was that he used stories and images to make his point. It’s hard to be condescending in a story. A good story pulls the listener in and suddenly you’re walking on that road to from Jerusalem to Jericho, you’re attacked by robbers, you see people pass you by instead of stopping to help.

Laurel asked me last night why I say half-past or quarter-to when I’m telling the time. “I think it’s because I see that clock face divided into quarters and have a mental image,” I said, realizing that she mostly sees time in a digital format, so it didn’t have as much meaning. Mental images appeal to me.

When Jesus was talking to Nicodemus about the Spirit, he used imagery of the wind. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) When I think about that verse, I hear the wind, I feel the wind, I see things moving with the wind — but I don’t where the wind begins or where it ends — and I realize that I’ve learned something about the Spirit by realizing how little I know about it.

No glib condescension or snarkiness there — just an opening of my heart and mind.

I think my gentle answer needs to be a story. A good story will at least lull the Snark Monster to sleep.

“This’ll teach you to be snarky!”
A to Z Blogging Challenge · Faith · Writing

Blessed Are the Daily Bloggers

Over eight years ago, I started writing in this little corner of the internet with nothing more than a silly name and a struggle to understand my mother’s dementia.

I wrote nearly every day. It was as if some unseen floodgate opened. A tidal wave of stored-up words poured out.

Three years later, at Laity Lodge, I shyly told a then-new-now-old friend about my blog.

“How often do you write?” she asked.

“Every day,” I replied.

Every day?!” she repeated.

I realized then that blogging every day isn’t normal. Or expected. I started giving myself more permission to skip days.

Over the years, though, I wrote about my mother’s decline, my father’s health struggles, my brother’s death, my mother’s death, my children, my grandchildren, my husband. I wrote about writing. I wrote about spiritual things. I wrote when I was angry, sad, confused, grieving, joyful, content, challenged.

It’s rare when I write these days. I have 255 drafts in my draft folder today.

I start. I stop. I think it’s all stupid. A few days pass, and I repeat the process. 255 times.

The exception to my lack of posting has been April’s A-to-Z Challenge. Give me a task and a schedule, and I’m much more likely to get something done.

Lately, in the mornings, I’ve been thinking on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5 — the Blessed-are-the’s). I’ve also been doing some local research.

Yesterday I picked up a copy of Cooperstown High School’s 1922 yearbook, called “The Pathfinder.” A graduating student had rewritten the Beatitudes for Cooperstown students:

I don’t know what a V.P. in deportment is and I don’t think the punctuality prize is awarded anymore. But the Ruggles Essay contest — where every student in the Junior class writes an essay on the topic of their choice and the top essays are read to the entire student body who votes on the winner — is still going on today. (The earliest account of the Ruggles’ Essay contest that I could find was 1896, but it could precede that date.)

My favorite of Emily’s Beatitudes was #6 — “Blessed are they who knowing nothing do not give you wordy evidence of the fact” — probably because it’s one of my biggest fears as a writer.

All this is to say that for June, I’ll be sharing an A-to-Z of beatitudes.

Or at least I’ll be trying.

Either my draft folder will expand to 281 or I’ll give you wordy evidence of the nothing I know.

Blogging Challenge · Writing

Favorite not-Blogs

To choose my favorite blog is impossible.

Some of my favorite bloggers aren’t writing much at present. I don’t mind that because I know that they are busy living life — one recently adopted a child, another recently graduated from college, and a third recently moved across the pond. Those life events are all so much more important than hammering out blog posts — although they could possibly become fodder for posts in the years ahead.

Writers have to live life in order to write about it.

To answer the prompt, (Your Favorite Blogs) I tried to think about something I had recently read that spoke to me — and I thought of Jonathan Rogers.

Jonathan sends out a weekly letter for writers called The Habit.

To say that it’s my favorite blog would be a misnomer. He hasn’t updated his blog since May. (Tsk, tsk – Jonathan)

Still, if I could recommend one place to get good sound writing advice, it would be from Jonathan Rogers. I look forward to The Habit every week.

Number two would be Tweetspeak Poetry. It’s not really a blog, but they post a poem each day — and everyone needs a little poetry. I read my daily poem with my morning green smoothie.

Both Jonathan Rogers and Tweetspeak Poetry have courses and workshops for more in-depth writing work. Jonathan has a course starting next week — Writing with Flannery O’Connor. He has two spots left, so sign up now.

poetry · Writing


The writing wasn’t brilliant for Hot Dogs and Marmalade;
The draft folder overflowed with posts that were half-made.
Then when another prompt went by, a photo challenge, too —
The proprietress of the sorry blog wondered what to do.

Another day, another fail, another fruitless quest;
Yet still she clung to hope which springs eternal in the breast;
She thought, if only I could find a quote that tickled at the heart –
I think that I could pull it off, if I but had a start.

But Pascal obfuscated, as did Saint Benedict,
(the former was an intellect, the latter just too strict)
So upon that foggy brain grim melancholy sat,
For she had found no resonance, only quotes that fell quite flat.

From a few subscribers there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled on the Macbook, it rattled in the Dell;
It knocked upon ol’ Facebook — well, that’s not really true.
It probably went unnoticed! It’s okay if I withdrew.

‘Cause life is very busy. I’ve got toilets to unclog,
Question-answering by the hour — and don’t forget the dog.
Grocery shopping, laundry washing and vacuuming to do;
Cook the dinner, wash the dishes. (Oh, yeah — the kids help too.)

Let me tell you there are days when I try to write some prose
But then my father needs some help, because he can’t get on his clothes.
And when my darling children ask for help with school,
I lose what patience I possess. Yes, I lose my cool.

Fraud!” cry the readers, and the echo answers fraud;
“You say you are a Christian. You say that you love God!
You say that you’re a writer. You think you’re super-Mom.
If you were any of those things, I think you’d keep your calm.”

pssst…. Please lean in closely. I’ve a secret I must tell:
Some days I feel quite zombie-ish when life’s not going well.
But feeling dead and being dead are two very different things
And I’ve a heart within which hope continually springs

Because, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere folks are laughing, men raise a glass and toast;
And there’s even joy on WordPress — I published a cheesy post.