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Archive for February, 2012

I haven’t heard neat-o in a long time.

As teens, we used to say it a lot. I catch myself these days before writing the first word — Neat! — that pops into my mind. It seems that Cool is just a tad too cool for me to use, and Interesting is too generic, vague, and dull. We used to say something was Hot. But, I’m torn now knowing when something is Hot versus Cool. It wouldn’t be Cool to use Hot, if the Hot item was actually a Cool one. Another word that I liked to use was Sharp. Nice clothes looked Sharp. A Hot/Cool car was Sharp. But, the word in that form has become archaic.

Just once, I used a word that I’d read in Little Women, because it sounded good to me. I think Laurie said it: Capital. As in “That’s a capital idea!” But, I received a perplexed look in return. Never used it again.

A surfing word, Gnarly, struck me as being fun to say! So for awhile I would say gnarly when I meant neato. Then, I discovered that gnarly wasn’t meant as something good. “The waves are gnarly today. Darn!” Then, I’d heard Funky and used that when things were not up to par. “Mary, those slacks look funky. When did you wash them last?” But, embarrassment! Funky is GOOD! Who knew?

One word I have used on occasion that I do know the meaning of is BAD! That’s Baaaaa-aaad! Meaning it’s Goooo-oood! But, the older guys in my computer club aren’t aware of that meaning, and I believe it has caused some distance between me and a couple who’ve emailed me as editor with items for the newsletter. “Your article is so BAD. Seriously.”

The word Wicked never caught on much — on the West Coast, anyway. It modifies another word when you say things like “That taco is wicked good!” Oh brother. Sounds uncool. Affected, yet ineffective, don’t you think?

I know a number of Mexican/Spanish phrases that are appropo and fun to say, but I don’t think they suit all my conversations or conversationalists. The phrases that come to mind are: Cowabunga! (Said with great emphasis on the Cow. Mouth forms a big O.) And, there is Ay Chihuahua! (The middle part of the word is pronounced as a hearty WOW. Chee-WOW-ah! It makes me smile to say it.) Then, there is the Yiddish: Oy vey! that comes in handy, but doesn’t have enough syllables in it to make it satisfying or make me smile. And, it’s tricky to say with the correct emphasis and facial expression.

So, fiddlesticks, what’s a person to say?

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My grandmother had two large clocks that chimed. Not like the fancy grandfather clocks today. But, they were solid wood and chimed on half hours and hours. She had to wind them — once a week, I think.

As a child, I kind of regarded them as sentinels. They were high on the walls and very dignified and sturdy.

Her maiden name was Anna Margaret West. She was what was referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch — German — I’d say. Possibly the surname had been changed from Westberg or something like that. I just told my granddaughter about her to pass along some of her family history.

My grandmother’s house was always clean. Laundry and ironing were always done. She canned the dill pickles that lined the shelves in the basement. She gardened. I never saw her do any of it, but I imagine she was up before dawn doing these things. She always wore a dress, apron, cotton hose, shoes with ties, and her hair was combed and held close to her head with a gossamer hairnet — gray, like her hair. She never swore or yelled.

She was thrifty and even saved the tissue that the toilet paper rolls were wrapped in individually. (In the 1950s, toilet paper was wrapped in white tissue that was itself covered with a stiffer wrapping paper.) She smoothed the tissue out and folded it carefully before putting it away. For dishes, she would measure out ONE teaspoon exactly of dish powder. If she received Christmas cards with pencilled signatures, she erased them and sent them out the next year! She had lived through the Depression and it had left its impact on her.

She married an Irishman, John Kelly, who was a farmer. In later years, they moved to town (population 1,500) and he presided over the bar at the Moose Lodge. Little things I learned about him indicated he was lots of fun and had a great many friends. But, he had a stroke and I don’t remember him except for him sitting by the window in a rocking chair, day after day, and twiddling his thumbs. My grandmother took care of him: dressing him, shaving him, making his meals, etc. He never spoke, or laughed or smiled.

My father was adopted and was their only child. His lead soldiers — some kneeling with rifles, some standing — formed neat battle lines in my grandmother’s china cabinet long after he had married and had children of his own.

This is a kind of tribute to her. To thank her for the memories and for the positive influence she had in my life.

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Changes for the good that have occurred because a great number of people online have lent their support for them have been too long in coming.

This year, we have seen the power of many like-minded people. Ordinarily, most of us would not have spoken out or supported these issues.

It’s interesting that all who supported StopSopa, OWS, Planned Parenthood through social networking, did so without direct coordination. As long as people do what they do from the standpoint of goodness and in harmony with others, there is no down side that I can see.

It’s when hate, intolerance, and destruction of people and ideas are forcibly projected by a few vociferous people or groups when the power becomes a hammer and its consequences are feared.

I was thinking about this this morning. There is an “anti” segment of society and a “pro” segment. It’s interesting that more conservative-thinking people are generally against things: ideas, words, change. Liberal-thinking people have more of a “live and let live” behavior. Neither side will ever convert the other. We have to learn to accept and respect each other.  Somehow we have to be willing to meet in the middle if America is to survive as a democracy.

Until then, it is important that we know this type of power exists and how it can be used, because we may be called on for something far more important. We have to be ready to give our whole-hearted support and to sustain that support.

I have in mind an American Taliban-like movement. We are seeing its effects right now in smaller areas. This is not about religion or conservatives. This is about radical beliefs that relentlessly strive for the subjugation of women in society and financial/economic oppression of the masses. How like the middle east much of this thinking and these actions are.

Possibly, I’m beginning to sound more like a zealot. But, my actions are caused by anger because of inequalities that, up to this time, have not been acted upon and improved or removed.

And, I’m finding that there are many people who share my desire for independence and compassion and who oppose anything that restricts freedom of thought and limits our rights and abilities. This is a tipping point. We have discovered “we” and the power to change things.

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