Saturday, December 31, 2011

Final Punctuation Quotes

My Page-a-Day calendar at work, from Eats, Shoots & Leaves, is at an end, and I wanted to share a couple of the last quotes, which summarize our punctuation situation quite nicely.

From December 29th:

We have a language that is full of ambiguities; we have a way of expressing ourselves that is often complex and allusive, poetic and modulated. All our thoughts can be rendered with absolute clarity if we bother to put the right dots and squiggles between the words in the right places.

From December 31st:

Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking. If it goes, the degree of intellectual impoverishment we face is unimaginable.

So, please, use your punctuation the right way. We wouldn't want to have to face the unimaginable.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I'm a little late posting something for Christmas. I had nursery duty during the first service at church this morning and then attended the second service. But it's good that I didn't post anything yet, because they showed this video at church, and I love it:

For a special bonus, here's a nice Christmas song for you, Francesca Battistelli's "You're Here."

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011


It's been said that learning English as a second language is very difficult. English borrowed grammar and spelling rules from all over the place, and most of it doesn't even make sense to those of us who grew up speaking it like a native. We just know when it's right, except of course for sometimes when we haven't got a clue.

Probably the language groups that have the most trouble with English are those in Asia. When people over there translate important information for English-speaking tourists, it can be a challenge, and some of those challenges are showcased at, one of websites I visit when I need a good chuckle. Here are just a few that have given me a giggle lately:

Danger warning:

Helpful information:

Menu clarification:

Restroom help:


Lakeside instructions:

Friendly people:

Be sure to look around, especially at the Popular Engrish link.

What favorite websites do you have?

Monday, December 12, 2011


I woke up this morning on my back, and my lumbar region was a little achey, so I hit the snooze button and rolled over on my side to sleep in the fetal position. It usually helps ease the aching in my back.

Nine minutes later the alarm went off again, and my first thought was, "Time to wake up and face the music."

Now, I know that phrase means that you have to face the consequences of your misdeeds, but the worst "misdeed" I have is that I forgot to turn on the Out of Office Assistant in Outlook for my day off Friday. There won't be much music to face for that.

So here's my question: Where did "face the music" come from? In what part of life, way back whenever, was there music playing while you paid the penalty for your crimes?

In movies set in the Revolutionary period, they always play snare drums as the prisoner waits his last moments while the hangman or the firing squad gets ready. But drums aren't "music." Music is music.

So what exactly is the music we face?

Friday, December 09, 2011


The Duggars, from the show 19 Kids and Counting, announced recently that they were expecting their 20th baby. Today, however, I heard on the radio that Michelle miscarried during the second trimester. They'll be having a memorial service for the baby.

It's sad, because when you're that far along, the baby has already become a member of the family and you're just waiting to find out what he or she will look like and and be like.

The whole time I was growing up, my grandpa (my mom's dad) always talked about being one of ten kids. They didn't all reach adulthood, though, with what life was like back in the early 1900's, and my grandpa was the only one of the ten who carried the family name to the next generation.

One brother drowned when he was 16, and a sister married, so of course her kids had her husband's name. And Uncle Andy never had children.

When I was getting my Bachelor's degree in Psychology, we had to do a project that required getting some of the family history to create a genogram. I went back a generation further than we were supposed to for the project, because there were issues on the other side of the family that I thought had bearing on my generation. I called my mom to find out about her dad and his siblings, and what she told me rocked what I had known all my life.

My grandfather's mom had ten pregnancies, but four of them ended in miscarriages or stillbirths. Only six of the babies survived. And yet my grandfather said he was one of ten children the way we say we have two arms and two legs. Those four lost babies were as much a part of the family as the six.

So when someone you know miscarries, don't dismiss the loss. They may not have seen and held the baby, but they felt it growing and moving. They had hopes and dreams for the person the baby could become. It is cruel to assure them they'll have another or to remind them of the children they already have. First give them time to grieve the loss of part of the family. It will be easier on them in the long run if they're able to work through the pain before moving on.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Christmastime Fun

A long time ago I had this one boss, and he was really great to work for. He was the guy who knew what every single one of the See's candies had inside. For someone like me, who hates nuts and hates the taste of coffee, this boss was a lifesaver when a box of See's showed up. And if there was fun to be had, you could bet he'd be in the middle of it.

One Christmas he told me what his favorite thing to do was for that time of year. He always saved his Christmas cards from the previous year, as long as they didn't have the date written on them and they weren't from Mom or Uncle Harry or someone like that.

Most of his family and friends lived in California. But he had this old college buddy who lived in Omaha, and that's what made it all possible.

My boss would send Christmas cards to all his contacts. And then he'd get the cards from last year, the ones that said nothing more than, "Merry Christmas. Love, Jeff and Betty," and he'd get fresh envelopes and stamps and choose a family member or two and a few of his friends and write out their addresses on a separate piece of paper. And he'd put all the cards and envelopes and stamps and addresses in a manila envelope and send it to his buddy in Omaha.

Mr. Omaha would address the envelopes, put the Jeff and Betty cards in them, and mail them back to my boss's friends in California.

My boss took infinite delight in imagining his friends getting a card and asking themselves, "Who on earth are Jeff and Betty?" And I couldn't help but laugh with him until my cheeks hurt, because his laugh was so contagious and it was just so funny.

I've never had the nerve to try it. But I think about it sometimes when the Christmas cards start coming in the mail...

Sunday, December 04, 2011


Friday was my sister's birthday. I had tried to find a card I'd seen a couple months ago, but I couldn't remember where I'd seen it and it seems to have disappeared completely. And with something in particular in mind, I couldn't find any other card that felt right. So I didn't send one.

This is the card:

The front says, "They dared Mittens to do it, and Mittens never turned down a dare."

Inside, it says, "Here's to living life on the edge! Happy Birthday."

I called my sister instead.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I didn't call her until after work.

Just as I was wrapping up my work day, my roommate called to tell me that her BFF Forever - her son's mother-in-law, a wonderful Christian woman and the glue in her family - had just passed away. She'd been battling stomach cancer for several months, and we knew she might not survive to see Christmas. Still, it came too soon, and the news brought me to tears.

After work I struggled with how to handle my sister's birthday call. I didn't want to dampen her spirits, but it was hard to think about being happy when this family that I love was suffering. Finally, I decided to save the news until the end of the call and followed it by telling my sister how very, VERY much I love her.

Life is difficult. And it's rewarding. And good. It is a gift from God that fills us with joy and sorrow, sometimes at the same time.

Today, right this minute, there are families watching as their loved one slips away from this life. And there are families rejoicing at the arrival of a new life. Today people are celebrating a birthday (and I know who one of you is) and others are facing defeat and regret. Today little children can't contain their excitement as they stand in line to talk to Santa, and old people in senior communities take their lapdogs out for a walk, alone. And all of it (and so much more) happens at exactly the same time.

What amazes me when I try to comprehend it all (and can't) is that God is able to weep and rejoice and strengthen and celebrate and comfort and convict and draw people to Him. He is all we need - and some days we need it all.

Life is more fleeting than we realize, so we need to make sure to tell people we love them so we don't have any regrets. And when we've done that, when all of that is settled, we need to get on with life.

We need to come out from the shadows, out from our hiding places, to stop shrinking back from the challenges of life and start living a little more on the edge. We need to be more like Mittens.