Sunday, January 27, 2013


I lay in bed early this morning waiting for the cat to settle down and crawl back under the covers.  Five thirty was much too early for me to do anything productive, so I took the time to let my mind wander. The next thing I knew I was thinking about how much I love words.  If you don't already "Like" the Marvelous Words page on Facebook, you should click through right now.  Every day I come up with a word that fascinates me.  I learn something and you could as well.

The game "Balderdash" is something I rarely play with friends, because words intimidate so many of us.  If we don't know their meaning, we feel left out of conversations or feel as if we are less than others who might have that word in their repertoire.  In actuality, balderdash is more about lying and bluffing, than it is about knowing the true meaning of words. If you can convince enough people that your word is close to the meaning, you win.  Because my vocabulary is rather voluminous, it's not an onerous task for me to intimidate others.

Well, anyway ... words ...

I grew up with two parents who loved words.  I could walk in on a very heated discussion about something - and when I say 'very heated,' I mean a full-fledged argument - and upon asking what the problem was, it would simply be the definition and implied meaning of a word Mom and Dad might have read or heard that day.  They loved talking about words.  My mother was a walking dictionary.  Her vocabulary was like nothing I've ever known or experienced since.  Dad's was pretty profound, there's not doubt about that. Mom loved to write and some of her most joyous years were when she was taking correspondence courses in English literature from the University of Iowa. She would spend hours writing those papers and when the A+'s began rolling in, she would smile and then quietly leave them around for us to discover.  They both read voraciously.  My family thinks I consume books, but again, nothing like Mom.  Dad was always intimidated by how quickly both she and I read, but every evening he had a book in his hands when he was able to be home and in his comfortable chair.  He read during the day as he prepared for sermons and then he spent every week writing something that would be heard by his congregation.  He had to ensure his words were correctly used and took great care to craft a piece he would accept as excellent.  Because, heaven help him if he made a mistake.  Mom would wait until he was home for lunch and in the safety of our house, but she would let him have it.  And they would be off again on another search for the true meaning behind a word.

Mom was so comfortable with words that she made them up or twisted them to suit her purposes.  Because of her vocabulary, the three of us kids never felt safe when using a word we didn't see in print or hear from others.  I often embarrassed myself when using one of her words in public.

I was in second grade when I used one of our family's words in public.  I had never heard the word 'fart.'  In our house it was called a 'foo-foo.'  I used the word with my classmates and after the initial shock and attempt to understand what it was I was saying, laughter and finger-pointing was the next exercise in embarrassing me.  It hadn't occurred to me that my parents would do something like that to us, but of course they didn't want us saying something as crass as 'fart.'

Mom liked to pronounce the silent 'k' in words.  A knife - was 'kuh-nife,' and Fletcher Kneble, the author, was pronounced with a hard 'k.' It didn't even occur to me to correct myself one night in front of a handbell choir I was directing.  I wanted to sound intelligent as we were talking about books we had been reading and out it slipped.  The ladies looked at me and one had the temerity to say, "did you mean Neeble?"  Oh yeah.  That.

Think about the word rhinoceros.  If you are like most people, you immediately recognize that the accent is on the second syllable:  rhi-no'-cer-os.  However, if you use the condensed version of the word - rhino, the accent is on the first syllable:  rhi'-no.  Well, of course Mom thought it was funny to twist the word up a little bit and when saying the entire word, she would pronounce it with the accent on the THIRD syllable:  rhi-no-sor'-us.  Or ... as we got used to saying - rhi-no-sore'-ass. To this day, if you ask me about that horned mammal, I will have to take a moment before I pronounce the word because of her influence.

Several years ago, I was working as the Communications Director for a church and shared an office space with a friend.  One day, we were discussing how impossible it was to get some program or some person or whatever to move forward.  I  mentioned that we were 'stall-foundered.'  He looked at me in confusion.  Now, he is a bright young man with a pretty good vocabulary as well and felt confident that he could challenge me in my word usage.  He asked what I had said and I repeated it.  We were stallfoundered.  "Diane, that's not a word."

Of course it's a word! It's a word that Mom used over and over.  It was a very familiar word ... to me.  Oh no.  She'd gotten me more than twenty years after she died, hadn't she!  And yes, to be sure, there is no such word.  There are two words she combined to create emphasis, but that word doesn't exist in any dictionary.  I will still use it, but at least now I won't insist that it is real.

She twisted words and combined others, sometimes just making up entirely new words.  The word 'nammynools' was one she created when we were children and she got tired of listing through every animal's name in the house, then each child until she got to the right one.  Every living being in her care was one of her nammynools ... a complete twist on the word animal.  I liked that one and trust me, I never believed it might be in the dictionary. But, it's mine now.

Friday, January 18, 2013

My First Novel

The day has finally arrived.  It's one of those days I thought would never get here, but it has.  I've published my first novel - All Roads Lead Home.

The characters are no longer simply wandering around in my mind and the words aren't sitting in a digital file on my computer. They're out there ... in the real world ... waiting to be read by you!

It's a fun story about a girl who returns to Iowa after living in Boston for fourteen years. She finds out how much she missed the good life that can be found in the Midwest.

Polly Giller purchases an old schoolhouse in a small town named Bellingwood with her inheritance and in the midst of renovating it, meets wonderful people and makes new friends.  But, that's not all.  A fake ceiling gives way and two sets of bones come crashing to the floor, a hidden root cellar reveals a huge stash of pop culture paraphernalia from the years the school was open and she comes face to face with the reason she ended up leaving Boston in the first place.

In all of the overwhelming stress of these events, as well as trying to get work done on the old schoolhouse, Polly's new friends show love and compassion in ways she'd forgotten existed.

Lydia Merritt shows up with three other women to welcome Polly to Bellingwood and into their hearts.  She is a woman filled with great love and passion. Beryl Watson is a wild and outspoken woman who is a renowned artist. Andy Saner is a quiet woman who used to teach in the old school and Sylvie Donovan is a young, single mom raising two boys.

Henry Sturtz, the contractor who has been hired by Polly might have a bit of a crush on his boss, her two young Jedi Knights, Doug Randall and Billy Endicott will do anything for her, while Sheriff Aaron Merritt, Lydia's husband, is a solid force who believes in doing the right thing.

These characters have found a place in my heart and I've fallen in love with them.  There are more stories to tell and more books to come (Book Two in April 2013).

Join Polly's Facebook page, buy the book (there's a bonus short story at the end), and have fun reading about real Iowa people who love to be with each other and find ways to take care of each other.

I'm excited!  I hope you are as well!

Sunday, January 13, 2013


This morning, as I lay in bed moving between sleep and wakefulness, my mind wandered to APA standards for writing academic papers.  They annoy me.  Well, what really annoys me is that there are so many different ways of doing things and I don't particularly like this style.  Why has the development of writing styles come to a point where we have multitudes of ways to do things?  Why is it, in a citation, for instance, we have the option (in language - not APA ... there are no options in APA only their way) to write pp. or pg. or p. when contracting the word page?

Then I laughed at myself.  Because that's a strange thought to have before seven o'clock in the morning and because I'm kind of a nut.

I wasn't finished thinking about the whole thing, though.  My mind tracked back to a discussion we'd had on the Marvelous Words Facebook page about language and words and how it was all sometimes so confusing and difficult to grasp.  Why can't language be more organized?

At that point, my mind decided it needed to be more fully awake because it began barreling down various tangents of thought ... all revolving around the beauty found in differences.

We have style guides because our language is filled with so many differences and those differences are what make our language useful as well as glorious.  Without them, the language would be stilted and would only represent a means of expression for a limited number of people.  American English is filled with bits and pieces of words from all over the world, allowing a depth of insight into ourselves that would be missed if we had limited its development to one original source.

But, difference in language was only one of the tangents my thoughts took as I celebrated the freedom with which we are able to be different.  Can you imagine living in a country where vehicles were one color, one size, one shape?  Have you ever seen pictures of East Germany before the wall came down in 1989? Can you imagine not being allowed to try different tastes in the food you eat, or different textures and colors in the clothes you wear, being able to choose whether you want a cat or a dog, and then which breed would fit your life?

The funny thing is, we do attempt to homogenize our lives.  It's awfully convenient for us to enter nearly any medium to large size community in the United States and find a Walgreens.  When we walk in the front door of that store, we see nothing of the local flavor, only those things which have made themselves familiar to the population. We prefer eating a restaurant chains we can find in our own home town because the experience of exploring new and different has already overwhelmed us just by being away from our comfortable, safe house.

Our kids attempt to homogenize their lives.  Expectations for kids' clothing and behavior is one of the things which causes bullying and poor self esteem.  Everyone is supposed to look like and act like the preferred 'type' of kid and anyone who doesn't fit in is ignored.

We are comfortable in the 'same,' but we are surrounded by the 'different.'

I was never one of the 'same.'  When I was in elementary school, we lived in a very small community in southeast Iowa.  My graduating class there would have had only 23 students in it.  We moved into town the summer before my second grade year.  Because I was the minister's daughter, I was already an attraction. In a town that size, the new minister showing up was a big deal ... everyone paid attention.  Over the summer, I got to know a few of the children my age because their families went to our church, but it became apparent, I hadn't gotten to know enough of them.  It didn't occur to me that I should act like a stupid girl in class to gain friends, or to not show my enthusiasm for music or reading, or to not treat adults with respect.  We didn't have much money, so my clothes were made by mom or were handed down from cousins or friends. But, each of those things marked me as different.  Pretty soon, I was lumped with the outcasts in the class, ridiculed and taunted.  The next year I spent time in the hospital for a heart problem, one that scared teachers because they were certain I might die on them.  I was quite different by that point and the popular girls in my class ignored me at best, tried to destroy me at their worst.

Fortunately, I had a mother who believed that 'unique' was these best way to be.  When I would come home in tears, she made sure I knew that my uniqueness was a good thing.  She never once said bad things about the other girls in my class, but began showing me how being different and unique made me worthwhile to the world.  She helped me see the long view of life, looking beyond the small, petty world of the school room to the larger world outside.  I had to deal with those girls during the day, but when I came home at 3:00, my world exploded.  There was unconditional love, acceptance and encouragement; she put books in front of me which blew my little world apart; she took me to the library and put me in the capable hands of an older woman who loved books; she sent me outside to play with my brother and sister, where we created worlds in our imaginations.  Every morning I went back to school filled with thoughts bigger than those of petty classroom jealousies.  When I came home from school beaten down by the girls one more time, the process began again so the next morning I would once again be prepared.

I appreciate a hamburger from McDonald's (the king of homogenization) or a quick meal with friends at Applebees and I shop at Walgreens.  But, this morning my thoughts revolved around differences and how much more exciting they make my world.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Saturday Observations

Things have been flying through my mind this morning. Nothing terribly profound, but I have to write them down so they'll leave my mind.  I want to fill that brain up with other things!

1. I watch television shows on Hulu.  Advertising is highly repetitive.  At this point, I can hardly wait for Tuesday, so the new show with Snooki has finally aired and I no longer have to see advertising for it. I understand people watch this show or it wouldn't be on the air, but really?  I'm actually not that easily offended,  but the ad makes me want to throw things at my screen. And Double Divas?  Good for them, but for heaven's sake, I'm done with that ad. On the other hand, the Toyota ads make me giggle every time I see them.  I love the ads with the receptionist.  Nothing better than showing an employee having fun at their job.

2. Curiosity killed the cat.  It's a proverb I'd never really paid a lot of attention to.  When Howard and Ichabod lived in my life, they were pretty tame.  TB is curious about everything ... especially if I'm involved.  He wants to taste things, he wants to smell things, he wants to know things.  Everything is new and fascinating.  I love that ... and I want to be more like that.  He drives me absolutely nuts when he thinks he needs to be involved, but it is also wonderful to watch.  As I made pumpkin bars yesterday, TB had to taste the pumpkin, it was a riot.  He went right for the emptied can of pumpkin.  His curiosity is a riot.

3. I wonder about people who have no one in their lives to tell them to think twice about the things they say or do.  I have plenty of people who will tell me when I'm being an idiot and I base my responses on whether or not they will find it necessary to correct my behavior.  But, when I come into contact with those who have no such 'stop' in their lives, I am reminded why rage moves people to violence.

I will never understand why it's easier for people to criticize and be negative than to offer encouragement and support, but wow.  AND, the other thing that makes me nuts is those narcissists who find it more important to justify their errors rather than admit to being wrong.

4. I can only take my own filth for so long.  The week and a half between Christmas and New Year's, I had no other commitments in my life, so I took the time to work through a creative process that required a great deal of thought and intense time.  By the time I was finished Thursday evening, the house was a wreck.  Dishes needed to be washed, tables cleared off, bed made ... things were strewn everywhere.  I'd tolerated it while working, but the closer and closer I came to being finished with the task, the more aware I was of the mess I had created. Fortunately I had a day to recuperate.  Things are back in order and I'm ready to get started on the next thing in my life.  Whew!

5. One of the things I love the most about Facebook is knowing what goes on in the lives of my friends.  My heart aches when they hurt and thrills when they are having fun.  I love knowing about their interests and continuing to find things we have in common.  There were things about so many of them that I didn't know when we were spending time together because we were focused on those things we were doing in common.  My friends lead exciting and wonderful lives!

You know how you get Christmas letters and in your cynical mind, you believe that no one can be as successful as those parents make their kids seem?  Well, honestly, that's not true. There is room in this big 'ole world for us to all find success in the things we do and to celebrate those successes.  I'm proud of my friends and the things they love in their lives!

Alright, now it's time for me to go back to work.