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Behooved Sinner

I’m fascinated by abstract words and how they can sometimes be linked to concrete terms.

One of my go-to examples of this is the word “worry”. We often connect worrying to mental anxiety – thinking about possible negative outcomes of a situation and experiencing the distress that imagining entails.

But worry also has a more physically evident definition that I don’t hear used as often, as mentioned in Webster’s online dictionary:

a: to harass by tearing, biting, or snapping especially at the throat
b: to shake or pull at with the teeth
c: to touch or disturb something repeatedly
d: to change the position of or adjust by repeated pushing or hauling

When I was a child, I heard someone describe “worry beads” and how people would use them to count or just touch during prayers. People would “worry the beads”.

I didn’t understand this phrase. Beads are inanimate objects. How could they be worried about something? And if beads could be worried, why does touching them do it? Is the praying person somehow transferring their worry onto the beads so that they don’t have to feel it?

Eventually I understood that in this case worry meant the physical acting of touching over and over. It has occurred to me that the word “worry” started out as a concrete verb, but at some point became a handy metaphor to describe a mental state, and thus an abstract verb.

So now I am on the lookout for abstract words that possibly began as concrete ones.

One example is the word “sin”. The Greek word for sin is “hamartia”, which is an archery term that means “to miss the mark”. I grew up thinking that sinning is synonomous with doing evil. If one is a sinner, it means that they deliberately act against God’s wishes. Maybe if I had grown up with a different religious background I would have understood that not all sin has intentionality behind it, but as a child I picked up on the distinct aura of blame around the word.

But when I was in my early 20’s, someone told me the “miss the mark” definition, and it totally changed my perception. Immediately I could see that sinners were not necessarily trying to go against God’s will. As a matter of fact, they were likely striving to hit their target, which is to please God and follow His plan. They aim, shoot, and miss. Because hitting a mark is a skill that takes practice. And since no one is perfect, we are all sinners, but that doesn’t mean we’re doomed. It just means we have to keep trying.

Instead of a statement of hopelessness, I started to see the word “sin” as a commendation of effort. You will never be perfect, but you have a lifetime to keep practicing. This new perspective turns an intransitive “just-the-way-it-is” spiritual situation into a transitive “just-do-it” athletic event.

This brings me to the word of the hour: “behoove”.

It’s an old word, but it still gets used occasionally. President Obama used the word publicly, saying, “It behooves me to be brief.” The dictionary definition is “to be necessary, fit, or proper”. This seems to be a transitive verb, which has a direct object being acted upon, and also someone or something doing the action. In this case, President Obama is the direct object being acted on by “it”, where “it” is the situation in which President Obama finds himself.

When I woke up this morning, I thought of the “hoof” in behoove. Why, I do not know, but I considered the possibility that “behoove” started as “behoof” and meant being given a hoof, or being “hooved”. You could say when God created horses, He “behooved” them so that they could run, walk, and generally move from one place to another with utility and efficiency.

I am intrigued by that “be” in front of the word. I think of “bedazzled”, which means “decorated with sparkly things.

How many other verbs can I think of that start with “be” as a indicator of being “placed upon” or “bestowed with”? There’s “bestow” in that last sentence, to start with. “Stow” means to store carefully in a particular place. So if a word has been bestowed with a certain meaning, the meaning has been stored and neatly packed into that word.

Other “be-” words include: Bespeckle. Bedeck. Beknight. Befuddle. Bewilder. Bewitch. Beleaguer. Berate. I have heard all of those words used by actual speakers, but there may have been many more such words in the past, as suggested by the madeup-sounding but Scrabble-legitimate words “beglamored”, and “besprinkled”. Today we would be more likely to use the words “glamorized” and “sprinkled” to mean the same things.

All of the previous leads up to my thinking about “behooved”. Is this ever an intransitive verb? “I am behooved to act a certain way,” seems to be a sentence with no direct object (which is required to be called transitive) but is instead a (gerund?), an adjective (formed from a verb) describing the object “I” through the reflexive verb “am”. But in order to say that sentence, a prequel sentence is implied: “Something behooved me.”

Thinking about this word in the “concrete transforming into abstract” context, I now consider “behoove” not just as an obligation to do something, but as an acknowledgement of being given the tools to actually do it.

It “behooves me to do good in the world” becomes, “I have the tools and ability to do good” – just as behooving (behoofing) a horse gives it the tools and abilities to run through the fields playfully, to transport people and items, and to do other valuable things.

I love how a little shift in word connotation can dramatically change my outlook.

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Arting and Wording

Friday was Doug’s second art show opening. The gallery where he is showing keeps a show up for two months, and October’s was the last first Friday Burien art walk of the year. November through February are cold enough to keep people more indoors, so the art walks will return, as always, in May.

There was a poetry reading in a room adjacent to the art gallery, (both rooms are in a tea shop), and I stopped in to listen and to recite some of my poetry.

I got to experience how an audience can change/enhance a poem. When I recited “Rita Hayworth’s Forehead”, and I came to the last verse, I picked up my can of Izze sparkling juice as I said, “Here’s to follicles….” Since the other four people in the room were holding glasses of wine, they held up their beverages as well, and we all clinked our drink containers together, as I continued, then finished the poem up, then drank the last glugs in the can.

Even when I’m watching the people listening to a poem I’m reciting, I can’t be sure what the full scope of their reaction is. Folks were encouraging, and one person even uttered a true and surprised laugh during my daisy poem (“The Lovely White Flowers that Smell of Poo”), but I still wonder about impact. I don’t trust positive gushing, though I surely like it better than harsh criticism. But it’s not my goal.

I would like to create a real reaction to my words. I pray that my words produce some kind of catalytic inner response that I may never know about, but which positively affects the reader or listener, changing a little something inside. Soul nutrition: I want my words to be active cultures – probiotics or enzymes, zinging up the digestive system.

And however my words transform through ingestion by another person, may they end up as fertilizer for something else to grow.

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Headache Weekend (and a head-related poem)

My almost-a-migraine experience is happening again today. It’s one that Doug and I have noticed mostly occurs weekends, and often during those for which I’ve made no specific plans, but for which I have many expectations. Sometimes I will think to myself, “I must clean my house!”, or “I need to help Jo organize her room!” or “I have to prep for a meeting!” or “What am I going to do about finding my calling and having some kind of lucrative and soul-enriching career!?” And then, the headache comes, causing my thoughts to transform into, “I can’t think with this kind of pain, so I might as well watch TV,” or “I don’t want to throw up,” or simply, “Ow.”

Fortunately, there are medicines in the world, and I took one of them about half an hour ago. It must be kicking in, because my shoulder/neck/behind-the-left-eye pain has dissipated to the point where it’s hardly there now. What a difference! I’ve gone from feeling nauseous and achey and lethargic to actually feeling like maybe doing something. Though I also feel like taking a nap.

These headaches might be caused by stress, menstruation, a general need to take it easy – but it could be that last night’s dinner of pizza and cheesy bread contributed, too.

On to the topic of writing: my Mom requested that I put this poem on my website, and I thought that I had, but I hadn’t. So here it is.

Rita Hayworth’s Forehead

A little background to help understand the poem:

Rita Hayworth began her life with the name Margarita Carmen Cansino. Her Spanish father and Irish mother were both dancers, and she grew up dancing, too. Not too many people know that Rita’s hair was naturally black, and that her hairline was originally much lower than the one we are used to seeing on her in movies. The Hollywood machine at that time required that she make herself look more “white”.

When I first saw pictures of Margarita Cansino, I had no idea why they had come up, since I had googled “Rita Hayworth”. The transformation is significant. And it made me sad that her original form of beauty was not acceptable for successful movie-making – at least not enough for her to be a star. She obviously had the talent and the acting skills and the drive to be a leading actress. But Hollywood’s and greater society’s prejudices would not allow her to get there without changing her appearance.

I had known that I wanted to write something entitled “Rita Hayworth’s Forehead” for years, but nothing congealed in my mind until I heard an author promoting her Rita Hayworth biography on NPR. The information in that interview gave me what I needed, and Rita’s eponymous forehead poem was born.

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Gibberish is fun!

I wrote two poems and one song/poem yesterday in language chosen specifically for the fun sound patterns they make.

When I read these poems to my younger daughter, who famously dislikes most of my poetry, she said, “Mom. The reason Jabberwocky works is because some of the words make sense!” I knew she wouldn’t like it. I told her she is my best audience because she’s my worst audience. If I can handle her reaction to my poetry, I can handle any critique.

Seriously, these poems make me happy to read, sing, say out loud, and think about. Please find them in the Poetry section. They are titled:



Ziggindy bo!

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Restful Weekend Labor

Yesterday I didn’t feel well. I went for  a walk with hubby & daughter, and couldn’t make it all the way back up the hill to the car. My head was throbbing, nausea creeping over me, and my heart was pounding and my breathing heavy, just from walking up a set of stairs. The two of them left me to sit on the top step while they walked ahead and then picked me up with the car.

So I took it easy yesterday, despite having some pre-guest house cleanup to do. I would do a little work, rest, work, then rest again. I would fold clothes, for example, until my neck/head started hurting and I felt dizzy. Then I would sit down and play sudoku or candy crush on the computer.

I also watched the rest of the Joyce Carol Oates Master Class I’ve been going through. I’ve only done a couple of her suggested writing exercises, and I’m wondering about posting one of them here.

The exercise in question is “burn through a scene”, giving oneself 45 minutes to write a scene, preferably one with 4 characters or fewer, “in one single location over a unified period of time”.

I wrote about my 20 year class reunion, in particular one point during which I tried to join in a conversation with 3 other classmates and felt completely shut out. It’s still in it’s first draft, so maybe I’ll work on it a little before putting it up here.

In the meantime, I will post a poem that I wrote in the car on the way to work a couple of weeks ago. It actually started out as a song, which is sometimes the case with my car-written poems. I’m not sure why I’m compelled to sing-write poem-songs. The words sometimes suggest a melody, I guess, and the tune helps me remember the words. Then when I’ve made it to work, before I go inside, I write the poem in my journal, singing it to recall the words.

By the time I’m off work, I’ve completely forgotten the tune, and looking at the words in my journal does nothing to bring it back. So I’ve started recording these mini songs on my phone. It’s a lovely little surprise when I play it back. (Though I would not call them good songs. Just entertaining, I guess.)

I’ve recorded three of these little songs on my phone so far. One has the line, “I’ve got eyeballs”. Another, very incomplete, contains the chorus “You’ve got it all”. The one I will post right now under Poems starts out, “How will you be with the water?”

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Buddy Words

The other day a coworker introduced me to a new word.

He had asked me to let him know when our boss was available, and I said I might forget. Others in the office volunteered to help me remember. And he called those folks “accountabilibuddies”.

I love that word! It’s got seven syllables, which automatically makes it awesome, plus it’s got rhythm and alliteration and a fun sound to it over all. And it’s useful!

A quick Google search shows my co-worker was likely not the first to use this term, and the word has an almost-as-fun close cousin, “responsibilibuddy”.

These words make me want to think of other words that would sound as good having “buddy” added to the end. It seems the rule to follow is to use words that end in “ible” or “able”.

So here are some examples and their definitions. Feel free to use them if they seem relevant to your situation:

Flammabilibuddy – Arson partner

Affabilibuddy – Fellow friendly person. Or “friend”.

Abilibuddy – A pal who is just as competent as you are

Stabilibuddy – Someone you can lean on (and vice versa)

Remarkabilibuddy – What a guy/gal!

Some words that end in “ble” without the “i” or “a” in front also work:

Scrambilibuddy – Someone who also likes eggs for breakfast

Preambilibuddy – A friend who likes words before other words

And what about:

Practicalibuddy – Realistic friend

Permeabilibuddy – What ameba acquaintances call each other

Ostensibilibuddy – A supposed friend

Opposabilibuddy – Friend who likes to disagree

Have you got any other interesting buddy words? If so, I’d love to hear them!

8/3/19 – addition from my daughter: gullibilibuddy, which I might define as: someone who understands how easy it is to believe unlikely things.

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Asking for Help

I’ve been stuck lately. There are different ways to describe it – hopeless, depressed, attenuated to failure.

Another way could be numb – to creativity, to possibility of change and fulfilling my potential. I go to my daily job, do what needs to be done from 8:30am to 3pm, maybe run an errand after work, go home, make dinner, and do very little the rest of the evening until I can finally put myself to bed with the justification that I have to get up for work the next day.

Somehow I manage to get the BARE minimum of my other duties accomplished. I do enough laundry to have something clean to wear, shop in little bits here and there to keep a modicum of food on hand, shower at least every other day. As far as my Baha’i responsibilities are concerned, there are assembly duties I have literally been avoiding for years, including archiving old assembly papers, calling National to ask about assembly business, updating membership and records. Guilt weighs heavy on me, but is only partially why I have so little energy to move forward.

Doug sees my struggles. He’s amazingly patient with me – more than I am with myself. He found a person online who offers life coaching and encouraged me to give her a call. (Her name is Penelope Trunk.) I have been considering it, but she charges $350 for a 1 hour phone call. And though the hour may give me some of the direction and momentum I need, there are several reasons I drag my feet.

1. $350 is about what I get paid for 3 6-hour days at work. For 18 hours I do my day gig for 1 hour of her time. I get spending anxiety as it is, and given our money situation, I don’t feel good about this ratio of input to output. Yes, due to not having insurance this year, we have some savings. But that will be spent on my dental implant, plus I would really like to replace the tub in the girls’ house, since it is gross, at best, and full of heath-damaging black mold at worst.

2. The Baha’i writings talk about asking God for help – a version of “ask and ye shall receive”. It feels like I am betraying God, like I don’t have full faith in Him if I ask someone else for help without asking God first.

Then again, I am reminded of the joke about the guy whose home is in the path of flood waters. People come to his door to warn him and offer to drive him to a safe zone. But his answer is, “God will save me.” Then, when the water enters his home, a rescuer in a boat comes by to pick him up. But the man refuses to go, saying “God will save me.” The flood is so bad that eventually the homeowner has to climb onto the roof to escape the waters. A helicopter comes to take him off the roof, but again he stays put, saying, “God will save me.” The man dies and goes to heaven, where he confronts God – “Why didn’t you save me?” God’s reply is, “What do you mean? I sent you a car, a boat, and a helicopter!”

So maybe Penelope Trunk is one of those versions of help that I need to accept and be grateful for.

But maybe I haven’t asked God for help in the proper way. Or maybe I haven’t listened well enough or comprehended His answer.

This is not a new issue for me, trying to figure out my destiny, my calling, and reconcile whatever that is with my need to earn money. I found a couple of undated, penciled poems on a random note pad today. The pages before them contain sketches of ideas for “Word Ferd” products. “Food for inner nourishment and outer decoration”, I have written. A knitted hat with “word ferd” on the brim. A skirt whose hem says “wordswordswords…” all the way around. A list of other products that could feature words on them: belts, t-shirts, shoelaces, earrings, etc. A list of things to purchase: “ACE 14-16 guage wire, gallon Ziplocs, Value Village – shelf- white mesh (hang on wall), baubles & pretties, Misc. tool things.”

Then there’s a poem about our old therapist who left town without explanation. (I can post that in Poems later).

And then this:

To think and feel
To see and hear,
To know, but not to judge.
The plan
Is to feel out options.
Long term plans
Depend on the time/place frame.
But if I am a frameless picture,
Then plans are plain and bold,
Unhindered by thoughts that supposedly made them.
Spontaneity is a plan
Made less-than-seconds ahead,
And a million years ago,
Like a seed that finally feels
Its time is right to grow.
I resolve to dissolve
All plans and expectations
In the ocean of True Self,
To let them wash ashore
One by one
Until maybe I see a pattern
And can fish out what really matters.
Until then,
I let myself float
In a sea of all,
And resolve.

I will post an updated version of the above under “Poems”.

And I will ask God what to do.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this is a difficult prospect for me. As Baha’u’llah said, “…souls shall be perturbed as they make mention of Me. For minds cannot grasp Me nor hearts contain Me.”

Even when I want to ask God what to do with my life, I don’t know exactly how to do it. Also, how do I hear the answer with all the noisiness of my neuroses and other issues?

I feel like life is way too complicated, with too many unrelated parts to make them work together coherently.

Then again, the human body is made of many seemingly unrelated parts that all work together quite wonderfully.

I believe that a Divine Force created human beings.

And I believe that Life, as an emanation of this force, offers innumerable metaphors for humanity’s education. The human body is one of my favorite metaphors.

So, with that, I take my brain, with its current pre-migraine sensations, and my strangely tweaky left shoulder, and my skin, basking in warmth and reveling in the cooling breeze, and I ask God, the Creator, to take these disparate elements that make up this person I have been made to be, and to move them into a fully functioning, Self-actualized form.

And to please help me recognize the modes of transportation that have been divinely sent to help me.

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3 Poems About Food

I’m back from a week of vacationing. This year we stayed in Rockaway Beach, OR, home of the Pronto Pup, which claims to have been the first and original corn dog. It was there where we ate corn dogs and fries and soda, and took pictures of each other riding the corn dog ride (think quarter-fed horsey ride, but replace the horse with a 3.5 foot-long corn dog with 2.5 foot-long stick). A white uniform-wearing employee with matching white food-service hat took pictures of all 9 of us (including Briggs, the dog) in front of the Pronto Pup sign before we went our separate ways –  Maki and family driving south, and Mandts plus Mom headed back north.

AND, this morning, for some reason, I wrote three poems about food. Two of them, though probably not complete, are ready enough for public viewing. Please find them under “Poems”: “Have Your Cake and Eat it” and “Lemons”. Enjoy!

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This Sunday, the Baha’is of Burien are hosting a Race Unity picnic in Puget Sound Park. I will be in charge of the craft station, which will feature badge/button-making, coloring, and making tissue paper flowers. I will also recite some of my poetry which carries a message of unity in diversity.

I’ll introduce the first poem, “Opposable” with something like the following:

The Baha’i writings tell us that all of humanity must be united.

Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, helps us understand how diverse peoples can unite by comparing the world of humanity to the human body. Human beings, no matter how different from each other, are all connected and work toward the same goal, in the same way that all the different parts of the body, no matter how different, are all part of the same organism.

All parts of the body are united not despite their differences, but because of them. Every part of the body has a role to play, and is perfect in its own way.

I would like to recite a poem that helps illustrate this theme of unity in diversity. The title of the poem is “Opposable”

[Please find it under the Poems section above.]