Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Novel

Novel, noun: 

a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity, portraying 
characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of action and scenes.

Writing a novel has eluded me. And it's not for lack of want. It is, to be honest, for lack of wanting it enough. I am, you see, a real fine starter. I'm 36,000 words into to one book, 6,000 words into another, and outlines on half a dozen others.  

But alas there has been no novel completed from this desk. My reasons and excuses are many and uninteresting. I didn't dig deep enough. Commit long enough. Focus clearly enough. Sacrifice greatly enough. Pursue purposely enough. Imagine creatively enough. And on the story goes. 

Enter November 2017. Now. This very minute.  
NaNo, NaNo, NaNo ..... 
BATMAN! (This sounds really dumb and cliche and what does it even mean? But, I won't delete it, because if I delete every sentence I write I might not ever finish. AND, NaNo is all about finishing!)

NaNo, NaNo, NaNo .... National Novel Writing Month

Well, actually the full acronym is NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo just doesn't have the ring to it that NaNo does. This online writing challenge was founded in 1999. In short, writers all over the world take up the challenge to complete an entire novel in a month. You can read more about the nonprofit and register your story here.

NaNo defines a novel as 50,000, although that is far shy of a published book. NaNo considers the challenge to create first draft. Perfection is not stressed. This equates to roughly 1,600 words a day or more simply, 2,000 words daily if you take five days off -- Saturdays and Thanksgiving for example. For non word counters, approximately 8-10 pages each writing day.  

So cheers to NaNo. Raise a pen to word counts and habit forming. My nieces, ages eleven and nine, say, "You got this." or "Come on, you got this." 

To my fellow NaNo-ers, "You got this!  See you at the finish!" 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Because

The generation of Kyras and Kaylas use because as a proposition rather than as part of a clause because, you know, millennials.

And these now fully-employed adults are showing up in waves at fully-realized careers. I read the lead article in a recent issue of "The Writer" written by a 26-year-old woman who used because in this way. So, I wonder if I need to accept this use of because, because mainstream publishing has.

I mock like the snob I am. I think they use because this way because texting, or because attention span, or because entitlement. Seriously how hard is it to use the word "of."

I realize and love that language is organic, alive, dynamically moving with time. This challenges me as a writer to clearly and concisely use the contemporary most right word. Still, using because like this is jarring to me.

But, maybe that is because old school. At another look, it could just be shorthand and efficient. Using because in this way is grammatically correct, even though I find it flippant, lazy, and too casual.

Alas, I must conform to the rhythm of prose today, because they do.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Stylus

Stylus: noun. An instrument of metal, bone, or the like, used by the ancients for writing on waxed tablets, having one end pointed for incision the letters and the other end blunt for rubbing out writing and smoothing the tablet. Today, people picture a plastic pen-like tool for use with electronics. 

Stylus: proper noun. The name of our Sabre 38. 

Naming a boat is a tradition born of practicality. Modern practice seeps in poetic license. License to honor those loved, admire the greats, boast of success. Yacht names, in particular, often have a story and a cleverness to them. 

As a non sailor purchasing a cruising sailboat, I approached naming it with the seriousness of naming a child. The previous owner named the vessel "Twilight," which brought up images of after hours and YA vampires. Scrubbing it from the stern was a top priority. 

I forget the runners up, but it was a fairly quick conclusion that "Stylus" would make suitable moniker. I liked the idea of the boat being an instrument for my family to use to write our story on the Great Lakes. 

This season's stories have been washed away with the lapping waves, faded in the UV rays, and lost at sea. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Happening

The noun happening is sort of the same as its synonyms: incident, episode, affair, and case. At first definition, it is something that happens; an occurrence, or an event. 

But at second remark, the true magic of happening reveals itself, "an unconventional dramatic or artistically orchestrated performance, often a series of discontinuous events involving audience participation."

And the third noted explanation expresses that happenings are any events considered worthwhile, unusual, or interesting.

Happening was a recorded English word in the mid1500s. However, happenings, as described in the second and third definitions were brought to favor in the 1960s. 

The Brits, oh the lovely Brits, happening: an improvised or spontaneous display or performance consisting of bizarre and haphazard events.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Discovery

A discovery is an act or instance of discovering. Discovery also refers to the thing, which has been discovered. The discovery does not need to be something new in order to be discovered. Only new to the seeker.

I hope to routinely discover glimmers of real.

Daily Discovery
Flicker of light
Patterns esoteric
Truth in plain sight

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Optimism

Optimism is something to celebrate.
An optimist will remember the promise of spring on a blustery, winter day, believe in what's possible rather than dwell on the impossible, and live with more hope than worry. This glass-half-full mindset is shorthand for optimism.     

The noun, optimism, is primarily defined as a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome. 

The word expect is key in looking at the definition. Optimists do not hope for or wish for, they expect. A true optimist will live without fear or doubt slowing them down. 

Further definitions of optimism are closer to its Latin and French Eighteenth Century roots. Optimism is a doctrine/teaching of a belief system:  

  • that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world;
  • that goodness pervades reality; or
  • that the existing world is the best of all possible worlds.

In this way, optimism is faith. It is doctrine without contradiction, without hocus pocus, and without moral codes of conduct. Optimism also is a word without reference to a deity. It is simple, derived from Latin optimus best, superlative of bonus good. 

Optimism declares the world is good, a world where there is an ultimate triumph of good over evil. 

Optimists are not just looking to the bright side. Optimists are not just peering through rose-colored glasses. Optimists are more; they are believers. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Similarities

Differences are easy to see. Any child can circle the six things different on the second adjacent picture. Yet, the same game player overlooks all that is the same. 

I'm not suggesting a place where we are cloaked in sameness. Accept and promote diversity, but rather than focusing on what is different, look for the similarities. 

The plural noun, similarities, captures the likeness and resemblance that exist, the traits and aspects that are reflected from one to another. 

In a place rooted in common ground, it is easy to focus on similarities rather than that which divides. 

William Shakespeare's eternal truism regarding this was written more than four hundred years ago in "The Merchant of Venice." 

"If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" (Act III, scene I)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Poppycock

"Poppycock" can pack a punch. Once the shock of the hard sound passes, the perfectly acceptable word is amusing. The common noun simply means nonsense or, to put it another way, bosh. The Brits might say rubbish or, more daringly, balls. 
In the mid 1800s, Americans coined "poppycock" likely from the Dutch pappekak. As an amateur entomologist, I believe it translates from the Dutch pappe (soft food) and Dutch kak (derived from Latin for dung) to mean soft poop or, more bluntly, bullshit.  

Despite this comical, somewhat vulgar examination, "poppycock," passes as an innocent, playful word. It is as clean and refreshing as the tulip fields of the Netherlands.  

Senior Editor Nicki Porter used the word "poppycock" in the opening column of the August 2017 issue of The Writer. In the next sentence, she confessed how ridiculous the word looked on the page, but maintained no other word would have sufficed to make her point. 
I rarely come across the word "poppycock" in reading or in conversation. I was mildly delighted to see it in print. Porter's column defended memoir as a relevant genre despite rampant attacks of the art form.  She called "poppycock" on the critics.  

I agree with Porter, sometimes, "poppycock" is the best word to call out crap. "Poppycock" has just the right air of condescension. In other times, a quiet hogwash, a firm bunk, or, an equally ridiculous, balderdash might do. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Passioneer

The noun passion is a strong emotion or feeling most often associated with lust and desire.
The suffix -eer originally occurred in loanwords from the French (buccaneer and pioneer) and productive in the formation of English nouns denoting persons who produce, handle, or are otherwise significantly associated with the referent of the base word (auctioneer; engineer.)

Passioneer is a word I concocted to describe people with an overzealous passion for seemingly innocuous objects.

Consider these hyperbole: 

- I am PASSIONATE about strawberries.
- I am PASSIONATE about breastfeeding.
- I am PASSIONATE about tennis.
- I am PASSIONATE about decorating.

Variations in career planning: 

- Helping people is my PASSION!
- Training horses are my PASSION!
- Food trucks are my PASSION! 
-Fitness is my PASSION!

I try to override my cynical side, but its familiar biting wit is hard to suppress. The word passioneer is my response to the overuse/misuse of the word passion. It's a joke I make with myself. 

The 1995 movie "French Kiss" was one of five VHS tapes I owned. My favorite line was stated by bad boy character "Luc" played by Kevin Kline, "People who say they are happy make my ass twitch." 

I find passioneers not quite ass-twitch worthy, but rather deserving of a smug eye roll. It makes more sense, for me, to find purpose over passion and to be tenacious rather than passionate. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Vacation

Vacation, noun, 
Primary definition: a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel. Source

Sadly, not my actual vacation photo, but I wear a hat in the sun near the water.

The word "vacation" comes from a Latin word meaning "to be occupied" and is also related to "vacuous" and "vacant:" to be empty or void. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Counting

This week, I reached one year smoke free! 

At the time of this writing, I have been a quitter for:
366 days,
06 hours,
36 minutes,
25.8 seconds. 

But who's counting

Actually, the phone ap "Just Quit" counted for me, and the clock is still running. 

It also tallied

$2,930.21 not spent on cigarettes, 
7,325 cigarettes not smoked,
109,883.35 mg tar not inhaled.

Someday, the precision of all this counting will lose significant meaning. 
In time, I will stop thinking about how many days since I last pulled a drag. 

Someday, I will only remember that I quit around the time I turned 40, which was more than twenty eight years after I took my first puff as a preteen. 

As a hard-earned nonsmoker, I count myself lucky to have had the chance to quit. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Grief


Grief, a noun
An unfortunate outcome,
A disaster.

Grief, a noun
Deep distress,
Caused by bereavement

Grief, a noun
Do I sit in its sadness?
Envelope thy self in sorrow?

Grief, a noun
Do I screech at the injustice?
Curse the taker of life?

Grief, a noun
Do I deny this final reality?
Seek an explanation?

Grief, a noun
Do I ignore its burden?
Turn away from acceptance?

Grief, a noun
Do I beg for reprieve?
Request peace in exchange?

Grief, a noun
A process,

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Worry

People warn not to worry, yet concerns continue and mount without seeming end. These concerns amass to draw attention. If one is careless, the attention becomes worry. 

To worry is to torment oneself with disturbing thoughts; to torment with cares, anxieties. To worry is to trouble or plague. 

It is likely true, then, that no good can come from worry. Worried sick and sick with worry result. 

Consider, then, worry's antonyms -- comfort, reassure, and trust. Also, if you get tired of worrying, you can always find some work to do. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Stronger

Stronger is not second place in a race of three -- strong, stronger, strongest. Rather, it is a record of growth. Stronger is a superlative from the root word strong and can refer to physical and mental vigor.
When a comparative adjective is used, it requires one to consider, than what? One must supply the other side of the comparison. Consider the Nietzsche's observation, "what  doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Does this, now common, aphorism mean stronger than dead or stronger than you were before you encountered the thing that almost killed you?

As a ranking adjective, stronger tempts one compete to become the strongest. However, the record of the strongest will be surpassed, just as best, fastest, and tallest. Stronger, then, is only for today. Stronger than yesterday, perhaps. Stronger than another, sometimes.

Stronger than thought possible is the attraction of trying to become so.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Recovery

I decided to wrap up my Mental Health series with the word recoveryThe word recovery dates to the mid Fourteenth Century, from the Anglo-French recoverie; it speaks to a "return to health."  

Contemporary usage considers recovery as the act of recovering. This first definition acknowledges recovery is not a destination, but an act, indeed a continual act, of recovering. While it may not always remain conscious; recovery from illness is ongoing. This is true for mental and physical illness. 

Recovery can also refer to a restoration or return to health. Health, we must accept does not mean disease free or all clear. Health looks like living well in the context of the conditions present. 

We think about mental illness, from its symptoms, to its diagnosis, to its treatment, and we want to think of an end. We want to think cure. Symptoms come and go, flare up and subside, present and go dormant. Yet, the illness remains; the diagnosis remains true. 

We want recovery to mean cure. But it doesn't. Most mental illnesses are not curable. The hope lies in treatment and prevention. There is no sight of eradication, or even decline of occurrence.  However, one can make a commitment to act on recovering. This repeated action becomes a habit, and this healthy habit then becomes health. 

Today marks the last day of May. While, it seems every month is national something or other month. I do feel compelled each year to consider "Mental Health" during "Mental Health Month" in May. I wish there was no need for months of awareness. So this May, I devoted my words to relate to mental health. You can catch up here: AwarenessPatientStigma, and Diagnosis

Thursday, May 25, 2017

And The Winners Are ...

Thank you to all who entered to win a copy of "Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis." 

Congratulations to:

  • Brittany from Illinois
  • Melissa from Nevada
  • Sandra from North Carolina. 

Thank you to Goodreads for hosting the giveaway.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Diagnosis

Don't let them LABEL you! 
Don't let them LABEL your child!
Don't believe the LABELS!

The word diagnosis is not synonymous with "label." 

The medical term, diagnosis, is simple and straightforward. The noun's primary definition is twofold (a) the process of determining by examination the nature and circumstances of a diseased condition and (b) the decision reached from such an examination.

From a point of proper diagnosis, proper treatment can begin. Therefore, a diagnosis isn't something to fear or avoid. It isn't a mark or a stain. It is an opportunity. It is a classification. It is an identification. 

The medical sciences of psychology and psychiatry are far from sacred and just. Still, I choose to distinguish a diagnosis from a label. A diagnosis offers hope and inspires action. A label seems harsher and static.

I think people are hesitant to accept a mental health diagnosis for a variety of reasons.
(Some of which I talked about earlier this month here here and here)

I found this article about the value of a proper diagnosis in this Psychology Today 2014 article. You can read it here.  

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Stigma

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, 
"No one can make you feel inferior without your permission." 

When we think about Mental Health Awareness, we often hear pleas to stop the stigma. Stop the stain, the blot, the tarnish that is mental illness. 

By definition: The noun, stigma, refers to a mark of disgrace; a stain or reproach as on one's reputation. Medically, this is a mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease. 

Mental health care advocates work tirelessly to rid societal-level conditions, cultural norms, and institutional practices that breed stigma

It is my experience the most damaging stigma is the internalized stigma. It is our own voice beating us down. We do this, because we believe the lie that having a mental illness is disgraceful. By living that lie, health is denied, and we damage ourselves farther. 

The internalized stigma is often far worse than the actual discrimination or consequences of accepting a mental illness as part of one's overall health condition. 

We don't have to feel this way. We don't have to feel less than. 


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Giveaway! Good Reads Giveaway! Giveaway!

Today through Wednesday, May 24 
GoodReads Giveaway is underway. 

Because it is Mental Health Month. 
Because I love readers.
Because stories matter. 

THREE! will WIN a signed copy of 
"Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis." 

Enter here!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Patient

A Patient

Bounced by forces not within;
Left bobbing atop the surface,
Or, dragged mercilessly, gurgling for air.

Patient's first synonym is INVALID. 
This can be interpreted to mean not valid or a person who is not capable. 
Patient's primary synonym is derived from the Latin "invalidus" meaning weak. 

Indeed, the weakness of requiring medical intervention is tangible, frightening. 
Yet, at the same time, becoming a patient is a source of HOPE.  
This is true for mental illness, physical illness, and injury. 
Resting and requesting assistance is a path to recovery.

People with symptoms of mental illness are often reluctant to seek treatment, to accept a diagnosis, and to commit to ongoing therapy. 

However, a patient can just mean a person who is under medical care. In fact, the association of patient as a sufferer or victim is archaic. A patient is just a person undergoing some action. For change to occur, action is needed. Improving health is no exception. A patient can be active while being respectful. A patient can be cooperative to improve outcomes. 

When patient is used as an adjective it is the characterization of a desirable quality. A patient person bears hardship with fortitude and calm and without complaint. With patience one can quietly and steadily persevere.

As one becomes a patient with mental illness and faces the problems associated with unmanageable illness, a dose of patience will go a long way. Often, health improvements are achieved through a series of trial and error. Healing requires time.

As Mental Health Month continues, I bring attention to the concept of becoming a patient patient. Healing does not occur quickly. There are not short cuts. Making a step toward change is a start. Stay the course, patiently.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Awareness

Awareness is a noun; 
it is the state or condition of being aware; having knowledge; consciousness. 

Its synonym, mindful. 
Its antonym, oblivious. 

For decades, organizations have claimed colors and months to bring awareness to a particular disease or cause. Awareness is so popular; yet, action remains rare. Change is slow. 

Since 1949, Mental Health America and its affiliates across the county have led the observance of May as Mental Health Month by reaching millions of people through the media, local events, and screenings. (Nearly SEVENTY YEARS!) 

For nearly three years, I traveled to university class rooms, church basements, community health fairs, hospital training rooms, libraries, book stores, and homes sharing a single story. My story of a bipolar diagnosis and the hope found only in treatment. I have met thousands of people and attempted to bring awareness.

Yet, each time it is really I who gains awareness. I meet another patient, parent, teacher, doctor, spouse. I see another face with pain-filled eyes looking for meaning and strength. I see resilience. I see collapse. I see despair. I see hope. 

We go to these "awareness" events and hold hands with those who wear the same color ribbon, it is not because we are unaware. It is because we know all to well mental health is gravely misunderstood, grossly underfunded, and largely understaffed. We mourn those who died and offer comfort to the survivors. We know. We are aware. 

As May continues, I will examine additional mental health words including stigma, recovery, patient, and diagnosis. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Jettison

Jettison can be used as a noun or a verb.

The action jettison is to cast items overboard to improve stability. A crew jettisons luggage after an emergency is declared as a life-saving measure. In America, this word's primary definition refers to ridding cargo and apparatus on a boat or aircraft.

The verb also can be used to mean throwing off any obstacle or burden. To discard that which holds us back.

Jettison is pronounced as it is spelled. If only the process of ridding one's baggage was as simple as lightening a packed ship about to sink.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Should

Should is a word I am attempting to BANISH! from my vocabulary. Should sows procrastination. Should breeds dread. Should reeks of judgement.

Should is classified as an auxiliary verb, with meanings including must and ought. Auxiliary verbs are used in forming tenses, moods, and voices of other verbs.

I am unable to bring to mind an instance when should conjures up a positive emotion.

- should go to the car wash
- should write a letter
- should call my dad
- should go to the gym
- should send a query letter
- should make a sales call
- should consolidate my credit cards
- should calm down
- should be happy
- should take a class
- should try a new recipe

However, washing cars and trying new recipes and calling my dad are activities that do bring  happiness. Adding the verb should elicits the feeling of something unpleasant. It implies that whatever is being done in the present moment is "less than" or "not enough."

Should also implies indecision. It fosters crippling self doubt. As I work to eliminate should from self talk and how I talk to others, I am reminded of my mother's familiar summertime refrain: 

IN or OUT!

My mom did not say, you should be either in or out. No she commanded I decide; I wasn't born in a barn after all.

As I work to rid should from my vernacular, I work to trust myself and stand by. I will decide to accept or decline, to do or don't, and to follow through or move on. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Bliss

American mythologist Joseph Cambell (1904-1987) has this to say about bliss

"When you follow your bliss  ... doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors and where there wouldn't be a door for anyone else." 

The cynic will dismiss bliss, mocking the pursuit of such lavish joy. Yet, one should be careful to not confuse the word bliss with over-the-top false happiness. Bliss is not found in drunkenness or loudness or mockery. 

Rather bliss is found in sincerity and authenticity. Bliss is the freedom from hypocrisy and deceit. Bliss is found in the commitment to genuineness. 

Its definition of supreme happiness or utter joy or contentment has ties to theology's joy of heaven and a bliss eternal. 

In the secular use of the word, I dare to remain courageously, selfishly in pursuit of bliss

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Word on Wednesday: Heliotropic


Turning or growing toward the light. Heliotropism can be easily seen in sunflowers, which slowly turn their large flowers so that they continually face the sun. However, the adjective heliotropic can describe any noun and any light source.

A heliotropic student turns toward 
the light of knowledge.

A heliotropic flower turns toward 
the light of the sun.

Plants classified as heliotropes have flowers and leaves, which turn toward the sun. Marigolds, poppies, sunflowers, and daisies are examples of heliotropes.

Daisies are commonplace both as a wildflower and in the beds of intentional gardeners. The daisy’s hardy character survives perennially. Many a season of indecision has been soothed by pulling petal by petal — loves me, loves me not. I consider the daisy to be my favorite flower. Despite it’s simple, common presence, it stands out to me.  Perhaps, it was the daisy that really picked me to guide me in moving to the light.

There is grace when one can turn to face the light and absorb its radiance. Like the daisy, I long to move toward the lights of inspiration, the lights of my life, and the light offered each dawn.

Turning to the light, and thereby from darkness or shadows is not a new bright idea. The phenomenon of heliotropism was known by the Ancient Greeks, demonstrated with the word heliotropium, meaning sun turn.  

As spring builds momentum, I am again reminded to turn to light, to chart with optimism, to navigate with intention to the moving source of good.