Monthly Archives: April 2015

Z is for Zyzzyva

One Sunday evening after church, we were invited over to the Grohs’ home to play games and eat ice cream. While the adults laughed over squeaky clean jokes in the dining room, Mike (one year older than I) and I and maybe others played the game Probe. (It’s a word game, people.) That was the night I learned the word “syzygy.” I think Mike was only in 8th or 9th grade to my 7th or 8th, but he was one brainy dude. I liked that word a lot, and tried to use it three times in a sentence (because once you did that, the word was yours permanently. I think I learned that from Reader’s Digest). However, even the definition of syzygy was kind of wordy and it didn’t stick.

So, remembering that distinctive word, I went on a little quest tonight to see what exotic word I might come up with. Back to I went to peruse the list of unusual words that begin with the letter z. Peruse, peruse, scan, hmm, peruse, notice, peruse. Last word. zyzzyva.

I like spelling it. I like saying it. I love what it means (the definition that describes it as the final word in some dictionaries.)  And it’s also the name of a beautiful magazine about west coast artists and writers. It’s also a type of South American weevil, often destructive to plants (emphasis MINE).

Seeing as how this is the LAST entry in the 2015 A to Z blog challenge, I couldn’t resist this word.

ZYZZYVA Magazine‘s website looks to be an absolute treasure trove of interesting books, interviews with artists, events in the San Francisco area, and visually pleasing images.

Zyzzyva: The Last Word in Word Study is a program you can download to study Scrabble words, should you be so inclined.

And, that, dear readers, brings this year’s A to Z Blogging Challenge to a close. Thank you for joining me for this journey and please do continue to visit and comment.









Yes, and ……..

valerie saying yes

When “Whose Line is it Anyway?” was on the air, Greg and I were deep in our “raising-children-without-television” years, so I have only seen a couple sketches on YouTube. There are some great ones with Robin Williams. And when I was growing up, “improvisation” was about the piano! It was cool to be able to improvise on the piano. I don’t even remember hearing about the comedy form of “improv,” even if it was being practiced around me, or even by me!

As I hurtle from book to book in my life, I gnaw my way through some, power my way through others, and positively jump into a few with both feet and all my toes. One of the books in that latter category which I happened on a few years ago is called “Truth in Comedy” by Charna Halpern, Del Close, and Kim “Howard” Johnson. (Figures it would be a collaborative effort since it is the “manual of improvisation” and improv is most definitely a collaborative effort.)

Chapter 4 is called “Yes, &.” Rather than arguing, this rule means the actors agree, AND add something, which gives the other actor something to continue the sketch with.

That works in life, too! When I say “no” to what is happening, I pretty much close off my creative paths. When I say “yes, and” I’m allowing my creative juices to flow in responding to what is happening.

While writing this post, I got sucked into the vortex of YouTube looking for the perfect sketch I could link to. I probably spent an hour, at the end of which I had nothin’. I can say “NO, I DO NOT ACCEPT THIS AND I SHALL FIND A VIDEO, DANG IT.” and then what’s left to me but to continue to go through them one at a time, watching the commercials before every video, getting more and more irritated, looking for the video that I know must be there.

Or, I can say. “Yes, I am not finding a perfect video, and perhaps that means putting a video into this post is not the path for me. Maybe I could finish the post and look later. Maybe I could let my readers search YouTube on their own and find funny videos that they enjoy. Maybe there’s even something different that this post is to be about, something different for me to learn as I write.”

The point, and I do have one, is that saying yes to what is provides a type of agreement that enables me to greet what comes with a semblance of acceptance, and think about how to move forward.

Well, I’ve dithered around with this one for long enough. Or maybe, yes, I’ve dithered with this post for quite some time, and I’d really like to feel good about posting it, so I’m going to stick with it for just a few more minutes . . .

And now I am ready to post. What phrases do you find helpful in dealing with the inevitable changes that come?


All of the A to Z bloggers around the world have been fussing about this letter, I’m sure. What to choose? Should I cheat and use a word with “x” somewhere in it? How about using it as the first letter colloquially, like x-tra? Well, who wants to listen to me natter on about the troubles of blogging? NO ONE.

My theme this month is acceptance. Acceptance for this letter means that I accept that there really isn’t any word that feels meaningful to me to write about. Sure, there is xenophobe, xenophile, and xenomania, and other words having to do with a preference for, or strong fear of, that which is foreign to us. Maybe that’ll be my post next year for the challenge.

In the meantime, I found this Very Cool Website called Xeno-canto. The site was begun in 2005 by two men who are part of the four-member team who maintain the site to this day. The idea is to upload bird songs, so that others might share in the discovery and the appreciation.

I remember distinctly the sound of the Australian bell bird, and can even remember the exact car park (parking lot in Aussie) we were in when I first heard them. And look here! There are multiple recordings of the bell birds on xeno-canto. And mourning doves! (which I grew up thinking were “morning” doves because that’s always when I heard them).  This is similar to what I woke to every morning in my sunny Ohio bedroom. How was I ever grumpy in the morning??

Do you love bird songs like I do? What songs are connected with special memories for you?

W is for Whopper-jawed and other Linguistical Funnies

My dad had all kinds of colorful sayings. “I hope to kiss a garboon,” he’d say, to emphasize how much he meant what he was saying. There were a few that were acceptable then, that are no longer appropriate, so we’ll skip those, but he did say the darnedest things. One of the words he used regularly was “whopper-jawed.” I was a kid, so I didn’t really think about what that meant. It’s not like we were texting back and forth, so I never saw the word in print. I actually thought it was spelled wopperjod. When I pronounced it, it definitely sounded like wopperjod. Much later, I thought to ask what the heck this word meant. I really don’t know or care about the origin of it because I have enough minutiae in my brain to fill a ten-story building, but I do think it’s a cool word.

One other very fun memory I have is from the eighth grade city-wide spelling bee. This was the written portion where we would find out if we qualified for the next level. All my life, I had been reading the word façade as Fuh-Kade. All my life. I didn’t even know what it was. As a young reader, I read now and figured out what it meant later or not at all. So, during the spelling bee, I was doing my best and suddenly i hear this word Fuh-Sahd, only I had no context whatsoever for it, and simply could not imagine what they were saying. I thought and thought and thought and didn’t arrive at façade. The best I could come up with, and believe me this was hard for Miss Goody Two-Shoes to write, was pissad. Greg and I still use this word to this day because it’s just so precious. “We have greatly altered the pissad of our home by adding vinyl siding.” LOL.

Back when Reader’s Digest was a ubiquitous magazine, I’d always do the “Word Power” challenge. I have always loved words and have written elsewhere about my spelling triumphs and failures, as well as my 30-year streak of playing Boggle with my Dad. I’ve always noticed words and enjoyed word play. Do you have any words that you originally thought were something else?

How the Week Turned Out

This week, I blogged about the movie Seymour: An Introduction  on Sunday. I’m looking forward to seeing it again in the near future. Seeing that film was truly a highlight of joy in a time that has a passel of challenges.

On Monday, I learned a new word, “quicksticks” and enjoyed using it this week. Kepler in particular benefits from being told to move a little more quickly. No, wait. I benefit from telling him to move a little more quickly. He really doesn’t change anything. It just makes me feel better.

Since I volunteered at Kepler’s school on Monday, I realized that I wanted to change my approach, and blogged about how I see the school teaching to the test, and how I feel that is shortchanging the students, and how I recognize that it is probably nigh unto impossible to do anything else with the amount of bureaucratic red tape public schools are wrapped up in.

Tuesday, I was taken with the poetry bug and wrote a poem about the The Rain of Regret. There are many times when I get bombarded by memories of things I wish I had said differently and done differently. Part of me knows that I was doing the best I could at the time with the information that I had. Part of me feels the pain of regret that it was my best.

Wednesday, I found a great list about self-care, a topic I was very slow to warm to since it sounded too close to “selfish.” All in all, self-care always necessitates a willingness to be a critical thinker. It can be easy to act without thinking, and self-care doesn’t happen that way.

Thursday was a rough day, as I processed the pain of being continually lied to by a drug addict, and how good I am at forgetting the pain of that until it smacks me upside the head again. On Friday, I wrote a part two to that post about the ongoing role my questions of my addict seem to be relevant for me. I had wanted to follow up on Thursday, but had come down with a flu-like illness that laid me low and is still demanding attention.

As a result of being ill, Friday my post on the Universe was short and sweet. Maybe I’ll decide to expand on that one sometime.

Saturday, still focused on getting well, I wrote about Voice, riffing off of an article by Todd Henry, and ending with The Moody Blues’ The Voice.

Among all of this, I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and did step one of gathering up my clothing from all over the house, and then decided which items to keep by handling each one and deciding if it brought a spark of joy to me. I would say I got rid of half of my clothes, and it really is different to open my closet and see only clothes that bring me joy. I do believe I will be going through the whole pile once more as I know I fudged a few things that didn’t actually create a spark of joy.

A few days were dreary and rainy, and we went back to some colder temperatures this week. This makes the bright, sunny days just that much sweeter. The local high school show choir placed 2nd at nationals (YEA!), which thrilled my daughter, who hopes to join their ranks next year, and I knocked back a few books this week.

Did you have a favorite post this week, either on your own blog, or on mine, or both?

V is for Voice

I can still see the desk and the classroom and the book in my hand in the music class where I discovered my ability to harmonize as an alto. Harmony was one of the several reasons that I loved singing hymns at my church. There was something so satisfying and complete about reading the alto line and seeing how all those notes fit together.

Many years later, I decided to volunteer to sing as part of the backup singers for the “worship team” at the church I was currently attending. It took me quite some time to get brave enough to sing on stage, and I was devastated by the fact that the other backup singer only knew how to sing harmony in thirds, which means that her harmonies were not always within the actual chord. For me, that was a tragedy. I could no more sing non-chordal tones than I could play the guitar and sing the lead. The real tragedy, though, I think was that I lowered my voice almost to nothing the morning I sang, because I knew I would clash with her, and I never sang there again.

think I have come to accept my voice as it sounds when I speak and when I sing, although I have yet to accept all the time I wasted thinking it wasn’t good enough.

Along with our literal voices, we also have an intangible voice which comes through when we write and create. And it takes awhile to find that voice. I think I am still looking for how mine will be projected, even as I continue to simply use the voice I have to write and create.

A few years ago, at my last church (as in, chronologically, and at all), there was a man on staff who was quite creative. He spoke a couple of times on the main stage (a big deal at that church), and was a very interesting speaker. He left the staff and formed his own thing and has done very well. He has a podcast, a website, and has written several books.

As I was noodling about this morning thinking about the concept of voice, I came across this article called 10 Questions that will Help you Find your Voice.

I’m not sure what the pros say about inserting links into blog posts, and whether very many people will click on them, but I think that links work like advertising does. Advertising reaches people who are looking for the thing being advertised. Links reach people who have an interest in the idea being put forth. If you are looking for your voice, the article may be of help to you as it was to me.

And speaking of the voice and harmonies …

T is for Today (part 2)

Here’s what I notice. Whenever I speak with my son about his addiction issues, I discover that pretty much every question I ask him is one that also applies to me. For instance.

What kind of person do you want to be? (What result do you want?) I guess I understand way too well how difficult it is to postpone gratification when the object of your gratification is within reach. It’s like my brain doesn’t work the same way while I’m being drawn to the object as it does after I have imbibed and now get to deal with the fallout and consequences. Sounds very familiar when you think about drugs. But it also applies to food. There must be something more compelling than the food item if I am to find a way through the immediate temptation.

As Tony Robbins teaches, there is a huge difference in the efficacy of push motivation vs pull motivation. Push motivation has to do with pushing ourselves away from something; implementing willpower; trying really hard not to do something. Pull motivation focuses on what we want; what we would like to experience or feel or be. Figuring out what result I want is the very best kind of pull motivation because that result draws me to itself.

As much as I believe this idea would be incredibly helpful for drug addicts, I also see how valuable it is for food addicts. And gambling addicts. And shopping addicts. I don’t know why rehab centers all over the world aren’t doing this already!

Once I figure out what result I want, the next step is to figure out why I want that result. It is truly the why that is the compelling piece. And the why must be articulated in positive terms. Not, “I’ll stop eating sugar because I don’t want to get sick.” It must be positive. “I will choose healthy foods that contribute to my overall feelings of health and wellness, as well as my actual health and wellness.” The more I can get in touch with what it’s like to feel heathy and well, the more pull motivation I have from that result.

So simple, yet so profound. As far as being the mother of a drug addict, I know that I want to be someone who is supportive, compassionate, honest, and loving. I want to be a person who asks wise questions which allow my son to find his own solutions, as I truly do believe he has the solutions within himself, even if he needs some support right now to find them. I want to be someone who is examining myself in relationship to how I parent, how I live and how I love. Always being willing to keep trying, and willing to try new things that maybe aren’t comfortable.

By the way, thank you to all of you who read my posts and especially to those who comment. I want to be a blogger who has an impact!

The Universe


It was weird the first time I saw the word Universe capitalized, as though it were some sentient entity.

The capital U Universe became for me the substitute for the God of the Christian Bible. I came to recognize that the bible story seemed just too small in the scheme of things and the vastness of the Universe became what made the most sense to me.

From rejecting the concept at first, I eventually accepted, nay embraced gladly, the idea that the Universe is making things happen.

I love the idea of the mystery of the Universe, the unending nature of it, the Universe as ultimate creator, conductor, and catalyst for change.

T is for Today

I don’t feel very accepting right now.

Life with a drug addict is apparently a never-ending opportunity to be blindsided. Maybe it would help if I had ever been one. And yeah, I have my food issues, but they don’t get me into trouble with the law. And they don’t really ever make it necessary for me to lie to people who want nothing but the best for me.

See ya tomorrow. That’s it for now.

Self-Care as a Priority

I like to remind myself every few days what I selected for a theme for the A to Z Blog Challenge. I went back and read my “A” post, which explained my choice of Acceptance as a theme. I had decided on my post titles for each of the 26 days, although I have changed a few as I have gone along. (But I accept that. :-))

Today I’m writing about self-care and sacrifice. The process of accepting the validity of self-care has been a long, slow process. I refer often to the religious upbringing I received as a child because it was so impactful on my belief system and has been a long time being revised.

What I first learned was that I was selfish from the get-go, always and without exception. Therefore, I spent many years refusing to allow myself to want or need anything since I made the connection that wanting and needing were selfish. It was *always* the better choice to meet someone else’s needs (and wants, if I am honest).

When I first heard the phrase self-care, I peered at it through narrowed, suspicious eyes, my dukes up, ready to punch its lights out. I thought it might be a trick, a way to get me to be selfish. I saw the word “self” in there, didn’t I.

Eventually, I came to understand and accept the idea that there’s a reason why the flight attendants tell us to put on our own oxygen mask before we put the mask on the child next to us. We are much more equipped to take the best care of someone else when we have taken the best care of ourselves first.

I have seen this idea put into play by different people and I have had to polish it to its own shine for me. I haven’t yet come to believe that I should put myself first, no matter what, and I don’t know that I ever will. I tend not to see the concept in a hierarchy. It’s more an idea for how to treat myself, how to take care of something that is worth taking care of.

As a person who cares about giving to others, I will always look to balance self-care with being aware and caring toward those around me. Taking care of myself means that, even in caring for someone else, I am as consistent as possible between the inner me and the outer me, the private me and the public me, the needing-courage me, and the courageous me.

Take good care of yourselves, readers.