That time I tried to meditate

This morning I returned home from a routine visit to the doctor determined to keep an open mind about his suggestion that I try some meditation. That he might recommend this at some point was no surprise; I caught a glimpse of the prayer flags in his office the first time I saw him a few years ago.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I decided to give it a try on my lunch break. As he said, guided meditations are easy to find on YouTube and elsewhere. I got down to business, found a short video, and decided I could easily spare five minutes.

Nearly every second of that time, one of the first few words the guy’s soothing voice said ran through my brain, again and again and again.

Thank you for gifting yourself these next few minutes.

This was not relaxing. I want those five minutes back, dammit.

I grudgingly admit that people have used “gift” as a verb for a long time, but I’m one of the people Merriam-Webster mentions here. It was good to see I’m not alone, but I do imagine I should probably go meditate some more.

Take it easy, my friends.

B.J.

Curiosity, Irish history and the gombeens

Curiosity often gets the blame (or the credit, depending on your point of view) for killing cats, but more often it leads to learning.

Take this morning, for example, when I was fortunate enough to have Presidents’ Day* off and learned that someone named Eamon Loingsigh from New York had started following this blog. I’m not good at all about acknowledging this, but every new follower is a big deal. I look at their profiles and usually read a post or two – out of curiosity, of course.

This time I landed on Petition – Stop Calling it a Famine!

Having some ancestral ties to Ireland, and a photo of my mother visiting a hovel somewhere in County Donegal, I read Eamon’s piece and signed the petition. The words “potato famine” do not do justice to what they are used to describe.

Donegal Castle, 2004. B.J. Smith photo

I did not know such a discussion was ongoing. As a writer and editor, I support calling things what they are. (I was impressed by the polite back and forth in the comments on the blog post.)

I also learned a new word, which I hope to be able to use in a sentence someday and force the curious who’ve never seen it before to look it up:

gombeen

Always curious,

B.J.


* It certainly doesn’t mean what it used to, does it?

Chancellor “personally sick” over CSU discussion of words

Last week I posted my own reaction to Jon Caldara’s column in that Sunday’s Denver Post about the use of words. Today Tony Frank, chancellor of the Colorado State University system, chimed in with his take.

It included this:

Do I think several of the suggestions in the list are just plain silly? Sure. Do I wish there had never been any debate about the use of the word “America”? Of course — it makes me personally sick because I and everyone I know at our university is proud of our country. (Still, as an American, I’m not going to tell anyone what they can and can’t debate, even if it personally offends me — especially on a college campus where free and open debate is our job.)

Tony Frank, Denver Post, August 4, 2019

Caldara, predictably, missed the mark completely. Not having paid much attention to Tony Frank, I don’t know but will speculate that his response was entirely predictable, too. I was surprised to read that he is personally sickened by discussion of how the word “America” is used.

So much for the part about “free and open debate” being part of his job on a college campus. Let’s hope Frank feels better soon and begins to think more clearly.

Better to be ignorant and offensive, Jon?

How ironic that the president of a Denver “think tank” would rather the citizenry not think about the words they use.

In a column in today’s Denver Post, Jon Caldara derides efforts to promote the use of inclusive language by Colorado State University and others with an ignorant, offensive rant that includes this:

For those offended by our president’s vile use of words, you might wish to consider Trump was the inevitable reaction to the truly offensive indoctrination from the likes of CSU, public broadcasting and the educational establishment.

Caldara, Denver Post, July 28, 2019

So forget the bogus claim that Trumpsters became Trumpsters because of economic anxiety rather than their misogynistic hate for Hillary Clinton, or their racism, or their fear of others.

Caldara’s explanation pins it on their offense at the idea that we would do well to use our words carefully. He thinks we’re all better off remaining ignorant. Hogwash.

Image by cgarniersimon from Pixabay 

‘Toady’ on my mind today

Somewhere between 1.37 and 1.79 miles on my post-workday walk* on a treadmill at the gym today a favorite old word came to mind. I was watching CNN on a screen just off to my left – Fox News being a few monitors over to my right, of course – when it happened.

Image by Егор Камелев from Pixabay

“Toady,” my brain said. I can’t say for sure if this was triggered by the sight of Rick Santorum or Lindsey Graham, but they both appeared on the screen just minutes apart.

Unsure if either of them met the actual definition of the word, I looked it up when I got home. Among other things, I’d decided I absolutely have to use toady correctly in a poem that is beginning to take lumpy shape in my brain.

Here’s what I found.

What surprisingly fond amphibiotic memories came rushing back!

…the toad hotel my siblings and I built from corrugated boxes on the banks of the Little Cedar River, which flowed gently just behind our childhood home in Mitchell County, Iowa.

…the tiny toadlets leaping for their lives, desperately trying to escape the deadly blades of my reel mower in the big back yard in Cedar Rapids.

…the lovely toad sculpture that lives on my desk in the basement under the watchful eyes of a Milton B. Davis carving of a Golden Eagle.

Toads. You gotta love ’em, warts and all. Toadies, not so much.


* A brisk 3.2 mph on a steadily increasing grade, prelude to semi-vigorous and repeated lifting of weights.