I Saw It with My Own Two Eyes

In our critique group, we often run across areas in our work where we have inserted unnecessary words. “Tautology” is a new word I learned. It means “needless repetition of the same thing using different words.” Examples are “I went there personally.” “He made it with his own two hands.” “Frozen ice covered the road.” “She made predictions of the future.”

Do you see the repetition in each of those sentences? (And in my title?) Obviously, I see with my eyes and I have two of them. So a more correct title would be “I Saw It.” Boring title but at least it’s not redundant.

Crazy sign

I wonder what prompted the need for this sign? Confusion? Was one problem solved but another created?

A sign at a bank ATM reads “Enter your number one digit at a time.” Is there another way? I wonder what would happen if I pushed two buttons at once?

A library in California warns, “Beware silly signof pedestrians on foot.” I suppose pedestrians in cars could pose a different problem.

Some signs may not be tautology but are just plain funny. I saw a sign on a door in an Iowa truck stop that read, “Electrical personnel only.” Every time we stop there on our way to Chicago, I look around for the electrical people.

Once, while driving across Illinois on the toll road (I-88) and dealing with major road construction, a temporary sign sat above the “45 Minimum Speed” sign. The temp sign read “45 Maximum Speed.” My son, the driver, saw it and said, “Cruise control, don’t fail me now.”

No trespassing

Humor is often used in signs. As a teenager, I lived in a small town surrounded by ranches and large spreads. I remember one sign on a fence post read, “No hunting without permission, and DON’T ASK!” Another sign on a very narrow gravel road out in the middle of nowhere warned “No parking.”

One of my favorite signs is the one below. I can relate to it on many different levels, especially as I continue writing my novel with all its twists and turns.

What are some of the funny signs or statements you have seen?

one way

 

 

My Short Story

In the midst of a class at the local university on short story writing, I just finished writing about being a fat person. The story has been brewing in my head for several years.

Several years ago, a national debate began about the rise in obesity in the US. Some fat people were blaming everything from McDonald’s and other fast food places to corn syrup in processed foods to sedentary lifestyle with the onset of personal computers, video games and other devices that kept kids from going outside to play and adults from going on long evening walks.

I pondered this and came up with  list of “excuses” for being fat.

  1. My parents. “When you grow up, when you’re BIG and strong, you can do this, you will know that, you will understand.” Hypothesis: To get big and strong and therefore independent and smart, EAT!
  2. “Clean Plate Club.” As I child I often heard, “Clean your plate. There are starving children in China (Africa, Bangladesh…)” Never did figure out how my eating everything on my plate would help those children.
  3. My paper route. I rode my bicycle all around town, delivering newspapers when I was in 5th grade. You would’ve thought that would enhance muscle strength and normal weight. But two of the places I delivered papers to were the local Dairy Queen and a small cafe along the highway that made the best cinnamon rolls. Any calories burned while circling the town on my bike were more than replenished by dilly bars and warm sticky buns.
  4. The image of a girl in the 1950’s and early ’60’s. Girls didn’t sweat. Girls sat at home and embroidered. Girls didn’t do things that might mess up their dresses. Dresses were not conducive to climbing jungle gyms, running up hills or throwing baseballs. The only place acceptable for sweating was in gym class where we wore ugly one-piece short outfits and couldn’t wait for it to be over.
  5. Food supply. In the Midwest, summer was great when we had fresh vegetables and some fresh fruits like cherries and apples from our trees. Otherwise, in the winter, we relied on shipments of oranges and other produce from far off places like California, Arizona and Texas. The fresh foods were expensive and not as tasty as they would be in their native states. Who wants to eat pink bland tomatoes?Much of our diet consisted of meat and potatoes. I never had a green salad until I was in my late teens.
  6. Terminology. Instead of cutting to the chase and calling it “fat,” there was a tendency when I was growing up for people to say things like “pleasingly plumb,”overweight,” and “chunky.” Even children’s clothes were labeled as “hefty.” I remember when I first identified myself as being “fat” it was liberating. People around me were shocked to hear that word, though, and it took awhile before society was ready to “tell it like it is.”
  7. News reels at the movie theater. Before the cartoon and main feature was shown, many cinemas showed MovieTone newsreels. https://youtu.be/FsPKD4tNe-Y  I remember seeing the films of the released Nazi films showing the concentration camps. As a little kid seeing (on the big screen, larger than life) the emaciated people with sunken faces, ribs sticking out, skin and bones. And the stacks of dead bodies piled high like so many haystacks, it had a profound effect on me. I never wanted to be that thin and emaciated. So, I ate more, thinking it was like a “reserve” I could store in my body in case something horrible like that happened to me.

Once I became fat, it was my identity, my defense mechanism. If someone didn’t like me because of my appearance, that was their problem, not mine. I had lots of friends and had lots of fun. My fat didn’t stop me.

As an adult, I decided I needed to lose weight for my health. I had lost two siblings and my father to heart disease. I lost 90 pounds after the birth of my second child. But then people commented on how good I looked and it bothered me. I didn’t want to hear that. My appearance was not who I was. I’m sure they thought they were complimenting me, but I saw it as a devaluation of my previous life. I also started losing friends, normal-weighted friends. One was killed in an earthquake. Another had a heart attack at age 42 while deer hunting. A tiny, active college friend had a stroke just before her 50th birthday. At that point, I decided I really have no control over the length of my life and I gained my weight back.

Now, I realize it’s more about “quality” than “quantity” of life. I have no control over when I will die, but I have control over how I will live.

My short story is called “Adolph Hitler Made Me Fat.” It will be read in class in the next week. I am anxious to hear what the other students think about it.

Pulling the Plug

A recent court case caught my attention. At the sentencing, the mother of the perpetrator said that her son, who beat and shot the girl, wasn’t responsible for her death because the family “pulled the plug.” She claimed it was their fault their daughter died.

I was appalled by her words. Not only was it cruel for her to claim that Mary died because her family “pulled the plug on her” but it was scientifically incorrect. Mary was dead before “life support” was withdrawn. The actions of the criminal and his cohort caused her death.

As a health care professional, I have seen families anguish and suffer over “pulling the plug.” Part of it is the fault of the language we use. I would like to see everyone stop using terms like “withdrawing life support” and “pulling the plug” as the phrases are not accurate. Many families believe they are killing their loved ones when the machines and medications are stopped, but they aren’t because there is no brain activity prior to removing the ventilator.

It is customary to perform tests such as EEGs to check brainwaves and apnea tests to check for breathing before removing any machines. Some of these tests are required to be done more than once before considering removal of the ventilator and other interventions. “Life support” is a misnomer when there is no brain activity. All the machines are doing is circulating blood through the dead body.

It’s confusing because, why would we use a machine to keep a body’s circulation and oxygenation going? Because first we need to verify that the person is truly deceased.

A victim of a gun shot or a head injury or an automobile accident comes into the Emergency Department. At that point, the patient’s status is unclear. They have been resuscitated and tests such as CT scans and MRIs are done to assess the injury. It isn’t until later that a clearer picture becomes apparent and the patient is failing or has never responded. No matter how hard the medical team works, the patient will never recover. The brain damage is too severe. At this point, the machines are keeping the circulation and oxygen going through the body so the heart and other organs are still functional. But the brain is dead. The family may be approached at this time regarding organ donation. The medical team gives the family time to absorb the inevitable. The family starts to grieve and make some decisions.

It’s not the family who killed the patient. It’s the gunshot wound, the head injury, the massive destruction of the car accident, or the criminal behavior of others that killed the patient. Families should not feel guilty about the decision to remove the ventilator and discontinue the high powered IV drugs that are oxygenating the body and maintaining the blood pressure and circulation.

It would save a lot of people, who are already grieving, the added guilt feelings and additional anguish if we changed the terminology to what it actually is–organ support.IMG_0550

 

A Room of My Own

Virginia Wolfe wrote, ““A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

I am in the process of converting a small room upstairs into my office.

When we bought the house, the description counted this particular room as a bedroom. Supposedly our home is a 5-bedroom house. No way! A crib might fit in it, but there’s not room even for a twin bed and dresser.  It might make a nice office, though. We shall see.

Currently, my “writing room” is on the main level in what was identified as a family room when we bought the house. Dennis and I use it as an office-library. Against the south wall, the computer and printer sit. Dennis’ big roll top desk is against the north wall. The fireplace and built-in bookshelves on to the west and another book case is to the east.

In the room hangs a plaque on the wall above the space where the  computer sits.  The nurses on the maternal-child unit at University gave it to me after I was awarded the NCC Neonatal Nurse of the Year Award.  The award itself, a beautiful crystal that sits atop a gray marble base, is hidden away upstairs somewhere.  The calligraphy reads:

That Woman is a Success–

Who loves life and lives it to the fullest;

Who has discovered and shared her strengths and talents that are uniquely her own;

Who puts her best into each task and leaves each situation better than she found it’

Who seeks and finds that which is beautiful in all people and all things;

Whose heart is full of love and warmth with compassion;

Who has found joy in living and peace within herself.  Barbara Burrows

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As I sit down to write at the computer, the plaque is a reminder of what my colleagues thought at the time and it inspires me to seek meaning in what I do.

To my left as I sit, is the mantel and fireplace with bookshelves on either side of the hearth.IMG_3615IMG_3614A myriad of books stack the shelves–non-fiction, fiction, inspirational books, children’s books, large tomes, small paperbacks and the Bible.  Each of the eight shelves, four per side, holds at least 25-30 books, well over 200 books total.

Against the wall on my right is a tall 5-shelf book case.  The bottom two
shelves hold more books, primarily books on writing, a couple of dictionaries, some writing materials and papers and a big book with the title of “Just Do It!”  The top three shelves display family pictures, my grandmother Grady’s old marble mantel clock, and an antique anniversary clock on the shelf above.  A Madonna and child statue sits next to the anniversary clock and an old German barometer is on the shelf above.  The barometer is a red and white chalet with the little man in Lederhosen and the little lady in a plain blue dress.  The chalet is adorned with flowers below the little window.  Today the little people are both inside the chalet with their backs to me.

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I have many things surrounding me that offer inspiration, but also distraction at times. My digital speakers for my I-pod sits next to my computer screen, allowing me to plug in the device and listen to music, preferably Golden Oldies for writing and  Irish tunes for cleaning.  A 1-½ inch wooden rectangular token with the image of San Juan on the front sits next to the speakers.  On the back, it tells of San Juan (St. John) the apostle who is the Patron Saint of Writers, Editors, Publisher and Printers.   A souvenir of my trip to Colorado Springs with my friend, Deb, it remind s me that writers can shape the world and inspire others to seek the truth.

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As I ponder on my surroundings, I realize that this is my own secret space, my writing space, my thinking space, my prayerful space.  It is the space that connects me to the world as well as keeps the world out.  I can communicate with my friends via email or Face Book or I can focus on my stories, shutting everyone else out.

Time stands still here.  I can sit down to write and time becomes irrelevant.  Then suddenly, I realize that 4 hours have passed in an instant.  It is 12:00 in the kitchen, but it is still early morning in my space.  I want to stay in my space but I must go to the kitchen because the world beckons.

My space is a little cluttered and sometimes the world invades my space such as in March when Dennis chooses to use my space to do the taxes. If I would change anything about my space, I would remove all the non-writing parasites that creep in and start to take over—the amoebic bank statements, the overgrowth of committee work, the pestilent to-do lists.  What my space really needs is the Orkin personal secretary and DeCon killer organizer to take care of the pests that get in the way of my writing.

Maybe the little room upstairs will provide that bastion for “the writer only.” Stay tuned. I will let you know how the room conversion goes.