The downside of blogging


I love blogging, but I wish there was a more pleasant-sounding word for it. Blog rhymes with bog, smog, slog, sog and other unappetizing things. It also rhymes with fog, which is lovely, but the unsavory words that rhyme with blog far outnumber the beautiful.

Take bog, a swamp-like morass, a place where you might encounter an alligator or a huge poisonous snake or the Creature From the Black Lagoon. Or you can get bogged down, in paperwork or odious chores. And how about smog, the scourge of modern civilization, hanging over the land in ugly yellow-brown tones and ruining lungs. And there’s clog, as in to cause to be backed up: a clogged toilet, yuk. People slog, as in plodding or struggling, perhaps to get across a bog. Which gets us to sogged. You would probably get sogged crossing a bog. And there might be a hog in the bog. You never know. Hogs are worthy animals, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not terribly attractive. 

Oops, I almost forgot flog. I’ll leave you to decide whether to spin the punishment or pleasure connotation of that word. Some people enjoy being flogged, but it’s not my cup of tea.

We have to take the good with the bad. I enjoy blogging immensely so I’ll just put up with the way it sounds. I’ll simply keep on slogging through my blog, enjoying every minute, and reminding myself that it also rhymes with dog, one of my most beloved things in life, and with eggnog, a joy of the holidays.

CHEERS!


“Blog” is derived from “weblog,” coined in 1997. It developed into the first digital diary allowing readers to add comments to others’ blogs.

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My beautiful spirit name

Wachiwi, dancing girl

Many spirit names, especially Native American, are lovely poetic word pictures. Hiawassee means meadow; Suwanee, echo; Hehewuti, warrior mother. My spirit name is Patsy. Go ahead, laugh.

Plain old Patsy was my childhood name, before I grew up and became Pat: professional, successful, competent, yadda yadda. I reclaimed Patsy recently, inspired during a powerful presentation about Native American spirit names at a monthly women’s meeting called Moon Circle, itself a poetic word picture. When I was a child in Silicon Valley—long, long ago when it was still called Santa Clara Valley and covered with orchards and fields of mustard grass and cross-crossed by a tangle of natural creeks—I was Patsy, petite and fair-skinned, with Scandinavian-white hair. I spent my days wandering the valley with my dog Smokie, following creeks, climbing trees, walking atop fences, foot-racing unknown kids who were wandering like me. I ran faster than any boy. When I came upon a playground with a tetherball, I played whoever was there and usually won. If it was empty I played by myself, just to see how fast I could wrap the ball around the pole. I ran up long steep hills, alone except for Smokie, to see how fast and far I could go.

I wandered from glory to glory. I wasn’t afraid of the dark or anything else. I didn’t feel alone because the Valley was always with me.

Over the years my name got whittled down to Pat. At my jobs there were often other Pats and Patsys, and to minimize confusion we would designate who would be called what. I was a pushover and usually agreed to be the Pat. In my thirties, my professional success-focused businesswoman stage, a female colleague told me Patsy was a frivolous name, no one would take me seriously, I would never be a vice president. From then on I always used Pat.

Patsy had disappeared, buried under promotions to management, long hours at work, and endless meetings. (But never vice president.)

Now I’m retired and Patsy’s spirit has reawakened in me, after a long sleep. In my memories and my heart of hearts, I’m still that creek follower, dog lover, tree climber, fence walker, tetherball warrior, swift runner, valley wanderer, playground haunter.  

Patsy is derived from Patricia, which means noble and is rooted in ruling class families of ancient Rome. To me, Patsy is the wild, untamed version of Patricia. Works for me. This time I’m keeping it forever, throughout the eternity of the Great Spirit.

Silicon Valley Girl

I’m a stranger in the Bay Area, though I was born right in the midst of it in Silicon Valley. That was a long time ago. It was Santa Clara Valley back then, and you wouldn’t recognize it. Unleashed dogs romped. Kids played gloriously unorganized softball in vacant lots. Orchards were everywhere. I didn’t know my gentle world was the future birthplace of technology, and that it would be invaded and covered with freeways, malls and business parks. 

You could say I’ve kept up with things. I telecommute, I network, I’m linked-in and hooked-up and hands-free. But I don’t always like it. My life, perhaps like yours, is stressful and upgrade driven.

It seems I’m always upgrading to something—new software, faster internet speed, blue tooth, GPS, Alexa, iPhone 7…. On and on. But there was a time here when things didn’t need upgrading because they were perfect. The lovely orchard next to our high school yielded its gifts when we burst into its stillness after school, needing spending money. I cut cots—that’s apricots—for 50 cents a tray. Now the orchard is a condo complex; our high school, a strip mall. Graceful pepper and oak and fig trees that once grew everywhere, welcoming climbers, are gone, victims of street widening and development. Little running creeks I followed for hours with my dog are concrete flood control channels. And the friendly people who chatted with each other in the grocery store have been replaced with a new breed. Self-absorbed, they wear funny ear gadgets and talk to themselves. 

I’ve learned to accept things as they are. I stay pretty current. But sometimes, in front of my flat screen monitor pushing my mouse, I daydream. I’m cutting sweet ripe cots in the mottled sunlight of the orchard, thinking that when I’m done I’ll go find a softball game somewhere. It’s like going home. 


This commentary originally aired as a KQED Public Radio Perspective.   

Moms and secrets, LOL

campfire-1031141_640I’ll always remember the night my daughter outed me while we were on a Girl Scout camping trip. Michele was eight when she joined Girl Scouts. I should say when we joined: I resolved to be involved. It was a big step for shy, self-conscious, anxious me. But I was a single working mother, without a lot of friends or extended family nearby, and Michele and I spent an awful lot of time with just each other. I knew I had to find more friendship and support, for both of us.

When Michele brought home a flyer that the Girl Scouts would be at her school to answer questions and enroll new members it seemed like a miracle. We went, read the flyers, walked around talking to leaders of various groups, and signed up. The two young moms who led our group were friendly and energetic and arranged for a lot of great activities. It was the right move.

We signed up for a summer camping trip at the beach. I was pretty nervous. I’m a recovering alcoholic, with thirty-two years of sobriety, but back then I had been sober for just a few years. Sobriety was still a new state of being for me and things got stressful and bumpy at times. They were smoothing out, but still I found the thought of hanging out with Girl Scouts daunting.  I felt deep down that I was different from the other moms. I didn’t’ quite belong in respectable society. And worse, I was afraid they would find out who I really was and reject me…and my daughter.

But we went. We carpooled and I really enjoyed Bev, the woman driving the van Michele and I rode in. I knew nothing about camping, but Bev was an expert. I followed her around and she told me what to do and I did it. It was a great system. She could set up a tent and cooking area and all the rest of it with her eyes closed.

After an afternoon swim for the girls and then dinner, we sat around the campfire roasting marshmallows and talking in the flickering firelight. After a while I screwed up my courage and told a story. It was about Michele’s Grandma Myrl, on her father’s side, and a huge crab.

Myrl was on a tourist crabbing boat in Alaska. A crab escaped confinement somehow and was crawling on the boat floor when it speeded up suddenly and raced straight toward Myrl. Somehow it ended up latching on to her glove.  “It was scary,” I told everyone. “In the photo it looked like it was dangling from my mother-in-law’s hand. But actually it was only latched onto her glove. Thank God the tour guide had given her gloves that were way too big!” You couldn’t see it in the photo, but there were inches of empty space between the tips of Myrl’s fingers and the huge claw.

Chuckles and murmurs and OMGs rose up around the campfire, and then Michele’s clear young voice rang out. “Grandma isn’t your mother-in-law,” she said matter-of-factly from her perch across the fire from me. “You and Dad were never married.”

I froze. Then I did what I always did, I focused on the negative, and from there I launched into my familiar, habitual catastrophic thinking. Now they knew, I thought, and they would reject me. I would be ostracized. Maybe I would be expelled from Girl Scouts. I wondered, do they even accept unwed mothers as members? I didn’t remember seeing anything about that on the form. Then my anxiety thoughts, that were gaining momentum and increasing in speed, were interrupted by a hearty, long-lasting group belly laugh that rang out around the fire, coming from moms and kids.

I relaxed. “Thanks for letting us know that, sweetie,” I said, to more laughter. And then the troop leader, a single mother like me, said, “I was never married to Lydia’s father either.” There was yet more laughter, and I laughed too, with great relief. I looked across and saw Michele laughing, and talking with her new friends. I leaned into an unfamiliar but very pleasant feeling that all was well.

That’s the night I learned that “normal” society is not uptight and boring and judgmental, as I had thought for years. It isn’t even normal, because normal doesn’t exist, except as a setting on a dryer. And I knew I was right where I belonged. With the Girl Scouts, and these awesome mothers and daughters.

Blogging, rhymes with snogging

I love to blog. My only problem with it is the way the word “blog” feels and sounds as it rolls off the tongue. And it rhymes with so many unsavory words that have distasteful meanings. Smog, for instance. We all know what smog is. No one likes smog.

It gets worse. Blog also rhymes with bog. Bog can mean a stretch of swampy wetland, which is a valuable natural resource providing habitat for birds and other wildlife, but it can also mean a difficult situation from which it is difficult to disentangle oneself. She blogged about the sticky office romance she was getting bogged down in. And—this I didn’t know before—it’s also slang for toilet, and for what gets deposited in a toilet, of a solid nature. Yuk.

snail-501052_640        love-929963_640

Blogging rhymes with snogging, which is full-on, passionate kissing. You’d be surprised at how many things snog. Even snails. But how can such an unappetizing word describe something so delightful? Kissing sounds lovely, and it is, but snogging sounds yukky. It doesn’t sound like something people would enjoy, but of course lots of people do. 

Blog rhymes with flog, meaning to beat someone with a whip or stick as punishment or torture. And it rhymes with clog, to hinder or obstruct with thick or sticky matter. She was in her office blogging, while unbeknownst to her the drain in the bathroom was silently clogging. And let’s not forget slog, to walk or progress with a slow, heavy pace. While the mad doctor worked in his isolated laboratory, his frightening swamp creature slogged across the bog.

Of course, there are lots of words that rhyme with blog and are not off-putting at all, like log, frog, dog (who doesn’t love dogs?), fog, grog, nog as in eggnog, jog…you get my drift. And words I’ve used above as examples of unpleasantness also have cheerier meanings. Take clog. It can mean a plugged drain pipe, yes, but it is also a shoe with a thick wooden sole. Clogging, in addition, is a delightful folk dance that features loud, striking rhythms created by the dancers’ footwork. But I’m not interested in those, I’m interested in sleazy words that rhyme with blog and support my theme.

The word blog comes from the original term, web log, which was combined into weblog and eventually truncated to blog. That’s how this ungainly word came about. I love doing it, as I’ve said, but hate saying it. I’m old, nearly seventy. If I were a very successful poet or journalist or novelist, I would be a distinguished poet, a distinguished journalist, a distinguished novelist. But if I had a hugely successful blog…well, distinguished blogger just doesn’t sound right. The words don’t go together. It’s just wrong. Even elderly doesn’t seem right. No, I have to face it. I would be just what I am, an old blogger. But I’m a happy old blogger.  

 

This is my year to keep it real.


new-years-day-1021360_640

The thrill, the exhilaration, the excitement of bringing in the new year doesn’t happen for me on New Year’s Eve. It happens in the morning, when I wake up on New Year’s Day. No, “it” is not that. I know what you’re thinking, you naughty blog reader.

This year my husband and I went to Monterey for New Year’s, as we have for the past ten years. They have First Night, an “alcohol-free-family-friendly” street event. There are little puppet shows, a guy with ten parrots that pose with kids while parents shoot pictures for free, a juggler, a clown, and other gentle activities and entertainment. What might be the world’s smallest parade, at twilight, features people on stilts dressed as the moon and planets and stars, young dancers from local dance schools, a troupe of middle-aged belly dancers, a small paper-lion dance…. If you blink, you’ll miss it. Food booths and a few small bands are scattered around the town and stores and restaurants are open until midnight. Every year we eat at the same Greek restaurant, Epsilon, and every year the menu is exactly the same. I always have the dolmades and Frank has the chicken kabob. 

It wasn’t what you’d call a rousing evening. But when I woke up in the morning on New Year’s Day, I absolutely quivered with excitement and anticipation. Like I always do. I quiver because I remember where my car is! It’s in the hotel parking garage. I even know the space number every year. I’ve been waking up sober since 1984, when I awoke on New Year’s Day sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’d been drinking alcoholically for twenty years. I also had what is called in alcoholic circles a Moment of Clarity. I woke up knowing without a doubt that if I didn’t stop drinking I would lose my family, my friends, and myself. The very next night I went to a county alcoholism treatment center near our house and have been sober ever since. I enrolled in their treatment program and in another venerated organization they recommended (go ahead, guess!). I have thirty-one years of sobriety.

So there it is, the honest, naked truth about me. My past is not pretty. Among other things, I had lots of missing-car experiences. One New Year’s Eve I was inebriated and a good friend drove me home from a party in my car. The parking lot at my apartment was full (poachers). She parked two blocks away, walked me home, put me to bed and drove away with another friend who had followed us. The next day I was shocked to find someone else’s car in my parking space when I walked out to drive to the grocery store.  Panicked, I called my friend, who reminded me what had happened and told me where she’d parked my car on the street. Thank goodness she was home. In those days there were no cell phones and people only answered the phone when they were at home or work.

Another morning, during the week, I was hung over but determined to go to take an SAT test I had scheduled. When I rushed to my car, it wasn’t where it was supposed to be. I rushed back to call the friend I had been out drinking with the night before, and saw her note by the phone that she had driven me home, followed by a friend, and my car was around the corner from my apartment. I found it and raced to the university, where I annoyed the testing staff because I was a tad late and obviously hung over. They grudgingly let me take the test and somehow I passed it.

In my most spectacular misadventure, I woke up in bed in a hospital, unable to remember a single thing about the night before. I learned eventually, from the police, that I had left a popular restaurant located at the edge of an estuary of San Francisco Bay, and driven my car off-road into the water. I somehow got out of the car and swam to shore, which I was told was quite a distance. Several people saw me stumbling around and called the police. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know where my car was that night. Nobody knew, for several days until it was dredged up.

There’s a point to all these stories. I’ll tweak a line by old-time entertainer Sophie Tucker. I’ve been drunk and I’ve been sober. It’s better sober.

By the grace of God, and with recovery programs and a lot of other support available, for the past thirty-one years I always know where my car is. It’s such a good feeling. I would even call it a buzz. I’m particularly grateful for this on the morning after New Year’s Eve, which of course is the biggest drinking night of the year. And to think I didn’t even have one. Yay. It’s great to know I don’t have to ever again go outside to my car and see an empty space or someone else’s car where it should be. After all these years it hasn’t ceased to delight me. But of course the real miracle is that I didn’t injure anyone—or worse—all those years I was driving under the influence.  

I just wish I always knew where my keys are. I’m constantly losing them, and spend half my life searching around the house. I always find them eventually, in the oddest places: my underwear drawer, my tax file folder for 2012, the mini-freezer in the garage. But I’m grateful that I’ve lived long enough to suffer from this touch of dementia. Considering how many times I drove drunk and how many years I abused my mind and body with alcohol, I shouldn’t even be alive. And here I am, blogging away.

Happy New Year from a grateful blogger. 

This healthy resolution is a real hoot.

My New Year’s resolution is not about the usual things people resolve to do, or not to do. I’m not going to lose weight, although I should. The problem is I wouldn’t be able to eat all the foods I like. I’m not giving up coffee, even though I drink too much. I have to have my coffee. I’m not going to push my envelope and join Toastmasters and be more outgoing, which would probably also be good for me.  But most of them meet so damn early, before everyone goes to work. I’m not going to quit drinking and smoking because I already did, decades ago, so those resolutions aren’t available to me.

My resolution is to laugh, as often as possible! Out loud. Heartily. Disruptively. Indelicately. I’m going to let it all hang out. And all with the backing of the medical profession. Laughter is healing. Wise people have always known its positive effects intuitively, but in recent years scientists and medical professionals have been seriously—yes, you heard me right, seriously—studying laughter and performing experiments. They have scientifically verified its health benefits by measuring endorphin activity.

Laughter increases endorphins. These are hormones produced by the central nervous system and pituitary gland that can reduce pain and produce a feeling of euphoria. They’re the groovy hormones, the feel-good chemicals produced by the brain. While it’s busy increasing endorphins, laughter is also decreasing levels of stress-producing hormones like epinephrine and cortisol. Laughter increases physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual health, says the Mayo Clinic. It is one of their twelve habits of highly healthy people. 

new-years-day-1090770_640The more you laugh, the easier it gets. You can practice. Go to funny movies, have funny friends (I’m available), read books that make you laugh. Read my blog. Have pets, a rich source of the best kind of laughter, which is affectionate laughter. Play with them, chase them around, rough-house with them, unless you have a 160-pound mastiff. Or just watch them. When I watch my two cats playing hide and seek and tussling and wrestling and chasing each other in the yard I laugh, unstress, and feel peaceful. I luxuriate in the feeling of my endorphins going crazy, flying around, crashing into and bouncing off of each other like bumper cars.

Laughter Yoga is gaining in popularity everywhere. It’s a practice involving prolonged voluntary laughter and done in groups, with eye contact and coordinated movements as well as spontaneous playfulness. At first the laughter feels weird, awkward and forced. Dorky, actually, which was how I felt at my first session. But with persistence and regular practice it soon turns into real and contagious laughter. By the end of a session people are howling with laughter.  

It’s always been common knowledge that to stay healthy, you need to eat sensibly, exercise, and socialize, and now it’s established that you also need to laugh. Laugh every chance you get. Laugh your brains out. Laugh till you cry. Laugh till it hurts. Laugh till you get dizzy. LOL. FOFL.

Just try not to fart. Actually though, farting has its health benefits too. The Mayo Clinic says food that causes gas brings nutrients to beneficial microbes in the gut. The microbes gobble up food, create gas, and make molecules that boost the immune system…. Well, enough of that for now. I’ll have to do a separate piece on farting.

Happy New Year!