The Pep Talk

My husband had a tale to share with me when I got home from work yesterday. Over dinner, he simply said, “Remind me later to tell you about The Pep Talk.”

So later, when the children were not around, I asked him to tell me about The Pep Talk. And he did.

He was in the shower and when he got out, he could hear six year-old Hal giving a rousing pep talk in our bedroom. My husband’s face got animated as he recited what he had heard in a measured tone, carefully delivered to build excitement.

“Ok, guys. Here’s what we’ve got. We don’t have a week. We don’t have a month. We don’t have a year. We’ve got now. Now is all we’ve got. It has to be now. You got it?”

My husband told me to imagine the best football coach’s pep talk mixed with a professional wrestler’s smack talk interview mixed with the worst used car commercial I had ever heard. That’s how little Hal sounded. It was a perfect blend. He transitioned seamlessly from one to another and back again.

Then my husband had walked into the room and found a selection of Hal’s stuffed animals arranged in a pristine semi-circle on our bed.

“You’ve got to take down those bad guys! You’ve got to destroy them. You can do this! I believe in you! It all depends on you! Are you ready? Let’s do this! Today! Today! Today! Today! Today!”

He then returned to his own room, where he addressed the remaining stuffed animals, hanging out in the newly created “zoo” mounted on the wall above his bunk bed.

“I’m sorry that you guys can’t go. You are still my best guys. You are. You just didn’t get signed up in time. I’m so sorry.”

This empathetic speech, as if this pending battle or competition was equivalent to signing up for summer camp, was related to me through tears as my husband was laughing too hard to get the story out coherently.

I wish I had been there. Oh, how I wish I had been there.

God vs. Football

Sometimes it is oh so hard to live in Texas. I was dismayed to hear that some of our legislators were proposing we stop observing Daylight Savings Time. And even more dismayed (yet not surprised) to see my next-door cube mate had posted a difficult-to-interpret poster advocating dropping it.

It’s not that I’m in love with Daylight Savings Time. I’m not sure I care one way or the other, really. I love gaining an hour in the Fall and I hate losing one in the Spring. I don’t find it cumbersome to change the handful of clocks I have that don’t already do it automatically. Yet I don’t think I’d particularly notice or mind if we stopped.

What I do have a problem with, though, is being different from the rest of the country. Right now, I’m in the same time zone as the rest of my family, save a handful that are in Mountain Time. It’s simple. But if Texas drops out of DST, then I have to think about whether the rest of the country is in it and adjust my understanding of what time it is there accordingly.

Now, Texans seem to like to be fairly insular so maybe a lot of them don’t interact with people from other states – I don’t know. I, for one, would find it a much heavier burden to remember the temporary time shift between Texas and Oklahoma for part of the year than I do taking a few minutes two days out of the year to change my clocks.

I had hoped the measure would fail, but suspected it would succeed. Texas politicians do crazy things all the time. I was elated to find out a couple of months ago that the measure had collapsed. But shocked and deeply embarrassed about why.

Proponents for the change had argued about the (in my opinion faulty) burden of changing the clocks. They had also made a slightly more reasonable argument about the safety issue that had children walking to school in the dark. The opponents’ response to the risk of children getting hit by cars that can’t see them?

“I don’t want to have to choose between whether to go to church or whether to watch the Dallas Cowboys. I don’t want to miss either one.”

That’s right. Church start times wouldn’t change if we no longer went to DST. But the NFL schedule would stick to the national concept of time, not Texas’s. The result? For a handful of Sundays in the Fall, people without DVRs and/or without the ability to avoid media until they got home would have to choose between God and Football.

And that choice is apparently a difficult one to make. And not just a difficult one, but one best avoided.

This reminded me of conversations I’ve had with (typically older) fellow Christians who bemoan the loss of blue laws or other evidence that we are a “Christian Nation”. They’ll shake their heads that sports leagues schedule games on Sundays, that schools schedule events on Wednesday nights. They laud Chick-fil-a for being closed on Sundays.

Yet they go out to eat on Sundays at other restaurants. They take care of their grocery shopping. They maybe even catch their grandchild’s game. Because, well, they don’t want to miss it. Or they don’t feel like fixing lunch. Or they really need to pick up some bread and milk.

Part of the angst about the loss of a Christian face to our society is fear that the country as a whole is moving away from God. But I think another part – quite possibly a bigger, but not thought about part – is that it exposes how far we are from how we’d like to be. How we think we should be. How we think God wants us to be.

Consider this. If sports leagues never schedule games on Sundays, then there is no conflict. There is no choice to be made. You never have to decide between church and your kid’s baseball game. You can live your wholesome Christian life without ever being challenged. Without sacrifice.

In today’s environment, however, you have to make that choice. You paid all that money for your child to play in the select league. The team is depending on her. Do you tell the coach she won’t play in any Sunday tournaments?

You see, Seventh Day Adventists and Jewish worshipers have been making these difficult decisions for decades. Why shouldn’t we share the burden? Why shouldn’t we take the opportunity to examine our faith and our priorities and how we live out our life? Why do we want society to enforce it for us so we don’t have to sacrifice? What does that say about us?

Seriously. It’s a standing joke that football is as big as God in Texas. But it’s just a joke. Or, at least… it’s supposed to be.


Waiting on Patrick Rothfuss

I don’t like to read book series that aren’t finished yet. My husband knows this about me. It’s too stressful for me to wait until the next book comes out. The anticipation kills me. I was late to the Dark Tower waiting game but it was still tough – especially when Stephen King was struck by a van. What if he had died?! It took him 22 years to finish that series of seven books. And no, that doesn’t come out to a book every three years because the last three books all came out in a little over a year span. Readers were waiting five or six years between books.

Speaking of authors dying before finishing their masterpieces, I found my way to The Wheel of Time before the series was completed and not long before the author, Robert Jordan, died, work unfinished. That fourteen book series took 23 years and two authors and introduced me to Brandon Sanderson, the author brought in to interpret Jordan’s notes and finish the series.

Betwen Harry Potter and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander (another not-finished series I’m engrossed in) and Wheel of Time, I had been caught up in a small circle of authors for a number of years. When I came up for air, my first instinct was to read some more Sanderson. So I did.

I read a great novella called Legion. I read his Mistborn trilogy. I read the Rithmatist and Steelheart, accidentally stumbling into two more incomplete trilogies. And then I paused to consider what to read next. My husband suggested I try another author besides Sanderson.

He suggested The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. A friend of ours had met Mr. Rothfuss and even had him sign a copy of the book for my husband. The note the author wrote to my husband made it clear he was of a similar personality to the friend, which is, to say the least, a bit off-kilter.

I was blown away my Pat’s writing. The fantasy world he created was impressive, as was the characters, the magic system, the storytelling. But it was the writing that really stood out to me. It was like reading poetry in novel form. In the epilogue of the book, he described silence. Specifically a silence of three parts. I could feel that silence. My ears pulsed with the absence of sound. I was mesmerized.

I’ve read many fine authors who have told gripping stories. Many deliver great dialogue. Gabaldon, in particular, tells a story with such an impressive vocabulary that I’m in search of a dictionary. But I cannot recall another author that created such vivid imagery, who described what I should see and hear so beautifully. I quickly started the second book.

And then my husband dropped the bombshell. The series wasn’t finished. That’s right. It wasn’t finished. I was furious – not with Patrick Rothfuss, whose third book I was now dying to read. But with my husband, who had led me into this trap.

As is the case with most readers, though – well, as it should be with most readers – I eventually fell into a comfortable state of waiting. The burn for the next book died down as I went on with my life and other books. I’m now in a state where I’ll need to re-read the books to regain that eager, give-it-to-me-now state of anticipation.

And then I followed Patrick Rothfuss on Facebook. He tells really cute stories about his kids and posts some funny stuff. That’s why I followed him. Then I learned that not everyone is capable of falling into that comfortable state of waiting. Some people get downright irate if authors don’t publish within a window that these readers think is appropriate. And they tell the authors about it every chance they get. And they get pretty ugly about it. And then other people defend the authors.

The arguments don’t change much and it doesn’t seem to matter what post is there. They’ll complain on any post, whether it’s about his books or not. I found it laughable. And sad. But it also got me to thinking.

Do authors owe anything to their readers? The complainers say yes. They say that the authors are getting paid to do a job and they need to get off Facebook and quit operating charities and do their job. Dammit. The supporters say the authors are sharing their creative talent with us and they don’t owe us anything. They can share or not share, their choice. The complainers turn red in the face at that and remind the supporters that these authors are getting paid! They aren’t sharing – they are selling a product.

I basically fall on the side of the supporters. I mean, of course, if an author is on contract, he or she needs to finish the book(s) on whatever schedule he or she agreed to. But otherwise?  Are movie makers required to make more movies after a big success? Are artists required to draw more or paint more? Does Annie Leibovitz have to keep taking pictures even if she’d rather operate a charity or become an accountant?

And the complainers seem to forget this is a creative process. If the writer gets writer’s block, he can’t just churn it out anyway. It’s not like building a house. He’s creating a world and immersing us in it. The complainers will remind us all that Rothfuss said the books were all finished – he was just editing. Ok, so he has since said he regrets making the comment and for him, the bulk of the work is in the editing. He’s kind of obsessive about it. So get over it. He’s not ready to share the story.

Ironically, the complainers have often presented one of my other favorite authors for contrast: Brandon Sanderson. They talk about how many books he publishes and how good they are. I like Sanderson. I enjoy his books. A lot. He’s a great story teller. But his books are not Rothfuss quality. They don’t have the same artistic imagery. He’s pulp fiction in comparison. So of course his books don’t take as much time.

But even if they were as good… who the bleep cares? I know a lot of computer programmers. Some of them code really, really fast. Others take longer. Some have more bugs in their code or it’s not structured well or not easy to read. Whatever. Fact is, you can’t ask the slow coders to code faster. You either accept their pace or you don’t. As a supervisor of computer programmers, a person can decide the person’s pace is good or fire them. That’s it. Readers have the same choice. Accept the author as he or she is… or move along.

So if I could, I’d tell all the complainers this: grow up. No one owes you anything. You are just being ugly and childish. There are so many good books by good authors out there that there is absolutely no way you could get through them all before Pat finished the final book in his Kingkiller Chronicles – even if it took him twenty years. So go read some of those. Read Sanderson. He’ll keep you busy. I get it. I know what it’s like to want the rest of the story. But yelling at the author won’t do any good. Get a life. Please. Let the rest of us enjoy the person without your vitriol.

From Earthquakes to Scandanavia

My husband has been spending time in Oklahoma this summer with his Dad, who is recovering from major surgery in his fight against cancer. We both grew up in that state and still have many friends and family there.

Those friends and family have been commenting on Facebook about the growing earthquake epidemic there but it’s just been an abstract matter of curiosity to us. When we’ve been there to visit, we haven’t experienced any. Although their offhand comments (“that was a big one”) affected a certain familiarity with their apparent new norm, I continued to believe that it really didn’t happen that often.

Then my husband went up for his Dad’s surgery and slept in his Dad’s house. Apparently we just aren’t spending the night with the right parent if we want to experience an earthquake. He was disturbed every night by earthquakes, and my husband is not a light sleeper.

He installed an earthquake app on his phone and learned that 1) Oklahoma is next to California for number of earthquakes in the country and 2) his dad’s county is one of the most active in Oklahoma. One morning, he was awakened by what sounded like an explosion nearby, followed by significant shaking of the house. That one, his app told him, had an epicenter just half a mile away.

When he returned home from that trip, he showed me the app and all the quakes that proved his sleepless nights. The app came complete with satellite imagery and could pan all over the world. Eventually, it ended up in young Hal’s hands.

“Greenland doesn’t look green,” he announced at one point.

“No, it doesn’t, does it?” his dad responded. “And Iceland doesn’t look icy either.” He pointed Hal to the little island nearby.

Hal continued his global exploration.

“Finland {pronounced FinLAND, not FinLUND} doesn’t look fishy.”


“Finland doesn’t look fishy. Shouldn’t it have fins if it is FINland?”

We smiled and he continued his examination of Scandinavia.

“Norway doesn’t look like it has Nors.”

“Nors? What are Nors?”

“You know. Nors. That’s what they should have in Norway.”

“Oh, ok, honey.”

“Swehden {pronounced with a lowercase E} doesn’t look sweaty.”

“It’s Sweden,” I said, laughing.

“No, it’s Swehden.”

“Sweden, honey.”

“Swehden. And it’s not sweating so why’s it called Swehden?”

“It’s not! It’s called Sweden.”

I enjoy this boy’s humor and innocence. And for all the smart phone’s drawbacks, I’m glad he’s growing up in a time when we can look at where earthquakes are happening and zoom all over the world on a map that shows such detail. The world is literally at our fingertips. Including the great, non-sweaty country of Swehden.

Home Alone Heart Attack

Being home alone is an interesting experience. When you are used to having a houseful, it’s actually kind of depressing and lonely. People thought I’d enjoy it – find it peaceful. But I haven’t. I enjoyed the week before when the kids were gone to camp and it was just me and the hubby. I took the week off work and got a lot done around the house. He wasn’t there all the time so I still spent a lot of time alone, but I wasn’t lonely.

This past week, however, has been a little depressing. My husband took the kids to see grandparents and I went back to work. I worked long hours too. I mean, why not? What was waiting for me at home? The dog?

Going to bed the first night, pulling the door closed behind me for no reason beyond habit and a theoretical fire block if the house caught on fire, I actually felt just a little bit scared. I got over it and slept so soundly that I had aches the next morning from not moving.

I went to work each morning and had a couple of meetings at church in the evenings. I saw people. I spoke to people. But then I’d come home and feel like doing nothing. Sometimes it felt like I was just waiting until an appropriate time to go to bed. Most evenings consisted of having a glass of wine with dinner while watching an episode of Firefly. I was enjoying myself, but people were missing and I was feeling it. There was simply no action. No energy. No life. No spark.

The last night, I had worked eleven hours, gotten off work about 8pm, and picked up some McDonald’s for dinner. That was another thing – it was hard to work up any interest in cooking for myself. I had a lot of salads and sandwiches and by Thursday night, I was tired of salads and sandwiches. McDonald’s was on the way home.

I sat down with my McDonald’s and my glass of wine (that makes the meal classy, right? It was even sparkling wine). Sat down on the couch and started up another episode of Firefly. About halfway through the episode, I started getting the loading screen every few minutes. At one point I decided to pause it, let it buffer, and try to get something done so I’d be ready for bed when the show was over.

Ah, yes, I thought to myself. I need to unload the dishwasher and get the dirty dishes in there. Can’t have the counter cluttered when the kids get home. That would undermine all my efforts to get them to stay on top of the dishes.

So I headed into the kitchen, grabbed the silverware out of the already-open dishwasher, and turned around to the silverware drawer. In one quick and practiced motion, I opened the drawer and prepared to drop the forks and spoons in their proper places, already turning my attention back to the next item in the dishwasher.

But something wasn’t right. Something didn’t compute. The drawer was not as I had left it. And since there was no one there but me and the dog, and the dog has not yet mastered the ability to pull open drawers, this took me by surprise. And then my mind interpreted more clearly what the not-quite-right situation was with the silverware drawer. And I shrieked and moved quickly back to the living room. Where the dog slowly raised her head to inquire if she should be concerned about whatever had just happened.

I’m actually proud to say it wasn’t quite a shriek. More of an exclamation of surprise, tinged with maybe just a hint of panic. My voice stayed in its usual octave. The noise was brief. If it had been anything more, the dog would have come running to take down whatever had scared her mama. I’m not sure this would have been a good thing.

I grabbed my phone off the couch, as all good first world people of the social media age would do, and creeped back into the kitchen. Where I got a better look at the snake hanging out on my tablespoons.



A couple of quick shots and I was back in the living room, sending it first to my husband, then posting it on Facebook, then sending it to my daughter, who is the usual putter-away of dishes. She promptly submitted her resignation. My husband said he wished he had been there to witness my reaction.

Which just highlighted my on-my-ownness even more. In normal times, Jane would have been putting away the dishes. She would have shrieked much more satisfactorily than I would have. She would have run into wherever we were and breathlessly told us there was a snake in the kitchen. The boys would have yelled “cool!” and dropped their electronic devices to go check it out. The dog would have hurried to see the cause of all the excitement. There would have been a crowd in the kitchen. I would have laughed at Jane, secretly relieved that it hadn’t been me, and I would have suggested that my husband relocate the snake to the outdoors.

But there was no husband. No Jane. No eager boys. Not even a curious dog. Just a lazy, I-slept-all-day-in-my-crate-and-now-I’ll-lay-here-on-the-couch-while-you-have-a-silent-heart-attack-and-die dog. And a snake. In my silverware drawer.

I think I’m a tougher woman than most. I’ve done a lot of things that many women wouldn’t do. I’ve ridden a kayak down a fourteen foot waterfall by myself. I’ve gone on rigorous backpacking trips. I played roller hockey, even acquired stitches on my face and a chipped tooth. I experienced natural childbirth – three times! And one of them a home birth. I participated in a rock climbing competition just 10 days after my third child was born. I’ve done stuff. I’m tough.

In certain situations.

Critters in my house, especially of the slithering variety, are not in that subset of situations. So I stood in the living room, trying to imagine myself coaxing the snake onto a long stick and taking it out the front door. The image turned into the snake deftly and swiftly traveling up the stick and leaping onto my face. I calmly revised the image back to the snake wrapped around the stick. Then the dog entered the image and attacked the snake on the stick. The snake fought back. A war ensued. I forced the mental image back to a stick with a snake traveling out the front door. But the dog was a real concern. Lock her up in a bedroom? Just how long should the stick be? Open the front door first? How many bugs will come in the house before I get the snake on the stick and out the door? Do I really care about mosquitoes when there’s a snake in my silverware drawer?

I decided to go check on the snake again.

And it was gone.

I was actually relieved. I didn’t have to worry about being brave enough to move the snake. I would have done it. Of course, I would have. I’m tough. I do what needs to be done. I totally would have taken care of the snake. But now it’s back in the walls, hopefully eating mice and bugs and being useful to us. I’m good.

And then the Facebook friends started talking about it maybe being a copperhead. And I started imagining it stalking me once I went to bed for the night. My skin crawled. I told my tough (remember how tough you are?!) self that I was being silly. Cooler heads prevailed on Facebook and I employed my Google-fu to confirm that the snake was not a copperhead.

I finished watching Firefly. I finished putting the dishes away – including the silverware and the stuff that goes in the drawer below the silverware. I went to bed.

I swear this stuff only happens when my husband isn’t home.


The Way We Speak

A friend of mine shared this article on Facebook recently. It lamented women’s patterns of speech being constantly policed and pathologized (as she put it). It mostly focused on a recent researcher’s assertion that women use ‘just’ too much and sound like they are apologizing. It mentioned other (stereotypical) women’s habits too, like our voices rising at the ends of statements, sounding hesitant, and “vocal fry” (creaky voice).

I thought about how I’ve dismissed women speakers for sounding too young or hesitant for some of the reasons stated. And I’ve acknowledged that perhaps it isn’t fair. But I couldn’t help but feel there’s a balance to be struck here. Are those (negative) judgments about women based on their speech unfair? Yes! Are they because our male-dominated culture makes male speech patterns ‘the’ way? Yes!

Is it going to change overnight? No!

So what is an individual woman supposed to do about it? Is it easier to stop uptalk (voice rising at the end of a phrase) or is it easier to change the entire culture? Does an individual woman make the deliberate decision to possibly negatively impact her career in order to “fight the good fight” and hope to change society? I don’t know. I suppose each woman has to decide for herself.

The other thing that struck me about the article was that women aren’t the only people with this problem. People with stereotypical ‘black’ patterns of speech have it too. And people with strong Southern accents (‘rednecks’). It’s not just men that define “proper speech”. It’s also white people and Northerners.

Don’t believe me? How many versions of this have you seen?


Funny thing about these things is that it’s always a white person ‘asking’ for the clarification. Now, don’t get me wrong. There aren’t too many people that are more committed grammar freaks than me, but this isn’t so much about grammar as it is dialect.

When I speak, you can’t tell the difference between when I say ‘pen’ and when I say ‘pin’ unless I’m concentrating very hard to make the ‘e’ sound in pen. If I drop into my usual patterns of speech, they will both sound like ‘pin’. I also had a British person tell me that ‘Jenny’ and ‘Ginny’ are pronounced differently – I didn’t believe her. I seriously did not know until I was in my thirties that those sounds were supposed to be pronounced differently.

Back to ‘axe’. I once had a black co-worker who said ‘axe’ instead of ‘ask’. It drove me crazy. But he was a bright, masters-level educated engineer who did his job extremely well. So why knock that verbal tic of his? More importantly, as this article asks, why expect him to identify with the dominant white “proper English” culture? Axe was, once upon a time, as proper as ask – even Chaucer used it. But now we associate it with the uneducated.

Shame on us. Associate it with the speaker being black if you want to, but don’t assume that it means they are uneducated. (Take the time to read the article too – it’s worth it and not particularly long).

Same goes for Southern accents. My daughter picked up one in preschool from her wonderfully sweet two-year-old class teacher. I fretted about it because I knew people would assume she was uneducated if she kept it through adulthood – which she hasn’t.

Don’t believe me? Just watch the news channels when they interview some small town denizen of Oklahoma after a tornado rips through. “We was just sitting there on the porch when – BAM! it just tore right through my neighbor’s barn!” You are probably already laughing at what an idiot they are.

Now, granted, certain phrases like “we was” typically show a lack of education or at least a lack of dedication to said education. But take away the grammar mistakes, and the accent alone probably makes you mark them lower down the IQ scale. But grammar (and pronunciation) are not the only marks of intelligence. Just take a look at my engineer co-workers.

I’ve got one brilliant former co-worker who writes ‘should of’ when he means ‘should have’.  Several can’t keep track of when to use (or not use) apostrophes or commas. Most use ‘I’ when they should use ‘me’ as part of a compound object of a sentence (an ironic over-correction to the use of ‘me’ for ‘I’ in the subject). Another one pronounces ‘similar’ as sim-YOU-ler. All could likely out-think me on a number of topics in a heartbeat. Their grammar is not a reflection of their education or intelligence.

Most of us wouldn’t judge their intelligence based on those habits though. Because, for whatever reason, those technically inaccurate speech patterns haven’t been tagged as flawed by the mainstream.

So here’s the point I want to get to. Stop judging people by their verbal habits. Those habits are ingrained in them from childhood. It won’t be easy to stop. Because your reactions are also ingrained. But try.

And if you’ve got a unique or stereotyped verbal habit, like pen/pin, axe, sim-you-ler, or saying ‘just’ too much, don’t worry about it. Unless you think it’s affecting what you want to accomplish in life. Then try to change it. And don’t worry about people who tell you you shouldn’t have to change. We’ve all got to make our own way.