The first time I had the opportunity to go to Europe, I brought back lots of pictures. Everyone agreed that every other picture was great. No one liked the pictures of my finger, which is a bit of a camera hog (plus it never smiles). But what they objected to were all of the pictures of doors. “You went to Europe, and you took pictures of doors!”


I happen to like doors. So much hinges on them: they let us in from the cold and welcome us home, they hide our secrets, they keep us out and force us to find another way.  In honor of 2012, the new door into our future, here are a few of those photos and what they taught me.


Sometimes you have to knock. It can be intimidating.



Sometimes a small path leads to a big door.




Sometimes the door will already be open. Go in.




Sometimes you have to go further in, to search for the right door.




Sometimes the most beautiful door is barred. It often holds dead men’s bones. You will find a better door.




Sometimes the door that looks the least promising leads you home.




Sometimes the best door is the one that leads you out.




Sometimes the door is so narrow, only the soul can squeeze through.



Sometimes you have to choose. One door leads to another, so you will probably never go back to the other one. It’s okay.




Sometimes the smaller door will get you to the same place as the bigger one.



Sometimes inside and outside the door are equally pleasant. Enjoy your wait.



May you find a welcome mat at door 2012.

Great gerbils, love, awards!


If you look closely at my hands, you’ll see I have time all over them. In order to get it off, I sit in the recliner, rocking and making anagrams of Versatile Blogger. The post title is an anagrammatically correct version of Versatile Blogger. Although it works as a statement, I couldn’t find any evidence on Google that gerbils love awards, so I added the commas, and rather like the expression, “Great gerbils!” I hope you don’t mind me calling you “love.”


Three kind, talented, and versatile bloggers nominated me this month for Versatile Blogger: Detrimentally Disgruntled, Chicken Nuggets and Elmo, and Riatarded. That anyone reads my blog, much less enjoys it, continually surprises and delights me.


Since I received this award once before, I am only going to highlight those who nominated me. Detrimentally Disgruntled draws delightfully for her droll stories, Chicken Nuggets and Elmo provides parenting pointers in prose, and Riatarded writes and rants well about reality and things she reads. You will enjoy each one. None of them are compulsive alliterators, in case you were wondering.



Detrimentally Disgruntled also included me for a Liebster award. I’m thinking of adopting her. And, although “A weird blaster” is anagrammatically correct for Liebster Award, I wasn’t happy with it. I can imagine someone saying, “Web raids later,” to mean they will Google something when they have time, but I will leave it up to you to come up with something more interesting. From Liebster Blog, I came up with “Le Big Lobster,” which would make a nice name for a French seafood restaurant or a blog.


This last award has rules:

  • Thank the blogger (see above) who bestowed the award.
  • Pass it on to five other bloggers, who must have fewer than 200 followers.
  • Notify the nominees.
  • Display the award on your blog.

The hardest part is picking only five bloggers. The second hardest part is figuring out who has fewer than 200 followers.


  • Bluebird Blvd. – an eclectic collection of words, music, poetry, drawings, and good writing (she also owns a small mint for coining new words and phrases)
  • Just Add Attitude – a lovely Irish woman who introduces you to her world through words and pictures while keeping both feet on the ground in her lovely ballet flats
  • Words from my Soul – a writer in Papua New Guinea who writes with a broken heart about violence against women and children (bring tissue)
  • The Painter Lady – an artist who writes about life, books, spirituality, and history


There are plenty more, and I have plans to share them with you in the coming year.





Great gerbils, would you look at the time!  I’m off now on some web raids, looking for love and lobster. Just kidding about the love. I’ve got plenty of that from you.

Thanks for the encouragement, WordPress


How WordPress encourages those who write literary questions

Above is the new format WordPress uses to encourage you after you publish on your blog. Just like your mother, it’s there to tell you that you are awesome but you need to set some goals, oh, and you forgot to add these tags, but I’m not surprised really, you’re just like your father.

The best part, of course, is the quotation under your new goal, put there to motivate you. See the one in the picture above: “Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you.”  This was said to the author, Scott B., who has 13,686 friends but only 13 words. But not all pithy little sayings from WordPress are like that. For instance, this is what  WordPress said to me yesterday after I posted:  “That’s not writing at all, that’s typing.”

The quote is from Truman Capote, who said it about Jack Kerouac’s book On the Road, which chronicled Kerouac’s road trips with other members of the Beat generation. Truman was not invited, so he stayed home and  wrote bestsellers like Breakfast at Tiffany’s  and In Cold Blood.

Famous typist, Jack Kerouac (Photo by Palumbo via Wikipedia)

You have to understand  that Truman grew up without a first name (his parents borrowed the neighbor’s last name, Truman, and made him use that), so he may have been jealous about Kerouac having two first names: Jean-Louis. Since Kerouac was also a poet, he chose the nickname Jack, because it rhymes with his last name. Most people don’t know this, but I know all this literary stuff because I studied some literature in college.

Since Capote was only 5’3”, his ego couldn’t squeeze into his body, so it became his bodyguard and liked to get drunk and talk trash about other writers. Writers like Jack Kerouac, who had his own problems with fame and alcohol, but still managed to get his own Wikipedia page.

Now, am I making some kind of comparison and saying WordPress is short? Based on its font size, yes. Am I saying it has an overly large ego? No, just an overly large logo. I have no idea if it gets drunk, but I wonder sometimes when I read Freshly Hammered Pressed. It certainly talks trash about typists like me, who have their own problems that unfortunately have nothing to do with fame or alcohol.

Apparently, WordPress reads my blog and isn’t afraid to give me its opinion. I can hardly wait to see what it has to say to me when I publish this post.

Familiarity and its offspring – part 2


Familiar breeds

The adage, familiarity breeds contempt, is generally used to mean that once you get to know someone well, you begin to find things about the person that you dislike, which leads to fault-finding, and the next thing you know, you are on the exit ramp to contempt. It is a very short trip sometimes. I have nothing to rant about that.

Yesterday, I ranted about the increasing sense of informality in post-modern life that leads to contempt for the courtesy and respect we need to keep society civilized. In a culture’s curriculum, Manners 101 is the class where you learn to keep your hands in your lap, instead of around someone’s neck. It should be a prerequisite for Intro to Society.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. The decline into barbarity is growing, not only because familiarity breeds contempt, but (and I hope you are sitting for this insight) because familiarity breeds.

That’s where all those babies are coming from, people: familiarity. It means “undue intimacy.” Look it up. And undue means “excessive.” According to U.N. estimates, we have 7 billion people on this planet, and as we speak, a lot of them are getting familiar.

If you enjoy that kind of excess, you can watch familiarity breed in real-time here.

For those of you who are mathematically inclined (I’ll give you a moment to straighten up), you will both enjoy and understand the following formula that explains the population growth:





▪   N is current population

▪   T is the current year

▪   C = (1.86±0.01)•1011

▪   T0 = 2007±1

‪τ = 42±1

This, of course, can be simplified thus:

F = BB


  • F is familiarity
  • BB is billions of babies

Are you as concerned as I am? You should be. Finding a parking spot is going to get a lot harder, and there are going to be a lot more people who don’t know what to do with their hands.

(NOTE: This neck-breaking news would not be possible without Wikipedia, which posted that first formula by Russian physicist Sergei Kapista, which spellcheck first insisted should be Quipster, and then insisted that quipster should be hipster. He sounds very cool. The simplified formula came from me, in case you were wondering.)

Familiarity and its offspring


Then seat yourself

The sign as you enter the restaurant says, “Wait to be seated.” So we waited last night until the young hostess appeared. She asked if we would mind using a booth and then pointed behind us and said, “Over there, it’s the only one open. You’ll figure it out.” I suppose I should have been flattered that she believed a woman my age recognized what an empty booth looked like and wouldn’t accidently sit in some gentleman’s lap and complain about the lumpy cushions. After we sat down, my brother, who is ten years younger, suggested we trip her the next time she walked by. When she asked why, he would say, “You’ll figure it out.” He refrained.

Then our nice young waiter brought me some bruschetta chicken that looked like it had crawled onto the plate by itself and collapsed just at the edge from all that effort. “It kinda slid on the plate on the way over, but it’s okay; it’s still good,” he explained, but without the punctuation. The little icicles of cheese dripping slowly over the edge of the plate gave it a somewhat festive look, but Christmas is over, so it didn’t make me feel jolly.

The restaurant, named after a piece of fruit and some insects, serves average food at average prices to average people, so I wasn’t expecting to be greeted in French or have a personal sommelier. But it was so informal that I expected I would be asked to take my plate to the kitchen and wipe the table before I left. If I wanted to be treated like that, I would have stayed at home.

When my children were small, we didn’t want them to call adults by their first name without using a Mr. for men and Miss for women. It’s a Southern thing. When we lived in Japan, and one of the children used Miss in front of a married woman’s first name, the woman patiently explained to that child that Miss was only used for unmarried women. The woman was American, but she was not from the South, so it may have sounded strange. Eventually, she warmed up to it and grew to like it.

I like it, too. Formality is the fence around my house. It’s not so high that you can’t see over it, but it’s there. On the gate is my name: my full name. If the gate’s unlocked, you can ring the bell or knock on the front door. I’ll invite you in; I’m on the friendly side. Get to know me well enough, and I’ll tell you to just open the gate, and if the door to the house is open, walk in and make yourself at home.

But if you have never once been around the block, and then climb over my fence, barge into my house and help yourself to my food or my chocolate and talk to me like we go to junior high school together, we are gonna have words, and it will not be purty. You can run, but you cannot hide ’cause I have a broom, and I know how to ride it. When I catch you, you had better be prepared to call me  ma’am.

This is a rant.

(Photo on loan from:

What are you looking for?


Imagine even shorter bangs!

I have gotten up early my whole life, except for my teenaged years when I ran marathons in my sleep and didn’t wake up until I finished. As an early morning child, after finishing my sugar-laden cereal, I could explore drawers and closets without anyone asking, “What are you looking for?” This is the kind of unanswerable question that grownups ask curious children. Imagine walking through the woods admiring the trees, and as you bend down to look at a mushroom, someone asks you, “What are looking for?” The answer is nothing, everything, I’ll know when I find it, or maybe, you are asking the wrong question.


Most of life is hidden, and just as the birdwatcher needs time and patience to see the birds beneath the canopy of trees, so the child needs space to explore her world, including drawers and closets, the repositories of grownups’ secrets.


Looking through places in the house became a habit. In the mornings, I could go through most of the house, but not the bedrooms, at least not the only bedroom of real interest: my parents’ room. Entrance into that room required an invitation, and if occupied, a knock.


But parents are not always at home and big sisters have better things to do than follow little sister around. I must have been in second grade when I sneaked into my parents’ bedroom. In the small drawer next to where Mother kept her underwear, I found a picture of a tiger I had colored in school. I had pressed down on the crayons, so the vivid yellowish-brown eyes glowed from the orange and black-striped creature that stood among the green, yellow-green, light green, and turquoise leaves. Seeing it there secreted in her drawer was like coming face to face with a real tiger, one of my own creation, which now lived in this unexplored place.  I felt happy that she would keep the colors that flowed out of me.


In that same drawer, I found a small envelope with her name written on it in textbook-perfect cursive letters.  Inside were short, brown hair clippings, not more than a tablespoon worth. They were mine.


One day during craft time in first grade, my best friend, Donna, leaned over and said, “I can see your bangs growing.” Her words both thrilled me and alarmed me. Donna could see the tiny hairs, still alive at the roots, pushing into the world, threatening my eyes.


Cutting your own hair was forbidden in our house, but nothing had ever been said about having friends cut your hair.


Our teacher was busy helping L.D. wash his hands, which he had painstakingly covered with the paste he had developed a craving for. Donna held the blunt-nosed scissors and clipped quickly.  In those days, teachers had eyes in the back of their head; at the second clip, she turned around and looked directly at Donna and me. Just like a game of Swing the Statue, we froze, Donna keeping the scissor hand suspended in the air, waiting for the teacher to come over and touch us to unfreeze us.


Instead, she said, “Come here girls.”


A moment earlier I had been enthralled at Donna’s powers of observation and her willingness to help me.  The look on our teacher’s face and her tone of voice shook my confidence in my friend.


“Scissors are for cutting paper, Donna,” she said.


Donna started crying.  Everyone in the room quieted down and looked at us. We were facing Mrs. Severe, so they could see only the teacher’s solemn face and the shaking shoulders of Donna as she cried.  Mrs. Severe reached into her desk and pulled out a small envelope. She walked over to the small tables where we sat, gathered up my hair clippings, and put them inside the envelope.


“I’m going to call your mother tonight to make sure she gets these.”  Then she went to the shelf where we kept our lunch boxes, opened the metal clasp, and put the envelope inside.


And she did call. Mother got out her haircutting scissors and evened out Donna’s work, leaving me only about an inch of bangs. Above my freckled nose loomed a white forehead, best hidden. The short hairs looked like the edge of a failed crew cut.


Mother had kept that envelope and the picture of my tiger. She was not very affectionate toward me, but here in this hidden, intimate place she kept parts of me. I opened her perfume jar and inhaled her sweet smell and loved her, secretly, like she loved me.


Don’t call me Baby if you’re not going to buy me something


All alone on Christmas Day

Hi, people. This is yearstricken’s computer; you can call me Baby. That’s what she calls me. “Where’s my Baby?”  “Don’t touch my Baby.”  “Baby needs Apple juice – where’s the cord?”


Every day she sits in that rocking recliner with her coffee. Back and forth, back and forth just like a politician’s opinion but she doesn’t get huge donations from corporations to do it. She drives me crazy, and she’s a fast driver. (You guys know she’s bonkers, right? When she says, “I’m going crazy; anyone want to go with me?” she isn’t kidding.) So she sits and writes her little blog and makes her little points and you know what? She couldn’t do it without my help. But, you know what else? She didn’t buy me a single thing for Christmas!!


Last night, on Christmas Eve, they opened presents. That’s just wrong, six ways to Cleveland and back. I mean, as sure as steam rollers and toilet paper roll over, presents should be opened on Christmas morning. She had some fancy excuse about having family over, and then that family could sleep in on Christmas morning. Yeah, right, Miss I-got-a-new-coffee-pot-for-Christmas-smarty-pants blogger. The only one who thought of me was her brother, and you know what he got me? A patch cable that says it’s for PC-to-PC connections. Like I’m gonna hook up with some PC. I’m a Mac, for Christmas’ sake!


The worst part is her smart little iPhone that talks way too much. It got a brand-new leather case. Ring, ring it says all day long, which is phonish for  “Hold me! Hold me!” I’d like to slap it. You should see the two of them together. She holds it up to her ear and says the most inane things, and then it whispers nothings, allegedly sweet but probably also inane, in her ear.


So, Barely Christmas, y’all. It wasn’t merry for me, but don’t worry about me and my daily bouts with seasickness from that incessant rocking.  I’m the one who keeps all her files, and although she’s got a lot on me, trust me, I’ve got a lot more on her.