a writer's journey as a reader

Why We Say #26: ‘Tis the Season or here’s to muddying meanings

Between putting our votes in and putting up the mistletoe there are words we banter around that no longer mean what they once meant.

For instance:

Season: from the Middle English “seson”, which originally referred to spring, the time for sowing. “Season” is now extended to four times of year: spring, summer, fall, and winter. I actually live in an area that recognizes a fifth season, one that is situated between the last snows of winter and the downpours of spring. We call it “Mud.”
Transitioning from seasons to secrets:
Secretary: a good secretary can keep a secret, and there were a good many secrets floating this last election season. Maybe the mud season applies to election years as well. Never mind…. However, the word “secretary” is derived  from “secrets” because appropriately enough, a secretary dealt with his or her employer’s private papers, which no doubt contained some clandestine concerns.

Moving from secrets to secret agendas:

Senate: in Roman times the senate was comprised of one hundred men who tended to be on the elder side of life having accrued a wealth of experience and wisdom. It makes sense then that senate is derived from “senis,” not to be confused with “senile,” of course not. 

And that brings us to another politically oriented term:

Shake hands: skaking hands signals agreement, courtesy, acknowledgement, and friendship. Originally it was a precaution, making sure that the other person wasn’t reaching for his sword with his other hand. Wait, wasn’t Caesar in the process of shaking hands with members of his Senate when he was stabbed? So much for trust and knowing what the right hand and the left hand are doing.

This moves us to consider–

Showing one’s true colors: to avoid suspicion pirates would raise up the colors of a friendly nation and once they pulled up alongside a ship they decided to plunder, they would raise their true colors of their pirate ways. Hmm, the political connection seems to be still afloat.

Speaking of evil:

Sinister: it’s only been in recent years that being a lefty is considered somewhat of a notable distinction. Back in the Roman days (difficult leaving our ancient roots), the left side was considered unlucky and even “sinister.” Anything menacing or wrong would be designated as sinister. In fact, the idea of left being wrong (and not right) is found in other languages such as the French’s “gauche” attached to the idea of committing a gaffe or error.

That leads us to:

Snooper: from the Dutch verb “snoopen” referring to the practice of eating sweets without getting caught, so it makes sense to noun this verb into a snooper or snoop. 

This makes me wonder if a sinister senate secretary is willing to show his or her true colors when caught out as a snoop. Watch out if the offer to shake hands is mentioned as as an acknowledgment of the season of goodwill and glad tidings. See–mud still applies. 

Morguefile image

Grrs and Grreats: Round Two

A while back I posted a list of things that irritated me. Wanting to balance that negativity, I found a positive for that irritant, turning a “grrumble” into a “grreat.” I hoped to change my attitude of complaint into a more joyful outlook.

Well–life does continue, and old habits are often difficult to break. A running account of grrumbles has been creeping into my thoughts, and today, a day of Thanksgiving, seemed an appropriate time to get the balance sheet out.


  • People who don’t turn on their headlights, especially when they drive a dark car on a dark day.


  • People who courteously flick their lights to remind me I have forgotten to turn my lights on.


  • The books that I have marked to read from my review newsletters aren’t carried at my library.


  • When I request the title as an inter-library loan, often the library buys it for their collection.


  • It takes three months to lose two pounds, but I can gain four pounds over one weekend.


  • I got a good deal at the local gym by paying in advance six months.


  • Students who don’t care about their learning experience and create havoc with their grades and attitude.


  • Those students who give back to school with participation in academics and extra-curricular efforts.


  • Commercial Christmas emphasis before Thanksgiving. Especially before Halloween.


  • Colossians 3:12-17


  • Daylight Saving Time.


  • Still working on that one. Oh–Happy Lights!

Finding a bit of light when it’s gloomy is not always easy, yet I have to remind myself a rainbow is the result of rain mixed with sun and this reminds me to be thankful and find a way to have an attitude of gratitude no matter how grrumbly I might be feeling.


Simon and Garfunkel may have considered darkness their old friend, but I am daylight oriented. When  we roll into Daylight Saving Time each year I get feeling a bit bruised– afternoons disappearing into instant inky black evenings leaves me blue.

This definitely affects my writerly creativity as I mainly want to curl up in my lounger with a cup of cocoa and a book, hibernating until spring returns with its fair portions of sunlight. Good thing I have lots of editing to do because new ideas are hibernating.

As I write this I’ve got my Happy Light on and my vitamin D waiting in the cupboard. I should play George Harrison’s ditty in the morning as my wake up time tune. The positive belief that the sun is soon to come along might pep me up. Winter is not my season. 

No, I’m not a fan of snow either–that’s a whole nother post.

Anyone else having Daylight Saving Time Post Trauma?

Author Spotlight: Mary Stewart

Mary Stewart remains one of my go to authors when I’m caught short of good page-turning reading. Her plots usually crackle with suspense, interesting characters, and often have an unexpected plot twist. The biggest problem with this author choice is that I’ve run out of her books and there are no fresh titles forthcoming since she past away in 2014.


Born in 1916 as Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow, she began writing stories at a the tender age of seven and published her first novel Madame, Will You Talk? in 1954. Critics received her efforts warmly, praising her capable, intelligent heroines and clever plots. 

She met and married her husband, Frederick Stewart, three months after meeting him at a VE dance in 1945. They remained married till his death in 2001. He was knighted in 1974, yet she never referred to herself as Lady Stewart. She was a university lecturer in English Language and Literature, which explains her ease  and ability with storytelling.

Her trademark style involves placing a young intelligent English woman in a foreign setting, such as Greece, Spain, or Austria. The heroine finds herself caught up in a mystery with mysterious men, who are suspect of their intentions. Her prose and attention to details and dialogue placed her novels beyond the usual fare of romantic suspense.

With the success of White’s novel about King Arthur, and taking advantage of the interest in the Kennedy Camelot years, Stewart produced her memorable five part Arthurian series, known as the Merlin Chronicles. This is actually how I first met her.

In college, I became smitten with science fantasy and King Arthur. I spent many pleasurable hours reading about Arthur through Merlin’s point of view. I later moved on to her other titles having hopes, I suppose, she would return to Arthur some day.

One of her novels, The Moon-Spinners became a Disney movie starring Hayley Mills. While it didn’t do well at the box office (due to a darker tone than most Disney movies because of violence) it is a crackerjack of a film because it captures the suspense of Stewart’s novel so well. Yes, some of the plot elrments were changed, but overall Stewart’s plot transferred well to screen.

Stewart’s popularity stayed strong during her writing years through the seventies and eighties, and she produced twenty novels, poetry, and a couple of children’s books.

She retired to Scotland and lived to a well-earned 97 years.

I hope to hunt down the titles I have yet to read through my library’s wonderful inter-library loan service.

Any other Mary Stewart fans in the house?

Words of Wonder: first set

As a confessed word nerd my thoughts on subscribing to a word-a-day service shouldn’t be too surprising. I know you all have been waiting patiently for my list of words of wonder, words I’ve just learned.

A little background first. As a teacher of Advanced Placement English I know how important finding just the right word can be, and how the essay readers do delight in the right diction. 

With this in mind I polished up a vocabulary system for my students, both Language and Literature, and have enjoyed their weekly sentences. This means my word-a-day segment has slipped to the wayside in our routine. Yet, these words are so delightful I cannot allow them to languish. I have harvested an abundance of verbiage, and like those extra apples on the tree, I feel compelled to share my bounty with my neighbors. 


1. quotidian: usual or customary; everyday: quotidian needs.

Sarah languished in her quotidian routine living on her family’s Kansas farm, and longed for the glamour of New York that she read about in her subscription magazines.

2. obdurate: stubbornly resistant to moral influence; persistently impenitent; unmoved by persuasion, pity, or tender feelings; stubborn; unyielding.

Franklin and Giselle valiantly attempted to persuade Uncle Max from wearing the garish lavender tie inset with tropical fishes to the awards banquet, and the more they pleaded with him, the more obdurate he remained in his refusal to wear the selected navy tie.

3. galimatias: confused or unintelligible talk.

Mrs Lignise sighed as she unfailingly attempted to tune out the loud, annoying galimatias surrounding her, chiding herself for her decision to chaperone the seventh graders on their bus trip to the museum.

Fave Pick of the Week: galimatias

It’s almost onomatopoeic: gal-uh-MEY-shee-uh s

It sounds all garbly and confused. A delicious word.

I’m hoping to interject a shortened version, thus creating a new word adoption.

I introduce “gali” as in: 

She just went on and on about the importance of prepositions. Honestly, it was just gali after the first two minutes.

Hoping your day has been brightened through these wonderful words.

Remember: Avoid lapsing into becoming obdurate about including new words in your quotidian outings.

Why We Say #26:rolling and ruling

Two quick “r”s before moving on to the S section:

As a teacher I must adhere to a couple of musts and one of those is taking attendance. I still find myself referring to it as “taking roll” which brings to mind me in a drill sergeant uniform and yelling out last names of my students as they stand at attention at their desks before sitting down to receive instruction. Now there’s a movie in the making, I know there is. Kind of a GI Jane meets Dead Poets Society. Wait a minute–I think Michelle Pfeiffer did it already. Never mind.

Seriously, taking attendance or taking roll, is a must-do within the first ten minutes of class. I have to scamper over to my desk computer and make sure all my darlings are in plus before dishing out my lesson du jour. So where did roll call come from?

Back in the day before books were bound, important documents were rolled up sheets of parchment, eventually become rolled paper. When a group assembled and the need to know who was present and who was not, the one taking attendance would unroll the paper and call out the names. Aah–so attendance and roll taking are in cahoots. I have a role in taking roll. I’ll take mine with cinnamon, thank you.

Image result for cinnamon roll

image: (I wouldn’t mind attending to these rolls…)

Teachers make judgments all the time. Sometimes I have time to make a quantitative decision based on fact and experience, no science involved at all, while other times I take a rule of thumb measurement and hope for the best. Seat of the pants decision making–but that term is somewhere in the S zone coming up.

Rule of thumb–an odd little expression that harkens back to the days when people measured not with accurate tools but with their body parts. Yes, the ark was built with elbow power (check out cubit sometime). In this case thumbs and fingers measured a given unit. It probably wasn’t as accurate as a measuring tape or a ruler, but if those are invented yet a person improvises. Yes, improvised decisions are called rule of thumb.

Image result for rule of thumb

You know something–why we say these sayings do make more than sense. Although putting a crown on my thumb would be kind of weird.

Historically speaking, dancing, writing…

When I received my manuscript comments  I was a bit taken by one particular sentence from the agent. She seemed to hesitate at reading about a family who had traditional roles: women in the kitchen, menfolk working outside. She didn’t think it would be readily accepted. Maybe I hadn’t emphasized in my pitch that the setting is 1860s gold rush era or maybe she missed that point. Back then, women and men did function in traditional roles. Yes, we like those Annie Oakley stories, where someone steps out and does some gender bending, yet history is chock full of regular people in regularly expected roles.

I shelf my manuscript comments, but then another historical noticeable comes up on my radar.

Instead of deleting the email, I decide to take up the offer of teaching a trial rhetorical analysis lesson with Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams”–yes, it was indeed a hit with my students. What proved interesting was the backlash Swift received for marketing a perceived colonialism video since the cast and crew were about 99% white on location in Africa. And here I thought she was channeling Elizabeth Taylor ala 1950s.

Once again historically the setting details were correct in that whites dominated the fifties Hollywood scene and the video would not look quite right having a multi-ethnic set.

Another recent creative endeavor got me thinking that we are becoming either enlightened to the point of oversensitivity or we’re becoming very confused. I refer to Hamilton the musical. The cast is anything goes in terms of ethnicity. And I have no problem with casting for ability rather than color, yet I see this reluctance towards accepting history as it really was. Are we uncomfortable with defined roles as they were set down in the history books?


This loose interpretation of roles has even drifted into ballroom dancing, very traditionally gender coded: men lead, women follow. A recent TedTalk revealed this is changing into what is called “liquid lead,” which I can relate to since I never know what I’m doing when dancing and end up inadvertently leading. The most fascinating implications at stake as women now have the option of taking the lead when on the floor. Except–I don’t think scenes like this would be the same…



As a writer I am aware of trends and it’s worrisome that to write a story set in a time period where men were men and the women women, makes the publishing powers uncomfortable. Do I have to ignore history to radically shape it to fit modern audiences? Does a character have to chose an alternate path to deserve notice?

What are your thoughts, readers? Are we dissatisfied with history enough to change it to reflect our contemporary concerns in all artistic endeavors–from stories to musicals to even dancing?

Reading Challenge Update

I nearly doubled my Good Reads Challenge goal and with the year starting to approach closer to the  deadline I have been wondering if I overreached my ability to meet it. A bit of hubris snuck in with my page turning, I suppose.

Well, those good folks at Good Reads have been quietly watching my progress and sent me an encouragrment:


2016 Reading Challenge

Hi Cricket,

The end of the year is fast approaching—let’s check in on your 2016 Reading Challenge.Congrats, you’re ahead of schedule!

You’ve read 86 of 101 books. (85% complete)


Pages Read




Average Rating

I just might make my 2016 Reading Challenge after all. With some quick calculations and the Good Reads Count Down calendar, I have 15 more books to go in 77 days. Can she really and truly make it?

Anyone rooting for me?

Hey–I’m open to suggestions. Click on the link above and check out my titles. See one missing you think I just absolutely must have? I actually get most of my reading suggestions from my blogster Book Boosters.

Anyone else in the midst of a reading challenge ?

Paper or Plastic?

“I would rather have a hard copy, if that’s okay.” This is from a new AP recruit wanting the summer reading text How to read Literature Like a Professor in book format rather than the PDF version I found on-line. Curious, I asked why. Her response? She had difficulty connecting with the on-screen type. Not what I expected from eyes way younger than mine. I, of course spout off about how much I prefer hard copies to e-copies as well because of my need to connect sensory-wise and as I’m talking, I’m flipping pages and smelling them and listening to them and when I finally notice my student nodding and edging toward the door, like she’d really like to leave because I’m a looney lady (more than one student has commented on me being a bit crazy), I hand over the book and wish her a great summer.

I am a looney lady when it comes to books–hence the Book Booster thing I do. Books aren’t just a pasttime or a channel of information, they are an introduction. Ahem, a new quote from moi:

A book in hand is a friendship in the making.

Beyond making a new friend, there is joy, a celebration of the senses holding a book in hand. I’m talking honest to goodness REAL paper-in-hand book. I do so enjoy paper, maybe that’s why I always answer “paper” instead of “plastic” at the store. Perhaps it’s because paper comes from trees and trees come from the earth and holding a book bound in paper produces more connection to the world around me.  I have little or no sensory connection to my plastic e-reader even though it’s a book in hand.  Oh oh–I feel the looney lady coming on and before I go on about trees, books and their connection to the world and mankind, here is my list of reasons for preferring a book of paper when reading:

1. Smell: that inky pungency stimulates my imagination to anticipation

2. Hearing: the flip-swish of pages signifies my involvement and commitment and helps me to further escape

3. Taste: no, I don’t lick the book, but reading a paper book whets my appetite for setting aside time to open up the pages to fall into another time, another place, another person’s story

4. Touch: there has got to be a study out there concerning the connection between the tactile aspect of reading and brain synapse when communing with a book–I am so much more involved when I am holding the book instead of just listening to it by audio or thumbing up a new screen. Think about this: glass does not conduct electricity, which means no synapse boost. Plus, when I see my book lying on the bed, table, chair it beckons me to pick it up, so there must be a some kind of magnetism involved.

5. Visual: perhaps the most notable because of the cover has all those colors and interesting bits to feed my eyes and mind, and then, of course, there all those illustrations and photographs and drawings sometimes waiting inside.

I’ve shown this video before, yet it definitely illustrates the visual appeal of books.

Reading is definitely a sensory experience for me.  What about you?  Paper or plastic?

September Reading Round Up

Now that school is up and running my life, I’ve noticed a downturn in my reading. It’s difficult to cozy up with a book when a set of papers is calling from down in the depths of my carry all: “Grade me.” Guilt has a persistent voice.

Here are the slim highlights of last month:

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend 

I had hopes of really liking it and saved it for my last hurrah Labor Day weekend read. It began with great promise with its unusual beginning of naïve Swedish tourist, a funeral, and a quirky smalltown. The premise that a good book solves a multitude of problems sweetened the deal. All went well until mushy middle syndrome overtook the plot. I finished it, but my amore had definitely lessened by the last chapter.

Running out of means to find DE Stevenson novels, which are not as readily available as hoped, I’ve turned to another former favorite: Mary Stewart. Our library has several of her titles. They are quite the study in character, red herrings, and setting. Here’s one title I especially enjoyed:

My Brother Michael


Reminiscent of her Moon Spinners, which also is a Disney movie with Haley Mills–highly recommend.

Greek scenery, really bad guys, wonderful good guys, lots of action, hints of romance. Perfect weekend read.

I Capture the Castle


 Smith of 101 Dalmations fame has quite a following for this little gem. It quietly sneaks up and embraces the reader with his odd litttle charm.  A family  comprised of distinctly creative individuals have fallen from a once prosperous lifestyle into despairing poverty. This seems like an juxtaposed statement since they do live in a castle, after all. Their surroundings reflect their wealth of spirit, not their income.

Odd, lovable family, hilarious hijinks, misunderstandings, memorable characters, the perfect ending. A book which sets my faith into the fact that some of the really good reads come from another era.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: