Just Call Me

Grandma called me Christine Jeanie Karen.  She went through different name lists for others in the family, but the route to “Karen” was always the same.  I often wondered, but never asked, how I fit on this particular list.

Christine was my great aunt, rarely seen, but much remembered thanks to Grandma.  The same starting sound best explains why our names were linked.

Jeanie was my mom’s cousin, maybe fifteen years older than me.  Another rarely seen relative.  She and I were the only blondes in a brunette and black haired family.  That’s the best I can do to make any kind of connection with Jeanie.

I remember this fondly now, largely because I find myself struggling with family names, too.  The first syllable of my daughter’s and sister’s names rhyme.  Anyway, that’s my excuse for repeatedly calling them by the others name. The children I work with and my nieces and nephews often suffer through being called a siblings’ name – by me and others.  I knew better than to name my children with the same starting letter sound, but failed to apply that rule when we named our pets.  Luckily Dixie, Dogg, Daisy and Dexter don’t complain when I get their names wrong.

As the old saying goes, “I don’t care what you call me – just don’t forget to call me for supper.”  Maybe that should be our family motto.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Power of Names


I’m Smarter Than I Text

Call us grammar geeks or snobs; our family takes the use of correct grammar and spelling seriously. If I find I’ve made an error when it is too late to correct it, it bothers me for days. My geeky ways have made it impossible to accept the abbreviations and shortcuts so popular in texting.  I have scoffed at those who use 2, or B, to save the work of entering a two letter word.   Now it is time to humbly sacrifice my judgmental ways. 

I am new to texting as we (gasp!) use our cell phones on a very limited basis due to poor reception at our country home.  My adult children assured me they would communicate more often if we texted, so I have tried it a few times. 

This weekend we found ourselves unexpectedly heading to the city where our daughter and son-in-law live.  My husband was driving and suggested I find out if they could join us for a meal.  Chilly, I tried texting with my gloves on.  Nope. I gingerly removed one glove, but it was still slow going. I kept rephrasing my sentence to avoid the use of the shift key (and my gloved hand) to access apostrophe’s, question marks, and the like. Texting shorthand suddenly seemed like a good idea. I finally gave up to use both hands and got our message sent.  A response came quickly, and that is when my real troubles began. 

Evidently, for me, wearing sunglasses instead of my “readers” to operate my phone is as detrimental as wearing gloves to text.  Somehow instead of retrieving my daughter’s responding text I opened an old conversation between us and read:  Leaving lake now.  Mahattan 4ish?

We’re in the snow and ice region so I was surprised they’d been at a lake, though it was possible. But I knew of no town or restaurant called “Mahattan”, and it was 5:30.  As I am pondering this aloud, I accidentally sent this same message to my daughter, thinking I have accidentally sent a blank message.  So I text “Confused by Mahattan 4ish.”, to which my daughter responds: “Haha! The lake confused me.”

What? Wasn’t she the one who brought up the whole lake and 4:00 thing??? And what was Mahattan…

At this point I realize that the message I was responding to was not from my daughter. It was indeed my first ever text to her. Sent last July when we were heading from a lake in Missouri to Manhattan, Kansas. (N! see the problem a little spelling typo can create?!) I not only read this as from her, but sent it to her, missing somehow her actual response to our offer of a meal together.

I am laughing and trying to text an explanation to send her when my husband says, “You just need to call her.” As in, you really shouldn’t be texting. Just then my phone rang, my daughter having come to the same conclusion as her dad. And the mystery of the lake and the need for time travel to meet at 4:00 was solved.

The family is still making fun of me for “yelling” (texting in all caps) last summer to say, “NO TO WAMEGO. NO OZ.”, when asked if I had ever been to the town of Wamego or their OZ Museum. I’m sure jokes about leaving the lake can’t be far behind.

I’ll keep working on texting skills and drop my criticism of those who do it more successfully than I with fewer key strokes. And if someone invites you to Wamego, B sure 2 go.

The OZ Museum in Wamego, KS

The OZ Museum in Wamego, KS

Emerald City

Emerald City

Look out for the poppy field.

Look out for the poppy field.

A Standup Grandpa

To meet my grandpa’s approval, you could be thin, good looking, rich, a fellow Christian, or none of those things.  Only a sense of humor was required.  Often opinionated and gruff,  humor bridged his connection to others.

Visitors to his home were greeted with “Sit down and make yourself homely” and dismissed with “Well, I’d better get to bed and let you good people go home”.

We children collected jokes, gifting him with endless “knock, knock” variations, just to earn his smile.  He rewarded our weakest efforts, giving a joke in return. 

Whatever the holiday, our family feasts ended the same way.  While we were still at the tables, Grandpa would stand up at the head and do about twenty minutes of material.  Many were long, involved stories, meandering to the punch line.  Family members comprised most of the audience, so many of the jokes were familiar old favorites to them.

The adults laughed in anticipation as each joke began, getting more hysterical as he moved from story to story.  Observing from the kids’ table, the laughter-to-tears of aunts and uncles entertained us as much as the jokes, but I still strained to listen for the one joke I never heard him finish.

  As grandpa wrapped up one long story (about how the farmer finally figured out he could tell his two horses apart because the white one had longer ears than the brown one..) it happened again.  Grandpa said something about two men in a boat while all the adults howled with laughter.  Then he grinned and sat down.  Foiled again, I wondered why they never let him finish this last joke…

Years after Grandpa’s death I had the chance to visit with a cousin who spent many childhood years living with or near my grandparents. A great story-teller and comedian in his own gentle way, he told me a few of his favorites from Grandpa’s collection.  His retelling of the old jokes prompted my memory, and I asked him if he’d ever heard the end of the boat joke, expressing my frustration at never hearing the whole thing.

He gave me an odd look, and asked what I remembered of it.

“Something about two men in a boat, and one of them was the Captain.”

He grinned Grandpa’s grin.  “There were two men in a boat, and one of them was the Captain.  No…no…the OTHER man was the Captain…”.  In chagrin I realized I’d heard the whole thing all along.

I think of this joke every time I hear someone needlessly correcting the details of a story, and I smile, remembering Grandpa.


Literally, No Thanks

It would please me to eliminate the word literally from general usage. It will be easy.

Say what you mean in a literal way. Drop the redundant use of literally at the end of your statement. “Hundreds of people were there,” can stand alone. Use a specific number if you really want to be literal about it.

Go ahead, create a hyperbolic description to make your point. Don’t ruin it by adding “literally” when you mean it figuratively. Misuse of this word is one of the little things that drives me crazy. Not literally – I usually just get irritated, maybe rant a little.

But hearing this sentence is what finally pushed me over the edge when it comes to the use of “literally”. (Hyperbole alert – I was not standing on a cliff and no bones were broken.) “That literally exploded my brain and blew off the back of my head.” Really. But it was a medical miracle, because that person with brain and skull missing just kept talking and talking and talking… It literally seemed they would never stop.

So…and that

A few years ago my adult children heard someone wrap up a sentence with the words “and that” and chuckled as one said to the other, “That reminds me of Aunt N”.

Puzzled, as Aunt N is my sister, I asked what they meant.  They were astonished I had never noticed her habit of wrapping up a sentence with the words “and that”.

Now I can’t help but notice and I smile thinking of my kids every time I hear her use those words to wrap up her thoughts.  I’m not sure what it means, other than that she is done with what she was saying.  I have not mentioned this to her.

Oblivious as I was to her “and thats” I am well aware of my own awkward and involuntary way of frequently ending a statement with “so…”.  Being aware of it hasn’t helped me break this verbal habit.  “So…” might mean I am leaving it to the hearer to draw their own conclusions about what I was just saying.  Or it may be my way of passing the conversational ball, as in  “I’m done.  What do you think?”.

Which led me to think about how often styles of conversation seem to run in families.

Many in my husband’s family need a conversational pause big enough to drive a truck through before they will comment in a conversation involving more than one other person.  My sister and I are more like cars darting from one lane to another on the interstate. One of us begins to talk as the others sentence is nearing an end, but not completed. Reverse and repeat for the length of the conversation.  (Yes, this is also known as interrupting…I try to control it …or at least feel bad when I don’t…) It works well enough for us and neither is offended.

I’ve  learned the nonverbal clues that mean my husband has something  to say, and I try to open the conversational gate wide for him at those times.  It became a nightly routine around the dinner table, the kids and I chattering away until their dad would reach in his shirt pocket and remove a fold of paper.  As the paper crinkled, we grew silent to listen as he shared something about his day, including the daily trivia question he had just pulled from his pocket to read to us.  That done, he was content for our chattering to resume.

Over the years his few words often carried more weight than my many words to the children – a good lesson for writing as well as conversation.  Our adult children are considered quiet by some, chatty by others.  They are a little of both.

My sister and I continue in our awkward sentence endings, perhaps because we are less comfortable in situations where no one is talking yet as we wrap up our thoughts.  I’m not too concerned about breaking that habit.  But I do try to curb my tendency to interrupt when I can see that it is annoying the speaker, so…………