Monthly Archives: February 2017


February 28, 2017Read More

: a side road used to avoid the toll on or the speed and traffic of a superhighway

One would assume that this word didn’t originate until after cars and highways came about, but that is not true. People have been avoiding tolls since the mid 15th century. Turnpike has meant “tollgate” since at least 1678. Some phenomenons are new, but most are not.

Shun is to avoid. Pike has multiple meanings. In terms of traveling it is a link to the future: what is down the pike. A lot of our lives is spent getting from Point A to Point B. We are often told it isn’t about the destination, but instead the journey. I have spent an awful lot of time in traffic. I know the New Jersey Turnpike like the back of my hand. For six years, I commuted from DE to NY for forty weeks of the year to tutor for the SATs. Logging all those trips, I uncovered a lot of alternate routes. Traffic is an unpredictable force of nature. Homonym doesn’t understand it, but when I sense a backup, I would rather take an alternate route to keep myself moving, than sit in traffic. Nothing boils my blood more than a back up – I need to feel like I am getting somewhere. Now I shuttle Synonym to school each day. I have already found a number of different ways to go. My absolute favorite is a back road that takes me through a state park.

We all walk a lot of paths in this life. Very few are straight. Almost all take their tolls in some way. Tolls are pretty much unavoidable. They aren’t always EZ-Passable. Most come in the form of wear and tear on our brakes, shocks, joints, soles and souls. It all leaves a mark on us – like when you stare into the abyss and it stares back at you. My father taught me how to drive. I used to be scared of winding back roads…I still am sometimes….but I have found that those are the roads that have saved my life. They are where the answers come to me. Whenever I feel lost, if I drive through the woods with my windows down, I can find my way.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” ~Robert Frost “The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever seen before.” ~Albert Einstein Go the extra mile – it is never crowded. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you could do is to walk barefoot on the Earth. Whenever it seems like you are being rejected from something good, perhaps it is a redirection to something better. “If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.” ~Dolly Parton Or perhaps like in Back to the Future: “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”


February 27, 2017Read More

1 : having originated in and being produced, growing, living, or occurring naturally in a particular region or environment
2 : innate, inborn

This word comes from the Latin noun indigena (meaning “native”), which combines Old Latin indu (meaning “in” or “within”) with gignere (meaning “to beget”).
I used to have a chapter of vocabulary words that had tricky twins and triplets in it. Indigenous was tripled up with indignant (anger) and indigent (poor). My associations were: if you DIG in the soil, you find what lives there (hence the dirt from my Root-Vue Garden in my image), GNA sounds like gritting teeth in anger and that word usually went with righteous indignation, which was extreme so never the correct answer, and GENT is short for gentleman, so he couldn’t afford the rest of the word.

So yesterday was difficult to find the basis, and today flows like water, or grows like weeds. We join most everything already in progress. We have to seek to fit into the frameworks and rules already established. Though sometimes nonnative species come in and become so invasive that they threaten to extinguish the species that was there first.
One of the most common forms of introduction to others is stating your name and where you are from. In college you added your major in there. This is the most basic demographic information that others seek to collect. For me, I went to a college that was out of state. At that stage in my life I desperately needed to get out of town. Then I met a guy and we settled down there, since it was far more cost-effective for us as a young, just-starting-out couple. Homonym jokes that it is a native thing that your job is to find someone from another place and make them stay, so he checked that box and fulfilled his native duty. I, on the other hand, often feel like I am not from anywhere. When I go home, it isn’t the same as it has always been, and when I am in my new home and I don’t jive with how things are handled here, it is a disconnect for me as well. I seem to gravitate towards others who are transplants as well. I often fantasize about just picking up and going somewhere new. There was an old SAT reading passage (if you get tired of hearing that segue, too bad – because pretty much everything was an old SAT reading passage, and I have read and re-read so many of them ad-nauseam.) about how the new generation doesn’t have the same sense of attachment to the past. My father lived in the same house for most of his 62 years. He travelled a lot, but he called the same place home. He always liked going to “Cheers”-like establishments where “everyone knew his name.” I get that. I do. I sometimes long for that level of connection, where others know my backstory and can fill in the gaps for me and sing my tune when I get so caught up in the present that I forget the lyrics.

Consider this: Not only do we honor our ancestors, but we live honorably, because we are somebody’s ancestors. Let’s take back our power and connect to our roots. Decolonize the mind and start living in our truth. “Do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you. Accept yourself and your actions. Own your thoughts. Speak up when wrong, and apologize. Know your path at all times. To do this, you must know yourself inside and out, accept your gifts as well as your shortcomings, and grow each day with honesty, integrity, compassion, faith, and brotherhood”/sisterhood. ~”A Touch of Inspiration” from Heather O’Hara –
“I have made myself what I am.” Tecumseh


February 26, 2017Read More

1 : gray or white or as if with age
2 : extremely old : ancient

This foregone word traces to the old English adjective har, which appeared in Beowulf. The hoary forebear evolved into hoar, a synonym of ancient. It developed from hoar 475 years hence, and has been used to describe hair, bats, willows, frost, or anything that has whitened with age.

So I kind of groaned when I saw this word, and now the day is getting hoary and I am still trying to figure out what to say here. I don’t think this is a word that I could find myself using without some funny stares and misunderstanding. It is especially risky when a word sounds like another word that is a bad word. Who are you calling a whore? This made me ponder the moment when innocuous words of a previous time suddenly turn noxious. The L-word, the N-word, the R-word, to un-mention a few. These days you have to beware of the urban dictionary as well, which is chock full of double entendres that you never knew existed, and once you know them you can never unknow them!

We went to a multicultural fair at Synonym’s school. We got to sample some food and see some dancing and learn a few things about a wide variety of cultures. Most importantly, we got some fortune cookies! Synonym got one about overcoming fears, a big topic of conversation, and her bonus one was “He is foolish who overlooks the simplicity of a child.” Mine was, “Begin nothing until you have considered how it is to be finished.” Very deep. We don’t ever really know where things will go when we begin them. We can’t comprehend the later stages when we aren’t up to them presently.

Both beginnings and ends are difficult. We fight what we don’t know, and what we think we know. We don’t realize the many gifts that come with age. Instead, we eschew it and take drastic measures to keep it at bay. Societally we have a paradox here because we have an aging population and a growing contingency of folks who believe they are not going to succumb old age like the rest of us. Come on now. We are all getting older. It is a privilege that is denied to many. Yet we slap the prefix ANTI on the word aging, like we are fighting a war. In my Word Circle last week, the fearless leader talked about the “Crone,” she described it in such a beautiful and desirable way that we all wanted to embody that. Yet if you look that word up, you will find a very different picture portrayed. During ancient times crones, hags and witches were healers, sages, midwives and leaders that were venerated for their knowledge and wisdom. Sadly, as the patriarchy rose and the matriarchy sagged the crone (crowned one), hag (holy one) and witch (wise one) were burnt at the stake, sent jail, the asylum, or just pushed aside. This can’t make a woman feel good about getting on in age. As you get older you should become less self-conscious, yet more self-aware. You learn what truly matters and what is worth your concern. You help heal yourself and those who come after you. Do what makes your soul ignite. Finally, consider this:
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” ~Norman Cousins


February 25, 2017Read More

1 : fame and renown resulting from an act or achievement : prestige
2 : praise given for achievement

This word comes from Greek. The first meaning entered English slang in the British university scene in the 19th century. The praise portion developed in the 1920s and is why it went from kudo as a singular word to kudos as a plural. My spell check wouldn’t even accept a singular kudo – it wants plural kudos!

We want to do the best we can. Some people are intrinsically motivated. Others look for praise for their actions, fishing for compliments, likes, votes, and ratings. We are sent an obscene amount of surveys. It becomes a little paradoxical even. Did we do it for the praise or did we get the praise because of doing it? How about we work in silence and let our success make the noise? “The reward of a thing well done is having done it.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today’s world is one of participation trophies and potty training sticker charts. Rewards are given out like candy. Heck, even the dentist has a treasure chest. I hate to break it to you, but not everything can be critically acclaimed. Oftentimes we have to do things we don’t enjoy doing because we need to get them done. Many of my students are a little disillusioned when it comes to this. They don’t yet grasp the drudgery of adulthood. There have been a string of t-shirts seeking kudos for “Adulting Today!” Like “I put on pants!” or “I pulled an all-dayer today and didn’t take a nap!” I think this is a product of the heightened complication of the world we live in. Nothing is simple. Everything is a ripple effect that eats up precious time. Things that used to be a given are no longer. Customer service is dying. It is rare for people to give your issues the time and attention they need to get the problem solved. We get passed down a phone chain and left without an answer and they want to know how their service was? In those cases, I give them a piece of my mind. But in other cases, when someone gives me outstanding service, I also make sure to share it with their superiors. (I have come to see that not everyone is comfortable receiving praise. It is the same with gifts. There have been a few SAT passages on the subject. The thing is, receiving is just as important as giving. Certain things are societal or interpersonal necessities that strengthen relationships.) A little sweetness does go a long way. We should work on being nicer to each other. Everyone is fighting a tough battle so sometimes simple things are difficult. Instead of kill them with kindness, how about kill them with kudos? We set the bar so high that it is easy to fall short. Let’s celebrate the small victories…the things we take for granted. If we can take more joy in the little things, the bigger ones will seem all that much more impressive. Yay! I got my point across!


February 24, 2017Read More

1 : to make a finesse in playing cards : to play (a card) in a finesse
2 a : to bring about, direct, or manage by adroit maneuvering
b : evade, skirt

This word started out as a noun for over 300 years before it became a verb. Smooth maneuvering. In its early stages as a noun, in the 15th century, it referred to refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure or texture. During the 16th century it became the “skillful handling of a situation,” which is how it is used today. The first use, though, had to do with playing cards.

At first, the only thing I could think about was the shampoo namesake. But the more I ruminated, the more I came to realize that finesse is that little something extra. The ace up your sleeve, so to speak. This word can be difficult to put words to. It is something you either have, or you do not. You know it when you see it though. I see it in the way that true professionals conduct themselves. It is the confidence and assuredness with which they carry out their tasks. It is a skill that can’t really be learned. It is only found when you find your true place in life. It is found in expert interpersonal communications. It is knowing what you want to accomplish and what the other person wants and making it appear that you have their best interest in mind. It is proving that you are actively listening by saying back things they have said to you. In this modern world, where we are often glued to our own devices, it is becoming rarer and rarer to demonstrate some of these seemingly basic qualities. Sharpen these skills through practice and set yourself apart from the rest. It will take you places. I am certain of it.

When you have an ace up your sleeve and you can play your cards right, it means you have a lot of self-control. You have a poker face and you will get a royal flush after you go all in. You can’t move forward in life if you are still playing the victim card, and not taking responsibility for how your life has turned out thus far. Luck of the draw can only take you so far. Life consists, not of holding good cards, but in playing those you hold well. And there you have it folks. With a little finesse.


February 23, 2017Read More

: possibly but not certainly : perhaps
This word comes from the Middle English noun hap, meaning “chance” or “fortune.” The phrase “it may hap” blended into the single word maybe. Its cousins perhaps and maybe are far more famous than mayhap. Hey – these are all compound words – may/be, per/haps, may/hap. I was looking for some more off-beat compound words for Synonym. When a phrase is well-worn, it has a way of melting many words into a single one. This word set me on the path of considering other similarly rooted words like mayhem and maybe, which led me to the realization that everything is crazy and nothing in this life is certain. It is all a possibility. The message board across the street, one of the many times I drove past it today, said that things are only obstacles if we say they are. The only certainty in life, according to Ben Franklin, is death and taxes. We really know nothing, but we pretend to know everything. My photo today is of a Decision Maker that was a holiday gift to Homonym from one of his students. Synonym LOVES to ask it questions. It lives on our kitchen table. “Will I nail this Daily Dictionary entry today?” Maybe!? “Will I make it to bed before midnight?” Ask again later.

Maybe there’s a deeper meaning? Maybe there is maybe there isn’t? What are the odds of me winning the lottery? (Higher if I actually play than if I don’t!) What are the odds of me getting struck by lightning while taking a shower? What are the chances of me perishing in any number of odd ways? There are statistics somewhere for all sorts of odds that we like to bet on. I am not a big risk-taking sort of girl. I like to keep what I worked for, and I always feel like the odds are stacked against me. I would love to meet Murphy of Murphy’s Law. Captain Edward A Murphy worked on Project MX981 at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949. He coined a number of phrases that were written down by his project manager. If anything can go wrong it will. Remember, if you can’t remember whether or not you called your mother, you didn’t. Whatever advice you ignore will always turn out to be the best advice you ever got. If you match all six lotto numbers, the newspaper certainly misprinted two of them. If you need 4 of something you will only find three.

There are way too many unanswered questions for me to analyze…this is the type of stuff that turns my brain into a pretzel and occupies it way too far past its bedtime. To sleep mayhap to dream. I keep saying I am going to finish these earlier than 11pm…..but that has ceased to happen. My head is 90% song lyrics…so mayhap someday, we’ll figure all this out…put an end to all our doubts…try to find a way to just feel better…You can call me mayhap! I will leave you with a fortune I got that came with a FortuneKeeper necklace I won last month. “Either you can or you can’t. Either way you are right.” And now I am craving an egg roll! Mayhap tomorrow!


February 22, 2017Read More

1 a : related through a mother
b : inherited or derived from the female parent
2 : female

This word was initially used for a short staff to hold a bundle of fibers together when spinning yarn. Spinning was a task done primarily by women, so this word plied together the woman’s domain and the female branch of the family. It was first a noun in the days of Shakespeare and Chaucer, and then an adjective, as in “the distaff side of the family.” I looked into it and it is the “spear side” for the father’s side.

“Blessed is the man who knows his own distaff and has found his own spindle.” ~ JG Holland

I came across something that related weaving threads to practicing magic. Rumplestiltskin wove straw into gold. Stay with me now as I weave some thread. I consider that to be part of my magic as a writer, tying together different parts of a story to get to a point. I have always been drawn to yarn and threads: first with friendship bracelets, then with sewing and then with my true love of knitting. I have always felt that my life was a braiding of strands. Incredible how a single string can make something to keep you warm. Many of my yarn friends have tried to get me into spinning, but I felt like it was too much to add another expensive, absorptive hobby to my collection.
I found my way to knitting after I graduated from college, although I wish I learned sooner. My maternal grandmother used to knit. Sadly she had lost her eyesight by this time, so she couldn’t really teach me, but I am a quick study when motivated and by playing around and reading some books, I figured out how to knit. The first scarf I made was with magenta yarn from my grandma’s stash. I used knitting to pass the time on my long commutes on the LIRR. Knitting became a way to keep my hands occupied and challenge my mind to learn new tricks and stitches. I knit like wild, jumping quickly into sweaters and big blankets and socks, and then I made my greatest WIP (work in progress) who has taken me away from my projects. I am very excited to pass this practice on to my Synonym and pick up my needles for longer than a few seconds here and there. Knitting is a great skill – one that gives you a finished product that you can wear and wrap yourself in love and warmth. I consider myself serendipitous to have found the wonderful knitting community on Ravelry that I have been a part of for ten years now. Through that website I have made a large number of friends and comrades that I will probably never meet in person, yet we have shared in so much of the important parts of each-others lives. The most special connections I formed were the ones who were in my “Due in June 2011” Group. We all had babies at the same time. We shared the common threads of yarn love and family. They say when a baby is born, so is a mother.

There is a Chinese Proverb that states that there is a red thread that ties us to those we are destined to meet, despite the time, place or circumstances. The thread can be tightened or tangled but never broken. Mikhail Gorbachev said that “Women prevent the threads of life from being broken.” What ties are you making and what are you passing down? It is so important. These threads are your legacy. Make them count. Spin love and warmth and beauty.


February 21, 2017Read More

1: burden
2: a disagreeable necessity : obligation
3: blame
4: stigma

This word came from Latin. It is a relative of the Sanskrit word for “cart” – a vehicle to carry a burden. The Latin root onus also gave us the words onerous for troublesome and exonerate for free from blame. They say that we are innocent until proven guilty, yet we carry the burden of proof. (Legal language- onus probandi meaning “burden of proof”)

The onus is on us. As I typed that it became clear that onus and on us are the same letters – the only difference is the space between. The onus is ON us. The onus is on US. The ONUS is on us. My messages today hit me like a rock – really! First, came the word of the day, then I went on a bowling playdate with Synonym and one of her new buddies from school, afterwards Synonym and Homonym set up a rock shower and she bathed the basket of rocks she had found in our yard last month – after I carted out the basket full and the bowling ball to star in today’s image – and finally I had to write a word on a rock! (I drove home thinking about how to kill two birds with one stone!)

We all have a particular burden to carry. They tell us all these things about it. That if you sat in a circle and everyone put their problems in the center that you would take your own back. That G-d never gives you more than you can carry. That you are stronger than you think. You know, all of that jazz. They tell you how to carry it and how to hang on tight. The thing is…they don’t tell you about how to drop your burden. They don’t tell you when or how to let go. They don’t tell you how common most of our struggles really are, or how much we have in common – how many of our deepest darkest feelings are mutual. They just make us think they are mutually exclusive, so we feel excluded. There is an expected order to things and you can’t have things both ways. Regardless or irregardless of the climate surrounding us – we need to work on US! At the end of the day, if we each take ownership of the piece of the world we have control over (ourselves) we can make a difference and make a change.

I took part in a very unique and uplifting circling of women tonight, one where we all had chosen a “Word” of the year. I had never met the majority of the members before tonight, but I marveled at the commonalities we shared and the connections in our stories were hair raising and couldn’t be made up even if we tried. We are all set on a course in our lives. We think we should be moving faster, yet all the while we wish we could slow things down. How we go on from here is our choice. We have way more of a say in things than we think. It is time for us to find harmony, live our truth, and become the best version of ourselves, for we have worth, and we are worthy. So with great resolve, ignite the fire within and fly. Remember – the onus is on us!


February 20, 2017Read More

1: to make confused : puzzle, bewilder
2: to occupy the attention of : distract, absorb
3: to cause to have feelings of wry or tolerant amusement

Literally this word means to be filled with thought or meditation. The original Muse goddesses are: song, meditation and memory – later expanding to include poetry, history, dance, etc.
When it comes to many fields of academic study, the more you read into things, the more you see that nobody really knows anything about anything. We just all somehow have agreed that that’s that way things are – so just roll with it. Many of my SAT students think bemused means amused, but really they are confused, and The College Board capitalizes on that.
The British Poet Alexander Pope was apparently swarmed with wannabe poets who wanted him to read their writings. He coined the phrase when he was describing one that was bemused by beer. Later interpretations took it to be that the beer confused him, instead of being his muse.

We all have different ways and means of doing things. Synonym and Homonym were on the porch painting golden and silver gavels for Mock Trial. I assigned them to paint some question marks on the cartoon section of the newspaper. When I requested it, I had a specific vision in my head. I saw a cartoon with a snowflake and I thought the question mark next to it would work well, since today felt like a warm spring day, yet it was winter – Mother Nature is bemused. I went off to tutor, and when I finished, I saw their finished product. It works, but it isn’t the match to the image in my head. We all have ways we like things done. Not everyone will go about things in the same way we would. This can be an endless source of confusion. I am often left puzzled by others and how they choose to live their lives and spend their time and money. But ultimately it is not for me to understand.

The word has its roots in beer. I do not drink at all. I just never got attached to it. I don’t enjoy the taste. I can’t even drink that much water. It saves me money. There is nothing wrong with that…it just means that alcohol isn’t my muse. Yet it does feel like I lack a connection point with others when this topic comes up. It doesn’t mean I don’t need the things that alcohol provides for some people. It just means I have different ways and means. Are you bemused? That’s okay. I watched a video about the origins of the word okay. It was probably adapted from an 18th century trend of messing around with words so somehow all correct turned into oll korect and so that was the abbreviation. It bugs me to no end when people just text the letter K……spare me an O, would you?

What leads us to look something up? We are confused. We don’t have the answer. Or, better yet, we need to settle a debate. So let me leave you with a list of 50 Most Confusing Things, as polled by some poll of 4,975 people in the UK between the ages of 16 and 65 back in 2009. If I had to sum it up I would think it all boils down to math, public transportation, economics and technology. What bemuses you?


1. Foreign call centers
2. Algebra
3. What women see in Russell Brand
4. Why Cheryl Cole is still with Ashley – P.S. They split in 2012 and she is pregnant with a baby from 1D’s Liam Payne (Why is this so high on the list?)
5. Credit card interest rates
6. Buying a house
7. Politics
8. The laws of cricket
9. Insurance policies
10. Loan interest rates
11. Football’s offside rule
12. Religion
13. Converting currency
14. Languages
15. Filling out insurance forms
16. Setting up wireless networks
17. Men
18. Stephen Hawking’s theories
19. Figuring out nutritional information on food labels
20. Kerry Katona
21. All the different lottery draws
22. Fixing printers
23. Predictive text
24. Poker
25. Twitter
26. Small print
27. Automated phone systems
28. Why and how Stonehenge was built
29. Women
30. Donnie Darko
31. Filling out passport forms
32. Reverse parallel parking
33. Clocks going back / forward
34. Packaging on kids toys
35. Crop Circles
36. Computers
37. Birmingham’s Spaghetti Junction
38. Train fares
39. Fruit machines
40. People who crack their knuckles
41. Reading a map
42. Re-tuning the TV
43. The M25
44. Train timetables
45. Setting an alarm on a cooker/oven
46. In the Night Garden
47. Reading a train timetable
48. Magic Roundabout in Swindon
49. The tube
50. Fax machines


February 19, 2017Read More

1 : of or resembling Proteus in having a varied nature or ability to assume different forms
2 : displaying great diversity or variety : versatile

Greek mythology presented Proteus as a shape shifter, which allowed him to escape those who sought to question him. The adjective protean describes anything or anyone who is as mutable or adaptable as the mythological sea shepherd.

Being versatile and adaptable are said to be good characteristics to possess. Blessed are the flexible, for they are never bent out of shape. Though sometimes it is looked upon as a negative, making you appear flighty. Sometimes you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. When you do good, no one ever remembers, but when you mess up, no one ever forgets. When you are loud, people tell you to be quiet, but when you are quiet, people ask what is the matter with you. You can’t always be what others expect of you.

It just occurred to me that being a Gemini – this is totally me in a nutshell. I walk a fine line between caring too much, and not at all…between being crazy and being awesome…between wanting to give up and going on. I have a gift for gab, yet sometimes I am at a loss for words. I am a walking contradiction. A chameleon in a bag of Skittles!

The mistake I think we all make is thinking we are a certain way. Believing that we are just one thing. This is what sets us up for failure. How do you know what you can’t do? We assume we are cut out for one thing, yet life doesn’t deliver the package we expect all the time. Or at least not when it is “supposed” to show up. What does that even mean? Supposed is just a claim to be true or real. We are most screwed up by the pictures in our head. We are all things; we all have many facets of our selves. We work to sharpen some more than others. We are different things in different arenas. Different people see us in different ways, depending on the parts of our lives they witness – very rarely being privy to the whole story. We all attempt to adjust ourselves to fit the molds we are in at the moment. Moods are contagious. I can definitely feel myself shifting when I am sitting with various personalities. If we don’t learn about a wide array of subjects, we are certain to pay the price. We need to be versatile in order to land on our feet after the bottom falls out on our Plan A. We need to roll with the punches and steer into the curve and take a different path. We are only settling if we stay there, instead of utilizing it as a stepping stone to a better place. So warm up your protean muscles and show off your many sides.

P.S. many of my searches for protean were confused with the word protein! LOL!
P.P.S. The picture below was taken at the request of one of Synonym’s classmates. He insisted I take a picture of his temple, I think he was calling it. This, when I was momentarily freaking out about having my macro lens on my camera on a day when I was supposed to take some group photos. Thank goodness my regular lens was in my bag. Phew! Dodged that bullet. What do you think this picture looks like? I see a lot of different things in these shapes.