Archive for October, 2012

Wordmistress Has Seen Enough

I never made a mistake in grammar but one in my life and as soon as I done it I seen it. American writer, Carl Sandburg.

In her earnest efforts to eradicate verbal tics and minister to the conversationally challenged, Wordmistress must ever be a model of discretion.                                                                                      

Good breeding prevents her from rolling her eyes and sighing deeply when she hears you know people trying like to you know explain like what it was like you know when that like happened.

She smiles graciously while struggling through the linguistic maze.

And then she hears someone blithely say, “I seen it.”

Now, a confession is in order. Wordmistress has great affection for movies such as “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” The improperly conjugated past tense of the verb “to see” appears frequently in that fine and funny film.

She is invariably amused.

But this is not the 1930s and we are not in a movie.

Time was when elementary schools were called “grammar schools.” Why? Logic would suggest that it was because those early years are when the basic structure of language is most easily grasped by young minds.

Wordmistress fondly remembers laboring over verb conjugation on her homework sheets as a young girl.

Sometimes, however, verbal burrs like “I seen” stick to the Velcro of our mental interior. They must be firmly grasped, removed, and replaced with the much more attractive Proper Conjugation.

In his useful Common Errors in English Usage, Paul Brians writes: “Errors in usage are a lot like errors in table manners. There are tiny deviations from standard practice few people will notice or care about, like using your salad fork to eat a steak.”

While agreeing with this simile, Wordmistress must gently add that saying “I seen” when you mean “I saw” is like trying to cut that steak with your spoon. It is unnecessarily clumsy.

It has been said that language:

  • expresses thought
  • conceals thought
  • takes the place of thought

Wordmistress is ever ready to help with the expression of thought.The finest language,” said writer George Eliot, “is mostly made up of simple unimposing words.”

Those simple, unimposing words are most effective when correct in usage.

Should you know someone who has difficulty in this area, kindly direct them to this post. Here, in an amiable tone, Wordmistress will help them.

Perhaps when they’re done, they will say with enthusiasm, “I saw the light!”

Could one ask for more?

Are there other improper conjugations that annoy you? Share them here.




Dear Anxiety: Let’s Break Up

No one wakes up in the morning and begins planning how to be more stressed, anxious or unhappy.

I’m fairly certain of this.

Why? Because we were created with the innate desire for peace, joy, and tranquility.

Nevertheless, panic anxiety continues to be the number one health problem for women. And is second only to drug abuse among men.

Many of us can relate to writer Ann Voskamp when she calls anxiety her “natural posture.”

I spoke on this subject at a recent women’s retreat – about the need to think about the way we think. Psychologists teach that the way people think affects:

  • their emotions
  • their ability to relate to others
  • their ability to cope in difficulty circumstances

Brain exam

In his groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman describes the physiological process that occurs when we are suddenly (or, for some of us, chronically) alarmed. This can mean seeing a snake, or being confronted by someone obnoxious – which could, I suppose, be the same thing.

First, and hang in here with me:

  • a signal goes from your retina to a little organ in your brain called the thalamus.
  • Ideally, the entire message, having been translated into the language of the brain, will transmit to an area called the visual cortex. Here it is assessed for meaning.
  • If an emotional response is appropriate, it will be sent on to the amygdala.

But wait!

Sometimes, a portion of the message in the thalamus is waylaid by the amygdala, which provides a much quicker, but – and this important – less precise, response. It commands you to freeze, fight, or flee.

So you scream and run from the snake almost before you realize you’ve seen it.

Uh oh.

Or, more to the point here, you find yourself in an unpleasant conversation suddenly saying things you will later (deeply) regret.

It all occurs in the same brain system. And when we are stressed, we become even more vulnerable to this limbic hijacking.

What to do?

Here are 2 quick tips when dealing with those challenging situations:

1)  Take a time-out. Allow the adrenaline to settle so you can think and respond – rather than react. Maybe we could have this conversation a little later.                                                                                                   

2)  Breathe. The simple act of taking 3 deep breaths can slow your reaction. Breathe.

But how can we begin rerouting our thoughts out of their deeply rutted tracks of anxiousness? Here are some suggestions I shared at the retreat:

  • Pray about your anxiety. “Fear not” and its variations appear 365 times in the Bible. Think about that. Your Father knows what you need (and you do need relief from anxiety) before you ask Him. (Matthew 6:8 NIV)
  • Wrangle your thoughts.  When you sense anxiety coming on, think of it as a signal to stop and relax. Don’t underestimate your brain. It can actually be conditioned to do this.  Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable, excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT)
  • And finally, practice thanksgiving – eucharisteo. Thanksgiving precedes miracles.  In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6b NIV)

Then tell your friends you are going to break up with anxiety. And that you’ll begin by preventing the unnecessary hijacking of your amygdala.

They’ll be intrigued.

And maybe more of that peace, joy, and tranquility will bloom for everyone.

What are some ways you combat anxiety? Click on “Leave a Comment” above.

A Few Thoughts on a Wedding


Come, let’s be a comfortable couple and take care of each other! How glad we shall be that we have somebody we are fond of always, to talk to and sit with. Charles Dickens in Nicholas NIckleby

Ah, Charlie, you have nearly boiled marriage down to its very essence.

Our son, Aaron, married his Jennifer last weekend. I don’t think there is any event that a family experiences that has so many moving parts. Those myriad details, those heaps (as our Aussie relatives say) of lists. And, of course, the pervasive sense of joy.

And all of that happy madness headed for a moment when they enter into a lifelong covenant with one another.

I was thinking about this recently, about the improbability of marriage. Consider: two individual human beings with their histories and habits and foibles and mistakes and propensities and strengths and weaknesses are expected to live together, with some success, for a lifetime.

Writer Robert Fulghum put it this way: “We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness – and call it love – true love.”

And this was God’s idea.

He said (I paraphrase Ephesians 5): When you do this thing, when you enter into this covenant, you are illustrating in real life my love for my Church. This is a holy act, not to be entered into lightly.

Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding reception. Have you ever considered the significance of that fact? He implicitly confirmed marriage in both its seriousness – and its celebration.

In marriage, His love for us, His delight in our company is on exhibit for all to see. When we establish a home, bear and raise our children, stay together in sickness and health, wealth and poverty, laughter and tears, we display on a very, very small scale the love and patience and tenderness of God Himself.

So Aaron and Jennifer, in the filtered sunlight of a coastal California afternoon, pledged their lives and love to each other. The ceremony was short and very sweet.

At one point, Natalia was sitting next to me after completing her flower girl duties – flawlessly, by the way.

Flower girl

She had been gazing intently at Jennifer and Aaron standing in front of her Starki, who was performing the ceremony. “Starka,” she whispered, “why are they crying?” “Those are happy tears,” I assured her.  “Oh,” she said, nodding quite seriously.

And so they were.

There were, refreshingly, traditional vows.

And yes, “obey” made an appearance. Aaron and Jennifer understand original intent, not the disdainful contemporary view of that word.

The bride’s large Portuguese clan was there. Our family and friends gathered in from the bay area, Maryland, Colorado, Serbia. We ate and laughed and danced for hours.

To see one’s children happily married is a wonderful thing. To know they are entering into that union under the covering of the Holy Spirit is – well, magnificent.

And we have every reason to believe that they will be a comfortable couple and take care of each for the rest of their lives.

Did you enter into marriage with a biblical understanding of its significance?

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