Saturday, September 18, 2010

Community: Big World Made Small

Shady Sidewalk
I realize this isn't a radical idea. That I'm not the first person to have this realization - but after a year of living a personal life this is pedestrian based - my world feels smaller (in a good way). I moved from an urbanish suburb where if you saw someone on foot or bike your first thought tended to be, "Aw. Their car broke down." A 15 minute drive was typical to get anywhere. And, while new building codes had begun to require the inclusion of sidewalks along the street front - - the sidewalks were rather patchworked - - new and remodeled buildings sporting them but the older properties let their granfathered-in grass grow wild. The distance between things with the lack of an easy path there did not make for conducive walking conditions. And, forget public transportation - you include that in your suburb and people from the city just might infiltrate!

Before I lived here I'm not sure I would have thought communities like this actually existed. On my 10 minute walk home from church (on continuous sidewalk no less!) the other week I watched the street next to me and counted six bicycles to one car. I passed dozens of other pedestrians. I thought about how much more fluid life is when you're not in a car. I don't have to park my vehicle in some random spot just there for the sole purpose of parking a vehicle. I don't have the in and out of the car and getting situated and keeping up with my keys. I don't lug around a bunch of extra stuff. My purse gets cleaned out regularly and the only things that go with me on trips are things I need.

I actively choose things based on their walking distance now. I measure distance in blocks.  It makes things simpler in a way - my radius of  options is small - I try to have everything within a mile (a 20 minute walk). When I recently (finally!) got around to finding a local dentist the choice of "which one?" was easily solved by picking one that was a few blocks away. I can walk a mile or so and get to: the post office, church, a couple grocery stores, a number of parks, a number of coffee shops, video rental, the library, the dentist, dry cleaner, a fabric store, movie theatre,  a number of restaurants, and many other things. 

I don't think I will be in a densely populated area forever - as I want to try that whole "living in a yurt on a wide open meadow miles away from anyone" thing one day too - - but for now it's really nice and I love that I get to experience this kind of living.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

connotation, denotation, and love

My entry last Wednesday on word misappropriation had a few of you discussing the use of the word "love" and whether or not it's appropriate to use the same word for love of people and love of oreos. tells me the following are synonyms.

admire, adulate, be attached to, be captivated by, be crazy about, be enamored of, be enchanted by, be fascinated with, be fond of, be in love with, canonize, care for, cherish, choose, deify, delight in, dote on, esteem, exalt, fall for, fancy, glorify, go for, gone on, have affection for, have it bad, hold dear, hold high, idolize, long for, lose one's heart to, prefer, prize, put on pedestal, think the world of, thrive with, treasure, venerate, wild for, worship
Well,  "I am enchanted by oreos" doesn't seem to sound much better.

So that's where connotation comes in. I always loved teaching connotation vs. denotation when I taught high school. I always taught it right before a poetry unit - because poets make the best use of connotation - the whole idea is to pack a lot of meaning into a few words and when the reader takes the time to deconstruct all the connotative meanings - the poem expands. One of these days I'll deconstruct some of my favorite poems and be geeky about how the words all mean so much.


Denotation is the dictionary definition of the word - connotation is everything else. Connotation often has much to do with the context, but it doesn't have to.

Cultural words, for instance, have a strong connotative meaning even without context (though I guess you could argue that culture itself is context, but that's a little more philosophical than I wanted to get).

For example, if I say the term, "rap music" - you most likely tend to think of the rap music culture - the clothing, the attitudes, etc.  That's all connotation. The denotation is what actually defines that style of music - perhaps incorporating the history and creation of the style as well.

Love, on the other hand, relies heavily on context in order to determine the connotation.

If someone says they love their spouse and then says they love oreos - I am not confused - the fact that love has the same definition is not problematic because each context provides a different connotation.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Last Words

The last recorded words that Jesus spoke on earth have been heavily on my mind and heart lately.

Matthew 28

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them,  "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Mark 16

15He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

The sermon was on this this morning as well. The Bible is full of admonition to do good things - care for the widows and opphans, feed the hungry, clothe the poor, visit the sick. We're called to be all things to all people. We're told that everyone is equal in the eyes of the Lord.  We are told to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. 

But those "last words" of Jesus require so much more if we are truly living as people who believe that Jesus is the Messiah - the son of the one true God sent to earth to redeem us and make atonement for our sins.

In our modern world of being tolerant, open-minded and willing to listen - we often forget to talk about the narrow path.

We, I, have to stop being scared of the part of my faith that makes me weird to the world.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fruit Bread

Banana Nut Muffins and Peach Bread Loaves

I made four batches of bread last Saturday. Two were recipes I had used previously (Banana Nut and Pumpkin) and two were new recipes (Peach and Applesauce.)

I added craisisns and pecans to the applesauce bread and it turned out so good! The applesauce made it nice and moist.   The peach bread, however, was my favorite. The only substitution I made there was using canola oil rather than vegetable oil.  It seems that it would work really well with any kind of fruit that you wanted to substitute in.

Click for recipes: Peach BreadApplesauce Bread.

It worked really well timing wise for me to make the first batch of bread as muffins.  I had just enough time while those were cooking to wash the dishes and get the batter for the next batch into the larger loaf pans. The loaves take a little over an hour - so I had a break for a bit and then whipped up the next batch as muffins again, and then finally ended with the last batch as two loaves.  Start to finish I made 4 big loaves and 48 muffins in about 5 hours. The mini loaves you see in the picture is just the batter that was leftover from the muffin batches.

I love the simple pleasures in life.
I'll be freezing most of it so that we can pull it out as we want it. I've discovered that fruit bread freezes really well - in fact the pumpkin bread I know is better after it's been frozen.

And, of course, the best part of bread making is tasting the bread.  My breakfast the next morning was two slices of warmed peach bread and a cup of hot tea. Quite the satisfying way to start the day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

word misappropriation

The adjective appropriate means:: "Suitable for a particular person, condition, occasion, or place; fitting." and in the verb form the meaning becomes, "to set apart for specific use: To take possession of or make use of exclusively for oneself, often without permission."  

And misappropriation is defined as, "to appropriate wrongly; To appropriate dishonestly for one's own use."

This is a transitive verb - which if you paid attention to your grammar lessons in school you know that means it needs a noun to misappropriate.  Meaning, you're not just going to misappropriate - you're going to misappropriate SOMETHING. It will be specific, perhaps personal.

Now, I'm bordering on sounding a little too politically correct here - but word misappropriation is something I try to be consciously aware of. I have a few examples in my head. I'll talk about one today and some others will show up over the next few weeks. (Gotta space out the material!)   But - I also want to spend some time talking about because I think language is so powerful - it is the basis of our communication and knowledge and how we understand and relate to other people.  When our word choice does not acknowledge the history and connotations of the words - we do a disservice to ourselves and those we are in conversation with.  When people are careful with word choice that they are able to communicate more clearly and succinctly. When people acknowledge the history and connotations of words they become more self reflective and that is a good thing. :)

So for today the word that I feel gets misappropriated to the detriment of the real meaning of the word is the word "starve" and its variations.

The  majority of the people in the world who say "I'm starving" are really only hungry. And it's common to hear people point out that, no, you really aren't starving. The connotations between "starve" and "hunger" are apparent and clear. But, the word nerd that I am I decided to dig into the etymology of "to starve."

I was shocked to discover that "starve" comes from the Old English steorfan, "to die."

Before "starve" was associated with the lack of food, it was associated with death.  In the 14th century it had a meaning of "to die with cold" and it wasn't until around 1520 that "starve" meant "to kill with hunger." 

This is where I find that paying attention to if you are using words that are appropriate for the scenario increases your self-reflection and your connection to the world at large. If I can remember that I don't use the word "starving" became I am not - - then I am more likely to remember that there are indeed people who are. That there are people who are dying from the lack of food.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Love and Quietness

At church the sermons have been working their way through 1 John - so I've had a childhood song stuck in my head for the past couple of months.  The song is 1 John 4:7-8 put to music.

"Beloved, Let us love one another. For love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth Him. He that loveth not, loveth not God for God is love."  

I don't know about you, but I am REALLY GOOD at loving people,  until I actually have to, you know, interact with them.  And then, well, all of the oh-so-human parts of me come out. The part that thinks I know better ways to do things, the part that fails to assume the positive about other people and instead would prefer to assume that they are trying to drive me crazy, the part that really does enjoy the ranting and gossip.

Because, most recently, my lack of love for people I find "difficult" to love comes out in either an internal attitude that I feed with self-righteous talk  or in ranting to other people there are a couple of ways that I am attempting to become a person who shows God's love. 

1. Being quiet. When I want to rant (gossip) - - - I just try to hold my tongue.  I've always advocated the benefit of having someone to rant to. . . but, really, a journal entry that only I see works just as well to let out some of the frustration. If it's a situation where I need advice - I can then more clearly see the situation to explain it to someone and present "just the facts" and try to get real help instead of ranting and expecting only validation to my outrage.

2. Meditating on scripture. If I've got scripture running through my head all day that I'm trying to focus on and learn from and apply to my life - -well, I have less time to fuel my own self-righteous inner talk. And, well, there are quite a few other benefits of meditating on scripture as well.

So that's kind of where I'm at right now with my spiritual life - - learning to be still again and to hear that still small voice and not my own. And if it means that for now my scripture meditation is children's tunes from decades ago ..well, so be it, between the sing-along tapes my parents had for us and all the songs we learned at church - there are quite a few floating around in my head. :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Living Vicariously

Over the years of surfing the blogworld I've found a number of blogs that show me a life experience that I had never considered before - I think that's my favorite part of reading blogs - living vicariously through the lives of others. 

One of my most recent blog "genres" that has fascinated my nomadic-inclined mine is blogs about RV life. Not just RV vacationing - but RV dwelling.  Way back whenever (1996  according to IMDB) I remember watching the show Promised Land (a spin-off of Touched By An Angel) and thinking their life was pretty cool - - but I do not recall the show portraying RV dwelling having much of a community so I never considered it. I get the impression of community from these blogs - and as much as I am introvert with a strong dose of wanderlust - - I really do love community too. 

I stumbled upon the blog  The Happy Jansens about a year ago I guess  -- a family of four living in an RV full time - travelling the world, working from "home" - and blogging about it all. (And taking pretty pictures of it all ;-) )  

From there I just started clicking through other bloggers they had listed or people who commented and found these other two RV blogs that I really enjoy reading:

The Ticknor Tribe - this blog combines my love of a big family with my new RV fascination. They have 13 people, 13, living in the RV.   Here is the fascinating post on how they make that work.

Living In My Car - a woman travelling solo. She drove all the way from Texas to the arctic circle.  If I wasn't so terrified of having to park and maneuver a RV - - I'd totally start plotting my own such adventure. But, alas, I need a driver for my RV journey if it's to be relaxing at all!  I really enjoy her self-reflection that she includes in many of her posts.

So those are a few of my favorite blogs - as I tend to lurk more than I comment on them -- I hope I didn't freak any of the previous mentioned bloggers out by talking about them. :) haha.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's all business, or is it?

I love how words often give themselves away in their very syllables, in the way they sound and how the letters all flow together.

If you ever taken a creative writing course I bet that you've talked a little bit about Anglo-Saxon vs. Latinate words. In short - some of the words that have made their way to the 21st century version of English are predominantly rooted in the latin, or Roman, occupation of England - that is the words of the rulers  - the church, the government, the nobility. And others, are primary rooted in the language of the common people - the people of Angleland. One used an ornate language, the other used a language that was quick and to the point. Together - you've got a complex language.

So let's take a look at a few words - job, career, vocation, and profession

Job - the etymology here is that it's something you produce and then you are done. It's a job. You needed to build a fence, make a sculpture, teach a class, do something - until the job is done. Then it's over.  On a connotative level - it doesn't sound enjoyable. It's purposeful in that it usually has a salary - but it's just a job - it's just something you do.

Career - I didn't see this etymology coming - but "career" comes from the racetrack. In the 1530s it meant "a running course."  This is so America to me. It doesn't surprise me that the word America most often seems to use for our salary-producing endeavors is this one. High schools and colleges have "career planning." We're admonished to have a career - not just a job!  Set a course! Make a plan! Run the race! Finish first? This was teaching for me. I got my degree, my certification, and my government job. Salary steps were outlined for the next 30 years. Retirement plan was good. Pay was adequate. And while the school years were non-stop busyness - we did get a few weeks a year to just chill.  It was a path and a plan and I knew where I was going and what the finish line was.

It was not, however, my vocation.

Vocation - love this word! Literally, "a calling." It has nothing to do with producing anything or having some set course - it's all about the calling. It doesn't even have the need for any kind of salary - - there are so many vocations in this world where the return and reward is anything but monetary.

That's how I feel about my life now - that I have a vocation. Working with a non-profit I get to do a lot of things that I really truly feel are important and that fit with my gifts, skills, interests, and abilities. I do feel it's where I've been called - even if some moments it feels like a job- - and I worry at times about it's potential as a career.

and perhaps one day I'll be confident enough to call it a profession -

that is - - something I can "profess" to be skilled in. ;-)