Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wednesday Wordplay - Anonymous strikes again!

My surreptitious new wordplay friend Anonymous has been sending me a steady supply of my own torture devices (read: more Middle Riddle puzzles). We've continued our play via the comment forms ever since I posted the first puzzle, here. I got no end of delight out of this. Probably the first sign of a sick mind.

I had just prepared two new puzzles to post, but I decided to post one from her (?) as well. This time, in order to win, you must solve my puzzle AND beat ME at Anonymous's puzzle (I will not start solving it until I publish this post.)

Here goes: (Remember the rules? Add three letters to the middle of one answer to form the other.) This first one is from Anonymous:

1. father/small projecting bodily part
2. to join or fit together/ morning
3. sun/ brownish orange
4. a going out or away / to parade
5. inquisitive / small bunch of flowers

Letters to add:
1. ILL 2. INE 3. RRE 4. HIB 5. EGA

And now here's mine:

1. poultry portion / important meal
2. remove / convention representative
3. brotherhood or house / loaded
4. nurturing noise / annoying alarm
5. to father / earnest or genuine

Letters to add:
1. KFA 2. EGA 3. UGH 4. UCK 5. NCE

Congratulations to the sharp-witted Kimberly at Temporary? Insanity who rattled off the answers to my previous challenge in record time!

Feel free to respond (like Anonymous did) with a puzzle of your own. I always love a good challenge! Or comment with a question, complaint or headache. It's all good.

Also, for you fellow wordlovers everywhere, Merriam-Webster has just published a list of their favorite Mondegreens. My favorite so far is this one:

Mondegreen: The girl with colitis goes by
Correct lyric: The girl with kaleidoscope eyes
Artist: The Beatles
Song title: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Be sure to stop by next time for a completely DIFFERENT wordplay challenge!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Can't Believe You Just Said That!

We just finished remodeling our basement. So we've had a steady stream of workers here. For months. All of whom were professional, and very nice -- even to the dog. BUT I had two disturbing conversations that left me speechless. The following are excerpts from those actual conversations.

The freezer repairman just replaced a malfunctioning part, and handed me the old one, which amounted to an enormous piece of plastic, with some metal bits attached. "Can I get you to throw this away for me?" he asks.

"Sure." I say. "Is it recyclable?"

"No idea. I'm an American. Let the rest of the world recycle."

Excuse me? We're the leaders of the free world. Let everybody else take care of our bad habits? What ever happened to taking the higher road, setting an example. Not to mention saving the planet for our children. I don't get it. But the guy was dead serious. He went on to tell me about a buddy who owns a junkyard, which used to be "the lowest of the low". He said all of the sudden recycling became "all politically correct" and the guy retired a millionaire (from recycling the stuff people left irresponsibly in his junkyard, I'm assuming.) --Maybe our worker's in cahoots with this guy, and he discourages folks from recycling so his buddy gets all the goods and the cash! :)

. . . . .

I'm on the phone with the guy who's putting in our floor, and he says two guys are on their way down to install it. I said, "I have to take my son to school. Is it okay to leave for a few minutes while they're here?" He replied, "Oh, sure. They're good guys. They just don't look like it because they're Mexican."

What?!? Did he actually just imply that all Hispanics (sorry, it drives me crazy when people call any and all Latin Americans "Mexicans") look like crooks simply because of their race? Don't get me started.... At least he acknowledged that these two are good.

. . . . .

Help me out here, folks. I am not an extremist. But I believe rights come with responsibility. Part of being an American is using our freedom to make the best choices available to us, and treating all others with dignity and respect.

How do you (respectfully but firmly?) handle people whose views you find offensive?
How are you teaching your children to be good citizens of the world?

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Warm, Fuzzy World

Most people don't know this about me: I wear glasses. Really, I should say "I have glasses". Because I don't actually wear mine, except to drive. And sometimes to watch movies. I am near-sighted. But not enough so to impair my daily functioning. (Actually, "functioning" is debatable and highly subjective. But the bottom line is, I CAN see.)

I can say that with full confidence in contrast to my husband, who is also near-sighted but CANNOT SEE without his glasses. I remember feeling rather shy and sheepish when we went swimming together on one of our first dates, hoping he wouldn't notice all my figure flaws. Then I realized he had to take his glasses off to swim. Yippee! He had no idea how my thighs were really shaped. I was safe!

I'll admit sometimes I can't see quite enough.
I squint like crazy at restaurants where I have to order from a menu on the wall. I don't recognize friends from a distance. (I almost didn't recognize my own MOTHER-IN-LAW from across a large gallery in a museum a couple of weeks ago!)

But usually I can see just enough.
I can't see the dirt in my house, unless I get down on all fours. I can't see the flyaway ends in my hair unless I pull one right into my face. I can't see the blemishes in my skin unless I practically kiss the mirror. And I kind of like it that way. The good news? is that I can't see YOUR flaws either...don't notice the dirt and the dust, the blemishes or the frizz. Everyone is pretty much beautiful to my artist's eye.

I choose to live in a world that I can see, but not too sharply. It's all just a little soft around the edges. Like an impressionist painting. And I like to think that translates into a softness of attitude too. Choosing to overlook certain details around the edges and looking harder for the ESSENCE of those around me. Catching fleeting impressions. Seeing more by seeing less.

It's the way I paint. And it's the way I live.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Three Books: A Community, A Castle and a Couch

NPR has a great new series called "Three Books ..." where they invite writers to recommend “three great reads on a single theme”. I'm fairly certain NPR has no idea who I am, let alone wants to invite me to comment on their series. But that doesn’t stop me from commenting here. So I present my first in a series of triplet recommendations, and heartily invite you to join me by leaving a comment with a link to your post. It’s time for 3 Books....

Last winter I found myself unwittingly addicted to Memoirs of Poignantly-Dysfunctional-Yet-Hopeful-and-Sometimes-Humorous Families. I love fiction and typically loathe (read: rarely start and never finish) its didactic shelf-mate, non-fiction. So it came as a complete shocker that I was not only reading but LOVING these three memoirs (largely, I think, because they read like fiction, but ultimately, I concede, because they are TRUE STORIES).

My addiction started with A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel. Began as a series of personal essays, Zippy ultimately paints a wonderful picture of small-town life and real-time love in a family that would NEVER make the glossy pages of Family Circle. It is at times laugh-out-loud hilarious, but also poignantly honest and insightful.

After that I got hooked on The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. It had me as soon as I read this sentence: "I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster." An amazing story of benign neglect and tragic circumstances that is surprisingly not depressing. The kids triumph under the bleakest conditions, and never doubt their parents’ love, despite their failed intentions.

And finally, the sequel to Zippy: She Got Up Off The Couch, where Zippy’s mom stops watching t.v. and eating pork-rinds, conquers depression, goes to college, and as a result becomes a heroic non-victim of her own tragic marriage.

The world needs more stories like this – True accounts of everyday heroes fighting personal demons with daily decisions...and coming out on top.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I did that all by myself...

Last night as I was tucking our 9-year old, Mr. Cool, into bed, he told me a funny story which prompted a sweet conversation.

He had spent most of the day at a friend's house, where the babysitter had asked the older boys for some help cleaning their little brother's room. (I can tell MC secretly longs for a younger brother, because he tells me stories about this 2-year-old's antics, complete with pauses and voice inflections, nearly every day.) So today Mr. Cool told me he made Matthew's bed for him. When Matthew came into the room, MC said, "Maffers, look at your bed," and Matthew said, "Yeah. I did that." MC said, "I made your bed for you, Maffers." To which the 3-year-old insisted again, "No, I did it." MC, astonishingly lacking in stubbornness, said, "Okay, you did it, but I helped you." and Matthew agreed. I could tell that MC thought this was trés amusing.

I told him it reminded me of the time his older sister (then six) wanted to make dinner for the family. I found her a recipe, got out all of the ingredients and pre-measured each one and set it next to the pot on the stove. Then I heated up the stove, and stood by her, instructing her when to add which ingredient, and when to stir. When the dinner was ready, I announced to the family, "Princess Peach made dinner tonight," to which she added, "Yeah, and with NO HELP at all." That made me smile inside, knowing how much preparation I put into her experience, assuring that she could not fail. Yet she was convinced she did it all on her own.

MC laughed at that little story, and saw the likeness to his own. Then I asked him if maybe that's how Heavenly Father feels when He helps us, but we don't even realize it, or forget to give Him the credit. We love to think we do everything ourselves. But He's standing up there watching, maybe smiling a little, and shaking His head thinking, "Dude, I totally set that up for you." I could see the little light go on in MC's head, and he smiled. Looks like today he knows God just a little bit better than he did before.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

That woman growling at you? was me.

I did something so immature today. (What? You're shocked? Well, so was I.) I was driving my daughter and her two friends to the airport. So I had three hyper, thirteen-year old girls in the car, listening to hyper, thirteen-year-old music. Obviously the goal became to complete mission as quickly and painlessly as possible. Which may or may not have involved speeding. :)

But the gray car ahead of me in the carpool lane did not share my goal. In fact, it appeared the driver had no goal whatsoever, other than ambling down the highway a mile or two under the speed limit. (Did I say carpool lane?) I could feel my blood pressure rise as I followed them at their snail's pace, completely TRAPPED in their lane until the dotted lines of lane-change freedom reappeared and I was finally able to swerve out around them.

Now for the immature part: As soon as I was even with them in the adjacent lane, I had this bewildering visceral response. I felt utterly compelled to turn and look right at them...and GROWL. Not just a little grrr, but a grrrrr that grew into an almost roar, like grrrrraaaaaoooowwwwhhhrrl! It felt awesome!

And then I started to laugh at myself. What WAS that? And where on earth did it COME from? It makes me shake my head and giggle right now, just imagining it: A middle-aged mom driving three kids to the airport, suddenly turning sideways and letting out this gigantic ROAR, and then continuing to cruise on down the highway as if nothing happened. Hilarious!

One of my favorite books is My Monastery is a Minivan. The author has somehow found a way to turn the place she spends the most time – the car – into a bastion of meditation and peace. I clearly need to reread it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Running on California Fuel

Those of you who read the title and are expecting an essay on environmental issues will be disappointed today. As will anyone who wants to rant about fuel prices. (Enough, already!) Because I'm talking about emotional fuelage, and right now my tank is full, to overflowing...right into the reserve tank that keeps me alive during the dry spells.

For the past two weeks we've been blessed with a steady stream of visitors and friends from our California hometown, Pasadena.

It started over the 4th of July weekend, when we attended a barbecue that was hosted and heavily populated by friends we knew in Pasadena. Our host was the savvy Sunstoner Mary Ellen, recently relocated from California via a brief stint in South Texas. She was celebrating a milestone birthday, a new-ish marriage, an enviable new job, and a new 100-year-old home. In Utah. She's one of the sharpest wits I've come across. My favorite (well, there are LOTS, but one of my favorite memories) was a talk she gave in church on forgiveness. She described how difficult it can be as mere humans to "freely forgive" and said that while others tell her to just "bury the hatchet" she's thinking, "Sure, I'll bury the the back of the other person's HEAD!" That just brought down the house. Seriously the biggest laugh I've ever heard in a sacrament meeting talk. I loved her instantly.

ME is also responsible for giving a name to my biggest culinary failure to date: I was making some breadsticks in a rush for dinner before heading out to a movie with ME, and realized the only mix I had left was pumpernickel. I dutifully shaped and twisted the dough and popped it into the oven, not realizing that the dark brown baked goodies would look uncannily like...well, excrement. We came home from the movie and my delightful husband had cleaned the whole kitchen, then neatly arranged the leftover breadsticks in disgusting-looking piles on the kitchen counter. ME took one look and then laughingly dubbed it "Dumpernickel!" And I remember long strolls through the woods outside her workplace as she and I walked and talked our way through The Grief Recovery Handbook after a bad break-up for her and a stillbirth for me. Her quick wit is coupled with a heart of gold. These are people you hang onto forever.

Also there were the Ballards, our very first friends in Pasadena, now parents to a 9-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome. These are the folks who shared our tradition for making Ableskivers every 4th of July, and who put their whole souls into everything they do, whether it's Halloween costumes or a painted backdrop for the party at church. Salt of the earth. Truly.

And Brittany was there, slinging a newborn across her chest and a toddler in one hand because her husband needed a break. This is the Pioneer Woman of the 21st Century. We laughed about how we both get the Pasadena Book Group emails and try to read along with everybody. She still remembered all our kids, and had plenty of lovely things to say about our youngest's pluck, humor, and depth when she taught him in Primary four years ago. (Mr. Cool was shy, but secretly thrilled to hear she remembered him, and how well.)

The very next day our friend Michelle called. " town for one more day and can we PLEASE go out for Indian food?" (Twist my arm!) We met her and another couple, Ted and Allison, and laughed and laughed until they were closing down the restaurant...then went back to the house and talked and laughed some more. I finally drove Michelle home at 4 a.m. She and I have the graphic design thing in common, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. I cannot even begin to describe the lovely Michelle – über-chic, but humble and understated, soft-spoken yet powerful, great sense of humor, yet deeply spiritual, and wildly original. A kindred spirit. One of my favorite memories of her is visiting an exhibit called "Metaphorically Speaking," standing for half an hour in front of the very first piece -- a sculpture/installation called "Embrace" -- which sparked this amazingly rich discussion about Atonement.

The next night? Allison's hubby drove back to L.A. and she came to stay with me for an extra week! This is the third time she's spent a week—or more—at my house, and it's always a laugh riot! Our main activities include cooking, eating, talking, and laughing. Anything else is just gravy. But many of our discussions are also deep and spirit-filled. We've been through a LOT together, she and I. More like family than friends. There is no one quite like this brash, irreverent, hilarious and sexy dessert chef, Allison. But somehow I was blessed to also discover her spiritual side. And she runs deep.

And the night of the barbecue? Mike and Lilian called. Totally out of the blue. Got in town a couple of days ago and want to come over. Perfect! They joined right in with the whole barbecue crowd (Allison baked a fabulous cake) and sweet Lilian even invited Johanna to their Karaoke Night at BC when she gets to LA. Mike is a former sheriff's deputy and he has the craziest stories about the inmates -- complete with hilarious accents and demonstrations. The guy could do stand-up comedy. His wife, Lilian is pure angel. I've never met anyone so beautiful, inside and out.

Not only are these California friends diverse and inspiring. They also know me almost better than I know myself. They are surrogate family. These are the folks who sat through my gospel doctrine class week after week for seven years, or who babysat our kids when they were small, or nurtured us through our toughest times and celebrated our biggest triumphs. Can you see why I TOTALLY LIVE FOR my California fix, and how all these recent visits have me refueled for a good long while?

Well, it gets better, because this morning Phi-Phi called, and they're coming next Tuesday! She's a 4'10" 85-pound powerhouse who started out as a Vietnamese refugee and wound up as assistant dean of admissions for Occidental College. She was separated from her mother since age 7, and her dad died during her senior year of high school. I was her visiting teacher when she gave birth to her first child, and was somehow able to step into that maternal role for her in the absence of both her parents...a gift I will never forget. She is gentle and loving and sweet...and tough as nails. I love her dearly. When she talks to me, I feel like she's harnessed the sun and focuses its rays right on me, so the whole room glows warmer.

So, who fuels your emotional reserve tank?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Things We Wish We'd Said All Along

On our wedding day we got some inspired advice just prior to the actual ceremony: "Some of the most clever things you come up with should be left unsaid." We've probably quoted it a million times since, usually with a knowing smile. We both have a penchant for biting sarcasm and witty retorts. Yet occasionally we've actually taken that counsel and swallowed some of our funniest -- but potentially hurtful -- comments and comebacks. I credit that counsel for the fact that we're both still married...and still alive!

But the converse is also true...the importance of saying out loud some of the kindest things you think, but are prone to keep to yourself. Another piece of advice we received at our wedding was the importance of sharing some specific, deserved praise every day. And for some reason that seems as difficult and counter-to-human-nature as swallowing the clever barbs.

A few years ago I had this guy named Greg working for me who was a master at this. He had a girlfriend who was really needy...bordering on neurotic. He told me he learned a lot from that relationship – it taught him to verbalize all the positives. He said, "We think good things about people all the time, but rarely take the trouble to say them out loud. This girl was forever doubting my love and affection for her, and I realized if I just started to SAY all the things I was already THINKING about her, she was a lot happier. So now it's just a habit — I do it with everybody." Very cool guy.

Last night we had a farewell party for a friend who was moving away. She's one of a select few of Jeff's filmmaking students we've remained close to after graduation. When we found out she was leaving, people literally jumped at the chance to throw her a party, offering to help with food, set-up, etc. We had a big barbecue and watched movies – some of her student films, and a feature film Jeff made.

BUT...we didn't think that was enough of a send-off for this truly extraordinary girl. SO...we created a farewell book for her, complete with goodbye messages from all the guests at the party, and a little flip-book motif where everyone added to the cartoon stick-figure in the upper-right-hand corner so by the time we were through it made a silly little "movie". ALSO...we arranged all the chairs in a circle and asked anyone who wanted to share a fun memory of Johanna (while the book was circulating).

WHAT WAS AMAZING...was what happened next. People spent what seemed like forever crafting these epistles to Johanna in the the souvenir book. Nobody wrote anything thoughtless and generic like "Good luck -- keep in touch." Instead, they composed these beautiful letters about the contributions she's made in their lives, the influence she's had, her innate goodness and unselfish heart. How they love her sense of humor. How approachable and easy-to-talk-to-about-anything she is. How she made them feel loved and important. Attempting in every way possible to express the extent of their love until their was no room to contain it and it was spilling onto the next page, and the next. People were clearly eager to have a chance to say what was in their hearts with respect to this girl. people were sharing their memories (which could have seemed sort of forced and awkward) the same phenomenon took over. People were literally sobbing, talking about what a key person she's been in their lives, how they looked forward to going to work or school every day JUST so they could see HER. And they were laughing about hilarious pranks and hijinks. And nearly everyone mentioned how they've watched her reach out to others in a way that could only be described as Christlike. I could go on and on. Because we all did. (The party went until two or three in the morning.) Once the floodgates were open, the deluge of love and admiration and well-wishing and celebration was unstoppable.

SO WHY DID WE WAIT UNTIL SHE WAS LEAVING? Now granted, this girl, Johanna, is extraordinary. And I don't think she had any idea To. What. Extent. the people around her adored her. She knew she had devoted friends, and knew she was widely loved, but I don't think she expected an outpouring of this magnitude. In some ways her obliviousness to her own power and goodness is what draws people to her again and again. But I also know that she struggled at times with some insecurities, and I wonder if a more regular dose of specific deserved praise from the people surrounding her would have eased some of that pain and helped her believe in herself early on. (She glows with confidence now). So why didn't we tell her all this sooner? Why didn't we say it every day? And why don't we extoll everybody else's virtues while we're at it?

After watching this event unfold at our house, I want to do a better job of saying out loud those things I think in my head. Not the hilarious cut-downs, but the specific recognition of what's good...of a job well done, a flattering hair cut, an infectious laugh. And I'm going to try to talk about the harder things to express too...character traits, influences, gratitude, love.

Ironically, just this morning I read an article in TIME about how negative comments on the internet have become. Now that may be true on You Tube and other places with a broader audience. But that hasn't been my experience here at all. In my small view of the blogosphere (read: my blog and the blogs I read) comments are what makes the world go around. People are kind and supportive and caring and encouraging. They laugh at your jokes and compliment you on stuff you never noticed as special. (I guess that makes lurkers the equivalent of all those people who might think kind thoughts but never say so – the path of least resistance.) Let's all make a goal – just for today – to say all those kind things we think. And watch what happens.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Note to Brillig: See? You should have let me throw a barbecue for YOU! :)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Actually Meeting Amazing Grace

Check it out, folks — hot off the press. The clients (who have become friends over the past few years) delivered my personal designer’s copy over the weekend. And I have to admit it always feels great to see something move from the drawing board and the computer screen to tangible form, on shelves, in stores. An actual product.

I asked to read the manuscript before I created the cover art so I could really capture the feel of the book. And it was a fascinating experience. As I slowly read through the book, it moved from being a chore to being fed.

Meeting Amazing Grace is intended to be a self-help book dealing with family relationships, and specifically in-laws, but it’s written as a novel (which in my mind makes it a lot more palatable -- I have a hard time actually finishing anything non-fiction). There’s even a surprise twist at the end that gave me chills!

But in this sweet little story they manage to weave all kinds of real-life relationship scenarios...with clear-cut, concise advice. While I’m the first to admit this isn’t Literature with a capital L, they’ve managed to make the material wonderfully accessible. And as I read I began to realize lots of changes, large and small, that I can make in the way I deal with my own in-laws (who are wonderful, by the way). The point here is that ANY relationship can be improved by these ideas.

The book gets its title from one of the main characters, Grandma Grace, who is truly amazing. But of course the intended double meaning is there, because as you read–and think about what they're teaching–you can’t help but come face-to-face with that other grace as well.

It’s kinda cool to know the authors personally, and realize they live these principles day in and day out. Their lives reflect this kind of healing and joy. (In fact the wife’s name IS Joy.) Their previous book, I Don't Have to Make Everything All Better, is a bestseller addressing everyone's need for emotional validation, and is packed with wise counsel. We've probably gifted it half a dozen times.

So whether or not you find your in-laws insufferable, the next time you're browsing through the bookstore...take a second look at Meeting Amazing Grace and think "Hey, I know the artist who did this cover." (And then open it up and start reading.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Love Thine Enemies

I like to think I don't have any enemies.
No one I secretly wish I could hire a hit-man to knock-off in the middle of the night, anyway. But I did have someone several years ago whose face I used to envision...with my fist smashing into it. (Go figure. I'm so non-violent. Oh, yeah don't read that post about me and my sister.) Seriously, though, I can't put a single name on my bona fide "enemy list". Osama Bin Laden? Gotta admit I don't pray for the guy. But he doesn't seem like much of an immediate threat, either. Too far away.

But what about those people we cautiously avoid? What about those to whom we are merely courteous, masking an internal grimace? What about the folks that cause us to de-tox after spending any quantity of time together? Do we still have to love THEM?

This is one of those commandments we think is reserved for the almost-perfect.
We tend to put it on our list right after doing some serious family history research.

But my mom was different.

When I was growing up, there was a kid in our neighborhood named Ricky Riggs. He was the quintessential bully. He had a buzz haircut and one of those kid-villain faces that just looks mean. All the time. This was the guy who would throw numerous burrs in the girls' hair on the way home from school, often causing us to cry and scream and get clumsy new haircuts because we couldn't get them out. He would pick on kids younger and smaller than he was and beat them to a pulp. He pretty much terrorized the neighborhood. Even at church. I don't know anyone who liked him, although he was probably friends with some of the bigger boys. The rest of us avoided him at all costs.

Then one day Ricky came tearing down the hill on Claremont Drive on a Big Wheel (he probably stole it from one of the little kids up the street), flying like a bat out of hell. All of the sudden he wiped out on the corner and cut open his leg on a sprinkler. We were playing out in the front yard and saw this happen. There was a lot of blood. The next thing I knew my mom was dashing across the street with a handful of cloth diapers. I had a hard time wrapping my seven-year-old mind around all this. "What are you doing?" I asked in disbelief. She explained that the diapers, just returned from the diaper service, were the most sterile objects in our house. "But do you know who that IS?" And she proceeded to take care of Ricky Riggs. She bound up his wounds, bandaging his leg, his heart, and his wounded pride. That stands out as one of the most poignant images of my mother in my early childhood. She was at once Florence Nightingale and the Good Samaritan. To the neighborhood bully. The enemy. She taught me by example to love even the likes of Ricky Riggs. And truth be told, I never felt the same way about Ricky after that. I can't say I sought out his company, but I didn't hate him or consider him my enemy. Not after I saw my mother minister to him.

My mother likely learned to love from her maternal grandmother, Marmee. (Marmee was widowed at a very young age, with four young daughters, much like the Marmee in Little Women.) My mom told us countless stories of Marmee living with them as she was growing up, caring for the children while their parents served on bank boards and church boards. The most memorable Marmee phrase that came to me via my mother, and has stayed with me since, is this: The people who are the hardest to love are the ones who need love the most. Talk about a paradigm shift. That single sentence has been powerfully pivotal for me in learning to see hard-to-love people in new ways. Lovable ways.

And sometimes I succeed.

I hope people who put me on their own enemy lists will grant me the same benefit of the doubt. Recognize my distance and reserve for the masked shyness it is, overlook my irritating quirks as insecurities and love me all the more because of them. (It's a strangely humbling thought.)

And I'll try to do the same.

Wednesday Wordplay: Middle Riddle

I idolize Will Shortz, editor of the New York Times crossword puzzles. I used to lie in bed on Sunday mornings and wait for his Puzzlemaster segment to air on NPR. Then I'd rattle off as many answers as I could and try to beat whomever the contestant was that morning. I never phoned in, but lying there in my Sunday morning reverie (before the mad rush to get ready for church) I usually won.

Here's a Will Shortz-esque word puzzle I made up (not for the faint of heart):
I have a standing offer to anyone in my family of $20 to the first person who can beat me at Scrabble®. So far no one has claimed it. So I'm extending it here to you. First person who solves this puzzle (all 5 word pairs) wins a $20 gift certificate to Amazon. (Answers published next week, along with the winner, if there is one.) I'm thinking this puzzle would be right up Luisa's alley (of Novembrance fame) but since she's out on maternity leave, that might just give everyone else a better chance at the prize.


Add three letters to the middle of one answer to form the other.

Example: Picnic pest / Quantity A N T A M O U N T

1. To take offense / To take on as a client _________ ____________

2. Blog Remark / Personal Resolution _________ ___________

3. Summon or imagine / Venture a guess _________ ____________

4. Runs a museum / Runs an automobile _________ ____________

5. Female Relative / Increase _________ ____________

Following are the letters you add to solve each puzzle above:

1. P R E

2. M I T

3. E C T

4. A R B

5. G M E

p.s. It's lucky I prepared this one ahead of time, because last night I came down with the flu, and today I'm just grateful for Gatorade. :)