Power Out That Grease!

Today’s Bloganuary challenge asks What chore do you find the most challenging to do?

My super-quick answer: Clean the oven.

The answer springs readily to mind, having nagged at me for over a week now. A rather juicy casserole ran over in my oven last week and I haven’t gotten around to cleaning it yet. Shame on me! The grease by now is thoroughly baked on — and this oven is an old one, not one of the self-cleaning sorts. Needs serious elbow grease.

Another blogger, Louis Carreras, writes that the most challenging part of a task is getting started. I can agree with that. Few chores are as hard to execute as they are to keep dodging around. As stated in my last blog post. (See Edgar Guest’s poem It Couldn’t Be Done. )

Success, Simply Put

Image: Mohamed Hassan — Pixabay

Today’s Bloganuary challenge asks How do you define success?

As far as this life goes, in short or long term objectives, a successful person sets realistic goals and perseveres. They achieve their goals fairly, without compromising their honesty or integrity, not crushing other people to have their own way.

In my opinion, success isn’t measured so much in status or wealth or ownership. Even an average Joe, a scrub woman or a waitress, toiling every day can be a success. Take this little plant. It has overcome severe conditions and is a success in its own little way. It’s made use of what it had to work with, and done what life asked of it.

Image: klimkin — Pixabay

When the goal is reached, and/or age has settled in, the successful person can look back without major regrets. Of course everyone makes some mistakes and regrets them, but, in my mind, success brings the satisfaction of having done what you should in the grand scheme of life. You don’t look back over the years and say, “What a mess I’ve made of it all!”

And beyond this life? Success means to walk with God through this life and right through those pearly gates. The apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:8:

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

Precious Things Lost

Bloganuary’s challenge for today is to tell about a treasure that’s been lost. It looks like 78 bloggers to this point have responded with various things they miss — or they think we all miss. These challenge could be taken either way: this could be something I’ve lost myself or something I think we as a society have lost.

Image: kalhh — Pixabay

One of the treasures I’ve lost is my HEARING. I started out with one hearing aid twenty-odd years ago; have had two for the past fifteen years. Marvelous little things! Without them I’d only have half the hearing capability of a normal person, if that. The hearing in my left ear especially is way down. Some of this was unavoidable, being due to allergies that cause fluid backup around the ear drums. Some I could have avoided had I known…

When I was in my early thirties I had tubes put in my ears, because of said allergies, and was given cortisone ear drops to put in my ears. I used them faithfully, being sure they went all the way into my ears. A dozen years later we lived in another place and I asked a doctor for a refill. He said, “You can’t use those long-term. Studies show that if they get through the tubes into the inner ear, they can damage your hearing.””

“Well, okay. Now I know.”

So it’s impossible to determine how much of my hearing loss was inevitable and how much was due to being uninformed. My dad and brother both got hearing aids, so some of my problem could be genetic. In any case, HEARING is definitely a treasure I miss.

As far as things we as a society have lost, I’ll say the teaching of HISTORY. Again–since this is one of my regular laments. Young people in our society aren’t learning enough history to give them a balanced perspective on current events. If we have the knowledge of what has all gone on before us, we can compare, we can learn.

Fact is, the world has seen times like this before — and much worse. We aren’t suffering more, or living with more fear, than anyone else in the history of the world. Mankind as a whole has survived tough times. Also, in the past this course of action has led to such and such consequences. Let’s avoid a repeat of the bad ones.

So there’s my view of treasures lost.

Image: Gerd Altmann — Pixabay

Writing Advice: Rein IT In

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is IT. Which gives me another opportunity to harp on mention one of my favorite subjects. Just two days ago I gave this advice to a new writer whose work I was critiquing. Now I’ll share it with everyone who wants to write clearly and tersely.

Such a simple little word, but oh, the confusion it can cause! Especially when combined with IS. The confusion between IT’S (the verb) and ITS (the possessive) is just one aspect of IT abuse that I often see.

An example of IT confusion: I saw a rabbit hop across the lawn this morning. It took me back to my childhood. A time-traveling rabbit? Or the sight (of the rabbit) took her back?

It-itis can happen when the sentence has a main clause and a subordinate clause or two. For example: The old red barn stands out beside our machine shed. It’s apparent when you see it that it’s going to be a long time before it tumbles down. What’s not going to tumble down — the barn or the machine shed?

This sweater goes well with your outfit, seeing it has such colorful red buttons. The sweater has red buttons, or the outfit?

One day a few weeks back, my husband and I both read a sentence but each took a different meaning from what was said. I found the statement confusing; he said it was perfectly clear. Later I realized that I’d misunderstood what the “it” in the sentence was referring to. I reread the sentence seeing the reference his way and BINGO! Clarity.

One of my favorite non-fiction writers is Phillip Yancey. This man is a pro — or his editors are — at eliminating confusion. I’ve noticed before that “it” doesn’t appear often in his pages. So I opened one of his books, searched through four pages, and found four IT-s. One. Per. Page.

More examples:
As a teen I thought about becoming a teacher, or maybe a coach, but I dropped the idea. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do with my life anyway, rather it became another step on the road to the one I finally chose: helping deaf-blind students.
Most readers will get it, but writers want ALL their readers to understand what they are saying. Revised:
As a teen I thought about becoming a teacher, or maybe a coach, but I dropped the idea. Teaching (or coaching) wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do with my life anyway. Rather, the desire to work with young people became another step on the road to the career I finally chose: helping deaf-blind students.

If he’d wanted me to know about it, he’d have told me instead of clamming up. Instead it became a source of irritation between us until he spilled it to my brother one day when they were arguing over some other issue.
What became a source of irritation, the “it” information he was withholding or his clamming up? Revised:
If he’d wanted me to know the facts, he’d have told me instead of clamming up. Instead his silence on the matter became a source of irritation between us until I learned the truth one day when he spilled the facts to my brother as they were arguing over some other issue.

If the writer doesn’t have e-mail and wants to discuss it by phone we can work with it.
Work with what? The phone, the edits, the manuscript? Revised:
If the writer doesn’t have e-mail and rather wants to discuss her edits by phone we are willing to work with her this way.

I suggest to all writers: Go through your article, story, or manuscript, doing a search for it, its, it’s and it is. Be sure readers will be clear on what IT refers back to.

And Pilate said, “What Is Truth?”

Image: Gerd Altmann — Pixabay

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is LICHEN and I’ll warn you that my response is rather rant-ish. All because I saw a headline this morning…

Another notable noble
bites the dust, exposed,
a dark villain delightfully
defrocked. Righteous media
revealing all the secret sins.
Alleged accusations hurled
cling like lichen to a rock;
scandalmongers savor
all the delicious details.
Opponents of order grin.
You’re next!
What’s not hidden
deep in your closet
can easily be fabricated.

Re: this headline: I’ve no clue as to guilt or innocence. Furthermore, I’m all in favor of truth; I believe those who misuse their powers should be exposed and called to account. But I’ve read of so many good people being “exposed.” Perhaps a mysterious photo, letter, or recording anonymously delivered to the media torpedoes someone’s career. Even the most righteous causes can become a bandwagon everyone wants to jump on. If the word “Christian” is tossed into the mix, the media’s all over it. I’m aware of several news stories and/or documentaries where facts were seriously twisted and/or ignored.

One Sad Example

A Saskatoon teacher came upon a young teen couple making out in the school hallway and threatened to tell their parents. A few days later he was arrested. The girl and her BFF had gone to the principal and reported that this teacher had touched them sexually and the police were called in.

The girls couldn’t be identified, being minors, but his name was blazed across the front page. He was branded a pervert, a pedophile. End of teaching career. Friends avoided him. Although the girls later admitted in court that they’d lied, his life was ruined.

A month or so later that same newspaper printed, way back on one of the last pages, a one-paragraph report that he’d been found not guilty. How many people even read it? He talked to a reporter later, hoping to clear his name in a bigger way, but there’s no way he’d ever get another teaching job. School Boards will usually go with, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire.”

I believe those who love Truth and want to know it will be guided by its light. Others are usually at the mercy of hidden agendas. Or, as Sir Winston says…

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”

Winston Churchill

One Quality of a Leader

I hope you can bear to hear a few more scintillating words from the pen of Dr Watson?

Sherlock Holmes describes his nemesis, Professor Moriarty, as:
“A man …so immune from criticism…so admirable in his management and self-effacement, that for those very words that you have uttered he could hale you to a court and emerge with your year’s pension as a solatium for his wounded character.

A solatium being, according to Lexico:
–something given in compensation for inconvenience, loss, injury, or the like; recompense
–damages awarded to a plaintiff as compensation for personal suffering or grief arising from an injury
Today we’d call this a settlement. Holmes was reminding Watson that, though Moriarty was secretly involved in shady deals, he had very cleverly erased himself from the scenes. He’d kept his hands so clean that to call him a criminal would be considered slander.

Self-Effacement:
This is an antique concept, something almost anathema to our modern world. In our day self-promotion is the only way to go. From young on, children are encouraged to be the BEST, to be the STAR. When they get into later teens and discover they are AVERAGE, this can be hard to take.

Children should be encouraged to do their best and to pursue their dreams, but there are only so many super-stars you can have in a scene before they start shoving each other off-stage. One man watched a teen take dozens of selfies in an hour, probably to send to friends who’ve got dozens of selfies of themselves to send back. And yet teens may question if they have any real friends.

A friend told me about taking her daughter to visit her mom one evening. In the course of the visit Grandma pulled out her photos.
Here’s a picture of me shopping.
Here’s a picture of me in the coat I tried on.
Here’s a picture of me going here.
Here’s a picture of me on my birthday.
Here’s a picture of me with my friend Jane.
Here’s a picture of me…”

After they left, the granddaughter said to her mom, “Grandma’s really into herself.”
Sadly, this is true. Predictably, Grandma’s puzzled because her children and grands aren’t all into her, too. “I’m their mother. They should be calling me!”
But they don’t feel the heart-strings pulling. What goes around comes around.

A few days ago my husband and I were discussing leadership qualities. There are bold, self-confident, self-promoting types, but we agreed that leaders who get the most respect and help are the ones willing to ask for help, to give credit where credit is due, to squash the “I” and let their group get the praise. To say, “Everybody pitched in and our team accomplished this.”

Professor Moriarty may have sinister reasons for stepping back and letting others get the credit–or blame?–but self-effacement can be one of the tools of a good leader, don’t you think?