This New York Times bestseller, “Separated – Inside an American Tragedy,” was published in July of this year. The author, Jacob Soboroff, is a TV journalist who won the 2019 Walter Cronkite Award for Individual Achievement by a National Journalist and the HIllman Prize for Broadcast Journalism that same year. Soboroff witnessed firsthand in Texas, Arizona and California what the United States of American did to thousands of families seeking asylum in the US. In short, families were separated and often placed in chainlink cages similar to dog kennels. Parents were held having no idea where their children were and usually that was thousands of miles away.
Much of this separation was done in secret before it was known to be a US plan to deter those seeking asylum from coming across the southern border. Soboroff went the shelters and tent cities and interacted with both Border Patrol and particularly one father son family from Guatemala. The author’s observations and his sharing of his own horror are memorable.
If this is a subject that interests you, and it should interest all of us, I recommend this book for a better understanding of what was done and to some degree is still being done to families who seek safety in this country. Of necessity, this book contains the names of numerous government agencies and their acronyms and this can impede what would otherwise be a fast read.
Do you speak using cliches? You might think the answer is “no” but what if I told you there are as many as 681? These are things we say often without really recognizing that we are using cliches. Because we have heard them our whole lives they come so naturally in our speech that we hardly give them a thought.
A fellow blogger, Christine Goodnough, gave me a link to the article “Be a Better Blogger” that contains the long list of 681 cliches. You can check it out for yourself at https://www.be-a-better-writer.com/cliches.html According to the list maker, Pearl Luke, we should never use these cliches unless it is intentional to be funny.
I am always interested in becoming a better writer, but I’m not sure that I agree with Luke. While cliches can be lazy and boring it seems to me that we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater if we eschew them all forever. I’m not yanking your chain, in this day and age of information overload it pays to be on your toes, but you can’t believe everything you read.
The same goes for this blog. 🙂
“If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.” John Lennon
A California city voted to ban some gender-specific words in its city code and replace them with gender-neutral options.
Berkeley’s municipal code will no longer feature words like “manhole” and “manpower,” and instead say, “maintenance hole” and “human effort” or “workforce.” The measure passed unanimously and replaces more than two dozen terms.
Gender-specific references to job titles, like “policeman” and “craftsmen,” will also be changed in the code, to “police officer” and “craftspeople” or “artisans.”
And the use of gendered pronouns, like “he” and “she,” would be replaced with specific titles, like “the attorney” or “the candidate.”
Rigel Robinson, the council member who proposed the measure, praised its passage in a tweet Tuesday.
“There is power in language. This is a small move, but it matters,” he tweeted.
There was a time when I thought writing, “Merry Xmas” was just lazy. Some folks feel it is worse than lazy because to them it leaves Christ out of Christmas. Actually nothing could be further from the truth.
The New Testament was written in Greek and the Greek word for Christ is Χριστος. Today we can cut and paste and print and therefore we don’t think much about what it must have like centuries ago when texts were being written and copied by hand.
According to Greg Carey, Professor of New Testament, Lancaster Theological Seminary: “Early manuscripts of the Greek New Testament dating to the third and fourth centuries used “X” as an abbreviation for Christ…The abbreviation helped manuscript writers fit more words on a page, reducing the time and cost of producing the texts…”
So, Merry Xmas is nothing new. It wasn’t started by non-believers. It is not a war on Christmas. Seminary students have been using the abbreviation “Xian” for “Christian” forever.
I have a lovely neighbor who I’ve known for five years. Her name is Nancy. For some reason each time I think of her I think her name is “Marilyn.” She doesn’t look like a Marilyn and I have no idea why this thought comes to me.
Several years ago I met a very nice friend of my daughter’s and her name is also Nancy. I immediately started calling her “Helen.” She does look like a Helen, I think, but it is not the name her parents chose for her.
Last year a met a friend of a friend whose name is . . . you guessed it, Nancy. Guess what I thought her name was? “Janet,” I called her Janet in emails about our meeting. I still think of her as Janet. Since she is a Viet Nam vet I’m very glad that she is so pleasant and understanding.
After much thought, I believe I have figured out what is wrong with me concerning this name. As I shared in a post on October 26th of last year, once I was Nancy.
Many, if not most, readers feel they could write a book. I bet that you have considered it or attempted it. One of my daughters has encouraged me to write for so many years that I am surprised that she hasn’t given up. She has provided many texts for guidance and even a little sign that hangs in my office which says “Award Winning Author at Work.” In spite of all the encouragement, I haven’t made an attempt as an adult.
Do you journal?
If not, you should probably consider it now. I have never been very faithful in writing daily in a journal, but when I traveled for work, I often wrote down thoughts along the way and they have been one source of material for this blog. Many of the scribblings I still run across are valuable to jog my memory and prompt smiles or sometimes tears.
We discussed poetry and some of you took the challenge to write a poem a long time ago. I also happen to know that more than one of the readers of Crooked Creek are very talented poets with years of work to their credit. You know who you are and you should definitely publish! I am not a poet by any stretch as my lines below will demonstrate. Had it not been for my attempt at journaling, however, I would not have these lines from 1993.
Waves of Time
Time, like waves upon the sea, though predictable, may catch one unaware.
The same, be it waves of time or tide, possess the power to generate joy or pain.
A rare and special friendship, though far away, burns steadily through time like a lighthouse glowing through the tide.
Although I admit that I have not kept my Good Reads account up to date I still believe that it is a useful website for readers. Even if you do not want to catalog your books in one of the many ways provided it is an excellent source of book reviews. If you have not already check it out and see if it would be worthwhile. If any of you readers are active in Good Reads and would like to share the advantages that would be great!
“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Marcus Tullius Cicero
When in the eight grade I naively started a book, entitled “Tennessee Ten” and completed about 10 handwritten pages! It was awful of course.
I have a few books by authors who I greatly respected until some current event, such as the #MeToo movement, changed my mind.
One of my blog readers has told me privately that I should concentrate on writing humor, but honestly, sometimes things just aren’t that funny, at least not on a regular basis.
Another reader weighed in with their earliest book memories: “Clifford the Big Red Dog”, “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Ferdinand the Bull.”
Do you have books or do you use a Kindle or other eReader? Do you read or listen to electronic books? Since all the information in the world is available on the Internet, do we even need books anymore?
If you still have real paper books where do you store them? What do you do with a book when you’ve finished reading it? Do you loan it to a friend? Do you donate it or sell it for a fraction of the price you paid for it? Or can you not part with it at all?
Over the next few blog posts let’s talk about books and what they mean to us in today’s world. Let’s discuss how and what we read and how that has changed over time. I look forward our discussion and will start out with a brief confession about my reading.
I have always been a very slow reader. I cannot scan. I cannot rush and still comprehend written material. For some reason, I seem to mentally pronounce each little preposition and I often must go back and reread a sentence or paragraph because my mind has wandered onto some earth shattering issue or maybe my grocery list.
Coming Up: Your First Book Memory and Your Bookshelf
On April 15 the calf, reportedly a male, was born. It was thrilling to watch the delivery and the newborn appeared healthy. Apparently we have seen the last of him, because the camera has not been live streaming for the past 24 hours. As many others, I have been concerned by some aspects of this fun experience. The giraffe pens look small and Upstate NY is not a normal environment for this species. The park has made well over $135,000 with a GoFundMe account, in addition to charging for such privileges as submitting a name in the naming contest. I have boycotted circuses for most of my adult life and am conflicted by zoos, but this is an “animal park,” so perhaps is not even as well equipped as an actual zoo. Not having visited this establishment, I have no evidence that its animals are not being well cared for, but I have questions.
9. Alot is not a word. It is not, even though a lot of people believe otherwise.
10. I am no Oprah. Oprah speaks and people listen. Oprah advertises and people buy. Oprah recommends and people read. Oprah is self-assured and wealthy. I am neither.
11. CPR does not always work. Sadly, I know this first hand.
12. Grandparents are not infallible. Last weekend I saw a grandfather spaying weedkiller all over the yard, entusiastically squirting every dandelion. I thought how sad it was that honeybees would not be safe collecting pollen on those round circles of sunshine. Then only minutes later, to my amazement, I saw the grandmother accompany three little preschoolers into the yard with brightly colored buckets to hunt Easter Eggs.
“So cling tightly to the pursuit, but hold your conclusions loosely.”
What I Know for Sure 1 & 2
There are few things of which I am 100% sure, but one of those certainties is the fact that I love my family with all my heart.
Having time alone is a necessity for me, but I sometimes forget how much I need to be with people.
Native Americans should not be called Indians.
Dish towels and dish cloths should be laundered separately, i.e., not with underwear.
Does anyone remember Connie Chung? She was one of the first female TV news anchors and worked for essentially all broadcast networks and several cable channels at one time or another. She was quite good at her job, perhaps too good since she was terminated for her tenacious interview tactics. One thing I remember very clearly is that she was sometimes referred to as an “anchorette.” Do you remember that? If not, please don’t think the term has gone away over the past few decades. It has not. As proof, I recently saw an article entitled “Television Business News – Hot Anchorette Wars . . . .” There is a lot here that merits discussion, but I’ll stick to the topic at hand.
Over the past twenty or so years I attended numerous high school dance competitions. The teams, made up almost exclusively of female students, had names including Champettes, Tigerettes and Spiralettes, silly names using the suffix “ette,” the diminutive form of the whole. Just as we unconsciously refer to female babies as “little” girls, it generally goes unnoticed that girls’ sports teams are considered “less than” from day one. You may say this is not important precisely because it goes unnoticed, but I disagree. It is the very insidious nature of some words that makes them detrimental.
Think of the multitude of words that are altered to indicate “less than,” such as kitchenette, dinette, towelette and the meaning is clear, they are not the whole, not the real deal. When applied to a person, usherette, bachelorette, suffragette, why would that person not believe they are inferior to the original.
As petty as it may sound, I stated in an earlier post (Words Matter – I) there are words I do not like. It has taken nearly a lifetime for me to fully understand why. Here is a list of some of my least favorite words and terms and short explanations of why.
“Girls” for women of all ages
Substitute for “women”
Woman is not a dirty word!
Substitute for “woman”
Maid/Matron of Honor
No male attendant equivalent
Name before marriage
I use “birth name”; in time may not be an issue
Mr. for all men regardless of marital status
Why not male equivalents?
I believe that some words, disguised as harmless, are actually demeaning. Are there words you especially like or dislike? Words you would like to change? Please share your thoughts and opinions with us here in the comment section.
If a child is told often, from a very young age, that he or she is limited (slow or weak) in some way, do you think the child will become an adult who believes he or she can accomplish anything of which it dreams? Or, will the child become an adult who is restricted and unsure of their capabilities? I believe what a child hears over and over has a significant impact on what the child sees as its potential.
When I was a nursing student I remember hearing that nurses and other caregivers talked to male and female newborns differently. I didn’t have enough time as a student to fully appreciate this truth. Later though, when I began to teach OB (obstetrics) to nursing students, I rotated classes into and out of labor and delivery, newborn nursery and postpartum care. During three years of observation I indeed saw that what I had heard was true. It began as soon as the child slipped from their mother’s body and into the cold, bright and noisy delivery room.
From Day One
When a boy was delivered there was congratulatory talk, often booming loudly and as the boy infant began to cry everyone talked about his strong lusty voice. As he was wrapped in a blue blanket there were predictions of his first touchdown, layup or hole-in-one, whatever might please the proud father. When genitalia appeared without the external apparatus it was likely to result in hushed “ahhhhhs” as a pink blanket was held out to swaddle a baby girl. The remark most often heard was regarding her appearance using words like beautiful, dainty, maybe even predictions of her being a little “heartbreaker.” The love and gratefulness for a healthy newborn was not unequal, one not valued more than the other, but the words used were different.
Without a doubt the newborn would be referred to as “big” or “little” not according to the actual measurement of weight and length, but according to gender. There were exceptions, to be sure, if the child was a great deal smaller or larger than average, but nearly always a boy was referred to as “big bouncing” baby. A girl, even when over eight or nine pounds, was a “sweet little” girl.
This trend continued in the nursery while the newborn was bathed and examined and then transported back and forth to the mother’s room for feeding and bonding over the next hours of hospitalization. If you doubt this, I challenge you to listen carefully as your friends and family members discuss the babies in their lives. Observe the words that are used when the infant is spoken to and sung to and handled. It may seem insignificant at the time since the baby does not yet understand words, but the truth we need to remember is that this is just the beginning of a persistent message. Day after day a child is reminded that she is the “weaker sex,” to use an outdated term, and unable to do or be anything in the world to which she aspires. This is not intentional, not sinister, not done out of unequal love, but these facts do not dilute the message. Words matter, especially when repeated through years of developing a sense of who we are and what we are capable of achieving in life.
It may sound trite, but there are words I do not like. It is not necessarily that they do not sound pleasant, although that may be part of it. And, have you noticed words do not sound the same to everyone? For instance, “coin” is one of those for me. When I say it one of my daughters chuckles quietly. I think I pronounce it normally, but obviously I do not say the simple four letter word correctly. My Mom had a similar problem with the word “oxygen,” however I find that more forgivable. But, I am getting sidetracked before I actually begin.
What I intended to discuss are words that either do not sound like what they mean or that have meanings with which I disagree. Let me start with depression, which sounds like a lower surface, a dip or swag. A road uncared for might have a depression. An old floor may be depressed in spots. This versatile word may be applied to the economy or even a weather pattern. You get it, but what if this word is used regarding another human? Many people immediately think of a person in a bad mood, sad probably and maybe even lazy. Too often the person suffering from depression is told to “snap out of it” or “get over” themselves. Even if not said in actual words that is likely the message they receive, whether intentional or not. I believe it may be time for a new word for this complex diagnosis which covers an entire spectrum of symptoms from mild and transient to suicide.
Another word, or term rather, is not only inadequate, like depression, but is also inaccurate. “Domestic violence” describes a range of situations from emotional and physical threats to injury or even murder. There is nothing “domestic” about “violence!” This terminology should never have been used to begin with and it serves an injustice to victims of violence, whether in the home or elsewhere. Recently, the term “Relationship Violence” is sometimes used in media reporting and I strongly support this more accurate terminology. Some prefer “intimate partner violence,” but in my opinion this comes up short. First, it obviously leaves out victims whose abuser is someone other than a partner. The abuser could be any relative or friend with whom one has a relationship. Statistics indicate one in three women will be the victim of intimate partner violence, but including other types of relationships would most certainly increase the statistic greatly and there is no reason to limit attention to a particular type of relationship or gender.
Pink & Purple
For many years October has been Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we have been encouraged to wear pink to bring attention to this illness which effects over 124 women per 100,000 population (1.3 men/100,000). Wear pink if you choose, it isn’t my favorite color and reminds me of
girl babies more than women, but I would suggest pink ribbons do little to combat this deadly disease which has touched most of us either directly or indirectly. More helpful is knowing the signs of breast cancer, performing self exams and having regular mammography.
Someone in all sincerity I’m sure, has designated today as Purple Thursday and we are asked to “Wear a little purple with our pink” today. I must admit purple is one of my favorite colors, but rather than looking for something special to wear today I am writing this post. I wish to bring attention to Relationship Violence and encourage each of you, regardless of gender, to take action against this devastating situation which, like cancer, effects so many. Relationship Violence may take various forms other than physical abuse, including emotional, sexual, financial or verbal mistreatment. The signs and symptoms can be reviewed Online, including such sites as this National Hotline: http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/abuse-defined/
Let’s be better informed.
Let’s be brave enough to report, whether it is personal or is suspected in another.
Let’s refuse to say, “domestic” violence from this day forward.
When we hear of a theft from a hospital most of us immediately think: “drugs.” We hear of employees who slip syringes and pills into their pockets for self consumption or for sale and know they do this at great risk of being caught and punished. Addiction is at powerful epidemic proportions in Kentucky at this time, so hearing a news report of a hospital theft is not shocking.
Once though, twelve years ago I read of a theft at a hospital in Owensboro, KY that was of more interest. In fact, so unique I clipped the article from The Courier-Journal and still have it today to share with you. Here are some of the facts, perhaps you can help me to understand what might have been the motive of this particular hospital heist. The theft took place on Christmas Eve, so perhaps the culprit just needed something to give her family members on Christmas morning? Or maybe the loot was going to be sold at a late night pawn shop to support a drug habit? It is sad to imagine this individual desperate enough to risk being caught by surveillance cameras watching her as she committed this crime.
Those electronic eyes did their jobs well and saw this person clearly as she lifted 50 artificial eyes from a lobby display case. And, the best part of all in this tale? The person arrested was Melissa Jane Wink.
He was 70 years old and had never read a book. Living with severe, classic dyslexia was a struggle which left little time or energy for unnecessary activities. Trying to determine if a story was about God or dog should be easy enough, but just to keep it simple he mostly tried to read the Bible. That way it was pretty clear that the subject was God and he already knew the story line. He attempted to read the King James Version in spite of my suggestion that he try simpler translations. Since words were a challenge, why make it harder by reading the KJV written in formal prose centuries ago? Still, he struggled on with what was most familiar, a verse at a time, mostly relying upon the words he remembered hearing in church or Sunday School.
After retirement from thirty-four years working as a butcher for one company, he began to use a tape recorder to play cassette tapes of the Bible. After many months, or perhaps years, he had listened to the entire New Testament in this manner at least once. Next, he decided that perhaps he could listen to other books, those that told a story that did not span the ages. With help, he visited a secondhand book store and there discovered books on CD. Armed with a new CD Walkman, he began to listen to westerns and then books like “Tuesdays with Morrie”. He even completed a biography about the life of Abraham Lincoln.
In failing health, after his 84th birthday, he was less able to do the thing he loved most, which was growing flowers in our little courtyard. Imagine his delight when he learned to use a Kindle, which came naturally, because of his skill in using his hands and his strong sense of touch. By touching the symbols, pictures and logo windows on the screen he could make things happen magically. Books that were downloaded for him to the Kindle came alive when he plugged in the ear buds and a narrator began to read. During the last year of his life he listened to many books including “Twelve Years a Slave”, “East of Eden” and “To Kill a Mocking Bird” and enjoyed discussing such well known books with his family for the first time. He was able to understand, finally, why people spent so much time reading so many books. He was amazed when he would watch a movie that was based upon a book he had just heard on the Kindle. On the day before his death he discussed “Unbroken” with one of his visitors who told him of the planned movie release on Christmas Day and with pride and passion in his voice, he said, “I read that book!”
Note: Two weeks later on Christmas Day our daughters, Dianne and Allison and I went in his honor to see the movie, “Unbroken.”
Written April 29, 2015 and Edited for the Blog 9/7/16 & 1/1/18