SF Flower

Anyone else heard about the thing where you choose one word to go with you through the new year?
For a couple of years I only heard about it when the year was about halfway through and I forgot about it afterwards. It sounded cool: choose a word that means something to you (or pick a word from their list of ideas) and use that word to inspire or motivate your life.

Last year I joined in and chose the word “brave”. It was choice I wasn’t entirely sure of at the time, because it seemed rather cliche and possibly bland. Then there was the disappointing movie that had recently come out.

But I decided to go with it anyway.

Then Sara Bareilles came out with her song.

And Neil Gaiman posted his New Year’s Wish:


And all through the year, when I had a choice to do something easy or do something brave, it inspired me.

  • I applied for promotions at work, even ones high above my current ability level. I started building relationships with those managers, putting a framework in place for the future.
  • I dove headfirst into my romantic relationship when I didn’t know what I was doing, because growing and being in it with him is more important than staying in my comfort zone.
  • I volunteered for extra work trainings to grow my skills.
  • I said yes to acting in a Christmas show even though I hadn’t been in front of an audience in 15 years and didn’t know what I was doing.
  • I set boundaries with people.
  • I insisted on getting some medical assistance, changing doctors when the one I had wasn’t listening to me (and as the recently-returned tests show, I was right).

I really like how this year turned out. I like how “brave” became such a part of my life.

My new word for 2014 is another one I’m not totally sure of, so I’m going to go with it.

My word for 2014 is “energy”.

I think it’s partly about having more physical energy and focusing on things I can do to boost that. And partly it’s about rejecting negative energy and embracing positive energy. So it’s a word with more than one meaning to me.

Have you joined One Word in the past? Are you doing it this year? Share your word!


Friday Five: Bad Church Signs

These are actual words from church signs around here. I’ve put them into the Church Sign Generator to protect their privacy.

Bad Church Signs:

churchsignHave they ever heard of Ephesians 4:6? “Be angry and do not sin.” Apparently there is nothing wrong with anger, but Christianity seems to fear righteous wrath of the saints and tries to stamp out any occurrence. Bad form, Lighthouse church. Bad form.


churchsign1Because when things are going crazy, we don’t want someone who is on top of the situation and in charge. All we want is someone calm. Oh, yes, being calm totally takes care of all your problems when a storm shows up. Why would we ever want a calm sea when we can stand here in the middle of chaos and be calm ourselves?


(Also, I picture a stoned sailor smoking weed in the middle of a torrential downpour when I see this sign.)

churchsign3Funny, I thought actions were what you did and character was intrinsic. Also, “character” is supposed to be a neutral term that has migrated to mean “anything good”. Whatever happened to “bad character,” “lazy character,” and “poor character”?


churchsign4So if God “wills everyone to be saved,” does that mean it has happened just like he willed the universe into existence? Poor choice of words if they meant “wants” instead. It looks like they smacked a version 1 Timothy 2:4 up there (“This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,”) and didn’t check for more current wording.


churchsign5I love this one. Discipleship gets on the cross? Like, you know, Jesus did?? So we can totally be like God, yeah? And be lauded for our sacrificial natures! What’s that? There’s a verse about being glorified by men and how that’s all the reward we’ll get? Well, shoot.

Eye Contact

Back in August I posted a challenge for myself and anyone else who wanted to join: Find one thing a month to do for someone more disadvantaged than you.

Then things got busy and it fell off my radar as I was consumed with things like work, applying for promotions, trying unsuccessfully to connect with old friends, and keep the dirty dishes from overwhelming us (I’ve failed on that one, too).

But I found myself in San Francisco as September drew to a close. The city is an easy place to find people looking for handouts. Whether they’re really in need is anyone’s guess, but a few years ago I realized that it’s the lack of eye contact–of really acknowledging someone else as being a person and being present–that is so demoralizing in our day-to-day activities.

So I let my companions walk ahead of me when I saw a man sitting outside a parking garage holding out a cup. He was talking to passers-by, keeping up a fairly steady, one-sided conversation. I thought that must be an exhausting way to spend a day. Always peppy, always chatting, but never a response from anyone.

I put money in his cup, but it was an excuse to make eye contact and brief conversation with him, just to acknowledge him as a person.

It wasn’t much, and it wasn’t planned out ahead of time, but it was still something.

Now I need something for October.


Okay, so it was a Thing recently about how the word “literally” has shifted its meaning because so many people used it improperly, and a big controversy over if this is the worst thing in the history of language or if those of us who use and depend on words to Mean Things should chill out because this happens and it’s normal.

(In case you’re one of the three people who missed this, a good explanation is here, in which she says,

Now as well as meaning “in a literal manner or sense; exactly: ‘the driver took it literally when asked to go straight over the traffic circle'”, various dictionaries have added its other more recent usage. As Google puts it, “literally” can be used “to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling”.)

Some people feel this is not only completely normal but, indeed, justified. They think that dictionaries should define how we use a word, not give us an objective resource on what a word means.

Some people claim that since this is not the first word to change its meaning (see: semantic drift), that this is perfectly fine.

Pick a word. Any word. Now look up its etymological history. Chances are, it used to mean something quite different. Language changes, at times quite fast.

You are literally on the wrong side of history if you try to fight this. —Literally Indefensible

Hey, guys, remember the word, “livid“? How it was a great word to describe someone’s appearance while conveying emotion? …until it meant both greyish white as well as red with rage. Oh, and also blue, or purple. Or bruised.

Yeah, there’s a reason no one uses it anymore. And it’s much like what Martha Gill says about “literally”:

So there really is not much we can do with the word “literally”, other than avoid it completely. At the moment it is irredeemable.

We have a hard enough time communicating with other human beings even when we use the same language. Please, don’t make it harder. Just because you can use a word wrong doesn’t mean you should.

Let’s Be Spontaneous…Tomorrow

I’m a fan of spontaneity.

You wouldn’t know this to look at me; I keep a fairly regulated lifestyle and don’t add a lot of extra activities to my routine.

My version of being spontaneous is more like, “I have an afternoon free! I can do anything I want! …but I think I want to do some laundry so I have clothes tomorrow, and since I’m here doing laundry I may as well cook for the next few days. I guess I can watch a movie while I’m at it,” and there goes an afternoon that most spontaneous people would probably spend running off to pick up a game of laser tag or find a circus.

So the whole “I’m in a Christmas play!” thing that just happened made me take a good hard look at my routine (and my laundry). I’m seriously going to have to structure things for the next three months. Like, for reals, you guys.

Right now I’m Christmas shopping, planning Thanksgiving, thinking about Halloween costumes, deciding yes or no on NaNoWriMo, and trying to get all of my outstanding tasks (and housecleaning) done before the end of the month.

It’s all very intense.

I have discovered, however, that I’m still me and have not magically acquired the ability to subsist on less than five hours of sleep. (Who knew?)

So because things will be more structured in my life, expect a little less structure here for the next few months. Because, you know, I’ve got to be spontaneous somewhere.

A Bloodborn Carnival of Creativity

Lately I’ve been pondering, of all things, bloodborne pathogens and what are generally known as “universal precautions”. It’s come up because of trainings at work, so it’s not entirely my odd brain.

(If you’re not familiar with this, eHow has a good quick overview.)

My odd brain, however, is interested in what other things we could contract from other people’s blood. Why does it always have to be nasty stuff like hepatitis and AIDS?

Why can’t we contract antibodies to everything the other person has fought off? (“Blood from someone who’s had all of this year’s colds and flu: $50”)

Why can’t we contract genetic traits? (“Tall: $30. Good skin: $75. High metabolism: $150. Thick eyelashes: $20”)

Why can’t we contract bits of personality and neurological abilities? (“Olfactory synaesthesia: $50. Perfect pitch: $75. Dreaming in color: $20”)

Can you imagine the craziness of a world where you could contract artistic creativity…and depression? Where plastic surgery was outdated but changing your appearance was as easy as getting blood from a shop–or a friend? Where all the traits and abilities of anyone in the world could parade through your body?

Today’s challenge: Imagine a society where bloodborne abilities are being shared. Write a character who jumps into this lifestyle and a character who has reservations. What does each one keep or gain? What pitfalls and barriers does each experience? How does your personal view on this influence your characters’ experience?