Coarse language gets attention, of course

liarI liked it better when presidential candidates spent more time shaking hands and kissing babies than calling their opponents liars and losers.

Of course, I also liked it better when family-friendly television shows closed with sappy theme songs—a stark contrast to a family-friendly show that recently closed with kids singing  a refrain that constantly repeated a swear word. I’m not sure if the creators intended it to be cute or funny, but it was neither. It was stupid.

I probably shouldn’t have written that. The s-t-u-p-i-d part.

I once used that word in front of one of the grands and she asked what it meant. I was about to explain the meaning (writers like dissecting words, right?) when her mother materialized out of thin air, sternly reminding the child and Grandma that we don’t say that word.

It’s like we’ve all been roughed up by a heavy grit sandpaper. We lack smooth edges.

There are no longer euphemisms for body parts or body functions. These days everybody goes directly to the graphic and gross.

A part of me shrugs and asks, who cares? Language is fluid, right? Thou thoughtest words changeth not?

Yet, there’s a level at which the coarse language demeans and demoralizes us all. Not only is the speaker demeaned, but the listener is demeaned as well. We become a little less human and a little more animal. Something of loveliness dies.

Maybe coarse language is an easy way of getting attention. Maybe people think coarse language is way of proving strength.

Ronald Reagan lobbed one of the greatest challenges of the last century when he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” His words still echo—and not a single @%*&#!.

I graduated from the Journalism School at the University of Missouri many moons ago when every student had to survive news writing with Hal Lester. If there had been a Marine Corps of journalism profs, Lester would have been the commandant. He could thunder about the misuse of a semi-colon and reduce a room full of overly-confident, smart-aleck college students to quivering ninnies.

One day a rogue asked if we could use vulgarities in news copy. Lester glowered. Then he thundered, “The only people who use vulgarities are people with poor vocabularies.”

I’ve always remembered that. Maybe our coarse language has nothing to do with losing respect for ourselves and one another. Maybe coarsening language is because we’ve all grown a little more stu—er, maybe we’re just not as bright as we used to be.

Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Contact her at lori@loriborgman.com

Keep calm and color on

The only coloring books I had as a kid were of Cinderella. When I heard that six of the 20 top-selling books on Amazon are adult coloring books, I thought they were updates of Cinderella these many years later.

You know, pictures of Cinderella with bunions on the feet that used to wear the glass slippers. Pictures of Cinderella with gray hair and an extra 20 pounds. Pictures of Cinderella and and the Prince with little birds helping find their reading glasses.Cindrella glasses

Wrong on all counts. Coloring books for adults are coloring pages with intricate patterns, garden, animal and nature themes. Others feature cities, architecture, Harry Potter and swear words. Yep, you read that right.

The adult coloring book craze is touted as a wonderful way to relax, although if you’re coloring swear words (may I suggest red?) you might be better off in an anger management class.

Libraries are falling all over themselves hosting adult coloring nights. They are strictly BYOCP: Bring Your Own Colored Pencils.

Despite the popularity of the craze, there is something slightly jarring about it.

If my doctor colors, I don’t want to know about it.

For some reason, I’d be more understanding if our accountant colored. Maybe it’s because of the stress of working with numbers and the government, and the fact that he’s at a desk most of the day anyway.

Now if our insurance guy unpacks his laptop and I see a coloring book in his bag, we’re finished.

When our kids were growing up, I felt the same way about coloring books that I did about Barbies. I wasn’t likely to buy them, but if someone else did, that was fine.

Our kids had Anti-coloring Books. They were coloring books with a sentence or two on each page that gave kids ideas of what to draw and then they colored their own pictures. They say that kind of thing is too stressful for adults today. Adults need to have guidance and structure—pictures with lines. And someone to cap their washable markers. That’s not true; I made that last one up.

We’re all looking for ways to reduce stress today. We work at relaxing so hard that it has become a major source of stress.

Last week I was talking to a woman whose eyes were darting back and forth as she pondered out loud whether she’d have time to work in a massage that day. Her schedule was full, but give that woman a crow bar and she’d find a way to crack it open and really relax.

A study on cardiovascular patients, from a team of doctors in Italy and the UK, examined the relationship between stress and music with different tempos. The conclusion was that slow and relaxing music decreased blood pressure and heart rate. They also concluded something else—people’s bodies relaxed even more during the pause between the tracks of music.

Silence. Imagine that

 

Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Email her at lori@loriborgman.com.

 

 

 

 

Husband flips channels — are houses next?

We have been married more than three decades. You think you know a person, but the surprises never end. I turn on the television and the husband says, “On sweet!”

“It’s not the food channel,” I say. “It’s one of those home remodeling shows.”

I am about to flip the channel when he says, “Leave it. Those on sweets are incredible.”

I can tell we aren’t communicating (it isn’t the first time – not even the first time today), so I ask what he is talking about.

“En suite—it’s a large bathroom that joins a bedroom,” he says. “You know.”

I don’t know. And I’m not sure he knows. So I do what anybody does in the face of the unknown —I quietly Google it.

The man is right; en suite: so as to form a suite: connected: <bathroom en suite>;

I am stunned. I am not stunned because he is right, but because he is current on bathroom design. I’d thought the only thing the man knows about bathrooms is where to find the clean towels.

“Look at that,” he says. “It’s a rainshower shower head. Nice.”

My jaw drops. Who is this man?

“No, no, you’ve got it wrong,” he snaps at the television. “Upgrade the cabinets. It will be worth it.”

Then he turns to me and says, “They’re probably looking at about $15,000 right now.”

Sure enough a number pops up on the side of the screen saying $14,500

The man is good. One of the girls calls and asks what we’re doing. “Your father is helping remodel a bathroom on television,” I say.

“Interesting,” she says. “I told him we were having tile work done in our bathroom and he estimated the cost within dollars.”

I hang up and ask how he has become an expert in luxury bathrooms. Without looking away—and who can look away when they’re rerouting plumbing, knocking walls down to the studs and unpacking a soaking tub—he says, “The gym.”

The husband joined the gym a few months ago.  He’s lost 10 pounds, lowered his blood pressure 20 points and become a home en suite expert.

Turns out he always takes a treadmill in front of the cable news channel and when he grows bored with the news, he switches to the television set next to it, which is HGTV.

“En suite televisions,” I crack.

He is not listening because “Love It or List It” is doing a reveal.

“Wonder what it costs to replace old grout,” I say.

“Grout is nothing,” he says. “That’s a small job.”

“Hmm. The upstairs bathroom – “

Just like that, he’s out the door to the gym.

 

 

 

 

 

The wonder of so many different sizes and shapes

The man who passed the baby to my arms, quietly said, “Dwarfism.” I’d noticed something different about the baby before, but didn’t put it together.

I saw it ncroppedow, his tiny body and his disproportionately large head. But the size of his head and proportions are not his most memorable features. His most memorable features are his dark brown eyes. They are mesmerizing and deeply soulful.

We locked eyes and his eyes searched mine. His gaze was deep, as though he was trying to convey a thousand thoughts, none of which I could decipher.

Well, one thought was clear. He didn’t care for the man who handed him to me. It was probably his loud voice. Or his deep laugh. Or his beard. In any case, the little guy preferred female company.

His parents are here somewhere among the families milling about, kids running, half-empty bowls of soup and paper plates. His dad had led worship in the church service earlier that Sunday morning. If you met the baby’s dad on the street, you might think he would be a good person to help you move furniture. Mom is average size. So are their other three children.

This one came in different packaging.

We spend a lot of time, money and energy idolizing, enshrining and striving for one certain style of physique and one narrow definition of beauty. In reality, every single one of us arrived, and will eventually grow, into infinite varieties of shapes and sizes, some fashioned a little more uniquely than others.

The baby’s parents are glad they live where they do, which is to say in an inner-city neighborhood littered with boarded-up windows, human brokenness and occasional gunfire. They are engaged in ministry to the poor. You might think they are somewhat crazy, but we cherish our somewhat crazy friends. They save us from succumbing to lives of bland white bread and homogenized everything.

There are many other children with disabilities in this neighborhood. So maybe this little one’s differences will be accepted more readily. Maybe his differences won’t be ridiculed quite as often.

One thing is sure—he’ll be surrounded by love here—love from a hundred different directions and sources.

His head is heavy and my arm is going to sleep now. I’d readjust my holding position, but it would mean risking the lock we have on one another’s eyes.

He’s not a baby you can sling on your hip. Even putting him up on your shoulder would be a tricky move. I wonder how she does it. Probably like any mother would, she has adapted to his weight distribution, his needs, his likes and dislikes and has a good idea as to what is going on behind those big brown eyes.

Surely, it will be hard for him to walk, I say to someone near. A voice answers that he has already pulled himself upright holding onto something.

Maybe he didn’t know it was supposed to be hard.

 

Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Contact her at lori@loriborgman.com

 

Are you a ‘fridge half-empty or half-full sort of person?

The husband noted that the refrigerator was bare again today.

He then noted that I had been awake a lot the night before.

CRXP09 almost empty fridge

He then came close to fulfilling some latent death wish by saying, “Have you ever considered that you might be one of those people who gets up and eats in the night without remembering it?”

I struggled to find a snappy comeback, but snappy is hard to come by when you’ve been awake most of the night.

I do have nights when I am awake a lot. In fact, I have so many that when an older man at church, a happily married man, mentioned that he’d been awake once an hour every hour the night before, I blurted out, “Call me!”

Inappropriate, yes, but we insomniacs are desperate to know we’re not alone.

That said, there is a reason we often have little food in the refrigerator and it is not because I have been grazing my way from the top shelf to the bottom crisper drawer in some state of semi-consciousness.

The refrigerator is often bare because we are in a rarely talked about phase of life that follows the Empty Nest phase of life. It is the “There’s-Nothing-to-Eat” phase of life.

It is a well-known fact that Old Mother Hubbard did not write that ditty about her cupboard being bare until after all her kids had left home.

When our kids were home, there were always three jugs of milk in the fridge, leftover chicken, a pasta something or other, two pizza boxes, fresh vegetables and fruit galore. Today, we open the ‘fridge and often are blinded by the glare of the light bulb.

My primary reason for opening the refrigerator is to check expiration dates and see what has gone bad. The job doesn’t take long when there’s not much in there.

Of course, when the kids, the kids’ spouses and the kids’ kids come over, there is plenty of food. The table will groan under the weight of all the food. And then when we are finished and there are tons of leftovers, I wrap ‘em, pack ‘em, seal ‘em and send it all home with the kids.

“Let me just pack this up for you. It will be perfect for your lunches next week.”

The husband agrees saying, “Take it, take it; it will just go bad here.”

“We insist,” I say. “You look thin. Have you had red meat lately?” If they still resist, we follow them out to the driveway, shove food through cracks in their car windows and wave goodbye.

If I succeed at doing a better job of stocking the ‘fridge for two, or holding onto some leftovers, and a bounty of wonderful things appear, I will most definitely get out of bed at 2 a.m. to eat. Why not? I’ll probably be awake.

Welcome to the lost and floundering

My idea of fun doesn’t include losing my wallet. It disappeared a few weeks ago.

Once we finally gave up the search, I bought a new wallet. It was oddly freeing— a fresh start. When I opened my old wallet you never knew what might fall out—gift cards, car wash coupons, random receipts and, on rare occasions, even money.

Now I can open my new wallet and know precisely what is in it. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No credit card, no driver’s license, no insurance card, no Costco card, no library card, not even a trace of lint.

I notified all the credit card companies and even closed a few accounts permanently. The other credit card companies, the ones I still wanted cards from, promised to send new cards in a few weeks.

My next stop was a new driver’s license. I looked up the requirements for identification, found my passport and birth certificate and headed to the BMV. The wait wasn’t long and the clerk was cheerful. She was sympathetic to the story about my missing wallet. She zipped through the paperwork with amazing speed and said, “That will be $10.50.” I only had four one-dollar bills, so I handed her one of my husband’s credit cards that I had been using.

“I can’t accept this, it doesn’t have your name on it.”

“But it is an account I share with my husband. We both have cards to the same account.”

“Don’t you have any credit cards with your name on them?”

“I have a number of them – they’re in my wallet, the one that’s missing, along with my driver’s license.”

She gave me a look and called the next number.

On the walk out, I thought of the man they made a movie about who was stranded 17 years in the Charles de Gaulle Airport. He had the right paperwork to get in, but he didn’t have the right paperwork to get out.

It was a classic Catch-22, like the first furniture we bought after we were married. We had settled on a table and six chairs from a local furniture store. We wanted to charge it so we could establish credit. The store said they couldn’t extend us credit because we hadn’t established credit.

It’s like applying for a job to get some experience, but nobody wants to hire you because you don’t have experience.

It’s like the people who go around chirping, “You have to spend money to make money.” They never acknowledge that you need money before you can spend money.

I still didn’t have a driver’s license, credit cards or insurance cards, but I had four bucks in my new and much lighter wallet and wasn’t a prisoner in an airport or at the BMV.

And that is the key to happiness—remembering that when it’s bad, it can always be worse.

Words of the Year shy on letters

ISM CROPPEDOnce again, I got it wrong on the Word of the Year. Merriam-Webster announced that the most popular word of the passing year was the suffix “-ism.” Here I was hoping for a prefix, maybe something along the lines of “dis-“ or “mis-.” I even could have been happy with “re-.”

–ism isn’t actually a word you can use in a sentence or even start a sentence with (although I just did), but the Merriam Webster Word of the Year isn’t necessarily a word. Of course not. The Word of the Year is the “word” people most frequently look up at the m-w.com website. The list is quite telling, if not mildly frightening.

The most frequently looked up words included socialism fascism, racism, feminism, communism, capitalism and terrorism. Apparently a lot of people have been sleeping their way through history and philosophy. These are the same people who stumble over those man on the street interviews when asked who is buried in Grant’s Tomb. (Hint: starts with a “G” and ends with a “t.”)

Merriam-Webster selects the Word of the Year by keeping stock market-like charts noting the highs and lows of a word’s popularity. (“Oh no! Look at this, Fred! Fascism is down by 15 today!”)

Also hot on the Merriam-Webster market for 2015 was the word “hypocrite.” Hypocrite spiked when Josh Duggar was revealed to have been involved with Ashley Madison. Other people were looking up “hypocrite” in droves, while I was Googling Ashley Madison to see if it was a children’s clothing line or perhaps a brand of towels and bedding. I was wrong again on both counts, although Ashley Madison was closely linked to bedding but not in the way I had thought.

If you’re still having –isms over a suffix being selected as Word of the Year, you should know that Oxford Dictionaries chose an emoji as Word of the Year. EMOJIAn emoji is a variation of the old yellow happy face with an infinite variety of facial expressions. The winner is a round yellow ball laughing so hard it is crying. It is officially called “Tears of Joy.” Clever, no? Basically, Oxford Dictionaries, in an age of amazing technological, medical and scientific progress, chose the first cousin of a hieroglyphic as Word of the Year.

I like emojis. I consider them a good safety net for when we are all so mind-numbed that we return to communicating by drawing pictures on the walls of caves. It’s always good to have a backup plan. Or an extra –ism or two.

 

 

Grandma, what dark circles you have

You probably already know this, but in case you had any lingering doubts—if you are a woman and someone wants to watch you put on your makeup, say no.

Bunking on the air mattress at our son’s place in Chicago, I got up early, straightened my spine and staggered to the bathroom for my morning routine. After showering and dressing, I cracked open the door to let out some of the steam and was soon joined by a six-year-old watching me put on my face.

“Why are you rubbing that stuff all over your face, Grandma?”

“Well, as you age your skin dries out and can look uneven. This helps fix it. You don’t have dry skin. Your skin is beautiful just like it is.”

dark circles captioned“Oh.”

“It can help wrinkles. You don’t have wrinkles. Do you see mine?”

“Yes! On your forehead! One, two, three. And there’s some on the side of your face, too! One, two—”

“OK, that’s enough.”

“My mom doesn’t rub that on her face.”

“That’s because your mom is young and has beautiful skin.”

“But my other grandma doesn’t rub that on her face.”

“That’s because your other grandma has very good skin, too. She’s the one who gave your mother good skin. Now let’s stop making this grandma feel bad.”

“What are you doing with that pencil, Grandma?”

“Filling in some missing eyebrows.”

“Where did they go?”

“I don’t know. They just went missing.”

“And now you’re using the pencil on your eyelid?”

“Yep.”

“What if you go outside the line?”

“Then it will be time to close the makeup bag.”

“What is that, Grandma? Are you trying to straighten out your eyelashes?”

“No, it’s mascara. It makes your eyelashes look thicker.”

“Are your eyelashes missing, too?”

“Yes, they ran away with parts of my eyebrows.  Didn’t I hear your dad calling you?”

“No he’s still asleep.”

“Too bad.”

“What’s that, Grandma?”

“It’s concealer. It helps cover the dark circles under my eyes.”

“How do you get those?”

“I got the concealer from the drugstore. The dark circles I got from raising children, being married to your grandpa and sleeping on the air mattress.”

“Are you finished?”

“Just about. Every lady needs to put on one more before she’s finished.”

“What’s that?”

“A smile.”

 

Heads up, phone down, left, right, left

It’s official – we’re dumber than we thought. The New York Times recently published a piece on the dangers of distracted walking (walking glued to electronic devices) complete with tips on how to walk.

Yep, it’s that bad. We need instructions on how to walk.

On the bright side, the article did not include instructions on how to stand upright. At least we still know how to do a few things. Sort of.

If Charles Darwin were alive, he might need to update that popular graphic on the evolution of man. Upright man is rapidly returning to crouched positon. It began with Earbud Man (head slightly down) followed by Cell Phone Man

Cell Phone man(head down, shoulders rounded and back hunched). Of course, there are the occasional interruptions in regression demonstrated by Selfie Man, who frequently assumes erect posture with an extended arm, elongated neck and upright head.

Distracted walkers are also known as petextrians, people who text while walking. Petextrians often stumble off curbs, walk headfirst into light poles, fall down stairs, or collide with you and your hot cup of coffee. They are like drivers who text, only without the protection of a large steel casing and airbags.

Petextrians often admit to texting while crossing the street. Anybody who navigates traffic areas on foot, glued to an electronic device, has weak survival instincts. Whenever you intersect the path of a human with the path of a motor vehicle, the odds are overwhelming that it’s not going to end well for the human.

Two of the more famous petextrians include a woman in Alaska who fell off a 12-foot cliff and had to be airlifted to safety before the tide rolled in, as well as the Pennsylvania woman who walked into a mall fountain while glued to her phone.

A man at the gym I go to often winds up on a treadmill only a few treadmills away. He has wonderful headphones that shut out the world. I know, because I have a pair, too. The man’s headphones lead him into such a deep, faux isolation that he often sings along. Loudly. The problem is, it is often hard to tell if he is singing or experiencing acute pain.

There is something captivating about the gadgets that let us create small worlds within the larger world. There is something compelling about the small devices that beep, buzz and chime. We have been conditioned to respond to them and respond quickly, like Pavlov’s dogs.

Unfortunately, unlike Pavlov’s dogs, we do not have eyes on the sides of our heads giving us good peripheral vision, nor are our reflexes as quick. And so we are back to square one, the basics of walking: “Look where you’re going.”

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that, at any given moment, 60 percent of pedestrians on the streets of America are distracted while walking.

All this petextrian business gives added dimension to the jokes that used to begin, “A priest, a minister and a rabbi walk into a bar . . . “

 

 

 

 

Mary and Joseph are coming to town

A young pregnant woman, about to give birth, is refused suitable lodging. We are aghast. We are appalled at the dearth of human kindness.

That is the story we hear each Christmas about Mary and Joseph turned away because there “was no room for them in the inn.”

We wonder why wouldn’t somebody sorry no vacancymake room? Why wouldn’t somebody invite them in to sleep on their floor? We are incensed at the coldness; yet we are those somebodies.

Pollster George Barna once said when most people hear statistics, poll results, or information on behavior patterns, they usually apply the findings to others, not themselves.

We hear a report on the declining civility in American culture, and we think of someone else who has been rude or abrupt or who has behaved like a cad. We tend to give ourselves a pass.

We hear about a woman nine months pregnant forced to give birth in a shelter for animals and we think how self-absorbed those people were. Rarely do we consider that they were probably people just like us.

We could have been those somebodies all those years ago—too busy, too crowded, and too preoccupied. We could be those somebodies even now.

The inn has never been more crowded than it is today. Best wishes prying open the door. The inn is packed with over-scheduled people frantically coming and going, scrambling to host or attend parties, creating playlists, cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping and decorating. So much to do and so little time.

Why, no, we’d never shut out the holy family. We’d never be so preoccupied as to miss the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Christ. Or would I? Do I?

Truthfully, much of what we do, the many activities and self-imposed requirements for celebrating Christmas, have little to do with the genuine meaning of the holiday. On the one hand, they’re fun and a delight to the senses and create marvelous memories. On the other hand, we grow nearly frantic with each additional activity, raising the water level a little more and a little more until we are struggling to stay afloat.

We recently watched a program about Christmas traditions in Europe. The narrator said the celebrations there are usually understated but elegant. We Americans have never done understated well.

We excel at doing things big. Even Christmas. Especially Christmas.

But perhaps the best way to celebrate Christmas is not to pack the inn quite so full. Leave room for the unexpected, for extending spontaneous hospitality and for a sudden change in plans.

Be the sort of somebody willing to make room. Keep the door open a crack. And in the spirit of advent, keep watch. Wait and watch—in the small snippets of quiet, in the still of the night, the early rays of sunrise, or the twilight of late afternoon—stay alert and you will witness the joy and beauty and mystery of heaven reaching down to earth.