Bad Word, Bad Words…

Whatcha Gonna Do When You Run Out?

Some people might consider me to be an old fogey because of what I’m about to say regarding bad words. I don’t consider myself to be old. I prefer the French term: une femme d’un certain âge.

I’m not going to tell anyone not to use bad words. I’m just going to suggest giving it more thought before you do so. Then maybe you’ll change your mind. Or not.

You’re going to see a lot of asterisks in this post.

These days people throw around bad words as if they were confetti. These words get used so often that they become banal and boring and lose their power.

Does this sweet little critter deserve to be called an ugly name?

What if you have a puppy that poops on your carpet and you call him an a**h****? The dog didn’t do it deliberately just to annoy you. If you call this innocent little creature who did something you don’t approve of because he didn’t know any better. If a puppy is an a**h***, what are you going to call someone who is truly evil? Someone like a loathsome politician? Are you equating your puppy to that horrible human being?

Why would a little critter like this deserve to be called an ugly name?

A photo of a little owl was posted on a social media page. Someone referred to the bird as a little motherf****er. When I objected to the language the guy said, “You must be fun at parties!” The parties I go to don’t include that kind of language. I didn’t say that to him. Instead, I said, “I’m ignorant. Educate me. Why is a word like this okay? Is it original? Is it clever? Is it witty?” The guy had no reply.

He must have expressed his genuine feelings to someone.

Some psychologist has claimed that people who swear are perceived as “genuine.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives a couple definitions of genuine, “sincere and honestly felt or expressed” and “free from hypocrisy or pretense.” Apparently, the psychologist didn’t realize that sometimes expressing your genuine feelings can get you punched in the nose.

Civilization is all about being artificial. We wear clothes instead of running around naked. We use restrooms instead of squatting on someone’s lawn to do our business. If we see someone eating a drumstick and we want it, we don’t grab it out of their hand and take a bite. We say “please,” and “thank you” and “may I?”

Do you suppose a lack of civility, too much expression of genuine feelings, could be part of the problems we have today?

A Concert for Ukraine

Ukraine’s National flower

It’s been a month since Russia’s savage, brutal invasion of Ukraine. It strikes close to home because of Latvia’s history of invasion by the Soviet Union and nearly fifty years of occupation. And because Latvia also shares a border with Russia. Unlike Ukraine, Latvia is a member of both NATO and the European Union. It’s the same with the other Baltic States, Estonia and Lithuania. If Ukraine falls none of the countries in Eastern Europe can feel safe. Maybe not even the rest of Europe.

So many countries, so vulnerable.

All our hearts are broken. We can all too easily imagine what the Ukrainian people are going through. Our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents went through the same thing. We were robbed of our country and families who were unable to flee or who thought the Red Army would soon be driven out by the World War II Allies. Those who succeeded in escaping expected to be able to go back. They were mistaken. Nobody wanted to prolong the war.

I feel compelled to check on President Zelensky and to see how the Ukrainian people’s fierce resistance is going. I cry for them every day. So do many of my Latvian friends. Music tugs at our heartstrings, as music is meant to do.

This video shows a concert for Ukraine’s freedom that was held in Rīga, Latvia during the early days of the invasion. The song is called, “For the Country of My Birth” composed by a popular Latvian composer, Raimonds Pauls. Lyrics by Jānis Peters.

This song debuted in 1973 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first National Latvian Song and Dance Festival.

The lyrics reference the year 1905 when Russian army troops opened fire on demonstrators in Rīga killing seventy-three and injuring two hundred people.

The translation is my own. To me, the castle of light symbolizes hope.

Then came the fifth year, rain of blood fell
Destroying the tallest trees.
Let's become soldiers, our song will sow a storm.
Forever a castle of light rejoices from the hill.
The countries of Eastern and Northern Europe aren’t the only ones close to Russia. Alaska is 53 miles from Russia.

Clarification re: Diminutives

In case I confused anyone.

Yes, diminutives are used as terms of endearment, but they are also used to indicate size. A multi-tasking word.

The blue slice is a small piece of pie chart: “mazs gabaliņš.”

I’ve spent quite a few hours at my computer the last few days. Even though I’ve enjoyed writing, editing, and illustrating my essays and have more to say about diminutives, I’m not sure if I’ll write a blog post again today. I have other projects to work on, too. A couple of them also call for sitting at the computer. I may not work on them, either.

You’ll be hearing from me again soon.

The Latvian word for ladybug is “mārīte.” It’s also a woman’s name, as well as a diminutive for the name Māra. All the tiny insect gets is the diminutive. It’s too small for anything else.

Under the Weather

Missing in Action

For a while now I’ve been under the weather and unable to focus on much of anything, especially not writing. Couldn’t muster the focus. Couldn’t muster the motivation. Every idea I had seemed stupid. Not worth writing, Not worth anyone’s time to read. I know I’m not the only one who’s ever felt that way. That does not make it any better for me.

A good day would be followed by a not-so-good day. Some miserable nights when I’d have to get up and then not be able to get back to sleep, so I’d get on the internet. Social media. Nights I’d be afraid to be away from my phone, even though I’m not the sort of person to sleep with my phone under my pillow. Lactose intolerance shares symptoms with other, more serious conditions. Add in anxiety and I’d be a real mess. Eventually, I’d feel better, realize I wouldn’t die just yet, and go back to bed. Sometimes I’d be able to get two or three hours more sleep, other times only an hour or so. Every time I thought the sun was going to come out, I’d get another downpour the next day.

It took a while, which was made longer by denial and experimentation, to figure out that I’ve developed lactose intolerance. To figure out what triggers it and what does not. It’s a yucky process. There were times when I thought I’d never be able to eat anything but crackers and white rice without causing my system to rebel.

Even though I now know what the problem’s been, I’m not quite back to so-called normal. I’ve been mean to my tummy and it’s getting its revenge for things such as, coffee, black tea, dark chocolate, salsa by the spoonful (who needs chips?) oranges, hot spicy veggies juice, plus other insults. And that’s not even the dairy products. It seems that everything good is acidic or comes from cows.

Rats! Depressing.

I thin I finally have a handle on it. This time for real, though it’s going to take time to heal completely.

Stay tuned.

I hope this is the light at the end of the tunnel and not just an illusion brought on by wishful thinking.

Latvian Easter Eggs

Resist dyed eggs.

For centuries Latvians have been using natural ingredients to dye Easter eggs. I know it’s late to be posting this, but I only just found this photo and it’s too pretty not to share.

These eggs were dyed using onions, which go in the pot of water the eggs are boiled in. You need a lot of onion skins. Tiny leaves and flowers are dampened and applied to a dampened egg. Then the eggs are wrapped in gauze to hold the leaves in place, boiled till they’re hard and allowed to stay in the dye bath all night to get color depth. Less time in the dye bath means a lighter color.

To get a marbled effect, wet onion skins are crunched and applied directly to a dampened egg and wrapped in gauze. Adding a dash of white vinegar to the dye bath helps the dye adhere to the egg.

Red cabbage results in blue eggs. Beet juice for red eggs.

Latvians aren’t the only ones who dye eggs using natural ingredients. Instructions for achieving different colors, lavender, green, yellow are available online.

What is it?

A little mystery. Some of you may have noticed that I like to photograph weird things. I’ve always been a bit weird and seem to be getting more so as I get older. Or maybe it’s that now that I’m older I’m not as concerned about letting the weirdness show.

Ages ago, when we went to Leavenworth, a pretty little tourist trap in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, I didn’t just photograph the faux Bavarian buildings on the main street, I went down an alley and took pictures of their far less showy backs. I’m not sure what happened to those photos, lost when I moved several times since then.

I also take photos of rocks, dead leaves, knotholes in wooden planks, bark, whatever catches my eye and strikes me as interesting.

I’ll leave these as a mystery. One might be less obvious than the other.

Epitaphs from a More Poetic Era

History fascinates me. Not just the history of major events, wars, plagues, the discoveries of intrepid explorers, but the stories of ordinary people.

Years ago I enjoyed visiting old cemeteries, reading, and recording the epitaphs. They are poetic, melancholy, touching, and in their own way uplifting because of their hope. 

I have not corrected the spelling on the punctuation.

Asleep in Jesus, far from thee
Thy kindred and their graves may be
But thine is still a blessed sleep
From which none ever wake to weep.

(Oregon, 1869)


***

The pains of death are past
Labor and sorrow cease;
And life’s long warfare closed at last
His soul is found in peace.

(Oregon, 1883)
***

Rest husband in the silent tomb
Rest for the shadows and the gloom
	of death is passed
Rest from the griefs thy path beset
Rest dear one till we have met
	in heaven at last.

(Oregon, 1888)


***

The praise of those who sleep in earth,
The pleasant memories of their worth,
The hope to meet when life is past
Shall heal the forlorn mind at last.

(Sequim, Washington, 1889)
***
There is a bright region above
We long to reach its shore
To join with the ones beloved,
Not lost but gone before.
A light from our household dims
A voice we heard is stilled
A place is vacant in our hearts
That ne’er can be filled.
One less to love on earth
One heart to love in heaven.

(Sequim, Washington, 1912)




A gateway to where?

Eloquent gravestone

These epitaphs make me wonder–who wrote them? Was there a book of epitaphs from which to choose? I’ve seen this last one in more than one cemetery. If there was such a book, who wrote it? Is it kept in the office at the cemetery? What else did the person write?

Caring for the Forgotten, Ignored, and Demonized

Life on the Not-so-Violent Ward. These people are human beings, just like the rest of us.

This is not a “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” story. There are no Nurse Ractheds in this true story. This is a brief biographical sketch of my mother’s career. 

For twenty-two years, until her retirement, my mother worked as a mental health technician in a state mental hospital. When she first started work there, she was a “floater,” working on different wards. After she’d put in a few months my mother was assigned to the violent ward. By the time my mother went to work at the hospital, they had stopped doing the kinds of “treatments” depicted in the movie re. It was all group therapy by then.

My mother (in the middle) and her co-workers on break in the hospital. In the early days they were required to wear uniforms. Later they could wear “civvies.”

The hospital is still in operation, though in a much more restricted way than it did then. It has handsome, sturdy brick buildings and stands on beautiful, park-like grounds. The grounds aren’t as they used to be either. The greenhouses are closed. The little ravine with its rhododendron bushes, rill, and walking path is gone now.

My mother liked her work and she liked the people, including the patients, she worked with. It may have been called the violent ward, but the most violent thing that ever happened to her was getting her watchband broken while attempting to restrain an unruly patient. One of my mom’s co-workers did get beaten up one time, but as I recall, the woman didn’t even have to go to the hospital.

I visited my mom and the hospital a couple of times. The interior wasn’t nearly as nice as the exterior. It was pretty bleak, but it was quiet. There was no moaning, no screaming, nor cursing. The patients were actually better behaved than some so-called normal people today.

The patients liked my mother, too. There was a piano on the ward, so she took piano music to work with her and played for the patients.

In the early years, there was a farm across the road from the hospital where trusted patients were allowed to work. They would bring the produce they’d helped to grow and, like proud children, would show their veggies off to my mother, “Look, Mrs. Pedecis!”

Eventually, the farm was closed. State officials had decided that having the patients work on the farm was forced labor. My mother thought that was a pity, and I do, too. Working on the farm gave patients a sense of accomplishment and pride. A sense of normality. It also got them out of the bleak wards into the fresh air and sunshine. That may be the reason the greenhouses closed, too.

Other things also changed toward the end of my mother’s career. Some things go more lax, others go more rigid. Responsibilities that the mental health techs had been handling for decades were turned over to LPNs and RNs, making the techs feel like menial laborers. My mother could have worked for several more years, but these changes made her decide that it was time to retire.

There were one or two break-outs at the hospital. Nothing got broken. People would just walk away while out on an authorized, supervised group outing on the grounds. There were also a few attempts at break-ins and theft. “Oh, boy! Bread!” The ward was in a half-basement.

A Day of Misery

Thanks to Word Press

Bad enough that I didn’t get any bread in my grocery order. Bad enough that I suddenly lost my internet connection for no known reason. Thanks goodness it came back online just as I was talking to the service provider’s CSR. Still. It spoiled my mood. And then I suddenly couldn’t post images to my Word Press page. I got a cryptic message that my image had an empty alt attribute. No explanation as to what that means. WP’s help site is not help. It’s a forum with all sorts of people offering advice, so you don’t know who to believe or what to try. Word Press has ignored my previous three calls for help regarding different issues. I sent a call for help for this issue anyway. They probably haven’t had time to respond. This is not the first time something hasn’t worked and I’ve had nothing but a crypt message. There’s a lot to like about Word Press, but there’s also a lot to hate.

This is how I feel about Word Press today.

The above image is old. It took so long to load, like the new ones, that I was beginning to think I’d get that same “empty alt attribute” message. Beats me why I can post an older photo and not a new one. I’m not holding my breath while waiting for an explanation and help from Word Press.


I love writing blog essays and illustrating them with my photos. I hope I can keep on doing so. I write novels that require no illustrations. When the words flow, it’s fantastic. My blog is a nice change of pace. I have lots of old photos, but eventually I’ll run out. I use stock photo services, but I want to use my own photos whenever possible.

ARGHHH!!! Here we go again. I just tried to add a photo taken on the same day as the one above. No, Word Press, I am not off line. Guess this image also has an empty alt. attribute. Makes no sense.

This too is an appropriate image to show my mood today.

This second image was also taken on the same day as the one above and the one I couldn’t get posted.

I guess I shouldn’t complain. Right? Two out of three images, for this essay got posted. I had another photo essay I was gong to post today, no images at all for that one. Go figure.


Writing Is Also an Art

May be an image of text that says 'LONT THE FEED ARTISTS BUY THEIR ART THEY WILL FEED THEMSELVES THEMS'

Like any art, writing takes hours. Sometimes even days, weeks, or years. It seems like something anyone can do. Just sit in front of a computer or take a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil and start writing. Then read what you’ve written. Does it make sense? Does it flow? Does it hold your interest? Does it tell a story or teach you something? Look at social media posts by non-writers and then take a look at a magazine, newspaper, or literary magazine. How does your writing compare? Is it more like a social media post or more like something written by a professional? I don’t mean to dismiss regular people who write on social media. Some are very good. The majority are not. Many are downright incoherent, vague, badly spelled, poorly punctuated.

Good writing requires much thought, rewriting, editing, and perhaps rewriting again. Many drafts until you get one that’s polished as close to perfection as the writer can make it.

Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at the blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” Attributed to the journalist, Gene Fowler. It’s an exaggeration, but not by much.