21 November 2001


21 November 2001

I remember the first time I heard my mother swear.  I was in my teens and she had dropped something heavy on her foot.  I was stunned.  A simple expletive was given extra-ordinary force because I had never heard my mother say that word*

That’s how I was raised.  Swear words were to be reserved for the rare occasion when no other word would do.  Swearing in my house, was not allowed and was considered crass and unimaginative.  Intelligent people didn’t swear.  

I don’t know how much of this message came directly and intentionally from my parents and how much came through my grandparents– especially my grandmothers.  I also don’t know how much of the message was directed at me because I was a girl.  I’ll have to ask my brothers some day if they got the same message.  All I know is that neither of them cuss in front of me.

As I got older and moved away from home I tried out swearing and I would say that today my language is much more ‘colorful’ than even I am aware of.

Now I have child.  A child who is very articulate and quick to pick up words adults use around him.  He is especially quick to use words he has heard used forcefully.  He is an aural mirror, reflecting what I say much more accurately than I would like.  I find myself watching what I say and listening to his speech carefully for ‘bad’ words.  fortunately he is not around a lot of swearing so his idea of a ‘bad’ word is any one he doesn’t want you to say.  Words like: bedtime, no more books, time to go upstairs, it’s nighttime, and nap-time are often considered to be ‘bad’ words in his world.

In contrast, I was once working with a younger man and every other word out of his mouth was the f-word.  It was his own special adjective– almost a form of punctuation.  This is a word I might use three times in a year.  It is a word I strongly dislike, but coming out of his mouth it was robbed of most of its power.  

That, I think, is the heart of cussing– words have power and some words have the power to convey very specific and uncomfortable messages.
I am not more intelligent than someone else if I choose not to swear.  I am not more creative if I use mild alternates in place of swear words.  Contrary to the classist messages I received as a child I am not a better person if I choose not to swear.  What I do gain by my choice of language is power.  Swear words repeated lose their ability to shock– to stop someone in their tracks and make them say ‘what did she say?’.  

Shock has its uses– why not save it for when you need it?

*an extremely mild cuss word by anyone’s standards.

20 November 2001


20 November 2001

I believe in magic.

I believe in magic for some of the same reasons I believe in god.  The universe is a big strange place that we take for granted until something either goes wrong or wow’s us.  God set in motion the creation of a wonderful, amazing, magical world where life could rejoice.  Currently a safe-haven for critters that use oxygen as an energy source, the earth and all its creatures is a magical place full of wonder.

Arabella Buckley wrote a book for children called Fairy Land of Science in 1878 it contained some of the most up-to-date information on science of the time.  In it she used the metaphor of fairies to stand in for the unseen forces of nature– to give shape to something scientists of the time were just coming to grips with– to give children a way in to the mysterious world of science.

I think we need more fairies in our lives.  Fairies to remind us of how utterly wonderful the world we live in can be.  It is so easy to forget that a single drop of water can show you the world in miniature– upside down no less!

All the little miracles of life– all the amazing magic of the world is god’s gift to everyone on the planet.  In the rush of human society it is easy to become absorbed in wholly human pursuits and forget the gigantic world outside.

On Saturday night I stood outside a friend’s apartment at two in the morning and watched the stars zoom through the sky.  Our normally rainy Pacific Northwest weather cleared for the best night of the Leonid meteor shower.  I stood in the frosty night craning my neck up at the sky as meteors went by on every side.  It was so exciting that I only gave it up once my neck was aching and my hands freezing.  I had no control over it.  The meteors would come and go– zipping across the sky– dancing to the universal music– not caring if I watched or not and beautiful none-the-less.
  • I need fairies and magic and the unexpected to remind me that there is joy in this life and that very little is up to me.
  • I hear god whisper when I am alone, I made this– it is beautiful.
  • I hear god whisper when I am with friends, life is beautiful.
  • I hear god whisper when I watch the world, make my world beautiful.
  • I hear god shout when I hold my son, look mom the sun came around to our side of the planet!  It’s time to get up!
I think god speaks most clearly through a child’s voice. The world is beautiful. The son is with us on our planet.  It’s time to get up and witness the magic.

18 November 2001


18 November 2001

I find it interesting how what’s going on in my friends lives (and their friends lives) bounces around creating ripples of conversation.  This week’s topic is presents.  Presents for birthdays, presents for Christmas, just plain presents.  

I used to have very mixed feelings about presents.  Getting presents where people seemed to read my mind about what I wanted was thrilling, getting socks was a bummer.  Not having money to buy good presents bummed me out, not having a clue what someone might like bummed me out.

Now I just like getting them.  And giving them.  Whenever I can.  To whoever I want to.  

The watershed for me came when I realized that for me giving presents is part of my overall relationship with a person.  If the only time I thought of them was at Christmas and the thought was along the lines of– gee, I’d better get so and so a present or they will feel bad– then I wasn’t much of a friend to that person.  Also, if I limited my gift buying opportunities to The Holiday Season then I missed out on the opportunity to buy gifts that leapt off the shelf at me and said “take me to so-and-so’s house– he needs me!”  

Part of this change came about after I had my one-and-only child.  Every new thing is a delight to him.  It doesn’t matter if it is the newest or the keenest or his to keep or just on loan.  He is enchanted by the world.  I realized that I used to be that way– when I was two.

All through my 3rd decade I struggled with my ambivalent feelings about birthdays, Christmas, and gifts.  I also struggled with a personality change that would hit a week or two before my birthday and hang in there until January or February.  I don’t know how to explain it to someone outside my skin but a switch would flip and I would change on the inside.  

A few years ago I found a solution by accident.  I was over at a friend’s house and we watched a sad movie and I cried– a lot.  Then I felt better.  And that year my fall weirdness was a bit less weird. 

So for the past few years I’ve been having just one or two friends over, a box of Sees’ Chocolates, and a five-hankie movie, as a sort of strange birthday antidote that has, for the most part, helped.

This year, everything was different.  The local Furry-Science-Fiction Convention was going to be held on my birthday.  I hadn’t been for several years and my mother-in-law offered to talk our son for the weekend so both my husband and I could go.  Many of my friends were going to be there– and best of all– they had a table in the dealers den that I could help staff.  Having a table to hang out behind and a reason to talk to people is a wonderful thing for an introvert like me.  I hate introducing myself to random strangers but love talking about the Tai-Pan Project and this way I could have a reason for being there.

We went and had a great time.

My actual birthday I was playing pinochle and other strange games with four good friends (including my husband) when the fire alarm went off and chased us into the parking lot.

Which brings me back to presents.  The-World’s-Greatest-Parent’s-in-Law had given me the gift of watching the grandson so I knew he was safe and loved while I went off and had fun in a way he won’t really grasp until he has children.  My parents sent me flowers from one of the nicest flower shops in Seattle. (I love getting flowers especially in the dark months).  And at the convention, as we were packing up our part of the dealers room, one of the folks who I know through the Project gave me a sweatshirt with one of his designs printed on it.  It’s a really nice sage green with a piratical mermaid hanging out on a rock.  It was a really neat piece of art and he gave it to me out of the blue.  

I was thrilled.  It made me feel warm and fuzzy.  I think it had much more impact than the giver may have known.  I wore it for the rest of the day and thought happy thoughts.

Spending that weekend with friends, and friends of friends, was wonderful.  If the  difference between heaven and hell is the company you keep then I was in heaven all weekend and was the best gift of all.

Presents can be love personified.  No matter how weird or awkward or wonderful or strange.  Even gifts of obligation can transform a relationship and give you something in common with your weird relative or something to talk about with your co-worker or an excuse to go to a white-elephant party and give more presents and get more presents.

Love and caring improve with time.

“Tests are gifts and great tests are great gifts.” Lady Cordelia Vorkosigan, “Barrayar” by Lois McMaster Bujold.