Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Weaving Friendship

I have a friend who’s fortunate enough to spend the winter months with her husband in Naples, Florida. Wait—that came out wrong. They live together all year, it’s just that they travel to the warm and sunny gulf coast of Florida to escape the relatively harsh winters we have here. You know, they’re called ‘Snowbirds’.

Anyway, because my friend is witty and clever, she refers to this sojourn as “Adult Winter Camp”. They rent a condo, and have made friends with many other couples who reside there. There is a clubhouse, and there are activities sufficient to keep anyone from even thinking of becoming bored.

When my friend posted on Facebook that she was at Adult Winter Camp, I asked her to make me a lanyard. That is what I think of as a good camp activity. I suppose I could have asked her to make me an ashtray, but I’m pretty certain that ashtrays are completely passe.

Ashtrays and lanyards are all I know about summer camp, and I couldn’t think of any correlated winter equivalents. So I stuck with the lanyard.

I remember trying to weave those doggone strips of plastic into a cohesive length of consistent proportions during a summer of playground ‘day camp’ at our local school. I believe I was about seven years old. I failed miserably. Starting the thing was tough, but making it smooth and even was even tougher. My red and white pieces were so discombobulated I was afraid that the outcome would be pink. I hated pink. I hated failing. No lanyard resulted.

Meanwhile, my brother made a fine lanyard. Was he nearly three years older than I? Yep, but that did not assuage my feelings of total inadequacy. If they’d been grading at the playground, they’d have given me a D-, just to keep me from having to repeat Lanyard 101. My brother? I’d say he’d have gotten an A. Okay, more like an A+. Not that I’m bitter.

So my friend returned from Naples a few days ago, just in time to come to the April meeting of our stellar book club, The Bookees. I was the host, and when the very tan and smiling woman in question arrived, she presented me with a lanyard! Blue and yellow, it is ten inches of sheer loveliness! I laughed so hard I almost cried—she took my joke and ran with it! Now I’ve got a cool gift from a sweet friend, and if they gave grades at Adult Winter Camp, she’d have gotten an A. Okay, an A+.

I was so touched by her thoughtfulness that I ran upstairs to get my copy of Billy Collins’ “The Trouble With Poetry”. I read his amazing and insightful poem “The Lanyard” to the assembled Bookees before we began our discussion of our featured book. I maintain that this simple work is the single best summation of the mother/child relationship in all of literature. Yes, all. Read it here, you won’t be sorry. Billy Collins is a former poet-laureate of the United States, and I recommend all of his books. Yes, all. Again.

Official thanks to my friend, the lanyard-maker. Next month the Bookees meet at her house. I’m making her an ashtray.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


It’s that time of year again? --already? No, I’m not talking about the daffodils blooming and the pollen counts and the school board elections. It’s time for the announcement from those fabulous people who brought us the Oxford English Dictionary! Yippee, new words added to the book that the experts credit with keeping us civilized. Wait—did I go too far? Yeah, well at least the OED, as the grown-ups call it, is considered the ultimate source authority on the English lexicon.

Now, please don’t make the unconscionable error of confusing the OED with the ODE, the Oxford Dictionary of English. The ODE people started their publication in 1998 to spell out, if you will (and you know you will), how language is used in everyday life. Last year their additions included such words as chillax and bromance.

Some of the more highly publicized additions to the OED for 2011 are not really even words, per se, but initialisms. I refer to LOL, OMG and FYI. You are reading a blog, so I will not insult your intelligence by spelling those out for you, so to speak. They join other initialisms such as IMHO, TMI and BFF, all of which were added in recent years. This year, the acronym wag was also added, and since I didn’t know what that meant, please don’t be offended by my mentioning that it stands for women and girlfriends. Wow. How did we get along without that as an official word till now?


All of which reminds me of some lunchroom talk a coworker shared with me many years ago. We were federal employees on the Presidio in San Francisco, and our lives were filled—FILLED, I tell you—with initialisms, acronyms and total alphabet soup. We worked under a CO (Commanding Officer), wrote DFs (Disposition Forms) on the R&D (Research and Development) or QA (Quality Assurance) within the DOD (Department of Defense.) We worried about RIFs (Reductions in Force), or what we now call downsizing. Do you see what I mean?

One day over lunch, my supervisor was telling some of us that he had been unloading all his job stress on his wife the night before—telling her about a meeting with the CO about R&D, an AFSCME meeting he had attended, and the DFs he’d written for the DOD. He was exhausted. Then he asked his wife about her day. “Well,” she said, “I used the MOP on the kitchen floor, took the KIDS to school, went to the A&P for FOOD, and took an NAP after lunch!” What a woman! She became our personal hero.