What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

30 April 2012

Z is for Zenzizenzizenzic

Dear Readers, thanks for joining me for the A to Z Challenge. I'll be back to my regular blogging nonsense tomorrow. (Yes, I know that's not much different than during A to Z. Pffft.) Today, my dear husband Chadwick takes us out with a mathematical bang and a real word that has not one, but six Z's in it. He's always been a bit of an overachiever.

Remember when you were a child learning to spell words like M-i-ss-i-ss-i-pp-i? Me too. Did you ever have to learn Zen-zi-zen-zi-zen-zic? I didn't. Probably because it is obsolete. So, why am I writing about it?

This is the best I could
do. Hey, it's math-
related! And related to
my favourite math show,
Square One. Source.
When I finally started my New Year's Resolution (you know, in April), I saw that I had exactly 256 days to work on it. Guess what? Yep, 256 is zenzizenzizenzic. In fact, it is the largest three-digit number that has that designation. "Cool," I thought.

Cool? I am a square.

Square. That is what zenzic means. Zenzizenzizenzic is the square of a square of a square, or something to the 8th power. "I like power." "I need power to work on my New Year's Resolution." Yeah, I know, you were thinking it too.

What was my New Year's Resolution? Get into shape, of course. Sadly, I started with 256 days left, but I weighed more than that in pounds. But, I worked toward zenzic and made it. That was four days. I am currently working toward zenzizenzic, or sixteen days. I'm not doing as good as I was the first four days, because apparently the power is in the numbers, not my body. But that is another story.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “This does not deserve an A.” You are right. It deserves a Z.

28 April 2012

Y is for Yvonne

This is my last A to Z post, because Chad begged and pleaded to write the Z post, and because I try to be a good wife (and because I'm up to my eyeballs in finals), I agreed at something just under the speed of light. It's been fun doing the name series! And don't worry; I have a list of names that I didn't get to mention that I'm going to work my way through before I'm "done" done.

French feminine form of Yvon (that will not impress my friend Yvonne, who is from a non-French-speaking part of Canada and isn't too wild about the eastern side of the country), which comes from Yves, which comes from Ivo, which means 'yew'. Wow, that was a long trip! Got all the way up to #37 in the U.S. in 1977, but is not in the top 1000 today.

Famous Yvonnes: I had to look long and hard to find ones I've heard of! Yvonne Craig, ballet dancer and actress who played Batgirl on the original Batman series; Yvonne De Carlo, actress who was in The Ten Commandments and The Munsters, among other things.

Fictional Yvonnes: None that I can think of. 

My Yvonnes: One of my dearest friends is named Yvonne. She's Canadian, from Saskatoon, and is a lovely lovely person. We have a lot in common, for all our life differences. She once said that she never expected to meet an American who thinks so much like her on so many things, which made me giggle, because it never occurred to me that Americans and Canadians were that different. Of course, it helps that I'm an American from the north who spent a couple of years in Scotland, and that we met in Texas, where this northern girl was almost guaranteed to have more things in common with a Canadian than with these strange Texans. So, here's how the conversation went the day we met, not long after I started working in the same office as her:
Yvonne: Hello, I'm Yvonne.
Me: I'm Susan.
Yvonne: It's nice to meet you.
Me: Nice to meet you, too. Where are you from? (Yes, her Canadian accent is pretty obvious, even after she's lived in Texas for 20 years, so I just skipped over any niceties like the ill-mannered clodhopper that I am.)
Yvonne: Canada.
Me: Yes, I can tell, but where in Canada?
Yvonne keeps telling me I should move to
Saskatoon. I'm sure she's correct, except it
still gets cold in Canada, right? Source.
Yvonne: Saskatoon. (I think this was a test.)
Me: Oh, wow! I have a friend from Regina! (Another city in Saskatchewan.)
And that was when Yvonne's head nearly exploded from her combined delight and revulsion: delight that this American girl not only knew that Saskatchewan existed, but was also somewhat conversant in things Canadian, and revulsion at the mention of the city of Regina, which she doesn't like at all. It was all of ten seconds before we were friends and were swapping the sort of life details that one usually saves for after a few months' worth of friendship.

Do you know any Yvonnes? Are you inclined to skip straight to bad manners in moments of great excitement? Are you familiar with Saskatchewan (this question not intended for Canadians)?


27 April 2012

X is for X

Today's guest blogger woke me up last night when he had to turn the light on after I was already in bed! Okay, just kidding, I wasn't really asleep yet. More to the point, today's guest blogger has gone out of his way to make this very stressful week a little less stressful and a little more manageable for me. Yep, in case you hadn't guessed, it's my husband Chadwick, here for your reading enjoyment!

Fear of the unknown is one of our most basic survival instincts. X represents an independent or unknown variable, and we don't like independent or unknown variables, even though we live with more of them than we can possibly count. Maybe the fear of the unknown is part of the reason why some people have anxiety at the mere thought of an algebra exam. But something a lot less abstract is at play here.

We are all independent variables and unknown variables to each other. We build trust and form groups for a shared sense of knowing, and knowing gives a sense of safety, which is one of our most basic needs. Yet, we really can't know everything about an other. This leads to a range of reactions to the other. We view the world from inside-out and we evaluate the world based on ourselves. So, what is like us is less strange to us than what is different from us. The more different another is, the more strange and foreign they are to us.

If someone reacts to foreign people or ideas with fear, they are xenophobic and these xenophobes can be anything from paralyzed to aggressive in their xenophobia. The opposite reaction is attraction and these people are xenophilic. Xenophiles can be anything from pleasant to obsessive in their xenophilia. These two reactions form a continuum, which defines a major motivator in all of human life.

I know it will horrify some of you to learn that life is just one big algebra exam. Finding the value of X is our most basic survival instinct. This is why the most basic fear is fear of the unknown and the most basic attraction is attraction to the unknown. If we are too afraid of the other, we will avoid them completely. If we are too attracted to the other, then we may soon be like them. Either way, this is how we attempt to survive as the Unknown Variable.

26 April 2012

W is for Wendy

Windy, Wendi, Wendy. Not quite as meteorological as your name suggests, usually (although I'd love it if we had a local weatherperson called Wendy. Or Sunny. Or Rainy. Never mind.), but still delightful, as far as I know.

Behind the Name says it better than I, once again: "In the case of the character from J. M. Barrie's play Peter Pan (1904), it was created from the nickname 'fwendy', given to the author by a young friend. However, the name was used prior to the play (rarely), in which case it could be related to the Welsh name GWENDOLEN and other names beginning with the element 'gwen', meaning 'white, fair, blessed'." So there you go. Thanks, J. M. Barrie. Currently #585 for girls in the U.S.; peaked in popularity in 1970, when it got to #28.

I don't know who the
actress is playing Wendy,
alas, but that's Cathy Rigby
as Peter. Source.
Famous Wendys: Wendy Thomas, of the restaurant Wendy's; Baby Name Wizard says her given name isn't Wendy, but it seems to be a bit late in the day to do anything about that now. Wendy Wilson, of the group Wilson Phillips.

Fictional Wendys: Wendy Moira Angela Darling (Peter Pan), Wendy the Good Little Witch (Casper the Friendly Ghost)

My Wendys: I feel like I've had about a dozen classmates called Wendy (or Wendi) across my educational years, but the one I'm in contact most lately is my friend Wendy in Lubbock. She was one of the first people Chad & I met when we started going to church at South Plains, and later on we were running buddies (although she is way faster than I am) in the WTRC. Now I mostly harass her on Facebook, just like I do to everyone else I know. I don't have any characters called Wendy in my current WIP, which I'm kind of confused about, because I thought I did have at least one.

Are you a Wendy? Do you eat at Wendy's (due to their prevalence on UT campus, that's all I've been eating this week. Ugh!)? Do you love Peter Pan?

25 April 2012

V is for Victoria

Thanks to Her Majesty and her celebrated era, you can find Victoria as a place-name pretty much everywhere. There's an entire Wikipedia page devoted to places named after Queen Victoria. (We have two in Austin: Victoria Drive and Victoria Court.) And of course, let's not forget her many appearances on Doctor Who.

Feminine form of "victorious", or possibly coming straight from the Latin word of the same spelling. Had a sudden rise in popularity in Commonwealth countries in the 19th century-- what a surprise!-- and remains fairly popular worldwide today: #32 in the U.S., #7 in Moscow, #11 in Ukraine, #13 in Buenos Aires and #16 in Ontario. It's not as popular in Britain, probably because it's still (I think?) considered to be an old woman's name. (Elizabeth and Margaret have suffered the same fate. That's what happens when a bunch of people name their children after royalty and then they all grow up.) 

Seriously. Don't mess with
Famous Victorias: Queen Victoria (seriously, read the article). She may not have originated Girl Power-- that was probably Elizabeth I-- but by gum, she extended it. Also, she was born in May, which is of course the very best month to be born in. What an amazing woman. Also: Victoria Woodhull (suffragist and first woman to run for the U.S. Presidency), Tori Spelling, Victoria Beckham, Crown Princess Victoria (Sweden), and there are a few young actresses called Victoria in the Harry Potter films.

Fictional Victorias: Victoria North (The Secret Language, written by Ursula Nordstrum and possibly the beginning of my love for school stories when I read it in the '80s), Victor/Victoria (a play that Julie Andrews starred in), Victoire Weasley (Harry Potter)

My Victorias: I have an aunt called Vicki, who is not named Victoria, but when I first learned the name Victoria I thought it must be Vicki's proper name. (This was before I learned of my family's habit of handing out short names as given names.) I know a handful of Victorias, but there aren't any who I talk to on a regular basis. I do not have any characters called Victoria... yet.

Are you a Victoria? Do you live in Victoria? On Victoria Street? 


24 April 2012

U is for Ursula

Poor Ursula. It's a name beloved for villains (or at least unpleasant people), and a good stock name for bloggers who weren't sure what else to do with the letter 'U'.

Means 'little bear', from the word Ursa, which you've probably heard if you've ever had a look at the stars in the northern hemisphere: Ursa Major and Minor are the Big and Little Dipper. (Incidentally, April is the best month for looking at the Dippers. Get out there tonight! Take the kids!) The name got as high as the 477th most popular in the U.S. in 1972.

Famous Ursulas: Saint Ursula (4th century), Ursula Nordstrom (author of The Secret Language, one of the first school stories I ever read), and Ursula Andress, a Swiss actress who has played a Bond girl. I hope she was better than Denise Richards, who I like in other things but who was absolutely lifeless as Christmas Jones. (Mind you, since I'm someone who only has a passing acquaintance with any pop culture that isn't written down, my critiques are probably not something you should put much stock in.)

Who wouldn't want to see more of
Lisa Kudrow? Source.
Fictional Ursulas: Ursula Buffay (Mad About You, Friends), Ursula (Much Ado About Nothing), Ursula the Sea Witch (The Little Mermaid), Ursula Flint Black (Harry Potter, seen on the tapestry in the Order of the Phoenix film)

My Ursulas: Not a one! It's not really a name I like much, and I only chose it for this series because of Ursula Buffay being Phoebe's twin sister on Friends. Also worth mentioning at this juncture (why not?): There's at least one crossover, I think when Paul and Jamie visit Central Perk on Friends, when they meet Phoebe and think she's Ursula. It's possible that Phoebe also crossed over to Mad About You, with the same result. I can't confirm this on IMDb, but I do remember at least one scene like this. And now I just want to watch Mad About You and Friends reruns until my brains rot and drip out my ear. Too bad I have homework to do.

Do you know any Ursulas? Are you a fan of Mad About You or Friends? (If not, I can't imagine how you've managed to read my blog for this long and stay sane.)

Behind the Name
Baby Name Wizard
Harry Potter Wiki

23 April 2012

T is for Theatre

Today's guest blogger is my cousin Deborah. As kids, we rarely saw one another, due to that whole living-in-different-states thing. Now... well, we still rarely see each other in person, but thanks to the miracles of Facebook, Twitter, and email, we at least communicate! Today, she tells us about her-- and her daughter's-- recent experiences with the theatre.

I am a wife, mom, student, Sunday school teacher, and Girl Scout leader.  But for the past two years, I have donned another title for Edna Hill Middle School in Brentwood, California (the one in Northern California, not the OJ one): costume lead. I have never felt like I could do anything well, but when my oldest got into theater in sixth grade, I started to help backstage and making costumes. The next fall, the lady who made them before needed a break. The director asked me if I would organize the costumes for Beauty and the Beast. I agreed and a hidden talent emerged.

These costumes really are amazing, Deborah!
For the first play we rented most of the costumes, and made a few. The next play, we made about half the costumes from scratch, and used leftover inventory from other shows for the rest. For the last show I did (which ended its run late Saturday night), we had no inventory for anyone but the narrators-- 5 out of 65 kids-- and had to make the rest. I can’t tell you the pride that comes from handing a child a costume and seeing their face light up in wonder.

I can’t talk about theater without talking about my shining star, Abigail (my oldest daughter). In sixth grade she was a shy little girl who couldn’t talk to adults. She had trouble auditioning one on one with Mr. Schneider. She got bit parts the first few years: a goblin in Bah Humbug, a townsperson/Farmer from American Gothic in Music Man, the bookseller/Beast double for Beauty and the Beast, and Annette (a made up part—one of Cha-Cha's friends) in Grease. Her eighth grade year she really got the chance to shine as the Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz, and Sultana in Aladdin. She has really come out of her shell and blossomed as a performer and young woman. She has made lifelong friends that share the same interests, and found her dream: She wants to be either an actress or a drama teacher so she can help others realize their potential. I am so immensely proud of her.

Theater has been so kind to our family, letting us do what we love-- me designing and making beautiful costumes, and her performing. I can’t wait for another year when Anny (my younger daughter) gets to sixth grade and gets her chance to shine. And neither can she.

Who knew my daughter finding her dream would help me find mine-- designing costumes for theater groups. I have offers from a few paid groups for a few costumes. Maybe this will be my calling.

21 April 2012

S is for Sybil

At last, the day has come! I've mentioned my MC enough times across the A to Z Challenge, and so here she is: Sybil Alexandria McKeeman, otherwise known as Sybs.

The Behind the Name entry is great, so I'll just quote it for you (yes, I'm getting really lazy with my paraphrasing lately): "From Greek Σιβυλλα (Sibylla), meaning "prophetess, sibyl". In Greek and Roman legend the sibyls were ten female prophets who practiced at different holy sites in the ancient world. In later Christian theology, the sibyls were thought to have divine knowledge and were revered in much the same way as the Old Testament prophets. Because of this, the name came into general use in the Christian world during the Middle Ages. The Normans brought it to England, where it was spelled both Sibyl and Sybil. It became rare after the Protestant Reformation, but it was revived in the 19th century, perhaps helped by Benjamin Disraeli's novel Sybil (1845)." Unfortunately, I haven't pulled any Sybil-ish characteristics into my MC's life, but maybe I'll start. It appears you can spell "Sybil" pretty much any way that gets all the sounds in the right order: Sibyl, Cybill, Sibil, etc. Way back in 1919, Sybil was the #375 most popular name for girls in the U.S. It fell out of the top 1000 altogether in 1930 and has never gone back.

I think this is about what
my MC Sybil looks like.
Famous Sybils: Cybill Shepherd, Lady Sybil Grant (writer/artist), Sybil Dorsett (the woman the movie Sybil is based on)

Fictional Sybils: Sybil Russell (Chalet School series), Sybil Trelawney (Harry Potter), Sybil Fawlty (Fawlty Towers), Lady Sybil Crawley (Downton Abbey)

My Sybils: Just my main character. She's about the only character who is correctly teenaged (except she may have too much grown-up wit) in my WIP. And that's because, since we can read her thoughts, we get all her angst and not-fairs and whatever else. In other words, this project needs some serious rewriting, because I'm doing a lot of telling instead of showing. But hey, it's a first draft. That's what first drafts are for, yes?

Are you a Sybil? Do you know a Sybil? Any Chalet fans in the crowd?

Behind the Name
Baby Name Wizard

20 April 2012

R is for Ryan

So I put off writing this post last night, because I was tired of staring at my computer. And I'm glad I did, because this is a completely different topic than the one I had planned.

Nothing light-hearted or fluffy here today, I'm afraid, because someone I know is hurting. This Ryan is someone I know through the AIM program. I don't know him very well-- I was one of the group leaders when he was a student, but he wasn't in my group. I don't even remember where he ended up going at the end of his training... but I imagine he doesn't remember me that well, either, so it all evens out.

Anyway, I'm bringing attention to Ryan today because he recently got the worst possible news. In his own words:
Three to six months. Medically speaking this is what the doctor’s giving me to live. The three month mark is what she gives me if my new treatment doesn’t work. Actually, let me clarify a bit: three to six months are not actually my life expectancy exactly, it’s more that within three to six months we can assume that my tumor will grow in extensive ways leading to major paralysis and eventual death. 
Click anywhere in the text to go to his blog and read more. And once again, my fabulous readers, I ask that you send Ryan and his family a few extra prayers and good vibes.

19 April 2012

Breaking News for Bicycles

Ladies and gents, I'm interrupting your regularly scheduled A-Z-ing for a special report!

That was fun to type. :) So, BikeTexas, the non-profit advocacy group where I currently intern, has a special promotion going on Groupon. Every $10 donation through Groupon equals a set of lights that BikeTexas can give to someone who needs them. (Seriously, bike lights are kind of expensive if you're on a tight budget. Plenty of low-income people don't bother with them, which is dangerous.) So if you're looking for a fun place to spend a charitable donation, this may be the one.

Bicycles inside the BikeTexas office. Source: BikeTexas.
Even better? Groupon doesn't take their usual cut on these deals (called Groupon Grassroots), so every ha'penny of your $10 donation goes to BikeTexas. Yipee! (If you choose not to pay in ha'pennies, your donation will still go 100% to BikeTexas.)

Skip on over to Groupon now! And be sure to drop back by Cheekyness tomorrow to find out what happens with the letter 'R'.

Q is for Quentin

I don't think I known anyone named Quentin. Quincy, yes; Quinn, possibly, but no Quentins. And for some reason, I desperately want to spell it "Quinton" all of a sudden. The end result is the same, I suppose.

From the Latin name Quintinus. Traditionally, it's the name given to the fifth born. Currently the 396th most popular name for boys (although I think it would make a nice girl's name, too) in the U.S., and had its peak in popularity in 1919, when it was 220th.

Quentin Roosevelt in his WWI
plane. Source.
Famous Quentins: Quentin Tarantino, Quentin Keynes (British explorer). There are a bunch of others on Wikipedia that I've never heard of, but I suppose other people have heard of them. Also? Teddy Roosevelt's youngest son was named Quentin, and he died in WWI. Not at all coincidentally, the name went from not even in the top 1000 in 1915 to #220 in 1919.

Fictional Quentins: Quentin Kirrin (Enid Blyton's The Famous Five series), Quentin Travers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

My Quentins: I have one. He's the only Q-character I have, which is why he's here today. He's in Emilie's class, so he may get some air time later on.

Do you know a Quentin? Have you heard of any of the famous ones?

Behind the Name
Baby Name Wizard

18 April 2012

P is for Peace

Today's guest blogger introduces herself, tells how we met, about her family... she's left me nothing to do but say, take it away, Tricia! Oh, and if you're looking for an apartment to rent in Lubbock, she's your gal.

Hi, I am Tricia.  I have known Su for many years now, honestly I’m not sure exactly how many.  I met her while she was attending SPCoC and I believe the first encounter was during Bible Bowl and we were doing a skit together in which we were vendors selling popcorn and snacks at a sporting event of some kind.  If you know me at all, you will know that “Peace” is something that is pretty foreign to me but something I long for every single day.  I am the wife of a wonderful man, Rich of 11 years, I have two seniors in high school this year, both are now 18 (yes, previous marriage – Gabby is Rich’s and Tanner is mine) and then I have boy/girl twin 6 year olds in Kindergarten.  For money to help in supporting these wonderful children of ours, I own and operate five apartment communities in the Lubbock area.

Have you taken a moment recently to enjoy peace?  I mean really find and enjoy peace.  Life gets so busy and it never seems to stop, no matter how hard we try to make it slow down or to not take on more.  True peace is hard to come by for me lately.

I know sometimes when I am driving, I will turn off the radio and enjoy the quiet.  However, the peace that I am enjoying isn’t really peace, is it? I am still thinking about where I am going, what I need to do, how to drive the car, how to avoid the crazy people driving around me, what needs to be done tonight, what needs to be done tomorrow, what I need to do for my kids, what I need to do for my husband, what…  The list goes on and on.  I know that I am far from unique in this experience. 
I encourage you to take a moment and find peace-- true peace-- for a few minutes every single day. 

“If you want peace, stop fighting. If you want peace of mind, stop fighting with your thoughts.” – Peter McWilliams
Here are a few things that I find myself trying to do to help myself find peace on a regular basis:

Find the “Off” switch – turn it all off – turn the TV off, turn the phone off, turn the music off.  Take a few minutes each day and just turn everything off, sit in silence and enjoy the peace.  I personally find myself automatically talking to God during this time.  Isn’t it comforting to know that even when you are alone and everything is off and away from you - God is here.  He is wrapping his arms around us to show us that above all else, He is.

Find Happiness in the Little Things – The more time I take to appreciate things that really don’t matter to anyone else but me, the more I find myself at peace with situations that surround me.  I have found that if I really take the time to look and see how perfectly placed life is, I am astounded how perfect God is.  It’s all about his timing, his will.  The sooner we accept this and notice this, the more at peace we will be. 

Obtain the Obtainable – I am preaching to myself on this one.  I have set goals for myself and sometimes I have found that my goal is clearly out of reach.  I know that personally accepting the fact sooner than later will only benefit me in the long run.  I hate constantly trying to figure out what I need to do differently to make it happen, figuring out what I did wrong to keep it from happening, etc.  Change your goal, find another place to focus that will give you that inner peace.

Don’t procrastinate – When I wait until the last minute to do things, I find myself stressed to the max because 10 other things come up that have to be completed today as well.  Take a moment to complete things as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Say NO!  -  This is the hardest thing for me.  I hate to say No, I have this thing inside me that feels like if I say no to something, I will be letting someone down.  I think to myself: if I don’t do this, who will?  The truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter.  If you are overbooked and there isn’t time for you to do these things, it doesn’t matter who will do it, you have to accept that it can’t be you.  I have learned that by me never saying no, my husband pays, my children pay, my job pays, my spiritual life pays…  Who is winning in this situation?

Hopefully, these ideas will help you as they have helped me and I will pray that you too can find peace every single day of your life. 
First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others”

17 April 2012

O is for Onomatopoeia

Sparquay's first guest post in this series was such a success, he's back for round two with the letter O.

            Today I get to talk about that curious little oval in our alphabet which is only differentiated from the number zero in typography by being a slightly fatter oval. It unnerves me that there are two distinct characters where are not dissimilar enough from each other, especially when entering in those Captcha codes that test whether or not you’re a real human. I think zero should reinstate the slash-through that distinguished its character as a number rather than a letter.
            But back to the rotund letter. Do you think it has issues with its obese image? Or has it bravely taken on the stance of big, bold, and beautiful? I see ‘O’ as a very large man who is wide as he is tall (but slightly below average height), with a bowler hat, black suit with tails, a monocle, and complete with a prominent mustache hung underneath his nose. He either listens to opera, or is a supreme tenor in the opera. Whatever character it has taken as you personally anthropomorphize it, it stands as a prominent vowel, making it’s presence known throughout our vocabulary.*

I don't know where Sparquay is
finding these images, but they're
getting a bit creepy.
            There are some great words that start with ‘O’: Ominous, Orchestra, Ostrich, Ocean. You begin to get the feeling that ‘O’ got all the great refined words, which all the more reinforces the image I described earlier.

            Orchids are a favorite flower of mine (please, don’t think it odd that someone of the male gender has a favorite flower). Unlike most flowers that have several lines of symmetry, I enjoy the beauty of the orchid with just one vertical line of symmetry. Irises are another one of my favorite flowers, but that doesn’t begin with ‘O’.

            Georgia O’Keefe has always been among my favorite painters. Her style is unlike any other with such simple and detailed subjects that become striking to the eye. Flowers, skulls, and desert backgrounds are the prominent images in her most popular paintings. She captures the beauty in what others would have passed off as boring or morbid. Fine cracks with the bleached bones and soft complete gradients throughout the petals of a flower make her paintings appreciable from a distance and, equally, up close.

            And finally, onomatopoeia is a fun word to say and spell. With all those vowels coming together at the end... it must make ‘U’ jealous.**
*I was going to attempt to count how many times I used ‘O’ in this paragraph, but my short attention span kicked in and decided there were better things to do... like continue writing this blog post in time for CheekySu’s deadline.

**And if you haven’t picked up on it yet... I’m hopelessly random.

16 April 2012

N is for Nora

So, Nora. The first Nora I remember knowing about is the female lead in Pete's Dragon, and I've always loved that Nora, because she had all the best lines and also all the best songs. We sang "Candle on the Water" in choir my senior year, and I thought it was brilliant. Still do, in fact.

Possibly my favourite moment
in the movie. Source
Could be from the Arabic word 'noor', meaning 'light', or a shortened form of 'Honora'. Peaked in popularity in the U.S. in 1880, when it was #55. However, it's currently #3 in Norway, so that's something!

Famous Noras: Nora Roberts, Nora Ephron, Norah Jones.

Fictional Noras: Nora (Pete's Dragon), Nora (A Doll's House), Norah Silverberg (Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist), Nora Baker (Cheaper by the Dozen, 2003 film version)

My Noras: Just one, that I know of: a younger sister of a former roommate. She and I share our love for... actually, I can't think of any TV shows we don't mutually gush over. Funnest Nora ever. Also, I have a character called Nora, who is in the same grade as the MC's older brother. So far, we've seen her a couple of times, and that's it.

Any Noras in the crowd?

Behind the Name
Baby Name Wizard

14 April 2012

M is for Madness

Today's guest blogger introduces herself, so I'll kick it off by saying: I'm very delighted to have her here today. I've known of her for a lot longer than she remembers knowing me, because she & Amanda have been friends for a long time and there are some things that having 13 extra years' worth of memory will do for you. *wink* Anyway, it's been a joy to get to know the adult Paula and think of her as an extra baby cousin!

First, a quick introduction. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Paula, and I am one of Baby Cousin's (or Amanda, as I know her) friends. Su and I met officially through a string of events leading up to and culminating at Amanda and I’s high school graduation. Currently, I am a 20-year-old English Education major from Anderson University. And, since my letter is M, I’m choosing the word madness to go along with it. After all, finals are in a week and a half.

“Have I gone mad?” The Hatter looks up at Alice with pure terror in his piercing eyes. Carefully, Alice cups his face and nods.

“I’m afraid so.” She started. “But, all of best are completely bonkers.”

The Mad Hatter is one of the many characters out in pop culture closely associated with “madness.” Follow that by some criminals and some celebrities, and the true definition has gone completely out the window. My definition, however, is one from a college student’s perspective. Think about it, we’re about a week and a half before finals. For some, this is the week that determines if whether or not you’re going to graduate on Saturday or not. For others, however, it’s just that sigh of relief signaling three months of one of the following things:

  • A carefree, relaxed summer.
  • A summer job with the majority of the time being filled with relaxation. Or, the latter: 
  • Summer? What is this “summer” you speak of? 

Me? Well, I think I can safely say that I am somewhere in the middle of it all. I have one summer class, I am currently on the hunt for a summer job, and this summer isn't going to be NEARLY as packed as last summer was. See, last summer, I got married.

Wait? You’re twenty years old and you've been married for almost a year already? Yup. Brian, my husband, and I met in high school. After a trip to Afghanistan [Ed.- Brian serves in the U.S. Army. Send him all the good vibes and/or prayers you can spare. -Su], we didn't see the point of waiting anymore. Ergo, we got married. Moving on.
-End Pause-

The photos that came up when I searched for
"madness" were a bit worrying. So I decided to go with
summery/relaxing instead. Source.
So, since this summer is going to be a LOT less hectic than last summer was, I’m not too sure what I am going to do with myself. Sitting here, thinking about it, I still can’t quite tell you what I am going to do. But, that’s not the point. The point is this: Take some time this summer to put the madness aside and relax. This world is crazy enough as it is, you don’t need to give it another reason to be so. Take a deep breath, read a book or the Bible. I would recommend some tea, as it is very calming to me. (Chai is my favorite, but it varies.) Either way, take a break from the madness that is this world, and focus on your needs. Sounds like some challenge, eh? Think you can do it? Don’t worry, we’re all going to stumble, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a quiet moment or two.

13 April 2012

L is for Luke

I'm trying to remember if I went to school or church with a Luke growing up... nope, can't think of any! We go to church with a Luke now, and a couple of our friends have young Lukes, some of whom we've taught in Sunday School. Plus, there's that whole Biblical thing.

From a Greek word meaning "from Luciana", which is a region in Italy, or possibly from the Latin word lux, meaning "light". Currently the 41st most popular name for boys in the U.S., which is as high as it's ever been (it was also 41st in 2004-2005).

Famous Lukes: Saint Luke, Luke Perry, Luke Wilson

Fictional Lukes: Cool Hand Luke, Luke Duke (Dukes of Hazzard), Luke Spencer (General Hospital), Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation), and there seems to be one other really important one I'm forgetting...

My Lukes: So there's a Luke in my WIP. He's a jerk. My main character goes on a raging, screaming, swearing fit at him at one point. Right now, he's such a stereotype of a jerky teenage boy that I might as well have called Central Casting, but the plan is to make him less plastic, more believable. Eventually.

Are you a Luke? Do you know a Luke? Are you using the Force to read this blog post?

Baby Name Wizard
Behind the Name

12 April 2012

K is for Knife?

Another guest blogger, because I'm writing a 20-page paper this week and am hysterically grateful to the people who agreed to tag in for me. Today's post is brought to you by Sparquay, a fellow member of our group who went to Scotland in 1998. He met his wife while we were over there, and the two of them now live in England with their adorable son. Sparquay occasionally blogs, but mostly just says amusing things on Facebook.

I was given K. If you read the title and are drawn by the topic of sharp things, I’m sorry... but you will be disappointed. This is an attempt by someone who has no linguistics education to post something linguistically related on someone’s blog who is about to receive a bachelor’s degree with a minor in linguisticky things. (Oh, and I’m apt to make up my own words [and I love to make parenthetical statements, too*.])

Instead of shiny sharp subjects, I’d like to talk about the letter ‘K’. It really is an odd letter when you think about it.

C vs. K
If the alphabet were a place of employment, and I were in charge of eliminating a few of the letters (to make a more economical keyboard, dictionary, etc), ‘K’ would definitely have a lot to prove to keep its job, when considering its performance in the workplace. We’ve already got ‘C’ and it seems to be doing quite well. It even picks up some of ‘S’s tasks. ‘K’ seems to shadow ‘C’ around. It’s slacking.

We aren't really sure what's happening
in this pic, although it appears to be
Adam and Eve getting kozy with a K.
I dabble in a bit of graphic design. ‘K’ redeems itself in the area of beauty. It’s one of the areas of typography where an artist can really strut their skills with this fun letter.

K is Kool
I’m not sure how ‘K’ sneaks into other words where it doesn’t belong, though. How did it become prominent in replacing the letter ‘C’? Take for example the place that serves lovely warm donuts... Krispy Kremes. What was the motivation of this company to replace ‘C’ with ‘K’... twice? Are ‘K’s really that much more exciting?
We could also gate crash CheekySu’s theme of names: Katherine, Karl, Kris... it seems you just replace ‘C’ for a ‘K’ and you get a unique name that will have everyone questioning the spelling, because of unconventional parents.

Silent K
How does ‘K’, which seems to stick both arms out for attention like a ADD kid, become silent? Knight, knowledge, knock... I tried Googling™ the term “Silent K”, and only came up with the answer that it comes from some old English which carried over from borrowed Germanic words that we never gave back and kept the pointless ‘K’. Apparently, it was originally pronounced as a voiceless velar plosive (not sure how you achieve such a oral sound), but was dropped like vowels in a teenage text message. You’re all lazy for not pronouncing the ‘K’, young people born after the 1400s with no respect for preserving the beauty of language.

In Konklusion
I’d like to hear what you have to say about ‘K’ in the Komments.
*- and a footnote just for fun.

11 April 2012

J is for Jill

I first got interested in Indiana's sport (basketball, if you haven't seen Hoosiers recently) when I was in primary school. I lived in a small town, so just like in the movie, that's what we did on Friday nights: Go watch high school basketball. At that time, two of the high school cheerleaders were named Jill, and that's when I learned the name. I know that it's a bit creepy that I remember this (my memory is ridiculous: tiny details from long ago, yes; the massively important thing I have to do today, no idea), but I also remember the names of most of the girls' basketball team from that era, too. Hero worship started early for me.

This name took a long road to get to the Jill we know and love today: First it was Julius, as in Caesar, which might be from the Greek god Jupiter or might be from a Greek word meaning "downy-bearded". (Poor Jill!) From there we get Julian, then Jillian, and finally Jill. Peaked in popularity in the U.S. in 1977, when it got all the way up to 41st (that explains there being so many around my school days). According to both my sources, not enough babies have been named Jill in the U.S. in the past 10 years to merit a spot in the top 1000 names.

Photos of The Old Vicarage Bed and Breakfast Somerset, Radstock
This photo of The Old Vicarage
Bed and Breakfast Somerset

is courtesy of TripAdvisor. 
Famous Jills: Jill Biden, Jill Craybas (tennis player), Jill Hennessy (actress)

Fictional Jills: Jill Pole (Chronicles of Narnia), Jill Taylor (Home Improvement), Jill (nursery rhyme)

My Jills: One of my former instructors at South Plains College is a Jill (although I dutifully called her Professor at the time, and didn't dream of calling her Jill until much later when I joined the West Texas Running Club and found out she was also a member). And--finally!--I have a character called Jill. She's not in my current WIP, because I'm writing a prequal to the book that Jill appears in. But I definitely like this character; she comes to the school late in her educational career, and has to find her niche in the already-established social order. Which she does, eventually, mostly by saying out loud what everyone else is thinking. She's fun to write.

Do you know any Jills? Do you ever wonder why it took two people to go get one pail of water? 


10 April 2012

I is for Ian

I have no clever Ian-related stories, except that my sister went to school with an Ian, and I said his name wrong pretty much from the first time I met him onwards. The only reason I remember him at all is because of the number of times people corrected the way that I said his name.

These people are all called Ian.
Some of them don't seem very excited
about it.
Scots Gaelic form of John (God is gracious), in use since the 19th century. 65th most popular name for boys in the U.S. in 2003.

Famous Ians: Sir Ian McKellan, Ian Holm, Ian Fleming

Fictional Ians: Ian Malcolm (Jurassic Park), Ian Miller (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Ian Howe (National Treasure)

My Ians: I have a character called Ian. So far, all he does is exist. I think he'll come into the story eventually, possibly as a love interest for Emilie.

Do you know any Ians? Did you pronounce it correctly on the first try?

Baby Name Wizard
Behind the Name

09 April 2012

H is for Henry

You know, when I started with this theme, I probably should have checked my list of characters more closely to see if I actually had enough names to keep it going for the entire alphabet. But, the idea came to me in the middle of the night when I was trying to fall asleep, so I didn't argue with the voice from the sky.

Uncle Henry. He should have had
more lines. Source.
Anyway. No H-characters for me. But, I was talking to someone on Twitter a few days ago about The Wizard of Oz, so... Henry it is.

English form of Heinrich, which means "home rule". Had the peak of its U.S. popularity in the 1880s, when it was #8 for boys.

Famous Henrys: Henry Ford, Henry James, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Kissinger, Henry Fonda

Fictional Henrys: Uncle Henry Gale (The Wizard of Oz), Henry Blake (M*A*S*H), Henry Higgins (My Fair Lady), Henry Alden (The Boxcar Children)

My Henrys: None that I know well, but Chad has some friends from college who have a little Henry. I've seen pics. He's a cutie.

Do you know any Henrys? Are you a Henry? Do you still cry at the the end of Henry Blake's final M*A*S*H episode, every time, even though you know how it ends? (That may just be me.)

Behind the Name
Baby Name Wizard

08 April 2012


One of the fun things of having not yet spent a full calendar year in a church that is not the denomination I grew up in (sheesh, this sentence is already complicated): They can still surprise me. I've no idea what Easter service is like at Red River, so I'm pretty excited.

But first: The past few weeks. Lent was surprisingly easy this year. Not that I kept it perfectly-- I had already crashed and burned on one of my chosen resolutions before noon on Ash Wednesday-- but I did, once again, become aware of how easy it is for me to get side-tracked in my Christian walk. These six weeks have been invaluable. This may have been the start of something.

Also during Lent: Rez Week. Short for Resurrection Week, it's a yearly celebration that brings together all the student ministries at UT for the purpose of sharing our faith and our burdens with one another. (It did not coincide with Holy Week, which really threw me off-- it was the week before Palm Sunday.) Every evening, we had a praise and worship time together, so I went on Monday thinking that it would last maybe an hour, hour and a half, tops. I loved the worship time (and learned a new song that's been in my head ever since). The speaker was uplifting. After the speaker, our instructions were to turn to the people near us and pray together. So I ended up praying with two girls who were total strangers, and it was a joy to hear them share their hearts. Also, as a side note, I was impressed-- when I was proper college age, I never, ever prayed aloud. That's been a major growth thing for me in my adult life. These two ladies are way ahead of me there. We finished up with some more worship (by which I mean singing, btw) and then split for the evening. I checked my phone: It had been nearly three hours. Oops. I didn't stay that long for the rest of the week, mostly because I don't want Chad to forget what I look like.

He isn't there. Source.
So, that brings us to today. Many Christians (including me, I suppose) consider Easter to be THE day on the Christian calendar. We celebrate the resurrection every Sunday, of course, but Easter is as close as we have to an anniversary. It feels special. And after having participated in Lent (I counted the other day-- this is my 22nd year of celebrating Lent), it becomes all the more poignant, because there's nothing I can give up that will bring me anywhere close to living just like Jesus. And I'm particularly thankful on this day that he took care of it, so I don't have to go around wailing at my own inadequacy.

A most blessed Easter to you.

07 April 2012

G is for Goat Cheese

Today's guest blogger is Jordan (also known as TARDIS girl), another fellow consultant at the Undergraduate Writing Center, co-founder of Frenzied Novelists, and all-around fun person. Jordan and I have been friends ever since we were at a random meeting in January of 2011. She saw me and said, "Hey, aren't we in class together?" I said, "Yeah. Is that a TARDIS on your backpack?" We really didn't have much choice about being friends after that. Jordan blogs at The Kitchen Klutz.

TARDIS girl, here, ladies and gentlemen. I have a confession. I am a goat cheese addict. Despite its high price, I buy about 8 oz every week and use it in a variety of dishes. Goat cheese has a multitude of uses. Eat it alone, in a quiche, in a pasta, on a salad -- it’s the perfect accompaniment to so many things. Here is an adapted version of a Giada de Laurentiis recipe, the recipe to which I owe my addiction and my unreasonable grocery bill.

Source: Slightlynorth on flickr.
Goat Cheese Toasts

3 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz goat cheese (Montchevre brand)
4 oz cream cheese
Parsley, thyme, and oregano to taste
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt to taste

Crostini or bagel crisps, about 36

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor. Spread over crostini and let your addiction begin.

Find more goat cheese-related recipes at The Kitchen Klutz.


06 April 2012

F is for Fiona

My idea with this series was that I could research the meaning behind the names of some of the characters in my WIP. You know what? I have Not One Character whose first name begins with F. So, today's post is inspired by something else: I hate the name Fiona.

There's a story here. When I lived in Scotland, I was in a sort of Big Sisters-type relationship with a young woman called Fiona. She hated me. I did the best I could, but at the end of the day, her hating me caused a lot of stress in my life, because I was 21 years old, wanted the whole world to like me, and didn't know how to handle such strong dislike. If I had done something horrible to her, then the hatred would have been understandable, but I had not. So, stress.

On top of that, around that time we got a new phone line, and when the nice woman on the other end asked my first initial, I said, "S, like Susan", except she heard "F". There must be quite a contingent of people in Scotland called Fuzan-- that's the only explanation I have for the misunderstanding. So, every time the phone bill came addressed to "F", I got a little more angsty, because it reminded me that someone who really had the initial "F" was causing me stress. It's the small things that make me the loony person that I am.

If you're called Fiona, I promise you don't need to skulk off. I don't automatically hate everyone called Fiona-- I do some ridiculous things, certainly, but I'm not that ridiculous. So, in an attempt to cure my irrational hatred of the name "Fiona", I did some research.

Fiona & Tommy in
Brigadoon. Source.
Feminine form of the Scottish name Fionn, meaning "fair-skinned". Currently ranked #257th for girls in the U.S.

Famous Fionas: Fiona Mackenzie (Scottish Gaelic singer), Fiona May (Olympic long jumper). Julia Roberts' middle name is Fiona.

Fictional Fionas: Fiona Fox (Sonic the Hedgehog), Fiona Glenanne (Burn Notice), Fiona McLaren (Brigadoon)

My Fionas: None! Eventually, the Fiona who hated me asserted her independence from our whatever it was and refused to talk to me ever again. I've not known another Fiona since, nor have I used the name in my writing.

How do you feel about the name Fiona? Do you have a burning desire to point out that I missed an obvious Fiona in my list? (I did it on purpose.)

Behind the Name
Baby Name Wizard
Parents Connect

05 April 2012

E is for Emilie

So, Emily and all its variants have been one of my favourite names since I was about 10. There was no way I was going to pass it up for the A to Z Challenge. I prefer it spelled with an 'ie' at the end instead of 'y'; hence the name of the post. However, Behind the Name tells me that strictly speaking, "Emilie" is a Scandinavian name that's pronounced as we in the U.S. would pronounce "Amelia." Fair enough.

Emily Prentiss, played by Paget Brewster.
Hands down, my favourite character on
any crime show (sorry, NCIS). Source.
The feminine form of Emil, which comes from a Latin word meaning "rival". Which strikes me as hysterical, because every Emily I know is a delightful person and not one of them has acted like she has a lot of enemies. Emily was the #1 girls name in the U.S. for 12 years in the '90s and '00s, and is still in the top 10. My preferred form of "Emilie" was never higher than 449th during the '00s. It was more popular in the 1880s, when it got up to 263rd.

Famous Emily/Emilies: Emilie Schindler (yep, that Schindler), Emilie Dionne (one of the Dionne quints), Emily Dickinson, Emily Brontë, Emily Post (I know there are lots more famous Emilys. I'm cutting it short in the interest of space.)

Fictional Emily/Emilies: Emily Prentiss (Criminal Minds), Emily Bartlett (Emily's Runaway Imagination)

My Emily/Emilies: Emilie, in my WIP, is the main character's best friend. She tends to get a lot of my best lines; I'm writing from a third person close POV with the main character, and since we see all her insecurity and angst, it works better to put the snark into Emilie's mouth. In real life: Despite knowing people named Emily my whole life, I don't seem to be in current communication with any of them. I do have a friend back home who has a wee Emily (not so wee any more, though!), but that's the only one I can think of. Clearly, I've scared them all off.

Are you an Emily/Emilie? Do you know any?

Behind the Name
Baby Name Wizard

04 April 2012

D is for Denise

Today's the day when I search the origins of my other sibling's name. Also, do you see how they're both at the front of the alphabet and I'm at the back? It's like my parents were trying to make my life dismal (our last name is also, unfortunately, at the rear of the alphabet. And then I went and married a guy whose name is even closer to the back. I learned nothing from 23 years of being last.)

My Denise. I'm kind of slouched, but
even so, you can see how much
taller than me she is. :(
Yeah. So, my sister was named, or so I'm told, for a family friend and one of my favourite babysitters (I don't actually remember the namesake. I think she moved away or something). It's possible I had a hand in choosing my sister's name. I certainly got to choose her middle name, which for the sake of keeping myself alive for a few more years, I shall not reveal. She's not that wild about it.

Denise is also my mother-in-law's name. For the sake of clarity, Chad and I refer to them as "my Denise" and "Cliff's Denise" (Cliff being my father-in-law, in case that's not abundantly clear) when they come up in conversation. We have a handful of friends named Denise as well, complete with variations on the spelling. I had no idea when we were young that there were so many ways to spell Denise.

Baby Name Wizard says Denise is the "feminine form of Dennis, which is an English cognate of the Greek Dionysios (a follower of the god Dionysos)". There ya go, Neesee; I named you after a Greek god. You're welcome. The name peaked in popularity in the U.S. in the '60s, when it got up to 29th.

Famous Denises: Denise Richards, Denise Austin, Denise Crosby

Fictional Denises: Denise Huxtable (The Cosby Show)

My Denises: Real-life ones already covered. I don't have any Denises in my fiction, for the same "avoid family names" reason given for Billy. It's just easier that way.

Do you know any Denises? Did I miss some really obvious ones (I only list famous people I'm actually familiar with)?

03 April 2012

C is for Cooking in a Co-op

Since I'm doing Script Frenzy and regular life in addition to the A to Z Challenge, I put out a desperate friendly call for guest bloggers incessantly a few times on Facebook & Twitter. My fellow Undergraduate Writing Center consultant Natalie was the first to respond. Natalie blogs at The First Kitchen and at Longhorn Confidential. Photos in this post (except the first) are Natalie's own.

About a week after I moved into Avalon Co-op, I came home from school at 9 p.m. I had been on campus for twelve hours, running between study groups and work and meetings. I was exhausted and cranky and starving, so after I dropped off my bike, I went straight to the kitchen. When I opened up the fridge, there was a plate of spaghetti, freshly baked bread, and steamed broccoli in front of me, covered in plastic wrap and labeled "NATALIE."

That was the first time I realized how incredible cooperative living really is. Like most people, I didn’t really know what to expect out of co-op housing when I moved in. All I really knew was that I would be sharing living quarters with 24 other people, which sounded simultaneously exciting and horrifying.

I didn’t expect to find a community of some of the most incredible people on the planet--people who I may never have met if I didn’t live at Avalon. People who are friendly, considerate, and genuinely caring; people who are dedicated to making the house not only function but flourish. People who love to have fun, but also respect my space and time when I need it. People who leave a plate of food in the fridge for me when I come home from a long day.

Living in a coop is an experience I wouldn't trade for the world, and most people I know would benefit from spending a few months as a housemate. Besides all of the obvious benefits--inexpensive rent, great people, shared responsibilities--it's an incredibly sustainable way to live (so much so that Mayor Lee Leffingwell and the Austin City Council recently endorsed cooperative living).

If you're interested in living in a co-op, check out ICC, College Houses, or one of the several independent co-operatives around Austin. And if you ever find yourself cooking for 24 other people, here's a great recipe for sweet potato black bean chili (this is also a great recipe to make in big batches and freeze, if your house is a little smaller than mine).

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

4 tbsp. olive oil
4 onions, diced
4 carrots, diced
10 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. cumin
1 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
4 28-oz. cans of diced tomatoes
8 cups of water or stock
6 cups of dried black beans, soaked overnight then cooked
8 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
4 lbs. sweet potatoes, diced
2 cups cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp. kosher salt
Juice of four limes

Heat the oil in a large pot, then saute the onions, carrots, and garlic. Add the spices and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, stock, black beans, and chipotle peppers. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 20 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and salt, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 30-40 minutes. Add the lime juice and cilantro last. Serve with cheese, tortilla chips, or salsa.