Open Sesame. Pretty please?

Like millions of people living today who are semi-computer capable and who have a love/hate, “but mostly hate” relationship with technology simply because it moves at precisely the same speed as the tip of a bullwhip, I have one overwhelming pain-in-the-backside problem that grows monumentally larger every single day:

PASSWORDS.

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In early history, Roman soldiers used watchwords. These secret keywords were inscribed on wooden tablets and given out when the troops made camp at night. Passed from one guard to the next, and returned to the equivalent of their commander in chief in the morning, it was pretty easy to determine who was going to get a lickin based on the handwriting of all the tic tac toe games on the reverse side. But who could blame them, right? Angry Birds, Flappy Bird and Candy Crush were a few years off.

Skip and jump forward a few wars and the military decides to up the ante in their “anti-theft” division. Now you not only have to remember the day’s password, but you have to come up with the day’s counterpassword as well. So he says, “Potato,” and you say, “Potahto.” Capish? It’s the old call and response routine, and it worked well enough until everyone repeatedly forgot where they were and took to belting out Broadway tunes for the rest of the night. It made them an easy target for any folks on the enemy side who hadn’t already developed a taste for Liza Minnelli.

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Let’s time travel all the way up to the mid 1960s and walk through the hallowed halls of MIT, into the overly warm, clamorous, wall to wall stuffed room where researchers housed their newly built contraption—a time-sharing computer called CTSS. Supposedly it was an acronym for Compatible Time-Sharing System, but it could easily have been dubbed Create Trouble & Steal Security. The folks who worked on this computer are in many circles given credit for being the first to see the necessity and employ the use of passwords. They were also the first group of young adults to coin the term hacker and make a profitable practice developing the art.

Yep. It’s like asking the fox to guard the henhouse.

The rules for keeping your data safe on the internet today have grown from Think up a word and you can sleep at night knowing your emails are private, to Yeah, buddy, even if you come up with a brand new language using only tab keys, your door bell and the scroll lock switch, we’ll find out how many pennies you’ve got stored in your piggy bank in the time it takes for you to brush only half your teeth. So there. Nighty night.

It seems impossible to conform to all the dished out sage advice that counsels you to use different passwords for every site where you need to leave behind some of your personal identity.

There’s got to be a better way.

Let me blow in a tube that can code my breath, lick a saliva indentifying patch on my monitor, or bite down on a dental impression fitted to my keyboard. Surely the millions of kids with stupefying techy talent out there can whip up some solution to this world-wide conundrum we repeatedly face multiple times an hour, yes?

I’m told not to create a password that would be easily guessed, not to make it personal, not to repeat characters, not to use too few, but not to use too many. Have some letters, throw in a number, squeeze in a character, and do the hokey pokey.

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Now … do not, even under threat of torture, write it down.

But don’t forget it.

Now rinse and repeat for the next fifty web sites you do business with.

My brain is exploding.

Can’t I get a chip implanted in my wrist? How about a fingertip recognition keyboard? I would even go so far as to willingly give a small blood sample in place of recalling absurd, brain-blunting codes that a computer could crack in the blink of an eye.

Apparently organizing and overseeing passwords has a hefty price tag attached to it—somewhere in the region of billions of dollars in productivity losses every year. The extra time snatched away from me has surely affected my day negatively. I write less, bathe less, and have had to forgo putting parsley on my family’s dinner plates. Every second counts in my day, and instead of carving tomato flowers, I am desperately trying to protect my social security number from computer criminals who would one day like to have my checks sent to their mailboxes and not mine. No matter that by the time I qualify, social security numbers will be as financially valuable as an avocado-colored bar blender, but I’m sure some of their efforts are paying off now.

I know there’s no quick fix on the horizon, but I think I’ve come up with a few pretty good ideas.

If none of the above are worthy of consideration, I might even be willing to go back to showing my computer my daily wooden tablet to gain access.

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It’ll probably only bring me to a site where I can play tic tac toe.

~Shelley

 

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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Making your mark with indelible stink.

It all began with Brussels sprouts. As some adventures do.

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This one though, took an unexpected turn, a pungent hard left.

It was dinner time. I’d fed the hair-covered creatures and gleefully realized I had the house to myself for the evening. I’d been fighting a hankering for Brussels sprouts the whole week long and finally found an opportunity to indulge with abandon. One whole pounds worth if I found myself determined.

And I was.

The prepared bowlful in my lap, I surfed with the remote to find something mindless and mind-numbing to watch for an hour before heading back to work at my desk. It didn’t matter what: Modern Family, Outdated Family, All in the Family—anything that allowed somebody else to do the thinking for a few minutes. At that point, the Weather Channel would have sufficed.

The cat leapt up onto the couch and put a paw on my arm. “Sorry, sweets, you’re an obligate carnivore and tonight is ‘Veg Nite.’ I popped her down onto the floor.

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She leapt back up and re-positioned her paw, this time with newly sharpened claws getting a firm grip. “Ahem.” She glared at me.

“Hey, a little dining courtesy would be appreciated—and oh my godfathers, what is that smell?”

That cat rolled her eyes.

“Wait a second. It isn’t me. I haven’t even eaten any of these yet.” But within two seconds of saying that, there was no need to ask for further clarification. The smell was unmistakable, and it wasn’t Eau de Brussels sprouts.

I narrowed my eyes and looked at the cat. “Where is he?”

“I imagine he is stupidly attempting to run from the odor.” She began cleaning one of her mitts.

I put down my bowl and got up to search for the hound. With every step I took, no matter the direction, the pungent odor increased tenfold. I opened the kitchen door to the back porch and whistled into the blackened night. Nothing. I went to the front door and did the same. Nothing. I crossed the house to the laundry room, the room he’s been given access to with his own private entrance. I stepped outside, reeled back from the landslide of reeking air, and blew a piercing whistle.

“Right here.”

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I turned to see the dog in the corner of the porch, doing his utmost to disappear in the shadows.

“What have you done?” This was a stupid question which we both knew the answer to. My eyes were beginning to water.

“I was trying to make friends.”

“With whom?” I demanded.

“It looked like the cat.”

“But it wasn’t the cat, was it? Wasn’t even close to the cat.”

“Uh … yep.”

“Were you not given any warning?”

“It was dark.”

“Go sit in the shower. I’ll be there in a minute.”

Pepé Le Pew slunk off toward my bathroom and I ran to my computer, hoping I had whatever household ingredients necessary to create a deskunkifying poultice. And at that moment, fortune shined upon me.

It may be true that I have a teenage son who can bring me to my knees on a daily basis due to his typical teenage boy curiosities, but he has one particular saving grace which repeatedly saves his tuchus from being thrown into the giant abyss of THOU SHALT NOT COME OUT OF YOUR BEDROOM UNTIL YOU ARE TWENTY-FIVE AND RELIABLY PAYING TAXES:

He is kind.

And I don’t mean, “Hey mom, thanks for buying chocolate milk,” kind. I mean help the elderly cross the street, fold someone else’s laundry and asks how was your day every day kind of kind.

And just when I needed an act of kindness, he walked through the door.

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There are not a lot of people who will be willing jump in the shower with an animal who can make your nose turn inside out from the stench, and show uncommon compassion for what that animal is going through by ignoring their own discomfort, but this fellah is to be counted among that lot.

I owe him my thanks, and try to remember to say it in between the variety of vehement and vociferous tongue lashings he regularly receives.

Once the lengthy shower had finished—one that included more baking soda than a kindergarten room’s art cupboards full of Play-Doh—I thanked my son and turned to the dog who sat looking quite miserable, dripping on the bathroom mat.

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“And now we raid my cologne closet, to see what miracles my friends Chanel, Christian and Calvin can do with your … situation.”

I made a perfume soup and then threw in a dollop of two floral and one pine scented room sprays. It was an aroma nightmare, but slightly better than the assault we’d been experiencing pre-evening-ablutions.

The dog looked at me sourly, “This is awful.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers,” I said, wagging a finger.

“Okay, but can beggars have some Brussels sprouts if you’re not going to finish them?”

I suddenly felt really bad for the poor fellah. “You bet, buddy. Tonight of all nights, I don’t think anyone is going to notice.”

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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Oh, for crying out loud!

Oftentimes we’re asked to assess parts of our physical bodies—to rate and rank that which we like and that which we abhor about ourselves.

Crack open any health, fashion or beauty magazine and you’ll likely come across a quiz that will ultimately help you “understand” yourself a bit better by the end of it. You hate your chunky thighs, but love your thick hair. You’ve got flawless skin, but detest your wide, flat feet. Your eyes are strikingly green, but folks will never notice until they stop gawking at your red, pudgy nose.

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We’ve all got bits like this. Things that work for us and things that we wish we could bring back to some almighty maker with receipt in hand to ask for a refund.

Still in the process of raising two teens, I’m often thinking about how to communicate a healthy kind of “self appreciation” that balances awareness and mindfulness without obsession. Occasionally I hear one of my kids pass judgment on one of their bodily features that would make Simon Cowell announce they were being a bit harsh. I’m left with no other choice than to put a spin on the part getting hammered. I give them a few encouraging words that might make them see that attribute from a more positive perspective.

If I hear, My fingers are too short, I announce my envy at the speed at which they race across a keyboard. A comment like, Why won’t my hair cooperate? receives a reply such as Likely your hair is a reflection of your personality, which is somewhat wild and untamed and determined to show a little of that covetable rebellious teenage attitude we adults sorely miss. Or the complaint, What the heck is going on with my toenails? I point a finger at the phone and say, Take it up with your grandfather. Those are definitely his genetics. But hey, he’s super funny isn’t he?

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Yet there’s one physical feature I’ve noticed about myself lately, which I can’t quite seem to engineer an optimistic response to. And it’s a very tiny thing.

My tear ducts.

They’re unruly.

No. I mean they’re a little more enthusiastic than I’d like.

See? I just tried to steer that disapproval into a slightly upbeat description.

Nope. Didn’t work. I still feel like those puppies are determined to wreak havoc with my appearance at every opportunity—appropriate or not.

Yes, you’re watching a sad movie, reading a tragic novel or viewing the 6 o’clock news—many of us will tear up. But I could be in line at the bank and hear two people in front of me talk of one of their mothers who is struggling with the recovery from a hip fracture and I am right there with them, feeling the helplessness of knowing someone you love is in pain. Stepping up to the teller yields the response, “Umm, here’s ten, twenty, forty and the tissue is on the house.”

I’m at the grocery store, sifting through fruits and vegetables and I hear a lyrical piece of Musak. I stop what I’m doing and pause to listen to the heartrending chord progression that makes my breath catch and sends tears down my cheeks. I suddenly see the produce guy standing in front of me, staring. “Wow, lady. You really are sensitive to onions aren’t you?”

I once wandered the isles at the local drug store and found myself parked in front of the makeup display. After a minute, I noticed a young woman dressed from head to toe in camouflage combat fatigues standing next to me, and the insignia for the U.S. Army on her chest. My mind flooded with gratitude. All I could do was turn to her and say thank you.

She looked at me. Looked back at the makeup. And then handed me a wand of waterproof mascara and said, “You’re welcome?”

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Somewhere inside, I know that having ‘hairtrigger happy to respond’ tear ducts should not bring about the element of discomfiture (read occasional mortification) that it does. But when your kids stop wanting to hang out with you because the last time you all went to the local café together you started leaking over the happy fact that they still had their cream of tomato soup on the menu, one must pause and question whether or not you should be let out of the house. You begin to doubt whether even a well-respected PR team could spin this into likeable quirk.

Maybe I possess a huge heart filled with gratitude and I should continue attempting to relish it. Maybe I’ve created a new level of hyper-developed sensitivity that comes with trying to conjure up believable emotion within the characters I write about. Maybe I suffer out of control hormones and should see my GP for medication or shock therapy.

Whatever it is, I’m determined to keep trying to embrace it. Yes, I’ve ruined more pictures by suddenly realizing I’m with a bunch of folks I love, and immediately tear up as soon as someone says, “Cheese!” But this is no reason not to love my selfie.

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That would be a crying shame.

~Shelley

 

**Gotta Have a Gott**

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Click here to see the cartoons in competition and to cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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Ready or not …

A long time ago I learned how to fly.

Lessons were thrilling, dazzling, mind-blowing and action-packed.

They were also exhausting, white-knuckling, petrifying and hair-raising. My knees knocked together with such precision and regularity, I’m certain they were sending out some sort of Morse code of panic.

But one of the most important lessons I took away from that experience was gaining the true definition of what it meant to fly by the seat of your pants.

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I think, at the time, I would have been fairly confident in admitting that I was not spontaneous. I’d been raised and trained as a musician and had been for many years making a living showing others that I could deliver results because I’d practiced and perfected (or close enough) what was expected and what I’d been paid to do. The shows I performed in were strictly timed and had no room for stepping a toe outside the margin for artistic license. In fact, artistic license was frowned upon. With microphone in hand and speaking to the audience, even the ad libs were practiced.

No surprises.

That was the point. Surprises meant panic—and these were not shows that invited outliers to mess about with the tried and true. Follow your cues, hit your mark, and take a big bow. Remove your makeup, cash your paycheck and wake up to do the whole thing again tomorrow.

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Piloting a plane was incredibly similar. Tick off the checklist, fly the plane, land the craft. Don’t skip procedure or you’ll NOT wake up to do the whole thing again tomorrow. You will also not wake up inside the pine box you’re now residing in.

Easy peasy. Simple and safe.

Accompanying my daughter to one of her shows is an entirely different experience. She too had been fed on the same diet of stable, steady and straight, but at some point, she spat that bunk out like it was a mouthful of cat hair.

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From then on, playing the part of parental roadie has been like riding a roller coaster without a safety harness, and knowing somewhere you missed the sign that said, “Temporarily shut down for repairs.”

I’m a planner. If I’m doing a road trip, I’m going to make sure my car is in tiptop shape, I’ve got gas, I have directions to the destination, I’ll have packed my bag, and I have emergency supplies for every conceivable calamity mankind has had to face.

My daughter will grab an armload of clothes off her bedroom floor, a jug of eyeliner and rely on a bra strap to use as floss before bed.

My computer copied directions turned out to be less than reliable as a split second after seeing the Google Map displayed beautifully on my screen and clicking the word PRINT, all the numbers seemed to have gone missing. I was told to turn left or right, but not onto what and never after how long.

But I’ve got a great sense of direction. So we fly by the seat of our pants, right?

WRONG.

Rule number 792 of flying: Never trust the seat of your pants.

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Trust your instruments. But only after you’ve checked your backup instruments to your instruments. And only after you’ve checked and double checked your original instruments and backup instruments.

Speaking of instruments. Do you have your violin??

The answer was: Probably.

We had to rely on my daughter’s iPhone, as mine is working better as a thick bookmark and a paperweight these days than it is as anything with intelligence—artificial or otherwise.

The problem with the above scenario was that the smartphone’s voice for directions only occasionally worked because the gadget was being overloaded with text messages from a hundred other teenagers and the necessary ‘study music’ needed to accompany somebody who was finally cracking open a few chapters for a massive physics test in 36 hours.

About 30 minutes before we arrived for sound check the question, “I wonder what I’m playing tonight?” floated through the car.

Flicking back through several weeks of old text messages revealed the set list: a few songs she sorta remembered, one she would wing, and two others she vaguely recalled performing nearly a year ago.

VAGUELY??

My ‘panic and puke now’ bells were rapidly firing off. I was only an audience member and I was beginning to hyperventilate, but the person riding next to me just pulled up one of the tunes on YouTube and started air violining her way through it.

“Oh my godfathers, you had better hope they’re going to let you Milli Vanilli the performance tonight.” I envisioned catastrophe.

“Chill, Mom—and shush.”

Fast forward to showtime and a last minute text that came before the lights went down.

MOTHER! Hair up or down?

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I thought about what could save her future. Down. Definitely down and see if you can’t hide most of your face.

And then I added, Which dress will you wear?

Her response: All of them.

The lights went down, the show began, the numbers flew by. There was no panic on anyone’s faces—no sign of distress—my child did not leave the stage amid a flurry of booing and tomato throwing from the audience—no crashing and burning of aircraft because she forgot to do a fuel check before takeoff. She got fuel from applause. She got inspiration from the whooping and hollering. She got chord progressions from the guitarist beside her.

Was she lucky? Was she good? I think maybe both.

And now she wants to learn to fly.

Well, I may sit with her in a car using nothing more than the sun and a few shadows for directions, and I may sit in the audience for her holding my breath and hoping for the best, but I will not sit in a cockpit with her and be offered nothing but a wing and a prayer.

That is one flight of fancy that I’ll just have to ground.

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~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the Pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

Forty winks: just a big ol’ pipe dream.

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub.

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And it tends to be the rubbing that keeps me from the dreaming. Let me explain. And get your mind out of the gutter for Pete’s sake.

At the end of a long day, there is nothing I look forward to more than closing up shop, crawling beneath the covers and turning out the light to welcome sleep—and it’s oftentimes one of the most entertaining parts of any twenty-four hours. But it’s not just the snoozing part that’s so engaging, but rather the movie reel that starts up upon giving in to unconsciousness.

Except … a few things tend to get in the way of that absorbing experience.

1. The cat.

2. The cat.

3. And oh yes, the cat.

There’s all this fuss that happens down at the bottom of the bed where my finicky, fault-finding furball insists upon setting up her midnight shop. Her nightly ablutions are hardly a muted affair. And all that business keeps me from falling into an otherworldly locus of illusion.

I love that place.

It is rich and restorative, mythic and impractical, and a source I rely upon like water and air and Oprah.

Sleep—in particular the part of sleep that allows one to dream—is an achievement I do not take lightly, and practice with the devotion of an Olympian.

Now, don’t get me wrong. That’s not a revealing statement that suggests my aim in life is to compete for the gold in the category of best Napping Nelly in the supine division. Not entirely. But the 7.5 hours I apply to cultivating this skill nightly is an activity I devote my whole brain and body to. And you might too if you dreamed like I do.

My dreams are not just snippets of faces, conversations or the occasional experience of flying and falling. They are chapters of many ongoing stories with the same characters and an actual plot line.

The disturbing thing is that I’m the author of said characters and plot lines, and occasionally I find some wonky, huddling conclave my brain develops where everyone I write about spews their opinions, making wisecracks about what a proper load of codswollop I’ve made with their tales. I’m sure there are sections of my brain that if autopsied would have forensic scientists wondering how that handful of goop that looks like week-old cake batter managed to find its way in.

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I’m pretty sure this is the part that I’m working with in the wee hours of the night.

It’s fluid. And I kinda like it like that.

I specifically work hard at following a storyline of interest as soon as I close my eyes, running a groove into it that’s both familiar and happy to take over on autopilot. If all goes according to my mental master plan, I continue on unconsciously. Of course, if the cat has a stretch of fur that is particularly polluted, all that licking gets in the way of the narrative and ensuing arc of the story.

And then I find all the folks in my dream are coughing up hairballs. And I wake up cranky.

We spend nearly a third of our lives unconscious (although I’m sure we all know people who wander through theirs never fully fast on the draw even while operating their daily heavy machinery) and I understand the importance of that period of restoration. Yes, there’s a lot of biological activity taking place: muscles recovering, internal organs repairing, our brain unraveling the many befuddling Gordian knots we pushed to the side during the day, and we allow the internal keeper of cognizance—our brain’s personal secretary—to begin the process of sorting through and filing all the memories we just made that day.

It’s exhausting work. And must be done. Even at the expense of the cat’s nightly purification rituals.

It’s crucial I reach the REM stage of my evening’s training program because without it occurring, I drift about the next day barely able to recall where my desk is located, let alone its function and purpose.

Did you know that although a cow can sleep standing up, they can only dream when lying down?

Me too!

Did you know that whales and dolphins only allow one-half of their brains to fall asleep at a time because the other half is needed to keep them swimming and breathing?

WHY CAN’T I DO THAT??

This might prove ideal, as at least with this scenario, I’d be able to still utilize the opportunity to dream. I’m assuming the cat does not recognize the importance or necessity of allowing me to dream. But perhaps I could set up a short power point presentation that could illustrate key figures in history whose dreams were vital to the world as we know it.

I will show her a picture of:

Mohammad (That Night Journey dream was a biggie.)

Shakespeare (I’m pretty sure if he got stuck with any plot, he just made his characters dream something prophetic. How convenient.)

Dorothy Gale (This is purely self-explanatory, as I cannot imagine a world without Glinda.)

Abraham (Had his cat kept him from dreaming, a good chunk of the Bible might have been taking place in modern day Turkey.)

Mary Shelly (Thank you for Frankenstein.)

Robert Lewis Stevenson (Well done on Jekyll and Hyde.)

President Lincoln (Had he paid more attention to his dreams, he’d still be alive today. And I think we both know what I meant to say.)

Paul McCartney (Had this fellow not had a little REM, no one would be humming along tomorrow the melody of Yesterday.)

Martin Luther King (Yeah, that’s a lot of guilt to throw at a cat.)

So, ultimately, if there’s any hope of me making this list someday, I can foresee only one way out of my dilemma. I’m going to have to teach the cat to be a pig.

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Sheesh … what a nightmare.

~Shelley

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

Related articles

And I quote …

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”

~ Oscar Wilde

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I pay attention to words. As a writer, I am encouraged to scrutinize my words — and everyone else’s.

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And I have been known to give voice to animals, insects and inanimate objects purely because I am convinced they are trying to communicate. I will be their translator.

Oftentimes, it’s like converting African Khoisan clicking into Klingon and sprinkling it with a bit of Dothraki and Pig Latin. Yeah, that hodgepodge is probably not going to catch on.

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Even though I have a nerdish penchant for individual words, and when asked for the title of my favorite book, I awkwardly admit it is Roget’s International Thesaurus, the next level up on my scale of linguistic admiration is that of the quote.

I am addicted to adages, transfixed by truisms and wild about witticisms. In my opinion, reading the words that express other people’s wisdom in bite-sized format is an appealing approach to acquiring needed knowledge. The quotes I’m drawn to are powerful pearls of astute insight that have experienced countless retweets in the grand scope of the overall twittering universe we inhabit. Some have taken off like wildfire, a quick strike of a match that hungrily spreads from one combustible source to another, and others are smoldering embers—words that have been around like the coals of a dampened fire in the hearth—ready to be repeatedly brought back to heat-giving life in the morning, yet will continue a slow, hourly seep through the house of many minds.

Look through any bathroom in my house. You’ll find most of the reading material is short and quippy. I don’t encourage anyone to hunker down in there, but if you find it unavoidable, I hope the words invite you to ponder.

I’ve even taken to painting quotes on the walls of bathrooms and bedrooms because they’ve moved me to feel they deserve permanence within my humble abode.

Three quotes I feel worthy of daily reflection are:

Anyone can count the seeds in an apple. ~  No one can count the apples in a seed.

Do not follow where the path may lead … go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

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And most importantly,

If you didn’t see it with your own eyes, or hear it with your own ears, don’t invent it with your small mind and share it with your big mouth.

Okay, that last one is just another version of what was drilled in to me as a kid only in the less graceful form—You keep your nose out of other people’s business and they’ll keep their fist of your nose.

It worked for me.

As it is, everywhere I turn seems to sprout yet another worldly proverb or sagacious aphorism. Desperate to memorize these slick and savvy sayings, I’ve taken to writing them with a pen on my skin with the hopes that they’ll remain there long enough for the philosophy to penetrate before the ink departs.

If I went with the more indelible route–and tattooed myself with these many mottoes–I’d be a side show attraction at one of the county fairs. Plus, I’d rather not have small children run from me if I’m filled to the brim with all this wordy wisdom and no one to share it with.

I could start a Bookmobile that could rival my massive library system strictly with the number of volumes I possess that are only filled with the blunt, but brilliant quotes of others. They are everywhere around me: in my car, by my bedside, scattered across my desk, strapped to the belly of the dog for when we go take a walk and I’m in the mood to chew on a mouthful of metaphysics.

Everywhere.

These quotes are at the bottom of people’s emailed notes, on the first pages of great novels, spray-painted across the arch of a bridge, on the tear sheets of all my calendars, etched onto my bars of soap—that one isn’t the most cunning use of marketing dollars, but oh well, I suppose the point is that the shower is a reflective place.

And of course, I find laudable quotations from the world’s greatest source for anonymous pithiness with a pen: the public bathroom stall.

I’m not fussed where all this acumen comes from, or indignant from Oscar Wilde’s slight that the majority of us will never realize an original idea and only spout those from the cool kids of the past.

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I am prepared to receive the world’s collective enlightenment as it comes and from whichever direction it blows. There are an inordinate number of clever folks out there, adept at stringing together a sentence or two that have touched me to the very core.

I leave you with two last quotes and hope you might have one to share with me. The first I’m guessing might have been the rough draft of a speech somebody in Congress was about to deliver, but then ditched. The second is simply one I would have loved to have penned myself.

We, the unwilling,

led by the unknowing,

are doing the impossible

for the ungrateful.

We have done so much,

for so long,

with so little,

we are now qualified to do anything

with nothing.

And lastly,

Some people are like a slinky … not really good for anything, but you still can’t help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

~Shelley

 Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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Breaking my silence

I owe my ears to a bug and a meditative master. Well, maybe more so to the meditative master because he’s the one who gave me a gift.

He taught me how to listen.

I don’t mean he advised me in the art of paying attention to people’s words and the message they endeavored to convey. I mean he instructed me to hear sounds, and tone, and vibration.

In absolutely everything.

At the time, I thought I had a fairly well-developed ear. I was a musician, trained to hear intonation and pitch with a considerable degree of competency. But he had a level of attention to sound that was mystifying to me. His auditory skills were on par with most owls and marine animals. Mice feared for their lives around him. Beluga whales bowed down in his presence. I just wanted a little piece of that magic.

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But be careful what you wish for, right? Because a boon can just as easily become a blight.

I cannot find silence. I can’t remember the last time I have heard … nothing.

This man was a sound engineer, someone my music producer had hired to mix the final cuts of the album we were making, the film score we had finished and the commercials we whipped out. My job was done. I was excused and told to go work on the next project, but sometimes I’d plop down on the studio couch, make myself as invisible as possible and watch what unfolded.

And what unfolded was a brain twisting mystery. This man would sit in front of the sound board console and hold his breath. He was as still as the Buddha, who probably would have slapped him on the back with a thump of well done! Then he would crawl around on the floor, beneath the equipment, searching for an elusive something-or-other. Sometimes it would be hours before he actually played our music.

When I finally dredged up enough courage to ask him what he was doing, he’d answered, “I’m noticing.”

“Noticing what?” I asked.

“A lot,” he said.

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And during the next year I began ‘noticing’ too. He showed me how to find the buzz in each cable, the hum in all the machinery and the layer upon layer of sonance everywhere.

I went a little wild with my practice and drove my producer crazy with my newfound enthusiasm and belief that we would both benefit from this exciting auditory adventure I pulled him along on. At one point when recording the vocals for a lush and abundantly orchestrated song, I made him stop and pull out track after track after track, positive I could “hear” something that didn’t belong there.

We found it. It was a cricket in the recording booth. Finding the cricket to pitch him out proved impossible. Finding the musicians to bring them back in proved expensive.

No one was happy with me.

Except the sound engineer.

But now I can’t go anywhere without listening for the layers. It’s not as if I’ve developed the auditory capability to hear dog whistles, but rather I’ve stopped tuning things out. And I practiced this for so many years now I can NEVER tune them out.

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I lay awake at night, and hear the usual things.

The clock ticking, the dog breathing, the cat licking, the stinkbugs flying … and then smacking into walls and dropping onto the floor.

There is the sink dripping, the toilet running, the wind rattling, a coyote howling and an aircraft droning.

And when I have categorized these sounds, I am left with others that pull me out of bed and ask me to hunt them down.

The fridge has a little hum. The freezer has a funky hiss. The DVR has a purring motor that churns and roils, keeping something tiny inside of it cool and protecting it from combusting.

Down the hall in the family room I find two speakers, softly throwing out sound in the key of A. I bend down along the floorboards and hear muffled scratching—someone is busy making a tiny nest in the wall. I crawl beneath my desk and trace a treble tone to my computer’s hard drive. I start at an unexpected sound and bump my head, taken by surprise at the vibration above me where my smart phone was set to silently buzz with an incoming email.

I hear the heat vent whir to life, the soft whooshing of air, spongy and constant. Then the generator which lives halfway down the hill to the sheep barn clicks on for its weekly test drive. I open the back porch door and stand on the icy cold steps to count the multilayers of sound the generator is generating.

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Far off, on the other side of the house, the wind chimes chingle.

And then I hear the birds chirping and something high-pitched and tiny. The sound takes me up the porch steps and back into my bedroom.

And right next to my bed.

It’s my alarm clock.

It’s time to start another day. Another day filled with sound.

I’m thinking the sounds will most likely be my yawns.

~Shelley

February Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Jump on over to see the cartoon winner for February!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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