"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Words I Wish People Would Quit Using

I took a class in college called “History of the English Language,” and it ended up being one of my favorites…and NOT just because I got to sit next to my new husband (though that was a nice perk!). ;-) Words and language fascinate me. I don’t claim to have the best vocabulary, and I don’t claim to have perfect grammar. I know I make mistakes all the time, and I’m consistently humbled by the criticism I receive from my editors. But what I am is a “language enthusiast,” constantly impressed and excited by what the correct use of words can do to create or change meaning in a conversation. And I love learning more about our language and the way it is always changing and adapting.

That said, there are many trendy words and phrases that bother the heck out of me.

For instance:
  • Referring to God as “papa,” “daddy,” or “Abba.” Is God our father? Absolutely. Does He want to be a familiar, comforting presence for us, like a daddy? Yes. But it’s weird to refer to Him that way. (I.e., “Papa just provided the perfect job! I love it when Daddy takes care of me!”) I don’t know – It just seems a little too familiar. Irreverent, maybe?
  • “Sleeps,” in reference to nights. This is popular among moms trying to explain the passage of time to small children. (I.e., “Only four more sleeps until we leave for Disney World!”) I just think kids can handle the word “night."
  • Calling a kid a “rockstar.” This happens in almost every parent/teacher conference. (I.e., “Ryley, your report card looks great! You are such a rockstar!”) I picture my daughter standing on stage in a hot pink halter top, her mic held high in the air with her other hand on her hip, the crowd roaring with cheers, “Yay, Ryley! Yay for A’s and B’s!” Since when did being a rockstar become the epitome of success? I don’t want that to be my daughter’s greatest ambition. Did she “rock” her grades? Yes. I have no problem with that. But she’s not a rockstar. How about, “Ryley, you are such a phenomenal student! You worked hard for your grades! You’re a biomedical engineer!” ;-)
  • Referring to one’s kids as “midgets” or “littles” or “tinies.” (I.e., “Took the midgets to the zoo today; so fun!”) Seriously?
  • Calling your husband a “hubby,” “hubster,” “hubs,” or “dh.” (I.e., “The hubster took me on a date tonight.” Or, “How’s your hubby feeling these days?”) Hubba-hubba. I literally want to puke.
  • Using the made-up term “mother-in-love” or “daughter-in-love” instead of “mother-in-law” or “daughter-in-law.” Gross. I first heard this 15 years ago when my mom’s friend referred to her “daughter-in-love” as just having had a miscarriage. I understand the intent behind it: “My son’s wife is so much more to me than a daughter by marriage or law. She’s a daughter by love!” But there’s something about the term that just really irks me. I love my mother-in-law, too, but I don’t feel the need to be all cheesy about it. ;-)
  • The word “mama.” In any use or form. I picture a tired, dumpy woman with long gray braids and a thread-bare apron tied around her plump mid-section. Mama. I just feel like mothers deserve better than that mental picture. I also HATE mommy blogs, but that’s a subject for another time, (a blog post in and of itself). ;-)
  • Adults using the term “kids” when addressing other adults. (I.e., “Hate to break it to ya, kids, but the economy is going south.”) I’ll admit, at first I thought it was kind of cute. But as I started hearing it more and more, I began to feel like it’s a tad condescending. Why can’t I make up my own opinion about the economy? What makes you, fellow adult, more qualified to tell me how things are?
  • The word “belly.” Oh, how I hate it. I hate pregnant “bellies.” I hate that Jonah stayed for three days in the “belly of a whale.” I hate Santa Claus’s “belly.” I will do whatever it takes to avoid using that word. Stomach. Womb. Tummy. Abdomen. Anything but belly. Ugh. Gross.
  • The word “audit” literally makes me sick to my stomach. My company was audited three times this past year for different things; Ryan’s restaurant is audited every couple of months. Financial audits. Tax audits. All audits are stressful and bad. Very, very bad.
  • “Viscous.” (I.e., “The food slid down my esophagus into my moist, viscous belly.”) Enough said.
  • “Devos.” My mom was the one who first pointed out the weirdness of this word, in reference to “devotionals.” (I.e., “So in your personal devo time, be sure to study the book of James.”) Our time with God is important, so why do we feel like we have to shorten the word that refers to it? Are we trying to make it more “fun”? It reminds me of my freshman year in college when my wing chaplain got all the girls to form a human train, and they went up and down the hall knocking on doors and inviting everyone to “devos,” saying “All aboard! The devo train!” and making various train whistle sounds. After that, I routinely hid in my dorm room with the door locked and the lights off whenever I heard the Devo Train coming my way. In four years of college, I managed to get away with only attending “devos” one time.
  • This is a silly one, but I hate it when I’m listening to NFL commentators during football season, and they choose to spell out the NFL acronym in their discussions. (I.e., “I’ll tell you what – Jackson is the best tight end in the National Football League right now.”) It’s a little pretentious, and they always seem to make their voice a little louder when they say those three prestigious words, as if to say, “I just want to remind you that I work for the National Football League. THE National Football League. Just in case you forgot how important I am.” NFL is enough. Seriously.
  • The Oxford Comma Dilemma. If you don’t know, the Oxford comma is the “extra” comma when you’re listing items (I.e., He worked at places such as Home Depot, Sage, and Barnes Warehouse.) The Oxford comma is the one right after Sage. Some people say this is redundant because the comma already stands for “and,” and if you keep it in there, you are effectively saying “Sage and and Barnes Warehouse.” Editors disagree on this point, and style manuals go different directions. Sometimes places I’m writing for don’t want the Oxford Comma, and I am forced to write “Home Depot, Sage and Barnes Warehouse.”  But in my personal writing, I always, always use the Oxford Comma.  I have done a lot of thinking about this, because that’s what I do with my free time. I think through grammar rules. And I have come to the following conclusion: the Oxford Comma is not about redundancy. It’s about clarity. I’m not saying that it should be read “Sage and and Barnes Warehouse.” I’m saying that the extra comma keeps you from thinking that he worked at a place called Sage and Barnes Warehouse. The extra comma adds clarity and pause, just like all other commas do when not being used in a list (because commas have more than one purpose, see?).

Have I gone on long enough? Yes? Okay. I’ll stop now. I do have a list of words I like (whimsical, subtle, etc.), but I won’t bore you with that right now. ;-) Thanks for reading my rant! I’d be interested in hearing what your language pet peeves are, as well!

*Disclaimer: If you are someone who uses one or more of these bothersome terms, it doesn’t mean I love you any less. I’m sure there are countless things that annoy you about me. ;-)

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Art of German Food

One of my very favorite meals is “cabbage burgers,” a delicious staple among German immigrant families in Midwestern states like Nebraska.  They are also sometimes called “bierocks” or “runzas.” I learned how to make them from my mom, who learned from her mom, who learned from her mom, who probably learned from her mom. I don’t honestly know how far back it goes, but they’re delicious, authentic,  and cheap to make!


(please excuse the fork scuff marks on the plate, haha!)

Don’t let the word “cabbage” deter you, like it does my husband. Ryan will not touch them. Instead, if I’m making cabbage burgers, he makes this:


Sausage and green beans in the crockpot. Ick.

Ryley has called it “porridge” since she was a little thing, and both she and I refuse to eat it. I call it his “poor people’s food,” since you can literally purchase the sausage and green beans for under $3. I guess Ryan’s family used to eat this all the time when he was growing up, so it’s sentimental for him. Sad smile Poor kid.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the kitchen, I’m suffering through the pungent smell of boiled sausage to put together my yummy cabbage burger ingredients:

1 package hot roll mix

1 lb ground beef

1 head of cabbage

1 onion

(come to think of it, my ingredients are pretty cheap, too; they probably come in under $8, with 10 times the tastiness!)


Check the hot roll mix box to see what it requires. I know there’s flour and water. Not sure if there’s an egg? Anyway. Make the dough as the package directs and let it rise.


While the dough is rising, assemble your filling ingredients. If you look at cabbage burger recipes online, you will see all kinds of potential filling suggestions. I think mushrooms would be fun to try, or jalapenos. But really, I like the basic ingredients the best.

Brown your ground beef, seasoning it well with salt and pepper. Add a cup or so of chopped onion and an equal amount of shredded cabbage. I always do more than a cup of each; just make sure that you equalize the ingredients. Saute everything together with salt and pepper.


My food processer got a little too excited and pretty much liquefied the onions on this go-around. And the cabbage also appears more “ground” than it does shredded. I prefer larger pieces, normally.


When everything is tender and fragrant (yum!), you’re ready to proceed!


Roll out the dough in circles roughly 5” or 6” in diameter. Spoon some of the beef filling into the center.


Carefully take the edges of the dough and wrap around to meet in the center, forming a pocket around the filling. Squeeze the dough shut to make it as sealed as you can. Then pick up the pocket and flip it over onto the baking sheet.


Bake for 20 minutes at 350 or until the dough is baked and lightly browned on top.


Then, while your husband slops spoonfuls of his poor people’s porridge into his mouth, you’ll be enjoying your own German tradition, relishing a family recipe that’s withstood the test of time.

And they’re even better when microwaved for lunch the next day! Let me know if you try it! Smile

Thursday, March 6, 2014


I think I’ve been bitten by the travel bug.

On my phone I keep a growing list of places we would like to take Ryley before she graduates from high school in seven years…you know, places like Yellowstone, New York City, Washington D.C., Europe, DisneyWorld….I know it’s not realistic to hit all of the destinations on the list, but we can certainly dream. And then of course there’s Ryan’s and my long-term travel list…Ireland, Israel, Alaska, Tahiti, New England, Prince Edward Island.

Actually, now that I think about it, his list might be a little different from mine. Winking smile

Unfortunately, travel takes lots of money, and we have actually become quite thankful for the experiences we have had. But the dream is still there. Maybe someday, after we write our best-seller…

In the meantime, I have developed a growing affinity for Google Maps and Google Earth, which allow you to zoom in on almost any place in the world and see a satellite image of it. And thus, live vicariously.

So when I recently read a fascinating news story about the 900-person town of King Cove, Alaska, and their battle to build a road across a wildlife preserve, I just had to picture it for myself! I couldn’t zoom in as close as I wanted to, but it was crazy to see this little fishing village from above and wonder about the lives of its citizens.


What kind of person makes their home in King Cove, Alaska? So then I looked up their Chamber of Commerce web site, and I was pleased to find lovely photographs of breathtaking scenery that seriously looks untouched by human hands.

king cove

I felt like hugging the soft green mountainside and then rolling down it. I became obsessed with this tiny town and probably spent 20 minutes trying to picture life there. It’s the stuff books are written about.

During the Olympics in Russia a couple weeks ago, I saw a feature on Siberia and became insanely curious about the thousands of square miles of land stretching across the expanse of a continent, so many times forgotten by us, but never forgotten by God. He is aware of each wildflower that blooms in spring, each fragile snowflake that no human eye will ever lay eyes on in the middle of a Siberian winter. It’s a land so forsaken that even Google recognizes how pointless it is to waste money on satellite imagery. And yet, God still knows about each blade of grass. How interesting would it be to travel there and meet the people who make it their home?

I faithfully read a blog written by a woman named Bethany, from Oregon. She is a friend of my second cousin, and she is about my age. In September, she, her husband, and their two middle-school-aged daughters took off in their 32’ boat and have been traveling down the Pacific coastline on their way to Latin America. They’re currently somewhere near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and every single stop is filled with adventure and thought-provoking observations. She posts intermittently because of a lack of Internet access, so I actually get excited when I see that she has posted again! I settle down in a comfy chair and just drink in her words about her family’s discoveries in Mexico…their tales about building a new dinghy when they were in Cabo (I think)…the hiking and exploring they do on islands…the people they’ve met along their way…the unique way they approach the world, so full of wonder and curiosity. Their intent seems to be to experience each place like the locals do, and not as the tourists do. I love that! Bethany is an excellent writer, and she paints detailed pictures with her words, so it is easy to feel like I’m right there with them. And of course, I supplement my reading by zooming in on Google Maps to see if I can see each stop for myself! I get sucked into the world of satellite imagery; I could spend hours exploring cities from above.  I don’t know what I will look forward to reading when Bethany and her family have concluded their year-long voyage next fall.

The movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was inspiring, too. The scene of him riding a bike in Iceland (I think?), miles from civilization…finding himself on a fishing boat…narrowly escaping a volcano…. The world is so, so big, and I want to drink it all in. I want to experience every single bit of it.

When my dad was in India for three weeks, I loved zooming in on the towns where he stayed, seeing the photos he texted me, hearing him talk about a motorcycle accident he witnessed and how he prayed everyone was okay. If he weren’t there, we never would have known about that accident, but instead, because he was, I was able to pray for those injured strangers too. As he told his stories, my mind was alive with my own memories of the crazy traffic in China when I was 15…memories of trying to wash my clothes by hand in the bathtub, attempting to arrange the mosquito net around the bamboo mat in my hotel room…waking in the train’s sleeping car to see a pair of beady eyes watching me from across the aisle…promising myself I would never go anywhere ever again without strapping a plenteous supply of fresh water to my back.

When I let my mind wander to the next level, I wonder what the Chinese man with the beady eyes is doing right at this moment. I wonder if someone is sleeping in that same train bed or that same hotel room tonight. I gave a Bible to a Chinese woman I met on that train; her dream was to go to America someday. Did she make it? And did that Bible help her to discover the love of Jesus? Only God knows.

Those places and people are existing, living their lives, while I am existing in my life a world away. And maybe someday, God willing, our worlds will have the pleasure of merging, if even for a brief moment in time.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Old Friends, and Evolution of a Room

I have several writing projects coming up, so I’ve been freaking out a little about the state of our house and feeling pressure to get it back to normal. So last night, I loaded up on ibuprofen and vitamins and decided to tackle some boxes. I enlisted the help of Ryan and Ryley, and now we feel so much better about our lives! Progress!!!


I’ve heard it said this way before, but unpacking our books was really like being reunited with old friends. And the most amazing thing? As we emptied each box, we knew which books were still missing. Ryan listed off several he was concerned about, and I was missing some favorites as well. And when finally we located another book box in the chaos of our guestroom, we were excited and relieved all at once.

Though we are still missing “To Kill a Mockingbird” and one of the Narnia books….Maybe the movers were intrigued by those titles and decided to snag them? Winking smile

We have a big box of Michael Crichton, chick lit, and other random titles that we are trimming from our collection, so let us know if you need something new to read!

And now I give you, “evolution of a room”:







We’ve come such a long way, and I’m happy with how it’s coming together.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Picture Post

Something a little lighter is in order. Something non-flood-related, I think.

How about a picture post?

Here’s Ryley practicing her Christmas recital piece a few days before Thanksgiving (read: pre-flood). We never did end up having a recital, so I’m posting it here:

Ever the performer, Ryley played Hermia in her class’s production of Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”



She was also narrator in the church Christmas production a few days later:



We spent a few wonderful days in Nebraska for Christmas, at my grandma’s house:



Then, Saturday, December 28, was Ryan’s and my 15th anniversary!! Someone had given us a Marriott gift card a couple of years ago, and we’ve never had the opportunity to use it! What better time than on our anniversary??

We booked a room down on Denver’s 16th Street Mall, and we had a lovely time. The gift card had enough money for dinner via room service and a delicious breakfast at the hotel downstairs the next morning. It even snowed for us!! Very romantic.






In January, we delved into Broncos mania. The city was alive with excitement and team spirit. Everyone wore their jerseys and team shirts as much as possible, and after every win, our fellow Denverites greeted each other in the streets, all united in Broncos Frenzy. After we won the AFC championship, vendors selling team paraphernalia set up their tents in parking lots all over town. People flew Broncos flags from the cars. It was super insane and super fun. We heard that they dyed the downtown skating rink orange, but we never made it down there to see it for ourselves.

Our own AFC Championship celebration:



Orange French bread?


The day before the SuperBowl, our grocery store was all decked out:



Even the doughnuts:


On Super Bowl Sunday, we taught Sunday School, and all our kids were decked out in their Broncos gear!



Ryan spent the afternoon making special foods:


These wings he made were divine!!!


And stuffed mushrooms! Yay!

It was a good thing we had such good food to eat while we watched our team get pounded by a much better team. Winking smile It’s just a game, and it was certainly fun while it lasted!!

Later in the week, the Olympics started, and Ryley got such a kick out of Olympic figure skating! She made me pause it so she could recreate the routine herself. Smile


And I know this isn’t the most flattering of pictures, but I love it all the same….Ryley and I fell asleep on our super comfy new couch on Valentine’s Day.


Actually, this is pretty much where I want to stay all the time these days. This sofa is my happy place.


And now I’m off. It is a cold, foggy, drizzly, kinda-snowy Saturday. Ryan took his little girl out for some Ry Time, and I am left to my own devices, which is actually pretty exciting. Winking smile