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For the linguistically challenged *updated*

11 May

If you’re like me, half a semester of beginning college Spanish is about all you can handle. Yes, half a semester. After that it was all Greek to me.
So we may not ever be bilingual, and that kind of sucks. It’s also embarrassing when you’ve studied so little language, and have such a loose handle on non-English pronunciation, that you just give up trying with the easiest of words: “Tasty lookin’ whores-devours at this party, huh?” That might offend.

I often feel dumb when I don’t know how to pronounce the names of fashion designers. Obviously this embarrassment isn’t made public often, since I nor anyone I really know is in the designer-wearing crowd. Still, if you too struggle with this, here’s some help: the BBC and the Wall Street Journal have kindly provided articles on the subject.

If you don’t feel comfortable ordering a few dozen types of scotch, a Scot has done the talking bit for you, aye.

Click for pronunciation

For many other of your pronunciation needs is a YouTube channel, Pronunciation Book. These spoken words are either ridiculously mundane, or rather helpful.

Lastly, but most shameful, I am terrible at Bible words. Here’s the thing: Even if you don’t read or talk about the Bible much, you  will be all the smarter, more cultured, and sophisticated-er with the ability decipher some Hebrew, Greek, and/or Latin vocabulary. Do so here and here.

Now go forth, knowing more both obscure pronunciation like examples above, and more common ones:

  • aegis: ee-jis, not ay-jis
  • asterisk: as-ter-isk, not as-ter-ik
  • alumnae: a-lum-nee, not a-lum-nay
  • archipelago: ar-ki-PEL-a-go, not arch-i-pel-a-go
  • athlete: ath-leet, not ath-a-leet
  • candidate: kan-di-dayt, not kan-i-dayt
  • chimera: kiy-MEER-a, not CHIM-er-a
  • disastrous: di-zas-tres, not di-zas-ter-es
  • electoral: e-LEK-tor-al, not e-lek-TOR-al
  • etcetera: et-set-er-a, not ek-set-er-a
  • lambaste: lam-bayst, not lam-bast
  • larvae: lar-vee, not lar-vay
  • library: li-brar-y, not li-bar-y
  • mischievous: MIS-che-vus, not mis-CHEE-vee-us
  • mispronunciation: mis-pro-nun-see-ay-shun, not mis-pro-nown-see-ay-shun
  • nuclear: noo-klee-ur, not noo-kyu-lur
  • nuptial: nup-shul, not nup-shoo-al
  • primer: (schoolbook) prim-mer, not pry-mer
  • picture: pik-cher, not pit-cher
  • prescription: prih-skrip-shun, not per-skrip-shun
  • prerogative: pre-rog-a-tive, not per-rog-a-tive
  • peremptory: per-emp-tuh-ree, not pre-emp-tuh-ree
  • probably: prob-a-blee, not pra-lee or prob-lee
  • Realtor: reel-ter, not ree-la-ter
  • supposedly: su-pos-ed-lee, not su-pos-ab-lee
  • spurious: spyoor-ee-us, not spur-ee-us
  • tenet: ten-it, not ten-unt
  • ticklish: tik-lish, not tik-i-lish
  • triathlon: try-ath-lon, not try-ath-a-lon

Read more: Commonly Mispronounced Words —

Pocket squares and bow ties

12 Apr

Cary Grant, of course.

There is a whimsical, entrancing world that I am often drawn into. It is full of clothes and accessories and materials and fashions – peep-toes, strands of pearls, floral patterns and shirt dresses. NO! I’m talking about suit jackets, ties, flannel, and white button-downs cuffed at the elbow. Yes, I’m talking about men’s fashion.

I am a girl. I like dressing like a girl. But I think men’s style is indcredibly interesting and exciting. It is a strange addiction.

Exhibit A: I peruse Esquire and GQ online. I always feel quite odd when I go to these sites because I have to bypass the photos of Minka Kelly and Christina Hendricks,with headlines suggesting who-knows-what about unmentionable things. But these sites have how-to’s like The Well-Dressed Rebel (a guide to breaking the rules), and How to Wear Jeans. Not stuff I need to know, but still.

Exhibit B: GQ has a section called “Style Icons,” and created a fashion tribute to Paul Newman. Who do classically stylish women have to imitate, seriously? There are few ladies who were really bold and original in their time, I feel like.

Exhibit C: Bow ties and suspenders, yes please. The ties are great tied or untied… see photo of the lovely John Krasinski.

Exhibit D: Men’s runway fashion, much like women’s is weird. There is plenty of weird clothes out there.  And male models (again, much like female ones) freak me out. And STILL it’s fascinating! To keep things humorous, though, here’s a how-to-turn-your-boyfriend-into-someone-else-with-clothes blog.


How to improve your mood

18 Mar

What’s your dilemma?

If you feel down and want to laugh at silly and inappropriate things:

  • Zach Galifianakis as talk show host on Between Two Ferns. His interview with Steve Carell is my favorite.

If you feel sorry for yourself and overwhelmed by your troubles:

  • The Real Full House : a blog written by a dad and uncle, raising three girls after the death of their mother. By that description you’d think it would worsen your mood, but personally, it warms my heart and they are quite hilarious writers. Talk about a good paradigm shift to stop being woe-is-me.

If you feel hopeless about romance and like you might give up on love:

  • 271 letters of correspondence between a husband and wife while he was overseas during WWII. Possibly the most real-life, lovey things ever written.

If you are feeling confused and bitter about faith and Christianity:

  • CS Lewis on Twitter
  • Sojourners – A progressive Christian organization all about social justice
  • Lord, Save Us From Your Followers – A documentary. It’s on Netflix instant play, or there are clips on the website.
  • The Broken Bread, my friend Troy’s blog, will help restore you, give you food for thought, and might spur some interesting questions and/or comments that you can outlet
  • Go straight to the source. Read and study the Bible.

If you are a guy feeling bad about your lack of DIY skills:

You feel like you should be more philanthropic with your money:

  • Look for a charity or nonprofit on GuideStar or Charity Navigator to help out with your cash. Find a cause you care about, or explore to find one.

You feel like a dunce:

More to come later. Send your suggestions.

Favorite Words

17 Mar

“What’s your favorite word?”


A dull, number-crunching IRS agent’s favorite word would obviously be integer.

However, once Harold Crick had his revelation and began to, as numerous punk-rock songs urged him, “live his life,” maybe his favorite word changed to tubular or righteous. Or serendipitous, sublime, succulent.

I love the movie Stranger Than Fiction, but I digress. The original question still stands: What is your favorite word?

The words on my favorite list come and go, but here are some current ones:


Sometimes it’s not even the word itself, but more how someone says it. For instance, Audrey Hepburn somehow made every word she said sound distinguished. I think I still love souffle because of how she said it in Sabrina (1954). Better to slave over a souffle than move to Butte!

The legacy of a WWII vet

16 Mar

If you want this story or any excerpts, please leave a comment at the bottom with an email address, and I will respond. All research and writing is mine.


Thomas “Sug” Collins returned from service in World War II’s European Theater and lived 66 quiet years in Laramie. He stayed in the first and only house he and his wife ever bought; where he fathered their four daughters and welcomed their eight grandchildren and nineteen great-grandchildren. Sug – short for sugar, short for “Little Sugar” – was a nickname he grudgingly endured from his older brothers as a kid, but a name he later kept and answered to from most everyone he ever knew.

Sug died at 89 on October 22, 2008.

His story was not formally published or widely known of. In fact, only a handful of people outside his family knew the details of his service. He was interested in living life, not on dropping his own name and letting his part in the war be known.

Though he fought with individual heroism, his story blends with the great number of deeds and sacrifices given by the myriad of WWII fighters. The collection of selfless actions provokes solemn awe in those dwindling members of the current generation who appreciate it. Instead of remaining disconnected, those few fix a purposeful gaze on the smooth, white marble of a cross or Star of David, or any marker on the grave of a veteran, and feel their chest tighten slightly in a sweep of speechless gratitude.

Photo: Mine. Taken in Luxembourg.

Maybe one day, a young person will stand before Sug’s headstone and be humbled that a WWII soldier lived through battle and many decades longer. But on October 29, Sug’s funeral didn’t stop traffic or merit a moment of silence. His was one of two military honors burials that week.

There was, though, a small group of young adults present, outside his family, who cared. Sug was buried amid the respectful formality and tradition of military honors drills by Air National Guardsman.

Precision in a step, a salute, a rifle volley: the marks of a military honors funeral. With the number of WWII, Korea and Vietnam veterans who die each day, some servicemembers report for duty at a cemetery. About 686,000 veterans died in 2007. The number of funerals near larger populations can be between seven and thirty daily.

Two National Guardsmen, along with American Legion and VFW members stood for the noon funeral. Sug’s family was there: his wife, Mildred, and his daughters, from youngest to oldest: Sally, Karen, Janet and Jeannie.

The honor guard presented Sug’s widow with a folded flag. They had been married for 63 years, 2 months and 28 days.

The four daughters said the service was sad, touching, lovely and respectful. It made them proud. “He very well deserved it,” Jeannie said of her father.

The women describe their father as strong and steady – a man who didn’t get shaken up easily. During the tornado that roughed Laramie up a bit in the spring, Sug sat square in the living room and didn’t worry about it. If it’s going to hit, it will hit.

They say skin color and class didn’t exist in their father’s eyes. He was very conservative. He hunted, but only for the meat and never for the trophy. As parents, community members and surrogate parents to local children in need of care, the four women describe both their mother and father as goodhearted people who didn’t expect anything in return.

Sug’s family plucks his story from the mass of war stories. By the way they describe him in soft, loving tones, he was a great man in each of their lives.

A few years after Sug graduated from Laramie High School he was drafted into the Air Force, then the Army Air Force. It was April 1, 1942. Not even four months after the Pearl Harbor attack, he was in training to be a ball turret gunner: manning a gun in the rotating ball underneath B-17 aircraft. He was supposed to protect the vulnerable belly of the plane, and it was one of the most dangerous jobs.

He was sent overseas, stationed in England in late 1943. He flew 25 missions in five months. One mission showed the gut of Sug’s character: the co-pilot was shot, and all the crew jumped in panic. Sug stayed. He helped the pilot land the burning plane.

After those missions, he came home.

Sug was a true war hero when he was honorably discharged from the Army Air Force and then the reserves three years after he returned home. For his brave actions in the war his uniform was decorated with pins and ribbons, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Oak Leaf Cluster.

Though Mildred couldn’t remember the dates right away, she and Sug met the year he returned home and were married on July 27, 1945. “Sixty-three years is a long time to think back!” she said.

Mildred knew Sug’s parents before she ever saw him. During his time overseas, Mildred first got a job helping his mother on their Colorado ranch. After that she went to visit her sister in Washington state, not expecting to stay long. Mildred was supposed to return home for school, but instead she got a job working on war ships.

She laughed at the thought of being one of WWII’s Rosie the Riveters. “I was young then; it didn’t seem like hard work,” she said.

She and Sug wrote letters over the months. She said he asked for cookies and wrote nice, interesting letters. So when he returned home they weren’t strangers; although their first meeting wasn’t exactly love at first sight.

Sug was in Ault, Colorado at a roadside bar where one of his brothers worked. Mildred was with friends outside. When Sug came out of the bar, she figured he was drunk and didn’t pay much attention to him.

They still got together. Sug was stationed in Colorado Springs at Peterson Air Field for the remainder of his service as a reservist. He didn’t have a car, so he would take Greyhound to visit Mildred.

She said they never had a real date until after they married, and that when he proposed he gave her a pin of wings instead of an engagement ring.

She never finished school. “All my schooling I got from Sug. He taught me a lot,” she said.

Mildred and Sug bought that one-story house in Laramie with the paychecks Sug had sent home to his mother, and which his mother gave back to the new couple. With the four girls they had there, two more rooms were added on to the house.

“I was [Sug’s] eyes, and he was my legs; so we got along pretty good,” Mildred said of growing old with Sug.

Sug lived in the house which used to stand alone on the edge of prairie land. As West Laramie built up around him, Sug stayed Sug. For his family, his memory is solid and consistent. He was a good man who fought good in the war and lived good afterwards.

The only photo found from Sug’s war service shows a crew of 10 men sitting and kneeling in front of a B-17 painted with a nude woman holding a peace sign and sitting on a bomb. Sug stands on the left, the shortest of the six men standing, with eyes shadowed by bright sunlight. He is smiling.

Too great to pass up

3 Mar


Maybe a little bit true. P.S. - Click for interactivity.



Care about human trafficking?

1 Mar

The human trafficking and child sex slave industry is huge, and unfortunately it ain’t going anywhere soon. Especially when the demand, the culture, the similar industries, and the excuses keep supporting it.

I don’t claim to be any sort of an expert. I’m just sharing a few awesome resources for anyone else who wants to know more about this problem.

The A21 Campaign, the International Justice Mission, and Love 146 are a few organizations dedicated to combating human trafficking. They are inspired by the Christian call to social justice.

New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote several investigative pieces on the problem. (Just enter search terms such as “sex slavery” or “Cambodia”  into the search of all his columns at the bottom of his link.)

Here is the Department of State’s Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, for more info and reports and such.

GEMS in New York is a rehabilitation-type program for girls who are coerced, brutalized, and/or threatened  into “the life” on the streets. Featured on their website is a documentary called Very Young Girls, about young teens in New York City who were forced into prostitution by those very means. The site also lists resources in other states.

There are tons and tons of other resources and organizations! It’s a big issue. Here is an AWESOME video that helps bring it all down to bite-size. Watch the video, then go check out the Laboratory’s website. They have even more links listed.

Does your hair hang low

23 Feb

I’m the product of a woman who won “Best Hair” for her senior yearbook superlative. I received her hair genes, and I’ve also got the rarest hair color . I’ve always grown it to longer lengths,  piquing at about fifteen with hair past my hips.

Disguises back fat

Basically, my hair is kind of a big deal…

Wait, I mean, it’s a big part of who I am.

Even though having long hair kind of feels like my security blanket, I have cut it off twice for Locks of Love. I figured that I s houldn’t be a hog with it.

Since it’s been complimented my whole life, I do get tired of the responsibility. I’m the thing that gets looked at because of what’s hanging off of it: necks because of necklaces, rear-view mirrors because of charms or Yankee Candle air fresheners, and any that’s-what-she-said scenarios you might want to mentally add here.

The grass is always greener when it comes to physical appearance, isn’t it? Boy-shaped girls want curves, the pale-skinned want a tan, and everyone wants to be a redhead (of course). I’m actually not exaggerating too much on that last bit. If I had a dime for every time a girl has told me, “I’ve wanted your exact hair color since I was little.”

It kind of makes me feel bad. Like, I’m sorry I have what you want… I can’t help it. But the same goes for me. I have straight hair and wish it were curly. I also have awful fingernails, and my stomach is far from toned. What are you gunna do, besides accept yourself for exactly who you are!

Rice and Ropes – Lessons on Pushing Through

15 Jan

Today I was transferring a large number of packing peanuts from a box to a garbage bag. You know when you’re doing something, and part of you wonders if it will actually come to an end? There were so many peanuts – I started to feel like I was gathering grains of rice. It’s silly, but I had to tell myself, “Just keep going.”

This phrase, concept, and motivation is one that I treasure as a lesson I learned on my 40-day, 40-night backcountry expedition last summer. I and my teammates went with instructors from Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries into the wilderness of the Wind River Range. We were mountaineering with technical tools, like crampons and ice axes, in technical conditions like crevasse and bergschrund areas. (See mountaineering vocabulary.)

As a member of a five-person rope team traveling over glaciers, I, for the first time in my life, learned what it feels like to have to keep going. I have this habit in life where I stop. Let’s say a  pursuit or a task is like a journey with a start and a finish. Historically, more often than not, I have found an obliging roadside rock upon which I take a load off. I do this under the “pretext” of needing to think things over, compose myself, assess the situation, etc. I then get off my rock, and give up on my journey to mosey down a path of lesser resistance, or a road more traveled.

On glaciers I had an instructor and two teammates ahead of me, one teammate behind me, and we were all connected by the common vein of a rope. I had to make each step balance between walking fast enough to not be pulled by Andy ahead of me, and in step enough to not pull Tommy, who was behind me. To stop walking altogether simply wasn’t an option. We were one unit, moving together, pushing through the discomfort of heavy packs and fatigued muscles.

Back in the frontcountry, I don’t have teammates depending on me, and I’m not racing the clock to set camp before dark, cold, and bad weather set in. Here, though I’m sitting on a couch instead of rappelling or teeter-tottering on talus, I continue to be changed by what I learned in the backcountry. “Just keep going.”

I'm closest in the foreground


“What was she wearing?”

6 Jan

What was she wearing? Was she drunk? Was she with friends? What time was it? Was she dancing? Was she flirting?

These are questions some people might think or say aloud when they hear a woman* was sexually assaulted or raped. There is name for them: victim blaming.

Victim blaming statements may have harmless intent behind them, but they put undue and unfair responsibility on the victim rather than the perpatrator. The fact is that a woman should be allowed to dress, dance, talk to, and go wherever she wants. True that drinking around strangers and wearing revealing outfits could elicit unwanted attention, but such choices are NOT invitations for sexual abuse.

This is why victim blaming statements divert attention from the true source of the problem: the man who consciously decides to forcibly, sometimes violently, rape.

The other fact to keep in mind here is that victim blaming statements don’t even apply in the majority of sexual assaults and rapes. This is because most of these crimes occur among friends, acquaintances, and romantic parters. Asking about a woman’s sobreity or behavior around her friend, boyfriend, or husband at the time of the assault is irrelevant. There is no excuse.

It’s not your fault.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE

Resources by state

*Men get raped by women, too. Here I’m specifically addressing victim blaming statements that are mostly only relevant to female survivors.