articulate - adjective
1. having parts connected by joints, as in "articulated"
2. made up of distinct words joined together in such a way as to convey meaning
3. able to express oneself clearly and distinctly
4. well formulated, clearly presented

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Do you ever think about mottos?

I can't even think the word "motto" without also mentally hearing the lines from Disney's movie, The Lion King:

     Simba:  "What's a motto?"
     Timone:  "Nothing!  What's a motto with you? Hahahahaha!"

Yeah, my funny bone is easily tickled!

Aside from the questionable wisdom provided by animated movie characters, I've been thinking about mottos lately.  

It started when I was conversing with a lady who was working with preschoolers.  The children were busily occupied in various corners of the room, playing house, driving cars accompanied by appropriate sound effects, etc.  In the course of our conversation, it was mentioned that a certain store had changed its selling policy nationwide.  From across the room, a little voice sang out, "Nationwide is on your side!"

The adult conversation lay in ashes at the feet of two laughing females.  

Mottos have magic.  They should sum up your reason for being, beckon you to a higher level of excellence.  They should reflect your purpose and sound appealing to your ears.
An internet search, however, reveals that famous quotes are often confused with mottos.

For instance, it's interesting and even intriguing to note that Albert Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge," but is that a motto?  Not necessarily.  I like it, but it's just a thought-provoking opinion held by a genius. defines motto this way:
     1. a maxim adopted as an expression of the guiding principle of a person, organization, city,etc.
     2. a sentence, phrase, or word expressing the spirit or purpose of a person, organization,city, etc., and often inscribed on a badge, banner, etc.
A search for a bona-fide motto yields an interesting array of applications worldwide.
  • Organizations use mottos - for example, the Civil Air Patrol - Semper Vigilens or Always Vigilant
  • Civil servants use mottos - the Minneapolis Police Department, for instance - To Protect with Courage, To Serve with Compassion
  • Universities and countries employ them - Yale's is Lux et veritas or Light and truth, and Morocco's is God, the Country, the King.
  • And of course, nearly everyone can quote various mottos from the military.  For example, what do you think of when I say, "Be all that you can be" or "Semper Fi"?  Do I hear a "huah!"?

Business mottos are particularly interesting.  Some are very serious, reflecting a dual purpose of advertising quality products while motivating employees:
  • Accenture: High Performance, Delivered
  • Casio: Creativity and Contribution
  • Kalypso: Delivering on the promise of innovation
Others are blatant horse hockey designed solely to attract business:
  • Burger King: Have It Your Way
  • Canon: Delighting you always
  • Electrolux: Thinking of you
Some are clever:
  • Nikon: At the heart of the image
  • Infosys: Win in the flat world
Some are motivational in many life areas:
  • Nike: Just do It
 Some fall kind of flat:
  • Morrisons: More Reasons to Shop at Morrisons
  • Nutella: Che mondo sarebbe senza nutella (What would the world be like without Nutella)
 And others are imaginative or just plain fun:
  • KFC: Finger Lickin' Good
  • Xbox 360: Jump In

I never had a motto.  Never thought I needed one.  But recently, I've been thinking about adopting one temporarily.  Born out of a lifetime of people pleasing and striving to meet others' expectations, it will need to reflect a desire to move forward, to grow, to be independent minded.  It can't be distracting with flowery words or phrases.  It can't be cumbersomely long.  I'd like it to be both imaginative and fun, but the reality is I'm already imaginative and fun.  This motto needs to spur me to stop apologizing for being who I am.

So after thinking for a while, I summed all that up into 2 short reminders made of only four words.  I put it on a document, framed it in a border, printed it and put in on my bookshelf.

It will do for now.

It's not catchy or cutesy-wootsy.  It'll never make money or become a nationwide catch-phrase.  But it serves as a reminder to stand a little straighter, to stop mentally mumbling apologetically.  It frees me to be me.  
What do you think?  Do you have a motto that serves you well?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Recent Wonderings...

A large percentage of my musings end in question marks.  Don’t yours?  Tell me this is normal!

Consequently, I often find myself wondering the oddest things.

Recent wonderings include the following:
  • Why is the word “egret” (a large white bird) found in the word “regret” (to rue or feel sorry about)? 
  • Which is really right – flier or flyer?  Does it matter?
  • Why is the word “neigh” in “neighbor”?
  • And -- probably spawned in the wake of Hurricane Irene’s devastation -- is it possible to wreak anything besides havoc?  What if you wanted to wreak something positive, like organization or joy?  Would it still be wreaking?
Being a compulsive researcher – which I blame on my parents’ purchase of a set of encyclopedias when I was young and impressionable – I am often compelled to internet pursuits by questions like these.  These are some of the answers I’ve found:
  • British people prefer “flyer” for both the brochure and what flies.  Americans prefer “flier” for both.  According to this internet distinction, I am British.  Good to know.  Maybe this explains why my 15yo son sounds like Sean Connery when quoting most movies.
Oh, and yes, it matters whether you use “flier” or “flyer.”  At least if you believe the founts of wisdom on the college web sites, it does.  As an American (despite what the internet and my son's accent would have me to believe), I need to stick with the "i” and not the “y” unless I am using a trademarked name like “Radio Flyer.”
  • “Neigh” in “neighbor” has no relation to the sound a horse makes.  It comes from the root of “nigh,” meaning “near,” which is where your neighbor lives.  Near you.  Works for me!
  • And “wreak” is an ancient English word with the same root as “wreck.”  In that light, I believe you’d have to choose some other verb for dispensing happiness, orderliness, or any other positive results.
But I still have no idea why “egret” is found in “regret.”  Do you?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Favorite: The Whole Family Together Again

When we found out our kids in TX were coming to NY for a visit, we suddenly realized it was the perfect opportunity to get the whole family together for some pictures.  After we found a date when the other kids were available, we began inviting grandparents, aunts, cousins, etc. for a picnic on Sunday afternoon.  I CAN'T BEGIN to tell you what a pleasure it was, having all these people traipsing over our house, carrying paper plates laden with potato salad and pulled pork, chatting and laughing and passing the baby around.  I loved sitting on the edges, watching the smiles and listening to the banter as four generations interacted with each other.

What a blessing.

The highlight came when we all took a short drive to a nearby camp where we were able to choose from a variety of different backgrounds for group photographs.  We had invited a family friend who is a great amateur photographer to spend the day with us, and she took some marvelous pictures.  This is my favorite of our kids:

So, quite without realizing it, we hosted our first family reunion.  It was over far too quickly, but the memories linger, sparked every time we scroll through the photos...

How about you?  Did you attend any great get-togethers this summer?  What are your favorite memories from them?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Going Frugal - Homemade Laundry Products

 According to Ben Franklin, a penny saved is a penny earned.  Lately, frugality has gained in popularity until it approaches the status of new fad.  TV shows feature coupon-aholics who stockpile more than they can use in three years, and blogs give advice on how to "go green" on everything from gardening to homemade toilet paper.  While I'm never the first to jump on a bandwagon (unless the music is REALLY great!), I figure Ben had a good point, and every penny I can save from one purchase now is a penny I can spend on something different later.

A few weeks ago, our clothes dryer rolled over, coughed a little, and gently died.  My wonderful handyman husband heaved a sigh, took it apart, inspected this area and that, and pronounced it dead at the scene.  Since the washer was also giving signs of imminent expiration, we went shopping for a matched set.  

(A humorous side note:  We couldn't find any gas dryers in town, so we went to a store on the west side of Erie.  The sales associate at that store explained that gas dryers aren't stocked in larger towns/cities around here, because the market demands electric.  More rural markets stock gas appliances.  "As you can see," he gestured widely to prove his point, "we're full of gas here!"  He continued his sales spiel without even a flicker of an eyelash... and I gave in to a sudden need to move away and inspect other models.  Yes, it was cowardly, I know, but I admit to deserting my husband, leaving him to make polite conversation after that remark.)

Not long afterward, Handsome Hubby installed our new machines and we stepped back to watch them work, commenting on the changes in technology in the past several decades since we've purchased these appliances.

Me:  "The washer's much quieter than the old one."

Him:  "The dryer's just as noisy as the old one."

Me:  "You can't watch the washer agitate anymore!  When you open the lid, it stops."

Him:  "Is watching clothes agitate a favorite past-time of yours or something?"

Me, sheepishly:  "Well... yeah... kinda!"

Him, rolling eyes:  "So find a magnet to fake out the lid sensor."

And so on.  One of the things that did concern me, though, was that we've always purchased powdered laundry detergent for our family of six, since it's usually cheaper than the liquid.  And I wasn't sure our powder detergent was dissolving well.

But I've heard quite a bit recently about people making their own liquid detergent.  I come from a long line of Make-It-From-Scratch homemakers, so I did the research and we decided to give it a try.

First to choose a recipe.  Since we're attempting to make detergent, why not make fabric softener and oxyclean, too?  Sure.  We're gluttons for punishment the adventurous sort.  Why not?  More research of recipes and perusal of comments to ensure the process worked for most individuals, and decisions were finally made.

Here are the recipes we chose:

Laundry detergent - adapted from
1/3 bar Fels-Naptha -- Grate into a saucepan
6 cups water -- Add and heat, stirring till soap melts
1/2 cup washing soda (not baking soda) and
1/2 cup Borax -- Add both of these and stir dill dissolved.  Remove from heat
4 cups water -- Pour into a large bucket.  Add soap mixture and stir.
1 gallon plus 6 cups water -- Add and stir. Let sit 24 hours.  Stir again (a paint-stirring attachment on a drill works well to ensure all ingredients are well mixed.

Use 1/2 cup per load

Fabric softener -- adapted from
6 cups water - heat till HOT.  Remove from stovetop.
2 cups hair conditioner - Add & mix well, till conditioner is completely dissolved
3 cups white vinegar - Add and mix well
Optional: several drops essential oil for scent - Add and stir in

Use 2 tablespoons per load

Oxiclean -- adapted from
1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide
1/2 cup baking soda
Mix and pour directly into wash water.
(Note:  Since we want the oxidization process to happen in the wash load, we just mix this up immediately before pouring it into each load.  It's certainly not difficult, and it has worked well so far!)

Recipes chosen, the second step is to assemble ingredients.  Many of these we didn't have on hand, but a online quick cost-comparison of nearby stores gave us the best prices for our shopping trip.

Next step:  Follow directions!  This was the fun part.  We grated and melted and stirred and poured, and by the end of a half hour or so we had about 2.5 gallons of detergent and about 3 quarts of fabric softener in less time than it takes to drive to the grocery store.  They both smell great, but how do they work?

Next step:  Try them out!  

Results?  They need to be stirred or shaken before use (either one is okay, despite James Bond's preference), but that's no problem.  So far so good!  Clothes smell clean and fresh, stains come out, dinginess is avoided, and there's no static electricity.

But what about the bottom line?

Here's our cost comparison:
Homemade laundry detergent - about a penny per use
Previous laundry detergent - $.07 per load
Savings = $.06 per washload.
Not significant, but that's still six cents earned!  Ben Franklin would be proud.  I'm feeling kind of proud!  :)

Homemade fabric softener - less than a penny per use
Previous fabric softener - $.28 per load
Savings = $.27 per washload.
This is worth noticing.  Multiply that times 6 loads per week, and we have $1.62 per week.

Homemade oxidizer - about $.03 per use
Previous oxidizer powder - $.46 per use
Savings = $.43 per washload.


This is significant savings.  I sense a homeschool math lesson coming up!  Add them all together:
+   .43
  $ .76 per load

Multiply that times 6 loads per week = $4.56
Multiply that times 52 weeks per year = $237.12 saved/earned per year.

 I can certainly think of other things to spend $237 on than laundry products!

Bottom line:  It's cheaper, it works, and it's fun to make!  We'll definitely be doing this again!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This Week's "Favorites" - Random Moments

Do you look back at the end of your days or weeks and pick out favorite moments from them?  Or is that just a quirk of mine?

Okay, okay, let's skip the topic of my quirkiness!  I like to pick out favorites on Friday, just because I like the alliteration of "Friday Favorites" (yet another quirk, I know!), but on Friday I couldn't narrow my favorite moments down to just one, and today I added another two.  So here's the latest version of my week's "Favorites" -- Random Moments, in no particular order.

1.  Favorite Flower Moments - This bouquet graced a table at a baby shower for a person I don't even know in Buffalo, NY, on Sunday, July 24.  Here it is, three weeks later, and it looks nearly as fresh as it did then!  My friend who attended the shower brought them to the church to decorate our Registration Table at VBS, where they proceeded to wilt when we forgot to add water to the vase, then spring back to life again the next day.  They have brought so much joy over the past three weeks!  
(How have they managed to stay so fresh looking?  Does anyone know?  Do florists hold the secret to the Fountain of Youth nowadays?  Maybe I should drink from that vase!)

2.  Favorite Kitty Moments - Yes, you know the story now of the scary hours when we thought Friskie was gone.  This week she has sneaked into the house several times to drape herself across the back of my chair or curl up - as she is here - in the midst of my work.  Here she shares her lovely fur with my son's new work uniform while I hem the slacks.

3.  Favorite Summer Weather Moments - This week has been gorgeous!  I have enjoyed it so much.  The sound of the wind whipping the flag out front or rustling the poplar leaves has been beautifully accompanied by the musical tinkling of the wind chimes my son gave me for Christmas (you can see them hanging from the corner of the porch roof if you look closely).  They're supposed to be tuned to the first eight notes of "Amazing Grace," but we often hear other songs in the notes as well.  It's fun to find out what songs the other family members hear when we're out on the porch at the same time!

4.  Favorite Friend Moments - No, this is not a picture of my friends!  I didn't get a photo of them this time, but today my husband and I met D & J at a restaurant in Warren, PA, for breakfast.  We try to do this every couple of months, but with John working away from home so much recently, we hadn't had a chance to get together in ages.  What fun we had, though, catching up on the times we'd missed, sharing photos, and just generally "flapping our gums" as our friend D puts it.  And these peach muffins were my favorite food there!  I'm going to have to figure out this recipe sometime soon!


5.  Favorite Hubby Moments - Yes, he is my favorite hubby!  He says it doesn't count for me to call him my favorite since he's my only one, but of all the husbands in the world he's my favorite, so it works for me.  Friday John returned home from a week of on-the-job training two hours from home, and we shared a favorite supper (Stew Beef and Dumplings) and a movie (Sahara) with the guys.  Good times, great memories!  Then today, after meeting our friends for breakfast, John took me to one of the nearby company tower sites and explained the equipment and inner workings to me after replacing an air filter in the building at the base of the tower.  It was a beautiful, sunshiny day, and we enjoyed every moment of it.

There!  It's certainly not a comprehensive list, but these are the favorites from this week that stand out in my mind at this moment.  It's such a pleasure to look them over, treasure the best moments, and thank God for blessing me with them.

So tell me, what favorites did you have?  I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Thought Expressed

You know the old saying, "It's the thought that counts"?

I disagree.

In the right context, sure.  You tried hard to pick out a lovely gift but it was not quite the right color.  The thought counted.  Or you made the phone call to an old friend on their birthday, but they were out of town and you had to leave a message.  The thought counted.  You picked a bouquet of flowers for a sad friend and it made her sneeze.  But the thought counted.  A lot!

But if you only thought about picking out the gift?  Or you only thought about making the phone call or giving flowers?  Sorry.  Those thoughts don't count.


Because the thought was never expressed.

How can the thought count if no one knows you "thunk" it? ;)

This was brought home to me twice this week...

Once was when my daughter thoughtfully reminded me on Facebook that I have not updated my blog site in well over a year.

In the comments section under her remark, I brushed it off.  So what?  No one's missed it.  Therefore, it's obviously just a waste of time.  If I feel the need to write, I don't have to publish it on the web.  What's the point of doing that if no one cares to read it?

Immediately I had 3 comments from people claiming that they had looked for it several times and missed it.

Okay, but how am I to know that?  If you missed it but didn't tell me, how does your thought count?

Besides, I mentally wrote several blog entries, just never had the time to actually post them.  I thought about it...



Yeah, I thought, but I didn't express the thought.  I can't exactly reproach someone else for doing the same thing I did, can I? :)

Maybe I'd better work on some follow-through myself!

The second thing occurred Sunday morning.  We were on our way to church, driving through the state forest area near our home, when John suddenly stopped the car and began backing up.  I found out why when he jumped out and went to the side of the road...

A beautiful calico cat had recently been killed in an accident there.

And she sure looked a lot like ours.

And I hadn't seen ours since Saturday morning.

Now I'm not really a cat person.  Probably it has something to do with their independent natures as well as my oxygen addiction and the tendency of my throat to close up when I'm in close proximity to cats.  Breathing just seems more important to me than cuddling up to an animal which doesn't really care if you live or breathe as long as you feed it.

But our calico, Friskie, is truly the sweetest cat I have ever known.  She stays outside most of the time, catching mice and teasing the dog and rubbing against our ankles when she wants attention.  In the 10 years she's been alive, her disposition has always been gentle (unless the dog is in her face), and she's the best momma cat I've seen.  Every one of our friends who has one of her kittens has raved over their personalities and gentle ways. 

So although I don't typically fawn over her or even pay much attention to her, I do place high value on her...  something I didn't realize till Sunday when I looked into the face of a dead calico by the side of the road.

Another calico does live somewhere in our neighborhood.  I've seen it around.  Could it be possible that this one was not ours?  Not that I wished for someone else's pet to be gone, but it sure would be nice if it weren't ours...  "Nope," my husband said.  "It's Friskie.  I'm sure of it." 

So we went on to church, and I participated in the service without letting anyone know I was grieving over a silly furry creature who has been part of our family life for over a decade now.  She was just a cat, right?  But she was important to me.  And suddenly I wondered if she knew that.  She didn't ask for much from us, but didn't she deserve to know we thought she was special?  But she was just a cat.  Just a cat.

My thoughts went round and round till I was nearly dizzy with self-justification.  I know I didn't pay much attention to her, but I took care of her, right?  I made sure she had food, water, and shelter, took her to the vet, made sure she was protected when pregnant or nursing kittens.  Sure, I know I didn't really express a lot of affection to her during those ten years, but I really did treasure her.  She knew that, right?

But how could she, if I didn't express it?

Oops.  Again.

What a lesson in expressing to those around us how much we value them while we still have time to do it!  How will they ever know, unless the thought is expressed?

I have no idea what the church lesson was about.  I was busy preaching myself one.  The thought doesn't count unless it's expressed.

I know that.  I just keep forgetting.  I hope I remember it a little better this time!

When we returned home, there was Friskie, lying on the porch in a patch of sunlight.  As we walked down our the long path from the driveway to the house, she reared up her head and shot us a baleful glance, yawned, stretched, and went back to sleep.  What a relief!  I didn't care that she was doing the independent cat thing -- I hugged and petted her and told her how glad I was that she was okay.  She opened one eye and looked at me as if to say, "Yeah, yeah, now would you quit interrupting my nap?"

Typical cat!  :)

But you know what?  She has been more cuddly, more seeking of companionship this week than she has in ages.  Maybe even cats need to know they're important to someone.  Maybe even a cat needs to have the thought expressed.

Because it's only when the thought is expressed that it actually counts.