Say It Again, Sam

word laziness

image by Timothy Paule II on Pexels

I received my weekly report card from Grammarly yesterday. If you don’t already know, Grammarly is (according to their own website) “an online grammar checking, spell checking, and plagiarism detection platform for the English language developed by Grammarly, Inc.”

Even though I consider myself above average in spelling, punctuation, and word usage, I use Grammarly as a second set of eyes.

But you know that little dog that you just can’t trust NOT to nip your fingers or ankles? That’s how I feel about Grammarly. I use it, but don’t trust it 100% since sometimes the suggestions it makes are flat out wrong.

My recent report card (which compares my writing to every other person who uses the program) stated I was:

92% more productive, 82% more accurate, and that I used a whopping 95% more “unique words.”

I’m most happy to see the percentage of unique words. Why? Like many people, I can slip into being a word-lazy person in my writing and speaking.

As I wrote in my June 2018 post Searching for Just the Right Word, it’s oh-so-easy to slip into our own private reservoir of words we’re comfortable using. (Did you notice how the phrase reservoir of words was more entertaining than if I had said group of words?)

Some years back there was an article called Is Google Making Us Stupid? The jury is still out on that one, but I believe the Google keyboard for Android (called Gboard) is adding to our word laziness. This is due to its predictive nature. It remembers phrases you’ve used before and offers them up for you to choose instead of typing the actual words.

As an example, if I am texting someone and type “I hope that you are” it offers a choice of next word(s) of “having” or “doing well” or “well.” When I choose “having” and add “a” then it offers the adjectives “great” or “good” or “wonderful.”

No wonder our messages sound like blah-blah-blah.

With the recent back-to-back mass shootings, some people were upset with those who posted the phrase “thoughts and prayers” in response to social media articles about the horror. While thoughts and prayers is a sincere response from many, the rampant overuse of the phrase has made its online response seem meaningless.

You don’t need to be a professional writer or speaker to pepper your spoken or written words with out-of-the-ordinary ones. There are some how-to suggestions in my former post I’ve linked below.

I’m going to issue a challenge to my readers: The next time you want to wish someone a happy birthday (whether in person, or on social media, or by an actual birthday card sent in the mail), say or write something other than the words Happy Birthday. And no, the happiest of birthdays is not an alternative.

Even if you say or write just one sentence, make it personable; say something fantastic.

And by the way, did you know the original late 14th century meaning of the word fantastic was this: existing only in imagination.

So yes…make it fantastic!


Lifted Up post “Searching for Just the Right Word” from June 26, 2018

Understanding predictive keyboards

Grammarly’s post on the top ten overused adjectives

Graphic from

Five Bucks, Two Hours, and Three Minutes

Five Bucks Two Hours Three Minutes

Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

Legendary Stanford professor Tina Seelig posed the following assignment to teams of students in one of her classes: How profitably can a team run a (very) short-term business with $5 in seed money?

The team could spend as much time as they wanted in the planning stage, but could actually “operate” the business for a total of just two hours. They had from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday evening to complete the project because by Sunday night Seelig expected one slide from each team detailing what they had come up with.

At Monday’s class, each team had three minutes to present their project to the class.

After you read the question in bold, I want you to stop and close your eyes to consider your response: What would YOU do to make money with five bucks, two hours, and three minutes? (Go ahead. Close your eyes and think creatively. I’ll be right here when you get back.)

If we’re being cognitively lazy, we might say to use the $5 to buy lottery tickets and hope for the best. (The older we are it seems the easier it is to jump on the first answer that comes to us.) Seelig says another common response when she poses the question to adult audiences is, “Set up a lemonade stand.” But how much lemonade could you sell in two hours? There’s not much profit there.

The creative responses from her students will blow you away.

One group, recognizing the frustratingly long wait at college town restaurants on Saturday nights, booked early reservations for two at a number of the restaurants. As their expected arrival time got close, they’d approach couples at the end of the line and sell their reservation for $20 each. If the restaurant had handed out pagers to the folks in line, the team now had another spot to sell to people who were farther back in line. Within the two hour period, this team generated a few hundred dollars.

Knowing how many bicycles are used on campus, another team bought a tire pressure and a pump for air. Setting up in front of the student union, they offered to check bicycle tire pressure for free, and if it was low, charged $1 for adding air. Then when they saw how grateful students were to have this service so handy, they asked for donations instead. They too made a few hundred dollars in the two hours.

The highest profit generated by one team was $650. Before this team did anything, they evaluated what resources were available to them: five bucks, two hours, and three minutes. They determined that the $5 and the two hours would restrict them; both are very limiting. The students recognized that the most precious asset in their hands was the three-minute timeslot.

They “sold” the three-minute slot to a company that wanted to recruit the students and created an infomercial for that company. That is what they played during their three-minute presentation time.

Seelig says she used this exercise to demonstrate what you can do with an entrepreneurial mindset. But she wanted to make sure her students learned that financial reward isn’t necessarily the primary value over everything else. So the next time she ran the exercise, instead of $5, the students received ten paperclips. (She had been inspired by the story of Kyle MacDonald, link below.)

If you want to read how her students assigned amazing value to paperclips, you’ll just have to buy Seelig’s 2009 book What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20.


Seelig’s website

Kyle MacDonald story

Guilty As Charged

Guilty as charged

One of the questions on the VA application for a REAL ID is this: Have you ever been found guilty of a crime other than parking violations?

The phrasing indicated to me that the government wanted any speeding or moving violations included. So I had to fess up. Yes, I am guilty of the most heinous of all moving violations: Evasion of a traffic control device.

Let me state for the record, your honor, that until I committed this infraction, I wasn’t even aware there was a law against it.

Several years ago I visited a friend who had recently moved. When we talked about how navigation had brought me to her home, she nodded and said there was a great shortcut that didn’t usually pop up because the road had just recently opened.

So when I left to return home, I took the shortcut. Unfortunately, traffic was backed up at the one traffic light in the town. Needing to turn right at the light, I saw I could cut through a small shopping area’s parking lot to reach the road. And I did just that.

Suddenly a police car with lights and siren was behind me. Figuring the officer was responding to an emergency and with no shoulder for me to move over onto, I turned right into a side street so he could get by. Uh, yep, he pulled in behind me.

Apparently, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, traffic code 46.2-833.1 states that, “It shall be unlawful for the driver of any motor vehicle to drive off the roadway and onto or across any public or private property in order to evade any stop sign, yield sign, traffic light, or other traffic control device.”

This moving violation cost me three points on my license.

Clearly, I didn’t intend to break the law. And now, with the REAL ID paperwork, it’s back to haunt me. I can only hope that my REAL ID (assuming I eventually obtain enough decades-old documentation to prove who I am) won’t identify me in some way as a violent offender.


Read about the VA REAL ID in my Who Do You Think You Are? post from July 30, 2019

Virginia is one of several states that prohibits evading traffic control devices.


Those Who Do Not Remember The Past…


Image by Eva Engvall on Pixabay

After I wrote about Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House on the Prairie book series, one of my readers commented: “WHO DIDN’T LOVE LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE?!”

Well, as it turns out, the Board of the Association for Library Service to Children.

After Wilder’s very successful writing career as a beloved children’s author, The American Library Association created the Wilder Award to recognize outstanding children’s authors. Laura Ingalls Wilder was the first recipient in 1954.

What an honor! Some other recipients whose names you will recognize are Tomie dePaola, Maurice Sendak, Theodor S. Geisel (Dr. Seuss), Beverly Cleary, and E. B. White.

Sadly, in 2017, Wilder’s name was stripped from the award as it was renamed the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. The reason for the renaming can be explained by a quote from Nina Lindsey, then president of the American Library Association:  “Her works reflect dated cultural attitudes toward Indigenous people and people of color that contradict modern acceptance, celebration, and understanding of diverse communities.”

I try to live my life with a love of all people regardless of how similar or different they may be from me. I sincerely regret that our country’s government and many people have grievously mistreated the Native American Indians for a long time.

And I believe that trying to purify history by forbidding anything that reminds us of any ugliness in the past is ridiculous.

Using Wilder as an example, she was born in 1867. By 1870, her family was squatting on the Osage Diminished Reserve in Kansas. As a three-year-old, she had no say in that decision. She grew up hearing adults talk about “Injuns” and living in Indian territory. Wilder’s mother was afraid of the Indians and likely some of that fear passed along to her children.

When Wilder grew up, she wrote about her life as a child, about what it was like, how people talked. She quoted a neighbor as making the terrible remark about the “only good Indian being a dead one.”

Some elementary school teachers are using the Little House books in their classrooms as a way to talk about diversity and acceptance. Instead of banning the books, they are using them as a springboard to explain that the author wrote about her life as a child, what it was like then, and how some people today are (wrongly) still acting that way toward people who are different from themselves.

Bad stuff has happened throughout history. Pretending it hasn’t and punishing people for the telling of the stories won’t fix anything. Learning from the stories and choosing to live from a standpoint of love and acceptance can.


Oh Give Me A Home, my post from July 30

Award renamed – NPR

Award renamed – NY Times

Nuptial Flinging and Hurling

nuptial hurling and flinging

Image by Krzysztof Niewolny on Pixabay

Remember the old custom of throwing uncooked rice at newlyweds at the close of the marriage ceremony? Some believe that the rice was a symbol of rain which represented (at least for farmers) good crops and good fortune. Other sites say the custom began in ancient Rome with Roman wedding guests tossing wheat at the couple.

I like Martha Stewart’s explanation: “In olden times, marriage meant expansion, from building a family to increasing one’s assets. Rice symbolized both fertility and prosperity, and tossing it at couples implied best wishes and good luck-for newborns, good harvests, and everything in between.”

However, in 1985, a Connecticut legislator proposed “An Act Prohibiting The Use Of Uncooked Rice At Nuptial Affairs.” I know, I know; that sounds like something I just made up. But no, it’s true. According to, the act stated that “no person shall throw, fling, cast or hurl any uncooked rice at any time during the celebration of any marriage.”

Apparently, Rep. Mae Schmidle believed the rumor that birds which ate the discarded rice died horrible deaths because their bird digestive systems just couldn’t handle raw rice. She stated that the rice sat there in their bellies and caused birds’ stomachs to expand and, well, bye-bye birdie.

I’m here to put your mind at rest; it’s just not true. Both the Audubon Society and the Ornithological Association say this is one of those myths that got traction and just won’t go away. Birds like rice! The ducks and geese that migrate to the north depend on rice fields so they can fatten up before their trek.

Steven C. Sibley of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology wrote to Ann Landers when she passed along the false warning about rice making birds explode. His message included this: “Rice is no threat to birds. It must be boiled before it will expand. Furthermore, all the food that birds swallow is ground up by powerful muscles and grit in their gizzards. Many birds love rice, as any frustrated rice farmer will tell you.”

My guess is that the rumor was first started by the National Association of Folks Who Clean Up After Wedding Ceremonies. And, as usually happens with the law of unintended consequences, I’ll bet that they’re not any happier with rice’s replacements: rose petals, confetti, pompoms, or (gasp!) glitter. And blowing bubbles can result in some slippery surfaces.

As long as the flinging and hurling portion of the ceremony is outside, can we just agree to throw rice or birdseed and let the birds enjoy the meal?


One site offers alternatives to rice

An in-depth article on the subject

Who Do You Think You Are?

Real ID

Image by Pasja1000 on Pixabay

Do you have a REAL ID? No, I’m not talking about your state driver’s license, your Social Security card, or your birth certificate. I’m talking about the state-issued identification card that is actually called your REAL ID.

After the horrific events of 9/11, our government began a process of creating tighter standards for people to obtain a valid source of personal identification. The REAL ID Act, passed in 2005 by Congress, has taken many years to get every state on board and to set up the tight restrictions to obtain the identification card. As Homeland Security’s site advises, they wanted to “implement the Act in a measured, fair, and responsible way.”

Here are the instances you will need a REAL ID: if you want or need to access Federal facilities or a nuclear power plant and to board federally regulated commercial aircraft. OK, so not many of us will ever enter a nuclear power plant, but many of us need to access Federal facilities, and at some point, most of us will get on a plane.

Well, after October 1, 2020 (14 months from now), you will need a REAL ID or a valid passport to board an airplane. So, OK, if you have a valid passport, you won’t need the REAL ID as long as you are willing (and remember) to schlep along your passport every time you fly within the US.

Here’s a portion of a recent press release:  The Transportation Security Administration is reminding travelers that beginning October 1, 2020, every traveler must present a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, or another acceptable form of identification, to fly within the United States.

Here’s some advice: If you haven’t already gotten your REAL ID, do it now. Because (at least in Virginia) it’s a little complicated, especially if you’re a woman who has been divorced and remarried and taken your spouse’s last name.

I thought I was all set when I went to the DMV today. I had my social security card, my driver’s license, my official VITAL STATISTICS Pennsylvania birth certificate, a copy of my mortgage statement, a copy of a credit card statement, and my Prince George’s County Maryland marriage license.

Nope. The marriage license, which actually looked very official, complete with seal and a license number, was not the VITAL STATISTICS copy. So for another $12 and copies of more proof of who-do-you-think-you-are-asking-for-this? documentation, I will mail the request for the official license tomorrow.

But something told me that I should read a little more deeply on the Virginia DMV site to make sure that the marriage certificate was all I was missing. And apparently, I will also need to dig up the divorce decree from when I separated from my (ever) philandering high school sweetheart, may he rest in peace. The DMV did not tell me that today, so I would have wasted another trip. Because here’s the deal: the DMV needs to see official paperwork on the events that changed my birth name to the name I have now.

My guess is that most states will have similar stipulations in place. You can find your state’s information by searching for REAL ID and your state’s name.

I’m not really complaining, even though it likely sounds as if I am. I do get it; the government wants to make sure that I really am who I say I am.

And when I finally have jumped through the hurdles, my REAL ID will be a Virginia’s driver license with a star in the upper right corner.


The REAL ID Dept. of Homeland Security website

Virginia’s DMV site of REAL ID FAQs


Oh Give Me A Home

Give Me A Home

Image by Pixabay

Little House on the Prairie premiered on television as a pilot in March 1974. It was picked up as a series by NBC later that fall and was a successful show for nine seasons. According to the website, the show has been on television for more than 40 years, still showing on channels INSP and COZI TV. And it’s also still being broadcast today in more than thirty countries.

The show was, of course, based on the children’s series of books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The authenticity of her stories rings so true since she wrote about what she actually lived. She was born in a log cabin outside of Pepin, Wisconsin in 1867. As a child, her pioneer family moved throughout the Midwest following work and farming ups and downs. They lived in Walnut Grove, MN for just two years before a failed crop prompted them to move again. But Walnut Grove was the prairie town setting on the TV show.

Because of the disruption of the frequent moves, the Ingalls children learned much at home and attended local schools when they could. Her mother (“Ma”), having been a school teacher, placed strong emphasis on learning, reading, and music. Laura herself became a teacher when she was fifteen.

As soon as she received her teaching certificate in 1882, she began teaching at a one-room schoolhouse called Bouchie School about a dozen miles from home. The show kept true to real life when a character named Almanzo Wilder appeared as a family friend who was recruited by the Ingalls to pick up Laura on Fridays from Bouchie to bring her home for the weekends. Love was in the air, both on the airwaves and in real life. They were married in 1885.

Laura credits her father Charles with teaching her the “lyricism and pacing of storytelling.” Affectionately referred to as simply “Pa” in the books and the show, Charles Ingalls wanted to give his family a better life. Laura says that her father’s pioneer aspirations provided her writing with not only content but its “shape and thematic focus” as well.

Wilder’s first attempt at formal writing was an autobiography titled Pioneer Girl and was intended for adult readers. But it was rejected by publishers, with one calling it uninspiring. Wilder then spent several years reworking the idea of telling her stories and ended up with a series of children’s books, each one telling about their family’s little house in their current prairie town. Little House in the Big Woods was published in 1932. The series came to be collectively called the Little House books.

Laura Ingalls Wilder died at her home on February 10, 1957, just three days after she turned 90 years old.

I’m sure that Ma and Pa were quite proud of what Half-Pint (her father’s nickname for Laura) had accomplished.


What seems to be the authentic site

Little House in the Big Woods for sale on Amazon!


Hocus Pocus, Can You Focus?


Image by Pixabay

Last Saturday’s post centered on multitasking being a myth. If you missed reading that post, there’s a link to it at the end of this article. I have since found two great quotes on multitasking; one is from last year and the other is a couple thousand years old.

“99 percent of us cannot multitask.” ― Daniel H. Pink, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

“To do two things at once is to do neither.” — Publilius Syrus (born in 85 BC)

For those of you who remain adamant that you are successful multitaskers, I hope you tried a test similar to the one mentioned in Molly Fletcher’s post. As a reminder, here’s what she said:

“Around this time, I was trying to defend my multitasking habits to a friend who is an expert about how people use energy for success, and she interrupted me.  “OK, Molly, try this,” she said, handing me a notecard.  “Write the alphabet while you give me directions from your house to your daughters’ school.” I got past A, B, and C, but after that, my brain was scrambled. By D, I was done.”

One of the scariest aspects of multitasking involves using multiple devices. (For instance, watching TV while working on your laptop) In research conducted by the University of Sussex, MRI brain scans were performed while people used multiple devices simultaneously. The theory used to be that cognitive impairment from multitasking was temporary, but this latest research proved otherwise. These multitaskers “had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.”

The last point I’ll make is that multitasking can become addictive. We can get so accustomed to doing this, then moving to that, then switching to something else, that when we actually need to focus on one activity for an extended period, it can feel boring. We get twitchy. We need something else to do! Well, not really, but our brains have gotten used to the “excitement” of jumping around inside our heads.

Have you ever wondered why I place my links to additional reading, studies, videos, etc., that support my blog AT THE END of each article? I’m trying to help you pay attention; I’m not creating any distraction that will take you away from my post. It’s true:  I don’t want you to multitask by leaving my post and going to other websites when really, what you want to do is read and absorb my words.

I realize that doing this likely looks odd or non-techy if you compare my post to nearly everything else online, including the Forbes link below. Other writers insert links throughout an article to support various points. Remember the green light/red light analogy from last Saturday’s post? You stop reading the initial article when you click on a link. And that linked article likely has its own links, so you may end up forgetting about where you started.

Clicking on one link after the other is going down the proverbial “rabbit hole.”

We need to stop the mental running and just focus.

Compare the power of the sun to that of a laser used in surgery.

We are able to survive the sun’s tremendous energy effect on our planet because that energy is spread over our spherical earth with a total surface area of about 197 million square miles.

From, a laser is a light beam that can be focused on a very small area. The laser heats the cells in the area being treated until they “burst.”

Focus gets things done.


Last Saturday’s Post Multitasking (is) for Dummies

Multitasking changes your brain

GE video called The Power of the Sun

Multitasking (is) For Dummies


Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

The ability to multitask is usually portrayed as a badge of honor. On the job seekers website, there is actually a category titled Multitask Jobs., provides this description of a multitasker:  “People who are able to multitask have the ability to perform several tasks nearly simultaneously. If you watch someone who is a multitasker, you’ll notice that the person has a certain rhythm to her work and is capable of changing tasks without a break in that rhythm.”

Well, gosh. Who wouldn’t want to hire THAT person?

Much like an urban myth, multitasking isn’t a reality. It’s that we’ve heard it talked about in such a positive way for so long that we’ve just come to believe it’s a good thing.

Study after study now shows that we don’t really perform multiple tasks at the same time; we simply shift our focus from one activity to another, and then back and forth. One expert calls it a “green light/red light” switching activity done over and over again.

There are many problems associated with this constant shifting of focus. A primary one is that when we fail to focus on just one activity at a time, productivity suffers. When we temporarily stop doing activity A to do part of activity B, there is lost time as we make the switch. Then when we go back to A, there’s another loss of time. It may not seem like much but think about a typical workday that is spent starting/stopping between multiple projects. Listen to how we speak to ourselves when we switch: “Now, where was I?”

People believe they’re getting more done by multitasking when the science says not only is less done but it also produces lower quality work.

In his book Learn Better, Ulrich Boser advises that multitasking while trying to learn something hinders your ability to absorb the new information because it “drags on short-term memory” and keeps us from gaining an understanding. So it’s a bad idea for kids to listen to music (or text or check social media) while doing homework or studying for a test. Boser also cites a study where adults who took online classes WITHOUT any background music absorbed 150% more of the information than those who had background music playing.

This ties in with my own public speaking recommendation regarding PowerPoint or other visual aid. When (as the presenter) you show a slide to the audience and you’re still talking, the audience is hovering in that no-man’s land between listening to you and taking in what’s on the slide. Asking our audience to multitask means either they don’t hear us or they can’t absorb the slide 100%.  My best advice is to shut up and let the audience soak in the meaning of the slide. Then change the screen to black as you resume speaking.

About the only time we can do two things at the same time is when one of them is passive, one is mundane, and there is no risk involved. Here’s a good example: I listen to fiction through earbuds while I’m standing at the sink peeling potatoes. The task is mundane, the listening is passive, and I’m not going to hurt anyone with my potato peeler.

My word counter tells me that when I completed that last sentence, this post was at 586 words. Since Mr. Boser says we learn better in smaller doses, I’m going to continue this topic in part two on Tuesday.


Great article by Molly Fletcher

Self-test on switchtasking

Article from

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The Woman Was A Saint


Image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

I firmly believe God has a sense of humor. Because why else would he have created one in human beings? (Well, in most of us, anyhow.)

So here’s one of my favorite religious-related jokes. In a quick search, I can’t find it online so no attribution is given. It was from the early 1990s, I believe. It went something like this:

My greatest fear is not of dying, but rather getting to Heaven to find that Mother Teresa is the person in line ahead of me. Her life story has been put forth in this HUGE volume. Saint Peter turns page after page, reading about her dedication to helping the poor. Coming to the end, Saint Peter looks up at Mother Teresa and asks, “So…what else have you done?

Mother Teresa died in 1997 but was not canonized (officially declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church) until September 2016 by Pope Francis. It turns out the process to be declared a saint is neither quick nor easy.

In the first place, before the process begins you have to be dead. And usually you have to be dead at least five years, although that time restriction can be waived by the Pope.

Step two is that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints needs to open a case. They investigate and review the evidence for the person having been a servant of God.

If said Congregation for the Causes of Saints comes to the conclusion that the person lived a life of heroic virtue, they send along the recommendation to the Pope.

Then if ONE verified miracle can be truly attributed to prayers to the deceased saint-in-waiting, the person can be declared as beatified. In the Roman Catholic Church, this means the deceased is in a state of bliss in Heaven and is able to intercede with God. Congratulations! You’ve just overcome the first hurdle to becoming a saint.

But the deceased needs TWO verified miracles attributed to prayers to them in order to seal the deal on sainthood.

I warned you that the process wasn’t quick or easy.

I had no inkling that being declared a saint depended on miracles that occurred due to people praying to you after you were dead.

Is it just me or do you find that odd?  Well, maybe not odd, but unsettling somehow.

Mother Teresa was considered by most people to be a caring, selfless, woman of God who worked with the poor, the disenfranchised, the forgotten. To me her entire life seems like it should be the basis for sainthood.

Here is my favorite Mother Teresa quote: “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”


Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta