The struggle is real…just-right words

Language…words, phrases, and sentences excite me. In fact, a deeply meaningful phrase is my favourite and probably why I am drawn to writing poetry. And, just so that you know, I love the ellipsis…I use it correctly and incorrectly with abandon! The same applies to the dash – and, don’t even get me started on the comma! What I am really passionate about is words…

I can be thrown by the ambiguous.  Ambiguity and a lack of accuracy are the most common causes of discontent between me and my partner. (Read as “ most common causes of fights with my partner”.  I often say “words matter”. I bet he loves that!)

I am disappointed by the basic unless the basic serves to enhance the meaning or to give clarity – and then the basic becomes beautiful simplicity.  I long for the word or phrase to be clearer…to show me, to create a picture or feeling.  

I understand the importance of context. Yet, I so often choose to leave small aspects of context out of my writing because I believe in the reader.  I believe that the reader can make meaning and that grappling with meaning is not a negative thing – unless it takes away from the impact of story.  Right now, in my writing, I am exploring the difference between what I call basic-ambiguity and lack of context.  I want to know how these things impact my writing and ultimately the reading experience.  

My daughter is an artist and she prefers to let the audience determine the meaning of a painting – there is no correct way to interpret one of her pieces. Perhaps I am a bit like she is when it comes to my writing. I am beginning to own this aspect of style – to let go of the voices that criticize this way of believing in the reader. My writing is who I am. 

I am my writing…imperfect. I celebrate this imperfection. But seriously, doesn’t the perfect word or phrase just give you a rush?

I believe in story in all forms.  We are our stories.  As we live, our past stories give us a foundation of hope. “If I could live through that, I can live through this”. And, the just-right words create the story.

When the words themselves and their order are right, when they are chosen either carefully through thought and research, or through an expression of profound emotion, they can make me think critically, weep or laugh from my gut (commas yikes).  I enjoy the challenge of finding the just-right word. One of my favourite tools is the thesaurus. I am not always able to retrieve the just-right word until I “see” it. This declining ability to retrieve the just-right word has to do with stress, age, being overwhelmed…you name it and it will give me brain fog.  Thank God for online tools. Just so that you know, my old, tattered thesaurus that got me through many an academic paper, still sits on my book shelf. It is a loyal friend that I am unable to send to the thrift store.

Today, I found a new website that made my heart beat rapidly at the anticipation of all the incredible things I could learn quickly about words and what makes them just-right:  the Online Etymology Dictionary

I am stirred to write. But, I began with excited.  The struggle is real!


Stirred is a synonym for excited and it fits how I am feeling.  It is accurate.  And that brings a smile to my face! Just an interesting note:  My grammar check wanted me to insert excited instead of stirred – no way!  I am stirred up…I often go on a deeper dive to make sure that a synonym is the just-right word.  I look up its meaning and I like to see it used in sentences.  Context matters!

Giving credit where credit belongs…recommendations:

  • I just type in a word and the word synonym next to it and wahla! My browser does all the work. How do you think I found stirred? 🙂 
  • The Words Matter image was created with Word art is a way to write with “beautiful simplicity”. Try creating some of your own.
  • The Online Etymology Dictionary (Many sources are listed on the home page for deeper research.)

1001, 1002, 1003…relief

A brief anecdote about how simple things can mean everything…

It was as dark as only the earliest morning hours can be under a cloudy Alberta sky. There was no pale moonlight shining through the windows to show her the way.  She prepared to pull her legs one at a time over the edge of the bed. She knew they would move at the pace a tuckamore tree grows on the coast of her favourite eastern province. Visualizing the small but mighty gnarled trees distracted her from her pain and gave her strength.  She convinced herself to get started.  

Swift expulsions of breath escaped as she struggled to keep from waking her sleeping partner. She had learned how to silence the moaning that used to break free at the slightest change in her position.  Her lamaze training, from prenatal classes taken decades past, helped her birth her rhuematoid pain. 

“Can I make it to the bathroom on my own?” was always the first question her brain asked as her bladder woke her.  She willed her left leg to straighten as she pushed her swollen fingers into the hardening ball of tissue at the back of her knee – a human brace of purple finger joints and strong hand muscles. She instinctively made the choice between the ache in her hands and the agony that throbbed and stabbed in her knees. Her left knee was the least painful historically, so it always had the honour of going first. She repeated this with the right leg.  After both legs were straight, she rested.  She slowed her breathing hoping that the pain would settle.  Some mornings, tears would gather as she contemplated the next steps in her journey.  

With the demands of her bladder increasing, she used her hands once again to slide her legs close together at the edge of the bed.  Next, she steadily pulled her torso into a sitting position with her sore wrists bent for leverage, and she twisted her body to the left.  She breathed and rested. Then, while bracing her left knee, she moved her leg over the edge of the bed and stretched her left foot to the floor.  Her toes felt for the soft carpet as her hands continued to apply a reverse pressure on her knee.  She gradually allowed her hands to relax, lessening the pressure – aware that the take-her-breath-away pain could return at any moment.  Her right leg followed the same methodical this-is-how-to-get-out-of-bed-now steps.

1001, 1002, 1003 she counted silently, as she gained the courage to stand gingerly on one foot and then the other.  Today she was able to hang onto the bedside table and then the walls as she inched independently to the bathroom door.  She held the door frame as she paused to catch her breath.  She rested.  Then she moved her left foot onto the cool stone tiles noticing the relief the temperature gave her swollen foot.  The vanity was a makeshift cane – two sinks wide with an expanse of counter between. The path to the toilet had never registered as a measurable distance before rheumatoid arthritis became part of her existence.  Now it was the longest road she travelled.   

She reached the toilet and turned slowly, inhaling.  She counted 1001, 1002, 1003 and held her breath.  With one hand on the window ledge and the other on the counter, she lowered herself to the white porcelain bowl.  Her knees cautiously bent and she felt the seat beneath her before the expected 90 degree angle was reached.  A smile broke free and she clasped her hands over her mouth to quiet a giggle.  “Yep, I bought the 6 inch toilet riser!  I forgot!”  She let her breath escape as relief overcame her.  Who knew a toilet riser could change her life.  She rested.

My world has changed…

I have been silent for a long time. My journey has taken me in new directions. Please be aware that I am reworking my blog and it is a thoughtful, intentional endeavor – slowing down is also part of my new intentionality. Your patience is greatly appreciated.

New: my tagline has changed…grief will always be part of my journey, but eight years brings new paths to explore.

A lesson in empathy…

His desperation was clear as we locked eyes. I was shocked that my empathy came so fiercely and so quickly. He followed me through the back-alley gate. My mind reeled with the dissonance of the encounter as we wandered up the invisible path toward the bungalow. The distance between the two of us shrank and my fear grew – irrational really, considering his size. I called out to my daughter as I reached the concrete sidewalk in the side-yard. I was hoping she would hear me as she scoured her kitchen clean from our latest meal. All the windows were open after the summer rain, so I was hopeful.

Continue reading “A lesson in empathy…”

Good Friday’s pen brought me here…


womb water – the water of a transcendent creation
lake of the woods water – the water of a pre-teen childhood
creek water – the water of a relaxed marriage
pond water – the water of a changing of seasons
okanagan water – the water of a triad of female relationships
ocean water – the water of a life’s rhythm
frozen water – the water of a winter’s work
tap water – the water of a grief’s journey
baptismal water – the water of an anabaptist faith

Watching Men Work

The roar of a landing in the Victoria harbour shifts my attention.
I watch as the pilot jumps from the runner of a crimson and white floatplane. He whips the rope around the cleat. He hangs onto the span that runs to the wing and orients the plane. He adjusts the rope, grabs and positions a portable step, and two more men climb down onto the dock, with their backpacks, leather jackets, and baseball caps.

Memories flood my head and heart. Grief does this. It takes me away from where I am to where HE was.

one of our redheads and his papa building

I watched… Continue reading “Watching Men Work”

Childhood Freedom…the Path to Bliss

Now: With joy returning, my memories are filled with vignettes from my childhood. I find myself reliving the times that my brother and I created our own adventures on 365 acres of rolling, swampy fields – in the land of 10000 lakes. We didn’t know there would be a “Maker Movement” one day. “Making” was the work of our childhood. I have experimented with fictionalizing this story by writing in third person, putting in one thing that isn’t true, and renaming the main character. I wonder if my brother would be able to find the “one untrue thing”.

Partners in adventures…


The bottomless, 4 sided oak crate had arrived just before supper. Sophie watched from the living room window as her dad pulled it from the back of the station wagon and abandoned it on the gravel driveway – an adventure waiting to happen. She hollered for her brother to come look. “He just has to see this thing – It’s HUGE!” she thought. It reminded Sophie of the box that the washing machine had arrived in. She just knew they could “make” something with it.

The two of them gulped down their meals so that they could get outside before the sun set. Sophie’s long, uneven wisps of blonde hair fluttered in the breeze as she and her brother rolled the crate around the house to the side-yard where they had left their Radio Flyer. Their breath caught and their chests heaved as they nudged the crate onto the wagon – scratching the Flyer’s red paint until gray metal streaks appeared. Continue reading “Childhood Freedom…the Path to Bliss”