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The Why Behind the Turkey

If you stayed tuned (ha! another one!) from yesterday, we are answering the important question:

Why do they call it “quitting cold turkey?”

What does a turkey have to do with quitting? And why is it cold?

If you were able to restrain yourself from Googling “why we say quitting cold turkey,” last night I have, at long last, the answers for you.

From American Idioms:

The expression originates from the goose bumps and pallor which accompany withdrawal from narcotics or tobacco. One’s skin resembles that of a plucked, cold turkey…

Hmm…I’m a bit disappointed. That wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be.  Let’s keep going…

A chip on your shoulder
“The phrase ‘a chip on one’s shoulder’ is reported as originating with the nineteenth century U.S. practice of spoiling for a fight by carrying a chip of wood on one’s shoulder, daring others to knock it off. This suggested derivation has more than the whiff of folk-etymology about it.”
Let the cat out of the bag
This “relates to the fraud of substituting a cat for a piglet at markets. If you let the cat out of the bag you disclosed the trick – and avoided buying a pig in a poke (bag). This form of trickery is long alluded to in the language and ‘pigs in a poke’ are recorded as early as 1530.”  Basically medial marketmen would display a nice juicy pig, then pull a switcheroo with a not-so-tasty-cat. Sneaky.
It’s raining cats and dogs
Apparently, this is a much debated idiom.  Who knew? According to one source, “the much more probable source of ‘raining cats and dogs’ is the prosaic fact that, in the filthy streets of 17th/18th century England, heavy rain would occasionally carry along dead animals and other debris. The animals didn’t fall from the sky, but the sight of dead cats and dogs floating by in storms could well have caused the coining of this colourful phrase.”
Hold on to your horses
Military origin. In  Hunt and Pringle’s Service Slang: “Hold your horses, hold the job until further orders. (comes from the Artillery)”
Riding shotgun
From stagecoach days. The passenger literally had to carry a shotgun to ward off highway robbers.
Spill the beans
“The derivation of this expression is sometimes said to be a voting system used in ancient Greece. The story goes that white beans indicated positive votes and black beans negative. Votes had to be unanimous, so if the collector ‘spilled the beans’ before the vote was complete and a black bean was seen, the vote was halted.”
Brand spanking new
Doctors used to spank those babies straight out of their mommas.  Thus, brand spanking new!
Busting your chops
“At the turn of the century, wearing very long sideburns—called mutton chops or lamb chops — was en vogue. Lamb chop side burns also made a comeback in the late 1960s. A bust in the chops was to get hit in the face.”
In the crapper
“Thomas Crapper of England is credited for the design and implementation of modern indoor plumbing (including the flushable toilet). Although there is conciderable evidence to the contrary, restrooms/bathrooms are still often referred to as “The Crapper.” This word (among others) was introduced to America by their World War I soldiers returning home from Europe.” Ok, I somehow was not aware of this little fact of life.  The guy that inveted the toilet was named crapper?? Who doesn’t believe in destiny now?
Crocodile tears
“It was often thought that crocodiles shed tears that slid down into their mouths, moistening their food and making it easier for them to swallow. Hence the tears appear to be an expression of emotion but are in fact a means to make it easier to swallow (possibly the observer).”
Dead as a doornail
“Nails were once hand tooled and costly. When an aging cabin or barn was torn down the valuable nails would be salvaged so they could be reused in later construction. When building a door however, carpenters often drove the nail through then bent it over the other end so it couldn’t work its way out during the repeated opening and closing of the door. When it came time to salvage the building, these door nails were considered useless, or “dead” because of the way they were bent.”
Dressed to the nines
“Common lore has it that a tailor making a high quality suit uses more fabric. The best suits are made from nine yards of fabric. This may seem like a lot but a proper suit does indeed take nine yards of fabric. This is because a good suit has all the fabric cut in the same direction with the warp, or long strands of thread, parallel with the vertical line of the suit. This causes a great amount of waste in suit making, but if you want to go “dressed to the nines”, you must pay for such waste.”
Three square meals a day
British war ships in the 1700s including the HMS Victory did not have the best of living conditions. A sailors breakfast and lunch were sparse meals consisting of little more than bread and a beverage. But the third meal of the day included meat and was served on a square tray. Eating a substantial meal onboard a ship required a tray to carry it all. Hence a “square meal” was the most substantial meal served.”


Don’t you feel smarter? Now you can amuse all of your friends at the next dinner party.  Or on your next hour and a half drive home with your sister..


Quitting Cold Turkey

Last night, my sister and I took in a charming little theater performance.

No, we are not theater (fancy accent here) people.  But my sister did have to watch a professional play for her college class and asked me if I wanted to tag along.  Of course, I accepted, as I jump at any sisterly bonding experiences.  We both were a bit skeptical about the whole thing, but ended up being pleasantly surprised.

The play was about a couple’s struggle with having a baby, and wow, did the play have it all–infertility and infidelity, abortion and adoption, death and even yes, a dominatrix.  We were a bit stunned by the amount of leather and whips involved in a play about a baby (actually now that I think about it, I guess that makes sense…) but we were even more stunned by the reaction of some audience members.

After a particularly frisky scene closed the first act, the lights went off the in the room and the sound of robust clapping filled the air.  “Wow,” we snickered. “Someone really liked that!”  Imagine our surprise when the lights revealed the source of the applause–a frail, bespectacled ninety-year old man in a powder blue sweater.  Apparently, gramps has a kinky side.

Anyways, overall we enjoyed our foray into the world of theater.  It was a fun and different experience, and I have to say, it really is totally different than just watching a movie.  I may even consider attending another someday.  Although at 25 bucks a pop, I may opt for Redbox instead…

Following the two plus hour performance, we set off on our journey back home, which unfortunately, was a good hour and a half away.  We didn’t get out of the play until after 10 pm, which put our ETA at waay past my bedtime.

Thank goodness my sister came up with the ultimate form of amusement for the drive.

We drove along, my headlights cutting into the unusually dark night.  We passed billboards to proclaimed the golden arches were just ahead.  I yawned.  She yawned.  And then….

Shelby cocked her head to one side.  A thought was formulating…

“Why,” she asked, “do they say ‘quitting cold turkey’? What does that even mean? How do turkeys quit anything? And what does being cold have to do with it?”

Why indeed?

How had I never stumbled upon such a profound thought?

And so began a string of seemingly mysterious idioms to ponder.  We are dorky like that.  And now, I pass that dorkiness on to you.  Following is a maddening series of common idioms that we came up.  I promise you will be amazed that you have never before questioned these everyday phrases. It kinda makes you wonder what else we are not realizing in our lives…

A chip on your shoulder
Let the cat out of the bag
It’s raining cats and dogs
Hold on to your horses
Riding shotgun
Spill the beans
Brand spanking new
Busting your chops
In the crapper
Crocodile tears
Dead as a doornail
Dressed to the nines
Three square meals a day

Are you going crazy yet? Stay tuned for the answers tomorrow…

It’s a Virtual World

Yesterday I was listening to the radio while sitting in the Meijer parking lot, awaiting second child’s prescription to be filled.  (We are now both the proud owners of ear infections.)  Although my children were not happy at having to be strapped in their car seats when they should have been tucked comfortably in bed for naps, I managed to hear the radio over their loud protests.

The show discussed “virtual” schools that can take the place of traditional schools. They interviewed a high school junior who had chosen to switch to a virtual school after attending public school.  He professed that the traditional classroom had failed him because his teachers hadn’t devoted that one on one time that he needed to learn.  In virtual school, he claimed, he has made friends, joined an online chess team, and can IM chat with his teachers and classmates, as well as sit in a  live video stream classroom if he needs.  He claimed he does not miss any part of school and again emphasized that he was not getting the one on one time that he needed in public school.

I took this information in in different ways. On one hand, it personally upset me because my husband and mom are both public high school math teachers in a state that is basically threatening every teacher’s job, salary and benefits.  Our children spend more time with teachers than any other person, and have arguably the most important job on the planet, but there are those who think taking teachers’ salaries will somehow balance the ginormous state budget deficit. Ok, sure, that makes sense.  Growing up with a teacher mom and now being married to a teacher, I can attest that of course, there are benefits to the job–snow days, summers off, and right now, we have really good insurance.  But those come with a price.  Teachers do not make great money starting off.  This is a common misconception.  I work part-time and make the same amount as him, if that tells you anything…Not to mention, teachers are expected to go back to school.  My husband has to get at least 18 credits in a planned program in the next two years in order to keep his license.  So, on top of getting his pay and benefits cut next year, we are still expected to pay for his Master’s degree…it’s not an option, it’s somehow a requirement.  Then there is the actual job part of it: Teaching is hard work.  They face the impossible task of teaching students who often are not interested in learning. How do you teach someone who doesn’t want to learn?  How do you teach one lesson to 40 different kids who all learn in different ways?  How do you remain a neutral personality so there are no personal feelings for or against you?  How do you stay interesting and engaging to blank faces for 8 hours a day?  How do you find the time to actually teach amidst all the state requirements for paperwork?

Teachers are blamed for a lot, and it’s getting ridiculous.  With cuts in everything, teachers are facing upwards of 40+ students in a classroom, and then to hear this student complain he is not getting the one-on-one time he needs from his teacher is so frustrating.  My husband goes in early and stays late almost every single day to give students that one-on-one time. And more than half of the time, students fail to show up for that scheduled time…so where is the blame to lie there? I just don’t understand how we can lament the failures of our education systems, our poor scores on everything standardized in the country, but simultaneously demand teachers to take on more with less. Have you ever tried teaching? I have, and it was one of the worst days of my life.  In nursing school, we had to come with a lesson plan to that involved our students, challenged them, made them think…you know, the everyday stuff of teaching, and it was awful.  I was so mentally drained by the end of the day I couldn’t even see straight.  It’s exhausting to pore yourself into your students, and most of the time, not even know if your efforts made a dent.  I have a lot of sympathy for teachers, obviously, and to me, it sounded like this student, and probably more so, his parents, were quick to blame teachers for his failures, when honestly, teachers can’t control a lot of the factors that go into that classroom.  On the other hand, they did take steps to correct the problem, but sadly, if every student dropped out and went to virtual school, where does that leave us?

Which brought me to a second fear–are we heading towards virtual school only? Will we see a total dismantlement of the physical school grounds? Honestly, this doesn’t seem like that far of a stretch.  I think people would say it’s important for younger kids to be in a more traditional setting to learn important social skills and have hands-on learning, but when you get older…who cares?  Then I thought, well, why even bother with young kids? Those so-called social skills they learn as youngins may not even be necessary as they find jobs working behind computers, working from home, designing software, etc as adults.  It’s a virtual adult word, so why not have a virtual school world?

I have personally taken online classes for my yet-to-be-completed Masters degree, and as a working and nursing mom, I loved the convenience. No unnecessary time away from my kids, no wasting life driving.  But I still found it harder to learn. I happen to be someone who learns best by reading and writing, so I am an ideal candidate for online learning, but I just found it felt false to me…it’s just not as an invigorating discussion via a discussion board.

THEN I thought, well who cares? So much of education is fluff anyways, isn’t it? Let’s be honest. Half of the classes I have taken have been total fluff.  Ethical leadership?  Nursing theory?  I admit that I found a lot of it interesting, but in terms of practical application…not so much.  How much time do we waste on our kid’s lives with this stuff? Maybe virtual schooling can cut down on some of the crap…

I don’t know where the future is headed. I am scared for our family’s future, and I think a lot about how our kid’s schooling will go.  Honestly, I was not a fan of school.  We just had this discussion in my family the other day…none of us really liked school past the elementary years.  I was done with it after about 7th grade.  Getting up early, trying to make yourself look acceptable enough not to get made fun of, picking out an outfit every single day. (Actually, up until 10th grade, I wore a uniform, which was nice not having to think about, but awful because it was an honest-to-goodness wool kilt. Shudder.)  Then sitting in a classroom, shuffling along to the next, taking in some information, spitting it back out, half of what you learn never making in to your cerebral cortex.  And mixed in all that is the social mess of peer interactions, growing up, fitting in, finding your true self.  It’s miserable. I couldn’t stand school because I felt like it was such a waste of time. I wasn’t hated or bullied, and I had lots of people I was friendly with, but I’ll admit, my weekends were not jam-packed with social activities, so maybe I was just a loser…

What do you people think about school, homeschooling, virtual schooling? Should we looking more at non-traditional options or do you think a “real” school…you know, one you leave and go to, is necessary?

A Place for the Pain

This is a sad post.

I’ve been dreading writing it.  I want to write happy, humorous posts to hopefully bring a smile to my fellow moms out there and any readers that stop by.  But even though I dread it, even though I’ve sobbed my way through writing it, I felt like it needed to be said.

Life is not always happy.

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of sadness. And it seems, the worst form of it, in the death of our beautiful angels, our babies.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I went to Kohl’s with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and Ada to get a jump start on Christmas shopping.  They took Ada to the shoe section while I ran manically around the store, trying to finish all my shopping before Ada got too whiny on their hands.  While having the use of both hands, I of course also used the time to catch up on some phone calls.  As I darted down an aisle, talking on my phone, I happened to see a girl I went to school, passing by with her mom.  I had last seen her in July, for Mya’s baptism and she had been near the end of her pregnancy, her first.  She knew she was having a boy. We had chatted about babies, pregnancy, and parted with mutual warm feelings in the glow of mommyhoodness.  Seeing her push her cart, back to her skinny self as I passed by, still talking on my phone, I just gestured excitedly to her and mouthed “Baby??”

As soon as the word left my mouth, I knew.

Please dear God, no, I thought.

Her face held for a brief moment, and then crumbled in grief.  Her mom put her arm around her, offering up a tight-lipped semi-smile for what must have been a dreaded familiar scene.

The girl cried, her tight blonde curls shaking.  “I lost him at eight months,” she sobbed, “My baby.”

I felt sick.  I wished I could rewind time.

“Oh my god. I’m so sorry.”  The inadequate phrase.  It didn’t feel like enough.  I felt her grief pierce through me like a broken piece of wood. “What is his name?”  I hoped she would notice that I knew he was not gone, that he would always be her baby, that he is with us. An “is,” not a “was.”

She told me his name is Brayden and I asked if I could hug her.  She nodded yes, so I hugged her, feeling like a murderer, and cried with her.

It was an awkward parting.  How do you walk away from someone after their life has shattered in front of you in the aisle of Kohls?  A “nice to see you, have a good one” doesn’t exactly cut it.

I found my way back to my family, sobbing uncontrollably. My mother-in-law thought that someone had robbed me.  I felt like what happened was even worse. I hated myself for doing that to the poor mother.  She must dread going out in public for exactly that reason–callously unknowing near-strangers, forced to share her innermost grief in public, a reminder over and over again that she is not a normal person Christmas shopping at Kohls.  I know that I didn’t know. I know that.  But still.  I should have somehow known.  I should have spared her yet another moment of grief.

Baby Brayden and his mama have been on my mind ever since.  That night, Ada and I added them to our bedtime prayers.

About a week later, I was at work at the hospital I missed a call from a good mommy friend of mine, Meghan.  That’s strange, I thought, she doesn’t usually call–we are more text people.  Being at work until 11:30 pm, though, I didn’t return the call.

Early the next morning, she texted me.

Meghan: Have you heard?
Me: Heard what?
Meghan: I don’t know how to say this….but Lily died.


Lily (left) and Ada, about a month before

Lily is the daughter of Meghan’s best friend, our  mutual friend Lauren.  We had all three been pregnant together, all given birth to our daughters.  Lily’s birthday is May 14; Ada’s, May 17.  They are a mere three days apart.  It had been a lifesaver to go through the experience of having an unplanned pregnancy with Lauren.  She gave me strength, hope, and inspiration.  Our daughters played together and I often dreamed about them growing up together, starting kindergarten together, becoming best friends. For those of you who don’t know the story of Lily’s death, please visit Justice for Lily. Lily’s death is unimaginable, too unbearable to even talk about. But I urge you to support the cause against child abuse and honor Lily’s memory.

The funeral was horrific.  The whole day was almost cliche in its sadness–the hauntingly beautiful grieving mother clutching a teddy bear, the tiny pink coffin, the cold and gray November sky.  No mother should have to endure what Lauren went through.  No mother should have to bury the baby that they carried for nine months, loved and cuddled.  It’s hard to pick the worst moment, but I couldn’t bear the thought that Lauren had to leave her.  As mothers, we kiss every part of our babies’ bodies–they came from our bodies, we boast stretch marks and saggy skin as testament to their passing through us, our bodies nourish theirs through nursing–they are a part of us in more ways than one.  How could she possibly walk away from her baby, leaving her in the cold, hard ground?

Lauren has been incredibly strong.  She has an amazingly close family and her faith is incredible to see.  But every day, I wonder how she does it. How she gets out of bed in the morning, how she bears to see another baby, how she can stand seeing me and Ada, a reminder forever, of the age Lily would have been.  How do you keep faith in God after such a tragedy?  It’s not a normal tragedy. It’s not an accident, a “nothing could have prevented it” part of God’s plan…it’s the worst, most unimaginable, unspeakable horror in the world. The pain of an innocent, beautiful baby and a mother’s loss.  A mother who only wanted to love her child, a mother who is more dedicated to her child than you can imagine.

I can’t believe that it can happen. But it did. And it does to more mothers, every day.  Yesterday I saw this blog post, a mother asking people to put bows on their babies to honor the memory of her four month old daughter, who loved to wear bows.  The blog is full of posts of the mom dreading going back to work, even a countdown of days until she had to leave Maddie.  And then sadly, one day, she left her forever when Maddie stopped breathing at the babysitters. Another mother and child to add to our nighttime ritual.

What are we to do with all this pain?

I find myself hoping I can find the good.  After all, that’s what we cling to isn’t it? If we can’t find the silver lining, what are we left with? Just the pain.

I find myself wondering when it’s my turn. Nothing bad has happened to me yet, but I feel like it has to hit sometime.  Imagining myself as the mother walking behind the pink casket.  What would I do? How do you pick out an outfit for your daughter’s funeral? Do you put on make-up? How do you care about anything, ever again?

I want to use the remembrances of these little angels to transform myself into the perfectly patient mother. To kiss my babies every chance. To laugh lovingly with my husband. To always use kind words to all I meet.  To cling to the knowledge that there has to be a God out there to help us through this, a eternal happiness to look forward to.

And yet, this morning, in the darkness of the early dawn, I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror.  Pale, blotchy skin, under eye circles to the floor, inside out pajamas.  A truly ghastly sight.  Ada lay naked on the floor, crying and constipated.  A potty chair full of pee that I forgot to empty last night emanates a not-so-pleasant odor.  Mya wails in her crib, awoken too early by her miserable sister.

How do we reconcile the divine spark with the everyday?  Whining, poopy diapers, potty chair full of pee, greasy hair.  Where do we find God in all of that?  How does a mother bury her child one day and wake up the next?

I want to believe that there is a transformation that occurs in all of us before death.  A sudden grace to sweep away the imperfections, a elegance of manner that infuses a personality, a graciousness that only death can bring. But it’s not always that way.  I think part of the reason I lob along as a nurse is hoping to find God…I see so many people near death, and acting, well…like two-year olds.  They whine, they complain, they need diaper changes.  It scares me to think that’s all there is.  I want to find dignity in death, to see evidence of the eternal in someone so near to the other side. But I haven’t yet. So far, all I’ve seen is…just death.

I don’t know the answers, or even all the questions.  I want to know that there is a greater good, a higher purpose, but it’s so hard when I see so much destruction, so much waste, so much pure evil in the world.  A mother who has lost her child represents the greatest loss of all.

Please everyone, pray for these mothers, pray for ourselves, that we may keep our babies close, our tempers in check, and somehow, someway, find joy in living the every day.

Finding Joy

2010 was a year of recognition for me. Never before have I felt that my eyes have been opened to the suffering and sadness that occurs each and every day to loved ones around the world.  I have seen patients face the death sentence of stage four cancer, lives wasted in self-destruction and pain, and most tragic of all, loving mothers who have endured the loss of their beautiful babies.

It is absolutely overwhelming to face the reality that all around us, people are enduring horrible loss, tragedies that seem to have no answers.  I struggle with asking myself if life is meant to be challenging; a series of struggles to teach us dependence on God in a period on earth that is fleeting. Or is it meant to teach us to find joy, to reach for the beauty of Heaven in the moments that we can?  When a memory of happiness at the birth of a beautiful baby girl now lost to her mother becomes all that is left, when laughter and time spent together are gone…are we to look for the joy in the small and simple moments to celebrate life? Or are we to realize that life is…well, just plain hard?

I don’t know the answers.  I don’t know how to deal with all the pain I see in others. I don’t know how to at once recognize and feel with others, while finding joy and God in those moments.  I want to believe that life is not just meant to be hard to teach us that God is all we can depend on. I want to believe that God wants our time here to be beautiful and full of joy.

But it is hard.

So in this new year, my wish is to find joy. I don’t know if it will be the big moments, the small moments, or even the sad moments, but I am asking for the faith to find it. If anyone out there is struggling as I am, I pray for you to find the joy as well, and if you have found it already, please share the wealth!

Happy new year everyone!


To Blog or Not to Blog

So I’ve been contemplating starting a blog for sometime now…I’ve always kept a diary and have used writing as my outlet for life—the good and the bad. (As my snooping mother and sisters can attest too!) I love writing, am always wishing to write more, and enjoy silent stalking of all the cool, hip “mommy blogs” out there. So it would make sense that I would enjoy writing my own blog.

But I have my hesitations:

1) I fear I spend entirely too much time on my computer. Not only do I work from home for one of my jobs, but I use the computer for a lot of other activities—pictures, all the bills and maintenancey stuff of life, the aforementioned blog stalking, an occasional class, shopping, planning dream vacations…you get the picture. Blogging would be just one more thing that would make me feel that pull towards my computer.

2) And along those lines, I don’t want to be someone who is blogging about life instead of actually living it. Every minute I am sitting at the computer blogging is a minute spent away from my children and away from “real” life.

3) I don’t want to be perceived as a narcissistic person—oooh look at me, look at my wit, look at pictures of my beautiful children—or assume that anyone actually wants to read what I have to say.

4) Plain ol’ self-doubt—I’ve spent many a night perusing blogs and ending up feeling depressed and dejected about my own life. Being a mom, of course, I look at other mom’s blogs and read about how they get up at the butt-crack of dawn to work out, make all their own organic cleaners, whip up gourmet meals, etc. etc.. Their blogs are beautiful to look at, their writing impeccable and engaging, their topics interesting, and most offensive of all—they seem like nice people. What could I possibly have to contribute to the blog world after all that??

And with those hesitations, here I am.

I have finally decided since this is something I’ve wanted to do, that I’m just going to do it. There are a lot of things I want to do in life, and if this happens to be one of them, then so be it. As a mom, you sacrifice a lot, so I have to believe that if writing helps me sort through the craziness of parenthood, that the few minutes I spend blogging will translate into something productive. Maybe it will be a way to just improve my writing skills or brainstorm with other moms out there. Or who knows—maybe I’ll even get motivated to make my own toilet cleaner?