When I Have Fears

Knowing that it’s Thursday, I’ve been thinking all day about what I was going to post. I’ve had a week where I didn’t quite keep my writing regimen as strictly as I should’ve, which is something I struggle with all the time. This meant, that I had nothing written in advance of today, and no real idea about what to say.

I got home this afternoon after Thanksgiving dinner, and decided I needed a nap. When I got up, my favorite Keats poem popped into my brain, and as the first thought I had, and I figured it was time to share it with you.

WHEN I have fears that I may cease to be  
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,  
Before high pil`d books, in charact’ry,  
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;  
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,          5
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,  
And feel that I may never live to trace  
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;  
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!  
That I shall never look upon thee more,   10
Never have relish in the faery power  
Of unreflecting love;—then on the shore  
  Of the wide world I stand alone, and think,  
  Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

There is so  much I love about this poem. It’s like, decades before I was born, Keats reached across time and space and looked into my brain and described it perfectly.  I probably wouldn’t have used a sonnet, but, hey, it’s his thing, and he’d already breached time and space, I’ll cut the guy some slack.

I think about this poem at odd times. I hadn’t thought of it in years, but, in the last few weeks, it’s popped into my brain on a semi-regular basis. It’s comforting to me, and I feel a little less lonely, and it calms my “teaming brain” just a touch.

Yeah, I know. Some people rub stones when they’re in need of soothing, I get “ear-wormed” by poetry.

There’s something about the familiarity of the fears haunting the edges of this poem. It’s nice to know I’m not the only person to have them, and that they are common enemies of creative people.

There is this juxtaposition of a mind full of ideas and the worry that time will slip before all the ideas can be brought to fruition. Not only is there a fear that something so wondrous as a starry sky will not be captured and admired in the form of poety or even prose, even in so much as a clumsy shadow of itself, there’s the scary notion that ideas will be left unexplored, or unharvested.

I share all this with you because maybe it’ll be soothing to someone else out there. Also, it was the only idea I had, and I’m opposed to wasting ideas, especially when I’ve got a self-imposed deadline looming.

Since it is Thanksgiving, I will bow to tradition, and express my thanks. I am feeling especially grateful for the people who are reading this. That’s right. I’m grateful for you. Thanks for spending your time with me.


Word of the Day: mystagogue

While I continue to work out various kinks and conquer my own lack of self-discipline, you get to enjoy…

Today’s Word:


As in:

It has always stuck scholars of Celtic tradition that the celebration of
Ireland’s patron Saint, the well known St. Patrick, that truly, this
holiday is the most quintessentially Irish. The reason for this belief,
stems from the bundle of inconsistencies that the holiday invokes. First,
it is well-known that St. Patrick himself was not Irish. St. Patrick’s Day,
a day established by the Roman Catholic Church to honor the day of St.
Patrick’s death, is celebrated most widely in the U.S., and is more widely
celebrated in Protestant Northern Ireland. Part of the reason for the
holiday’s northern popularity is that tradition places St. Patrick’s burial
site in Northern Ireland.

What is not well known, is that in the 5th century, when St. Patrick came
to Island, he befriended several natives, including the soon to be evicted
wizards, Tim and Merlin. St. Patrick, whose chief goal was to bring
Christianity to Ireland, was also not a guy to pass up an opportunity to
have a good time. Realizing that Tim and Merlin were two pretty swell
fellows, who could really throw some good parties, “Patty”, soon bestowed
upon his drinking buddies a couple of tips, and quite a few presents (one
was an object described as some ugly cup/grail thing which was absolutely
useless, and too ugly to display in anybody’s house). Many of “Patty’s”
tips centered around “how to avoid being pegged as ‘pagan’. ”

Tim was to stop wearing the ram’s horn hat he was so fond of. Merlin was
not to go on about living his life backwards in time, and he was to stop
referring to future events as “the past”. Both of them were to stop
changing people into newts and spouting off bits of arcane knowledge in
puzzling languages. Both of them should avoid shooting lightening out of
their hands for no apparent reason, and in general, stop acting like a
couple of mystagogues. This caused a huge drunken fight, because Tim really
wanted to wear his hat and Merlin liked turning people into things. During
the fight, Tim and Merlin “accidentally” shot Patty with one of their
lightening bolts. Realizing this was probably a colossal blunder, they
covered up their mistake and snuck away.

Tim went to live in Northern Ireland, and was later one of the chief
reasons that Protestantism became popular in that part of the country.
Merlin went south. One hundred years later, when King Arthur came to power, these two magicians would serve to aid the King in his quest for justice, honor, the grail, and a real horse. What Arthur did not know, was that the grail, lost by Merlin in a famous drunken brawl, was actually still
possessed by a man who shot lightening out of his hands for no apparent
reason, who lived in Northern Ireland, and who was, by some, called Tim.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

mystagogue: /MIST – a – GOG/ One who instructs in mystical or arcane lore
and doctrines.

Word of the Day: crispation

It’s the time of year where everyone is going insane with holiday schtuff. Perhaps it’s time to take a pause, on the shortest day of the year, and remember the true Spirit of the Season. This story is unlikely to be that moment.

Today’s Word:


As in:

The U.S. actions in Iraq have prompted increased security to help curtail any terrorist activity that might be planned. Government officials are being cautious that terrorists groups will try to capitalize on the confusion of the holiday season.

But few suspected that the violence would erupt from the fringe group known as Citizens for the Preservation of the Holiday Spirit, a group which is obsessed with promoting the year-round celebration of all holidays. The group polices “un-Holiday-like” behavior and forces the offending persons to watch holiday films, consuming holiday foods and forced holiday activities such as caroling, cooking, sledding and visiting relatives until their behavior is properly adjusted. Their techniques of “torture” include the continuous playing of seasonal music and the proliferation of exorbitantly “cute” decorations.

Recently, the group was denounced for focusing merely on the Christian holiday celebrations, which led the leadership to add “attitude adjustment protocols” for those with different, but “no less valid” traditions. Differing holiday traditions, according to the group, are “certainly no less a manifestation of goodwill and the holiday spirit of kindness.”

However, the group is so “manifestly opposed to a world without cheer” that they have acted in violence, to make clear that they will not tolerate U.S. aggression or the proliferation of “Scrooges and Grinches everywhere” Today, members of the group, armed with tinsel and colorful marshmallows, pelted the trees surrounding the Pentagon. Other group members, armed with similar weapons of mass happiness, began to decorate strangers as they waited in long shopping lines and shoot air canisters filled with tinsel into the trees an onto playgrounds and around malls. Each “armed” group had portable stereos playing Christmas music, and some carried dangerous glass ornaments.

The reaction of observers, whose faces were “decorated” in decidedly non-Holiday crispations, were, frankly, unpleasant, and to the minds of the Citizens for Preservation of the Holiday Spirit, quite uncharitable. “What the heck do they think they’re doing?!” exclaimed one observer. “Freaks! Weirdos!”


crispation: / kris-PAY-shun / 1. A curling or being curled, 2. a slight, involuntary contraction of the muscles or skin.

Word of the Day: whelk

It seems the holiday brings out the best in some people, and the worst in others. This story is likely to do both.

Today’s Word:


As in:

In light of recent anthrax letter threats to anti-abortion establishments, a floundering pharmaceutical company has devised a great gift item for would-be biological terrorists and others interested in giving the gift of pestilence this holiday season.

“Nothing brings out the spirit of the holiday season quite like a cold or a cough or a hemorrhage,” said company spokesman, Fred ‘Bleeding Gums’ Lockheart. ”It’ s time to put real emotion back into the holidays with the viral gifts that keep on giving.”

”Take for example our Sickness Sampler. It’s got every thing a family needs to spend a warm, loving holiday season together. Typically, the delightful treats in the Sampler, are enough to bring all the relatives from all over the country in to visit. It’s so effective, it should be called ‘The Family Reunion Sampler.’ ”

The ”Sickness Sampler” contains such concoctions as ”Marzipan Mucosa,” ”Hepatitis Helper,” ”Ebola Ecstasy,”   “H1N1 Hype Happiness,” and ”Anthrax Excitement’.’

Said one satisfied customer, ”I gave my husband a box of the ‘Hepatitis Helper,’ and I’ve never seen his color look so good. I’ ve always thought he was stunning in yellow. I think I’ll try their line of cosmetic diseases, and maybe Peter can have a beautiful whelk crop to go with his lovely new color.”

”Really, nothing is more heartwarming than the sound of a loved-one coughing up gallons of black, red or green fluid. And when they lose a lung, oh, the joy! It’s actually quite beautiful.” said another customer.

Not for the faint of stomach.

whelk: \ welk \ a pimple or pustule.

Word of the Day: futtock

Do you remember the Christmas when the toy that everyone wanted and couldn’t find was the “Tickle Me Elmo?” Yeah. That was 13 years ago. Well, today’s story was written about a different Elmo, but, given the holiday season, I thought I’d drag it out again, especially since this year is the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street.

Today’s Word:


As in:

A Kmart store in Denver pulled a “talking T-shirt” from its shelves when several customers complained about its inappropriate language. The shirt, which depicts the beloved Sesame Street character, Cookie Monster, is suppose to say “Time to Truck”. Unfortunately, the “t” in “truck” sounds like the letter “f”.

This is the forty-second recall of shirts which had poor sound recordings. The first recorded incidence was in 1842 when a “pull-string” sailor doll had a recorded message of “Hoist the sails and man the futtocks”, in which the unfortunate “f” sounded like a “b”. Other near misses included the popular “tickle-me Elmo” doll, which says “that tickles.” The doll was delayed for U.S. release because, oddly enough, the phrase sounded like “I don’t like to be tickled, so put me down you pervert.” The recording was fortunately fixed in time for the doll to be the hottest selling item in the U.S. for Christmas 1996.

This story is brought to you by the letters “f”, “t”, “b” and by the number 42.

A short story, but, efficiency is to be admired, I think.

futtock: / FUT-ok / Any of the curved timbers forming the ribs of a wooden ship. Also, the futtock plate is the top of a ship’s lower mast which holds the futtock shrouds, which are short iron rods that brace the top mast where it joins with the lower mast. Now you know.

‘Twas the night before the Holiday Party

Last week, one of my coworkers asked me to write a skit or something for the holiday party. It had to be written quickly, the video crew was coming to film the department the next day, so, if we were going to have something, it had to be done in a few hours. So, I quickly wrote this, mostly over my lunch hour, and then typed it up and did some minor quick polishing, and sent it to my boss.

It got a few chuckles from my department (Human Resources, for a State of Colorado entity), and each member of the department was going to be one of the “people” in this script.

At the very end of the day, I learned from the camera crew that they were not using audio for the film. I’d spent about 3 hours on this, and thought it pretty good, and it was never going to be seen, and had all been something of a wasted effort.

Well, I decided that even though it wasn’t a Word of the Day, it should be seen. Here it is.

Greetings! The HR department thought it would be nice, as our contribution to the annual holiday party, that I would read that timeless classic “Visit from St. Nicholas” for your enjoyment.

Clears throat, and begins

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house


Hold on a second. We can’t say Christmas. It’s far too Christian. Can we change it to “holidays” or something?

But, the poem is about Christmas, there’s no Kawanza/Solstice/Hanukkah in it. And “Twas the night before the holidays? That doesn’t even make sense.

We really should be all inclusive…

Fine. Holidays it is.
‘Twas the night before the HOLIDAYS, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but, well, St. Nicholas is a religious person. Don’t we need to be concerned about the separation of church and state here?

Maybe? I dunno. But, what would you like me to use instead?

Well, how about “Annual Gifting Guy?”

I have no words. (pause) Fine.

Scribbles in BOOK with PEN, making the correction.
“Annual Gifting Guy”

Resumes reading
In hopes that Annual Gifting Guy soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

Hold it! We have many employees with non-traditional families, and this excludes them. And what about married people with no children? Or single people? This is pretty insensitive.

What do you propose we do?

Well, maybe we need to take out the references to their living arrangement, just to be sure.

(Scribbling a note)
Fine. I’ll take out the stanza, and we’ll skip to the noise outside. OK? Good.
(continuing, frustrated)
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

I don’t think we should be using that word. It’s pornographic, and someone might feel like we’re fostering a hostile work environment.

What word?
You mean, breast?
What’s wrong with it? It’s perfectly in context.

It makes me uncomfortable. Snow is not supposed to be all… you know… Not, well, compared to a woman’s anatomy.

It’s poetic!
How about “crest” Does that work?
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

We can’t call him old.


It’s Ageist. How about “chronologically advanced?”

“Chronologically advanced?” that’s 7 syllables. Seven . To replace a one syllable word. Do you even care about meter? Honestly. If we have to change it, we’re just using  “cold” it’s not the same thing, but at least it doesn’t mess with the meter.
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
(stops self, scribbles)
I knew in a moment it must be Sir Gift.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

(stops self, scribbles)
With the sleigh full of toys, and Annual Gifting Guy too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Annual Gifting Guy came with a bound.

I’m pretty that working on the roof with eight reindeer is an OSHA violation. And, even if that’s not, the chimney sure is. If he fell, would it be Worker’s Comp? And who pays?

Santa is NOT going to fall. And, if he does, it’s not our issue. Can we just get through this?

I’m not sure I like your attitude. It’s not much in the holiday spirit

(groans, pauses and continues)
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

FUR?! That’s ridiculous. And, arriving to his workplace covered in dirt? I *know* that doesn’t comply with the dress code

(eyes the others significantly, but says nothing, then, continues, ignoring the comment)

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

Does Santa Have a drinking problem we should be worried about? The rosy cheeks and nose are worrisome. That could be an FML issue. We should send him the paperwork.

Santa has not requested any leave time for a problem, which he probably doesn’t have. Rosy cheeks can also just mean that IT’S COLD OUTSIDE. That’s all.

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He smokes?  He’s a children’s icon. He can’t smoke. What kind of example does that set?

There won’t be any children at the holiday party. It’s not really our audience…

Parents should be cautioned about this poem. It’s dangerous.

I’ll add a disclaimer. Happy?

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

“Elf” is a pretty racially charged word. Can we say “small-statured-American? Or maybe “Vertically Challenged Polar Personnel?”

We’ve changed the poem enough. If there are elves in the audience that get mad, just send them to me.

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

You know, this would be a good time to review the gift-giving policy. I don’t think stockings are covered under Board Policy, and if he’s gone over the maximum dollar value amount for gifts, it could be an ethics violation…

(as if not hearing the comments)

And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good-night.”