I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"Lest We Forget"

Delores E. Topliff
“Lest we forget” is a phrase often used in Remembrance Day services in English-speaking countries, but it also applies to other dates. September 11, 2001 is one such day the world remembers. Its events were four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States. It is believed that Osama bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and Mohammed Atef plotted them after a 1999 meeting and chose the date to match 911, the phone number used for U.S. emergencies.

Regarding that and other stand-out events, most of us know exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard  major news. On 9/11, I taught college evenings but worked days in a Minneapolis hospital. That morning, I stepped into the basement employee elevator and heard co-workers discussing a plane that had crashed into the World Trade Center. After reaching my floor, I told my work supervisor, but he had his radio on and told me a second plane had struck the Twin Towers and brought that structure down with the greatest loss of American lives since Pearl Harbor. They were not accidental attacks. Strangers encouraged one another. Churches filled.

For Americans and the world, November 22, 1963, was another unforgettable day day when at 12:30 p.m. Texas time, U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I had begun undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, Canada and was amazed at how many students knew I was American and went out of their way to express their condolences. I was more surprised at how many Canadian homes and offices managed to display U.S. flags in sympathy. On one of the saddest days in American life, my personal take-away remains gift-wrapped by so many warm expressions of support that I will never forget.

Major events stick in our minds and hearts to pinpoint such moments forever and make us lay hold again of the the things that strengthen us most.

What days in history live in your mind? Where were you and what were you doing? Recalling them makes time fall away as if we are there again with the events and players crystal clear. Hopefully, such specifics make the memories live to not be repeated—“Lest we forget”.

For more blog posts and news updates, check my website, delorestopliff.com

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Onomatopoeia – sound effect words make storytelling live

Delores E. Topliff

Profound thanks to the Greeks for creating sound effect words. The term comes from two combined Greek words, onoma meaning “name” and poiein meaning “to make” or create words that sound like the action described. This post gleaned information from http://examples.yourdictionary.com/5-examples-of-onomatopoeia.html
Onomatopoeic words can be verbs or nouns. "Slap" is the sound heard when skin hits skin but also describes the action of hitting someone with an open hand. “Rustle” is the sound of dry things, like papers, brushing, but also describes the sound when they are moved around and brush each other. 
Here are examples for you to see, hear, and sound out. These words sound like water or liquid: splash, spray, sprinkle, squirt, drip, and drizzle.
These describe vocal sounds made in the back of the throat or by air passing over or through the lips, tongue, and teeth: Giggle, growl, grunt, gurgle, mumble, murmur, and chatter.
More describe the sounds of two or more objects colliding: bump, bang, cling, clank, clunk, clang, chop, click, clip, thud, thump, and clap.
Others describe air blowing through things or rushing through the air: flutter, swish, swoosh, whoosh, whiff, whizz, or whisper.
Distinctive identifying animal sounds include bark, bray, buzz, chirp, hiss, moo, oink, purr, quack, tweet, and warble. However, they are described differently in various parts of the world. For example, chickens may cluck, bok, tok, or kot.
Chug, puff, ding, dong, and buzz, are action words. We all know Alka Seltzer's successful slogan, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.” In the U.S. and Canada, Rice Krispies snap, crackle, and pop, but in Spanish-speaking countries they go pim, pum, pam.
The Greeks created this word category gift to express life and fun. Let’s clap our appreciation and invent more sound words to capture the woofs, bangs, toots, cracks, crashes, snaps, and sizzles, that express life.
Now, please share your favorite onomatopoeia word or create your own.
For more blog posts and news updates check my website, delorestopliff.com

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Truisms - Pithy statements of obvious truth

Delores E. Topliff
Tru·ism - a statement that is obviously true but says nothing new or interesting. Synonyms for the term include platitude, cliché, banality. This post exists because I’ve thought up several lately, (guess how they occured): “You can hold a book in your hand but only read if your eyes are open.” “You can place a packet of vegetable seeds on garden soil but seeds only grow if they’re planted.”

A large number of truisms come from the Bible, Shakespeare, or politicians. Many are so well-known, people think they’re from the Bible when they are not. Common examples are, “You get what you pay for;” “Look before you leap”, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

This website provides 1001 truisms in alphabetical order. Find your favorites there. http://www.freewebs.com/1001truisms/truisms.htm
I’m not enclosing them in quote marks, but some easily recognized are: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. A coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man dies but one. A fool and his money are soon parted. A house divided against itself cannot stand. A job worth doing is worth doing well. Cross that bridge when you come to it.  Dead men tell no tales. Birds of a feather flock together. Blood’s thicker than water. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All’s fair in love and war. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. An army marches on its stomach. Beauty and brains don’t mix. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is only skin deep. Beggars can’t be choosers. Better late than never. Better safe than sorry. Charity begins at home. Cheaters never prosper. Children should be seen and not heard. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Don’t make a federal case out of it. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
The number is almost endless, and they do sum up obvious truth. Listen for them today. Tell us your all-time favorite, or, invent and share your own.

For more blog posts and news updates, check my website, delorestopliff.com 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Books accomplish many important things . . .

Delores E. Topliff
Books accomplish many important things . . . They refresh and fill our minds, encourage our hearts, and rest our feet—sometimes literally.

At least that’s what I’m saying after taking my College English Comp. and Editing students on a library tour where I teach at the Univ. of Northwestern—St. Paul, MN. This picture of a perfect reading nook shows you why.

The good news is I had no idea the library was so up to date and with so much wide-ranging material available online from vast network options, greatly expanding our local holdings. With fast service, too, to receive even literal books to hold in our hands from surrounding libraries. Plus I’m told such improvements are generally true everywhere.

One of my students walked in unsure how to narrow a broad writing topic into a manageable one, and the library director’s informative slide show of in-house and online holdings took care of that in a heartbeat. It listed subjects and many detailed sub-categories that generated more than enough ideas for all of us. Later, touring literal attractive book stacks, titles practically shouted their names. I spotted a volume of an explorer’s century-old botanical survey of South America, including a jungle region where I once spent three and a half happy months helping teachers, schools, and school children. That book came home with me, and as a faculty member, I can keep it for four months. If I need to, I can even renew it longer.

Books, all kinds of them. On shelves, transmitted through the air, to fill our minds, encourage our hearts, and even rest our feet before taking more and better journeys through the wonderfully-expanded world they bring us.

It doesn’t get much better than that. Visit your local library in person or online, and happy reading!

Please tell us what book you’re reading now, or name a lifetime favorite. What has either meant to you?

For more blog posts and news updates, check my website, delorestopliff.com 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Improve your writing by joke-writing and -telling

Delores E. Topliff
For those eager to write prizewinning stories, consider mastering the art of joke-writing. Jokes are miniature stories with a definite beginning, middle, and end. Get the sequence wrong, or leave out something essential, and it falls flat, giving you instant feedback. 

Master comedian and joke-writer, Sid Caesar, once said, “A joke is a story with a curlicue.” A tale with an added twist.

Successful stand-up comedian, Jerry Corley offers an online joke-writing clinic and says, “We must first understand why people laugh. Fact: the number one element that triggers human laughter is SURPRISE. It’s like magic, only with words. A magician surprises the audience when he does his trick. If there is no surprise, there is no trick…. Without surprise, you’re gonna have a…boring act.”

Steven Wright was a successful early stand-up comedian in the 1980s. He often looked through newspapers for interesting words. “There was no joke, it was just a word, like…electrolysis—I wrote a whole joke on that. For the first six months, I would sit down and try to write jokes, but after that, I didn’t sit down anymore. My subconscious was scanning all the time the things that could be a joke. My mind was looking for stuff, and some of it would leap out as a joke. It was just like a factory in my head…. It never shut down, it never stopped. I don’t go, ‘I’m gonna write a joke.’ I just go through the world and see stuff. It’s like I exercised the part of my mind of noticing things to the point where I now notice without even trying to.”
That’s how writing is meant to be. Hear an interesting news item and tuck it away for a story possibility, or pass it on to an author friend. Look at life with awareness. Joke-writing offers miniature practice units that can build to longer pieces, or maybe even the long-awaited Great American Novel!
Sure enough, my favorite jokes feature word confusion, like the Polish man who told a lawyer his wife wanted to kill him because a bottle in the bathroom labeled “polish remover”. When asked if she had any grounds, the husband replied, “Ya, two and a half acres.”
“No, no, does she have any reasons?”
“Sure, in our cereal every morning.”
It gets crazier, and may not be funny to you, but I’m on the floor laughing.
Now share your favorite joke and identify the trigger that makes it happen. Better yet, practice writing one and telling it soon.

For more blog posts and news updates, check my website, delorestopliff.com 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Who created these North American Flags?

Delores E. Topliff

Until July 4th approached, I didn’t know there were doubts that Betsy Ross created our first American flag. The Betsy Ross Facts website says, “Of all famous American Revolutionary women in history, the woman who stands out as an icon is Betsy Ross. Although there is no actual historical evidence, she is widely regarded as the person who sewed the very first American Flag. A patriotic symbol, such as a flag, was just what the American colonists needed as a symbol to help unite them during the War for Independence.” 

What? Further research took me to a site stating, “The main reason historians and flag experts do not believe that Betsy Ross designed or sewed the first American flag is a lack of historical evidence and documentation…. No records show that the Continental Congress had a committee to design the national flag in the spring of 1776.”

For now, it seems the true creator of America’s first flag remains a mystery.

The person who designed our 50-star American flag is Robert G. Heft, age 17 in 1958 in Ohio when he created the design for a high school project and received a B−. (Some teachers grade hard.)

In 1927, Alaska held a flag design competition. The chosen winner to represent the future flag of the Territory of Alaska was Benny Benson, a 13-year-old Alaskan Native living in a children’s home in Seward. His eight gold stars on a field of blue showed the Big Dipper constellation lined up with the North Star overhead, representing the northernmost state. Until then, since its purchase from Russia in 1867, Alaska had flown only the U.S. flag.

Since its confederation in 1867, Canada’s flag had resembled Britain’s Union Jack until their 1965 national competition selected the Maple Leaf suggested by University of Toronto student, George F. G. Stanley. However, see
https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/16/canadian-flag-designs-photos_n_4109726.html for other great 
flag designs that got cut.

The coat of arms on Mexico’s flag represents an ancient legend for how the Aztecs chose the site to build their capital city, Tenochtitlan, (Mexico City today). The leader of the Aztecs, also known as the Mexica, had a dream with their god of war instructing them to settle in the place where they found an eagle on a cactus eating a serpent, and they did. 

What does it take to create a flag, emblem, or motto, to successfully steer our ship of state by? Do you have a family flag or crest?

If you were to modify your nation’s flag, what change would you make? Why?

Meanwhile, enjoy a wonderful May 5th, July 1st, July 4th, and every day! 

For more blog posts and news updates, check my website, delorestopliff.com 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Word Fruit Salad

Delores E. Topliff

We’ve all done it, gotten our words fractured and said the wrong thing. English clergyman William Archibald Spooner became so famous for his accidental tongue twists with unintentional comic effect, we now call them Spoonerisms. Thanks to fun-with-words.com, the column on the left shows what his hearers heard, often in sermons, and the column on the right shows what the reverend intended to say. After reading these, I’d be a blithering idiot, if I knew how to blither. Now please share the worst word tangle you never hoped to say—and have a great week!

For more blog posts and news updates, check my website, delorestopliff.com 

fighting a liar
lighting a fire
you hissed my mystery lecture
you missed my history lecture
cattle ships and bruisers
battle ships and cruisers
nosey little cook
cozy little nook
a blushing crow
a crushing blow
tons of soil
sons of toil
our queer old Dean
our dear old Queen
we'll have the hags flung out
we'll have the flags hung out
you've tasted two worms
you've wasted two terms
our shoving leopard
our loving shepherd
a half-warmed fish
a half-formed wish
is the bean dizzy?
is the Dean busy?
blow your nose
go and shake a tower
go and take a shower
tease my ears
ease my tears
nicking your pose
picking your nose
you have very mad banners
you have very bad manners
lack of pies
pack of lies
it's roaring with pain
it's pouring with rain
sealing the hick
healing the sick
go help me sod
so help me God
pit nicking
nit picking
bowel feast
foul beast
I'm a damp stealer
I'm a stamp dealer
hypodemic nurdle
hypodermic needle
wave the sails
save the whales
chipping the flannel on TV
flipping the channel on TV
mad bunny
bad money
I'm shout of the hour
I'm out of the shower
lead of spite
speed of light
this is the pun fart
this is the fun part
I hit my bunny phone
I hit my funny bone
flutter by
bedding wells
wedding bells
I must mend the sail
I must send the mail
cop porn
it crawls through the fax
it falls through the cracks
my zips are lipped
my lips are zipped
bat flattery
flat battery
would you like a nasal hut?
would you like a hazel nut?
puke on
belly jeans
jelly beans
eye ball
bye all
fight in your race
right in your face
ready as a stock
steady as a rock
no tails
toe nails
hiss and lear
listen here
soul of ballad
bowl of salad

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Travel is its own reward

Delores E. Topliff
For many, June officially kicks off travel season. Because I take writing seriously, and also love meaningful travel, it boosted my morale when Trip Advisor told me that my occasional trip and travel evaluations have currently been read and voted helpful by over 17,000 people. What? Who knew? That encourages me to take greater care to report accurately with candid helpfulness about what I find in destinations. Like me, you may sometimes get steered wrong by glowing reports that don’t match the place once you reach your pre-paid destination—when it’s too late and too costly to make changes. I’ll skip telling my recent horror story, but when asked, I did report accurately on that travel site. In all areas of life, words matter. I won’t use them to mislead others.

My last (and favorite) fortune cookie said, “Travel is its own reward.” Yes!
Besides getting us where we need to go, travel serves a greater purpose. In his classic, Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” Although Twain was a great comic writer, he wasn’t being funny here—this is solid truth.

These wise words are credited to ancient Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, “A journey of a thousand li starts beneath one's feet.” That’s been modernized to, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”so true in life as well as travel.

Now tell us what your favorite trip has been so far, and what you have learned. Or, where you hope to travel next? Also visit my website, delorestopliff.com, for news and updates, and have a great week! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Would you live in a library if you could?

Delores E. Topliff
When I was a young mom and grad student with two little boys ages 5 and 3, I took them with me everywhere I could, sometimes even to classes I taught. We visited public and university libraries, some with deep, dark basements, and others seven-stories tall, for lengthy periods of time. My sons took to them like ducks to water and cheerfully called them the “book caves”.  

That why I was struck by an NPR radio program of a boy who lived in a library with his parents and is now a writer. (I borrow heavily from his story below.) Is there a correlation? You betcha!

Decades back, custodians in the New York Public Library system could live in the buildings with their families. Raymond Clark’s dad was a custodian, and their family lived on the top floor of the Washington Heights branch in upper Manhattan starting in 1949, when Ronald was fifteen. Later, in the 1970s, he raised his daughter, Jamilah, in the same apartment until she was five. He later told that grown daughter that being a library custodian was like being, "the keeper of the temple of knowledge."

At first, Ronald was ashamed of his unusual home. But once the library closed for the day, he loved being the only kid in the building… “If I had any question about anything, I would get up in the middle of the night, go down, get out a book, (and) read until 3 o'clock in the morning . . . I began to realize how great I had it because the library gave me the thirst of learning—and this just never left me."

Living in the library shaped the man he became. “He was the first in his family to graduate from high school”, and (to his dad’s delight) eventually “got a position as a college professor. Read the full interview at https://www.npr.org/2017/10/13/557328529/how-living-in-a-library-gave-one-man-the-thirst-of-learning

Do you love books? Do they fuel you with wisdom and inspiration to take on limitless horizons? While you may not actually want to live in one, share your favorite ways to surround yourself with books. Please also check my website delorestopliff.com for more posts and updates.