Tag Archives: NanoPoblano2017

The Magna What?

Two years ago, I entered my first poetry contest. I’m not much of a poet, and I know it, but I’m interested in poetry and I do have a tendency to wade into deep water and get in over my head. Well, these waters were deep indeed, and the current was strong. In fact, it carried me 800 years into the past, and, figuratively speaking, across the Atlantic Ocean. That’s because the contest was part of a London festival celebrating the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. The highlight of the event would be the reading of the winning poem (by the poet). I had never been to England. Game on.

The last time I remember anybody even mentioning the Magna Carta was maybe in my very dry high school World History class. I say maybe because I really don’t remember much about that class. I got B’s only because I knew how to study and cram for tests. I didn’t really start to appreciate history until much later. I had a lot of Googling to do if I was going to write any kind of a poem about the Magna Carta.

Well, Google I did. I didn’t win a prize, but the effort was worth it anyway. I learned something new, and I had fun doing it. If you want to learn more about the Magna Carta … well, it’s 2017. You know what to do.

And now for my poem.

At Runnymede

At Runnymede we made our stand
eight hundred years ago;
the rolling hills and River Thames
bore witness to it all.

We gathered in the meadow
with rebellion on our minds
and told King John he had no right
to act above the law.

“We’re nobles with a noble cause,
And free men, by the way!
Your taxes are exorbitant,
your punishments arcane.

The Archbishop has drafted
a more modern set of rules,
and what’s more, it’s in Latin
so it’s legal as can be!”

“I can’t accept your terms, you fools,”
said haughty old King John.
“The Pope’s in my back pocket,
so you haven’t got a prayer.”

Then he dismissed us with a wave,
but we would not be cowed
Instead, we grew more resolute
than ever, and declared,

“We’re mad as hell, you tyrant, you!
Divine rights are passé!
No longer will we acquiesce
to your outlandish schemes!

Our liberty is sacred,
but you are not, King John,
and if you dare to cross us
we will seize your lands at once!”

Reluctantly, the king accepted
our demands that day
with no intent to honor them —
but they survived his reign.

At Runnymede the River Thames
and rolling hills abide;
eight centuries have come and gone —
and Magna Carta stands!

© Lori Bonati, 2017

Badge 2017

 

Lost and Found

“Lost and Found” is my first ever guest post! I wrote it for Day 9 of “Rage Against the Machine,” running through November at The Seeker’s Dungeon (hosted by Sreejit Poole). You can find my guest post (with song video) by clicking here.

Many thanks to Sreejit Poole for allowing me to participate in “Rage Against the Machine.” Be sure to visit him at The Seeker’s Dungeon.

This is also my Day 9 post for Nano Poblano. Check out their awesome blog posts here!

Badge 2017

Gonna Be Some Changes

I’ve recently started going to the gym, but I don’t like it. It’s not any one particular thing — it’s just the whole package. The echoes, the grunts, the smells. Not knowing how the machines work. The pain. And don’t forget the scales, which might not be the most accurate machines ever invented. (I don’t know how I managed it, but recently I weighed .6 pounds more immediately after a workout than I did right before it.)

I used to have some pretty reasonable excuses for not going to the gym: “It’s too expensive.” “I don’t have time.” “It’s too far to drive.” But I can’t use those excuses now that I’ve retired, qualified for a Silver Sneakers (free membership) card, and discovered a Planet Fitness five minutes from my house. And then I read this headline today:

“Mayo Clinic discovers high-intensity aerobic training can reverse aging processes in adults.”

After reading that good news, I thought I might try to hate going to the gym a little less.

According to the study, which was conducted by the Mayo Clinic in 2017 and reported online here, the best method for reversing the aging process may be through interval training. (Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional and I don’t know how scientifically rigorous the study was. But those two words, “reverse aging,” do have a certain appeal.)

“Interval training” is defined as about three to four minutes of hard exertion — for example, on a stationary bike — and then a rest period. Rinse and repeat. Yay! If they say “three to four minutes,” maybe that really means I can get away with “two to three minutes” as a newbie. And that rest period is appealing, too, since I greatly prefer to do awful things like boring gym exercises in small chunks, with plenty of time for heavy breathing and checking Instagram between the intervals. And I like that word “stationary,” too. I can do stationary quite well.

I have to admit that Planet Fitness is one of the least objectionable gyms I’ve been to. Their color scheme is deep purple, and they keep the lights turned down really low. That’s why I decided to keep going there, actually. It’s so dark that your cellulite looks just like interesting shadows. They even have a huge slogan emblazoned on the wall: “No Judgement.” (I always thought that “judgement” was spelled “judgment.” So whenever I see their sign, I feel judgmental about their spelling. But maybe it’s a British spelling. Does anyone out there know? Because I want to feel less judgmental while I’m in there. “Judge not, lest ye be judged” has special meaning when you’re on public display in your gym shorts.)

I went to the gym yesterday and was hard at work on the treadmill. (This was before I knew about the much easier and relaxing — I hope — interval training method.) I was listening to music through my headphones, a method that I’ve found works well to distract me from the burning in my lungs and the sweat dripping from my brow. About ten minutes into my workout, a song came on that got my adrenaline pumping, and my feet seemed to take on a life of their own. It was the aptly titled “Gonna Be Some Changes Made” by Bruce Hornsby. The tempo was perfect for my treadmill speed (about 2.5 miles per hour) and the music was energizing. It could be the lyrics that motivated me. (It’s hard to think about going home and lying on the couch with a bag of potato chips when you’re listening to him sing about all those changes he’s going to make.)

I think maybe I should download some other songs with the word “change” in the title, and bring them with me to the gym. For example:

Changes (David Bowie)

A Change Would Do You Good (Sheryl Crowe)

Waiting for the World to Change (John Mayer)

A Change is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke)

Change My Way of Living (Allman Brothers)

Change the World (Eric Clapton)

Psychologist Carl Rogers had this to say about change:

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

OK, that does it. Starting today, I’m going to accept the fact that I dislike the gym. And then there are going to be some changes made … starting tomorrow.

 

Badge 2017

 

 

He, She, or It: On Gender in Language

It is widely known that the languages that descended from Latin (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, etc.) utilize gender in their grammatical structure. Nouns are either masculine or feminine, but rarely neutral. But did you know that many other languages also use gender (and other quite different systems) to classify nouns?

According to Wikipedia:

– 76 world languages (including English, Japanese, and Turkish) are gender-neutral
– 39 (including Arabic, Hebrew, Urdu, and Welsh) have a masculine/feminine noun system
– many languages (such as Danish, Hittite, and several Native American) use a classification system of animate vs. inanimate rather than gender to determine grammar rules
– Hawaiian languages use a system based on things you have control over vs. things beyond your control (I’m simplifying a bit here)
– some languages have developed a system of more than three “genders” or classification systems (including Tuyuca, spoken in the eastern Amazon, which is estimated to have between 50 and 140 different noun classes).

In today’s emphasis on gender equality, and sometimes on gender neutrality, are masculine/feminine and other distinctions within nouns still relevant? Or are they destined to go the way of the rotary phone, natural hair color, and the bookstore down the street?

You may be wondering why I’m bringing this up. Well, it has to do with something we discussed in Spanish class last night — something that got the old brain cells spinning once again. (I really like when that happens. It gives me something to blog about.)

The topic of last night’s class was Names, which branched off (as our class discussions often do) into a discussion of titles such as Señor, Señora, and Señorita. We learned from our “maestra” (teacher — and yes, she happens to be a maestra, not a maestro) that the practice of calling a woman Señorita if she’s unmarried (the equivalent of being a virgin in the old days) but Señora if she’s married is going out of style in Mexico and elsewhere.  It’s becoming more popular to just use Señor and Señora. This change is similar to the use of the title “Ms.” in English, although there isn’t a Spanish word for “Ms.” — yet.

I’ve seen some people using an “x” at the end of words that normally indicate gender with an “a” or an “o,” as, for example: Latinx). This might simplify things if you don’t know the gender or don’t want to be sexist, and is similar to our trend in the U.S. of using endings such as “person” (chairperson) or of just dropping the “ess,” “ette” and other unnecessary, diminutive tags that for some reason connote something of lesser substance. (I hate it when I catch myself saying “stewardess,” but why does making something female imply that it is lesser? Just another question to set my brain cells spinning.)

Our “maestra” — should I be calling her “maestrx“? — mentioned that there’s even a movement afoot somewhere to use the @ symbol in place of the -a and -o endings on Spanish nouns that refer to people —  such as changing “amigos” or “amigas” to “amig@s“. That way nobody’s offended. Except that people are offended, she warned — people who feel it insults the Spanish-speaking world. By changing one of the foundational rules of that language, it can be seen as an attack on the culture. I agree with that point of view. You shouldn’t mess with someone’s language. Just look at the harm done when the government banned Native American languages in schools.

As an American whose first language was English, I’m not going to change the word endings in anyone’s language to x or @ or any other symbol unless it’s okay with them. But as for myself, I do like Ms. so much better than Miss or Mrs.

P.S. In Spanish, the word “cheer” (humor) is masculine, but “pepper” (pimiento or pimienta) can be either masculine or feminine, depending on the type of pepper. What type of pepper are you?

(This post is part of a blog challenge for the month of November called “Nano Poblano.” A Cheer Pepper is a member of that group who cheers the others on.)

(Also, thanks to Meg for allowing me to use my photo of her paper zombies!)

Badge 2017

If Time Can Bend

If time can bend
then you are still here
and we are together
we live on a star
on Orion’s belt
or maybe we sit
on the edge of his sword
we gaze at the heavens
and watch falling stars
and say look! there!
let’s make a wish!
and you whisper I wish
that we never will die

If time can bend
then there are no lines
from point A to point B
and the constellations
are mobiles in motion
spinning in time
over make-believe cradles
stellar examples
of human design
only existing
in linear minds
and maybe the truth is
we’ve already died

If time can bend
then we are all dancing
the dance of a lifetime
caught in a cobweb
of cosmic proportions
with strings made of atoms
and light beams and laughter
and you are my partner
and we’ll go on dancing
just as we have been,
and are now, and will be,
brilliantly bending
refusing to die

© Lori Bonati, 2017

Badge 2017

Mistakes and Misgivings

While waking one morning from a forgotten dream, I found myself thinking about the mistakes I’ve made in my life. Why was I dwelling on my failures so early in the day? I had no idea. It probably had something to do with the dream I’d been having. I lay there for a while, torturing myself with negative thoughts. Every foolish decision or act, long submerged in my subconscious, came bobbing to the surface like debris surrounding a capsized boat.

I got out of bed, but I was still down on myself, and I couldn’t shake it. I thought about that word, “mistake.” What did it really mean? A mis-TAKE? Something wrongly taken? I thought about one of my old mistakes, at Company X, when I’d screwed up on the job. It was my first decent job, and I’d taken something — that something being initiative. Yes, I’d taken initiative, and my boss hadn’t liked where I’d taken it, so I got called on the carpet. Never wanting that to happen again, I started taking less initiative. Later, someone there said I wasn’t taking enough initiative. At Company X, it was hard not to make mistakes.

But don’t stop now, I told myself. Let’s get this over with. What other mistakes can you torture yourself with? So I amped up my pity party, reliving one old mistake after the other, starting in childhood. Why hadn’t I stood up to that bully? Why had I stood up to that other, bigger bully, the one who then knocked the wind out of me in front of the whole class? Why had I believed those scary stories in religion class – the ones that traumatized me for an entire year?

Why had I been so worried about being popular? Why had I believed that I was ugly? Why didn’t I keep trying out for school plays after I didn’t make the cut in seventh grade? Why did I give up the violin? (Answer: to be popular.)

Why had I been such a lousy judge of character? Taken so many chances? Taken on too many projects? Dropped out of college with only one paper left to write? Allowed mean, manipulative people into my life?

Why had I spoken without considering the impact of my words? Why had I said no when I meant yes, and yes when I meant no?

Why had I let down my loved ones?

Looking back on my mistakes, and on my life as a whole, I don’t even recognize my past self. It’s like some other person inhabited my body back then and made those poor decisions. (And maybe that’s accurate. Probably all of my old cells have been replaced by now.) So why not forgive my (former) self?

I’m not that person anymore, I think. But is that true? Have I really changed, or am I still making those same mistakes? Am I too close to see them? Will I look back in five years and have misgivings about the mistakes I’m currently making?

And what, exactly, is a misGIVING? If a mistake is something wrongly TAKEN, then I guess a misgiving is something wrongly GIVEN, like giving one’s trust to a sociopath who takes advantage of you (yep, that happened).

My mistakes and misgivings have caused several misUNDERSTANDINGS. Now there’s another mis-word. Does it imply that to understand something, you have to dive deep, get under it, at root level? Ask questions? I think I’ll try that. I’m hoping that someday, while swimming beside this capsized boat I call my life, I can look back upon my mistakes, misgivings, and misunderstandings, and see them for what they really are: tiny specks in an ocean of understanding and forgiveness.

Badge 2017

Daylight Saving Time

Last Thursday night, I got only five hours of sleep. I blame Nano Poblano. All of those impassioned opinions, perfect word choices, and gutsy poems – you peppers really know how to inform, inspire, and interrupt a good night’s slumber. I was awake until 3 a.m. reading. Your titles were compelling and your photos so interesting. Even your badges were calling my name. I think I dreamt about peppers that night (er … morning).

Later that day (at 8 a.m.), I pulled myself out of bed because I had company coming over at 9. I rubbed my tired eyes, stumbled to the coffee machine, and pressed “brew” without putting water in first. After a couple of tries, I finally got everything (water, coffee, cup) arranged and ready. After my success making and drinking my first cup of java, I decided I was capable of vacuuming the living room rug.

All was going fine until I decided to try connecting one of the attachments. I couldn’t get the hoses and attachments to fit together. Everything seemed to be the wrong size; nothing would fit into anything else. Five minutes, four failed attempts, and three expletives later, I finally managed to figure it out. But then I tried turning the vacuum on again, and I couldn’t remember where the “on” switch was. (I’m not making this up.) This is not my normal operating mode. I do not have early onset Alzheimer’s. I just wasn’t running on all three bike tires.

I’m not complaining. I’ve always been a night owl, but lately I’m starting to see that maybe it’s not that healthy to skimp on sleep. I read an article about this the other day. The article said that you can never catch up on lost sleep. Once lost, it’s gone forever. If that’s the case, I figure I’ve lost 20,160 hours of sleep since graduating from college. That’s more than 2 years’ worth of lost time. Does that mean I’m really 2 years younger than I thought? Or am I older? I need another cup of coffee to figure that one out.

In the United States, we have something called “Daylight Saving Time” for part of every year. This government-imposed fiddling with our biological and actual clocks came about during World War I in an effort to save energy. In most parts of the country, clocks “spring ahead” one hour in the spring and “fall back” an hour in the fall. They are about to fall back this Sunday, Nov. 5, at 2 a.m. The rationale behind this widely accepted (but unpopular) practice is explained here.

I happen to live in Arizona, where Daylight Saving Time is not observed, unless you live on the Navajo Nation, where they do observe it. But then, if you live on the Hopi Reservation, which is completely surrounded by the Navajo Nation, you don’t observe Daylight Saving Time, which must be especially confusing. Arizona seems to celebrate confusion. After all, we have towns named Why, Surprise, and – believe it or not – Avenue B and C.

Since I live in Arizona, I won’t be “falling back” one hour this year. But while the rest of the country celebrates their extra hour of sleep, I’ll make myself content in the knowledge that even if I’d gotten the extra hour, it would not have made up for the 20,160 hours I’ve already lost.

Badge 2017

 

Thought Bubbles

On January 22, 2017, I was standing at my kitchen sink doing dishes. It was Inauguration Day. I scraped, I scrubbed, I scoured (I don’t own a dishwasher), and for some reason I started thinking.

Maybe it was the inauguration that made me want to wash something. Or the news about Monsanto bidding on some farmland just west of here, so they could build a seed research facility. Or possibly, just the sight of all those suds in the sink had set my mind to wandering. It was as if my head were full of thought bubbles.

Just as one popped, another one would form. I was thinking about pesticides, and the election, and my children’s future. I felt a sudden urge to scream, but instead I quietly turned off the water, dried my hands, and walked down the hall to my office. Sitting at the keyboard then, I felt a faucet turn on in my consciousness, and my thoughts dripped out through my hands and onto the screen.

Here’s what I wrote that day, word for word:

———-

“So here is what I was thinking while I washed dishes:

I was thinking that some of the world’s biggest problems can best be solved if we do just one thing: simplify.

Break them down into their bare bones.

Start thinking like a child.

Now I know very little about Monsanto, and the science, which makes me feel like I’m not qualified to write to the newspaper expressing my opinion about Monsanto. I’m sure I would get shot down or receive hate mail due to my ignorance. But then I realized that I actually know quite a bit. Here is what I do know about Monsanto:

Aren’t they the company that produces Roundup?

Isn’t Roundup responsible for the decline in the bee population?

Isn’t the decline in the bee population something that threatens our crops and all manner of life on this planet, eventually?

Isn’t Monsanto turning a blind eye to that despite scientific evidence?

Isn’t Monsanto also responsible for creating special seeds, genetically modified, which they are forcing farmers to grow, and isn’t Monsanto prohibiting farmers from growing their own seeds?

Isn’t all of this crazy?

Then I realized that, even though I don’t have too many scientific facts in there, I do have an even more valuable commodity … common sense. Well, maybe just as valuable. And science is, in fact, predicated on common sense, logic if you will.

I was thinking much as an innocent child would, who is often times even closer to the truth of the matter than we realize.

Then I started thinking about politics. Uh-oh. Don’t get me started. It’s inauguration day, after all. But now I am started. And I just can’t stop.

I just can’t stop thinking about how a child would see this whole Donald trump thing. A child would probably say, why would we want to put a bully in charge of anything?

And isn’t it bad to grab, and point, and make fun of people?

And why does he call someone “my African American” … he doesn’t own him.

And why is Donald trump so rich, and all of his friends so rich, and why are only the rich people in charge? And isn’t it better to share?

And why do people want to hurt each other?

Why do they argue so much?

Isn’t it better to get along, to be nice and kind and friendly?

Why do people vote for someone who says he grabbed someone? Or that he could shoot someone and that people would still like him? None of this makes any sense at all.

And why do people think that war solves problems? We have been having wars since forever and they haven’t stopped yet. Maybe adults should try something new instead of repeating the same things over and over again.”

———-

So there you have it – recycled thought bubbles from a little over nine months ago. Unlike regular bubbles, thought bubbles can be saved in special places, like notebooks and hard drives. I take them out sometimes and I shake them like snow globes just to see what happens. Sometimes the scenes come to life, rearranging themselves in newer, smarter, or more interesting ways. Other times, it just snows.

Either way, it’s a much better way to spend my time than doing dishes. And who knows, maybe January 2018 will turn out better. I might have a dishwasher, at least.

 

Badge 2017

 

Wasting Time with Words With Friends

I’m infatuated with words. But lately, I’ve been spending an unhealthy amount of time with them, thanks to my latest addiction, Words With Friends. I have to break it off soon, but how? What’s the best way to tell Words With Friends that it’s over, especially when it constantly demands my attention with that insistent buzzing noise coming from my iPad?

“Buzz!” it purrs, seductively. “Somebody played a word — don’t you want to come over here and see how many points they made?”

“Buzz!” again. It sounds so needy. “Someone else just took a turn. You don’t want them to feel ignored, now, do you?”

“Buzz!” (Is it my imagination, or is it getting louder?) “You’ll never guess who that was! Come on, it’ll only take a second!”

I give in to my basest impulses, gingerly perching on the edge of the living room chair for what I tell myself will only be a minute. Before I know it, I’m hunched over, my neck is killing me, and an hour has gone by. The wet clothes are sitting in a lump in the washing machine, and whatever it was that I was cooking is permanently stuck to the bottom of the frying pan.

Currently, I’ve got six Words With Friends games going at once. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true — I’m not at all monogamous when it comes to Words With Friends. I started out that way, but it was too easy to get involved with other people, especially when the sneaky little matchmaking devil-game matches you up with equally addictive personalities. As of today, I’m playing two games at once with my husband (I’m beating him at both), plus one with my nephew, two with my sisters, and one with a total stranger. We are having unprotected Words.

I really don’t have the physical stamina for six games at once (my neck will need a chiropractor soon) and the mental strain is wearing me down. Not only is it frustrating when I have all vowels or all consonants, but think of my anguish when I have the letter Q, but no U! The only Q-word I know of that doesn’t require a U is QI. I once tried to cheat by placing Q next to L (it looks so much like an I), but the nasty little program was on to me in a nanosecond, spitting a damning indictment across the bottom of the screen:

“QL is not a valid word.”

“Says who?” I spit back, but it was pointless. You can’t argue with its stupid little dictionary (which, by the way, just let my sister play “FE”). According to the game, FE is a word because it’s the periodic table symbol for iron. Well, if I’d known that chemical symbols were allowed, I would have played LSD a long time ago.

Then there are the moral dilemmas. Do you let your nephew win? Do you play the word “dildo” against your mother? Do you cry foul when your sister makes the word “Texas”? And why does the program allow Texas, but not Iraq?

And think of the hours I’ve wasted! I could have been doing something more productive today, like taking a shower, but instead I sat around and made ridiculous overtures with non-words like “da” and “bal.” I tried looking “bal” up already, so save yourself the time. It’s supposedly short for “balmoral,” a Scottish hat. Did you ever hear anyone, Scottish or otherwise, refer to a “bal”? If someone collects hats in Scotland, do you say that they have a lot of bals? I don’t think so! But Words With Friends gave me 14 points for making that dirty little word. Against my sister! I felt guilty pressing “play” after I made the word “bal,” but I couldn’t stop myself.

I can see why Alec Baldwin refused to give up his phone while playing Words With Friends on that airplane. It’s hard to hang up on your friends. OMG, I just realized how ridiculous I sound. I think I need an intervention.

Do you suppose if I just switched addictions — say, to blogging — I’d be better off? Because I think I’m getting addicted to that, too. In fact, right now I’ve got a daily habit, and I think it’s going to be hard to cut down. Speaking of which, I have to come up with an idea for tomorrow’s blog post. But first … I hear something buzzing at me. Gotta go!

Badge 2017

So Many Questions

Dear Cheer Peppers,

What’s all this talk about Nano Poblano?

Why am I hearing about it just now?

Who are these peppers so chatty and cheerful?

Where do I upload my writing, and how?

One post a day for a month – are you crazy?

How can I manage to fit all that in?

What if I’m stranded on some desert island

Or dressing a turkey, or driving? What then?

Do I sound anxious? A bit apprehensive?

Am I afraid I’m not up to the task?

Yes, yes, and yes are my own honest answers

(To say otherwise would be too much to ask.)

Don’t get me wrong, I admire your focus

Your writing commitment is stunning and brave

But me, I’ll admit that I’m often quite scattered

Besides, I don’t think I have that much to say.

But hey, what the heck. I’m a sucker for challenge

Just dare me to do it and do it I’ll try

So I’m dipping my toe in the great Nano River

I’ll sink or I’ll swim but I won’t come out dry.

The water’s refreshing! I feel so much better!

Is that my reflection? And is that a smile?

I’m wading in now on the first of November

Please throw me a pencil; I’ll be here a while.

Badge 2017