Verbal Ticks

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DAILY PROMPT:  Friday, June 13, 2014

Verbal Ticks:  Is there a word or a phrase you use (or overuse) all the time, and are seemingly unable to get rid of? If not, what’s the one that drives you crazy when others use it?

There is one word that I overuse.  Say it ALL the time.  I truly did not realize how much I used it until I went skydiving with my brother last year to celebrate his birthday.  As part of our package, we purchased videos of our jump.  For every question I was asked, I answered using the same word.  When I watched the video, by the third/fourth use of the word, I was cringing.  It’s not that it’s a BAD word.  And how I started using the word is an interesting story.  Which goes like this:

How many times have you been asked, “How are you today?” or, even asked the question without really wanting to hear the answer?  I noticed a few years ago that whenever I asked someone, they would give the usual “I’m fine” that is expected in our society today, but sometimes body language or other things would give away that the answer was a lie.  With a little press, you could get the full story of what was going on in that person’s life.  Now, of course, you have to be careful that when you press you really want to know the answer to the question, ’cause some people are truly going through some things in their lives and once they get to talking, you might not be able to get them to stop.  Well, I decided that I was not going to answer that question generically anymore – just to see who was paying attention, and who was really listening.  And thus began my overuse of my word.

So, that’s how it started, but it evolved over time.  I found that by using my word, sometimes I could change my attitude – or the attitude of those around me – just by saying it.  It is one of those words that when you say it, the physicality of saying it changes your mouth, your mood, your attitude.  And when people hear the word, it tickles whatever it is in the ear that can get tickled by a word and makes them smile – unless they are really grouches at heart and then they just kinda snarl at you when you say it.

Another thing about my word:  it sparks conversations, no matter where I am or who I am talking to.  Whenever I say it, especially in response to the societal polite “how are you?” greeting, people stop, look at me and say, “Really? Why?” – which can spark a conversation, and maybe even a new friendship.  On the flip side, since that has become my standard response, when I don’t use it, people are concerned and want to make sure that I am ok and if not, what they can do to help me get back to using my word.

Ok, I know, by now, the suspense is killing you.  You wanna know what this mood-altering, conversation-striking, overused word is, don’t you?  The word is:

FABULOUS!!!

Now, go back to the top.  Read this post again, filling in my word for each scenario I’ve written, and I am sure you will see what I mean about the power of this word.  But I think I need to come up with another one.  Just so I can spark different kinds of conversations…

Day Three: Three Songs (Are they kidding?)

Writing 101 Challenge:  Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

When I read the challenge for today, my immediate response was, “They are outta their minds – who can limit their experience to JUST three songs?”  Not the kid.  Music is an integral part of my life and who am I.  After all, I was that kid that the grandparents pushed up front, in front of the entire church, at age 6 to sing “IT’S RAINING JOY” by the Blendwrights because they thought it was cute to hear me try to hit the high notes, and I was too dumb to know that I could say “No” (even to my grandparents).  In elementary school, I played the clarinet, with some skill, but after my mom paid for my instrument, I lost interest.  (But, by then, I had learned how to control my breathing and I found out that was very useful when kissing boys later in life.)  In high school and college, I sang in choirs and small groups and in the shower.  And if you catch me at the right time, you might (even now) see me driving down the highways, windows down, radio turned up as loud as I can stand it, singing to the top of my voice IF “my song” just happens to come on the radio.  But what might be considered “MY SONG” at the moment might not be “MY SONG” a day, a week, a month later.  Music is fluid and its influence changes as your life, situation, reality changes.  That is a powerful thing.  So, instead of writing about three specific songs, I choose to accept today’s challenge by writing about three specific genres of music that mean the world to me:  gospel, jazz and rhythm & blues (or R&B).

GOSPEL:  This is the music of worship and praise to God and an integral part of my life.  Growing up, my parents played a LOT of gospel music – Andre Crouch, the Blendwrights, the Faith Quartet (from my grandparents’ home church), James Cleveland – the list goes on and on.  Through the words of these songs, I learned about my Creator and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I learned of His love for me.  I learned that, no matter what I was going through – no matter what I did (or didn’t do) – His love for me was steadfast and true.  As I grew older and developed my own relationship with HIm, I discovered songs of praise and thanksgiving that helped me hold on through dark days and tumultuous times.  MY SOUL IS ANCHORED, BLESSED ASSURANCE, BE GRATEFUL – songs that send chills up my spine every time I hear them, no matter how good (or bad) the voice singing them.  Powerful music that stirs my heart and leads me straight to the Cross.  I could not sustain my spiritual well-being without gospel music.

RHYTHM & BLUES:  Even though I was living in New York City when the craze that has become “hip hop” music took hold, it never appealed to me.  Well, there was that one song by the Sugarhill Gang, but other than that, I never was a fan of the genre.  But throw some good ole R&B on the radio (or Walkman or iPod), and I was enthralled and entertained for hours.  Singers like Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross & the Supremes, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, Minnie Riperton – those were the artists my mom made us listen to when the thump thump thump of rap/hip hop got to be too much.  Then as i got older, Luther Vandross, Phyllis Hyman, Anita Baker, and Patti Austin sang the songs that became the soundtrack and background music of my romances and heartbreaks and good times with friends.  To this day, I cannot listen to certain songs (and albums) without IMMEDIATELY being transported back in time to a certain place or the memory of a certain person or without the invocation of a specific feeling or emotion.  The memories of my life are wrapped up in R&B music.

JAZZ:  And then there is jazz.  Whether it is the traditional, moody jazz of the masters:  Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn – or the more contemporary instrumental stylings of Boney James, Wynton Marsalis, Alex Bugnon and Kenny G – or the vocal gymnastics of Rachelle Ferrell and Dinah Washington – jazz is the music of grown folk.  I remember my father playing jazz on Sunday mornings when I was a child growing up and thinking, “Man, why can’t he play something good?”  It was years later before I could understand the value of sitting down and listening to jazz, dark room, eyes closed, engulfed in the sounds coming from a trumpet or saxaphone or piano.  And nothing compares to being at a concert (the smaller the venue the better) and actually seeing, hearing someone use their talents to coax beautiful, haunting, memorable sounds from their instrument – whether it is their voice or some piece of wood, metal or brass.  Jazz is the musical tapestry – all crazy colors, joined together to form something beautiful – that reminds me that sometimes things in life may be chaotic, and seem not to make sense, but when it all plays out – there is a reason, there is a purpose – and life is (eventually) beautiful (again).

Yep, gospel, R&B and jazz.  Cannot imagine my life without any and/or all of these genres of music.</p>

 

Room with a View

IF YOU COULD BE ANYWHERE RIGHT NOW, WHERE WOULD YOU BE?

Today’s writing challenge is all about “being somewhere”.  When I initially read the prompt, my mind went to a physical place that I would want to be – and my first, immediate, without question, thought was “I would want to be standing at the base of the Eiffel Tower, looking up, snapping a picture of all those beams and cross-beams” (closely followed by sitting at an outside cafe somewhere in the Greek Islands).  And so, my initial thought was that I was going to write about my love for Paris (a city I have yet to visit) and why I can imagine myself as an ex-pat, living somewhere along the Seine, in a small room that would not hold 1/4 of the material STUFF I have accumulated in my 50 years of life – wearing black all the time (with splashes of purple just for kicks) – drinking coffee (and wine) – going to the local store every day for my “daily bread” (and veggies) – and (re)learning how to speak French so eloquently that my fellow Parisienes would NOT look at me with disdain as a “dirty American”.  Yep, I would win them over with my charm and grace and loveliness.

But as I started writing this blog – LITERALLY, as I hit the button for NEW POST, I decided that I wanted to write about a different kind of place.  A mental, spiritual, “me and who I am” kind of place.  And when I asked myself THAT question, I realized that there is no other place I would rather be than where I am right now.  In all honesty, my life did not turn out to be what I thought, hoped, imagined it would be when I was younger.  I mean, doesn’t every girl dream of a wedding and a husband and kids?  I had those dreams at one point of my life, but that is not the life that God has handed me.  I never imagined that as I approached my 50th birthday, I would be single, no kids, living in a home with my retired mother, being the “responsible one” for so many people in my life.  But that is my reality.

Sure, there are times when I want to go screaming to the mountains and rail against how my life didn’t turn out.  After all, as people KEEP telling me, “you are such a wonderful person, I cannot believe someone hasn’t snatched you up by now.”  Or, “you are so good with kids, how come you don’t have any?”  And even, “Girl!  My hat is off to you for living with your mom like you do.  I couldn’t do it.”  And if I believed in alternate universes and the like, somewhere out there, there is a Kristina who is living what I once considered my “dream life”.  She is skinny (ok, skinnier), she has Denzel or Shemar or one of their twin brothers as a loving, devoted, thinks she made the sun shine, husband.  She has two well-behaved, smart, good looking, respectful children.  There is money in the bank and food in the house and a convertible in the garage of her well-appointed beach house.  Yeah, she is living the good life.  And good for her.  I’m only a little envious.

I say I am happy to be where I am right now in my life because, despite some trials, life is good.  I have lived in my house for 17 years and have never been late with a mortgage payment.  I have been able to provide a home for my mother for that same amount of time, and while at times it can be challenging – two grown woman with very different outlooks on life under the same roof – I am grateful for the opportunity to honor her as is Biblically mandated.  While the bank accounts are not flush with extra money, every month I am somehow able to meet most, if not all, of my financial obligations, and as my voluptuous figure will let you know, there is ALWAYS food in the house to store, prepare and enjoy.  I have been on the same job for the last 14 years and still enjoy going into the office every day at the appointed time.  I work with a great group of co-workers, and for the most part, my job is a stress-free environment for me.  Who can say that in these hectic times?  I am blessed beyond measure and I know all of these good things come from my Heavenly Father above.  So, why would I not be content to be where I am, right now?

Yes, one day, I hope to stand at the base of the Eiffel Tower.  One day, I’ll sip some exotic Greek drink on Santorini.  But until then, I’m gonna squeeze every bit of happiness I can out of being here, in Atlanta, Georgia, living the life God has given me.  It don’t get much better than that.