Tag Archives: holidays


There’s a lot of activity in our house. I’m up early this morning to post a few words and power up for the holiday.

My brother and his family are visiting from Utah and are staying with us. My nephew’s marching band will be in America’s 2011 Independence Day Parade today in Washington, so his parents and brothers are here for the festivities. The family hasn’t been here since the eve of the millennium more than 11 years ago, and our son doesn’t get to see his cousins often; this is a special visit for all of us.

There are seven humans and two cats in a house normally occupied by two, plus various and sundry others dropping in, so we’re operating at a heightened state of energy. The glorious sounds of giggles, piano music, video games, pets being chased and balls being thrown waft through the air. I can never hear “Hey, Aunt Monica, …” enough times.

Because we are one person over bed capacity, our son sleeps on a cot in the living room. This has turned out to be the most coveted space, a place to lie down in the middle of it all. I took a serious nap there yesterday.

Our recycling bin is brimming with empty orange and grape Fanta cans, evidence of the fuel that has thus far powered our holiday weekend.

Well, that pretty much sets the stage. We’ll be leaving for the parade in a few minutes, implementing the complex transportation plan we’ve created for moving about the city today. I haven’t been to the National Mall for the Fourth of July in about 30 years. I’m excited about sharing my native capital city with visiting loved ones on this day set aside for celebrating the birth of our country. If I’m lucky there’ll be stories to tell, though those may need to wait until I have more time to write.

God bless America and pass the Fanta.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Food, Hearth and Home, Holidays

Let the Triduum begin

Six weeks ago, I wrote about eating pancakes before the beginning of the Christian season of Lent.

Some 40 days have passed and we are now at the Holy Triduum—the three days preceding Easter, beginning today with Maundy Thursday, which commemorates, among other significant happenings, the Last Supper.

Our Jewish friends and family are in their season of Passover. It is indeed a holy week for those of Judeo-Christian faiths.

I thought about refraining from writing during this period so that I could fully observe the holy days, and I might still.

As I mentioned on Shrove Tuesday, I am following a daily devotional (On the Cross Road by Joan Trusty Moore) and  I have fallen about a week behind, so I hope to do some catching up. Also, I plan to be in church every day for the next four days–Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Great Vigil of Easter and Easter Sunday. If something strikes me, I’ll write. If not, I’ll be back soon.

In the meantime, whether your tradition involves observing holy days, taking your kids to Disney or on college tours for spring break or, if you live in the nation’s capital, enjoying having the roads to yourself, I invite you to share your comments on what this time means to you.

Happy days.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Holidays, Reading

It’s been real

Yesterday, the one-year anniversary of Word Nymph, I shared that I’ve been discerning the future of this blog.

As you might imagine, coming up with new ideas, researching them and writing fresh and thoughtful content six days a week requires a tremendous amount of time and energy.

Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I announce today that I am calling it quits. It’s just too much.  I’m out of ideas. I’m out of stories, observations and opinions. There’s nothing left to write about.

Besides, after some deep soul searching, I no longer feel it is my place to correct the world’s grammar, punctuation, pronunciation and spelling. Maybe those things aren’t that important after all.

It’s been fun but it’s over. Good bye.



Filed under Holidays, Technology and Social Media

Sweet surrender

I’ve hit bottom.

I started with a pack a day, which turned into two packs a day. Within weeks, I was inhaling up to four or five. For so recent an addiction, this one has taken hold with quite a grip. Today I did something of which I am not proud.

It started last October, about a month after I had given up alcohol, coffee and chocolate. At Halloween, when there were pounds of candy in the house, I turned away from chocolate and turned on to SweeTarts–and the powder form, Pixy Stix. We had such a large supply that I was able to make it last until Christmas, when I became distracted by other forms of sugar. The loneliness of January turned to the darkness of February and I missed my old pastel-hued habit. For Valentine’s Day I asked my husband to substitute my traditional box of chocolates with SweeTarts. He gave me a big bag of individually packaged heart-shaped ‘Tarts, five to eight to a pack. When they ran out about three weeks ago, I got the shakes.

It turns out that no grocery or drug store in my area carries them. The ones my husband found were available for a limited time for the holiday. I started making special trips out to find them and with each failure to score came worsening withdrawal. A friend gave me a tip that they’re available at the movies, which was going to be my next tactic.

This afternoon I went to the mall to drop off some watches for repair. The clerk said the repairs would take 20 minutes. My first thought was to check to see if Target stocked my substance. Sure enough, my newly expanded Target had two boxes. I grabbed both of them and resisted opening one while I waited in the checkout line.

I had 15 minutes left to kill. Ordinarily at the mall, I’m tempted to try on clothes or shoes or costume jewelry. Those didn’t interest me one iota. All I wanted was to break into the SweeTarts.

I found a bench where I pretended to check my e-mail. I pulled out a box and began to tear at the corner. I imagined what I would look like, a desperate 51-year-old woman, sitting alone on a bench at the mall on a Saturday afternoon eating Willy Wonka SweeTarts. Sheepishly, I placed the unopened box back in the bag. I picked up my watches from the repair store.

Slowly, I walked to my car. My pace quickened. I ran the rest of the way, got in the car, ripped open a box and devoured half of it. That’s more than five servings. I was fulfilled.

I know I have an addiction. I’d like to break it, truly I would. Dr. Andrew Weil, whom I follow on Twitter, just within the last day or two, tweeted advice about breaking the sugar addiction. I had considered that divine intervention and pledged to myself to confront it like an adult. But today I caved.

The remaining SweeTarts are now in a covered candy dish in the dining room, with the spare box tucked away in a drawer. I’ll try to make them last, maybe I’ll even have the courage to give the spare box to a deserving child. Maybe I’ll overcome the habit and get to where I no longer feel like a herion addict without them. Or will I just be back on the street the next day, trying to score Pixy Stix?


Filed under Foibles and Faux Pas, Food, Health, Holidays

Oh happy day

Greetings, salutations and best wishes for the most festive of National Grammar Day celebrations.

How will you honor the occasion, after digesting your daily dose of Word Nymph, of course?

My personal observance of the day involved entering a copy editing contest sponsored by one of my favorite resources, Copyediting, whose tagline is “because language matters.” Amen.

The contest closed at 9:00 a.m. yesterday. Now I wait for winners to be announced. Make that “Now I wait for Copyediting to announce the winners.” Active voice.

This past year we have celebrated National Punctuation Day and National Dictionary Day together, so it’s only fitting that we be together online today. Be, present subjunctive.

We come to this place throughout the year to ask questions, admit our faults and, yes, occasionally, to preach. We laugh at the idiocies of language, at each other and at ourselves.

This reminds me of the motto of my church, which begins with “We welcome the faithful, the seeker and the doubter.” At the risk of being irreverent, and/ or breaking the eighth commandment, I think it applies in this place as well.

Word Nymph invites you to honor this day by celebrating the notion that language does indeed matter. None of us is born knowing language. Is, singular. We learn to communicate as children and we continue to learn as adults. We believe, we seek, we doubt. And I like to think we have good fun in the process.

Happy National Grammar Day. May the occasion bring us all continued thirst for delightful language.

Oh, and if I win that copy editing contest, I’m taking my Quick Check Editorial Reference Cards and heading out for a wild time.


Filed under All Things Wordish, Holidays, Technology and Social Media

Saint Nicholas’ wild ride

Allow me to be the first to wish you a Happy Saint Nicholas Day.

This holiday isn’t as prevalent in the United States as it is in Europe, so if you didn’t execute one of the key St. Nicholas Eve rituals last night, you’re not alone. There’s always next year.

There’s also a first time to hear about Saint Nicholas. And, depending upon the version of history or folklore you read (some of which can be a little frightening), you likely will remember next year.

The first Saint Nicholas Day I recall was memorable because it sent my mother and me into a tailspin, oh so long ago.

My two younger brothers, around ages four and six, attended a Rudolf Steiner school run by German teachers and staff. Late one December night, my brothers had been put to bed and, just before lights out, they both jumped up, grabbed shoes from their closet and ran down the stairs and out the front door. My mother followed them and asked what in the world they were doing.

“Mrs. Schiffer said that if we put our shoes outside before we go to bed tonight, Saint Nicholas will come and fill them with cookies.”

In a fit of panic, I shepherded the boys upstairs and back into bed while my mother made tracks to 7-Eleven in what surely was the fastest trip ever made in a 1972 pea green Dodge station wagon. Keebler elves saved the day.

And that’s what Saint Nicholas Day means to me.

That and it’s the birthday of my one and only child. Happy Birthday, Joe. I hope you got lots of cookies.


Filed under Family and Friends, Food, Holidays

Yule log me out

Tick. Tick. Tick. If you haven’t noticed, there are exactly three weeks until Christmas. I have trouble hearing carols above the ticking away of the annoying clock against which I work fiercely to accomplish the self-imposed and society-imposed holiday chores.

I’ve become a Grinch about nearly every holiday of the year, mostly because self and society collude cruelly to impose unrealistic expectations and impossible deadlines.

I typically don’t get a lot of sympathy when I complain about the holiday stress because about 85 percent of it is self-imposed. I send out 260 cards and hand address each one. The .001 percent lineage I have to Emily Post won’t allow me to print labels. This year, my dreaded holiday newsletter came back from the printer with a typo that wasn’t in the original, so off it went for a reprint, because Word Nymph can’t send a typo to 260 people.

The upheaval caused by our central air installation, which no doubt by now you are sick of reading, stands in the way of most other tasks—from wrapping and shipping to putting up the tree. Hence, the last-minute scramble will be all the more intense.

By this time in the season, I start to go a little crazy. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” sends me over the edge, and one playing too many of Mannheim Steamroller’s version of “Carol of the Bells” (one is one too many) has me fighting the urge to crash my car into a Jersey wall at 60 miles per hour.

This year, as an experiment, I’ve decided to pick one society-imposed chore and do away with it altogether. If that works, maybe I’ll pick another in 2011. This one wasn’t a hard choice because my family asked me to nix it.

I won’t be doing any baking. The problem is, I like the idea of baking cookies. I like how tingly Martha Stewart looks when she does it. My friends bake exquisite decorated sugar cookies, reaping great joy. The ritual just seems so appealing.

The sad truth is, I am a terrible baker with a faulty oven. Last year’s attempt at my grandmother’s delicate ginger thins could have doubled as equipment for the NHL. I dream about attempting a Bûche de Noël, but fear it would be seized as a weapon of mass destruction.

Instead I’ll dream of Nancy’s chocolate thumb prints, Mary Lee’s angels, Roxanne’s painted ginger snow queens and the Grady family’s fourth generation cookie ritual, while I head to the store for boxed Walker’s shortbread. Sigh.


Filed under Family and Friends, Foibles and Faux Pas, Food, Hearth and Home, Holidays, Music

Fowl play

A year ago, three days before Thanksgiving, I facilitated a medical  meeting at a large urgent care center. As I was setting up for the program, the meeting coordinator and I were exchanging pleasantries, mostly about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

I asked her if the center was expecting to be busy on the holiday. I thought this was a logical question. She just looked at me as if I had three heads and said, no, that she couldn’t imagine why that would be the case.

Huh. I would have thought, based on our family’s experience, that urgent care centers would be staffing up and stocking up with extra bandages, sutures, balms and epinephrine.

I recall a time when one kind of accident or another defined Thanksgiving tradition. One year it was a severe oven burn. Another it was a deep laceration caused by a broken glass concealed in a sink full of dish suds. Once—though on a different holiday, perhaps July 4th—someone drank bug spray. Another time one of my cousins nearly lost a toe, though I can’t recall exactly how.

When I look back, one memorable Thanksgiving springs to mind. Thankfully, no humans were harmed.

My mother had just moved into a house in Arizona with slick terra cotta floor tiles that ran from the kitchen to the bedroom area.

We were roasting a large turkey, which neither of us could lift alone. When it came time to remove it from the oven, my mother and I each took an end of the roasting pan. On the count of three we would lift it to the stove top. One, two, oops, one of us dropped her end. The roasting pan toppled and the turkey was ejected, landing on the slick tiles with such force that it turned the corner and slid down the hall toward the bedrooms.

That might have been the first time I heeded the 10-second rule; hey, what’s a little desert dust?

Bon appétit. Et soyez sûr.


Filed under Family and Friends, Foibles and Faux Pas, Food, Holidays

Bah! Humbug!

Alas, Halloween weekend is upon us. At the risk of solidifying your impression of me as a grouch, I must confess this is not my favorite holiday. I did endure in good humor a week of Halloween episodes of my favorite TV shows, but am relieved to have that over with.

Those who know me well know there aren’t many holidays I do like, mostly because of their power to impose unrealistic demands on us. But, as the next two months unfold, you will learn this about me soon enough.

So, what’s my beef with Halloween? I’ll hit the couch and tell you that much of it goes back to childhood. For some reason, I frequently got sick on Halloween night. Not from too much candy; I didn’t even make it out the door for trick-or-treating. Whether I spiked a high fever or spouted a projectile nosebleed right there in my Mary Poppins costume, something tended to strike me.

When I was seven, we moved to Cleveland on Halloween day, so I would have missed trick-or-treating altogether. I was heart-broken. My parents suggested I go out the night before to score some candy. So out I went, on October 30th, without my friends, in my Japanese kimono, ringing doorbells around the neighborhood. What did I find? That most people didn’t buy candy until Halloween day, so I caught many neighbors off guard. But don’t worry, I got over that and I trust they did too.

In those days, kids were cut off from trick-or-treating around age 12, which I think is an appropriate age. Nowadays, trick-or-treaters come in all ages, many without costumes, and this bugs me.

Believe it or not, up to 500 trick-or-treaters come to our door every Halloween. They begin before dinner and ring the doorbell well past 10 p.m. There’s a large Halloween attraction on the street behind our house, which draws people from all over. So, after enjoying the haunted houses, pirate ships and mazes, kids, teens and adults go around the block to trick-or-treat. What the news stories always capture is the cheery neighborliness of this gathering. So how can we not open our door enthusiastically?

Perhaps the most difficult part of Halloween is new to me this year. This is the year I had to give up chocolate.

So, if you happen to be at “Scary Perry” on Sunday night, stop by. I’ll be the one shot-gunning Pixy Stix.


Filed under Foibles and Faux Pas, Food, Health, Holidays, Rants and Raves

Wishing well

I have a little peeve I hope you don’t mind my airing. Actually, it’s something I’d love your help in eradicating if you’re game. Maybe if we all do it by example, we can put a decent dent in a common misuse.

I hesitate to pick at this one because I do not wish to criticize those who wish others well. But here goes.

“Happy Belated Birthday.” This is wrong. The birthday is not belated; it comes on the same day each year. It is the wish that is belated, which makes the correct greeting “Belated Happy Birthday.”

I blame card merchants in part for the confusion. Those cardboard markers installed in the stores’ greeting card racks point out Anniversary, Get Well, Birthday and Belated Birthday. What they mean is “belated birthday wishes” but the phrase has become interpreted, annoyingly, as “Happy Belated Birthday.” Even the card designers and manufacturers have slipped into the sloppiness.

If one really wanted to nitpick, “Happy Belated Birthday” purports to take the snoozer off the hook. “My greeting isn’t belated; your birthday is.” That, of course, is silly.

Can we all pledge to stop wishing people a Happy Belated Mother’s Day, Happy Belated Anniversary and Happy Belated Birthday and instead express our wishes belatedly yet correctly?

Of course, remembering on time is nice too.


Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Holidays