Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Look at some "Wicked" Slang

By L.A. Kohl
October 24, 2005
(published in the Wed., Oct. 26, 2005 edition of the "Bullseye")

No, this isn’t an exposé of naughty slang terms, even though to most people the word “wicked” is synonymous with evil, immoral, and the like. Most parents, and anyone who works with youth, have been enlightened to realize that “wicked” is a slang word that has nothing to do with being evil. Kind of like the fact that anything “hot” or “cool” has nothing to do with temperature.

I find slang terms rather interesting, especially the way they change from generation to generation. A writing course I took years ago stressed that you should avoid using slang in writing, because they become dated so quickly. However, they never told me I couldn’t write about slang terms!

In my teenage years, everything bit. Not literally of course, but if you had a test to study for over the weekend, that was a “bite”…if nobody asked you to homecoming, that was a “real bite”…and not passing your driving test; well that “bites like a big dog." (We compared lots of things to big dogs in those days…don’t ask me why.) “Scumbags” were pretty common, but it was a term you hoped no one ever used when revering to you. “Gag me” was one of those slang terms that you could speak, or just do the actions behind someone’s back if you were too reluctant to say it out loud. Just point the index finger in your open mouth, and everyone knew what you meant. I know, it all sounds silly now, but at least I wasn’t a teen during the “far out” and “groovy” generation of slang. Gag me with a spoon!

Now that I’ve got teenagers of my own, I get to hear my fair share of the more modern lingo. I’ve discovered that lots of things are “sweet," whether or not we’re actually eating dessert. My pre-teen daughter likes the word “dude” - it doesn’t matter if she’s talking to a little sister or not, they’re still a dude. “Awesome” has been around for several years, and surprisingly, it means pretty much what it was originally intended to mean. “Totally awesome” used to be the ultimate in awesomeness, but I think it’s been replaced with “totally wicked." They have the same definition; just a new way of expressing it. Of course, the Bullseye’s “Fatty Friends” have taught us that the word “phat” is a positive term, which has nothing to do with a person’s weight.

There is one slang word that never seems to age – “cool." Can’t you just hear the Fonz, Ritchie, Potsie and Ralph on “Happy Days” using that word? The Fonz himself was the epitome of cool-ness. Even though that show was about teenagers of the 1950’s, I’ve heard today’s teens using “cool” on a regular basis. I think it’s rather astonishing that in the ever changing world of teen lingo, there’s at least one word that remains ageless and unchanging. Now that’s wicked cool.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Some Front Porch Musings about Grandparents

By L.A. Kohl
October 16, 2005
(published in the Wed., Oct. 19, 2005 edition of the "Bullseye")

What memories does the word “grandparent” conjure up in your mind? I’m sure the memories are varied and diverse for each and every reader. Unfortunately for me, it is now a word that will always be spoken in the past tense, as my last grandparent passed away on October 8.

My four grandparents were raised in an entirely different generation – a generation that was so unlike mine, I can’t help but look back at their lives with a bit of awe and amazement.

I believe that none of my four grandparents completed even an eighth grade education. I know my Grandpa Cox, who just passed away this month at the age of 93, did not. His family moved from Missouri out to Colorado while he was in the midst of eighth grade, and he never went back to school once they arrived there. Instead, he went to work to help the family make ends meet. The woman he married, my Grandma Cox, began working in a factory at the age of fifteen. My other grandmother, Grandma Hall, had intentions of going into the eighth grade, but when the small country school she attended told her that they didn’t have enough students to offer an eighth grade class…she just got married instead. Grandpa Hall? Well, I don’t know…but I do know he happened to be driving a tractor nearby when my thirteen-year-old Grandma went fishing one day. She caught a snapping turtle instead of a fish, and desperately needed some brave young man to help get it off her hook. It must have been love at first sight – the brave, gallant knight on an “iron clad” stead, helping the young damsel in distress!

My Grandpa Cox did things in his younger years like delivering milk with a horse drawn wagon, and welding items for the military during World War II. Grandpa Hall did anything and everything he could to support his large family during the depression years…farming, building bridges, and hunting a lot of squirrels and rabbits when food was scarce. He would occasionally move the family out to California so that he and Grandma could pick strawberries or other commercially grown produce to earn some money. They’d pack all the kids in the back of their old pick-up, camping out near the highway each night while they traveled.

Of course my grandmothers did the types of things that most women of those days did…making food from scratch (from their bread, to the butter and jelly that went on it) sewing all their clothes, canning hundreds of quarts of produce to get them through the winter…did the work ever end for women of that era?

I often complain about all my daily “chores," but when I consider my dishwasher, my automatic washer and dryer, my vacuum, my microwave…I have to bite my tongue. My Grandma Hall had eleven children, eight that survived infancy; but unlike me, her first six children were boys. During her generation, boys probably didn’t do “women’s work” very often, so I bet for several years my grandmother did all of the cooking, dish washing, clothes washing, house cleaning, etc. by herself – by hand – for a houseful of growing, rambunctious farm boys.

I could write pages and pages about my grandparents; I find their lives fascinating. I wish I would have realized in my younger years what a treasure they were, and had spent more time listening to and remembering their stories. They may not have been highly educated with “book learning," but they were some of the wisest people I ever knew.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Seasons of Life

By L.A. Kohl
October 5, 2005
(published in the Wed., Oct. 12 2005 edition of the Bullseye)

My husband gets rather philosophical at times, and one morning last week happened to be one of them. He caused me to stop and ponder for awhile. Perhaps it is something we should all ponder on occasion; contemplating where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

Fall is now upon us – but for Nate and I, it’s not just the annual fall season. We’ve now reached middle age, which signifies the “fall” season of our life is just beginning. One thing that traditionally happens in fall is storing up for winter time…putting up hay, gathering in garden produce, etc. For us in our lives, that is looking like trying to think a little bit about “winter”. Retirement.

Being self-employed means no 401k plans or retirement benefits, and until now we’ve never felt like we had enough resources to save for something that was still decades in the future. Maybe we still don’t have the resources, but the “decades” are getting fewer and thus, we just recently decided to make an extra effort to start putting a little bit each week away in a safe place, where we can’t spend it at…well, you name the place and we can spend it there! Finances aren’t the biggest thing we’re thinking about during this new fall season of life, however. A harvest of a much bigger magnitude is looming before us.

When we got married at the age of twenty, you could say our “summer” season of life began. Starting a family became the focus of those summer years, helping our children grow and mature into responsible adults. But now we’re approaching the first days of our parental harvest time.

It’s true – we’ll have a very long harvest time, as our youngest is only two years old! But our oldest, much to our shock and disbelief, will be off to college come this time next year. Does that happen to a farmer, you suppose? Does he look out at his field one day and say, “Goodness gracious! It’s time to combine already, and here it seems like I just finished planting!” I don’t know if a farmer ever says that or not – but we sure have been.

What does “harvest time” look like in life? I’m not sure yet (remember, we’re just getting started) but I have expectations. I think it means watching what these young lives will do with everything we’ve instilled in them over the years. Will they water and nurture our teachings and ideals, to be regenerated in the next generation? Or will they trounce on them and become something that we never wanted or intended? It’s a scary time, standing on the verge of this harvest, because unlike the farmer, we can’t just plow everything up and try again next year.

Parents, I know it’s so easy to get busy with your jobs, your hobbies, and all the other countless things that demand our time. But as you pass through your seasons in life, consider how quickly those seasons pass, and how quickly your children are growing. You and I only have one chance at raising these “little sprouts," so we better get serious and make the most of it while we still can.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A Woman Named Gladys

By L.A. Kohl
September 26, 2005
(published in the Wed., Oct. 5th 2005 edition of the Bullseye)
My husband just returned from McComb, MS; serving on a Missouri Baptist disaster relief team, running a chainsaw for a week. He told a story of a woman named Gladys that warmed my heart, and I hope it will do the same for you.

The morning that his team was assigned to go to Gladys’s home, the man handing out assignments warned them, “Now, if you all don’t get there pretty quick, she’s going to have the job taken care of herself!”

Upon arriving at Gladys’s home, they found a sweet little widow that was 82 years old, and walked with a cane. She had a large lot, still covered with many limbs and branches four weeks after Katrina. But not as covered as it had been!

She had found a little table top somewhere, and each morning, with her cane in one hand and her table top in the other, she would walk around her yard and pile little sticks and branches on the tabletop, then drag it to the curb and dump it for the city workers to come haul away. When the chainsaw team showed up at her door, she was overjoyed. You see, she was having trouble mowing her large lot because of all the debris that was in her way.

“You mow your own yard?” one of the men asked incredulously.

Yes she did – with a push mower, no less.

As she quickly learned each man’s name, the team began clearing her yard; but it was about all they could do to keep her on the porch. She would have preferred working right along with them. At one point she told them that she had retired back in 1984.

“What did you do before that?” my husband asked.

“I covered seats,” she replied with a sly grin.

“And where did you work?” another one asked.

“At the Sears and Roebuck”, she began. All the men were picturing little Gladys working in a factory, putting upholstery on seat cushions, until she elaborated. “I worked in the lingerie department – I covered lots of lady’s ‘seats’ during the 32 years I worked there!”

She continued telling them more stories from days long ago – days when she would walk three miles to go to school. She had been on the basketball and track teams, she explained. She still remembered the man at the shoe store who would stand outside and wait for the girl’s basketball team to walk by, so he could throw snowballs at them.

“But surely you don’t get much snow down here, do you Gladys?” my husband couldn’t help asking.

“Oh, we get our fair share,” she replied, “And every time it gets below freezing I have to crawl under my house and drain the pipes so they don’t freeze up.”

“You do that yourself?” someone asked, but not quite so incredulously this time!

“Oh sure,” she replied in her charming Southern drawl. “You see, one time when I didn’t, all my pipes froze up and my son-in-law had to come replace them, and ooo wee – I don’t dare let that happen again or he’ll give me ‘what for’!”

You just can’t help but admire the spunk and determination of a person like Gladys. She blessed the men working there that day just as much, if not more, than they blessed her. My husband is now looking forward to a day in eternity when he can sit and visit with Gladys on the front porch of her mansion in heaven, and chat “for a long spell”.