Chaotic Mangling of the English Language

As a teacher of ninth-grade English, I never had to deal with the incoherent, inarticulate rambling in written papers as found in the following New York Times interview transcript. After all, I was teaching children who were fourteen and fifteen years old – children who soaked in world and national issues and were eager to understand and discuss, children that were quite capable.

The interview question had to do with mixing personal business with the role of President. And here is the answer:

trump“As far as the, you know, potential conflict of interests, though, I mean I know that from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest. That’s been reported very widely. Despite that, I don’t want there to be a conflict of interest anyway. And the laws, the president can’t. And I understand why the president can’t have a conflict of interest now because everything a president does in some ways is like a conflict of interest, but I have, I’ve built a very great company and it’s a big company and it’s all over the world. People are starting to see, when they look at all these different jobs, like in India and other things, number one, a job like that builds great relationships with the people of India, so it’s all good. But I have to say, the partners come in, they’re very, very successful people. They come in, they’d say, they said, ‘Would it be possible to have a picture?’ Actually, my children are working on that job. So I can say to them, Arthur, ‘I don’t want to have a picture,’ or, I can take a picture. I mean, I think it’s wonderful to take a picture. I’m fine with a picture. But if it were up to some people, I would never, ever see my daughter Ivanka again. That would be like you never seeing your son again. That wouldn’t be good. That wouldn’t be good. But I’d never, ever see my daughter Ivanka.”

Now, honestly, as a former teacher, if I had had five classes of thirty students each and 150 essays like this one to grade, I think I would have pulled my hair out and then closed the grammar book and started over on a first grade level, teaching how to think…how to focus in on one pertinent nugget of information that satisfies the answer…how to work through a thought process in a logical manner…how to write thoughts in a clear, concise way, staying on track and avoiding repetition. I can’t imagine passing a student on to the tenth grade with no better command of the English language than in this answer. Moreover, I cannot imagine students entering the workforce with no ability to communicate…except by stringing unrelated words and clauses together in meaningless chaotic rambling, like you know, you know, that wouldn’t be good, no it just wouldn’t be good, because I just couldn’t, you know, I’d need red, I’d need a lot of red, just a whole lot of red, or maybe crayons, and maybe wide, bigly wide what do you call those things–margins, yes, you know, margins, so I could write in and I’d run out of red, yes, on the page there on the paper, there wouldn’t be enough, so I’d run out of ink, and I would never see my family again.

And just think…the writer of the passage above in quotes will be on a world stage in front of world leaders and informed people and intellectuals, and he will have to speak in front of the whole world, and he will be sitting in private talks with rulers of other countries, talking about his bottom line and our bottom line, running his businesses and our business, and making decisions that will affect him and his businesses and us and our way of life for the rest of our lives.


(Copied from story on a New York Times interview transcript with President-elect Donald Trump.)

Sunday After Thanksgiving

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is the last breath out after the gathering of family to eat and share and affirm, and then two days of saying good-bye, left-overs, and a houseful of desserts that can’t be denied. The next breath in will be in preparation for Christmas—putting up the tree, shopping, wrapping, baking (again!), and making more plans. So as I rested on Sunday morning, I mixed it all up—undid the usual, did the unusual.


I got my first cup of coffee and sat in the living room. I turned on the TV for the local news about thick fog covering up downtown Nashville, a house fire off Briley Parkway, and a wreck with multiple fatalities on I-24. I never turn on the television in the morning. Can’t stand the noise.

I did some quiet planning for the next scene in my novel . . . Chapter 9 about Betsy’s Trunk, and I must admit that this was much fun.

I cooked breakfast, and we ate together, the dog and I. We had eggs, left-over Sister Schubert’s rolls, and “cookie-later.” Cookie-later, said as one word in a high-pitched voice, has a story behind it. Recently, when the pup was in Canine Good Citizen class, we learned the week before the final test that no treats are allowed when commands are completed during the exam. Dogs work for treats, and the better the treat, the harder the dog works. So I had to do something creative. The week before the test, I bought and cooked bacon and taught her that bacon is “cookie-later” and during practice, after she completed a command successfully, I’d say “cookie-later.” Afterwards, I’d give her tiny pieces of bacon. For the test, I rubbed a little bacon on my fingers and after she completed each of the ten steps of the exam, I told her “cookie-later.” She worked like a dog for it.


I pulled out the crock pot and dropped in all the freshly washed produce not used over Thanksgiving. Soup sounds good for the week: green beans, kale, carrots, onion, celery, leek, and tomatoes, along with some brown rice and already baked chicken breast.

I put all the silver away in its chest. It’s only used once, maybe twice a year. Before Thanksgiving dinner, our new bride put the Wallace sterling forks, knives, and spoons at each place setting. With her recent “I do,” the silver became hers. It was given to my son more than thirty years ago by a woman in our church who had no children to pass it on to.

I folded the clean napkins, kitchen towels, and potholders and put them away. The guest towels and sheets are drying now. The china and wine glasses have been returned to their places.


Lastly, I’ll store the two pumpkin decorations: the fragmented glass pumpkin and the block of cedar carved into a pumpkin with a chainsaw. I love that pumpkin, mainly because of the unique color of its stem, light creamy green.

I can’t begin to think of Christmas yet. But the next breath in will come soon, and I will gear up.

October 28 Rehearsal Dinner at Buffalo Nickel

Everybody told me in the ten months between the engagement and the wedding ceremony that the job of the groom’s mother is to “shut up and wear beige.” I worked hard toward doing that, failed some, succeeded some, and wore cobalt blue. So now, I’m having my say! (All in fun, and all because I want to remember it forever!)

rd-1Buffalo Nickel Game Room

What a fun October Friday night rehearsal dinner at trendy West Asheville’s Buffalo Nickel restaurant! There are so many neat things about this place: the flooring came from 120-year-old barnwood in Kentucky. The 18 vintage chandeliers—some nearly 100 years old—came from all over the world, including a church sanctuary in London. There’s fine dining, farm to table, downstairs, and upstairs are the bar area and a huge game room—three pool tables and foosball and other punch-and-push games—and this was our reserved venue. Our guests selected greens with champagne dressing, an entrée of salmon or chicken, rice pilaf or fingerling potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and dessert.

But this night was about PEOPLE! Guests came to the wedding from 14 states. The rehearsal dinner hosted folks from Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas, Colorado, Florida, and Pennsylvania. This night was about Leah and Corey, the bride and groom—a CELEBRATION. It was peak-leaf time and a beautiful weekend for a wedding, and the weather was perfectly marvelous.


WELCOME! to a recap of the night! First was a poem I wrote, beginning with a quote from Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

The others are a solitary hue, brown or green,
But October comes clothed spectacularly
In cheery yellow, orange, and maple red.
The mountains put on a jubilant show,
A pageant in full splendor.
Calliope colors sing a treetop chorus,
Wind-sway, frolic, swirl,
Colors gather round,
Spin joy, fascination, awe
As two hands hold enthralled
And two hearts together beat
In passion, desire, and love
Like the fiery mountainside.

 You’ll always have October to tell your story.

rd-10-bridegroomHappy Bride & Groom


Lord, help them always remember when they first met and the love that grew between them and the common likes they’ve shared and the team they quickly became. Give them always words both kind and loving, and hearts always ready to ask forgiveness as well as to forgive. Help them to always cherish each other, to endure all things together, to walk life’s path together to its end—and in the yellows and reds of October, as in every day, to be reminded of their story, their love, their vows to each other. Bless our time of celebration, bless our food, bless our evening … in their honor, in your honor. Amen.

rd-8-headtable2Head Table…Two Merging Families

rd-4-headtabledecorHead Table Decorations – a pebble art canoeing couple, a big L & C, and on sliced wood, 3 cylinders with birch twigs, river rocks, and river glass. Pebble art: the canoe came from Devil’s Tower, the paddles from the Harpeth River, the rocks forming the couple from the French Broad River, and the boulders and stones from the Oregon Coast and Jasper Beach, Maine.


The room was adorned with objects that reflect the lives of Corey and Leah, an outdoorsy couple living in the mountains of Asheville, hiking, kayaking, camping. She’s in Outdoor Recreation at UNCA. I pulled in the elements of earth, fire, and water. A few vases held white and green mums and baby’s breath. Most tables were decorated with a host of glass cylinders holding water and some with birch twigs, some with river glass, some with river rocks, and a lighted candle on top of each cylinder.


Birch is symbolic of beginnings, renewal & starting over. It was used by the Native Americans as the center pole in yurts and teepees—the center must start fresh the process of gathering, shelter, and all other representations of home. The Gauls used birch twigs in marriage ceremonies. Traditionally, branches would be lit as a sign of good luck and an omen for a long, happy marriage.

All the river rocks and river glass I used came from Section 9 of the French Broad River where Corey and Leah kayak. He collected them for me and mailed them to me over the summer.


Baby’s Breath is a flower that symbolizes everlasting love. The tiny white flowers represent the purity of emotion that two people should have for each other during a wedding ceremony. White is the color of new beginnings.

My sister Judi, her husband Buzz, Adam, Hayley, and Chaderlee took charge of following the theme and making the room fabulous! (Thank you!)


rd-5-shelfpoemdecor“Celebration” Pebble Art and Framed Poem

I commissioned a poem for Leah and Corey by my longtime writer friend, Susan Donovan Dunham, member of ASCAP, author of several published essays, writer of a song for a movie, and member of the Arts Collective at Journey Church. She prayed about the task before her, got inspiration and a vision, and this is her creation about our sweet couple (whom she knows and has followed for eight years) getting married in October, outdoors in an arboretum next to the French Broad River.


Bared soles rest on patches of smooth river stone as
clear, cold, liquid satin flows over twenty toes.
Butternuts, birches and maples create a stained-glass sanctuary,
offering prayers of protection for two hearts, bodies, souls.
Congregations of birds harmonize to the fantasia of the French Broad,
its fragrance filling what’s empty, entwining two lives through
chilled breaths suspended in the autumn air.

 We will~

rd-7-headtable1Toast Time!


Six toasts were presented by loving guests: Buzz (uncle of the groom and Hardy family patriarch), Karl (grandfather, or Opa, of the bride and family patriarch), Jesse (longtime friend of Corey from Nashville), Pete (brother of the bride), Dave (father of the bride), and Charlie (father of the groom). Fun, funny, happy, tender, sweet, meaningful, loving!

rd-12-toastbuzzyUncle Buzz

rd-14-toastkarl2Karl, “Opa” (L)


rd-16-toastpetePete, holding baby son



The groom’s father’s toast ended with an invitation for his son to call him any time he needed advice. All Corey’s life, his dad would share lessons and life stories from his vast reservoir of knowledge. He’d preface any advice with that phrase, and it became a rolling-of-the-eyes moment for both sons. But those are the things one remembers. So Charlie had a cup made for Corey, and on it was printed…yeah! Vast Reservoir of Knowledge. Great moment!


rd-25-loves_me_in_nashville_bbq_apronThe legend goes…

In past centuries, toddlers wore aprons or pinafores to keep their clothes clean. These aprons had a pair of ribbons or strings sewn to the shoulders, which the mother would hold onto, rather like a leash. When the child was old enough for some independence, the strings would be cut off. So, “cutting the apron strings” means becoming independent from one’s mother and family and going out on one’s own. Corey has been independent for years, but since it’s a family tradition, we rolled with it.


I ordered chef aprons that said “Someone in Nashville Loves Me” on the front. (That would be me.) I explained the legend, pulled the apron out of a gift bag, put it on Corey, and tied it. Then I picked up my scissors and held them to the tie string. “No!” Corey said, “no, no, you’re not going to cut it, are you? I’ve always wanted a barbecue apron. Don’t ruin it!” Well, I’m too practical to destroy something new. And I don’t like the idea of cutting people off and sending them away. So I changed tradition. Instead of detaching and separating, I widened my tent and welcomed in Leah and her family, by presenting her with an identical apron and tying it on her. “Now, you two go off, establish your hearth, and cook on your own, but remember you’ve got a bigger family now, and remember someone in Nashville loves you both.”

rd-21-groomsmengiftsGifts for the Groomsmen

rd-2-judihayleyHayley and Judi

rd-6-chadadamChaderlee, Adam

Somewhere amidst all this fun, we enjoyed food and drink.