Category Archives: questions

hatchet vs. axe

11 days ago, I realized I had no idea what the difference between a hatchet and an axe was. So I wrote myself a note on my to-do list and decided to write a blogpost about it. (because why not?) (and so here I am.)

First of all, it’s “ax”. Why is there no e? Merriam-Webster lists both spellings, but apparently “axe” is the more non-American spelling. Whatever. I blame that horrid body spray.

And it turns out that ax/e is an umbrella term.

A hatchet is a kind of ax that you can use with one hand. And apparently this guy.

The end!

PS: last week was apparently cephalopod week, and this is the darndest cutest thing, so I will create it for whomever wants it! (no guarantees on arrival date.) Let me know!

#CephalopodWeek #scifri

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Is this what “calling” feels like?

The job I’m working in is tough. I work with families in the midst of abuse, poverty, substance abuse, homelessness, incarceration . . . some of these in generational cycles. I sit in their homes for hours and I, the outsider, am supposed to know what to do. To be trusted, I dive deep into their lives.

I think nearly drowned when I first started.

It wasn’t like I didn’t have my M.A., or pertinent experience, or a drive to help others. But I thought I had found my breaking point. My experience had been with a different population, I couldn’t personally relate, I was working heavy hours, it was new, I was overwhelmed. I thought about other options.

I still think about other options. But lately I’ve also been thinking, Someone needs to do this work . . . and why not me? Yes, it’s hard. Yes, I get weary. But I can’t shake the feeling that what I do is necessary.

The word “calling” has always been strange and vague to me. I value emotion, but I’m also a huge fan of logic, and sometimes my all-or-nothing mind has categorized a calling as some sort of spiritual “It just felt right.” Callings don’t seem to follow rationally.

Which is why this current cognitive dissonance has me wondering, Is this a calling? I can see plainly why my position is not ideal for me. But I can also feel a strong push against that: What you are doing is worthwhile. And you are needed.

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They say my cells are born again
that I am recreated
that some years I give myself a birthday present
of a new me.
Well this year I’ve outdone myself
outshone my fleshly competition
These synapses?
These shiny neurons?
Completely revamped.
“Newly remodeled!”
(I’m advertising)
but I’m not sure, still
of this me for the 21st century.
My new skin still crawls
it doesn’t fit
I haven’t broken myself in
And so I jump back into what’s familiar
Yes. This skin knows how to house me.
But you know what they say
of new wine in old skins
and I know I can’t stay.
What do I do with two of me
both unwanted
both uncomfortable
How to reinvent
the reinvention

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PIE, but not the kind you're thinking of

nope. just kidding.

Even though that pie is strawberry rhubarb, which has to be one of my favorites, PIE stands for Proto-Indo-European, the theoretical language root of Indo-European languages (a vast linguistic grouping), and is probably the most fascinating thing in the world. Then again, it might be the most fascinating thing in the entire universe, thanks to its starring role in Prometheus.

I remembered PIE this morning while researching the etymology of seminary, and from thence semen, which has roots in three non-Romance languages. Ridiculously entrancing. Meaning that the next step was for me to research Oxford’s DPhil program in Linguistics, Philology, and Phonetics.

And from there, sadly, to be overwhelmed by the abundance of things in this world that I want to learn and know everything about. Or, as Cosmo Brown says in the first 10 seconds of this video:

And then I got excited because I thought of heaven, and of the possibility of learning for all of eternity, of becoming a physicist, a philologist, a philosopher, and other pursuits that don’t even start with the letter P. But mostly I thought about being a Professor of Philology at the . . .  uh . . . Pearly Gates Institute for Universal Language . . . I’m getting carried away now, but the question that gave me pause was this.

Will our language evolve in heaven?

We’ll all be speaking one language, obviously. (Although the presence of babel fish or a TARDIS isn’t necessarily out of the question, for the purpose of this argument I expect one language.) We might even be speaking PIE.

But PIE, as we know, over the years, became Old Church Slavonic and Phoenician and Latin, and Italian and Spanish and Romanian . . . And somewhere along the line came this bastard child of all languages, English, which has taken its own road from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Proust, and not to esteem myself so highly, but I bear this mantle too.

Any quick search of a good etymological dictionary will show that over time words change in meaning, and new words are birthed, and dialects are formed and branches split off, and suddenly we’ve cursed our own heaven-reaching towers and spread far and wide, each to his own tongue.

But does this natural turn of events continue in a perfect world? Will meanings continue to metamorphose as they whim, or will we have finally reached the Perfect Understanding, where evolution is an exercise in blasphemy?

This prods at the sleeping question–does change imply imperfection? By naturally morphing, does language define previous meanings as inherently bad?

In case you were wondering, I don’t have any answers. I just ask the questions.

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[musings from a solitary roadtrip]

Have there been conservative artists? Artists who weren’t contrary and still produced good work? Isn’t it in the very nature of the artist to question what’s assumed? Isn’t the best art produced by breaking the rules?

What does this say about us as humans? Isn’t it art that makes us feel the most alive? Whether musical notes, visual stimuli, spoken or written word–these are the things that open our souls. The very things that make us uncomfortable are also the things that can snag bits of our identity, by which we later define ourselves.

Whether we realize it or not, we require questions to survive. Scientists know this, and artists know this, and they help keep our bodies and souls intact. Come to think of it, every life orientation has its own field of necessary questions. But casting doubts outside that comfortable frame of reference is a step we’re often wary to take.

This is an encouragement, then, I guess, to dare to refuse to take the world at its word. Not all that’s advertised as truth is what it seems. And if it is, it can withstand your questions.

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In Defense of the Rumspringa

Rumspringa: A term for adolescence among the Amish. In popular understanding, a time of sowing one’s wild oats.

I’ve learned recently that the view of rumspringa as a time of rebellion is not the general understanding in the Amish community. However, it is understood that adolescents are not held to the same higher standards as adults and that some misbehavior will occur.

Even with the rather apocryphal nature of this  idea, I’d like to stand in support of it. In doing so, I make myself terrifyingly vulnerable, more than I ever have, on the public platform of the internet. But it’s a vulnerability I consider to be worth it, a conversation I want to have (I think).

I’ve grown up in a conservative Christian home. I was homeschooled for five years and then attended a private Christian school. I’ve just graduated from a Christian university and am now attending another Christian university for my master’s. I’ve volunteered at a Christian organization, freelanced for Christian publications, held part-time jobs at a Christian bookstore and in Christian schools. This has been my heritage.

And suddenly, recently, all I’ve historically held dear has been thrown up into one giant Question Mark, and in talking with peers  with similar upbringings, I know I’m not alone. And yet, outside of these select few, this wave of radical questioning that I feel doesn’t seem to be accepted by the general Christian populace. In fact, I saw a church sign the other day that stated outright, “Questioning God? He made the brain cells you think with.”

Perhaps this is because it’s not a conversation I’ve actively pursued. And that is probably due to the fact that I almost neurotically crave the approval of others, and I’ve imagined how those closest to me would react if I ever expressed my real thoughts. “You don’t think you believe what?” “You do what now?” “Sinner.” “You’re dirty.” “I’m judging you.” “Just read your Bible.”

But a professor whose opinion I value has said many times, “I don’t trust a Christian who hasn’t rebelled.” And that’s why I defend some kind of rumspringa, some sort of allowance for the necessity  of doubt, even stepping away from what’s universally accepted to be right and holy and What Everyone Does.

Because I wish it were socially acceptable to be socially unacceptable for a time, that spiritual/moral/intellectual exploration was acknowledged and understood. That it wasn’t taboo to say, “I’m going to take everything I have ever valued and believe the opposite just because I can and I want to see what happens.”

It’s not hatred. It’s not antagonism. It’s a lot of malaise with a good portion of “but what if…” thrown in.

The result, in all likelihood, is that in the end I’ll see why I valued it all along. But I wish I could choose not to, with support and without social stigma. I wish I were allowed to be insane, to let things devolve into the question mark, because I will probably get saner later on.

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because obviously they put cream and sugar in their coffee in hell.

I’ve learned I like to consume things that aren’t always pleasurable from the get-go.

Black coffee.


Habanero salsa.


And strangely it’s the bitterness, the acrid pain that endear these things to me. Which (naturally) got me to thinking about heaven.

Spicy foods induce pain, and bitterness connotes unpleasantness, so in heaven when every wrong is made right will coffee be bitter, will whiskey still be pungent, will salsa be spicy, will onions be biting? Are the sharpness and slightly disagreeable natures of these foods results of the fall? Or perhaps were our palates ruined by the fall and so our appreciation of such things is an illicit desire?

Oh, now I don’t like that conclusion one bit. I very much want to drink my coffee black in heaven and know that it’s been redeemed.

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In Which Skiles and Hannah Assess England’s Psychological Health through Dancing

In doing research on the Kinetic Family Drawing for my Psychological Assessment class, the world’s largest library catalog sprung this glorious surprise on me:

Dear Skiles Howard, I want to meet you

The Politics of Courtly Dancing in Early Modern England by Skiles Howard.

Hey, thanks.

I have a multitude of thoughts on this.

  1. [the obvious] WHAT EVEN THE HECK. How does this relate to my search for psychological assessments? (I also got results for a book about Mickey Mantle and one about Gas Service Technology.)
  2. I need to inter-library loan this book and find some obscure way to incorporate it into my paper.
  3. This is an extremely specific tome.
    • Courtly dancing does not seem to be an expansive field for research. Oh, but you are much mistaken. Sorry, then. So not only must we deal with courtly dancing, but the interpersonal intricacies found therein.
    • Can this courtly dancing and its politics have occurred anywhere in the world? No, I dare say, most emphatically notPerhaps we shall narrow our scope to the European front? Never. This is heresy you speak. Let’s pick England, then.
    • Surely one book would suffice for an exhaustive history of such elite dancing wars. I can’t believe you and your simple mind. Know you nothing of the politics of courtly dancing? Apparently not. Shall we then restrict this treatise to the modern period in England? No. There is too much to say. How about the middle of said modern period? Ah, you jest. I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. What do you think of Early Modern England? All 222 pages support this final thesis of yours. And to whom am I speaking? Hello?
  4. What the heck I don’t even understand.

I just have to include the Amazon summary.

Scholar Skiles Howard examines the social and semiotic complexities of dance in Renaissance England as it changed over time and performed different work in court, city, and playhouse. Interdisciplinary in its approach, this well-researched study explores issues of power and the body, gender and rank, popular culture and European expansion.

Dearest scholar Skiles Howard of the University of Massachusetts, how narrow and impractical are your erudite pursuits.

However, do congratulate your parents on the brilliant first name with which they endowed you.

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