Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Happy National Punctuation Day!

Bet you didn't know you had a reason to celebrate today, right? And of all things, punctuation.

Well, dang it, why not? After all, where would we be without. punctuation; to Keep us, straight!?

Okay, so grab a celebratory cup of hot tea and chunk of chocolate. Then take this little test to see if you're truly a Punct Punk.

Can you find the errors in each sentence? (That is, if there are any.) *Spoiler alert: answers at bottom.

1. Joe's favorite era of music was 1960's Motown back when he was 15. He loves to share his CD's with his BFF's.

2. Watch out for the quicksand; it's enough ... to make you desert your dessert ... in the desert.

3. Andrea yelled, 'I'm leaving', as she slammed the door. 'I hate it when people use "quotations" incorrectly'.

4. Listen gordo if I'd wanted to see lisa in Vermont; I would have called her.

5. I'd like to thank my parents the Pope and Mother Teresa.

6. "Hello John;" she said. "Do you have all your 'ducks in a row'?"

7. I hate it when you think you "own" my opinion.

8. It's beginning to snow. I'd better bring the potted plant inside before it freezes it's new leaves off.

9. Whoa doggies! What a hoot! I can't believe you said that!

10. Oh no. How many times have I told you not to... it's been at least three-thousand-fourteen ...

Answers:
1. Apostrophes denote possession (Joe's) but are not needed for dates or acronyms (1960s, CDs, BFFs). Also, according to the Chicago Manual of Style, numbers under 100 within dialogue should be spelled out (fifteen) because we don't speak in numerals; always spell out numbers that start a sentence.

2. Ellipses denote pauses longer than a period (and are not appropriate in this sentence), em dashes denote interruptions. Semicolons go between two independent but connected clauses and the one here is used correctly. (A little word fun at the end there - sort of like polishing the Polish furniture.)

3. Double quotation marks (") are used at the beginning and end of quoted phrases; single quotation marks (') are used for a quote within the quote. Commas and periods should be inside the quotation marks (unless you're writing in England, where it's the opposite). Use italics instead of quotation marks around single words to emphasize them (don't capitalize or bold them either - stick to italics unless you're a billboard painter).

4. Names and proper nouns are capitalized and set aside by commas: Listen, Gordo, if I ... (in other words, put commas around the name of the person spoken to). The semicolon in this sentence should be a comma.

5. Speaking of commas, if used incorrectly, they can scandalously alter the meaning of a sentence. Like this one versus "I'd like to thank my parents, the Pope, and Mother Teresa."

6. There should be a comma after addressing a name/noun (Hello, John). The use of single quotation marks for 'ducks in a row' is appropriate here (a quote within a quote) and the question mark is correctly placed between the single quotation mark and the double. However, semicolons go outside quotation marks (although in this case a comma would be in order).

7. Again, better to italicize own for emphasis than to place it in quotes.

8. It's (with an apostrophe as a contraction for it is) is correct in the beginning of this sentence, but toward the end of the sentence its little leaves is appropriate (no apostrophe for a possessive pronoun).

9. Three exclamation marks in a row is overkill. Overuse of any stylistic device (especially exclamation marks!) dilutes the emphasis you're hoping to achieve. Plus it appears that you're trying too hard to elicit emotion from your reader.

10. Oh, no should have a comma. One set of ellipses (the first) is appropriate here (three dots only with one space before and after). Numerals (3,014) should be used for numbers over 100 for better reading flow.

So how'd you do, my friend? How punct-savvy are you?

Hey, don't let it ruin your day if you're not a Punct Punk ... even professional writers depend on editors (who are paid to be Punct Punks) to catch all the riffraff.

So tell me - what's your most common punctuation mistake?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Put Down the Donkey

Feel like you're carrying around a few burdens?
I walked into the elevator as two southern belles exited, deep in drawled conversation.

The elevator doors had no sooner closed behind them when the gal in the corner with the distinctive New Jersey twang rolled her eyes at her slick chick chum. "Who says dhat? 'Can you carry me to da store tamarra?' Like you're a sack o' patatas. Whey'd dey learn English - in a baan?"

It took me a moment to yankee-translate then another long moment pondering what was wrong with asking someone to carry you to the store. I am and always have been, after all, a hick from the Florida-Georgia border sticks long before it was a smash band.

Oh. I finally got it. Carry me.

The proper verb should have probably been "take me" or "drive me" to the store, but I've heard "carry me somewhere" my whole backwoods life, so at first it seemed perfectly normal to me. Like mashing the light switch or saying, "I used to not" or "Quit that directly or I'm gonna slap you upside your punkin' head ... bless your little heart." (Southern etiquette demands that you add that final disclaimer whenever you say something bad to or about somebody.)

It wasn't until college that I was enlightened about the ... um, shall we say charming eloquence of regional colloquialisms and realized that carrying someone to the store taken literally would pretty much be the end of most of us. Carrying around ANYTHING for very long would get plum exhausting. If you don't believe that, just try holding a cotton ball over your head for ten minutes.

Since I've felt kind of droopy lately (both physically and emotionally), I stopped and thought about what I might be carrying around with me that would drag me down so. Didn't take long. Unforgiveness. For sure. I've been wearing it this week like a 50-pound sack of manure strapped to my back. Got so used to it, I hadn't really noticed it. Til now.

I know that by not forgiving, we carry people and wounds around with us, weighing us down with our invisible burdens. I forget sometimes that my outsides may look normal to you, but my insides look a lot like the poor dude in the picture above. I'm even heaving around the donkey that's supposed to be carrying me, for pity's sake.

I came home and looked up my chapter on forgiveness in my book Fear, Faith, and a Fistful of Chocolate. (Yep, I actually do re-read my own books. I find them very helpful, actually, because I'm the kind of pigheaded person whom Papa God has to teach the same lessons to over and over.) Here's what I found:

"Harboring resentment is like chugging down strychnine and expecting the other person to die. Your anger doesn't hurt your offender. It hurts you. It wounds you and those who care about you, those who feel helpless and hopeless watching bitterness gnaw away like ravenous sewer rats at the you they love. Rats that will never be satiated."

"I've heard it said that apologizing doesn't necessarily mean you're wrong and the other person is right. It just means you value relationships more than your ego. And isn't that the way Papa wants us to prioritize?"

Yep. Just the elbow in the gut I needed to jar my need-to-forgive muscle. It gets stuck sometimes in all the fat and needs a little jolt to pop out and get some exercise.

So that's my job for this weekend. Exercise that poor flabby forgiveness muscle, unload the fertilizer and put down the dang donkey. How about you? Got any invisible burdens weighing you down?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Jonah's in the Bag

Not the best hiding place
In my role as the preschool Bible Story Lady at our church, I was telling the story of Jonah and the Big Fish a few Sundays ago to the three and four-year-olds.

The hard part wasn't bringing the bit about Jonah deliberately running away from God down to the level of little people who still get their fannies smacked every time they run from someone in charge. Same principle, Jonah's story, but how to tell it so they'd understand that some grown-ups are silly enough to think they can hide from an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God without being caught eventually. 

It would be like Mama never coming to look for you and leaving you in your hiding place forever. Unfathomable.  

Even the wee-est ones get how ridiculous that is.  

So I simply said, "Jonah was afraid to do what God said (go to Ninevah and tell the people there they were being so naughty they would have to be punished). So he decided to disobey. Yep. He decided to hide from God." 

I then asked the children who liked to play hide-and-seek. All hands went up. 

"Have you ever picked a really bad hiding place? Like maybe this one." I put my hands over my eyes and said, "Okay, I'm hidden. I can't see you so you can't see me either."

The kids laughed hysterically.

"Or how about this one?" I walked over to an itty bitty kiddy chair and crouched down, trying desperately to squeeze my entire jumbo adult body behind it. "Can you see me now?" The kids howled.

"Or maybe you've been here." I returned to center stage, carefully unfolded a paper bag, plopped it over my head and reached out with both hands, searching, groping, even becoming a little panicky and tearful as I fell to my knees. "Are you gone? Did you leave me? I can't find anybody so I must be all alone in this cold, dark, horrible place. Nobody's here but me. And I'm feeling lonely and scared all by myself. I wish ... I wish someone would help me."

Silence. To my surprise, there was no laughter this time. Not even one snicker. Something about being scared and lonely in a dark place had resonated with those 30 little people. 

I hadn't expected this. Silence. So thick you could cut it with a meat cleaver. Maybe my acting was a little too good. As I continued waving my hands helplessly in the air, I wasn't sure what to do next. The kids were apparently identifying with me in my aloneness. With Jonah in his disobedience. With all humankind when we choose to dig a hole of disrespect to our Creator, then lie in it and cover ourselves up like a grave. Isolated. Frightened. Confused. 

Then out of the unforeseen stillness, a little voice piped up. A warm little voice heavy with sympathy. 

"It's okay, Miss Debbie. We're still here. Don't be afraid. You're not alone." 

And then I heard footsteps mounting the small stage and felt a tiny hand take mine, and another and another reaching out to comfort me as dozens of little hands found my arms, my shoulders, my waist, surrounding me with comfort and hope. 

So there I was, kneeling on a stage with a bag over my head and a huge lump in my throat, swarmed by a hoard of uninhibited children who even at an extremely young age, understood what it felt like to be alone in disobedience and separated from God and didn't want it to happen to me. 

I was incredibly moved. It was one of those rare teachable moments that knock your well ordered world off its axis and crack open the door for a peep into a completely different spiritual realm. 

So from now on, I suspect Jonah's story will hold new meaning for me. Maybe I should carry a head bag around with me all the time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

More Adorable Baby Blessing Winners!

Abby's Baby Blessings
Kathy's Baby Blessing
Elisa's Baby Blessing
Woohoo! Here are the last five winners of the Too Blessed to be Stressed Baby Blessings drawing.

If you didn't win, no worries! Another contest with awesome prizes (like a Kindle, free books, and Deb's fave chocolate)  is right around the corner to celebrate Too Loved to be Lost when it releases this fall. 

So if you don't already receive Deb's free quarterly e-newsletter, be sure to sign up at www.DeboraCoty.com so you won't miss a thing!

Kim's Baby Blessing
Kay's Baby Blessing

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Winning Photos

If these Baby Blessings don't light your fire, hey, your wood's wet!

Missie's Baby Blessings
Gloria's Baby Blessing
Jen's Baby Blessing


Heather's Baby Blessings

Congrats once again to the winners of my Baby Blessings contest! Here are the first five drawing winners - I hope they bless your heart as much as they have mine!

Jan's Baby Blessings



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Baby Blessings Contest Winners!

One of your 6 choices
A big THANK YOU to all who entered the Baby Blessings contest - I loved ooohing and aaahing over your baby blessings. Most were sweet little humans but we had our share of adorable 4-legged furry blessings and even a few terrific wheeled blessings.

Congrats to the ten winners in the drawing for your choice of my own Baby Blessings!

If your name's on the list below, just choose your prize - here they are: http://deboracoty.com/deboras-books/too-blessed-to-be-stressed-babies/ (if for some reason this doesn't show up as a clickable link, just go to my website www.DeboraCoty.com and click on books and then "Too Blessed to be Stressed Baby Blessings") and let me know at my private e-dress gracenotes@deboracoty.com where you'd like your prize sent.

Also, if you don't mind me posting your Baby Blessing photo and name, in that same message, please give me your written permission and it will appear on a blog post later this week.

If you didn't win this time, stay tuned for another contest coming up soon with the release of Too Loved to be Lost this fall. And hey, the prizes will blow your mind!

 So without further ado, in order they were drawn, here are the Baby Blessings winners:

Kay Colson Waters                                     Abby Letourneau
Heather Miller                                             Gloria Foster
Kim Lockhart                                              Elisa Westlund      
Jennifer Deg                                                Kathy James
Missie Sadler-Wiggins                                 Jan McRae

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Skip This Spinning Class

Wish I knew what causes my ding dang vertigo. Drives me batty.  Heard of it? The Tilt-a-Whirl from Hades. The hangover that isn't. The devil’s last laugh.

Yep, vertigo is wicked all right. The world spins topsy-turvy out of control with every movement of the head. Or even eyes. It’s like you just rolled off a merry-go-round after being shoved round and round by a 250-pound linebacker. 

Only it doesn't stop after you get off and stagger around the playground.

This bout hit me the day we returned home from our beach week. I'd forgotten but Spouse reminded me that I got vertigo last year during our annual Daytona  week too. Go figure. I wonder if it has something to do with sand. Or glare. Or shrimp. Those are the things I do in Daytona that I don't do at home.

Hmm. I suspect it’s the cosmos’ way of telling me not to wear bathing suits.

Maybe it’s hereditary. My father suffers with it too, more frequently than me. We both take Antivert, which helps but doesn't cure it. At least with the medicine you can pseudo-function without throwing up every time you rise from a chair. But walls still have a way of jumping out and whacking you in the shoulder when you try to traverse hallways and the sidewalk still swerves away from you when you walk the dog and you end up in somebody’s shrubbery pretending that you’re looking for Rover’s lost ball.  

I recently found in my possession 1940-era British medical literature regarding vertigo that warned, among other clever things like “make sure your spectacle prescription is up to date,” that it is a very bad idea to walk along unlit stony paths late at night during a dizzy spell ... you might end up in the ditch. In which case you may well invoke a disgruntled bobby to escort you to the loo or worse, the slammer, under the erroneous impression that you’ve visited one too many pubs.

Dear me. Guess I'll just have to curb my late night unlit stony path hikes.

The brochure also said activities that require rapid side-to-side righting movements of the body and head are good therapy ... example: tennis. The risks, however, include falling flat on your face when you look up to hit your serve. Or impaling yourself on the back fence when you run after a lob.

Harrumph. Mere hiccups to true tennis addicts like me.

I’ve actually played tennis – more than once – in the throes of a vertigo episode (you can probably only understand this if you’re another full fledged tennis junkie). It’s kind of an out-of-body experience. Gives new meaning to the term “dizzy blonde.”

Why, you wonder, would anyone subject themselves to abject humiliation and certain defeat playing a competitive game with her head screwed on sideways? Um, I dunno. I suppose addiction is the operative word here.

It wasn't really that bad. Aside from only winning two games in two sets, the worst part was following the ball. Back and forth. Back and forth. Whack. Whack. Whack. By the time my already spinning eyes (a Vertigo symptom called nystagmus) could hone in on that little yellow sphere suddenly appearing just beyond the tip of my nose, the rest of me was flopping all over itself trying to remember how to be coordinated enough to connect my racquet with the ball.

You feel like a marionette being operated by a giant invisible hand hovering over the court. And the hand’s got a nasty twitch.

So you go home and take another pill.

Unfortunately, a side effect of Antivert is an anvil in your skull. It’s what I call the dead meat syndrome - meaning you can't think clearly and only want to lie on the couch all day trying not to draw flies.  

There's no good way to sleep. I usually end up propping myself upright in bed in a sitting position and sandbagging my head on all sides so it can’t move. This doesn't lend itself to rolling over once you've finally lost consciousness, which tends to pitch you right out of bed with arms flailing as you either blacken Spouse’s eye or send the bedside lamp flying.

Oh, you can be proactive if you choose. The vertigo exercises (mostly weird head/body positioning movements to dislodge stuck inner ear crystals) do help Daddy although they merely make me vomit. Even thinking about them now sends a wave of nausea through my gut. Rather like hanging upside down from the mast of a ship when you already have raging seasickness.

It’s enough to make me never, ever eat shrimp again. Just in case.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

One Word Says It All

One of my fave places to praise Jesus
A short time ago I visited a multi-ethnic Christian women's event where several languages (besides English) were spoken.

Because multiple interpreters were often speaking at once, it was occasionally chaotic, sometimes cacophonous, always interesting, and never more fun.

Forbearance was abundant. Everyone there wore their patience and kindness like a beautiful faith necklace ("Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder" Proverbs 3:3, NLT).

And one thing stood out to me as we expressed our own Jesus-joy in worship. We were all praising Papa God in different languages, sometimes singing words we didn't understand, or listening to the Bible read in a foreign tongue.

Yet we had one thing in common. It was a word that we all began to say in unison while smiling from ear-to-ear when it became apparent that regardless of our nationality, each of us shared this one common bond of worship: Hallelujah.

Go figure. Hallelujah is the same in every language.

By definition, hallelujah is the term used to express praise, joy, and gratitude. And by dingies, we expressed all those things, all wrapped tightly up in one says-it-all word. Hallelujah.

Until that day, I believe I've always taken hallelujah for granted. It was just another faith-speak term like "Thank Heavens" or "Praise the Lord" or "Have Mercy!"  But no longer. That word is special to me now, because I know that whenever I say it, thousands of my soul sisters and brothers across the globe are saying it too, and our hearts are bound together in one timeless, bottomless, boundary-less expression of praise to our Papa.

Hallelujah!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fabulous New Contest!

Summer 2014: Baby Blessings Shower

The Babies Are Arriving!

As you may have heard, my book Too Blessed to be Stressed has been busy birthing offspring; I call them my Baby Blessings. So far, the bouncing bundles of joy include:

Too Blessed to be Stressed 2014 Planner
TooBlessedPlanner

Too Blessed to be Stressed Perpetual Calendar Too Blessed to Be Stressed Perpetual Calendar

Muy Bendecida Para Estar Estresada (Spanish translation) Too Blessed to be Stressed (Spanish)
The Bible Promise Book: Too Blessed to be Stressed Edition
Too Blessed to Be Stressed - Promise Book

Due next in July is the Too Blessed to be Stressed 2015 Planner and in September, the Too Blessed to be Stressed Journal, which is a hard cover version of the original paperback with additional space for Too Blessed to be Stressed 2015 Planneranswering “Let’s Decom-Stress” reflection questions and journaling. I’m planning cool contests to give away copies of each one to celebrate their birthdays, so be sure to subscribe to my blog to find out about all the freebies as the news breaks!
In the meantime, I’m throwing a baby shower in reverse! That means I give YOU gifts to celebrate! Keep reading …

A Baby Shower Like No Other

In celebration of my Baby Blessings, I want to see yours! Just shoot me an e-photo of your cherished baby (human, 4-legged or even 4-wheeled) on my CONTACT page by August 8th and you’ll be entered in the drawing to win the Baby Blessing (listed above) of your choice. Winning photos will be posted on my blog in mid-August.

So start snapping those baby photos and send a few my way! Can't wait to see 'em! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Hero is a Snail

A monstrous handful of snail
I was hiking a mountain trail last week when something stopped me in my tracks. It was a sight I truly didn't expect to see.

There, at more than 4,000 feet above sea level, a snail was painstakingly making its way across the gravel road (thankfully it was only a fraction the size of the whopper in the picture).

What in the world was a sea creature doing way up here?

Fascinated, I stopped to watch the little guy's tedious journey as he encountered obstacle after obstacle. (It was, after all, a gravel road.) His little neck stretched out as far as possible, his two antlers (or maybe they're called feelers) probed the gravel rocks - the side of a boulder from his perspective - blocking his way.

After careful analysis, he decided on his best route and gradually, by the teensy-tiniest increments, detoured to the left or to the right around the roadblock. He'd stick his long neck out, then constrict it, which effectively dragged his gigantic safe house after him.

If something spooked him (like a giant named Deb poking around), he immediately retreated into his safe house. At least he thought it was. Safe. I cringed when I thought of what a passing car would do to his place of refuge. Pulverize is putting it mildly. Probably a good thing he didn't know about cars; he might never venture from the bushes.

And then I thought about myself and how so many things scare me enough that I don't want to venture from the bushes either. I'd rather curl up in my (perceived) safe place surrounded by my comfortable shell.

But Papa God didn't create us to cower. We were made to journey. To cross dangerous roads. To stick our necks out, probe with our feelers, and reroute around the boulder blocking our path. Stretching ... probing ... adjusting ... moving forward. And to sometimes do it in places w-a-y out of our comfort zone; places we feel like we don't belong, places 4,000 feet above our natural habitat.

That's pretty much how my writing journey feels most days. Like I'm w-a-y out of my habitat. My feelers get a real workout trying to figure out a route around obstacles I've never encountered before, some I never knew existed.

And my safe house doesn't drag as well as it used to. Or maybe my neck's getting tired.

With all these thoughts swirling in my head, I drew inspiration from my little snail friend. He just kept on. Stretching ... probing ... adjusting ... moving forward.

Two hours later when I backtracked to check his progress, he was still doing it. Only now he was almost across the road. And that's where I want to be too.

So what's your goal? What motivates you to keep stretching ... probing ... adjusting ... moving forward?