WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Would You Change Your Name? by Rich Paschall

When I finally come around to writing a short story for SERENDIPITY, I usually get stalled at the beginning when I need to decide on character names. It seems to me that the name is important and certain names will convey certain feelings to the reader.  So, I try to choose carefully.

I liked Harold for an older character because I don’t know any younger people named Harold.  Although the most famous literary character of this century so far is named Harry, I never thought of Harry Potter as a “Harold.” But he probably is.

I inadvertently used Harold twice. I wrote a story titled Alone and actually filmed it a year later, calling the only character Harold.  This did not stop me from forgetting about it and naming another older character Harold in a series of stories that started with Soup and Sandwich. Some names just seem to lend themselves to young and old, rich or poor. A lot of that is surely based on personal experience and naming trends over the years. Names go in and out of favor for newborns.

The characters of the stories are newborns to me. Most of my characters arrive full-grown, I look for age appropriate names.  For example, Richie might be alright for a boy, but a grownup would probably prefer Rich or Richard. A few folks who know me from childhood still call me Richie. I get all three versions of my name these days. I can’t escape the variations.

what's in a name

If a story has a local flavor, I try to use names that could not be mistaken for anyone I know.  Trying to think of names that don’t belong to friends or relatives can be challenging … and leave me looking up names on the Internet.

If you named a child, did you use a book of baby names?  Did you look up names on the Internet? Did you make lists of names,  then negotiate the final choice with others? Fortunately, I only have to debate with myself about my characters’ names. Right or wrong, I’ve no one to blame or congratulate but myself.

Aside from Harold, I don’t think I’ve duplicated a name, but I’ve got so many stories out there, I’m can’t say for sure. I know I’ll always have favorites tucked in the back of my mind.


In my neighborhood, there’s a family in which the father is Edgar. His son is also Edgar. Another son is Eduardo.

In this household, no one is called Ed. The younger Edgar is Eddy. The others are called by their full names. Parents get to set rules on that — at least in the home — but there’s no telling how kids will change your name once you start school. You could get a nickname that sticks. That might be good. Or not.

If there are several kids named John in your class, classmates —  even a teacher — may decide you’re Jack, Johnnie, Jay … or something else. A room with multiple Johns, Michaels, or Susans will likely trigger a round of renaming.

Did you get stuck with a nickname? Do you like it? Hate it? Don’t much care either way?

I had a cousin named George whose father was also George, so they called him Ricky. For years, I thought that was his name. No idea how they chose this name, but it stuck with him his entire life. When relatives on that side of the family called me Ricky, it drove my mother crazy. She’d point out Ricky is not my name.

Aunt Mary is called Joan. It’s her middle name. Some said they did not want to call her by her mother’s name, but no one I know called my grandmother Mary.  Her sister called her Mae. There are Roberts who became Bob or Bobby, including my father.

I know a few people who hate their name.  Some are downright upset at their parents about it. If you were named Moon Unit or Dweezil, disliking your name might not seem unreasonable. Yet, Frank Zappa’s kids stuck with those names.

The Zappa family got away with giving their kids what could optimistically be considered “unique” names. Celebrities get a pass on lots of stuff. I doubt an ordinary kid would survive such names. Most parents want to make their children feel their names are special, but sensible parents don’t want their kid’s name to make them a target.

Destiny Hope Cyrus decided she liked Miley better. She changed her name — which was already her nickname.

As for my own, I’m neutral about it. I neither love nor hate my name. It’s okay. All of its variations are fine with me, including Rick or Ricky, despite my mother and I am also okay with RJ (Richard John).

But. I hated Dick. Few dare call me that, but one friend does. He’s the only one who gets away with it. I remember all too well the years of President “Tricky Dick” Nixon. I wanted no association with that name.

Do you like your name? Would you prefer a nickname?  Did you always like your name or did you accept it over time?

If you could change your name now, to what would you change it?  Feel free to share your new name in the comments?  I might choose Ming the Merciless, Emperor of the Universe.  That had a certain ring to it when I was small, though it would be hard to fit on a business card.

THE GREEN MONSTER

ENVY? NAH.

Jealousy or envy, the big green monster. Unless you live in Boston, in which case it’s a big, green, left-field wall. Just saying.

I’m not much given to envy. With the following exceptions:

  1. People who live near ancient ruins. I want to dig!
  2. People who grew up with horses. I want your childhood.
  3. Anyone who has a house with no stairs. I’ll swap you.

72-Fenway-GA_068

So, I’m pretty much good to go. I’ve got problems, but so does everyone else. Life hasn’t been easy, but it has also been incredibly interesting. Rich with experiences. I’ve got a great marriage, a few terrific friends, dogs, a home, a good little car, lots of books, and a huge, high-definition television. And we live reasonably near Fenway Park.

72-Fenway-Sox_14

If someone would like to round out my life by donating a largish sum of cash, I’d give you a big hug and a thank you. Beats out what you’ll get from donating the same amount to a some politician’s PAC, doesn’t it?

Otherwise, I’m good. So is life.

LOVING LIFE

ONE LOVE?

The universe is telling me to focus on love. What is it saying to you?


Just one?

I cannot fit my love into one image. There is too much I love. People, activities, art, beauty, nature.

And then, there’s life. Which is love.

BABY YOU’RE THE BEST

When I married Garry, it was my third marriage, his first. It wasn’t because he hadn’t had relationships. More than enough of them. Just never married any of them.

43, on our honeymoon. At Loch Gill, Isle of Innisfree.

43, on our honeymoon. At Loch Gill, Isle of Innisfree.

So, there we were. Me at 43 and he at 48 years old. Really getting married. Wow. We had a not-so-small advantage in that we had been friends and lovers for more than 25 years, but married? I never thought he would marry anyone.

Scene: Epiphany Lutheran Church, Garry’s home church in Hempstead, New York. His brother was singing as were two of my friends. A bagpiper was there to pipe the guests in, open the ceremonies, and pipe us on our way.

Garry In Cong

Twenty-five — almost 26 — years later. We old dogs have learned a whole lot of new tricks. Garry — the fussy bachelor — has turned into a great husband and a pal. He shops, launders, and lots more. All the things I can’t manage, he takes care of.

But more than any tasks or work he may do, he has become my rock. As my health declined … I’d have thought I’d bottomed out, but apparently not … he was, is there. Always.

72-garry-portrait-1031_114

How do you say thanks for that?

You’re my better half, so much better than I ever dared hope. Baby, you’re the best.

GATHERING PEARLS – EPISODE 1

NO DRAWN BLANKS, NOT TODAY

I’ve been finding pearls of wisdom all over the place. A few from television and movies, others from fellow bloggers. Today’s gems (and I’m not kidding, I mean gems — no sarcasm) come from Cardinal Guzman.

72-Cardinal-II_26

Let me start with the Cardinal. His “life game” guidelines resonated with me:

  • Take care of your loved one and loved ones.
  • Have fun, but don’t get addicted to it.
  • Their shit stinks too, so it doesn’t matter what they think.
  • Improvise.

Taking care. I take care of my loved ones — friends and family — to the extent that they allow me, and I am able. I no longer believe I can fix everyone’s problems — or mine. Within the limits of money, time, health, and distance, I do what I can. It’s pretty good. If I won the lottery … but that doesn’t look likely, especially considering I haven’t bought any tickets. (Maybe I should buy tickets.)

72-Hee-Haw-Marilyn-GAR-Superstition-011316_113

Have fun. I do. It’s different fun than I had years ago, but it makes me smile and laugh. I get some good pictures too.

Their shit stinks too. Not only does other people shit stink, but some of those other people have bigger problems than me. None of us never knows how difficult someone else’s path is. If they are nice to me, the will have my support — even if I don’t have much beyond moral support to offer.

Improvise. He or she who cannot roll with the punches, change with the seasons of life, adapt to the stuff that is constantly assailing us from every direction, are doomed. If you don’t change, you ossify and die in place.

72-Garry on donkey by Ben-Superstition-011316_106

Living means changing. Many people declare “they can’t change because they are what they are.” That’s never true. They are convinced not changing will save them from getting hurt or having to learn new and uncomfortable skills. Instead, ceasing to move in life becomes a recipe for death before burial. Only the dead are frozen in time.

Improvising also means reinventing oneself. Often. As we age, we don’t so much give up things, as we adapt to the limitations we encounter. If I can’t ride horses, I can take pictures of them. I can enjoy being around them.

72-Rawhide-new-GAR-Sunday-011016_323

I can’t hike long distances, but I can walk shorter ones. I can take pictures, write, read, and talk. I can laugh. And I’d better do it now, because tomorrow has no guarantee. As far as I can know, this is tomorrow.

Grab a handful of life and get on with it.

I’d like to add that the entire experience of living would be greatly improved by people being kind to one another. By not walking around so fearful of getting hurt that they hurt everyone else. Self-protection is overrated.

Be nice, be kind. Help where you can. It’s free. It’s easy. It makes you a better person and the world a better place.

MULTIPLE CHOICE

I do not know how many times WordPress has run this prompt. This is an edited answer I wrote the first time it came up, in 2013. 


If you’re into science fiction or quantum physics, life’s road is full of forks — and each fork creates its own reality. Our real choices are not between less or more traveled roads, but between realistic choices. Rarely do we have a genuine option to veer off the main road into uncharted territory. It’s more about figuring out where we want to go, then how to get there.

72-Rt-16_Snow-Roads_025

We make our choices under a lot of pressure when we’re too young to know what we want. Such is life. Before we’re of drinking or voting age, we make the most important decisions of our lives.

My first big choice was what to choose as my college major. Music? Something useful? Can I just screw around until I figure out what I want? How about all three?

I went with “all three.” Technically, I was a music major. Unofficially, I was a comparative religion major (now there’s a practical choice). Mostly, though, I majored in hanging out at the college radio station. It turned out music was fun, but I lacked sufficient talent to make it my life’s work. Religion? Fascinating, but it’s not a profession for me.

The radio station, for which I got no credit and where I had a blast with all the other misfits who found each other in the dank, tiny studios in the basement of the Little Theater, moved me along the path to life as a professional writer.

That’s what I was going to do, no matter what else I chose. It was me.

The point is, we make choices. During the summer between my junior and senior year, I got a three-way choice.

1) My old boyfriend with whom I could not have a civil conversation, but with whom I had exceptional sex had sent me tickets to join him at his summer stock theater in Cape May. A summer by the sea with all the hot sex I could imagine. Hmm. I was 18. Not an unattractive offer.

2) The guy I’d been dating at the radio station —  who ran it and worked for the university and got paid and everything (he was 8 years older than me) — asked me to marry him. I really liked Jeff. Smart, funny, probably the best conversationalist I’ve ever known. Witty, word-wise and good-looking in a blond waspy way. If I stayed, I’d be married before summer was over.

3) I got accepted into the Communications program at Boston University. Great program. In the 1960s, Boston was ultra-cool. Joan Baez sang in Harvard Square. Comedy clubs featured the future kings of late night. Unlike uncool Hempstead. Hofstra didn’t have a communications program. Yet. The radio station was the closest Hofstra offered to a program and you didn’t get a diploma by working there.

I had to do a lot of deciding. I married Jeff.

72-Country-Road_081

Of the three choices, the real choice was what was right. For me.

I made a good choice. I was where I belonged. It set the course of my life for the next 15 years, after which the dials on that Big Machine sent me in another direction.

In my theoretical science fiction universe, the 3-way choice created three realities: one I chose and two I didn’t. These realities exist on separate planes somewhere in the time-space continuum.

Somewhere, there’s a Marilyn who went to Boston, and another who went to Cape May. If I meet them I’ll ask them how it went.

I bet all of us are here, married to Garry. Some things must happen. Destiny. Karma. Or maybe they are the same thing.

As for the road less traveled, less traveled roads are often dead ends. That’s why they’re less traveled. If you are going to go down such roads, make sure you’re very good at making u-turns in tight spaces. Oh, and watch out for the quicksand.

My Karma Ran Over My Dogma

Somehow, despite all the weird and awful things that happen along the way, we end up where we belong. Destiny always takes us to the right road, even as we mourn for what could have been. This was too beautiful not to share.

lifelessons - a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

My Karma Ran Over My Dogma

IMG_0472 This picture was taken two sunsets ago from the porch of the beach house I’ve rented in La Manzanilla, Mexico. Not a bit of color editing has been done.

She felt the small disk glance off the steering wheel and land on her lap as they jolted over the rutted dirt road. She picked it off her leg before it was jostled off and onto the gray carpet covered with dirt, gravel and slips of paper containing quickly-scribbled lines of inspiration for future poems.  Quickly, she glanced at the words printed on its front. “My karma ran over my dogma.” What did it mean, this button she now stabbed back into the sun flap over the steering wheel of her dusty van?

She had thought it hilarious when she saw it pinned to the poetry sweater of the stranger at the reading at the L.A. coffee shop almost twenty years…

View original post 595 more words