Speak the Speech

April 23, 2010 by  
Filed under My Writing

Extra credit points go out to Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley for declaring April 23rd as “Talk Like Shakespeare” day!   Today marks the bard’s 446th birthday and what better way to celebrate this wordsmith’s life.
After all, Shakespeare used 19,000 words in his plays alone. This count doesn’t even include his sonnets. According to an unidentified source I’ve been using for quite some time in the classrom – to give perspective – most of us use about 2,800 in our regular conversation and writing. The man was a word lover, a word builder – and we still use the words he built.  We don’t know, for sure, that Shakespeare originated these words, only that they are recorded for the first time in one of his plays; regardless, his use of them prompted their evolvement.  Here is a smattering ~


FRUGAL = used for the first time in Merry Wives of Windsor in 1600.

LONELY = used for the first time in Coriolanus in 1608.

ANIMAL = used for the first time in Richard II in 1595.

PREMEDITATED = used for the first time in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1595.

CIRCUMSTANTIAL = used for the first time in As You Like It in 1600

The list could go on and on.

Interesting, too, are Shakespeare-created words that have not lasted.  Here are a few:

SMILET = a little smile 🙂  GG loves this one!


RAZORABLE = adjective for a boy about ready to be shaved

Perhaps some of them can still become part of our language.  Wouldn’t it be fun to notice a SMILET on someone’s face, or to note (with a smirk) that young Jimmy is almost RAZORABLE?

So remember, on April 23rd . . . . . Speak the speech, I pray thee.


Swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon!

Chicago Tribune announcement

An Amazing Young Author!!

April 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Books, Reviews

Once in a while, we meet someone who truly leaves an impression.  I met such a person this past Sunday after being invited to a book signing.  This was no ordinary book signing, however, because the author is an incredible 12-year old girl!!!

Amanda R. Dell’Aringa wrote, illustrated, and published Gertie, A Guinea Pig’s Tail at the tender age of 11 after being inspired by her friend’s two guinea pigs.  What started as a “small little story that popped” into her head turned into a beautifully illustrated and professionally published book.  Amanda’s mother was impressed with the moral Amanda attached to the story so she encouraged her daughter to bring it to life.

An Inspiring 'Tail!'

Just picking up this book at the bookstore, one cannot guess such a mature message came from such a young mind.  Gertie, A Guinea Pig’s Tail is the story of a young guinea pig who is not too happy with her short, seemingly useless tail.  She soon dreams that she’s turned into other tail-equipped animals and discovers what their tails are for.  In the end, she learns just how special her own tail is and she contently accepts it for all its squiggly charm.   What a wonderful message that all children need to hear!

Besides her creativity and discipline in creating this book, what impresses me so much about Amanda is her articulation and poise.  She spoke to a crowd of about 35 adults and children, quite eloquently explaining her inspiration for the book, proudly retelling the disciplined process she took on to see her dream through, and impressingly illiustrating how she brought Gertie to life through a drawing demonstration on  a whiteboard.  Not only did Amanda draw each illustration in the book, she learned how to color each drawing in Adobe Photoshop herself. Amanda said she worked 1 – 2 hours almost every day for a few months.  She claims she has trouble finishing projects (which I find hard to believe!), but with the support of her father (an artist himself) she did it.  What an accomplishment for a young, ambitious girl!

Amanda is truly an inspiration for young and old alike.  I am giving a signed copy of this book to my soon-to-be-born niece; this will certainly provide a role model and inspiration for her.  And of course . . . I’m keeping a copy myself.  🙂  Grading Girl gives Gertie, A Guinea Pig’s Tail by Amanda R. Dell’Aringa an A+ for a valuable moral, adorable illustrations (what a cute little stuffed doll Gertie would make!), and off-the-charts effort. This was an easy one to grade!!

→ → → Amanda’s book is currently available on Amazon.  Click here to order your own copy!  While you are at it, please feel free to review Amanda’s book on Amazon – this aspiring author will appreciate your words of support.  Amanda’s book is also on sale at Books at Sunset.

For a peek at some of Amanda’s other drawings, visit her website at AmandaDraws.blogspot.com. Prepare to be dazzled when you glance through the mythical characters Amanda has created . . . and she’s only just begun!  Accomplishing so much by age 12, imagine where she will be later on.  This girl is well on her way!!

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Grading Girl would like to give a shout out to the adorable bookstore holding Amanda’s book signing.  I’ve never been to Books at Sunset in Elgin before, but I think I’ll be back.  Nestled among a quaint residential neighborhood, Books at Sunset carries an impressive variety of new and gently used books.  For much more personal service (think Meg Ryan’s store Shop around the Corner in You’ve Got Mail), check out this wonderful store that is always hosting a variety of local events as well as children’s activities.  Amanda’s book is also on sale at this bookstore!!

My Father’s Last Lesson

April 15, 2010 by  
Filed under My Writing

Like small children, there’s something within us always longing to go home – to return, even briefly, to our parents.  Whether we are 6 or 60, we have that desire.  I am very blessed to be able to go home to my mother on any given day.  I haven’t, however, been able to go home to my father for quite some time.  My life (along with my mother’s and brother’s) changed forever on this April day years ago when, without warning, my beloved father died.  Life changed with the news of the moment during that spring break before Easter Sunday.  I was a freshman in high school and my brother was in 4th grade.  Our dad was away on a business trip in Colorado when we received an unexpected visit from his best friend and colleagues delivering the news no one in the world ever wants to give – our father suffered a major heart attack in the middle of the night and died suddenly, alone in his hotel room.

One of my favorite photos of Dad and me!

His death certainly was not characteristic of his life.  He was very much a people person – the devoted husband, the caring father, the gracious host, the silly cousin (as his cousin, Anthony, attested with stories of them growing up together).  When I recall his voice, I hear his laugh.  He had a way of making everyone around him feel comfortable, and he was known for his fun demeanor and unique sense of humor.  To this day, when I see someone who knew my father well, I consistently hear, “Oh, the stories I have about your father!”   He was quite the practical jokester.  Case in point was ongoing joke between my mom and dad:  they took turns hiding this hideously hairy, ridiculously realistic mouse from each other and tried to ‘one-up’ the other into finding the most inconspicuous place that would drive the most reaction.  It wasn’t uncommon to hear a random scream when the mouse was found! Daily lunch calls to my mom with his jokes-of-the-day was also a part of their lives together. My father knew what it meant to hold on to the little moments in life.  At the same time, he was a man who took great pride in his work while trying not to take himself too seriously. He worked his way up at his first job from the back room of Kroger to head of the computer dept. to manager of the store. He was definitely ahead of his time, earning his Associates Degrees in Computer Science, and rallying for Kroger to begin a computerized shopping program way back in the early ’70s.

An early family photo – Dad, Mom and me

I have no regrets for lost joys – I replay the good memories, am very grateful for the precious time, and remember the love wholeheartedly.  “The Missing Piece” by Shel Silverstein illustrates a significant life lesson I learned from my father’s death:

“The Missing Piece” by Shel Silverstein

It is a fable about a big wheel, a fabulous wheel, the fastest wheel of all. It outraced every other wheel and took a great deal of joy and pleasure out of doing that. One day it was wheeling along having the greatest time when it hit a bump and lost a piece of itself. Now, with a chunk missing, the wheel went clunking along, struggling to keep up with the other wheels.

The wheel felt extremely sad. It started journeying great distances in search of its missing piece. As the wheel traveled it grew tired and lay down on a field of grass. It saw the white clouds against the blue sky and heard the birds sing. It began to see life’s beauty everywhere.

Some years passed, and finally the wheel found its missing piece. Overjoyed, it made itself whole again and reattached the piece. But something went wrong. The wheel realized that it had actually felt more whole when part of it was missing. The experience of loss had guided the wheel into a new state of awareness and fulfillment. The wheel had learned how to turn loss into life.

I look at myself in the mirror and sometimes I see his eyes.   I know I have a guardian angel always watching over my family, and he will live on beneath everything we do.   He would be extremely proud, for instance, of his first grandchild’s outstanding achievements, and be completely overjoyed over his second granddaughter who was born on his birthday!!!!!!!!

My father always loved nature . . . mountains, water and storms.

John Mayer wrote in his song, “Daughters:”  ‘Fathers, be good to your daughters.  They will love like you do.‘  I’ve learned that the most important thing every father teaches his daughter to do is to love completely and truly.  My “anything for TC” father certainly taught me that.  I’ve asked myself if I am who I am . . . what I am . . . how I am . . . because my father lived or because my father died.  The answer, I’ve decided, is both!!  My father taught my mother, brother, and me an important lesson right through the end of his life here.  His death forced us to learn how to survive under the most difficult of situations, how to approach life’s unexpected turns, and how to turn loss into life.

In memory of Daddy!! I love you♥️

I took this with my first camera!

➔ ➔ ➔ The resilient glue of the family, see my post celebrating my mother’s unbelievable strength that guided us through the difficult time of my father’s death:  My Mom, Still the Coolest Mom Around

Do Aunts & Uncles Get the Shaft?

April 1, 2010 by  
Filed under My Writing

My brother called tonight with a “question for Grading Girl.”  The conversation began like this:

My bro and his furry, four-legged “daughter”

Bro: What do you call your mother and father?

GG:  Parents

Bro: What do you call your grandmother and grandfather?

GG:  Grandparents

Bro: What do you call your brother and sister?

GG:  Siblings

Bro: What do you call your aunt and uncle?

GG:  That is a good question!!!

Why did he call with such a question, you ask?  First, he too was an English major as an undergraduate and he has as much curiosity with our crazy language as I do (sometimes more!).  Second, he is expecting his first child in less than a month (a daughter!!) and I am, thus, about to become a very proud first-time aunt!!  🙂

We have a general term for parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins but we don’t have a general term for aunts and uncles.  Why not?!  Is this something that once was a part of the English language but, for whatever reason, evolved to extinction.   Aunts and uncles are a significant relation; why don’t they have a word to reference them? Come to think of it . . . we don’t have a general term for nieces and nephews either.  Do other languages have such a term?  I took seven years of French and, as far as I remember, they have a separate name for aunt (tante) and uncle (oncle) but no general references.   Is there another language that has a general, gender-neutral term?

Hmmm . . . .  we aunts and uncles along with nieces and nephews must unite!  Perhaps we can come up with a new word and hope it catches on.  What about ancles for aunts and uncles and niflings for nieces and nephews?  I do enjoy making up words, after all!!  See my Words of Whimsy posts for proof of that.