I Made This Up

Words get stuck in my head – often.  If I hear “cattywampus” or “chartreuse” or “onomatopoeia” (and for the record, spellcheck didn’t flag any of them) my brain hangs on for a while because I’m entertained by the sound or the meaning. Sometimes a word repeats so often in my mind it doesn’t sound right anymore, like putting the accent on the wrong syll-AH-ble. But this is the reason I never struggle to include a unique word in every Life In A Word post. It’s the reason my topics often become unexpected adventures in writing – several hundred words spun from the single word ricocheting around in my brain. So what word am I stuck on this week, you ask? Make.

I know, I know.  You expected a more sophisticated word; something you could really sink your teeth into.  Certainly a word with more than four letters.  But here’s the thing.  Some words have one meaning while others have a list of definitions a mile long.  “Make” is wonderfully (sometimes confusingly) versatile.  It seems to have limitless uses. So, while “make” shows up in, like, every other conversation we have, consider just how many different ways we’re using it.

Here’s an example, probably my favorite for today’s topic.  We contracted with a bakery in Denver to create the perfect cake for my daughter’s upcoming wedding.  You call them first to make a sit-down appointment (yes, I’m aware I just used our word-of-the-day).  Then you work with a consultant on sketch paper to design exactly what you’re looking for. Then you taste-test six cakes and six frostings (using a tray of cupcakes) to come up with your dream combination.  The name of this establishment?  The Makery.  At first I thought it was a strange name, but then I realized, no; it’s a cool, tidy spin on words.  The Makery is not just a bakery.  A bakery would fill their glass display case with creations for you to choose from.  The Makery is all about custom creations, based on your input and your preferences.  In other words, The Makery declares “baking” a subset of “making”.

Without peeking at your Webster, guess how many definitions you’ll find for “make” in the dictionary.  Five? Ten? Two dozen? How about fifty-six? “Make” has forty-seven definitions as a verb and another nine as a noun.  I told you “make” was versatile, didn’t I?

I’m not about to go through fifty-six definitions of “make” because you can make better use of your time.  But here are my favorites:

  • To bring into existence by shaping or changing material, combining parts, etc. (as in, “Dave is making his Lego Grand Piano”).  The formality of this definition – the first in the line-up of the fifty-six – cracks me up.  It takes a lot of words to explain the most basic use of “make”.
  • To put in the proper condition or state, as for use; fix, prepare.  “This morning, Dave made his bed.  Then he made his coffee.  Tonight, Dave will make his dinner.”
  • To become by development; prove to be.  “Someday, Dave, you’ll make a heckuva writer.”
  • To be sufficient to constitute.  “One blog post does not make a writer, Dave.”
  • To arrive at or reach, attain.  Dave just turned sixty years old. Will he make it to sixty-one?
  • To plant and cultivate or produce (a crop). “Dave makes some of the best corn in the entire county.” (Note: this one is specific to the U.S. South.  Since I’m moving there soon I’d better get used to it.  And no, I don’t have any plans to “make” corn when I get there.)
  • To cause oneself, or something understood, to be as specified.Make sure this is a good blog topic, Dave.”
  • To show oneself to be or seem in action or behavior.  “Dave plans to make merry the day his daughter gets married.”

Make Love, Not War” was a slogan born out of protests over America’s involvement in the Vietnam War but it’s probably getting renewed use in the last couple of months.  Not that I can explain what “make love” really means.  Something physical?  Metaphysical?  Peace treaties?  Making out? I can’t make up my mind (and don’t make me).  Besides, it’s time I make for the exits with this post.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #20

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

Today’s section of the Lego symphony was a ten-minute sprint.  Bag #20 – of 21 bags of pieces – assembled nothing more than the underlying support structure of the piano lid, with hinges to anchor it in place on the left side of the instrument. The dark, raised bar you see running across the top of the lid is part of that structure.  The support “stick” to the right was already there, lying quietly across the piano strings from a previous build, just waiting to be raised.

Bag #21 will be a rapid final chapter, perhaps as fast as this one.  We only have the free-standing bench for the pianist to go, and (with a final flourish), the sheet music we’ll center on the stand above the keys.  We’ll bring the entire assembly to the finish line inside of fourteen hours. Then you and I will step back, admire all that we’ve accomplished these last twenty-one weeks, and take a well-deserved bow.

Next week: the final movement!

Running Build Time: 13.5 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Liszt’s Liebestraum No. 3 in A-flat Major (two times through). Leftover pieces: None again!

Conductor’s Note: Liebestraum means “love dream” in German. This short piano piece could certainly be interpreted that way. It starts out soft and melodious, a soothing lullaby. But it picks up steam in a hurry, building to a crescendo and using the entire keyboard.  It’s a beautiful piece, which is more than I can say for Franz Liszt’s last name.  Every time I say “Liszt” I sound like I have a lisp.  Maybe he did too?

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Color of Courage

I am a civilian living in a “military town”, considering the number of Army and Air Force bases in and around Colorado Springs.  The contemporary Air Force Academy campus (USAFA) to the west is the dead giveaway, but the Army’s Fort Carson to the south is larger in terms of acreage and personnel.  Fort Carson is also the largest employer of any kind in this part of the state.  Then there’s Peterson Air Force Base to the east (co-located with our municipal airport), Schriever Air Force Base to the slightly-further east, and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station hiding in the foothills to the west (which may or may not have missiles pointed towards North Korea).

All this presence-of-the-defense in Colorado Springs prompts the question whenever I purchase: “military or civilian?”.  You get a deserved discount if you are the former.  I am the latter so I pay full price.  Safe to say I will also never be awarded the Purple Heart.

This past Monday (August 7th) was “Purple Heart Day” – on the list of U.S. Holidays and Observances – honoring the date the award was created in 1782.  The Purple Heart was not given between 1783 and 1931 – the span of time between the Revolutionary War and World War I – so it has “only” been awarded a total of 86 years since the days of George Washington.  That still amounts to countless acts of valor (over 1.8 million by some estimates).

I have the utmost respect for the men and women in uniform, so I am awed by those who receive the Purple Heart.  “Those” includes my father-in-law, who served and was injured in the Korean War back in the early 1950’s.  “Those” include various notables, including Kurt Vonnegut, Pat Tillman, Rod Serling, and Norman Schwarzkopf.  “Those” include Curry T. Haynes, who died less than a month ago.  Haynes served in the Army in the Vietnam War and received a total of ten Purple Hearts for the injuries he suffered.  That’s more decorations than any other recipient.

Ponder for a moment: Over a million Purple Hearts were awarded during WWI alone.  Another 350,000 were awarded during the Vietnam War.  All in defense of freedom.

Because decorations were not always documented (Purple Hearts were often awarded on the spot; even attached to the hospital beds of recipients), there is no accurate total.  Instead, the Military Order of the Purple Heart commemorated a network of roads, highways, and bridges in the states of Purple Heart recipients.  Whenever you see a sign like the one above, be reminded of the high (and frequent) price paid for your freedom.

Between 1942 and 1997, civilians serving in the armed forces were eligible to receive the Purple Heart.  Nine firefighters in the Honolulu Fire Department were decorated during the attack on Pearl Harbor.  After 1997, Congress passed legislation limiting awards to men and women in uniform.  Civilians now receive the Defense of Freedom Medal for similar sacrifices.

    Sergeant Reckless photo – by Andrew Geer

Animals are also eligible for the Purple Heart.  The most impressive: the decorated war horse Reckless, a thoroughbred mix rescued from the race track and trained by members of the Marine Corps.  Reckless served in the Korean War, frequently carrying supplies and ammunition to the front line.  Remarkably, Reckless memorized her routes so she could deliver unattended.  During one battle, she made 51 trips in a single day between supply depot and front line.  Reckless was wounded twice and thus received two Purple Hearts.  She was promoted to the rank of sergeant shortly after the war ended.  A plaque and photo of Reckless can be seen at the Marine Corp base Camp Pendleton in California.

As I began with, I’m a civilian living in a military town.  I am surrounded by my Colorado peers who serve or have served in the armed forces.  I may not be one of them, but at least I can tip my hat on the streets, especially to those who wear the Purple Heart.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.