Cyclopedia: (n) an encyclopedia

 By the time I arrived, my mother was already serving him a piece of the blueberry pie she had made from the berries my dad recently brought back from his trip to Canada. I’m not sure if I had ever seen my mother so excited.

The gentleman sitting on the couch across from her was probably no more than twenty years of age. (Of course, I was thirteen at the time, so he looked prehistoric.) He, too, seemed very uplifted and called me by my name when I walked through the door, which was a trifle unnerving since I had never laid eyes on the gent before.

He was from the Grolier Company.

This will mean nothing to anyone under the age of fifty.

It was one of the largest publishers of cyclopedias in the world. It sent out people to sell the volumes door-to-door, offering handsomely bound examples to lure the hearts and eyes of housewives all over America.

The entire sales pitch was simple.

1.“Don’t you want your son or daughter to have knowledge at his or her fingertips, simply by walking across the room and acquiring it by looking up the needed data in the family cyclopedias?”

2. “It is statistically proven that families who have an entire set of Grolier from A to Z in their living rooms experience 63% less crime perpetrated by their youngsters.”

3. “And of course, your neighbors will judge you by how important you think education is to your upstarts. So when they walk through the door, don’t you want them to see a Grolier?”

My mother was sold.

And when the stranger showed me one of the books, I must admit it was beautifully illustrated, easy to read and the outside cover felt like it had just come off the back of a Wisconsin cow.

He warned us that it would take about three months for delivery. He was right.

Four months later, our Grolier’s arrived, and we frantically searched for a bookcase that would accommodate such presence and heft.

But the one set of cyclopedias was not enough.

A year later, the local grocery store offered Funk and Wagnall’s—a competitor to Grolier—for twenty-five cents per letter if you bought thirty dollars’ worth of groceries.

So nearly sixteen months later, we had a set of Funk and Wagnall’s just beneath our Grolier’s (the Funk and Wagnall’s being more compact and easier to place).

All through my growing up years, I opened these volumes, looking for information.

I garnered two things from the experience:

First and foremost, I learned alphabetical order, since that’s how everything was listed within the pages.

Secondly, I learned that knowledge was growing so quickly in our world that soon both the Grolier’s and the Funk and Wagnall’s were outdated.

Today we have the Internet.

But we don’t have the beautiful books, the great illustrations or conversations about knowledge over blueberry pie.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C


Constellation: (n) a group of stars forming a recognizable pattern

Christmas: when the nays and yeas get together to discuss a baby born in the hay.

To me, It is the only wearisome part of the season. One group tries to convince the other group that the Christmas story from the gospels of Matthew and Luke is not only possible, but also historical.

The other contingency works really hard to dismiss the whole, ridiculous notion of a virgin birth, a Star of David and “angels we have heard on high.”funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I take a different approach.

I like to consider what the world needs and what the Earth craves, and then find things in the perimeter which feed that urgency.

The world desperately needs all of us to become human instead of men, women, gay, straight, family, country and culture.

So I flip to Christmas: “We bring you tidings of great joy. Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.”

The Earth also desires respect. Yes, we are a bratty species which thinks the environment is our personal roll of toilet paper.

And then we have the story of the Star of Bethlehem. Somewhere out there in the constellations there emerged a star. The popular belief is that this would have to be a huge star–not necessarily true since the people who followed it were star-gazers, and would not need to be “star-struck” in order to be intrigued with a particular heavenly body.

The elements of the Christmas story are concepts that we, as humans, would have to pursue even if there was no God. For example:

  1. Be prepared to do what is unusual, or expect the usual results.
  2. Don’t expect everything to come the way you predicted it. Maybe a woman will be the hero of the tale.
  3. Look to the stars. Look for some light. Look for some hope. Follow it.
  4. Listen for the better angels, who tell us to try to get along.

My only regret at Christmas time, as an author, is that Matthew and Luke beat me to the publisher.

Because I’ll tell ya’–I would write that story any day of the week, knowing that it was not only needful, but destined to be a hit.

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Mr. Kringle's Tales...26 Stories 'Til Christmas

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Comma: (n) a punctuation mark (,) indicating a pause between parts of a sentence


Yes, downright sour-tongued and steamed.

That is how I would characterize one of the publishers I forwarded my material to when I was a very young man, believing that merely jotting
something down on a pad of paper and sending it off was the doorway to the bestsellers list.

Within a few weeks, I received a letter from a copywriter, who was evidently greatly offended. She had deemed me to be ignorant, backwoods and perhaps even insolent because of my overuse of commas.

I was young.

I liked a good comma.

Maybe I overdid my commas and had to sleep them off the next morning–but that’s the way we are during our growing up years. Because the commas are so available, and no one puts restrictions on them, and the rules for using them are ambiguous, if not incoherent, I stuck in a comma every few words, just to ensure that I knew they existed.

There was some awareness on my part of where a comma might need to go.

But it took me a long time to realize that periods are stop signs and commas are speed bumps. And unless you want your reader to purposely drive fifteen miles per hour, bouncing up and down every 150 feet, you should use the comma sparingly.

Because after I was thoroughly rebuked by this dear woman, I realized that sometimes small-minded, officious, self-righteous paragraph-pushers can still make a good point.

So, as you can see, I am nearly, completely, totally, and thoroughly, cured.


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Certifiable: (adj) able or needing to be certified.

“You certainly are a good dad. I can tell by your sons.”

Or maybe they just decided to become nice people to spite me. Perhaps they saw what an ass I was and chose a different path.

We are guilty of taking credit for what is not our effort–and if it is our effort, we know deep in our hearts that we truly never pulled it off.

Another lady asked me if I was a good writer. You see, she wants me to be certifiable. She wants some reputable organization, publisher or book club to ratify my claim to authorship.

It seems you can do almost anything in this country as long as you can get two other people to vouch for you.

Yet I seem to recall a childhood memory of a statement: “The proof is in the pudding.”

I don’t know what pudding has to do with it, but the true proof of whether something is worthy of honor is not in the number of certificates or awards it receives.

Because of that, none of us will ever hear the best singer, read the best writer or have the privilege of being governed by the best President.

The process of becoming certifiable is just too insane.


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