Adventures in vocabulary and the healing power of books

As promised, I’m launching a new regular feature on the blog: Obscure Word Doodles! Last month, I started asking for word suggestions and, as usual, you came through. I have about 25 weird and wonderful words that I have no idea what to do with.

Actually 24 now, since here’s the first one, a word suggested by Ray Wilcockson. (Thank you, Ray!)

Let me know what you think, and feel free to leave more word suggestions in the comment thread.


Obscure Word Doodle #1



And, something else I want to share…

The Micah and Zachary Giving Library at the University of Michigan NICU is a program named after my friend Leslie Napolitano’s twin grandsons, born in January last year. Micah, the oldest and smallest of the two, struggled mightily against one medical setback after another and endured more in his short life than most of us will ever have to. When my friend wrote to tell me they had lost baby Micah, she said, “I will forever carry a lifetime of beautiful loving joy and unfathomable sadness for what he gave us and for what we lost.”

I think that’s what grace looks like: fragile and fierce, finite and forever.

When Leslie and I talked about what she was going through, she told me that part of moving through her grief involved reading, finding solace and comfort in the words of others. I’ve done the same thing countless times; it is the magic of books that we can crawl inside them and find, at least for a time, what we need.

I admire so much the positive impact Micah’s family is determined to make in their little boy’s name. You can read more about their story and about how to donate books on the Micah Smiles Facebook page.


And finally…

Doodling “fardel” and writing about my friend and her family has me thinking (again, as I do so often) about the things we let go of and the things we hold on to, and how hard it is to know which is which. It takes a certain fearlessness to love beyond the pain. That I see that fearlessness all around me, over and over again, never fails to leave me awed.

And that made me think of this.



  1. Kellie J. Walker on March 21, 2013 at 8:13 am

    <3 this so much!

    • j on March 21, 2013 at 10:23 am

      Thank you, Kellie! Took me a long time to come up with a doodle. I carried five of the suggested words around with me for two days and finally, end of day two, stuck in traffic, the doodle idea came to me. (Phew!)

  2. Dalene Entenmann on March 21, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Most beautiful and best sentence I have read today: “… what grace looks like: fragile and fierce, finite and forever.” – Judy Clement going to share on my FB wall. Thank you for your creativity and inspiration.

    • j on March 21, 2013 at 10:24 am

      Thank you back. xo

  3. Christie on March 21, 2013 at 9:45 am

    wowowowowow – that video knocked the junk mail right out of my head! Yes, my head has been filled with a lot of useless nonsensical anxiety for the last several weeks but after watching that video and listening to that beautiful song, the junk mail has been tossed in the garbage bin!

    I am so glad that you shared Leslie’s story, it broke my heart wide open and her comment is no surprise given that she is such an amazing woman, filled with beauty and grace!

    Loved the obscure word and the accompanying doodle and the timing is perfect as it would seem the junk mail was filled with fardels!

    So I have an obscure word and it makes me laugh because when I first saw it I thought it had something to do with the only vegetables the devil would eat but much to my surprise it actually means something quite opposite and the definition contains one of my favorite words.

    adj. – illuminating, literally and figuratively


    • j on March 21, 2013 at 10:29 am

      EXCELLENT word! Adding it to the list for sure. (“The only vegetables the devil would eat” made me laugh!)

      I’m honored to share Leslie’s story. I hope people donate books to the cause.

      And yes! A friend included A Human Thing on a CD of music she sent to me just because she’s wonderful like that, and I immediately fell in love with the song. Then I found the video and, holy cow. Musical swoonage. It’s beautiful!

  4. Annie Neugebauer on March 21, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Oh, I love it! I love how her curly hair is all multi-colored! <3 Where is the blog asking for words? I wanted to go back and see what people said.

    • j on March 21, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      Oops! I’ll add it to the post, but here it is.

      I also asked on Facebook and Twitter so I have more words than are in that comment thread. Any way you can get them to me, I’ll take ’em.

  5. Naomi Wittlin on March 21, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    LOVE your doodle! It’s really more of a work of art, not “just” a doodle, ya know. 🙂 And the rest of your post is filling me up hugely and I’ll let it percolate. Beautiful.

    • j on March 22, 2013 at 7:13 am

      Thank you, Naomi! Recently someone asked me if I could draw a very specific thing for them and I said, “You know I only doodle,” right? 🙂

  6. Pam on March 22, 2013 at 7:05 am

    Wonderful doodle! Love that word. <3

    • j on March 22, 2013 at 7:14 am

      Me too. I’ve used it many times over the past few weeks.

  7. juliafehrenbacher on March 22, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    Oh damn, J. First, that word, that doodle! had me smiling the biggest ever smile and then I read on and had to stop and breathe and let myself sob inside.

    You always do this, you make me think & feel so much…

    Thank you for continuing to show up so fully, my friend. Deepest bows to you…

    • j on March 24, 2013 at 11:16 am

      Yay! When I (finally) thought of an image to go with that word, I got a big smile too. So happy it affected you the same way.

      And thank you, back. All of what you’ve written here about me can be said about you too, my friend. xo

  8. Estrella Azul on March 24, 2013 at 9:44 am

    So much emotion in a few short lines. I really like the Giving Library.

    That is one great obscure word card, j, love it!

  9. j on March 24, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Thank you, Estrella. It’s not a card though – just a regular blog feature for now. Something for us all to have fun with. 🙂

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