Monday, November 28, 2016

About the Current Spelling of my First Name

In a post about something totally unrelated to me, a friend I met on Facebook & respect, asked this question in a discussion about voice:

So Jaki I have to ask is Jaki a nickname, or did your parents name you that. We busy bodies have to know.

And this missive is my answer, Andres.

Originally, I was named Jacky Jean Ettinger.  My father was named Jacky, a male diminutive of John, after his father, John Simpson Alexander Ettinger. 

My mother was Lavera Jean Sims Ettinger & I never met one of her siblings who called her Lavera, just Jean.
My cousins, who remem
ber the youngest of the Sims family, have always known her as Jean.  My cousins still call me Jacky Jean.  (It is so very east Texas).

So, I was named after my parents.

Which does not explain the current spelling of my name.

When I was a Freshman at Coronado High School, my advanced English teacher was Lucy Leavitt.  Mrs. Leavitt was not named Lucy.  But I thought of her as Lucy & called her Lucy & it probably drove her crazy.
As a Freshman & during all the high school years that followed, I was a skinny, knock kneed geek with really bad hair who talked too much.  I am not sure I have changed much, except for the skinny part & my hair is more palatable now that I have accepted the fact that it is going to curl.

One day, before Lucy Leavitt’s class started, a new friend who I would come to think of as my big brother & I were talking. Somehow the subject of my first name came up.  I told him that each time we moved or I started a new school or class, teachers would expect that Jacky was a boy.

We came up with Jaki as an alternative.   I decided that it was unique & looked really cool when I signed cards or paintings or drawings.

I used it so much over the years that I had it legally changed when I returned my husband’s surname to him in the divorce.

Over the years, I have never met another Jaki.  One day, driving in Galveston, I stopped at a light & the car next to me had a script on the side inscribed, Jaki Jean.

My friends & I actually tried to follow the car to ask its owner about her name, but lost the car in traffic along the Galveston seawall.

A few years ago, when I was working for a Managed Services group owned by a Norwegian mega-group, my counterpart in the Oslo office came for a visit to Houston. 
He found the Accounting area & asked for “Yak-y.”  Everyone he asked was perplexed, until he identified my position & was brought to my office.

Jaki is an actual Icelandic name -  in Denmark & The Netherlands, it is a diminutive for Jacobine – a feminine version of Jacob or James.  It Norway it means  floating piece of ice, floe, iceberg.

Had I known the definition, I probably would have never decided to change it that morning in Lucy Leavitt’s Advanced English class.

Friday, November 25, 2016

On Unsolicited Blessings & Senior Mishaps

A few months ago, my youngest son Sam called me & told me that one of his friends was moving to Colorado & had chairs he did not want to transport.  Sam said,

You need sturdy chairs.  Yours are old & rickety & falling apart.

He also said he did not need the chairs & would give them to me.

It is true, our barley twist chairs are old – the really fine ones are antiques my mother bought thirty years ago, to match a barley twist table I bought at an antique store in the inner city.  The chairs, like our three barley twist tables, contain no nails.

Yesterday, when Sam & Snoopy came over for Thanksgiving (Snoopy is a Doberman Pincher & a delight), they brought chairs.

The chairs are from Ikea & contain nails.  They also need to be stained a color – any color, maybe each one a different color. 

They are extremely sturdy.

After every one of our guests yesterday left & all the dishes were washed, I went to my computer for the first time of a day that began at a 5:00 am in spite of my careful planning to prepare everything but the turkey, gravy, & spinach salad on Thanksgiving.
I sat in one of those antique barley twist chairs.

And ended up on my ass.

The chair completely came apart.  Because I was in a dress, I could not crawl to a place to bring myself up & had to call on my brother Jason to get me up.

Last night, I felt fine – a little tumble.

This morning, I woke up & struggled to move.  My body feels just a smidge better than it did when I tripped getting out of a chair & fractured my left clavicle & bruised the entire left side of my body.  This time, it was the right side of my body.

Including my ass.

Recently, my friends Cate Poe & Nita Gulbas & I were talking on Facebook about the dangers of falling as we grow older – Nita pointed out that it is not if a senior will fall, but when.   Cate took up yoga after her mother started yoga at age 70.  Nita is an avid horsewoman & also works out at a boxing gym.

Although I am convinced that they both know how to roll & minimize potential damage when they fall, I am not sure either of them would have emerged unscathed in the collapse of an antique barley twist chair.

Today, after Round II of Thanksgiving with my Aggie sister & brother in law, I am grateful for my family & friends, for surviving my latest Senior mishap, & for my son Sam’s unsolicited gift of sturdy chairs with nails.

One of which is now at my computer.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A different perspective in the aftermath of the election . . .

Photo by Jaki Jean

I woke up last Wednesday morning devastated, dismayed, & ranting. 

And then I remembered a friend, a family & their extended family grieving over the loss of a young man who chose to take his own life.

So I prayed, again, for the family, for this young man's friends, & for my friend who has been connected to the family for three generations.

While I appreciate the importance of this election, of any election, I was reminded of what is important.

Connection, family, faith, hope, inclusion & belief. 

Outside of the election, we have had, in the house that my parents Jack & Jean built, incredibly complicated electrical problems.

Not a national & world issue, but our issue. 

I woke up on Monday before the election to a dark room (a different darkness than Wednesday morning).  My mother Jean’s air mattress was deflated.  My brother Jason & I got her up with the Hoyer lift & lifted into her reclining wheel chair.

During the time that passed & we had one outlet with power, Jean was, as always, a trooper.  She never complained.  As things progressed, I kept her updated.  We had one TV operating & internet access, cable for a few hours.  One lamp & flashlights.

 My sister Janet, the true hero of our journey with Jean, arrived. 

When I first called Janet, she asked if I checked the breakers.  (We did).  She asked if I had used an outlet tester.

I said no, I don’t know what an outlet tester is.  (I know, I am pitiful.)

When Janet arrived, Jean was reading Elena Ferrante’s “My Brilliant Friend,”  & I was watching another episode of “The Crown.”  My sister took my car, which is really hers, to replace a tire that went flat over the weekend. 

In the aftermath & difficulty getting back power to the house, I did not notice exactly what my sister Janet did about that tire.

Oh, I witnessed how hard she fought with our energy provider for an emergency bypass (I always explain to people that Janet is more fierce than I can ever hope to be). 

The bypass was finished in the early evening.  (Janet is really effective.)

The next morning, I looked at the tires on the car my sister gave me & saw I had four new tires, a fifth one in the trunk, & a full tank of gas.

Overwhelmed, I wept.  Later that afternoon, when I thanked her, I broke down & she hugged me. 

In that moment, all was right with the world.

This is what matters.  In light of all that happened last Tuesday, in the midst of what so many of us view as potential chaos & destructive change & the divisive results, this is what matters.

Our families & connection.  A respect & inclusion of & for the Other.  Our faith & our hope for another day.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is from Psalm 30:5 –

Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.

The Psalm does not promise that joy or celebration or that relief will come tomorrow morning. 

But it does give us the promise of a different perspective & understanding & hope.

Photo by Nita Gulbas

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Jaki Jean on the Word of the Day this Election Day

Every day I received an email from with their Word of the Day.  

Once, in a prior incarnation of myself, I sat around a table in a meeting with my supervisor & the head of a company in his office, in a shipyard in Galveston, Texas.

Our host asked each of us how we were & I replied, “Scintillating, thank you.”
He sat back & smiled & asked:

Was that the Word of the Day?

I laughed & assured him that it was not the Word of the Day, that I truly felt scintillating.

He did not believe me, went to his computer & checked’s Word of the Day.  Then he looked up the definition of scintillating.

He left his desk & rejoined us & looked to my supervisor, & asked, is she always like this?   My supervisor smiled & said:  

This is just one of the reasons I have her on my team.

Today’s Word of the Day is suffrage.

Origin of suffrage
Suffrage comes from the Latin noun suffrāgium meaning "voting tablet, vote," which is a derivative of the verb suffrāgārī, "to vote for, support." When it entered English in the late 1300s, it originally meant "intercession or prayers (for someone)." By the time of St. Thomas More in the early 1500s, the word had acquired the sense of "a vote in favor of a motion," gradually coming to mean "collective vote, voting power." Its current sense "the right to vote" first appears in the U.S. Constitution (1789).

Today, I hope that everyone who is a registered voter will exercise the right to vote under the U.S. Constitution & that every eligible voter not yet registered will register in the near future.

I want every citizen to experience what my friend Andres M. Dominguez experienced this morning when he voted:

For me there is just a powerful feeling to stand in line with others who have a vested interest in our country, even though we may disagree.

America, this continuing experiment in democracy, depends upon the participation of its citizens. 

It will be a long night in the house that my parents Jean & Jack built.  Jean will stay awake until the final concession & acceptance speeches.  And I with her, just as I have done in the past during our journey together. 

So, I close with this, totally appropriated from Harry Belafonte’s thoughtful op-ed in The New York Times:

“O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath —
America will be!”
— Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”

America will be.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Curious Incident of the Blue Bowls in the Nighttime

Yesterday was a curious day. 

First, there was the incident of the bird at my neighborhood grocery store.

Just as I arrived at the check-out line of my favorite cashier Marcella, she left her station & went to the only other line open & began chatting with Catherine at that register & a young woman from Wells Fargo Bank.

On the arm of the Wells Fargo employee was perched a very large, gorgeous white bird.  I don’t know much about birds, but I think it was a Cockatoo.  It looked very much like this, only more beautiful:

I wish, like Catherine the cashier, I had pulled out my phone & captured a picture of it.

When the man in front of me finished paying for his groceries, he reached over & took the creature & placed it on his shoulder. 

I wondered if it was his service bird.  I wondered if there was such a thing – I was familiar with service dogs & cats & equine therapy, but birds?

Yes, Jaki Jean, there are service birds.

The incident was curious, but the sight brought a smile to my face & to my soul.

This morning, I discovered the curious incident of the blue bowls in the nighttime.

As I was passing the back door, I looked out its window panes & spotted a blue object in the middle of our yard.  At first, I thought it had been dropped by the lawn maintenance crew yesterday afternoon. 

Annoyed, I went to retrieve it, only to discover dozens of blue Solo bowls scattered around the two trees near the back fence.  It would have been impossible to miss them yesterday.

Had the squirrels who believe our trees & yard are their personal territory been hoarding plastic bowls in preparation for the winter?  Where did the blue bowls come from & why? 

The bowls were neither clean nor dirty.  No food remains – just bits of sand as if they had been used as a shovel in a sand box or at the beach.  

While I do not know the family who lives in the house directly behind us, I do know our neighbors on either side.  Mr. Israel & his late wife Nora, & Juta & Deitmar both bought their homes 1971, when Jack & Jean bought this house.

Littering a neighbor’s yard with sandy plastic bowls is not their style.  The placement of the scattered blue bowls was suspicious – between & surrounding the trees near the back fence.

But I am curious – why blue bowls?  Why scatter them deliberately in someone else’s back yard?  Why my back yard?

The blue bowls did not cause damage & cleaning them up did not require the amount of work caused when children or young adults toilet paper houses & trees, egg cars or front doors, leave a lobster in the mailbox during 95˚ heat, spray red paint on the back of a new car, let the air out of tires, toss tampons & sanitary pads coated with ketchup across the front yard or scatter bags of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish on the front porch & sidewalks because your youngest son’s nickname is Fish.

All of these things have happened here in the yard of the house Jack & Jean purchased 45 years ago.

Perhaps the motivation behind the curious incident of the blue bowls in the nighttime is similar to the motivation behind messy vandalism.

The idea of crossing a line, transgressing without getting caught or answering for one’s actions.  To see if you can cross the line & transgress without consequences.  I don’t know – in my first youth I never egged or papered a house or left a lobster in a mail box during 95˚ weather. 

However, during my high school years at Coronado High School in El Paso, my friend Colleen Tubbs & I saved all the straws from drinks at the Charcoaler Drive-in Restaurant & when we collected enough, we would toss them in the front yards of several Coronado basketball players & one alumni from the football team.  We also used to leave giant lollipops on the front seats of their cars.

Littering a yard with plastic blue bowls makes about as much sense as straws & lollipops.

But blue bowls don't smell like a lobster left in a mailbox in 95˚ weather.  And blue Solo bowls are recyclable.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

On Friendship that Transcends Politics

A friend of mine once told me that I was brave when I wrote.  I am not naturally brave.  Fierce at times, but not brave.  This post is for that friend.  It is my version of attempting to be brave. 

I apologize for not returning your call – you were reaching out because you sensed a distance between us.  That means a great deal to me. 

The past few days (& the past year) have been crazy & challenging, even without the election fiasco.  The past few months with this election, & more importantly, things in my daily life, have been worse.

For so long, since I was a much younger version of myself, I have believed in the concept of civilized, respectful debate & discussion.  I always thought it should not be about convincing or changing the other’s mind.  It was designed to be about communication.

About an exchange of ideas. 

Prior to this election, I was able to hold onto that belief. 

I fear the rules have changed, & the rules are no longer in the spirit of the ancient philosophers.  I fear that I am no longer as open-minded as that prior version of myself.

This election, I had to make a choice.  Whether to try & adhere to something that was core to my thought process, or remove myself from certain facets of the discussion in order to maintain the peace that I need to take care of my Mother. 

And to still find joy.  I chose peace & joy & my Mother.

I understand your reasons for backing the Republican ticket.  I respect your position & your concerns.  But we have different views of the role of government, especially the Federal government. 

We have agreed to disagree. 
We are still friends.  I hope we always will be.

The tone & rhetoric of this election is divisive, on both sides of the aisle.  The right & the left.  It began eight years ago – but my thoughts on that are not for this missive.

This election has challenged so many of us to our core – to try & maintain those core beliefs that drive us & still maintain a sense of faith, family, friendship, community & understanding.

There is one thing I know about you, my friend.  You understand that sense.

We just can’t discuss politics right now.

But we can drink a fine Malbec together.