How To Write Good

There is no shortage of sharing these days thanks to the wonderful world wide web. I receive many forwarded emails from my dads, and I see many friends posting via Facebook and other such media various content created by others.

Below is one share that I decided must be shared again!

I’m not sure these rules are actually worth following (I’d say some are definitely not) but most of them got a good laugh out of me, and I think they will you, too.

The original list is longer than this. Google tells me that it was published by Frank Visco in the Writer’s digest in June 1986. I found a version that was posted March 20, 1995. (That’s near the infancy of the Web. Neat!)

Without further ado …

How To Write Good

  1. Avoid alliteration. Always.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
  4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  5. One should never generalize.
  6. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  7. Be more or less specific.
  8. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  9. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  10. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  11. Who needs rhetorical questions?


08:06 - August 6thBirthdays are a pretty big deal here in the Campbell home. We really enjoy celebrating each other’s special days, usually for more than just that one day. But that one day is a circled day on the calendar and a number that carries more meaning than others.

We love the months of February, March, July, October, November and December. (We’re nicely spread out!) We love the numbers 5, 11, 13, 25, 28 and 30. (There are two 28s and two 30s! Even more fun!)

And we don’t have to wait till that special day once every 365.25 days…

I remember a long time ago, maybe even before we were married, Jen pointed to the dashboard clock in the car we were in and said, “Look, it’s my birthday.” I was confused at first, but then noticed that the clock said 10:28… October 28th! She told me that she often gets to celebrate her birthday two times a day whenever she can look at a clock at the right time. I smiled then, and I’m smiling now. I sure do love her! 🙂

So that has become a fun thing that we do here (at least Jen and I). We have plenty of chances to catch a birthday on the clocks! We’re coming up on Ian’s birthday as I type this (12:25)

It’s fun to have quirky family traditions!

Perhaps now you’ll notice a birthday next time you glance at your clock?

If so, happy birthday to you!

It’s Official: We’re A Big Family

We’ve been a family of eight for quite a while now. Coming up on three years this July! So, in many ways, we’ve been a big family for a good long while.

But now, you might say it’s official. 🙂

We are picking up our new-to-us, 12-passenger, Ford E-350 XLT big red van!

These larger vans are definitely the vehicle of choice for most families who home school—because, frequently they are also larger families—so we will fit right in at home schooling events, conferences, gatherings. (Except we’ll be the ones with the cool red van, rather than the typical white.)

Jen has balked at the idea for some time, for various reasons, but now she, too is looking forward to the extra room, as well as just having a vehicle with mostly working parts! Our trusty Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan eclipsed 204,000 miles recently and has some problems with just about every part of it!

We have not had a new-to-us vehicle since 2003. We’ve had four more children since then! We put about one hundred and sixty-seven thousand miles on that van since then. It’s been a very long time!

So we’re kinda excited! 🙂

The kids will have more room. We’ll have more room for stuff. We can bring other people with us! (Haven’t been able to do that for a while!) And, if God is willing, we might even need more seats for more Campbell family behinds some day? Ya never know …

We are still working on a name for our new vehicle. The last two vans were Bluester (a navy blue Silhouette), and Silvester (a silver Silhouette)… so we’re thinking something Red…ish. My first thought was to work with the name of the van: E-350, Econoline Van. First “E” name that came to mind was “Eddy”. Then, “Ed” sounds like “Red”, so… “Reddy”. Kinda worked, except the Mom vetoed the name “Eddy”. (Just doesn’t like it. Sorry to all you Eddies out there…)

So Ian suggested “Edward”, to which Alex suggested, “Redward”! I like it, but I don’t think we’re sold on it just yet…

We’ve had some other suggestions: Lava, Red Ryder, BRV (Big Red Van), Crimson Cruiser, Rosmobile… among others. We’ll see what fits once we get to drive him around a bit.

(Yes, “him”. Our vehicles are boys…)

Well, that’s the news from here. We’ve officially graduated. We are now “officially” a Big Family. And if you see a giant red van cruising around your town sometime soon, it might just be us Campbells!

Project: Backyard Ice Rink (Part 4)

A few people have been asking, “So how’s that ice rink of yours doing?”

In that most of them live in the same region that we do, and have experienced this unusually warm winter along with us, I usually give them a wry smile and then gauge whether they are truly up for the full story, or not.

I usually gather that they are not able or interested in the full story, or, truthfully, usually I don’t have the time or energy at that moment to utter much more than, “Yeah… sure has been a crazy winter, eh?”

But here, I will close out the Winter of 2012 Campbell Family Backyard Ice Rink story.

As you know if you read parts 1, 2, and 3 of this story, we’ve had our share of difficulties besides the lack of freezing temperatures. (Since the two days of bitter cold days early this month when we filled the rink with water, there have been only 7 days where the high temperature was at or below freezing. And, there were highs in the 50s! In Rochester, NY!)

So clearly, that has been a problem.

But as was mentioned previously, the grade of our land being greater than we anticipated, along with the plastic not being large enough for the rink we made… and then, our attempts to bond two pieces of very un-equal plastic sheets together being thwarted by two ridiculous windstorms ripping apart the seam we had so tenuously bonded.

Ugh. It’s been one thing after another. Simply astonishing. Stymied at every turn, which does tend to get you down a bit… and nearly give up trying.

BUT. And that was a big BUT.

Our kids still love it.

They have been out on the half-rink of ice as many times as they could. Whether using skates or just boots, they play a few periods of hockey, work on their tight turns, or just have the winter fun we were hoping to have in our back yard!

We are really ready for next year!

Really! We’ve learned so much, we know exactly what to do to make the best ice rink (that we can afford!) in Wayne county! We’re excited to try it out. I think we might have the rink ready to go by Thanksgiving weekend next winter!

We have everything we need for our raised gardens in the spring!

We attempted to plant a garden with many great veggies in our back yard a few years back. Much to our chagrin, most of the plants did not do well at all. (I think we harvested seven tomatoes!) By a stroke of curious luck, I happened to see an article in a newspaper from my hometown of Springfield, OH that described all of the trouble we had been having, and attributed it directly to walnut trees. Bingo! We have (too) many walnut trees on our property and several adjacent ones!

So, in a subsequent summer we did cultivate a few self-contained tomato plants on our deck, which was fine, but we wanted to do more. Our best idea was to build raised gardens, but we needed to buy wood, and plastic to hold the dirt and compost and such (and keep it away from the walnut tree roots).

WELL, enter our “ice” rink! We were wondering where we’d store it all summer… and now we know!

When life deals you lemons …

So it’s not been the joy we thought it would be, but we really have no complaints. We’re glad we did it, and it’s fun to see the silver linings listed above. There are several.

There always are.

Tim Tebow: The Power of Belief

Tim Tebow is really not that good. At quarterback. Have you noticed?

Before his 80-yard TD pass on the first play of overtime in his first NFL playoff game, Tebow was a “magical” 9 for 20 for 236 yards and 1 TD. (That yardage total is actually pretty impressive on only 9 completions!) The best part about his 300-yard, two-touchdown game was that there were no turnovers. When he played against my Buffalo Bills he was nearly the sole reason that Denver was blown out by the Bills second and third string replacement players. (Yes, it was that kind of a season for Bills fans… but we did celebrate a win that game!)

To be fair, I only watched maybe 10 game-minutes of the game, but what I saw was Denver’s defense making it almost impossible for a hobbled Ben Roethlisberger to do anything on nearly every down, and I saw Tim Tebow throwing the ball off-target, or even in the dirt more times than not.

So what gives with this Tebowmania?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I really do think he’s a great kid. And if you listen to anything he says in interviews, it’s top-notch. He’s not some crazy cliche-spouting Christian who just likes to say, “Thank you, Jesus!” and “Praise the Lord!” any chance he gets. Yes, he might say stuff about Jesus a bit too much for the liking of some, but he’s really not obnoxious about it.

AND, the best part is, he never gives Jesus the “credit” for the win. Nor does he imply that God wanted him and his team to win more than the other. I believe he’s said the opposite. (That God doesn’t really care who wins the game.)

He’s a super team player, always crediting his teammates, and you can tell he just loves playing football.

But why the Tebowmania?

The one thing that Tim Tebow brings to his NFL team is… no, it’s not just “winning”. If we’re crediting just him—one player—with wins and losses, he did lose some games this year. (Again, to be fair, he was actually 7-2 this season, after taking over full time for whoever Denver had starting ahead of him at the beginning of the season. So he did win many more times than he lost. Except against the Bills.)

What he brings is his attitude. Not only a never-say-die, competitive attitude. It’s a positive attitude. And the part that matters is, it doesn’t just affect him and his play. His teammates believe in him, and somehow, his positive attitude—his belief in himself—is so infectious that they believe more in themselves.

The Denver Broncos players believe that they have a better chance to win games because Tim Tebow is their QB. Not necessarily because he’s going to Drew Brees someone with a 500-yard, 6 TD game. (They probably know that is not going to happen.) And not just because they know his will to win never quits. No matter the score, they’re never out of it. (Except in that game in Buffalo! Ha!) 🙂

Tim Tebow is a positive person. He gets his strength from his belief and trust that Jesus is who he said he is, and that that is the most important thing in life. So from his core, he exudes a confidence and a positive, others-oriented attitude. That is something that his teammates pick up on, and start to think inside themselves.

When 53 guys are thinking that way on game day … a win is a very likely outcome.

So it’s really not what Tebow does on the field. (Though you can’t deny that he usually doesn’t hurt their chances… except against Buffalo! Sorry… that was the last time.) 😉

It very much is who he is off the field. Good for you, Mr. Tebow. My boys definitely look up to him (as aspiring football players themselves) and I’d say he’s certainly worth looking up to.

Even if he is a pretty awful NFL quarterback. 🙂

Tradition, Tradition!

Traditional New Year's Day meal, pork, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, corn bread

As far back as I can remember, my family has always celebrated New Year’s Day with a big meal featuring pork, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and corn bread. My dad enjoys throwing in some baked clams, but I’ve chosen to leave those out of our version of the family tradition… 🙂

This year was no different. Even though we’d been packing a bunch in between Christmas and Ian’s 13th birthday celebrations, and despite the fact that I had been feeling pretty sick the night before, I still managed to get the pork loin in the oven to slow roast overnight and we had a delicious meal for a late lunch the next day.

It’s said that having this meal on New Year’s Day leads to a prosperous year, but I’m really just glad for the fun of making it and the tastiness of eating it! Plus it’s a favorite of just about everyone in our family (and friends we’ve gotten to share the meal with, too!)

A slightly more odd tradition that we keep in the Campbell household is celebrating Three Kings Day, which we’ll be doing tomorrow morning! This is because of the few years of my childhood that were spent in Caracas, Venezuela. Three Kings Day is celebrated in many hispanic countries, including Venezuela! Our version may be a bit modified, but it suits us, and is mostly in the same spirit, I’d say.

Every January 5th, we leave our shoes out by the front door, ready to be filled by the three wise men. They leave us gifts, just like they did for Jesus. We can leave straw for their camels to eat, but usually don’t do that. 🙂 In the morning, we come down to find a small gift and usually some candy left in everyone’s shoes. Fun!

And, every once in a while, we’ll bake an oven-safe trinket into a cake and then whoever gets the piece of cake with that item in it gets to be KING for the day! We’ve modified this a bit, too, in that we know the King of kings, we try to be a king in the way he was: serving, not being served. (And yes, the kids still want to do it!)

Speaking of knowing the King of kings…

After reading many of her favorite mom/big-family blogs this Christmas season, Jen thought it might finally be the year to “do Christmas differently”. We’ve had a pretty typical Christmas tradition of lots of gifts, and the big family Christmas at Grandma & Grandpa’s, and so on. This year she thought we could focus more on the reason we’re celebrating: it’s Jesus’ birthday! (At least, the day that is celebrated.)

We’ve tossed some of these ideas around for the past several years, but we decided to really do it this year. First, we each drew a name of someone else in the family, and got just one meaningful gift for that person. (So, still gifts, but much less about gifts for us.) We spent as much or more money giving gifts to Jesus. How, you ask? Matthew 25 says, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you are doing for me” (my paraphrase), so we did that! We bought (via World Vision this time) 13 small farm animals for people who could use them for daily sustenance. It was really cool to see the kids excited to do it! And it was so nice to have the focus much less on the gifts (and the getting) and much more on Jesus, and the incredible Gift of his becoming a man that “…all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

We also made a birthday cake, of course, and had a great time celebrating Jesus’ birthday! (We’re pretty good at celebrating birthdays around here!) Hoping that this becomes our family tradition as the years go on. And I’m sure there will be some great modifications along the way.

Born 4 BC? 2015 in 2011!

Note: we based the “age” upon a birth year of 4 BC… thus the 2015. (Though, if you count the year 0, wouldn’t he be 2016?) 🙂

Do you have family traditions from your childhood that you have continued with your family? Any new ones you’ve begun with your own family? Comment below!

Project: Backyard Ice Rink (Part 2)

(continued from yesterday’s post)

We had heard that some people do just fine by stitching two sheets together with waterproof tape. I did a bit more research online and found waterproofing repair tape was indeed a real product, and might actually work.

And it might have, had the weather cooperated. And, had the second piece of plastic been at least close to the quality of the first.

Once we had pieced our liner together, we placed the seam and the poorer-quality plastic at the top of the grade, where the least water would be on it. (Unfortunately for us, this meant that it would also take way too long to get ANY water on it, to hold it down.)

Before the water, though, we had to paint!

The boys had the fun idea of painting all the hockey lines on their rink. They even had a name (and logo) for their rink! This was probably the most fun part of the entire project! Sadly, the day we were installing the liner and painting, was a very rainy, wet day. So, not much of their art was left the next morning when we began the “Big Fill”.

And I do mean B-I-G.

Forty-five minutes into the “Big Fill”, I went to check on the progress, and it looked like a heavy rain had collected on our liner. Just a small puddle in the deepest end. Wow! Guess I’ll give it a lot more time!

Four hours later… only about a third of the rink had water in it! Deepest part was at most four inches deep. Holy smokes!

Twenty-four hours later of almost constant water flow (we had to stop it a few times because it was reducing water pressure to other things in our house like dish washer, washing machine and toilet!) it was about 10″ deep at the deepest spot, and about three quarters of the rink was covered. Nice! But really? Still not done???

I must back up one more time and explain what I think is the biggest reason.

The day we were doing the Big Fill, was also a very windy day. VERY windy. Like sustained 30 mph winds.

You’ve gotta be kidding me!

The plastic had already been blown off a few times, so I secured it to the frame with staples. All seemed good except wind can get into very tiny places. (And thin, flimsy plastic—like the Plan B plastic we used—likes to blow around!)

Unfortunately, the slow-rising water, and the high-velocity winds (and the poor-quality plastic) were a major setback for our rink. The wind kept whipping the plastic around, so much so that it tore apart the seem we had created with the waterproof tape. (Guess it’s not windproof.) Now there are very obvious holes in a couple spots in the seem, and being slightly submerged, we can no longer apply the tape (it needs a dry surface).

Our last attempt to make this work is to let the very cold air tonight and tomorrow freeze what’s in there (including some over part of the seem) and perhaps let the ice be enough of a seal as we add more water, little by little? The problem with this plan is that the ice will very likely melt in the next week or so (at least a little) … so, will our crazy ice-seam be enough to hold?

No idea. But we are going to be experts on this by next year! 🙂

  1. Get accurate measurements: angles, board lengths, full rink dimensions
  2. Get one, high-quality sheet of plastic liner!!! (Even MORE than you think you’ll need!)
  3. Only apply paint on dry, warmer days…
  4. Allow about THREE DAYS to fill the rink!!! Preferably NOT windy days!

I’m thinking the lessons are not done just yet … but that’s what we’ve learned so far. I’m pretty sure we’ll get to skate on this rink, even if it hasn’t worked out entirely as planned. And without a doubt, it has been a super fun family project the whole time. Unexpected turns of events and all!

Project: Backyard Ice Rink (Part 1)

We’ve got a project underway here at the Campbell home. We’re trying to freeze a large portion of our back yard. (Well, more accurately, a large quantity of water, covering our back yard…)

One thing is for sure: we’ve learned quite a bit of what not to do along the way!

It all started with a slight modification of the original plans.

When we first thought we’d attempt to make an ice rink in our back yard, we thought we’d follow my brother-in-law’s simple rectangular model. But then, being one to investigate online, I found a post with (very loose) instructions for setting up more of an oval rink, so pucks won’t get trapped as easily in the corners. It looked straightforward enough. All you do is add another board, cut in two, on the corners. Easy!

First mistake. 🙂

We determined the amount of wood needed. Even divided it up in the 2 x 8, 2 x 10, and 2 x 12s, according to where they would be placed in relation to the grade of the land. (Which, is probably a tad too steep for an ice rink!) We had it all nicely planned out, and even laid out.

And that’s when I discovered I hadn’t really though far enough ahead…

See, not only did we not account for the different angles needed (two boards cut to make a “corner” of an oval are not cut at 45º angles… it’s true! They’re not!) we—or rather, I?—did not remember that the length of the boards was also an important factor!

So that meant breaking out old algebraic formulas (and some very handy angle calculators on the internets…) to figure out that we needed cuts of 22.5º to but up against the long flat boards, and cuts of 11.25º in the middle of the two cut boards. Nice! The fun part there was trying to set the saw to an angle of 11.25º!

Once we had cut all the boards, we had to fit them all together. Sadly, we did not measure the length of the angled boards very meticulously. What we did was just push the boards out as far as the angled boards “forced” us to go. (This will come into play just a bit later in the story. Stay tuned.) Once we had made our oval based upon that, we discovered that we had about an 8-to-10″ gap left! HA! NOT what we were expecting, but we knew we could fix it later.

Now all we needed was to get the plastic liner.

A few calls to various local hardware stores (and a trip to big-box Lowe’s) revealed that this was not actually an easy part of the process. Not many places have a plastic sheet big enough to fill a rink area of approximately 24′ x 32′. My brother-in-law had gotten a piece big enough for his rink last year at a local store in Buffalo, so I figured I’d give them a call. Bingo! They had it, I purchased it right there on the phone, planning to either make the trip all the way over there, or meet brother-in-law in the middle somewhere.

The biggest issue we were facing at this point, early December, was that the weather was NOT cooperating! No sign of freezing temperatures anywhere in the near future!

This meant that we didn’t make getting that plastic liner a priority. And that would turn into several snafus later down the line.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s the next spot things went south. (Why is the south equal to “bad”?)

Being the generous sort (and quick with numbers), my brother-in-law had a proposal. Once he used what he needed for his rink, the remaining liner would be enough (according to our stated dimensions) for our smaller rink! This is quite generous because the plastic we bought ran just slightly over $100, and that was the cheapest option out there!

I hesitated slightly—no, more than slightly—because I wondered if the dimensions of his rink were wrong, or the plastic might be cut wrong, or we might have the wrong dimensions… so many things could possibly go wrong here, and we’d be out of luck as the place we got our liner would be out of stock by the time we figured it out. But, after much thought, I decided to go with the generous offer, since it sure seemed that we’d have more than enough.

ALWAYS trust your gut. Always.

Once we got the plastic upon a post-Christmas visit with family in Buffalo, we were eager to get it installed in our rink. We had to wait a day, due to inclement weather. (That was slightly encouraging though, as we knew the cold was on its way!)

Two days post acquisition of the liner remnants, the boys and I headed out to Lowe’s to get another board and the remaining stakes needed for the frame. (Unfortunately, it took us three trips to correctly acquire all we needed!)

We cut the board, placed it, and hammered in the remaining stakes. Now it was time to lay out the plastic liner! Whoohoo!

But, huh… is that really going to fit???

Though that small piece of plastic, well-rolled, did surprise us with its coverage area, we were definitely short. By probably about three feet on either side, length-wise.

“I knew it!!” were the only words I could say. I knew this would happen… I should have trusted my gut!

Now, before you go blaming my brother-in-law, read on.

Since it was clearly short, I wanted to know if he had been shorted on what he purchased, or, well, just what in the world went wrong. We broke out the measuring tape and walked it off. “Huh. Look at that…” 40.5 feet long? Weird. Measured the width. 28.5″ wide. Strange!

We had forgotten to measure again, once we resized the frame according to the angled/cut boards (as I mentioned earlier).

Now what?!?!

Sadly, it was unlikely that the 30′ x 100′ plastic we had purchased previously and returned were still available, so we went with Plan B: tape!

(Yes… tape.)

… to be continued tomorrow!


Life is full of unpredictability. We can often live under the illusion that we know what’s coming, that we are in control, but really… life throws you a curveball more often than not.

And that includes the NFL. 😉

As you may know, if you’ve frequented this blog, the Campbell family enjoy a weekly seasonal tradition of tracking whom we think will win each of the NFL games every fall. It’s a fun thing to do together that we all enjoy, but the best part for me is watching the youngest choose the team they think will win. They are usually pretty sure they know, with a good measure of certainty!

And so am I… but this week, not so much!!

All year I’ve been doing pretty well. I had begun to think, “Hmm… I have this thing all figured out!” Going into this weekend, through nine weeks, 130 games, I had gotten ninety of them correct. 90-40. That was several (or many) games better than many so-called “experts”. Nice!

But then what happened? Who knew Seattle could actually beat Baltimore? And, who in the world could have predicted the John Skelton-led, 2-6 Arizona Cardinals could fly all the way across the country to Philadelphia and beat a much more talented Eagles team???

Not me.

So, I have fallen from my perch atop our family league’s standings (at least, I think I was previously atop it…) and I’ve also slipped into second place in another league of NFL pick making.

What is this world coming to??? 🙂

For now, I think it’s a good reminder that you never really know what’s coming. No, life is not one big NFL game. (Or even a collegiate level or otherwise lesser game.) However, it does seem to throw just as many curve balls as some crazy NFL weeks, like this one!

Speaking of unpredictable and the world of NFL football… how about those Buffalo Bills?!

Good thing we at least know there is Onewe can always count on in this crazy unpredictable world. 🙂

So Cliché

It’s football season, and this year’s campaign is no different than any other. Each team is going to be taking it one game at a time, giving 110%, and leaving it all on the field, hoping to come away with a victory.

When the game begins, when the chips are down, if you’ve put in your time in the film room, studied your opponents tendencies so you know what they’re going to throw at you, and you’ve got your game face on, even though the outcome is always up in the air, chances are you’ll have the upper hand. Plus, if you’re playing in your own back yard, you’ll have the aid of the 12th man!

Once the game is underway, you’ll have to keep your head in the game. Stick to your gameplan. Your best defense is a good offense. Let your backs pound the rock, or your QB air it out, and get a jump on your opponent by getting on the board early. Then get ready for the ensuing kickoff.

On the other side of the ball, you’ll need to just pin your ears back, step up, and play a full sixty minutes. Make sure you cash in on your takeaways, and whenever possible flip the field on special teams. You have to win in all three phases of the game.

At the end of the day, when the final whistle blows, the better team always wins the game.

And that’s why we love this game.

Note: I didn’t “scratch the surface” of the breadth of terms employed by football players, coaches, and especially media personnel “week in and week out” in the world of NFL football. So, if you have some to add, “throw your hat in the ring” in the comments below. (What does that really mean, anyway?)