Dear Craig

Today is your birthday.  Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching.  I realize this may not be the ideal time to have this discussion, but we have to admit that there is a problem.  We must address it eventually, so here goes. 

For the past ten years, this thing we are dealing with has been quietly tumbling around in the background of our busy lives.  What was once a heated rotation now leaves us cold and damp.  We both know there are others out there that can take care of our needs.  Newer, younger models that don’t struggle to get the job done.

Twice we have tried to repair this broken thing.  You did your part, I did mine.  The kids have been blissfully unaware of the repercussions this wrinkle could have in our routine cycles, the hours that could be taken out of our days if something isn’t done.  Soon.   Our friends and family have been willing to help us.  They have been so kind to offer their own services to get us through this dry spell, but I’m just not sure I’m up for a third party or a third try.

You had to know this day would come.  It happens to the best of families.  Sometimes, the loads are just too much to endure and it is time to move on.  So, my dear husband, I offer up to you that it is time for us to invest in letting go and begin the search for a new dryer.  Hand in hand, I’ll be right by your side, like the mismatched washing machine that will no doubt also need to be replaced.  Soon.

Happy birthday.  I look forward to many more years of replacing many more appliances together.      

I love you. 

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Demon Spit

My blurb is a lighter look at the storm that just hit the South. Please be mindful of those stranded and more affected than The Green People in Knoxville.

Precious Angel, as I’ve noted before, is called so for a reason.  After a hyperdrive kind of day that could only be induced by a school-closing snow, I posted a blurb on Facebook this morning.  

“PA: Is there more snow? Can I go out? Can I call my friends?
Me: It’s 7:15. There’s no school. We’re sleeping in.
PA: Well, I’ll just tell you about my dreams, OK? There was a kid…I had a pogo stick…The guy robbed the store…We took our dogs…My room was clean… Hey, I can cover your whole face with your hair! See? Well, I guess you can’t see. Your eyes are covered. What’s that smell? Is that your hair or your breath. I’ll get you a brush, ‘cuz I might’ve kind’ve tangled your hair a little bit. Do you think cartoons are on yet? What does this do? (thump) It’s OK, it’s not broken. Can I call my friends now?

So, we’re up. Early. On a snow day. Watching cartoons. Enjoy your “day off,” Knoxville.”  

Some of the comments were, “Your narratives make me laugh. Mostly bc it sounds like my house.”  Then, “HA HA HA I have that times 3 this morning.” And, “Sorry to laugh at you, just saying I’m glad my girl is gone and grown and dealing with her own child this morning!” Ahh, misery loves company. You get me, right? You’ve been there, right?

Before anyone says anything about the South’s inability to deal with a little snow, let me say that we’re way ahead of you. We know Northerners will send their kids to school in three-foot drifts. We know we don’t drive in it well. We know we don’t handle it well. Many Southerners are here precisely because we don’t like the snow. Or the cold. I was in New York City during the 2005 Blizzard of the Century and felt needles shoot into my face as my husband and I stepped onto the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Y’all can have the bitter winds and biting chill. I plan for all of my future Big Apple trips to be during summer months. Speaking of summer, please, come join us in August for a solid week of 90+ degrees and 100% humidity.

I just got the call that schools will be closed again tomorrow. PA is already planning a sleepover. An extra kid on a snow day? Yay, me! Is anybody else ready to dig through 2.5 inches of demon spit and clear a path for the buses? I’d love to hear how you survive sinister conditions with kids in your area. In the meantime, enjoy a few icy images.

M&Ms make great eyeballs and teeth – if you like psychotic snowmen.

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Precious (Snow) AngelImage

A boy and his sled.

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And here we go again.  And again.  And again.

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I Had A Facebook Friend

 

As a graduate of the University of Tennessee settled in Knoxville, I have long said that I cheer for the Vols and anybody playing against Alabama.  It’s nice to reminisce about previous seasons with fellow fans, especially about our undefeated team in 1998 and our national championship that year.  Ahh, good times.  Good times.  We know what it’s like to win.  We also know what it’s like to lose.  The last few years have been rough for my alma mater.  We’ve lost quite a few games and we’re well aware that we have a lot of room for improvement.  You win some, you lose some.  Life goes on, right?  Well, yeah.  Mostly.

 

Thanksgiving weekend is full of traditions for many people.  For some, there’s a family feast.  For others, there’s midnight shopping madness.  For football fans, there’s Alabama vs. Auburn.  As much as Vols love to see the Crimson Tide ebb and wane, the rivalry between the Yellow Hammers and the War Eagles is far greater.  Everybody around here knows the annual Iron Bowl is a big deal.  Even my mathlete son, who has to pause to recall whether football is the sport with a touchdown or a home run, got excited over this year’s game.

 

The SEC Championship Game was on the line for both teams.  For Alabama, the next stop would be playing for a third consecutive national title.  Auburn was ready to take down a giant and rise in the rankings.  It was a big deal either way.  The whole country tuned in to watch the spectacle.  Our house, along with many others, celebrated a Thanksgiving miracle as Auburn returned an attempted field goal kick 109 yards for a winning touchdown in the final second of the game.  The shocked looks on the Alabama fans’ faces were precious.  The disgusted look on Coach Nick Saban’s face was priceless. Take that, Rammer Jammers!

 

Around my house, that was the worst of it.  I wish I could say that’s as ugly as it got.  Around the internet universe, there were immediate slams and slurs and death threats.  From Alabama fans.  Against their own team.  Against 20-year-old kids.  I’m not saying ALL Bama fans were hostile, plenty of fans stood by their team, but I saw one claim that UA football was more important to him than his wife and family and he was very disappointed.  Another claimed that he would burn his Bama gear.  I had a Facebook friend that basically said anyone who didn’t believe that Auburn cheated/the refs were blind/Cade Foster was paid off/etc was an idiot.  There was no civil discourse.  There was no reasoning.  Really?  It was just a football game, right?  I said I HAD a Facebook friend.  The rant got so bitter and vile that I clicked the unfriend button.  Whew! It felt really good to not see the venom in my feed anymore. Thank you to my Bama friends who maintained sportsmanlike conduct – even if it was only because you were stunned into silence.

 

Social media can be a pain.  It can also be a blessing.  If you’re into arguing, finger-pointing and name-calling, there are forums for you.  Find them.  If you’re into hanging out, having a laugh and winning stuff, I invite you to join my page.  Gentle jesting and good-natured ribbing are allowed, but I promise, if anyone says mean or hurtful things, they’ll be benched or ejected.  Come on over!  Even if you’re an Alabama fan.  https://www.facebook.com/imawordnerd

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Sit on a bench?  I’d love to!  Hope y’all like this idea as much as I do.  I’m working on hopefully getting one installed at our local elementary school.  :o)  http://www.today.com/video/today/53733368#53733368

 

Second Tomorrow

This morning, as I was talking to my kids about what’s coming up this week, I posed the question, “Do you know what Thursday is?” “Second tomorrow!” came the reply. “Do you know what we’re doing on second tomorrow?” I asked. He said, “Yeah, we’re eating three Thanksgiving dinners.”

I’ve become accustomed to responses that raise eyebrows on innocent bystanders. My boys have always had a different way of looking at things. Around here, summer sausage is known as horseshoe meat. Pop-Tarts get popped, not toasted. You get the point. If you have children, grandchildren, friends with children, or live on a planet with children, you have no doubt had a few chances to interpret some of your own phrases in your conversations with the little darlings. Books and shows have been dedicated to the creative outbursts of those precious minds. Does anybody remember “Kids Say the Darnedest Things” with Bill Cosby and Art Linkletter?

My son’s response this morning was cause for pause. I paused to consider how thankful I was for the individuality and creativity both of my children possess. I am so thankful that our life is never routine or boring. There’s an awful lot of hustle and bustle this time of year. One could easily be distracted by all there is to do. In a few days, my family will pile into the car and travel for hours to three separate dinners. Each year, we are blessed with the burden of sharing a small portion of a delicious meal with semi-sane grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins and the like and then scrambling so that we can share another small portion of another delicious meal at another house, and then another. By the time we finish the third meal, we will be quite stuffed and ready to roll back home. What a wonderful problem to have, huh? It may be a challenge to squeeze in all the hugs and stories and catching up in a single day, but somehow we manage to pull it off. We’ve scaled it down from four dinners to only three in the last few years. Many people think it’s crazy. It is, but we look forward to our condensed quality time with our loved ones, and I hope you do, too.

If you’re reading this, I’m thankful for your support in my latest endeavor. Word Nerd has been a blast so far. Whether you are traveling or staying home, whether you are sticking with tradition or doing your own thing (my contribution to our feast is corn dogs, by the way), whether you kick back and relax or dive into some shopping madness, I hope your “second tomorrow” is a very special one.

That Was Fast!

My car was due for some parts to be replaced.  At 100,000 miles, it was arguably time for a checkup.  At 125,000 miles, there were issues I really shouldn’t ignore any longer.  At 150,000 miles, I broke down and took the old girl to the shop.  No, I didn’t break down on the side of the road.  My stubborn will yielded to the fact that everything on my to-do list would go undone if my car did indeed break down and I couldn’t go anywhere to do anything.

The mechanic said it should take about an hour-and-a-half.  Yeah, right.  You’ve been in those waiting rooms, haven’t you?  With stacks of magazines well-worn from other weary drivers biding their time during an oil change/tire rotation/engine overhaul.  Rather than rearrange someone else’s schedule and have them chauffeur me around, I packed a survival kit and prepared to camp out in the customer lounge.  Water, jacket, briefcase, binder full of articles to edit, books to read, notebook for, well, taking notes and scratching out ideas, phone, laptop, and a pocket full of dollar bills for the vending machine.  If a girl’s gonna’ be there all day, she’s gotta’ eat, right?  Lunch choices included Fritos and honey buns. 

I handed the attendant my keys at 10am, my scheduled appointment time, then settled into a chair in a corner not facing the TV.  I couldn’t find a remote to turn off Kathie Lee and Hoda, but that didn’t mean I had to look at them.  My phone, water bottle, and papers were spread across the tiny end table (sorry, magazines, you’ll have to curl your pages somewhere else for a while).  Just as I began to scribble some notes, my phone lit up.  Being the courteous person that I am, I stepped outside to take the call.  10:20 am.  Great.  There was my car in the parking lot.  They hadn’t taken her back yet.  She hadn’t moved at all.  An hour-and-a-half was about to become two hours.  I tried to remember how many honey buns might have been in that vending machine.

By the time I returned to my corner “office,” several other patrons had gathered in the waiting room.  I got the feeling if I had stayed outside any longer, I would have lost my prime staked-out position facing away from the television.  My binder and notebook were balanced on my lap once again as the room filled to near capacity.  The attendant poked his head in the door to let a lady next to me know that her car was almost ready.  She smiled.  How long had she been there?  Long enough to be delirious?  This was my first time waiting at this shop, though.  Maybe she knew something I didn’t.  10:35 am.  My car was just taken back.  Hmm.  Two-and-a-half hours now?  She had to be delirious.  I wondered if any pizza places delivered to the shop.

Kathie Lee and Hoda were given rubber mallets and asked to smash the foods with higher calorie counts.  Kathie Lee wanted to smash the grapes and make herself a glass of wine.  I wanted ear plugs.  Where was that remote?  Would the crunch of a thousand Fritos drown out the sound of their voices?  10:55 am.  I fumbled for my first dollar bill as the attendant poked his head back through the door.  “Mrs. Green?”  Now what?  “Right here.”  “Your car is ready.”  I stared in disbelief and made an attempt to gather my books and bags and water without doing the See-Ya’-Suckas! dance.

I was getting out in less than an hour!  My car was fixed in 20 minutes!  Mrs. Delirious had checked out just ahead of me.  That sneaky little woman! She did know something I didn’t know. She knew they weren’t your average sit-and-wait kind of shop. Why had I put it off for so long?  At the counter, I handed my credit card to the attendant and mused, “That was fast.”  He smiled and said it didn’t really take long when you were used to doing that sort of work and did it every day.  

But isn’t that how it goes?  If it were up to me to replace a CV axle, the waiting room would have needed cots and sleeping bags.  If you ask me to fix a car, or sew a pillowcase, or balance a budget, it’s going to take a while.  You’d better get yourself a honey bun.  If you want me to help out with your reading and writing, I’m on it.  I know words aren’t everybody’s favorite part of the job and writing gets put off and put off.  Go do your thing.  Let me help with the ABCs.  Then get ready to say, “That was fast.”

“I LOVE COD!”

My youngest child has earned many nicknames, but the one that suits him best is Precious Angel, PA for short.  He earned it partly because I had to call him something to remind myself that he was a precious gift from above in order to keep from tanning his precious little hide, and partly because he has done and said some truly precious things in his few years.  This account stems from the latter.

PA’s daddy and I compete over who is the favorite parent.  In order to win his vote, we take turns reminding him of all the things we’ve done for him over the years.  I like to interject that I had nine additional months of caring for him solely and that his daddy never had to sleep on a bathroom floor (literally) or buy a bigger wardrobe (literally) or take a foot-long needle in the spine (almost literally) before we were blessed with his presence.  In one of these battles, PA asked us to wait in the living room while he made a sign for the one who had the most of his love.  We sat, each certain we would be the winner, while he colored and cut in the kitchen.  When it was time to reveal the winner, we both walked in to find this on our refrigerator:

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“I LOVE COD!”

He made that all by himself.  Isn’t that precious?  How sweeeet!  What?  No, he doesn’t love fish more than Mommy and Daddy.  That’s “GOD”, not “COD”.  I know that because I used context clues to help me figure it out (the exclamation cross was a big hint).  And it helps that I know the writer pretty well, too.  We leave his vote on the fridge as a reminder that we must be doing something right with this kid.  Also, it’s a cute story for our visitors.

As adorable as it is, though, not everyone gets it immediately.  We have had to translate for guests.  It makes perfect sense after we explain it.  We all laugh and say something along the lines of, “Awe, isn’t that the sweetest thing?”  PA was just out of pre-school when he crafted this, so his exchange of letters is excused.  But that’s just it, he was just out of pre-school.  What if he did that now at the ripe old age of 8?  We probably wouldn’t have it so prominently displayed.  I more than likely would offer to help him redo his work.

What if he did that at 25?  Or 40?  It gets less and less cute as you consider more years.  The time for making excuses expires quickly.  Third grade is pretty demanding.  We’re working on writing complete sentences - complete with proper grammar and punctuation and spelling.  It’s tough.  Sometimes he’d rather just watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or build a Lego castle.  I get it.  Writing isn’t a priority for everyone, but clear communication is essential for big kids and grown-ups.  If you’d rather spend your time riding a bike or helping Mario get to the next level or managing your sales team or any number of things other than writing, send the work my way.  I’m here to help.

“Twerking” Has Been Approved

Two weeks prior to the launch of Word Nerd, “selfie” and “twerk” were not recognized as actual English words.  Sure, they were being used, but they weren’t listed in any dictionary.  One week prior to the launch of Word Nerd, those two words, along with forty others, were moved from literary watch lists and added to the Oxford English Dictionary as standard, acceptable words.  Note: I said the word was acceptable, I did not say the act of twerking was acceptable.  Evolution of language is inevitable.  New inventions and discoveries demand new words.  Generations put their own spin on terms by abbreviating or blending them.  Whether we accept the changes or not, they will come.

Changes in grammar and spelling are inevitable as well.  Typically, an official change occurs when a rule is so misused that it becomes the norm.  Does anyone still spell center as centre?  Or neighbor as neighbour?  Which side of the Oxford comma debate are you on?  And where do you stand on ending sentences with a preposition?  The hard and fast rules we learned in school aren’t so cut and dry anymore.  How many rules have I broken in this passage alone?  Have I really broken any rules?

The purpose of language is to communicate.  The purpose of standardized spelling and grammar is to communicate efficiently.  There are studies and articles to back up most opinions, but what it really comes down to is this: Are you getting your point across to your reader?  Does your writing say what you mean for it to say or does your reader have to do some head-scratching and re-reading to figure it out?  The more convoluted your message is, the more likely you are to lose the respect and attention of your audience (also known as your potential customer or employer).

Don’t lose your audience.  Take the time to proofread your message.  Read it out loud.  Have a friend look over it for you.  Don’t have one of those friends?  I’ll be your friend.  Send your words my way and let’s figure it out together.  I’m here to help.  Really.  I mean it.

At your service, ~Word Nerd Jill