Like, Stop Saying “Like” All the Time!

I graduated college with a B.S. in English Education, which meant that I spent most of my senior year student teaching. It was a rude awakening to find that the students at best tolerated you, and at worst, made your life hell. Looking back, I blame myself. As much as I loved and do love words, books, correct grammar and spelling, and writing papers–all this does not a teacher make.

I quickly learned/remembered that high school kids have a language all their own, which includes the words and phrases of the moment. When I was student teaching in the early ’70s, the word for anything weird, strange or out of the common consciousness was “mental.” “Mental” was used both as a noun and a verb, and it quite literally Drove. Me. Nuts. I was young and naive enough to believe that teaching the students the proper use of this sadly over-used word would cure them of misusing it, but no–it didn’t. In fact, I made the fatal mistake of letting them know just how much hearing the word irritated me. So “mental” is what I heard all day long.

Suffice to say, I never did become a school teacher. I realized that A) I really didn’t like teaching people who didn’t care if they dangled participles or sprinkled their papers willy-nilly with commas, B) I had the gut feeling that I didn’t know what I was doing, C) I really didn’t like being in a school again, but mostly D) I hated, loathed and despised hearing “mental” every two seconds of every hour of every day.

Yep, that’s really all it took to drive me around the bend–I have no tolerance for incorrect usage. I became a technical writer mostly because I love writing, editing, formatting and organizing information, but mainly because I have control over words and their usage in this arena. Were I to teach English today, the first rule of my class would be that anyone using the word “like” other than when absolutely necessary (and correctly), would be given an F for the year.

And the “like” thing isn’t just relegated to teenagers. I hear people of all ages using it as well. Using “like” is a space filler; it’s another type of “um,” “er, ” “ah” to make time to think of what you want to say. Something either is or it isn’t. If someone says, “Can I, like, go to the store?” the answer should be “Are you really going to the store, or are you just pretending to go to the store?” Again, a thing IS or IS NOT. Overuse of “like” is just as lazy as constantly sprinkling your speech with “um,” “er,” “ah, “y’know,” and so on. Plus people like me will start making a mark on a piece of paper for each repetition of the word so that they can tell you just how many times you said it.

When in doubt about using the now-ubiquitous “like,” think of this: if you can replace “like” with “as if,” then by all means, use it. Example: “He’s all, like, manly about not wearing a coat in cold weather.” Translated example: “It’s as if he thinks he is too manly to wear a coat when it’s cold.”

Ok, that said, I need to point out right here that I am far from perfect in my own speech. I’ve mentioned before that I suffer from “word salad,” meaning that I know what I want to say, but actually say something else.  But I, like, do try to, like, not say LIKE all the time.




The Power of Amazement

Have you been amazed lately? If not, why not? There is amazement all around us. Just for today, take a good look around. No, really–a GOOD look. Look up at the sky–that sweet, promising fragile blue shot through with wisps of white clouds. It’s prettier than a Wedgewood vase.  Take a look at the trees–they know it’s spring, and they are already working on their tender green leaves. It will look like fuzz on a newborn’s head, but it’s there. On those brown patches of ground where the snow has receded, blue jays and robins are busy scratching away, searching for treasure.

If you live near the water, there will be a constant symphony of the remaining ice breaking up–it crackles and creaks and moans; it knows it’s time to go. Ducks and geese fly overhead in honking Vs, and the seagulls bob on the open water. Cardinals begin  their sweet songs just before daylight, and invade our early morning dreams with the promise of warm weather to come. Just the other day on my drive home there was a turkey buzzard soaring over the highway, gently riding the thermals, its immense wings spread wide.

Amazement is not only relegated to nature. It is everywhere–we just have to open our eyes. When you see your child recover from an illness and smile again, that is wonder, joy, gratitude and amazement. When you hear a favorite symphony and you thrill to that beautiful music, that’s amazing.  A loving word given at the exact time you need to hear it is a gift and a blessing. When you visit a parent and see their eyes light up simply because you are you, that is a singular amazement.

You don’t need to go far to be amazed. Sometimes in the dead of this very long and very snowy winter, I craved the sight of flowers and lush greenery. I Googled up “beautiful tropical flowers,” and feasted on their beauty for a wonder-filled hour. The same with breath-taking scenery, wildlife, sunsets, sunrises, the Northern Lights, landscapes around the world–well, there’s just no end to the amazement.

The Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I have skunks that live close to our property, and we put food out for them (and all the other critters who come by) under our porch. Now that warmer weather is on the way, we often see them waddling down the bank in the back yard to come and feed. The fact that they seem to know us and often stand in full view (at a respectful distance) while we put food down for them is both comical and amazing.

Sometimes amazement comes in the simplest forms: a cold drink of water when you’re thirsty, a great book that holds you for ransom until you finish it, a hot meal when you’re hungry, a fleece blanket when your legs are cold, one of the cats cuddling down beside you, a cool breeze smelling of new greenery, the first flower spotted in the thin snow of March–all amazing.

Let’s let ourselves be amazed today. Let’s not be the kind of people who shrug and say, “Whateverrrrr…” dismissively. Imagine for a moment that your senses are all brand new: new eyes, new ears, new nose, new mouth, new skin. How wonderful would be the first sight, sound, smell, taste, touch? Today let’s let wonder and amazement fill us and push out any resentment, sorrow, anger, fear or worry. If we let ourselves to be full of good things, there is no room left for bad things–only amazement.


“You Take the Fun Out of Boredom”

My husband, the Crankee Yankee, is known for many things: he’s the guy to go to if you want anything fixed, he will gladly share his political views (often without being asked), he is a stellar father and grandfather, a wonderful husband, a rescuer and nurturer of all animals, he is honest, kind and reliable, he has the best laugh in the world, and he’s a good-looking devil, too. But one of his best attributes is his sense of humor.

The other day we were talking about the winter doldrums and how much we wished for Spring. We agreed that we both felt a bit stale and needed to get out more and do more rather than just do winter-house-bound stuff. Then we talked about how a sense of humor really helps during times like these that can be rife with boredom and the ‘same-old, same-old.’

So, since it was too late to go anywhere or do much of anything but prepare dinner and watch some lackluster TV, we began complimenting each other. I told him that I appreciated his intelligence and unique viewpoint, and he told me how he liked my sense of humor and my outlook on life. Warming to this train of talk, we moved on to how each of us had positively affected each others lives. We got a little carried away, and the compliments began flying. Just as I thought that my head would explode with my sense of well-being, he said this:

“You take the fun out of boredom.”

HUH?!? I truly believe that he meant it in a good way; that I somehow make the boring times fun, but his delivery was….unexpected. We are no strangers to malaprops in this house, but that one was a doozy.

It got me thinking about other malapropisms I’ve heard over the years, especially my dad’s classic — once, as he drove up to the library, he asked Mom to put the books in the book suppository [depository]. My sister-and-brother-in-law’s neighbor talks about a friend of hers who owns a bull master [mastiff]. She went on to say that the dog had enormous joils [jowls]. My grandmother used to say that, if you’re not careful of your purse, some thief would confisticate [confiscate] it.

I’ve said some beauts myself, but I blame it on my propensity of having temporary “word salad.” That is, I know what I want to say, but can’t seem to say the right word. Hmmm–perhaps I really DO take the fun out of boredom!



How About Some Supermarket Etiquette?

I think that we should establish some rules of etiquette about supermarket behavior. There are definitely some folks out there who don’t seem to understand that they actually have to share space with the rest of us. That isn’t so bad if you are someplace where you can get away from them, but difficult if you are navigating the supermarket aisles.

Here are a few reminders I would love to see posted in huge letters in every aisle:

  • Do not park your cart sideways right in the dang middle of the aisle.
  • Do not stand like a lox in front of the grapes, staring into space–other people would like to buy some grapes, too.
  • The supermarket is a lot like the highway–stay in your own lane, and watch out for other drivers.
  • If you feel you must scratch your privates, please don’t continue touching things. Go home. NOW.
  • When you put your purchases on the conveyor belt, do NOT line them up one at a time in a straight line that goes from where you’re standing to East Omaha (seriously–I was behind a man who did just that–one item at a time in a line that literally went for several feet).
  • If you cause a potato avalanche, pick them up–don’t just walk away as if you didn’t do it–we all saw you.
  • If you see me pick up an eggplant and put it in my cart, don’t say “Ewwww! I hate those!” I didn’t ask your opinion, you’re not going to eat it, and I don’t care.

This isn’t strictly an etiquette issue, but just an observation: if you feel you must walk around the supermarket with earbuds in, talking on your phone seemingly to NO ONE, you look crazy. Just sayin’.



Let Fear Go

Fear is all around us, and the news is full of it–a plane full of people goes missing and their poor families wait in unimaginable agony for news of any kind. An apartment building blows up in NY, killing some people, injuring others and leaving them homeless. A madman runs into a school, shooting everyone he sees.  So many people are out of work and, despite their best efforts, just can’t get a break. Our loved ones get sick or die on us, our computers get hacked, someone steals our identity, and on and on it goes. It seems that fear is right in our face, 24/7.

The biggest fear of all seems to be the big bad “What If?” We hear all this terrible stuff in the news and wonder if our up-until-now pretty great lives are at stake–what if any of this stuff happens to us? Letting that first fear in is just the beginning. Then comes the worrying about ‘should I never fly again? What if my home blows up? What if a shooter comes to my kid’s school? What if I lose my job? What if my husband/wife dies? What if someone steals my identity or my car or my purse? What will I do???’

But look at it this way–if they haven’t happened yet, they may not ever happen. This does not mean that we should skip merrily along life’s winding road and not prepare for possible emergencies. But it doesn’t mean that we have to live our lives in constant fear, either. Don’t even let that fear get a toehold.

The best we can do is to be positive, but not blind. We can prepare the best we can for emergencies in the usual ways:

  • Have a 72-hour emergency kit packed and ready [see “72-hour emergency kit” under Good Tips in General, posted September 5, 2013]
  • Have copies of your important papers stashed somewhere safe
  • Be sure that every family member knows the meeting place and phone number(s) in case everyone gets split up
  • Have a ready stash of cash in case banks and ATMs aren’t functioning
  • Make provisions for pets and their care
  • Have medications ready to grab
  • Keep the vehicles in good shape and gassed up

You can adjust to what suits your situation. When that’s done, there’s one less thing to worry about. We certainly can’t control the things around us, but we can control ourselves. It just isn’t possible to prepare for each and every thing that might happen; that way lies madness.

Here’s the thing: we just can’t afford to live our lives in fear. We can’t afford to waste our time with petty things that don’t matter (i.e., squeezing the toothpaste tube in the middle vs. from the end can be irritating, but it isn’t life-threatening). We can’t worry endlessly, and we can’t let fear rule our lives.

The most we can do is to prepare the best we can, be positive, live our lives, love our families and friends and reach out to those who need our comfort and support. If we can remember to give as we’ve been given to, help as we have been helped, and love as we have been loved, we will move a long, long way from fear.

Loving Woody

Our dear old pal, Woody, a big beautiful orange cat belonging to one of my dearest friends, is now with the angels. He came to my friend at the right time; he needed her and she needed him. She had recently lost her oldest cat, and Woody had a lot of health issues and was shy and depressed, especially after being returned to the shelter twice.

But my friend, who truly is the Cat Whisperer, opened her heart to him, and drew him into the warm circle of her love. After many trips to the vet and endless patience and kindness, she nursed him back to good health. Woody, now groomed, trimmed and feeling much better, became a sweet and funny companion. Although he would always need meds for his digestive condition, he lived long and well.

Anyone who has the care of a beloved pet will tell you that they become so attuned to the pet as to anticipate their every need. My friend kept up a schedule of feeding and meds that kept Woody in good health for years. They had playtime together, too, and he even dropped his dignity long enough to chase balls and catnip mice.

He napped often on my friend’s work table, soaking up the sun. When he wasn’t sleeping, he enjoyed watching the birds, squirrels, chipmunks and even the occasional porcupine that lived near the house. He once gained the nickname of “Batman” when he went out into the garage and neatly caught a bat! Woody was a great old boy, and he will be missed. I had the privilege of knowing him for years, and he was obviously a happy and healthy cat who had the great good fortune to end up with my friend.

We humans live a great deal longer than our pets. A vet once told me that the reason for this is that our pets are smarter and more realistic than we are; they learn what they need to know faster than we do. They look to us for their well-being; for their food and water, care, veterinary visits, playtime and affection. When they are old and sick, they also look to us to help them pass on with comfort and ease. They know when they’ve lived long enough; unlike people, they don’t whine and fret about how long or how short their lives were or how much money and possessions they accrued, and so on. They are ready for peace and rest, and it is our job to see that they get it. My dear friend, so attuned to Woody’s every need, knew when the time was right, and lovingly let him fly with the angels.

When our sweet pets depart from us, they never really leave–they will make their presence known from time to time. Freed from their tired and sick bodies, they are firmly and safely in our hearts forever. I believe that they know when the time is right to nudge their former owners toward the next new friend. It’s no coincidence when this happens, and in fact it is a tribute to the pets we have loved and lost. It proves that our pets were so unforgettable that we cannot bear to live without a pet in our lives. I also believe that, when we find that new pet, we get a prompt from our former pets that this indeed is the right one.

Fly high and wide, Woody–our love goes with you.

Good For You Doesn’t Mean Bad For Someone Else

One of my morning routines is saying positive affirmations. I say each one out loud at least 20 times. They can be anything from “all our cats get along well together” to “thank you for abundance in all good things.” There are others, and they can change from day to day.

I’ve mentioned before that so many things in our lives have “ripple effects.” Drop a stone in the middle of a pond, and immediately ripples will fan out from the site of the drop. Once the ripples reach a stopping point, they return back to the site, stronger than they went out. So, if we take that from simple physics to our daily lives, the actions we take cause a ripple effect. Send bad out and you’ll get bad back. Sent out good, and you’ll get good back.

Say for example that you found the perfect place to live and you love absolutely everything about it. Additionally, you have both the time and the money to move. However, someone else is interested in it and may buy it themselves. In your heart and mind, you have already moved in and are sitting on your deck, feet up on the railing, sipping an iced tea and gazing at all the beautiful trees and flowers. Good! That’s how you start to picture  your affirmation about owning the place.

Don’t be too specific; just say (out loud, at least 20 times per day) “Thank you that I live this beautiful [house, condo, townhouse, etc.] at [address].” That’s it. Don’t say “I hope,” “I think,” or “I wish;” just speak as if you already own it and have moved in.

That said, what about the people who may want to buy it? Is your positive affirmation about moving into the place of your dreams going to bring them bad luck or trouble? No–not at all. These people will end up where they need to be, just as you will. If it makes it easier for you, imagine this: what if the reason you end up in this wonderful home is because the people who were interested in it just won the lottery? In that case, they could move to or build any home they liked.

This is just another way of saying that just because you want something good for yourself doesn’t mean that you wish others anything negative. Be positive and proactive–before you go to sleep at night, see yourself in the place and imagine how happy you are to be there. Think about how you want to decorate, where your furniture would go, and so on. In the meantime, start going through your belongings where you are now and culling out things you want to get rid of, re-purpose, give to someone else or gift to Goodwill. These are positive actions toward a positive outcome.

So, what happens if, after all this positive thinking, affirmations, getting your stuff organized and ready to go; the other people end up with “your” place? This is still positive! This means that the home you wanted isn’t for you, and that all your preparations are actually for an even better place to live. Thoughts, affirmations and intentions are powerful and have real energy. All that you have done to this point, even if you lose out on the place you wanted; are all moving you to the right place.

Again, this is not about being greedy or selfish–it’s about making positive, proactive steps toward getting what you want. You are not hurting anyone by going in your own direction. If you are wondering at this point if I have “made things happen” for myself, yes–I have. Here is just one example (there are many more!):

I had a job in 2012 that paid a lot of money, the commute was less than 20 miles, and I was doing work I loved. (I am and have been a technical writer for over 25 years.) I was there for a few months, and then out of the blue, I was told that the company was cutting back. As I was the last hired, I was first on the chopping block. I was devastated, depressed and doubtful I would ever find such a good job again. So, I started a new affirmation without being too specific about it. It was “thank you for the best job for me.” That’s it.

Two weeks later, I had a new job. The money wasn’t nearly as good, the commute was 73 miles one-way, and the work was challenging. But I LOVED it. Over a year later, I am still working there. The long commute has turned into a pure pleasure; not only for the spectacular scenery, but for all the books on CDs I listen to on the way. I have become so familiar with the product line that it’s a lot easier to write the manuals, and the engineers with whom I work are generous with their time and are very helpful. I’ve made some friends there, and I am able to work from home a few days a week. This all meshes so well for me that it truly is the best job for me–just what I wanted.

Try it yourself. It costs you nothing and you just may get exactly what you want.

The concept for this comes from the “Positive Thinking” course I took with Noreen McDonald. Please check out her website at

His Way, My Way, and the Highway

I suppose that the Crankee Yankee (aka, my husband) and I are no different from any other married couple. For the most part, we get along well, and we like, love and appreciate each other. We have similar beliefs and interests, and we both love our families, our friends and our cats. We laugh at the same stupid jokes, and consider ourselves very lucky people.

However, when it comes down to basic day-to-day living, there are some issues–I call them My Way, His Way and the Highway.

My Way: if something is nearly empty, such as the toilet paper on the roll, I immediately get another package to have ready when the roll does run out. Therefore no one is stuck sitting there with no paperwork, as it were. If we are down to the last few cans of cat food, I stock up immediately (envisioning a sudden and brutal snowstorm that will prevent us from leaving the house, much less going to the grocery store). When the jar of peanut butter is down to the last scrapings, I go down to the pantry and bring up the new jar. You see where I’m going with this, right? I’m thwarting future frustration by present preparation–an excellent habit, if I do say so myself.

His Way: if the Crankee Yankee even notices that the toilet paper roll is nearly empty, he uses it all except the last sheet (so that he can truthfully say, ‘I left you some!’). If the cat food supply is low, he may wait until there is one can left and then go get more. [I have to interject here that I know with all my heart that the Crankee Yankee would empty his own veins first before he let our cats go hungry.] If the peanut butter is down to the last scrapings, he will thoroughly remove the last bit, lick it off the knife and put the empty jar in the trash. After all, there’s another jar downstairs, right? His way is one of absolute faith in abundance.

The Highway: this is where all the useless, senseless and bottomless arguments go. As you can probably guess by now, most of mine go this route. Somewhere between my Nazi-like insistence that things are better done my way, and his constant optimism that things will get done as they need to be done, we somehow manage.

In the meantime, the highway is continually littered with my paranoia and delusions of world-wide rationing of toilet paper and peanut butter….


“Duly Noted!”

Ever have someone come up to you and give you unasked-for (and unwanted) advice about your children, your job, your politics, your food choices, your vehicle and so on? If you’re like me, you have to wonder, ‘what is it about me that makes these people think I need their help?’

It’s one thing if you actually ask for help or someone’s opinion, but when advice is given without so much as a ‘if you don’t mind my saying so,’ ‘did you know that,’ or ‘the Know-It-All Weekly Gazette says that,’ then–no, thanks.

I used to work with a woman who was full of facts and figures about everything, and wasn’t shy about saying so to anyone who would listen. She regularly button-holed people and talked at them until they got that unfocused ‘please kill me now’ look in their eyes.

I really tried to give this gal the benefit of the doubt, and even considered her opinions now and then. I tried explaining my own position to her, I tried avoiding her, and I tried faking a call on my cell phone. Nothing worked. Here’s what I finally did: I would give her a good 60 seconds to talk, and then look her in the eye and say, “Duly noted,” then walk away.

“Duly noted” means ‘I heard you, I don’t care to engage, and we’re done here.’ If the person persists, keep on saying “duly noted” until they go away. Works for me.


Not a Hill I Want to Die On…

In this era of “in-your-face” advertising, news, politics, social media and the general *zeitgeist, there are so many reasons to get upset and worried about–well, everything. The news and the papers warn us constantly of horrors such as how global warming is fast approaching the point of no return, which formerly high-flying-adored celeb is behaving badly these days, what political talking head was caught in a scandal, and on and on and on it goes. This keeps us in a continual stew of stomach-churning upset.

When you think quietly about it, it’s as though there is a planned 24/7 assault on our minds. It seems as if certain elements are trying to keep us  all so distracted that we forget why we are here and what we could be accomplishing. So many urgent issues vie for our attention, and all of them seem to be screaming for us to react, to fear, to worry, to doubt, to dread, and so on. Is that a way to live our precious lives?

I do wish to be informed about what is happening in the world around me. Certainly, I care about those things we all care about; I grieve for those who have lost loved ones, I ache for those who suffer, I care that there are so many people willing to give their time and often their very lives for a meaningful cause, and I am sorry to the heart that so many lack so much.

However, it comes down to this for each of us: ‘what can I do to make this [insert issue here] better?’ If there is a way to help, I do. If something is far beyond my scope of influence, then I can only do what one person can do. I am willing to help, but I am not willing to keep myself in a constant state of worry over events I can in no way control. This is not a statement about giving up, but one of recognizing my own reach.

Each of us has a choice each minute of each day: do I make myself sick over each and everything I hear and see, or do I make positive choices and do the best I can each day? It hurts me that so many animals in shelters need homes, care and love. I can’t adopt them all, but I can take good care of the three cats we have adopted. I can’t stop wars by myself, but I can make an effort each day not to be combative or angry at those around me. I can also turn off the TV or computer so as not to be caught up in which governor of whatever state or province is behaving like a bad toddler.

All those things I truly can’t control or waste time worrying about all go in my personal “Not a Hill I Want to Die On” bin. However, I do believe that happiness, lightness, joy, gratitude, love, honor, faith and positive thinking are not only healthy, but they’re catching, too.

*”Spirit of the age or time.”