To The Doomers and Gloomers

Oh, the deadly Doomers and Gloomers of this world who delight in sharing sad, tragic or mournful news! How they love to bring us all down with tales of sorrow and woe, doom and gloom, sadness and badness and so much more. They seem to love to be the messenger of all things heartbreaking and tragic. Maybe it makes them feel more important; who knows? All I know is that when I see one of these folks looming up on the horizon, I want to RUN.

Ds & Gs are to me just like those notorious tell-all anchor folks: they get you all stirred up, sad, angry and upset–then they walk away, puffed with importance to be the ones to break the horrible news du jour. Honestly, who needs that? Do I really want to hear about the horrible videos of wild animals being slaughtered or cows in the slaughterhouse or the newlyweds who died tragically on their way to their honeymoon?? Jeez, please keep that crap to yourself. I do NOT want to hear it, and I certainly don’t want it in my head.

Seriously, I don’t get the pleasure they get out of it, and you know good and right well that they do love to be the ones to spread the doom and gloom. They are a lot like the folks who tell you something awful about someone you both know, and they start out by demurring “well, I probably shouldn’t pass this one, but….” and then they spill the beans. (FYI, they will do so even when you say that you really don’t want to hear it–they just have tell you anyway!)

The biggest trouble with the Ds & Gs is that the stuff that they so want to share with you is not usually anything you want to have bouncing around in your head. All it takes to bring me to tears is seeing those sad animals on TV with Sarah McLachlan singing “In the Arms of the Angels” in the background. It takes a big effort to get those images out of my head, and they make my heart hurt, too. I always have to grit my teeth and say aloud ‘we have three rescue cats and we are feeding the neighborhood strays every day. We’re doing all we can to help!’

I don’t think that the Ds & Gs understand that their verbal assaults can be damaging in the short and long run. It may give them a great deal of pleasure to spread this bad news around, but it’s hurtful to those of us who have to hear it. I think that they believe that they are doing others a favor by spilling bad news–as if hearing it from someone we know makes it all right. Sadly, no.

I’ve gotten to an age where I am all too aware that I have more years behind me than ahead. I really do not want to spend those precious remaining seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years listening to negativity and ugliness. So, to all those Doomers and Gloomers, I say this: puh-LEEZE take your abysmal news somewhere else. I don’t want to hear it, I don’t want it in my head, and I am going to beat a quick retreat when I see you coming.

In fact, I just may take this a step further and lead the brigade of angry villagers waving torches. Ds & Gs, you have it coming!

Let’s All Stop “Shoulding” on Each Other

If anyone reading this remembers The Twilight Zone as I do, you may recall the episode called “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.” The premise was that, in the far distant future, at age 18 you could undergo what was called “the transformation” so that you could look like everyone else. There were two female models to choose from; you could either be the tall, willowy brunette, or the short, perky blonde. In this episode, one young girl does not wish to go through with it. She argues that she is fine just the way she is, and doesn’t want to change. Her doctor, mother and best friend try to convince her that it’s a good thing to look like everyone else, but the young girl isn’t buying it.

Of course, she is eventually coerced into the transformation. To her mother’s and best friend’s delight, the newly-tranformed girl comes bouncing out as another short perky blonde. She declares to her friend, “The best thing about it is that I look just like you!”

Although I’m happy that we don’t do this type of thing today, we nonetheless have issues with body image. Body image is a personal thing that has somehow become everyone’s business. If we don’t look like the gorgeous angels in fabulous underwear from <insert your favorite lingerie store name here>, we automatically feel bad about ourselves. And for what? We humans come in all sizes, shapes, and various states of health. We are who we are. We can be short or tall, thin or heavy, busty, hippy, have knock-knees, a big belly, a flat butt, long nose, buck teeth, peppered with freckles and so on. We come into this life in all our glorious colors and shapes, abilities and disabilities, gifts and talents, and we are all here for a reason.

Before I go further, let me get this statement out of the way: it is a good thing to be kind to our bodies, to treat them well, exercise them as we can, feed them food that nourishes and helps us be the best we can be, keep a positive attitude and to give ourselves and others a break for not looking “perfect.”

To those who diet religiously I say this: if what you’re doing works for you, then I am delighted for you. I sincerely wish you the best in all you do to stay fit and healthy. That said, PLEASE do not assume that your way is the only way. Unless any of us ask you specifically about your personal plan, please SHUT UP.

To those LBPs (Little Bitty People) who are in love with their tininess, God bless you. You are absolutely adorable and are just as cute as you can be. However, your cuteness wears thin when you highjack each and every conversation to make it all about your “itty-bittiness.” We really don’t need to hear that you wear a size 3 ring (“cuz my fingers are sooooo little!”), that you can fit into a kindergarten chair (because “I’m no bigger than a minute!”), or that your boyfriend/girlfriend can pick you up with one hand. And there is this, too–you’re kind of embarrassing yourself when your favorite topic is YOU. Don’t you think that maybe you could find some other topics to talk about that don’t involve, well–you? Just saying…

Fat-shaming and skinny-shaming are shameful. Why on earth would we deliberately go out of our way to chastise someone we don’t know? What possible business is it of ours? I recently read a blog written by a man who used to weigh over 400 lbs. Through dint of healthful eating, moderate exercise and a willing spirit, he lost almost half his body weight. His post about his transformation talked about the people who bullied him, embarrassed him, shamed him, slapped and punched him, made fun of him and mercilessly tortured him “for his own good” and to “make” him lose weight. His reply to that was simple and to the point: NONE of it helped him lose weight. What made him lose weight was his own desire to do so. No amount of shaming or bullying or harrassing or laughing at him motivated him to lose weight (well, surprise!). His own desire to be fit and healthy worked for him. He owes those people who did all those hateful things to him NOTHING and they share no success in his success. Why do people ever think they can motivate people by such negativity?

Why can’t we simply rejoice in all the wonderful diversity of humans on the earth? All cultures have their own standards of beauty, but does that mean that those who don’t meet those standards are less beautiful? We fall in love with each other for many reasons. Of course we are attracted to looks, but remember–the kind of person I find beautiful may not be your kind of beautiful. And so what? We get attracted to not just looks, but personalities, sense of humor, ideals, philosophies, points of view, mental/political/spiritual/emotional stands, and so much more. With all that fabulous diversity, why then would we want to stick to one standard of beauty? You may admire someone who constantly asserts his or her opinions on everything because they are versatile and interesting; I may find them a crashing bore. I may love being with someone who has a great sense of humor make me laugh; you may think that they are a big old attention hog.

The point is, let’s just look at each other for who we are, not who we feel we should be. I am just as guilty of this type of judgement as anyone else. Looking back over my life and recalling some of the truly ignorant and insensitive things I’ve said to people in the past, I could die of shame and regret. I wish with all my heart I could see each person I offended and beg their forgiveness. This is one of the main reasons for this blog–perhaps if I share some of the truly epic mistakes I’ve made in my life, then maybe just one person will learn not to do what I’ve done. It’s a waste of our precious time to try to talk someone into being someone other than who they are. We need to stop telling each other, “you should do this or that or the other thing.”

In fact, how about we all just stop “shoulding” on ourselves?




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.




Keep Your Corrections to Yourself, Please!

I am an avid reader and writer. One of my favorite places is the local library, and it seems every week I am either checking out new books or returning them. Although I have great respect for the library, the librarians and the books themselves, I have been occasionally guilty of ruining books by my own carelessness.

One book was permanently destroyed by the cup of coffee I was drinking while reading (note to self: do not drink and read!), another one fell victim to a large splash of onion soup, and yet another succumbed to a blob of grape jelly (add to previous note: do not eat and read!). In payment for my sins, I turned myself in to the surprisingly understanding lady behind the desk, and paid for each book (which I now own). These are sins of over-confidence and carelessness.

However, there is a worse sin being committed in our libraries that has been going for quite some time –self-appointed grammarians who feel it is their responsibility to make corrections in PEN to published books.

Before I go on, I will admit to being a grammar and spelling snob myself. I have corrected countless menus over the years (and do you know, the owners are NEVER grateful for it?). Some of the bloopers have been astounding, such as:

  • cramberry sauce (translation: cranberry sauce)
  • super juice (translation: soup or juice)
  • paste with all oil (translation: pasta with aioli [garlic-flavored mayonnaise])
  • chocolate buzzard (translation: chocolate blizzard [ice cream concoction])
  • mice pie (translation: mince pie)

I’ll admit that I have tsk-tsked over published misspellings or grammatical errors, but these things happen. But writing in a library book defaces it, devalues it, and quite frankly, pisses people off (well, me anyway). One book at least had penciled-in corrections (all of which I angrily erased),  but the ones in ink are inexcusable. I  guess it wouldn’t bother me so much if they were correct (and if so, why not just contact the publisher instead of ruining a book?), but so many I’ve seen are grossly incorrect.

For example, I am currently hooked on the Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child books and the one I’m reading now, “Still Life With Crows,” has inked corrections to colloquialisms. So it’s a double-whammy for me; ink in my  book and corrections that show the ignorance of the self-appointed grammar cop. (Note to said  grammar cop: if you don’t understand the lingo of the characters, you shouldn’t be correcting anything. And stop reading with a pen in your hand!)

That’s my rant du jour. I realize that there are far more serious crimes in the world, but this one strikes close to home for me. Reading a book with an eye toward criticism is right up there with sitting in a movie theatre, loudly proclaiming that this or that “couldn’t really happen,” and so forth. Whatever happened to that glorious and freeing phrase, “willful suspension of disbelief?” Let’s read with our eyes, and not with our pens.