LOVING WORDS AND KNOWING HOW TO USE THEM – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #51


If people find typos or grammatical, punctuation, spelling, or usage errors in your posts, do you welcome having them pointed out to you, or do you resent it.

As a blogger do you let people know about such mistakes or do you just let them go?


There was a time when I was the aggravated editor at large. However, in recent months, my typo count has risen so high that there are often more typos, missed words, wrong parts of sentences which belong elsewhere, I do not feel I have any authority to speak on the subject.

I was never a good proofreader, even when I was much younger, but now it’s wildly out of control. If I change keyboards? I go from bad to “What IS that word?” I make typos so bad the spellchecker doesn’t recognize the word at all.

I admit that I go and change really badly typoed words in comments because WordPress doesn’t even give us 10 seconds to go back and change it. I read through typos. Of course, I do. I am the typo queen.

I do NOT have the same attitude towards poor grammar, though. The inability of even adults to recognize the difference between shorthand for Facebook or whatever they are using these days and language. Or, for that matter, the difference between an adjective and an adverb because they don’t know the difference between a verb and a noun. If you listen to sportscasters, you’ll know why. They don’t use adverbs. Ever. It isn’t stylistic. It’s pure ignorance.

It isn’t necessarily their fault. Our educational system is sorely lacking. They don’t teach grammar in public schools. If you don’t pick it up by reading book, how COULD you learn it?

And oh lord, PUNCTUATION. I swear everyone makes it up as they go along. My personal favorite is the    ,,,.    between what might be clauses, but isn’t a clause the guy who drops down the chimney with toys? No? 

People our age often leave out the subject of the sentence because we forgot to type it. But the younger ones? What’s their excuse? A good friend is (actually, now WAS) a college English professor. Every once in awhile, he’d show us what students turn in as essays. They truly do not know the difference between LOLWFOMA, TY, BRB, and what we used to call English. I don’t think we are setting a good example, either.

The other thing is that many young people have never read a book. Personally, I listen to audiobooks rather than reading, but I did read thousands of books before I moved to audio. So if my eyes are tired, they earned it.

One busy wall

Neither parents nor teachers forced them to read. Anyway, what with owning every electronic device ever made, what motivation do they have to read? You have to get them reading when they are young before they get hooked in electronics.

We spend millions on electronic devices that are outdated in six months — and don’t put any effort into convincing kids to read. Owen’s deal (from ME) when he was young was before he got an allowance or his bicycle, he had to turn in a book report — to me — every week. I didn’t care what he read, whether it was easy or difficult, but it had to be a BOOK.

Vineyard art – the second painting is the one from the book I gave to Owen.

Thus he fell in love with Stephen King, a love that still lingers, TinTin, Hardy Boys, and all of Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventures. He also loved anything with great illustrations and can take very excellent pictures when he remembers to have a camera — which is rare and rather frustrating. He has talent, but he works 50 hours a week or more, so I suppose that’s a bit limiting.

“How to Live With a Conniving Cat” was a favorite. When we summered on the Vineyard, we bought one of the original paintings done for that book. It was a piece of luck because the painter died while the exhibit was up. His family came and took all his paintings home. They refused to sell any of them. We have the only one that isn’t family-owned.

That was back “in the day” when we went to galleries and bought stuff! You know. Two salaries? Those WERE the days.

I gave the painting to Owen for his birthday. He really, really wanted it. Turns out, he also likes art. Kids like what they learn to like. If you don’t teach them, they don’t get it. Schools are only a piece of education. The rest comes from their home environment.

And yes, there still ARE libraries and they are still FREE. What’s more, there are art galleries in all kinds of places. You don’t have to buy things to go and look. And, oh yes. Museums!


P.S. I don’t have a problem with typos being pointed out, or for that matter, entirely missing words or pieces of paragraphs, or duplicated words. I have always worked best with an editor! I’d correct them myself if I noticed them.

IS ANYONE LISTENING? — Marilyn Armstrong

I feel like I need to keep blogging on the off-chance that whatever I’m writing, someone is reading it and thinks a little differently because of what I wrote.

In the cave

The politics of the country are also getting painful. I can’t detach from them, but they give me a permanent headache. I wonder if this really IS the end of the country I’ve loved.

I don’t know whose country this is. I don’t understand the meanness, the hatred, the lack of kindness by those who are rich enough to really make a difference. Or, for that matter, how hard we tried to do the right things and seem to have failed on every possible level.


The weather is changing, my birds are dying — and regardless of whether or not our government believes it, it’s hard to not notice that many things about our climate have altered, with a lot more to come. It’s hard to be funny when everything seems so negative. Upbeat is a bumpy road.


Meanwhile, our littlest dog has a  lot of old dog problems. She, Gibbs, Garry, me, and this house are all suffering from aging. I’m also not convinced that trying to fix each problem is necessarily the right thing to do. Should Bonnie’s last days be full of surgery and pulled teeth? Is that how I would like to pass?

I don’t think she has a lot more time. I have been watching her decline as I have watched so many other pets. Do we want to put her through massive dental work — even if we could afford it — and eye surgery — which might or might not actually help? I have had many dogs move on from this world and every time we’ve tried to do something drastic to try and stop that clock, it has not only not improved the life of the pet we loved, but rather made their last months miserable and painful. We swore to each other to never do that again, but we always want to fix it. As if somehow, we can make time stop.

Maybe it’s more sane and kind to recognize that this bell is tolling for us.


So what’s the right thing to do? My current thought is that as long as Bonnie seems to be okay with life, that’s good.  I won’t put her through surgeries or procedures. She is 13, deaf, rather blind, and a wee bit into doggie dementia. Not deep into it. And despite all of this, she is quite spritely.

Meanwhile, do I have an obligation to keep on keeping on? To try to speak up about what I believe is right? To try to fight what I know is wrong? Does anyone care what I say? Is anyone listening? Do our voices matter?

The older I get, the more I realize no one is listening to their “elders” anymore — not counting the AARP crowd who are running for President. They appear to believe they will live forever.

The political reality that has gripped this country feels unreal. The only “real things” are solid. The house, Garry, the birds, and squirrels. Friends, family, and flowers are real. Everything else is … weird.

I’m going to write, so I might as well write here. What would I do with all the photographs no one will ever see unless I post them?

I also finally realized I am living in an American version of tyranny. I hardly know HOW to feel about it. How did this happen? I wonder how many people have felt like this for a long time? We became the Banana Republic, minus the bananas. What’s strangest of all — to me — is that it life is the same as ever. We have the same problems we’ve had for years. We hope for better days … or at least better days for our son and granddaughter. The young ones deserve a world they can live in.

What a peculiar and dangerous world we are leaving to our children and grandchildren. I hope we get to fix at least some of it before it goes totally out of control. That the one thing we most need to do. Politics be damned, we need to make our world a safe and healthy place to live.

Or, as the Wicked Witch of the West (or is it East?) say: “WHAT A WORLD. WHAT A WORLD.”

A BLOGGING DIARY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Diary

Since I started seriously blogging, it has become a diary. It wasn’t meant to be, but because of it, I know when major and minor events occurred in my life. I can call up the time  — at least if it happened during the past 7 years — in my blog.

So much of the blog is made up of the things that have happened day to day in my world. Big things, little thing, barely anything — they all wind up on the pages of the blog. That’s why I’ve refused to let myself be locked into a particular style of blogging or a particular theme. It’s a big world and there’s a lot going on.

Two little titmice sitting in a feeder

In any case, I’ve never appreciated the idea or concept of being “locked-in” to anything. Ever. Even now, when physical movements are limited, at least my brain (such as it is) can roam free … and blogging has enabled me to do a lot more mental roaming than I ever thought possible!

A rather menacing Blue Jay!

I also feel I should mention that I’ve learned a lot. Not only by writing, but from the comments and conversations I’ve had. My world is bigger and I know so many more details of things that were previously just broad swathes of knowledge.

It’s a diary of what has been and it is also a diary of what I’ve learned.

WALLOWING IN THE PAST – Marilyn Armstrong

An endless recitation of woes are giving me migraines. It’s not that I lack sympathy. More like I’m emotionally exhausted. So many people are stuck in a pit of youthful misery. Bad childhoods, terrifying ex-marriages or other horrible relationships. Or worse, they want to write. They need to write, but they can’t. The words won’t come.

So don’t write. It’s not as if you are legally obligated to be a writer. If it isn’t working out, give it up. Do something else. Anything else.

Don’t they want to move on?

Apparently not. The quagmire of despair has become a comfortable, homey place. So they set up a desk, computer, and light and there they stay. Some of these bloggers continue exploring the depths of their suffering for hundreds — thousands? — of posts. Many are closing in on Social Security yet are still suffering from childhood trauma. So much for time casting a rosy haze over the past. Even if you haven’t solved your problems, it doesn’t mean you can’t just let them go. There will be new tragedies down the road and plenty more misery to come. I can pretty much guarantee it.

There ought to be an official cutoff date at which point you are required to close the book on whatever dreadful experience life dealt you during your wretched childhood and ghastly former relationships. Or at least after the passage of one full lifetime, you should be required to find some other subject about which to write.

we are not our mistakes

Sometimes I think it’s because they’ve found an audience for their posts about suffering and it’s their fallback position. Can they really be enmeshed in the same memories after thirty or forty years have passed?

I know lots of people who were abused as children. Hell, I wrote a book about it and because of that, I had total strangers telling me their stories. I suppose I deserved it. If you write a book on the subject and people read it, you can’t blame them for thinking you might be interested.

Now, let’s add in all those who had abusive relationships as adults. Isn’t that everyone? Who hasn’t had a terrible relationship or three? I plead guilty on all charges, your honor.

It was my first husband (before you ask, he died) who strongly suggested I might want to move in a different direction.  Of course, this was before my second marriage, the one in which I managed to step in front of the same bullet I’d previously dodged.


NOTE TO SELF: No one is ever too old to behave like a moron.

You have to want to move on.

It takes time and work, but I’m glad I (finally) did it. There have been plenty of new traumas to cope with. I doubt I’d have survived if I hadn’t cleared the decks. I’m overloaded. I cannot read another angst-laden tale of abuse and trauma. I’m know how awful it can be. Been there. I support all efforts to free oneself from the lingering effects of the past — but I’ve got a few problems and plenty of personal angst. If I can, I’d rather make you laugh than cry.

Cardinal, well-fed!

For all of us, it’s time to stop defining ourselves as the worst things that happened to us. We are not what others did to us. We aren’t our mistakes. As much as we have suffered, surely we’ve also found at least a little bit of fun, joy, friends, and love.

Misery is like a piano falling on your head; happiness just creeps up on you. The result? Long after the people who hurt us have disappeared from our lives, they are still beating us up and the only one getting hurt is us.

Got any good jokes?

ONCE UPON A TIME, WE WROTE LETTERS – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry was saying he was taping an old movie, “A Letter to Three Wives.” He thought the whole concept of writing letters was kaput. No one writes letters anymore. We may dash off a note on a card, but a whole letter?

“When,” I asked Garry, “Was the last time you wrote a real letter.”

“When I wrote to you, in Israel?”

“Yup,” I said. “And the letters I wrote to you from Israel were the last personal letters I ever wrote.”

“Funny about that,” he said.

“Sure is,” I answered.

That was 1987.

POPULARITY – Marilyn Armstrong

We bloggers are endlessly in search of answers. All kinds of answers. I am, in particular, forever seeking an answer to the ultimate blogger query.

What makes people follow me? Why are some posts popular while others — which I think are better — are not?

I think I’ve got it part of the answer. Not the whole one. There are just some posts that, for reasons I cannot fathom, become wildly popular and I never figure out why.

The more typical answer became obvious while I was reading someone else’s post titled “Excellent Demo.” It was about a software presentation to a prospective client that goes horribly wrong. The WiFi connection doesn’t work. The hot spot tool doesn’t help.

It’s humiliating and the kind of experience we have all had. It’s painfully universal. I can remember at least two horrible professional moments, both involving cameras. After more than 30 years, they remain cringe-worthy and painful to the touch.

His company got the contract anyhow. He wondered why?

I realized the answer was probably simple. Everyone in that room — at some time or another — had a similar experience. That the demo went badly generated a visceral empathy with the audience. The disaster didn’t sell the product, but it didn’t unsell it, either.

Back on Serendipity, I noticed the two posts that did better than usual were both about the kind of stuff that happens to everyone. What was the common thread? I looked at other popular posts.

I looked at the list of my all-time most popular posts. Not including camera, movie, television, and technology reviews which have an evergreen cycle, all Serendipity’s most popular posts have a universal theme, something to which anyone and everyone can relate.

I don’t write this way on purpose. I’m betting most of you don’t design your style. It comes out of you. It is you. I can control my subject matter, but I have little control over my style. When anyone asks about my “process,” I come up blank. What’s a process?

I don’t have a process. I get an idea. I write about it. It may leap out of a conversation with Garry, a comment I make on someone else’s blog, a book I’m reading, a TV show I’ve watched. A dream I had or what the dogs did. Many are anecdotes … things that happened here and elsewhere. Often, the interesting part of the story isn’t the event, but how it affected me or others.

There are blogs that deal with issues. Some special interest web sites which talk about current events, news, politics, religion, archaeology, history, the power structure, education. Some are all about history or literature. Or talk only about movies. They have their audiences, people who are interested in the things these bloggers write about. I and many of you reading this have special interests too, but mostly, we are interested in life.

That’s what we write about it. Sometimes, it’s a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Nice and tidy. As often as not, it’s a memory, a string of thoughts wrapped around something that happened. A wish, a wisp, a wistful moment. And strangely, other people enjoy reading it.

Go figure, right?

A LONG LIST OF QUESTIONS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ME – Marilyn Armstrong

Not sure of where these came from other than Melanie. Does it really matter? So, for Melanie, answers to questions that have to do with someone else’s life, but very little to do with mine.


QUESTIONS:
This is a list of 72 questions. Number 15 was missing, so I renumbered the list.

1. What’s your usual Starbucks order?

Never been to Starbucks, but I don’t like their coffee. It isn’t “dark roasted.” It’s burned.

2. What does your workstation look like? 

What workstation?

3. Favorite food? 

Japanese.

4. Favorite author? 

Too tough to call.

5. What do you think of open relationships? 

Been there. Done that. It has good points and bad ones. This is much too complicated for a simple answer.

6. What is your favorite video game? 

Bridge.

7. Guilty pleasure treat? 

Fresh fruit.

8. Favorite movie? 

The Lion in Winter (the original)

9. Favorite book? 

Too many.

10. Twitter or Instagram? 

Neither.

11. Desktop or laptop? 

Laptop.

12. Best advice you’ve ever received? 

Take care of yourself. If you don’t do it, no one will (Author: My mother)

13. What project are you working on right now? 

I’m not. Unless you count blogging.

14. Favorite color? 

Lapis blue.

15. Dream job?

Did that already. Retired and planning to stay that way.

16. Play any sports?

Not any more.

17. Do you have a degree?

B.A. in something. I used to want to frame it and put it up over the sink so I could look at it while I washed dishes. But I lost it, so now, I can’t even prove I went to college. Not that anyone cares. Even I don’t care.

18. Nationality? 

American.

19. What is your favorite kind of blog post?

Something with an idea in it. Or great pictures. Or makes me laugh. Historical too.

20. What do you like to collect?

Nothing. I’m over-collected.

21. Describe yourself in three words?

Busy yet retired.

22. If you were a rapper what would your stage name be?

I would not be a rapper. By any name.

23. Who was the last person you DMed? 

What’s a DM?

24. What’s on top of your wishlist right now?

Winning a lot of money. I probably should cash in my lottery ticket, but I think I lost it.

25. Sorting house? 

What?

26. How many tattoos do you have? 

One. A big one. On my left calf.

27. What are you most grateful for this year? 

Being here. For another year.

28. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this month? 

Owen fixed the hole in the back door.

29. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you today? 

I remembered to give the dogs their heartworm medicine. Now I have to ORDER medicine.

30. What’s the best thing ever? 

For who? Me? Garry? Dogs? Friends? Seriously EVER?

31. Favorite season?

Fall.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

32. Favorite holiday?

Christmas. I like the music.

33. What fictional character do you relate to most? 

Rachel Morgan.

And in the mid-October, we have autumn on the Canal

34. Do you like surprises?

It depends. What KIND of surprise?

35. What’s the biggest surprise you’ve ever had? 

Garry wanted to get married.

36. Which surprise made you cry? 

If it made me cry, it wasn’t a surprise. It was something else.

37. What’s the best surprise you’ve given somebody else? 

Getting Garry a subscription to the Baseball channel.

38. Do you like muffins? 

Real muffins or the kind they sell at Dunkin Donuts? Because those are cupcakes, not muffins.

39. Do you cook often? 

Every fucking day.

40. What’s your favorite dessert? 

Ice-cream and fresh strawberries.

41. Is there a dessert you don’t like? 

Anything excessively sweet.

42. Cake or pie? 

Pie.

43. What’s your least favorite food? 

Snails.

44. What’s your favorite condiment? 

Za’atar.

45. It’s 4am on a random Saturday. What are you eating? 

I’m not eating. I’m sleeping.

46. If you could teach a college class what would it be called? 

How to survive all the things nobody warns you are going to happen.

47. Best animated film? 

Fantasia 1 and 2.

48. What has a guy done or said to impress you? 

Garry married me. I was impressed.

49. The best thing to do on a first date? 

First date? Do you realize my first day was 56 years ago?

50. The worst thing to do on a first date? 

That was also 56 years ago.

51. What’s the best pick-up line?

I love you. Let’s get married.

52. Best comic book character?

Superman.

53. Name three things which can always be found in your wallet.

Credit cards.

54. Favorite drink? 

Coke or Ginger Ale. It’s a mood thing.

55. If you could play a historical character in a movie who would it be?

Eleanor of Aquitaine.

56. Kittens or puppies?

Neither. I like cats and dogs.

57. Favorite sushi roll?

Wanakura’s special roll. it has EVERYTHING I love on it, from crab to tuna and then it’s cooked like tempura.

58. What lipstick do you use?

I don’t.

59. What foundation do you use?

Skin.

60. Blow-dry or air dry?

Air unless it’s really cold and I’m going out. I don’t want my wet hair to freeze on my head, so then I’ll blow-dry it.

61. Who is your fashion icon?

A fashion what?

62. Favorite Disney Character?

Minny Mouse. She doesn’t get any respect.

63. What are you doing tomorrow?

Nothing.

64. Movie you laughed the hardest through? 

Young Frankenstein.

65. A movie that made you cry?

Something with animals. I cry at all of them.

66. If you could sing a duet with anybody, who would you choose? 

Myself. Alone. In the shower.

67. If your life was a song what would the title be?

We Didn’t Start the Fire

68. What’s your favorite animal?

Horses. Dogs. Cats. Parrots. Ferrets.

69. Favorite illustrator?

John Tenniel

70. The person you’d like to have coffee with?

Anyone I like

71. What country would you like to visit?

England, New Zealand, and Japan

72. Best way to decompress?

Read a book! Or write one.