Me snobby? (Janey says, red-faced from omitting the title)

Today’s Daily Prompt asked us what we were snobby about.  After thinking a bit I realized there are two things that push my snooty button faster than anything.

How hard is it to use the tools provided?  I’ve lost count of the times I’ve stopped reading something, or discounted what a writer was saying because they didn’t run the damn spell check!  Hey, I know not everyone can be a Spelling Bee Champ, I wasn’t.  But if you have a tool that’s a mere button press or mouse click away, why in the name of everything snarky wouldn’t you employ that tool!?  Sure, sure – I realize you can run a spell check and still wind up with a word that’s incorrect.  Take this example for instance:

Time weights for no man.

Um, yeah.  Time has weight alright.  But time waits.  Or doesn’t according to the meaning of the sentence.  Sigh.

So spell check alone may not be enough.  A writer needs to read what they wrote.  Wow – groundbreaking!  Now hold onto your tomatoes peeps because I’m not finished.  I know good writers (and that includes all you bloggers out there) read what they write.  As a long-time secretarial person I also know that you can read your own work till you see it in your dreams, and you may still miss some embarrassing boo-boo.  That’s why secretaries still exist!  Well, one of the reasons anyway.  I work for attorneys (now would probably be okay for the tomatoes – ducking) and when you get half a dozen of them working on the same pleading?  Fugedaboutit!  This is why I’m known in the office as The Proofreader.  Okay, not really.  But that doesn’t stop them from bringing me (or now emailing me) a document that requires a close, careful read.  They rely on me to weed out misspellings, inconsistencies in formatting, abbreviations, pagination, etc.  It’s even been noted specifically as one of my better skills on my annual evals.  But it’s a curse I tell you!

I can’t read anything … from the back of a cereal box to an ad on the side of a bus  – without running my mental spell check and judging the author.  That tends to make it difficult to take someone’s work seriously.  They spent hours or days or weeks researching, compiling and composing only to allow such an obvious glitch?  How do I know their research was done correctly?  Can I trust their thought process?  This is why you have someone else read it for you before publication.  Or at the very least, put it on the back burner for a day or so.  Reading it later helps you spot things you might otherwise miss.  Experienced writers usually know this, but not everyone does.  Or they trust themselves.  Nothing wrong with that; I don’t have anyone read my stuff except me.  If there’s a mistake I am fully responsible.  But then I’m just writing for me; I’m not trying to persuade, or teach or enlighten.

Okay, off the soapbox Janey!

The other thing I’m snooty about is baking.  I like to use REAL ingredients.  You will NEVER find imitation vanilla in my kitchen!  Or margarine.  Or carob.  Or … well let’s just not go there.

Fellow nitpickers:  If you spot an error here please let me know.  I’ll be happy to share the tomatoes with you!  😀

Howl at the Moon – Daily Prompt

Trigger Alert … Trigger Alert … Trigger Alert

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” – Allen Ginsberg

“Don’t hide the madness.”  Even considering that this is only part of a larger quote (see Rideo, Ergo Supero’s response to this prompt), it touches something deep inside me.

As a teenager I was part of the untouchables in our school.  There was a whole cadre of us – we didn’t fit in any of the other groups so we sort of melded together as a result.  We were intelligent, if unmotivated; not quite the nerds of our time.  Existing on the periphery of the class, we excelled at very little.  I’m not sure where I’m going with this or how this prompt got me here of all places but bear with me, maybe there will eventually be a point.

Even with my posse (is that still a thing?) I remember feeling lost and alone.  My mother was on stepfather number five or six, and between working full time and giving him the attention he craved she had little time for mothering and less inclination.  My brothers were six and 12 years younger than I so we had very little in common socially.  Being the eldest, I had a lot of responsibility at home when the ‘rents were at work.  That made it difficult to do anything beyond going to school, coming back and keeping up with homework and chores.

I don’t remember how old I was the first time I tried to end my life, probably around 16.  It was quite humiliating; not only did it fail, but no one even realized I’d tried.  I did get a great night’s sleep though!

It was around this time that Cody came into my life.  I’d gone so far off the deep end in my loneliness that I created this imaginary friend based on a character in a book I’d read.  I don’t even remember what book it was.  Looking back, I think Cody became more than a friend to me; he was my constant companion, my partner in crime (so to speak; I was too afraid of my own shadow to even think about stepping over the line); my phantom boyfriend.  I hid the madness then, even from myself.

I don’t know what it was that snapped me out of it.  Perhaps it was the next suicide attempt where I tried to bleed out in my own bathtub.  Again, it was an embarrassing failure accompanied by heartbreaking guilt that my little brother was the one who found me.  Hospitalization didn’t heal anything but the body.  Mandated group therapy was worthless to a reclusive teenager with no communication skills.

And yet, I survived.  Here I am approximately 40 years later, mostly-happily married with six children, nine grandchildren and a few very real, very loving and deeply loved friends.  I still feel mad at times, who doesn’t?  Often I still hide it.  Except here.  Here I’m safe.  Here I can unleash the crazy and let her run a little wild.  Appropriately, my best friend’s avatar quotes the Cheshire Cat, “We’re all mad here.”

Some of us just admit it.  😀

Summertime Blues

No one in the neighborhood had seen Mrs. Pauley’s sons since the funeral three months earlier.  No one was very surprised either.  I’d heard Mama talking to Ruthie next door while hanging the laundry about what a shame it was.  I didn’t really understand why it was a shame.  Now her sons – they should be ashamed.  At least that’s what Ruthie said.

Bright and early that first day of summer vacation I crossed the street and knocked on Mrs. Pauley’s door.  I was hoping she’d let me mow her yard today rather than wait for Saturday.  Danny said his dad was talking about a camping trip over the weekend and I wanted to be able to go along.

Mrs. Pauley opened the door, smiling when she saw me.  But she looked different somehow, sort of shrunken.

“Hello Timothy, is it Saturday already?” Her voice was as pleasant as always though and I quickly forgot my first impression.

“Aw Mrs. P, you know it’s Wednesday,” I joked back.

We chatted a bit and I explained my request.

“Of course you can mow the yard early; we can’t have you missing out on a camping trip!”  Her eyes got this faraway look they sometimes did when we talked.  “My Benny loved the outdoors too,” her voice faded away on that thought.  Then she gave herself sort of a shake and she looked back at me.

“I’ll have your lemonade in the kitchen when you’re ready for a break.”

“Thanks!”  I ran around to her tool shed to get started.

When I was finished mowing and edging her lawn I went inside and we shared some lemonade – the real stuff, not the mixed kind.  Mrs. Pauley had also baked some fresh ginger snaps.  We munched a couple of those and when I was leaving she handed me her cookie jar.

“Take these on home for your little brother and sister,” she instructed.  “Be careful with the jar now. Your mama always loved that jar.”

It seemed odd to take her cookie jar when she usually just gave me a zipped plastic bag but I knew better than to argue with her.  Mama wouldn’t like it.  And I really wanted to go camping.

At home I placed the cookie jar on the kitchen counter, pausing to grab one more since Mama wasn’t around.  After shouting upstairs that I was going to Danny’s, I went out the back door cringing, when the screen slammed.  That was going to cost me later, but it was the first day of summer vacation and freedom called.

Hours later I rode my bike into the front yard, dropped it on its side and ran indoors.  After grabbing a cold soda I went back out to sit in the late afternoon sun.  It had been a great first day of summer!  And Danny’s father was going to call my folks tonight to get permission for me to go with them to the lake!  Life couldn’t get much better as far as I was concerned.

I was trying to picture the campsite and lake when the black and white patrol car pulled up to the curb in front of Mrs. Pauley’s house.  A moment later another car, this one a fancy new model, pulled into Mrs. Pauley’s driveway and a man got out.  Something about his expression made my stomach hurt.  It wasn’t that he looked evil.  I don’t know how to describe it really.  Oh, wait – he looked like he wasn’t there.  His eyes were empty and his smile looked like it hurt.

Two policemen stepped out of the patrol car and joined the man in the driveway.  They talked together for a short time and then moved toward Mrs. Pauley’s front door where the man knocked.

When the door opened I expected Mrs. Pauley to smile as she always did when she welcomed people.  But Mrs. Pauley wasn’t smiling; there were tears on her face.  She listened while the man spoke, nodding the way you do when you’re trying to be polite, and all the time the tears continued to fall.

Mrs. Pauley nodded one last time and I saw her say something before closing the door.  The three men started to turn and I thought at first they were leaving, but they stood near the porch rail waiting.  A few minutes later the door opened again and Mrs. Pauley came out.  She was wearing her good cardigan, carrying her good winter coat and pulling along one of those rolling suitcases.

The hurt in my stomach got worse.  What the heck was going on?  I was suddenly afraid and before I could think about what I was doing I jumped up and ran across the street.

“Mrs. Pauley, can I help you with that bag?” I asked, ignoring the men.

She kept walking slowly toward the patrol car and I walked beside her.

“Why thank you Timothy, but I have it.” Her voice was only slightly raspy from the earlier tears.  “If you could do something else for me I’d be very grateful.”

“Anything Mrs. P,” I replied, eyeing the cop who had moved ahead to open the back door of the car.

“Tell your mother I said goodbye.”

“Goodbye?  When will you be back?”

“I won’t be coming back.”

“But why?  Where are you going?” The stomach ache was spreading; I could feel my eyes growing wet and I blinked hard.  I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of the men but something about this felt very, very wrong.

“Please just give my message to your mother Timothy.  She’ll explain everything.”

“I don’t want you to go!”

“And I don’t want to.  You know, I always hated it when my parents told me I’d understand something when I was grown up but sometimes it’s true.”  She paused, handing her suitcase to the other policeman, who loaded it into the opposite side of the car’s back seat.

“Timothy, go on home.  Tell your mother she can keep the cookie jar and that I said goodbye.  I’m sure she’ll explain it all.  I will miss you Tim.”  For a moment she placed her hand against my cheek and my tears came.  She smiled again and the cop helped her into the car.

None of the men had said a word.  The empty-eyed man climbed back in his shiny car, backed out of the driveway and sped off.  Both policemen looked after him and I got the impression they weren’t happy.  As they got into their car I watched Mrs. Pauley looking through the window.  When I followed her gaze I could see she was staring at her house and tears once again filled her eyes.