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…Jump on the Groupon Bandwagon

Before you dismiss this sound advice, hear me out. Groupon offers great deals. I get it. I know. Who doesn’t want to pay less for more stuff? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been clamoring for a new cable adapter for all of my iStuff. I fall into raptures over the chance to hone my rock climbing skills on an indoor, man-made rock-climbing wall. And I, for one, love good food. As far as stuff goes, I’m all in favor of stuffing my face with lobster, or steak, or heck, even cheap Italian. (Got a Bucca di Beppo offer earlier today) If I keep searching, I know I’ll find deals on artwork, unique gifts, travel excursions, massages, beauty treatments… Ah, more stuff for all of us. Who can resist?

But we must draw a line somewhere, mustn’t we? Maybe we draw it in the sand. (If we’re fortunate enough to live on the beach, that is.) Maybe we draw it more figuratively — in the air, right in front of our noses, whilst our voices take on that special shriek reserved for mothers: “NO, you will NOT stay out past midnight, young lady! THIS is where I draw the line!! One more word out of you and you’ll be home at 10!!!! Do you understand me???” (you know. Figurative.)

Or maybe, in the wild excesses of our youth, we decided to let a special artist draw the line in our actual skin.

We probably found the deal on Groupon, and 700 of our closest friends hurriedly ponied up the cash for the same amazing deal, and we became an instant ‘community,’ thanks to the interwebs.

And then, one morning we wake up and realize, “OMG! There’s a very colorful peacock tattooed on my ribcage!” And we don’t quite feel the same as we used to about it. His lovely tail feathers look a bit more like a dust mop these days, what with the inevitable stretch marks from multiple pregnancies, and the ravages of time and gravity (read: Our skin has sagged. Considerably.). We pull on that scruffy sweatshirt (and yoga pants!), trudge to the kitchen and pour a gigantic mug of coffee, marveling at what our lives have become. We seek the solace of social media. Lo!! and behold!!!!!! Groupon’s deal of the day sits in our inbox:

LASER TATOO REMOVAL

Not only did we find a Groupon to get the tattoo in the first place; now there’s a Groupon for getting the dang thing removed. And this is why friends don’t let friends jump on the Groupon bandwagon. Peacocks one day. Dust mops the next. And all because we couldn’t resist being part of the group. Come ON… (you see what I sort of did, there)

Don’t let it happen to you.

…Run Out of Friendship Tea

Something about the November rain fills me with the certainty of change. Leaves relinquish their tenuous hold on branches trembling in the wind, tumble across yards mown for a final time weeks ago, and gather in soggy corners. The sun rises and sets with a shorter span between those hours. Blustery winds drive us to the closet for warm jackets and gloves. The year hastens to its close, with a burst of holidays to keep us from minding the weather too much.

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking, ‘Where’s the sass?!’ You’re thinking, ‘I read this blog for the humor!’ You’re thinking, ‘I thought these posts were about the foibles and fun of friendship!’

Yeah, yeah, yeah. ‘Hold yer horses!’ I’ll get there.

As I was waxing nostalgic about the season’s change and my advancing age and the grey November that leads, as it always does, to the sparkle of December, I realized, ‘dang!’ it’s cold in this house!’ I’ve already donned slippers and an extra sweater, and the damp chill lingers. What’s a girl to do? Make more coffee? Mmmm – tempting as that may be, it just didn’t feel right.

Then I remembered. ‘Friendship tea.’ The spicy, citrusy, warm-your-hands-around-a-mug of wonderfulness that never tastes right in July, but warms

friendship tea

friendship tea

 

you from noes to toes in the midst of the Autumn drear.

You’ll note, I trust, that the jar is nearly empty. This is unacceptable. Friends don’t let friends run out of friendship tea. It simply isn’t done.

Why?

Because. Because friends don’t let friends go through crises alone.

Friends get us through the summer crisis of buying a swimsuit that we can wear outside the dressing room, reminding us that we can’t see ourselves when we’re at the beach, so who cares what it looks like, really?!

Friends get us through the crisis of making the Thanksgiving gravy, bringing a jar of already made ‘just in case.’

Friends get us through the crisis of raising kids, commiserating, cajoling, comforting us by turns as we slog through the toughest job we love more than anything.

Friends get us through the crisis of the empty nest, bringing a jar of freshly made ‘Friendship Tea’ and filling up the empty rooms with warm laughter, shared stories, and reminders of how good it is to embrace another season of change, together.

A nearly empty jar of ‘Friendship Tea’ hardly qualifies as a crisis. Still, the jar reminds me — friends don’t let friends run out. Not out of the dressing room scantily clad in an ill-fitting swimsuit. Not out of the kitchen when the gravy doesn’t ‘get.’ Not out of the nest it’s taken a lifetime to feather. And friends don’t let friends run out of ‘Friendship Tea.’ The tea merely symbolizes the friendship. And these days, with change we can hardly believe, much less believe in, well… we need our friends to help us weather that.

So, put the kettle on. Don’t let your friends run out…

 

…Buy Imaginary Friends on eBay

Concession: All of us, at one time and another, suffer from mild to severe cases of lunacy. At the local pub or around the kitchen table, we drink far more than we should, say. Or, caught up in the shopping frenzy of Christmas-time, perhaps we buy our husbands fancy and expensive computers that they never said they wanted in the first place. Bah! Humbug. We try to wear skinny jeans when a flowing caftan would be a wiser choice. We decide to give up covering that grey hair. Maybe we succumb to the lingo of the younger generation, and instead of ‘suffering from a mild case of lunacy,’ we say ‘totally cray cray.’ I, myself, draw the line right there. I don’t even need a friend to tell me that such verbiage is likely a sign of the looming apocalypse. I know crazy when I hear it.

But when other signs of delirium show up? Friends don’t let friends. They pay the tab and say, ‘Really. You’ve had enough of the blue stuff.’ They protect your feelings and urge caution during gift buying binges, pointing out the likelihood that your husband will end up returning your thoughtful gift, thereby sending you into a major pout. They invite you to the gym, and remind you that your caftans aren’t fooling anyone. They accidentally buy 2 boxes of Clairol, and share. That’s what friends are for!

Except this guy, who apparently didn’t have any real friends as a child:

Imaginary Friend Sold on eBay by ‘Real’ Friend

In 2007, this guy decided to sell his imaginary friend, Jon Malipieman, because he was “growing out of him.” The seller offered to include a ‘personal self portrait’ of Mr Malipieman, along with his likes and dislikes. OH! And  ‘postage’ would be free. (really, that’s my favorite part)

Well, as it happens, the seller successfully auctioned off his IMAGINARY FRIEND for $2750!!!!!!!! And others are now trying to auction off their imaginary friends too.

You know, I thought my ‘red line’ at “cray cray” served me well. I thought the nadir of nuts had surely been reached.

Turns out, I drew the line way, way, way too soon. There’s no end of crazy in sight when folks are actually buying imaginary friends. Friends, don’t let your friends buy imaginary friends on eBay. THAT is not just ‘cray cray.’ Paying actual dollars for imaginary friends qualifies as batshit crazy. Honestly. And friends don’t let friends get that far out on the ledge.

…Commit Horse’s Assery

I’m not sure, exactly, what it is about the equine hind quarters that invariably links them to the especial idiocy that brands us the occasional fool, but as Charles Dickens so aptly penned, “the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for.” Ol’ Charles had a penchant for hyperbole — Marley being “dead as a door-nail” was the actual simile, and I’ve just committed an outrageous “DIGRESSION!” but, you know, sometimes literary greats help me make my point (‘and I do have one.’)

Friends, be they the literary (and therefore fictitious) or actual kind, are useful for so many of life’s big and little moments. As this blog continually points out, we simply cannot do without our friends, right? We need them for big and small favors. We need them for laughing and for crying and for letting us vent. We need them to lend us stuff we don’t have. We need them for sharing secrets, recipes, and a bottle of wine. And we especially need friends to keep us from making utter fools of ourselves.

Consider Huck Finn & Tom Sawyer. What would Huck Finn do without Tom Sawyer as a cohort in boyhood adventure?

Consider Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway. Who else recognized Gatsby’s capacity for hope? Who else admired the man for his potential and scorned the superficiality of the East Eggers?

Consider Hamlet & Horatio. Without Horatio, Hamlet would endure the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” entirely alone, and no one to tell his story after…

The thing is, Huck never told Tom that he wasn’t doing it right. Huck lit out for the Territory instead, and left us to ponder the tomfoolery (ha!) of overdone adventure and the hypocrisy of being ‘sivilized.’

Nick Carraway never bothered to point out that Gatsby had anchored his hope to an insubstantial dream. Carraway merely tells us what happened – he doesn’t protect, intervene, or help. GAH!

Even Horatio, who cautioned Hamlet again and again, could only witness the final ‘cracking of a noble heart,’ and the Prince of Norway gets the final word.

You can learn a lot from literary friends. See, Huck knew that Tom Sawyer was making a mess of freeing Jim, and Nick most assuredly knew that Daisy wasn’t worth the the shirt on Gatsby’s back. Did they keep their friends from misadventure? Did they keep their friends from looking the fool? The answer, my friends, is no. No they most assuredly did not.

And that’s the lesson we take from Hamlet, and the words that ought to guide our friendships:

FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS COMMIT HORSE’S ASSERY

Of course, the Bard said if far more eloquently:

What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,

Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff

That beetles o’er his base into the sea,

And there assume some other horrible form,

Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason

And draw you into madness?

One moment you’re simply a horse’s ass; the next you’re a madman, listening to the words of your father’s ghost. Next thing you know you’re being slain by a poisoned rapier, and your best friend is left telling your story, but the Prince of Norway has bigger political fish to fry than letting you blather on about being and not being.

It always starts with ignoring your friends’ horse’s assery.

And you thought literature couldn’t teach you anything, didn’t you?

Don’t be a — er, you know…

…Off the Hook

The other day, I remembered that I was a teacher. Er, university instructor. For awhile there, I was just going through the motions — showing up for class, saying a few things — okay, a LOT of things, because there is nothing I like quite so much as the sound of my own voice (pretty sure there’s another post about that waiting in the wings), and God knows the students are disinclined to participate much in the opening weeks of a required class. So there we all were, going though the required class motions when it hit me: TEACH them.

The thing is (there’s always a thing with me), classrooms these days are crowded, and the best teaching tends to happen one-on-one. The one-on-group method means someone — maybe everyone — can hide. Such behavior is generally contra-productive to actual learning.When the instructor meets the pupil face-to-face, by golly, something worthwhile has a great chance of making not just an appearance, but a lasting impression.

Picture it: One instructor. One student. There’s no prevaricating. There’s no sea of downcast faces (undoubtedly something fascinating daily transpires on classroom floor, am I right?). There’s no gaping silence as the ‘teacher’ waits longingly for a lucid, on-target answer to an open-ended question. And there’s no harping to the masses, no preaching to the choir, no reliance on exhausted adages that fail to hit the mark. There’s only dialogue. Questions. Answers. Discussion. You know. LEARNING.

But, the classroom filled with students is far more cost-effective than a day-long series of tutorials. What’s an instructor to do?

Well. Instruct! Adapt! Overcome! Send emails of extra instruction! Hold office hours! Stay after class! DO THE WORK!!!!!

Friends don’t let friends off the hook just because the environment isn’t ideal. Friends don’t let friends off the hook because they simply don’t want to do the harder task. Friends don’t let friends off the hook, even when they offer a list of excuses (and trust me, I have not just good, but STELLAR excuses for why I don’t want to do the hard thing, and I bet you do too) for why the thing just isn’t working.

Listen to me, now. Friends who have friends who are teachers:  Don’t let them off the hook. The future depends on those students presently in the classroom, you know. Somebody’s got to TEACH them.

I’m glad I remembered I’m a teacher. Friends? Don’t let me off the hook.

…Watch HGTV

Let me explain:

HGTV makes us think our homes need to be different. Better. HIP. And let’s face it, the big box hardware stores, the furniture stores, the flooring places, the stone importers, the boutiques that sell decor, the ‘home goods’ providers — they’re smiling and thanking HGTV on their way to the bank.

But let’s also face this: Sometimes our homes need to be different. Better. HIP. 

And so, I succumbed to the influence of HGTV. (I really need to get a job, friends…)

We gave our kitchen an update. 

And I wrote about it (and provided pictures!) over on commonchapters.wordpress.com

So go visit. Read all about it. Then you’ll understand why friends don’t let friends watch HGTV. Good advice when you can get it. 🙂

http://commonchapters.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/makeovers/

…Edit Their Writing

Here’s the thing: Writing mistakes are bound to happen. In the heat of the moment, in the absolute thrill of the thought, our fingers can’t pen (or type!) fast enough to keep up with the brilliance dancing in our heads. And, trust me, writers can get caught up in the thought’s brilliance, or at least be convinced of its veracity and value. Thus, the finer elements — you know, clarity, perfect word choice, grammatical sense — come later. Well. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Through discipline, habit and the occasional burst of inspiration, writers commit their observations and thoughts and half-formed ideas to paper. (Is it at all strange to you that today’s ‘paper’ need never be touched? A ‘Word™ doc’ looks like paper, right? Ah, virtual worlds, we hardly understand ye…)

So. Through drafting and revision, half-formed thoughts soon become full-blown sentences. Ideas take organizational shape. Brilliance — or at least good sense — pours forth. Through the process a finished product emerges. That’s when the writing meets its match. Because someone is going to read it. Who will be first?

Sometimes, we let our friends (SO CALLED!) read the thing before anyone else lays eyes on it, because, what are friends for if not to tell us that a bit of lettuce lingers between our front teeth, or that those jeans are too small for our oversized backsides, or that our half-baked ideas need some more time in the oven?

Sounds so right, doesn’t it?

WRONG.

See, friends don’t let friends edit their writing. Friends don’t let friends proofread for typos, mechanics errors, or idea development either. Why not? Because as it turns out, friends sometimes bring careful critique and a suggestion or two with them. They think to themselves:

‘Hey! we’re friends — I can speak frankly.’ I can say, ‘You know,’ this still needs a bit of work.’ I can point out, ‘This section doesn’t really GO anywhere.’ I can suggest that the passive voice distances readers from the action.’ I can say, ‘This has such potential — but it’s not quite there yet.’

You would think that friends who are readers would be able to say such things about a piece of writing to their friends, who are writers.

You would be wrong.

Friends don’t let friends edit their writing. Ever. Unless, of course, they want to lose their friends.

I write from personal experience, friends. I tried editing once. Writing may have been critiqued. Flaws may have been identified. A writer’s ego may have been bruised. A friend may have been lost.

Writers, a bit of advice: Check your organization, polish your voices, use good words. Abandon your egos.

Friends, a bit of advice: when someone asks you to edit their writing, don’t just say ‘no.’ Say ‘HELL NO!” Remember, friends don’t let friends edit their writing. They hire an editor for that.