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…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.

 

…Walk in the Heat & Humidity

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The ubiquitous ‘they’ are all the time ‘saying,’ aren’t they? Sometimes I get to wondering — who actually said in the first place? And why did ‘they’ make it their life’s mission to keep on repeating it?

Still, they say that a dog is “a man’s best friend.” How long has that been the case? Have dogs ever been reviled? Disdained? Hung from the rafters? Well, it turns out, yes, they have. You can read about it here. Who knew??

I’ve been a dog lover since I can remember. I’m more a fan of the big dogs. You know — labs, shepherds, boxers, danes. The ones I’ve known have been extraordinary friends to the families who give them homes. The humans tolerate the slobber, the hair, the occasional indoor accident. The humans praise and scold and scratch the pups behind their ears. The humans feed and water and shelter and reward good behavior with savory treats. The humans make soft comfy beds for the dogs (okay, they probably buy these). The humans exercise the dogs, get them harnesses, leashes, collars and even coats. After all, friends don’t let friends down.

Until today.

It’s a bit warm this mid-June morning — 83 degrees at 11:00 a.m. with a steady 10 mph breeze rustling the leaves. (I really should have been a meteorologist). “Let’s go for a walk, Jack!” I said to the pup, as I do most mornings around here. He pretends to not want to go (it’s because he’s still a bit freaked out by his harness, used for his neck’s protection as he goes at speeds and directions that I can hardly match), but he loves every minute of it. He zoomed along at his usual pull-my-arm-out-of-its-socket speed until, without warning, he spied a shady spot of grass, and laid himself down.

“What the heck?!”

I guess I didn’t account for the humidity, hovering around 67% and apparently too much for the dog.

I can't go anymore! It's too hot!!!!

I can’t go anymore! It’s too hot!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, what’s the dog’s human supposed to do with that? We were still three-quarters of a mile from home, for cryin’ out loud! He might be my ‘best friend’ and all, but I’m not carrying home 68 lbs of dog because he’s hot!

But he was hot. When we finally made it home (I used my sweetest, cajoling voice to encourage him, and not my brute strength, because I do have a little bit of one and none of the other), Jack beelined it to a safe, cool spot:

I'm so embarrassed -- my tongue is 18x larger than my mouth!!!

I’m so embarrassed — my tongue is 18x larger than my mouth!!!

 

Proving a point we’d all do well to remember: Friends don’t let friends take a walk in the heat and humidity. Especially the best friends, apparently. Sheesh…

…Stop in a Roundabout

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Disclaimer: I have an ever-so-slight case of road rage.

Remember learning to ride a bicycle? Remember the taste of freedom it gave you? The wind in your face and a song in your heart? The endless laps around the drive, the block, the town you grew up in? Oooohh….

Remember learning to drive a car? Remember the freedom feast you enjoyed? Windows rolled down and the radio blaring? The endless miles around the town, the countryside and the nation you grew up in? Ahhhhhh…..

Cuts and scrapes. Fender benders. Flat tires and speeding tickets. Man (woman too) and the wheel. By design (the circle), endless; by function (travel), rich in possibility. The freedom of the open road, only hindered by an empty tank, was easily remedied by a stop at Mom’s lunch table or the local Amoco station. Until the invention of this:

The Roundabout, or as I like to call it, The Symbol of Stupidity

The Roundabout, or as I like to call it, The Symbol of Stupidity

 

 

“What’s so problematic about a roundabout?” you ask.

I’ll tell you.

 

 

 

 

 

But first, a history.

‘Roundabouts’ (called ‘rotaries’ or ‘traffic circles’ too) have been around for centuries. No. Really.

Piccadilly Circus in London (ironically, a Square)is a traffic circle. Of course, it’s also known to represent the ‘mysterious London vibe,’ whatever that means. It’s been around (HA!) since the eighteenth century (and I do mean the 1700s).

A rather famous 'roundabout'

A rather famous ’roundabout’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paris’ Arc de Triomphe has a nice, Napoleanic history. Any pic reveals that it sits midst a ’roundabout.’ I’m gratified — in some strange, American way — to discover that Parisians may not have gotten the memo about NOT STOPPING in a roundabout.

The City of Lights boasts a rather famous one as well...

The City of Lights boasts a rather famous one as well…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In their defense, signage, apparently optional, is sorely absent:

YIKES.

In the US, the roundabout features prominently in the District of Columbia — you know, the nation’s capital. FYI: DC refers to these as ‘traffic circles,’ and holy moly, the city is full of them. I wouldn’t have guessed this, but Utah boasts many a roundabout (you can’t make this up, folks) and, well, I could go on, but I’m rather sick of my mini-research project on the cursed things.

Mind, I have every confidence this road design feature renders intersection navigation a breeze, all evidence in Paris to the contrary. Now,while the traffic circles in London, ‘the District,’ Utah, and even Alaska perhaps run smoothly with a little help from DOTs, BMVs, road signs, and the like, the situation in the Hoosier state remains dismal. Licensed drivers get behind the wheels of their trendy SUVs, manly pickup trucks, white service vans, understated luxury sedans, ancient but faithful Hondas, sporty BMWs, and ‘swagger wagons.’ They drive with relative ease around the ‘loop,’ the county road, the city street. And then, at the height of afternoon traffic — when workers are rushing home, parents and kids are heading to the ball fields, and shoppers give up the hunt — they converge on the roundabout. And promptly STOP.

WHAT THE HELL?!?!?!?

Can you just drive, already?

Can you just drive, already?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suddenly, grown adults who’ve been driving for years and presumably manage to run their homes, their children, their employment, and myriad other responsibilities with at least modicums of success, fail utterly to manage a safer and speedier means of navigating a motor vehicle through a modified intersection.

I can’t understand it. And so, I rage, not against the ‘dying of the light,’ as Dylan Thomas suggested so poignantly. No, no, no. Instead, I rage against all the people whose friends needed a bit of help in learning how to drive, but no one bothered to lend a hand.

That’s what friends are for, right? We rode our bikes together — little posses of mad cyclists exploring the small town world. We drove around on Friday nights together — perfecting our ‘cool’ and dreaming of the future. FREEDOM!!

But when life’s highway gets congested — when we’ve got jobs and deadlines and kids and mortgages and places to be — we have no freedom. We can’t even pretend for a moment when we take the car for a spin and reminisce about the open road and the wind in our hair. And why? Because no one got the roundabout memo, which clearly states, “friends don’t let friends stop in a roundabout.”

Was this really necessary?

Was this really necessary?

Napoleon may have had grandiose plans for the Arc de Triomphe. And yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s still standing there. But Napoleon also had his Waterloo. Something about stopping in a roundabout, perhaps?

Don’t let it happen to you.

…Look in the Mirror

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Memorial Day has come. And gone. You know what that means.

Summer, though still a few weeks away on the calendar, is back.  “Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer” by the rising mercury. (sometimes, a Shakespeare line needs a bit of tweaking, you know?)

Summer means grilling on endless repeat. Summer means watermelons, peaches, vine-ripened tomatoes, corn on the cob. Summer means driving with the top down, or, for those without jeeps and convertibles, with the windows open. Summer means birdsong, green, growing things and  bees. Summer means boating excursions. And you know what that means.

Yes, my friends. “Swimsuit season.” 

Back when I was young enough that we still took the kids on family vacations, a dear friend and I went swimsuit shopping. On the fun meter, such an event ranks right up there with enduring a root canal, getting a speeding ticket, and cleaning up vomit.

Face it, swimsuit shopping requires a good look in the mirror.

Here’s what we discover:

Swimsuit shopping forces a girl to acknowledge that her actual size and the tagged size never match, so she’s going to feel like a fatty no matter what.

Swimsuit shopping reminds us gals that our skin will suddenly be exposed, not only to the sun, but to other pairs of eyes besides our own.

Swimsuit shopping highlights the fact that I don’t look like swimsuit models, whose diets, I suspect, consist wholly of celery, a vegetable so vacuous that more calories are burned in chewing it than are contained in its ribbed stalks.

Swimsuit shopping convinces us that there is not enough celery in the world.

 

But in the midst of our miserable, I-eat-chocolate-instead-of-celery swimsuit shopping nightmare, my friend pulled a nautical, horizontally-striped one-piece suit from the rack. She held it up, laughing at the over-sized Tweety bird (of Looney Tunes fame) emblazoned across its tanked front, and said, “I really kind of like this one!”

And then she uttered the words I’ve lived by ever since:

“After all, when I’m on the beach, I don’t have to look at me!”

 

Swimsuit shopping. Like watermelon, fireworks, and a little time in the water, it comes with summertime. And you know what that means.

But at least friends don’t let friends put a mirror on the pontoon.

…Get Outta Shape

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Exercise. Working out. Staying ‘fit.’ Training. Conditioning. Toning. Running. Prancercize. (honestly. ‘prancing’??? Kills me. Every time.)

Yoga. Pilates. Zumba. Crossfit. Spin. TRX. Boxing. R.I.P.P.E.D. Body Pump.

Free weights. Plyometrics. Cardio. Kettlebells. Strengthening.

 

I could go on, but I decided to stop and have a donut.

 

Here’s the thing. Friends don’t let friends get outta shape. Why, you ask? Because it’s too damn hard to get back in shape once you’ve been out of it for as long as I have.

I have these friends. So-called. One of them has encouraged and nudged and cajoled and reminded and hinted and flat out scolded me for a couple of years to join her at the local fitness center. It’s hip. It’s cool. It’s a great place to ‘get in shape.’ I managed to put her off for quite a while. “My knees,” I’d complain. “I really need to go,” I’d agree, “but I can’t find the time!” I’d mention my decreasing flexibility, my struggles to climb stairs or even climb out of bed some mornings. Eventually, I was on the receiving end of a simple eye roll. She knew my yapping about ‘needing to get in shape’ covered up a total lack of interest or inclination. Donuts, on the other hand…  And then, another friend, who may or may not be the most competitive person on the planet, returned to the fitness place after a self-imposed hiatus. Of course she began in January. Of course I’d already decided to ‘give it a try’ myself, it being January and all, and looking like a sack of potatoes at son #3’s wedding as the final straw. 

So, for four months, I’ve been Zumba-ing and toning and occasionally yoga-ing my way to an early grave. Yesterday, for instance, I decided I could manage two classes in a row. HA. Zumba for cardio (never mind that my feet sometimes can’t do the footwork. It’s embarrassing, really), and a toning class for, you know — toning. Kettle bells. While I might be exaggerating a tad when I claim that these cute but deadly weights might just kill me, I do think that they will render me unable to speak (I’m a bit of a hand talker), because I think I may have torn, at some point in my 40s, one or both of my rotator cuffs. Seriously. So, one of these days I am going to be performing the ‘halo’ move with a kettle bell, and my arms are going to fall off. Or whatever it is they do when the rotator cuff completely ceases its design function. Not only will I no longer be able to ‘get fit’; I’ll also be mute. Egad.

Still, the misery is not without its reward. I think I may have noticed a bit less of me in the mirror the other morning. And my pants are a bit baggier. So, fewer spuds in the spud bag. But yesterday, after two hours of trying to get in shape, I sort of wished I could just climb ‘the stairway to heaven’ instead of lugging the laundry to the second floor. And where were my friends????? One of them left immediately after Zumba. (She’s no fool) The other? Some story about remodeling the bathroom…

Friends. They don’t let you get outta shape. Well, not my friends, at any rate. And I love mine dearly. I do. I would not want to do life without them. The thing is, they will soon be doing life without me. Wait a minute…

 

…Shop Alone

Shopping: For some it’s a pastime. Others view the event as a competitive sport. In an effort to shield themselves from all social interaction, a few sad souls avoid shopping whenever possible. Their excuses are embarrassing. They’ll fake illness, pretend they suffered a sudden bout of amnesia, or in a pinch claim they’re “slammed!” at work — lame excuses for why they can’t join you for a shopping excursion or worse, why they didn’t buy you (or anyone else in the family!) a Christmas gift. Then the few & the proud  actually take shopping to a professional level and make it their job. (honestly, this one appeals to me a bit, though I can’t say exactly why…)

Most of us who spend any time at all in the cyberworld have of course become cyber shoppers. It’s so easy. Click. Click. Click. Buy buy buy. Spend spend spend. Telling your money, “bye, ‘bye, ‘bye” has never been easier. The anti-social amongst us must be greatly relieved. No longer do they have to manufacture a cough or work 7 days a week. They can slip on their after-work sweatpants and go to the cyber mall. Whew! Once again, presents for everyone.

I’ll admit, I love the ease of amazon.com. We buy our incandescent light bulbs from retailers on amazon. Our dog’s crate came via the same method. And don’t even get me started on singing the praises of buying books, movies, cds. Couldn’t be more convenient. But some things should probably not be purchased online. Say, for instance, a dress for your son’s wedding.

I can only conclude that facing the fact of my baby’s upcoming marriage triggered my brief bout of insanity. Mind you, I didn’t search the amazon.com website for a mother-of-the-groom dress. (I guess I retained a modicum of sense.) But I did browse the major department stores’ websites. And after many hours of click, click, click, I found a dress that I absolutely loved. A couple more clicks and it was on its way to my front door. Remember. I LOVED it. Right up until it arrived at my front door and I dropped everything to try it on. To say that it, and I, looked hideous would be a kindness. Hideous will suffice.

My stupidity, unfortunately, did not end there.

A nice thing about shopping the online version of a department store that also anchors a nearby mall is this: No return shipping fee. Off to the store I went. Conveniently, one of the groomsmen (another son!) and their dad (my hubby) tagged along. Something about buying the suits the bride and groom had selected for the big day. After I’d made my easy-peasy return, I decided to indulge myself with a bit of in-store browsing (what a novelty!). Disaster was written across my forehead, but I didn’t know it at the time. Nope. Not I. I was blinded by a vision of such mother-of-the-groom-dress loveliness that, before I knew what I was doing, I’d tried it on, twirled about in the dressing room, and purchased the thing. Ta-DA!

I needed someone to say “Ta-Don’t!” is the thing.

I took that dress home. Showed it to nearly everyone — husband, daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law to be (aka the bride). Heck, I took a picture of it and sent to several others who might have an opinion. What I never did, though, was try the dang thing on so that someone — ANYONE! could say, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa.’ TIME OUT. You’re wearing THAT!??!?”

We see our daughter-in-law to be for the first time!

We see our daughter-in-law to be for the first time!

 

 

 

 

 

See, this is why friends don’t let friends shop alone. Because, under no circumstances should a mother-of-the-groom look like she’s carrying around a sack of potatoes (even if she is, figuratively speaking, carrying around a sack of potatoes). Sure, sure, no one could ever upstage this beauty hugging her dad-in-law. Still. The mother-of-the-groom would do well to, you know, get a second opinion when buying the dress that identifies her as the ‘mother-of-the-groom.’ Because LOTS of pictures are snapped on wedding days.

For this reason alone, I repeat: Friends don’t let friends shop alone: not online; not for important purchases like major appliances or furniture upgrades; not for swimwear; not for pillows, laundry detergent or prime rib. Most especially, friends don’t let friends shop for once-in-a-lifetime dresses alone. Disaster can strike at any moment, friends. One minute you’re returning an online purchase. The next you’re twirling in a dressing room, imagining the mother-groom dance, and then, ‘buy, buy, buy.’

Don’t let it happen to you. Or your friends.

…Do ANYTHING without first, a Consultation

Here’s the thing: I suffer from impulsivity. Sure, such a trait means I have an attractive spontaneity streak. But it also means that I, by turns, am stuck being either the life or the party or the ultimate party pooper. You see, I don’t always think a thing through before I jump in, going where anyone with a lick of sense would say, ‘not on your life, pal.’  Conversely, sometimes I say, ‘are you flippin’ out of your MIND?????? NO! Absolutely NOT!” and miss out on once-in-a-lifetime adventures.

Mostly, though, I just miss the simple logic and common sense that many of my friends take for granted. There they go, navigating city streets, parenting, workplace etiquette and social situations with ease; meanwhile, I can’t read a map, my kids survived their raising by a hair’s breadth and I’ve been called into the principal’s office more than any  student who ever entered my class room.

Remember when we were told that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’? (I wonder if that means it will take a village to run the country???? But I digress…) I don’t know if a village would have helped me, but I do know that my circle of friends (you know the ones — they “defend the silver lining“) help me through all the hard stuff.

If you asked them, they’d acknowledge that I, their friend, experience a bit more hard stuff. Because I can’t read a map. Because I have this spontaneous streak. Because I don’t always think things through. And if you’re just like me, or you have a mini-me for a friend, remember: Friends don’t let friends do anything without first, a consultation.

This might mean that you ever-so-gently remind a friend that she lacks subtly.

This might mean that you never let her go to a big city alone.

This might mean that you point out your friend’s ruthless honesty, and warn her that not everyone can take it. She’ll try, but she’ll still end up telling you the truth…

This might mean that you never ask her to proof-read a paper, or if your jeans make your butt look fat. She’ll tell you about every run-on sentence. She’ll tell you your butt makes your butt look fat.

But she’ll also consult with you if you ask. Because she already knows that friends don’t let friends EVER do anything, without checking with the ‘circle of friends.’