Rabbit Nike’s

Photo credit: Fresh to death. Khovd Museum

Photo credit: Fresh to death. Khovd Museum.

Last week there was an article in the news on a 1,500-year-old mummy in what looks like a pair of Adidas running shoes. If you didn’t get to see it, the above photo are what those ‘supposed Adidas’ look like.

When I saw the article, it made me think about my first semester at UNLV. My marriage had just gone belly up and I was trying to readjust to a life on my own. I found myself in Doc T’s Composition II (Argumentative Essay) class, a 37-year-old surrounded by students young enough to be my children. After writing almost every day to chronicle my experiences, I suddenly found myself knee-deep in schoolwork. I had completely slacked off on writing in my blog as I was researching and preparing to fight the battle of creationism versus evolution for my final 10-page paper that I would eventually title “Centerfield.” While I was procrastinating on getting my writing done, I came in here to unwind and air out a few wild theories that I couldn’t really put in an academic paper. The result? A pair of “Rabbit Nikes.” 

As I re-read the post, I laughed out loud a few times. Man, the things I come up with. 

Enjoy.


I like to think of evolution in terms of a pair of “Rabbit Nikes.”  So let’s use our imaginations and think about a caveman for a second, and here’s a visual to help out…

Wait, on second thought, let’s not…because all of the pictures I found on cavemen or Neanderthals…well, the pictures all have everyone’s “whatevers” hanging out and, no, I’m just not gonna go there.  No pictures of some caveman’s willow on my blog!

But that does illustrate my point quite the bit…let’s imagine our very nude caveman walking along.  He steps down and gets a sharp rock in the sole of his foot.  Now in today’s society, we’re liable to hop up and down like a jackrabbit hollering about the pain, but to Mr. Caveman…well, that’s normal.  Sighing at the fact that he’s taken one more sharp rock in the foot, he reaches down and pulls the rock from his foot and keeps going, accepting that it’s always going to be like that. He doesn’t even consider another option.

Now, let’s switch to a different caveman, same situation. He’s walking along, minding his own business when he gets a sharp rock in the bottom of his foot, but this time instead of sighing about it, removing the rock and going about his business, he figures he’s about had enough of his only means of transportation constantly being hurt by things on the ground that he inadvertently steps on (or in).  Just then, a rabbit quickly scampers by. He sees the rabbit…he’s hungry, so he figures, “Hey!  Food!”  (I’ll leave out the quip that the rabbit was probably the first rendition of “Fast Food”…go ahead and groan, it’s ok.) He chases down the rabbit, kills it, skins it and has a really good lunch…BUT then he looks at the leftovers…bones, fur (if he’s not eaten them in the process)…all sorts of stuff…so, he looks at the cut in his foot, looks at the fur, feels how soft it is and figures out that “Hey, that fur could be protecting my foot!”   So he takes the skin, wraps it around his foot, uses the remaining bones to fasten the fur together so it’ll stay on his foot, then gets up and walks on, not worrying about rocks on the ground anymore…our friend the caveman invents the first “shoe” of sorts, a “Rabbit Nike.”

Now, let’s put the shoeless caveman next to the guy with the Rabbit Nike’s on. Is the caveman with the “Rabbit Nike’s” going to be able to go a further distance when he walks?  Odds are he will.  Odds are that he’s got better survival skills than our caveman who just pulled the rock out of his foot and moved on.

Think about it. You’re a caveman. If you hurt your feet, how are you supposed to hunt and gather when you can’t walk?  Now I’ll concede that the caveman foot of prehistoric times probably had the sole of a Doc Marten because their bare feet were their only mode of transportation; the skin of the foot was probably extremely calloused and made to survive a sharp rock or two.  But now we’ve got this guy with the Rabbit Nike’s on…he invented something that he probably put on his girl, then on his children.  What happens to the feet of that family?  Odds are they got softer, because there was not a lot of damage being done to them; the damage being absorbed by the fur and skins that encased their feet.  They got to walk farther in inclement weather, (snow, ice) and generally survived a lot better.  That is a great case of evolution.  The next generations of the family of the Rabbit Nike inventor unwittingly had caused a change in their feet, with less damage being done to the foot and fur-lined insulation cutting down on illness, that means they could hunt and gather more and enjoy a better quality of life, thus leading to the dominance of the Rabbit Nike-wearing caveman.  That singular innovation passes down through the generations, changing the foot over millennia to what we see today when we look down at our feet to get out of bed, all because some caveman was sick and tired of getting a sharp rock in the sole of his foot and was smart enough to use the remains of his lunch to protect them.

Now while I’m using a male pronoun for the caveman, it could have easily been a cavewoman who invented the shoe. Actually, I’ve got odds that a woman invented the shoe because, I mean, come on, girls and shoes? Yeah…that whole thing had to start somewhere.

This, of course, is followed by the evolution of the first shoe salesman:

”You like fur?  You like no rock or thorn in foot?  You like to run fast to catch mammoth for big meal or run away faster when big cat tries to eat you?  Shoe made from rabbit.  Rabbit fast.  You be faster wearing Rabbit Nike.”

Evolution, isn’t it grand?

I’m sorry, I had to do it, it was too funny to pass up.

The Politics of Hummingbirds

So, as I mentioned on Facebook this morning…

This morning welcomed me with something that I have never seen before: Two hummingbirds fighting to the death.

If you remember the description way back in the day of my daily routine, you know that it consists of waking up, taking my thyroid medication and perusing the news of the day. Hey, it’s an ingrained habit from my days at school. Ever since my Global Media class, every day is the same: get up, take my pill, read the news (in that exact order).

This morning, I had walked out onto the back porch with coffee in hand to take in the cool morning breeze along with the morning’s headlines.  I took a sip of coffee, put my cup down, tapped the AP icon on my phone and began scanning headlines. After seeing what the AP had to offer, I swiped my screen to an app called “Flipboard” to find an article on CNN.com about the takeaways from the latest town hall in Wisconsin.

Mid-way through reading about the latest disgraceful antics of childish, bickering politicians, I started hearing this odd cacophony. The sound was distinctly hummingbird, distinctly agitated, but more to the point, it was TWO distinct voices.

I began scanning the trees and plants around the back yard, looking for the source of the sound. To my astonishment, appearing to bounce off the ground, the mason wall and the large shrub next to it, were two male Anna’s Hummingbirds locked in mortal combat, plumage flaring bright red and green on both.

Have you ever seen hummingbirds fight? They’re just NOT nice! No Marquis of Queensbury rules; not an ounce of quarter given. I watched in disbelief as their tiny talons were locked together, the larger of the two males deliberately picking up and slamming his opponent into the rocks on the ground. Lest I remind you, these little guys weigh less than an OUNCE and there the larger one was, repeatedly slamming his opponent to the ground.

My eyes got big as pie plates when I figured out what was going on, aghast at the pure carnage I was witnessing. Whereas most folks these days would immediately whip out their phone to capture it all on video, the thought never even entered my mind. I immediately sprang from my seat, running toward the two aviary combatants yelling, “Oh hell no, not on my watch! You two, break it up!” As I ran toward them, the battle went airborne, the smaller of the two struggling to get away from the onslaught the larger one was unleashing upon him. Just as fast as I spotted it and tried to break up the fight, the two were gone, almost leaving vapor trails from the speed at which they left.

Now what most people don’t know is that hummingbirds are extremely territorial and, to put it plainly, they are not even remotely nice. They are a small package of dynamite just waiting to explode on an unsuspecting foe. Put another way, I think of hummingbirds like a little dog with big dog attitude. It’s like little Zoe (a Fox/Jack Russell Terrier mix) deciding that she’s the same size as her Giant Doberman brother Reese. You and I know that she’s a small dog, but if you ask her, that little dog will just let you have it as if to say, “I’m a big dog. No really, I’m HUGE! And you will obey me because I am The Zoe.”

Jeweled plumage aside, male hummingbirds are really something when hummingbird feeders are placed for them to drink at. Currently, we have three feeders set up in the back yard and they are the site of constant aerial acrobatics of males showing dominance. As to the cast of characters, we have one big hummingbird called “Tweedy” that is the reigning patriarch of the hummingbird clan that lives in the neighborhood; “Arc”, the smaller male (who has an injured wing which, at rest, looks like an arc) and a smattering of indistinguishable smaller females who come to drink quite often.

Arc has been a constant resident of the feeders since he was a baby. Last year, Tweedy would stomach Arc and the females coming to feed, allowing them to take a drink and then chase them off as if to say, “MY FEEDER! Not yours. You’ve had your drink, now move along.” This morning, the fight was ON between Tweedy and Arc because you can tell that Tweedy’s just not into having Arc around anymore. What am I saying? Tweedy hates everyone. They’re his feeders and he’s not sharing.

After breaking up the fight between Tweedy and Arc, I went back to my news, back to the dismal bullyfest of incessant bickering, name calling, manhood-defending, hand-size-judging, wife-insulting, girl-hitting, pile of manure that has become the Republican side of the 2016 election cycle. Upon finishing the articles, I looked up to see Tweedy back on one of the feeders, the proud and apparent victor of the titanic clash.

Here’s where it gets funny.

After watching the hummingbirds battle it out, combined with reading the political headlines of the day, my brain put the two disparate concepts together. Suddenly, I realized that the White House has become one big proverbial hummingbird feeder. Tweedy and Arc? Well, they fit nicely as Drumpf and Cruz treating each other (and the rest of us) like it’s THEIR FEEDER and they’re not sharing! They’ll keep chasing each other off and pecking at each other until the other gives up or dies, because they are the one who wants the sole ability to “wet their beak” in the nectar of power, completely forgetting that it’s the average person (just like you and me) who makes the sucrose suspension and keeps filling the feeder.

Watching Tweedy slam Arc into the ground repeatedly is just another way that Mother Nature shows us the nature of politics. All I see is two little birds squabbling over something that we take down, wash and refill over and over again for a far longer period than the lifespan (or shelf-life) of those two very small, squabbling birds.

And while most people would simply whip out their cameras to take pictures of the carnage, I’m hopping out of my seat chasing them both off yelling, “OH HELL NO! Not on my watch! Break it up you two!”

Ah, the Politics of Hummingbirds.

But then again, that’s just me of course.

 

The Antidote to Numbness.

Today, let’s just say it out, I’ve been feeling awful. My session yesterday had me wake up this morning and feel like I had just taken a quadruple shot of novocaine straight to the chest. Numb. Absolutely wretched. Like some jackass came in and just sucked all the hope out of my body and left me for dead. But PTSD therapy is like that.  What did we say?

I adore my brain's personal trainer.

That said, in the overall, therapy has been going well. No, scratch that, it’s been going just freaking awesome. My therapist says that I’m one of the hardest working clients she has. I never miss an appointment, I’m never late for my appointments, I do my homework, I apply it to my life instantaneously and I refuse to stop, give in or give up until I’m healthy again.

I walk into her office and say, “THIS is what’s bothering me, and I don’t want it to bother me anymore” and we rip off the band-aid, pour alcohol directly into the wound, break out the wire brush and clean out all the crap that’s holding me back. You really don’t get how much I want to feel better. I have things to do, a world to conquer, and I will be damned if I let a set of triggers caused by a bunch of ignorant assholes to get in my way. I’m just done with allowing them, AND MYSELF, to be the biggest obstacles in my own path.

I’m aggressive with my treatment because I want to get better. I’ve squandered too many years on allowing myself to be treated badly and outright treating myself badly because I thought that I didn’t deserve love, that I didn’t deserve good things to happen to me, that I was a discard, that I wasn’t worth the skin that was holding my bones in place. I lived for over 40 years apologizing for breathing because I (wrongly) assumed that everything was my fault because I was so used to being the scapegoat and the target for maliciousness by people with some serious issues.

Well, guess what? That’s a bunch of bullshit. That’s someone else’s shoulder yoke and heavy buckets, their emotional baggage and THEIR issues that I was just oh so happy to run up, pick up and bolt it to my skeleton so I never dropped it. And then I proceeded to carry it. Like a moron, I carried it for YEARS!!! Baggage that wasn’t mine to carry…that didn’t even have anything to do with me, and there I was carrying it.

Ugh. *facepalm*

What a damn waste of time. That’s the thing about being an emotional baggage bellhop, the bags aren’t yours to carry and the tips suck. The person you’re carrying it for isn’t going to say thank you, and newsflash, they don’t even CARE if you’re carrying it! They don’t even KNOW! But there you are, dragging it along like some schmuck that doesn’t know any better! When the ton of bricks hit me that it didn’t matter if I was standing in the vicinity or not, people are going to say what they’re going to say, they’re going to do what they’re going to do, and it doesn’t make a flying fart in space of a difference who’s there, they are going to spew their bullshit anyway. This unique tidbit brought to you by the phrase “Don’t take it personally” because that’s the working definition. Hello. 43 years to learn what that phrase meant. *facepalm*

In college, Doc Cat clued me in that I was carrying stuff I didn’t need to carry. Remember how I struggled with that? Well, guess what, thanks to Ferris and my Aunt Lee, I got on the phone, found a therapist and promptly took KP’s advice and promptly went to work putting the serious hammer to nail to build my bridge to stomp on and get the fuck over it ALL. I got to the point where I said, “Enough already. If I’m supposedly SO brilliant, as smart and talented as everyone says I am, then you know what? I can take this on and win.”

So I got into the therapy room and I went to work. And I’ve working my ass off for two hours every Thursday for the last six months. And a lot of the time, yeah, it’s hard. Some days I get to slack off and laugh. But there have been a LOT of days where I cry inconsolably. But you know what? I’m committed to the process and that’s the WORK. You want easy? Screw you, get back in the corner and wallow in your self-pity. Settle for living with the pain. Be lazy and do NOTHING about it. You wanna feel better? Then DO THE WORK. Believe in something, the very best something that you would never in a million years believe could happen to you. See yourself the way you’ve always wanted to: strong, vibrant, desirable and most of all, loved. Loved for every quirk, idiosyncrasy, genius moment, goofy yet charming chortle and clumsy fall.

I knew walking in and committing to treatment that it was going to be hard, that change only happens when you want it so badly that you can taste it in every breath, that you don’t want the constant anxiety anymore, that you’re tired of getting triggered by some jackass not worthy of your time, much less for you to waste more time dwelling on said jackass.

I didn’t go into the therapy room to start this journey thinking it was going to be easy all the time. Had I assumed it was going to be easy, I’d still be some strung-out doodah letting some guy treat me like dirt. Or allow some jealous herd of cows to pass judgement on me because I just happen to be extremely smart and pretty to boot. By the way ladies, it’s not a crime if boys like me. I’m actually pretty fucking special, so I’m sorry if you have a problem with that, but that’s YOUR problem, not mine. Carry your own fucking luggage for a change because it’s not my fault you have self-esteem issues because boys don’t look at you the way they look at me.

No, that’s not who I am anymore, thank you very much, and I’ll be damned if I ever let anyone make me feel like I’m not worthy of being loved, adored and goddamned *worshipped* for the really awesome person I am ever again. Hey, like my therapist says, “You have to love yourself first and best, only then can someone love you the way you want to be loved.”

So, as I was sitting here at my desk, feeling awful and numb and just wretched, I was listening to the Under the Tuscan Sun Soundtrack and I remembered what Diane Lane’s character said in the middle of the renovations to her villa in Tuscany. There is only so much work you can do on your house, your soul and your PTSD before you just have to GET OUT.

I happen to live in one of the most exciting cities on the planet. It’s Vegas for fuck’s sake! So you know what I’m going to do tonight? I’m going to finish working, I’m going to go to the gym, then I’m going to go home, get ready, and then I’m just going to get out and see the city. Take a walk, go visit the conservatory at the Bellagio, I DON’T GIVE A SHIT where I end up going! I’m going out!

Thank you Christophe Beck! Without hearing “Roma” go off in my headset, I’d still be sitting here feeling horrible.

Now, I have a plan. Thank. The. Maker.

And if a hot guy asks me out, I’m saying YES.

Here, be inspired.

Guardian Down.

A lot of you know why I write with such passion about PTSD: I don’t ever want anyone to go through what I did. It’s the reason I refused to have children. I couldn’t justify exposing a perfectly innocent child to the cruelties of the world.

I will fight against child abuse, neglect and bullying until the last breath goes out of my body. No one should have to live with what I do: nightmares of cruel children doing their best to drive me to suicide.

I rarely write about my childhood in a positive light because, to be honest, there wasn’t much light to be found. Even though I would search high and low for a moment of respite, it didn’t happen often. I got maybe about three hours a day where I wasn’t getting knocked into the dirt and expected to get back up and wear a smile to hide the agonizing pain I was constantly in.

That’s what always amazes me. People come to me now and say, “I remember your beautiful smile.” As the great Robin Williams once said, “The brightest smiles hide the worst pain.”

By the time I hit high school, I was lucky enough to garner the assistance of who I now call “My guardians.” Rebel elements themselves that didn’t fit into the status quo, but found solace in each other enough to garner the safety in numbers needed to ensure survival in that kind of hostile environment. I don’t kid when I say I grew up with some pretty treacherous animals while carefully traversing poison-filled school hallways. Like one of my friends recently put it, “I remember this incredibly sweet girl that never seemed to get a fair shake.” During that time, I was forced to accept that “a fair shake” was just something that I was never going to find in life, so I did my best to keep my head down, endure the daily mental beatings and spiritual eviscerations, always hoping one day that life would get better.

What I didn’t expect is that this band of brothers would come to my aid, protecting me when they could, and for a brief, sweet year, they treated me with respect and gave me my very first taste of acceptance. It was heavenly and for that brief time, I felt better. That is until they graduated and left me alone once again to fend for myself against individuals I can only describe as putrid souls without a shred of decency or mercy.

One of my guardians, the strongest of all of them, stuck around and still watched over me and became a powerful influence on my life from that time on. Because everyone gets a pseudonym here, I am going to bestow onto him the highest honor I can, and that’s to name him after my favorite book character EVER. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s biggest badass in her Dark Hunter series: Acheron, or “Ash” for short, after the river of woe that runs through Hades.

Now for those of you who read Sherrilyn Kenyon, you know that Ash is just all that and a plate of cookies. Dark hair, swirling silver eyes and “a predator’s lope” that (thanks to his Aunt Epithymia) made everyone who came near him want to touch him. Okay, he melts underwear at 30 paces but gives off such a dangerous vibe that you know not to mess with him. But if you know the character, you know he’s Mr. Severe PTSD because of a lifetime of atrocities that make him unable to even get remotely close to anyone. That’s why I adore the character so much, because I fully understand what years of unending cruelty will do to the soul.

My real-life version of Ash is right on par with the book description. Okay, let’s break it down: his IQ is 30 points higher than mine. That fact alone should tell you to just bow down because a 169 is something you must bow down to. To me, that’s a godlike intellect that I respect without hesitation. I live in 30 point envy because holy gods, he is just off-the-charts brilliant. As we know, the one thing I prize over all else is intellect, and Ash has got it for miles. Talking to him is like paradise on Earth because we move from topic to topic flawlessly, fluidly, and I am able to sample the sweetness of an equal, kindred intellect like sweet wine flowing across my tongue. His presence is so entirely heady that it steals my breath. It always has.

I remember watching him walk into a room when we were kids and feeling my knees absolutely buckle under me because to me he was (and still is) THE most gorgeous man I have ever seen, and trust me, I’ve dated my share of hotties in my day. Ash puts them all to shame without even an effort. As a kid, I remember turning around to see his topaz eyes staring into mine and me instantly melting because, just, just, just WOW. His essence, mind, body and soul, was just overwhelming. 25 years later? Still, just one look and I go from jaw-gape to MELT. “Aunt Epithymia” did her job, that’s all I can say. His unparalleled beauty aside, I remember that he and I would play word association games to challenge each other’s vocabulary: a war of bigger and bigger words would go flying back and forth until I would finally give up because he never failed to beat me every time, but we would always walk away laughing. He NEVER once made me feel dumb or inadequate or anything else except special. If there was a singular moment of joy from my childhood, Ash was it. And we never went on a single date. Ever. But at least I can admit now that from the very first moment I saw him while walking across an asphalt practice field, it was love at first sight, and it would endure, unspoken and unrequited, for decades.

Now, I know you’re going to ask why I’m suddenly going on a dote-fest and out of nowhere telling you about Ash:

Last weekend, I got a text from Ash wishing me happy birthday. It was the first time I had spoken to him in over a year. So, what do you think I did? Like a jerk, I started yelling at him with “Where the hell have you been?” “What the hell is going on?” “You jerk!” “I’ve been worried sick!” Oh, I just absolutely went green rage monster on him, that was until he knocked me over with a ton of bricks. Upon the screen of my phone popped a picture of a wrist with a bright pink scar across it. One look and I knew: Ash has my illness. If that’s not enough to knock the wind out of you, I don’t know what will. The guy who watched over me, protected me, loved me from afar, who always adored me no matter what anyone said or did, has PTSD.

My therapist has been challenging me for weeks to find some way for me to look at myself through the eyes of others so I can understand my importance as a person. But there’s a bigger reason I’m writing about this now. While I now understand what my therapist wanted me to see, this is my way of doing the same for Ash. He needs to see how I see him and how much I believe that he is worthy of being loved. Technically, it is called the inability to receive love and it’s just part and parcel of the illness, borne of inadequate nurturing during development. I have it too. It sucks. Basically you have to learn to raise yourself because some people aren’t equipped with nurturing skills. Oddly enough, when Ash and I interact with the rest of the world? We trust no one. But when we sit down together and talk, all of our trust and intimacy issues vanish and it becomes the most naturally honest and open communication I have ever known. I think that says something pretty friggin’ huge because we light each other up like fireworks and we make each other feel so much better, which is extremely healing and good for our therapy process.

But when that picture flashed onto the screen of my phone and I found out about his illness, my heart shattered into a thousand little bitty pieces. I sat down and began to cry uncontrollably. Of all the people in the universe, why God why would you do that to someone so perfect? I mean when he smiles, he shines like the sun! When he speaks, brilliance flows from him like water! His heart is golden, his soul more precious than anything I could ever describe, and he’s in pain all the time like I am. Why? Damn it, I can understand how and why it happened to me, I get it, I accept it, I’m fine with it, I go into the therapy room and deal with it. But why him? WHY???????? I would endure what I went through a million times over again to save him from this, but here we are and I can’t help but want throats for what was done to him. Damn it! Bring it here! Beat on me! I can take it! But you leave Ash alone!!!!

Come to find out, the pathology of our illness is IDENTICAL. We both suffer from severe childhood onset PTSD. In the 25 years we have been apart, our collective suicide attempts total 13. Four for him, nine for me. Remember, PTSD affects 5.3 million Americans a year and I am convinced that the damage done to Gen X by our selfish, abusive, twisted, absentee Baby Boomer parents is going to reach epidemic proportions by the end of the decade because PTSD and suicide are inextricably linked. Trust me, this much non-stop pain will drive you to some severe lengths to make it stop. It starts at addiction and usually ends up in suicide. The only thing you can really do is get a really good therapist, grab your bootstraps and get into the ring to re-fight all of your battles that gave you the illness in the first place in order to FINALLY learn the proper coping skills you should have in childhood. Only then are we able to finally put the trauma to bed.

In most cases for Gen X’ers with childhood onset PTSD, we were forced to learn to raise ourselves because our parents just didn’t exist. Can’t blame them, it was the 80’s, it was a big party. Millions of parents across the U.S. said, “Screw the kids, they can take care of themselves.”  Well played Boomers, thanks for defining “cruel”, “selfish” and “negligent” for us.

I go into the therapy room this afternoon knowing that one of my beloved guardians is down and I am powerless to help him except to encourage him and support him while he fights for his life. I can’t transfuse the hope that resides in my veins into his, the illness doesn’t work that way. But at least he’s in treatment. While I’m just a machine in the therapy room mercilessly crushing my traumas and progressing by leaps and bounds, he’s just begun. But I will be damned if he does this alone.

Today’s song of the day is from the guys who gave us the Eternal Sophomore theme song, “Marching On”… Just for you Ash, OneRepublic’s “Feel Again.”

 

The Importance of Excellent Spelling Skills

The Eternal Sophomore Tackles Spelling
SHCOOL is painted along the newly paved road leading to Southern Guilford High School on Drake Road Monday, August 9, 2010, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/News & Record, Joseph Rodriguez)

Oscar Wilde in the 1895 play “The Importance of Being Earnest” once said, “To lose one parent, […] may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both seems like carelessness.”

While Wilde uses that quote to illustrate the sometimes ludicrous nature of “high” society, it has a more powerful message when you look at it through the eyes of a writer.

In today’s instant gratification, instant information culture, the amount of time we have to create copy/content has become extremely limited. Writing on deadline is not only a journalistic ideal, but a mandatory part of SEO writing as well. The unrelenting demand for content has come with a terrible side effect, the loss of accurate spelling, punctuation and sentence structure.

Every morning I start my day with a look through multiple digital media outlets. I start with The Wall Street Journal and New York Times; make my way down the coast to Atlanta and CNN; then to the West for The LA Times; across the pond to BBC News from London; then round out my digital globetrotting with the Associated Press and Reuters’ websites to read the breaking news. After that, it’s checking my local news on all three broadcast networks and finally sitting down with a print copy of the local newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal or “RJ.” Yeah, I consume a lot of news before I have finished breakfast.

The one thing that I have repeatedly noticed? Typos everywhere.

In our mad rush to sate audiences with fresh content, we’ve either forgotten to proofread or we have become far too reliant on spell-check. I catch typos with frightening regularity in large publications like The New York Times and USA Today. Every time I spot a typo or a fumbled sentence, I sit back and ask two questions:

Doesn’t the writer realize that typos damage the credibility of their story? Don’t they realize that they are damaging the reputation of their publication each time they don’t thoroughly check their work?

I’d hate to think that most news stories are entered through a smartphone, but odds are that’s closer to the truth than I even realize – because I have caught some errors that could only be attributed to auto-correct.

The argument can be made by those who think the typo is “okay” that people are lazy and don’t read past the headline. To that I ask, what about those who do read past the headline? Should the people actually reading the entire article be forced to put up with atrocious spelling and expect their work to be called “credible”?

My answer? Each time I see a typo, I can’t help but think that writers are dropping the ball and not doing their jobs right.

One of my favorite sayings is:

“Spell well, write well, communicate unforgettably.”

It’s pretty simple, right? It just says that when you spell well, your writing has a fighting chance to reach and impact an audience. But then again, I may be asking too much. After all, as a wise friend of mine once said, “Not everyone speaks Sheri,” meaning that I communicate differently than most everyone else.

I wrote script and cursive and read aloud from National Geographic by the time I was four and then wrote my first lines of computer code by the time I was eight. But it all boiled down to one thing, I have always known the importance of spelling. The reason that I began reading so early is because I was taught to sound out my words, using phonics to make sure I was pronouncing words correctly. When it came time to write, I used the inverse, sounding out the words to ensure their proper spelling on the page. Over my lifetime spelling has become my stock in trade, so when I see a typo or witness the desecration of the English language on social media, I cringe. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we all be cringing when we see a typo? I would think so, but maybe that’s just me.

When you write, you have to make sure that your word usage and spelling are accurate. I’m often told that I own “The Vocabulary of Awesome” because I use words that other people usually don’t. The truth is that really I don’t own “The Vocabulary of Awesome,” I just make sure that when I write that I use the perfect words to convey my thoughts or emotions. I have no fear of saying “I don’t know”, so going to a dictionary to look up a word’s proper spelling or definition doesn’t bother me one bit. At least I know that when I write, I can at least reach the bar of good spelling skills, which in the end, gives me outstanding credibility. (It makes me fun to read, too.)

Right now, in schools all over the world, they are taking handwriting out of the curriculum. To me, that is tantamount carelessly wiping an endangered species off the map. When we take handwriting away, we take away a sensory mechanism for teaching proper spelling. Besides, in our instant information/instant gratification culture, a handwritten letter sent by snail mail has become a treasured artifact.

So, for me, the next time you go on social media, write an article or attempt to communicate with the world, make sure what you write is spelled properly. It will do your credibility a world of good. Think of it this way, when you spell well, people take you seriously and your “street cred” (“cred” being short for the word “CREDIBILITY”) will skyrocket. If that fails to convince you, think of Oscar Wilde:

“One typo may be regarded as a misfortune. Two or more seems like carelessness.”

The Starbucks Fail

We have a new tradition at work: One hour every day spent writing. Some of it will go on the company site, some of it will be kept on side, but regardless, it’s going to be posted here so that my blog at LEAST gets a minor shot in the arm every day.

It’s only Tuesday and it’s already been a bad week. Yesterday began with $500 in car repairs, followed by one of the members of my far-reaching virtual family dying of complications due to breast cancer. I go into work the following day and, as is quickly becoming the norm, my office Internet goes out. It’s then that one of my office cohorts decides that it would be a grand idea to go to the local Starbucks to use the Internet and get some work done.

When we reconvened at the nearby Starbucks, I was already shaken, an emotional mess from the day previous, so I went outside to collect myself, carrying my full Venti Mocha Frappucino and hoping in vain that I could collect myself enough to get some work done. After a few minutes, finally in a mindset to get to work, I walk back in the door of the Starbucks and promptly get stuck, dropping the huge cup of chilled chocolate goodness I was carrying onto the floor. Upon impact, the contents of the cup splatters onto the floor and all over the handsome new graphic artist that just started work with us, promptly making a mess unlike the gods have ever seen.

I sigh heavily as I look down at the mess, realizing that it’s already not been an overwhelmingly great week, and come to find out, it’s only Tuesday.

The fellow writer from my office springs from his seat, the gentle giant of a man quickly cleaning up the sticky mess that is decorating the floor, my shoes and the hem of my comfy jeans. The remnants of my expensive coffee drink quickly become a huge chocolate smear on the floor, getting larger with every napkin taken from the dispenser to clean it up. He sends mischievous quips my way as I am covered in chocolate and embarrassment, trying desperately to hold up the back of my pants and some semblance of my dignity as I bend down to clean up the mess I have clumsily made.

And yeah, it’s only Tuesday.

I sit down and begin to write, looking at the door which caused the mess and now covered in coffee streaks, thinking to myself, “Please God, don’t let anyone slip on that…” Someone slipping on it would have only made my day that much more unbearable to take, knowing that not only is my car on the fritz, my friend is dead and my world seems to be falling apart, it would only make sense that my internal tragedy turns itself into someone else’s injury. After writing about slips, trips and falls for work, it only seems fitting that I would eventually take someone out.

Like I always accurately say about myself, “If I could step in it, trip over it, bump into it or burn myself with it, I usually do.” God gave me a double helping of brains and skipped grace altogether. Over the past 43 years, I have come to learn that having a high IQ does not necessarily translate into physical grace; instead, my intellect manifests itself in a series of awkward, often embarrassing, side-splitting comedic trips, stumbles and inevitable wipeouts. Never in my life have I seen someone clumsier than myself, and that’s saying something. If there is a curb, I can fall off of it and land flat on my face in under two seconds. Trust me, I’ve done it and have witnesses that will say, “Yep, she’s THAT clumsy.”

And yeah, it’s only Tuesday which means that I’ve still got three days left this week to maybe break my neck and write 10 more articles on slips, trips and falls as atonement for hosing the new guy down with a dropped Mocha Frappucino.

I guess that’s why I became a writer. It’s safe. After all, you can’t spill a cup of words onto people, that is, unless you are carrying a steaming hot cup of Alphabet Soup. Okay, bad example, but it’s safe to say that you’re immune from me spilling anything on you. Regardless, being a writer allows me to sit in one place, have liquids strategically placed so they don’t end up on my keyboard, computer screen, (or my office cohorts) and be able to tell stories that are compelling, often funny, and most of all, informative.

Outside of keeping the world-at-large safe from my clumsiness, I became a writer through a very organic process. I grew up surrounded by the oral tradition via the family stories told around my grandmother’s bedside in East Texas where she battled painful rheumatoid arthritis. Even though she was in pain, she always found a way to laugh and the laughter that came out of that room was unforgettable to me. It illustrated to the 4-year-old me that stories could help bridge gaps, they could raise spirits and that they could be used to teach. Even today, I help keep the family stories alive by digitally chronicling them so that they may be passed down to future generations. From the stories of practical jokes being played in the Southern Baptist church they attended to the tales of the hijinks they played on each other in the family’s cotton fields that they worked from pre-dawn until dusk every day of the early 1900’s, it sometimes seems like the stories my family contains are endless. There are even tales of family members coping with having to sit on an inordinately large ice block, barely covered by the thin seats of an old model T to keep cool on the long, hot drive from El Paso to Bryan, Texas.

But, it was in that old, white house at the end of a long gravel road that I learned the value of storytelling. You see, it is through stories that we chronicle the evolution of the human condition: its joys, its sorrows, its triumphs and the lessons to be learned through failures. As a little girl sitting on my father’s lap inside that very humble, worn farmhouse is where I first heard the tales of the invention of the telephone, tragic tales and first-hand accounts of the Great Depression, stories of farming technologies long past and given the gift of an almost first-hand view of a bygone age that is now only the stuff of memory quickly being lost to history.

So, as a writer, I can really only tell you what my sensory experience and vast amounts of research tell me so that I can internalize it, rationalize it, and bring it in written form to you, who has stopped to watch me epically fail at a Starbucks, but spin the experience to show you how and why I chose to construct my world of words.

And it’s only Tuesday. Who knows what the rest of the week may bring?

 

 

 

 

Better Late Than Never

sheri_rednoseday

 

My weeks have begun to get so hectic, writing is a challenge and well, so is making time to support charities that take a stand on behalf of children.

As everyone knows, I am huge on the fight against child neglect. So, better late than never, let’s see if I can get the Gates Foundation to chip in a little more for me and my Therian Avatar’s Red Nose.

And for heaven’s sake: #LearnToPlay.

The Janet Initiative

A few weeks ago, I got a note from a reader named Justin in regards to a piece I wrote called “Cavern.” In his beautifully worded letter, he asked me to describe my friend Janet’s motorized wheelchair in order to create a memorial for her.

If you recall, Janet (a.k.a. ‘Pepsi’ or ‘Pehpsee’) has been a fixture here on the Eternal Sophomore because she is, bar none, one of the most important positive influences on my life. She was one of the very first people to adopt me inside the Myst Universe. She helped me win the Myst Movie writing contest with “A Trip Through the Linking Book“, a piece about how she, the Cavern and the entirety of the Myst Universe has impacted my life in a very real, very positive way.

Justin’s note shined light on something I have never really written about:  the day Janet died. On the evening of December 28, 2004, I went to my computer after dinner to check in with my friends around the world. Upon checking my e-mail, I received a note that changed my world forever. It was from Katie Postma, gently telling me that Janet was gone. I sat staring at the words on the screen in disbelief. My mind just would NOT accept it. I knew Janet was down because of the surgery on her ankle, but I thought she was doing better! Next thing I knew, I literally crumbled into my ex-husband’s arms wailing, “No! NO! She can’t be gone! No!” and he held me while I wept uncontrollably and inconsolably for hours that turned into days. Someone might as well have set off a nuclear bomb in the middle of my chest because, as far as I was concerned, the world had ended. The very first person who I felt truly accepted me for who I was, was gone. My lamp in the darkness, my best pal, my sister, my teacher, my collaborator, my favorite peacemaker, would never light my screen up again with a “What’cha doin’?” It’s ten years later, and I can still feel the incredible loss.

Justin wanted to know some very granular details about Janet’s chair, its’ color, make, model, if there were any decals or stickers on it; a bevy of details that I sadly don’t have because she never shared that information with me. You have to understand that in all the time I spent with Janet in Cavern, through all of the projects we collaborated on – from how to publicize Cone Kicking and Eddie Soccer matches to mapping the D’ni Games Marathon Course – we never talked about what she couldn’t do. We always talked about what she could do or what we had plans to do together or projects we wanted to undertake to benefit our global Cavern family. To be honest, in the majority of time I spent with her, I never knew about her condition and how juvenile arthritis had taken its’ painful toll on her life until the very end. But if you knew Janet, that’s not a revelation that would surprise you. If you had spent even five minutes with the woman, you knew that she wasn’t about pain, she wasn’t about complaining, she was about solving problems and keeping everyone else’s spirits up when the hard times inevitably came.

Janet wasn’t about “I can’t.” Janet said, “I CAN.”

To put it succinctly, she never focused on herself, she focused on what the community needed. If I have ever been likened to the sticky stuff that holds things together, I’m convinced I learned those skills from Janet. She was a problem solver, not a drama maker, and I am convinced that she wouldn’t want to be remembered for her wheelchair, but for how she lived: a life spent humbly serving her community to the best of her abilities.

Janet taught me to always give more than I take.

Janet taught me to always greet everyone I meet with a smile on my face and love in my heart.

Janet taught me that even though life may deal you a pretty dismal hand, you have to do the best you can with what you have and don’t complain a word about it; just be grateful for what you have and get on with life.

Janet embodied one of my favorite quotes from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations which says:

Take on life’s tasks like a soldier storming the breach. So what if you are lame and cannot scale the wall alone? Does your lameness prevent you from asking for help?

But, contrary to what you might think, Janet wasn’t the one who needed to ask for help. Instead, she was the hand reaching down from the top of the wall, stretching with all her might to reach out and help pull you up. She had this uncanny way of always finding the bright side of just about anything, no matter how bad things truly got.

But on that dark day when I thought all was lost and Janet “Linked to the Perfect Age”, I made my pal a promise: I would never let her legacy die, that as long as I remembered her and carried her words forward, she would live forever.

As her husband would later tell us, “Every morning she got up without fail and went to the computer to do ‘her work’.” Janet’s “work” was comprised of moderating several forums, doing full-time greeter shifts in Cavern helping out new Explorers, working as a part of the D’ni League of Activities (D’LA) to make the term “Explorer-Based Initiatives” a part of every community member’s vocabulary. She referee’d cone kicking matches…heck, you can name it and Janet was probably right in the middle of it. She ate, breathed and slept Cavern even more than I do! And that’s a lot! Her whole goal was to take on any task that had to do with maintaining high community morale. She was committed to “the cause” that was Uru; whether it was because she felt like it had given her her legs back so that she could run, jump and climb again, I’ll never know, but if it was for the good of the community, she was neck deep in it. She wanted Uru to succeed that badly.

But, there were two things you would never find her doing…being negative or hurting another living soul on purpose. I honestly believe there was not a single malicious bone in her body. Okay, she could be a pistol at times, yes, but truly malicious? No way.

So, with all of this in mind, I sent a note back to Justin that read:

Unfortunately, I have ZERO clue about what kind of wheelchair she used. She never shared that with me. In fact, every time that topic would come up, she would dodge it, go around it; it was one subject she didn’t really like to talk about because she LOVED the fact that she was accepted as a run-of-the-mill explorer: running, jumping and climbing just like everyone else. The reason why she loved Cavern so much is that no one ever treated her any different because of her condition. She wasn’t treated like she was in a wheelchair or judged because of her disability, she was just “Pepsi.”

and everyone loved her for it.

I continued:

Stereotypes and disabilities go by the wayside real fast inside of a virtual world, that’s why she and I used to giggle, “You never know who is on the other side of the screen.”

That is why she loved the fact that Uru was also known as You are YOU, because it didn’t matter if you were sitting in a wheelchair or stood seven feet tall, you were loved for who you are, not how you sat, where you lived, or what color your skin was; all that mattered was that you put aside all the negatives and were genuinely who you were in your heart. (Believe me, Janet could spot a fake a mile off. She didn’t much take to folks that weren’t genuine, I can tell you that!)

Finally, I told Justin about how I remember Janet every day:

I think of an empty workstation with a can of “Pehpsee” clearly visible on the desk; computer and monitor on, notes strewn all around the desk (puzzle clues, maps, phone numbers), post-it’s stuck on the edge of the monitor with written reminders; all of it just waiting for her to come back, as if she’s just taking a break for a moment. Of course, you could simply add tire tracks on the floor to infer the nature of her chair, but that’s just me of course.

Janet would never want to be remembered for being “the lady in the wheelchair.” She would want to be remembered for the work she DID, and that’s the most important part.

The one thing she told me that will stick with me forever was the time where I expressed a lack of faith in my own talents. I could tell she was about ready to lose her cool with me when she said,

Don’t be afraid! Get involved, share your gifts, and you’ll find your niche!

The next day, I was an amateur sports reporter for the D’LA. Now, ten years later, I’m a journalist.

So, now here is where YOU come in. Yes you, sitting there reading the rantings of one of the many, beyond count, friends she left behind. I guess we’re still here to carry on Janet’s legacy, an initiative if you will, that reminds you, and everyone you interact with, to give more than you take, to greet everyone you meet with a smile on your face and love in your heart. Life is far too short to spend it complaining about other people and not being honestly grateful for what you have, from your health to the smile on your child’s face when you make the time to play a simple game with them.

Every day I look out into the world and see people complaining, being greedy and malicious pains-in-the-backside. I see people neglecting the needs of their fellow man, completely unaware of how much damage they are doing to everyone around them with their craptastic attitudes. This just will not do! Not according to Janet, not according to me, and not according to her legion of friends who carry her legacy forward every single day of their lives because they saw with their own two eyes what it means to live a life of humble service and never take for granted that they can run, jump, climb and be a positive influence on all those around them.

This is The Janet Initiative. It is following in the footsteps, yes, footsteps of a truly great woman who understood that sometimes we have to exercise patience when faced with adversity, that when life deals us not-so-favorable cards, it’s time to be grateful for what we DO have and make the very best of what we’ve got. And doing it ALL, no matter how badly it hurts, with a smile on our face and love in our heart.

If Janet could do that without flinching and not even whimper about her own pain while doing her part for her community, you can stand up and join her, can’t you?

Can you make a positive difference in someone else’s life without asking for anything in return? Can you be kind when you have no reason to? When your patience is tested, can you hold your wrath in check? Can you live without pride? Can you be generous instead of greedy?  Can you be selfless in a way that sets a standard for others to follow?

I have a feeling you can. Like Janet said, “Just share your gifts and talents with the world, you’ll find your niche.”

Since it’s the New Year, it might be time to try something new. I suggest taking some initiative and help us carry Janet “Pehpsee” Burress’ legacy forward. Heaven knows, the world needs something much different than the negativity we’ve sadly become accustomed to, don’t you think?

Like a wise man once taught me, “It’s not about the say, it’s about the DO.”

Shift into positive gear. Do it for Janet.

Happy New Year everyone.

 

 

 

 

Wordy…

I got a note the other day from a mysterious man…

Apparently I’m so wordy, Tolstoy wants to be my boyfriend.

Okay, admit it. I made you laugh.

So while I’m waiting for Tolstoy to call me long distance from the grave, I am watching Julie & Julia for the countless time.

It’s the holidays and I am cooking in eight very short hours. I figured the film would help me refocus on the chopping, cutting and general sous-cheffery I will be doing.

It also occurred to me that I am on a new tack in my writing, namely cooking, so I figure I will have my phone next to me to take snappies of all the good things I’ll be making, then pass the recipes on to you. (Just in case something I make appeals to you.)

Anyhow, I think I may ask Santa for a copy of Rosetta Stone in Russian, that way if Tolstoy calls I’ll be ready. Because yeah, I’m wordy.