Category Archives: Thoughts

Less TV = More Money

_Here is a blog post I did for a blog contest a while back. I didn’t win, of course. Apparently they were looking for someone who would write about switching dog food brands to save money and not fabulous sarcastic witty writers who come up with less mainstream ideas on how to save money. Have I whined enough and convinced you I am being a sore loser? Either way, I miss writing blogs and came across this and felt it was fun to share even though it was not good enough to win a contest on ways to save money- I am glad I submitted though since I always feel I will fail 100% of the time if I don’t try. Enjoy._

“I think we should get rid of our TV.” My heart did a little skip at my husband’s suggestion. What was he thinking? I don’t know anyone without a TV. I think the government requires every American household to have one. I was immediately fearful of life without a TV.

“What are you talking about?” I was hoping he was joking, what would we do for entertainment every night? What about all our weekend projects inspired by watching the Home Improvement channel or lets not forget the couples bonding experience we had spending an entire weekend watching Beauty and the Geek on the Reality TV network.

“Well, my brother and his wife just did this and they are saving so much money.” I was instantly skeptical. I was usually the one who came up with the money saving ideas that were on the extreme. Something this extreme coming from my husband I knew must have some flaw he didn’t think about. And then he laid it out for me, “Ok, everything is going digital, we either have to get a converter or get a new television. The one we have is extremely old and breaks a lot, so we will probably be tempted to get a new one. We will want to buy a nice flat screen with good picture quality that will be at least $700. We already pay $55 a month to a satellite subscription. I think we should consider just getting rid of the TV.”

I was shocked. I worried about all the shows I currently watched and how much I would miss them. I loved to read, but sometimes I wanted to unwind and not think. Television allowed me that special kind of numbness. Plus we had just had a baby and I didn’t have the time or the hands to read any more. I needed it as a window to the world I felt isolated from while I dealt with colic, diapers, and spit-up. When my husband pushed again I just shoved the idea off with “give some time to think about it.” But really hoped he would come to his senses.

Months later he was still dropping little hints and they all centered on the same idea of divorcing our television. “What are you afraid of?” he would ask me. “What shows do you watch that we can’t get for free from the ABC, NBC or Fox web sites?” he would tease.
We sat one night and made a list of our favorite shows and afterwards I realized that everything we watched we could get for free online or through a digital antenna. For $200 dollars we could purchase this digital antenna to hook up to our new computer and after this point we could begin to save $55 dollars a month.

So finally with that logic I took the plunge and looking back I don’t know what took me so long. I don’t miss our old eyesore of a television. And it ended up saving us time and money in the long run. We didn’t have as many spontaneous household projects inspired by the Home Improvement Channel and we didn’t spend entire weekends watching old reality show marathons. So we actually had time to ride our bikes and go for walks, eventually leading my husband to cancel his gym membership. Overall that one bold act led to a new world, new possibilities, and over $1000 dollars a year in savings. Beauty and the Geek weren’t that interesting anyway and I already knew how to fix my own toilet.

Translation of chapters into a better language

**Note: I wrote this blog when the name of the site was “Confessions of a Chronic Self-Discloser” Later I make a reference to the name of the blog and then…well I doesn’t make sense when I talk about the title of the blog.

 

“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated … As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness … No man is an island, entire of itself … any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

John Donne (1572-1631)

Why is it that every blog I go to the blogger always has to mention his or her “passion for writing?” I don’t understand how anyone can have that deep of a relationship with word formations and sentence structure. I wouldn’t call what I do a love of any kind to the art of writing. I would more describe it as a rivalry with writing. It feels like a fight to get out what I really want to say and have it come across the way I want.

I have never kept a journal. I have absolutely minimal skills with spelling and grammar. I am surprised all ten people who will read this blog can even understand what I type. I certainly never would have chosen an English class as a favorite of mine in school. I felt this qualified me to become a “writer” and write a blog.

I still ask myself “why am I doing this?” each time I write a new submission. I know some people write blogs to make money. If a blog becomes popular enough then a blogger can get money for putting advertising links on the blog. When people click on them he/she gets a kickback. Some people do it because they have an interest in a specific topic and like contributing information to the field. Some do it for their “passion for writing” apparently. I am not really interested in any of those things.

I am pretty much alluding to the fact that I hate writing in a way. What’s funny about this realization is that all through school I always found myself sort of trapped in the siren’s song of writing. In grade school we had to do an 8th grade project. I chose to write a few chapters of a book. In high school we had a senior project and I wrote and illustrated a children’s book. In college to graduate we had to write a thesis – which most people figure is a requirement going into graduate school, but you would think that if I really hated writing this would have at least caused me pause when entering the only program at the entire college that still required a traditional thesis instead of a cumulative test pretty much every other program offered as an equivalent.

I guess this qualifies as a morbid calling of some sort.

I actually started this blog as writing practice. I post the things I write to challenge myself, because I have never been comfortable letting large masses of people see what I write. After years of being told by English teachers this was not my strongest area and “stick to art classes” as a possible future, I am kind of self-conscious about being judged. I don’t care if people make fun of what I write I just don’t want them to make fun of how I write. (Feel free to point out grammatical or spelling errors though. Those are purely mechanical and that is how I will learn, and I don’t want my grammar police friends to have an embolism over the wrong form of “their” “there” or “they’re”…so there! That’s right – I do know the difference :).)

I chose to write about everyday things at first because as a child I hated writing about me. I needed a challenge. If I wrote about research or psychological procedures I would be cheating and it would be boring for everyone but me. I love writing fiction and I have a wild imagination so I have endless ideas on stories. But writing about everyday things has always been hard for me. I can talk about my day for hours, but when it comes to writing it I really draw a blank. I chose the title of the blog because I felt it best described what I would be doing and me.

Self-Discloser is a counseling term. It is the act of the counselor revealing something about herself to her client or group. It is not an act of manipulation, but a natural confession of the soul that if done right will create an atmosphere and deepen the relationship of trust between the individuals or group. It is meant to be a piece of herself that shared with the group will open the doors for others in the room to feel comfortable sharing his or her own feelings. When I was getting my counseling part of my degree (I am a school psychologist, but I also have a counseling degree) I was known to do the Self-disclosure thing. Chronically.

Actually I feel what I am doing now when I write is actually translating my life chapters into a better verse. See how clever I am tying in the opening quote? Bet my old English teachers regret all the red inked negative comments in the margins of my essays! When I write down some of my experiences whether they be funny, difficult, exciting, whatever it is as if they are now transcribed emotionally as well. Plus I am creating a neat thing for my children to look back on when they wonder what it was like before they could remember. If my posts make someone smile, think, inspire, or simply frustrate them with the wrong form of “there” then I am glad to have stepped off of my island and contributed to the world in a small way.

Strings

Life is a series of connections. Invisible strings stretching from person to person outward over great distances.

Even as a young teenager I recognized the string of my soul mate. As his string was pulling me to him, it was a relief to find my destined best friend at the end of that string. I am so lucky to have found him early in life. Strings connect my children to me too; even though I witnessed the umbilical cord being cut I was comforted to still feel them near me. An automatic and enduring string they have, resilient to the most weathered circumstances.

My family has such hearty strings as well. My parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandparents and extended family are all there, strings pouring out of me.

I love the strings, but I get lost in them. I get overwhelmed. “What a mess” I sometimes think and want to tidy all those strings and bundle them up or at least organize them a bit better. I feel them spread around me so tightly that I am afraid I will choke from the emotion woven into them. So many strings I lose track of them. What are these extra strings doing scattered around? What is their use? Will I ever get to see where those strings connect? I think I will go mad with the confusion of it all. Can I tie all these strings up in a bow and give them to someone who needs them more that me? When I try, the strings just get longer. They connect to more people and I feel like a greedy little spider.

The web I am weaving is unbelievable.

I don’t know how the strings I have for my friends found me. I don’t know if they orchestrated a sneak attack or the other way around. I can’t even remember the day I discovered their strings. Were they always there, waiting for me to pick though my tangled mess to find them? When I meet a new friend I soon find that I have a shiny new string spinning thicker as time goes by. I have friends I made strings for a long time ago, but when I stopped seeing them they never cut their end of the string. The string is still there.

I feel that something is still connected to the end of it, so I leave it be for now. When I meet an old friend I smile to find them bringing the end of their string over to me, not to give back, of course, but to show me they kept holding on to their end for me all this time. I am honored and humbled to see it. Those sticky strings!

Even as I sit in a pile of what seems to be a mad knitter’s paradise I can’t seem to let any of my ends of these strings go. Even the ones I think I don’t need or want. Too bad they are not real strings. I then could I maybe make a blanket with them? A fashionable ladies scarf?

I was surprised to find that as people I loved got older their string became a stronger connection to mine. When they died the only comfort I had was that the string was now too strong to sever, too overpowering to break. And when I miss the people who are gone I have only to send a tug on that string and feel an echo in response. While I sleep I feel them in the palm of my hand and the back of my mind, whispering soothing sounds of regret that they cannot physically be present. When I wake up I feel all my strings wrapped around me as if every connection I have has enveloped me in one big hug.

Feliz anivers�rio vov� Machado. Eu me lembro dos abra�os.

Spelling Wars

It is no secret that I am a horrible speller.

Although I have tried through the years to hide or disguise it I have some of the most atrocious spelling and grammar you will ever come across for a college-educated individual.

I am, in fact, quite bitter about this one personal flaw. I have tried over and over to improve this one aspect, because I would love to be a perfect writer. If I had mad spelling and grammar skills this would elevate me to the next level. I think I can be creative on telling a tale, but when it comes to the mechanics I am flabby and weak. I decided that since I can’t become a great writer under the definition that I have to be a good speller then I will become a word artist! What is that you ask? Well, I made it up, that is what a word artist does: creates art with words and leave spelling and grammar to good editing.

Even with my funny new title I still felt I was missing something.

Throughout my school experience all my friends would try to help me out. It seemed that all my friends were so much more advanced than me in this subject that I was their pet project. When I would pass notes in class to friends they would often send those notes back with their replies and my original note properly spell checked. I would write that I thought so and so was fake in a cute, funny and creative way and they would make a note in the column “I don’t understand your sentence structure”…or “What is your thesis statement?”

This is when I finally realized it is an “us” vs “them” when it comes to writing mechanics. I have rarely come across someone who is indifferent on the subject. There are two personalities in the war: Perfectionist grammar police and Lazy dunce hickabillies. OK, so I just made up the word “hickabillies”, but I think it describes the personality stereotype the best. Making up words is just one of the many attributes of a word artist, such as myself.

Grammar Police are the people who I often find making such silly statements as this: “The author made so many spelling mistakes that I lost all respect for the writer” or “I often find that when I am reading a book or article I find one error in spelling and grammar and it ruins the entire experience for me.” I think it is safe to say the grammar police know who they are and they have already found five errors in my post and are simultaneously writing up an email to alert me to those errors, so as not to subject others to the pain of spoiling their reading experience.

Now on to us dunces and we pretty much know who we are. The first indication you are a hickabily dunce is you are usually asking how to spell very simple words or more often you don’t even know you have made the spelling error. Someone points out that you spelled something wrong or used the wrong form of “there” and you reply “I did?” and that is followed up by a long lesson from (usually) a Grammar Police member, on verb conjugations and linguistic theory. The hickabilly’s eyes glaze over and he/she fails to understand half of the words the Grammar Police use, because we hickabillies are simple folk and the Grammar Police harness a vocabulary that is vast and immeasurable.

Grammar Police are the first ones to the scene in the event of a writing mishap with a pencil in hand. It’s like watching flies swarm to an outhouse and the Grammar Police are the flies….Ok I realize that in that analogy that makes us hickabilys the poop, but bear with me. I like to find out who in the room is a Grammar Police by loudly making a statement like this one: “I think spelling and grammar rules are silly we should return to Old English before they had such silly restrictions” or “I think a few spelling errors in an article are OK as long as the article is well-written and creative in other ways.” Grammar Police in the room can’t help themselves. They will come swarming over to you and commence arguing.

The resulting conversation can only be described as similar to putting Democrats and Republicans in a room and not letting them leave until they agree on Health Care Reform.

In the war of spelling and grammar the English teacher is the atom bomb. They cause mass destruction in their wake, wielding the most feared weapon of all time: the red pen.

They cut and mark up papers and then return them with all the finesse and pride of a cat that just left a barely alive mouse at the doorstep. The majority of the Grammar Police army is housed in the English and Humanities Department. So if you are a hickabilly and want to have peace, avoid these common landmine areas.

Grammar Police seem sympathetic and understanding by the way they support the work of struggling authors. For example, in high school they make you read such torturous and boring stories as Old Man and the Sea and Walden Lake. Grammar Police are the first to jump forward to defend these authors and call their work “masterpieces” and “classics”, but a hickabilly misspells one word in an otherwise flawless essay and we are careless. I’ll tell you what is more careless: an old man goes out to sea, alone, and gets lost out there and rambles on about it for the length of a novel …that, my friends, is careless.

I found myself in college trying to hide the fact that I was a hickabilly and disguise myself as a member of the Grammar Police. My covert operation was an utter failure. I was a top student in most of my classes so the stretch wasn’t too far off. Sadly, hickabillies can’t hide for long. Let it be a lesson to all hickabillies that to Grammar Police our well-taken class notes look like random symbols on a page barely resembling the written language of an intelligent life form. I found this out when a fellow top student decided to try to reference my “notes.” I guess we could roughly call the scribbles my attempt at note taking. I often had teachers accuse me of cheating. My writings in class without the help of editing tools and Grammar Police friends to read over my work were far different than the polished papers and essays I would complete outside of class.

My first year of Graduate school I finally decided to read more to help improve my writing. Considering how much I read now, I really wonder what I used to do to fill up my time (probably staring at a wall drooling, like the dunce hickabily I am…I honestly cant remember). Reading more did help, but I still was not the perfect writer I longed to become.

I wish I had a quick fix for this problem. I have tried it all, including numerous classes that help teach grammar and try hard to memorize words I commonly misspell or misuse and not misspell or misuse them. It will take me years to improve enough in this subject to even be considered adequate, but oddly enough I keep going in for the punishment. My new goal is to try to write more and hope that will improve my writing.

Well this is the point of my article that I contact my Grammar Police husband (I know: I married the enemy), and he explains all my errors and uses big words I pretend to know the meaning to. Then I attempt a re-write and ponder the proper use of numerous vocabulary words he suggested then use a thesauruses to try to make myself sound smarter or laugh over how I can take a word out of sentence or add one in and make it sound like a line from a porno…ah the simple life of a hickabily word artist.

P.S. I spelled Hickabily different ways throughout this story for special dramatic grammatical effect. It was a joke for my Grammar Police friends to sweat over. My hickabilly friends probably didn’t notice.