The Life Debt Concept

27 Jul

Many years ago, I first had the life debt concept explained to me, and it has altered the way I perceive the world ever since.  It’s not a difficult concept and while it is undoubtedly a philosophical concept, it lacks the usual high brow association that most people give the entire realm of philosophy.  It’s actually pretty down to earth.

From the moment we are born, we owe a life debt.  It starts with the debt that we owe our mothers for giving birth to us.  It’s a big debt too, for she endured physical discomfort and pain to give us life.  In some cases, she may have endured emotional pain that we will never know about as well, even if she isn’t the woman we’ll call our mothers through childhood, we owe our birth mothers that initial debt.

We continue accruing debt as we’re nurtured through infancy and early childhood, when we are incapable of paying back any of that life debt.  Then we enter our childhood, the part that we can remember through adulthood, and begin expanding our network of life debts.

Every single relationship, whether positive or negative, involves an exchange of life debt.  Friends and enemies alike exchange a portion of our initial base life debt, along with teachers, mentors, siblings, extended family, even medical personnel who help us be as healthy as possible.  Each relationship we establish with another person means that we take on, often unknowingly, a piece of their life debt, as they take on a piece of ours.  This invisible exchange is the foundation of those relationships, and the larger the exchange, the stronger the relationship is.

In our youth, our elders invest heavily in our bank of life account.  It’s the natural order of things, to invest in the future generation.  They take on more than a fair share of the debt we’ve already accrued in order to give us a good start in life and our life debt account.  In due course, when we mature and become elders ourselves, we’ll repeat the same process with the next generation.

The goal is to live a long life, paying off our life debt as we go through our lives.  At the same time, not everyone pays off their debt at the same rate.  Just like any other debt, some people may be inclined to not do more than pay a minimal payment, while others work harder to pay down that life debt at a faster rate.

Is there a tangible difference?

It’s not like we get a life debt balance sent to us in a statement each year.  It doesn’t work that way.  We can’t call the bank of life and demand customer service give us a running total either.  It doesn’t matter what your religious beliefs are, what you may or may not call a supreme being, or even what day you have designated as a day of rest.  It doesn’t matter if you are saved, a heathen or die a religious martyr. You don’t avoid the life debt concept by being an atheist.

There won’t be any big splash across a magazine cover telling us who the richest people in the world are in terms of their life debt balance either.  Nobody else knows how you are doing with your balance, nobody else can see you make payments, and not even the Joneses know whether you are keeping up with them or have surpassed them.

The only one who can know how you are doing with your life debts is you.

That’s the real clincher.  You don’t make the payments to impress anyone or to improve your credit score.  If you don’t make the payments, there won’t be a collector calling on the phone to remind you.  There is no option of insurance to cover the debt either.

There is no bankruptcy option.

Oh, sure, there are people who tell you that you’ll pay a spiritual debt when you die, but none of us know for sure what happens when we die anyhow.  We have to believe in something after death, without proof.  That’s a tough one–this vague threat.  It’s like hearing “just wait until your father gets home” when he isn’t going to be home for a long, long time.  We can forget and ignore the threat.

At the same time, there are times when the debt is reneged upon.  We call that suicide.  The person has opted out, failed to pay their life debts, and that’s that.  There can be varying amounts of unpaid debt, of course, as suicide can occur at any stage of life.  For some, there is likely to be little, if any, debt remaining, as the suicide occurs near the end of their life due to illness or infirmity.

There are other kinds of reneging though too.  One can isolate themselves from others to the point that there is no possibility of making a payment.  It can be a physical as well as emotional isolation, or it can simply be one or the other.  It can be by simply refusing to pay forward too, and becoming selfish and self-centered.

Everyone has their own concept regarding death and afterlife, if any.  The same goes with being judged after our lives are over.  I’m not going to tell you how your life debt will or won’t affect you after your life ends.  That’s going to be a huge surprise for me, just like it will be for you.  We can believe whatever we choose to be true, but just like in life, that belief does not make it so.  It’s still going to be a surprise.

I’m holding onto the hope that it’s going to be a wonderful surprise though.

Customer service?

27 Jul

Almost all big stores, especially with chains, are going to have a customer service desk.

Well, that’s what they call it anyhow.  They really should call it the customer annoyance counter.

Why is customer service so hard?  Why is it so hard for companies to find employees that will honestly try to do their jobs to the best of their abilities while remaining courteous to customers?

I have a few ideas on the subject.

The first is that good old bottom line.  Most companies are not particularly concerned about the quality of employee they hire and retain, but rather how cheaply they can hire and retain someone that does what they are told.  Even retention of employees isn’t a huge concern for most companies anymore–it’s cheaper to rehire than retain, especially if there is a possibility of having to pay for benefits or retirement somewhere down the road.

Employees who really try to do their job are even apt to be penalized for doing so.  We’ve all seen articles about employees who did a good deed of some kind while at work, ones that didn’t cost their employers a penny, and yet they were terminated for some technicality.  Many of us have been the employee who was taken advantage of repeatedly by unethical co-workers and employers because we did try to do our jobs well, only to end up missing out on promotions, overworked to the point of burn out, failed to get promised raises, or had some other less-than-wonderful result from our hard work.  Immediate supervisors will often even deliver disciplinary action or termination as a result of trying too hard, simply because it makes other employees or the supervisor themselves look bad.

Corporations may have a lot of power in the political world, but they are also incredibly powerful in everyday life.  Everyone either works for one or is forced to do business with these large corporations because of the monopolies they have in many areas of our live in America.  Telephone, natural gas, cable television & internet providers, and electric companies are all privileged to have monopolies in most communities.    Other companies have apparently coordinated their needs with their so-called competitors, resulting in contracts that prevent customers from terminating service with them for a prescribed length of time, typically from 12-36 months.  In these situations, the corporations have very little motivation to try and please their current customers.  After all, if they don’t like the service or the customer service, what can the customer do about it?

Manufacturing companies have moved many of their production facilities overseas for cheaper labor and fewer regulations, and quality control seems to have become random in how stringent it is.  Companies that were once known for high quality products no longer can boast of that same quality.  Unfortunately, they have also often moved their customer service centers overseas too.

Then, the American consumer is inflicted with a customer service representative that may not understand their particular dialect of American English, and it is just as likely that the customer is going to have a great deal of difficulty understanding the representative’s  version of English.  A number of people have claimed (unverified by me) that these representatives are judged by how often they have “successfully resolved” the customer complaints, and that disconnecting the call is one way to successfully resolve the issue.  I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that with certain companies, disconnections are frequent as soon as it is apparent that the issue is not going to be resolved easily or if the customer asks to speak with a supervisor.

Even with American based customer service call centers, there is the “wrong department” issue.  It’s always that you have called the wrong department and then you will have to be transferred.  These transfers usually occur after an extended wait time for a human to begin with.  (I’ve waited as long as an hour.)  Then, without a number to skip the wrong department and go to where you are supposed to call, you end up disconnected.  How many hours do you want to spend on the telephone to get a warranty replacement of a $50 small appliance?

For businesses, the latest buzz has all been how to use social media to engage their customer base.  It’s gotten to the point of more annoyance than engagement, however, as they follow some plan dreamed up by a guy who didn’t shop there to begin with.  Do you really want to “like” that company or follow them on Pinterest to enter that contest or get that coupon?  The end result is that customers feel like they are being coerced, and it does little to endear the company or product with their potential customers, especially if they are using the current customer disservice model that most seem to be using.

So what is the real reason that companies no longer bother with good quality customer service?

It still boils down to that bottom line, folks.  It’s the fault of the consumer.

Accepting crappy customer service from any company, whether they have a monopoly  or not is allowing their bottom line to show that they don’t have to supply customer service.

So what can you do?

Complain.  Loudly.  Repeatedly.

  • Use the normal channels, whether it is a call to their call center or via their website.  Don’t scream or use profanity-that’s always counter productive and provides a good reason for your call to not be taken seriously.  Don’t use threats either.
  • Use promises.  Promise that you will never, ever shut up about how unhappy you are!
  • Record the calls.  If you get an exceptionally bad one, post it to YouTube. Keep the calls on file–you may need them later.
  • Write down names, phone numbers, dates and times.  It’s a great reference as your complaining becomes more prolific too.
  • If you are a blogger, blog about it.  Even years after I tossed my Tassimo machine, I still get hits daily on my experience with their crappy customer service.  It’s a great way to spread the word.
  • Review the product everywhere you can, including the customer service experience.  Many retailers will accept reviews on products even if you did not purchase it from them, such as Amazon and Walmart.  If you are reviewing the retailer or service provider, post those reviews anywhere and everywhere you can find as well.  Sure, it takes time, but what else do you have to do while you are sitting on hold?  I actually put my phone on speaker and then I can type with both hands.
  • Got Face Book? Twitter? Pinterest?  Speak up.  Tell everyone about your experience.  They may not be shopping for that item or service or company now, but they will remember what you said about them later too.  You may be surprised at how quickly someone from the company in question makes contact with you as well.  They may try and resolve the situation, which will make you happier than if you are ignored.  Some corporations often ignore social media complaints (yes, I’m talking about you,  Tassimo, Microsoft & Comcast!)  Smarter companies do monitor social media to engage dissatisfied customers and attempt to improve the customer service experience.
  • Post reviews to review sites such as Viewpoints.com as well.  For local companies and services, there are sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List (they require membership with a substantial fee,) Yahoo, etc.   Even lawyers, dentists, doctors, and medical facilities are reviewed!
  • Write the company an email.  Often, the corporate office is separated enough from customer service that they may not be aware of the type of experience you have endured.  Typically, the corporate website will have a “contact” tab at the bottom of the page.  Some have it in a bar at the top as well.  Be polite and explain the problem(s) clearly, along with your customer service experience, using dates, times, and names when possible.  Don’t forget to add what you expect the company to do to resolve your complaint as part of the letter.  Be reasonable with your expectations!

On the flip side of that coin is the excellent customer service experience.  When you have one of these, be just as vocal about your compliments, and use the same venues that you would use for complaints to voice your positive experience.   I had a terrible experience with Overstock.com once, and complained about it via Twitter.  Their representative on Twitter contacted me, we resolved the situation, and since then, I have enjoyed great customer service as usual with Overstock and would not hesitate to purchase from them again.  I also love shopping with Zappos.com and Penderys.com for the same reason–they provide good, dependable customer service.  I wish my representative and senators to Washington were as responsive to me as they are!

Expect reasonable and efficient customer service to be delivered with courtesy, and when you don’t get it–do something about it.  Do not ever accept it as just the price of doing business because it is not.  Make companies accountable!  That’s your job as a consumer!

Just a dream?

26 Jul

I’m a pretty practical, feet-on-the-ground sort of person.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t have my otherworldly moments though.

It’s 4 a.m. and I woke up after a most peculiar dream.

It’s not like the usual dream for me, in which a life event is relived or something innocuous and normal is played out.  It wasn’t a case of working out a problem in my dreams either.  This wasn’t even one of the weird singing chickens or babies in loaves of bread dreams.

This was like some kind of star crossed romance dream.

Sometimes, when I dream, I’m not “me” as in the normal everyday me.  In my dreams, I’ll often look at my feet to see if it is me, and if it is me…when it was me.  Yeah, it’s weird, but feet are easy to see and as identifiable as faces when it’s your own pair.  Sometimes, it’s not me, not in this lifetime at least.

I didn’t look at my feet.  Ever.  In this dream.  So, I don’t know who it was or if it was even anyone I know.

In the dream, the “hero” was a Native American drummer, and he happened to be almost totally deaf.  Sometimes, he would play a flute too.  He was a strong sort of hero, but he had his hidden, more sensitive side too.  I was hitchhiking with the heroine, the object of his affections.

They weren’t a young couple.  They’d been around the block a bit, and life hadn’t been kind to either one.  Somehow, they encountered each other and a cautious romance had begun.  Both had been bitten hard in previous relationships, which isn’t uncommon in the older crowd.  We don’t age unsullied by romance gone bad.

The dream is fragmented in my memory as I write this–it’s funny how a vivid dream begins to fade as the dreamer wakes, but it does.

There was a beautiful beaded tunic that had belonged to his previous partner/wife/girlfriend, which was given to the heroine.  It fit her, and was beautiful, but there was a bitter-sweetness to the tunic’s fit too.  The hero’s sister, roughly the same age as the  couple, had gotten it out and had the heroine put it on.

The deaf drummer sang a song, and it was heart-wrenching to hear him sing.  It was perfectly pitched, a difficult thing for a deaf singer, I suspect.  His song showed her how he heard things through his limited hearing somehow.

He heard things in a different way, he explained it.  The sounds of feet and hooves, the wind, engines…they all were distinct to him.  He also explained otherworldly characters to her, giving names to them.  There was one that I remember.  They were scary looking to her, inspiring near terror.  They were like tall narrow piles of mud with faces, and he called them the Urdu.  (I looked up Urdu, and this is a language spoken in Pakistan  today.  I couldn’t find any variation of the sounds that gave me any other search result either.)  He cautioned her from speaking to them or acknowledging them, as to do so would lessen her ability to connect with him, to be his true love, and she would have to conquer her fear of them as part of the trials and tribulations of being his partner.  There were other things too, of this otherworldly nature, that she had to conquer her fear of, for he had strong otherworldly connections.

Ultimately, their relationship was fracturing, and was doomed to destruction, partly because of his inability to allow her into his life.  A young man, 20something, was taking a table apart and explaining how taking the table apart ended a relationship.  (I don’t get how a table equates relationship/marriage, but in the dream, it did.)  The heroine then lifted up large pieces of a table top, completely unlike the fitted together squares that had formed the younger man’s table top, and took out things that had been pressed between the layers, including photographs, magazines written in a foreign language she did not speak, clippings, and other papers.  She would sort and stack the papers, and the young man took them away.  Finally, the older hero arrives and takes the foreign language magazines, exhibiting a holier-than-thou attitude over the magazines and the fact that she does not understand that language.

Sometimes, with a dream, we can find meaning that can help us with our lives.  It isn’t always immediately apparent.  Other times, no matter how long or how hard we search, there is no meaning to be gleaned from the dreams.  I’m not sure where this dream would be filed yet.

Certain key points are apparent, though.  One is this concept of star crossed or doomed love.  Another is that the heroine is being forced to try to live up to impossible standards and ignore things that are terrifying to her with little support from her partner, that was played over and over as she was faced with various supernatural entities that were scary at best.   Another was that the heroine was being pushed by others into wearing the same clothing (the tunic) of the previous partner of her object of affection.  That indicates to me that she is being forced into a pigeonhole that may not actually fit as well as it appears it does.  Next, the disassembly of the table really correlates with the disassembly of a relationship, and that is actually explained by the younger man who is busy with his own disassembly of a relationship.  She then proceeds to disassemble her relationship with the man, whom she does still love, by the way.  She takes the layers apart, and sorts out the memories (the papers, photos, etc.) which are then taken away.  Finally, the hero appears for one last taunt: he illustrates the holier-than-thou attitude about taking away the things that make no sense at all to the heroine.

It puzzles me that none of this pertains to me, at all.  My husband isn’t deaf.  He’s not a drummer.  Our relationship isn’t fracturing. I can’t even imagine him taking this kind of an attitude towards me.  So why did I have the dream?

Sometimes, it’s as though I’m either watching someone else’s dream or something.  It’s one of the weird ones, that while I can interpret it, I can’t match the dream’s meaning with anything in my own life right now.  Maybe I’m wrong.

Then again, maybe I’m not, and it just wasn’t my dream.

With all of that said and done, I hope I can go back to sleep–it’s hours until dawn!

 

Where’s the owner’s manual???

25 Jul

Being grandma is supposed to be just the fun stuff, right?

Turns out there is a clause in the contract.  It has been brought to my attention that grandmas are supposed to have answers when things aren’t going right.

Like when your darling grandchild misbehaves and keeps missing the boat that is delivering the message of why people are upset and they are in trouble.

Where is the owner’s manual???

I’ve always found owner’s manuals to be a wealth of information, but where the hell is this kid’s owner’s manual? It turns out that just like when her mother was born, there is none.

Each kid is different, even with the same parents, same household, and same everything else.  It is compounded by some unknown number when it’s a grandchild.  I have no real idea what happens when I’m not around, and everything from parents’ relationship to daily routines affect how a child behaves and misbehaves.

Good lord, how can I be expected to have answers to an unknown problem?

That’s the other unknown perk to being a grandparent.  You are supposed to have answers and give advice, but ONLY upon request.  Deliver it before that request, and you are a know-it-all, interfering busybody.

Oh, and there is another rule…

Never, ever say “I told you so.”

You will not win points.  You will not get $200, and you definitely won’t get past “Go home now.”

So what are my answers to the problem?

Suggested alternative punishments, suggested speeches (ones I already know will fall on deaf 3 year old ears, btw!) and perseverance.  What else could I offer?

I’d just had three days with the little darling, which had come to an end with a 4 a.m. wake up call,  breakfast being catapulted off of a fork, continual whining about when we were leaving to go home, and the last shred of my patience.  It had then been crowned with demands for presents and soda pop, along with trying to banish me after her demands got denied.  Endearing? Nope, not even to a doting grandma.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love her, spoiled brat moments and all.  And she was acting like a totally spoiled brat.  I was frustrated with her utter refusal to straighten up and fly right.  Nothing seemed to get the message through that her behavior was not cute, nor was it appreciated by mom or grandma.

But on the way home, I stopped at a flea market, and instead of buying a switch or a time out chair, I bought a “Hello Kitty” necklace for her.  (She’s a huge Hello Kitty fan for some reason, but I have no idea why.  Does this character even have a cartoon?)  It’s got beads in her favorite color: purple.

I have it, but she may not get it for a while.  Just like I have several toys for her that she hasn’t gotten yet.  I like spoiling her, but I do not want her to think of me as the lady with the unending presents for her.  I don’t even believe in saving things for special occasions and I don’t shower her with the gifts.  She’s had a lot of gifts lately, and I’m withholding now for a bit.

Is it fair? Since life isn’t fair in general, I’m not worried about fair.  She is my one and only grandchild and yes, I do spoil her, but within reason.  She’s developed an attitude of entitlement over the past few weeks for some reason, even though I’m innocent of delivering anything to her in that time frame other than a skirt that I made for her.  That took about three weeks from fabric selection (she picked it out) to delivered finished ready-to-wear skirt.  (I am also slow to get projects done due to the limited amount of time I can work on them in each session.)

I’m going to make the other two skirts that I had planned for her, but I’m afraid she’s going to find that grandma doesn’t deliver a lot over the next few weeks, whether it is Hello Kitty, My Little Pony, Disney princesses, OR Minnie Mouse!

14 Years of Grief

22 Jul

Fourteen years ago, I was pretty sure that my life had ended with his.  Nothing is like facing the death of your child, and I suspect it’s no different when you know that their death is inevitable due to a disease rather than the sudden swipe of some unexpected fate.

My son was my best buddy.  No, I didn’t love him more than I loved my daughter, but the whole relationship was different.  They were very different people, right from the time they were born.  There was also nearly 8 years between their births, which made me practically a different mom to each one too.

No child arrives with an owner’s manual or a warranty, but I doubt that we’d read the chapter on dealing with their deaths if it did.  It’s unthinkable, and I recently had a young father say that he couldn’t imagine losing his son, who is now 3 and my granddaughter’s playmate.

I told him not to ever imagine it.

Nobody deserves the kind of pain that goes with that happening, and imagining it is to endure a piece of the pain for no real reason.  I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

I won’t lie either.  Not to myself, not to my daughter, not to a stranger.

The pain doesn’t go away.  That vast hole in the center of your chest never gets any smaller, and the tear drops don’t stop coming.  I dread the month of July, and it gets worse as we approach the end of the month, along with the anniversary of his death.  This year has been particularly agonizing for me, as the photographs of the children murdered during the whole thing in Gaza are plastered all over the internet.

Each one rips me open again as if it was his body laying there.

My son didn’t die a violent death.  He died in his sleep.  He was my borrowed child, and I loved him with a fierceness that was only matched with the fierceness of my love for my first born, his big sister.

I can’t pretend to imagine what the parents of those dead children in Gaza are feeling.  I didn’t have anyone to be angry with.  I didn’t have anyone or anything to blame for his death.  They do.  I know there is nothing I wouldn’t do to bring him back or to even keep his sister as healthy as possible.

Nothing.

I don’t see it having a positive effect on relations between the two groups, not with dead children as a tool towards antagonism.

But it confuses me too.  How can no one care about all of those dead kids?  How can people kill their own children here in the United States?  How can they abuse and abandon them?  It’s incomprehensible to me.  I loved being mom as much as I love being grandma.

There is that.  I have a granddaughter.  My son would have been over the moon over her–she’s the picture of beauty in his mind, with long hair and a bright smile.  She’s as free with affection as her uncle was.  She even chews her nails like her uncle did at her age.  She doesn’t really look a thing like him though, she is the spitting image of her mom.

This past year, she was also the inspiration for another first post-grief step for me.  I put up and decorated a Christmas tree in my house for the first time since his death.  It was in her honor, as her mom was going to be in the hospital on Christmas day.  (We actually celebrated a day or two after The Day to let her join in the fun after she was released.)  That little girl has made the holiday fun for me again, as I look forward instead of remembering the empty spot in the room.  It doesn’t mean I don’t miss him then too, because I do.  She didn’t fill the hole, she simply brought in bright light to make it less painful, I suppose.

I get depressed as we near the month of his birth, and that is always another mountain for me to travel up and over.  April Fools Day is always accompanied by a sense of relief.  I have survived it, and while I remember his birthday always, sometimes even baking a cake, it still hurts that I have no one to hug that day.

It’s the little things that bring out the tears too.  Power rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a brown eyed boy with a Dutch boy haircut, a boisterous boy pretending to do martial arts as he dances around his mother, a shy smile, or someone playing the first episode from Star Wars with the boy Annakin.  Memories.  That’s all I have now, is those precious memories.

Things like the funky doggy smell he got when he played in the hot sun and got his hair all dirty and sweaty, or how he destroyed socks and jeans.  Of building a Hand of Thyme herb bed shaped like a hand.  Making pickles.  Of the birthday I told him he could have all the “juicy eggs” (eggs over medium) he wanted for breakfast until I cut him off at six (I think he was about seven years old).  Of the horrible messes he could make with flour from the time he was first walking right on until his death, and how he could not resist touching flour if opportunity presented it as a possibility.  I don’t know what it was about flour that called to him, but it called to him.

I share the memories, we talk about him when we’re together, his sister and I.  My mother.  My other extended family.  His face is over my desk in the last family portrait we had taken, and my granddaughter knows all three faces in the photo.

I’d have adopted more kids, if we could afford it.  We can’t…we’re just not financially stable enough to qualify, even for older children.  That’s sad, but it is the truth.  Instead, we have three dogs and one granddaughter to spoil.  We spoil friends’ kids when we get the chance too.  Sure, it’s not the same, but that’s all we have now.

I know his generous nature.  He would have been horrified if I had become bitter and unpleasant, or shunned other children.  I try to be the person he thought I was when he was ten, and I still knew everything and could do anything.  Some days, the “do” anything can be a challenge, but I always try to keep learning new stuff.  He wanted to have 150 kids (he really did say that…often).  All I can do is try to give forward the love that he gave every day he was alive.

But damn, I miss him.

Sure, I have heard all the platitudes about how he is in a better place and all that.  Don’t ever say that drivel to a grieving mother.  If you are lucky, she ignores you.  If you aren’t, she may try to send you to that better place too.  To a mom, there is no better place for her child than alive and with her.  No exceptions.

I still want him back.  Badly.

Yes, I know its impossible, but if I am going to dream, I’m going to dream big.  Sometimes I still relive the day he died in my nightmares and I wake up with the grief as raw as it was that first day I put it on.  Some days, I never cry a tear that shows.  I can laugh.  I love.  I smile.

And sometimes I still rage when I see a parent treating a child unjustly, and I think, if they knew how much that child really means to them, would they still do that to the kid?

Do me a favor.  Hug your kids like it is the last time you can ever do so.  Do it three times a day. Never imagine losing them, but do it and remember to never take tomorrow for granted, because sometimes…it never comes. Ever.

Then all you have left is that last time you hugged them.

 

Spelling counts

16 Jul

No, it’s not some new hybridization of spelling and mathematics in the latest educational fad.

Despite that, spelling can count and is more likely to count against the independent or self-published authors we see prolifically producing non-fiction digital books in the explosion of titles we see, especially on Amazon.

I’m a self-published author, and I’ve had my moments with typos and misspelled words slipping through the editing process.  That’s not a good thing, when it is missed until readers catch them and get the giggles over soaking biscuits in a bear instead of beer.

Yep, that was my most infamous “oops” moment. Embarrassing, but humorous, right?

It’s not always humorous.

Sometimes, it’s just plain a road sign indicating awful ahead, especially when it is in the title or the description of the book.  I wish it was rare, but start scanning through the lists of low cost non-fiction digital edition of books, and guess what?

It’s a lot more common than it should be.

Sometimes, what we first perceive as a misspelling turns out to be a case of different dialect–American English spells things differently on occasion, like with color-colour.  We can get over that, even when the book is being marketed to the American audience.  Most Americans are capable of understanding even with the difference in spelling.

I am also aggravated by is profiles for social media.  These are short pieces and I’m referring to the pieces written in connection with the promotion of the book(s) an author is written.  Sometimes, the authors are NOT self-published, and yet have glaring errors in their profile because they didn’t particularly regard it as important.  

Bullshit.

These short profiles, like are used on Twitter, are very important.  Leaving typos and misspelled words in those short profiles is potentially more damaging than showing up drunk and in your underwear to a public book signing!

Surely not, you think?

Surely yes, they are!  Thousands of people see those profiles, whether you are aware of them or not.  With that poor profile, you are telling each one of them that you don’t regard that glance as important.  They may think you are as careless in your writing as you were with the profile you wrote too.

No, that short profile is not going to be the best example of your writing–it’s seriously short, like the posts on Twitter, and everyone is trying to cram in as much information as possible while remaining coherent.  The same thing with the other profiles that one sprinkles around the internet, from LinkedIn, About.me, Facebook, Pinterest, Skype, instant message profiles, etc.

Proofread it.  Not just when you write it, but go back again.  Update it periodically, how often depends on how much change is occurring in your life or with regards to your writing.  Choose a day, whether the first Sunday or the seventeenth day of the month, when you take a look at each and every profile, tweaking them as necessary.

On your book titles, especially on the cover art, just plain pay attention!  If you are an uncertain speller, double check each word.  Ultimately, it is YOUR responsibility, not the artist, editor, or even publisher, to make sure that your name is not associated with a misspelled title.  A misspelled title on the cover is going to cost you credibility and respectability in a way that is difficult to recover from because as a non-fiction author, you are presenting yourself as an expert on the topic.

What expert cannot even spell the name of their area of expertise?

In your book description, spelling also critical.  Far more people are going to read the back cover and catalog description than will ever read your book, and that is a cold hard fact.  This is true of both non-fiction and fiction books as well.  It’s often your one opportunity to convince that person that reading your book is the most important thing they have to do in the near future, and as a result, buy your book.

To illustrate this, I’m going to write a description of my own latest book and leave in common misspellings and typos.  Then, I’ll show the difference by writing it properly.

The Big Book of A-Z Muffisn is a colletcion of recpies to make muffins.  EAch lettre of the alhpabet has been used, with a divers assotrment of receipis that are sure to temtp our appetie and make every body smile weather its brakefast or super.  They are all eazy to make to! Fast, they go from ovne to tabel in half an our or less, and with a choise betwen savory or sweat, tehy can be great snacks or deserts too.  The recipes are ritton with eazy direcktions that you are shure to be abel to foller, even if you are a novise in the kitchin.  Experenced backers are also going to injoy making these simple recpies.

Now while that has an exagerated number of typos and misspelled words, it does show that it’s not only hard to read, but is not even humorous so much as embarrassing.  The reader can’t help but feel sorry for the writer while simultaneously (and probably correctly) assuming that the interior of the book will be as horrific of an experience to try and enjoy.

The Big Book of A-Z Muffins is a collection of recipes to make muffins.  Each letter of the alphabet has been used, with a divers assortment of receipts that are sure to tempt our appetite and make every body smile weather its breakfast or super.  They are all easy to make to! Fast, they go from ovne to table in half an our or less, and with a choice between savory or sweat, tehy can be great snacks or desserts too.  The recipes are written with easy directions that you are sure to be able to follow, even if you are a novice in the kitchen.  Experienced bakers are also going to enjoy making these simple recipes.

This one isn’t so bad, but it isn’t perfect either.  With just two typos, and a couple of cases of the wrong word spelled right, it may slip past the casual reader unnoticed, but the critical reader isn’t going to miss “divers” instead of “diverse” or “sweat” instead of “sweet”, even if they could forgive the typos that still remain.  (Yes, I know there are  more wrong word issues, but we’ll get to that…)

The Big Book of A-Z Muffins is a collection of recipes to make muffins.  Each letter of the alphabet has been used, with a diverse assortment of receipts that are sure to tempt our appetite and make every body smile whether its breakfast or supper.  They are all easy to make too! Fast, they go from oven to table in half an hour or less, and with a choice between savory or sweet, they can be great snacks or desserts too.  The recipes are written with easy directions that you are sure to be able to follow, even if you are a novice in the kitchen.  Experienced bakers are also going to enjoy making these simple recipes.

I hope you can see the difference in the level of credibility that each one has.  Presenting myself as an expert on the topic of muffin baking, it is equally important that I be able to spell the words that pertain to the topic, as well as proofread the material well enough to know that weather is not the same as whether, desert is a far different thing than dessert, etc.

  1. Pay attention.
  2. Use spell check.
  3. Proof read it again.
  4. Have someone else proof read it, even if it’s just a friend who skims over it!
  5. Read it yourself again, and then look at it periodically to make sure it doesn’t need a bit of tweaking to improve it.
  6. Profiles, cover art titles, and descriptions are your billboards.  Take them seriously.

If I’ve missed something you think is important, please comment to add it to the post!

Sew creative

14 Jul

Okay, I’ve figured out how to sew.  I’m slow, and I mean seriously slow.  But, at least I can still do it.  The really difficult part is cutting out the fabric, but I’ll get Greg to do that from now on or see about electric shears.  I felt like I had been swinging one armed over the Grand Canyon after cutting out 3 pieces for a toddler size skirt–really out of proportion for the amount of work it really is.  Obviously, that’s a type of motion that isn’t going to agree with me, so I have to come up with a work-around.  Even stopping frequently didn’t make it easier–just prolonged the agony.

But I can still sew, albeit slowly.

That makes me very happy.  I’ve lost a lot of my favorite things in terms of activities, and I had postponed this so very long, for fear that I would not be able to enjoy one of the creative activities that had always appealed to me.  I can, and I love it when I can. For me, there is something immensely satisfying about making something that is useful as well as pretty and unique.  Sewing is something that allows me to do that.

But, I knew that hand hemming was going to be not-so-fun.  I have a machine with a blind hem stitch, but I had never used it.  It was just a funny looking sort of zig zag thing to me before, and the directions sounded complicated enough that I would just press and hem by hand, the same way I did the very first time that I made something on a machine that had been made before WWII in Japan.  It only went forward and backward, forget zig zag.  Even buttonholes had to be done the same way my great-grandmother would have sewn them, which meant I didn’t do button holes!

This machine, bought a number of years ago, is a computerized machine made by Brother that has now been discontinued.  I don’t even remember why I had to have it–I bought it to replace a nearly new Kenmore that still works today, so the reason was not something immediately obvious.  I’m pretty frugal, so just because I could isn’t a reason that would have flown with me.  I just don’t remember why now.

I do remember that when I got it, it was so quiet, smooth and easy to sew on that it made the old one seem like it had been made in the stone age.  It is really seriously the best machine I’ve ever used.  Sure, there may be better ones out there, but I’ve not encountered them myself.  There is virtually no vibration, despite the fact that the machine is very lightweight and easy to move around.   It has a ton of features, most of which I haven’t used, but they include a self-threading feature, and that alone makes the machine worth its weight in gold–my eyes are not what they were a few years ago even.  You have no idea what kind of joy it is to replace the spool of thread with a new one and just push a button to thread the needle!

But back to the skirt.  I had my granddaughter with me one day while we were in Hattiesburg for a doctor appointment for her mother.  We went to the fabric store while her mama was in the doctor’s office (it’s always a 2 hr thing!) I had a bug–I wanted to make SOMETHING.

Sure, I have tons of patterns for stuff.  I used to be willing to try complicated patterns, finding the challenge a thrill.  This time, I wanted to make something for her, but I wanted it something that was very simple.  I didn’t want a challenge, I wanted an easy success this time.

So, it was a cheap pattern to make little girl’s skirts.  Four views, all for a skirt about knee length and flared, with an easy to put on elastic waist that was great for a 3 yr old who is still mastering dressing herself.  With the pattern in hand, we started looking for fabric.

Of course, Grandma has a thing for fabric that is easy care and easy to match with a variety of tops.  Three year old granddaughters want their favorite characters though.  So we compromised.  Two pieces of easy-to-match fabric, and one piece of Hello Kitty fabric, add a few yards of elastic, and we were set.

Somehow, “Grandma is going to make you a skirt” and buying the fabric translated to “I can wear it right now” to a three year old.  We had a hard time with the bit about me having to take it home with me and sew it, but we got through that.  She’s growing in spurts, and her mother wanted me to make it long enough that she wasn’t going to outgrow it in a few months.  I also made the elastic waist “expandable” so that it can be let out as she grows bigger.

We both remember her brother and his Power Ranger costume.  He wore it until it was nearly obscene and I had to hide it then.  Hello Kitty skirt might be in that same category.  My daughter also had a pink denim skirt that she wore from the time she was about four until she was nearly ten and it had become the mini-skirt it was originally meant to be.  Having this skirt long enough to last if it becomes a favorite is probably a good idea, never mind that I’m making her two other ones.

But I am not making the next one for her.  I have several great nieces and a nephew, along with the impending arrival of a pair of twins this fall.  The next one is for Mikey, a great-niece I’ve never been able to meet yet. Tall and thin for her age, I’m told that finding clothes to fit can be a challenge for her.  Plus, neither my sister nor her mother are able to sew.  So, I’m making her a skirt too. This one is going to be pale purple with a Disney princess theme and “Princess in Training” on it.  Like the one for my granddaughter, the elastic waist will be adjustable, since the recipient will be across the continent from me and impossible for me to adjust the waist size exactly.

Did I mention that they are nearly full circle and ideal for twirling?

Dancing little girls, whether they are pretending to be on Frozen or just dancing for the joy of life, are a real treat, and skirts that twirl with them add to the pleasure.  Don’t ask me why, but I remember that from watching my own daughter as she was growing up, dancing through the backyard, unaware that I was watching her through the kitchen window. Watching her as she leaped and twirled, you had to feel happy yourself.

So when I finish the skirts, I’ll move on to something a little more complex but still in the realm of “easy” with some aprons.

What can be more practical than an apron? Plus they offer plenty of opportunity to be a little creative!

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