Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Rebuttal: "Marriage Isn't for You"

I am certain most of you have seen the viral post by blogger Seth Adam Smith entitled "Marriage Isn't For You." If you haven't, give it a read and then read this. I must have read it myself about 10 times. Maybe more. You see, I kept trying to read it in the hopes that it would come off less douchey and I'd eventually be able to agree with his sentiment. But, it doesn't and I don't (really).

His hook is in the title and is opening sentence. Very clever, Seth, but 'clever' is all the praise I can give you. His marriage philosophy comes from a piece of advice from his father. This advice was given after Seth shares his concerns about marrying his childhood sweetheart; his father tells him: "Seth, you're being totally selfish. So I'm going to make this really simple: marriage isn't for you. You don't marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy." And this is where I went..."Huh?" Then I kept reading and realized it gets even more cringe-worthy:
"More than that, your marriage isn't for yourself, you're marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children."  I seriously had to resist the urge to shout out- OH NO HE DIDN'T. What is almost more shocking is how viral this went, and how many people were like "OMIGOD he's so right!" (in my circle, it was young, non-married women, oddly enough).

Mr. Smith is correct, but only on a small level. Selflessness is certainly key in a marriage; there needs to be give where there is also take. Each partner needs to do their best to try to make the other person happy. You should treat your partner with love and respect and honesty. If you are being a d-bag, you should stop because you are hurting the other person's feelings. These are all real truths. Still, Seth seems to scream from the rooftops, reminding us: "To all who are reading this article -- married, almost married, single, or even the sworn bachelor or bachelorette -- I want you to know that marriage isn't for you. No true relationship of love is for you. Love is about the person you love."  I get what he's saying; it's a nice message. But it leaves something out. Marriage is for the other person, but it should also be for you.   

Our blogger talks candidly about feelings of "fear" and "resentment." He was "callous and selfish." Now, if you are being selfish in that douchey "I-have-all-the-toys-and-you-can't-have-any" way, then you deserve to have your wrist slapped. But, I argue that there is room for selfishness in a relationship; to some degree, there should be selfishness in a relationship. Let me tell you why and how.

My first marriage was to my high school sweetheart (my story is so similar to Seth's) and we were young, terrified, in love, and young. There was some give and take, until it became one giving more and one taking more and then no giving at all. Until I couldn't reach him and he couldn't reach me, and the Great Wall was erected between us. Until we had outgrown each other. Everything was falling down around us. And because, I, like Seth, believe in being totally selfless and have always cared for those around me, I stuck it out. I stuck it out longer than I should have, through our wedding, buying a house, our first jobs. I had so much anxiety and sadness and fear, but we had something to prove, and I was operating under the "Marriage Isn't For You" umbrella. I ignored my own needs and feelings. Self-care went completely out the window. Not too long after the feelings started bubbling, I did things I regret (he did too), and things that hurt him because I didn't want to hurt him and I didn't want to hurt is family. When everything was coming to a head, I called my therapist and said " I feel like I am being selfish, but I am not happy and I think I need some space." She told me, sometimes, you have to be selfish. This is my caution to you all: Selfless is good, but do not ignore self-care.

What Seth fails to point out is that marriage should also be for you; you should be getting what you need spiritually, physically, and emotionally from a relationship. Completely sacrificing yourself, your needs, your feelings to appease the other person isn't love. I'd LOVE to hear Mrs. Smith's take on this. What was going through her head in the moments when he was being a jackass? He claims she showed him an "outpouring of love," gave him a hug and suddenly 'it's all good.' I am sorry. I love my husband, but when he's a jackass, I will tell him so, and not always "lovingly." I will tell him my needs aren't being met. I will tell him he is hurting my feelings, because my feelings are important too.  Because this marriage is for me, too.

 The other part of Seth's philosophy, about marriage being for family, is even more rage-inducing. First, he implies that every married couple wants children. Newsflash, Seth, some couples are childless (whether by choice or inability) and are okay with that. He also implies that the only way to have a family is to have two married people and they must have children. What about people who have children but never marry? What about single parents and widowers and LGBT people who may not be able to get married where they live? His father's reference to PFO (potential future offspring) came with the question: "Who do you want to help raise them? Who do you want to influence them?" These are fair questions, to be sure. Lots of us who are interested in having children want a partner who would make a good parent. But as I point out in my post on family, many people can become part of a family. Many adults can have an influence on children. It is a rather antiquated notion that the family unit be comprised of married people with children. Ethan and Ophelia and I are a family as we are. We plan to grow as a family, but we are no less a family now because we have no non-furry children, and we were a family before we were married. 

So Seth, my marriage is for me and it's for Ethan. It's for Ophelia, our fish, our extended family and for our future children. And friends, I appreciate his sentiment on some levels, I do. Promise. But don't let this, or any other marriage 'advice' dictate whom your marriage is for or what it should be about (like, for instance, this piece of nonsense which deserves its own rebuttal). In the words of my good friend Dove Chocolate: If it feels good, do it.


Friday, November 1, 2013

On Family

In follow-up to my posts On Friendship and On Love, this time of year is worthy of a post on family. As my faithful readers and friends know, my mother died when I was a young girl. Tuesday the 29th of October marked 16 years since, and this time of year always makes me reflect on her, on family, and on thankfulness. I have realized that it seems I have a lot to say about family, and this is the best forum I have to say it.

My childhood was so different from that of most of my peers. There's the obvious difference of losing my mom when I was young, though that happens more often than it should. But there are other things that set my family apart. My parents were in their late 40s when they had me; dad was pushing 50. This means that there was a generational gap between my parents and their children; a gap MUCH bigger in some cases than my peers (case in point; Ethan is 10.5 years older than me, and his parents are 10+ years younger than my dad). File that away and add this; there is also a cultural gap. Dad was born in Budapest Hungary in 1938. English was not his first language, democracy was not his first government. He's a history lesson for another day, but suffice it to say that this added another interesting -and sometimes frustrating- layer into the family soup. Now file THAT away, and add in my big brother, who is a wonderful and sweet human being on the autism spectrum and who is one of my most favorite people on this planet. That's us. The 4 of us were a small, unique unit. I never knew my dad's parents nor my mom's father. My maternal grandmother was alive but lived in Washington State and I only met her a few times before she died at the age of 97 when I was 13 (she outlived two of her children and was a tough lady who is also worth another blog post of her own). This means that I never really had a relationship with my grandparents, or at least not the kind that most people my age do. My dad is an only child, and my mom's living sibling (my Aunt Liz) and her family lived and still live in Washington State. Thanks to the aid of technology, I keep in touch as much as I can, but I've never felt truly close to them. That's the abridged version of my family, the moral being that it's pretty small, and that's both happy and sad.

Dad Peter, Stephen holding baby Maria, ugly furniture

Our family really shapes us; their presence or absence, who they are and who they teach us to be. The first humans/adults we are ever exposed to are our parents, or people who are like parental figures. I used to think my small, odd family was something to be ashamed of. It alienated me sometimes a lot of the time. My brother and I were raised by "old school" parents, so we didn't do a lot of things other kids did. Our family trips were educational in nature, or to visit the extended family. People used to mistake my parents for my grandparents. I know now, as an adult, that I was fortunate to be brought up this way. We had dinner together almost every night. Sundays were reserved for church and lunch. My dad read to us at night and did all the voices (he does a mean Woody Woodpecker). My mom was a SAHM and had snacks and homework help waiting after school. Dad often told us his own really interesting stories, which are better than any textbook. When mom got sick, I learned to cook, clean and iron. She brought me to chemo with her and taught me subtle lessons in compassion. I know with certainty that I am the woman I am because of the family I came from.

True Peter silliness * not his real mustache
 This is not to say that it was all sunshine and roses. Death, age, mental illness; these all take a huge toll on the family unit. My dad lost his best friend; the woman who kept him grounded and took care of the kids. Suddenly, it was just him. This is where things unraveled a bit, and what makes a nice segue into a discussion on families in general.

I've been extremely fortunate to be welcomed into two big, loving families who are not blood related, but who may as well be. Growing up, we had a church family, which was so important and so lovely. But that too, was polarizing. Enter: friends who turn into family. I met the Poulins probably in 1996. They moved in right next door and had a daughter named Aimee. She is one of the few friends I have who knew my mother. We became fast friends, and remain to this day like family. I held her baby brother David (who is turning 16 soon- yikes) when he was a few days old. I get invited to the family Christmas party every year. Her mother is my FARM (female adult role model- it's our running joke) and her grandparents are the closest thing to actual grandparents (my dad rented from them for years; it was a family affair!). At the risk of getting too mushy and embarrassing anyone, I will just say that Aimee's family has been as much a part of shaping who I am, if not a little more. Much as I believe our family shapes who we are, I believe also that we can choose our family; or else, God or The Universe assigns us a family when one is not available. Susie has many brothers and sisters; I became the adopted cousin of a big, nutty family nearly seamlessly. My immediate family was so small and so different; and then, by more than chance, a family showed up just when we needed it the most.

Aimee and Maria, Ice Storm of 1998,  ugly hats   

Fast forward to now; I've got a wonderful husband who comes with a wonderful (and even bigger) family. Lots of families are created by marriage! I was fortunate to have married a man with two amazing, living parents and endless aunts, uncles and cousins. My MIL is one of 6 and my FIL is one of 4, so the MacDougal/Lape family is full of love and life. I was welcomed into the fold almost instantly, even before Ethan and I got married. I gained a brother and a sister in the deal too. My immediate family unit is so small that we can blend the family easily at holidays. When my family comes over for Thanksgiving, it's only two more place settings. I could not have asked for a better family to marry into, and it is so nice to experience the ups and downs of a large family. I am surrounded by good people, and that makes me so happy!

Isaac, Ethan, blushing bride, Brecken
I get to be part of two families; I probably have around 120+ people I can call family, when you count my real family, my adopted family, my by-marriage family, and friends who are like family. That's a LOT of people. And having so much family around has taught me many things. Here are some of the biggest:
-All families are unique. Furthermore, just as I thought my family was odd, alienating and not like any other, if I ask anyone else from these other families, they would probably say the same thing.
-A small family is just as fun as a big family
-Families are not without drama. Similarly, sometimes it's the family member you least expect that you end up having the best relationship with
- There can be a silver lining in almost any crisis, even death. I am 100% sure I would not be the woman I am today if my mom were still here. Don't mistake me, I miss her every day and I wish she had not died,but that experience shaped me in ways I am forever grateful for.
-Pets are family too (shout out to Wendy, Lucille, Ophelia, Mittens, Charlie, Teddy, and Lola!)

Don't forget to call you mom/dad/FARM/DARM, sister/brother/cousin/friend.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Weddings: You Can Go Your Own Way

Wedding season is upon us! From April through September, brides and grooms all over will be tying the knot in all kinds of moving and lovely ceremonies. Parties will be thrown, family and friends will eat, drink, and be merry and it will all go by in a blur. This wedding season, two dear girl friends are getting married and I couldn't be more thrilled! Erin and Jillian have weddings in August and September, respectively, and I look forward to helping them celebrate. A little more than a year ago, I wrote this post about second weddings. I do not claim to be an expert on weddings, but that was a fun post to write, and I have been inspired to write another. Jill's been asking me questions and running things by me and I figured I would do another wedding post. Jill and Erin, this one's for you (and for all you other brides [and grooms] out there).

A disclaimer: I am no wedding expert. I've just done it twice and been a guest at a ton. What you are about to read here is my opinion only. I do not condemn anyone's choice to do a small intimate wedding or a big, lavish, traditional wedding.I mostly just think couples should do what makes THEM and not OTHERS happy. Also, sorry this is super long.

Tradition vs. 'Non-traditional'

There are hundreds of wedding magazines, TV shows and books. There are probably thousands of wedding blogs, websites, bridal shops, etc. When one thinks of a wedding, very specific things come to mind. White dress. Cake. Flowers. Music. Food. Dancing. This is because Americans have been doing weddings pretty much the same way for ages and ages. In fact, there are whole websites dedicated to 'doing it right.' The Knot's links down the left hand side are a handy, built in checklist, so as not to forget one single thing. Part of the struggle for modern day brides (and grooms) is figuring out the perfect wedding day. Many women have had their perfect wedding planned since they were little girls, right down to the most minute detail. Others get engaged and think- 'oh shit, now I have to plan a wedding. What now?' For the not-already-planned wedding for the not-so-prepared bride, planning is extra tricky. There's the desire to please everyone, including yourselves, the pull from society to "stick to tradition," and the voice in your head screaming "elope! elope!." Friends, family, strangers, Martha Stewart; everyone's got an opinion. I am here to remind you that the only opinions that matter are the persons* getting married. 

*I am trying to shy away from just "the bride and groom" because weddings can be bride and bride or groom and groom and I want this post to be applicable to all couples. Love is love!

My first wedding held to many of the traditional components. White dress, tuxes, flowers, church, food, music, etc. Even then, we cut some corners and tried to save money (more on this later). My second wedding could not have been more different. I liked the second one better (for a multitude of reasons). Not to discredit the fun and style of my first wedding, but this time around, we were so much less stressed and less broke afterwards, and so were our families. I got married in a purple cocktail dress in the living room of my in-laws' house with about 12 people looking on. We had some cake and champagne, but no meal served, no reception (a champagne brunch came months later) and after the wedding we got drunk with my new siblings-in-law at a bar downtown. The only "traditional" aspect was that my priest was there to do the ceremony. Ethan and I even wrote our own vows. When I tell people my wedding story, many times I hear "I wish we would have done ours that way." Most people are happy with the way they did theirs, but they always have an "I wish this hadn't happened" or "I wish we'd done xyz differently" or even "the whole fucking thing was a nightmare and we should have eloped." Why does something that's supposed to be such an amazing, magical, beautiful day bring so much stress and anxiety to people? Why does there have to be "tradition" at all? I think if a couple wants to throw a huge, lavish, fancy wedding, go for it. Their friends and family should be supportive and engaged. If a couple wants to pull a MacDougal and go super simple and intimate, than they too should go for it. Don't worry about adhering to strict traditions; worry about what will make you the happiest. Here are some ways to 'break the mold.'

I am not talking about color schemes and making sure napkins match everything else
(though, go crazy- patterns, plaid, whatever you want!). I am talking about a dress that's not some variation of white. About bridesmaids dresses in different colors. I wore a short, purple cocktail dress. It was fancy, but it certainly is very different from my David's Bridal wedding gown from the first wedding. A few people said to me "you're not wearing a white dress? You have to wear a white dress, it's a wedding!" No. You do not HAVE to do anything you don't want to. I felt and looked so beautiful that day. Wear whatever color you want. A friend told her bridesmaids initially to wear whatever they wanted. They were all completely confused and needed to have actual bridesmaids dresses because "it's just what you do." They did end up going for coordinating dresses, but they will all be in different colors. It is going to look amazing.

Looks black here, but it's a dark purple. I didn't even wear tights!

Picnic. BBQ. Potluck (gasp! did she really just say "potluck" in a wedding post?"). No food. Vegan. Gluten free. Food can be one of the most expensive aspects of the wedding. The expectation is that there will be a meal. We had finger foods, but no official meal. I think my own was the only wedding I've been to where there wasn't a meal. And while I've never been to one, I LOVE the idea of a potluck wedding. The invitation could read "we love you and we love trying new things, so please bring a small dish to share!" The RSVP could have them check off "entree, salad, or dessert." (If you did this or went to a wedding where this was done, please share in the comments!). Also, with so many dietary restrictions people have, I would not have even known where to begin with regard to food. I've heard of food for a wedding ranging from $50- $250 PER PLATE. And special dietary needs often cost MORE. Be creative! Certainly, if you can and want to serve surf & turf, do it. But if you and your future spouse LOVE pigs in a blanket, pork rinds and beer, SERVE THAT. Be sensitive to your guests' dietary needs, but the food at your wedding does not have to be limited to beef, chicken, fish or pasta.

A reminder; I got married in the living room of my in-laws' beautiful home on Portland's West End. A living room where we spent a lot of wonderful time. To us, it felt right. I've been to weddings at hotels, lodges, cabins, churches, community centers. Fall in love with some place, and do it there. I wanted God to have presence at our wedding, but I didn't feel like we needed a church. A priest in the living room solved that problem. Make it personal and special, then fit everything else in around it. Doing it the other way around (how many people, then find the space big enough to fit everyone) may lead to having the wedding in a generic spot that doesn't mean much to you as a couple.

Don't feel the need to immediately plan and leave on a honeymoon. If you've just spent tons of time and money on a wedding, you should not then feel as though you need to spend more on a honeymoon (unless you really want to). We took our honeymoon vacation months later when it was warmer out. We were 35 minutes from home, spent little money and had the time of our lives.Here in Maine's frigid climates, a lot of couples who marry in the summer take their honeymoon in the winter and travel to someplace warm. That's like, double the bang for your bucks!

The moral here is this: do what  feels right.


Recently on Pinterest, I found this:

Who decided this?!
Weddings can be outrageously expensive. There are even TV shows about the most expensive weddings. While I have never asked any one what they spent outright, I've heard numbers ranging from a couple hundred dollars to over $30,000. A friend's sister spent $5000 on her dress ALONE. She loved it and looked wonderful, but that number makes my head spin. Likewise, what if one or both families are not in a position to contribute financially (see: Maria's Dad)? I think a better checklist would be made by each specific couple. What do we really want, and how much can we spend? Do we need to ask family for help or can we do it ourselves? A bride or groom should not feel guilty because traditionally certain things are done by one side or the other. And have people forgotten that by getting married, a couple is joining their families? Why do there have to be 'sides?' Do what you can afford. At my first wedding, we did cupcakes instead of cakes because it was way cheaper and easier.  If you have the money to spend and want to throw a giant party for your wedding, by all means, do that! But that should not be the expectation for all couples. Some money saving suggestions:

Buy a used dress/rent a tux. If you both aren't totally attached to the idea of buying new wedding garb, rent/buy used. No one has to know if you don't want them to, but I hear this is becoming a trend. Take "something old" and "something borrowed" and run with it.

This sounds terrible, I know. BUT. Your wedding should be about you and your partner and who you want to have there. It is easy to get caught up in "if we invite so and so, then we also have to invite this person and this person and this person." If you don't want certain people there, don't invite them. This will save money and your sanity.

Find interesting things on Pinterest you can make yourself, look for Dollar Store finds, up-cycle and recycle, etc. You'll be doing your wallet and the environment a favor.
I could ramble on forever about this, but I will spare you the rest of my opinions/non-advice for another time. There are two weddings this summer that I'll be going to, and I couldn't be happier for either couple. I hope this post gives the stressed brides a chuckle, and maybe inspires other brides-to-be.

Happy Wedding Season!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Deep Thoughts* and Burning Questions

*I'm no Jack Handy, but I hope this will at least make you chuckle, giggle, snort or smile.

I like to think I am at least somewhat witty. I've filled this blog with medical based posts, unsolicited advice and opinions, tributes, etc. Most of my posts are laced with at least some snark/humor/failed attempts at wit. So, please consider this post an attempt at all out humor and wit.

If you heckle me, I'll go Louis on you okay?

How do actors get paid? No, really? This is something I think about probably more than one person should spend time thinking about. Does Tom Cruise get a giant multi-million dollar check at the wrap of a film? "To the bank, Jeeves!" and then a deposit? Or better yet, do they have direct deposit? I'm sure there's royalties on stuff; RDJ probably makes BANK on sales of Iron Man action figures. Does a $.03 deposit get made to his bank account every time someone buys one? I'm sure this all depends on what level of celebrity you are. My friend Louis up there probably gets handed some cash at the end of a set. The likes of Pitt, Clooney, Hanks, Jolie, Aniston et. al likely don't get cash in hand...right? They likely have a money manager/accountant. Do they get an allowance? "Mr. Damon, here is your daily $3000 allotment. Don't spend it all in one place like last time. No one needs that many NERF guns."

More specifically, color namers. Somewhere out there, at paint companies, fabric/furniture companies, clothing companies, people are PAID to come up with the names of colors. Gone are the days of ROYGBIV and primary colors. We painted our bathroom "Down Feathers" and "Peach Smoothie." Ethan brought home his color swatch kits from the firm. We were looking for a nice green. I suddenly became overwhelmed with the 25 shades of green, ranging from "Quiet Meadow" to "Mint Julep" to "Dark Forest." How does one get the job of being the "decider" of color names? Art students? Starving artists? Wordsmiths? I am certain that people receive a PAYCHECK to decide what to call a shade of light red. I don't think anyone would want me to name colors. A strip of reds would probably say:

Dark Red
Light Red
Still Red
Less Red
Are you blind these are all the same Red.
And why aren't some just realistic? "This looks great on the swatch but will turn out to be the shade of baby diarrhea
when it dries Yellow."


"The enemy of my enemy is my friend." NO. The enemy of my enemy is person #2 who hates my enemy. I therefore want nothing to do with either of them. 

"I'll tell you when you're older." I heard this as a kid, I am sure we all did. But you might as well tell them now. What they dream up in their head is probably worse than the information they want to know.

"Don't judge a book by its cover." As related to looking at humans, sure. Absolutely. But actual books? If the cover art blows, the title is purposefully/ironically misspelled (Kid's Korner Krafts), the author is someone I hate, or any combination of the three, you bet your spectacles I am judging it by its cover. 

Okay, I read these, but you see my point

I'm still trying to understand hipsters. Naturally, I started here. Correct me if I am wrong, but when I was younger, all the stuff that makes one a "hipster" these days is what used to be made fun of endlessly. I've had glasses, enjoyed books, wore band t-shirts (okay, it was Hanson. Shoot me) when I was in middle/high school. I lived an "alternative lifestyle." The 'alternative' to rich/athletic/popular is poor/uncoordinated/nerdy. I had 'hipster glasses' before they were known as such. Are hipsters cool? Not cool? Prefer to be unclassified? Enlighten me. Do hipster teenagers get made fun of in school? Are they the top of the food chain now? 

What if the cultural norm for urination/defecation were going outside, like animals? Would it seem gross if we had never known otherwise? Who decided we needed a special room & porcelain receptacle? 

I have two webbed toes on each foot. Dave Letterman has two webbed fingers on one hand. Long lost relatives?

"The early bird gets the worm." Only if there's enough worms. And it's not winter. And a fisherman didn't get there first.

It is now acceptable to be a "cat lady." True story. A bunch of my Twitter followers are cat ladies. Or maybe it's just acceptable to us, but since we ban together, we know no different. 

Rainy Snowy days and Mondays always get me down.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Grammar Hound

Disclaimer: This post in no way is meant to condemn, offend, or personally attack anyone. It is about the big picture message and is simply my opinion. If it comes off as snobby, then it may well be. I have a B.A. in English and I take language very seriously.

This weekend, in my just-opened-my-eyes-but-still-in-bed stupor, I posted a mini-rant about those Facebook memes floating around that say things like “Name a city in Pennsylvania that doesn’t have the letter ‘e’ in it.” I’ve seen these for movie titles, states, songs, animals, etc.  A lot of times, they look like the one below:

Django Unchained, The Change Up (c'mon, make it a challenge)

I saw one yesterday that had a little anecdote added: “this ones really tricky guys ;)” {sic}. I think it was name a fish without the letter ‘a’ in it (flounder, monkfish). What are these little memes trying to prove? The one above lacks proper capitalization and punctuation. The grammar is often incorrect. Usually, they have THOUSANDS of comments in response. Maybe it speaks to the limited vocabulary of some?  It makes me wonder about the person(s) who created these. Do they really think they’ve created a stumper? For them, maybe something like this is hard. Does reading a thousand answers and “this isn’t that hard dummy” (an actual comment on one post) gnaw at their self-esteem? I think some may just be trying to get a response, to garner X number of shares/comments/likes. But if you’re going to post something about words, at least spell everything correctly and use proper grammar.

Side note, I often see comments on these along the lines of “some ppl on here can’t use grammer,” {sic} and a little piece of me dies inside. I saw one of these that said "name words that use all the vowels" and waaay too many comments were "what are vowels?" I wept. 

THIS. Thanks Mark.

The larger point I am getting to is about the breakdown in language and lack of vocabulary that I am witnessing on a daily basis. Even with the sometimes annoying and always hilarious invention of auto-correct, I see posts, statuses, texts and even professional e-mails at work that are misspelled, under punctuated and filled with “lols” and short-hand. I gave up auto-correct as a means to a) see if I could get away from the crutch and b) remind myself of the value of typing/texting etc. without spelling assistance. It was hard for approximately one day. I won’t lie- that assuming the word you want thing is pretty handy for typing speedily. It was also hilarious when auto-correct robot got it wrong. But I no longer need it.  It is a great necessary tool for many and yet, I see so many mistakes and so much short hand that sometimes posts are not even readable.

My teacher friends can speak to this; I don’t think educators have stopped teaching proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. Nor have they stopped teaching essential vocabulary words.There are a wealth of amazing teachers out there (Emily, I STILL think about the skunk and the pumpkin when I am trying to remember prepositions) who teach the basics and teach well. So what’s happening? Has the internet ruined it all? For as long as I can remember, even all the way back to AOL Instant Messenger (throwback!) I have always typed/written with proper capitalization, punctuation and spelling (or always tried to and naturally got better at it with age and education). I rarely use short hand. People argue speed, but it actually takes me longer to do all the short hand stuff. I am wired to do it correctly. Many of my friends are the same. I have FB friends (who shall remain anonymous) who post statuses that are so short handed, so misspelled and under-punctuated that I cannot even understand what they are saying. I have to read it 3 or 4 times to get the gist. And then, people comment/react (much in the same shorthand manner) like they totally get it. So what’s different? Who or what is to blame?

It's not right to write before you're sure your writing is right.
Before you say “oh it’s just FB or chat or texting etc.” let me tell you something. I work with graduate students, most of whom are adults 30+ years old. I think my oldest student is 65-6. I get e-mails daily that are hard to read due to misspelling and poor grammar. From GRADUATE students. They are professional students, writing to academic and administrative professionals. Why is this okay? There have been times I have wanted to write back to them “I cannot answer this message until you use proper spelling and grammar, and then I’d be happy to help you,” but alas, that would not go over well. I’ve seen letters of appeal that I want to attack with my red pen. When working in the writing center when I was attending college, I would see papers, academic papers, with “r” in place of are and lol, and mix-ups of there, their, and they’re and you’re and your etc.  

What I am talking about here isn’t the occasional typo or spelling error or lack of grammar (we’re all guilty from time to time). I’m talking about the chronic communication problem. Granted, in many cases I only see what someone posts on FB- maybe they are better, more serious writers off the social media landscape. But what if they aren’t? And don’t you want to represent yourself in the best possible light? As mentioned before, I see this issue in e-mails and papers and all manners of communication I encounter. And I think it’s getting worse.

We could blame technology, which I think plays a huge role. Our faces are more or less always stuck in front of a screen. We use the internet for fun, for work, for learning. Sure, maybe it’s easy to get ‘lazy’ and shorten everything on FB. But don’t you want it to be the best representation of yourself? Employers look at this stuff, guys. And maybe to some, language and communication are not as valuable; why take the time to learn spelling and grammar and punctuation when auto-correct does it for us? What would happen if technology broke down, a la ABC’s Revolution, etc. and we needed to communicate? In the event of a technology ‘blackout’ or zombie apocalypse, I know I want to be able to leave clear messages to fellow survivors. You know what they say about Uncle Jack, horses, and punctuation.

But maybe something else is to blame. Maybe we just need to make a little more time for each other (sans screens) and a little more time for putting our best selves forward, whether that means dressing to impress, writing correctly, or smiling at strangers. Either way, you’ll feel and look a lot more hip.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

On Love

"Let's meet in a respectable dive  / on a somewhat safe street..." -Rufus Wainwright

This is a musical post, guys! Listen while you read!

I am quite sure Rufus wrote this song about when I met my husband Ethan. 3 years ago February 15th I met Ethan at a respectable dive and my life has never been the same. I was at Portland's famed Great Lost Bear enjoying some beers with my friend. It was a 'last hurrah' of sorts; I was preparing to give up alcohol for Lent (GASP!) that year and wanted a few last tasty beers. My husband tells the story that he was checking out my friend first because he couldn't see me at the other end of the bar. I tease him about it; I playfully pout that he was into her first, but he always makes me feel better by saying he was totally wowed when I came into view. I had originally been sitting next to these three d-bags who just came from work and had grimy fingernails and grimy clothes and grimy attitudes. At least they were good for a chuckle. Linds went out to have a smoke with a girl from Ethan's end of the bar. In an attempt to escape the d-bags I made my way to the other side of the bar to wait for my friend. I sat down next to Ethan. Prepare for a cliche: the rest is history. 

Pretty much from that night on we saw each other every day. I knew that night that I was more than smitten. I was never a believer in love at first sight but I'll tell you what, I am now. We talked for hours that night at the bar and after. Yes, I did give him a ride home that night. No, we didn't "do anything." He did however ask permission to kiss me (adorable, right?) and I said yes and we kissed on the street corner like something out of a winter-set romcom. Two weeks later, I moved into his bachelor pad. Crazy, right? Most people thought so. But I was alone, my lease was up in Kennebunk, he lived closer to work and we were pretty much in love. If it didn't work, I was no worse off than I had been post-divorce. All I owned was clothing, books and a car. People said we were crazy. We knew better.

So here we are, 3 years later, married (our first wedding anniversary is coming in April) and amazingly happy. There's more to our story, like telling my dad I met an older man and he actually using the phrase "sugar daddy," me reassuring him that 10 years older didn't count as a sugar daddy, Ethan and I going on weekends away and meeting each others' friends and family, etc. But what I really want to talk about is love. I'd been in love before this. Hell, I'd been married before meeting Ethan. The kind of love and marriage I am experiencing now is nothing like what I had before, and in the best ways. My previous relationship, marriage and divorce taught me a lot about myself and what I need from a relationship. It wasn't all bad, but it was a young, carefree kind of love when it started. And we matured while the love didn't. So suffice it to say that I've never known love like I have with Ethan. I think every kind of love is different, every person we love, we love differently. But this is the kind of fills you up from head to toes, butterflies in the tummy (yup, even 3 years later) hard work/great reward kind of love. 

From our post wedding shoot. Courtesy Erin Kroll Photo
One of the best parts of our love story is that Ethan and I weren't looking for each other. We found each other.  I had been "single and loving it" (wootwoot) and had 'sworn off men for a while.' I had planned to move away and attend grad school to[insert 'find myself' cliches here]. And then BAM. Like a ton of bricks. When I stopped looking for great love, I found it. In an older, amazing, smart, sexy, charming man, in a respectable dive, on a somewhat safe street. Our marriage isn't always sunshine and rainbows. We have our disagreements (mostly political) and our struggles, but we rarely fight. I still get giddy when I see him, and I'd rather lay around our house in my jammies with him than do almost anything else. I went to FL for a week for work. It was the longest we'd been apart since the day we met (no joke). Thank God for FaceTime. People say this is the 'newlywed phase.' That someday the fire will fade a bit. I know what that feels like, it happened the first time I was married. Almost like a switch turning off. That hasn't happened for Ethan and I. I'm quite certain it never will.

Happy three years, my darling husband. Happy early first wedding anniversary. I look forward to so many more firsts with you; houses and children and puppies. You have changed my life. I am lucky to have you. I love you completely and passionately.

From our honeymoon at Ocean Park Beach. This sums up our life accurately