Punctuation Matters

typewriter Andre Govia

This clever Dear John letter perfectly illustrates why punctuation matters.  Exact same words, only the punctuation has changed from one version to the next.

*******************************************************

Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.

You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy – will you let me be yours?

Gloria

*******************************************************

Dear John,

I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior.

You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

Yours,

Gloria

Advertisements

Love and Whoop Ass

Keep Calm & Aim

Kind Readers:  I have been working under a deadline — okay, I procrastinated for weeks and now I’m panicking — and therefore am posting an oldie but goodie from my old blog.  Thank you for your patience.  I will get back to a more regular posting schedule very soon.


 

I’ve been thinking a lot about love recently. I’ve been holed up in the house due to frigid weather and when you’re locked up with another human being, you’d best be thinking about love. Otherwise, it could get all stabby.

Don’t act shocked, you know what I mean. When cabin fever intersects with quirky personal habits to make a Venn diagram of whoop ass, you’d better be concentrating on sweetness and light. It’s a lot of work to get blood out of the carpet. Just saying.

Any adult relationship is a complex dance, passion waxing and waning, irritation peaking and ebbing, human frailty exposing its messy self at every pas de deux. Were it not so perplexing, we’d have never gotten great blues music. If love were easy and constant, all songs would sound like they were written by Barney. Life is messy. Messy surprises which makes it interesting. Interesting is appealing, compelling, and fires up our juices.

Please note that I am advocating the authenticity of a messy, true, human bond. I did not say one word about sticking around for a relationship that is difficult. Don’t confuse drama for depth of feeling.

If your partner tests you, takes without giving, doesn’t recognize your needs are just as legitimate as theirs, you have my permission — no, my encouragement — to leave. We don’t reward relentless selfishness. Weigh your options. Being alone is a gift if you’ve spent any time in a bad relationship. Don’t be afraid to do what is best for you. As I said before, it’s a lot of work to get blood out of the carpet.

I think I’ve made it abundantly clear that in comprehending lessons on love, I’m a thick-skulled heifer. I’ve been in many substandard relationships. Hell, I’ve been engaged what, five times? Learning curve flat as a pancake. I’m a relationship idiot. My first marriage was lopsided. It sucked the life out of me and stomped my confidence into a puddle of fetid road kill. Starter was many things, but compassionate, supportive, and loving were not in the mix. After much careful thought, I shared with a dear friend that I was planning to leave Starter. Her response stunned me.

“But you’re diabetic. You’re going to need help as your illness progresses.”

My response was, “I’d rather crawl around a tiny apartment completely blind than rely on him for anything.”

“Well if that’s how you really feel, let’s get to packing.”

Pack we did. I was so happy after I moved out that I threw a party every six weeks for a year. I had a blast. I felt lighter and I positively bubbled with glee. I was champagne personified, all celebration and sparklers. I danced with joy every day. Best thing I ever did. I became me again, not the crust of a person who had to tiptoe through the house on eggshells because of Starter’s temper tantrums.

A surprising side effect of being a giddy-level of happy is that you attract a better kind of mate. Happy attracts happy. Stability attracts stability. Remember, Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Who knew the skinny goober was talking about dating? Be the kind of person you want to meet and — poof! — that person will appear in your life.

Now I am with someone who puts my happiness before his own. He thinks of my comfort. He supports me in any endeavor I choose to undertake, no matter how weird. He doesn’t just say he loves me, he shows me. I really appreciate it because I know what it’s like to find yourself mired up to your belly button in a sucky relationship. This is not bad. This is messy, this is real, this is human, but this is also pretty damn good.

So on Gruff’s birthday this March, just like I have done every year since I met him, I will send a thank you gift to his mother. I thank her for giving birth to him. I thank her for training him properly. I thank her for letting him go. I thank her for getting him all ready for me. Well done, Jean.   I appreciate it.

Because as you know, it’s not easy to get blood stains out of carpet.

 

 

 

 

Codeword: Watermelon

Watermelon

 

Note to Readers:  I don’t know what is in the air recently, but long time followers of mine have been mentioning this post from my old blog and asking me to put it up again.  If it is helpful to you, I’m happy to oblige.  Good luck.

 

I am blessed. Gruff and I hardly ever argue. We are truly compatible and it makes for an easy life. Trust me, I know what I’ve got and I appreciate it. I’ve been married before and when it is wrong, it is painful on a daily basis.

Gruff and I are both ultra-mellow types and it takes a boatload of aggravation to get us riled up. There are occasions when one of us reaches our boiling point, what we call our “that’s it” moment. These volcanoes of vitriol happen maybe once every two years, always when we’re physically exhausted and emotionally stressed and are usually over in just a few minutes.

What triggers our moments of mayhem? Some magical combination of irritants will slowly mass into a top-popping gusher of profanity. Now — and I can not stress this strongly enough — it’s really important to keep our “that’s it” moments from becoming synchronized events.

If one of us is having a frustration fit, the other can calmly guide the irritated back down to earth and express heartfelt commiseration over the unjust situation that set off the outburst.

If we synchronize our fits, no sane person is left to ground us because we’re both twirling off into the toxic ether and gaining speed. With no one left to drive the bus, we are both hell-bent on ditching it into a fiery ball of destruction. If our “that’s it” moments are reached simultaneously, we just may turn on each other. That is just not good.

You see, Gruff and I are both mud fighters. We are creative combatants and aim to annihilate. If I’m pissed at you I’m not only going after you, I want to destroy your entire genealogy. I don’t box, I fight. There are no rules and there’s no referee I recognize. In arguments, my goal is to scorch the earth. Once again, Gruff and I are extremely compatible. He fights dirty, too.

Out of love for each other, and possibly a teensy bit of fear, we have devised a system if we find ourselves locking horns in a fight to the death. We have a codeword. If one of us thinks that we are about to hurl some poison arrow that will hurt the other irreparably, or if one of us has just been wounded to the core, we stop and yell our codeword instead. Watermelon.

Once the watermelon card has been played, we can not speak of our disagreement or the event that triggered it for at least three hours. Three hours is an eternity and that’s the whole point. It is physically impossible to stay white hot angry during a waiting period of three full hours.

Sometimes I have been so blind with fury that I have set the stove timer for three hours, fully intent on whipping into Gruff as soon as it went off. Inevitably, when the buzzer rings I don’t have it in me to argue anymore and we both end up apologizing for any pain we may have inflicted. We lick each other’s wounds and speak of love instead.

It doesn’t matter what word is used, but I think the word watermelon is comical. It conjures up instant images of happy times. Who associates depression with watermelon? You can’t. You remember eating watermelon on the porch when you were a child. You remember happy summers catching lightning bugs. You remember being carefree. You remember being handed a slice of watermelon larger than your head and getting sticky with juice and seeds. Watermelon is a happy, funny word from light-hearted times.

Do what you need to do, but don’t hurt the one person who loves you the most. Love is hard enough to find in this world, treat it tenderly. If you think it would help, you have my blessing to hijack our codeword. Watermelon.

The Rock Pile

rock pile small

 

My friend Allison has been through her fair share of life’s ups and downs. Recently, she’s spent a lot of time on the down side of the hill. This bout of hard luck seems to be making her a little bitter, a little cranky, and a lot less fun. It’s a shame because Ally is truly a dear, sweet, loving person. She deserves a little happiness to roll her way. Sadly she seems to attract the dramatic, preferring soap opera style Strum und Drang over peace.

Allison never had the benefit of my grandma’s advice when growing up, which would have nipped this silliness in the bud. My grandmother told me often, “I expect you to try new things in your life. I expect you to fall on occasion. Pick yourself up and try again. You are not allowed to lie there and wallow like a fat, muddy sow.”

Allison indulged in a bit of sow-wallowing this summer and paid a tidy sum to do so. Allison went to a women’s camping retreat for two weeks. I’m not sure how this retreat was advertised, because I got odd messages from Ally. She bought new tees, sandals and shorts. She complained that finding shorts that looked cute both with tees and topless was really difficult. Hello? Shorts that need to look good with and without shirts just aren’t purchased by females. I’m thinking the Malibu men’s beach volleyball team has a lock on this fashion trend, but why would Allison need such a thing? “Well,” she explained, “I expect that we will be honoring our womanhood by dancing around the fire topless. “

Uh huh. I honor my womanhood by eating strawberry shortcake in my bathrobe while watching Monty Python re-runs. To quote Henry David Thoreau, “Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.”  I have a news flash for Miss Ally.  If you are topless, no one should be checking out your shorts.

I think I have figured out why Allison signed up for this “Outward Bound meets Oprah Winfrey” event. When Ally is under pressure from bad luck, a bad relationship, a bad job; she tends to make impulsive decisions. I’m counting the two-week camp-out for unhappy women as one of her questionable choices. Even worse, it was expensive.

On Day Two of the retreat, Allison signed up for a class on “Attracting Joy to Your Life.” It was a popular class loaded with participants, all eager to find the elusive secret to happiness. Nothing wrong with that. Everyone deserves joy. The morning was spent on generalities and before breaking for lunch, the class got their first assignment. During lunch, everyone was to go out and walk around the campus. Pick up a pebble or rock for each issue in your life that made you feel disrespected or angry. Document your hurt with a stone only if you thought about the incident every day. The size of the rock chosen should also represent the amount of hurt you suffered.

Ally was all over this assignment. She was so eager to get to it that she skipped lunch altogether. She found a sizeable stone to document her philandering ex-husband, rocks to represent her three older sisters and their life-long mistreatment of her, a flat paver to show her boss’ general lack of appreciation, and chunks of gravel for every self-centered slacker she’d ever dated. I had no idea that Allison felt so wronged. I can not imagine being haunted by past events every day as she claims to be.

Allison managed to get her load of issues back to the class space just in time for the afternoon session. It took the pillow case off her bunk to haul it all, but it was worth it. As everyone assembled, some with just one tiny pebble, barely a bead, Ally was very proud to see that she had the largest pile of rocks. No one else even came close. She was going to have so much fun.

Allison had heard about this exercise before. You took your rocks down to the lake. You yelled everything you could think at the person the stone represented and heaved it into the water. It was supposed to be cathartic and wonderful. She could not wait to start screaming and chucking her collection of wrongs.

The instructor walked about the class, examining and commenting on everyone’s pebbles. He spent some time counting Allison’s pile o’ pain. He questioned whether she really carried so many injuries with her on a daily basis. She swore that she thought about each and every one of these issues at least once a day. With a sigh, the instructor went back to the front of the gathering.

“Okay people, this is an important exercise for you to accomplish. Only by completing this task, will you be able to begin living a joyful life. Is that clear?” asked the instructor.

Allison was practically vibrating with anticipation now. She was going to lug all these hateful injustices to the lake and drown them. She was going to be free. This was going to be so great!

The instructor was talking again. “All of you have assured me that you have gathered rocks to represent the painful issues that you think about every day. These issues nip at your confidence, block you from achieving success, and prevent you from attracting happiness and love into your life today. These issues are a tiresome burden to carry and you must prepare to not only let them go, but to gladly rid yourselves of them forever. Unfortunately, old pains are comfortable pains. People carry things around for years because if they let go, they are uncertain of what’s next. It’s a better-the-devil-you-know thing. But we are going to move beyond that here this week. We are going to let go and open our lives to true joy. Are you ready?”

A resounding “yes” was heard from the entire class. Everyone was ready to divorce their anger and find happiness. Quite a few of the rocks in the room represented ex-spouses, so divorcing the pain was practically a literal task for the group.

“Now” the instructor began, “in order to fully understand what you are doing to yourselves by carrying these past disappointments around and reliving them daily, you will carry your rocks everywhere with you for the next three days. You may not even go to the bathroom or the mess tent unless all your rocks are with you. Is that clear?”

“What? Wait.” said Ally. “What about the lake? What about the rocks and the lake?”

“Oh, thank you for reminding me.” said the instructor. “I would not recommend swimming for the next three days. You in particular, Allison. You are in real danger of drowning yourself.”

 

The Key

My choo-choo train has been known to jump the track from time to time. Sometimes I get so irritated that I fly right past miffed, hang a hard left at pissed off, and head deep into hissy fit territory.   I believe that it is perfectly fine, better than fine even, for a woman to let it be known when she is right livid with the world.

Lord knows, I’m not one of those darling, demure little dears who politely hold it all in. Stuffing your conflict down inside often results in a very messy and public explosion in your late 40s and early 50s, most likely involving the cabana boy from the Mirage hotel in Vegas. What is it about the scent of coconut oil and margaritas? The embarrassing part of my occasional derailments is that I am often mad about the wrong thing.

Let me tell you a story about one very mistaken hard-core huff I had going right after I met my Gruff. I realized quickly that I could spend a whole lot of time with this guy. We were in synch immediately, comforting in the way a pair of fuzzy bedroom slippers are. That might be a reference that is understood only by women, but you get my drift. Everything felt cozy. It felt right.

I liked right. I’d done wrong, horribly wrong. Right felt well, right. This could work. This was much better. I decided to go out on a limb. I had a key made for my house and wrapped it in a pretty red box, complete with satin bow. This was the key to my very own house. My house, the one I’d bought with my money, and decorated just for me. It was my private happy spot and I was giving someone else, a boy even, full access to come and go as he pleased. To me this was huge. I wanted to do it, yet the emotional enormity of it caused severe shortness of breath.

I hemmed and hawed, hid the pretty red box in my lingerie drawer, and thought about it incessantly. What’s the problem? I mean, Gruff was a great guy. I really, really liked him. Surely he deserved a key. The saintly Salvadoran cleaning woman whose only English was “More Windex, missus” had a key. Why not Gruff? If I gave Gruff a key to my house, he could pick up some Windex on his way over. It was a win-win situation.

I decided to do it. Worse, I decided to infuse it with all the romantic overtones of that Hallmark, Inc. fabrication, Valentine’s Day. Yep, I gave Gruff the key to my house over dinner on St. Valentine’s Day. He appeared to be um, underwhelmed. He said, “Oh hey, thanks.”

Now I made it worse. I explained, perhaps too enthusiastically, that this was the key to my house. It was my refuge, my safe harbor, my freaking Fortress of Solitude and he should recognize that he was receiving the highest honor I could bestow. I believe he responded with, “That’s great, Sweetie.”

Fine. Men just don’t fully appreciate the emotional sensitivities of such things. I was expecting too much. I had just given him my key, not a kidney. Fine. I had agonized over the event for weeks, but never mind. It turned out to be not so much of a big deal. Fine.

Of course you realize there is a second part to this transaction. I had given Gruff my house key. It followed that Gruff would now give me his house key. Here’s where the wheels on my train started to lift off the track. I waited, and I waited, and there was no key. Gruff came and went, but there was no presentation of a key for me.

After a month, I had worked myself up into a right proper snit. I assumed that I wasn’t getting his key because he was dating lots of different women and couldn’t risk any one of them popping over unannounced. Maybe he was running a meth lab in his house. Maybe he was a secretive hoarder and his whole upstairs was filled with old newspapers and desiccated rat carcasses. I didn’t know. Anything was possible. Gruff lived two hours from me, it’s not like I would be dropping in every twenty minutes to check up on him.

After six weeks of imagining the worst possible scenarios, my locomotive derailed at high speed. I greeted my new love at my front door with the tender phrase, “Where’s my fucking key?”

“What?”

“I gave you a key to my house, which you are using to unlock my damn door anytime you please and I just want to know, where’s my key? Why haven’t you given me the key to your house? Huh? What up with that, Playa?”

“I don’t have a key to my house.”

“You’re lying.”

“No Molly, my house was built in 1905 in a very rural area. When I settled on my house there were no keys transferred. There are no keys.”

Um, never saw that coming. I mean, who doesn’t have house keys? Who goes to sleep at night with every window and door unlocked?   I come from a law enforcement family. We were taught from toddlers to know your surroundings, protect yourself, and lock the damn doors. Hell, we weren’t allowed to learn how to drive until we could load, unload, and properly fire a weapon because there was going to be a pistol under the driver’s seat of any family car you drove. My daddy’s head would have popped off its stem had I suggested that we not lock the doors to the house, day or night. Good Lord, who does such a thing?

Gruff did such a thing. No biggie as far as he was concerned. Totally new concept to me however, and after I wrapped my head around it, I had to humbly apologize for so convincingly playing the role of psycho-bitch-girlfriend.

I was mortified. I had not asked simple questions while I was still chugging along sensibly, but instead waited until Ozzy Osbourne was screaming “Crazy Train” in my cortex and pounced on Gruff like a paranoid she-devil. I made amends with barbecued ribs and pie, but still felt odd about the whole thing.

Thankfully, Gruff is not one to hold on to my weirdness. He let it go and so did I. Eventually I sold my perfect little home and moved in with the love of my life. You can bet your ass there are now locks on all the doors and plenty of keys.

 

Codeword Watermelon

 

I am blessed. Gruff and I hardly ever argue. We are truly compatible and it makes for an easy life. Trust me, I know what I’ve got and I appreciate it. I’ve been married before and when it is wrong, it is downright painful on a daily basis.

Gruff and I are both ultra-mellow types and it takes a boatload of aggravation to get us riled up. There are occasions when one of us reaches our boiling point, what we call our “that’s it” moment. These volcanoes of vitriol happen maybe once every two years, always when we’re physically exhausted and emotionally stressed and are usually over in just a few minutes.

What triggers our moments of mayhem? Some magical combination of irritants will slowly mass into a top-popping gusher of profanity. Now — and I can not stress this strongly enough — it’s really important to keep our “that’s it” moments from becoming synchronized events.

If one of us is having a frustration fit, the other can calmly guide the irritated back down to earth and express heartfelt commiseration over the unjust situation that set off the outburst.

If we synchronize our fits, no sane person is left to ground us because we’re both twirling off into the toxic ether and gaining speed. With no one left to drive the bus, we are both hell-bent on ditching it into a fiery ball of destruction. If our “that’s it” moments are reached simultaneously, we just may turn on each other. That is not good. Not good. Not good.

You see, Gruff and I are both mud fighters. We are creative combatants and aim to annihilate. If I’m pissed at you I’m not only going after you, I want to destroy your entire genealogy. I don’t box, I fight. There are no rules and there’s no referee I recognize. In arguments, my goal is to scorch the earth. Once again, Gruff and I are extremely compatible. He fights low and dirty, too.

Out of love for each other, and possibly a teensy bit of fear, we have devised a system if we find ourselves locking horns in a fight to the death. We have a codeword. If one of us thinks that we are about to hurl some poison arrow that will hurt the other irreparably, or if one of us has just been wounded to the core, we stop and yell our codeword instead. Watermelon.

Once the watermelon card has been played, we can not speak of our disagreement or the event that triggered it for at least three hours. Three hours is an eternity and that’s the whole point. It is physically impossible to stay white hot angry during a waiting period of three full hours.

Sometimes I have been so blind with fury that I have set the timer for three hours, fully intent on whipping into Gruff as soon as it buzzed. Inevitably when the timer rings, I don’t have it in me to argue anymore and we both end up apologizing for any pain we may have inflicted. We lick each other’s wounds and speak kindly instead.

It doesn’t matter what word is used, but I think the word watermelon is comical. It conjures up instant images of happy times. Who associates fury with watermelon? You just can’t. You remember eating watermelon on the porch when you were a child. You remember happy summers catching lightning bugs. You remember being carefree. You remember being handed a slice of watermelon larger than your head and getting sticky with juice and seeds. Watermelon is a happy, funny word from light-hearted times.

Do what you need to do, but don’t hurt the one person who loves you the most. Love is hard enough to find in this world, treat it tenderly. If you think it would help, you have my blessing to hijack our codeword. Watermelon.