Category Archives: Things

Stop It With The Exclamation Marks, Please

Who knew that bad punctuation can have rotten consequences?

If you’re bad with grammar and punctuation you’ll need to read this. I am good at both because I take a great interest in them. Doesn’t that make me super interesting? Although deficient use of grammar and punctuation annoys me, I do have a certain grace for those it afflicts. I have, after all, had some indiscretions of my own. Just recently, I noticed I put an apostrophe in a possessive “its” in one of my posts. I KNOW!

Grammar is more difficult to learn, in English and in other equally complicated languages. So, fine, if you’re bad at it, it’s just not your thing. (That “it’s” was not possessive – see the difference? You’re – not your – welcome.) But punctuation gaffes are inexcusable when you’re using the most popular marks.

The most ill-used punctuation has got to be THE EXCLAMATION MARK.

On several occasions, I have been looking at my news feed on Facebook and seen the mark grossly misplaced. IT DOES NOT NEED TO BE EMPLOYED AS OFTEN AS YOU THINK. On a few occasions, worrisome and downright sorrowful status lines elicited comments from friends that were rendered inappropriate solely as a result of the use of an exclamation mark.

“I’m so sorry to hear your son has serious swine flu! Hope he gets well soon!”

“My thoughts are with you in this awful experience!”

“Oh Jane! Take care of yourself during this difficult time!”

Exclamation marks should be mostly used to convey excitement or happiness, and sometimes anger. Rarely, and only with utmost caution, should it be coupled with a phrase expressing sadness. If you’re writing something in response to someone’s distressing or grievous situation, it’s best to avoid it entirely. The reason is that it comes off as insincere, as if you’re not understanding the seriousness of the circumstance.

I know most people have good intentions and just use the exclamation mark to convey emphasis of sentiment. But if you don’t see how the above examples border on glib and blasé, then I suggest you err on the side of caution and avoid using the exclamation mark altogether.

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Only Guys Are Gamers

My husband is a gamer. Red Dead Redemption came out recently and he was all excited to start playing. Don’t ask me what Red Dead Redemption is, what it’s about or what its appeal is supposed to be. I would guess it’s about red people who come back to life to redeem themselves for all the bad stuff they did during their lives by doing good deeds for others. The more people you bless with kindness, the more points you get. Like, helping an old lady load groceries into her car is worth ten points, but running into a burning building to save an orphan with eczema gives you fifty. If you pick the small, delicate guy for your volleyball team in gym class it’s twenty-five, but if you ask the shy girl with an unfortunate penchant for pleated pants and raging acne to prom, that warrants eighty. So, Red Dead Redemption is probably right up my husband’s alley.

But I don’t get gaming. I think it’s pointless, like watching Deal Or No Deal. Nothing learned coupled with low entertainment value. I always tell my husband that Pac-Man, now there’s a game! Linear, immediate satisfaction, low involvement and little commitment required. Yeah, yeah, to each his own. For instance, my husband HATES The View. Like, more than I hate Resident Evil 1 through 7. And he’ll never share my affinity for chick lit or www.gofugyourself.com.

Fine, we all waste time in our own ways. I just think my time wastage is better.

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Worst Song Ever

I’m going to definitively name the Worst Song Ever. I don’t think there will be a single person who disagrees that this is not just a bad song, but a terrible one. You may think there are other songs that are worse, or at least equally bad. But you will not think it’s a good song. Bold, aren’t I? So sure am I of my assertion.

Ever heard of Sugar Jones? It’s made up of five girls who won spots to form a group on the Canadian reality show Popstars. Now, Canadians are sometimes known to do poor man’s versions of entertainment things American – but  this musical group takes the cake. I suppose they were all good singers on their own, but together they produced something that is ironically, and overwhelmingly, non-harmonious. Their first of only two releases was, by definition, the best they could muster after months of Canadians anticipating the result of gathering the most talented and engaging performers between Victoria and Halifax. And what did we get? Days Like That. No, Sugar J, I do not like my days like that.

In fact, when I hear it on the radio so many years after it failed to make any significance in the biz back in 2001, I want to grab the DJ by the collar and scream, “WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU?” There is so much wonderful music out there that will fulfill your CanCon, why must we waste our time and expose our ears to horrendous songs like that?

It’s not just the song that’s bad, it’s the execution. The whole thing is a mess of seemingly random notes barely supporting weak vocals and strained melodies. Is it just me, or is the whole song slightly off-key?

I don’t understand how the producers could have thought that was their best finished product. And, like I said, it’s because they keep INSISTING on playing it on our stations that I must, in turn, INSIST upon its musical rankness. I have moved on with my life, but the DJs have to stop it. Days Like That should never have been at all. Just cut it out.

Any runners-up to the title?

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Too Much Food

Sometimes, I just don’t know when to stop eating. Tonight I came home for dinner and, seeing nothing cooking on the stove, put together a large bowl of cereal. I went into the living room to see my husband and he asked me why I was eating cereal when he was making burgers. I said, oh man, I thought you hadn’t prepared anything. But what to do? I couldn’t just dump the stuff. I had already done that this morning when I poured bad milk onto a bowl full. So I ate the cereal and then assembled my burger. And a mound of Tater Tots. And drank a tall glass of water.

It’s not really the burger or the taters that sent me over the edge, though. That line was dangerously crossed when I got back to work tonight and thought it a good idea to have two marzipan pastries. Don’t judge me, THEY WERE SMALL PASTRIES.

So now I’m bloated, and sedentary. My job is not exactly physically taxing. Sometimes I stand up during commercial breaks and do push ups against the computer console. Right now I’m extending my legs out in front of me in my office chair. I’m burning loads of calories.

Why don’t I learn? Even as I’m eating that blasted pastry I know I don’t want it. I knew I’d have to sit on my ass for the next four hours.

I fear it won’t be too long before I am no longer able to get away with the alimentary recklessness of my youth. My youth being three years ago. Because, word is, once you hit thirty it’s like BAM! Your whole metabolism changes and suddenly grazing on your co-worker’s Costco-sized box of mini Charleston Chews after having a bowl of cereal, a burger, taters and two marzipan pastries doesn’t seem like such a good idea.

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Lacking Joy For Cooking

I am not a good cook. I should be, given that I’ve had to do it for 15 years. But I love cookbooks. I love perusing them and looking at pictures and reading the ingredients and wondering if I could make my effort turn out like the photo. I bought The Joy Of Cooking, which is a famous cookbook. It’s been around for several decades and gone through many revisions and apparently loads of chefs reference it in their own cooking. So I thought it would be a good buy. It wasn’t.

Okay, I’ve only tried about a dozen recipes. But every single one of them from barbequed ribs to mac and cheese to cinnamon muffins were BLAND or OFF. I don’t get it, and I can’t really defend Joy. It’s not like the authors haven’t had tonnes of time to perfect each recipe. It’s also not like Joy is a healthy living cookbook, which one would have to buy with the expectation that flavour may be lacking. Joy has no excuses.

Granted, I didn’t follow every single one of the steps in my latest effort, chicken curry. Sometimes I just put all the ingredients in without reading how to go about it. But, honestly, how could those details make such an enormous difference? And why, if I followed every instruction to the letter, did my sour cream muffins end up tasting oddly similar to my kid’s stuffed organic cotton hippo? Except, worse, because the hippo has way more flavour?

Anna and Kristina gave it their stamp of approval so I’m going to stick with it, despite its lack of any photos whatsoever. And I guess the encyclopedia at the back is handy for when I need to know which kind of cabbage works best in various dishes. For all those meals I make with cabbage.

It would be most interesting if someone out there has this book and thinks it’s fabulous. I want to like it, so educate me.

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Everyone Should Own A Crappy Car

I’m not trying to sound like an old curmudgeon, but I’m not sure kids these days know the value of a dollar. In my day, way back in the nineties, minimum wage was five dollars an hour and the hot ovens at Pizza Hut made sure you earned every penny. Oh, the minimum wage job. Do kids even bother with those anymore? A coworker of mine said that one of his kids’ friends was making $25/hour to babysit. Babysit! Is he KIDDING? That’s an outrage! Oh sure, but it was for two children. And they were twins. And the parents didn’t even leave any good snacks. Well. I STAND CORRECTED.

I just think everyone ought to pay their dues, you know? There’s a lot of truth to not being able to appreciate something until you’ve had to work for it. Of course, some people will just sail through life and never experience any hardship. But I don’t begrudge them. My theory is that God knows they can’t really handle anything more, that their character isn’t strong enough to endure very difficult circumstances. But as a friend of mine used to say about her trials, “FINE. I won’t ever find the man of my dreams or get that great job, but at least I have loads of character. THAT’S ALMOST AS GOOD.”

My personal (and practical) belief is that every person should, at one time in their life, own a really crappy vehicle. One that embarrasses you in front of your friends, that makes banging sounds when you round a corner, that requires prayer every time you put the key in the ignition and that takes mighty biceps to turn the wheel.

I’ve had a couple of crappy cars. First, my grandma’s old  ’79 Malibu that could fit fifteen of my friends and only had AM radio. Then, the ’83 Rabbit that I had to enter through the passenger side and that, over the course of four years had every part replaced. EVERY PART. Then came the ’93 Golf (I was moving up in the world) that couldn’t keep out the rain to save its life. But I guess that’s my fault since I didn’t specifically pay for that option.

So when I finally got my one-year-old Acura several years ago, it was heaven. I have never once crossed my fingers before turning over the engine. I never monitor the hood for smoke. I don’t have to roll down all the windows in the middle of winter to de-fog. I stay dry EVERY TIME IT RAINS. I love it.

Now my husband and I have another, newer car that better accommodates a child. And I promise you I am still grateful each and every time I can listen to music and use the A/C. I have not once pretended to tie my shoelaces at a stop light.

Those rich babysitters will never really understand that, will they? Poor kids. In a few years I’ll be selling the Acura and by that time it, too, will be an education on wheels. The parents of my future customer can thank me later.

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How Much Money Do You Have?

I won’t tell you how much money I make, publicly. In private, though, you can ask me and I’m likely to divulge because I just don’t think it’s a big deal. Some people believe talking about money is tacky, but I wasn’t raised that way. And I figure if you’re asking, I have the discretion to know why you’re asking. Meaning, I can gauge if it’s to gloat, or just for curiosity’s sake.

My family is very open about money, maybe too much so. My dad would boldly inquire about someone’s salary and not think twice about how it might offend (but then he’s Danish, and we all know how they are). Money is not necessarily important in our family in the superficial sense, but it is a topic that most readily comes up at the dinner table.

I don’t know if people are put off by our openness or not. I think most of my family is fairly discreet when we engage with others, but that’s largely because people are so often squirmy about financial matters. I once knew a guy when we were both in our early twenties and working our way through school who bought a twelve-year-old Tercel. I looked over the parking lot as he pointed it out and commented about how clean it looked and how good it was that he’d finally found a car to his liking. I then asked how much he’d paid for it. Big faux pas, apparently, because he stopped short and primly stated that he didn’t like telling people that kind of info. I was kind of stunned – I didn’t really know how to respond. I mean, we were both poor students and it was clearly not a new Lexus. What’d it put him back, like eleven hundred bucks? Which unflattering conclusion was I supposed to have made with that knowledge? Would he have been equally cagey if I’d asked how much he’d paid for the chicken pot pie he’d eaten for lunch? I still don’t know.

See, when we’re all just starting out in the real world and we’re establishing our careers and finding out who we are, we have a lot to prove. And admitting you don’t make as much as one of your peers reflects poorly on you because, as we all know, the less you make, the less valuable, intelligent, and interesting you are.

But when you get older and everybody’s evening out and you realize that all your cohorts have their hardships and virtually nobody gets an easy ride (except that guy who won the lottery) and reality sets in, you stop being so hung up about it. You stop believing that your paycheque is directly related to your self worth. I mean, we all want more money and it’s easy to get full of ourselves if we get it – but we understand that it’s essentially a crap shoot. What isn’t a crap shoot is how GOOD you are with money. In my mind, that is something one can be proud of.

One thing I’ve definitely learned in my adult life is that compensation is very often not directly proportionate to one’s skills set. And it’s certainly not always the smartest folk who earn the big bucks. Yes, we should all work hard, be resourceful and educate ourselves. But that does not in and of itself determine who becomes financially successful. I think it’s largely a matter of what’s supposed to happen in the Grand Scheme of Things. All things being equal, two people can work similarly hard and achieve two very different outcomes. However, you can bet that the one who becomes successful will say that it’s because he is exceptionally bright and worked his fingers to the bone. Like Andy Rooney said, the more successful you are, the more likely you are to believe you deserve it.

I don’t think it’s weird to not want to publicize what you earn. And really, those who make good money might want to consider their audience, and their intent, before they disclose something like that. That said, if I’m having a down-to-earth conversation with somebody I trust and they ask me about it, I’ll tell them. However, my lips are sealed if I’m asked how much I forked over for my nine-year-old silver bullet with the cracked windshield and slow-leaking tire.

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Why don’t men get varicose veins?

It’s no wonder men are so often cavalier about health and their appearance. There are so many more things women have to deal with that men rarely encounter.

I am discovering that the myths, for instance, are true about one’s body after childbearing. I have spoken of this before, and I won’t repeat it. Nobody wants me to go OVER AND OVER my body issues, like it’s something I’m so hard done by. But it bears repeating that when women so famously lament of breasts deflating, guts inflating and pee escaping (isn’t anyone else more incontinent than before? You sneeze and – surprise! No?) it is no joke. Nobody really talks about it because it sounds, I don’t know, ungrateful somehow. And, yes, in the light of eternity, the fact that things aren’t as tight as they were before baby is not quite deserving of hard feelings. It’s just that there’s truth to those tales, and unless you’re Superwoman or a celebrity you’re likely to have suffered the effects of one of them.

But let’s not forget the ladies who haven’t borne children. Eventually, every female experiences frozen hands and feet, razor rash on the bikini line, spider veins, heightened sensitivity and moodiness, bloating so egregious as to appear pregnant or cramps from the menses (my mom doesn’t say PERIOD, she says MENSES). And extra aesthetic delights like muffin tops , ass dimples, mottled knees and disadvantaged bosoms are only exacerbated by the fact that women can’t get away with baggy clothes like men can, lest we be dowdy. And we all know loose clothing hides a multitude of sins. No wonder if I tell my husband or my brother that they’re looking thick around the middle they just pat their bellies, stick ’em out farther and spear another smokie. Such PRIDE in not measuring up to perfection.

Of course, women could learn a thing or two from men’s lackadaisical attitudes. I don’t mean to get deep on you, but if girls didn’t put so much emphasis on their shortcomings, nothing would be said of them.

But, in the spirit of evening things out, let’s think of superficial things women have going for them that men don’t. Like makeup. When we get a pimple, we can hide it. We don’t have to check our hairlines from our nineteenth birthday onward. We can highlight our hair to bring out the colour in our eyes. We can stuff our bras. We can take a sick day when the menses hit. And we can complain to our friends about said burdens.

Going forward, I shall attempt to remind myself often that the reason God gave women so much baggage is so that they can be an example of better health and sharpened self-awareness.

In a way, varicose veins beget yin and yang.

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Really Not Liking That Music

I like Adam Lambert. I never watched American Idol, but I think he should have won. I think he has a unique style, voice and sound, and he seems like a decent guy. And the hair! The eyeliner! The wailing reminiscent of 80’s rock ballads! He really is a great find.  So, as a harbinger of the wrath I am about to unleash on poor Adam, I must stress that I’m not blaming the guy in the following critique. I know when you first get a record contract you probably have to do what the label tells you. And if you sing their songs and perform their schtick you can earn the right to call the shots down the road.

It’s just that his songs thus far are so very bad.

Adam has two songs on the radio, to my knowledge. For Your Entertainment is not meant to be anything more than catchy tunes courting simple, but workable, lyrics. Fast songs can get away with folly since they’re just trying to get your toes tapping. It’s like Lady Gaga’s Telephone. Totally ridiculous words + a danceable beat = a fantastically absurd song! I love it. I love her, that Lady Gaga. So, what I mean to say is, in that vein, For Your Entertainment passes. So, now that I think about it, scratch that song from my bad list.

But I can’t say enough of the opposite for Whataya Want From Me?  The answer, Adam, is NO MORE OF THAT. First, how many times can you repeat that phrase? Did the writer get a serious bout of block and thought he’d just cut and paste? Also, much like Lisa Loeb’s Stay from the soundtrack of one of my favourite guilty pleasures Reality Bites, the song makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE. I know you can argue that poetry is subjective and it means something different to each person and you can superimpose your own interpretation of the words to make them meaningful to you. But every time I hear that song I get so frustrated because I have a hunch it’s secretly just a bunch of words forced together into something vaguely romance-related. One minute Adam is warning whomever to slow it down, and next thing he’s begging the same person not to give up. MAKE UP YOUR MIND.

Don’t worry, I’m sure I see a generic point to this song: I really want you because you’re so very good for me but I have issues and I need for you to be patient with my limitations. But it doesn’t work. It’s so ambiguous as to make it nonsensical. Why must they dumb everything down? It’s so TIRESOME.

Perhaps I’ve missed the point and the music is too profound for my small, confused mind. Or maybe it’s supposed to be as devoid of meaningful sentiment as the thousands of other songs out there. However, I can’t help but think otherwise when Lambert sings the song so earnestly. Let’s face facts and agree that it’s just bad poetry. Which makes me sad because, Adam, I LOVE the tune. I do. And I love the way you sing it. It’s such a shame.

Surely someone understands the hidden mysteries of pop music better than I. Please, enlighten.

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What on earth are you wearing?

Do you ever take something out of your closet that you wear on a regular basis and then one day – BAM! – it hits you like a rock how unfashionable it is? Like a light goes off in your brain and you see the item with eyes anew and you wonder how long ago it became unfashionable. Then you’re mortified for all those times you wore it in the recent past when people must have been clucking in sympathy behind your back.

Because I am in my early thirties I have often wondered if I even know what’s cool anymore. A roommate of mine used to show me a piece of clothing she had just bought and ask me if it was IN, or SO VERY OUT. We’d both scratch our heads, ponder the item and end up none the wiser.

I have never been a real clothes-horse, but I’ve always bought decent stuff. Or so I think. I look at magazines. I watch TV. I look at other humans. I should know what’s passé, right? (Does the fact that I just used my grandma’s word “passé” make me passé? Hm.)

Any clothes shopping I do nowadays is with my baby daughter. As such, unless someone else is with us, I never get to try stuff on. So I’ll buy something and then inevitably return it because my ape arms extend far past the sleeves. Or my bum fails to fill the rear. Or it just looks off and I wonder if it’s just me or is the item making me out to be an older gal attempting a look befitting a teenager? Or, worse, a middle-ager? Sometimes it’s just really hard to tell, you know?

What I should do is always have this one friend of mine with me every time I shop for clothes. This friend (who, back in high school, worked with me at the Pizza Hut where we had to wear high-waisted, tapered slacks as part of our uniform) always wears unique pieces that make her look youthful, but not immature. Although, incidentally, said friend once encouraged me to buy a spring dress from a hip London shop featuring a BUBBLE SKIRT, so, yeah, she’s not always bang-on… But I trust her judgment most of the time.

Even my husband has told me I must get out of my go-to clothing: Lululemons. MY HUSBAND. Who, when we first started dating, had tight, grey, CUFFED sweatpants that were at least three inches too short. And he wore them ALL THE TIME. Which just shows that there must be something terribly awry with my wardrobe. But then, this is the man who consistently complains that I never wear hotpants and knee socks around the house.

I would upload a picture of my latest discovery, but I’m a) embarrassed, and b) not sure the off-ness of the item will translate in a photo. Plus, I need to know that I’m not the only one who’s made this sort of discovery. Am I?

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