Day 356: It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

A few years ago, Tom and I were really competitive about who was smarter.  After the whole Holy Shit You Are Smarter Than Me Debacle, I worked hard to find a way to prove to myself that I still inched ahead of him in the department of brains because I used mine more than he did.  I read books.  I studied symbolism and metaphor.  I had to prove to myself that I was the smart one.

I started challenging Tom in everything: backgammon, gin rummy, and brain teasers.  Sometimes, I won.  Sometimes, I lost.  These games of logic and reason were not going to prove that I was any smarter than Tom.  We began to read similar books and I would want to have a book chat to prove to myself that he did not read for the detail I did, but everytime I tried to bring up a certain aspect of the novel, he would wow me with how clearly he understood its relevance.  I needed something more definitive.  Wouldn’t you know?  I found an IQ test on-line.  I knew I could get him!  I took it first and scored a 144.   He’s not a genius.  He’s not in Mensa, surely, he could not score higher than 144?

You guessed it.  He did.  He scored a 149.  The bastard outscored me by five points.  He was a good sport about it, saying it was just an on-line test, and it probably wasn’t even accurate, but it still made me steam to think his scores are always better than mine.

Well, it was a reality check, and I started to do a little self-assessment.  As much as I am a well-read person, I do struggle in math and science, two areas that Tom excels in.   In addition, I had to admit to myself that I lack expertise in certain areas.  As a writer, I make some pretty big errors.  I do believe I have the ability to craft a story, but to be frankly honest, I am awful at spelling and I sometimes use the wrong word, and more than once, my twelve-year-old daughter has found homonym errors.  I have always struggled with homonyms, and if we are moving toward becoming a nation where everyone gets an IEP, I want mine to be for homonyms.  Cheryl is only required to pick the correct homonym 80% of the time with 75% accuracy.  Isn’t that lovely?  Wouldn’t that be an awesome IEP?  Then, I wouldn’t have to worry about making errors because of the full proof system of demanding less.  (Umm, I think this post just suddenly started to attack our education system, which is not what I intended.  I intended to admit that I make errors and that I am trying to improve myself.)

The reason I bring any of this up is that I actually want to give a shout out and a thank you to a friend who emails me when the error is too big to ignore.  I think she feels that she is stepping on my toes or insulting me.  On the contrary, she is making me study words more intently, and she is helping me grow.  So Sue, thank you for pointing out my lousy spelling and incorrect word choice.  I assume that many writers make errors and that is why they have editors.  Thank you for being my editor, pro bono.  It is less embarrassing to be corrected than to leave those egregious errors for the world to see.

(Oh, and thank you WordPress for having a spellcheck.  You don’t even want to know how many red and green lines appear when I click the ABC button!)

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Day 286: Think Before You Speak– Too Bad I Don’t Follow My Own Advice

Every sword has two edges.  I am like every sword.  Most of the time, I am not harmful, but if I am turned just the right way, I am sharp and cutting.  Most people look at me as innocuous, and usually I am, but from time to time, I feel that something or someone is a personal affront to my belief system, and I slash..  It’s not pretty.

I’ll give you one example, and it is not even a horrible story.

A former roommate and good friend of mine moved to Pittsburgh a number of years ago.  We were in a core group of friends.  For a very long time, every time she came into town, we would all get a phone call or an email saying when she would be in, for how long, and an invitation to get together.  Sometimes, she would stay at my house, other times, someone else’s.

Last year, I found out that she had started to come to town to visit only one of the core friends.  She was not calling or visiting anyone else.  To be honest, I felt slighted, and the more I let it stew, the more it aggravated me.  A month later when I found out that it had happened yet again, I became unhinged.  I was so infuriated that I called her cell phone.  Unfortunately, she did not pick up.  Instead of leaving a calm message asking for her to call me back, I unleashed.

(In a really good announcer’s voice): What you are about to hear is a fictionalized rant that is probably at least partially accurate.  This tirade is rated R.  If you are under the age of seventeen, you will need parental consent to go any further.

“Well, I guess we’re not friends anymore.  What the fuck?  All you can do is visit X?  I fucking lived with you!  I fucking listened to your woes, but suddenly I am dog shit?  If you don’t have time for me than fine!  I guess I will save a stamp at Christmas!  I am obviously not good enough for you?  Fuck off and good riddance!”

Thankfully, she knew me well enough to call back and talk me off the ledge.  She knew me well enough to know that my turbulent philippic was driven by emotion.  She explained why she had not been in touch (of course, the reason was more than valid), and she forgave me for my rant.

The reason I mention this at all, is because last night after an uncomfortable encounter with my extended family, I was feeling a little bit off.  I had not addressed innuendos directed at me, and I was feeling a bit agitated.  When I went to Freshly Pressed and saw What Makes a Post Freshly Press-able: There Is a Light That Never Goes Out and read the suggestions for getting Pressed, the imbalance in my cortex became weighed by negativity.  I read through, thinking of multiple stories that I have written that fulfill their criteria, and by the end, I felt like I needed to be heard.  I went directly to the comment box and wrote the following:

“Fuck off!  I have written some amazing shit in 285 days– read it, and I have not been pressed.  I am going to get published, and my OPEN LETTER TO YOU FP will still remain.  I will talk about growth and yadayadayada, but that is all.  I paid for this crap.  I will still keep writing for the people.  I will probably pay again, but I am disappointed in some of your FP compared to some of my posts.  I know you will delete this!  So, can I say again, FUCK OFF!”

They didn’t erase it.

Hmmm.  Not my finest moment.  I need to learn to think before I speak.  Frankly, it’s just embarrassing to be such an asshole.

Day 278: A Momentous Mommy Mishap

This event happened a few years ago, but I was reminded of it today while speaking with a colleague about Momentous Mommy Mishaps.

I had to go to Kohl’s and return a pair of pants.  We had already been to Target and the grocery store, and the girls were sick of shopping.  They had picked out a couple of treats between the two locations, and all they cared about was getting home and digging into the ice cream or the cookies.  It was just one more stop, and it was only going to take a few minutes.

I parked and dragged all of the girls from the car.  Lizzie, who was only three, wanted me to carry her into the store.  Even though I was not in the mood to carry her, I obliged; I just wanted to get in and out.

We rode the elevator up to the customer counter.  Luckily, the line was very short.  From where we were standing in line, the girls could see the toy aisles, and they wanted to look.  What was the harm?  Carson was already eight and Maggie was five.  I trusted them to stick together in the three aisles and peruse the toys.

“Stick together,” I instructed.  Just as they walked away, Lizzie began to squirm in my arms.

“Down, Mommy.  Down,” she said.  She was pointing at her sisters who were looking at Barbies and books.

“Carson, can Lizzie stand with you?” I asked.  They were only a few feet away from where I was standing.  They were in my line of vision.

“Yes, Mommy,” Carson replied.

I put Lizzie down on the ground.  Before I would fully let go of her, I grabbed her chin so that she was forced to look me directly in the eyes.  “Stay with Carson, okay?” I said.  She shook her head “yes” and moved over by Carson and Maggie.  She immediately picked up a Barbie doll and gazed wantingly at its packaging.

“Next Please.”  It was my turn to move to the register.  I handed the woman the bag and the receipt.

“Any problems?” she asked as she looked over the pants.

“No,” I said.  To  be honest, I just didn’t like them when I got home.  It happens.

After a bit of inspection, she was satisfied that I did not soil them or do something dastardly to them.  She picked up the scanner and tried to scan the bar code, but it didn’t work.  She pressed a few buttons on the register.  Nothing.

“Oh Mary,” she said with a hint of annoyance in her voice.  “It’s doing it again.”  Mary, the other woman at the Customer Service counter, walked over and started pressing buttons, to no avail.

Feeling a little anxious, I turned to see the girls.  They were not in sight, but I could hear them talking in the toy aisle.  I didn’t like that I couldn’t see them, nonetheless.  I shifted slightly, and I thought about the ice cream that was probably starting to puddle in my grocery bag.

The women fiddled around for another few minutes.  The whole time, I stood anxiously wishing I could see the girls.  Do I walk away?  Should I just walk away?  The ladies kept pushing miscellaneous keys trying to get the register going again.  The line behind me was growing; it was at least ten people deep.

After yet a tenth failed attempt at getting the register rebooted, Mary said, “Why don’t you use the other register?”

My anxiety was growing.  I worked retail when I was younger.  Seeing a line like the one that had formed was making me nervous.  Yet, the woman helping me didn’t even seem to notice.  She nonchalantly walked to the other register, punched in her code, and calmly returned my pants.

Handing me my receipt she said, “There you go.”  She smiled, and I felt like she thought she had done a really good job.

I grabbed the receipt, gave her a half-smile and walked over to the toy aisles.  My girls were not in aisle one.  They were not in aisle two.

“Carson?” I yelled.

“Yeah Mom,” I heard from near the far wall.  I walked down the aisle to find Maggie and Carson standing in front of a Leap Frog toy playing with it.

My head began to tingle.  “Where’s Lizzie?” I asked.

Carson’s eyes got big.  She turned a full circle.  “She was just here,” she said apologetically.

I felt the panic set in. I walked toward the seasonal decorations.  “Lizzie,” I said louder than I normally would speak, but not quite a shout.

No answer.  No Lizzie.  I wanted to run and shout and scream her name.

“Follow me,” I said to the other two girls.  We got to the end cap by the books.  “Carson, you and Maggie stand right here.  Don’t move.”  I could hear the distress in my own voice.  I needed to be able to see them as I walked down the aisle to find Lizzie.

“Okay Mom.”  She grabbed Maggie’s hand.  I don’t know if she was trying to reassure me or herself.

I walked to the middle aisle and looked in every direction.  I decided to start walking toward the center of the store.

“Lizzie,” I said again.  This time, I would say it was on the verge of a yell.  A few people looked up from where they were standing.  I smiled, trying not to convey myself as a lunatic.

Nothing.  No response.  No Lizzie.  I sense of foreboding came over me.  Was she kidnapped?  Are there security cameras?  Who would take her?  Is she hurt?  Oh please, God, please let me find her.

I broke into a jog, and this time, I did not care who heard me.  “LIZZIE,” I shouted.  I was in a full-blown panic.

“We have a Code Yellow near the second floor registers.  Code Yellow,” I heard a voice say over the intercom system.

God, please let me be the Code Yellow!  I ran toward the registers, and a half-dozen adults were standing together.  As I got closer, I saw Lizzie holding something in her hand.

Immediately, I felt relief.  “Lizzie!” I leaned down and hugged her.  I looked at all of the adults looking at me.  I felt like I had to make-up a lie.   I couldn’t exactly admit I left her in the care of an eight and five-year old while I spent over five minutes trying to return a pair of pants. “I was looking at something, I turned for one second, and when I looked down she was gone!”  Everyone nodded their heads in agreement, and they murmured how it could happen to anyone.

I thanked the sales clerk, smiled at the other patrons, picked her up, and kissed her profusely.  “Honey,” I said.  “You scared, Mommy.  Don’t ever do that again.”

“Okay.”  She contentedly laid her head on my shoulder.

We turned the corner to go back toward the toys.  As we neared the girls, two older ladies walked by us talking.  I heard the one lady say, “What kind of mother leaves two young girls by themselves? Despicable!  Simply despicable!”

My ears burned.  I grabbed Carson and Maggie and made a B-line for the parking lot.  I needed to leave before someone called 696-KIDS!