A Mother’s Day Reflection

May 14, 2018

I didn’t want today to get away without wishing you and yours a Happy Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day observances have long been bittersweet for me because in late summer of 1997, I suffered an ectopic pregnancy and lost my itty bitty baby – and, as it turns out, my only chance at motherhood. Then, in 2015, Mom passed away from Alzheimer’s. So, Mother’s Day that year was kind of a double whammy for me. What made it bearable, however, was the thought that Mom was getting to spend her first Mother’s Day with her granddaughter.

Today I was really missing Mom. This was my fourth Mother’s Day without her… and it was the most difficult one so far. I woke up missing her… and then all morning I was beset by little things that triggered memories.

Memories are strange things. They crop up at odd moments – and for the most unusual reasons.

When a butterfly crossed our path this afternoon, it reminded me of the time Mom and I were heading home after going out to dinner one Thursday night (because Dad worked late on Thursdays and we decided we didn’t want whatever it was that was in the fridge). We noticed a hot-air balloon with a great big butterfly on it flying low overhead… so we decided to follow it. It eventually landed on the golf course. And oddly enough, it had been Mom’s idea to chase it.

Songs are big memory triggers.

My local Kroger occasionally plays Vaughn Monroe’s “Ballerina”; Mom and I both loved that song. And I always thought he had the most magnificent voice! Go on, give it a listen and judge for yourself.

Or I’ll hear one of the songs she would call and ask me to play when she’d listen to me on the air at work (like “Life in a Northern Town” from the Dream Academy; Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You”; “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra; “Lotta Love” from Nicolette Larson… or even “Penny Lane” by the Beatles). Those are the songs that generally bring a smile.

Then there are the songs attached to  memories of Mom that make me laugh out loud. One morning in 1974, over breakfast, Steve Miller’s “The Joker” came on the radio. At the part where he sings, “I’m a joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a midnight toker,” my sister Áve and I, being of tender age and having no frame of reference for that particular term, asked, “Mom? What’s a midnight toker?” Not surprisingly, she had no earthly idea. And we had no clue until years later how truly hilarious it was that we’d asked her that!

Another time, in the mid ’80s, Áve and I were listening to WFCS, the radio station at nearby Central Connecticut State University. “Never Say Never” from Romeo Void was blaring from the little radio on the kitchen counter. Mom happened to wander in just when the chorus came on and we were singing along, “I might like you better if we slept together…” She made her infamous “Mom lips” (a dead giveaway of her utter displeasure) and muttered, “Oh, that’s just nice!” and left the room. I won’t even tell you what she said when she heard the Rolling Stones’ “She’s So Cold.”

But music isn’t the only memory trigger.

Mom was big into words. She was a terrific writer – and a fun storyteller. And she used to write some of the best letters I’ve ever received. She used to write me letters all the time while I was away at college.

This morning, on our way to church, something triggered a memory about those letters. She’d write two or three times a week, usually during her lunch break, typed on the clunky old electric typewriter at her desk in her office at the City of New Britain’s City Improvement Commission. When she and Dad came back from a 25th-anniversary trip to Italy, she wrote extensively about that. But mostly, she’d tell me what was going on at home or at work, or she’d regale me with the latest antics of Rehab – a cranky old stray she and her coworkers adopted. He wasn’t the nicest cat (a far cry from our dear Scruffy at home), and he had a penchant for sleeping in open file cabinets and getting black fur all over the files, but Rehab did manage to keep most of the rodents at bay in that drafty old City Hall building.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but those letters were as much for her benefit as mine. I was the last of her brood to leave the nest and she was probably really missing having someone there when she got home after work… not that she missed the loud music and the phone being tied up all the time. But it gave her a connection to her youngest kid. And it was nice to open up my mailbox in the student-center mailroom to find a small envelope with my name and address neatly typed and the New Britain postmark and return address.

Yep, memories surely are tricky things. Some are wonderful; others not so much. They sneak up on you at the most unexpected times and, if you’re not careful, will burn a hole in your heart. If you’re lucky, though, they’ll warm a small cozy place in there and leave you with a smile.

What are some of your favorite Mom memories? And what triggers those memories?


I’ve Had It!

April 1, 2009

I’m giving up.

I’m threw with this.

They’re doesn’t seem two be any point, too going on. People dont change there spelling, speeking and punctuation just because some crazy woman harps incessantly about it. I wish I would of considered that before I wasted my thyme; putting up this sight. Their are to many other things I could of focused my energies on.

Im going two look into being an an elevator operator… but I’ve herd even that has it’s ups and downs.

Good buy crewel whirled.

“Should Have, Could’ve, Would Of?”

March 10, 2009

A writer friend asked me recently to discuss one of her pet peeves: the butchery of the phrase “would have.”

So often people run the words “would have” together into the perfectly acceptable contraction “would’ve.” But since the “ve” sounds an awful lot like “of,” many folks mistakenly believe the phrase is “would of,” not “would have” or “would’ve.”

This has long been a major irritant for me… it’s about as annoying as having one of those pesky, stray eyelashes jabbing you in the eyeball and not being able to remove it. Yeah, it’s that annoying.

But it’s not just the “would of” that gets me… it’s the improper usage of the correct wording, “would have” when “had” is appropriate.

Many moons ago (how many moons are there in 20+ years, anyway?), while I was working on air at a suburban Connecticut radio station – okay, it was early 1987 –  Chicago released a song entitled, “If She Would Have Been Faithful.”

Hip adult-contemporary rotation aside, I despised playing that song – mainly because of the incorrectly used phrase “would  have” in the title… never mind that I just out-and-out hated the song. Every time that horrid dreck came up in rotation during my air shift (and it pains me deeply to say this, because Chicago really is one of my favorite bands), I would grit my teeth and play the silly drivel, knowing I’d have to backsell the darn thing afterward.

Even though the wording itself was – technically – correct, what galled me was the improper usage of the phrase “would have.” The grammatically correct title for this song is, “If She Had Been Faithful.” But, of course, metrically, that wouldn’t have worked out, so I can almost understand the literary license the lyricists took here. But still, understanding it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

So the lesson here is this: Next time you’re faced with saying, “If I would of taken the highway, I would of gotten there half an hour sooner,” you need to do three things.

First, look over your shoulder to make sure I’m not standing behind you with a club, waiting to scream and pummel you senseless.

Second, realize that you should replace your first intended “would of” with “had.”

And third, know that you should replace the second intended “would of” with “would have.”

Your sentence then becomes, “If I had taken the highway, I would have gotten there half an hour sooner.” And that makes your Persnickety Proofreader happy. And, after all, isn’t that all that really matters?

Welcome to Daylight Saving Time

March 8, 2009

Well, here we are again… the second Sunday in March. Let me be the first to welcome you to Daylight Saving Time.

Notice I didn’t say Daylight Savings Time. There’s an excellent reason for that: There’s no final “s” in Saving. Never has been; never should be. Well, not under ordinary circumstances. Not when you’re talking about time zones, at least.

If you were going to the bank to deposit your paycheck (although, not into your checking account) and the bank is only open when the sun is out, I guess the time at which you go to the bank could be considered your own personal daylight savings time… but that’s the only instance I can think of when adding the final “s” is proper. Otherwise, if you’re referencing the results of the annual “spring ahead” activity, it’s always Daylight Saving Time.

Nuff said. Now I’m going to go take a nap while I adjust to this DST thing. Did you notice we “spring ahead” earlier now than we used to in years past?

Have a great day… hope you get over your own DST lag soon.

The Weakest Word in the English Language

February 21, 2009

To keep your writing as flat as matzo and even more bland than week-old white bread, be sure to pepper it with the word “very” as frequently as possible.

I can practically hear you squawking now: “This is a professional writing site; where do you get off saying something like that? That’s dreadful writing advice!”

Well, of course it is. It’s also the best way to ensure dull, unimaginative prose – stuff that’s guaranteed to make your readers want to jam pencils in their eyes. But it’s an ideal way to illustrate the point I’m about to make. Stick with me here.

The word “very” is – quite possibly – the weakest word in the English language. It’s the literary equivalent of adding sand to your tea. It offers zero in the way of nutritive value and even less in the way of flavor to your writing.

When contemplating the use of the word “very” in your writing, stop and ask yourself, “What word or phrase could I use instead to better convey my meaning?” If you’re describing a “very big rock” in the middle of the road, you could instead term it a “gargantuan boulder.” Or a “metamorphic monstrosity,” a “hulking sedimentary mass” or maybe even an “igneous behemoth plunked right in my path.”

Get the idea?

Don’t just look for the easy way out. Go deeper. That’s what writing for expression is all about: knowing what you want to convey and being able to communicate your meaning in a way that resonates with your reader.

For example, saying there’s a “very big rock in the road” means nothing, because it’s so doggone vague! Exactly how big is a “very big” rock? Each reader will have a different interpretation or idea of the word “big.” Stuart Little’s concept of a “very big rock” would be vastly different from, say, Andre the Giant’s. You need to give your readers some frame of reference. Is this rock bigger than the proverbial bread box? Smaller than a German shepherd? Roughly the size of a puma? Just how big is very big?

If you say, “The rock could barely fit into a milk crate,” that’s much better. It gives your readers a decent concept of the rock’s mass. A milk crate-sized rock is certainly large; but try this one on for size: “It was bigger than my ’71 VW Beetle.” Now, that’s big!

Another way around this adverbial quagmire is fairly straightforward: Toy around with different adverbs… like “extremely” or “tremendously.” Granted, that is kind of taking the easy way out, but it helps you neatly elude the “very” trap.

In my own writing, there are only two instances in which I use the word “very”: in nonfiction, when directly quoting another person; and in fiction, only in dialogue – when my control over what those independent and often-headstrong characters say is absolutely nonexistent.

So, if you find yourself with the opportunity to use the word “very,” politely decline it in favor of something a little more… meaty and substantive. Something with spice. Something with flavor. Something tasty!

Now get out there and get writing!

Welcome to The Persnickety Proofreader site!

February 20, 2009

Thanks for stopping by. Here you’ll find useful information to help your writing come alive, make your words leap off the page and dance around with glee. You’ve just got to give me some time to get some stuff written, so check back soon, okay?