When Exclamation Is Not The Point

Graphic (pre-embelishment) courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald

Graphic (pre-embelishment) courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald

Communicating nowadays is like tiptoeing through a minefield.

Words have been the chief medium of communication since shortly after our ancestors crawled out of the primordial ooze.   We’ve witnessed a revolution in the last decade in how those words are delivered, and email, text, and social media have changed the way humans interact.

These new forms are:

  • Instantaneous: Our phones and computers are constantly beeping for attention. We are expected to reply to messages immediately, so taking time to carefully craft a response is a luxury. In addition to editing our own words, we have to watch out for auto correct.  This feature can change the message without our even noticing before our flying fingers press “send.”
  • Informal: You would never start a formal business letter without the salutation, “Dear So-and-So.” Now you wouldn’t begin an email with the word “Dear” unless you were writing to your great aunt. This change has evolved organically to the point where the traditional greeting sounds strange, even in a business email.
  • Impossible…to tell subtext or voice: We’ve lost the verbal and visual clues we once got over the phone or in face-to-face meetings, and many of the old rules for written communication have gone out the window.

The last point is especially troubling, and an entirely new sub-language has arisen to compensate.  It is composed of exclamation points, smiley faces, winking faces, JKs, LOLs and the like.   Using these sub-textual symbols can help to add voice, but the downside is that they have become so common some people can’t deliver a line without one.  Twenty-somethings who have grown up with the new media are both its masters and the worst offenders when it comes to symbol overload.

Witness the exclamation point.

The ex-point used to be merely one of many arrows in our punctuation mark quiver, valued no more and no less than its brethren. It was reserved for situations marked by excitement or enthusiasm – things that were worthy of being, well, exclaimed about. Now it is just a tall period.

One ex-point means nothing.  Like an addict who needs more and more of a drug to get the same high, it now takes 2 to signify even mild enthusiasm, and you’d better be laying down at least 3 of them if you want to convey real excitement.   Where will it end?

I refuse to give in to ex-point tyranny.  I use them consciously and only when excitement is warranted.   By not following the herd on this issue, however, my comments may look dull, sullen, or even angry.  I might think I am taking the grammatical high ground, but without sub-textual symbols to add voice I stand a very real chance of being misunderstood. That’s exactly what happened recently.

One of my young relatives is an ex-point junkie. Her every post is so loaded with them, as well as LOLs and smiley faces, that if Facebook charged per special character she would be flat broke. She recently posted that she had finished watching an entire 8 seasons of a TV show back to back, and was looking for something new to do.   I commented, “Sweetie, if you’re watching 8 hours of reruns at a sitting, it’s time to get a hobby.” I thought she knew me well enough to know I was kidding.   Apparently not.  Her reply was, “I have lots of hobbies.  I just like to watch TV to unwind.”

Note the total absence of LOLs and exclamation points in her reply. By using plain, old periods instead of the ex-points that have become the norm for her every comment, she was sending me a message and I heard it loud and clear; she was not amused.   In hindsight, I should have said: “Sweetie, LOL, if you’re watching 8 hours (insert goofy face) of old reruns LOL at a sitting :) it’s time to get a hobby !!! JK LOL winky winky LMAO ;)

Since it was too late to retract my comment, I moved swiftly to recover lost ground by replying, “Me too, ha ha!!! I watch way too much, even though I know I shouldn’t. LOL!! :) ” Things between us are OK, but it was a close call.

Now that most business communication is conducted via email, these sub-textual symbols have crept in there, as well.  The rules have relaxed in this area, but they have not changed as much as some might think.   Excessive ex-points and LOLs do not belong in business emails.  The writer who misuses them does so at the risk of not being taken seriously and, like it or not, this is especially true for young women.

Young people need to remember that an LOL or smiley face is neither required nor recommended for every situation. By the same  token, I need to lighten up and stop hoarding ex-points like they were gold.  I also need to stop saying “young people” because it makes me sound like Methuselah.

If we all use sub-textual symbols thoughtfully, we can meet somewhere on the middle ground and communicate without our words blowing up in our faces.

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Doing The Pantry Can-Can


I spent most of Saturday cleaning the kitchen pantry. Take a moment to let that statement sink in. Now you may commence with the “atta-Pegs,” because I deserve every one.

This strange urge to clean may have something to do with spring, but the immediate prompt was that I couldn’t find the confectioners’ sugar. I found mouse droppings instead. A few don’t faze me – mice are a fact of life out in the country. When you have so many droppings it looks like somebody spilled a box of Uncle Ben’s Brown & Wild Rice Medley, however, it’s time to act.

Our pantry is a 2-foot wide, 6-foot tall closet with pull-out shelves, and cleaning it was a monumental job. I took everything out.   All horizontal surfaces in my kitchen were buried in boxes, bottles, jars and cans.   I then scrubbed the pantry shelves and walls and took stock while it dried.

I learned some things about myself.

I seem to have Single Food Hoarder Syndrome. I first learned of this disorder years ago when we moved into a house that had belonged to my husband’s great aunts.  We unearthed 13 bags of marshmallows while cleaning the kitchen. Most were so fossilized they “thunked” when dropped on the floor.

I can imagine their shopping trips.

“Are you sure we have marshmallows? We can’t have our cocoa without marshmallows.” Aunt Margie asks, worriedly.

“Didn’t we buy some on our last trip, dear?” Aunt Gertrude asks, sweetly.

“Better safe than sorry.” Aunt Ellen says, firmly. Another bag of Jet-Puffed goodness goes into the cart.

Now I’m doing the same thing with:

  • baking cocoa – 3 tins
  • peanut butter – 5 jars
  • vinegar – 6 bottles
  • couscous – 8 boxes

My worst problem is with Jell-O gelatin and pudding mixes. I could build a playhouse with all the little, cardboard bricks I had stashed away.  If I could sell them back to the Jell-O Company, I’d raise enough money to cover Bill Cosby’s defense fund.

I inspected every container and tossed anything that bulged more than 1 centimeter, had mouse chew marks that went through the packaging or was more than 3 years past the x-date – less than that and it’s probably fine.

If you think this approach is gross, you’re probably younger than I am. Attitudes on expired food seem to be directly related to age. My 20-something kids would automatically dump a carton of milk that expired today.   Those who have been around the dairy case a few times, however, know that it’s all about the sniff test.

My 80-something parents take “it’s probably fine” to the extreme. Last time I was at their house I noticed that some stuff in their cupboard was produced the same year I was. I was super sneaky about tossing the worst offenders, but my Dad still caught me in the act.

“Hey, don’t throw that out; it’s fine.” Dad said about a can so misshapen it looked like a modern art sculpture.

“Dad, for goodness sake, this was packaged during the Khrushchev era!” I protested as we engaged in an unbecoming tug-of-war for it.

“Exactly!” He exclaimed triumphantly as he wrenched the can out of my hands. “Something designed to withstand the A- bomb is made to last.”  Back on the shelf it went.

I’m currently planning tonight’s dinner menu. We’re having salad with oil-and-vinegar dressing, couscous, and chocolate/peanut butter cookies with milk. Oh, and Jell-O. We’ll be having Jell-O at every meal for the foreseeable future.


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My Mother’s Hands

Today’s post is a replay of one I wrote several years ago.  I may have said it before, but the sentiment is everlasting: I love you, Mom.


My mom is the babe with the dark hair. I’m the kid on the left.

I have my mother’s hands.   That’s not something I’ve ever taken as a compliment – no offense, Mom.

Our hands are broad and short-fingered.   A network of lines criss-crosses both palm and back.  The adjectives “sturdy” and “capable” come to mind when you see them.  They’re milkmaid hands in search of a cow.

When I was a kid, my mother’s hands were rarely still.  I remember them…

wrist-deep in noxious substancesAs the mother of 9 children she handled more than her fair share of disgusting stuff.   Fully 4 little bottoms might be diaper-clad at any one time.  Dad helped, but as a stay-at-home mom, the lion’s share of the doody duty fell to her. Mom was a one-woman bomb squad, at least until us “big girls” were old enough to be sent to work in the doo-doo mines.

defrosting broccoli.  It’s not that Mom was a bad cook; it’s just that the unrelenting drudgery of putting breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table for that many people sucked most of the joyful creativity out of the process.  Her go-to menu consisted of hot dogs, frozen broccoli and baked potatoes.  In the summer she switched to my Dad’s favorite: corn-on-the-cob and BLTs for almost every meal.

up to her elbows in a laundry tub.  With 11 people in the house, the mountain of dirty clothes never really wore down.  All she could do was take a little off the peak when it threatened to hit the ceiling.  Mom spent so much time in our dank basement she should have been a troll.  She never complained about it because it was the only place she could go to get away from us.  We kids never went down there for fear of being pressed into service carting baskets of clean clothes up two flights of stairs.

ink-stained, clutching the edges of a newspaper. My mother is a voracious reader.  The Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, the local paper, the Wall Street Journal – she’s read them all for years.  Back in the day, sticky little hands would rip down the newspaper barricade she tried to hide behind before she ever finished an article.  Her passions have always been politics, biographies and history.  She has been a proud member of the AAUW and their book club for almost 60 years.   She is still one of the most widely read people I know.

slapping at my Dad’s hand as he absent-mindedly raised it to his mouth to chew on a nail.  Mom is the eternal optimist.  She remains confident she can break him of this detested habit, even though she’s had no luck in 57 years.

wielding scissors.  Her passion for current events and politics leads to a need to share.  Rarely do more than a few weeks go by without a familiar manila envelope showing up in our mailboxes, chock full of articles.  The salient parts are underlined and extra commentary written in the margin.   Hers is the voice of our civic consciences, exhorting us to stay informed, to write our congressmen, to DO something to right perceived wrongs in the system.  Mom is Jiminy Cricket to all of her little Pinocchios.

writing notes.  My mother rarely forgets a birthday, a holiday, or a special occasion.  She takes the time to pick out just the right card (usually mushy), and then underlines the sentiments that really speak to her.   She casts her net wide to keep the far-flung edges of our extended family together.  No matter the card, no matter the occasion, the message she is sending is clear: you are special to me.

bandaging boo-boos.  Over the years Mom has handled more injuries than the local emergency room, not all of them physical.  I remember being home from college one weekend when my little sister Judy interrupted us while we were making up a bed.  Struggling to navigate the shark-infested waters of junior high school, Judy dissolved into tears at the betrayal of a “friend”.  I slipped quietly out of the room, but the image of the two of them seated on the half-made bed remains with me to this day.  Judy sobbed on her shoulder while Mom cradled her awkward, adolescent baby in her arms.  Her capable hand gently smoothed her daughter’s hair, over and over again.

There, there.  Mommy’s here.

Mom doesn’t wear nail polish.  Her hands’ only adornments are her engagement and wedding rings.  These are sparkling testaments to her good taste in both diamonds and men.  She and my father will celebrate 59 years of marriage this summer.

A stroke a few years back has slowed her down a bit, but at 84 she’s still a force to be reckoned with.   She worries that her handwriting is illegible since the stroke, but we all  reassure her: “No, your handwriting was always horrible, Mom.”  Dad attached a bicycle horn to her walker and she gives it a brisk squeeze if she needs to clear dawdlers out of her path at Big Boy.   Going out to breakfast is her favorite sport, which is another feature I inherited.

When I look back on life with my Mom I realize I will be lucky if my hands accomplish ¼th of what hers have done.  And if mine can hold even a fraction of the love that her’s have, I know I will have been blessed beyond measure to have my mother’s hands.

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6 Places Not To Use Facebook Check-In


One more reason NOT to let friends tag you.


Facebook “check-in” is a great business tool…unless you’re engaged in monkey business.

Are you familiar with this feature? Businesses post their locations on Facebook maps to make it easier for potential customers to find them. If you visit one and have “location services” enabled on your smart phone, Facebook prompts you to check-in. This posts a little map on your Facebook wall with the business name highlighted. Your friends know what you’re doing and the place gets a plug, so everybody wins, right?


People only use this feature when they’re hanging out somewhere cool like a trendy nightclub, fancy restaurant or the gym. Especially the gym. That little map with the health club starred is a deliberate shame-slap to those of us who may or may not be surfing Facebook while curled up on the couch in our jammies with a box of cheap red wine and an economy-sized bag of Cheetos.

It seems to me that folks who check-in at places that make them look good should have to use that feature EVERYwhere they go.   We want to know when they’re visiting:

  • Big Bubba’s $12.99 Belly Up To The Trough Buffet
  •  50 Shades of Gray Bondage Supply Emporium
  •  Back home in bed when they’re supposed to be out calling on clients
  •  In their hot neighbor’s bed when they’re supposed to be out calling on clients
  •  Nip & Tuck Rejuva-Spa
  •  Rudy’s Liquor Mega-Mart

Only by insisting on full disclosure can we truly get to know our dear “friends” better.

Where else should people be required to check-in?



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Would The Prince Be Just As Eager To Kiss Sleeping Good Personality?

Someday my prince will come...hey!  Get back here, bub!

Someday my prince will come…hey! Get back here, bub!

They say that beauty is only skin deep.  If so, that’s the kind of skin I want.

My mind was wandering a bit during church the other day.  Instead of putting much-needed effort into improving my spiritual life, I found myself examining the other worshipers.   As a group, We The People aren’t much to look at.   Some of us are downright dogs.

The unique gifts of youth – firm, unlined skin and the glow of health – hide our faults when we’re young. That mantle falls away as we get older and reality is revealed in the harsh light of age: chubby cheeks sag into wrinkly jowls, prominent noses become downright beaky, and a receding hairline keeps riding off into the sunset.

Beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder, but we only say that so ugly people won’t feel so bad. Babies instinctively recognize and respond to the same beautiful faces. Although there are obviously cultural and individual preferences, there are universal standards.

People once felt that beauty signaled goodness.  That attitude was reflected in movies like The Wizard of Oz.   The Good Witch was beautiful Glinda while the Wicked Witch was a homely crone.  Nowadays movie stereotypes often swing in the opposite direction, especially when a producer wants to lecture us.

Take the movie Shallow Hal.  Hal was hypnotized so he could see a person’s inner beauty. Every good, kind person was grossly obese or extremely unattractive in real life, but looked like a model to him.   One Peace Corp volunteer had such bad dandruff he could have hired on as a snow machine in Vail.  The only character who looked ugly to Hal was a nurse who everyone else saw as gorgeous.   She was so rotten she was even mean to sick kids.

The director spared no hammer to hit viewers over the head with his message:

beauty = shallow
ugly = noble

Of course neither stereotype is true. Just as Marie is a little bit country and Donny is a little bit rock ‘n roll, so most of us are a little good and a little bad. Which trait wins out doesn’t seem to have anything to do with our looks.

I got to thinking about all of this that day at church because I saw a vision.   It wasn’t a religious vision, which one might expect in that holy place.    In the midst of all the Ordinary that is the rest of us, Beauty glided down the aisle.  Lots of people are attractive and many deserve the adjectives pretty, cute, or sexy, but real Beauty with a capital “B” is rare.

The young woman’s face was a perfect oval, her complexion a clear and glowing coffee and cream touched with a blush of pink. Her lips were full and rose-red, her brown eyes large and sparkling, and her dark hair long and shining. She had the figure of a Barbie doll come to life; tall and slender, yet curvy.

I stared at her – gawked, really. I couldn’t help it. Such perfection of face and form is something you see in the movies, not everyday life.

As a society, we’re ambivalent about physical beauty. We worship at its altar, are awestruck by Beautiful People and lavish them with attention. On the other hand, we disdain those who pursue beauty as a goal, and sneer at its celebration. Witness the ridicule that many heap on those who participate in beauty pageants.

To me, physical beauty is a gift to be admired as much as a quick mind or the ability to compose music. Its possessor has a right to be proud of that gift.  It’s also a gift that most of us would love to have, if we’re being honest with ourselves.   And no matter how much we might like to think otherwise, it’s something to which we instinctively respond.

I suspect that if the Prince in the story had come upon Sleeping Good Personality instead of Sleeping Beauty, he might not have stopped to administer a wake-up kiss. That poor young woman would still be snoozing on her Posturepedic to this day.


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Curl Up And Dye, You Gravy Sucking Pig

Try our meaty haunches!


Hair’s What’s Happening
The Mane Event
American Hairlines
From Hair to Eternity
Head Hunters
The Hairport
A Cut Above

We’ve all seen these signs.  Why do beauty salons seem to have a monopoly on bad pun names?  Is this something they teach in beauty school? Do students brainstorm corny names as they perfect the art of the Jheri Curl?

It’s about time other industries joined in the fun.  Here are a few suggestions:


  1. The Right Stuff:  Taxidermist
  2. Up In Smoke: Marijuana sales
  3. See You Later Alligator: Reptile petting zoo
  4. The Rite Stuff: Religious supplies
  5. Out On A Limb: Prosthesis manufacturer
  6. Trunk Show: Tree trimming service
  7. The White Stuff:  Betty White memorabilia shop
  8. The Grass is Always Greener:  Marijuana sales
  9. Pity Party: NASCAR pit crew
  10. Pushing Up Daisies: Florist (specializing in funeral arrangements)
  11. Out On A Limb: Tree trimming service
  12. The Fight Stuff: Boxing gym
  13. Up Periscope: Proctologist’s practice
  14. The Write Stuff: Bookstore
  15. Jeepers Creepers:  Optometrist
  16. The White Stuff:  Snow machine manufacturer
  17. Trunk Show: Elephant rentals for Indian weddings
  18. Must Give Us Paws: Shakespearean theater for dogs
  19. The Blight Stuff: Pesticide distributor
  20. Ex-Lax: Moving company
  21. Atlas Shrugged: Rand McNally map store
  22. The Wright Stuff: Airplane showroom
  23. Right Here In River City: Pool and billiard supplies
  24. Pole Vault: First National Bank of Warsaw
  25. The Bright Stuff: Electrical contractor
  26. The White Stuff: Cocaine dealer
  27. Curl Up & Dye, You Gravy Sucking Pig: Combination beauty salon/all-you-can-eat barbecue buffet

Disclaimer: The above names are assumed to be original. Any similarity to a business, living or dead, is sheer coincidence.  It could also be the fault of my unconscious mind committing plagiarism without my knowledge or consent.

More Disclaiming: I posted this a couple of years ago as a match-game, but that was WAY too much work for the average reader, so only 2 people read it.   Now I’ve done the heavy lifting for you.

What you got?

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Happy Secret Aries Week


Perhaps you’ve noticed the snappy chartreuse winky guy hanging around in the margin of this-here blog. No, I didn’t steal it. I am a legitimate field reporter for the prestigious Nudge Wink Report. I’ve got a press pass and everything!

I couldn’t be more thrilled since the rest of their talent stable is awesome, they are a WordPress Recommended Humor Blog, and they serve free cocktails and those little sandwiches with the crusts cut off.

Today is my maiden voyage with the fine folks at Nudge Wink, so head on over and read all about a special holiday coming up this week.

Originally posted on The Nudge Wink Report:

Thanks for the reminder. Thanks for the reminder.

Secret Aries week is almost here.   Do you know about this? I’d never heard of it until I saw a sign outside the local florist’s shop the other day.

I’m not sure why some people born under the astrological sign of the ram want to keep it a secret.   I’m OK with being a Leo, and I would think those who are really into the Zodiac would be proud of their birth signs. I’m also surprised that there are enough people trying to hide being an Aries to warrant a whole week of celebration – wouldn’t one day do it? But since people are, obviously, into this, why don’t they observe it a week earlier? Then it would fall during the actual dates attributed to Aries.

Maybe that time slot was already taken up by some other crucial holiday like National Ball of Twine week. We…

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