Day 3 – Texting & Parenting

I’ve gotten to a stage in my life where I don’t feel like a liar saying I’m an open book. Ask me anything and I’ll tell you what I think, even if it’s not a popular opinion, even if it’s uncomfortable. I think I’ve just gotten to a point where it’s far too exhausting not to speak my truth or own my opinions. I’d much rather people know what I’m thinking or where I stand than to come across as “hard-to-read” or ambivalent.

On the flip side, I appreciate matter of factness. I sometimes think living nine years in New York had something to do with it. I’ll go to my grave arguing that New Yorkers get a bad rap. They’re stereotyped as being mean, overly aggressive, loud, obnoxious, any number of adjectives that basically translates to people generally believing all New Yorkers go out of their way to be assholes.

(Okay, so maybe I can’t really argue that New Yorkers aren’t loud, but come on, in a city with that many people and that much traffic and that much noise, they’ve simply evolved to have a baseline volume that’s closer to rock concert than bedtime lullaby. We really can’t fault them for that, now can we?)

In my experience, New Yorkers are some of the kindest, most attentive, and most delightfully down-to-earth people I’ve met. That being said, they’re busy people, and they have a low tolerance for bullshit. They’re going to tell you exactly what they think. Direct. To the point. And then move on. Call it aggressive or abrasive if you want, but I’d choose that simple blunt honesty over an intricately choreographed dance to soften the truth any day.

We’ve got such a limited amount of time to spend on this planet–why waste it trying to be something or someone we’re not?

One of my friends texted me this week, not exactly seeking advice, but I could tell she had things weighing on her mind and that always spurs me to speak. She’s at that point in her life where she’s married, progressing well in her career, just bought her first home, and she’s thinking about kids. She understands what a monumental decision it is to bring a new little life into this world. She knows that a baby changes the course of everything.

Her text opened a vein of thoughts, so I took a few moments to type a reply.

**Disclaimer to anyone who ever decides to text me–While I use and greatly appreciate emojis, GIFs, and a well-placed meme, you will never get a short, cursory LOL, TTYL, or OMG-filled response from me. If full sentences and paragraphs via text bother you, it’s best not to engage. You’ve been warned.

Excavation 2012 – Day #48 – Please Mr. Postman

It’s probably not surprising that I’m the kind of girl who saves cards and letters.

I mean, with my book and photo addiction, it sort of makes sense that I would also be committed to saving all sorts of handwritten correspondence. And as I continued sifting through my photographs, I came across one of my boxes filled with all sorts of things that have been mailed to me over the years.

I’ve got Christmas photo cards and letters…

Letters from friends…

Letters from family…

Birthday cards…

Graduation cards…

Call me crazy, but I just can’t get rid of any of them. See, to me, these are works of art, pieces of history, my history. At different times in my life, people took the time to sit down and put their thoughts on paper, tuck them into an envelope, and send them to me. In today’s world of email and texting and social networks, good old handwritten letters are a dying art form, and I will do what I can do preserve them, even if my husband rolls his eyes and asks me why the heck I’m wasting space saving it all.

What can I say? I’m addicted to words, and I’m proud. 🙂

And  just looking through all of these old cards and letters again tonight made me seriously nostalgic for the good old days when I used to sit down with a pen and paper and write letters, and get so excited when I found one in the mail. So, I’ve decided I’m going to challenge myself to write one letter a week to someone I care about. It might be someone I’ve been thinking about. It might be someone I haven’t talked to in ages. It might be someone I think could use a little pick-me-up. Heck, it might even be just a name I draw randomly out of a hat. I’m already looking forward to the challenge because, for all the convenience of things like email and texting, there’s nothing quite like opening a mailbox and seeing a letter that’s been thoughtfully written just for you.

So, get out there, people, and start writing.

365 Project – Day 233 – The Death of the Pen

Many moons ago, when I was just beginning my educational career, we spent a lot of time practicing our penmanship. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, was a formidable woman, with a head of curly reddish-orange hair and a habit of standing over me and my classmates and making us nervous as we carefully copied letters and printed words in our handwriting and penmanship workbooks.

In spite of the anxiety caused by Mrs. Smith’s looming presence, I fell hopelessly in love with writing.

There’s just something about holding the notebook in my hand. There’s something about flipping open the cover and thumbing through to find an blank page, and seeing those empty white spaces trapped between the rigid blue lines. There’s something about the way the pen fits between my fingers, something about pressing the tip against the page and watching the words form beneath it like a sculpture emerging from a block of stone.

My brain works differently when I sit down to compose my thoughts using a pen and paper, and I’d wager a guess that the same is true for anyone. Handwriting forces you to slow down, to think, to form your thoughts and your words more carefully. It can even help you remember things, which is why I also take notes by hand instead of typing them during a class or a lecture.  Give me a choice between the keyboard and the pen, and I will choose the pen every time.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love computers. Hell, I’m sitting here typing up this blog right now. But when time allows, I much prefer to handwrite everything before typing up the final draft. Call me silly and old fashioned if you want, but handwriting is one of those things that keeps me sane. I’ve been known to handwrite dozens of drafts when I’m working on an essay or a story, crossing words out, adding sentences, making notes and sometimes even doodling in the margins, and then setting each draft aside as I write up the latest.

I pity the poor soul who will be cleaning out my file cabinet when I die.

I think it is a shame that handwriting is slowly dying in favor of typing and texting and instant messaging. Things like spelling, grammar and punctuation are languishing. Creativity and imagination are being stifled. And penmanship? Trying to decipher the handwriting of anyone under the age of 20 these days is like trying to decipher a meaningful sentence in a bowl of soggy Alpha-Bits cereal.

Many people believe that it won’t be long before things like pens and paper will be completely obsolete. Perhaps they will even disappear from the face of the earth altogether, like floppy disks and public pay phones. One day here, the next day gone.

There are dozens of things that have gone the way of the dodo in my lifetime, and I can’t say that I was really sad to see any of them go. Okay, so maybe at first I was a little peeved with CD’s and DVD’s replaced cassette and video tapes. After all, I had amassed quite a collection and was suddenly faced with the burden of replacing them all after my last tape deck and VCR finally crapped out on me during college. But the impending demise of good old fashioned handwriting? Now that has me on edge.

See, I’ve never been completely comfortable in front of a computer. Sure, I like to surf the internet and catch up with my friends on Facebook, and I’ve even been known to hammer out a last minute essay or two and then sprint to class so I can turn it in on time. But even so, the computer will always play second fiddle to my notebook and pen. And I sincerely hope and pray that it will be the same for my daughter, and that she will continue the good fight against the death of the pen. After all, it is the only thing that has ever been mightier than the sword.

Tonight’s 365 Project entry is dedicated to all of the other hand writers out there. No matter what, I hope you’ll keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.

365 Project – Day 214 – This Just In…Cell Phones Do Cause Cancer

My friend Christin called me out of the blue today, excited to tell me about what she had just seen on a movie marquee while driving through Yonkers. I don’t know what made me happier–having an impromptu chat with a friend I haven’t seen in ages, or the fact that she immediately thought of me and my blog when she saw this…

See, Christin knows me well enough to know that, had I been driving past that very same marquee, I probably would have stopped to take a photo myself, so that I could talk about the ridiculousness in my blog. This is why I love my friends. It’s nice to know they are always looking out for me.

Okay, so let’s get down to it, shall we?

I won’t lie and say that I am a big fan of Harry Potter. I am married to a big fan of Harry Potter though, so I’m not totally immune to its charms. I’ve read exactly 1 1/2 of the books, and that was only because I wanted to use some examples from the text in my master’s thesis. I didn’t hate it, but I am not compelled to drop everything I am doing to sit down and read the rest of the novels either. Sure, they might be on my long list of things to read, but there are just a whole lot more books I need to finish first.

That being said, I will admit that I do appreciate and applaude the fact that J.K. Rowling captured the hearts and minds of millions–childrens and adults alike–with her novels. That is the kind of literary success that I can only dream of. And what I respect most about series is the fact that it got people reading again.

In our age of computers and video games and cell phones and televisions with more shows and channels than you could ever watch in your lifetime, Harry Potter got kids to put down the Playstation controllers and pick up books again. Hell, it even got them excited about books again, so excited that they would beg their parents to stand in line for hours outside bookstores, just so they could get in and buy a copy of the newest release and read it before the glue on the binding even had a chance to completely dry.

That, my friends, is worthy of knighthood, or a Nobel Prize, or perhaps we should just go ahead and petition for Ms. Rowling’s sainthood.

For someone like me–a writer, an avid reader, and a lover of words–the world is a downright dismal place these days. While television and movies and video games and the internet have all contributed to the decline of reading and writing, nothing has been quite as detrimental cell phones and texting.

Don’t get me wrong, I like texting as much as the next person. In fact, I much prefer texting or emailing  to actually talking on the phone. When Steven and I began dating and sending each other hundreds of text messages while we were away from each other working boring college fairs, we finally caved in and just got unlimited texting on our phones. We haven’t looked back since.

But, for all of my texting, I refuse to give in to the text message language. You know, all those abbreviations and acronyms that people use. Things like u intead of you. Pix instead of pictures. OMG.  SMH.

I’m pretty sure that people cringe when they carry on any sort of lengthy texting conversations with me, because this is usually the extent of my abbreviating…

Papa Shawn is actually lucky that I even abbreviated “G-ma” in that particular text, because if I hadn’t, he might have received four separate texts instead of only three.

I don’t think it really bothered me all that much when the texting language was confined to the world of texting, or even something like Twitter, where you only have a limited number of characters that you can enter at a time. Sure. Okay. Abbreviating under those circumstances makes sense. What I can’t handle though, is the way this texting language has begun to infect our everyday language, slowly seeping from our texts and tweets and into our classrooms and our offices, and sometimes (gag me) even into our speech. There have been several people that I had to refrain from slapping when they actually uttered OMG in the middle of a sentence.

Some teachers and administrators have even begun to embrace text language and use it as a teaching tool in their classrooms, arguing that it is necessary to get the kids’ attention and get them excited about learning.

I say bullshit.

There are too many kids today who can barely read, can’t spell a word correctly  to save their lives, and who wouldn’t even know how to correctly identify a prepositional phrase if it jumped off the page and sat in their laps singing showtunes.

Somehow, between the time I graduated from high school and the time I started teaching high school English, the whole system imploded.

Instead of rote memorization and lengthy reading assignments and cutthroat spelling bees and diagramming sentences until you swear your eyes are beginning to bleed, kids today are babied and coddled and passed through the broken systems until they somehow graduate high school without being able to write a coherent 5-page unplagiarized essay.

In short, we’ve gotten lazy.

It’s easier to abbreviate than to spell things out. It’s easier to pass kids through the school systems than to actually teach them and hold them accountable and mold them into productive and responsible members of society. It’s easier to do the minimal amount of work to get by than to actually put your heart and soul and blood and sweat and tears into something that you can really be proud of. And it’s a whole lot easier just to sit back and let it all happen than to actually go out and try to make a change.

It’s hard to change, but it’s not impossible.

And so, I’ll keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. I’ll keep reading. I’ll keep annoying all of my friends and family members by spelling out all the words in my text messages. I’ll keep reading to my daughter. I’ll keep hoarding books like they are gold. And I’ll keep praying that more writers like J.K. Rowling come along, writers that catch our attention and ignite our imaginations and challenge us to keep on reading and wanting more.

Tonight’s 365 Project is dedicated to finding ways to revive our love affair with words, and to stop the annoying text language from taking over the world. Who’s with me?!

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