because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

It’s My 1,101st Day in The Blogosphere

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Some of you may have missed that it was my blogoversary on Monday.

You know because it was buried under my Lilly Pulitzer handbag giveaway.

So yeah. I’m two days into my 4th year in the blogosphere.

And I wanted to thank everyone again for sticking with me through thick and thin.

And I wanted to share some random information.

MY FIRST CYBER-FRIEND

The very first cyber-friend I made was Carl D’agostino, a fantastic cartoonist and writer who writes at I Know I Made You Smile. From time to time, Carl and I send each other emails and he recently sent me this:

pencil-222

Carl knows my son used to have a thing for Ticonderoga pencils. I should probably report that Tech has graduated to mechanical pencils. We should have expected this, of course. I’ll worry when I see he’s ordered a pocket protector from Amazon.com.

MY BEST DAY IN BLOGGING

It happened on March 7, 2011. I got 3,42o visits to my blog when I wrote about How I Tricked My Book Club Into Writing. Yeah. I know, right? Whatever that was about? I’d like that to happen again. You know, like, everyday.

GOOGLE Search Terms THAT BROUGHT PEOPLE Here

intimidacion escolar. I had to Google that, but then I realized people were looking for information about bullying. In Spanish. They may have been looking for THIS or THIS or THIS.

i want to quit the flute. Yeah, so did I. Also, I think my mother is still pretty pissed about that. That said, I think these folks landed on Let ‘Em Quit or Make ‘Em Play, which is something we struggled with at one point.

teacher on her period. Yeah. That happened, Not to me! Omigosh! No no no! But to one of my teachers. It was ugly. You can read about it HERE.

meat truck scams. For those of you who have been here for a while, you know I have done some wicked stupid things. But this was really dumb. Yes, I did, in fact, purchase meat from a meat truck. And it was not at all delicious. But I’m pretty sure that Nigerian Prince stuff is legit, and I’m expecting that guy to pay me back any day now.

kitajska abeceda. I have no clue. Sorry, person. You’re on your own.

The Post That Receives The Most On-going Spam

Darla.

You wrote an amazing post (“Dear Diary: I Hate You”) where you cited stuff directly from your middle school diary. Apparently, you made so many references to now outdated items, every wholesaler and retailer wants to help you. They want you to buy their clothes, handbags, and wrinkle creams. Mostly, I think they’re concerned that you’ve still got that big comb hanging out of your back pocket. This is probably the most offensive outstanding piece of SPAM that I’ve ever received. Ever. Seriously, you HAVE to click on it.

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I’m holding onto this stuff for you, Dar. Let me know if you’d like me to forward the hundreds of pieces of SPAM that have come my way since you posted that doozie. How much do I want to make out with my Askimet SPAM filter right now?

I would like to thank the other talented writers who have posted in this year’s #SoWrong Series so far. They have set the bar pretty dang high. And I’m so grateful they’ve chosen to participate. Yeah, I’m talking to you Dan, Tori, Jules, Pegoleg, and —  get psyched — because Misty from Misty’s Laws is going to be here on Friday! Her piece: “To Bra or Not To Bra?” Divine.

The Regulars

Certain people show up regularly to say hello. And I need to thank them. Because there’s actually something reassuring about seeing those familiar avatars.

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Please don’t ever break up with me. You know, like Tad did.

Bless every one of you for making this blog so much fun for me over the last 3 years. I’ve said it before, but your comments really are like chocolates, and me likes the chocolates. Please know that I LOVE to read your words. You don’t have to agree with me (only my husband has to do that!), but never be afraid to leave a comment. I know a bunch of you prefer to lurk. That’s cool, too.

Did you know that Instagram is my new lover? It’s true. If you’d like to follow me there, please do.

Also, you have until Friday at noon to try to win that cool Lilly Pulitzer handbag. And, no, you don’t have to have girl parts to enter. Guys, be proactive. Win this handbag and that special someone in your life will love you forever! Or what do I care? Use it yourself!

LOVElove

xoRASJ

tweet me @rasjacobson

When a Walk in the Park is Not a Walk in the Park

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“A girl from school wrote that she was going to kill herself on Facebook.”

Up until then, the leaves under our feet made swishy, dry sounds. But I stopped moving.

I needed to sit down, but he didn’t want to so I had to keep walking.

“She said goodbye and everything. I didn’t find out about it until after it happened.”

I held my breath as we passed the trees that had turned gold.

Tinker Park. Henrietta, New York. Fall 2012

“Is she okay?” I asked, praying hard for this girl who was suddenly with us like the wind in the trees.

“Her friends contacted her mother or something. She’s in the hospital.”

“Do you know her?” I shoved my hands in my pockets.

“Not really. I found out from a friend.”

We stopped at the water’s edge and found each other’s eyes.

“I want you to promise me something.”

My son looked at me. He knew what I was going to say. But I said it anyway.

“If someone threatens to hurt themselves or someone else on Facebook or in a text or in real life, you have to promise me that you will take it seriously.”

“I will.”

“No matter where I am. You have to contact me. I’ll help you do whatever we need to do.”

My son tilted his chin. “Sometimes you can’t answer your phone.”

He had me there. Because when I am teaching, I can’t take calls. Or answer texts.

The wind blew cool air though my sweater.

“You know what I mean. You can leave me a message. I can check messages. If there is an emergency, I can always make time.”

My son nodded.

The sun was going down as we turned down the mossy path.

As my feet moved, I thought about the girl’s mother. How terrified she had to be.

I thought of a car accident that occurred just a few miles down the road: how a young driver had been speeding through a residential neighborhood and smashed into a bus. They could have all been killed, but they weren’t.

I thought of my son who has been quiet lately. How we don’t connect the way we used to. How I don’t know what he does for most of his day. How he is going on a trip to New York City on a school field-trip in a few weeks.

I won’t be there.

And what if he needs me?

“Mom,” Tech called. He’d stopped to inspect something on the ground. “Come check out this bug carcass.”

I looked at my son. I thought he was going to say thank you. Or run over and hug me. Or tell me how glad he was that we had talked. I thought a lot of things. But he didn’t do or say any of the things he used to do and say so readily.

“Let me take a picture of you,” he said, holding out his hand for the camera.

So I posed for him.

“You okay?” he asked, a line creased his forehead.

I told him that I was fine, but it was a lie.

Because 8th graders shouldn’t be thinking about killing themselves.

They shouldn’t be thinking about dying.

Back at the car, we noticed our shadows.

“My shadow is taller than yours,” my son smiled. “I’m catching up to you.”

I looked at the red and the yellow and the green around me. I looked at my son in his maroon hoodie which will soon be too small for him. A gust blew some leaves off the trees. They soared over our heads and then fell on the grass, quivering.

I know time is passing, but is it so wrong to want things to stay like this for a little while longer?

I’m not ready for winter.

When is the last time you slowed down, unplugged and took a walk with someone you care about? Do me a favor, call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Or write that person a letter. Do something to show someone you care about them today. What is one beautiful thing you can do to show someone they are important to you? Or (conversely), what do you wish someone would do or say to you today. Let me be that person.

tweet me @rasjacobson

Wanna be a WANA?

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I landed in the blogosphere at the right time. I met a group of writers who told me about this chick Kristen Lamb, and how all the cool kids were reading her blog.

Kristen talked about this thing called MyWANA which stands for We Are Not Alone, the title of her #1 best-selling social media book.

I read Kristen’s archives. I taught myself how to use Twitter so I could use #MyWANA in my tweets.

I was amazed how adding that one simple hashtag often doubled the traffic to my blog.

Seriously, wouldn’t you follow her anywhere?

This Little Lamb is pretty smart, I thought to myself.

I stuck to her like a chigger and started commenting on her posts regularly.

There was no way she was going to shake me.

The more I read from Kristen, the more I realized I wanted to be her when I grew up.

(Except I am older than she is. Whatever.)

In the meantime, I started to look for other WANA writers, and I quickly discovered that the type of writing produced by a WANA writer was of a different caliber. These people dared to call themselves writers. They dared to declare putting the pen to the paper was their profession and that it needed to be taken seriously. And they made time to do it everyday – groceries be damned.

I joined Kristen’s Warrior Writers Boot Camp where aspiring writers have the opportunity to experience Kristen’s process. I got to learn a secret handshake and abbreviations like EVOS and BBTs other things that normal people wouldn’t care about.

One afternoon my phone rang. It was Kristen. We over-talked each other for an hour. (Girl might be from Texas, but her mother was from New York.) She told me all the places where my story was solid and the many more places where it had holes so big there was water pouring out of the bottom of the bucket.

She made me whine and stomp my foot.

But she also made me believe that my book had potential.

So I had to go and fix. And keep writing.

Meanwhile, I kept visiting WANA blogs and networking with many fabulous people. None of this connection would have been possible without WANA but especially Kristen, the beautiful, brainy girl with the big ideas. Kristen makes people feel like our dreams really can come true if we just work, if we don’t fear failure, and if we keep trying.

WANA has always featured creative professionals dedicated to serving and supporting one another. WANA understands that life as an artist is hard, and is often lacking support from family and friends. WANA is about serving others first and trusting that good always comes from love.

By now, many of you have seen Kristen’s post on how she plans to take over the digital world with WANA International.

Just kidding.

No, seriously.

She is.

We are.

As Kristen says:

“These days, creative professionals all need more training than ever before. Writers are not the only creatives who must learn to use social media in order to stand apart from the competition and to help lay the foundation for a career.”

So what’s new? WANA is branching out. WANA International is ready to teach creative professionals how to marry technology with humanity to build effective online platforms. There is instruction about craft, business, social media, and more.

I hope those of you you are interested in learning more about what WANA has to offer will click HERE.

***As a longtime English educator, I am looking forward to teaching a few courses later this year.***

If you are a wanna-be author who needs help with creating a blog to showcase your talent or a self-published author who needs to know more about all this confangled social media, or whether you seek information about how to design a book cover or need to figure out if you need an agent… be grateful that you are here now.

Because everyone who knows everything is gathered in one place.

And remember – as Kristen says: We Are Not Alone!

Tweet This Twit @rasjacobson

Running on Empty: A #LessonLearned by El Farris

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Howdy pardner.

One of the greatest blessings to have happened to me this year has been the discovery of my writing partner, El Farris, of Running from Hell with El.

In January, El and I concocted our plans to write our novels together and provide each other with weekly pages and honest feedback, and it is amazing how just a few months later we have crossed over from blogging friends to real life friends.

We talk to each other almost daily, and our conversations do not have a start or stop. They simply continue. El is a pantser, and I’m a plotter. El writes fast and furious and says things like: “I’ll go back and fix that in the next draft,” where I can’t move forward until I feel I’ve connected all the dots. We work well together. If we were on the color wheel, we would surely be the other’s complement.

There is much to admire about El, and I’m so happy to have her here during my blogoversary month. Folks can find El on Facebook — there’s a reason she has over 6,000 fans — and you can follow her on Twitter at @runningfromhell.

Click on the teacher lady’s stick to see others who have written posts in this series.

• • •

Running on Empty

Have you ever felt like this?

I’ve learned a lot of important driving lessons over the years. Some of them might seem pretty obvious, but I have a history of learning the hard way. For example, I realized I made a poor decision driving my Subaru for the first time (before I received my driver’s permit) when I drove the car into the front yard. A few months later, I found out how important it is to yank up the parking brake when coming to a stop at the top of a steep hill when the same black Subaru slammed into Dad’s beloved cherry tree. And finally, I learned to ignore the man-child thwacking the rear window with a cherry Twizzler only after the out-of-town police car flashed his lights and handed me my hundredth speeding ticket. That was the last ticket I received. I think.

As slow as I have been on the uptake while behind the wheel of a vehicle, I am even slower at learning how to navigate the churning waters of social media. I have spent a lot of time developing my online persona via Facebook and Twitter; Once my book is published, I hope that social media will help me to sell my book. For the moment, however, social media wraps a web around me that sometimes makes it hard for me to breathe.

How is this so?  We’re talking about a virtual world right? Well, yes, and no. For each comment or request that someone makes to or about me on Facebook, Twitter or on my blog, a real human being stands behind and is represented by the words he or she types.  And I care about each human being. I care very much.  Maybe too much.

One of the Facebook groups I help administer is dedicated to suicide prevention. Even though we are not officially a crisis hotline, the fact is that once in a while, someone is in dire straits and I am part of the last line of defense. Either as a member of a team or all alone, I grasp hold of a lifeline and extend it to someone who has swallowed or is about to swallow their last pill, and most of the time, I would not have it any other way.  I would prefer to lose a few hours of sleep than to lose the man or woman holding that line.

The other night, however, it got to be too much. I was tired. I had pushed my body to its breaking point by running more than 100 miles in 10 days.  I craved sleep. I needed a break from needs and commitments and pressures and even friends.

But instead of taking a break, I jumped into a Facebook conversation with an acquaintance who lives in another country. I do not need to describe the particulars of our conversation. Let’s just say it took about 60 seconds to determine that “Lin” needed to get herself to a hospital. I follow a set of guidelines when speaking with someone who is suicidal.  I ascertain whether they are safe; determine how present the risk of self-harm is; tell them I care about them and, more than anything else, I keep them talking until they promise to get professional help.

This story is not about preventing suicide.

It’s about taking care of my needs and my family’s needs.

Too much, too much!

The night Lin was in crisis, I sat glued to the computer. I skipped dinner and hardly spoke to my husband. When my children interrupted me too many times, I grabbed my Smartphone and went for a walk under a darkening sky while I continued what really felt more like hostage negotiations than a talk with a friend. I walked and talked and typed as fast as I could for well over an hour and, when my phone ran out of batteries, I dashed inside and continued working with Lin.

At one point, my middle son tiptoed into my bedroom, where I sat typing on my iMac and asked for a kiss. I held up my hand and started to snap, “Not now,” but I caught myself and gave him a brief, cursory hug.

Later, my youngest clambered into my leather office chair and refused to leave until I answered his long list of nighttime questions. Annoyance gave way to guilt. I turned away from my work only after Lin promised to go to a mental health center and allowed myself to spend a few minutes of quality time with my children.

I did not, nor do I, resent helping Lin. It is my honor and my duty to throw a lifeline to a human being who needs assistance. But providing that kind of assistance takes a toll on me and my family. The next day, I wandered around my house like a ghost.  I remained quiet and worried. I received updates from Lin. She was safe, but I found it impossible to ignore her private messages. She seemed to need me, and I felt compelled to respond.

In retrospect, I learned a lesson from all of this that I keep forgetting. My own needs must come first. Too often, I overextend myself and this leaves me feeling as if I am running on empty.  It’s okay to drive around and pick up desperate stragglers, but I am the driver of my own life.  And I must leave enough gas in my tank to get me to my next destination.

How do you keep from overextending yourself? And what do you do to keep your tank full?

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

When Hashtags Take You to Dark Places

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The Twitterverse is usually a wonderful place.

Except when it’s not.

The other day I was looking for conversations about #teachers, and this post caught my eye:

I couldn’t help but reply:

I was trying to be funny.

Fayth didn’t think it was funny.

She read me the riot act.

She told me to stay out of her business.

Instead, I went and read her profile.

So I learned that Fayth is Faith.

And that she currently weighs 91 pounds.

But.

Her goal weight is 75 pounds.

Let me give you some perspective.

My son, Tech Support, is in 7th grade.

He is 5’3″ and weighs in at a whopping 88 pounds.

(He is like a walking skeleton. For reals. The kid is all elbows and knees.)

Anyway, I got worried.

The more I poked around, the more I could see that Fayth was struggling: with school and self-image. She admitted to cutting herself.

Something else was troubling Fayth, too. But she wouldn’t share, even when we shifted to direct messaging.

Fayth shares some disturbing images on her Twitter page. Pictures of her hipbones. Her ribs. Blood in a styrofoam cup. The food she eats (puffed wheat and diet cranberry juice). Directions about the fast she was on.

I tried to tell her that her photos and her words caught my attention.

That she scared me.

We private messaged for a little while.

She shared so little.

She is used to withholding.

I did lots of typing.

For a few days, Fayth disappeared from Twitter altogether.

But the other day, I saw this post:

So now I know this high school student weighs less than my son.

And today, I saw this:

I let her know I’m still here.

If she needs someone to rant to, there’s a stranger who cares.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do with this information.

I wish I knew where Fayth/Faith lived because I would drive over to her house and sit on the floor with her. I would be quiet and let her cry. Or not cry. She could be mad if she needed to be mad. But I would do my best to get her to whisper whatever her big scary thing is. Even if it meant telling her my biggest, scariest thing. Someone needs to pay attention to this smart girl who is doing dangerous things. To this young woman who is too tiny to wear a size 00. To the pretty young woman in the  baggy clothing. To the beautiful young woman who just got her hair straightened and spends all her time counting calories.

Because she isn’t going to be here for long if someone doesn’t help her find her broken places so she can repair herself.

And it is possible to fix yourself if you’ve got the right tools in the tool belt.

It is.

Do we have any responsibilities to each other on social media? Or do we just shrug our cyber shoulders?

Hey! Why Is It So Quiet in Here?

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I have my best listening ears on!

I have been gaining subscribers for a year now. I have this cool, little dashboard that tells me how many people have viewed my blog, which pages they have checked out, what words they searched to find me, and a whole lot of cool information. My lice post is still the number one most frequently viewed post and, if you Google search “drag needle splinter twit,” you will find this.

Here’s what I don’t understand. Every day, more people are visiting my site. Which is totally excellent. And I am grateful to everyone who comes to check me out. And I’d like to take this opportunity to say to the folks searching for “psicologia: esconderse bajo la cama”: I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

But here is what I’m pondering:

Why do so few people who read blogs actually leave comments? I mean I have my regulars, the folks upon whom I can rely on to say something. They are the people with whom I have come to know and have developed cyber-relationships. Through these online exchanges, I have met so many smart/interesting/funny people. Some cyber-friendships have progressed to emails; some to phone calls. Heck, I’m playing concurrent games of “Words with Friends” with Jessica Buttram and Ironic Mom.

So imagine my surprise when a friend that I actually know in real life — yeah, I’m calling you out, Aaron — admitted that he has been reading my blog since my blog was born, that he has been there since its infancy, and added that he has really been enjoying watching li’l boggie mature. Now this of course made me all shivery and happy inside, and I immediately gave him a hug Actually, I may have hugged him first and then squealed when he made the comment, but you get the idea.

Of course, I love the idea that people are reading my content.

But later (after the hugging and squealing), I wondered, Why doesn’t Aaron ever comment? What’s up with that? And if Aaron isn’t commenting, why aren’t other people commenting? I decided to create a poll to try to find out. Seriously, I’d love to hear from you lurkers who read but don’t necessarily comment. Please know I don’t have any way to identify about you except the answers you leave here because all the info is collected at Poll Daddy and reported back to me anonymously. You know, unless you put your name in the comment or something.

I love writing and I am working my butt off trying to bring you interesting stuff. Am I missing something? I can never predict which posts people are going to go bonkers over and which ones will be duds. (I mean head lice? Really? Over 200 hits every day?)

Author Kristen Lamb (a woman to whom I refer to as “The Queen”) often writes about how important it is for writers to try to connect with one another in her blog and in her books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . I know not all of my readers are bloggers, but whether you are or not, I would love it if you would leave me a comment. For me, blogging is — of course — about writing, but it is also about creating a dialogue. After I have written something the delicious part is hearing what people have to say about it. The comments are like a fabulous dessert you get to eat — after slaving away for hours making a difficult meal.

If you are writing a blog, you are hoping that someone is maybe (*hopefully*) reading your words. Admit it. It’s true.

And if you are checking out other people’s stuff, you don’t have to feel pressured to write a crazy long comment. Even a short little “Thanks for this!” or “Hilarious!” can really make someone’s day. So don’t be shy. Just say, “Hi!”

Truly, I am interested as to why people choose to be quiet when they could be part of the dialogue. So please, enlighten me. At the risk of sounding like the National Inquirer, inquiring minds really do want to know. Has anyone else given any thought to this phenomenon?

What drives people to comment?  And what makes lurkers stay in the shadows?


Tweet This Twit @RASJacobson

Posts That Shimmy & Shake: Abby Has Issues, Paul Waters & Kristen Lamb

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This is the fun part of the show where I get to tell you about some great reads that you might have missed this week. As usual, I try to get one from the chicks and one from the dudes. This week, I even have one from “The Queen.”

From The Ladies: Abby Has Issues is a hilarious blog by Abby Heugel. This week she wrote a piece called My Marriage Proposal that had me considering the concept of a Sister Wife. I decided I really wanted Abby to move in with me – and my husband. Why? Because Abby has decided she would like to be a Consolation Prize Wife, which is not to be confused with a Trophy Wife. Abby’s totally cool with being a consolation prize, and she gives a lot of convincing reasons why you should be too. Let’s just say, she had me at Swiffer Wet Jet.

• • •

From the Dudes: Paul Waters has a very funny post for all you little history buffs in the house. Or for folks who like naughty words that aren’t supposed to be naughty but they totally are. Poor Bastards. His piece is called “Are You SURE You Want To Take His Name When You Get Married?” I can’t say more without ruining the funny. Paul is one of the very first people I met when I landed here in the Blogosphere, and I have been enjoying his writing for a year now. It’s time to stop hogging him to myself. Read more of Paul’s stuff at Blackwatertown.

• • •

From The Queen: If you haven’t yet been introduced to Kristen Lamb’s fabulous blog Warrior Writers, today is your lucky day! Thank goodness for premature button pushing! This week Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer  accidentally released one of her dazzlingly gorgeous pieces of brilliance a little earlier than expected. Let’s just say, the unexpected bundle of joy entitled, “Sacred Cow-Tipping: Why Writers Blogging About Writing is Bad”  was received with much head-nodding and agreement that her spawn is, indeed, breathtaking. KL’s post explains why writers should not create blogs that are exclusively dedicated to writing about writing.

I am so glad I did not make the mistake about writing about writing. But I almost did. A teacher for 20 years, when I decided to start blogging, I figured I’d write about writing. My son (age 10 at the time) rolled his eyes and said, “Mom, that’s so boring. You don’t have to always be the teacher. You can also be the dumb one.” And he was right. I have so many stories where I am the Chief Twit-in-Residence, so instead of always having to be Mrs. Smarty-Pants, I can also be the wisenheimer. So instead of being locked in to talking about commas and semi-colons, I left room for options. Which is one of Kristen’s points. They don’t call her “The Queen” for nothing. (Well, they don’t. But I do.)

Before you check out these amazing writers, can you explain what’s up with that cat?

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

Grammar & Facebook Do Not Mix

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Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

I am in love with this post! Gabe Doyle is a fourth-year graduate student in Linguistics at the University of California, San Diego. He is a computational psycholinguist. I don’t exactly know what that is, but I believe it means he is interested in how people choose to express the ideas they want to express. Or something like that.

While I am definitely a Facebook fan, I do not enjoy what social media and texting are doing to our language. It is becoming increasingly difficult to define and get people to agree to stick to a set of rules upon which we can all agree are necessary to follow with regard to language. Because, really, that’s all the conventions of writing are – little polite agreements between communicators.

I think of writing like driving. Just as there are rules of the road created to maintain civility and prevent chaos, so too, there are rules for writers. When we write, our pens are our cars. So we zoom around our little pen-cars where it is implied we have agreed to follow the same conventions because it helps us to better understand each other. Grammar conventions are kindnesses we bestow upon our readers, so they can understand us more easily. For example: Commas are little road bumps which make us slow down. Periods are stop signs. Semicolons are flashing yellow lights. The only problem is very few people follow the grammar rules anymore, so we are starting to have a lot of difficult situations out there like when people don’t use capitalization or end punctuation and just keep going on there is no break or anything at all to indicate that the sentence is coming or has come to an end so it just keeps going which can be confusing because sometimes writers  change topics suddenly you and are in outer space floating among the planets which is cucumber cool except you didn’t want to go to outer space. You wanted to go to a movie.

So check out the link to the great article above. I wish I’d written it.