“Replace All”

Autocorrect. Spellcheck. Tab stops. Cut and paste. These are a few of the little things in word processing that are a mixed bag of blessings and curses. They may help us if we perpetually misspell “disease” but sometimes they may cause us to accidentally send a text to our mother to inform her that Dad’s hysterectomy went smoothly. I do most of my writing on my computer, and make regular notes on my iPhone, so I am constantly in a tussle with some smart technological device or other.

This includes the “Find and Replace” feature.

I only used this nugget of blessing once or twice in high school. I wasn’t very computer savvy, so most of my editing was accomplished with a printed copy, pencil, and eraser. Even now, I don’t have the feature quite figured out, except that I know it’s a tricky devil.

When I was working on Immortal Bond, my first novel, I spent the first few drafts trying to think of a decent name for the capital city and country of my setting. Until I decided on one, I just had the words “The Capital” as a place holder. Once I decided on “Cathair,” I opened up the Find and Replace box and found and replaced. This box has a deceptively helpful looking button labeled, “Replace All”. (Beware the Replace All button people. Beware!) I smiled benevolently at it. How sweet, I thought. Some programmer is saving me time. I clicked. I printed.

Somehow, every time “The Capital” was replaced with “Cathair” there was now an odd spacing issue. A sentence that once might have said: “Father, I can’t wait to get to The Capital!”, now said: “Father I cant wait to get toCathair !” I scratched my head, and manually fixed every single one.

Since then I’ve been more cautious.

So the other night when I changed a character’s name for the third, and hopefully final, time I was sweating.

This character suspiciously looks and acts very much like a friend of mine. In my first drafts, this character even, veeeeery suspiciously, had the same name. Obviously this would not do, so I changed his name to Don. It didn’t work for me at all. So my husband and I have been trying to rename him. Last night I decided to try Nick on for size. When I opened the find and replace box, I groaned. There was over 350.

I whined to my husband, “This is going to take forever.”

He shrugged and took the laptop from me. “Just do this.” The mouse hovered ominously over the “replace all” button. I squealed like a wild boar and slapped his hand away.

“Are you MAD?” I snapped. “D-O-N is in all kinds of words! It’ll turn all my ‘donuts’ to ‘Nickuts.’”

“Ooooh,” he mouthed and began to play with the box. A few seconds later he smiled at me. “Just do this!” He clicked a little checkbox that said, “whole words.”

I narrowed my eyes. “What will that do?”

“Watch.” He refreshed the box and the word count dropped by over 150. I turned my skeptical gaze to him.

“You sure that worked?”

“Of course.” His confidence eased my mind. I let him hit the “replace all” button then kissed him affectionately.

“You’re amazing!” I said, then skipped off to shower while he set it up to print.

Shortly thereafter, I was holding the first printed copy of my second novel in my hands. Giddy as toddler with a mini drum set, I sat down to play with my second child. I flipped open to a random page. My face fell.

“TIMOTHY YOU NINNY-FOPPER!”

Yes I did yell that for real. This is normal for me, for these are the names I call my husband. He did not respond. He was in the basement doing laundry. (See! How can I yell cuss names at a husband who does laundry without me even asking?)

He came up the stairs humming. I waited, patiently scowling at the door, until he stepped inside the bedroom. He saw my face and cocked his head at me.

You are a Ninny-fopper,” I repeated, softer and with additional menace.

“Why?”

I motioned to him with one finger. He sat down beside me on the bed. I lifted my laptop onto my lap and opened the find and replace box. I typed the word “Nick’t” into the find section and got a little grey notification that said “167 found”.

Every “don’t” in my story was now “Nick’t”.

Timothy proceeded to hug me and say “I’m sorry” while simultaneously giggling. I changed all my “Nick’t”s back to “don’t”s in my document, but I refuse to print another copy. Save the trees and all that.

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© Rachel Svendsen 2015

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Mani/Pedi

Ahhhhhhhh…pedicures…where to begin? How about a cold winters day with a good friend?

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Tara: You know what? We need some ME time. Do you like pedicures?
Me: Sure
Tara: Want to go next week?
Me: Sure

Now I wasn’t lying, I DO like pedicures. I usually splurge and go once or twice a year during the summer when my feet come out to play. I enjoy them about as much as I find them incredibly uncomfortable.

I know I’m paying to have my feet rubbed and painted, so obviously I want it done, but I never seem to go to the same place twice. This means a stranger and I are about to get uncomfortably close for at LEAST a half hour. During this time, said stranger will be washing my feet, clipping my toenails, and rubbing lotion on my legs. Perhaps it’s better to always have a stranger. Then I can mentally trick myself into thinking that I never have to see this person again, like an impromptu drunk make-out session that you regret in the morning with a vehemence equal to that in which you participated in it the night before. If you see the person at work the next afternoon it compounds the discomfort.

(“Hello Tanya! I’m here for my monthly wash-my-grubby-feet-and-message-my-hairy-legs session.” (Okay, I did shave the night before, and I am a regular bather. I’m talking worst case scenario.))

Everyone has hobbies. One of mine is to make everyday social situations awkward. We show up at the place and walk in. A bunch of women smile at us and say, “Yes?”

“Mani Pedi,” Tara says, whipping her coat off with a self confident flourish. Then turns to me.

My eyes widen and I whisper. “What do I do?”

She cocks her head. “Tell em what you want.”

I look like a doe in the headlights for a moment then blurt out too loudly “Mani Pedi?” They’ve already moved to the pedicure station to run the water. I guess they read minds.

Time to pick out nail polish. I decide to jump out of my box and pick neon yellow for my toes and black for my fingernails. Tara tells me I’m going to be a bumblebee. I cock my head then laugh two minutes later.

I walk towards the chair. The stranger about to rub my feet turns to me and smiles. She has a pleasant pretty face, so why is my stomach turning? I realize it’s not her face that matters, if she looked like Quasimodo I would be just as apprehensive. I peal off my shoes and socks, feeling like I’m beginning a striptease. I can barely remember how to climb into the chair. I can almost hear her asking, “Is this your first time? I’ll take it slow.”

She dips my feet into the water. It’s warm. I tell myself to relax.

“The seat massages.” Tara says.

“Oh yeah?” I reach for the doohickey in the pocket. The loose arm of the chair drops down like a guillotine, blocking any plans I had for escape. The remote falls to the floor with a clatter about as subtle as opening a cough drop in church. I manage to draw it up by its tail and look at the buttons.

I pick one at random and lean back. Preprogramed mechanical hands with ball baring knuckles try to push me out of my seat. They start just above my head and roll down towards my shoulders. WRENCH WRENCH WRENCH I’m sliding down the leather chair. My date pauses mid-toenail clip to share a laugh with the woman beside her.

Okay, maybe they aren’t laughing at me while I fumble with the remote, desperate to avoid any further nerve impingement to my neck and spine, but how should I know? They spoke perfect english, both of them, but they also spoke perfect Spanish. I would love to be bilingual. I envy anyone who is. But it’s disconcerting when they turn to each other and chatter away. Is it egotistical to think they’re talking about me? I prefer the term “Self-conscious”. I had a boyfriend who once told me that I have freakishly long toes. I’ve never forgotten that. (How do you say, “would you look at her freakishly long toes” in Spanish?)

She brings out a holster thing and places my ankle inside it. Then, with a loud sigh, she vigorously files the bottom of my feet. This part is almost as bad as when they run that little picker thing under your toenails to clean them. One makes me feel like I’m a grubby little street urchin, the other makes me feel like a scullery maid being cleaned up to dance with prince charming. I love going barefoot so my feet are…tough? Call em tough. She rubs with abandon, not as long as most of them do, perhaps she saw it was futile and gave up quicker than the rest. She dropped my hobbit foot back into the water.

I tried to relax during the massage. This feels good, I told myself. My mind wandered. I lost my mantra and began to wonder if I had missed any spots when I shaved.

The foot ordeal ended. The manicure followed. These are relatively painless, except I find it difficult to stare into the eyes of the person who just seconds earlier massaged my feet. Plus there’s the whole hand holding thing and…meh maybe I’m overthinking this. Just like when I get my hair washed at the hairdressers. (If I close my eyes does it look like I’m enjoying this TOO much? Should I leave them open? Okay I’ll open them. Oh GOSH! Armpit!)

I paid before she painted my nails. Good system. Then you don’t have to screw up the new paint job digging through your purse. I sat down with my nails under the dryer and realized I didn’t tip the woman. I tapped my freshly blackened nails, contemplating how to accomplish this. In the end, I gingerly unzipped my bag, nuzzled the mouth open with my nose, then extricated my wallet with my teeth. I’m sure they’ve had plenty of freaks like me in there. I was nothing o write home about.

I hope.

The next morning I hopped out of the shower and noticed I missed a spot on my knee when I shaved the night before. I yelled aloud, “Oh Crap! Did she notice?”

I’ll bet she did. That’s probably why she never called.

© Rachel Svendsen 2015

The Day I Almost Invested in Poor Grammar…

I do not have perfect grammar. I find myself being corrected by others, or even correcting myself. Most of what I do know grammatically I blame on my extensive reading. Most of what I don’t know, I blame on some of my lame teachers growing up.

I love reading about grammar and how to use the English language, it’s important to know the rules before you try and bend them, which is a writer’s privilege. I love to find out what I’m doing wrong so I can improve it. I almost don’t mind if others correct me. (I only say almost because I have relatives who like to call people out in the most obnoxious ways at the most inopportune times. If you’re reading this…you know who you are. *shakes a condemning finger*)

All that to say…I nearly bought this shirt the other day…IMG_6047

I want to make a public apology to the world at large for almost investing $5 on this horrendous, public display of missing apostrophe syndrome. I also want to point out the irony, that this shirt was specifically designed for nerds and no self respecting nerd would ever purchase it.

The Skies Are Speaking to Us

I want you all to take a moment and look at the following picture.

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Look at it closely. Tell me what you see. Go ahead. Say it aloud to the screen. Now that you’ve done that I want to show you what you may or may not have seen.

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Weird right? I mean my geography sucks, I’m not gonna lie, but my husband agreed with me and he’s a smart one. Not just that. Take a look at this too…

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Weird right?

The Ancient Willow

A while back, I wrote up a post entitled What Good is a Roll Without Butter? about my dear brother-in-law Jonathan and how we composed a poem over the course of two days via text message.

Another while back, my husband, brother-in-law, and I were out on a jaunt in the little ol’ white Honda, and composed the following moving sonnet. We alternated lines as we rolled down the highway.

My lines – will be in regular type
Timothy’s lines – will be in bold type
Jonathan’s lines – will be in blue italics

The willow tree lies barren in the glen.
Its leaves have fallen down to grow no more.
Its mournful beauty still forgot by men,
Who wander aimlessly toward beck’ning shore.
What memories it holds and tales could tell,
Of evil and courageous deeds of yore,
Of yonder church when peals its wedding bell,
And cries of men who lie upon death’s door.
Though endless ages used to pass him by,
His time on earth is growing rather short.
For all that carries life must one day die,
And age and time both ruthlessly contort.
So life, an endless circle, rolls along,
And still none heeds the ancient willow’s song.

In case you were wondering…yes my family is amazing!

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

Amazing Alliteration Adventures: Act II

The two of them tripped through the tavern. Darkness dimmed their drunken journey. Kelly cuddled closer to Kevin.

“The stars sure seem singularly shiny,” she sighed softly.

Kevin coughed. His fingers followed the folds of her frock. They wistfully wound round her waist.

“Holy hippo honey.” He hugged her hungrily. “I cannot keep completely quiet. You know now, my nymph, I need you. Leave that lousy loaf of a looser. The whole hope of my happiness hinges on having your heart. I would willingly wander the wild wilderness of Wisconsin to win you. Come kiss me Kelly.”

“Please,” she pleaded. “We’re positively pissed! That third tequila tipped my total towards twenty.”

“I’m always an inebriated, inept, idiotic addict when you’re around. Don’t disparage darling. Drinks definitely don’t destroy the deepest devotions.”

“Drinks do destroy discernment.”

“Let’s lock lips and let lesser lovers live life in laughable languishing.”

Kelly kissed Kevin. Kevin kissed Kelly. The two tipsy travelers touched tenderly. His happy hands hung on her hips.

“Get your grubby grips off my girl!” Craig cried crossly. “I won’t watch you wipe your whistler all over my wife.” His huge hands heaved the hapless, happy huggers apart.

“Sir,” Kevin stuttered. “Surely you saw that she started…”

Craig waved his words to the wind. “Lie and I’ll litter your lousy limbs high and low. I heard your horrible hypnotic humming turning her touched head. Gentlemen generally grant graces to gin-soaked girls. You sir are simply unsavory.”

The two men tumbled to the tarmac in a tangled twist of turbulent thumps. Punches pummeled poor Kevin. He whimpered and whined wretchedly. Craig lost himself in loads of loony laughter.

Kelly kicked Craig. “Craig you creepy crawler! You cruddy, contemptible, cruel, crap-for-brains, canine! You can’t consistently crawl around. Can’t you comprehend I’ve completely changed. Kevin cares for me. I care for Kevin. So, keep your crusty claws off my charming Kevin or I’ll quickly crush your callous chest until it caves.” Her hand hit his head. The slap signaled silence for the troubled trio. Kevin crawled from Craig and cowered cautiously behind Kelly.

A one word warning whipped willfully from the feisty fräulein, “Flee!”

Craig chuckled. “Sure sweetheart.” A simpering smile suddenly slid slyly over his seductive face. “I will walk away. But beware. When your willful wild streak snaps, I won’t be willing to wipe your whiffer.”

Kelly remembered, really remembered, the romantic rendezvous with Craig. She suddenly screamed.

“Craig please pardon my passing passion. I’m pickled. Pissed. Plastered! This predicament is purely potty. There’s only one wonder-boy for this worshiping wife. Don’t depart darling. Your kisses can cleanse Kevin’s corrosive cancer from my callous cadaver.”

Craig cackled contemptuously. “Frankly fräulein…” the familiar phrase went unfinished. He flipped her the finger and frolicked forward leaving his lovely lady to lament her lifetime of loneliness.

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

Amazing Alliteration Adventures: Act I

“Three thespians.” Sally slowly slid sideways, unsecuring her seatbelt. “These perplexing puzzles are positively peculiar.” She sighed. “This murderer’s MO might make most actors migrate.”

“Chief will be chuffed,” Sybil sneered. “He hates histrionics.”

Sally shook her head. “He despises depravity deeper and the paperwork pisses him.”

Wilma waved from the walkway. “Detectives,” she said. “The deceased died dangling from the doorframe of this dumpy domicile.”

“Time of termination?” Sybil asked.

Wilma wiped her whiffer. “Three thirty.”

“Three thirty?” Sally sighed. “The twin termination time as the other three thespians. This is getting thick!”

Low laughter lifted the ladies’ eyes. Sharon’s head hung happily from a second story skylight.

“Sharon the malicious murderer!” Sybil snapped. “We should have suspected.”

Sharon cackled corruptly. “You yodeling yankees! Your useless understanding won’t outwit me. I’m impervious!” Sharon slammed the skylight shut. Loads of loony laughter lilted downward.

Sally stared solemnly skyward. “She’s so strange,” she said.

Sybil shrugged. “Someone should send some slugs sailing swiftly southward. Sharon’s skull should shatter soon. She shan’t stop sans some intersession.”

Sally smirked slyly. “Thankfully I trump at trick shots.” Sally stood still, her handgun hoisted heavenward. Three slugs slid speedily south. Sharon shrieked. Sybil hurriedly opened the hatch. The two flatfoots fleetly flew forward almost falling up the flight of steps.

Blood radiated round Sharon’s wound in red rings.

“Definitely dead,” Sybil said.

“I always accomplish my aim,” Sally sniggered. She glided her gun guardedly into its grip. “Mission mastered. Let’s leg it.”

“Don’t donuts sound scrummy?” Sybil said.

“Definitely donuts.”

The two friendly flatfoots went westward down Downing Street. The sweet smell of Dunkin’ Donuts wafted their way.

© Rachel Svendsen 2014