Wednesday, March 29, 2017

CAN YOU WIN THE NATIONAL SPELLING BEE?

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Fishducky of fishducky, finally! sent me this link to a spelling test of sorts:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/christopherhudspeth/only-a-true-smarty-pants-can-correctly-spell-these-spelling

Click on the link and you'll find the pronunciations and definitions of twelve words contestants have needed to be able to spell to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Then you're given two possible spellings for the word. Choose the one you think is correct.

If you like, you can share your score in your comment, or not.

Shall I tell you my score? Maybe you should try to guess. A hint: I did not get all twelve correct.

This test is easier than being in an actual spelling bee (not that I was ever in one) because you have the choices spelled correctly for you to choose. You don't have to start from scratch.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


Here's Rebecca Sealfon, my all-time favorite National Spelling Bee winner:



Tuesday, March 28, 2017

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND A CAKE

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Today is my dear friend Rita's birthday. The first part of 2017 has been rough for Rita. Her beloved cat Karma died, and she's had surgery on both of her eyes. I hope you'll hop over to SoulComfort's Corner to wish her a happy birthday.

My Favorite Young Man had a birthday on Sunday. He's now thirty-seven years old. I mentioned that I would make a cake for him and use my mother's chocolate frosting recipe, and Anne in the kitchen of new happenings at the table and whatever asked if I share recipes. I do share, so today instead of grammar tips, you get chocolate frosting tips.

This recipe is not exactly the same as my mother's because I've modified it over the years. It was a big favorite when my children were growing up, and a big favorite when I was growing up.

First, bake a 13x9 cake. This frosting isn't thick enough to stay on a layer cake. I like to get pretty durn fancy, so I used a yellow cake mix.



Slop about one-third cup butter and one-third cup milk in a small saucepan. Add one cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I think my mom used two squares unsweetened baking chocolate, but in a second, you'll know why I use the chocolate chips).


Stir over low heat until the chocolate chips melt. Eat a few chocolate chips before you put the pan on the burner because you'll need strength from the chocolate to get through this detailed and complicated process.


When you buy the chocolate chips, be sure to get a much bigger package of them than you need. Pour the remaining chocolate chips into a Tupperware container and hide them in the back of a cabinet in case of a chocolate emergency, which can occur as frequently as everyday.


Here's what the mixture looks like when the chocolate chips have melted. It's kind of like chocolate soup.


Stir in one cup of granulated sugar. Return to heat, a little bit higher, but watch it carefully.


Bring to a low boil for one minute. Remove the mixture from the stove and set the bottom of the pan in cold water. DO NOT let the water get in the pan. Stir the chocolate until you feel it getting thicker.


Dump the chocolate on the cake. If you pour it on from one end of the cake to the other, then you don't have to spread it out.


Let it cool for a bit so the chocolate hardens some, but you want it to remain kind of soft because that's how it tastes best (helpful hint: you can also make this frosting, let it cool a bit, and then pour as much as you want on a bowl filled with ice cream; you will think you have died and gone to heaven).

Cut a piece of cake and put it on a pretty red plate. Devour.


Now here's what irritated the heck out of me when the kids were young and my son still does this: the corner pieces are the best because the frosting runs down along the front and the side of the cake. See how I cut a piece of cake from the first corner? It stands to reason that the next piece of cake would be cut from the middle, but oh no! My son cut the next piece from the other corner. Thus, you end up with a cake that is nothing but middle, but it still tastes good.


Yes, Hurricane, you can have your cake and eat it, too.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

Monday, March 27, 2017

MY OCD CONFESSION

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

As I tap away on my laptop, I hear Franklin dreaming. He's on the floor behind my chair. He breathes heavily, whimpers a bit, and kicks the chair. I hope his dream is a happy one. Last night I had a dream about The Waltons––yes, the TV family. Some of the younger cast members showed me all over the set for the show. They also told me some cool secrets about how the show was made. I don't remember any of the secrets. Sorry. I realize you're itching to know.


A few years ago I saw Michael Learned (Mama) in a play at a dinner theater. Lord, deliver me from dinner theater.

Anydisorder, I'm not here to write about The Waltons, though it was my favorite TV show for many years. I still watch the occasional re-run.

I'm really here to tell you about my obsessive compulsive disorder. Sometimes I joke that correcting grammar scratches my OCD itch. I also like to have a place for everything and everything in its place.

But I don't care if someone moves the lavender vase on the living-room shelves half an inch to the right.

I think my desire to be organized comes from worry about losing things. I doubt if it's a true obsessive compulsive disorder. I don't wash my hands until they bleed. I don't dust the envelopes that come in the mail. I don't even care that a dead leaf has fallen from Franklin's fur and is on the rug at this moment.

No, I have a different kind of OCD. It falls in the same category as the type that compels some people to pull out their hair (Trichotillomania). 

When I was about eight years old, I began to pull the skin off from around my nails. Any little dry bit of skin had to go. Anything that wasn't smooth and perfect? I picked until it was gone. I also bit my nails sometimes, but it was really the skin that bothered me.


not my fingers

Eventually my mother noticed and tried to make me feel ashamed for what I was doing. I was already ashamed. I didn't need her help. Sometimes other kids noticed. One even said to me, I do that, too.

The skin removal was an on-and-off thing for years. X also noticed and tried to embarrass me (I was already so embarrassed that he just made me more miserable). As I grew older and had more emotional strength, I countered his attacks by asking why he picked at his face and scalp all the time (so there, X).

Divorce didn't end my compulsion. I tried to stop myself by wearing cotton gloves around the house and wrapping my fingers in large bandages. Nothing helped.

Finally, I asked Google about my problem. Within a few minutes, I knew what was wrong. I also learned that it could have been much worse. Some people pull off so much of their skin that they have large sores.


Now that I could name the problem, I asked Google what I should do about it. Although some people need medication to help them stop excoriating, I decided to try a different solution: acrylic nails.

The nails worked like magic. I haven't pulled off my skin since I got them a few years ago.

About every six weeks, I have a "fill-in" done on my nails to keep the gel polish looking neat as the natural nails grow out. It costs about twenty dollars, and boy, is it worth it. 




Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

P.S. I write this post in case you have a similar problem and don't know what to do about it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

I'M SICK OF NEEDING A NEW DENTIST

To read Part One of this diatribe CLICK HERE, and to read Part Two, CLICK HERE.

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

I shouldn't write multi-part stories. I bore myself.

All righty, then, when last we saw our Fair Junebug, she'd been told that the dentist's office had never accepted her insurance (following four years of appointments), and she learned the insurance company's "customer service" department was worthless, which didn't surprise her in the least because it's common knowledge that customer service was created to make us all insane.

Next step: I called the guy who sold me the insurance. He actually answered his phone. His name is Joseph, as in Jesus, Mary, and the guy who stands around to watch all the hullabaloo surrounding his wife who isn't even having his baby.




Joseph listened to my story and said, I wish I could do something about this, but unfortunately I can't. I can tell you what happened, though. Of course they accepted your insurance. I see this happen all the time with dentists' offices. They open and they want new customers, so they accept all sorts of insurance. Then they become successful and they stop accepting some types of insurance, but they don't tell you until after your appointment.

Joseph also apologized for the response I'd received from "customer service."



I appreciated it that Joseph didn't try to weasel out of the situation, just like Mary's dude. He couldn't stop dentists from doing people dirty over insurance, but he gave me a straight answer, and he apologized.

My response was to call N______ D_____ and tell them what Joseph had said about them accepting and then suddenly not accepting my insurance. The person on the other end of the phone did not say one word. She didn't argue with me. She didn't protest.

I also added the new tidbit of information to my online review of N______ D_____.

Because I had made my next appointment with N______ D______ before I was told they didn't accept my insurance, I waited until the day before the appointment and then called to cancel. The appointment person asked if I wanted to reschedule. No, I said. I will never be back.

A couple of months after the kerfuffle, I received a bill from N______ D______. It was for my final toofer cleaning with them, but it wasn't very large. I paid it and waved goodbye with my middle finger.

Although I'm not happy about what happened with N_____ D_____, at least I can share my story to make other people aware of their actions. I'm also glad that throughout the ordeal of trying to learn what had happened, I remained calm. I didn't scream or curse at anyone, but I'm persistent and I kept asking questions until I learned the truth.



Now, I need to have my teeth cleaned. It just so happens that I received an advertisement in the mail a few days ago about a new dentist's office that opened not far from my home . . .

Don't worry. Not happening. I'll figure it out.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

DO YOU STILL WANT TO KNOW WHY I NEED A NEW DENTIST?

Continued from Monday––to read the first part CLICK HERE.

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

When last you saw your Queen of Grammar, she had been to the dentist to have her teeth cleaned and heard these words: We don't accept your insurance. We've never accepted your insurance.

That's not possible, I replied. I've been coming here for four years. The first question I asked before I made an appointment with you was if you accepted my insurance. I wouldn't have come here if you didn't. Besides, you've called my insurance company twice to find out my share of the cost for two procedures.

All of this led to the billing person and the office manager squawking and running back and forth between offices.



Finally, the billing person said, I don't know what to tell you. You should probably call your insurance company, but since we've never accepted your insurance that means your bill is going to be huge.

Which led to me squawking and running in circles until someone pushed me out of the door and told me which car was mine and told me how to start it because I had lost my memory at the words "your bill is going to be huge." Four years of dental services? Four freaking years? Not possible.



So I called my insurance company. The "customer service" representative for my dental insurance told me that I was assigned to G_____ D_____ (I'm in a dental HMO), and no, that does not stand for what you think it does, you filthy-mouthed blasphemer of God.

I said, G_____ D_____ went out of business years ago. They weren't open when the insurance assigned me to them, so I found N______ D______ and made them my providers.

The customer service rep said, You are assigned to G______ D______.

They went out of business years ago, I said.

Rep: You are assigned to G______ D______.

Me: G______ D______ went out of business at least five years ago.

Rep: You are assigned to G______ D______.

Me: G______ D______ went out of business at least five years ago.



I guess you get the idea that the "customer service" representative was there to say the same words over and over and not to provide customer service.

Next, I called N______ D______'s billing office. I went through the whole story. The person said, I don't know what to tell you. We don't accept your insurance.

Steam came out of my ears. It made my golden tresses limp and sad looking.

I went online and found the five-star review I'd given to N_______ D______ and changed it to one star. I left my original comment praising their work, and then added that I had to change the five-star rating I'd given to them and provided a brief explanation.



Okay. I'm tired now. That's all for today. To be continued . . . 


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

TIP TUESDAY: TRACK CHANGES

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

You didn't think I'd really continue the story about the dentist today, did you? No way! It's TIP TUESDAY. The dentist story will probably continue tomorrow.

You've written your first book and you want all the niggling details to be correct, so you look for an editor (preferably moi). I reply in a timely and polite manner. Among the other information you receive from me, you learn that I edit using "Track Changes."

Track Changes might seem daunting if you've never heard of it before, but I learned to use it. I tend to think that if I can learn how to do something on the computer, then any computer user can learn how to do it because I am no technological genius.

If you don't need to use track changes, but you'd like to check it out, go to a Word document. Select the Review tab. Look to the right in Review, and you'll see Track Changes. Click on it and then play around with your document. Make some corrections and changes to see what you can do.



Track changes allows me to make corrections and comments on the manuscripts I edit without printing everything out and marking up the manuscript with a pen, which would probably give me writer's cramp, to which I'm prone.

I tippety-tap on my laptop, and before you know it, you have your manuscript back on your computer with my corrections in red text. No confusion between what you've done and what I've done. If I want to explain a correction or suggest a change, I can highlight your text and then make a comment about it off to the side of your manuscript.

You read through my suggestions and have the option to accept or reject them. Or if you want another person's opinion, you can send your manuscript to that editor who can't possibly be as good as I am but I forgive you, and the other editor's comments and corrections show up in a different color.



I always suggest to my clients that they learn how to use Track Changes before I return their manuscripts. This site has an excellent written explanation of Track Changes, along with a video:

http://www.gcflearnfree.org/word2013/track-changes-and-comments/1/

Some professors also use Track Changes to help their students improve essays before they receive the final grade. When I was a grader for a professor, you'd better believe I wish I could have used Track Changes for that job.

What kind of experiences have you had with Track Changes? Robyn Alana Engel, no complaints allowed from you, even though you put my name in The New York Times and it has nothing to do with pedophilia.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


Monday, March 20, 2017

WHY I NEED A NEW DENTIST

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Back in 2012, the dentist I was seeing had such a strict attendance policy that I got kicked out for missing two appointments (I missed one because I was ill and called during the night to say I couldn't make my morning appointment, and I missed the second one because my GPS sent me to a fast food "restaurant" and refused to admit that it wasn't the dentist's office. I called to say I was lost and was told I was so far away that I couldn't make the appointment and it was my second missed appointment, so farewell). I was disappointed because I liked that dentist and his staff, but really? Two appointments and do not pass go? Do not collect x-rays and a cleaning?




So where to go next? I don't like to miss my every-six-months toofer cleaning.


If only I could find a dentist as devoted as the elf on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.


Dude gave up a great full-time toy making gig, including health insurance and all the candy he wanted, in favor of fixing teeth.

No elves came my way, but I did receive an advertisement in the mail for a new dentist's office that was opening near my home. I called to ask if they accepted my insurance. Yes! was the enthusiastic response. I made my appointment.

Got to the office without any problems. It was a brand-new building with a Keurig in the waiting room, comfortable chairs, and many exam rooms––most of which were dark. They had just opened, after all, so they didn't have many patients. I liked the hygienist, liked the dentist. He wanted to replace some of my old fillings that I'd gotten when I was a child. Made sense to me. Some of those fillings were forty years old (amazing since I was thirty).

One of the billing people called my insurance company to check on coverage for the replacement fillings and told me how much I'd have to pay. Insurance covered most of it.

The appointment for the new fillings fell on Halloween. Everyone dressed up. The hygienists were all cats. The dentist wore a chicken head. All was well. I gave the office a stellar five-star review on Google.

And so the years passed. I kept my appointments and my teeth. With each visit, I saw the business grow. The exam rooms were no longer dark. Each one had a patient. Several dentists worked there, along with a large staff of hygienists and people to handle billing and appointments.  After a couple of years I had another procedure that required another small partial payment from me.

Then I went in for my second cleaning appointment of the year during 2016. Finished, with clean teeth and minty-fresh breath, I went to the desk to make my next appointment. The appointment and billing person looked at her monitor. I could see she was confused. Just a minute, she said, and dashed off to talk to someone in a private office.

She returned to tell me, We don't accept your insurance. We've never accepted your insurance.

To be continued.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug



Friday, March 17, 2017

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING AND LISTENING AND READING

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Now that we know about the wiretapping of Trump Tower by President Obama, it seems to be a perfect Friday for a



with this post I published on June 19, 2013. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING AND LISTENING AND READING has had 152 page views.

While you read, I'll get back to peering into my microwave to find the cameras. Thank God Kellyanne Conway warned me about them. No more heating up a snack while topless.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug



I've been hearing a lot about how the NSA, under the guise auspices of Homeland Security, has continued to read our email and listen in on our conversations – a practice begun during a previous administration, and because no one is minding the store, the shoplifting continues. I realize that this behavior annoys, pisses off, or even inflames some people.




But I read a very interesting article about how government spying on the American people averted a tragedy earlier this year when a couple of young men planned to plant some bombs at the finish line of the Boston marathon.

What's that you say? Huh? Those guys did that and didn't get caught till AFTER they killed and injured some people and caused all sorts of trouble? Oh, shit crap what the fuck my bad. Haven't watched the news since . . . I don't want to bring up that tragedy.

Well, since the covert actions continue, I want to volunteer to be of some assistance. I'm not very good at spying on people. I don't even make a good nosy neighbor. Sweet Young Allison was several months into her pregnancy before someone mentioned to me  I noticed she had a baby bump.

Because I'm not a good spy, then I want to volunteer to be spied on. If the government will concentrate on me, they can stop bothering some of the people who are upset about the whole schlemiel.

I don't mind at all if they watch me. They can put a nanny cam in my house.



The government can listen to me 24/7, including in my bedroom.



They can read my letters to my mother-in-law. They can read my email. They can follow me everywhere I go, which is usually from the house to the yard and back in the house. Maybe a spy will even remind me not to weed whip my leg again (and I was not wearing shorts when I did that, Coffey).

American Public: I want to be the U.S. Government's Whipping Girl.

I am so fascinating that no one will bother the rest of you ever again.




Please. Martyr me. I can take it.







Wednesday, March 8, 2017

BOOK NOOK: THE MAGICIAN'S ASSISTANT BY ANN PATCHETT

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

I have a great novel for you––one that made me sigh with delight when I finished it. It's The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett.



Pull a rabbit out of a hat? Parsifal and Sabine had far better tricks than that. The tape of their performance on The Tonight Show, hosted by Johnny Carson, proves their talent.

Now, though, the first words of the novel tell us

Parsifal is dead. That is the end of the story,

Of course, it's a beginning for his assistant and widow, Sabine, but she doesn't know it yet.

But when she reads Parsifal's will, Sabine learns that he left behind an illusion. His name and the story of his childhood are far different from what he told Sabine. Sabine leaves sunny Los Angeles for the harsh winter of Alliance, Nebraska, to find some magic of her own.

Ann Patchett conjures a story filled with her own tricks that inspire the reader to empathize with Sabine and the reality behind Parsifal's tricks.

The Magician's Assistant earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Highest Magical Approval.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

TIP TUESDAY: IDIOMATIC ENGLISH

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Idioms are common words or phrases that make sense in the U.S., but would probably have no meaning to a beginning speaker of English. They're also difficult to translate into another language.

For example, I might say he bought the farm or went toes up or bit the dust in place of saying he died.

Idiomatic English can also mean that a phrase is said using particular words, such as she talked down to him, which is not the same as she talked under him.

We try not to end a sentence with a preposition, but because of idioms it's okay for me to write I dressed up.

If your characters don't know idiomatic English, they might be from a country other than the United States, or they might not use idioms correctly for other reasons. Idioms can be an indicator of familiarity with correct English.

A few idioms that are often misused, according to Hodges' Harbrace College Handbook, include:

according to the plan [not with]

bored by it [not of]

die of cancer [not with]

independent of his family [not from]

happened by accident [not on]

jealous of others [not for]


Someone once told me that we should say a person has a flu rather than has the flu because different strains of influenza exist.

Not true. Has the flu is idiomatic English.


Have you heard idioms misused?


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


Thanks, fishducky!

Monday, March 6, 2017

HAVE YOU SEEN A MAG CREW IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Years ago when I lived in Western Maryland, one day a woman came to my door and said, I'm with a group of young people trying to raise funds to help impoverished teenagers. We're selling magazines. Will you buy some?

No, I said, and called the police and my closest neighbor. We had an unofficial neighborhood watch. If something unusual happened or if strangers came to our area, we let each other know.

That evening when the neighbor's husband came home from work, he called the police again because he saw eight to ten of the magazine sellers gathered on our corner. The police said they couldn't do anything about it: the fundraisers weren't doing anything wrong and they had a right to be there.

The next morning when we had our morning get together at the school-bus stop, I asked the obvious questions: How could these people sell magazines without order forms, no list of available magazines, and not so much as a pen?

Something was up.

I finally learned they were a mag crew a couple of months ago when I watched the movie American Honey (2016, Rated R, Available On DVD).


Star (Sasha Lane in her film debut) takes off from a home that isn't much of a home only to end up with a traveling magazine-sales crew. They spend their days selling magazines or engaging in illegal activities to bring in money because at the end of the week, the two lowest earners have to fight each other. Any member of the group can be attacked or left behind at any time.

American Honey is a long movie at two hours and forty-three minutes. I doubt if you'll want to invest that much time in such a movie, but it gave me some insight into the lives of these drifters.

Then I did some research into mag crews. They usually spend a day in a pricey neighborhood pitching a fake fundraiser. Unlike the mag crew I encountered, they tend to have a list of overpriced magazines that you will not receive if you place an order. Most of the money goes to the leader of the crew. The salespeople are supposed to receive a daily stipend, which they often don't get.

One mag crew salesperson said she'd been left behind with nothing three times, yet she always joined another mag crew.

In American Honey, the mag crew is similar to a dysfunctional family. If extreme dysfunction and poverty is all that the young people have ever known, then they gravitate toward it.

We all want to go home.

Has a mag crew ever worked your neighborhood?

Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug