Wednesday, September 5, 2018

WHAT EVER HAPPENED...? "Ms. Corrector"

     Is it just me or are THERE too many people screwing up THEIR grammar? I unaffectionately dub myself “Ms. Corrector” because I catch (and then correct) so many others and THEIR mistakes. Of course, I am corrected also by people who like to catch me in a mistake I’ve made.

     I remember my favorite elementary school teacher of the Red Hook Central School, Mrs. Meyerhoff, teaching us about “there” and “their” and “they’re.” I wish she could have taught so many others – even reporters from our local newspaper, who had a title in bold-face print that got it wrong: “It allows us to showcase our animals in a form that THEIR not usually seen.” I wanted to call that paper one more time to inform them that the correct version for that sentence should have been “THEY’RE,” for the contraction of “they are.”

     I think this correction stuff I do so often now is because I used to have to do it when I was a teacher. Back then, I was allowed to, and supposed to, use my “little red pen,” which was actually purple. But those days are over, so now I do it at church. Our church secretary, Julie, is such a sweetie-pie who giggles when I show her typos in the bulletin each time I find them. I also do this in restaurants, as menus often have misspellings, and I even do it during doctor‘s appointments.

     Recently, I corrected my brain surgeon when he sent out a fundraiser letter and spelled “neurosurgery” wrong.  He laughed, apologized three times, and said he’d fix it for the next mailing, which so far has not happened; I got another letter from him after that appointment, and it was still spelled wrong. I still cannot believe I corrected a brain surgeon!

     I know I used to mention other people’s mistakes even before I experienced my brain damage, but it wasn’t as heightened as it is nowadays. I still remember certain staff I worked with over the years who were fine when they were corrected, but there were others who got a little annoyed by it.

     When I spoke to my NYU brain surgeon about the tumor right before he took it out, he told me that where my tumor was located probably affected my personality a lot. I laughed and said apologies were necessary to my family and to those at Ulster County BOCES. He asked me what a BOCES was, and I explained it. He told me he would speak to my family (which he did) but that I was on my own with my former BOCES colleagues.

At the time of this writing (summer of 2015), I had recently been to two Ulster County, NY, BOCES retirement parties. It was more than obvious at both functions that I had upset several people when I had worked there several years prior. Only a few people were friendly. When I shared that with a doctor, she said that I have to remember that I worked there with an unrealized brain tumor and that causes fear in them about their own unknown health issues. Also, it could be my strong personality that was exacerbated by the brain tumor led me to say things that offended people that they have yet to let go.

     To this day, I see people that I did used to know way back when – I am not good at names anymore – but I can tell from THEIR faces that I once knew them. I have apologized to so many. Some people tell me what I did back then wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. [And even if it was, thank you, Edna, for accepting my apology. That meant the world to me.] Others either walk away or pretend not to see me coming. When that happens, I just talk to them in my head with God’s help. I mentally say I am sorry and then I “change the channel” (a neurofeedback expression) in my head. Disney’s movie Frozen said it best: “Let it go!”
     My problem is – I haven’t let it go. I hold on to too many bad memories from long ago. Then, too, there are chunks of my life story that I have forgotten. Someone will come up to me and tell me they know me and how they know me. They’ll share a story from long ago. Sometimes, I’ll remember what THEY’RE talking about, but other times, I am completely lost. What’s really upsetting is that many of the stories I can no longer remember are the positive ones. For some reason, I can recall the more painful stuff. I wish it were the other way around.

     I’ve hurt people that I actually care for, by correcting them. One recent example is when someone spelled the word “your” incorrectly (they meant “you’re”). Instead of just leaving it alone in the email, I pointed it out. The person got very upset, and I skipped a function I was supposed to attend with her, because I felt so bad about hurting someone who had been so nice to me. We are on the mends now, but I have not forgotten how this took place.

          Well…at least I’m honest. I know one thing very well about myself – I correct “mistakes” every chance I get. This is something I used to get paid to do (teaching) but I think I do it now because I can’t teach anymore. I think it helps me fill that gap. However, not everyone enjoys my “help.”         

Luckily, I am also able to be corrected, sometimes. I pray for the day that it will be all times. But, for now, let me share the various situations I “play teacher” even though I no longer am in the teaching profession.

I correct the grammar of others when they speak. For example, if someone says, “Me and Tom went to the store,” I tell him or her that the correct way to state it is, “Tom and I went to the store.” This usually does not go over well with others. I also correct pronunciations. For example, the word “frustration” is often mispronounced without the “fr” sound at the first syllable. It is incorrectly stated, “fustration.” Who gets frustrated with me is the person I point it out to.

I go to restaurants and comment on misspellings on THEIR menus. Recently, I pointed out the incorrect use of the word “you’re” on a sign in a restaurant’s parking lot. A trip to that place at which I love to eat THEIR delicious lobster rolls has a sign in THEIR lot that reads, “If YOUR not eating at ___, you will be towed” – the “your” should be “you’re” for “you are.” Some staff enjoy my corrections. Others…not so much….

In a doctor's office, there's a sign that reads: “If you know your contagious, you must notify the Nurse immediately.” What I notified them was that THEIR “your” should be “you're.”

I also correct spelling mistakes. This happens a lot, and I notice tons of them. I can’t believe how many mistakes are in newspapers. For a while there, I called the papers and told them about THEIR misspellings, but after quite some time doing that, I had better things to do than make these calls, because it was too often! [And I really had to refrain when I read someone was “chocked” (vs. “choked”) in the Law and Disorder section of my local paper!]

One thing I finally made progress with at a newspaper office was the use of the words “maybe” vs. “may be.” They were advertising the use of a flag picture in an obituary of a member of the armed forces. They incorrectly wrote it, “A flag maybe used….” After MANY calls, and even an in-person conversation with a newspaper employee in a social setting, they changed it to the correct way, “A flag may be used.…” Wow! Every time I see that ad written correctly, I smile about my victory.

Besides “Ms. Corrector,” I also have some other nicknames for myself. One, “The Bag Lady,” has its own chapter here. A second is “Drama Queen.” I actually had a bumper sticker that said that.

Another name I call myself is “Chatty Cathy.” I vaguely remember having a doll with that name as a little girl, but it’s true even now. I always talked a lot. One example I remember is a sign that colleagues at Ulster County BOCES used to hold up at meetings: “S U S,” which meant “Shut Up, Schliff,” which I found humorous. A couple of years before the tumor was discovered, I barely talked, but when I did, it was mostly about germs.  But now, I’m back to talking too much. Sometimes, I catch myself, and other times, I don’t. I’ve been informed by many people about this annoying habit, so I’m working on it….

I read in one of the advice columns in the newspaper that at least it’s good that it’s noticed by the individual doing it, so she can reduce it. I was relieved to read someone else has a similar problem.

Another nickname I call myself now is “Abby Normal.” That’s my humorous way of pointing out some of my abnormal behaviors. Some people find my “weirdness” endearing, but others shy away. That’s okay.

Another one is “Nervous Nellie,” because I’m fearful of so much now. My doctors tell me not to watch the news because of how scared I become over the horrible stories there. But, people talk about the news in lots of places I go, and I become frightened. Many times I've had to leave to calm down and think “happy thoughts” instead of blood, guts, and gore.

Aiden had a few accurate nicknames for me also. The ones that are fit for print are: “Talk-a-Lot” and “Sarge.” I’ve given examples of the over-talking here, but the other one is because he felt bossed around by me sometimes. Kiddingly, he called himself “The Colonel,” because that outranked me.

A funny story I can write in this chapter is that I should check my own spelling too.

A local grocery store (that will remain nameless) has a school district’s name spelled incorrectly on a sign near the cash registers. I’ve told the management there several times about it, but, with nothing done, I gave up.

But, here comes the humorous part: once, a long time ago when I was speaking at various schools to other teachers about the Whole Language approach to reading, I added this same, incorrect, spelling to my résumé. I didn’t notice that until writing this book! So, here I am, correcting a store, when it’s wrong on my own paperwork. Are you smiling yet?

Once, I wrote the year “2015” when it was months and months into 2016. When the person I wrote the check to noticed that mistake, he was kind and not rude the way I can be sometimes when I correct others. I wish I could do it his way more often. As I've heard it said many times, “Can't we all just get along?”

          Two funny stories that happened at my church when I was decorating for the VBS (Vacation Bible School) in July 2016 that fit perfectly here were as follows….

I was hanging the bulletin board to welcome the little ones to our cave-themed experience. But, when I was hanging the letters to “welcome” I hung it like “WELCME.” I made a church lady, Jean, and myself laugh when we simultaneously noticed that I forgot the “O.”

Then, I was using washable crayons to decorate the doors into our church. As I tried to write the word “vacation,” I began to write “Vatican.” I know my church should not have that on the doors. This example is my aphasia problem in writing (versus how it usually takes place – in my speaking).

So, I really need to be careful how I correct others, because I screw up too. I'm just so happy that I was truly able to laugh these two errors off.

The one thing that happened that same week which is not laughable, but actually mortifying, is that I called this pregnant woman “fat,” when I meant to say “pregnant.” That word just impulsively slipped out of my mouth when I was telling her a cute story from my own book-writing. This young woman is so gentle, she just laughed it off. I find it truly ironic that I'm the overweight one, but I mistakenly said that about someone who has a natural baby belly bump.

I wouldn't be as much of a sweetie-pie as she was if someone, brain-injured or not, used that “F-word” with me! I felt so much guilt about this mistake, I gave her a card the next day letting her know how much her forgiving personality is a blessing to me. [What's so ironic now, since she's given birth, is that she is back to looking thin, and I’M still the fat one!]

Because people use “interesting language” when they text, I steer clear of that a lot! My doctors have told me to only text once in a while. That's why I seem out-of-the-loop many times, because I don't understand hashtags (#), Twitter, apps, and oh, so much more! But, that's okay.

Sadly, I correct others about THEIR word choices way too much. Once, a friend I was talking to over the phone said, “behind your door.” I had no idea what she meant and told her so in a rather rude way. She explained that she was referring to the back of my door. I would have said, “the back of your door.” Looking back on that example, it's like in the category of who cares???

Once, when I was filling out the annoying paperwork before a yearly check-up, one of the questions on the form irritated me so much, I mouthed off to the poor receptionist. The form's question was: “Your age when you delivered your first child?”

Hey – remember – there's some of us women who, for various reasons, never gave birth. How about making it a bit more general? Like: “IF you've delivered a child, what age were you?” That way those of us who didn't have (or couldn't have children) don't have to feel “different.”

I actually correct a museum I've been to several times, because of an incorrect date they have displayed. They tell me each time I'm there that several other teachers (and others) have commented on THEIR mistake, but that it's too expensive to correct, so they leave it be. Whenever I'm there, I verbally correct it, which sometimes amuses others around me, and sometimes it does not. That's okay – I enjoy setting the record straight even if I sometimes irritate others.

I met a lovely young lady named Ana who took my correction so well, she should teach a class on how to be nice to someone who finds your mistake.

She makes these excellent, funny-worded handbags. Many of her bags were on display at one of the many craft/artisan fairs I attend.

When I showed her that one of her bags had a misspelling on it, she gave me the bag for free (though I kept telling her I’d pay for it). She laughed at herself and was not offended at all that I had pointed to her writing on the bag, “I need a six- month vaction twice a year,” and noted that “vacation” was missing an “a.” She said she makes mistakes like that and she laughs about it. I told her I’d be glad to check her spellings before she makes a bag. I also told her my free bag would go on my book tour with me for when I spoke about this chapter. [I find it humorous that Ana and I both screwed up “vacation,” she on her bag and I in church.]

If you want to see more of her funny bags, see

There's a term “Doo-Wally” I learned at a Dutchess County Scottish Society meeting; it is a word from Scotland – my heritage – that sort of means “out of it,” so… I'm a bit Doo-Wally at times!

These Ms. Corrector stories could be a book all by themselves. I really work each day on being careful who and how I correct. I'm grateful for the folks who have done that for me.

I also want some credit for when I have the common sense enough to NOT correct someone or some place.

I needed to complete a form from our town clerk’s office. On the sheet was an attached form that the Police Department would have to sign off on. On that second piece of paper is where the typo mistake, that I spotted but did NOT tell the officer, was. Where the officer was supposed to sign, it had a line asking for his singature [sic].

On an official document, the word “signature” was misspelled. When I noticed it, I kept silent because I know enough to not laugh when turning in paperwork to an officer.

So, even though I correct a lot, I also know when not to.

“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalms 141:3)

For the coming year, I [Douglas Winslow Cooper] will be
excerpting, weekly, material from this almost-final version of the fine book by Janet Johnson Schliff, M.S. Ed., which she wrote over a three-year period with some coaching and editing help from me, through my business, Write Your Book with Me.

Her memoir is now available in paperback and ebook formats from Outskirts Press  and



Janet Johnson Schliff was on WKNY  Radio 1490 at 9:10 a.m. on Thursday, March 1, Kingston, NY.

Janet spoke at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 3 at Barnes & Noble in Kingston, NY. I [DWC] attended, along with about 40 other people. Congratulations to Janet on a fine talk!

Janet Johnson Schliff spoke at the Starr Library in Rhinebeck, NY, at 7 p.m. on March 6. 

She spoke at the Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, NY, at 2 p.m. on March 17. 

She spoke at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff, NY, at 6:30 p.m. on March 28. 

She spoke at RCAL in Kingston, NY, at 4 p.m. on April 3. I was able to attend. They gave her an impromptu book-launch party.

On 4/4/18 Janet spoke at the Parkinson's Support Group at the Starr Library at Rhinebeck at 2:30 p.m.

On 4/27/18 Janet spoke at the Stone Ridge Library at 5:30 p.m.

On 5/4/18 Janet spoke at the Hurley Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/9/18 Janet spoke at the Kingston Library at 6 p.m.

On 5/14/18 Janet spoke at the Staatsburg Library at 7 p.m.

On 5/31/18 Janet spoke at the Clinton Community Library at 6:30 p.m.

On 6/9/18 Janet spoke at the Tannersville Mountain Top Library at noon.

On 6/11/18 Janet spoke at the Gardiner Library at 7 p.m.

On 6/20/18 Janet spoke at the Marbletown Community Center at 6 p.m.

On 7/13/18 Janet spoke at the Esopus Library at 7 p.m.

On 7/20/18 Janet spoke at the Pine Plains Library at 6 p.m.

On 7/23/18 Janet spoke at the Ulster Library at 5:30 p.m.

On 8/11/18 Janet spoke at the Northern Dutchess Bible Church in Red Hook at 1:00 p.m.

On 9/06/18 Janet will be at the Inquiring Minds Bookstore in New Paltz at 7 p.m.

On 9/15/18 Janet will be at the Adriance Library in Poughkeepsie (93 Market St.) at 2:30 p.m.

On 9/22/18 Janet will again be at the Tannersville Mountain Top Library, at noon.

On 9/28/18 Janet will be speaking at the Enchanted Cafe in Red Hook at 7 p.m.

On 10/04/18 Janet will be speaking at the Hyde Park Library at 7 p.m.

More signings will be coming up. A fine feature about Janet by John DeSantos [845 LIFE] appeared in the Middletown Times Herald-Record on Monday, March 12, as part of Brain Injury Awareness Month. An article about her book was just published in the May 2018 Living Rhinebeck Magazine. An article about her book appeared in the May 14 Daily Freeman of Kingston, NY. and another in the Family Life section of the Poughkeepsie Journal on June 8th. The Millerton News published an article on Thursday, August 2, about her talk at the Pine Plains Library. 

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