On My Whirlwind Relationship with a Spammer.

As a blogger, I get hundreds of emails a day. Of those, approximately one is a real person emailing me to genuinely correspond.

If I’m lucky.

I adore emails from real people.

In the stack of emails, there are definite patterns that can be found.

PR Firms sending me press releases, hoping that I’ll write a glowing blog post about their newest product in exchange for hi-res images of said product!!

Because there’s nothing more exciting than the promise of hi-res images. I MEAN. I live my life to be able to zoom in on your product as tightly as I could possibly want, taking in every detail with wonder and excitement.

As do, I’m sure, my blog readers.

…Or PR firms offering me even more exciting perks in exchange for writing about their product.

“YOU will be honored to get an exclusive sneak peek at the ‘Our Stupid Movie 2’ MOVIE POSTER!!!”

Seriously?! A .jpeg of a movie poster?? And all I have to do is spend a couple of hours and all of my credibility hawking the inane sequel to your straight-to-DVD movie??

I. CAN’T. WAIT.

I get thrilling offers to share 25 cent off coupons with you guys, invitations to give away smocked clothing (marketers: why not try searching key phrases before attempting to sell – you might find you are hawking smock to the World’s Foremost smock mocker), and even press releases written entirely in Danish.

(Those are the closest to my heart because I can pretend they’re offering me a Lego Factory Tour and want to give me one of everything they make, when in reality it’s just about some new freakish punk rock band called Fhrztengäggich with a feral cat for a lead singer.)

After I sift through all of the PR Firm emails (which would take approximately three days per day to accomplish if it weren’t for the cute little trash can icon on my toolbar), I still have the strange and mysterious guest post requests to deal with.

I get emails at least weekly and sometimes daily from almost assuredly fake people with these not-at-all believable stories about why they want to guest post on my blog. They never tell me what the subject matter would be, and there’s always the tiny stipulation that they’re going to place an undisclosed link (or ten) somewhere within their blog post that points to their “client’s” site.

And if I don’t answer them promptly with a giant flashing NO, they email me back – to check in.

Sometimes they offer to pay me in exchange for this guest posting opportunity, and other times they simply explain that the benefit for me is the post in and of itself. Here’s a direct quote from one of my favorite spins on this strategy:

“I was wondering if you would let me write a post for you?  I am looking to get my work placed on high-end sites such as yours and would be happy to write a unique article just for you.  I can come up with a title – or if you have something that you would like me to cover I can work from a brief.  What’s in it for you, you are probably thinking?  I place a sponsor in the post, which could take the form of a linked word to a reputable client relevant to the article.  Your free article would be 500 words or more in length and completely unique to you.”

500 words that are all my own?? How could I ever resist such a priceless gift.

(I especially appreciated that his next sentence after what’s in it for me was actually what’s in it for him. But hey. Technicalities.)

However. Even my collection of Guest Post emails deliver me a special jewel every now and then, as was the case recently. Read carefully and slowly, out loud perhaps, savoring the beauty of this document.

Andy Steve 8

On my first read-through of this email I knew it was something fantastic.

On my second read, I caught the fact that he changed identity from Steve to Andy back to Steve again, and I giggled with glee, then shared it with you on Facebook.

After riding the beautiful wave of your responses all day long,

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I finally responded back.

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The next morning, I had a response. I shook with excitement.

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“…sorry to use as Andy as because I generally use Andy which is my alias when writing blogs.”

But besides that gorgeous sentence and the fabulous use of unnecessary parentheses, the real present was that tiny little picture I got next to his name.

It just didn’t look like the mental image I had of the AndySteve I know and adore.

So I clicked through to his Google+ profile and then clicked on the picture.

BINGO.

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Oh AndySteve…don’t you know that when you steal a picture of an actor to claim as your own, you should at least change the file name?

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Naturally, I continued my investigation by looking Ben Wright up on imdb.

Turns out, AndySteve is also a stunt guy! Who knew?? He is SO DANG TALENTED.

Ben Wright

So I responded to his email, hoping to sound interested enough in his project that he would answer me again, but also referencing his acting career.

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And then I waited. Because of course AndySteve only emails me in the middle of the night, as it is obvious that he’s not exactly from around here.

But alas. I apparently went too far with my caustic attitude. AndySteve cut off our relationship, leaving me saddened and alone, and once again with an inbox full of nothing that made my heart pitter patter.

I miss AndySteve. Desperately. I have many regrets about the way I handled our relationship. I was clearly not ready for a commitment and sabotaged what we had together.

I keep going back to my draft that asks him to come back to my inbox, to open up and tell me who he really is. Not to leave me without a word. We meant more to each than that.

But I never can hit that send button.

And every morning, when I open my email and read my latest request to hijack my blog, I am reminded of the hole in my heart.

Katelyn

Every morning, their grammar is too perfect, their consistency of name too exact. They don’t overuse the word “as” or have eternal run-on sentences.

There will never be another AndySteve.

And I let him go.

The Dilemna Dilemma.

I hated English in school, and I don’t expect that my blog follows the rules of the AP Stylebook – like, ever. I have endless grammar quirks that I am positive make my journalist friends secretly despise me.

However, I have always been a fantastic speller. I’m convinced that spelling is something you’re born with or you’re not – my brain visualizes words as I think them, and I carefully store the correct spelling of every word away in a permanent file.

I specifically remember learning how to spell “dilemna” as a child. I remember pronouncing the “na” in my head every time I wrote it to remind myself that it possessed an m-silent-n instead of a double-m, which would have made much more sense. I still pronounce the “na” every time I write dilemna (just like when I write lbs., I hear it in my head as “labels.”)

It was a couple of years ago when I first realized that the correct spelling was actually was dilemma.

It was disturbing, but I assumed that it was just one of those words with dual correct spellings and moved on. I learned it dilemna and I preferred dilemna, but I could adapt to dilemma just as I had adapted to single spacing after a sentence.

However, without reason, it recently began gnawing at my soul. What happened to the dilemna as I knew it? Why wouldn’t my spellcheck acknowledge this alternate spelling that I purposefully learned as a child? My trick for spelling “delim-na” was as burned into my brain as mentally pronouncing “Wed-nes-day” and “Feb-are-you-airy.”

So I Googled it. “Dilemna or Dilemma?”

I was overjoyed to find a website devoted entirely to this predicament – dilemna.info.

It quickly informed me that I was one of tens of thousands (and maybe millions) of people with this same dilemma about dilemma. Then they completely shot down my first theory of why.

“It turns out Dilemna has NEVER EVER been spelled with an N… Worse yet, there’s not even a passing mention in any dictionary going back hundreds of years offering it as a possible alternative spelling.”

NO.

They continued on to explain that there’s really no good explanation for why we are all so convinced that it should be dilemna – most common misspellings take place because our brains want to spell them the way they sound, but why would our brains add in a silent n? And why would so many people’s brains do it over a vast range of ages?

There isn’t a reason.

Could thousands of teachers have taught us all an incorrect spelling that wasn’t cited in any dictionary or textbook, influencing literally every generation of people alive on this earth today?

Quite unlikely.

After thoroughly debunking any possible explanation for The Dilemna Anomaly, they presented what they said was the only theory that made sense: The Alternate Universe Theory.

“Alternate universe enthusiast Marden Paul of Toronto put forward a theory several years ago that Dilemna people had all somehow crossed over into this parallel ‘Dilemma’ spelling universe and that’s why they feel physically staggered to discover that not only are they wrong but there’s also no trace of an N spelling anywhere in any dictionary in the history of this new universe!”

“Perhaps this alternate universe transition explains why many do feel slightly ‘shaken‘ when they make this discovery.”

They continued on with an entire page devoted to explaining how I am actually from an alternate universe, where children are correctly taught that dilemna is dilemna.

I read it. I pondered it. I spent most of my time puzzling over how very inefficient it is to have alternate universes just for the varying spellings of one word. It’s like printing a second page just because Page One ran out of room for the period at the end of my final sentence.

I pondered longer.

And I did the next logical step.

I called my Mommy.

It went like this.

“Hello?”

“Hi Mom! Spell ‘dilemma’.”

“What? You’re the speller of the family. And you have spellcheck.”

“That’s not the point. Spell it.”

“But you know I’ve never been a good speller.”

“JUST DO IT.”

“Okay…Oh…Hum…D-E-L-I-M-A?”

“Really? THAT’S what you’re going with?”

“Yes. Why?”

“I just needed to know if you came over with me from the Alternate Universe. Apparently you did not.”

My mother and I proceeded into a heartfelt and private exchange where I explained to her that I was not her true daughter, and apologized for any deception on my part, albeit completely without my knowledge.

Since I homeschooled, my mother must have taught me the dilem-na trick. However, my current-universe mother can’t spell dilemma right in this universe or my parallel, so it clearly wasn’t her that taught me the “NA” trick. Which means that when I did slip through the keyhole, I left my original mother behind.

I spent a quiet moment mourning the loss of Original Mother, and wondered if she could spell better than New Mother…

Which brought up the most puzzling question: what happened to the Dilemma-Universe-Rachel? Because New Mother certainly seems legit in her claim to me, and since the swap didn’t happen until after I learned to spell, we all would have realized something was amiss if everything else wasn’t identical. Did Other Rachel slip through the rift at the exact same time, into the Dilemna Universe? Is she now wondering why she desperately wants to write dilemma when everyone knows there’s a silent n? Is Old Mother constantly frustrated at Rachel’s inability to properly spell dilemna?

I feel bad for her. Because I know how it feels to be an alien.

140824c Observation

I’m now considering starting a support group. I feel that all of us Dilemna Universe Migrants should bond together so we have someone to talk to about The Old Country. Where ns were silent and ms didn’t gang up together to confuse. Where our mothers had tricks to help us learn to spell important words and didn’t brush us off to spellcheck. Where there was never a dilemna about the spelling of dilemna.

Late in the evening on the day I discovered my origins, Chris and I were sitting on the couch, cuddling and talking. I was afraid of his answer – afraid it would change everything – but I had to know. I couldn’t go on with the question burning the inside of my skull.

I tried to sound casual.

“Hey babe, how do you spell dilemma?”

“You mean ‘dilem-na’?”

I jumped into his arms and passionately hugged him , then squealed into his ear, “We’re from the same universe!!!!”

And that, most likely, is why I have always loved him so.


And now I must know. Which universe are you from? I’ll try not to let it alter our relationship.

A Cure for the Common Ant.

“Uh Oh! I dropped an M&M on the ground!”

“That’s okay. Just throw it in the bushes. No – wait – why don’t you go put it on top of that ant bed you were looking at a while ago? I bet they would love it.”

After all, it was Easter Sunday. Everyone deserves a good meal, right?

That conversation happened between Chris and Ali. I came outside a few minutes later and Chris told me to go check it out – and take my macro lens.

They were definitely happy (and photogenic) ants.

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You can see the pock marks where various ants had been able to take bites of the sugar coating as the whole colony happily nibbled. Every now and then the candy would tilt and shift, as if they were about to carry it away on the backs of hundreds of tiny pall bearers.

The next day, we went back to check on our science experiment. The M&M seemed to be gone, but there were very caffeinated-looking ants giddily tromping about. With a little finger digging, though, we uncovered the M&M – although it had only an extraordinarily thin outer layer left, the chocolate was in tact. They had just buried it to save it for later.

The next Saturday, we went back to check.

And it was as if the Ant War II had occurred and we’d missed it.

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What had been a bustling ant metropolis only six days prior was now an abandoned crater.

Not a single ant could be found in that community, but there were giant red ants patrolling the wasteland, looking rather like US troops in an Afghan desert – they clearly weren’t from around there.

What had happened?

Had the chocolate caused a war? Had the red ants come and killed the village for what was left of the morsel? Or had it caused a civil war? Had all of the black ants been so greedy that they’d killed each other for the chocolate?

I mean I’ve been in a place where I might’ve killed for chocolate. All women understand.

Or….had the chocolate killed them?

This called for further investigation. Immediately.

I called the kids out of their happy place of running through the sprinkler and sent them inside to find more M&Ms.

We located the biggest ant bed in the yard and covered it in what we had on hand, which were mini M&Ms.

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Because we’re homeschoolers. And this is what homeschoolers do. They pour perfectly good chocolate out in the yard and call it education.

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An hour later we went and checked, fully expecting each M&M to have a colony of ants around it like last time.

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But no.

The ants were nowhere to be found! Even the ants who had been disturbed out of the bed by our chocolate air raid had returned inside.

In fact, there was only one grouping of M&Ms that had any trace of ants near them, and all of those were…curled up dead.

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And we all know that curled up dead is one step past just regular dead.

(Only to be out-deaded by cockroaches who all somehow manage to flip themselves upside down immediately prior to death.)

(I actually saw one do it one time – he had like this fifth leg thing that extended longer than his other legs and flipped him like a burger on a griddle. That’s right, people – cockroaches have a Death Leg.)

We were more suspicious than ever that the cause of death of the other bed had been the chocolate itself. And further more, those original gluttons had somehow managed to communicate with The Big City before they died to warn them of the dangers of Brown Death – which is why none of our current ant subjects were happily eating like that original gluttonous tribe.

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I know that I could have Googled at any point “Does chocolate kill ants?” to find out the answer to this mystery, but I purposefully didn’t – because Google has killed the Scientific Method, and I wasn’t going to let it ruin it this time.

The rain came and pushed/melted the chocolate down into the bed. We hoped that this would quicken the killing process since the ants were refusing to cooperate. So, a couple of days later, we anxiously stirred up the bed to check the progress.

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No dice.

There were gazillions of ants and innumerable disgusting ant eggs. They seemed to be blissfully unaware that we’d tried to kill them by cacao.

I fretted.

Perhaps we were wrong.

Perhaps our other ants just caught a really bad cold and couldn’t survive a bed full of ant snot.

But on Thursday, we went back to check again – the ever important Day Six.

And were immediately overcome with gleeful emotion.

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The population was decimated. There were only a few ants still wandering about, looking perplexed as if the ant rapture had occurred and they had been forsaken, with nothing else to do but look desperately for a Tim LaHaye book to tell them what would happen next.

Even the eggs were gone.

Now sure.

Maybe they all left because we’d stirred their bed a couple of days prior.

Or maybe ants rotate beds like farmers rotate crops.

Or maybe a number of other factors played into the situation, thereby ruining our Scientific Method. After all, “All Other Things” are never equal.

But. For the purposes of First Grade Science, we’re calling it.

Chocolate. Kills. Ants.

(And no. I still haven’t Googled it.)