English Grammar in Ruins

 

The great statesman had no idea what he had started.

It’s that rascal Winston Churchill’s fault. When he was criticized for ending a sentence in a preposition, he called it nonsense “up with which I will not put.”  He had a point. The rule against putting a preposition at the end of a sentence was silly. But sometimes traditions should be kept, because once they’re relaxed all hell can break loose.

Which is what has happened. Crimes of grammar nowadays are everywhere. My husband thinks I’m obsessive about it and maybe he’s right. I do have a lot of idiosyncrasies he puts up with. I mean, I have a lot of idiosyncrasies up with which he puts.

I keep having to correct his grocery list entries. I write notes. “Honey, ketchup is standard spelling; catsup is no longer commonly used except in a few specified regions (which don’t include ours). And Quaker Oats is capitalized because it is a brand name. Generic “oatmeal” is lower case. Also, mayonnaise has two n’s.” And so on. I put my lists next to his Quaker Oats* at the breakfast table. (*Note initial caps.)

I can’t help myself. I have a degree in journalism with a minor in English. Frank should be glad I wasn’t an English major, it would be even worse. I have no peace. Our language is constantly being abused and misused. For example, I see “it’s” as a possessive all the time. No no no! “It’s” is a contraction of “it is.” The possessive form has no apostrophe. “It’s well known that a cat likes to lick its fur,” is a purrfect example of correct usage. (I hope someone noticed the misspelling of perfect.) No one gets “it’s” and “its” right anymore, except for women in their seventies who studied English. Who knows, maybe someday “it’s” will be changed to “its” and vice versa. God forbid.

And all because of Churchill. He saved the free world, but with one little quip he set in motion the collapse of English grammar.

P.S. Note that “no one” is two words.  

The downside of blogging


I love blogging, but I wish there was a more pleasant-sounding word for it. Blog rhymes with bog, smog, slog, sog and other unappetizing things. It also rhymes with fog, which is lovely, but the unsavory words that rhyme with blog far outnumber the beautiful.

Take bog, a swamp-like morass, a place where you might encounter an alligator or a huge poisonous snake or the Creature From the Black Lagoon. Or you can get bogged down, in paperwork or odious chores. And how about smog, the scourge of modern civilization, hanging over the land in ugly yellow-brown tones and ruining lungs. And there’s clog, as in to cause to be backed up: a clogged toilet, yuk. People slog, as in plodding or struggling, perhaps to get across a bog. Which gets us to sogged. You would probably get sogged crossing a bog. And there might be a hog in the bog. You never know. Hogs are worthy animals, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not terribly attractive. 

Oops, I almost forgot flog. I’ll leave you to decide whether to spin the punishment or pleasure connotation of that word. Some people enjoy being flogged, but it’s not my cup of tea.

We have to take the good with the bad. I enjoy blogging immensely so I’ll just put up with the way it sounds. I’ll simply keep on slogging through my blog, enjoying every minute, and reminding myself that it also rhymes with dog, one of my most beloved things in life, and with eggnog, a joy of the holidays.

CHEERS!


“Blog” is derived from “weblog,” coined in 1997. It developed into the first digital diary allowing readers to add comments to others’ blogs.

Life knows what it’s doing.

animals-1509196_640-copy

Relax.


It was 1981. I was 35 weeks pregnant, at home enjoying a fun episode of The Love Boat. Suddenly I felt powerful contractions, while the ship’s bartender was belting out a song trying to court a talent scout. My enjoyment turned to foreboding. I had an undeniable feeling in my gut that the baby was coming, very soon. But it wasn’t time.  

I had never even considered the possibility of not going full-term to 40 weeks. Everything until then had been going along so smoothly. I was frightened. Even though 35 weeks is not extremely early, I had a sense of foreboding. In fact, by the time we got to the hospital and they were pushing me down the maternity ward corridor in a wheelchair I was crying. “Something’s wrong,” I sobbed, “Something’s wrong. It’s not time!”

Michele, our beautiful baby girl, was born that night with “multiple congenital anomalies.” They included her smallness—she weighed just over three pounds, very small for a 35-week baby; a bent nose, twisting to the left; and tiny ears. Some other anomalies and issues such as hearing impairment would be addressed as time went on. A team of doctors came and put her onto a gurney loaded with monitors and wires and rushed her to intensive care. The team leader came to my room later and, in a voice filled with compassion, told me and Michele’s father they weren’t sure she would live through the night. We were frightened, hoping desperately that she would. We already loved her deeply.  

baby-979161_640

If Michele had been born at the “right” time, things might have been tragic.

I didn’t see Michele until more than 24 hours after she was born, because specialists were in and out of her IC room all that time, filing in and out, examining her intently.

It turned out I was mistaken to be upset about the earliness of Michele’s birth. I’m convinced she had reached an instinctual decision in my womb to come out early. And that was exactly the right thing. It turned out that she had cranial synostosis: her skull plates had fused prematurely in my womb. They’re supposed to be detached from each other for a few years after birth, to allow the brain and features to expand as the baby grows. The neurosurgeon told us later that if she hadn’t had corrective surgery by the time she was 38 in-womb weeks (two weeks “early”) there would almost certainly have been severe brain damage. Being born at 35 weeks gave her three weeks of beneficial out-of-womb nutrition and growth before the surgery. If she had been born at the “right” time, at 40 weeks by conventional medical wisdom, she would have been brain-damaged.

So, right from the get-go, Michele was wiser than I was. She knew things I didn’t. I shouldn’t have been afraid about her birth being early, I should have been reassured. I shouldn’t have been crying in my wheelchair about something being wrong, I should have been cheering—yelling “You go girl!”

Michele’s time of arrival in the world was miraculously right. Since then she’s had her share of challenges, undergoing many surgeries since that first one in early infancy until she was 20. Much has been corrected, aesthetically and otherwise. Today she’s married, a college graduate, a lover of life, independent, intelligent, compassionate, creative, energetic, beautiful…and, I might add, punctual. She’s never late.  I could go on singing her praises but I’ll stop here.

I’ve come to realize it’s silly to worry about her, because she knows what she wants and she knows what to do to get it. Just like she knew, nestled in my womb, exactly when to be born so she could have her surgery on time. 


rose-1403530_640The power of faith: As you do not understand the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things. ~Ecclesiastes 11:5

 

chocolate-183543_640The power of chocolate: If God gives you chocolate, you open your mouth, no? ~Alejandro Jodorowski

Embattled female drivers

animals-1509196_640-copy

Relax


Something comes over perfectly nice men when they’re in a car driven by a woman. Almost every man who’s been in my car when I’m driving has been annoying, and then some. Bob, my former significant other, was the worst of them. His name is not really Bob. I changed it for this blog post so I won’t be sued.

A typical example of driving with Bob was my 40th birthday. I was bummed out about hitting 40, but looking forward to dinner at the nice restaurant Bob was taking me to. Bob drove to the restaurant, and we had a great dinner and a lot of fun. I drove home because I don’t drink and Bob had had a couple of beers. He wisely never drove if he had more than one drink.

Picture it.  (I borrow that phrase from Sophia in Golden Girls.) It’s a dark night. We walk to the car, I get settled in the driver’s seat, and turn on the ignition. Bob is normally an amiable, easy-going man except when I’m driving. I glance over at him and he’s in his usual male-passenger position: staring straight ahead, his jaw set grimly, his feet wide apart and firmly planted on the floor. There’s not one relaxed bone in his body. Not one relaxed muscle. Even his ears are stiff. His nose is tense. His nostrils are flared. It’s not a good sign. I’m not even out of the parking lot yet and he’s loaded for bear.

Dr. Jekyll has become Mr. Hyde.

I drive to the end of the parking lot exit. A car is coming on my left. It’s quite a distance away, yet I stop. I always drove super cautiously with Bob in the car, to keep him from getting agitated. 

After the car has gone by, I check again. Out of the corner of my eye I see Bob’s head turning left and right repeatedly. He is checking for cars, as vigilant as an airliner copilot. Traffic is very light and there’s only one more car coming, quite a distance away and traveling slowly. With plenty of time on my side, I turn right onto the road. 

“Wow!” Bob says tensely. “That car almost hit you. You shouldn’t have pulled out. Reckless.”

“It wasn’t even close to the driveway, Bob,” I say calmly. “It still isn’t. It was a mile away, what are you talking about?”

car-722255_640

A couple calming down after an argument about her driving.

“He wasn’t far away,” Bob insists. “He was almost on top of you!” I say nothing. I glance over at him and see that both hands are now gripping the seat on either side of his knees, his knuckles white, his jaw still set grimly, his feet still planted wide apart.  

“He was not close,” I insist. “Not even,” I add, imitating Lisa Kudrow, who always said that phrase with the accent on even.  Lisa Kudrow annoyed him no end, which of course is why I did it.

“Watch it! Watch it!” Bob yells all of a sudden. I’m once again reminded of how he always yells “watch it!” twice. It’s very annoying! It’s very annoying!

“Watch it! Watch it!” he yells again. I don’t know what he’s yelling about.

“Watch what, Bob?” I ask, exasperated.

I glance over. Bob’s right hand is now fiercely gripping the arm rest, with his left pressed tightly against the glove compartment. He’s clenching and unclenching his jaw. “That car’s going to sideswipe you! Watch it!” I can’t see what he’s talking about, and then a car passes by me gently and safely in the lane on my right. Bob was watching it. Bob was always afraid cars were going to go over their lines. He had no trust in the Universe.   

“Everything’s fine,” I say. “He’s just going past me, he’s well within his lane.”

“He was going over his line,” Bob says. “Way over. You have to watch people!”

“Well, what can I do Bob? I’m stuck in my lane, I can’t get out. We’ll have a head-on if I go over to the left. And I can’t go to the right because the car’s there. Anyway, that guy wasn’t getting close. I saw him in my side mirror. He was fine.”

There’s a red light coming up. I stop in plenty of time, with one car ahead of me. “You’re too close!” Bob yells. “You have to be able to see the tires of the car in front of you. Completely!”

 “I can see the damn tires,” I shout, starting to lose my cool. I glance over again. His lips are moving. He appears to be praying. He’s changed position and is now gripping the door handle with both hands, like he might jump out. A part of me, I’m ashamed to say, wishes he would.   

When the light turns green I cross the intersection, after I look both ways like I always do. I’m old and wise enough to know you can’t just shoot out like a bat out of hell because your light turns green. Someone could be running the cross light. I shot out without looking once when I was in my twenties and got T-boned. I foolishly told Bob about it and traumatized him, even though it was about 40 years ago and I haven’t had an accident since. Goodie-two-shoes Bob never had an accident, not even a little fender bender. His worse traffic offense was a fix-it ticket for brake lights.     

Down the road a car approaches on the cross street to my right, slowly, braking to stop safely at the intersection. “Watch it! Watch it!” Bob yells. “Watch it! Watch it! That car’s not stopping!”  

“He is too! He is too!” I yell back, my voice growing strident. “He’s stopping in plenty of time. He’s a cautious old frug.” I manage not to say “like you.” I don’t want things to deteriorate into name calling. I proceed, glancing over at Bob whose feet are now raised up and braced against the glove compartment. His jaw is grimly reset.

 “You’re a reckless driver,” he says. “You’re dangerous, wild.”

“I’m a perfectly good driver,” I tell him. “I’ve been driving us around for 10 years and I’ve never had an accident. I’ve never even had a ticket,” I lie. I did get a few for speeding and one unsafe lane change, during my years with Bob. But never when he was with me.

He doesn’t hear me. “You don’t look,” he says. “You’re distracted, spacy. You’re a menace to society.”

“Not even,” I say. “I’m very alert. It’s a wonder I can focus with you in the car. You badger and badger, you’re like an annoying cockatoo. You have a voice like a jack hammer.” I glance over at him again. He’s now in the fetal position. And there we were, reduced to name-calling. The conversation deteriorated from there. The relationship deteriorated soon after. It was our final car fight. Before long, we split up.

A few years later I met Frank. We’re celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary this year, and 223 years of being together. I’m sorry, 23 years. Freudian slip. We’re going to Monterey today. I’m driving because Frank likes to look around when we’re going somewhere scenic. We get in the car, I start ‘er up, and look over at Frank. As usual when I drive, he’s looking straight ahead, his jaw set grimly, his feet wide apart, firmly planted on the floor. There’s not one relaxed bone in his body. Not one relaxed muscle. Even his ears are stiff….  It’s déjà vu time.

Oh well, nothing’s perfect. Frank and I have disagreements in the car but things are much better than they were with Bob. For instance Frank yells “watch it!” but not twice in a row like Bob used to. And I don’t do my Lisa Kudrow impersonation anymore. I’ve grown. Plus there’s no point to it since it doesn’t bother Frank. Most important, I realize now that nothing is perfect, including driving with your spouse. Including marriage, period. Marriage is good, but it’s definitely not perfect. Not even.


rose-1403530_640Scripture: Even though I drive through the darkest valley with my husband in the passenger seat, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. ~Psalm 23:3-4 

 

chocolate-183543_640The Power of Chocolate: There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate. ~Linda Grayson

 

owl-297413_640Urban Dictionary: Not Even. A term commonly used in Oakville, the state of denial. Used to strongly deny something. 

Oakville Kid: Yo i heard you were kickin it old school with corbin’s mom last night brooo!!!

Oakville Kid 2: Yo NOT EVEN

Measure your blogging success.

animals-1509196_640-copy

Relax.


I’ve wanted to be a famous writer since I was a teenager. It hasn’t happened yet and I’m seventy, so the outlook is bleak.

Some of my humorous articles were published in magazines about 30 years ago. My target audience was single working parents—SWOPs, I called them.  I actually was a SWOP, so I knew what I was talking about. For instance, one article covered the challenge of getting kids to school on time and yourself to work on time on weekday mornings. If you are, or ever were, a SWOP, you know how tricky this can be.

I shared my solutions with readers. For instance, I had my second-grader pick out the clothes she wanted to wear to school the night before, and lay them out on her chair. And she had to stick to her decision in the morning, or there would be a consequence. Threatening not to buy her a McDonald’s Happy Meal was usually effective, especially if she needed a piece in a set, like Papa of the Berenstein Bear figures. I had her decide what she wanted for breakfast the night before too, and set the table, maybe even pour the cereal and cover with Saran wrap, pour the juice…. Every saved step helped. Then in a flash of brilliance I suggested why not eat breakfast the night before too? That really saved a lot of time. The important thing was to make sure she ate breakfast after dinner.

And so forth. People enjoyed my columns. But after a year or so my SWOP life got so busy I ran out of time for writing and marketing my articles and gave it up. The need to focus on salaried work that covered rent money, medical insurance, and the like, and have time for my daughter, trumped having fun writing.  

I retired a few years ago and thought about trying to write for publication again, but the market in our digital age is even more saturated with aspiring writers than it was in my magazine days.

So I thought…why not blog? It sounded like fun. But I also admit to a secret hope my blog would go viral, and be so wildly popular and attract such a following that some publisher somewhere would be interested in putting out a collection of my brilliant posts.

That hasn’t happened yet either. Things with my blog have been pretty quiet. Quite the opposite of viral, and that’s putting it mildly. The other day I was feeling like a failure, pitifully unsuccessful, painfully discouraged. What’s the use? I thought. On my way out to the garden to eat worms, I vowed to quit blogging, to find something else to do with my talent, modest though it is.

But I gave it some serious thought, and what I decided was that rather than quit blogging, I would redefine success.

What is success, anyway? I had to take a long, hard look at that question and define what it looks like for me.  Not for somebody else. Success means different things to different people. And I decided that if I’m having fun when I’m writing, I’m successful. After all, what is more important than enjoying life? And if I’m enjoying myself, I am a successful blogger. If I had 10,000 followers but hated the process of writing, I would be unsuccessful. If I had one follower but was enjoying myself, then I’m successful. Well, maybe two followers. 

I do enjoy blogging. Sometimes I laugh out loud while I’m blogging away on the PC in our minuscule office. While I may have a tiny office, I have a big LOL. It booms out of the room and reverberates around our home, and my husband hears it wherever he is—in the living room, the garage, out in the yard…around the block if he’s jogging. He says it sometimes sounds like there’s more than one person in the room, like I’m having a party I didn’t invite him to.  

I get a lot of ideas for my blog when I’m grocery shopping or jogging or whatever. Sometimes they make me LOL. At first people stared at me and so I started wearing ear buds to make them think I’m talking to someone on my iPhone. I don’t want them to think I’m just some crazy senior. Anyway, let them laugh. I’m being a success. By enjoying myself and laughing I am stimulating chemicals in my brain called endorphins, which have been proven to reduce pain and stress and promote health. I’m making myself healthier. So I don’t mind so much if people stare at me when I laugh, but I do try not to fart.  

greengrocers-1468809_640

I have some of my best blog ideas when I’m squeezing fruit in the grocery store.

One day I was squeezing and sniffing cantaloupes in Safeway and suddenly burst out laughing because I remembered my Victoria’s Secret misadventure. I walked in to all that pink and black silky-soft sexiness, feeling like a big old hippo in a pool full of dainty minnows. I was there because a friend told me they would measure me properly so I could find the correct size for my newly expanded senior body. A young svelte thing measured me in the dressing room. My band size was 44. I thanked her and told her I was going to go find a couple of bras, and she said “Oh, ma’am, the largest size we carry is 38.” I laughed, so I wouldn’t cry. I was humiliated, but eventually I wrote my popular post, “A Victoria’s Secret Reject.” No silky, naughty, X-rated lingerie for me. Back to Sears. (Sears might not be around for much longer. Then what?)

In the Tea and Coffee aisle I remembered the time I was in Kohl’s trying on sweaters, and brought a turtle neck on the sale rack into the dressing room. I put it on and when I looked in the mirror was shocked to see the neck of a bullfrog. My neck skin was being pushed up by the high, snug collar and hanging over it like a spare tire. I stifled a scream, but not quite totally, and heard the salesgirl outside ask “Are you all right in there, ma’am?” It was a depressing day for me, but in the end I laughed and wrote “Terror in the Dressing Room.”

Standing in the Pharmacy line I recalled a Girl Scout campout my daughter and I went to about 30 years ago, when she was five. We were all sitting around the campfire at night, and I related some little anecdote about my “ex-mother-in-law.” My daughter said, “Myrl wasn’t your mother-in-law, Mom. You and dad were never married.” I felt embarrassed and ashamed, but lightened up when delighted laughter burst out around the campfire. My resulting blog post was “Mother-Daughter Secret, Not.”

Standing in the checkout line, I remembered phone pranks my friends and I played when I was a kid, back in the Stone Age, before cell phones, when you had to be home to answer your phone, which was what we now call a “landline.” We would call and ask people if their refrigerator was running, and if they said yes we said “better go catch it.” Or we’d ask them to blow into the phone and then tell them “thanks, you just blew the bird turds off the line.” Those were the days.

It certainly makes grocery shopping more fun, thinking about funny things that have happened. I spend a lot of time pulling my cart out of the flow of traffic and writing ideas in my iPhone notes. And laughing. It makes jogging more fun, driving more fun, vacuuming more fun… I’m laughing right now, in fact, writing this very post. My husband just shouted from the living room, “Who the hell is in there with you?”

Now I have a difficult confession to make. Here comes the naked truth. The blog that you are reading right now (thank you!) has 60 followers. That’s an amazing number. Amazingly small, that is. There are millions of bloggers and readers in the WordPress blogosphere and only 60 of them follow my blog. Most of them are my friends, whose arms I twisted. I tell myself my work is good, but I’m just not much for social networking. That’s what you need to do to drum up blog followers. I know absolutely zip about SEO. (SEO is search engine optimization, by the way, the highly technical art of getting Google and Yahoo to direct searchers to your articles.) I don’t tie my blog in to Facebook, in fact I rarely post anything on my page.  I don’t tie it into Instagram because I don’t have an Instagram account, I don’t tweet about it because I’m not on Twitter.

I don’t do any of those things. I just write and enjoy myself and laugh in the grocery store and other inappropriate places. I will blog bravely on in obscurity, in the vastness of the blogosphere, like the humor-blogger version of John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness. Why stop, when I’m having so much fun?


rose-1403530_640

Scripture: What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? To gain 10,000 blog followers yet not have fun?


chocolate-183543_640

The Power of Chocolate: Will looked horrified. “What kind of monster could possibly hate chocolate?”
― Cassandra ClareClockwork Angel