A place for everything and everything in its place.

So, we have:

Woman without her man is nothing.

And also:

Come and eat grandma!

And slowly, even the most stubborn souls begin to see the value of punctuation.

Woman: without her, man is nothing.

Come and eat, grandma!

Oh, what a different a few dots and squiggles can make.

These are famous ones, of course. I was trying to remember a really wonderful one that wound up in print a while ago, and finally found it:

And this is all silly and a good reminder that commas are life savers (I know Ray’s family and dog are grateful for them!) … but there was a story the other day that also proved that a well-placed comma can mean the difference between winning and losing a legal battle.

I’ll admit that I’m a latecomer to the Oxford comma. I was forced to use it in grade school. But I was forced to do a lot of things with my writing in grade school, and many of them I heartily disagreed with and despised. Once I had a little more freedom to write how I wanted, I began to jettison those things I didn’t care for, and the Oxford comma fell by the wayside with the other castoffs. People have argued with me about it quite a bit over the years — which maybe says something about the folks I hang with¹ — but I have remained stubbornly against. I taught English for many years, and I taught the Oxford comma … but also made it clear that a) I didn’t use it myself and b) no one’s grade would be damaged by the decision not to use it.

But then I got my current job. I got this job, and one of the first things I had to do was edit the big, serious report we were producing. And before the editing began, I was asked to put together a style guide so that all of the people who were adding writing could try to have the same set of rules in mind as they worked and so that changes I made to text would all follow clear guidelines.

Making that style guide was, I have to admit, fun for me (which most definitely says something about the kind of person I am!). I saw the guide as my chance to lay down the law, list out my writing pet peeves, make our sleek and shiny report conform to my writing style. (Oh yes, a little power is truly a dangerous thing!)

Pretty quickly in my style-guiding I ran smack into the Oxford comma. And somehow, for reasons I couldn’t explain and can’t explain now, that comma suddenly made sense. Made perfect, why-didn’t-I-ever-see-this-before sense. And I’ve been using it ever since. (Somewhere, my 6th grade teacher is pointing, laughing, and saying, “I told you so!”)



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices

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¹ This wacky-grammarians-on-my-friend-list business did not extend to the guy who came to a party I threw years ago … who smugly diagrammed the sentences of the people who spoke to him. You may think this is a clever party trick. Trust me when I tell you that it really isn’t.

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Empty

Feeling a little distant from myself tonight.  Nothing’s happened, at least nothing too terribly serious.  I let myself miss out on something I’d really been looking forward to, and I can’t quite forgive myself just yet.  Instead, I see all the ways my unending exhaustion of the last six weeks led right here.  Frustrated. Today’s Poetic Asides prompt is to write a “pop culture” poem.  I don’t have one of those in me right now, but I did include”selfies” in a poem last week.  That should count for something!

Tonight’s Arun is a little awkward and uncomfortable … kind of like how I’m feeling.  I wanted to mess with the form a little while still keeping to the rules.  I’m not sure it works, exactly, but I’m keeping it.

Empty

Done.
Empty.
Spent. Tired.
Though, more than that.
And not really that.
I’m
needing

change                              of place,
mindset, order.

I want change — of heart,
change
of taste.
To be full,
to feed myself,
to let in more joy.

natpoetrymonth1

Please consider donating to my indiegogo campaign to support my participation in the VONA Voices graphic novel workshop this summer. Thank you!

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An Arun is a 15-line poem with the syllable count 1/2/3/4/5 — 3x.  It may be a new thing in the world, made up by me last year.  “Arun” means “five” in Yoruba.

A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place

Ah, don’t we all feel so very much better now that Anthony Weiner has finally admitted to being not only the subject of the crude twitpic, but also the sender?  I know I’ll be sleeping better tonight.  This whole story is so predictable, stupid, annoying, tired.  Why can’t these men figure it out?  No, I will refrain from adding to the 4,273,899 Weiner jokes that have made the rounds lately.  I do hope, however, that Weiner has learned to keep his mouse in its house and spare the rest of us.

But there are two things this story is making me think.  Plenty of people are calling for Weiner to resign.  Plenty of others are saying resignation would be the second mistake of this whole pathetic episode (really the third: sending the picture and lying about sending the picture would seem to hold the first two slots).  I’m on both sides.  Do I think a man shouldn’t hold public office if he can’t keep his pants on?  Not really.  But do I think someone who is foolish enough to send crotch shots of himself over Twitter should hold public office?  I’m thinking maybe not.  He couldn’t figure out what a stupid move that was?

This next bit isn’t just for Anthony Weiner.  It’s more of a public service announcement for men in general.¹  Women really and truly don’t want to see your penises.  We don’t want them flashed at us on the subway or in the park.  We don’t want to open an email and find photos of them.  Know this, men: your penis isn’t pretty.   If we are wildly attracted to you, madly in love with you … then your penis would have some appeal (and even then that’s really only true some of the time, often it will just make us chuckle because it’s such a strange little appendage).  But even if we’re in love with you, we still don’t want to see your little congressman without prior invitation.  Trust me.

Men don’t seem to know this.  It’s something I realized during the craziness of e-dating.  I wish I had five dollars and a memory eraser for every time some man sent me a photo of his penis after one email exchange, after one phone call. What is that supposed to do for me?  Is there really a woman somewhere who gets excited by the sight of a penis?  Sure, we might look at the guys in Playgirl, but we are looking at the whole guy, not just one little bit of him (though I have to say: for me, a naked guy reclining under a willow tree or hanging out of a police cruiser looks more comical than come-hither).

I know that men can’t help the fact that they think like men.  They know how thrilled they would be if the women they liked — or perhaps just any woman — sent them unsolicited topless photos.  But you know what?  Women aren’t men.  And breasts are a lot prettier than penises anyway.  Penises are a private matter.  No one is ever going to love them as much as you do, so you need to keep them to yourselves.  When we want to see them, we’ll let you know.

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¹ And yes, I know all men aren’t the same.  I know and appreciate that fact.  Still, sometimes a little generalizing more appropriately fits the bill.

Update, thanks to Molly: If you haven’t yet seen Kristen Schaal’s hilarious piece that makes the same point, go check it out!

SOL: Hair today, gone tomorrow.

On my way home I stopped at a pet store.  Not my usual place, but one I’d been meaning to go out of my way to visit because I knew they stocked this supposedly amazing pet-grooming tool.  As I pulled out my credit card, I thought, “It had better be amazing because for $40 I’m going to be pissed if it doesn’t make any difference!”

I have two cats.  One, Tristan, is a regular cat.  He and I live together in much the same way I’ve lived with every other cat I’ve ever had.  I comb him, I brush his fur off my black wardrobe, I throw my clothes and sheets in the laundry and they come back hair free.  Totally normal existence.

And then there’s Beau:

Before bringing this pretty boy into my home, I had no idea that life with a long-haired cat was any different from life with a regular cat.  In the four years we’ve lived together, Beau has transformed my home into a giant fur ball.  No matter what I do, I can’t keep up with his hair.  No matter how much I comb him, there’s still so much shedding.  No matter how many times I wash things, I’m still finding his long silky locks on them.  I’ve spent a fortune on tape rollers, spent hours checking my hair for his hair.  Nothing has been strong enough to beat back the wafting clouds of fur that have become standard in my rooms.

On top of the fur-cloud trauma is the fact that Beau hates to be combed.  Grooming your cat is supposed to be a nice, loving, bonding time, like a fancy kind of petting.  Tristan loves being combed.  Beau, not so much.  I have to clip his nails before I get out the comb so that my scratches won’t be so bad.  Combing is an ears-flat-back, growling-deep-in-his-throat time for Beau.  Instead of a sweet bonding moment I get the promise that he’d take my face off if I’d just let him get at me.

But then I heard about this comb.  It was supposed to be a miracle product, able to make grooming a boy like Beau not only easier but a quintillion times more effective.  I wasn’t sure I believed it, but I’d tried everything else, why not this?

Let me just say: that picture above? Taken after I combed him tonight.  Notice how not crazed and enraged he looks.  Notice how he’s sitting somewhere near me and not hiding behind the bed or in the window to escape my ministrations.  And notice this:

That hair in the front?  I separated it to show how much fur I might have gotten using the old comb in the same amount of time (we would have lasted about 15 or 20 minutes and lasting that long would have included at least one scratch and several carefully-evaded bites).  The picture barely does it justice.  I think I have enough fur to create a whole other cat … to start spinning cat-fur yarn … to stuff a pillow … to circumnavigate the globe if I lay out each strand end to end.

Just as importantly, I have not one scratch.  I could have kept combing and gotten more hair, but Beau was reaching the end of his patience, and I was starting to sneeze (yes, because on top of everything else, I’m allergic to my cats!), so it was time to stop.  Can’t wait to comb him a little more tomorrow.  My relationship with my plush boy is moving into new territory!

Check out the rest of today’s slices over at Two Writing Teachers (Stacey’s back!)

Do not adjust your television.

I love when someone perfectly articulates something that’s been careening around in my brain but which I haven’t been able to get hold of tightly enough to turn into words.

That bit at the end about why he finds it insulting when people say things like, “I don’t care if you’re black, purple or orange,” that is a thing I’ve been trying to help people understand forever.  Kids used to say that to me in high school, in college.  People still say it to me.  And it always leaves me with a sour feeling, and I’ve never been able to explain it as cleanly and simply as Jay just did.*

I feel the same anger when people say this “I don’t care if you’re black or orange,” crap as I do when people talk about Americans magically becoming “post racial.”  What do people even mean when they say that, and can they really believe that our entire country has fallen into that rabbit hole?  When there can be people making t-shirts showing my president as a monkey (did you miss the Curious George/Obama shirts? Lucky you), when a politician can make what he wants us to believe he thought was a joke about an escaped gorilla being a member of my first lady’s family, when the white descendant of my first lady’s white ancestor thinks it would be fun to sit with Mrs. Obama and share stories about that shared ancestor … when all this (and so much more) is possible, can it also be possible that anyone believes we’ve “moved beyond race,” as someone said to me at a meeting recently? I don’t want us to be “post racial.”  I would, however, very much like us to be “post racist.”  Think we’ll ever manage that one?

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Check out the rest of the slices of life over at Stacey and Ruth’s.

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* And by the way, when is Jay finally going to wake up and realize that he is my soul mate?  I’m just saying.

The true meaning of DSL …

… at least in my life seems to be “Damned Sometime-y Link.”  Mine’s been off since late Thursday night.  Feh.

I just spent almost six hours at work.  On a Saturday.  It’s not ideal, but I have to say: I got so much done!  That’s the crazy-making part.  I totally understand why I’m not able to be quite as productive when everyone else is in the building, but I hate having to go in on the weekend to do work I really should be able to get through during my normal working hours.

I wasn’t alone in the building, however.  My boss was in, too.  Her office is down the hall from mine, so we can work alone without really being alone.  So I had my music up — a little Joni Mitchell, a little Juanes, a little Ojos de Brujo — and didn’t have to worry about it bothering her.  At the same time, when I was fumingly frustrated by a couple of things I discovered, I didn’t have to sit and stew over them on my own, I could go down the hall and work through them with her. 

But enough work for one weekend.  Time to pick my hair out to full Cleopatra Jones glory, put on some earrings that won’t freeze to my lobes and go have a glass of wine with my friends.

One year later: (My Head Is) Spinning

On the radio the other day, a newscaster said, “President Obama has been in office for a year now …”  Excuse me, what?

She was leading into another point she wanted to make about how little movement there has been in certain areas in this first year of the Obama presidency.  And, while I can agree that there are areas in which I had hoped to see more movement (or any real movememt), her throw-away line about him being in office for a year stopped me.  A yearReally?  Is she high?  Ah, no, excuse me.  This is just the current spin.

When Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize last month (something my brain has still not quite processed), the outcry was that he’d barely been in office eight months.  Now, three weeks later, he’s suddenly in office for a year?  That kind of math makes my head hurt.  And this kind of casual slanting of information, “innocently” scattering these “truthy facts” pisses me off.  In the moment, saying the president has been in office for a year fits better with the angle this reporter wants for her story.  But does that make bending the actual fact ok? 

Here’s an actual fact: a year ago today, I joined millions of other Americans and elected Barack Hussein Obama to the presidency of these United States.  (N.B. Elected one year ago, not in office one year ago.  Just saying.)  That was a pretty excellent day.  I was so giddy, I photographed my vote:

VOTE! Yes, because I was that excited, that dorky.  Certainly I wasn’t alone in my excited dorkiness, and that made it feel a little less silly.

And now it’s a year later, nine months into Mr. My New President’s term, and … ?  Well, it’s not all brilliant.  I haven’t changed my mind.  My goodness, no.  I’m still quite happy to have BHO as my president, much happier than I would have been to have the McCain/Palin machine smiling malevolently over me and mine.  Still.  There’s more I’m wishing for.

I want the Defense of Marriage Act repealed.  I want to see the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  I want to see a little more aggressively progressive movement and a little less waiting for bi-partisanship that isn’t coming.  I want a true public option.  I want … well, you know, all those things I heard about during the campaign.

(And, too, I want to hear more from Michelle.  I get that she has children to raise, and I love that she’s doing that.  But she’s a smart, well-spoken woman, and I want to hear more about her than gardening and wardrobe.  Also, I want her to be photographed with people of normal height so that she can stop being shown as a giantess.  Seriously.  Who knew there were so many 5-foot tall people who could line up for photo ops with the first lady?)

Nine months in, am I disappointed with my president?  On DADT, yes.  Compared to everything else on his plate, that is surely the the easiest promise to keep.  We’ve been hearing since January how he’s going to end DADT … well, it’s many months later and he’s still making speeches about how he’s going to end DADT.  Well, when?  And DOMA disappoints me, too.  I know he doesn’t support gay marriage.  But why not?  Why not?  But am I disappointed overall?  Hardly.  I’m extremely happy about the Hate Crimes Act that Obama signed last week (as a nation, we’re eleven years late on this one — thirteen if we go back past Matthew Shepard’s murder to James Byrd’s).  So, no, I’m not disappointed overall.  I just want him to be more like the president I elected.  And more quickly.  The spinning will continue — in all possible directions — but I want to see BHO stay the course he set out during the campaign.  He’s got that Nobel to live up to, after all.