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


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.



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.


Spent. Tired.
Though, more than that.
And not really that.

change                              of place,
mindset, order.

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


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


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.

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?


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


* 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.


Another morning of seeing the 9:00am cops packing their truancy vans full of teens and carting them off to sit in cold storage for the day.

Please don’t misunderstand.  Truancy is a problem.  A big problem.  But I don’t really see these officers as doing anything about the problem.  They strike me more as just trying to fill a quota: ‘Oh, we picked up X-number of kids today.  See, we’re fighting truancy.”

After all, they’re basically shooting fish in a barrel.  They don’t go too far afield to look for kids who aren’t in school when they should be.  Instead, they set up their vans within a block or two of a school, or outside the subway entrance closest to a school, or (in the case of the cops I saw this morning) at a bus stop really close to a school.  They wait for 9:01, and then they grab every kid they see.  And let’s be honest.  If you’re a kid skipping school, it’s fairly unlikely that you’re going to be running up from the train headed right for your school building at 9:01.  It seems more likely that you’re running late for school and trying to get there.  You aren’t the kid who needs to be picked up.  Maybe scolded for sleeping late and then sent on your way, but being trucked off to sit in a room full of ‘truants’ all day seems counterproductive to say the least.

Of course, it’s much easier to nab these non-truant kids than it is to really go out looking for the kids who aren’t showing up for school.  Teens are even more notorious for sleeping late than I am, so there are always plenty of late ones to be tagged and loaded into the truancy bus.

So what would it take to inspire a real response to truancy … to organize — and fund — the kind of  outreach that might not only finds the kids who are avoiding school but also finds out what’s going on with them and looks for ways to offer them the services and supports that might bring them back to school and help them stay there?  Not exactly the job of police with vans and quotas.

I know that what I’m suggesting is harder work, that it is actual work.  I know that.  And I know that it must be someone’s work.  And yet no one seems able or willing to take it on.


Just came back from Sunday night shopping at Fairway … always a mistake to go on Sunday nights.  Always.  Maybe I’m just prone to shopping cart rage, but I really think it’s Sunday night at Fairway.  Instead of smacking any of the smack-worthy people in the store, I put my bad mood into today’s tanka:

as if you, only, matter
blind to everyone
you blink, register surprise
each time you knock against me

Maybe I should title this one my ticked-off tanka?