Not Just Another Grouchy Grammarian

Musings about language, books, grammar, and writing in general

Archive for the category “Life happens”

A New Year, A New Start…Maybe

While this is not the venue I journal about my life in general, let me just note that the past fall has been one of the roughest I’ve seen. My roommate spent much of it in hospitals and a nursing home dealing with things she had avoided dealing with for years. I lost – in rapid succession – two very good friends of over 30 years. I have been undertaking – with the help of a friend and the more limited help of my roommate – a major revamping of the apartment.

That last – the revamping of the apartment – actually borders on stuff that is the provence of this journal. I have gotten rid of about two-thirds of my record collection, and about one-third of my books. At the same time, the last few weeks have been occupied by boxing books (27 boxes), so we could get rid of an entertainment center and two of the old bookcases and get in ten new-to-us bookcases. Our acquisitions were from the IKEA Billy line: A corner unit, two glass-fronted bookcases, two wooden-fronted narrow cupboards, two narrow open bookcases, and three standard open bookcases. This was successfully done, although there were a few times that stress levels for all three of us were running pretty high. We are now unboxing the books (two more boxes to go), and trying to organize the bookshelves in some kind of reasonable order. My friend Lisa likes books organized by subject; my roommate is a former librarian who likes her books in alphabetical order within subjects; my preference is alphabetical by authors. We are using my roommate’s preference to organize things since that pleases all concerned.

The other thing is that I now have organized all the books that I was sent to review, and shall be starting to work my way through them shortly so you can expect a good number of book reviews for the next while.

The other thing I have taken on, relevant to this particular blog, are two reading challenges. I exceeded my goal for last year’s Goodreads Challenge, reading 223 books – 23 books over my goal of 200 books for the year. This year, I have raised my goal for that challenge to 250 books.

I have also taken on Read Harder’s 2018 challenge (and I shall incorporate those books into my total for the year). This is a challenge sponsored by Book Riot which consists of the following 24 tasks:

1) A book published posthumously
2) A book of true crime
3) A classic of genre fiction
4) A comic written and illustrated by the same person
5) A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa)
6) A book about nature
7) A western
8) A comic written or illustrated by a person of color
9) A book of colonial or postcolonial literature
10) A romance novel by or about a person of color
11) A children’s classic published before 1980
12) A celebrity memoir
13) An Oprah Book Club selection
14) A book of social science
15) A one-sitting book
16) The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle-grade series
17) A sci-fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author
18) A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image
19) A book of genre fiction in translation
20) A book with a cover you hate
21) A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author
22) An essay anthology
23) A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60
24) An assigned book you hated (or never finished)

I will keep folks here updated on my progress with this list.

Thanks to my friend Debbie (aka mamadeb) I have become part of the planner community.Mind, I have had a love for planners for as long as I can remember. I can even say that I was doing a form of bullet journaling long before it became a Thing. I have, for decades, put a Table of Contents (ToC) in the back of every journal, so that I could find things again. It was a very simple thing: I numbered my journal’s pages, then did a three columnrule for the last six sides (three pages) of my journal. The columns were “Date,” “Page,” and “Item.” And I always used my journal for listing tasks, tracking things, and taking notes, as well as the usual diary entries.

One thing I do want to work on this year in my planning is doing better granular work, that is, improving my skill in breaking down large goals into smaller pieces that can be done as a progression, rather than trying to do an overwhelming task all at once. We will see how that tuens out over the course of the year.

So, no real resolutions, but a number of commitments and things to work on. I hope you enjoy the ride if you come along with me.

Catching Up on Life and Reading

First, I apologize for not being more regular about posting. It’s been a rough two years, including spinal surgery, and more heart work. That, plus all the usual junk that life piles on you, and writing crashes to the bottom of the priority list for a bit.

So, In May of 2016, I woke up one morning and could not get out of bed. Literally. It took three EMTs almost half an hour to get me into a transport chair so they could get me out of the apartment, and I was screaming in pain the whole time. It turns out that a number of things had gone wrong. There was sciatica, which I had known about, but there was also stenosis, a nerve so pinched at the base of my spine that the doctors couldn;t even find it on the MRI, degenerative arthritis at the base of my spine that no one knew about, two crumbling disks, and an infection between the two crumbling disks that was doing its damnedest to get into my spine.  I spent six weeks in what is probably the worst rehab place in Brooklyn (ask me offline if you want the gory details) getting IV antibiotics, then a few weeks at home to make sure the antibiotics had worked. Then I had a consultation with a neurosurgeon, and spinal surgery was scheduled. The good news is that even though there was some discomfort after the surgery, the relief was so profound that the discomfort could pretty much be ignored. Then came the slow recovery. Now, what I didn’t know at the time was that none of the doctors involved, except my primary care guy (who is a saint) believed I would ever walk again. Fortunately, I proved my primary care guy right and surprised all the others. However, just after Passover this year, my heart started racing. I mean my heart rate was something like 130 when I was just sitting at my desk. I called my doctor and was diagnosed with atrial flutter, a situation where the heart’s electric signals are getting missent. It’s not quite as serious as atrial fibrillation but does increase risks for strokes, heart attacks and the like. I went into the hospital for a cardioversion (basically electroshock therapy for the heart) and it worked. BUT…two weeks later, I had another episode. My cardiologist (another saint), set me up with a cardiac electrophysiologist, who recommended that I have a procedure called an ablation, wherein the tissue that is misfiring is basically destroyed, allowing the heart to return to a normal pace. I had that procedure about three weeks ago, and things are getting back to normal, although we are having some fun trying to find a new balance for my meds.

I have been able to start reading again, since my ability to concentrate is one of the things that has been returning. Not that I wasn’t trying to read this whole time; I was just having enough concentration issues that in stead of a joy, it was becoming downright unpleasant.

I am now trying to finish books I had started and given up on along the way, as well as new books.

In that regard, I am reading Excelsior, You Fathead!: THe Art and Enigma of Jean Shepherd, by Eugene B. Bergmann. I was surprised at having a hard time reading this (not realizing that it was largely because of the physical stuff) before my health issues kicked up because I have always been a fan of Jean Shepherd’s. My mom always had WOR-AM on her radios in the house, so I grew up falling asleep at night to Shep’s delicious cynicism. I have picked the book up again (thank God for Kindle readers), and it now seems less of a slog.

In fact, what inspired this entry is something that Shep came up with in the late 1950s (when I would have been listening to him every night that he was on): Dream Collection Day! What Shep proposed was that the city declare one day to be Dream Collection Day, on which day everyone could put out on their stoop, like so much garbage, all the dreams they had not achieved, along with the paraphernalia for chasing those dreams. His contention is that those old dreams are doing nothing more than making us feel guilty and holding us back from what we could be doing if we were living in the present moment. Thing is, from my great perspective of almost 65 years, I think he might be onto something here.

I received an email today from an acquaintance who was bemoaning that nothing he had tried in his just under eighty years on the planet had worked out the way he had wanted it to. in his words, “My entire life could best be described as an unrealized potential–a tale of what MIGHT have been; not a tale of what ACTUALLY happened. Not for a single moment did my shafts hit the bullseye. I was off by a mile. I was considered second-rate; never a winner. I was no more than a face in the crowd; a nameless, unidentifiable being; a nobody.” Now, this friend is about to have a second volume of poetry published – not a mean feat these days. Yet all he can see is the things that didn’t happen. And he judges his life as being worthless because of those. I wonder what it could be if he could focus on going forward, rather than looking back in despair. I also am debating taking Shep’s idea and putting it to use in my life. I have been wanting to

I also am debating taking Shep’s idea and putting it to use in my life. I have been wanting to get rid of tons of things over the last few years, and have even made some attempts at doing so before I got sick. I think I need to look at the stuff in my life, and see what dreams are no longer relevant to me, and sell, give away, or toss out the things pertaining to them.

In other news, I have been reading a delightful series by Shira Glassman; the Mangoverse series. It revolves around a Jewish, lesbian queen named Shulamit; her wife in all but name, Aviva; Riv/Rivka, her cross-dressing bodyguard; and Riv’s husband, Isaac, a man/dragon shapeshifter. The series is fun, silly, delightful, and way too damned short. I want more stories about them. I stumbled onto this series because the author is a Twitter friend of one of my real-life friends, and I had interacted with her through my friend’s Twitter account and liked her. She’s also done some stand-alone book, and I read the first one, Knit One, Girl Two, with great delight (except that it was too darned short and I want to read more about Clara, Jasmine, The Phantom, and Danielle)! I highly recommend this book, as well as the Mangoverse series.

Another thing I got to read, thanks to the wonderful Lawrence Block, who seems to have gotten me listed as a reader/reviewer for Random House, was a book by Donald E. Westlake, Forever and a Death, which is – according to Random House – his first novel. It was delicious, with all the hallmarks of a great Westlake read. Not Dancing Aztecs, by any means, not a Dortmunder, but well worth the time spent reading it. Again, highly recommended, especially if you are a Westlake fan.

There is so much more I have to recommend, but I think that’s enough for one post. So I will be back to my regular schedule soon, I hope, and look forward to seeing everyone again.

Quick Note

Your grammarian is still here, and still grouchy. She has, however, been recovering from open heart surgery, specifically a septal myectomy, on March 26th.

She apologizes for the delay, and for any inconvenience, and hopes to be grousing regularly again in the near future.

The Dying Art of Conversation

Picture of three friends conversing by Mickalene Thomas. Photo ©2012 Deborah J. Wunder

Picture of three friends conversing by Mickalene Thomas. Photo ©2012 Deborah J. Wunder

Barrie Davenport, of Live Bold and Bloom, has an excellent article on the art of conversation. What caught my attention wasn’t so much the tips on conversation, but the assertion that we are increasingly becoming convinced that conversation doesn’t matter:

“We’ve forgotten the power the spoken word has both for good and ill. And we’ve been duped into believing it doesn’t matter that much.

But it does matter. It matters because in spite of the accessibility of cyber-communication and our reliance upon it, we still need real interaction. We crave it — it’s genetically coded in our DNA. Humans are social beings who want to connect and engage with others.”

I think she is correct on several levels. First, I do think that many of us are relying more and more on our electronic devices to do our communicating. Heck, I note that I am a phone freak – mostly because it’s often just easier to reach out to someone by phone than for both me and the person I want to talk with to find time in our schedules to actually – you know – get together, especially since doing so often involves an hour or mor each way on public transit for us to be able to do so.

But, yeah, no matter how well I know my friends it is often harder to pick up conversational nuances over the phone. The body language just isn’t visible to me.

Mind, I have no problem with using texts and email to get information to someone quickly. I just used it yesterday, in fact, to get information about software for converting 78 rpm records into files that can be put on a cd or a computer, and then to let a different friend know that I had that information, and have someone who can walk me through the process if/when he wants to leave the old 78s he found at my house for a few weeks. In this case, email was the optimal solution — I was able to get the information to my friend without a long, drawn-out conversation about his current situation. (It’s not that I’m not sympathetic to his predicament, but I had a lot of work to accomplish, and couldn’t really spare the time to hear the whole story rehashed.) On the whole, though, I enjoy a good phone chat.

However, I do prefer getting together with someone for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it gets me away from my computer and phone for a bit. Besides, I never know what interesting things will occur when I am hanging out with friends, and that’s generally fun to discover.  An acquaintance of mine mentioned liking tea of Facebook recently, and I messaged him back that we should have lunch at my favorite tea shop. We set up the lunch, and it turns out that he is inviting a third person — the owner of the shop, who is a friend of his! So my world will get a little bigger because my acquaintance and I decided that some real life conversation over a cup of tea (and one of their excellent salads, maybe) was a good idea.

And that’s what conversation is really about — reinforcing the connection between us. And no matter how good our webcams are, no matter how personal our blog posts, there are few things better than a long, thoughtful conversation between friends (with all the body language, facial expressions, vocal cues, and – if we are lucky – hugs and physical contact) for reaffirming our humanity, and our joy in connecting with another person.

Sometimes, I Don’t Understand People.

Your grammarian was asked this evening to plug a site collecting funds for victims of the West Texas thing.

I looked at the website, and — if this guy is honest — it’s nowhere near ready to be plugged. It has a couple of articles, but no information on who the fund it, what its mission is, who the principals are, etc.

Given all the scammers who arise after these sort of catastrophic things, you’d think he’d know better.  Especially after complaining to me that he suspects another site to be that of a scammer because it only has one page.

I offered him feedback instead, and offered to look at the site again when it was complete, and he got kind of huffy about it.

The thing is, while I’m sure he’s sincere I cannot in good conscience plug something asking people for money unless I know exactly who is collecting that money, where and how it will be disbursed, who is behind the collection, and all the other stuff you want to know before giving to charity. It would be irresponsible of me to to do so.

If I ask my readers to click on something, it is something I can totally endorse. And, if I try to ascertain that your site is something on the up and up, I don’t expect huffiness as a response.

The guy tried to backtrack and say that the site was not complete, but he wants linkbacks to start coming in now. He may want that, and he may find others who will do that, but I won’t. He claims to be working with the mayor of the town affected. Why not have the mayor write a testimonial for him, then? All I see on the site are some uncredited articles about the incident.

To me, that’s a warning that this guy is not going to be doing what he says he is. Especially since his response to being asked to provide more information to his visitors is to get huffy.

Anyway, you guys can rest assured that I will never steer you towards something that I do not believe to be totally on the up and up.

Your Grammarian is Feeling Much Better Today

I did start this post on Saturday, but I ended up taking a short nap — that lasted five hours!

Got paid for the first manuscript, and even got a second — which is much better in so many ways. Good, strong story and characters; good, transparent writing that doesn’t get in the way of the story; and an author who clearly did his homework, but doesn’t have to dump his erudition on the reader. I’m really enjoying working on this one.

The new computer is working smoothly which is a godsend, especially after having to do my last month or so’s work by borrowing the roomie’s computer in order to have workable internet service.

One of the problems with recovering from congestive heart failure, with fluid in the lungs, is that I need a lot more sleep than I used to. And I need to remember to be kind to myself. My energy now crashes out fairly suddenly, and when it does I need to stop, quite literally. I’ve had to go home in the middle of get-togethers with friends, and I’ve had to stop mid-writing to go and take a nap. It’s annoying but — at least for now — it’s my reality, and I need to take care of it.

I’m working my way through the pile of library books slowly. Finished Fr. Andrew Greeley’s The Making of the Pope 2005, and am now reading John Shelby Spong’s Jesus for the Non-Religious and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. Both are interesting, so far. Will talk about them when I am through.  I also have Seanan McGuire’s A Local Habitation on my iPhone, as well as Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. I’m also working my way through Dr. Phil McGraw’s Life Strategies, which is very interesting. I should note that I am disposed to like Dr. Phil — he calls for action instead of whinging, which is refreshing int his world where so many people feel that endlessly complaining about a problem is the same as doing something about it.

Anyway, that’s it for this week, I think. See everyone next time!


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