Cereal Comma

People are passionate about the serial comma one way or another. I’ve witnessed the most hyperbolic exchanges around that particular usage of the comma. I will use whatever convention the recipient has requested (APA 7th Ed, sure. AP Style, okay, let’s not). However, I refuse to call that piece of punctuation an “Oxford comma” because that’s some snobby, ethnocentric bull malarkey. I also refuse to accept the use or abstinence from the serial comma as “correct.” Like, why follow some tweed-wearing grammar dweeb? Do your own thing.

misty oblong bowl of corn flakes set on a ledge overlooking a fantasy kingdom,

This image doesn’t make any sense to me either. The artwork was created with the help of Artificial Intelligence using the phrase “cereal comma.” Create your own AI-generated artworks using NightCafe Creator.

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My Writing Job Killed My Writing Hobby

The Hubster and I had a weblog-like thing before that’s what they were called. We posted pictures and wrote captions describing our activities. He posted graphs of his weight loss versus my pregnancy gain. No one read blogs, so we sent e-newsletter-ish messages updating everyone we know that we’ve updated our webpage.

It didn’t take long for blogging platforms to become all the rage and I was on it. I even dabbled with vlogging. Turns out that takes a certain moxie I don’t have. I started this blog and dreamed of getting the call all indie bloggers hoped for at that time — the “blog for me” job offer. I got that in 2010 and my writing changed.

My life changed too. Many bloggers who didn’t go the job route but the entrepreneurial route instead, hustled up advertisers and contributors and built communities around their own interests. That’s all great and I’m so totally envious, but I didn’t think that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to keep my quiet little life with my own thoughts, my environmental micro-movement and a focus on my kiddos. I need to take inventory to see if I managed that.

My writing is geared for promotion now, not insight. My mind is on how to engage, not to create community but to improve metrics. Documenting the little experiments and quiet moments at home is all but over. I cling to shared reading (right now The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn). We still do projects, sometimes. I even share through social media, though it doesn’t give me the same satisfaction as telling the story behind the moments.

I have a plan to scrape some of the better content that I’ve written for my employer and cross posting it here. It’s almost true to my voice. Maybe just that little effort will reignite the desire to make my own accounting and refocus my attention on the heart of my home and not just the functioning of it. Maybe… if I actually do it.

My Friend Should Be the Next Top Self-help Author

In fifth grade I started hanging out with a boy-crazed, fiery and hilarious girl. By the sixth grade, I was devoted to her and moving to a new town where I wouldn’t see her devastated me. I’ve always preferred friends to environment. Nearly 30 years passed and my thoughts of spectacular friendships always included Wendy. Where did she go and what has she done? In one of those fit-for-the-silver-screen situations, it turns out Wendy attended Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and eventually landed in Phoenix, just an abridged book on tape round trip from where the Hubster moved us in 2000.

I made Wendy pose with me in the bathroom last time we were together. She’s a good sport like that.

I discovered Wendy’s whereabouts a couple of years ago thanks to the amazing world of social networking, so thank you Zuckerberg for that. Others may think you’re a tool for imposing annoying routine updates regarding a person’s whereabouts or parental over sharing of children’s activities or the gross abuses of our privacy. I am personally grateful that you brought Wendy back into my life. Since we reconnected, Wendy has been my date to two major events sponsored by my work, has written two guest blogs for my work and lent herself to a large event for my work. She also had her handbag stolen, but that’s neither here nor there and not related at all to my job.

The point is that I loved Wendy as a child and I find her engaging as an adult. This morning, she sent an e-mail to me. The truth of it is obvious to me and because I adore her still, I’m passing it along.

“Hi! This is a difficult email for me to write because it requires being vulnerable enough to ask you for help. I am competing in a contest for a publishing contract. I need votes. Will you please take 3 minutes to vote? Then, would you ask the three people you speak to the most to do the same? For the past five years I have asked friends, students, clients, and family to help me with projects I have been involved with for others (Nuestro Barrio, 3 Day Walk, etc). Now I am asking you to help me personally. I really appreciate this and you get a free gift when you vote as a way to say thank you! I really appreciate your time and the favor.

Vote here: NextTopAuthor.com

If you go vote for her, you will have to register. I hate that, but I understand that it reduces duplicate votes while harvesting your address. I suggest a special spam account for that. Registration is painless and you will have helped Wen toward her goal. Even if you aren’t inclined to go do that, you should at least watch the video. I love her video. I think it speaks volumes about Wendy — both the one I remember as a child and the one I now know.



Okay, time to come clean about my dad. He has a 3.5 cm cancerous tumor in his lungs that has not metastasized and can be cut out fairly simply. “Simply” here is relative, of course. I can say this because it is not my lung. This begs the question: Why hasn’t the U.S. adopted the metric system? As it stands, poor little American scientists have to convert everything. It’s not like we lack the methods to standardize measurements. We don’t need to use body parts for reference, though if you’d like to, Dad’s tumor is a little larger than the length of your thumb from the tip to the first knuckle. As an American who adores my independence from the Queen, I’m not sure why we are compelled to rely on our Imperial Measurement-based system. In some cases, we aren’t.

Back to Dad. He also has a mass on his right adrenal gland. Fortunately, Dad, like the rest of us, has two of these so losing one won’t be a huge deal. Although, I do worry that lightening up his right side will make him even more left-leaning and therefore an outlaw in my state of residence (ARIZONA).

Dad’s outlook is great. For one thing, he is on day seven or so sans the evil influence of cigarettes. He attributes his success at quitting smoking to morphine. Ba-dum, CHING! The lesson here is that all you have to do to get your hands on morphine is to smoke for 42 years and get cancer. Easy peasy!

Dad will have two surgeries to remove the masses and will be in the hospital until next week or so. My brilliant brother, true to his word, is going to take care of Daddy with the help of my grandmother, who is ridiculously strong and healthy and amazing. My mother and her husband are checking in on Dad too. My grandmother’s neighbor, a doctor, is calling in appropriate professional courtesies. Dad’s friends are providing a steady stream of visitors, entertainment, and frustration. All this attention, adoration, and love coming his way annoys my dad, which I think is hysterical since he’s always the belle of the ball. YOU SHOULDN’TA GOT CANCER DAD!

This all came to pass when Dad went to the hospital to cure food poisoning after eating cereal with bad milk. GAG! When my brother and I lived at home, milk never had a chance to turn. Now that Dad is on his own, I’m sure it doesn’t occur to him that milk might be past its expiration date. Let this be a warning to you, if you don’t want tumors springing up throughout your body, be sure to check the date on your milk before consuming.


Cookie Boothin’ Throughout the Universe

Hawt Mz came by the ole cookie booth yesterday. I wanted to tell her something cool like how I wore a Goody comb in my back pocket all day and then leave the story all enigmatically like that. Instead I geeked about books, gossiped about, uh, not gonna say, and then realized I smell like armpits most of the time.

Later the 10-YO, who was sitting behind a plate glass window playing his DS and minding his own business, came to inform me he was getting water for some guy. I looked at the grimy paper cup in his hands and asked, “What guy?” The 10-YO pointed at a man even more grimy than the cup who was peering over the shoulder of a gamer. “Dude, you totally just failed Charlie Check First.” “Yeah, so I’m going to get that guy some water.” “Uh…kay,” I said thinking he would visit the drinking fountain back inside the store and brb. I also took a look at my son’s gaming stuff that he left in the seat next to Creepy McStranger. I wasn’t in the position to leave my 7-YO Girl Scout with all those boxes of cookies plus the cash kitty. She’d totally establish her independence before sundown. Nah, I had to trust the universe. “But after you give him water, get your stuff and move.” I then commenced the “I will f*** you up!” stare at the oblivious man, daring him to look at me. That took about three seconds before my attention was redirected to cookie sales. I later learned the 10-YO didn’t go to the water fountain. He went down the way to a restaurant and got iced water. Iced. Freaking. Water. The 10-YO and I eventually had the expanded stranger danger discussion, during which I asked why he complied with the request. “Because he asked nicely.” I need to lock that boy up.

The 7-YO has another cookie booth in a few minutes.


When Taking the High Road, It’s Best to Know the Way

My brother received a camera for Christmas one year. We can go on ad nauseum about all the great stuff my brother got that I didn’t, but that would ignore the fact that I got a bunch of awesome stuff too and acknowledgment of such would not lend itself well to my sour grapes attitude. We spent some time photographing our normal activities — at least those I was willing to share with my brother. He’d seen me fight before, so I invited him to photograph a fake one (WWF style — I still got my hits in). Check out my form.
I loved being a kid. I loved impromptu games of kickball and climbing fences and walking barefoot on fresh hot tar. I loved my friends. I loved Wendy and Angela most, but I also loved the neighborhood kids and my classmates as well. I loved them so fiercely, especially the ones I saw as weaker, that I would kick the ass of anyone who caused anyone any grief. I guess I maybe had a reputation.

Laura fancied herself as tough stuff and came looking for a fight. For that reason alone, I should have taken an extra hit of joy in knocking that clown down. I made short order of Laura, but it was a joyless exercise. I realized that once people started searching me out to challenge the champion, then I was no longer, nor maybe ever was, defender of of the little guy. I was just a target for every wannabe tough kid.

With one last face shove in the dirt, I got up, my brain reeling in confusion. Yes, I kicked her ass in front of her friends who had just told her they would jump in but who didn’t. Yes, she was more stout than I, but I was an inch or so taller. Not only did I not want to be My Bodyguard anymore, I also didn’t want to be part of that sort of humiliation, even when people deserved it. I determined Laura was my last beat down. I was finished and I said so.

Laura got up with grass in her hair, clothing askew, and obligatory dirt smears on her arm and cheek and asked for more. I couldn’t believe it. She hadn’t even caught her breath from the last round! “Nah, I think we are done here,” I said. “Are you scared?” she asked. Heck no I wasn’t scared; I had just kicked her ass! I laughed incredulously, but couldn’t think of the gracious way out, so I turned away and began walking home. She shoved me and her previously mute friends renewed their empty promises.

I faced them in disbelief. I was absolutely NOT used to people not accepting my word for gospel. “I said I was done.” “Because you’re a big ol’ chicken!” Laura said and her friends clucked in agreement. Then I said the dumbest thing of all. “Can’t you hear my mom calling?”


When Darkness Fell

The summer I was 11, I played on a softball team. The coach had a warrant out for her arrest, so we frequently didn’t know when or where we would practice until we got a call about half an hour beforehand. Not surprisingly, like all teams with criminally inclined coaches, we kicked ass. At the end of the season, we had a huge slumber party at which I froze a bra for the first and last time. The next morning, my parents failed to pick me up. The hosts called, but got no answer (before mobile phones, before cordless phones, before even answering machines — yes, I am that old). Late in the afternoon, they decided to just drop me off at home.
Like most drop-offs of the era, there was no parent-to-parent kid transfer. They barely slowed at my curb, they were so eager to get rid of me and get on with their lives. I hardly noticed nor did I flinch at the empty house. I had years of practice breaking into my home. On this particular day, I climbed up on the shed wherein our laundry machines were kept. From there I leaped to my second-story sill where I managed to wedge the window open with my freer hand (I had a practiced technique).

My room was lovely in the late afternoon, glowing. My mother and grandmother had papered the walls with yellow and white gingham. I had eyelet curtains with huge princess blue satin bows that matched my bed cover. The ballet bar, the dresser, the vanity, the Barbie Dream House — all was in order. I loved my room and I hung out there for a while. When darkness fell, I realized that my brother wasn’t there. It was usual for my folks to not be there, but no Jacques! Quelle horreur!

I went to check on him. His room was empty — not just of him, but of all his things including the purple grass mask that hung by his exposed light switch that scared the hell out of me (the mask AND the risk of shock). There was no bed, no dresser, no desk, no Rocket Tubes, no Jacques. Nothing.

Moving on, I went downstairs. The living room was barren, exposing only the charred circles of burned shag carpeting that stood witness to the hours alone my brother and I spent at home. The kitchen was empty. My parent’s bedroom was empty. The dog was gone. The cat was gone. I was utterly alone. The family had moved and they left my stuff and me behind.

Whatever: Don’t feel sorry for me and don’t hate on my parents. You weren’t there. They worked hard at lousy paying jobs and that’s just the way it was. Also, that’s not what the story is about. This story is from the perspective of an 11-year-old who DID NOT WANT TO MOVE. Hate on the parents for that.

The reality isn’t as bleak as the memory. My parents did come back for me later that night — probably.


Motherhood Obsession

I’ve discovered that, for work, Twitter is a billion times better for getting my info/gossip fix than anything else and that I act like a total techie jerk when my boss sends me a message like, “This is something so and so should know about ASAP.” Meanwhile I’m thinking, “Yesterday’s news.”

And so if you’ve been following my personal Twitter feed you know that lately I’m all about my great parenting and how God commands my kids to acknowledge my great parenting. This swim suit spied at My Parents Were Awesome would enhance my great parenting, don’t you think? You can tell it’s the perfect swimwear for moms by how it accentuates the firmly-held hand of a young ‘un being dragged to the water. Seriously, I hope someone on Project Runway makes this suit this season. It’s freaking awesome! This is where you say, “Your obsessions are yesterday’s news.” Fortunately, I obsess a lot.

It’s hard not to. Moms get the blame for everything and when they aren’t the target for blame, then they are self-questioning or loathing. Choices, so many choices, with their pros and cons leave us looking over the fence where indeed the grass is greener (bending light, yo). Should I continue to pursue systems think, inquiry-based, performing/visual arts focused education for my kid in a happily diverse school? Or am I, like Hitler’s mother, creating spoiled darlings by encouraging their artistic ambitions though they have no talent? (Yeah, she totally got the blame for that! Fortunately, my spoiled darlings do have talent.) Screw it. If I’m going to mess up my ankle biting rug rats no matter what, then I’m going to have fun and I’m going to do it in that swimsuit.


Epiphany, or 20CMB10 as we like to call it

It’s Three Kings Day – Epiphany! We acknowledged the 12 Days of Christmas by being lazy about cleaning up our tree and then this morning, all four of us stepped outside in the frozen tundra of the desert (the lows last night must have been in the 40s — BURR!) to bless the house.

God of Light, bless our house and our family. May this be a place of peace and health. May each member of this family cultivate the gifts and graces you have bestowed, dedicating our talents and works for the good of all.

Make this house a shelter in the storm and a haven of rest for all in need of your warmth and care. And when we go out from this place, may we never lose sight of that Epiphany star.

As we go about our work, our study, our play, keep us in its light and in your love.

It’s a Methodist prayer and we are Episcopalian, but like God really cares. I also don’t think God cares that the marking of the door with the date and initials of the kings should be done in chalk and over the door. We don’t have chalk. My kids’ teachers use dry erase and it seems to work miracles in the classroom. It looks good, right?

This version has the added benefit of being mobile. When the landlords kick us out so they can move in (whenever that will be because they just let us know things are “progressing slower than expected”), we’ll just take our blessing with us. That tile is a gift from my boss. She’s way cool like that and I say so knowing full well she doesn’t read this blog.

Kings’ Day means no more tree. What a mess! Better get out the vacuum.

Wah, wah, waaaaaaah.

I replaced the broken belt with a new one, which quickly burned through like the first after I made a big show to the kids that they had to learn to fix such things. Stink and smoke later, both kids stared at me with bitter disappointment in their eyes. I’m going to try a third belt to salvage the vacuum because maybe I didn’t make entirely sure that the brush was rotating properly. Also, I have to show everyone I’m right and that buying a new vacuum would be wasteful. Until then, the broom does an adequate job.

Christmas is cleaned up. Thank you letters, where appropriate (only to the most elderly of family members), are written. Presents put away. Sadly, the end of Christmas means no more of these (from a former boss),

or worse, no more of these (from the attendance clerk at my son’s school).

I like my gifties. Maybe I can craft a convincing argument that all my friends and family should resolve that in 2010, they will give me awesome gifts all year long. Maybe Hawt Mz could send home another empty bag of these cookies.

Anyone? Anyone?