First Post of the Year: We’ve Got This.

Change happens.

Happy 2022, everybody!

Well, here’s hoping, anyway. I can’t shake the feeling that there will be more drastic changes this year, globally, politically, environmentally, and pandemically. I suspect yours truly will be hard-pressed to keep up with those changes in this forum, but I promise to do my best to shower you with my usual quirky and unsolicited opinions.

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. I haven’t in decades. My failure rate is too high, and there’s no sense setting myself up for said failure right out of the calendrical gate. And this year will be unpredictable, so it’s a lot harder to make any sort of a plan to reach any sort of a goal.

Frankly, most of the time these days I’m just sitting around feeling nostalgic about those kinder, gentler times when I could give out free hugs to strangers. Those days are gone. So maybe my goal should be to see everyone as germ vectors, yes, but choose to like them anyway. I think that may still be achievable.

On the day I post this, Dear Husband and I should have been driving home from a romantic mini-break in Victoria, Canada. But we decided to cancel, because there’s no predicting if the borders will remain open, there’s no predicting how bad this Omicron variant will get, and one of our dogs is displaying some worrisome but vague health changes. None of us are getting any younger. So we chose to do the responsible thing and mini-break in place. We weren’t expecting that. But, you know, change happens.

I think many of us have a gut instinct to fear change. That stands to reason. Knowing what the heck was going on was critical for the survival of our cavewomen ancestors. Their ability to predict is what has allowed us all to be here. I’m sure that instinct to desire predictability was passed right along to us. Now we’re having to squelch that fear of change in exchange for a heaping helping of flexibility, and some of us are better at that than others.

But I’m feeling optimistic today, and looking back on the past couple of years it’s very evident that we’ve all been through a lot. Change has come at us at a furious rate. And yet, here we are. We’ve made it this far. It may not have been pretty, but we did it. And I suspect that will be the case this year, too, as long as this pandemic is taken seriously.

I suspect that there will be many times this year when I’m tempted to post just one sentence: “I’ve got nothing.” Coming up with topics for this blog is a constant challenge, especially when all travel plans and new experiences seem to teeter on the edge of cancellation. But as I said up above, I’ll do my best.

When all is said and done, that’s really the most any of us can do, isn’t it? I believe that the majority of us are really doing the best that we can under these difficult circumstances, and because of that, I choose to continue to have faith in us. We’ve got this. Just you wait and see.

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So, Enough with Your Grammatical Pedantry

Grammar can be deliciously organic.

Many of us have pet peeves regarding word usage and/or sentence structure. Heaven knows I do. I don’t really understand why people say “irregardless” when regardless will do. Also, I feel that orient is better than orientated, and flammable is better than inflammable. Keep it simple, I say.

For the most part, I keep these peeves to myself. I mainly do so because the three irritating words I mention above can actually be found in dictionaries. Who am I to dictate your word choices, even if I think they are making you look stupid?

But the one thing I cannot abide is someone who is so anal and pedantic about grammar that they clearly have no concept of the realities of grammar at all. They overlook the fact that languages are influenced by living, breathing entities, and will therefore naturally evolve over time. If you doubt me, go read a novel by Charles Dickens or a play by Shakespeare. Even this article in the Journal of Pragmatics indicates that the “grammar of a language is not a rigid set of conventions but malleable depending on the communicative context.”

“But you can’t end a sentence with a preposition,” they’ll shout. “You just can’t!”

Uh… yes you can. In fact, I defy you to make it through the day without doing so at least once. I’ve blogged about this before, here.

I’ve also recently blogged about the increasing acceptance of the singular they (as used three paragraphs above), which has, in fact, been in regular usage since 1375. I look forward to the day when it drops off the pedant radar, because it’s starting to feel like a form of grammatical child abuse. Get over it, folks. It’s here to stay. Stop treating it as if it were an unwanted stepchild.

The latest focus of these grammar police seems to be starting sentences with the word so. They just hate that. But, as this hilarious story by NPR indicates, the word so is a reliable introductory workhorse that was used just as much 100 years ago as it is today. So… my advice would be to not get your knickers in a twist about this innocuous little word. Life is too short.

I have a theory that those who insist upon rigid grammatical rules are either wildly misinformed or, deep down, they are extremely insecure about their own intelligence or lack thereof. They attempt to feel better about themselves by acting grammatically superior. I tend to feel sorry for them, because they are depriving themselves of the richness and flexibility of true communication.

I think of grammar as something deliciously organic, not some dusty concrete block that refuses to be moved. Words should be played with to create a colorful exchange of ideas, and your palette should be diverse enough to reflect the cultural context in which you’re operating. The grammatical world is not just black and white.

I’m not saying that the Land of Grammar is the wild, wild, west, however. It’s important to properly spell your words. Good writers convey their thoughts clearly and effectively. There’s flexibility, but try not to be so flexible that you come across as if English were not your first language, or as if you barely made it through the 4th grade. Sentence structure does matter, but there are usually multiple ways in which to craft your sentence. Laziness does not equate to creativity, but flexibility certainly does.

I urge you to let your creative writer come out to play. At the very least, use a thesaurus to shake things up. And for the love of God, stop assuming that Spell Check is the arbiter of all things grammatical. It’s a program that was made by fallible human beings, after all, and it gets things wrong as often as not.

End of rant.

May your writing journey be a flexible one. Namaste.

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Shriveling Up?

Flexibility is important.

Ever since I turned 50, my hands have been giving me problems. First it was de Quervain’s Tendonitis, which got so bad that I was in a brace for 9 months and then had to resort to surgery. Most recently, it was trigger finger, in which my finger seemed to have a painful mind of its own, and would vibrate and snap against my will. Surgery was suggested for that, too, but how many tendons can one cut before losing functionality?

As a last resort, I went to an acupuncturist, and now my finger is fine. But during one visit I lamented that this kind of thing would keep happening to me, and I need my hands to type this blog. She told me something very interesting.

She said as we get older, we tend to curl our hands more and more, and that plays hell with one’s tendons. It made me think of a desiccated leaf in the Autumn of its life. Curling. Shriveling up.

Now, I’m no doctor, so I can’t tell you how accurate this is, but after she told me that, I began looking at people’s hands. And I did notice, in a purely unscientific way, that young people seem to hold their hands flatter than old people do.

After that, I started doing hand stretches. Bending my fingers back as much as I could. And while driving, I’d place my hands flat on the steering wheel instead of curving my fingers around it. (Of course, I only did that when it felt safe to do so. I’m not encouraging you to be reckless.)

And I’ll be darned if I’m not feeling an improvement in my hands. I mean, a serious improvement. I’m going to keep this up.

Since then, I’ve noticed I also tend to curl up in my shoulders and feet, too. I hunch over the keyboard. I curl my feet in bed. So I’m stretching those areas as well. If my work schedule weren’t so weird, I’d get back into yoga. When I did yoga, I felt great.

Still, I’m opening myself up. Flattening myself out. Flexibility is important. I wouldn’t want to shrivel up before my time.

Close-up of autumn leaves fallen to the ground

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Could You be a Bridgetender?

Within 5 minutes of meeting a new bridgetender, I can tell if he or she is going to last. And I’m never wrong. Opening drawbridges isn’t for everyone.

Some people don’t even last for that 5 minutes. They take one look at the catwalks and stairways, suspended precariously high above the water, and they quit right on the spot. And some tenderhouses are considerably shabbier than others (when they’re gross, they’re very, very gross), and that can turn people off as well.

Others quit after a few days. They can’t take the isolation and/or the boredom. Very few people are accustomed to no human interaction whatsoever for 8 hours at a stretch. That amount of introspection can be very uncomfortable if it’s not your thing. Solitary confinement is considered to be a form of torture, after all.

If you are used to spending your holidays at home with family, this is definitely not the job for you. And if you’re the type of person who likes to show up late, the coworker you are relieving will kill you sooner rather than later. If you have only a passing relationship with the concept of ensuring the safety of the traveling public, then we’d all rather that you go away.

If you are inflexible, you won’t thrive when working on a bridge. Yes, for the most part this is a sedentary job, but that’s punctuated with times of great activity. Doing maintenance. Responding to emergencies. Opening the bridge (well, duh). If you come to resent those parts of the job, or think the world owes you a living for doing absolutely nothing, ever, then you will not be happy here.

Sadly, there’s no uniformity of benefits or pay scale for this job. In some parts of the country the compensation is absolutely abysmal. (I can’t stress this enough: UNION.)

I’ve also run into short timers who were hesitant to talk on the marine radio, or couldn’t read or write well (there’s a lot more paperwork than you’d suspect), or were afraid to step outside alone at night or in inclement weather when things needed doing. These are always red flags.

Rereading this, I realize that I make it sound as if this is the worst job in the world. On the contrary. I’ve written about my love for this job in this blog on numerous occasions. But as with any other profession, you have to be suited to it. You have to have a certain je ne sais quoi. I may not be able to describe it to you, but I can spot a bridgetender with staying power at 50 paces.


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An interesting conversation with my friend Amy recently made me realize that there seem to be two types of people in this world: Those who thrive on structure and those who chafe when forced to be structured. I fall firmly in the former camp. I like planning things. I flourish with boundaries. If I don’t know what to expect it makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Want to go and do something with me? Give me a couple days’ notice so I can get used to the idea. I’m not a spur of the moment type of person. And for the love of all things holy, do not show up at my door unannounced. Not if you want me to be genuinely happy to see you.

I like having a steady job with a steady paycheck and benefits. I admire anyone who can make a living as an entrepreneur or a freelancer, but it would give me ulcers. Never knowing how much money was coming in from one week to the next would freak me out.

Most of the people I knew in Florida were structured types, too. After decades of that, it sort of became my default expectation. But now I’m in Seattle, which seems to be a more freewheeling, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of place. I’m making more and more friends who are free spirits, and it’s been absolutely delightful and inspiring. It’s also been a learning experience.

I struggle to remember that my way isn’t the only way. These are just two different angles by which to approach the world. Naturally, I have a comfort zone, but this does not mean that it’s the “right” zone. It’s just my zone.

I’m loving the enthusiasm of the folks in the other camp. But I’m not wild about the lack of follow through. I love how they feed my creative side, and they also teach me not to take myself so freakin’ seriously. But it would be nice if they could show up on time. They bring me joy. They also frustrate the hell out of me.

When I collaborate with non-structured individuals, I have to learn to be more flexible, and that is growth for me. I’m discovering that there’s more than one way to reach a goal. My well-worn path isn’t the only one. In fact, the view might just be spectacular if I took another route every now and then.

And when I see my friends trying to adapt to my need for structure by giving me time frames and being open to my planning, for example, it means a great deal to me. True friends accommodate each other, and by doing so, everyone grows. So a HUGE hug to all my twisty-bendy friends out there! Thanks for bearing with me, too. It goes both ways.


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