Scatterbrain

My thoughts are all over the place. I started a blog post earlier today about Jane’s social life. I kind of meandered around into philosophical ponderings on the nature of being an “outsider” in a small town. I worked my way back toward the story I wanted to tell: her weekend of parties with new friends. On my way there, I stumbled over another point and thought, oh, yeah – that’s where I wanted to go with this.

I didn’t see any easy way to transition to it and suddenly felt that the first 400 words were basically irrelevant. Or maybe another tale. So I started post #2, focusing on the new point as my starting point. But I soon found myself meandering again. It was becoming clear that I was not clear on what I wanted to write about.

I can’t help but feel that all the points could come together in a coherent piece. That they all overlap in such a way that they can fit smoothly with each other. Kind of like this Venn diagram:

venn_1

(I’m not happy with this diagram, by the way. I should have used black lines for the outlines and it really bugs me that they aren’t overlapping by the same amount on each other, even if it is hard with five circles. If I want to get all philosophical with it, I could say that topics never overlap each other in equal amounts so my chart is perhaps more realistic than a well-formed one. Of course, I didn’t consider the percentage overlap for the various topics so my philosophical excuse for a bad diagram is simply that: an excuse.)

Anyway, my story, I think, lies somewhere in that black region where they all overlap. As you can probably see by my senseless rambling about the diagram itself, though, I don’t think I can get there. At least, not right now. My attempts have more closely resembled this diagram:

venn_2

 

I think I want to tell the purple story but red feels like a good place to start but red leads me into green instead of blue and then I realize that green has nothing to do with purple but it sure flows nicely into pink and then I realize the story has gone off the rails and maybe I should have started with blue. But then…

Then… then I get up from my computer. I go to the church to make copies. I come home and take a nap. I think about blogging about the Oklahoma City bombing anniversary instead. I decide that while I was there volunteering and I knew people who were in the building, it’s somehow shallow for me to write about it when so many other people were affected more. I go out to eat. I welcome my husband home. I try to collect my thoughts about Jane. I decide to blog about Venn diagrams instead. And now here we are.

So, yeah, you haven’t heard from me in over a week. This is partly why. I’ve mostly been too busy and then when I’ve tried, the stories haven’t come. I’ll just let you wonder based on the Venn diagram labels what’s going on in Jane’s world.

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A Grammar Nerd’s Defense

I’m raising Grammar Nerds.  I refuse to call them Grammar Nazis and I truly do wish we could retire that term.

I recently commented on Facebook about the poor grammar in a letter sent out by our school.  I said something about expecting better from the school I send my children to.  What I forgot to consider was that I live in a small town.  And so I probably know the person who wrote the letter.

Well, I do.  And she’s one of the sweetest, nicest people you could ever meet.  And she was embarrassed and hurt by my remark.  I felt terrible.  On the one hand, I don’t think I was (strictly speaking) wrong to expect more from my school.  On the other hand, I had caused harm by bringing it up in a public manner.  Normally, I would do it privately, and only if I felt the person would want to fix it.

At any rate, I was telling some friends about how terrible I felt.  One of them very sternly told me, “That was bad.  Really bad.  People don’t like it when people do that.  That’s where the term Grammar Nazi comes from.  Because it’s bad.  People don’t like it.”

Let’s just rein it back in for a minute, shall we?  I publicly remarked that a letter that did contain grammar mistakes… contained grammar mistakes.  This wasn’t a random post on Facebook.  It wasn’t an email or text message or some other throwaway communication.  It was official correspondence from my child’s school.  And it was not well edited before it was released.

Was my complaint really comparable to the starvation, torture, rape, and execution of tens of thousands of people?  I mean, really?  Let’s try to keep it in perspective, please.

Needless to say, when I saw a sign on the door at the school saying “Our student’s safety is our top priority”, I kept my mouth shut.  Well, not completely.  I told Jane about the sign, without telling her the mistake, and asked her how it should be spelled.  She said, “S-T-U-D-E-N-T-S apostrophe.  What, did they put the apostrophe before the S?”

She smiled as I commented that I didn’t realize the school was only worried about one student and wondered which one it was.

It was less than a week later when the boys brought home a T-shirt order form from their school.  The logo said “To Our School We Proudly Hale”.  Jane was the first to point out that they meant Hail.

We contacted some folks who were very appreciative that we brought it to their attention before the shirts went to print.  It’s nice, as a grammar nerd, to be granted appreciation instead of scorn.  It’s much nicer than being scowled at.  Then again, I suppose how we approach the correction makes all the difference.

But you see, it’s not easy to turn it off.  We notice.  And we actually don’t find grammar all that hard.  We get that it’s easy to type something wrong.  But if it’s something that you’ve read over, there probably shouldn’t be many mistakes.  At least, not the really big ones.  We try to consider people’s feelings, but sometimes the timing is just too perfect or the temptation too great or the frustration too much to bear in silence.

Take a conversation Jane was having with some friends.  She remarked that she was not going to be an orchestra teacher when she grew up and then pointed to one of the girls and indicated that she probably would.

The girl responded, “I’m not going to be no orchestra teacher.”

Jane immediately fired back with, “You aren’t going to be an English teacher either!”

Ok, so out of line?  Yeah.  Probably.  Funny?  Hell, yeah!  I couldn’t believe she had said it, but at the same time, I couldn’t help feeling a little proud of her either.

One final proud Grammar Mom moment?  I’ve had multiple adults tell me that they ask Daryl for any spelling help they need.  One of them had barely met him two years ago when he was in the third grade.  One of the other students had made a sign that said “Flower Shop”.  Only, she had spelled it “Flower Shope”.  All the other kids told the girl that the E shouldn’t be there.  Daryl walked by, glanced at the sign, and said, “If you want to spell it with an E, you need two P’s.”

We can’t help it, my children and I.  We live in words.  We immerse ourselves in books.  We love to write.  We love the language.  And it actually hurts to see it butchered, even accidentally.  So we try to be compassionate and consider people’s feelings, we really do.  But sometimes, our instincts get the best of us and we just have to let it out.  At least I haven’t taken to carrying around a bottle of white-out and a Sharpie to fix all the misplaced commas and apostrophes that I come across!

The Amazons vs. The Pixies

I drove Jane to school one recent morning. This was a rare event brought about by a disagreement over showering requirements that had her left behind when the Daddy Wagon departed. She was an emotional wreck, as is common with teenagers when they feel they aren’t in control of their lives, and indicated that there were other stressful things going on in her life beyond her father’s expectations on personal hygiene.

Namely, she said she has been doubting herself. On the one hand, this didn’t surprise me since that’s one thing the average teenager does quite well. On the other, she has always seemed to exude confidence and an impervious response to the harsh words of her peers.

When she was finally ready, I put my hands on her cheeks and said, “You are beautiful and smart and funny and outgoing and a great person. It’s our job to make sure you make good choices and sometimes you aren’t going to like the way we do that. Just know that we are always on your side. There are no more committed players on Team Jane than your Daddy and me, ok?”

And then her Daddy, who had just returned home, mangled one of our favorite lines from The Help and told her, “You is smart, you is pretty, and you is sweet.” She smiled and hugged him – peace restored – and then we headed to the car.

Once rolling, I asked what was going on. I was met with an explosive expression of frustration about the new boyfriend of one of her best friends. He had tagged her with a nickname the year before which had been intended as an insult about her muscular thighs. She had worn it as a badge of honor. Only, recently she had discovered that it wasn’t about her thighs after all. It was that he in general though she looked “manly.” And now other people had taken up calling her that and it was getting to her. Especially since she considered him to otherwise be a nice guy. I guess it would have been easier to take if she could have written him off as a jerk.

She had actually already mentioned the true intent of the nickname last week so I had been thinking about it quite a bit. I took a deep breath and jumped in.

My daughter is beautiful. She truly is. But she’s also a big girl. Now, I don’t mean that as a euphemism for someone overweight – she is not that. She’s just bigger than most. At 5’8″ and probably done, she won’t be considered tall by the time everyone catches up but she’s been the tallest person around until recently and still one of the tallest girls. Her feet are very long. As a women’s size 11, she frequently shops in the men’s section. Her bones are big – her wrist was bigger than mine when she was in the third grade. Her back is broad, her limbs are muscular, and her facial features are strong. I simply marvel at how splendidly made she is.

Add in her intelligence and tendency to put it front and center, and she’s not a girl for just anyone.

“Sweetheart,” I said. “You are a big fish and quite frankly, this is a pretty small pond.” I named some of her petite little friends and said, “Most of the boys are going to be drawn to girls like them. They are little pixie girls and they fit the role of what the boys think they are looking for. They can be the cute little side kick that hangs on the boy’s arm. I’m not saying that’s what they are but the boys that are looking for that can see them as that. You aren’t that. It’s going to take a special guy to appreciate what you have to offer, but trust me, that’s the kind of guy you want.

“Yeah, you are a big woman,” I continued, “but that doesn’t make you unattractive or manly. You are an Amazon woman. You are Wonder Woman.” This made her smile. “Seriously, girl. You are statuesque.”

“You are one of them.”

“One of who?”

“You are one of those pixie girls. Especially now with the short spiky hair.”

This derailed me for a minute. I’ve never once thought of myself in a similar vein to that of her smaller friends. True, I’m petite: not very tall and small boned, but I’ve never had the bubbly personality. My hips are too big and my face too strong featured to be a pixie. Nonetheless, in her eyes, I’m tiny, just like them.

Anyway, I pressed the issue regarding her friend’s boyfriend, who appeared to be the root of her problem. “You know,” I said, “his girlfriend is pretty much the same size you are. You guys trade clothes.”

“Yeah,” she said, “she’s just a little bit smaller in the waist and not quite as tall.”

“So the next time he calls you manly, just say, ‘You know, Marissa and I are the same build. We trade clothes with each other. So what does this mean you think about your girlfriend? Personally, I think she’s beautiful and so am I.”

Her face lit up. Sometimes all our kids need is some help with the witty comebacks when other kids are getting them down. I went on to talk about how hard the teen years are and how there’s pretty much “the cool crowd” and “everyone else.” I assured her that when she went away to college, there’d be a lot more people and it’d be easier to find her “people” – those folks who are interested in similar things and who appreciate her for who she is. Right now, she just has to hang on and survive Small Town USA.