Why grammar matters.

I just saw this on my Facebook feed and had to share it with my fellow grammar nuts.

Gowdy

When I first read it, I thought the verb “stopping” applied to all the items in the series. Hence:

Trey Gowdy is for 

  1. stopping corruption
  2. stopping cronyism
  3. stopping lying to America
  4. stopping restoring the USA back to a country with integrity

Wait, what?

I must have read that wrong. I guess “stopping” only applies to the first item in the series. So Trey Gowdy is for

  1. stopping corruption
  2. cronyism
  3. lying to America
  4. restoring the USA back to a country with integrity

That’s even worse. I’m so confused. Help me, Rhonda.

 

Advertisements

KUOW: “‘Is There a Problem?’ That Scary Brown Man and White Privilege”

shadow-19354_1280

Awhile back, I published a response to the #YesAllWomen movement. I just went back and re-read it, and this line jumped out at me:

So what can men do? […] They can interact with women more mindfully, especially in risky situations like at night and in enclosed spaces. […] I’ve heard from other men who used to feel a little hurt when they saw solo women eyeing them suspiciously or crossing the street to avoid them. Now that they’ve caught a glimpse of the degree of caution we’ve been raised to cultivate, they’re more understanding of these actions.

Then I found this article on KUOW: “‘Is There a Problem?’ That Scary Brown Man and White Privilege.” While I’m still all for men interacting mindfully with women, Gyasi Ross’s story is a gutwrenching example of how often authority figures assume that in any tense situation, it’s the man of color who’s at fault: “A huge Native guy in camouflage was arguing with a clean-cut white couple (and a white captain). Three guesses who started that one. That’s privilege.”

In case you don’t have time to read the article, the confrontation was started by the white woman — the type of move that Jessica Valenti addressed in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal: “Yes, all white women — all of us — are taught to fear men of color. We need to own that truth, own that shameful fear. Most importantly, we need to name it for what it is: deeply held and constantly enforced racism.”

I hadn’t really considered either Ross’s or Valenti’s points when I wrote my response, but they’re right — race plays a part in my snap judgments about who I consider “safe” to walk past on a dark street. It isn’t my only consideration, but it is a consideration. And as Gyasi Ross points out, that’s a problem, not least because skinny unarmed girls aren’t the only ones using race as a metric for threat assessment.

By his own admission, Ross got off easy. But what about the people who haven’t? Later in my article, I said this (emphasis added):

Men, again, we love you. We’re not asking you to wear only pastels, or walk around with your hands up, or get a women’s studies degree.

That was published on May 29, 2014. Michael Brown was still alive at that point. So were Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner, and Rumain Brisbon, and Akai Gurley, and Kajieme Powell, and Ezell Ford, and Dante Parker, and John Crawford III. Within seven months, all of them would be victims of tragic snap judgments.

Early in his story, Ross said: “I knew the drill — I’ve been trained since I was a kid: ‘You’re a big brown guy — don’t be too scary. Don’t be too big. Don’t be too brown.’ We’re taught these things for our own safety and to get along.”

At this point I wanted to jump on a bus and find him and give him a big hug. Because as I discussed in my post, we women know the drill. We’ve been trained since we were kids: “Don’t show too much skin. Don’t walk provocatively. Don’t travel alone.” Women of color have additional “rules” they’ve been taught. Transgender people have others. Like Ross, we’ve been taught these things for our own safety, and no matter how effective they are at keeping us safe, it still stings that we have to compensate for other people’s assumptions and prejudices.

(And speaking as a straight cis white middle-class able-bodied young person, my knowledge of prejudice is limited to what I experience as quite a sheltered female — in short, not much.)

flea-63043_1280

My knowledge of oppression: an analogy.

So for my original question (“What can men do?”), my answer hasn’t changed. But to pose a new question to this matter of race and class and tragic snap judgments, “What can we all do?”

I’m still trying to find the answer, myself. But for starters, I recommend Franchesca Ramsey’s video “5 Tips for Being an Ally.”

If you could forget about one of the “rules” you’ve been given for your demographic, what would it be?

What are your must-read/must-watch resources for people who want to be better allies?

———-

Image credit: Shadow from PublicDomainPictures, flea from WikiImages on Pixabay.

Book Chatter: Small-town books

ferndale-403123_1280

I’ll be the first to admit that cities have their charms, in the form of restaurants, public transit, and festivals. And major sports franchises. And the knowledge that if a major musician or art exhibit is going on tour, you probably won’t have to drive far to see it. Also, not having to explain to people that you’re “from X. You know, near Y. Like if you head south from Z, it’s about two hours away. No, that’s actually Q, but it’s pretty close to X.”

But if you grew up in small towns like I did, there are certain things you just can’t get in cities. Like stars, and the sound of wheat rustling in the breeze, and the way sunlight filters through the walls of an old barn and makes the hay dust dance.

farmhouse-117285_1280

Pretend you’re here. Now take a deep breath. Nothing else like it, is there?

 

If you’re missing your hometown today, try one of these books set in a small town — and feel free to chime in with other favourites I’ve missed. Let’s feel the small-town love!

jhil

We love the oldies-but-goodies here. If you haven’t read Katherine Paterson’s classic Jacob Have I Loved lately, give it another go — you might be surprised by how much you identify with the protagonist, especially towards the end. If you’ve never read it, you’re in for a treat. It’s the story of Sara Louise Bradshaw, the dark older twin of bubbly blonde Caroline. Everyone on tiny Rass Island loves Caroline and predicts great things for her, but they all seem to take Sara for granted. Rambling through the years of WWII and beyond, Jacob Have I Loved examines belonging and identity with a tenderness I’ve yet to see elsewhere.

tgss

If you liked Jacob Have I Loved, try Tiffany Baker’s The Gilly Salt Sisters, with its sharper edges and darker tone. The Gilly women have always run the salt ponds on the outskirts of Prospect, Massachusetts, but at a price: The salt hates men, and does everything it can to drive them off. Some would say that Jo, the elder Gilly sister, has become mostly salt as well, since she’s a gaunt loner (and, some say, a witch). Her bubbly sister Claire thought she escaped the salt years ago when she married wealthy Whit Turner … but then she’s forced back to the failing salt farm with her husband’s pregnant mistress in tow. Together the three women have to decide: Will they let the salt force them farther apart or bind them together in a common cause?

ktm

Lastly, there’s Sarah Dessen’s Keeping the Moon, which follows 15-year-old Colie Sparks’ summer with her aunt while her fitness-guru mother goes on tour. As she hears reports of her mother’s international success, newly thin Colie can’t help but think of the days when the two of them would eat Hostess donuts and pork rinds as they traveled from town to town in search of opportunity. In the broken, cluttered rooms of her aunt’s home, Colie realizes that she’s using each salad as a shield, the same way she once used her spare tire. It takes a job at the local diner, two crazy coworkers, her unruffled aunt, and the bizarre artist downstairs to convince Colie that she can finally put down her shields and embrace a vulnerable life.

What’s your favourite book set in a small town? (And what’s your favourite memory of a small town?)

———

Photo credits:

Ferndale photo from tpsdave on Pixabay.

Barn photo from unicorns on Pixabay.

Book covers from Better World Books: Jacob Have I Loved, The Gilly Salt Sisters, and Keeping the Moon.

Counter Action: Broccoli–cheese soup

DSCF4159

As I look at my post calendar, I’m seeing a theme.

In November, there was roasted garlic soup and spicy white bean stew. Today there’s going to be this broccoli–cheese soup. And in the not-so-distant future, there’s going to be French lentil soup and Tuscan bean soup and onion soup.

We’re big on soup here. I hope that’s okay.

Other things I’m big on, at least this week:

  • Jonathan Coulton’s song “Ikea.” It’s everything you ever wanted in a song about everyone’s favourite elegantly furnished maze.
  • A Girl of the Limberlost, by Gene Stratton Porter. Sure, it was published in 1909, but its themes of familial loyalty, independence, and staying true to oneself are as pertinent as they ever were. If you haven’t read it since you were a kid, try giving it another shot — I was amazed by the new nuances I caught this time around.
  • Bath & Body Works’ Purple Amethyst lotion. Here’s how the pros describe the scent: “A hypnotic blend of Italian bergamot, rare camellias & exotic sandalwood.” Here’s my analysis: “Strong on the unicorn tears, with top notes of summer moonlight and the Jazz Age and a faint afternote of Nicholas Sparks.” Bottom line: It smells good.
  • Winterspell“, by Two Steps from Hell. Would you find tasks easier to accomplish in this dark, cold month if they were accompanied by a sweeping dramatic score? Look no further: Two Steps from Hell has your back. (Other favourites: “Spirit of Moravia“, “Cassandra“, and “Men of Honor Part II“.)
  • The 2013 version of The Great GatsbyThis is preemptive praise — I haven’t actually seen it yet; it’s just been sitting in my “borrowed items” stack for longer than I care to admit. But given the reviews, I fully expect to enjoy it when I sit down to it tonight with my bowl of soup.

DSCF4148

Broccoli–cheese soup

(adapted from Peas and Crayons’ recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced finely
  • 2 c. broccoli flowerets, diced finely
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 c. vegetable broth
  • 4 c. water
  • 3 T. butter
  • 3 T. flour
  • 1-1/2 c. milk
  • 1 c. grated cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Warm oil in large stockpot over medium heat. Add onion. Cook 2 minutes.
  2. Add carrot and broccoli. Cook 3 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, spices, and salt. Stir to combine and cook 2 minutes longer.
  4. Add bay leaf, broth, and water. Increase heat and cover pot. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
  5. In separate saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and stir in flour to form a thick paste. Add milk and whisk until smooth. Continue to heat and stir until mixture has thickened.
  6. Add cheese to saucepan and stir until melted and incorporated.
  7. Ladle some broth into cheese mixture and stir. Gradually add more hot broth, stirring between each addition, until saucepan is full and cheese sauce’s temperature is similar to stockpot’s temperature.
  8. Pour cheese sauce into stockpot and stir to combine. Serve with green salad and crusty bread. Garnish with grated cheese, crackers, or fresh parsley if desired.

 

The New Statesman: “If you believe trans lives matter, don’t share Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note on social media.”

256px-A_bit_of_controversy_surrounding_the_transgender_flag_san_francisco_(2012)_(8206733386)

By now we’ve all heard about Leelah Alcorn, the transgender teen whose suicide note on Tumblr went viral. Tragically, the story of an LGBTQQIAA teen’s suicide is not an uncommon sight in the media … but are those stories being handled in the best possible way? Sarah Ditum tackles this issue with sensitivity and grace at The New Statesman. If you have a couple of minutes, I highly recommend it — and if you have a few minutes beyond that, check out Samaritans’ suggestions and WHO’s guidelines for covering and sharing these stories.

In a perfect world, of course, we wouldn’t have any suicides to report. But since we do, shouldn’t we try to do it responsibly?

———

Photo credit: By torbakhopper [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.

If Carhartt sold lingerie

jackets-428622_1280

Over Christmas, I stayed at my parents’ house for a few days with my sister and her fiancé. Since I hadn’t seen my sister in a year, it was great to catch up with her and have some good sisterly bonding time.

Historically, there haven’t been a lot of topics we can bond over. She takes pains over her appearance; I prefer a style I call Shabby Cheap. She’ll wake up on a Friday, remember she has a marathon that Sunday, and nail it, powered by kale and quinoa; I’d rather puff and pant through three miles and then reward myself with a cinnamon roll.

runner-579327_1280

It’s a beautiful moment, when I see that cinnamon roll. I hear angels singing the Chariots of Fire theme.

 

But lately, we’ve been finding more things we have in common. For example, buying lingerie. Not for ourselves. Oh gosh. No. Worse: for other people. People we know.

Our friends keep getting married, see, and among the many other arcane rituals of matrimony, there is the traditional Giving of Fancy Underwear. As my sister was in charge of planning a lingerie party over Christmas break, and I was in the throes of selecting some lingerie for another friend, there was a certain amount of underwear-themed hysteria in the house (much to the men’s chagrin).

Because here’s the catch with lingerie shopping: With every other gift you buy in your lifetime, you’re supposed to take great pains with selecting it. You’re meant to wander the aisles at length, considering each option carefully and trying to guess whether the recipient would like it.

But with lingerie, that is patently not the case. Call me a prude, but I don’t particularly enjoy dwelling at length on my friends’ underwear preferences. So do I just go for a style I’d like to wear? What if that’s too racy or too conservative? Which side is better to err on?

(Discuss.)

linen-542866_1280

One of these days I’m going to show up with a pile of bedsheets and be like, “What? ‘Lingerie’ is French for ‘linen’.”

 

Fortunately, my father was able to keep a sense of humour throughout this process. Some of his remarks made me realize how unbalanced the lingerie market is. Why do Victoria’s Secret and Frederick’s of Hollywood get all the fun? Carhartt should get in on this — there’s a real niche for fireproof lingerie, I’m sure. And what about Nike? No-nonsense, no frills, aerodynamic. You could pick up some Hollister selections if you didn’t mind not seeing what you were buying before you took it home, or a 48-pack of thongs from Costco if you were feeling cost-efficient. And really, what woman wouldn’t line up for four hours to get their hands on the sleek silhouette of an Apple babydoll?

I just picked up my selection today, from Target. I was squirming a bit at first, but then I told myself, “This friendship is worth the awkwardness, so woman up and get in there,” and then there turned out to be a sale, which I always enjoy. By the time I was finished, I was able to walk right up to the male cashier and put the heap of lacy underwear on the counter without a qualm.

That’s the power of lingerie, I’m thinking: confidence, poise, the realization that you’re stronger than you think and bigger than your circumstances. Maybe there’s a little of the Carhartt spirit there after all.

———

Photo credits: Coats by jarmoluk, runner by skeeze, linen by stevepb on Pixabay.