Cats&Grammar

We interrupt this blog to bring you a personal (and most likely) unnecessary quick confession.

I had originally started this blog in January of 2013, shortly after my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The intent: a space to let my inner child (okay – and my outer one, too) howl and rail at the fates. I naïvely believed that I would journal my way through the experience of losing my dearest parent.  Having lost my father 14 years or so prior, I thought, “I know what’s coming. I can cope. I just need to find outlets for my thoughts. When faced with death, it’s a good time to get creative.” How little I did know…

Today, it’s July 2016. Three-and-a-half years have gone by. During that time, I have cherished my mother, nursed her, celebrated her, and mourned her.  Her battle with cancer lasted 10 months. She died, October 21, 2013, at our home surrounded by her cats and an incredible amount of love.  I never did write about what was going on during that terrible\wonderful year. Mainly, I lived in the moment and responded as needed, when needed.  Since her death, I have grieved and I have learned.

So much of who I am now and what I have to say was born then, in that ten-month span. It’s amazing what a woman in her mid-forties can discover when she’s not paying attention. I couldn’t possible continue with my writing if I didn’t acknowledge its source.  Thank you for listening.

We now return to our regularly scheduled whimsy. Here are those magnificent cat companions: Lexie, Mog, and Myster.

@Lexie @Moggie @Myster

(However, I am inspired by cats.)>^^<

Nothing has ever intrigued a cat more

Than something as simple as a half-opened door.

Her tail just quivers. Her whiskers quake,

As she ponders and muses on the mischief she’ll make.

Just what could there be behind that portal?

Perhaps cobblies or woozlies or something mere mortal?

Curiosity raised, she creeps toward the door.

Her body stretched out hugging close to the floor.

She pounces and bats a mighty swipe with her paw.

The door slowly opens. Can you guess what she saw?

A room bright and cheery with sunshine galore,

A place she had left merely moments before.

(c) 2010 Victoria Lyn Ellsworth

I love languages, especially my own, the English language.  While it can be difficult to learn, I find it rich in rewards.  My favourite reward is the playfulness it can inspire.

Other cultures also like to play with their languages.  The Japanese have a poetic style known as “haiku”.  This short, structure poem form requires three lines with specific syllable counts (five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables).  For example:

Haiku poetry

Quite deceptively simple

Syllables fight back

 

Local accents can add (or delete) syllables, so I find myself counting on my fingers as I slowly say the words.

Many share love of the haiku.  Let me introduce you to my favourite: Haiku Ewe.  The brainchild of Big Al, the Gal, Haiku Ewe describes her life and activities using only the haiku form.  I think she and her creator are brilliant.

 

Check them out if you have a chance at http://www.gocomics.com/haikuewe.

I’ve been told I uttered my first spoken word at the ripe old age of six months. During the 1967 pennant race. Whilst seated on my father’s lap as he watched the Boston Red Sox chase their Impossible Dream. Unsurprisingly, that word was “baseball”. Carl Yastrzemski may have won the American League Triple Crown, but family legend reports the beginning of my love affair with words.

Offspring of a British mother and an American father, I have trouble spelling but not in the usual sense. What public school taught me was correct, my mother challenged. What mother corrected, the schools criticized. Hence, I grew up knowing both the UK and the US spellings and use them interchangeably.

While I’ve never had trouble expressing myself (I have old report cards to prove it), I have not always enjoyed writing. I didn’t seriously start writing until I saw a chance for career advancement. Given the choice of staying an administrative assistant or becoming a grant writer, I thought, “how difficult can it be?”

Language skills are like muscles – use them, they grow strong and firm. Ignore them, and they get weak and flabby. As anyone who has started an exercise regimen after years of bodily neglect can tell you, those first few work outs are hell.

Here are a couple of great resources to help you shape up:

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty: Fresh and full of humor, I find this book a joy to read. One can read it cover to cover or select particular chapters. Ms. Fogarty writes in a warm, friendly, witty tone that engages the reader. The book provides terrific mnemonics for remembering some of the trickier nuances of grammar and usage.

While I am on the subject of Ms. Fogarty, I would be remiss if I did not mention her website, grammar.quickanddirtytips.com. On the site, you’ll find much of the same information as in her book and then some. Weekly podcasts provide invaluable tips on how to use and remember our language. If you can’t listen to the podcasts, Ms. Fogarty provides printable transcripts.

Oh, and Ms. Fogarty has done it again: See The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus: A fantastic source for clear outlines of the rules and quizzes for building your skills. It is my “go to” book in the office because I know I will find the answer I need efficiently. Ms. Straus also offers an email newsletter subscription. I find the newsletter a helpful reminder of how I should be using the language and a source of validation for the things I know well.

The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing by Bonnie Trenga. Ms. Trenga brilliantly tackles seven mysteries of weak writing including, my favorite, “The Tantalizing Tale of Passive Voice.” Her blog, sentencesleuth.blogspot.com, presents “criminal sentences” and offers ways to rewrite them into virtuous verbiage (my pun, not hers.)

English Grammar for Dummies by Geraldine Woods. DON’T get turned off by the name. This book is fantastic for looking up what you already know, but need to be sure you’re using correctly. For those who may want to practice and build their skills, Ms. Woods has also published a grammar workbook within the Dummies series.

There are many, many more references I could list, and perhaps I shall in another post. For now, armed with one or two of the above-mentioned references, I invite you to begin your own love affair with language. The more you engage with English, the more engaging it will become.

Welcome! Come on in. Settle down. Let’s get to know one another.  I’ll start.

I am a woman, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, Bostonian, paralegal, writer, reader, massage therapist, musician, individual, 40-something-Anglophilic-Aries-auriliophile.

Why have I named my blog Cats & Grammar? I love cats. All cats: big cats, small cats, wild cats, demented cats (of which there have been quite a few in my life), fat cats, skinny cats, and most of all, MY cats.  And, I love words. I love languages. Language is fun. Grammar and usage is my geeky pleasure.

Beyond cats and grammar, I am passionate about life, love, music, learning, hedgehogs, children, reading, travel – especially to Great Britain – and so much more.

I plan to use this blog to explore things that rouse my curiosity and pass along things I’ve learned. Occasionally, there will be the odd creative piece of writing. I leave the defining of “odd” up to you, Dear Reader.

Please visit often and let me know you’ve stopped by with comment – whether a simple hello or a bit of constructive criticism – I’m looking forward to the conversation.

 

GON OUT
BACKSON
BISY
BACKSON
C.R.

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