One Year Later

It’s now been a year since my daughter was diagnosed with autism. It was a diagnosis met with mixed emotions because while I finally had answers to why she wasn’t talking and why she wasn’t developing the way we expected her to be, I would be lying if I told you it wasn’t devastating to hear this news. It means that she won’t just outgrow this non-speaking phase; she may never communicate in a traditional verbal way. It was a difficult blow to take.

I am the grammar lady; it’s my thing. I love to talk; that’s also my thing. Over the past year, I’ve had to learn how to communicate with a little human in non-traditional ways. We use pictures, gestures, some sign language, and I’ve had to learn how to decipher different pitches of screams in order to communicate with her. It’s been an arduous adventure in patience and perseverance I didn’t know I needed.

Over the past year, we have been very fortunate to go through this with a team of professionals: special educators, paraprofessionals, pediatricians, developmental pediatricians, psychologists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, and an amazing team of behavioral therapists. I am grateful to these amazingly patient and kind people who are helping her grow every day. While her journey may appear to be a slow one to outsiders, I know she is making incredible strides to be the best person she can be. She has taught me to cherish and value these small steps and to celebrate them as the huge victories they are.

I am impressed by my daughter’s inability to speak in complete sentences, yet being able to tell me what she needs now. She uses color names to describe most things. As I’m sitting here typing this, she’s telling me she wants “juice” and wants the “red” one–the juice box in the red container is what she’s seeking. I would love for her to say, “Mommy, I want an apple juice, please.” However, that’s not our life. Maybe that will change one day and maybe it won’t. That’s what I’ve had to get used to: the unknown development future and being okay with that.

Sadly, ensuring my daughter’s progressive development hasn’t been the only battle I’ve had to encounter this year. I’ve also been battling the loss of insurance where I live. This summer, I found out my daughter’s health insurer would be leaving my state. That in and of itself didn’t alarm me too much as there were other insurers. Then I found out they were leaving, too. Now I am stuck in a county that has no health insurance options that cover my daughter’s very necessary therapies. This is the first place it’s happened in the country and no one knows what to do about it or how to fix it. You can read more about it here: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/the-county-obamacare-forgot-227251

I don’t want to get into a debate about the politics of health care laws and how we got here, but I will be very clear about my factual position: My daughter would not be insured and would not have the access to the care she requires to thrive without the Affordable Care Act and the insurance provided through the federal marketplace. It’s not perfect, but it’s the only option I have to gain access to the health care she needs at this time.

I have spent months writing letters to every politician I can from the mayor of my city to the President of the United States and as of today, September 1, 2016, I have zero solutions or options to fully insure my daughter in 2017. The solution I basically have at this point is to move my family and business to another county or state and hope that it doesn’t happen there next year. That sounds like an asinine non-solution if you ask me.

I still don’t know what I am going to do. I am working every day to come up with an actual solution to help cover my daughter, the other 10,000 Pinal County residents who rely on the same insurance options, and also the other people across the country who will need insurance when they face the same challenge my county is. I am writing letters, I am visiting lawmakers, I am calling US Senators, I am contacting insurance companies to try to find coverage; I am doing a lot of work to ensure my daughter’s development isn’t hindered by a political battle.

I am partially writing this as an update to last year’s post to let you know my daughter is doing great and she’s thriving at her school and in all of her therapies. I am also writing this to explain why I may not be creating as many new products as you’re used to seeing in Grammatical Art. I absolutely love creating and it pains me to not be doing it as often right now. Between my demanding day job, my daughter’s packed schedule, running the business day-to-day, and fighting a political battle for insurance, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything. Creating has definitely taken a backseat. I will get back to it, I just need to get through all of this stuff first.

I truly appreciate your support over the years and I (and my daughter) would not be where I am without you. I look forward to returning to creating soon, but I need some people in Washington to cooperate first. Until then, you can still rely on all of the awesome existing products in the shop.

Resilience is a word I thought I knew. My daughter has taught me what it truly is at the young age of four. I must persevere as she does and get this done.

One Year Later

Book Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill

I can’t help it. I was an English major; I’m a librarian. I have to talk about books, guys. If your “to read” list looks anything like mine, it will take you years to finish reading everything you want to. I get it. I really do. But here’s another for your consideration: The Fireman by Joe Hill.

Joe Hill has been getting buzz not only for his best-selling Heart-Shaped Box, but also as Stephen and Tabitha King’s son. Deliberately choosing not to use his birth name in full, Hill started writing as anonymously as possible with the aim that his work be read and treated as something other than “that book Stephen King’s kid wrote.” Well, The Fireman is that book Stephen King’s kid wrote, and ain’t no shame in his game, it’s pretty good.

The book opens on a not-too-distant future where society has begun to crumble thanks to a sweeping epidemic called Dragonscale. When a person gets Dragonscale, their body slowly becomes covered in thin, tattoo-like swirls, but what’s worse is most who are infected slowly burn until they catch fire and combust. The world is in a permanent state of fire and smoke. No one knows for sure how you “catch” Dragonscale, but it seems to be coming for everyone.

We follow Harper through the story, and she’s possibly one of the best parts of the book. She’s capable and strong, and really doesn’t discover just how much so until she is infected with Dragonscale and becomes pregnant.

Hill does a great job of navigating a realistic, non-zombie apocalypse. The beginning of the book feels exactly how you would imagine the world beginning to end if this did in fact happen tomorrow. Things fall apart slowly with people clinging to society as they knew it. Firefighters, police officers, and doctors are in high demand. People try to keep things going (go to work, send kids to school) until it becomes nearly impossible. There is denial and confusion and a slowly permeating fear, one that reveals the type of person really living inside each of us.

As my friend Amberly points out, there is a lot of heavy-handed foreshadowing (and boy is there), but mostly it’s okay with me. I found the story to be suspenseful and engaging. The middle drags a bit through some clunky and awkward action scenes, and the end is a bit puzzling (sorry, I won’t spoil it for you!) and maybe mildly disappointing, but I’d still recommend checking it out. There’s some truly great writing and, well, all the drama of fire you could ask for. The concept is smart, and while I have no idea whether or not the science holds up, I’m willing to suspend disbelief, so kudos to Hill on that.

Not sure if I’d read a sequel, but I’m definitely interested in reading Heart-Shaped Box. Hill’s a good storyteller, and I’m looking forward to more from him.

If you’re really into fire, then you might want to check out this Fire Triangle print on our website. Science: it’s everywhere. Even in your fiction.

Happy reading!

Don’t be a milquetoast!

I decided to share the story of one of my most favorite designs in our shop. Meet milquetoast!

milquetoast2

Cute, right?

Yeah, super cute, but you might be scratching your head. What the heck is milquetoast?

Simply, a milquetoast is someone who is meek, timid, and easily intimidated. It’s such a strange word that I started wondering where it came from. “Toast” as in toast you eat?

Turns out, the word originates from the 1924 comic strip character Casper Milquetoast by H.T. Webster. He’s known as “the man who speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick.” His name “Milquetoast” is a deliberate misspelling of the food “milk toast,” a bland breakfast food made of toasted bread in warm milk. In other words, something bland and inoffensive. Much like a timid person.

So there you have it! Milquetoast is a fairly recent addition to the American English dictionary (it’s worth noting that it doesn’t usually appear in non-American English dictionaries). Celebrate the etymology of milquetoast with our awesome and adorable t-shirt and see how many of your friends are in on the joke!

In Defense of Bad Language

You may have seen a headline or two floating around your Facebook or Twitter feed lately declaring that “People Who Swear Are Smart.” Maybe you smiled because you swear and darn it, you’re smart! But no, really, it’s true!

In the article “Taboo Word Fluency and Knowledge of Slurs and General Pejoratives: Deconstructing the Poverty-of-Vocabulary Myth” published in the November 2015 issue of Language Sciences, authors Kristin L. Jay and Timothy B. Jay do in fact find that “taboo word fluency is correlated with general fluency.” Those with a large curse word vocabulary have a large vocabulary period. This may be the best scholarly article ever published, and not just because they use the word “taboo” to describe swear words. [Note: they also include other types of inappropriate slurs and language in the study–not just curse words–which is why they describe them as “taboo.”]

But wait! Before you go patting yourself on the back for your large bank of curse words, consider the rest of the findings: “taboo fluency is correlated with neuroticism and openness.” So thumbs down and thumbs up?

If you love your swears as much as I do, you might want to check out our awesome t-shirts:

fuck-mensmartass-menbucket-men

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here for men’s and women’s: “I actually have an extensive vocabulary; F*CK just happens to be my favorite word.”

Click here for men’s and women’s: “Smart a*&”

Click here for men’s and women’s: “F*ck It Bucket”

P.S. We also have all of these available as prints!

I wanted to end this with something clever, but f*ck it.

Language Evolution, Emoji Revolution

I’m emoji obsessed. I use them as much as possible, anywhere possible. This is probably a sign that I’m old, but I already knew that.

I wrote a post recently about the evolution of the period and whether or not it’s necessary to keep using it in a digital age. Natalie wrote one last week about the word (or non-word) “flustrated,” a word that smashes together flustered and frustrated … we guess? Along these lines, I’ve been thinking about my love of all emojis and how they may impact the written word.

Coming soon to a phone near you is a new round of 72 emojis including the face palm, bacon, and a selfie arm. I can’t help but think of these additions as something akin to the words that Merriam-Webster adds each year. They’re an evolution of how we need and want to be able to communicate with each other. Sometimes, there are absolutely no words better than this guy:

emoji

 

After all, aren’t emojis the more sophisticated version of emoticons? Cute though they were, the standard keyboard is somewhat limiting in expressing feelings.

Communicating so much through the written word can be frustrating sometimes. Emails and texts are super efficient, but not always the most effective way to convey more complex thoughts and feelings. When we talk face to face, we’re using more than words of course, there’s the drop of the brow, a crooked smile, arms crossed. We’re saying so much more than we’re saying. For me, that’s what the gap the emojis help to close between written communication and face-to-face. It’s also an opportunity to be less misunderstood because you can send along a near picture of what you want to convey along with the words.

I’m here to say, I’m all for it. I’m in favor of this evolution. I think it’s fascinating and fabulous and what a cool way that we’ve come up with to help make our digital communication more like sitting down to coffee with a friend. I won’t say it’s a replacement for that by any means, but it sure does help.

I have some friends who also text a ton of gifs to help express what they’re trying to say, and let’s not downplay the fun of Bitmoji. What do you think the next evolution of emojis will be? Are they here to stay or a passing fad? Are they ruining the way we text and talk? Any old school emoticon users out there? 😉

Flustrated

Flustrated is not a word. Period.

I am alarmed that my spell checker isn’t picking that up; I think I am going to have to fire my spell checker.

Flustrated truly is a weird hybridization of “flustered” and “frustrated.” I get that we can all misspeak–I am not immune to this–but it really isn’t a word and I don’t know why people continue to use it. Is it being used because you truly think it is a word? Is this a regional thing or is it more widespread? I ask this because it’s a misused word I commonly heard whilst living in Ohio and Michigan. I don’t hear it as much in Arizona, so that goes back to my regional question: Is it a midwest thing?

When I discussed this pet peeve with a friend from South Carolina, she told me that “flustrated” is used as well as “fustrated” there. Wait, what? I literally hadn’t heard anyone use this word and my friend was reporting that this is a very common word used there. Great, now we have two made-up words and people across the country seem to be using them. This makes me think that it could be more prevalent in a region, but it’s not a regional misused word.

Why should we care about these made-up words? At Phoenix Comicon earlier this month, I was able to have a lovely discussion with a customer who was questioning the whole premise of my shop. His viewpoint was that language is meant to be a fluid, ever-changing and evolving thing. These rigid rules are ridiculous and one of the more influential dictionary fathers, Samuel Johnson, believed he was writing a dictionary to capture the current state of language now and that it would continue to change. The point being that dictionaries and grammar books are meant to show us what we are using now, but it can change. Maybe I agree, to a point.

I will never, ever give up my punctuation. Jess wrote an awesome blog post last week about the period disappearing in language. Losing the period would be a devastating blow to how we clearly and concisely communicate. I could see how missing it in a quick text isn’t that big of a worry, but if it were a long paragraph sans periods, the reader would be confused by what you were trying to say and he or she would spend exponentially more time reading your message than it would have taken for you to hit that period key. So I am saying I won’t crucify you for missing a period in a quick text to me, but if you make me read and reread a long exchange because you couldn’t be bothered to hit the period key, our texting friendship will probably come to an end. I’m not budging on that. Having periods makes us better language communicators.

That’s where I am on this “flustrated” thing right now. I don’t see how adding this word to the dictionary adds to or clarifies our language. We already have words that mean what you think this made-up word means. We have flustered and we have frustrated. I am for adding words to our dictionaries where we don’t have words to describe or express what we are trying to say. Does “flustrated” do this? Does it add clarity to your sentence or express that you have an amplified frustration? I think not and that’s why I vote for people to stop using it. Now.

flustrated

Punctuation Evolution

We’ve all been there: staring at an email sent by a work colleague that is rife with tension. We agonize over every short sentence, turn of phrase, and use of punctuation. Are they angry? Frustrated? Why is that word in all caps? Trying to understand someone’s hidden subtext in an email is maddening.

Text messages seem to bring that issue to the doorstep of friendships and marriages. My own husband worries if he writes, “I love you!” in a text and I reply, “Love you, too.” God forbid I omit an exclamation point. If I do, I’m clearly trying to tell him that I’m mad at him and love him a little less than normal.

Instant messenger (oh AIM, remember those days?) and texting have already made capitalization optional. If you’re friends with me, you get annoyingly grammatically correct texts–come on, guys, look at where I work–that are proofread. Seriously. But I’m old-fashioned and a stickler for making sure people understand exactly what I’m saying. I take my punctuation and capitalization seriously.

The New York Times article “Period. Full Stop. Point. Whatever It’s Called, It’s Going Out of Style” suggests that the period is becoming irrelevant and is more frequently a type of emoticon used “to show irony, syntactic snark, insincerity, even aggression.” >:-o Just ask my husband!

The article goes on to point out that British teens are already giving up some emoticons and abbreviations like “LOL” and “ROTFL” because they’re used by their parents’ generation and thirty-somethings like me. I’m sure American teens are right there with them. My good friend texted me not long ago that her middle school students told her that only old people use emoticons. Ouch.

Check out The Times article above to ponder this some more. And also pay attention to how author Dan Bilefsky uses (or doesn’t) the period in the article.

So, what say you? Is capitalization irrelevant? Do we need periods anymore? Do you heart emoticons? What do you think is the next punctuation mark to go?

Book Review: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

We’re trying out lots of different topics for our Grammatical Art blog, so I’m bringing you a book reivew. That’s right, the resident librarian is talking about books. How could I not?

Though Jon Ronson is most known for The Psychopath Test and The Men Who Stare at Goats, I was originally introduced to him through his collection of essays, Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries. The title essay is about people going missing from cruise ships and it haunts me to this day.

In Ronson’s latest, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, he explores recent, public, often ruthless shamings, many of which you probably saw on Twitter or heard people weighing in.

Ronson sets out to interview the subjects of the shaming, uncovering the stories from their point of view. Sometimes, it seems they may have been rightfully judged by society at large (as was the case of Jonah Lehrer who was outed as a plagiarist), but that’s not really Ronson’s point. He shows us how they’ve handled their ridicule, their intentions, and how they got caught up in their situation.

He also talks with Justine Sacco who tweeted before boarding a flight to South Africa, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” When she landed, she was branded a racist and her life has been forever altered. It’s interesting to consider what happened to her post-tweet and the price she paid. Most of us read or heard about the tweet, rolled our eyes, muttered “Racist,” and moved on.

Then there’s the story of Adria Richards who tweeted a photo and called out two males at a tech conference she was attending who were making jokes about dongles (use your imagination there). They all lost their jobs (yes, including Richards), but how it ultimately shook out might surprise you. I found the story complicated and fascinating, and can remember getting into a heated discussion about it with a group of friends. Was she right to post a picture of total strangers without their permission? Did the men have a right to talk and joke about whatever they wanted when they thought they were having a private conversation? Did she have the right to not be subjected to dongle jokes while at a work conference?

Overall, Ronson digs into these so-called public shamings in a way that makes his book a fast, surprisingly compelling read. When you stop to think about the fact that literal public shamings were banned back in the days of old because they were considered a more severe punishment than even jail, it makes public shaming the age of Twitter, Facebook, and gorilla mom feel a lot different. A great, quick read for a trip on a plane or poolside this summer.

Don’t forget you can borrow books, audiobooks, and ebooks for free from your local library. Click here to find the book at a library close to you!

Macey’s Got Heart

For us here at Grammatical Art, it’s pretty exciting when someone sends a picture of themselves wearing our garb. We’ve seen recent grads donning our graduated cylinder shirt and Chris Hardwick wearing our whom shirt, but nothing tugs at the old heart strings (pun intended) quite like Macey and her family wearing our heart shirt.

wright family

Macey is 13. She’s an aspiring gymnast who dances, plays guitar, and sings.

Macey needs a heart transplant.

She was born with severe aortic stenosis and mitral stenosis, heart conditions that required surgery as an infant and again at age 11. At this point, her left ventricle is failing and she needs a brand new heart.

Macey’s mom, Patrice, reached out to us on Etsy asking if she could purchase some of our heart shirts to auction at a fundraiser to help offset Macey’s medical bills. She also wanted to buy some for her family to wear in support of Macey. How could we turn down the offer to be part of such an awesome cause? Natalie sent the shirts to the Wright family free of charge.

We were proud to be able to support Macey and her family as they continue the difficult wait for a new heart.

Please check out Macey’s Facebook page to learn more about her, her family, and how you can support her journey to a new heart.

 

Grammatical Art is at Phoenix Comicon!

After being on the waiting list for two years, I will finally be at the Phoenix Comicon!

I run an online business and the majority of my sales and interactions with customers are done online. While I have great exchanges with my customers, it’s all done behind a screen. Doing in-person shows is a way that I actually get to meet my customers in person and I love it.

I LOVE doing comic cons because I get to meet all kinds of people who have different interests and a myriad of backgrounds and careers, but they also love grammatical puns and scientific formulas. I feel like I am among my kind at the cons and I enjoy every minute of it.

In person, I have the chance to sell things that are cost-prohibitive and a challenge to ship, like framed prints. (I really love how my prints look in a snazzy frame and I wish I could ship them all over the world, but alas, they arrive shattered and destroyed. So that’s another bonus of shopping in person with me.) I will also be debuting a couple new designs this weekend at the show!

If you haven’t grabbed tickets yet, make sure you get them! Stop over at booth 122 and say hello; if you buy a t-shirt, even better.

We’ll be at the show at the Phoenix Convention Center (100 N 3rd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004) this weekend:
Thursday, June 2nd: 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Friday, June 3rd: 10:00AM – 7:00PM
Saturday, June 4th: 10:00AM – 7:00PM
Sunday, June 5th: 10:00AM – 5:00PM

You can see more programming and ticket info here.

WonderCon 2016