Let’s Talk About Audiobooks

There seems to be a big divide on the opinion of audiobooks. Many people don’t consider them a “real” way to “read” books, and they feel very strongly about it. Other people, like me, think they’re awesome and a great way to devour a good book.

Let me tell you why I love audiobooks and cringe when people so vehemently argue against them or outright dismiss them.

I love books in every form: book books, books on my Kindle, and books coming from my speakers. Sometimes, nothing can beat a tangible book in your hand: the gorgeous cover, the look of that perfect font, the smell. (What is that smell, by the way? Dead trees, inks, and dust? Whatever it is, it’s intoxicating.) Kindles are great when you’re traveling and don’t want to carry 5 books with you. The Kindle saves space and helps your terrible posture from lugging around too many physical books. I love my Kindle! Audiobooks can be listened to while doing many things you usually can’t do well while reading a physical book or Kindle: cooking, getting ready in the morning, driving, walking. This multitasking ability is why I am able to enjoy many more books per year than I would get to otherwise.

I live in Phoenix, a notoriously terrible commuting city. Trust me when I say it’s a parking lot during rush hour (although rush “hour” is a misnomer; it more like rush 4 hours) and everything is far away from everything else. Don’t believe me? Come out and visit during the winter when the snow birds are in town. After driving around, you will want to leave. Anyway, this isn’t a blog about driving in populated, spread-out cities. BACK TO BOOKS: Long story short, I spend A LOT of time in my car. Many people listen to the radio or listen to podcasts–I do, too–but I mainly spend the time listening to audiobooks and I love it. It’s like having a fun friend in the car with you, telling you an awesome story.

Isn’t that why we read? To fall into great stories? Listening to them shouldn’t be considered a weaker art; it’s just different. Listening and concentrating is DIFFICULT; this is why you shouldn’t dismiss your friend who’s listening to books instead of physically reading words on a page. We should celebrate people who are delving into the fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi all around them in any way they can.

Books are amazing, in every form. Let’s get them into everyone’s hands, any and every way we can.

P.S. You can buy sweet audiobooks from Audible OR you can borrow them for free from your library on an app like Overdrive!

 

Natalie’s Book Review Spectacular: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

One of my resolutions this year was to read more, so I challenged myself to read one book per week. I am excited to say that I met that goal and I have loved every minute of it. Well, most minutes. There are some minutes I will never get back and I am slightly bitter about reading those books. At least I can tell you to avoid these books so you aren’t bitter about reading them like I am.

I am attempting to do reviews of my books in one sentence. I hope you enjoy my year of reading in this set of quick reviews. (Amberly also reviewed her books this year and you can read her reviews here. She’s a much more talented writer, so maybe read hers next so you’re not disappointed by my blog posts after reading hers.)

I have read a ton of books this year, so I am splitting up my reviews into fun categories so they’re a bit easier to get through. 🙂

My first category has been one of my favorites this year:

PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES (PLUS SPACESHIPS AND OTHER FUN TRAVELING DEVICES)

Sully: My Search for What Really Matters

by Chesley B. Sullenberger, Jeffrey Zaslow

A life of preparation led to the successful emergency landing of Flight 1549–it also saved his library books from drowning in the Hudson–and while some are hesitant in calling him a hero for his job preparedness, I’d still categorize him as one.

 

Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival

by Laurence Gonzales

A great, thorough look at an epic plane crash that will keep you from wearing synthetic fabrics on a plane, but that won’t matter because you’ll never want to fly again.

 

Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe

by Mike Massimino

Mike Massimino makes you want to be an astronaut with his funny stories, even after his massive f*ck up on a Hubble spacewalk.

 

Before the Fall

by Noah Hawley

A very enjoyable mystery/thriller I shouldn’t have read while on a plane. (What is it with me and plane crash books?)

 

Dark Matter

by Blake Crouch

It will blow your mind and make you question your own reality (and it’ll also give you a migraine).

 

The Woman in Cabin 10

A hot mess of a woman gets into trouble on a boat and no one believes her, but *SPOILER ALERT*: SHE WAS RIGHT.

 

The Breakdown

by B.A. Paris

I hadn’t met a protagonist I loathe more than the main character in The Girl on the Train, until I met Cass–the most whiny, obnoxious, and boring character to have ever lived in a thriller. This story drags and drags and I’m sad that I’ll never get these hours of my life back. (Here I go breaking my sentence rule, but I can’t help it with these truly awful books.)

 

We Are Legion (We Are Bob)

by Dennis E. Taylor

This book has an incredibly strong beginning that hooks you in, but I will go against the trove of other positive reviewers to say that it became redundant and lost purpose along the way.

 

Artemis

by Andy Weir

I wanted to love you, Artemis, I really did, but this book has characters I didn’t become invested in and a dull, boring story line that didn’t live up to my expectations and my previous love for Watney.

 

Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery

A funny smart-ass went to space, wrote an awesome book about it that unexpectedly made me cry multiple times throughout.

 

 

 

 

 

Natalie’s Book Review Spectacular: Mystery and Thrillers

As you’ve seen, I have read a lot and I am here to tell you that most of them are mysteries or thrillers. I am a thriller junkie. It’s my go-to genre and my chosen escapism. You might think I am dark and twisted after you see what I have read, but I am not ashamed. I have read some great ones this year and I look forward to another year filled with them!

MYSTERIES AND THRILLERS

Broken Harbour (Dublin Murder Squad #4)

by Tana French

Tana French is a good mystery author and when she picks up the pace, she’s a great one who makes you slightly concerned about traveling to Ireland.

 

The Dry (Aaron Falk #1)

by Jane Harper

A solid first thriller with fairly adequate character development, but this isn’t a book you’ll want to stay up all night reading.

 

The Girl Before

by Rena Olsen

An intense, compelling thriller from the deep circle of hell that is human trafficking.

 

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Millennium #3)

by Stieg Larsson, Reg Keeland (Translator)

A somewhat satisfying conclusion to the series–and then they made me liar by adding two more books to the series.

 

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

by David Lagercrantz, Stieg Larsson (Creator), George Goulding (Translator)

Ah, the book that made me a liar (because the Millennium series didn’t end with the third book) is enjoyable and is stronger than the previous finale, so I forgive it.

 

The Perfect Stranger

by Megan Miranda

Enjoyable enough reading for a long plane ride, but you’ll forget about it the minute you step off of it.

 

 

You (You #1)

This is one of the best, creepiest thriller I’ve ever read and you’ll hate yourself for liking the disturbing stalker at the heart of this story. (P.S. It’s going to be a Lifetime series, so let’s hope they don’t ruin it for us.)

 

Hidden Bodies (You #2)

While this takes a slightly different path than the first book, it’s still the same old Joe you oddly like.

 

The Woman in Cabin 10

A hot mess of a woman gets into trouble on a boat and no one believes her, but *SPOILER ALERT*: SHE WAS RIGHT.

 

Final Girls

by Riley Sager

So much is happening all of the time and I don’t care that there isn’t the strongest plot because I love the craziness and everything that is going on at once.

 

Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1)

by Rachel Caine

Gwen wasn’t always a badass, but watch out for her now because she is a protective mama bear who will destroy you.

 

My Sister’s Grave (Tracy Crosswhite #1)

by Robert Dugoni

Dull, boring, and blah.

 

The Keeper of Lost Causes (Department Q #1)

by Jussi Adler-Olsen, Lisa Hartford (Translator)

This fed my thriller addiction as the twisting timelines had me on the edge of my seat, needing to know what happened next.

 

The Absent One (Department Q #2)

by Jussi Adler-Olsen, K.E. Semmel (Translator)

Oh, how I used to love you, Department Q, until you were ruined for me with this mediocre second book.

 

In a Dark, Dark Wood

by Ruth Ware

A decent mystery where you see what’s coming, but a decent novel nonetheless.

 

The Good Daughter

by Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter delivers yet another fantastically sick and twisted thriller, just how I like them.

 

Last Breath (The Good Daughter 0.5)

This is a solid supplemental read to the first book in the series and I think it was cleaved from the first because that was already becoming a War and Peace-length book.

 

The Secrets She Keeps

by Michael Robotham

Predictable moral of the story: Don’t trust people you meet at the grocery store, especially if you’re a pregnant woman.

 

One of Us Is Lying

by Karen M. McManus

Learn how to say no to mediocre YA novels by passing this one up.

 

Alone

by Lisa Gardner

If you like sick and twisty Karin Slaughter, Lisa Gardner is like her less damaged little sister who’s also enjoyable to be around.

 

Blindsighted (Grant County #1)

by Karin Slaughter

If you are looking for a new thriller series to pass the time, Slaughter has you covered with this first installment of a series where a small town in Grant County, GA is rocked by some truly gruesome and heinous murders.

 

Kisscut (Grant County #2)

by Karin Slaughter

Sara Linton, the town’s pediatrician and medical examiner (such a random combination, right?), steps in it again in this fast-paced thriller that keeps you guessing until the very end.

 

The Book of Ivy

by Amy Engel

After a devastating nuclear war, a small group of survivors are fighting for power because that’s really the most important thing when you’re trying to survive a nuclear winter.

 

The Child Finder

by Rene Denfeld

You pulled me in with your gorgeous cover and you let me down with this discontinuous, meandering novel that failed to deliver an interesting premise.

 

The Last Mrs. Parrish

by Liv Constantine

It’s like a Lifetime movie, except with phenomenal writing.

 

 

The Lying Game

by Ruth Ware

A group of lying friends continue to lie to everyone around them to help their deceitful friend when they could’ve been honest all along, but who wants to read a book like that?

Natalie’s Book Review Spectacular: Biographies and Non-Fiction

The only category that can compete with mysteries and thrillers for me is non-fiction, mainly historical and biographical writings. I simply love good stories. If you’re at a party with me, I will corner you and ask you to tell me all of the interesting stories about your life. Weird? Maybe, but I just love hearing about people and what makes them the way that they are.

BIOGRAPHY AND NON-FICTION

The Daily Show: An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests

by Chris Smith, Jon Stewart (Foreword), Oliver Wyman (narrator), Jay Snyder (narrator), Kevin T. Collins (narrator), Chris Lutkin(narrator), Robert Fass (narrator), Lauren Fortgang

A thoroughly enjoyable history of the show that will make you miss Jon Stewart’s face and wit on your television screen.

 

Bitter Is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office

by Jen Lancaster

You keep on reading it, hoping that the offensive protagonist will redeem herself through this journey she’s taking, but nope. Hands down, the worst book I have ever read in my entire life. (I broke my one sentence review rule to convey that point.)

 

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood

Funniest book I have read this year, possibly ever, and it is clear that I want Trevor to be my best friend after reading this book.

 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

by J.D. Vance

An interesting look at life in the Rust Belt from the point of view of an addict’s son who overcame the odds to make it in the Ivy Leagues, but I didn’t take it as a literal window into their lives as some people did.

 

A Life in Parts

by Bryan Cranston

Cranston is an incredibly funny guy who has a big heart and delves deep into his roles–are you sure he wasn’t actually making meth in New Mexico?

 

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology

by Leah Remini, Rebecca Paley

We’ve all heard that Scientology is bananas; Leah gives us an front row seat to the crazy show.

 

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE

by Phil Knight

Say what you will about Nike, this is an inspiring memoir about its leader and how it grew from a $50 loan in 1962 to the empire it is today–I am clearly underachieving in my life and business.

 

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do

by Sarah Knight

You only have so many f*cks to give; don’t waste them on people and things that don’t actually matter.

 

Get Your Sh*t Together: How to Stop Worrying About What You Should Do So You Can Finish What You Need to Do and Start Doing What You Want to Do (A No F*cks Given Guide)

by Sarah Knight

As a person who thinks of herself as having her sh*t together, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book and also feel vindicated in knowing people who are constantly late simply don’t have their own sh*t together.

 

Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism

by Ron Suskind

This heartfelt story about non-verbal Owen living through Disney movies will make you bawl, especially if you’re an autism parent raising a mini-Owen.

 

Elon Musk: Inventing the Future

by Ashlee Vance

Elon Musk is a self-learning machine that makes you want to buy your very own $100k+ Tesla.

 

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

by Rachel Ignotofsky

This is a beautifully illustrated, short history book on women in science that I loved and it should be required reading for young girls.

 

Einstein: His Life and Universe

by Walter Isaacson

This is a very thorough and interesting Einstein biography that covers not only his professional accomplishments, but his personal shortcomings as well–he’s definitely not going to win any Husband of the Year awards.

 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot

While they have subsequently saved many lives, it is appalling how some of the most commonly used human cells in scientific research came to be.

 

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

by Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik

Ruth Bader Ginsburg gives me life.

 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

by Neil deGrasse Tyson

I know this is intentionally a small book (and I loved it), but I wanted about 30 more chapters about chemicals in the cosmos.

 

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women

by Kate Moore

These are women we should know about and their stories are compelling, I only wish it had been told by a better author who could write well.

 

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

by Cheryl Strayed

Another hyped book I didn’t love as much as everyone else, but it was an amusing story of one very unprepared woman’s journey alone in the wilderness who somehow didn’t die along the way.

 

I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons

by Kevin Hart, Neil Strauss

Laughing this hard at Kevin Hart was not something I ever thought I would do.

 

What Happened

by Hillary Rodham Clinton

This book didn’t depress me as much as I thought it would; it was a thoroughly insightful look into the campaign and election and further solidified the truth that she is the president that we all deserved and didn’t get.

 

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House

by Alyssa Mastromonaco, Lauren Oyler

Let me preface this by saying I love Alyssa Mastromonaco when she’s on Pod Save America, but this book reads like a disorganized, whiny book of fluff without much substance.

 

Scrappy Little Nobody

by Anna Kendrick

Unexpectedly, Anna Kendrick is a talented writer who makes this a fun, light read–perfect for the beach or lazy weekend.

 

Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change

by Ellen Pao

I depressingly must recommend this book, especially to women in male-dominated fields, although I wish we didn’t have to write these in 2017. (P.S. She gives amazing advice at the end of the book.)

 

Unqualified

by Anna Faris, Chris Pratt (Foreword)

You end this book really liking Anna Faris, but you wish she had had a ghost writer or an editor who could’ve better organized the book.

 

Cosmos

by Carl Sagan

You must have this book in your life and it’s even better as an audiobook because LaVar Burton gives Carl Sagan’s incredible writing the beautiful voice the Cosmos deserve.

 

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose

I have always been inspired by Joe’s life of loss, heartache, and subsequent perseverance, but this book comes off as a whiny, querulous tale of why he didn’t run for president (and it wasn’t because of his loss of Beau).

Natalie’s Book Review Spectacular: The Mythical and the Magical; The Fluff; and The Miscellaneous

I wish I had a new Harry Potter book to review every year, but at least I had The Cursed Child to tide me over. Plus, I found my most favorite book of all time. BONUS.

THE MYTHICAL AND THE MAGICAL

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, Parts 1& 2

by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany (Adaptation), Jack Thorne (Adaptation)

A nice addition to my favorite stories of all time, done in a way that felt authentic to the series, regardless of what the haters say.

 

Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey

Hands down, this is my favorite book I own and you should totally buy it if you’re a Harry Potter nerd like me.

 

Norse Mythology

by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman’s complex and funny style make this a gratifying, quick read that’ll make you want to travel to Valhalla and hang out with all the gods, except Loki–screw that guy.

 

Outlander (Outlander #1)

This thoroughly researched book–the author used actual books and not the internet back in the 90s, y’all–is an incredible read where you’ll meet your favorite book beau of all time, Jamie Fraser, and he’ll help you forget the weeks of reading you had to do to finish this.

 

FLUFF

Me Before You (Me Before You #1)

by Jojo Moyes

Bitter, frustrated and mean man who’s bound to a wheelchair from an accident tries to scare away his sweet caretaker; they fall in love and tough decisions are made; and you find out that Will isn’t the biggest jerk in the world.

 

MISCELLANEOUS FICTION

The Handmaid’s Tale

by Margaret Atwood

An alarming, captivating work of fiction one would believe is absurd as a reality, then this past year happened and it doesn’t seem that unrealistic.

 

American War

by Omar El Akkad

A future civil war brought on by the banning of fossil fueled vehicles is an eerie glimpse into the future that hooked me in at the beginning, but soon bored me with a slow moving story line and dull characters.

 

Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders

A satirical historical fiction book that was difficult to follow and random at best; I felt like a dolt for not “getting” this book after all of its hype.

Two Years Ago…

Two years ago, our lives changed forever. That’s when my daughter received her autism diagnosis. We finally had the answers to many questions we had, but honestly, there are even more questions I don’t know that we’ll ever have answers to.

I am not a “winging it” type of person. I like plans; I like having backups for those plans. What I like even more is having a backup to that backup. Autism parenting kind of throws that out of the window. Sure, I can make some plans like where she’s going to school and which doctor she’s going to see, but beyond that? Nope.

People ask me questions like:
“Will she ever talk ‘normal?’”
“Will she be able to go to regular school?”
“What caused her autism?”
“Will she ever live on her own?”

The answers to all of those questions are, “I have no idea.” That’s a hard reality to face at times, not knowing why your child is that way or if she will ever lead a self-sufficient life, but what I’ve come to learn is that it’s okay to not know the answers to these questions. I absolutely hope to find out answers to some of these questions, like what causes autism, but for now, we know a new “normal.” My normal may not look similar to 99.8% of the population–heck, it may not look like the normal to other autism families, either–but this is now our lives and that’s okay. It involves a lot of unknowns. It also involves a lot of hard work, but there’s a whole lot of love. There’s love from all directions: her family, her teachers, her therapists, her support staff, all of our friends.

We don’t know what the future holds for my daughter, but we are now surrounded by a massive team that will help us figure that out as we go.

To do my part, I am selling tees where 100% of the proceeds go to the amazing school she attends. It’s an amazing place that we are fortunate to have found and I’m unbelievably happy to have it be a part of our new “normal.”

This year’s designs can be found here:

The Liberal Arts Years: Have You Met Jess?

Have you met Jess? If you haven’t, you should. Let me tell you about how I met Jess, because it’s actually an important part of why Grammatical Art is what it is today.

Jess and I met back in 2003 when we were undergraduates together at small liberal arts college in Ohio. I am pretty sure we met in band—I know, it’s hard to believe that we were also band nerds. I couldn’t tell you about our first interaction because I am notoriously bad at remembering details like that, but this is how a chemist and a librarian came to run your favorite nerdy business.

While it seems odd to have studied chemistry and physics at a liberal arts college, I was very fortunate to have done so. I was forced to read, write, and to present topics in and outside of my core disciplines. I had to do more than balance chemical equations and determine the probability of finding an electron in a p orbital; I had to step way outside of my comfort zone by taking humanities courses. Here, I got to meet people like Jess who could help me write my lab reports in ways that non-scientists could actually understand them. I not only learned about physical sciences, but I learned about other subject fields I wouldn’t have otherwise studied and interacted with people I wouldn’t have normally. I think this is where I finally discovered my love of language. This love would eventually help me to become who I am today and would lead me to running the business that I do.

I was a bench chemist who was looking for a creative outlet and found it in Grammatical Art. I started by creating a few designs out of grammar pet peeves and, unexpectedly, people started buying them. Now I am here, sitting in my home office, surrounded by silk screens and blank shirts, telling all of you how this small grammatical empire came to be.

I had no idea what I was going to be when I grew up, but I surely wouldn’t have told you I was going to be a screen printing chemist mom. This isn’t the path I would’ve necessarily chosen for myself in elementary school, or any other grade for that matter, but I am very fortunate to have my successful career and business, and I do believe it is mostly due to my liberal arts education. I was able to grow into things there I couldn’t have imagined, and formed friendships with super cool people I wouldn’t have ordinarily met.

Here Jess and I are, after 14 years of friendship and growth, working on this nerdy business, putting our liberal arts degrees to work in ways we never would have thought possible.

While some people may be confused by my BA in chemistry, I am proud of it. Had I not done it in this way, I never would have met Jess and Grammatical Art may have never been.

The Autism Spectrum

Whenever someone hears that my daughter is on the autism spectrum, he or she typically asks me, “How autistic is she?”

They seem to be asking how severe the autism is. Is she really autistic or is she just a little autistic?

Well, it’s not that simple.

I admit that I used to think of the autism spectrum as a linear being: You could be severely affected or maybe a little and maybe somewhere in between. That’s also typically how it is described, even by professionals.

When my daughter was initially diagnosed last year by a developmental pediatrician, there were symptoms and behaviors checked off a list during the evaluation; if you met so many of the criteria, you were considered to be on the spectrum. In my daughter’s evaluation, if she met 4 of these areas, she made the spectrum. My daughter met 12 out of 13. So if you were to think about the spectrum as a lineal chart, 4 would be a little autistic and 13 would be severe, right? This meant my daughter was categorized as severely autistic with severe developmental delays.

This type of diagnosis shaped how I thought about my daughter’s autism: My one and only child has autism and on a scale of 1-10, it is a 9+. I thought she was severely autistic. Then Rebecca Burgess came out with a phenomenal comic and my entire perspective changed.

The spectrum isn’t linear, it’s more like a circle. You can be on-target or advanced in one area, but struggle with another. This not only shows areas in which a person can struggle, but it also shows their strengths; it’s a really great way to look at the spectrum. Also, it shows how each person isn’t just a number on a lineal scale; they fit somewhere on a very complex chart. Since this chart is a much larger space than a 1-10 lineal chart, one can also see how people on the autism spectrum can be so different from one another. The saying goes, “When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” That’s because each person is so unique.

Now that we’ve completed story time, I will get to the point of this post. This is a great way to look at the spectrum and I want to get the idea of this better spectrum out there. That’s why I am going to sell shirts and totes with this exceptional visualization of the spectrum. I have been fortunate enough to be able to work with Rebecca Burgess to bring this idea to life.

As you may know, I designed and printed autism awareness shirts last year and 100% of the proceeds went to a non-profit school that specializes in the education of children with autism (and other developmental delays). Since it was a great success and we were able to raise $2,000 in a very short time, I would like to do the same thing this year. I want to sell these tees and donate all of the profits to this amazing school that continues to change my daughter’s life for the better every day.

You can get the products here:

autism spectrum new men's autism spectrum new women's v neck autism spectrum new tote

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

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