Saturday, May 15, 2010

Deedle deedle dumpling...

... my son Jon.

So everybody in my family is sick now, except Shannon and me. David has still never recovered from the lung congestion he incurred as a result of having his wisdom teeth out in January. Jonathan is also sick and is taking a Z-pack now, although he definitely has walking pneumonia. Once Shannon was diagnosed with walking pneumonia after being in bed for two days straight, an extreme oddity for her, and I would have really liked to know what was walking about it. But I digress. Shawn is sick and even stayed home from work for a day last week, which, for him is an extreme oddity as well.

Laura got very run down taking AP tests. She is full blown sick now as well, but says she doesn't want to take an antibiotic, so we haven't been to the doctor yet. Her last AP test was Thursday, AP Economics. The teacher set his final exam for the next day, Friday, and required that the kids come to school or receive a zero, there would be no make-ups for any reason.

Laura was as sick as a dog on Friday. She slept in and I took her to school late with a note that read, "Laura is late for school today because she is sick." I was very tempted to write, "Laura is late for school because she is sick, and she is only coming to take her economics final because otherwise she has been told she will receive a zero with no chance to make it up. She should not be in school at all today." But Laura convinced me that the shorter form was better. (Aside: Lu said that when she went into the attendance office with her note to get a pass to class from the secretary, she had a coughing fit just as she was trying to explain why she was late. She had a hard time stopping and when she finally got herself under control and handed the woman her note, the woman took it, gave her the pass, and then said, "I think I'm going to go use some of my hand sanitizer." To which Lu replied, "That's probably a really good idea.")

The upshot of Lu being sick is that Jon had to take the bus. Usually she drives them. Even when she doesn't drive because I need the van, she manages his schedule. Well, on Friday morning she was not available to manage Jon's schedule. The bus comes at 6:59, and they usually leave the house by 6:56 at the latest when they need to ride it. I know this. So I was trying to get Jon up, pour his juice, and take care of Lu's regular morning role.

Jon apparently doesn't love me as much as he loves Lu. He was slow to arise, and crabby. As I tried to encourage him to get going, he growled and snarled at me. Finally, at 6:58, he sat sprawled at the kitchen table, dressed, drinking his juice. "Honey, you really need to keep moving. The bus will be here any minute, " I said. He gave me a look of death and snarled once more, "Mom, I'm fine."

I took that opportunity to go back upstairs to bed. I climbed in next to Shawn and, pulling the sheets up to my chin, remarked, "I'll just lie here until he comes back and tells us he missed the bus."

We heard the door slam.

We waited... five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes. I was amazed. He did not come back.

Laura received a text message from a random friend from a different neighborhood at 7:15. She woke up to read it, and it said, "Laura, did your brother miss the bus?" She wondered, but didn't mention it to me until after school. After school, Laura asked, "Mom, was there something up with Jon this morning? I got a text about him at 7:15, and when I got to school, Ariana Dean asked me about him, because she said that when Jen Gass stopped to pick her up this morning, Jon was in the backseat of her car."

At which point I went and found Jonathan and interrogated him. His answer was as follows, though not a direct quote:

He went out to the bus at 7:05, believing that he had plenty of time. Nobody was at the bus stop, so he figured he was early, and just stood there. Another bus went by, a bus that his friends from the other half of the neighborhood ride. Shortly after that bus went past, Jen Gass drove up to the corner, saw him, stopped and rolled down her window. "What are you doing, Jon?" Jen asked.

"Waiting for the bus."

"Well, my little brother left our house fifteen minutes ago, and clearly he is not here anymore, so I think you missed it," she pointed out.

Jon made a consternated face and said, "Oh crud."

"Oh well, get in my car, I'll give you a ride," she offered. (I am feeling very warm and friendly and kind towards her, even now.)

So Jon was safely delivered to school. HOWEVER, in the meantime, the bus with all his friends from the other half of the neighborhood was in crisis. I'm not sure how it went, but apparently the driver, who was a substitute, was concerned about Jon, after seeing him standing forlornly on the street corner. The kids told her who he was, maybe they even told her that she shouldn't abandon him there on the street corner, I don't know.

The upshot is this: The driver decided that she would like to go back and pick Jon up, but being a substitute driver, she felt that she needed to get permission before doing so. So, she reached out to radio the busing garage for permission to pick him up. However, being a substitute, she was a little bit confused, so instead of hitting the "contact main bus garage" button, she hit the "emergency intercom to entire bus fleet" button. When she announced, "Jon Carpenter is standing on the corner in the Pinegate subdivision. Can I have permission to go back and pick him up?" the entire fleet of buses, serving a school of approximately 3000 students, heard her loud and clear.

That's my boy.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Free grammar lesson.

This is a free grammar lesson because I am going to lose my mind.

I do not know if this happens in other English speaking countries, but in America, there is a horrible epidemic of misuse of singular, first-person pronouns.

Somehow, people have gotten it into their heads that "me" is a terrible thing to say, and that one ought always to say "I" instead.

For instance, there is an utter pandemic of captioning photos as "John and I" or "Mary and I." It happens so frequently that it is actually becoming normal and accepted, which is just not right.

OK, think about it: Would one ever take a picture of oneself and caption it with, simply, "I" ? I hope not! Clearly, if one is standing there alone in the picture, one would write "me" for the caption. Unless, of course, one were a quasi-educated person who had a grasping need to try to sound smarter than one truly was and thus expose oneself as a grammatical ignoramus in the face of anybody who knows grammar, which is not much of a threat because, obviously, hardly anybody does. Please forgive me. I know that sounds mean spirited. There are obviously many, many people who misuse this construction simply because they were taught incorrectly. I bear them no ill will. The ones that irk me are: (1) English teachers who teach this incorrectly to their students, (2) elementary-aged children who think they are smarter than I am and attempt to set me straight on how to misuse singular first person pronouns, and (3) basically anybody who insists that incorrect usage is correct when the subject arises. Let me say this once more: I have no gripe with people who are just doing the best they can after being taught incorrectly; my only gripe is with people who smugly insist that they are right when they are wrong.

Here is the litmus test that is so simple that anyone can use it:



Correct: "My mother gave a gift to me."
Also correct: "My mother gave a gift to my sister and me."
Incorrect: "My mother gave a gift to I."
Also incorrect: "My mother gave a gift to my sister and I." Believe it or not... This is INCORRECT!

The reason why photo captions should generally be "me" rather than "I" is this: it is, generally speaking, a shortened form of "This is me," or "This is a picture of me." One would never say, "This is I." Neither should one ever say, "This is Frankie and I." It's OK to say "me." One should say "me" when it is appropriate.

I actually saw someone use the (INCORRECT) construction: "The caterer provided an excellent cake for Ronald and I's wedding." Seriously. She didn't simply speak this, making a verbal mistake.  This is what someone wrote. The problem is getting completely out of hand. There is a singular, first-person, possessive pronoun, and it is not "I's." "Ise" is a racial slur and sounds like dialogue lifted from the movie Gone with the Wind. One used to hear the correct form of the possessive personal pronoun used fairly often, before all this ignorant, pseudo-intellectual, hyper-corrective "I" business got into swing. It is (drum roll, please)... "my." The correct way to say, "The caterer provided an excellent cake for Ronald and I's wedding," is, very simply, "The caterer provided an excellent cake for Ronald's and my wedding." That's slightly awkward, although basically correct. Preferable ways of saying it would be: "The caterer provided an excellent cake for Ronald and me at our wedding," or (imagine this), "The caterer provided an excellent cake for our wedding."

Understanding grammar means knowing the difference between a noun that is an object and a noun that is a subject. This skill is enhanced when one studies a foreign language that uses noun cases, but it can be learned by even a single-language speaker who is willing to apply the above litmus test.

The subject form of the personal pronoun is "I." One uses this form when the person in question is doing the action of the sentence; for instance, "I went for a long walk today." This remains true when it is more than one person walking, and it is also considered polite, and therefore correct, to put oneself humbly after others, so the correct usage is, "My husband and I went for a long walk today."

Oddly, the people who are always taking about how Dereck stopped by to see "Jamal and I" (litmus: Did he stop by to see I? No! He stopped by to see me! Therefore, he also stopped by to see Jamal and me!)--the same people who make this mistake often use "me" when they should not: Me and Jamal want some ice cream. No, no, no! THAT is where one correctly uses "I." Only Cookie Monster says, "Me want cookie." Everyone else says, "I want a cookie." This is the proper place to use the subject form of the first person pronoun: I. Ergo, "Jamal and I would like some ice-cream."

One uses the object form ("me") when the noun being replaced is the object of the action being done:

Correct: He kicked me out of the apartment.
Also correct: He kicked Sally and me out of the apartment.
Incorrect: He kicked I out of the apartment.
Also incorrect: He kicked Sally and I out of the apartment.

The same is true whenever the pronoun is the object of a preposition.
Prepositions are words that can fill in the following blank: "The knight jumped ______ the horse." They do not have to make rational sense, but they must fit. Therefore, prepositions are words like: on, under, over, around, through, beside, for, against, to, from... etc.

Correct: to me
Also correct: to Shannon and me
Incorrect: to I
Also incorrect: to Shannon and I
Correct: For me
Also correct: For Laura and me
Incorrect: For I
Also incorrect: For Laura and I

It is not a sin to use a word that starts with the letter m. In fact, it is often perfectly correct. This is true more often than most people with college educations realize. The thing that really gripes me is when English teachers get it wrong.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

In-laws, and also May Day

Happy May Day! We planted two new hydrangeas and hung two really pretty hanging baskets outside our front door. I'm feeling very properly celebrated.

When I was little, my mom taught me that on May Day the thing to do was cut paper into perfect squares which we would then fold into little baskets. We filled these baskets with jelly beans and other small candies. Then I went around to the neighbors' front doors, set down a basket, rang the doorbell and ran away. That was how we celebrated May Day. Anonymous candy would not go over so well these days.

May Day also made me think of my grandma, Mae (Short) Rainbow. For obvious reasons, I hope. I am going to write about my grandpa instead though.

Grandpa Rainbow could do everything. He could build things, fix things, grow things and play things (like the harmonica). He was just one of those people who could figure out anything.

Grandpa had a boat, and one of his favorite things was to go out on the Rum River and catch fish. He loved fishing so much, he worked part-time in a bait shop for years and years after he had retired.

Grandpa was my father's father. My mother's father, Grandpa Herbold, died in 1971 when he was 91. He was riding his bicycle and a car hit him, and after a number of weeks in the hospital, Grandpa went to Heaven.

This meant that Grandma Herbold lived alone without a husband for many years. Eventually, Aunt Nunie retired from being a missionary in Africa and moved in with her, but even then they had no man in the house.

Grandma Herbold loved fresh fish, and Grandpa Rainbow loved to fish. So every now and again, when Grandpa was on his way home from fishing on the Rum River, he would stop over at Grandma Herbold's house and give her a string of sunfish. After all, two of his boys had married two of her girls. There was a lot of positive attitude back and forth between the two families.

That was my childhood experience of in-laws... that, and the way my mom called my Grandma Rainbow (not her own mother, but Grandma Rainbow) every night before she went to bed, just to check in. My mom called her own mother, "Mom," and she called my dad's mom, "Mother," and she was very devoted to them both.