Grammar Geek

Grammar_batI have avoided posting here because I so wanted to report that I had finished the revision of my sci-fi novella.  I kept saying, “Tonight, tonight is the night.”  Unfortunately, I’m not done with the rewrite — and yes, it has turned into a rewrite — however, in my search for the answer to a grammar question, I came across this.  I couldn’t resist sharing.

(I have a character named “Boots” in my story, and I couldn’t decide what is the correct possessive spelling.)

I find myself desperately wanting to form possessives of names ending in “s” the same way I do with any other names. E.g., just as I would write “Plato’s idea” I want to write “Socrates’s idea.” That’s even how it sounds, motherfuckers!

This sent me into fits of sniggles.  Finally, a grammar geek who speaks like I do (I was a raucous sailor in a past life), and who tells it like it is.  I raise my can of Coca-Cola to “Chris” — who coincidentally shares the same name as my protagonist — for giving me a good laugh.

Ah, me.  The English language befuddles and be-chuckles.

Okay.  Back to writing.


'Midnight Roundelay' by D. Strombeck -

'Midnight Roundelay' by D. Strombeck -

I have a short story idea in the queue waiting for its turn to be given flesh and soul. It’s has to do with the alarming number of cats in our neighborhood.

I hear them outside now. It’s 3-WTF-something in the morning. I wish they sounded as lovely as these cats look. Unfortunately, instead of spats and straw hats, I have a feeling they’re engaging in rabbit kicks and noogies, while yowling as if a buffalo were trodding across their tails repeatedly.

Ah, the sounds of Spring. I may have to go out and get the hose.  Either that, or wait until tomorrow afternoon when they’re all drowsing in the afternoon sun and exact my revenge with my automatic umbrella.  Heh-heh.  That’s always fun.

(Postscript: I have an admission: we own — as much as one can own an outdoor cat — three of the cats, at least one of which is undoubtedly engaging in this morning’s raucous gang behavior. But in our defense, they were the result of a neighbor’s cat repeatedly gifting us with kittens. Once those kittens started having kittens, I screamed, “Uncle!” and took them down to the vet and had them fixed. So I guess they’re mine. Whee.)

A Love Letter

“At a wedding I attended recently, the pastor declared marriage between two people as 'the most intimate relationship between two people.'  But mothers know differently.  As my best friend Kellie wrote me, 'The greatest love affairs of our lives are with our children.'”

My mom and baby daughter.

i.  At a wedding I attended recently, the pastor declared marriage between two people as “the most intimate relationship between two people.” But mothers know differently. As my wise friend Kellie recently wrote me, “The greatest love affairs of our lives are with our children.”

ii.  My mom has always told me the story of how when I was born, she sat down and wrote a letter to her mom. She never told me exactly what it was she wrote, but I always understood it was a letter of deep appreciation. I understand now it was a love letter.

This is my letter to my mom.

Dear Mom,

I have been meaning to write you this letter for some time now.

When Leia was born, I was so scared. I was overwhelmed by feelings of love, fear, and gratitude as I looked at my little baby behind plexiglass. I was so scared of all the things that might go bad. I was so excited about all the things that might go right. I spent all my time with her watching each breath, watching her sleep, noting each improvement, savoring the days I was allowed to hold her. And when I got to press her against my chest, it was like a warm piece of myself, of love, of family, of you. She was a source of wonder to me, of magic. I couldn’t believe she was real. I was afraid to take my eyes off of her in case she might disappear.

I feel that way still. I hover over her constantly in her sleep, a loving shadow monitoring her dreams. I worry about different things now, less darker things. But those things are always there, the fear that Something might happen. I thought perhaps I worry too much, but now I realize it’s something that comes with the territory of motherhood. Our sense of survival is extended through to our children. My child is my most tender, most vulnerable piece of me, my soft underbelly, my Achilles heel. And I understand that I will always protect her to the death.

I recognize myself in her, flesh and blood. It’s something I understand more these days than I ever did. It’s a sense, a feeling, more than a concept. It’s why other babies fascinate me, their different details like hands and feet. They’re unfamiliar, unfamilial.

I love her little hands. I love imagining what they may do one day; shape clay, save lives, brush back the hair of her own little one. I love reveling in her potential. I’m here with her at her beginning. The future is a glowing horizon of potential, and I want to make sure I’m there to hold her hand to meet it, to help her and guide her, and to eventually let go.

At night, she sleeps in our bed, between my husband and me. We’re curved around her like protective parentheses. But she’s curled always towards me, head tucked into my chest. I love it. My dreams are vivid and colorful, constantly breathing her in, tasting the air she breathes out, sleeping belly to belly.

She’s holding her head steady these days, pushing herself up on chubby, tense arms. I walk her around the block every day, sometimes two or three times. She always looks so serious. I love watching her blue eyes taking it all in, watching the ground pass beneath our feet, gazing at the wide expanse of sky. Already she is growing up. Already she fits differently in my arms.

But I’m not sad. Because I know that one day soon, her fists will relax, and she will wrap her arms around my neck in baby hugs. I know that one day not far from now, she will wrap her arms around my legs in little kid hugs. And I know one day distant from now, she will wrap her arms around me with arms as long as my own, more robust than my own.

Yesterday, I sat out in the backyard with pen and paper, and the lyrics to a song came unbidden to me as I sat thinking about my baby, my mom, writing this letter. This is what I wrote:

You’re the love that I taste in my honey,
You’re the blue that I see in my sky,
You’re the life that I breathe in my air,
You’re the flesh that I feel in my skin,
You’re the blood that pounds in my ears,
You’re the salt that runs in my veins.

Mom, although this seems like a letter to my own little girl, I’m writing this because I now understand this must be how you felt when I was born. I’m getting an inkling of just how much you’ve loved me throughout my life.  I’m tasting water from a stream that trickles into a wide, deep river that runs into a vast, endless ocean. And for that, I am deeply humbled and grateful that I was lucky enough to have you for my mom.

So you see, this is really a letter to you.

I love you.  Happy Mother’s Day.  And thank you.




"There's a storm raging," she says, "and you and I are hanging on for dear life aboard this old pirate ship."

"There's a storm raging," she says, "and you and I are hanging on for dear life aboard this old pirate ship."

In an effort to write a short story worthy of submission to last year’s Clarion workshop, I ended up going over their limit of 6,000 words and writing a novelette. As I was writing it, I knew it was going to be long. But the story had its hooks in me, and I was reluctant to leave off in favor of a shorter story idea.

And I’m glad. It’s one of the first stories I’ve ever written that could be classified as true science fiction, and I enjoyed every minute of writing it. It’s basically a what-if story based on the potential of nanotechnology and how far perhaps we humans might take it.

Since writing it, I had gotten feedback from a good friend and fellow writer; however, I didn’t really know how to address some very important points she had brought up. Somehow, the story worked its way off of my desk and into a manila folder beneath other manila folders. Fat Cat suspects it’s where my stories go to molder, but I like to call this the ripening process.

After so many months away from it, reading it again is like a first encounter. I’m seeing things I hadn’t noticed before. I’m appreciating bits I had forgotten about. Solutions are revealing themselves to me in spangled AHA! moments.

So this is what I’m working on. I hope to have a final revision completed by the end of the week, and then it’s off to my workshop and a couple of readers for feedback. Then I’ll take it down to the post office and send it out into the bright, cold world to find its destiny.

The picture above was downloaded from The artist is George Grie.

Not only is it a beautiful piece, it’s an astonishingly perfect rendition of a scene from the story where Chris, my brave, brave protagonist, has plunged himself into travels unexpected…which are really the best travels one can have.


"It's an odd mix of joy, really."

"It's an odd mix of joy, really."

I remember being transported by Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle In Time,” when I was younger, to the gray planet of Ixchel, along with the main character young Meg, and being dumbfounded alongside her at the prospect of explaining the concept of sight to blind Aunt Beast.

How do you explain something like sight to someone who doesn’t have eyes? How would you explain sound to someone who can’t hear? Or smell to the olfactory-challenged? Taste to the tongueless?

Out of all the wonders in Ms. L’Engle’s book, this was the one thing that dug into me, leaving me appreciative and humbled by the small miracles of our senses.

Now that I have become a mother (still new and amazing to me, for I feel I have slipped into a parallel dimension, one that is a little newer and a little brighter with the added new future of my little one), I have another deep-reaching question: How would you explain sense of humor to a being who didn’t laugh? Hell, how would you explain laughter? (Of course, the very idea of a creature who doesn’t laugh is…well, laughable. I mean, even dogs laugh.)

So how do you explain the concept of laughter? It’s an odd mix of joy, really. It’s difficult to explain without using the word “humor.”

The reason I ask is this: Puppy is starting to laugh.

Since she was born premature, most of her time in the hospital was spent sleeping, her parents’ faces watchful ovals behind plexiglass, hopeful to catch a glimpse of those random crooked smiles.

However, in the last few days, she’s been smiling with purpose, responding to my silly faces and dramatic story-tellings. But it’s still a new thing for her, something that has been gaining momentum these past several weeks.

It snowballs into tiny baby giggles at night, when she’s asleep, nestled in her spot between my husband and me. In the soft orange glow of the night light, I can see her. Although her eyes are closed, her lashes curved into dark crescents of sleep, her face is alight with a smile so radiant I can’t help but reflect it back with my own smile. It’s like smiling at the sun; it brings tears to my eyes.

And she’s giggling. In her sleep. Little titters and chuckles. I shake my husband’s shoulder, but by the time he pulls himself from the depths of slumber into semi-consciousness, the moment’s gone.

I wonder, what on earth could this tiny child, in her seemingly limited life experience, be dreaming about that she finds so funny? If she could tell me, would I understand? Maybe baby humor is different than adult humor.

Having a preemie lends itself to a lot of worry over whether or not things are developing right. The doctors have been diligent about testing her reflexes, her sight, her hearing, all of that. But they don’t have a test to give a newborn for her sense of humor.

This is one of our most crucial senses, one which can determine whether a child will grow up to succeed in the world, recognize happiness in her life, overcome hardships, make long-lasting friendships.

So in wrestling with the question of humor and how to explain its complexities, I haven’t come any closer to a satisfactory answer. But I bear eager and humble witness to the flowering of my daughter’s own sense of humor. And like any parent, I hope that hers will be big and robust, strong and healthy, complex and smart.