The Coming of Grammar Man

Gripes about the butchering of grammar reached some folks who have encouraged me to write a blog entry on specific topics. So, I’ll write about one grammatical thing area week. In addition, I’ll cite the rule from the Harbrace Handbook and then give examples of incorrect and correct usage. Who knows? Perhaps I can start a movement where writers actually make concerted efforts to use English grammar correctly.

My former life as a high school English teacher somewhat qualifies me to undertake this project. When I discuss a grammatical rule, I do it knowing that creative writing sometimes demands the breaking with conventions. Still, our language needs to hold on to “the rules.” If people begin using their own set of rules, no one will understand what another is writing before long. Effective written communication is dependent upon standards by which all content can be judged. In regard to oral English, gross violations of grammatical rules destroy the message of the speaker.

So, look for my rant on grammar each week. I’ll bet that many of you might be surprised that you’re using an incorrect form of some things. Please don’t think that I’m preaching. My intentions are simply to bring about a bit of correct grammatical construction to the world of writing and, to a lesser degree, speaking.

Vacation Frustrations

            Well, I’m back from a week of vacation in Mexico. Amy and I stayed at an all-inclusive resort near Cancun. No, our bank account can’t afford such trips, but my wife is an excellent hunter for bargains, and this was one of them. We had some good times, but many episodes during our “off time” were less than enjoyable.

            The first leg of our trip began in Nashville. We drove there the night before to board US Airways Flight 1125 for Charlotte, North Carolina. We rose at 3:30 a.m. to drive to the airport and go through the process of checking bags and passing through security.

            Our flight was ready to leave, and we lined up to board. As we reached the check-in, a female employee informed us that the overhead compartments were already filled and our carry-on bag would have to be checked and stowed underneath. I protested, and Amy said that the duffle bag would fit under the seat. However, this employee was rude and determined not to let us board with the bag. I left it, and then remembered that my passport was in one of the pockets. If I’d not retrieved it, my entry to Mexico would have been denied.

            My concern centered on the fact that all of our medications, as well as electronic devices and cameras, were purposely placed in this bag so they would arrive unharmed at our destination. I was also furious about not being allowed to take a bag on. The ticket prices we paid included our right to take one carry-on bag each and one personal item on board.

            I sat in my seat and fumed about the situation, and my temperature spiked as I watched passengers after us come on board with carry-on bags. They placed them in empty spaces that the employee told us weren’t available. By the time the plane landed in Charlotte, I was ready for war.

            The baggage problem paled next to our next problem. We were picked up at the airport in Puerto Morelos, Mexico for a ride to the Dreams Tulum resort. I noticed road signs that seemed to indicate we were going in the wrong direction but just passed it off to my lack of understanding of Spanish.

            When the cab pulled into the resort, my suspicions were confirmed. We had been taken to the Now Jade Resort. Amy and I exited the cab and sat down at the check-in desk. As we tried to explain the problem, the receptionist, first, and then the manager told us that no rooms were available at the Dreams Resort.

            As it turned out, the company we worked with on arrangements, PLANET-GETAWAY, had changed our arrangements the day before we left. Amy contacted them and was told the original room confirmation was set, but the company pulled the old “bait and switch” on us. I was livid, but the fact was that we either took the room at Jade or sat on the curb for four days until our return flight on Thursday.

            We endured a mandatory sales pitch that was a condition of our trip, a 90-minute presentation that turned into more than a 3-hour marathon. The sales person promised it wouldn’t be like a timeshare, high-pressure attack, but he lied. I finally told the guy NO MORE, but Amy did it better. She told him “ENOUGH! Call us a cab!” The fact that the rain fell in buckets during the entire time kept us from fuming more about the waste of time.

            As things turned out, our stay at Now Jade was wonderful. The resort was comfortable and beautiful, and Amy and I enjoyed our trip. We returned home on Thursday, picked up grandson Madden, and traveled to Knoxville. By Tuesday we were again exhausted, but Amy had to return to work, and I began to the crusade against US Airways and Planet-Getaway.

            Ah, it’s good to go, but it’s also good to come back!

A Force of Nature

We’ve all celebrated Mother’s Day now. It was special in our house as our son, who’d just recovered from a bout of pneumonia, made the trip from Knoxville to spend the special weekend with his mother. He showered Amy with love and hugs, but his best gift on Mother’s Day came when he called his mother “a force of nature.” That’s high praise for any mom, but in my wife’s case, it’s also true.

            When Dallas called home a couple of Fridays ago to tell us that he’d fallen ill, his mother made immediate plans to travel to Chattanooga to take care of him. He called me and texted his mother and in not-so delicate words discouraged her from making the trip. His demands fell on deaf ears. When he complained to me, I told him,

            “There’s nothing you can say, I can say, or God Almighty can say to stop your mother from going to Chattanooga. Deal with it!”

            Amy arrived an immediately took over. She cooked and cleaned and pampered her younger child. Dallas had moments when he could help his mother clean up his bachelor’s apartment. She managed in little time to once again put the place in order. By Sunday, the boy was feeling better, and I took over as Amy traveled home to return to work on Monday.

            My presence was appreciated, but the simple fact was that I was a poor substitute for Mom. My cooking wasn’t nearly as good, my cleaning was thorough but not as helpful, and my bedside manner lacked that gentility and soothing that Dallas had received from his mom.

            Isn’t that the way for all of us? We go about our lives with vigor and vim. Then, when something hits us, whether it’s physical illness or emotional distress, our first thoughts turn to Mom. Mothers have that ability to make everything better. Sure, the chicken soup or other comfort food they serve soothes the soul. However, the thing that best calms raging fevers, gnawing pains, and breaking hearts and spirits is the soft touch of a mom’s hand. Most folks can remember as children when their mothers massaged their shoulders, scratched their backs, or simply rubbed their heads. Ah, it was heaven.

            As for being forces of nature, Amy is one when it comes to Dallas or Lacey, and now grandson Madden is included as well. She seems to be able to move metaphorical mountains that block her from her children. Somehow, her calm approach is able to conquer the toughest problems in life. Her guiding hand offers counsel that is wise and, much to everyone’s benefit, right on target.

            Our children somehow grew up while we were watching. They are now 31 and 27, and Amy sometimes worries that she’s not needed as much. The truth is that her adult children turn to her more often when they have adult concerns and questions. Sometimes they talk about jobs; sometimes they talk about relationships; sometimes they talk about health issues. Regardless of the topic, Lacey and Dallas feel comfortable sharing with Mom because they are always sure that what she does best is LISTEN.

            Lacey is now a mom, and already she’s discovered the joys and responsibilities that accompany the job. She’s even more grateful for all that Amy has done over the years for her, and she sometimes comes to her mother for advice about “what to do with the boy.” She’s the rock upon which her children can stand. I have to admit for the last 37 years, she’s been compass in life. My mother has passed, but I know how my kids feel about theirs, and I’m thankful that they see how important a mom can be. She surely is a force of nature in their lives.


a man with a hand on his back Stock Photo - 13248714

An old friend dropped in 5-6 weeks ago and has stayed ever since. A back ache set in and has frustrated me to a breaking point. It’s also led to more visits to a doctor than anyone could stand.
During the first doctor’s appointment, the MD told me the problem was “billfold butt,” something we men suffer from as we ride a several-inch thick leather square in our back pockets. With that diagnosis, he sent me home with an anti-inflammatory and the promise of an impending shot of steroids in the hip area as the next step of treatment. 
Magically, the pain in my right hip disappeared, but unfortunately, another appeared in my left one, and it hung around 24/7. So, I traveled back to the doctor with the report of new developments. He wasn’t pleased about things and said the movement wasn’t necessarily a good thing. I agreed since the “discomfort” started in my lower back and went down my “bottom” and back of my leg and then made a turn around the front of my shin. I knew by the time I was sitting in the waiting room that my old friend “ a slipped disc” had made another appearance.
The next appointment was scheduled for an MRI. Over the years I’ve had between 8-10 for back problems. However, only the first two were in “closed” units. The feeling of being shoved into a garbage can where my breath hit the side, bounced off, and hit me in the face and the banging that sounded as if someone were playing the drums on the side of a can freaked me out. I was so claustrophobic that just the thought of sliding into the thing had me in a panic. Now, I go to a place that has an open MRI. It’s not much better, but at least a patient can see out the sides. ]
Only a couple of days later I was back at the doctor’s office for the results. The physician’s assistant came in and apologized. It seems that the orders were incorrectly written and the MRI was of my thoracic spine instead of the lumbar area. So, I would need to have a second imaging done. That meant another appointment for and MRI and then back to the doctor for results.
As I left the PA and approached the checkout desk, the clerk told me that I should remit my $50 co-pay. Incredulous, I stared at her and then told her I didn’t think it was fair that I had to pay for an appointment where the doctor tells me that his staff has made a mistake that results in my having to have another test. She indicated that I would be billed, at which point I told her that would be fine. I decided to let “Bulldog Amy” take care of any bill that came.
My wonderful wife had taken off work for the first test, so I asked a good friend to take me to the second one. I needed a ride since beforehand I downed a couple of Xanax to calm my nerves and my driving was problematic. This time I made sure the MRI was performed on the right area.
Yesterday, I called the doctor for results. They hadn’t been sent yet, nearly a week later. However, the doctor scheduled another appointment and promised to have the results when I got there.
            I know what the diagnosis is; at least I’m pretty sure that I’ve got another ruptured disc. Right now, I want to know and then I want some medicine that will help me get through the pain for the next 3-4 months. After vacations and more golf and yard mowing and summer activities, I’ll see about taking care of the problem. I just hope I don’t have too many appointments when that time comes.

UPDATE—Results are in.. Herniated disc at L4/5 and some at L6. Also another herniated disc on right side instead of “billfold butt.” UH-OH! Not a good report!
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Baseball fence Sign

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