Monday, May 18, 2015

Eulogy for My Grandmother

Fragrant roses. Hugs and kisses. Holding your hand. And most of all, family. These are a few of the things Dorothy "Dot" Saucier loved. I can't recall how many times she told me she loved me because there were too many to count. I do know, though, that it was a privilege to be her granddaughter.

Her life and death revolve around momentous occasions in the Christian church. She was born on December 31st, shortly after Christmas, and passed away in spring, shortly after Easter Sunday.

Christmas is a time to celebrate one of the most famous births in history. Dot, too, was a famous birth for her family. The second youngest of four sisters, she often told me that her father doted on her. After marrying at a young age, she gave birth to two sons, who eventually went on to create families of their own. Christmas is also a time to feast, and she created feasts—both big and small—for family and friends. She was a gift to her parents and to us all.

Speaking of life, she had so much life to her. When she entered a room, you knew she was there. Never the quiet one, she often spoke her mind quite plainly. She taught me the importance and value of honesty. She shared her life with us, while being true to herself. Lively and funny, she sometimes mumbled little jokes so you felt close to her, as if you're in on something together, your shared secret.

Easter is a celebration of rebirth and the love that comes from sacrifice. Dot gave so much of herself, including her love, to others. Not only did she care for her sons, but as a nurse for over twenty years, she cared tirelessly for others in need. Her warm, bright smile made people feel special and at ease. I always admired her radiant skin and beautiful green eyes.

Familial love expresses comfort and caring, and it's a treasure I seek to return to in order to feel whole again. Reuniting with her over the phone or in person was lovely. She helped teach me how lovely love can be.

How appropriate that we are in spring, the season of life and new beginnings. She would've loved the warmer weather of spring, although her favorite season was summer; she especially enjoyed traveling to tropical places. To her, a perfect day was sunny and warm. She died in the spring, yet her death is not an end but a beginning in a new place. She has moved on from our world to the next.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Grammar Schooled: Adjectives

This is a compilation of my comments posted on the Grammar and Style course's week 5 discussion boards.

Effective adjective use is an important mark of a good writer. I don't know if it's the most important mark of a good writer, but I understand why Ben Yagoda would suggest that. Adjectives add creativity and clarity to a sentence. Knowing their proper placement is also knowing proper sentence form.

Vladimir Nabokov is one of my favorite writers because his adjectives are evocative. Below is part of a poem from Lolita. In it, Nabokov repeats "wanted" and does the same with other adjectives in the poem, in order to maintain the sing-songy, almost childish, rhythm. In the poem, Lolita is condensed into exact numbers and colors, indicative of his obsession with her.

“Wanted, wanted: Dolores Haze.
Hair: brown. Lips: scarlet.
Age: five thousand three hundred days.
Profession: none, or "starlet" 
... 
Wanted, wanted: Dolores Haze.
Her dream-gray gaze never flinches.
Ninety pounds is all she weighs
With a height of sixty inches.”

(Illustration by Ellen van Engelen)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Life with a Lob

I caved and got a lob (long bob). After this record-breaking long winter, I definitely needed a change. And I must say, I'm really loving it. It's a weight off my shoulders and it's easy to style now.

(Photo from Unsplash)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Musings on Love

There are many forms of love, some uncontrollably passionate and wild, some conservative and restrained, yet all are from the same sturdy foundation. They all, whether life-long or fleeting, evoke that same feeling; whether it be a look, a touch, a call, or a distant memory in a black-and-white photo, the middle of your face tingles, moistening your eyes, you feel your heart and its heavy weight in your chest, and, like air filling your lungs, it fills your core, your soul.

In its universality love touches everyone and its effect on a person has the potential to be life-changing. As a baby we are born into this world and eventually come to learn love through others. Perhaps you first feel love from your parents, or another family member. Maybe you even come to learn about love from a non-biological person. You finally realize the meaning behind the phrase, "I love you." At some point, you learn love as a child. It's associated with a caring look and a genuine compassion felt from someone. After that, you realize it's your turn to start reciprocating, and out of your birth comes the birth of love in you.

However, no life is perfect, and not all childhoods are positive. I'm lucky enough that my childhood was generally good. No divorce. No abuse. No poverty. No tragedy. For those who have experienced a troubled childhood, I hope you find genuine love at some point in life, so you can be your truest, happiest self.

Learned familial-type love expresses comfort and caring, and it's a treasure I seek to return to in order to feel whole again. As I get older I realize the concept of love spreads beyond just family and friends, to the global population. I can love anyone. And it feels pretty good.

(Photo by Julia Keim)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Long Hair, Don't Care

This is what my hair looks like right now. Same color and everything. I know I need to get a haircut soon, but I like having long hair. Plus it's cool to put in a side braid. Forget all the trending bobs and lobs! Who's with me? (Check out Taylor Patterson's locks. Rockin' it!)

(Illustration by Renata Latipova)

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Mentality of an Abuser

So what's the mentality of an abuser? Lundy Bancroft is an expert on this topic. He has worked to heal abusive men for 15 years. He knows what makes them tick and wrote about it in his book, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. Bancroft tells their story from his perspective and also includes quotes from abusers themselves. I totally recommend it for other survivors of domestic abuse, if you're curious. (Bancroft refers to abusers in his book as men, as most abusers are male, but they can be either gender.)

A few things I learned from the book:

"An abuser's core problem is that he has a distorted sense of right and wrong" (p. 35). "Their value system is unhealthy, not their psychology" (38). Beliefs, values, and habits are the driving forces of abusive or controlling behavior (48).

Is an abuser born or made? Bancroft says it's the latter. "Abuse springs from a man's early cultural training, his key male role models, and his peer influences" (75). So, for instance, if you're a male and your male family members are abusive, there's a good chance you'll be abusive too. Society plays a role as well: "Abusive behavior is reinforced by multiple social messages, some of which are specific to the abuse of women and some of which reflect the overall culture of oppression" (333).

One of the most enlightening things I've learned about abusers, though, is that their abusive behavior extends to everyone in their lives. They may not show much of it to a stranger, but are most abusive to those closest to them, particularly their partners who they view as "theirs."

(Illustration by Helena Perez GarcĂ­a)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Grammar Schooled: Verbs

Let's school some verbs. The Grammar and Style course's lectures for week three covered main types of verbs and their subtypes and aspects. Some verb types are pretty confusing to decipher because they are so similar, including the gerund and present participle, and phrasal verbs and verbal phrases. It would be great to go through what these types are, along with some info on the secretive passive voice.

Present participles and gerunds are verbs ending in -ing. However, a gerund always functions as a noun. (I thought all words ending in -ing were gerunds, so it's nice to know the difference.) For example, "swimming" in "Swimming can be good" is a gerund, and "riding" in "I am riding north" is a present participle. As you can see, a present participle contains a helping verb; in the example, the helping verb is "am."

The terms "phrasal verbs" and "verbal phrases" are so similar I thought it important to distinguish the difference. Phrasal verbs consist of a main (finite) verb and a preposition or adverb integral to the meaning of the verb. Phrasal verbs include "climb up," "turn on," "add up," "back up," back down," "call in," among others. A verbal phrase is trickier to distinguish because it contains a non-finite verb and the words modifying it. So you'll need to know what non-finite verbs are (present and past participles, gerund, and infinitive). Here's an example of a verbal phrase: "When examined carefully, the substance did not seem harmful." "Examined" is the past participle, and "carefully" is the adverb modifying the verb.

Whew, that was tricky. Now onto the passive voice, which is when a subject is acted upon in a sentence. Teachers taught me to avoid the passive voice when writing, which in general is correct, as it's better to stick to the active voice. Yet, there is a type of passive voice, called the impersonal passive, that is acceptable when used intentionally in certain circumstances, particularly in business/work settings. Examples include, "It was decided...," and "It was agreed...," which soften the tone of the message.

(Photo of some hard-core grammar school prefects from OP Club Webmaster)