Monday, September 24, 2018

Grammar Police

The question that I ask myself quite often is do grammar rules ever become outdated? After quite a bit of research, I have found the answer is: yes, yes, yes! Of course, they do, except for those English majors from my era who can't let go of them. The English language is difficult enough without having so many rules that have so many exceptions. 

To this day I can remember having red marks on my papers due to ending a sentence with a preposition. Dangling prepositions were apparently huge mistakes. Really, I just don't like someone imposing their outdated guidelines to my writing. Please don't get me wrong. I do like guidelines and look them up frequently. I need constructive criticism. But some rules are meant to be broken. (And I just did with this sentence and the one before.)

Let's begin with ending a sentence with a preposition. It is fine to do so in almost all circumstances. Two examples where it is not necessary:
"Where are you going to?" Drop the to and simply ask, "Where are you going?" Or, "Where are you at?" There is no need for at. Drop it and just say, "Where are you?" When as a child, I remember my mother and teachers answering my question of, "Where are you at?" with a short answer of, "Between the a and the t." Must have worked because I still remember this rule.

Even Winston Churchill rejected the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition with his famous quote of, "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put." There are a few variations floating around of this quote, but basically all are extremely similar. It has been in circulation for some time and there seems to be no real evidence that it was his true quote or some other writer who attributed it to Churchill to demonstrate his dislike of this rule.

Some of the misguided rules are actually rules leftover from Latin grammar. Times change. Four different articles that I found had the over-application of a real or perceived rule of grammar labeled hypercorrection. I love that word. Usually it is used to describe someone trying to appear formal or educated, however they are so far over the edge that they don't realize they are actually incorrect in the modern usage. 

Another way to have the grammar police come after you is if you begin a sentence with a conjunction. In my second paragraph above, the last two sentences would put me behind the grammatical bars. Students everywhere  are getting points taken off their essays for beginning their sentences with "and," "so," "but," and "or." The origin is said to have started when teachers felt the need to teach their students where to break their sentences. Therefore, another erroneous grammar rule was born. So be BOLD. Break the so-called rule.

While we are on the topic of "bold," so to speak, let's talk about the rule of not splitting an infinitive. To refresh memories of those who have been out of the classroom for many years, an infinitive are those two-word verb forms that begin with  "to" such as "to go," "to fish," or "to read." If you split them then you insert an adverb in the middle. In several different sources I found this example from the starship Enterprise. The mission, it states, is, "To boldly go where no one has gone before." The Oxford and Merriam-Webster English usage dictionaries have no problem with it. So go ahead and split those infinitives when it is needed.

Then there is the age old argument of using the word "irregardless."

Kory Stamper, a lexicographer for Merriam-Webster has this quote on the word, "irregardless:"

"One word that gets a lot of vitriol is the word "irregardless." There is a dictionary entry for "irregardless." "Irregardless" is a word. This inspires specific vehement hatred in people. "Irregardless" is a word and we're duty-bound to enter it. It is related to "regardless." It is actually a blend of two words. It's a blend of "irrespective" and "regardless." People hate it because they say that it has no use — why not just use "regardless"?
But actually in the dialect that "irregardless" comes from, it has a specific use that doesn't translate well in print. It's basically an emphatic use of "regardless." So if you're a native speaker of certain dialects that use "irregardless" you use "irregardless" to shut down further conversation on a topic. I might say, "Dad, let me borrow the car. I'm a really good driver." And he'll say, "Regardless, I'm not comfortable." I'll say, "Oh but come on. I'll get it detailed, and I'll put gas in it." He'll say, "Irregardless, no."
The point of the "irregardless" is to shut down conversation. So "irregardless" is a word. It has a specific use, in particular dialects. That said, it's not part of standard English and so — especially if you're writing or if you're speaking in formal places — you want to use "regardless" instead. Because if you use "irregardless," people will think you're uneducated."
Many grammar police have their own rules made up in their minds. They may have been relevant at one time but have become overrated throughout the years. As a writer, I know that I need to be aware of what is truly a rule to follow and which ones are allowed to be broken. 
One further example of what has become a topic for debate is the use of a comma. Who knew that such a tiny little punctuation mark could draw such discussion. Writers need to use it to show a pause in the phrasing. Example:
"Let's hurry and eat Grandma" or Let's hurry and eat, Grandma. The two sentences mean two different things. To end my blog of watching grammar, let's not forget the Oxford comma. When I have a series of items in a list is it necessary to put the last comma before saying and?  Example:
"While at the grocery store I bought apples, celery, milk, cereal and bread." At one time it was a hard fast rule that a comma needed to appear after cereal. No longer is that the case, except with some grammar police. 
I did discover that it depends on what source you use to find your grammar rules. Know your audience and who will be reading it. Many authors like to use made up words for the creative side of their writing. As Paul Harvey used to say, "Now you know the rest of the story."

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Not Ever Enough Time

There are so many days that I can honestly say that there is not ever enough time in my day to accomplish what I want to do. Sometimes they are things that I NEED to do, not just want to do. Now that I am retired, my question to myself is how did I do what I did while working outside of the home. As a writer, I do consider myself working, just on my time. Maybe therein lies the problem. "My Time!" 

I do believe that time is our most precious resource. For myself, I had to come up with some ways to manage my time more effectively so that I can get all accomplished that are on my to do list each day. If I needed help, there certainly are enough self-help books out there to guide me. In my humble opinion, I do believe that I know what I have to do; I just must do it.

Today, I plan on sharing some of these ideas. Sometimes, we as human beings know the answers are deep down within us, and sometimes, me included, we just need to hear them enough to finally do something about them. That is just human nature.

  • Be consistent - make a goal and stick to it such as my goal to work out daily can be accomplished if I remain consistent and realistic...knowing my limitations and not trying to overdo it makes me more excited to get this worked in to my day and even motivates me.
  • Social media is right at my fingertips all during my work on the computer while writing. Pick the times that it is okay to go and check e-mail, FB, Twitter and stick to those guidelines. My attention sometimes had rather go to the fun stuff instead of work. Even though I love writing, there are times when I get writer's block and it is so much easier to go scrolling on FB or to see what is in my e-mail that is more interesting.
  • Always have a never ending supply of water to keep myself hydrated. Eating has become easier now that I know when my body should be fueled and weekly grocery shopping takes care of getting what I need to make it easy to throw something nutritious together. 
  • Check my personal calendar so that I am sure about which days will have interruptions. These "interruptions" are most definitely the highlight of being retired and not having to ask to take off to go to the doctor or dentist. The most important thing about interruptions for me is that so many of them are simply fun, fun, fun! Luncheons with friends, manicures/pedicures/facials/hairdressers scheduled in the middle of the day while the rest of my former world is locked away inside four walls. My husband and I no longer shop on the weekends when the crowds are out. NOPE. So much easier and less crowded during the week. This goes for hitting the movies for a matinee, also.
  • Choose what brings meaning to my day. Really, this is just another way of telling me to prioritize my to do list. Some days this may mean to put the easy things on the top of my list, while other days get the hardest task out of the way so that it does not become the monkey on my back.
  • When sitting down for my mindset part of my morning before I start anything, focus in on my positive mantra to share on FB. This is how my attitude gets put in a good place. It is proven that the brain can't focus on both negativity and positivity at the same time. Practicing gratitude and being positive activates my brain to move forward. For me, it is like taking a "happy pill," only more natural.

In my own mind, all of what I am doing to help me increase my time on tasks are simply put: creating better habits. Using the words 'simply put' is sort of an oxymoron. It takes work to follow through on my techniques. 

If you went in a bookstore, you would find books with many more ideas. They tell you that if you buy and read the book, they will unlock the secrets for you to manage your time better. For me, that was just a bit overwhelming. I need the KISS approach. Keep it simple, stupid in order to help reduce stress and achieve my goals. It is an essential life skill.


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Need to Relax?

No matter what we do for a living, no matter if you love your chosen career path or the luxury of retirement, we all need to set aside time for relaxation. I laugh at the common myth that once a person retires, they sit in a rocking chair and rock away the rest of their life. I would not have retired if that is what I had to look forward to. 

Retirement is the perfect time to go after a dream that you may have had at another point in time during your employment. I can't speak of others, however, for myself, I always wanted to write. Ideas of novels and children's books popped in my mind all the time. Luckily, I took notes when those ideas came to mind. With the kind of job that I had, I discovered that I could not write effectively and do my day job unless I gave up sleep. 

That wasn't going to happen. Like most others, without sleep, I don't function well. The best thing for me was to check out when it would be most beneficial for finances with my husband to take the plunge and retire before the magical age of 65. We figured it out to the best of our ability with the help of financial planners starting way back when. The opportunity was right.

At first, I did not think that I needed to carry on my own regiment of relaxation once I was retired. I was so wrong about that. It took about a month of just regrouping mentally and physically once retirement began. It was then that I wanted to get into my dream work of writing. Because I wanted to have some type of routine (and did) was the main reason that I needed that relaxation. 

First one has to get over the fact, no matter what your job is, that relaxation is not another word for being lazy. It is the key to my health and state of mind. Even while writing it is important to use most  of my former techniques on relaxing. Let me share some of them with you.

  • Find time to curl up with a good book. I try to read some each day. It always helps writers to improve by reading other authors' writing.

  • Along with reading comes writing daily in a journal which helps in finding how you are really feeling about your world.
  • Sometimes, just taking that long hot bubble bath works magic to settle my mind. I have found that it is a great time to settle my mind and to actually meditate - it clears the cobwebs. I like to call it my mindful meditation time.
  • Listening to the sounds around you, whether it be nature or a great play list that I have downloaded. Music helps release emotional stress. Luckily, now, even with me writing, I almost always have some type of music on.

A wonderful cup of coffee or at night a glass of merlot are my ways of relaxing. The first cup of coffee is what relaxes me and gets me into my day. Before retirement, I would drink 4 - 5 cups of coffee each day. Now I am down to one wonderful cup each morning before I move on to my water. To go with dinner or after dinner, a glass of merlot is just perfect. Each person should find the drink that is relaxing for them.

  • Exercise is important for relaxation also. Although I will never be the runner as in the picture, I have discovered what works best for me and saves my knees.
  • I like to find time to enjoy outside when it is not so stinking (a Southern expression) hot and humid outside. Time is coming up where I live now to be able to enjoy the outside more. This is how I like to relax or in our "inside/out" room that is screened and keeps the bugs out. Just as you would never find me running, it is relaxing to some, others have told me that to relax they enjoy going out camping. To each their own. This would stress me out more. 
The state of relaxation is so very important in our lives. It it my belief that if more people practiced it, there would be less violence in our world today. It is not the answer for everything and everybody but it surely can't hurt to give it a try. Take a moment to let it go!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Keto or Low Carb/High Fat?

Due to the definition of calories, I must decide what I will do about these creatures and my clothes fitting. I have called in the exterminator to get rid of the tiny creatures. It did not work. My clothes still become a little tighter from head to toe. Since this means that soon they will not fit, I must turn to drastic steps. The reason being is that I refuse to purchase anything new in the next size up. That is simply not an option in my book!

Because this problem just did not happen overnight, I have tried other steps. Portion control and moderation were mainly the steps that I took; alas, this did not help. My calorie intake was only 1200 a day. My body said that was fine and she could live on that. So I maintained, not lost! The only way to lose was to exercise on a frequent basis. With joints recuperating from a side effect to medication, this was not always easy. Not impossible, just having to use patience and take baby steps was not working for me.

Friends were telling me about a YouTube video to watch titled, "Butter Makes Your Pants Fall Off." It is how to eat a low carb/high fat diet and lose weight, whether you exercise or not. Of course, it is healthier for me if I keep moving, so some exercise will continue but I had to decide if I could pull off this way of eating. Forever and ever, being told that lower calories and eating less fat, no fried foods, low calorie everthing...and now change? It was hard for me to wrap my head around it all.

It is difficult to believe that my cholesterol would be lower by eating this way. The low carb/high fat reminded me of the Dr. Atkins famous diet of the 1950's. He has revised and added to what science has proven to his latest edition of the Dr. Atkins program. South Beach was the rage in 2003 and it was similar. With this low carb/high fat diet I was reading about the Keto Diet. They basically all sounded about the same to me.

The more I researched, I was finding that people were using low carb/high fat and Keto programs as interchangeable. It wasn't until I dug deeper that I discovered there were key differences. Now my decision was which one was right for me. It really depended on my goals, my lifestyle and the fact that I am female and of a certain age. 

To lose weight on these programs, I learned that I did not need to be ketogenic. There was no need to go out and buy keton strips to see if I was ketogenic. This means that the production of ketones is taking place when the body runs out of sugars (carbs).

 Keto and the low carb/high fat guidelines are that you stay in a 20 - 30 net grams of carbs, 75 grams of fat and 25 grams of protein. This is called macronutrients. On keto, I would need to test daily to be sure I remain ketogenic. For most people this means staying closer to the 20 net grams of carbs.

The question is what falls into these categories? Packaging helps me to know how many carbs a product has but as for fresh fruit and vegetables? I needed to look them up and write it down so that I could remember. There are numerous vegetables that are fine to keep the carbs low. The bad news is that there are very few fruits. For me, it was the watermelon that hurt the worst. The fruits that have lower amounts of carbs are blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. The other foods that are off limits if I want my carbs to remain low are rice, potatoes, corn, starchy veggies and...(this was a killer for me)breads and pastas. Agggghhhhhhh! I had to think long and hard on this rule. High fat simply meant that I needed to use real butter in the skillet when I cooked my eggs, sauteed onions or other things. Not a problem!

So basically, it turns out that it was easier than I thought for the most part. There is an app for my phone that was free called CarbManager. All I must do is put in the food that I eat and it sorts it all out for me so that I know where I stand, meal to meal. If I went on the higher end of my carbs for breakfast and lunch, then I just choose something lower for dinner. 

What I do have now and then that can be very frustrating are some plateaus in my weight loss. I am in a social media group where we chat about issues we may be having and how others have solved the same problems. It helps to have others who share the same issues and to try some things that have worked for them. Every person is different. The one thing that I MUST do is get rid of the scales as the one indicator that I am losing. It does not work that way.

Trying new recipes have been fun and entertaining, some with good outcomes and others, not so good. Never in a million years did I believe that I would give up my Mamaw's recipe for fried chicken. It was so dang good. Yet I could not use the white flour, so instead of trying it with almond flour (which I was prepared to do) I tried it the way that the YouTube video shared with Bob Briggs. It was fantastic. Almost just as good and that is a mouthful for me to say! I am very picky. There is one thing that I am not even willing to try. it is called Ketocoffee or Bulletproof coffee. No thank you. A cup of coffee is brewed the drip way and in the coffee before you turn it on spoon in a tablespoon of MCT oil. (medium chain triglycerides) The coffee is poured into a blender with a tablespoon of butter to blend. It comes out very foamy on the top layer. Can we say eeewwwwwww? That is not going to happen.

I am not a doctor so I suggest that you run this by your doctor, as I did if you plan on going full speed ahead on any of these plans. As long as there are no major health issues, most doctors agree that cutting out the white flour is a good thing. There are varying opinions on the high fat, although one of my doctors told me that in the latest research he read, that increasing the good fats did not harm people. 

For now, this is where I stand and my own mantra to get me through any of the tough times, is to ask myself one question. If I eat that (whatever the culprit may be) will it taste as good as I will feel when weight keeps dropping? The answer has been no and hopefully will remain that way. 

Just so you are aware that I know this way of eating is not for life, however, it is a lifestyle change, a mindset of changing how I view food. This is for life. There is a stage of Dr. Atkins book that teaches you the proper way to phase yourself back into the mainstream of eating without such a strict plan to follow. When the time comes, I will be ready. For now? Watch out carbs, you are not going to tempt me!