Monday, November 28, 2011

The difference between me and I.

Here's the thing: when me and I are by themselves (ourselves?), people typically know which one to use. It's when one of these little buggers comes with a friend that people become quite confused. Allow me to break it down, homeskillet.

In previous posts, I've mentioned what are called the subjects and objects of sentences. 
  •  In layman's terms, a subject is what (or whom) the sentence discusses. Check it: Mary had a little prairie dog (come on, the lamb is so cliché). About whom is the sentence? Yes, grasshopper, it is MARY. After all, there's just something about that Mary, so Mary is the subject.  
  • The object is what receives the action of the sentence. For example, if you said, "Ow, you flicked my wenis!" In this sentence, the action word is "flicked."  What was flicked? In other words, what is the object that receives this action? Who or what feels the flicking? Yes, the wenis. Therefore, wenis is the object. 
 Now that we've discussed the subject versus the object, let's move on to this whole me and I business. 

Me is always the object in a sentence. I is always the subject/doer of an action. (Man, if you read those two sentences out of context, it'd look like I sure did have me some bad grammar.)

Let's take a roll in the proverbial, asexual hay and try out me and I. 

Part 1: Me (remember, it is the object in a sentence.)
  • Santa said to little Sally, who always eats her broccoli because her mommy says Santa brings only coal to boys and girls who do not eat their greens, "I cannot believe you sat on me and farted. You are not sugar and spice and everything nice. You are flatulence and lice and you'll pay the price. No presents for you."
  • Mr. Gingerbread Man saw the rotund boy come at him with a glass of milk and a hungry sneer. He cried, "No! No! Do not eat me, dough boy!"
Part 2: I (Do not forget, is is the subject of the sentence.)
  • I have got a lovely bunch of coconuts. Dee da la dee. There they are a standing in a row. 
  • Yes, I ate all of the cookies in the cookie jar. What are you going to do about it? Huh? Get at me!
Now, are you confused when me or I make friends with he, him, she, her, it, they, them, and you? Do not worry. I have an easy test for you. 

TEST: Take the friend out of the equation to see if the sentence makes more sense with I or me.
  • Incorrect Example: He and me played Polly Pockets until the cows came home.
    • Take out "he." Me played Polly Pockets until the cows came home. 
    • Unless you are a caveman, then you would say, "I played Polly Pockets...."
    • Therefore, put he back into the equation: He and I played Polly Pockets until the cows came home. (I really should have picked a shorter sentence.)
  • Incorrect Example: Mom is taking her and I to play Dungeons and Dragons in Draco's basement. 
    • Take out "her." Mom is taking I to play Dungeons and Dragons in Draco's basement. 
    • Perhaps you have been indulging in D&D a little too long and your brain is a bit charred. Well, douse your neurons with a some water and take note. 
    • The correct sentence would read Mom is taking her and me to play D&D in Draco's basement. (Note: In this situation, many people would substitute "her and me" for "us.") 
Are you worried again? Is your brow furrowed because now you're not sure whether you should say he or him, she or her, they or them, or we or us? 
  • Remember our earlier lesson about subjects and objects? Well, here's the break down:
    • He, she, they, and we are all subjects.
      • He pooped.
      • She pooped.
      • They pooped. (Hopefully not in the same room)
      • We pooped. (We kept our eyes closed.)
    • Him, her, them, and us are all objects.
      • He poked him.
      • He poked her. (I read this post to my husband, and he argued that saying "he" poked her sounds sexual, which automatically makes the sentence much funnier. Thus, we have "He poked her" instead of "She poked her.")
      • They poked them.
      • They poked us. (Saying we poked us sounds much too much like self pleasure, and it's just weird.)
I hope you now feel much more at ease about this whole me and I business. If you need me to edit this post by clarifying any areas of confusion, please post in the comment section. I will gladly elucidate for you (unless you're an idiot, then no amount of clarification will help you). However, I ASSume that you must not be an idiot if you're concerned enough about your grammar to consult this blog post.  Smart people read about grammar. Or maybe it's nerds who read about it. In any case, you may leave this post smarter than you came to it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

When I read it, I breathed, so I must need a comma.

Though this rule sometimes applies, a lot of people are long winded while others are quick winded (totally made up that term), so the poor comma might feel either neglected or abused. Neither option is very fair to the sweet, helpful, wonderful comma.

Let's talk about all many of the places (truly, too many to cover in one post) we use the versatile comma.

Place #1: Include commas after introductory words or phrases (sentence parts which cannot stand alone because they miss a subject/verb combination).
  • Introductory word: Unfortunately, you smell like feet. 
  • Introductory phrase: With a look of regret on her face, my dog cowered in the corner after she urinated all over the rug. 
  • Introductory phrase #2: Just for the record, cleaning up a trail of urine is worse than cleaning up a puddle of pee.
Note: Be careful with these introductory phrases. You don't want to misplace them unless you actually mean "Eating poop, my dad scolded the dog" and not "My dad scolded the dog eating poop." I certainly hope your dad is not a poop eater. Ew.

Place #2: Include commas after a subordinate clause only if the subordinate clause comes at the beginning of the sentence. People frequently break this rule, so pay close attention.
  • Correct: After they randomly planked on their desks, my brilliant students decided it was time to start their vocabulary tests. 
  • Incorrect: My brilliant students decided it was time to start their vocabulary tests, after they randomly planked on their desks. (Again, you do not actually want that red comma.)
  • NOTE: If the part of the sentence which cannot stand alone (subordinate clause) comes FIRST, you need a comma. If it comes at the end of a sentence, you do NOT need a comma.
Place #3: Include a comma between two independent clauses only if a coordinating conjunction follows it. (I'll provide a list of coordinating conjunctions.)
  • Correct: Kevin had a 7% in my class, so he began fabricating stories to explain why he didn't have assignments. Apparently, he thought I was stupid enough to believe that rapscallions attacked a bagel shop, and he needed to use his vocabulary flashcards as throwing stars. 
  • Why is it correct? In the correct sentence, what comes before the red font is a complete sentence (Kevin had a 7% in my class); what comes after the red font is also a complete sentence (he began fabricating stories...). Therefore, you need to invite our friend, the comma, to the party. The comma goes before the conjunction. 
  • NOTE: Some misguided souls place the comma after the conjunction. YO! The comma is supremely awesome, so it goes before the conjunction.
  • Incorrect: Kevin ate too many beans, and stunk his classmates out of the computer lab.
  • Why is it incorrect? What comes before the blue font is a complete sentence, but what comes after the blue font is NOT a complete sentence. It's just one sentence. What do I mean? I mean, this sentence has one subject (Kevin) and two verbs (ate and stunk) to go with that one subject. Because you cannot split the sentence into two sentences, you do not want a comma before and. 
  • Moral of the story? If you can make two complete sentences with what comes before the conjunction and what comes after the conjunction, then put a comma before the conjunction. If you cannot make two complete sentences, because you're missing a second subject, then you do not need the comma. (Hey, commas need naps just like we do.) 
 The list of Coordinating Conjunctions spells out FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

Place #4: Between multiple adjectives describing the same noun (if you're not using the conjunction and).
  • Correct: You, my swaggerific, dirty friend, are my hero. 
  • Why is it correct? Lists need commas. I provided a (short) list of adjectives for my friend, so I needed to separate that small list with a comma. Yes, you can add a third adjective: You, my swaggerific, dirty, bombastic friend, are my hero.
  • Incorrect: You are swaggerific (new teenage colloquialism), and dirty (apparently a new teenage way of actually complimenting someone/something). 
  • Why is it incorrect? You used and in between the two adjectives, so no adjective is necessary. 
  • Incorrect: My wacky, English teacher writes funny sentences. 
  • Why is it incorrect? Technically, wacky and English serve as adjectives; however, let's look at two things. One, replace the comma with and. Does it make sense? "My wacky and English teacher writes funny sentences." Unless you're saying she's English (from England), that pairing makes no sense. Two, could you flip flop the adjectives and make a logical sentence? "My English and wacky teacher writes funny sentences." So, try these two tests to determine if your "list" of adjectives actually goes together and needs a comma.
Place #5: Use commas before or after you directly address someone. 
  • Richard, who's your favorite Little Rascal? Is it Alfalfa, or is it Spanky? Sinner.
  • Stop looking at me, Swan. 
  • Note: If these sentences sound familiar to you, then you're awesome because you've obviously watched Tommyboy (example #1) and Billy Madison (example #2).
Place #6: Use commas in a list. (In place #4, I already talked about the list of adjective, so I will not belabor that point again. I will provide you with different lists.)
  • Example: As a teacher, I've learned many new things: how to jerk, what "coning" is, who makes the best YouTube videos, and where to go online if I want to rot my brain.
  • Please note: Some people do not place a final comma before the word and. I hate these people. Okay, not really, but I want to shove a hot poker into their eye socket. Okay, not really, but it grinds my gears. See the following visual for what you need to know about the Oxford comma. 

 Place #7: Place commas before, around, after elements of the sentence (clauses, phrases, words) that you could live without
  • Correct: You use semicolons really well. I am, however, unimpressed by your use of  commas.
  • Why is it correct? You don't need however. It's just a transitional word, so place commas around it. In circumstances such as this one, consider the commas like little midget, chopped-in-half versions of a set of parentheses.
  • I am not writing an incorrect sentence. I have been writing this post (on and off) for about a week. If I have to spend one more minute on this section of the post, I will scoop out my eyes with a melon baller. Deal. 

I realize that this post may have generated even more questions in your curious, eager mind. If you need a separate post on any of the grammatical terms, please let me know in the comments section.

NOTE: I try to avoid using really complicated, "Englishy" terms. I'm figuring that many of my readers fall into one of two groups: one, English teachers who want to show their brainless (I mean GENIUS) students how to stop abusing the comma, and two, people who aren't entirely comfortable with grammatical terms.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why I Avoid Gluten

I realize that many of my posts discuss or will discuss gluten-free foods, so it might be helpful for people out there to understand how I came to be gluten-free.

In High School, I suffered from a lot of health problems, which followed me into college. My list of ailments spanned the spectrum: sinus infections, severe stomach cramping, the not-so-nice stuff coming out of the bottom end, and I seemed to catch just about anything that so much as sniffed in my direction. Doctors ran countless tests, but they never gave me answers. It all came to a head when a doctor gave me a "prescription" to see a psychiatrist; they thought my sicknesses were self-induced or manifestations of hypochondria. I was livid that their incompetency and inability to find answers was somehow my "mind's" fault. I must have been imagining things if they couldn't find anything wrong. At that moment, I extended my figurative middle finger to the medical profession.

Unfortunately, I had to keep seeing doctors. Again and again and again. (As a relevant side note, let me just say how much I hate the doctor's office. I find absolutely no pleasure in visiting a giant petri dish, yet doctors thought my psyche invented my pain out of some subconscious desire to spend time with them. Right.)  Eventually, my digestive system became so sensitive that eating plain rice gave me severe heart burn. I felt bloated, heavy, lethargic, and nauseated every time I ate. In fact, I looked puffy. Nothing agreed with me. I dreaded going out to eat with friends. I avoided going anywhere far from a bathroom. My digestive system was controlling my life. One day, I ended up in a public bathroom at my college, crippled by the most intense abdominal pain I had felt, and I had felt a lot of abdominal pain.

I did what any smart college kid would do: I called mommy. The 45 minute commute to my college took my mom less than 30 minutes. When she arrived, she helped me into her car and drove me over to the ER, a very quick trek from the college. The doctors ran tests. Boom. An answer fell from the sky: gallstones. The doctors were curious, "What? How can this be? You're young, thin, and really in shape. Gallstones happen to people who are older or over weight. Not you." What factor had all of my doctors neglected to consider? BOTH of my parents had their gallbladders removed; in fact, my mom's went bad while she was pregnant with me, but she had to wait until I was born before she could have her gallbladder removed. Guess what? Gallbladder problems are hereditary. Thank you, doctors, for not considering my family history, a pretty important component in treating a patient.

I asked, "What do I do?" Do you want to know what the doctor should have said or what the doctor actually said?

Well, I'll tell you what he actually said, which will forever remain imprinted on my memory: "Don't worry about it right now. Wait until you're on your honeymoon and hovered over the toilet in excruciating pain, then you should have it removed." Sound medical advice.

I sought a second opinion from a surgeon. Within two weeks, I was having an organ removed. After the operation, my surgeon said, "Your gall bladder was so infected and inflamed that it took us 30 minutes more to complete the procedure." Apparently, I was really sick. Go figure. I probably should have seen that psychiatrist, just to deal with the emotional turmoil my doctors made me endure.

After I recovered from the surgery, I was feeling much better. Then, within two years, I needed an appendectomy. The bloating, fatigue, and lethargy was back.

It was time to rely a little less on the medical profession and a little more on my intuition. I started researching how my diet could be affecting my health. At the time, gluten-free was a shadow past the horizon, yet I found the research. All of the symptoms associated with gluten intolerance were my symptoms. I decided to remove gluten from my diet. Presto. The bloating and heaviness went away. My sinus problems abated.

Four years later, I'm learning a lot about the gluten-free lifestyle and making sure not to lose important nutrients by going gluten-free. A lot of our gluten-free products are missing soluble fiber and other beneficial attributes, so you have to be sure to find ways of including these things into your diet.

On a final note, I must add that going gluten-free is not the only step in this long process for me. I need to reduce my sugar intake (a serious battle for a sweet-a-holic like me) and increase my water intake (a serious battle for an on-the-go teacher who has to schedule times to pee.) Here are the lessons I've learned:
  1. Appreciate doctors for their medical degrees and expertise, but remember that, although they know the human body very well because of their years of study, they do not know your body as well as you do. Listen to your gut (sometimes quite literally), and seek as many opinions as you need to until you find a doctor who understands and believes in you. 
  2. Whoever said "you are what you eat" is right. Diet has everything to do with how you feel. If you eat sludge, then you feel like sludge. 
  3. Do not allow anyone to make you feel like less of a person, for any reason.
  4. You can live without a lot of your organs, or at least without part of each one. It's amazing how the body a creepy sort of way. 

Gluten Free to be Me

A little birdie suggested I post about good gluten-free recipe books, so this post came to be. I pull recipes from a plethora of places. I'll tell you some of my favorite places to consult.

First, I frequent this awesome organic grocery store, Roots, which is part of what's called The Conscious Corner. This corner of businesses includes an awesome restaurant (Great Sage), an eco-friendly cards/kids' toys/some clothing/lunch bag store (The Nest), an all-natural pet product store (Bark), and Roots :).

Anyway, I always buy this same magazine from Roots; it's called Living Without. I always tear out all of the recipe pages in this magazine, and I recently stumbled across its website. No, it's not cheap, but you can print the recipe of the day from their site.

Since we're hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year, I will clearly invest in the upcoming November issue. I bought the October one, too.

 Second, one of my awesome wedding guests, Carol, bought me The Gluten-Free Bible. I love fixing the recipes from this cookbook. (I found the focaccia bread recipe here.)  Tonight, I made the Mediterranean vegetable bake dish, which smelled and tasted wonderful. We fixed it with Chicken Cordon Bleu. Yum. Here's a picture of the dish before we put it in the oven.
(Let me know if you'd like the recipe!)

If you're looking for The Gluten-Free Bible, you can find it here. 
It looks like this:
Now, the next cookbook is filled with gluten-free recipes; however, it's easy to accommodate all of the recipes.
Well, in case you're otherwise unaware, Bisquick now makes a gluten-free mix! (Betty Crocker has a few cake mixes, and they're all located in the "normal" food aisles, haha.) I made the strawberry shortcakes, which the middle picture features; Jeff won't stop talking about them. Some commercial for Bisquick came on the TV today; the strawberry shortcake made an appearance. Jeff peered at me with a pained look and said, "Mmmm so good. When will you fix them again?"

I've made pancakes with the mix. They're also delicious.

Honestly, my best recommendation is to figure out your favorite dishes which usually contain gluten (apple pie, red velvet cake, pizza, sandwich bread, etc.) and search for recipes on Google. I've found many recipes this way.

If you'd like for me to post about good store bought breads, pizza crusts, frozen meals, french fries, dessert, and etc., post a comment in the box below! Trust me when I say that trying out gluten-free foods is expensive and frustrating. I wish someone else had saved me the money and time by telling me which products taste like cardboard and which ones taste pretty darn good.

I'd be glad to save you some time and money!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

If you read this post, thEn you might not look dumber thAn a 5th grader.

Sit down for a moment. We need to have a talk. I've been reading what you write, and I have some bad news for you: you look like a wooly mammoth beating his head with a sock full of rocks because you are confusing the homophones then and than. Rookie mistake.

Then, with an E, indicates time. 

Since all good monkeys need to see before they do, let us look at a few examples.
  • The if-then statement: "They" say that if you pick your nose, THEN you will build up immunities. If you eat the booger, THEN you might become superhuman. (Really, I don't recommend this practice. Even if you pick a winner, you're sure to look like a loser.) 
Nom nom nom. (Sorry, no political malice here. He left himself wide open for this one.)
  • First, he farted in my general direction, THEN he tossed an air biscuit at me. How rude!
Than, with an a, helps you to provide a comparison. 
  • She was wrinklier, but not cuter, THAN a Shar pei.
Dis mah sad face. You dumb. Know than.
  • Our new rug was thicker THAN an Armenian's chest hair.

Which one is it? 
  1. She tidied up the house, then/than she hid bodies in the basement. 
  2. If she could have afforded braces, then/than I wouldn't have called her snaggle tooth. 
  3. He was angrier then/than a 10-foot troll trying to scratch its back with a baby fork. 
  4. No one bakes apple pies better then/than my mom does.

 And the survey says?
  1. Then
  2. Then
  3. Than
  4. Than 
Are YOU smarter than a monkey clanging its cymbals for pennies on the street corner?  

I sure hope so.