Stream of Consciousness Saturday — His, Her and the Grammar Police

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I’m always on the fence when people alter words to make a point, like using “herstory” instead of “history,” or “shero” instead of “hero” or even “heroine.” And I feel kind of guilty about that, particularly as a woman, because I definitely understand why people do this and I agree with the sentiment. Of course perspectives on current events, our society and how it’s evolved should include women’s experiences and perspectives.

My issue is with misusing words and grammar. It’s my understanding that these words didn’t actually evolve from a combination of the male pronoun “his” and words like “story.” So while changing it to be female-oriented is catchy, it bothers me since I’d bet it does confuse some people as to the true origins of the word that’s being modified.

Put another way, I guess you could say it bothers me because, at times, I can be the grammar police. Yes, I confess! It’s funny, because I make typos in text messages to friends which doesn’t really bother me, and I don’t mind when others make mistakes in writing. It happens. My pet peeve is with purposefully changing/creating terms without a true grammatical basis.

Although, I do have one other major pet peeve grammatically — when people can’t get “their,” “there” and “they’re” straight. That’s one mistake that really irks me and I’m surprised to see it happening more and more, even from mature adults and professionals. I think partly this may be due to people using dictation software to text or send brief emails using their smartphones. Usually the software gets things right, but words which sound the same verbally can sometimes be interchanged. I know that’s how it’s happened to me. And while my typos in casual communication don’t usually bother me, I really hate it when this one happens. First of all, it’s frustrating because I swear my phone often auto-corrects a message even after I’ve scanned it before sending; it doesn’t help that my phone lags frequently. Other times I may miss what my dictation software has transcribed if I’m in a rush. (And for the record, I use dictation because I find it convenient, plus my phone isn’t too accurate if I text by hand. I don’t have an iPhone and my input capabilities don’t seem too good; I once had an iPhone provided by an employer and found it was much more sensitive and accurate.) But primarily, I never want anyone to think I don’t know the difference between those basic words, especially since I’m also a freelance writer! How would that look? So when that mistake happens, I right away correct it in a follow-up message!

Anyway, I digress. Back to words that just happen to start with “his” or “he” and then are changed to start with “her” or “she.” I don’t like it. But I get why people do it. I might like it a bit more if people would include some kind of disclaimer when they do this, but I know that’s asking for too much. Some would say I’m missing the point and overthinking this. I actually don’t disagree, but I can’t help it.

Note: This post was created as part of this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday blog event which is run by writer Linda G Hill. Take a look at the link above to read some interesting uses of the prompt — this week it was “his/her(s)” — and consider joining in!

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God’s Hidden Treasures: What the Appendix, Black Holes and Trees Have in Common

Scientific discoveries are gifts from God, to inspire and encourage us.

Despite my Christian faith, I’ve often found myself questioning what God’s plan is for me during the difficult times of my life. Although I’m comforted when I read about His wonders in the Bible, I have to admit I haven’t always been able to apply that knowledge to my own life. That’s why, during a particularly tough season in the past couple of years, I was especially moved by a few recent scientific discoveries that showed me that God’s purposes, in everything from our bodies to our world and beyond, aren’t always immediately visible from a human perspective—reminding me that the same can be said for the circumstances of our personal lives as well.

The—Useless?—Appendix

Take, for instance, the fact that the appendix has been considered an unnecessary organ. Experts theorized that while the appendix may have once served a purpose, it seems that it no longer does.

Until now. In April 2017, new research from Midwestern University suggested that the appendix is not the “vestigial organ with little known purpose” it was once thought to be. Rather, researchers say it may have the “important purpose” of serving “as a reservoir for beneficial gut bacteria.”

Considering that “good” bacteria in our gastrointestinal systems have been shown to positively affect virtually every part of our bodies, including our immune systems, brain function, weight, and energy and nutrition, it’s clear that the appendix could be playing a surprisingly significant role in our health.

This finding proves that just because we can’t figure out a reason for something, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one! God makes no mistakes.

Black Holes: Consumers and Creators

I felt similarly moved by the latest findings about black holes in space.

I was passionate about astronomy growing up, and to this day I still have a particular fascination with black holes. Having been taught that they were areas of intense gravity into which nearby matter is absorbed with no chance of escape, black holes always intrigued me—was there any purpose to these dangerous, mysterious regions? Or were they at most a cosmic cleansing system of sorts?

Well, reported evidence from March 2017 shows that black holes are much more than that. Black holes have not only been observed to consume and destroy matter such as stars, but to create new stars as well.

ESO-stars forming

According to the European Southern Observatory (ESO), black holes “expel gases in powerful winds” containing “colossal flows of material” in which “newborn stars” were recently spotted.

A March 2017 Voice of America report described the essence of this star-creating process. It stated that as a black hole attracts and consumes matter, some matter remains immediately outside the swirling opening of the black hole. When cosmic winds then blow out of the black hole, it is this matter combining with hot gases from the consumption process which forms the new stars. The winds are so powerful that they can propel these new stars to great distances, even outside a galaxy.

The full ESO report, which was published in the journal Nature on April 13, 2017, stated that this breakthrough could also explain how some galaxies get their unique shapes.

Before this discovery, observing how these powerful winds blow had been a noteworthy finding in and of itself. In 2015, NASA had reported that these winds “blow outward in all directions,” and were “a phenomenon that had been suspected, but difficult to prove until now.” At that time, however, the winds were thought to have inhibiting effects on the growth of new stars within galaxies since they resulted in decreasing a galaxy’s mass and gas supply, both of which are necessary factors in star formation.

The ESO’s news a couple of years later, then, has provided a new perspective on these winds and how they actually contribute to black holes’ creation of stars using nearby matter.

It also shows us firsthand why God tells us repeatedly in Scripture not to be afraid—because new creations can be birthed in even the darkest of places!

Trees Can “Talk”

There have been recent surprising discoveries right here on our own planet, too. A tree is a perfect example.

As a child, I used to talk to the tree outside my bedroom window. Being young and naïve, I assumed it could process communication since it was a living thing just like me. It never struck me as odd to do this—until people started saying it was.

As it turns out, trees really can communicate, albeit not with words like we do. While browsing a bookstore recently, I was pleased to come across the September 2016 book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World. In it, author and forester Peter Wohlleben writes that trees communicate in a number of ways and situations. One method involves the emission of a “warning gas” when a tree is experiencing pain or a hazard, like when a giraffe is feeding on its leaves. During this process, the tree also emits toxins to create a bitter taste and drive away its predator. Nearby trees then begin producing the same gases and toxins in response to the warning scent. As a result, grazing animals have been witnessed to stop eating, move on and then walk past the surrounding trees without even stopping to taste them due to their unpleasant odors. The injured tree has effectively warded off its predator and communicated its distress to its neighbors—and they were able to understand and respond to the message!

Hidden Life of Trees

In this book as well as in a September 2016 interview with The Guardian, Wohlleben said that trees also release chemicals and electrical impulses via their underground fungal root systems to communicate across longer distances, since scents can only travel so far; he cleverly refers to this network as the “wood wide web.”

In the June 2016 TED Talk How Trees Talk to Each Other, forest ecology professor Suzanne Simard also discussed this “massive belowground communications network” within a forest. Through experiments she conducted measuring the transfer of nutrients such as carbon between trees, she discovered trees engaged “in a lively two-way conversation.” Simard states that she knew this finding would “change the way we look at how trees interact in forests.”

TED talk on trees

Even more interestingly, both Simard and Wohlleben state that tree interactions vary, similar to how human ones do. For instance, Wohlleben states that trees will often help fortify weak trees and nurture specific “most beloved child” saplings. Wohlleben explains in The Guardian that this is possible because “trees may recognize with their roots who are their friends, who are their families, where their kids are.”

In her TED Talk, Suzanne Simard described these special bonds between trees. “We found that mother trees will send their excess carbon…to the understory seedlings, and we’ve associated this with increased seedling survival by four times.”

Simard also confirmed that trees go out of their way to help their own “children.” In an experiment conducted on Douglas firs in which “mother trees” were grown using “kin and stranger’s seedlings,” she determined that the mother trees did recognize their own seedlings as demonstrated by sharing more nutrients such as carbon with them as well as sending them defense signals, all of which “increased the resistance of those seedlings to future stresses.” In fact, “they even reduce their own root competition to make elbow room for their kids,” Simard said. Even more surprisingly, Simard stated that “when mother trees are injured or dying, they also send messages of wisdom on to the next generation of seedlings.”

Since trees use not only their root cells but also fungal cells, they are able to transmit a great deal of information and resources. “It turns out they were conversing not only in the language of carbon but also nitrogen and phosphorous and water and defense signals and allele chemicals and hormones—information,” Simard said.

Ultimately, not only do trees interact, but they decide how and when to do so. As Wohlleben told The Guardian, “We think about plants being robotic, following a genetic code. Plants and trees always have a choice about what to do.”

My tree-loving inner child felt vindicated after learning that trees do interact! Beyond that, though, I was awed by the unseen richness of life around us. Reading about the hidden communication of trees brought to mind what Romans 1:20 says about God’s “invisible attributes” being evident “ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (ESV). It really should be no surprise, then, that there’s much more to His creation than meets the eye.

The same can be said for our own existence. If God has given trees such rich inner lives, we can be sure that much more is going on behind the scenes in our own lives, even when we can’t perceive it.

Science: The Perfect Gift

There are countless Bible verses that speak about God’s wisdom. Isaiah 55: 8-9 is a favorite of mine: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (ESV).

Despite what we know from His Word, however, I feel God continues to gift us with scientific discoveries like these so we can see His higher ways in action for ourselves. He wants us to see that everything has a purpose and a function, no matter how impossible, confusing or scary surrounding circumstances may seem. He knows that as humans we have weak moments, so concrete reminders of His wisdom can refresh us in our faith and uplift us during trials. I know this has been the case with me, and I’m deeply grateful for it.

I also think he hides these treasures so that we can share in His joy over His creation each time we unearth a rare find, similar to receiving a gift-wrapped present: part of the fun lies in opening a gift and finding the surprise yourself.

In fact, I suspect that if we could somehow have all of this knowledge already, many of us wouldn’t appreciate His wisdom and all He has done in quite the same way. When you work for something, it means that much more, and you’re less likely to take it for granted.

Ultimately, as we learn more about God through science, we’re better able to celebrate all He has done in and around us and to trust in His higher purposes, no matter what we’re facing.

One-Liner Wednesday: Self-Care

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“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures.”

Irish Proverb

 

* This post was created as part of blogger Linda G. Hill’s One-Liner Wednesday series. I chose to share this quote in the hopes that it’ll help anyone who’s stressed or feeling out of balance. We can all use a friendly reminder to not neglect ourselves or feel guilty for taking some time to regroup. Self-care is a necessity for all of us — and it actually helps us to accomplish what we want and need to do. So, I hope you have a blessed day that includes some humor and adequate rest!

 

 

One-Liner Wednesday: Inspiration for Writers

“If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

–Toni Morrison

* This post was created as part of Linda G. Hill’s One-Liner Wednesday series. I posted this quote because recently I’ve been putting together ideas for a book I plan to write; I’d been searching for a book on a specific topic but couldn’t find exactly what I wanted, and that’s when this familiar quote popped into my mind. Although I’d heard it many times over the years, in that moment it took on special significance. I’m hoping that sharing it here will be a helpful reminder for other writers, too!

“Someday Everything Will Make Perfect Sense.”

“Someday everything will make perfect sense.”

-Seen on the T-shirt of a woman walking by me down the street, and I found it inspiring.

 

*Note: Although this has been written as part of One-Liner Wednesday organized by the ever-inspiring Linda G. Hill, I have to add a couple of more lines to explain something. It’s been a long time since my last blog post. After being a caregiver, I’ve been grieving a significant loss, all of which came along with some other life changes that have taken up a lot of time and energy. I’m now able to return to regularly participating in the blogging community I’d grown to love, though. I decided to make this quote my first post back after so long because I hope it’s as useful to you as it has been for me!

Area Man Rooting for Both the Mets and the Cubs During NLCS

ARLINGTON, VA —Virginia resident Andy Perreira is reportedly rooting for both the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series, and experiencing lots of emotional conflict as a result.

“I like the Mets; they’re my second-favorite team, after the Red Sox,” Perreira said when asked why he wants to see the Mets win.

“But I feel sorry for the Cubs and their fans, and I want them to experience the greatness of finally winning a championship like the Red Sox fans did in 2004 when they broke their curse,” he added.

During NLCS game 4 on Wednesday October 21, friends and family witnessed Perreira wearing a Mets T-shirt while discussing feeling depressed as the Mets took the lead.

“It was really contradictory,” said longtime friend Donald Cosby.

Perreira’s wife Anna feels differently. “I love how empathetic he is to both sides,” she said, adding that she and Perreira’s friends will be sure to be there for him during this confusing time.

One-Liner Wednesday: What?!

“This is certainly nice publish, I’m going to shaire the idea for our frinds.”

–comment recently left for me very randomly on an old post of mine, caught by the WordPress spam filter. I appreciate the “compliment,” but WordPress is clearly right about this kind of comment!

Note: this post was created as part of LindaGHill’s One-Liner Wednesday. The criteria is for the one-liner to be funny or motivational. In the past, I’ve usually gone with motivational, but this time I had to go with funny when I saw this as I did a long-overdue purge of pending comments…hope you enjoyed it. I figured many of my fellow bloggers would be able to relate to this kind of amusing“comment!” 🙂