Comma Too? You?

Whenever I have a grammar or punctuation question, my first stop in the search is a visit to Grammar Girl.

Her answers always make sense, and when I’m still confused, she responds to messages on Twitter. How I love a true grammarista!

Yesterday I sent a question regarding what seemed to be a new push toward removing the comma from before the word “too”. My writer friends and I have been up in arms over the change.

Her response was that she didn’t get the impression it was a recent thing, but guided me to her post on the subject for some clarification.

Sometimes in grammar and punctuation, issues come up that can be discussed. In professional editing, when questionable changes are made, the best editors are able to justify their choices, making the act of editing much like writing; creative within boundaries of proper form.

It has been much to my dismay, since my continuous testing failures at CloudCrowd, that 3.16 of their style guide says this:

“Do not use comma before the words “too”, “also”, “as well” and any similar terms.”

Such a definitive rule with no grey areas for discussion. No wonder I failed.

Grammar Girl’s post in regard to “comma too” gives a writer the freedom to decide for themselves whether or not the comma should to be used.

Apparently, many children’s book-publishers agree with Grammar Girl and not with CloudCrowd. In four recently published children’s books (checked out this week at our local library), the comma is being used freely in front of “too” restoring my faith in publishers everywhere.

I like commas an awful lot (it borders on an addiction), so I appreciate the freedom to decide if and when they should be used (in this case, specifically).

How about you? You, too?


Are you with Grammar Girl and me, or do you take the side of CloudCrowd?

An example of the comma being used in front of the "too". This came fromt eh adorable book Crafty Chloe by
An example of my point from the adorable book Crafty Chloe by Kelli DiPucchio and illustrated by Heather Ross. Moms … go and find this book. It’s sweet and crafty! We love it!

The Kitchen House – A Good Read

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom tells the story of characters living in the 1800s; a time of indentured servitude and slavery; tough subject matter I would have shied away from had it not been for book’s glowing reviews.

Sometimes I choose a book that I’m sure will be a good read, only to close its pages in disappointment when it turns out to be a 100 pager. Other times I choose not to read a book because I’m afraid of the subject matter or because I’m certain it wasn’t written for me (basing a book on its cover is naughty and unwise).

The Kitchen House is turning out to be one that will be added to my list of all-time favorites despite (or maybe because of) it’s tough placement in history. The characters are well-developed. The story is beautifully written (could easily become a costume-rich screen epic). Clearly researched. Written with care and love. It’s tapped into the part of me that yearns for understanding and compassion. 30 chapters in I hope for a happy finish for Lavinia and Belle. I hope that Marshall finds a soul and that Mama lives long.

Yesterday I added myself to the website called GoodReads, which allows me to put its link (along with a picture of my current read) in the widgets on my sidebar.

If you scroll down you can see the box with The Kitchen House proudly displayed.

Click it. Read it. You will not be disappointed.


Are you on GoodReads? Have you read The Kitchen House? 

What’s in a Name?

In Cheryl Strayed’s amazing memoir Wild she wrote about the moment she signed her divorce papers with the new last name that would finally match her true self.

No longer the person who carried her last name as a child, she was embarking on something new and was certain that her ex-husband’s surname didn’t fit, either.

What’s in a name?

For Cheryl, she ended up finding the perfect moniker in the dictionary. Once signed on the dotted line it became her new identity. Read the book and you see it makes perfect sense.

I’ve decided that I no longer want my domain name to be Running in Mommyland. It doesn’t suit me anymore. I’m not sure it ever really did.

In pursuit of a new name (a pen name so to speak) I configured many an idea into the WordPress domain search box.

The task proved difficult as sharing a name with the Queen of all media and PBS’s talking dog means that all obvious domain choices are taken.

I’ve had a few last names in my life. My birth mother’s name is Osmundson. My father’s name is Feldman. My married name is Merrill. None of them seem to fit so much anymore.

So who am I and what will I be?

I know I will continue to parent and blog and run and try to eat healthily and continue my quest for a happy and healthy life.

I will continue to share Merrill with my kids.

I will always be a mixed bag of emotions and trials and errors.

I will never have all the answers.

But I will find a way to write for a living.

I am willing to do what it takes to make this thing happen; to ensure a good life for my kids and me.

Martha wills it to happen.

Martha Wills?

Decide quick…the domain name is available!

What do you think? Any other ideas?


From an aesthetics perspective, I like how the M in Martha mirrors the W in Wills. And please forgive the sloppy penmanship. There’s a reason my name isn’t Martha Pretty Handwriting.

Seven Types of Ambiguity

A week ago I picked up a book from my bookshelf that had been sitting there for so long I wondered if I’d ever take the leap to read it.

Seven Types of Ambiguity, written by Elliot Perlman, was given to me by my mother (she liked it), but it’s thickness (628 pages) combined with the hard looking black cover made it unappealing enough to leave it where I’d placed it that day she handed it over (passing on books is what we do).

The New Yorker’s quotation on the front paperback calls it, “Compulsively readable.” Newsweek claimed it, “A page turner… dangerous, beguiling fun.”

Having just finished Gone Girl (truly beguiling and fun) and needing a new book (not to mention that the last ten books I’d read were written by women) I decided to give it a go.

The first chapter is a letter to a woman from the psychotherapist of her ex boyfriend (who happened to be so madly in love with her after ten years without her that he had, indeed, gone mad). Complicated by the perspective of the narrator and the tangle of the situation, part one is full of questions for the mysterious woman and clues about the chapters to come.

On page eighteen came a line that I found so truthful and beautiful that considering the source (a man), also a stunning admittance.

The line read;

What is it about men that makes women so lonely?

Part two is written from the perspective of a different man; the husband of the woman for whom chapter one was written. As the story continues there is a kidnapping and a big money deal to purchase Australian hospitals and frightening examples of mental illness and the most truthful account of a marriage in trouble I have ever read.

It is Webster’s definition of ambiguous; unclear, inexact because a choice hasn’t been made.

My usual one hundred page cut off (when I put a book down and accept it wasn’t written for me) has passed, but I’m struggling with the urge to put it down.

Yet I keep reading.

Is it the brilliance of the writer (and his elaborate plan) to take me down this road; to confuse me and tempt me with bits that make sense next to bits that don’t?

It very well might be, so I will keep on and of course keep you posted.

Have you read Seven Types of Ambiguity? Do you find you read more books from one sex or the other? Aside from the obvious, what is it about men and women that makes their writing feel so different? 


Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman. The original book of the same name was published in 1930, written by William Empson. Perlman makes reference to the original, but I haven’t yet figured out the significance (other the the fact that both books share the name).


Today was the first day back to school and we piled into the car with backpacks empty except for spare sets of clothes, feet in socks and flashing Sketchers, bug spray to ward of playground mosquitos and girls who weren’t sure they were ready to go.

As I pulled out of the driveway I remembered how lousy morning car radio is for children. Too much talk and not enough music, tragic for little girls who get their groove on the most (the best) from the back seat of my Sequoia.

So, as I do when they just can’t stand the sound of the canned laughter and strange manly voices, I cued up song eight of disk one; Madonna’s, “What it Feels Like for a Girl.” It calms them and we listen to the breathy lovely lyrics describing what it’s like for our kind.

Incidentally, since we’re on the subject, I, depressed from the season enders (True Blood) and the almost season enders (Weeds) and the not yet started (Dexter) went on demand last night to watch the relatively new HBO show entitled Girls.

Girls, it turns out, is so amazingly written I can’t even describe the level of writing without sounding clichéd (genius, and such). It’s written, directed, acted and produced by the talented Lena Dunham (executive produced by Judd Apatow). Lena plays a writer named Hannah who thinks she might be the voice for her generation, but it’s the creator who very well might be. If you haven’t started watching you are missing out. I sure was!

This afternoon after pickup we headed home to a few good hours of house cleaning, which gave me an opportunity to listen to the audible reading of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

I’ve reached part two of the novel and I concur with the New York Times; a masterpiece!

I can’t, I won’t, I wish I could tell you….

Just go and buy it and message me when you’re done. You will not be sorry!


The Language of Flowers

Before I caught the train out of New York, I trolled the Hudson News store for a new book, since I’d finished What Alice Forgot while sitting in the thunderously loud waiting station.

Around to the back past magazines of every sort, I found a faced out wall of shelves with a manageable selection to choose from, but many of which I’d already read.

The one book that piqued my interest was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. The paperback cover showed a girl in a yellow tulle skirt and wellies holding a sprig of flowers. The back explained the most interesting premise; a child who’d been emancipated from the foster care system at the age of eighteen and who used her gift for flowers, specifically the Victorian principles of the language (and meaning) of flowers, to help others and make sense of her past.

Finding meaning, healing, and coping?

It was begging to be chosen.

But my indecisiveness (read libra-ness) led me to replace the book on the shelf and I found myself thinking about it all the way back to Connecticut and into the next day.

Once back to my girls (who were just fine thank goodness) and conscious that our long vacation is coming to a close (it’s time), I decided I would go back to my old ways by downloading the book to listen to as I putter through Mommyland (makes doing dishes less dreadful) and head out for solitary runs (my pace, my time).

The decision turned out to be the right one and although only twelve chapters in, I feel like the novel might linger and live with me much like The Book of Ruth (by Jane Hamilton) has since I read that way back in the early nineties.

I like flowers, but I do not have a green thumb.

I like peonies, tulips, freesia, and sea roses.

Daffodils, geraniums, rhododendron, lavender, hydrangea and sweet peas.

I’ve never been a fan of daisies. Not Gerbers. Not Shastas. Not sure why.

The story has been a joy to listen to, as has learning about the actual language and meanings of the flowers. It’s seriously good writing (the first novel for Ms. Diffenbaugh), engaging and a real page turner (can I say that if I’m not actually turning pages?).

To make it even more special the story takes place in San Francisco where I, too, grew up and I’m gaining immense pleasure from visualizing the uprooting (stealing) of lavender bushes from the stoops of fancy homes in Pacific Heights to the description of a grand Mexican dinner South of Mission (no one makes a burrito like the ladies at 24th and Valencia) and the types of vegetation found on Divisidero (oh, Divisdero).

I know it’s far too soon for a completely thorough book review, but from the place that I have paused I can strongly recommend this gem, totally and completely.

My mother has had this on her bookshelf for years, but I had never noticed it. Upon reading my blog post she brought it to me. This copy of The Language of Flowers was written and illustrated in 1913 by a man for his wife on their golden anniversary. The flap describes a gentler time. I would have to agree. 


Before leaving Raleigh the girls and I took a trip to the book store to purchase our favorite quiet time activity to be used as an airport/airplane/traveling diversion; a couple of the Usborne sticker books.

Before hitting the children’s section, however, we made our millionth visit to the public bathroom, passing the young adult section on our way.

As we exited, I glanced toward the packed shelves and ran my hands over the end cap outfacing fiction for young adults, clear in my mind that this was my next writing venture. I wished I had time to sit and investigate on my own without little hands pulling me in the opposite direction.

I could have started writing #YA sooner, but I knew I needed to get to Maine before the words would form and flow and the story would appear.

I was right and on our first morning here it began as I’d hoped. I’m currently a good way into chapter one; my main character introduced with his place in the world cemented.

It’s advised when writing a book to let others read and hear it often, often enough that quality feedback can be rendered and opinions can be shared.

So this morning I read my first 1300 words while Peachie listened intently.

When I finished she said she liked it.

She said it was, “riveting.”

She said it drew her in.

But she is my mother and she has to say that, so I will keep writing and sharing with my closest and dearest; the ones who will tell me the truth; who trust I can handle the truth. Maybe I’ll share it with interested strangers. Why not.

To aid in the task ahead I’ve been taking lots of pictures of this place. I’m excited to write about it, to share it with people near and far, and the pictures are helping me to find the words.

The Maine state motto is Dirigo, which means I lead, and the Polar Star is its seal because if its location at the uppermost tip of our country, the first place you can see the sun rise in America.

But the iconic sign that you see upon entrance to the state proudly proclaims, “Welcome to Maine. The Way Life Should be!”

In so many ways it is. But you have to experience it to understand what that means. Once the seed is planted (the understanding and acceptance of all its parts) the love for the place begins to grow and stick like barnacles on beach rocks.

Beach rocks!

You’ll find them make their appearance someplace in chapter two.

My camera took this photo by accident. Sometimes accidents are happy mistakes.
Some people wouldn’t consider this a beach day. We feel differently.
Flag etiquette. Purists believe that we should always fly our country’s flag at the very top of the gaff. Here, the American flag is below the Burgee, the small triangular flag representing the club where the flags are flown. Below is the Canadian flag for our friends and neighbors to the north who also love this place, and at an equal level is the flag for the state of Maine. I’m a purist. I’ve got to go make a call….