“Morning Aphasia” Would Be a Fine Band Name.

Is there such a thing as Morning Aphasia? Because the other morning I was unable to call up:

1) The name of one of my children
2) The words “water bottle”
3) The word “lunchbox”
4) The word “bag”

I compensated with “THING” and “THAT GIRL,” but it was a little alarming. I may not exactly be ingénue material but I am still extremely young, relatively speaking—especially if the things you relating me to are like, the Earth, or the span of human history. Is it pretty much a steady slide downhill at this point, cognitively speaking?

Another alarming possibly-age-related development: my right ankle clacks. It clacks when I walk, with every step for a while, and then it will fall silent, maybe out of embarrassment, and then it will start up again—CLACK, CLACK, CLACK, CLACK. It doesn’t hurt, but it is quite loud. And really, should my body parts be CLACKING? I would assume not. Do I need…oil? What is happening to me?

We have gotten some more information about the Science Fair, in the form of an email and a flyer, and I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say it is shaping up to be the social event of the season—or at least of MY season.

Here is a list of attractions from the email:

• Incredible Invertebrates {Ed. Note: Yes, but which ones??}
• MN Herpetological Society- Reptiles and Amphibians
• Wind Energy with 3M
• Static Electricity with the Bakken Museum
• The Bell Museum’s ExploraDome
• Fish Anatomy with the Minnesota DNR
• A Brain presentation with a U of M Neurosurgeon {Ed. Note: Too much to hope for that this will be awake neurosurgery demonstration, yes?}
• Owl Pellet Dissection
• Recycled Art {Ed. Note: Are we making art OUT OF other things or recycling art INTO other things? This point needs clarification.}
• Mini-Math Carnival
• Scholastic Book Fair

In contrast to the email, the flyer was less matter-of-fact and more geared toward exciting the audience. For instance, “MN Herpetological Society—Reptiles and Amphibians” becomes “REAL SNAKES AND REPTILES!” Most delightfully, “Fish Anatomy with the Minnesota DNR” becomes “SEE INSIDE A FISH!” I feel like the marketing team (hush, of course there is) did a great job with this one, because sure, Fish Anatomy sounds like fun, but SEE INSIDE A FISH! takes it to a whole new level.

I was thrilled with all of your post topic suggestions and such. I must also say, though, that those were some of the loveliest, most flattering and bolstering comments I have ever received. I feel very honored and very lucky, and I know this all sounds awfully sappy, but I have been writing for many years, whether just-for-sport bits like this or Proper Writing, and before the Internet, most of that writing was conducted with only myself for encouragement, and…myself is not very encouraging. The confidence and general sense of an-audience-of-friends I have gained from writing here has been invaluable to me.

Last night as I was trying to fall asleep I spent quite a long time pondering one of the questions you asked, namely which is my favorite punctuation mark. Comma is the obvious choice, in that it is the one I would least like to do without, but the comma is the ur-punctuation mark. We could get by with only commas, if we had to, and if I had to be trapped on a desert island with only one punctuation mark I would want it to be a comma. BUT if I could take TWO, the other one would be the em-dash. Hands down. Admittedly, I rather overuse the dash, but pthpthpthpthththth. (That was me, sticking out my tongue out and making a rude noise at those who would constrain my dash usage.)(I also overuse parentheses.)

If I WERE trapped on a desert island with only the comma and the em-dash, look at the lovely shelter I could build!

_                    _
_                    _
_                    _
_                    _


Why is it always a “desert island?” Why bring climate into it—surely any unpopulated island would do for those “only one album/person/makeup product” sorts of questions? Are there many desert islands? I would think by virtue of being an island and having all that water around them they wouldn’t be deserts? Do they mean “deserted?” But then why wouldn’t people just say “deserted” in the first place? Is “desert” some variant way of saying “deserted?”  I am going to corner some child at the Science Fair and make it give us an answer on this.

I am planning to do a weekend Day in the Life Post, but it will be next weekend, not this coming one, because this coming weekend will be quite atypical. It is Spring Break, and so we are spending a couple of nights in a classic Spring Break locale, namely Iowa. Nothing says “Spring Break!” quite like “Mason City” and also “Des Moines.”

I’ll tell you all about it of course—well, not ALL about it, because you know what they say: “What Happens in Mason City Stays in Mason City, Mostly Because It Turns Out It Doesn’t Make a Very Good Story.”

(Only kidding, Iowa friends!)
(It had better be warm, though. You are south of here, so I expect warmth.)
(50 days below zero this winter! 23 days with a windchill of TWENTY-FIVE BELOW ZERO or colder! 135 days below freezing! 61 inches of snow!)(I also like the exclamation point!)


  1. Gaby says:

    The fish selected to represent fish anatomy seems a bit menacing: “See inside a fish that can see inside your soul!”

  2. Ruth says:

    My kids’ favorite things to do in Des Moines: the Science Center, Living History Farms (wear layers this time of year!), BBQ dinner at Mustard’s in Windsor Heights (with dessert at the DQ a block or so down the street) a visit to the sculpture park downtown, and your kids are probably too young, but the State Capitol is very nice.

    Of course, a hotel with a pool trumps all.

    The Science Fair sounds great. The marketing team certainly knows their stuff.

  3. Jesabes says:

    Well who doesn’t spend spring break in Des Moines? I always do. I recommend coming on Sunday as we ARE supposed to have some fabulous 70-degree weather.

    (Also, Living History Farms is unfortunately not open for the season yet. Not until May 1st, which drives me nuts.)

  4. Meg says:

    I always thought the use of desert island was to bring to mind a barren circle of sand surrounded by salt water (as opposed to a tropical paradise island filled with pristine waterfalls and all the pineapples and mangos you can eat). But really, the amount of yearly rainfall is really irrelavent to the scenario. And it does seem that deserted is critical to the equation. Otherwise, we could each bring our punctuation of choice and perhaps with some judicious planning have all of them. And, not that you asked, I love the comma followed closely by parenthesis. Perhaps occasionally improperly used.

  5. Heather says:

    We also enjoy holidays in Iowa — last time we were in Des Mones we went to West End Salvage, where they take barn junk and old doors and moth eaten chairs and turn it all into really neat furniture and stuff. Highly recommended if you like that sort of thing and haven’t been already.

    This year is the first year we haven’t had to prep for a science fair, and now I’m feeling slightly nostalgic. Can I hope to see Simone’s production detailed here? I would also like to see inside a fish, but I think I’d prefer a virtual tour…

  6. Melissa H says:

    The other day I finally had to write “long bread” on my grocery list. It was a good six hours before i landed on the word baguette. That is such an odd sensation not having the right word.

    Also I wrote detailed notes about my Thursday (a few Thursdays ago, now) because I found your day in the life post so fascinating to read. And the others you linked, too. Now I just have to write the day in the life post. Sheesh. I’m all about getting things 80% done :)

  7. Meg says:

    1) Now I’m doubting whether I’ve actually heard “deserted island” or have just THOUGHT I heard that correct phrase and people have been saying the incorrect “desert island” my whole life. (I recall searching for a book and not finding it because the title had incorrect grammar. Something in elementary school, I think.) I don’t understand how an island could be a desert — at least a good bit of it would have vegetation from the water and water spray, no?

    2) I am genuinely excited for this science fair.

    3) Now that I am working in an actual, honest-to-God corporate office for the first time in nine years, I have redeveloped the post-afternoon-break-pre-closing aphasia. I’ve noticed my phone calls get longer at that time because I am taking a full minute to try to get a question out to a coworker. (Also, Alexa? Your writing about going back to work helped me buck up and suck it up and try this Adult Steady Income From An Office thing. Thank you. Rather, thank you from my bank.)

  8. See inside a fish! I love it! I also have many other questions: owl pellet dossection?! Math carnival? (I didn’t say they were well put-together questions.) it really does sound The Event of the Year though.

    I have the morning aphasia. Sometimes in the afternoon or evenings. It is disconcerting. Especially because it often seems to affect synonyms of the invisible word, too. As though the thing itself has vanished from existence, leaving only a vague shadow on my brain.

    You are one of the best, most enjoyable-to-read writers. Full stop.

    I can’t WAIT for the next day in the life!


  9. Swistle says:

    I tie my allegiance to the theory that it is “deserted island.” But I’ll bet it got confused because of (1) the word desert sounding so similar and (2) all those comics showing a guy sitting on the sandy beach of the deserted island, which makes people think sand, which makes them think of deserts.

  10. Claire says:

    I was pretty much going to say the same as Swistle about desert/deserted island, so I’ll just ditto her.
    Also, where’s the semi-colon love? It is my punctuation boyfriend.

  11. Meeshie says:

    Yesterday I swear I uttered this sentence at my husband: “Honey? Could you do me a favor and get the thing over by that thing (waves hands randomly across room) and then did you call whatsherface about the stuff for tomorrow?”

    My poor husband. He understood most of that, though!

  12. idena says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard it called a “desert island” but rather “deserted island” and now I’m wondering if it’s a regional thing? Or maybe that’s how younger people say it (I’m old)?

    Also, I love the comma.

  13. cee says:

    Your island has driven me to Google. It seems ‘desert’ adj. Without people predates ‘desert’ n. Place without rain. Though it isn’t much in use anymore apart from islands. Also my other favorite ‘desert’ n. Thing which is deserved, which is also orphaned apart from the misunderstood phrase ‘just deserts’

    Ah, etymology. I love you so. If only the dictionary had these origins I might have been more keen on looking up words as a child.

    Which all reminds me of someone who was writing about their brother who lived in the monastery of ‘Christ in the Desert’ except they kept misspelling it as ‘dessert’, which left me with the persistent and unfortunate mental image of Jesus jumping out of a cake like a clichéd stripper.

  14. Kylie says:

    I’m pretty sure your recycled art is going to be “Creative solutions for leftover fish guts, brain bits and dissected owl pellets”… surely the order of the list is not random?

  15. Kathleen says:

    i Am a special sort of idiot.
    I will stop everything that DESPERATELY needs doing to point out that an em-dash roof would be much less likely to leak, especially if attractivly overlapped..

    But oh, I do love your writintg.

  16. jen says:

    I say “thing” all the time for whatever it is that I need. I am impressed you are just now starting this (mine started when I had my first).

    I think it is Deserted Island? I’ve never heard Desert Island. It would be best of all though if it were Dessert Island.

    Spring break in Des Moines! Party time! It should be warmer for you here. (Should be. Hopefully. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you and, selfishly, myself.)

  17. Jessica says:

    I am flattered that I got my question answered about punctuation – I too am a fan of the em dash – as you can see. But I also have a tenderness for the ellipsis…

    And I’m big ol’ fan of anything you want to write – literally anything… you could write whilst in a flood of aphasia (i.e. “I wanted to tell you about the thing that did something that one day that resulted in an event of another type. But I couldn’t remember the, you know, that thing that describes other things and so I decided to blog about it.”) and I would be tickled. You’re a favorite.

  18. Shanna says:

    My daughter, also in kindergarten, recently participated in the Learning Fair at her school. Being a Scientist myself, Biology Major with Geology Minor currently working as a Hydrogeologist, I was pushing for her to pick a science project. Our fair included all topics not just science. And she did pick a science project, Water – Flotation. So we did What Sinks and What Floats. 6 small bowls of water and she dug up 6 “treasures” from her piles of crap and then had to stand at her table for 45 minutes and tell people who stopped by what she did. I made her a little lab coat, pink if you want to borrow it, and a badge that said Scientist Marjorie. For a 6 year old she did really well and all participants got a medal so she was happy with that. I think next year we may go with “SEE INSIDE A FISH”, that would be more up my alley. ;) Thanks for the idea.

  19. Laura W. says:

    The desert/deserted island is one of my biggest pet peeves. When asked what I would want if I was trapped on a desert island I always want to say, “My credit card so I can saunter down to the all inclusive resort and spend my time there.” Asking what I’d bring to a deserted island elicits a completely different answer, “A knife, a tarp, and if it’s a tropical island, sunscreen.”

    I’m delighted to hear there’s someone out there who’s thought about this and is just as irked as I.

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