More rainbows, less BS

I once worked a temp job for a small organization where I handled the copyediting for their newsletter, and I quickly learned that my boss’ biggest pet peeve was the correct (or, I guess more to the point, often incorrect) usage of “less” vs. “fewer.” I already had a college degree and was dismayed to discover no one had ever explained the difference to me, but explain she did, and I have never forgotten. You use “less” if it’s not a thing you would quantify by number. You use “fewer” if the item in question is something you can (or, more importantly, logically would) count. At some point in her teenagerhood, I explained this differentiation to Chickadee (no doubt after she used the wrong word in a paper), sure she—like me, so many years prior—would experience it as a lightbulb moment and never get it wrong again.

She listened and nodded and thought about it for a moment. A sly smile twitched up the corners of her mouth, and she looked me in the eye and said, “Fewer sand.” Her argument was that you COULD, theoretically, count grains of sand. But of course you do not. Should not. (Would not, Crazypants.) Still, to this day, if she feels an urge to yank my chain, a cheerful trilling of “FEWER SAAAAAND!” can be heard.

So. Perhaps you can count bullshit, somehow, but that would be crazy. Less bullshit it is. This is my mantra for now: More rainbows and less bullshit. I am doing my best to make this a reality these days.

Accordingly, here are a few recent rainbows in my life:

21 and even more awesome
My eldest is now old enough to legally drink, which seems like it should be a smaller milestone than old enough to vote (especially considering she doesn’t really drink?) but I have to tell you, that whole stupid “the days are long but the years are short” thing is ANNOYINGLY ACCURATE. I have a 21-year-old and it’s just plain weird, but it is also awesome. I spent an afternoon and part of the evening with her on the day after her actual birthday, delivered a few small gifts and a large container of alcoholic cookies for her to serve at her no-Mom-you-are-not-invited birthday party, and even labeled it with a note for her enjoyment which she apparently left on display because it amused her. Let me find it. Ah, here we go.

I also met quite a few new friends of hers and gave unapologetic mom hugs to the ones I already knew, and managed to end up about waist-deep in someone’s business about 10 minutes after we’d met, which caused me to pause and say, “Look, I’m sorry, I know we just met and I’m all up in your business,” to which the lovely young adult in question replied, “Oh, you’re fine. Some people just have really strong mom energy. I understand.”

It was surprising to me, how tickled I was by that. “Some people just have really strong mom energy.” I should embroider that on a pillow. My kids are both adults and we all still like each other and Chickie called me the next day and said, “Everyone thought you were so great!” and I was delighted not because they thought I was great (which, okay, that’s nice, sure) but because SHE was happy they liked me. I didn’t know this was a hallmark of Got Something Right After All, but I think it might be. Me and my strong mom energy will just be over here diluting my constant anxiety with a tincture of “my adult child was excited to introduce me to her friends.”

Last week I played hooky one morning and went to our local u-pick strawberry farm and picked two gallon buckets of strawberries in about… twenty minutes. And not just strawberries, mind you, but, like, monster mutant strawberries. Some filled the entire palm of my hand. They were huge and the farm was busy but not crowded, and I picked my way along a row while toddlers shrieked with glee at every find and parents called back and forth to each other and said toddlers. I was in no particular rush because it was warm and windy and sometimes you have to sample a berry (or two or twelve) while you pick.

After I paid for my berries and sat in my car eating a cup of homemade ice cream (look, I’m sorry, but it’s pretty much the law that after you pick, you buy a cup of ice cream), I came back home and spent hours doing Strawberry Things. I washed. I sliced. I prepared a container of sugared strawberries for shortcake and then I baked shortcake and for good measure I made a gluten-free pound cake. I put whole strawberries in a produce keeper and I sliced up others and roasted them with balsamic for ice cream and then I made the custard for the ice cream and pureed the roasted strawberries and put everything in the fridge so that I could make the ice cream the next morning. I ate strawberries and I shared strawberries with the dogs (unanimous verdict: hmmm… thems are only sort of cronch… am skeptical… wait… please more?) and the kitchen looked like a crime scene when I was done and it made me ridiculously happy.

The next day we had friends over for dinner and the ice cream was ready and I whipped fresh cream and they acted like I’d made a seven-course gourmet meal and I wanted to say IT’S NOT ME, IT’S THE STRAWBERRIES, THEY MAKE LIFE WORTH LIVING but instead I just ate more strawberries.

Our hummingbird feeder hangs about 10 feet outside my office window, and I finally remembered to take it down and clean it and make fresh nectar and hang it back up. Then, because I am me, I proceeded to fret for two straight days because THERE ARE NO HUMMINGBIRDS and WHAT IF ALL THE HUMMINGBIRDS HAVE DIED (it’s fun inside my head!) and then the hummingbird communication system finally relayed to the flock that the bar was open for business and now I have regular visitors all day long, again. Hummingbirds are proof that we are not meant to understand everything and that’s okay.

Actual rainbows
It is around this time of the year that Otto begins spending large swaths of time outside, doing things which I find incomprehensible for HOURS on end, like mowing the lawn and using the weed-whip and the pressure washer and also muttering about “aerating the lawn” and “refinishing the deck” and such. His flurry of outdoor maintenance tends to begin while the pollen is still thick, and because I am a delicate allergic flower I can generally get away with staying inside for quite a while. But. The pollen is finally waning and one day he grabbed the rocking chairs from our front porch (it is a law in the south that you must have at least two rockers on your front porch, even if—as is the case for us—your front porch is tiny and you never use them because your BACK porch is larger, shadier, and has more comfortable furniture) and I found him out back, wire brush in hand, covered in paint shards.

Every couple of years my darling husband likes to take these chairs WHICH WE NEVER USE and strip them down because they’re in terrible shape and then repaint them again with equally terrible paint so that they’ll end up grungy and in need of another round of refinishing in about a year. It takes forever, and did I mention how WE NEVER USE THESE CHAIRS, I feel like I may have forgotten to mention that, and it causes him a fair measure of Righteous Homeowner Indignation every time. Also, he hates to paint. I don’t know why he does this to himself.

But. I actually LOVE to paint. Also, I have been undergoing a slow but steady transformation during my time here in the south, where I have swung from “I’m a northerner and I don’t care what I’m supposed to act like here” to “I’m going to try to blend in and tone down my essential yankee-ness” and now, I’m definitely on an upward “hello, the world is on fire and silence is complicity” trajectory. So even though our neighborhood still skews conservative, we went ahead and ordered not one, but two (in case the first one was stolen) Hate Has No Home Here yard signs and I planted that puppy RIGHT UP BY THE ROAD a while back. I don’t know how long it’s been, now, but it’s still there, and I see people stop and look at it now that Walking Season is upon us and some seem pleased and some seem perplexed and to my mind this is All Good.

Back to the chairs: Otto hates to paint. And he does it over and over, and the chairs are meh and not being used and I love to paint and also no one has stolen my yard sign so GIDDY-UP Y’ALL. I went to the craft store. I bought an entire rainbow of paint. I bought shellac. Otto is right that painting these chairs is at least two-and-a-half pains in the ass but I am slooooooowly transforming them and when I am done we will have rainbow rockers on our front porch and I will no longer care if we never use them because they will be ART and also they will be SEALED so will not need refinishing over and over. If I ever finish them I will share pictures. Right now I am still working on a solid base coat free of pollen and bugs, which turns out to be a lot more complicated than I realized because these chairs are made of slats and corners and angles and my last round of making a mess with paint happened while we still had a suitable painting space in our garage, which we no longer do, because much as nature abhors a vacuum, Otto abhors any car-sized space which is not occupied by a car. So I am painting outside, and nature is disgusting. Oh well.

Is there still bullshit? Of course. So much. I managed to contract another staph infection on my face because DELICATE FLOWER and this time instead of oral antibiotics, I did a topical antibiotic and a round of steroids, which I am still on, which means I am ANGRY and HUNGRY and NOT SLEEPING. But on the flip side, the whole strawberrypalooza and painting project thing makes a lot more sense, right? Because HELLO I AM AWAKE AND MUST DO ALL THE THINGS, so even this particular bullshit has an upside.

Also, there are an alarming number of people on the Internet who believe they are selling clothing items “with sequence.” I mean, I think sequins and sequences are different things and while on Prednisone this error makes me irrationally angry, but I suppose it’s okay. More rainbows! And sequins! And even sequences, if you want. You do you.


  1. Jan

    A sequence of sequins?

  2. Kim

    Fewer sequences, more sequins.

  3. StephLove

    It’s definitely a sign of Got Something Right.

  4. Christine

    Random hummingbird observation- they sing/ make noises like other birds! Who knew? (Not me!) Last week i saw one sitting on a branch singing.

  5. Leslie

    This Canadian was seriously perplexed by the difference in North / South culture when visiting Atlanta & Savannah two years ago.

  6. Alexa

    Thanks for showing me the Hate has no Home here. Just bought a car magnet.

    Also steroids…it sucks when you need to use them, but lord I’m never as productive as I am on steroids. i was on them around xmas and regularly getting up to bake cookies at 4 am and scrub things.

  7. ccr in MA

    Oh good lord, I haven’t seen sequins/sequence before, but I feel like I should have seen it coming. Ouch! says the editor.

  8. Dee in Texas

    My personal favorite is ‘rod iron’ as in a ‘rod iron fireplace screen’. I shout at my laptop every time I see it. Because that’s so helpful.

    • Mir

      Other favorites:
      1) floral jacquared pattern
      2) steeltoe heels (I really wondered why so many heels had steel toes for a while before I figured this one out)
      3) rooshing (sounds vaguely dirty)

  9. Karen Milano

    Well … from one New Englander to another… so long as I don’t ever see you using -Y’all- I’ll know you haven’t truly drunk that particular Kool aid. Love your sign – Amen.

  10. Pictou

    Oh! Let’s start a list of homonyms!


  11. Pictou

    Oh! Let’s start a list of homophones just to drive the editors crazy!

    allowed —> aloud
    sequins —> sequence
    mouse —-> mousse
    profit —-> prophet

    Try to say this one without singing……

    holy —-> holey —-> wholly

    • kellyg

      A friend will do a Pretentious PSA post on facebook every now and then where she uses emojis to explain the differences between homophones. My favorite so far has been coop vs coup. I never did ask which one was being used incorrectly. Oh and vile vs vial. Wether, weather and whether was a good one too.

    • Pip

      When I was 18 I did some work experience in a primary school with 7-8 year olds. A little girl had written “Only Girls Aloud” on a pencil case she was designing, and i gently pointed out it should be “allowed”…and that was my first instance of being glaringly out of touch with the youth of today. It was the slogan of a popular pop group, Girls Aloud.

  12. Chuck

    Looking forward to seeing your rainbow rockers. I’m sure they’ll look FAHBULOUS.

  13. Patti McCanna

    The Hate Has No Home signs started in my neighborhood. It is amazing to see how far from Chicago I’ve spotted them. Thanks for making people there just a little perplexed by your signs.

  14. meghann

    The sequence dress goes in the chester drawers

  15. ESL

    So, I actually had cellulitis on my nose last month and it took me forever to figure out what it was – at first I thought it was the most painful zit ever. So now you’ve reminded me of your incident and I feel better that I’m not the only random person who got this.

  16. Sheila Finnegan

    Oh, you definitely need to embroider that.

  17. Mom24

    I’m sorry, this is messing with me.

    You use “less” if it’s not a thing you would quantify by number. You use “fewer” if the item in question is something you can’t or wouldn’t count.

    Don’t these both say the same thing? Do you mean “fewer” is if the item in question is something you would count? Or is less is for something you would quantify by number?

    • Mom24

      Fewer it is.

      I love you, I love this post, but I will say it made me think of Fried Green Tomatoes and hormones. ;D

    • Mir

      Hi, I’m a moron. I’ve edited this post multiple times to fix my dumbassery and TWICE I edited it and forgot to save the new version. I knew what I meant and why didn’t you just read my mind?? 😂

      • Mom24


  18. Corey

    The grocery store express lane signs make me want to whip out my green editing pen: “12 Items or Fewer”

    And it took me a minute yesterday to figure out why someone referred to a dreaded thing as his “Nimitz.” Maybe it was autocorrect, or maybe that’s how nemesis sounds to him?

  19. carole

    Oh, my holy hell! I thought I was the only one who noticed the sequence/sequins thing. It has driven me crazy for a couple of years. And I just IMMEDIATELY before reading your post about less/fewer, read something online where the writer had used the wrong one. Notice everyday when every day is called for, and setup (n.), when set up (v.) is needed. I have tried to explain why everyday, which IS a word, is not always correct…to TEACHERS. They just stare at me as if I am speaking Martian. I tell them, “I wear these shoes every day (every modifies day), thus, they are my everyday shoes”. Now everyday is modifying shoes. It’s a subtlety that is lost among most people.

  20. Pamela

    *cough* “There IS an alarming number of people…”? Just, you know, because of the opening angle? Or maybe because, once an English teacher, always etc… You choose.

  21. Karen

    It is the newscasters poor English that drives me crazy. Every day I hear some bad grammer spoken by people on TV who are supposed to be informing us.

  22. Pats

    This is because many people don’t actually read, except for posts on the internet.

    I’m horrified that I’ve read enough Facebook posts and comments that use the wrong homophone that occasionally I’m not sure what’s correct!

  23. Mary K. in Rockport

    And I think the “lie” vs “lay” battle has been lost.

  24. Leslie

    When I lived in the South, every week there were pickup trucks being sold with “power wenches.”

  25. KH

    My personal favorite is mute point instead of moot point. I’ve even been told, “It’s a mute point because it doesn’t say anything.” Sigh…

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