Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Project 333 Math: Making My Own Rules

Midprocess Project 333 Sorting
Have you read about the Project 333 challenge? Have you seen the beautifully staged pictures from other people's 33-piece 3-month wardrobes? Have you seen the gorgeous Pinterest pins? The blogs, slideshows, and online videos? Have you glimpsed the Polyvore collections?

They all look like the picture-perfect wardrobes of college students, or the wardrobes of people who work at Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, chic one-off boutiques, or cute little coffee shops on well-manicured street corners.

Nowhere to be seen online are the wardrobes of people like me, who wear clothes to frigid meat-lockeresque workplaces where we have to dress according to a dress code that hearkens back to 1985 (think shoulder pads and Kmart pumps) that contractually binds us into leaving our houses looking like mutant Alaskan well-diggers crossed with our frumpiest old aunties.  Nowhere to be seen are the wardrobes of late-30's professionals who come home, throw the bra in the laundry, and go out to work the garden or head to the dirty local pub.

Well, I decided to give it a try, anyway.

No Fashionista Here

I tried tried tried to build up my wardrobe the "fashionista" way and follow all of the original Project 333 advice and rules, but my wardrobe is too fragmented, and I just couldn't put this Humpty together, again. As a result, there are still 104 articles of clothing hanging in my closet (along with 1 box of vacuum-bagged winter clothes), 22 pairs of shoes and boots in various places around the house, a plethora of jewelry options in a case on my dresser, 23 sweaters and 6 pairs of pants stored in the dresser, 10 scarves on the back of my bedroom door, and, of course, all of that other stuff that gathers, like underwear, socks, pajamas, flannel things, old t-shirts, and yoga pants.  And I'm fine with that.  I call it success!  Did you hear that?


I've met my own guidelines for . . . you know, the challenge of choosing a limited number of items of clothing, shoes, and accessories to wear for a few months and having those and only those hanging in my closet to make my life easier by streamlining my wardrobe options.

Amy Lynn's Project 333 Rules

1. Although the original rules tell me to do so, I'm not boxing up any more of my clothes to have to find a place to store them because that's what closets and dressers are for, and space is a hot commodity in my house. Therefore, all clothes are being stored in my closet and dresser.  The caveat is that they all have to fit in the closet or dresser and on me, or they get donated immediately.  Did I mention how much I love those vacuum-sealing space-saving bags?

1.5 Clothes that are simply being stored in the closet and dresser do not count toward my 333 items.  Did I say 333?  Silly me.

2. Go-to-work clothes that I would never wear out of the house on a non-work day don't count towards my items because I hate them, yet I have to wear them or spend money I don't have replacing them, so it would not be fair to me to have to count them as part of my wardrobe. They really belong to my work persona, not to me.  (Furthermore, if I get rid of them I will get in trouble at work for being partially naked.)

3. Gardening and yard work clothes do not count.  The original rules state that workout wear doesn't count, but I don't "workout." I do garden, and it's good exercise. Therefore, gardening and yard work clothes do not count.

3.5 Gardening and yard work clothes may be worn at any time besides for gardening or yard work, but then they do have to count.  It is strictly against the rules, however, to wear them past my property line (or the neighbors' property lines) unless they have been washed after the previous gardening or yard work session.

4. Clothes that do count as part of the wardrobe must meet three conditions: A) It is something that makes me happy by making me look and feel good about myself, B) it is "in season" and not "being stored," and C) . . . .  There really is no "C)."  I just like to group things by three.

5. Anything new that gets added to my closet or dresser or jewelry box or shoe areas must be offset by a donation of 2 like items.  By the by, I donated a little bit of everything this go-round, and I only came back from the thrift store with 3 items that I really like.  Yay, me!

6. The Oprah Clause is enacted: Anything I do not wear for a year (and isn't sentimental or worn only for special occasions) should be seriously considered for donation.

7. Jewelry doesn't count.  That's just dumb.  I can't count all of that, and even if I did, I wouldn't know whether to count earrings as 1 pair, 2 items, or 4 things.  Right?  Do the backs count?

8.  Anytime sorting of clothing becomes too onerous (such as when piles include gardening/ yard work, gardening/ yard work casual casual,  go-to-work only, go-to-work and maybe church, go-to-work and maybe out, artsy, vacation only, Halloween only, Halloween only except special occasions, special occasions only, really cold days, really hot days at home, really hot days on vacation, really hot outside but really cold at work, long day out, etc.), sorting will be discontinued.

9. Any "feeling bad about myself" for having more than 33 items ready to wear will be discontinued immediately.

10.  When in doubt, rely on my gut feelings about what I "need," and when possible temper that with what I "want."

Your Own Project 333 Rules

In conclusion, what I'm really saying with all of these snarky comments about paring down my own wardrobe, is that no matter our original intentions sometimes of jumping on the minimalist bandwagon, sometimes the time just isn't right for ditching the things we use each and every day. Stressing ourselves out about what we have and what we use and how we can Sudoku and Tetris our wardrobes into someone else's idea of "simplicity" isn't simple at all.  We have complicated lives, and we need to give ourselves the permission to have wardrobes no more or less complicated than having what we need when we need it, and not over-shopping ourselves into disorganization.

Seriously, I am paring down slowly, and replacing items I don't like slowly, without the need to head to the store and shop to replace what I'm giving away.

Have you had a mind-blowing experience trying to follow the Project 333 guidelines (which is great for some people, by the way, and I am in no way saying it isn't a worthwhile endeavor if your life "fits" the rules)?  Share in the comments!

Want to read more blog posts like this one?  Try

Stitch Fix Review: Styling at 40
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Instead of Watching Television

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Diagramming Hamlet: To Be or Not To Be

Analyzing Shakespeare's Hamlet by Diagramming Sentences

When diagramming a sentence, a writer must not only consider the content of the sentence, but the punctuation of that sentence, as well. The punctuation of a sentence can greatly change its meaning. 

Below are two diagrams, both of the first line of Hamlet's famous soliloquy, "To be, or not to be, that is the Question."  Both diagrams take into consideration the content of the line, an independent clause, but one takes into consideration the punctuation of the clause while the other does not.  Can you tell which is which?

Before choosing your answer, take a careful look at this version of the line from the 1623 First Folio, with its original internal punctuation:

To be, or not to be, that is the Question:

"That" As an Appositive    

"To be, or not to be, that is the question:" "That" as an appositive.
In this first analytic diagram, "To be or not to be" is a compound subject: The infinitives "To be" and "to be" are joined by the conjunction "or." The second infinitive in the compound subject is modified by the adverb "not."

"That" is an appositive pronoun that renames the compound subject.  "Is" is the linking verb, and "Question," its importance denoted by capitalization, modified by "the," is the subject complement, a predicate nominative.

In this interpretation of the clause, both the compound subject and the word "that" = "the Question." "To be or not to be" = "the Question," and "that" = "the Question."

This, then, is Hamlet's "Question" with a capital "Q."  Should he "be," or should he end his "be" -ing by suicide?

"That" as a Verbal Complement

"To be, or not to be, that is the question:" "That" as a verbal complement.
In this second diagram, "that" is a verbal complement, completing the compound verbal subject, "To be or not to be."  "That," in this interpretation of the clause answers the question what?  What is it that Hamlet wants to be or not be?  Well, if we diagram this clause with "that" as the verbal complement, what Hamlet is questioning is whether or not he wants to be "that."  

The subject of the clause then becomes "To be or not to be that," and that entire phrase is linked to its subject complement, "the Question," as in "To be or not to be that" = "the Question."  

And as we all know, what "that" is, is alive.  Hamlet, in this soliloquy is asking the grand Question (with a capital "Q"): Should he exist, or should he end his existence by suicide?

So, which analysis of this famous Shakespearean soliloquy is correct?  Is "that" renaming the "Question" about his very "be" -ing, or is "that" what he is "to be" or "not be?"

The Punctuation of the Clause 

When we take into consideration the punctuation of the clause from the First Folio, we must concede that although the second interpretation is clever, the first is more accurate.  The parenthetical comma appears before the word "that," signifying that it is not part of the infinitive phrase, but apart from it.  

We read, "To be (short pause), or not to be (long pause), that (emphasis placed on the word) is the question.  We do not read "To be or not to be that (pause), is the question."

Have any of your own questions?  Feel free to ask in the comments!  

Want to learn more about diagramming sentences?  Try 

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Contact the author for permission to republish.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

If I Were 22 Challenge

"If I Were 22" is a new project started by the social media site, LinkedIn.  In this series of memoirs, articles, or blogs, people from all ages and all walks of life are looking back to when they were 22 and offering advice to their younger selves.

I challenged myself to complete this very difficult piece of self reflection, and what emerged was a poem.  I'd started with an outline for an exceptionally long essay, but in the end, continued to par down my ideas until they were the very few that I could honestly say wouldn't change my life.  Why wouldn't I change my life, correct my mistakes, and live an alternate reality?  Well, because I'm pretty happy, and I believe things happen for a reason.  So, I guess I cheated and didn't really give my younger self advice so much as I offered hints.

At any rate, I whittled it down to 80 words.  Can you?  Do you accept the challenge?

if i were 22 i'd
tell myself      that people
are really        tiny
and really
fragile             and

be nice

be frugal generous grateful

travel              but
make home home

solve problems                           be independent

listen            be still                    eat fruit and
ice cream

listen to Tom Waits
do yoga or go swimming            repeat

grieve without fearing loss

read Mina Loy and all Kurt Vonnegut's books in order

make mistakes

and change your mind                sometimes
because people are tiny and
and beautiful

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sentence Diagramming: Multiple Base Lines for Multiple Independent Clauses

Independent Clauses for Independence Day
By USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Credit: Kate Miyamoto, USFWS (Presentation of the Colors)

Sentences made up of multiple clauses will be diagrammed on multiple base lines.  Let's practice!

Let's practice diagramming multiple base lines by analyzing the following sentence made up of two independent clauses: 

"The boys lifted the flag, and the people placed their hands over their hearts and recited the Pledge of Allegiance."

Step One: Identify the Clauses

Picking out Nouns

Let's start by labeling all the nouns.  This will help us narrow down which words are used as subjects, objects, or complements.

Picking out Verbs

After we pick out the nouns, we should identify all the verbs.  Once we identify the nouns and verbs that work together to create kernel sentences, or mini-sentences, we can identify the clauses.

In this case, the kernel sentences are "boys lifted," and "people placed and recited."  The first clause has a simple subject and predicate.  The second clause has a simple subject and a compound predicate.

Both of these clauses are independent clauses because they both contain subjects and verbs and make complete thoughts.  The two independent clauses are joined by the coordinating conjunction, "and." One kernel sentence appears before the "and," and the another appears after the "and."

Step Two: Diagramming the Clauses

Diagramming the First Independent Clause

Because there are two clauses in this sentence, we will draw two base lines.  The first base line is for the first clause.

Diagramming the Coordinating Conjunction

We use the "stair step" dashed line to connect the verb in the first clause with the verb in the second clause.  Any of the FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) coordinating conjunctions used to connect clauses will be diagrammed on this same type of "stair step" dashed line.

Diagramming the Second Independent Clause

We diagram the second clause on the lower base line, adding the conjunction to the compound predicate as we normally would add it, on the straight dashed line linking the two verbs.

How'd you do?  Please feel free to ask questions in the "Comments" boxes, or take a look at my additional posts, my online classes, or my textbook!


Want to learn more about diagramming sentences? 

My textbook, Diagramming Sentences: A Playful Way to Analyze Everyday Language, is available on Amazon in both ebook and print formats.

Want something more interactive?  Preview and enroll in my online video courses on Udemy! Diagramming Sentences: From Beginner to Expert in 12 Lessons.  

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Medieval Era Morality Plays

Everyman Fighting with Death
The Morality Plays of the 14th Century were didactic, relied heavily on allegory, and were a transition between the liturgical drama of the early Medieval Era and the secular drama of the 15th Century.

To Teach a Moral Lesson

Medieval Christians were exceptionally concerned with death and the afterlife.  Reminders to save one's own soul by thinking and behaving properly were everywhere: What we might consider "too macabre" by today's standards was commonplace during the late 14th Century.  For example, "In the visual arts, death's heads, skeletons, and similar devices were prominent" (Brockett & Hildy, 2008, pg. 94).

This concern for people's souls in the afterlife lead to a greater popularity in teaching lessons about morality, about how to live more virtuous lives and not fall victim to sin.  The Morality Plays, instead of being about the Bible, the Saints, or the life of Christ, were about people and  how they did or did not suffer when they did or did not lead virtuous lives.

Reliance on Allegory

Because of the preoccupation with saving one's soul from damnation, there was a trend in Morality Plays to represent virtue and sin on the stage.  Allegorical characters began appearing in the plays to help teach moral lessons.  Death, Money, Knowledge, and Piety might become intricately costumed and masked characters on the stage, either temping the main character to sin and be driven to Hell, or convincing the main character to lead a pious life and thus earn a glorious afterlife.  The characters that appear in Everyman, for example, include Death, Kindred Cousin, Goods, Knowledge, Strength, Beauty, and the main character named Everyman.  As explained in The Compact Bedford Introduction to Drama (Jacobus, 2013, pg. 133), "Each character does not just stand for a specific quality; he or she is that quality.  The allegorical way of thinking derived from the medieval faith that everything in the world had a moral meaning."

From the Liturgical to the Secular


When moments of dramatic dialogue were first introduced into the Catholic Mass during the early Medieval Era (10th Century), the people responded favorably, and the practice of adding bits of dialogue to the Mass continued.  In the beginning, these moments were sung by clergymen during the Mass, but over time, short, staged performances moved outside the walls of the church.  Full performances grew out of these humble beginnings, and the actors in the performances became not clergymen, but members of the community and amateur actors.  As time went on, the performances and performers became more professional.


During the Medieval Era, the Catholic Mass was conducted in Latin.  Latin, however, was not the everyday language of the people.  As performances moved outside the walls of the church, so did the language of the performances.  The Morality Plays were produced in the vernacular, or everyday language, of the people.  This made it much easier to use the plays to teach a moral lesson, as everyone in the audience could understand what was being said by each of the characters!


The shift from clergymen to professional performers and the shift from Latin to the vernacular were taking place concurrently with a shift from religious content to more secular content.  The content of the plays became less about the lives of Jesus or the Saints, no longer relied on stories of the Bible, and were more about saving the souls of men and women.  These changes were reflected in the scripts as well as in performance.  For example, the Morality Play, Mankind, incorporated time for the actors to ask for contributions during the performance. Furthermore, with its addition of song, dance, and comic interludes, its purpose seems to have shifted from that of teaching a moral lesson to entertaining an audience and making a living (Brockett & Hildy, 2008, pg. 95).

The Morality Plays of the Medieval Era were a transitional drama that helped usher in the drama and theatre of the 16th Century.    Stemming from the tropes, or songs, delivered as dialogue during the Catholic Mass, Morality Plays focused on teaching people how to live more virtuous lives and gain entry into heaven.  These plays took place outside both the walls and the language of the church, which eventually allowed for the further evolution of drama as secular entertainment.


Brockett, O. G., & Hildy, F. J. (2008). History of the Theatre (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Jacobus, L. A. (2013). The Compact Bedford Introduction to Drama (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford/ St. Martin's.

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Please contact the author for permission to republish.