What I Learned from Surgery

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had surgery on my ankle this fall. The short version is that I had damaged the tendon that runs along the outside of my ankle while training for the Broad Street Run this past spring. I had some congenital issues that made the injury more likely to occur, but I did the damage myself, by running despite the pain. The first lesson? Don’t do that. I assumed that the pain would get bad enough that I would need to stop, and when it didn’t, I didn’t. Don’t be like me! Take care of your body. It’s the only one you’ll get. 

This is the ridiculous bandage I wore for 12 days. I found some creative ways to scratch various itches! 

This is the ridiculous bandage I wore for 12 days. I found some creative ways to scratch various itches! 

The Second Lesson

Healthcare workers of all sorts, at least the ones I met, are wonderful, kind, selfless people. I was alone on the day of my surgery, having taken a cab to get there in the morning and a friend on standby to pick me up after, but I never once felt alone. Everyone took wonderful care of me, attended to my needs, and answered my many, many questions. If you know a doctor, nurse, PA, CNA, transport professional, phlebotomist, or anyone else who sets foot in a hospital every day for a living, give them a hug. 

The Third Lesson

Crutches are the ever-loving pits. Human beings are not meant to carry their body weight on their arms. I knew that crutches would be a hassle, but I had no idea that a simple trip around the block would be like running Broad Street five times in 20 minutes. It was exhausting. The pain in my palms and shoulders was, after the first day or two, way worse than the pain in my ankle. Crutches also mean that you can either hold something in your hands or move around, but not both. The simple act of getting a cup of tea from the stove to the couch required help from someone else. Or it required a crazy series of maneuvers involving setting the cup on a counter, scooting a few feet toward my destination, moving the cup again, scooting, moving it again, scooting, and so on until I arrived. Eventually it required buying one of those utility carts that people transport groceries in, with a large cutting board across the top, so I could set things on it and roll them where they needed to go. Regardless, doing the very most basic self-care took far more effort than I anticipated. I repeat: It was exhausting. 

I don't know who appreciated the flowers more, me or Satchmo. 

I don't know who appreciated the flowers more, me or Satchmo. 

The Fourth Lesson

Being visibly injured makes the whole world a much nicer place. My neighbors, generally already wonderfully kind people, stopped to ask me how I was doing, if I was OK, did I need anything. Total strangers smiled at me, held doors, shifted carefully out of my way, and offered me assistance. For more than two months I walked around in the world a bit differently, prepared to explain to a stranger why I was on crutches – and later in a walking boot – smiling reassuringly at little kids who look concerned about me, and on the lookout for folks with less obvious disabilities who might need the same accommodations folks have offered to me without my even asking. 

The Fifth Lesson

I have the most wonderful friends, family, and coworkers; they are a blessing. I had care from the moment I got picked up until the day after I was out of my cast and able to hobble around in a boot, which was about two weeks. For the short stretch when I was alone, a friend came to look in on me and walk my dog.

A friend had these bracelets made for my care team. Even my surgeon got one! 

A friend had these bracelets made for my care team. Even my surgeon got one! 

Those who couldn’t be here in person flooded me (in the good way) with calls, texts, flowers, and cards. I won’t call anyone out by name here, but if you saw me or reached out to me in the months after my surgery, please know how grateful I am. 

This kid was super helpful in the recovery process, and never once judged me for my stained pants or my messy apartment. 

This kid was super helpful in the recovery process, and never once judged me for my stained pants or my messy apartment. 

I can’t really recommend foot surgery. It hurts. I’m still not back to normal. But it was a great lesson in patience, humility, and love. And I always recommend those. 

Guest Post: The Blogger's Mother Writes

I’ve been severely neglecting this poor blog. A very busy summer was followed by a relatively quiet fall, during which I allowed myself a much-needed break. That was interrupted by ankle surgery (more on that soon). In this midst of all that, blog maintenance fell by the wayside. While I work on a post about my surgery experience – I swear, we’ll get back to grammar soon – I have a guest post for you! My mom, also a wonderful writer, wrote this for me a number of months ago, and I was excited to share it, but then…busy summer, peaceful fall, surgery…excuses, excuses, I know. But here it is. Reading it again inspired me to sit down and do some writing of my own. I hope it does the same for you.

Enjoy! (And yes, I proofread it for her. I’m happy to report I did nothing but add a hyphen and remove those pesky post-period double spaces. Mom’s a pro.)

The Blogger‘s Mother Writes

Why bother to write if you don’t have to? Someone else can do it for you, and better than you can.

And writing can be such a trial. Suddenly, in front of the screen or the paper, you have nothing important to say. Or you have very important things to say, but the right words went out for coffee and left you mumbling.

Stop stopping yourself! When you require yourself to write, no excuses, wonderful things will happen. I promise.

The act of sitting down to write slows your pace. Sure, you can get up and clean the cat box, but sooner or later you must return to the scene of the challenge.

Writing is an adventure in self-discovery. Ideas, feelings, memories — some come leaping and singing across the stage, some hide behind the curtain, but either way this play is about you. 

Writing changes your perspective on life. You learn from sitting down and viewing it, not just being swept along in its current. 

Someone said that we each have three deaths. First, the heart stops. Soon after, the second death: the body is consigned to the fire or the earth. But the third death comes much later. It is the last time that someone speaks your name.

When you write a letter to someone, or a simple diary of your days, or something much grander — an article for publication, even a novel — you defeat the third death. You leave something of yourself for others to hold close. 

And, I might add, The Blogger will help your writing be more true to you and your intent. She will help your writing shine. I am about to send this to her right now, for that very purpose.

A Word (or 900) About Words

I had intended to avoid getting overly personal or political in a blog that’s mostly about writing, editing, and dogs. But I got swept up in a fascinating intersection of personal and professional recently, and when that happens, I tend to want to write about it.

A few things you need to know before we get going.

  1. I am unmarried with no children.
  2. I’m in my late 30s.
  3. I am a podcast nut. I listen to probably 20 hours of podcasts a week, so solidly a quarter of the things that come out of my mouth start with “I heard this great story/interview/research highlight on [podcast] last week! Let me tell you about it!”

OK, now that we’re on the same page, I heard this great interview with Terry Gross on The Longest Shortest Time last week! Let me tell you about it! Terry Gross, host of Fresh Air, is someone I enjoy on several levels, but the relevant one for this post is that she has no children, and she seems to have no regrets about it. The Longest Shortest Time is actually about motherhood, so I am not necessarily the intended audience, but I heard Terry was on to talk about not having kids, so I tuned in.

Most of the interview was very much what I expected; I am about as familiar with Terry’s life as one can be without knowing her personally, given that she’s notoriously private. However, at one point she and the show’s host, Hillary Frank, had the following exchange:

Frank: I've gotten in trouble with some listeners for using the word "childless" when people don't have kids. They would prefer that I use the word "child free," and I wonder what your thoughts are on this.

Gross: “Child free” sounds like a “smoke free” environment, for the health of everybody…because it's a toxin. My personal feeling is, and I'll probably get a lot of grief with this, that “child free” sounds so much like a manifesto or something, and I think it's a personal decision. You make it, and it's nice to be in a society that reinforces the ability to make that decision. But I don't know, “child free” to me still has that tone of “let's keep the bad air out.”

It is frustrating to no end that, when I yell into my earbuds, the people on the podcast can’t hear me. Someone should really work on that. I respect Terry Gross a ton. She made a choice not to have kids at a time when that was far less acceptable than it is today. By her own account, she saw no role models for how to have the career she wanted and a child, so she chose career. That’s amazing. Delaying having kids, or not having them at all, is becoming increasingly common, and I am grateful that there are role models in my own life and in the public eye. It means that I can be a person without children and not feel like a complete weirdo.

Having said that, I have two “buts” to talk about.

But #1: Terry’s assertion that “It’s a personal decision” is one I agree with wholeheartedly. But. When you don’t have children, no one is shy about making your reproductive choices their business. Unsolicited opinions on the subject flow freely, from friends, family, strangers, the media, the Pope…I would love it if this were actually a “personal decision.” It should be. But no one else seems to think so.

But #2: “It’s nice to be in a society that reinforces the ability to make that decision.” Yes. I am lucky beyond measure that I have a legal right to control whether or not I have a child. I am exceptionally blessed to have the resources to acquire birth control, and to live in a place where I am relatively safe from sexual violence that might result in an unwanted pregnancy. But. Every person who has ever said to me…

“You’ll change your mind.”
“Isn’t that sort of selfish?”
“But you’d be such a great mom, and you obviously love kids!”
“Who will take care of you when you’re old?”

…was not reinforcing my ability to make that decision. They were questioning my ability to make that decision, if not downright telling me I am doing a bad job making it.

And I am, again, quite lucky. Most of the people around me are either outright respectful of my choices about parenthood, or they have the decency not to comment either way. There are women who face these questions regularly. (I suspect being nearly 40 and not married has helped me in this realm; if I were 28 and a newlywed, I assume it would be all Bellywatch 2016 up in here.)

Now, I realize I promised you this was about language, and it is. Here’s the issue: I don’t know what to call people who don’t have children. I don’t care for “childless,” since it implies a lack or absence of some sort. It also just sounds super sad. “Child free” is less problematic on the sadness front, but I still don’t like being defined by the absence of something in my life. In the same way we don’t call gay people “heterosexuality free” and we don’t call amputees “leg free,” we should find a way to talk about non-parents, ideally one that is sensitive to all of the many reasons people end up not having kids.

I know there are people who get frustrated at the notion that language is laden with great importance, and those who feel that “PC culture” where we choose every word with the utmost care is silly or even harmful, but language and culture are inextricably linked. They shape each other. As a person without kids, I would like to live in a world where it isn’t quite so alienating to have chosen a path outside the norm, and I think the words we use to talk about that path are a small but meaningful part of that change.

So, anyone got any ideas? I’m tempted to just invent a new word from whole cloth: Blorgens? Artipans? Booplewands? Okay, my vote is definitely for booplewands. Any other suggestions out there?

Those Pesky Apostrophes

These little guys are the root of so many grammar errors that I feel like they should have their own national holiday. Absent that, they should always trip your radar. They are central to the their/they’re/there issue, the it’s/its conundrum, and the your/you’re debacle, not to mention the possessive/plural fiasco. So, any time you type an apostrophe, ask yourself:

Have I created a contraction? 

A contraction is a smushing together of two words to make one, such as “it’s,” “there’s,” “they’re,” and “you’re.” Those mean “it is,” “there is” “they are,” and “you are.” (They should not be confused with “its,” “theirs,” “there,” or “your.”) All of those words are contractions, which means that some letters have been removed to take two words and make them into one. 

You can also create a contraction using any noun followed by apostrophe-S: “This weather’s miserable,” “That team’s unstoppable,” etc. This is most often done in casual writing, or if you’re writing dialogue, so it’s not as common as other contractions. All you have to do is see if you could substitute that apostrophe-S for “is”; if you can, your apostrophe is in the right place.

Is what I’ve written a possessive noun? Is it a plural noun? Is it both? 

This one isn’t quite as complicated. If you’re wondering whether you want to use “dogs,” “dog’s,” or “dogs’,”  just ask yourself if you’re talking about more than one dog, a possession of a single dog, or the possessions of multiple dogs. So, “my dogs enjoy cheese” refers to more than one dog, but none of their possessions. “My dog’s bone ” describes a single dog and the one bone he possesses. “My dogs’ bones” indicates the many bones of my many dogs. 

If you're confused about whether you're using  a possessive, just change the wording from "X's Y" to "the Y belonging to X," and if that makes sense, you've got a possessive on your hands. 

Possessive pronouns: Are they trying to kill me?

Here’s where possessives are slightly messier: Possessive pronouns don’t get apostrophes. Words like “his,” “hers,” “theirs,” “ours,” “yours,” and “its” might trip you up. Most of us get “his” right, because we know we’ve never see “hi’s” in writing. “Her’s” looks a little less funny, but it’s never correct. (I suppose there is a dialect of English out there where “her is” would be used, and could be shortened to “her’s,” but this seems so rare as to be barely worth a mention.) “Our’s,” “your’s,” and “their’s” are also never correct. Most word processing programs have the decency to red-squiggle underline these mistakes. 

Its/it’s is one of the most common mistakes out there, but if you can remember that “its” is a cousin of “his” — for example, “His job [the job belonging to him] is hard” and “Its greatest challenge [the challenge belonging to it] is the long hours,” both contain possessive pronouns — and that neither gets an apostrophe, you’ll do alright. You can also just test out whether “it is” fits in place of your its/it’s, and try to remember that the one with the apostrophe always means “it is,” but that might be trickier. 

Hang in there!

Apostrophes can be tricky, but as I have already mentioned, knowing to look out for them is the first step to getting them right. 

"He Knows Better"

I’ve gotten a lot of dental work done the last few weeks, and both my dentist and his hygienist are dog owners. Naturally we’ve talked about all the various things people talk about when we “talk dog”: the cute things our dogs do, the annoying things our dogs do, the ridiculous things our dogs do. The hygienist recently asked me how to deal with her adolescent Lab’s counter-surfing (for those who know the behavior but not the terminology, that’s scoping out the counter for food or anything else that it might be fun to chew on). 

The first thing I asked her was whether he’d ever successfully gotten anything off the counter. She assured me that he had, that he found treasure almost every time, in fact. My heart sank. I told her, “Of course he keeps doing it! He’s been consistently rewarded for it since he’s been tall enough to get his paws up there!” 

Her frustrated reply was: “But he doesn’t do it when I’m watching. He obviously knows better.”

Here’s the thing. Dogs don’t “know better.” They don’t know what we like, what we don’t like, what frustrates us, or what amuses us. They only know what works. If your dog jumps up to grab a toy or some food out of your hand, and you let go, your dog learned how to get access to something he wanted: jump up and grab it! That’s pretty straightforward, right? Sometimes, though, the definition of “works” is a little fuzzier. If a dog does something cute, and we laugh and say something sweet in response, that was probably rewarding to the dog. It worked! He got us to make that comforting sound, make eye contact, even just to tear our attention away from the computer screen for five seconds. 

For my hygienist, her dog has learned a pretty simple rule: When she’s watching him, counter-surfing doesn’t work. She stops him before he gets a prize. When she’s not watching, on the other hand, he has a very high success rate. This is some pretty advanced strategizing that he’s learned, but it’s not the same as him knowing that counter-surfing displeases her, and hiding the behavior accordingly. 

It’s also possible that my hygienist’s dog has learned that he gets scolded and dragged off the counter when his mom is watching, but doesn’t when she’s out of sight. That is the flip side of the lesson above: Bad things happen when Mom is around and I do this, but not when she’s elsewhere. That looks just like “He knows better,” I realize. But it’s not. It’s “Bad things happen in X scenario, but not in Y. I will do more Y and less X.” 

I try not to let my exasperation show when I’m talking through a behavior problem with anyone, even if it’s in the dentist’s chair, where my patience is already worn a bit thin. But it took just about everything in my power to stop myself from saying “He doesn’t know better. YOU know better!” when she said that she hadn’t yet gotten in the habit of keeping all the food off the counter when the dog was unsupervised, or doing a better job of supervising him. Her dog now has a six- to nine-month history of practicing an incredibly rewarding—and therefore obnoxiously hard-to-extinguish—problem behavior. I honestly didn’t have much advice for her. The path to fixing it will involve so much more effort than what she would have had to put in to prevent the behavior from building in the first place. And I try to avoid clichés (like the plague, of course), but in this case it’s true: An ounce of prevention would have been worth several pounds of pork roast, bread, cheese, and whatever else this resourceful dog has gotten his mouth on. 

I am loath to end this post on that much of a bummer note, so I’ll try some advice instead: If you find yourself thinking “But he knows better!” when your dog does something that frustrates you, take a moment to consider what your dog is getting out of that nuisance behavior. Food? Attention? Relief from stress, or from the need to eliminate? Remember, dogs do what works. Figure out what about the behavior is working for your dog, and then figure out how to meet that need another way. 

Happy-ish Holidays!

I’ve decided that I will lose my mind if I only ever blog about writing, grammar, and my love/hate relationship with the English language, so I had been planning on a holiday post basically since I started this blog. 

Of course, I’m late writing that post, which is sort of a perfect metaphor for my holidays. I’ve had a crazy whirlwind road trip, countless marathon work sessions, last-minute house guests, and my cat darted out the back door at least three times in December, which meant a few fun moments for my neighbors as they watched me chase after him in my pajamas. Mild chaos has been the theme of the season.

The greatest road trip companion, and the super cool plate he found for me.

The greatest road trip companion, and the super cool plate he found for me.

Being late also means I have the benefit of hindsight as I reflect on the holidays. I will not lie, I’m not a huge fan of Christmas, despite being raised in a faith that celebrates it. Thanksgiving has always been the Big Annual Holiday in my family. We gather every year near where I grew up, and around 20 family members usually attend. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see people who live far away, family members who are turning into cherished friends as well. 

Christmas, on the other hand, used to be about presents, time off from school, and a handful of lovely traditions with my immediate family. Now I do my best not to get presents. I am actively trying to simply my life, including my stuff. I have 15 books sitting unread on my shelf. I do not have room in my dresser and closet for all of my clothes, and my material needs are fairly simple. I’m not bragging, and I’m by no means austere. I just really don’t want things. If I have friends or family who want to recognize the holiday, I usually try to arrange a nice meal out, or some other experience we can share. So I’ve crossed presents off my list of things to love about the holiday. 

Time off is something I’m incredibly blessed with. I took a week off in early December “just because.” I ran away on the aforementioned road trip the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas, and then my regular employer announced 15 minutes before the end of my work day on December 23 that I did not have to go in the next day. There were 23 business days in December and I was on vacation for 14 of them. I have absolutely enjoyed all that time off, and I am filled with gratitude that I have the option, but it could happen any time of year and I would be just as happy. So I'll celebrate that aspect of the season, but it's not as special as it was when I was 11. 

As for traditions, I am finding that it’s fun to make new ones as the situation warrants it. Last year on Christmas I was doped up on pain meds after having my tonsils removed. I had brunch with my then-boyfriend and his family, then went to play video games at a friend’s house for a few hours. The year before I crashed a dear friend’s family dinner in the afternoon (with her permission!), then saw a movie. This year I woke up early, played with my boyfriend's new kitten, got some editing work done, and after a lazy breakfast we drove to the mountains and had a glorious, if exhausting, three-hour hike with our dogs (next year I'm gunning to bring the kitten along). We both kept commenting on what an amazing Christmas it was, but really it was just an amazing Friday.

Cruzan (the tall, black dog) and Maggie (the reddish blur in the bottom left corner) enjoying the woods.

Cruzan (the tall, black dog) and Maggie (the reddish blur in the bottom left corner) enjoying the woods.

I have all the usual holiday complaints you hear from Scrooges: the music (dear GOD, the incessant music…I think I had “All I Want for Christmas” stuck in my head for a week straight, thanks to Love Actually), the lines at the store, the cold, the pressure to be merry. But the thing that moves me from the apathy part of the Christmas-fanaticism spectrum over to actual dislike is the expectation that I enjoy it. My family, who celebrated the holiday with me for years, doesn’t necessarily relate to the transition I’ve made to “meh” on the subject. When I tell people I’m “not really into Christmas,” I get a mixture of bewilderment and sadness on my behalf, which is totally unwarranted. I am happy to celebrate (or not celebrate) the way that I do, but I do get a little tired of having that be A Thing That Needs Explanation. 

I did ring in the New Year in style, gabbing with friends on my couch in our pajamas while we drank wine and half-heartedly watched New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. It was the perfect way to celebrate the beginning of 2016, a year that I hope brings good health, prosperity, and more good times than bad to everyone I love, and everyone they love. Meanwhile, whether your holidays were good, bad, indifferent, or nonexistent, I hope you have many Amazing Fridays (and, sure, all the other days too) this year!

It’s Not Who You Know, It’s What You Know You Don’t Know…Wait, What?

I often work with people who claim to be terrible writers, but I must admit that a truly talentless writer is a rare find. Most people have great ideas and a competent grasp of the English language, and just need to master a few rules.

A truth I’ve come to accept is that a huge part of being good at spelling and grammar is knowing what you don’t know. Confession: I don’t know all the rules. I don’t know how to spell all the words. What I do know is what I don’t know. In short: I know when I need to look something up. In addition to that, there are a handful of very basic things that always make me stop and say, “Wait, is that right?”

I’ll list a bunch of those now, and discuss them in more detail in future posts.

Apostrophes

These little punks are at the root of many common grammar mix-ups, including they’re/there/their, you’re/your, it’s/its, and plurals/possessives. Whenever I see an apostrophe, I double check it belongs there.

Words with Twins

Homophones (different words that sound the same or very similar) are the downfall of many writers. There are way too many to mention here, but my eyes are trained to look out for them at this point, because it is far too easy to slide right past them and make a mistake. I know how to choose the correct homophone in most cases, but there are some that still make me second guess myself, and I know to look them up to make sure.

Hyphens

The rules for when to hyphenate phrases are so tricky that I rarely bother even trying to memorize them; I just look them up. When I see a hyphen, I know I should double-check that it belongs there. When I see a compound modifier (such as “a well-mannered child”) I make sure I am following the tricky rule of hyphenating it when it is followed by the noun it is modifying (“well-mannered” modifies “child”), and not hyphenating it when it stands alone: “the child was well mannered.”

Anything Underlined by My Computer

While spellcheck, grammar check, and all the various other checks my computer offers are far from perfect, if I see something underlined red, blue, or green, I am going to stop and make sure I’ve got it right. If it’s a word that is easy to misspell but not already in my computer’s dictionary, I will take the time to right-click the word and add it. That way my computer can alert me if I’ve messed it up, but will leave me in peace if I’ve gotten it right.

Constant Vigilance, and Lots of Googling

You’ll notice that a lot of the advice here is of the “look it up” variety. It’s impossible to look up every single thing, of course, which is why I say that knowing what you don’t know is the first key to improving your spelling and grammar. If you find yourself getting constantly bogged down having to look things up, or even just take the time to double-check yourself for rules you know well, just highlight anything that seems suspect, keep going with your writing, and then go back through at the end to check any questionable areas.

And of course, if you love to write, but hate the nitpicky editing part, that’s what a professional editor is for! There’s no shame in outsourcing the part of the job you don’t enjoy. Some persnickety soul like me will be thrilled with the opportunity to beautify your writing. 

If You Change Your Mind

I said I would follow up my last two posts with some examples of grammar rules I have changed my mind about over time, and then I realized there really aren’t many. I will follow rules I don’t love because they are dictated by an organization I am writing for, but when it comes to personal preference, I can get fairly stuck in my ways. But there’s one subject I used to feel passionately about, and now I am leaning more toward ambivalence. The leap from “I care a whole lot” to “I care a bit less” may not seem like a meaningful one, but considering how deeply held my beliefs are about pretty much every other linguistic law, that change is worthy of a blog post. 

The Curious Case of the Singular Genderless Pronoun
[Cue Ominous Music, and a Few Confused Looks]

The English language has a problem. Okay, if you count how impossible it is to spell things, it has 87,493 problems. But here’s the one I’m thinking of at the moment: We don’t have a great way to refer to a hypothetical person (or non-human animal) whose sex or gender is unknown to us. For example:

If a student wants a good grade, _____ should complete assignments on time. 

What goes in that blank? You can go with “he,” but that is sort of anti-feminist, since it excludes half the students at most co-ed institutions. Choosing “she” includes the half you left out with “he,” but alienates the other half who, for better or for worse, are used to being the default setting (see “mankind,” “chairman,” and many other male-centric nouns). There are also clunky options like “he or she,” “she or he,” and “s/he.” As a one-off, any of these options can work. Once you’ve had to refer to that hypothetical singular person more than a couple of times, though, they’ll start to become cumbersome. 

Many people in this predicament go with “they.” It doesn’t imply gender, which is great. It does technically imply multiple people, thought, which makes it not work as a parallel to the singular noun that it relates to: “student.” As a lover of all things parallel, this hurts my heart a bit. 

There’s a solution that works in most cases when discussing a hypothetical (and therefore genderless) person: Talk about more than one person! That would change the above sentence to: 

If students want a good grade, ____ should complete assignments on time.

In that situation, “they” is the obvious correct choice. This is a great work-around, and I employ it regularly. But it isn’t always easy. Sometimes you are talking about a group and then need to focus in on a hypothetical individual within that group:

If one student in the group isn’t pulling ___ weight, ___ should be confronted directly. 

This is a tricky situation, and I don’t have a clear answer for how to address it. I might try some grammar Parkour along the lines of: 

If any students in the group aren’t pulling their weight, they should be confronted directly. 

Sometimes that use of plurals isn’t an option, though. A few years ago, I would have been dead set against “their/they” for a singular hypothetical person in that sentence, but I’ve recently gotten more comfortable with it. Not because it’s an intractable problem and I’ve had to acquiesce to an imperfect solution, but because I’ve met people whose gender is non-binary, and who use “they/them/their” as preferred pronouns.

Regardless of my feelings about grammar, I am fully in favor of people being called by the words they want to be called by, and that has made me infinitely more comfortable with “they” as a singular pronoun that eliminates, or even transcends, gender. 

I think the lesson here is that writers should bend to the wishes of their clients and their audience as much as possible. Now, if you tell me that you strongly prefer “supposably” to “supposedly,” I am going to try to talk you out of that. But when it comes to something as fundamental as a core element of your identity, I will happily do what works for you.