Monday, September 17, 2007

Writing Challenges


Oh, we thought this little three-hour class would be a cinch. It was an opportunity to earn professional development credit hours so about fifteen of us strutted through the door, ready to learn we don’t have anything to learn. We thought, “Who needs room for improvement for sending simple e-mails?”

We laughed throughout the entire class because it was fun, especially to see a small group of autobody instructors putting together a decently arranged paragraph consisting of adjectives, subjects, nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, interjections, phrases, indirect objects, and clauses. I didn’t have a clue as to what most of these terms meant. Really. I recognize the terms, heard about them, studied them, but didn’t know a phrase from a clause. Eeeks. Punctuation was a highlight, especially when we were asked to punctuate contractions and plural possessive nouns!


Does anyone remember sentence diagrams? I do. I liked them, probably because I’m a visual learner and I like to draw. They were pushed down our throats for years, to the point I would dream about them and draw them for fun. My Mom would recite a sentence and I’d diagram it for her. How’s that for an exciting evening at the kitchen table!

The Sisters in the Catholic schools I attended for twelve years were ruthless and mean when it came to teaching grammar and writing. Donna, a very kind teacher, uses a green pen for marking up papers but those Sisters of Providence and Notre Dame used red flairs and other humiliating tactics to whip us into shape.

I don’t think children are taught grammar and punctuation the same way anymore. Whenever I hear the question, “Where’s it at?”, I freak out, especially when I hear professionals say it. It’s kind of sad that I had great preparation for writing but can’t tell you what an independent clause is. I’m aware that I use old, tired clichés and too many commas. My worst writing habit is the consistent use of run-on sentences. I tend to add an "and" and keep going. And, what’s worse than that is I know I’m doing it! But don’t care. La Dee Da~

I had a horrible time writing my last post because I was paralyzed with new information. I mean, how many times can you recite a sentence in your mind and then have the audacity to type it as a run-on? It took me hours to write it and I was so disgusted that I nearly scrapped the whole thing.

So, here are a few photos that show how much I loved the cool weather this weekend. I will try to be a very good caption writer. Donna, have your green pen ready.


It’s been a long time since Chloe & Bella shared a sunny spot on the porch. After the daytime temperatures dipped from 95 to 78 overnight, we're all in shock.


Autumn is almost here but I have a feeling summer will continue for a while. Summer is my favorite season despite the horrible one we faced in 2007.


The bees are back. I didn’t even realize they weren’t around for a few weeks. Or, maybe there were here and I was just too hot to care.



No one knows how large the Koi are by looking at my photos. The largest ones are at least ten inches long and hefty enough for a fish dinner for two. They are rejoicing, too, after sinking in darkness for a few months.


The birds are active and gay now. I often wonder what they were doing when it was so hot. It was cool enough to attempt to get a photo of a Tufted Titmouse last night. I'll keep trying.


It’s good to see plump hummingbirds. They need to beef up for their journey…

If you haven't seen the best hummingbird photos, visit Ruth at Nature Knitter for a real treat. I've viewed her post several times!


thailandchani said...

Grammar does seem to have gone by the wayside, hasn't it?

It never fails to amaze me when I see the way people write, the apostrophes in plural words, the slang...

Sheesh! :)

I mean, like, yanno, it's just like so annoooyyyying, ya know, I mean.. whatEVer!

It gets better.



Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Yeah, like, I know what you mean too!

Q said...

Dear Mary,
The nuns taught me also. I adored diagraming sentances. We used different colored pencils and I always thought they looked so pretty. I love the way you write.
I also love your cool down.
Thank you for telling me about Ruth's blog. Wow! I might try feeding a Hummer. I do think it would be very wonderful.
I too miss the Hummingbirds.
I also will miss the butterflies.

Anonymous said...

the hummingbirds were still around my house this morning! Should be a while for you still! Grammar police - ugg, one of my worse nightmares!

cat59 said...

I never learned to diagram sentences. I should say that I never had a class where we even tried to diagram a sentence! Someone asked me recently how I could write fairly well if I hadn't had a very good education in this area. My father was an English teacher at one point and we learned from him how to speak and write properly, although I do run into trouble now and then. I basically, write based on how things sound and I think I learned that growing up around the dinner table.

KGMom said...

Mary--you pass with flying colors, dear. Actually you remind me of one of the students in my class this semester. He is what we politely call a "non-traditional"--i.e. he is older than the other students. Poor man lost his job of 20+ years and gets financial aid to go back to school. He is scared out of his wits. But on his first paper--he did a great job and got an A- (from stingy me who doesn't give many As!).

Carol Michel said...

Somehow I managed to get through twelve years of public school, plus college, without having to diagram a sentence. I feel cheated! It looks like great fun.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Mary said...

Chani, like, what's grammar? LOL Like, whatever...

Linne, like, "you want me to write about, like, what?"

Sherry, I'm glad someone remembers diagrams. I'll bet they haven't been taught in a few decades. They are carved into my old brain.

Monarch - hey, I know you struggle with it but your posts are excellent! I'd give you an A.

Cathie, you do write well. Those "kitchen table" times paid off. My Mom was a writer and helped me along as your Dad did.

Donna, you didn't answer my question and I'm curious to know if you ever studied sentence diagrams? Your posts amaze me, excellent writer!

Carol, it was fun for a while. Then it got to feel like they were gagging us with it. After so many years, I forgot so much! But I carried the ability to know when it sounded "right", at least.

JeanMac said...

Actually, I've never heard of sentence diagrams - kind of like doodling:) They look like fun and our teacher were not very much fun "way back then".
Your bouquet was so beautiful - is it holding up?

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mary,
Do you think all those young people who are txt msging use grammar or punctuation? Not! No wonder it's going by the wayside...

I love your posts and your stories. Just keep doin' whatcher doin' girlfriend! :-D

Unknown said...

I thought I was the only one struggling with grammar and posts.
I don't remember doing diagrams but my husband does. he loved doing them also. I guess I'll keep plugging along. So glad to hear you have some cooler weather. My hummingbirds are gone. :(

smilnsigh said...

Yes, I remember diagramming! And no, I don't remember the *correct terms.* ,-) And I use too many commas. But ding-it, I don't care. Separation is good for the soul or something. LOL.

No, I know. I really need to come up with a better *excuse* than that!

Beautiful photos, as always. So happy you are finally enjoying the weather.


David said...

Whew! I thought I was the only one who enjoyed diagramming sentences. (It's not really something I could talk about at football practice, you know...) I'll give you an A+ Mary, for an all-around excellent blog.

Susan Gets Native said...

I'm the young one in this crowd (ahem) but I do remember diagramming sentences. I was great at English class...tested out of my first two years of college English and Composition.
(Not that you asked or anything. I am just proud of that.)

My favorite thing to do is to correct GEOFF'S grammar. He's a magazine writer, and soon-to-be famous author, right? But he can never remember how to use "I" and "me". I revel in telling him that he's wrong.

Alyssa said...

I agree that grammar is really going downhill. And that text messaging is awful! Lots of young people can barely spell or write a sentence. I also remember diagraming sentences; it was a lot of fun for me too. Your photos are wonderful - such lovely detail and color.

I'm glad the girls can finally enjoy some time outside. And the fish and bees look great. Now you can enjoy being outside again too. Yeah!!

Mary said...

Now that English grammer sounds like torture to me! Had enough of hard work studying! The last and most challenging stuff I did was a medical statistics module for my masters! Blood, sweat,toil and tears went into that. I passed but only with a score of 46% I'm hyperventilating thinking about it.

Jayne said...

I used to enjoy diagraming sentences too as I loved grammar so much in school. I think we all get so lax with it as we sit and write what comes from pouring out of our brains.
I think you do a fine job Mary! Love your hummer!

Ruth said...

I had a good grammar teacher in 7th grade. That was it! I feel inadequate at times when writing. One of my patients recently corrected my oral use of "lay". I have bought some grammar a writing guidebooks, but haven't had time to read them. ;-)

Dorothy said...

I think the Sisters of Charity traumatized me for life with their red pens. And I do recall my sixth-grade English class and diagramming sentences, but I don't recall getting any pleasure out of it, probably because I was scared out of my gourd that I was going to do something wrong. (run on sentence...) LOL
Great post, as always Mary!

Anonymous said...

Love this post about grammar (among other things). I, too, loved diagramming sentences once I got the hang of it. Like Chani, apostrophes in plural words drive me bananas.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Too much knowledge of grammar can cramp your style as you recently found out. ;-)

Love the pic of the Koi, I had some too in my previous garden that had a pond. I miss my Koi as I am now pondless. Do yours eat out of your hand?

BTW excuse my poor grammar; I am Dutch and blond as well, a fatal combination! :-)

NatureWoman said...

Grammar - oh yes, there are things that drive me nuts that people do wrong. Not that I'm perfect, by any stretch of the imagination!
I love your photos again Mary!
Do your fish know you were referring to them as the size of a fish dinner for two? LOL!!

Jess Riley said...

Oh, I have terrible memories of sentence diagramming. But the lessons stuck!

We've still got a plump little hummingbird hanging about--so cute!

Susie said...

Great post Mary! My grandson was diagramming sentences in 7th grade, but I couldn't remember enough to help him.
He attends Catholic school, but they are no longer taught my nuns..

dguzman said...

From your official (former) college English instructor:
1. Run-on sentences are actually not just long sentences; they're two (or more) sentences put together without proper punctuation or separation. As long as the separate sentences are punctuated correctly (i.e. with semi-colons between them, or a comma + coordinating conjunction), your sentences can be as long as they need to be. Can you tell I love long sentences?

2. You do NOT use too many commas. I call those who do "comma fetishists," and you are not one of them. Usually, they're the people who were taught, "Every place you stop to take a breath, put a comma there!" Convenient but wrong! Punctuation and respiration are two separate issues, each with their own set of rules, people!

Okay, I'm done. I think you write BEAUTIFULLY and with spark and wit. I can't remember the last grammatical error I caught in your writing, so lighten up on yourself! Oh, and I too loved diagramming sentences and did it for fun!

Mary said...

Thank you, Delia :o) I thought you were a math guru.

Gledwood said...

Koi are cool.
I used to have a shubunkin goldfish which was blue/grey with dappled bits... just like a mini carp...
As for writing, you have my sympathy. I'm trying to write a book of my memoirs based on my blog (kind of) but it is NOT going straightforwardly at ALL!
This is a great site you got here!
You're welcome to come by mine if you like: gledwood2.blogspot my online daily confessional!
Your photos are fantastic btw...

Gledwood said...

When you said Ruth I thought for a sec she was the same Ruth I know (well blog-o-sphere is quite a small world)... my Ruth just started a course lately too. And she takes the best macro photos.
Have a look at her blog I bet you would like it:

dguzman said...

Me, a math guru? More like a math victim. Gotta go through the math to get to the science degree....

~Red Tin Heart~ said...

Great photos. xo Nita

Unknown said...

You are the only other person I have ever know of to say they like diagramming sentences. I still do it if I can't get one to sound right to me. I am also annoyed by "Where's it at?"

Beautiful pics.

Larry said...

I really like that face-on bee photo-very shiny.I can tell by that picture of the hummingbird-you've been giving it real sugar water and not nutrasweet.-That is a plump one!

Anonymous said...

Oh gosh, I hated those paragraph diagram things! It was gReEk to me!
You make it sound so artsy.

Also, i don't understand what is wrong with “Where’s it at?” . . . should i just say, "Where is it??"
Okay, that does make sense.

Chloe & Bella are just too too cute. Those are the kinds of doggies i like. So loveable. If they came to visit me, my kitty would HISSSSSSSsssssssss! ! ! She has no manners.

i'm glad i came along your blog. I will surely be back for more.

Keep having fun!