Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Choice Matters

 Note: Apparently, in one of my posts from March 2008, I rained on someone's parade. Thus, I choose to address that problem (and some grammatical issues) in this blog post.

Before comments are posted on this blog, I choose whether or not to approve them. Usually comments are made within a couple days after an update. It’s rare to see a comment appear seven years after a post, but that’s what happened the other night when someone took issue with my 2008 post, “A Matter of Choice,” in which I wrote about choosing to be happy.

At 9:18:51 PM on Friday, I received this email from someone I don’t know. Apparently, my post about choosing to be happy really touched a nerve. Note: I have blocked out the name of the sender (Bless her heart!) to protect her identity, but her comment made me realize that I hadn't written about any grammatical or writing issues lately in this humble blog:

The email notification gives me a choice to publish, delete, or mark as spam any comment my blog receives. I have chosen to use none of those options with this comment. I choose instead to use it as a teaching moment. After all, I was an English teacher for decades.

General advice about commenting: When one is replying to something posted online, and one thinks it necessary to reply in a paragraph, one ought to compose a unified and coherent paragraph. I immediately noticed that the above paragraph lacked both unity and coherence. I imagine that faithful readers of this blog, many of whom are college educated, noticed that, too. 

It's been about seven months since I've addressed any writing issues in a blog-post, but this paragraph inspires me to do so now. Let’s examine the parts of this paragraph sentence by sentence, shall we, to see how the writing might be improved?

You have obviously have not suffered from clinical depression.
Well, this is an interesting opening sentence with the word have repeated unnecessarily. Since the writer does not know me, how does she presume to know from what I might or might not have suffered? However, I am a diabetic, and—according to the American Diabeties AssociationStudies show that people with diabetes have a greater risk of depression than people without diabetes.” (It would have been much better if the writer had opened with a question: "Have you ever suffered from clinical depression?" See, that leaves the door open for discussion.)

Its ignorant people like you that are killing the people who can be helped with medication.
Oh, dear! I believe the writer means It’s—the contraction for it is, not the possessive pronoun. Why, since she does not know me, presume I’m ignorant? Must I post my college degrees? They're the two on the top row:

Now back to the implication in that second sentence (which certainly went in a different direction from the opening sentence) that I am to blame for killing people: I have never withheld medication from anyone who needed it, nor have I ever murdered anyone (I did deliberately kill a copperhead once by beating it with a rock, if that counts.) I’m having trouble understanding how my ignorance of whatever it is that I—and no doubt many others—are ignorant could be responsible for killing people who need prescription medications. It’s a pity that the writer did not cite any studies that prove we are to blame? I, for one, choose not to accept that blame. (I'd leave out that sentence entirely. Why aggravate your readers by accusing them of something they didn't do. Much better to share your own experiences with depression and lack of medication.)

Did you know that white people have the highest suicide rate?
This sentence is going into yet another direction, so any hopes the paragraph had for coherence and unity are pretty well shot. Why would the writer bring race into this? And what do suicide rates have to do with whether or not I choose to be happy? However, I did a bit of Googling and learned that, for 2014, the suicide rate is “nearly 30% higher in people ages 65 or older.” Should I worry that I’m well over 65? Just when I was enjoying my senior citizen discounts. . . . (I'd leave out that sentence, too.)

I can not believe you are an educator.
I am not responsible for what the writer can or cannot choose to believe, but—if it helps—in the second row of the picture posted above, there's my postgraduate professional license that certifies me to teach and beside it is plaque recognizing 26 years service in the Roanoke School system. (Another sentence I'd leave out.)

People who can choose obviously don't have a conscience.
I cannot understand the writer’s reasoning here. Were this statement on a student’s essay, I would write “fallacious reasoning” beside it. People with consciences make choices all the time. However, the writer is certainly entitled to choose to believe a fallacy if it makes her happy. (Maybe, "I have trouble identifying with people who choose happiness.")

Think about it, don't you have guilt or feel guilt?
That sentence is a tad repetitive. What is the difference between “having guilt” and “feeling guilt”? Plus it really needs a semicolon instead of a comma. (The English teacher in me chooses to cringe at comma splices.) But to answer the question: Every time I eat too many carbs and cause my blood sugar to rise, I feel a little guilty. I should know better than to push my diabetic limits. I’m feeling a bit guilty writing this blog-post because most of my faithful readers would rather see pictures of my cats instead of getting an English lesson. I know for a fact that some of my former students read this blog, and I feel guilty that this post might be causing them PTECSS (Post Traumatic English Class Stress Syndrome). To relieve their suffering, I’ll take time out to post a picture of George:

There’s nothing like a picture of a cute kitty to brighten your day—or so I choose to believe. (FYI: I have a dozen kitties, all of whom I chose to keep rather than rejecting them. Some of them were dumped by previous owners; some were kittens of cats dumped by previous owners—oh, please forgive me. I’m getting off topic and veering into another direction entirely!) Least I be accused of writing a blog post that lacks coherence and unity, let’s return to dissecting that paragraph, shall we? (As for that sentence, perhaps this: "I often feel guilty if I'm happy. Do you ever feel that way?)

I do believe in staying optimistic however, it should not be a moral weakness because they can't.
I’m having trouble following this run-on sentence. (Why did the writer choose not to put a semicolon after optimistic?) And I’m not clear on her meaning. Did the writer mean that choosing to be optimistic is an option for only some people? Why would she even consider lack of optimism to be a moral weakness. Truth be told, I tend to be pessimistic. However, I still choose to be happy. The two states aren’t mutually exclusive. At least I choose to think they’re not. (Maybe this: "I do believe in staying optimistic, but some people have difficulty doing so.")

Here's another picture of George:

Its like telling people who are paralyzed they really don't need a wheelchair.
(Oh, dear. Its is a possessive pronoun. The writer should use the contraction it’s because she means it is.) Why would anyone other than a medical professional tell a paralyzed person what they need or don’t need? I certainly wouldn’t choose to do that! (Now I’m getting mental images of vile people creeping into hospitals and telling accident victims—oops! Off topic again. Sorry.) But telling disabled people they don’t need conveyances to make their lives easier is rather like telling people who choose to be happy that they shouldn’t be happy or should feel guilty about being happy. (Maybe this: Telling people to be happy doesn't really help. They have to find happiness in their own ways.")

FYI Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression.
Thank you for sharing that. The 1860s were a depressing time for many. I’m not sure what Abraham Lincoln's emotional state has to do with my choice to be happy, though—especially since he said “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Isn’t “making up their minds” akin to choosing? I choose to think it is. (Maybe: "Throughout history, people have suffered from depression that prevented them from feeling happy." And then cite some examples—with citations, of course.

At 9:37:13, I received this comment:

I cannot, of course, say what Robin Williams seemed like, other than he seemed to be a good actor. I especially enjoyed his performances in Dead Poet’s Society (a movie any English teacher can love!) and Good Morning, Vietnam. I never met the man personally, so I don’t know what he was really like; the persona he projected through the media was, of course, his choice. (Maybe: "Some people give the illusion of being happy when they really aren't. And then cite some examples—with citations, of course.)

Let’s take time out for another kitty picture, shall we? Here's Jim-Bob:

OK—back to choosing happiness. At this point I choose to put in a few plugs for two writer buddies of mine who both seem to be happy people. Eduardo Mitchell has written two ebooks about mediation: Original Zen: A Pathway of Inner Development Leading to Wisdom, Inner Peace, and Enlightenment and Living in Zen: Lighten Up. There’s Nothing Wrong With A Little Joy, Happiness, and Pleasure

Both ebooks can help you be happier. You also might want to check out Ed’s blog or his website.

Author Ginny Brock’s blog is A Shaft of Light. Her latest post, “Make a Wish,” might help you achieve peace, which is—I choose to think—a sort of happiness.

Anyhow, I wish my blog readers happiness and peace. And good writing skills.  And maybe cats. 

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Blogger R.M. said...

W0W - I really enjoyed the critique and corrections! I can't begin to understand how any one but me feels or thinks. I am sorry that the poster is tilting at windmills on your blog. And some people believe the earth is flat, too. Happy Mother's Day! from my farm to yours. xox

11:18 AM  

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