McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK


March 3, 2014

‘Grammer. I mean grammar.’

McALESTER — Grammar was spelled “grammer” until my freshman year of college and my periods were always on the wrong side of my quotes. Not to mention, I paid no attention to “to, too and two” or “there, their and they’re.”

The last degree I’d imagined pursuing was any type of English or communications — especially not Associated Press writing or news, because back then I liked to talk and that is all I did.

In elementary school, my grades were usually enough to pass and I recall a year where I had more “Fs” than “Ds,” but the teacher passed me anyway because he couldn’t bear me another school year.

I had so much on my mind all at once, all the time and although I learned to fight my dyslexia and read aloud beautifully, I didn’t comprehend a word that left from my lips.

Some people would call me a “social butterfly,” but the more accurate description would be a “buzzing bee.”

These days, I would have been diagnosed with ADHD or ADD.

Once in high school, the subject matter started to appeal to me, I aced high school science and history — you know — classes where the teachers lectured and used visual aides like the chalkboard and walked us through the book — but I struggled in English and math. I couldn’t focus. Considering my part-Appalachian and part-Native American heritage, none of this would be too surprising for historians or those in the field of linguistics.

In early American history, Appalachians and Native Americans relied heavily on their abilities to tell stories to teach life skills and morals and to pass along ancestry and history. That’s because few Appalachians could afford education and Native Americans hadn’t developed a written language. Don’t take my word for it — look it up!

A few years forward, I pursued college.

I used vivid word imagery to write my first freshman paper — I just knew I’d claim an “A” for the masterpiece. However, a “D” proved to stand for devastation — I was crushed. It looked as if someone had cut themselves and bled all over my paper.

The professor marked misspelled words, missed commas, comma splices and improper uses of almost every part of speech and grammar known to the English language.

Humiliated, I went to the professor and asked her if it was really that bad and she said, “Yes. You know how to tell a story, but you do not know how to write one.”

She said if a story is not written grammatically so a reader can understand the context and syntax, then it is in vain and is not effective communication, or even entertaining.

Embarrassed and feeling “stupid,” I immediately dropped out of the semester, returning all my unused financial aid, and went home.

I didn’t understand, because I put my all into it. I realized I chose to be an unfathomable vessel of complete ignorance. Some of my actions proved it and actions truly speak louder than words and, as I mentioned before, I did a lot of talking.

There is nothing wrong with being ignorant, but choosing to stay ignorant may leave you powerless. I have come to find those who have the knowledge also possess the power, power over what happens in our futures, our finances, health and well-being, and our overall quality of life. Without knowledge, we are forced to take the word of others for all the very vital components of what make our lives worth living.

After a few days of feeling sorry for myself, I made the louder choice to take action. I decided to read more, pick up some grammar workbooks and practice writing. At 23 years old, I found myself eager to learn English and its grammar.

Voracious for knowledge, all my bad habits started to disappear — in place of habits were satisfaction and a better attitude towards life that came along with accomplishment.

I found the more I would write, the less I would talk and I could express my thoughts and ideas much more completely and beautifully through writing. I found my outlet.

At 27, I returned to college — I was ready. I went back with a purpose and rather than testing into the remedial levels of English, I tested into English 101.

I took many blows to my ego with constructive and harsh criticism and bad paper grades, and I overcame serious hardships before graduating with a degree in Arts and Humanities with concentrations in communications and media studies.

I learn something new every day. As a matter of fact, out of a high school grammar workbook, I just learned there is such thing as an abstract noun. Sounds like an oxymoron to me.

There are so many good reasons to work to be more literate — it has enriched my life in so many ways.

I appreciate the time you take to read my work and that of my colleagues.

MJ Brickey is a staff writer for the McAlester News-Capital. Contact her at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Saundra Kaye Offill

    Saundra Kaye Offill, 67, lost her 7 year battle with Alzhiemer’s on Thursday, July 10, 2014. She was born in McAlester, Oklahoma on March 11, 1947, to Louis and the late Melba Vanlandingham.

    July 16, 2014

  • Square logo.jpg ‘Is anything sacred anymore?’

    What do we know about the “The Star Spangled Banner” ?

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Square logo.jpg Any hope in new MPD facility?

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • ent_taylorswift.jpg There's less good music now — here's why

    Taylor Swift, the seven-time Grammy winner, is known for her articulate lyrics, so there was nothing surprising about her writing a long column for The Wall Street Journal about the future of the music industry. Yet there's reason to doubt the optimism of what she had to say.

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Donald Sterling needs to go away

    Whether it happens due to a quick settlement or a likely longer trial, Clippers owner Donald Sterling just needs to go away.

    June 19, 2014

  • CHRIS-MORRIS-2.jpg Prescription drug abuse

    Tip of the Week
    You can be arrested for driving under the influence of prescription medication, so follow your recommended dosage or don’t get behind the wheel.

    June 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kevin Durant Kevin Durant’s grace period will end soon

    After his 7th season ended Saturday with the Thunder’s Game 6 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, the grace period for Oklahoma City superstar Kevin Durant may soon be drawing to a close.

    June 3, 2014 1 Photo

  • Billy Guy Ferrell

    Billy Guy Ferrell, died Saturday, May 24, 2014, at a nursing home in McAlester.

    May 30, 2014

  • Square logo.jpg Congress faces risky decision on National Security, local aerospace jobs

    When you’re in the middle of errands and your fuel gauge hits the red zone, what do you do? Skip the gas station and try to make it back home on ‘E’? Even if you make it home, what will you do the next time you need to drive your car? It’s not worth the ten minutes saved. Who wants to be stranded on the side of the road, forced to walk to the nearest filling station or wait for a tow?

    May 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Todd Lamb From the Capitol: Staycation in Oklahoma

    With the summer travel season quickly approaching, many Oklahomans are making plans for their summer vacations. I would encourage Oklahomans to look in our own backyard and explore all that Oklahoma has to offer this summer. All ages and all travel enthusiasts can find something of interest here at home.

    May 21, 2014 1 Photo

Seasonal Content
AP Video
Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey Raw: Obama Eats Ribs in Kansas City In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo NCAA Settles Head-injury Suit, Will Change Rules Raw: Japanese Soldiers Storm Beach in Exercises Raw: Weapons Fire Hits UN School in Gaza Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship Broken Water Main Floods UCLA
NDN Video
Heartwarming 'Batkid Begins' Documentary is Tear-Jerker Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Pitch Invading Morons Cause Chaos - @TheBuzzeronFOX Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza Meet the Man Behind Dumb Starbucks Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob Golden Sisters on '50 Shades' trailer: 'Look At That Chest!' Staten Island Man's Emotional Dunk Over NYPD Car - @TheBuzzeronFOX GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show'

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.