Dear Ishmael,

You don’t know me, yet I feel like I know you.  I recently had the opportunity not only to read A Long Way Gone, but I had a chance to experience its pages in a way many people do not.  My co-teacher in the SITES program chose your book in his study of global issues.  Having never read the book, I chose to read it with our students, so that I could engage in conversation in class.

As a child of literature yourself, you may know that sometimes, a book can speak to us in a way we do not expect.

For me, maybe it was that I had just finished teaching Paul Rusesabagina’s Ordinary Man and I found the parallel between the two stories haunting.   Maybe it was the moment in our first discussion when one of our students pointed to a passage that I myself could not shake, “We must always strive to be like the moon,” and a ten minute discussion followed analyzing the truth and wisdom of these words.  Maybe it was the fact that you wrote so poignantly that I was able to transcend the delicate refinements of my life to see what I think you want everyone who reads your book to see: even though mankind can terrorize one another and bring pain and hardship, what matters is what we do after the experience.  This book, your book, stays with me because by the end, I felt strengthened by a feeling that already existed in my heart: if I only allow myself to experience man when he is at his worst, I may never know man for the potential he has: for his beauty, for his amiability, and for his love.

Last night, I had the opportunity to hear you speak.  As someone who is constantly analyzing my own place in the world, I felt like a child in a classroom.  Your story and strength of the first book were inspirational, but the limitlessness of your spirit is profound.  You are correct in your theory that happiness should not be measured by stretches of time.  It is not to be measured, but it is to be experienced.  Ultimately,  you were the victim of childhood captivity; without an alternative, you were forced to be a soldier. Yet, despite the reality of your past,  you have allowed yourself to heal, you have allowed yourself to eclipse a world speckled with hatred so that you can live again.

Standing in line with my students eagerly waiting to get your new novel Radiance of Tomorrow signed, I felt renewed.  I felt that within the hour of listening to you speak, my understanding of mankind deepened.  Ishmael, for me you rejuvenated truth:  Many people will enter our lives and they will see the flicker of our eternal flame.  Some of those people will want to extinguish it, and if given the opportunity, they will.  However, others will see us for what we are, for what we can be.  These people will take one of two actions: They will either do everything in their power to relight the flame, or seeing that it still flickers, they will protect it, nurture it, and wait for it be what it was meant to be.  Each of us has a light inside, and with the proper guidance and nurturing, it will blaze and we will live to our full potential: hopeful creatures, dedicated individuals, and spiritual heroes.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for not only signing my book but for touching my life.

In Memoriam Irish Katie

I spend a great deal of time during the holidays feeling lucky and grateful for the people who have had a positive impact in my life over the course of the year.  I think of my neighbor who has become our friend; a woman who is always willing to help with the girls.  I think of my brother who has shown me the true meaning of perseverance, working tirelessly to achieve his goal of becoming a pilot.  I think of the many students who have sat in my classroom; these young adults make me feel young, to feel invigorated, to feel excited about learning.

It is not odd, then, to think that many people in the blogging world have had an impact on me over the course of the last year.  Even though I wrote less in 2013, many of my followers eagerly commented when I chose to post.

  • I got excited when my friends, people who have known me for years, took time out of their busy schedules to read– Marta, Scott, Amy, Kim, and Jill, just to name a few.

I got down right giddy when my blogger friends commented, too.  You see, as ridiculous it might seem to people who do not spend real-time in a virtual world, I have gotten to know my blogger friends on a very personal basis.

  • I looked forward to the wisdom of Richard, both through his words on his own blog and his comments on mine.  His positive, good-humored attitude makes me look forward to growing old, shatting accidents and all!
  • I looked forward to the insightful snarkiness of the twenty-something Becca.  She has brought me laughter and a reminder of how important it is to discover oneself and experience youth for what it is.
  • I especially loved the relationship I developed with Irish Katie, a woman I felt a kismet connection because of our similar age, similar attitudes, and similar love for our daughters.

Thus, it came as a complete surprise and an utter blow when I learned this past week that my friend, Katie, someone I never had the pleasure of meeting in real life, passed away this past October.  She announced in June that she was battling ovarian cancer, but I was hopeful that modern medicine and her healthy living would allow her body to kick cancer’s ass.  Even when she stopped writing often, I kept faith that it was only because of the exhaustion and sickness caused by radiation that kept her from her computer and communicating with all of us that loved her in the blogosphere.  I kept the faith that one day soon we would be sharing anecdotes and stories once again.

I may have never known Katie but I feel like we were friends.  I will miss her comments– her “*giggles*” and “*hugs*.   I will miss her *smiles* and her special nod nod.  Through her comments and her own writing, I knew Katie– a positive, insightful, introspective, loving woman who has been taken from this world far too soon.

I think we all fear that in death, will people remember us?  Will we have made an effect in anyone’s life?  Well, Irish Katie, you made an effect on me, and I want you to know that I will never forget you.  You taught me that it is better to giggle and laugh then it is to cry.  You taught me perseverance through your countless posts about training for a mini-triatholon, and even though you were never able to accomplish this goal, your efforts will always put you in the win column.  Most importantly, you reminded me of my love for my own children through your love for Rachel.  I can only imagine how difficult it will be for Rachel to live without you, but over time, the pain will lessen, and she will know that even though your earthly body died, your love for her will never, and that you will always live on in her memories, and in her future accomplishments and joys.

Thank you Irish Katie, for being a part of my life for the last year and a half.  I will honestly miss you.

Excuse Me, I Think You Are Literally Driving Me Crazy!

Yesterday, I felt like I might literally lose it.  I was at my daughters’ mall dance performance, and I really felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.  This grandma sitting next to me (we were in the front row) kept standing to take videos of her granddaughter.  “Down in front,” people shouted from behind, but she either chose not to hear them or literally could not.

Then the women sitting on the floor in front of me refused to take her screaming three-year old from her grandmother.  “She don’t want you,” the grandma said over and over.  “She dressed you up sumfin’ perty, and you go and get too shy to dance.  She aks you to just try, and you couldn’t even do that.”

Now, I am an English teacher, so the butchering of the English language in itself made my blood boil, but the incessant crying, literally I started to grind my teeth.   Just when I was about to go through my purse and look for a sharp object to poke out my eardrums, the mother finally turned around, rolled her eyes, and reached for her child.  She said nothing to the little girl who quieted down immediately to snuggle into her mother’s arms.

37 minutes.

37 minutes of pure hell ended with a child on a lap.

Who the hell were these people?  Were they in a vacuum completely unaware of the other viewers, the other parents, the performers themselves?

Then came the parents who wanted photos who kicked my chair, my purse, and my soda, all to get to the front to capture their little Mary Sue or Connie Mae on their crappy pixalation smart phones.

We left the mall, and I am not sure I really enjoyed watching my children dance, something that they really enjoy doing.

I got home, and I felt a pang in my stomach.  An uneasy angst swept over me.  What was wrong with me?  Why could I not just sit back and enjoy the show?

Could it be the holidays?  My menstrual cycle?  The plethora of grading I need to get done?

Out of nowhere, it hit me!  I haven’t taken any time for me, for my outlet, for my personal solace.  I haven’t been writing!

About 420 blogs into this adventure, I got a little winded, felt a little frazzled, and lost my mojo.  I got busy with life and I pretty much abandoned the blog.  I thought about it, but the buck stopped there. I avoided it completely.  I had other pressing matters that needed to get done.  I stopped checking my stats and I stopped paying attention to new followers.  Seemingly, people were still paying attention even though I was not giving them anything new to read.  Instead of seeing even minor stats as a miracle on all of those hundreds of days I did not write, I ignored the whole medium and focused on other aspects of life.

And what did that get me?

A quasi-insane day at the mall!  The sounds of society are a clamorous cacophony of nothingness.  I had abandoned my source of solitude and finally felt the proverbial last nerve snap– if I didn’t do something about it, and quick, I might have lost my last morsel of sanity, and no one wants to visit their mother in the loony bin on Christmas morning.

Thus, I have returned to the world of writing, a world where birdies fly near my head, and daffodils tickle my ankles and toes.  A place where the tides lap onto the rocks ever so gently, and I dance and float and sing.

Please do not send the men with the white coats.  I like it here.  I’ll be okay.