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My freshmen readers from this past school year. It was the first time in several years students stated that they enjoyed reading.

Teacher. Yep. Like so many of us who are pulled in 36 different directions at once, that’s one of the many roles I have. Mother. Wife. Aunt. Friend. Nurse. Chef. Maid. Depending on the season, Gardner. Sometimes Coach. But some of these jobs overlap when I’m in the classroom.

When I barely escaped my fifteenth year of teaching, which was the 2015-16 school year, I promised myself a project: for the following school year I would write down highlights of each day I was “teacher.” Starting this past August, Monday, August 15, 2016 to be exact, until Thursday, June 1, 2017, I wrote. About what? I had to figure that out as I went.

I started by writing down what I did for an entire day – from the moment I arrived to leaving; what a bore. Then, I decided to magnify a moment during a lesson or a comment; didn’t work too well either. By February, I had a friend read the draft; she concluded what I was thinking – stories about the students were far more interesting than my day to day. Continue reading 180 School Days – How a teacher fostered student growth

GmasMy grandmothers, Nell and Lena, with me on one of New Jersey’s beaches. (1983)

When I learned that my maternal grandmother grew up with nine siblings, I was in awe. With each family gathering, from reunions, to deaths, to weddings, my Grandma Lena would talk to her remaining brother, at that time the other two passed, and five sisters, or at least the ones in attendance, and they would talk on and on and on about their shared past.

While I was in college, by then majoring in English secondary education (I knew I could never verbally state my desire of writing for a living), I sat down with my grandma one afternoon to hear these stories once again. She aided her memory by writing down a list of her family members: mom, dad, and the rest with birth dates, spouses, and if applicable, death dates. Then the stories spilled out; I took through notes and recorded our conversation. Immediately following, I attempted to write something. It was called “A Mississippi Family.” Continue reading Grandmas Make Best Friends – Lena

IMG_2247Fog drifted my way early in life. The earliest when I was in third grade, almost nine. I was never an outgoing kid, never one who would cause trouble, nor was I one who would show off to attract attention. I was a thinker. I would think about other people – what was going on in their heads. I would read their demeanor. As a result, I could know how others felt or what others wanted. This quite awareness is a reason why I am a teacher.

But these thoughts turned dark, and back on myself.

You’re stupid. Fat. Ugly. No one wants to be your friend.

I agreed with these thoughts. By nine, I was told to glasses, told to wear my bone straight hair curly, told to dress in coordinating outfits. Then puberty hit. And the fog created a darkness like none other, until I hit my thirties when I was submerged to its depths which dragged me down by my ankles.

At school I would I saw fellow classmates no longer interacting like friends, because some became couples, some flirted with each other, some still ignored the other gender. They were just as lost as I was. Not sure what to do. What to say. How to act. Who to be. So we look to role models; try on different personas just to see which one fit. Which one would take. Winona Ryder? Julia Roberts? Drew Barrymore? Christian Slater? Brad Pitt? Johnny Depp?

Not sure of what to do, I played along with having friends, who really were girls who I felt were safe enough to talk to at school; they wouldn’t make fun of me – at least, not to my face. My friend at home became this fog who had sadness and loneliness lurking around. These new playmates were my home team. Withdrawn, embarrassed, confused – I didn’t say a word about my feelings to anyone.

Even now, thirty years later, I keep to myself…but I have found a way to break through my old friend fog, shake away from sadness, and make sure loneliness never lingers longer than a few minutes. Depression is an ongoing struggle that is part of my life. I have learned how to manage it, and I hope others do to.

I resolved to let others know about my life-long struggle, which inspired the novel, UNREQUITED GUILT. The first chapter is below, or you can visit Trident Media where I posted it along with other information about me and this novel for this agency to consider as part of their challenge for the month of June.

Continue reading Fog in My Life