Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why I Write: A Literacy Autobiography

It might be easier to define my life in terms of what it would be without being literate, than to describe myself in terms of being a literate person. Reading and writing are so much a part of who I am, that without my love for them, I could not possibly be the person I am today. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I venture to say that I am so much a reader and writer, that to take away literacy from my life would be to take away my self.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read and I have loved stories in all forms. It may have started when my grandmother read to me as a baby, and when a few years later I “read” the books myself, making up stories to go with the illustrations. Some may have thought it unlikely that I would care so much about reading, and later on, writing. My father, after all, was a very bright man, but he was illiterate. And while my brothers and my childhood friends would be scrambling around outside engaging in any physical activity they could find, I was more often than not planted in the corner, nose stuck firmly in a book. Of course I have other interests, but whenever I have to fill out any kind of form requiring me to name my interests, reading and writing are what I list first, without even thinking about it.

Therefore, since literacy has been so ingrained in my lifestyle for such a long time, it’s difficult to pinpoint “milestones” which led to this quality’s importance to me. I won local library’s summer reading contests by reading anything and everything I could find, I had an original poem printed by the local newspaper when I was nine, I wrote (mostly crappy) poetry all through high school. I don’t think it was a surprise to anyone when I decided to major in English and education in college. I was so carried away with my identity as a writer, that during my senior year, I actually switched my major from the reliable field of education in order to concentrate on my literature classes and add a creative writing minor. I went on to attend graduate school and major in Rhetoric and Composition, winning a teaching assistantship and writing all the while. Of course, when I decided to start my family, I was fortunate enough to be able to go into public school teaching despite my somewhat unorthodox college background--being a starving artist tends to work out better if one’s daughter isn’t starving alongside beside you!

To date, I’ve not been published (unless you count that brilliant fourth-grade poem—“A Christmas Tree Mystery”), but I have completed one novel, and several short stories, so I hope to see my name in print someday. However, if that’s never the case, I am still a writer—I write because I need to write, not because I need to impress an audience. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to develop my love of teaching as well—I’ve taught everything from English 101 at ********* University to Inclusion 10th Grade English at ****** High School. I’ve taught Honors World Literature to high school sophomores and Basic Writing to community college students. The constant for all of these experiences is my joy of passing on my love of reading and writing to others—be they aspiring writers such as myself, or struggling readers with learning disabilities, such as my father, who passed away three years ago. Despite his difficulty with reading and writing, my dad loved a good story—who among us does not? I believe that all of us, regardless of past experiences, innate ability, or any other factors, can relate to each other and better understand ourselves through a sharing of our stories.

I know that’s why I read, and why I write. And I am a writer—regardless of whether or not I ever sign a contract, or get to choose the cover of that first novel. I am a writer, because if I was not a writer, I don’t know who I would be.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Perfect Day

Perhaps those perfect moments we're in search of, those ones that are so elusive, are so rare because our standards are so high.

It's easy to long for those breathtaking snapshots of time during the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I close my eyes and remember that moment I got engaged, when the man I love told me he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. Or the moment I first held my darling daughter in my arms. Or calling my grandmother, squealing in uncontainable excitement, about my twenty thousand dollar scholarship.

And then there are the other moments--the ones that make up the majority of our lifetimes.

Right now, for instance. My overly energetic four-year old is rushing around my grandmother's house in improvised pajamas-- a tie-dyed t-shirt, belonging to my mother, that fits her like a slightly large dress. She will not, despite my numerous requests, leave our dog, poor Sue Yung, alone. School has, for the third time this week, been cancelled due to inclement weather, which would be fantastic... except that instead of Christmas in July, I shall most likely be Teaching in July.

I have taken a hiatus from my South Beach Lifestyle (I like Lifestyle more than Diet; it's less restricting) during these cabin-feverish days trapped inside, during which I have existed mainly off of potato chips, cookies, and soda. Consequently, I feel sluggish and disgusting.

I have answered endless inquiries regarding dog's brains, the merit of eggs as part of a healthy diet, the function of and title of "Snow Plows" (as opposed to "Pushing Trucks," as my daughter would call them), requests regarding purchasing Honey Nut Cheerios, and why dogs need tails (can anyone help me out with this one?) from my pre-schooler, and it's not quite eleven o'clock.

I'm faced with, on my lovely agenda today, having forms from my insurance company notarized to move forward the settlement from totaling my SUV last month, taking my persistant daughter out to play in the cold, wet, snow; dropping by the dreary, empty high school to try and figure out just where exactly I left off with my teaching before Delaware got blasted with snow last weekend, and, I suppose... trying to restart my South Beach Lifestyle (Anything before eleven doesn't count... as I've already indulged in Dorritoes and Dark Chocolate Peanut M & Ms).

A less than perfect day.

Or maybe not. Maybe perfection is all around us, if we open our eyes to see it. I know this is no ground-breaking philosophy, that I'm not the first person to preach about seeing a glass as half-full as opposed to half-empty. But sometimes I just need to remind myself of that, in between telling my kid for the four hundreth time in two hours to just please leave the dog alone, in the midst of no less than twenty buzzing interruptions on my Blackberry, most of which contain random Facebook comments on other people's status alerts that really pertain to me in no way at all... sometimes you just need to remind yourself.

So maybe it is a perfect day, of sorts. Because of my daughter's dimples, and her giggle. Because of Sue Yung the dog's exteme, unfathomable patience with having a four-year old attempt to plait her hair. Because of being inside, snuggled up with my daughter and my dog on the loveseat, my beloved grandmother sipping coffee in the other room. Because of the hope that I have in the fact that the latest agent to view my manuscript has yet to reject it. :) Because I have my health, my happiness, and so many people who love me. Because the snow is beautiful (and even though it will turn to a disgusting dirty mush, it hasn't yet!) Because I can read my Bible and reflect on His word. Because my precious child and I have a full, wonderful day to spend together, and she still wants to do that with me, even if her constant chattering distracts me from my blogging, and even if she wants to drag her summer-loving mother into the cold, wet snow. And even if every other phrase out of her mouth is "Why does..." or "How come..." or "I want..." and she hasn't stopped talking or moving for three and three quarter years and I'm going gray at 27.... I'm blessed to have a healthy, beautiful, SMART little girl.

And here's to today, perfect day to spend with her :)