It has been quite a whirlwind since the pandemic started. Between the isolation, virtual learning, and a subsequent boost in creativity, there has been an interesting shift in my own personal self-concept. I’ve always enjoyed the writing process, crafting an occasional journal entry or heartfelt letter. I had even started a little blog about 10 years ago on Blogger called The Second Half, which reflected where I was in my life at the time. My tag was STdancermom and it was probably the seed for what eventually became this website.
Writing has since become a much more important outlet of expression for me. I actually feel more comfortable scribing than talking about things, since I have the time to reflect on, consider, and edit my thoughts. I never really imagined I’m become an author “for real,” but people always said I was good at written expression, so my confidence slowly enabled me to write some more about my world.
Back in 2016, one of my students got me thinking about the author bandwagon. In one of our many discussions about life and sharing my experience as an educational tool, she asked me if I had ever thought of writing a memoir. I had not, but her question made me think. From that moment forward, I started to chronicle over 20 years of my teaching career, how I got there, and what I’ve learned from it all. The title is Dances With Tigers and is a work-in-progress that I will someday publish as my teaching memoir. I was actually getting ready to move forward on publication in the summer of 2020, but other events got in the way.
In late May 2020, amidst that frightful pandemic lockdown we were all experiencing, a man named George Floyd was murdered by arresting officers, sparking public outrage. It seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back in a long legacy of struggle between many in the police community and people of color. In conversations with a friend who was imminently shaken by the news, she asked me if I had ever written my own play. I had not, but this made me think. I started collecting accounts from my friends who were likewise struggling, and created How Do We Feel Right Now? A collection of raw thoughts in the aftermath of senseless tragedy. I presented a virtual production of the work with Spring Valley High School’s Thespian Troupe 721 in December 2020, and moved forward with self-publishing the play on Amazon. The show is now available for licensing with Leicester Bay Theatricals.
In September 2020, my mom passed after a long battle with peritoneal cancer. I was fortunate to be visiting her down in Houston, where she lived, in the last week of her life. That opportunity gave me one last chance to sit by her side and share a long list of things that I have learned from her in my 48 years as her daughter. I interviewed her about as many memories as she could think of while she was able. Clicking at my keyboard, I raced to capture as much of her words as I could, and I shared with her that I might someday write a memoir about her. She liked that idea.
A year later, that memoir was born. What Ronnie Sue Knew is a tapestry of Mom’s stories, the lessons that I learned from her, and looking back to being raised by a woman of such grace, integrity, intelligence and kindness. We remember our family and how they impacted our lives throughout the years. Writing this book was my way of processing the abyss of grief by connecting to our pasts – individually and collectively.
Since then, I’ve also started two podcast projects. The first is called A Moment of Mindful Meditation, which now features ten different meditations that I was inspired to share. The second is a video podcast called Changed for the Better: the power of arts in education, featuring interviews with former students of mine who have now transitioned into adulthood. Guests answer ten questions that reflect on who they were in high school and the lessons they took with them from my classroom to become who they are now.
In any of my writing projects, whether a published book, a podcast or a blog post, my goal is to explore the common refrains that we all share through a lens of personal reflection. By sharing stories, I hope to make a positive impact on others, bring us closer together in a world that seems so divided, and inspire others to become even better versions of themselves. Please enjoy the blog entries, check out the podcasts, and maybe consider picking up one of the books on Amazon. Feel free to leave comments (be kind!) to let me know how the work impacted you.