Wednesday, May 28, 2014

One of those days...

I'm having one of those know what I'm talking about.  The kind of day that you're just in a funk and not much can help.  The kind of day where you're on the verge of tears for reasons you can't really explain.  Today is one of those days.  The gloomy weather outside reflects my mood.  I can't tell you how much I want to go home and just hug my little guy, because I know he'll make my heart feel better.

Today is one of those days because it's just full of sad, sad news.  It started as soon as I woke up and checked facebook.  2 of my favorite high school teachers have been let go after nearly 20 years of service to the school.  It's deplorable really.  They were (are) two of the best teachers I've ever had, and I know among all alumni who knew them, the feeling is mutual.  They taught at Ladywood High School, an all-girls Catholic school in Michigan.  I only attended Ladywood during my freshman and sophomore years.  I don't have too many fond memories of my time there.  But my classes with "Ms. J" - Mrs Juanita Moore-Jefferies and Mr. Bob Bartone are among the good ones.

I only had 1, 1/2 year class with Mr. Bartone - Contemporary American History.  The class was good because the content was interesting - WWI to the present.  But the class was awesome because Mr. Bartone was the teacher.  He was this perpetually grumpy, beatles & pink floyd-loving, "damn the man", vietnam vet.  I remember this great lecture he did about Nixon swearing a lot and how the papers had to continuously insert the phrase "expletive deleted" into their quotes.  He had an orange construction barrel wearing a fez, just hanging out in the classroom.  He kept a Moon Pie tacked to the chalkboard.  He made the class interesting because he lived it and he shared his own stories.  We listened to Sgt. Pepper while taking our tests.  Honestly, one of the best classroom experiences I've ever had.

Ms. J was...I don't know what else to say but Ms. J was an angel.  Fitting, because she was the director of the Angelic Chorale.  People who couldn't sing a note took choir because they wanted a class with Ms. J.  After I left, she also took over the orchestra.  She loved music and she loved to help us make the best music we could.  It was a catholic school, so we sang a lot of hymns, but we got to sing them Sister Act style.  When I started choir at Ladywood, I loved singing.  I was ok - I had done choir in elementary and middle school and at church.  I had gotten solos and cantored.  But my teachers and directors always had the same direction for me - I had to sing out.  I was this meek, shy little singer who didn't know how to use my chest voice or project my head voice.  Enter Ms. J.  She got it out of me.  She found my voice.  She re-enforced my love for singing because she made me better.  And she didn't just help the girls who already knew how to sing.  I remember a senior during my freshman year, who got almost every solo, was the lead in the musicals, was just this awesome, awesome singer.  I wanted to be her.  Then she dropped the bomb.  When she joined choir her freshman year, she was completely tone deaf.  Couldn't sing a note.  Ms. J taught her how to sing and gave her such a beautiful gift.  And she wasn't just a great teacher.  She was a great person.  She loved all of us as if we were her own children.  Many students looked at her like another Mother.

The love and respect that their former students have for these two teachers is more than apparent today on facebook.  Posts on their walls, posts tagging them telling them what inspirations they've been, calls to action for alumni.  I hope they both know what an impact they've made on so many lives.  How lucky we've all been to have had them as teachers.  Thinking about them makes me happy, thinking of the future Ladywood students who won't get the same experience makes me really angry.  I hope those Felicians knew what they were getting into when they made this decision...

Then of course later this morning, the news broke that Dr. Maya Angelou had died.  What a loss for the whole world.  I have always heard about her and her writings and her life, but I've never actually read much of it myself.  I will say with absolute certainty that after today, I am buying and reading her book I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings immediately.  I have been immersing myself in her poetry and quotes today and am feeling terrible that I didn't do this sooner.  What a smart, beautiful, profound, inspiring woman - someone we can all look up to and admire.  Rest In Peace, Phenomenal Woman.

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you? 
Why are you beset with gloom? 
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you? 
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
  I rise. 
Dr. Maya Angelou
4/4/1928 - 5/28/2014


  1. I'm so sorry about your teachers but it sounds like they've both impacted so many people and done so much good as teachers.
    Maya Angelou's death is a huge loss, she was a beautiful human being.

  2. I am so sorry about your teacher's! But it sounds like they had a profound impact on your life! You are going to love the book and her work. Bring tissues! This is my favorite poem of hers as well. Hope your day today is much more bright!

    1. Thanks, Keila. And yes - today has more than made up for yesterday!