Sunday, November 10, 2013

Getting Back to Faith & Trust

When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I teach in the English departments at Indiana University South Bend and Indiana Tech by day, but by night...I'm a writer.  What I mean when I say that is that writing is what I identify with.  It's who I am.  It's not only what I do but it's how I express myself, and every poem or piece I write contains a piece of me.  I'm an introvert, and it isn't easy for me (or any introvert, for that matter) to express myself to other people, but through writing, I feel like I can do almost anything.  It's the way I cope with and see the world.  It's a part of me. 

And this is why I'm writing today.  My heart has been so heavy lately and I finally asked myself why I haven't been writing it all out.  After all, it's my coping mechanism.  Lately, I can't help but feel like I'm on I'm expecting something bad to happen.  Like the world isn't fair.  Like I've been cheated.

I know so many people are going through so many horrible and devastating things in their lives right now.  I know that, in the grand scheme of things, I have no right to complain about my life.  But I'm going to put all this out there with the hope that it will help me see some positivity and light in situations that I have felt very sad about.  I know God can bring us through something terrible and show us something brilliant in the end.  He's done it before, and I'm trying to remember that he's working now.

When I was 17 years old, my father almost died in a serious accident - an accident that my then 9-year-old brother witnessed.  As you can guess, I coped with the situation of watching my once strong father deteriorate both physically and mentally and my young, sweet brother's brain affected by the horrors of trauma by writing.  The doctors gave my father a 1% chance of survival, but God brought us through that and he survived.  But nothing has ever been the same.  My dad just had his third spinal surgery this past Monday, 7 years after the original accident and he continues to struggle with a multitude of health issues.  My father survived the unsurvivable, and I thank God every single day that we still have him with us.  But why do things like that have to happen to begin with?  Why did my sweet brother have to struggle through years of reliving that trauma?  Why did we all have to watch my father spend months in the hospital in rehabilitation for a broken neck, back, and traumatic brain injury?  Why do we have to watch him suffer through epilepsy? 

I often think of my father when I think of what happened with my grandmother this past summer.  My grandmother was an amazing woman and one of my most precious friends in the whole world.  I could tell her anything.  She had been sick for quite some time, and on July 31st, 2013, she passed away in the same hospital my dad was in when he had his accident, just a few rooms away from where we watched over him and prayed for healing in 2006.  It wasn't one of those situations where the hospital called to tell us that she had passed.  As a family, we had to make the decision to stop life support.  We arrived at the hospital around 9:30pm on the 30th and she was taken off life support shortly after.  What followed was an excruciating night of watching my grandmother's vitals slowly drop off until she stopped breathing around 5:35 early the following morning.  I held her hand and was surrounded by my mother, my uncle, my husband, and my brother (the same one that witnessed my dad's accident).  It was one of the most awful experiences of my life.  Nobody should ever have to see anything like that and, honestly, I don't think I've fully coped with it yet.  I keep telling myself that I'm too young to already have a grandparent gone.  My grandma Nancy was the best grandma in the world.  I miss her.  I miss her stories.  I miss our talks.  I just wish I had had more time with her. 

There are very few people I can truly talk to in this world (one of the side effects of being an introvert).  But there are/were always three people I could count on - my husband, my grandma, and my best friend, Dee.  Dee and I grew up together.  We went to college together, roomed together for four years in college, and moved in together after we graduated.  We have been through it all together.  We have taken the most amazing trips together.  She was the maid of honor in my wedding.  She is more than a friend, she is my sister.  And this past year has been heartbreaking for her.  In April, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  She had three major brain surgeries in the months of April and May to alleviate pressure and remove the portions of the tumor they could get to, but her prognosis is not what we were all hoping for.  I can't possibly imagine what she is feeling through all this, but her strength has been absolutely astonishing.  Her faith in God has not wavered once.  In fact, her reliance on and faith in God has grown through this.  I wish I could grasp that level of faith.  I desperately pray for God to take away her illness, to make her well again, to let her have her old life back.  It's the same desperation I felt with my dad and my grandma.  That selfish desperation that something is being taken away from me.  My heart breaks daily when I think of what has happened to her.

But when did I stop believing in God's plan and have more faith in my own?  When did I stop fully trusting him and his ultimate plan?  God wasn't surprised by any of the things that have happened in my life.  He's got it under control.  He loves me and he loves my dad, my grandma, and Dee. 

So how can I get that faith back?  That trust?  How can I stop feeling like everything that matters to me in this world will be taken away by illness, accidents, etc?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Bouncing Back

Since I haven't been able to write or type, this is my first time back on the blog in awhile.  This summer has been an eventful one.  To start, I had surgery on July 9th to fuse a joint in my hand (the damaged joint was caused from an incident that happened when I was in high school).  I was having some issues so I went back to see my surgeon (I had already had three surgeries on it to begin with) and found out that the bone didn't heal correctly. 

So the next thing I know, I have a plate, three screws, and a pin in my thumb MCP joint.  It was a rough recovery.  I had a cast for a few weeks, was put in a splint for a month, and I just went back to see my surgeon last Friday to see how everything was healing up.  He took me out of the splint just in enough time for me to head back to work next week.  The incision is still healing up and my hand is very sore, but I'm working on getting it back to being functional again.

After I had my surgery, I spent two weeks with my parents.  My brother was home for the summer and could help me during the day since Justin had to work everyday until 5:30.  Being on so many pain meds drained my energy, but I was able to spend some quality time with my little brother and go to lots of baseball games.  Needless to say, I missed my husband and was happy to get home to him after I had my sutures and first cast removed.

My heart has been very heavy the past few weeks following the passing of my grandmother.  She passed away on July 31st, but I was able to be there with her when she went to meet Jesus.  She had been sick for a very long time and I know she is at peace, but I am missing her so much.  She was truly an amazing woman and I am better for having known her.

All of my writing and submitting paid off this summer as I had three of my poems accepted for publication at various magazines.  The first poem appeared in the July edition of Crack the Spine Magazine and two more will appear in the Eunoia Review around January!  I'm so excited about this opportunity!!!  Now that I have a little mobility back, I can get back to my writing.  (It will be a miracle if I have time to write this week because I have to finish prepping for going back to teaching - school starts Monday!)

So did I mention I graduated with my masters degree!?  That means I won't be going back to school this year as a student, but as a lecturer in the department of English, and that makes me happy. :) 

Friday, June 28, 2013

More on Summer

Despite walking at the graduation ceremony in May, my technical graduation (when they send me my diploma) doesn't happen until August.  This is because I'm still finishing up my thesis, the huge project at the end of your masters that you must complete to graduate.  IU South Bend's English MA program offers two concentrations to their students - literature and creative writing.  Mine, of course, was creative writing.  Most students completing a creative writing thesis do so by writing a novella, a collection of short stories, or a collection of poetry.  I decided I wanted to write a "narrative collage." 

This is really a fabricated term for a genre where authors combine imagery with written text.  My "narrative collage" developed into a story about a girl caring for her younger brother as told through small columns of written text and anatomical images and diagrams.  Back in April, I proposed my idea to a committee in the English department, they approved it, and I began working on what would become an 85-page project.  I also had to complete a "context essay" to accompany my project discussing the history of the genre and my writing process while working on the project.  That came out around 22 pages.  Both have been read over by my committee and approved to move on to the next step - my defense.  Thankfully, this will happen much sooner than I anticipated.  I'm scheduled to "defend" my thesis next Tuesday (July 2nd) and if all goes well, I will officially be finished with my masters degree.

I am excited to return to teaching this fall as a non-student.  Juggling teaching and graduate school wasn't always easy, and I'm glad that I'll be able to put all my energy into teaching this upcoming semester.  And I'm definitely glad to have this summer free as I will need the healing time. 

After an injury back in 2006 (long story), I have had three surgeries on my hand to restore function and mobility.  Unfortunately, it's never really gotten any better and after seeing several doctors in the area who suggested treatment options that didn't help, I decided to return to my original doctor/surgeon two hours away.  To make a long story short, I'm having surgery on July 9th to fuse the MCP joint in my hand.  This will eliminate all of the problems I've been having over the years (my last surgery was in 2008)!  Although I'm not overly enthused about having yet another surgery and spending my summer vacation in a cast, I will be so happy when it's all healed up and I can return to normal life. 

Today is Friday!  That means it's date night for Justin and I.  I'm going to try to get some writing done before he gets home and finish prepping for my defense on Tuesday.  Wish me luck!

By the way, did I mention Vampire Weekend's new album is amazing!?  Go listen to it!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Music & Writing

This summer has been a productive one so far.  I made a promise to myself that I would focus on writing this summer and I've stuck to it.  Aside from writing a bunch of new poetry, I've been submitting to various literary journals and magazines in an attempt to get published.  I'm also compiling a file of what I see as my "best" poetry for possible poetry collection submissions later on to some smaller presses. 

I've definitely been in writing mode this past month and I've been loving it.  I've got a stack of journals that I carry around with me in case an idea pops up in my head at any given moment.  And I've got some nice pens (a writer always needs a nice pen).  I've been typing everything up, revising, and then looking for literary journals that fit my writing style.  The Poets & Writers website ( has been EXTREMELY helpful during this process.  They have numerous databases that list every small press and literary magazine/journal you could think of. 

Apart from writing, I've been trying to catch up on my reading list and have been trying to expand my music library.  (It always helps me to listen to good music when I'm looking for ideas for writing or just needing to get into writing mode).  My current music obsessions?  Vampire Weekend, Benjamin Gibbard, The Black Keys, fun, Foster the People...and the list goes on.  I've also become a collector of vinyls.  Justin and I went to Urban Outfitters the other day and they have an amazing selection of vinyls featuring new artists.  Too bad they go for $25 or more when I can stock up on classic artists at vintage shops for much less! 

I managed to pick up a Dean Martin vinyl yesterday at the Salvation Army (my husband is a huge fan of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis Jr.).  I've never visited the scary looking Salvation Army in downtown South Bend, but it was actually very cool.  Not only did they have a ton of records to sort through, but they had a ton of typewriters.  (Unfortunately they were all electric).  I'm looking to collect a few vintage typewriters.  Does anyone out there have one to donate to a new writer?

On top of everything else this summer, Justin and I did our first official DJ gig at a wedding reception a couple weekends ago.  We are looking to actually get into it as a side business.  If you are interested or know anyone that is interested, let us know!  We are affordable and work hard to make sure every detail of the reception is perfect.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

On Writing & Friendship

As my husband started a new job at the beginning of May, I chose to take the summer to focus on my writing.  If you know me very well, you know that writing is my passion.  I want to be an established writer, so I decided to focus this summer on submitting my writing to various literary journals and to continue expanding my writing portfolio.  I'm proud to say that I've been submitting like crazy and try to write something new on a daily basis.  I've also tried to expand my writing skills and have been focusing on writing some fiction and short stories alongside my poetry.  It's been a good summer so far, but all that time spent alone writing gives me a lot of time to think. 

One thing that has been on my mind not only this summer, but this entire year, has been my best friend, Dee.  As I wrote in my last blog post, she has been dealing with a brain tumor for the past year and just recently had three major brain surgeries.  Dee is such an outgoing, bubbly person that it has been so hard for me to watch her go through all this for the past year. 

Dee and I met when we were in the seventh grade and have been inseparable since then.  I remember the day she asked me what college I had decided to go to.  I told her IUSB and she said she had never heard of it but that she was going to go there so that we could go through college together.  She's always been so fun and spontaneous.  We roomed together all through our college years and then got an apartment together after graduation.  She was my maid of honor in my wedding.  Honestly, I think we are sisters that were switched at birth.  (Oddly enough, we were born at the same hospital three weeks apart). 

And on Tuesday Dee traveled to Indianapolis with her mom and step dad to have a checkup with her neurosurgeon.  Her step dad called me after the appointment to give me some very sad news about Dee's prognosis.  I am completely heartbroken after hearing the news, but I am still relying on God and trying to stay positive and hopeful.  I talked with Dee on Tuesday night and hearing her positivity and faithfulness is truly inspirational.  I am praying and I hope you will join me in praying for a miraculous healing for Dee.  I have faith that God is in control and am praying boldly for a miracle. 

I've learned to never take any day for granted and to appreciate every moment you get to spend with the ones you love.  I'm thankful for the time I have this summer to focus on my writing and also for the time I get to spend with my family and friends.   

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Wow, it's been a long time since I've updated my blog.  A lot has happened in the past few months (the last time I wrote was at the end of January).  First of all, I recently graduated with my masters degree!  I remember two years ago when I was walking across the stage at my graduation for my bachelors degree thinking "I'll be back here in two years!"  And those two years flew by and here I am - finally graduated after two long, hard years of graduate work.  Justin graduated, as well!  He now has his bachelors degree.  It was an amazing night for us to share together and they even made a special announcement about us as "husband and wife graduating together" at commencement.  And did I mention that Justin is starting graduate school in the fall!?  And I'm starting to look into PhD programs even though I promised myself I would enjoy some time off from school.  (Western Michigan University is looking very enticing though...)  I'll just have to see where things go.  I don't think Justin and I will ever slow down!

I also just finished up my first year of teaching college English.  I'm not going to lie, it was a tough first year.  I definitely had to fight my introverted, social-anxiety personality and branch out as a public speaker.  Between going to school full-time, managing a home life, and teaching, it got a little crazy at times.  But I'm proud to say I made it through my first year and will be returning in the fall as an experienced professor (and as an MA)! 

I won another poetry award at IU South Bend this year in the English Department Writing Awards.  After being at IUSB as a student for six years, I am going to miss it, especially my graduate program.  We were such a small, tight-knit English-loving group and I will miss every bit of it.  (Although not having to worry about homework has been nice...)

School/teaching is over for the summer and I am lucky enough to have the summer off until school starts back up in the fall.  So far, I've been enjoying watching my little brother, Tyler, play on the varsity baseball team at his high school.  (I'm so proud of that kid!)  Justin started a new job about three weeks ago and works from 8:30 to 5:00, so I keep busy during the day by focusing on my writing and trying to work on my painting skills.  I've also made several trips to the library and am enjoying reading and writing on my comfy front porch when the weather is nice.  Life is good!

On top of everything else that has been going on, my sister (not biological, but we have been attached at the hip since we were kids) was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Deanne had been misdiagnosed three different times in the past year by several different doctors and it was really hard to hear that she had a brain tumor.  I didn't take it well, but I've been praying to and relying on God for peace of mind.  Deanne has been handling it tremendously.  I went to Indianapolis with her for her two initial surgeries back at the end of April and stayed with her at the hospital.  She had a shunt put in to relieve pressure and then a brain biopsy taken in a separate surgery and then two weeks later was back to have the tumor removed.  It's been so hard to see her in the state that she is in because she is such an enthusiastic and vibrant young woman, but she is making progress beyond what I thought was possible at this point in time.  Her faith and perseverance are inspiring and I can't wait for her to get back to being her normal self.  I love her with all my heart and can't wait to have my sister back.

I am really enjoying this time to just focus on things that I'm normally too busy for.  I get to spend quality time with my husband in the evenings and on the weekends not have to worry about homework.  I get to read and write for pleasure and take note of the little things in life.  Did I mention my husband and I have been married for seven months!?  Where did the time go??  I am thankful for him everyday and the life we share together. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chocolate and Flowers

February is coming up!  It might sound funny, but February is my favorite (and busiest) time of year.  My birthday is the 10th and Justin always has something fun and exciting planned to make my birthday special.  Right after my birthday is Valentine's Day!  I love Valentine's Day.  I actually have class until 8:00pm on Valentine's Day - to skip or not to skip?  Then after Valentine's Day is Justin's birthday.  He is turning 25 this year!  It's hard for me to believe we are that old already (although I will only be 24 on my birthday this year) since Justin was only 20 when I met him.  Can't believe how fast the time goes, but I'm glad I've been able to spend it with him.

School has already been in session for a month.  (That means I'm one month closer to graduation!)  My last two classes of my graduate career are going well and I ordered cap and gown packages for Justin and I for graduation!  Teaching has been going great, as well.  I feel so much more prepared this semester after teaching two classes last semester.  The first batch of papers will be coming in from my class next week so it's back to grading for me.

Things are getting busy this weekend.  Justin and I are leaving tomorrow to go with our bible study group to a winter retreat in southern Indiana.  He is singing and playing guitar in the worship band there so I am very excited to see him play.  I have a feeling it's going to be a great weekend - working on a service project, enjoying fellowship, and meeting new people. 

We will come back from the retreat on Sunday and then Justin and I are headed to Fort Wayne and back on Monday, probably stopping in Warsaw to have dinner with my parents on the way back.  (And then we'll be back in Warsaw the following weekend to celebrate our birthdays with my family.)  Like I said, I love this time of year.  Who doesn't love birthdays and holidays that involve chocolate and flowers?

Until next time, I'll be trying to fight my lack of motivation to do anything school related.  Graduation is almost here!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hot Cup of Tea

I'm sitting here drinking a steaming cup of tea and contemplating how to make my presentation (due tomorrow) for my New Zealand literature class (weird, I know) more interesting.  Each of us in the class was assigned a particular aspect of New Zealand culture to research and present for this week and I'm doing mine on moko, traditional Maori tattooing.  Why am I taking a New Zealand literature class, you might ask?  I have no idea.  I just know this is my last semester and I needed a class to fulfill my final requirement.

This past week has gone by in a blur.  My best friend came up from Fort Wayne last Friday so we could celebrate her 24th birthday (which is actually today).  We had breakfast for dinner at Nick's Patio, got frozen yogurt at Urban Swirl, went to see "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" at the movies, and finished off the night with drinks at Granite City.  (The movie was fantastic, by the way.  I highly recommend it).  The two of us went for an early breakfast the next morning before she had to head back to Fort Wayne and had one of our awesome conversations that we usually have.  I'm very thankful for our friendship.  Oh, and happy birthday!

This week is the second week of the semester and I'm already experiencing severe graduate senior-itis.  May can't come soon enough!  I'm so excited that Justin and I will be walking together at graduation; it's amazing that we get to share that experience together.  Now to just finish these last couple months off strong.  I'm still waiting to hear back from my project director about my proposal (for my independent writing project to graduate).  In the meantime, I'm working on lesson plans for teaching and trying to stay focused on the reading and homework I need to get done for my classes. 

My grandmother has been very sick lately and has been between the hospital and the nursing home the past few months.  She actually started getting sick the day of my wedding (back in October) and wasn't able to make it.  It was hard for me that she wasn't able to be there because we are very close, but I just wanted her to get better.  She's been in and out of the hospital since then and went into a nursing home for the first time during this period.  It's been difficult for me to see her health decline, especially since she keeps getting worse despite all of the treatments she has been receiving.  If you can, please pray for this situation.

Tomorrow is my last work/school day of the week and then it's time to catch up on reading and homework again.  I'm proud to say the New Years goals I've made for myself are coming along nicely. 

Now I just need to finish this presentation on New Zealand.  Ugh.  At least a cup of tea makes everything better.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Back to School

My winter break started at the beginning of December and officially ended today.  It was a long, much-needed break after the chaos of last semester and I appreciated the extra time off to reconnect with my husband, myself, and the things I love.  (One of the perks of working where you go to school is having a nice, long winter break.  Now what to do over spring break??)  Last semester was filled with remodeling our apartment, moving, planning a wedding, getting married, going on our honeymoon, and teaching two classes, so needless to say, I rarely had the free time to enjoy the little things.

I vowed to make winter break a time of reconnecting with the things I missed out on last semester amongst the craziness of life.  Firstly, our bedroom at our cozy apartment is by far my favorite room at our place.  The orange walls that I picked out, artwork, and bookshelf stocked with my favorite works and authors are just a few of the things that make our bedroom my safe haven.  Many nights during winter break, I escaped to the coziness of our room to read a good book (including the books my hubby got me for Christmas) or flip through a magazine.  If I wasn't in the mood to read, I was in my art studio throwing something together or blogging from the comfort of my bed. 

I definitely needed a break from school.  My brain was overloaded from all of the end-of-the-semester grading and paper writing, but I still managed to take my journal with me everywhere and write whenever I had a spark of inspiration.  Even though winter break was an amazing time for me to be creative and spend time enjoying my husband and the comfort of our home, I was glad to get back to work and school today. 

Teaching went well today and I think I have a great group of students this semester.  (One of my students says she loves Pokemon - what's not to love about that!?)  I am very happy to have teaching experience under my belt going into this semester.  While I was still slightly nervous today (as I always am the first time I get up in front of a class), I felt more prepared and knew exactly what changes to make this semester to make the class's learning experience and my teaching experience go much smoother.

I had my first graduate class of my last semester of graduate school this evening!  It seems like just yesterday that I was applying to various grad schools and now I am a few months away from graduating.  I couldn't be happier.  I keep looking into PhD programs in my free time, but I know the timing isn't right.  I need some time away from school after I graduate.  After all, I've been going full-time since I was five.

It's been a good start to the semester.  I'm married, I'm an experienced teacher, and I'm almost finished with my masters degree.  I feel so blessed.  And I found a great online ASL program and am on my way to learning to sign!  My New Years resolution is underway. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2013!  This is the year I will graduate with my masters, Justin will graduate with his bachelors, we will celebrate our 1-year anniversary, etc.  2012 was an amazing year for Justin and I and I can't wait to see what God has in store for us in 2013. 

I've been enjoying our long winter break so much.  I've loved being able to spend quality time with my husband and catch up on the things I normally don't have time for during the semester.  Justin got me several Stephen King books for Christmas (my favorite!) and I've been reading whenever I get a chance.  Relaxing, sleeping in, shopping, and not having to worry about homework have been some other great things I've been enjoying about break thus far. 

Justin and I celebrated our first Christmas together as a married couple by spending time with his family in Granger and visiting my family in Warsaw.  My grandma has been in the hospital in Mishawaka so we have spent quite a bit of time around here, as well.  I had the flu over Christmas but Justin still managed to get me to the movie theatre to see Quentin Tarantino's new film, Django Unchained

My little brother, Tyler, was able to come stay with us a couple days ago and we had a blast.  We made our traditional trip to the mall to buy our favorite candies from Inside Scoop, picked up some snacks at the grocery store, went bowling (where Tyler beat us!), watched movies, and played video games.  I was sad when he had to go back home; I wish we could spend more time with him.

Last night, we rang in the New Year at a party at our house.  Lowell and Katie hosted a New Years Eve celebration for friends and family and we played games and ate lots of food.  (Justin had a serious sugar hangover when he woke up this morning.  Someone needed to cut him off from the candy!)  We shared a kiss at midnight and enjoyed our first New Years together as Mr. and Mrs. Samson.

School and work starts back up again in a week.  I'm teaching one class this semester, taking two graduate classes, and completing my independent writing project to graduate.  It will be busy, but I'm so looking forward to achieving my goal of getting my masters degree. 

I've been contemplating New Years resolutions the past couple weeks and have come up with a few I'd like to stick to.  For one, I want to learn American Sign Language this year.  As a hearing impaired individual, I've never learned sign language but it has always been a goal of mine to communicate with other hard-of-hearing people.  Now I just have to find a program/website that will help me achieve my goal.  Any suggestions?