Midterms & Chronic Illness

I just wrote the following blog post (yes we blog in my digital history class) to my classmates:

If this was my actual blog, I would be a big cheerleader and tell everyone how wonderful they did. So I’m going to a little off the book here and tell everyone how wonderful they did. I thought each of the projects were unique and exciting. I thought each of the projects showed that there are distinct interests and personalities in our classroom, and that excites me. I think there were so many interesting takes on how we were meant to interpret our assignment here. I think group work has its place alongside individual work, when done correctly, and I think these proposals were examples of how it can be done well. Literally all of them were something I was interested in in some way, shape, or form (especially the Korean War- because my grandfather fought there, and I happened to read it first).

As for the individual proposals, again, I want to be a cheerleader here. I get to spend the rest of my week telling students what they need to work on. As everyone has such different interests, I think it is so cool to see the different interpretations of this project assignment and I am so excited to see what everyone comes up with at the end of the semester. As we’ve been talking this semester about different ways to use digital media to enhance your work or spread it to wider audiences, I thought it was really neat to see different ways that everyone in class wanted to go about forming their idea, researching their topic, and creating their product. Although let me not lie, you all may me feel a little inadequate that my idea was not as well formed as yours were. So keep doing awesome.

Here is what I wanted to actually write, considered sending it to my thesis advisor/professor of the class/head of the department (he wears all the hats and survives- you go, Shapiro, go), then realized it doesn’t make a different:

If this was my actual blog, I would be honest here. One of the biggest consistencies I push on my blog is vulnerability. So that’s where I’m going to go this week. Reading everyone’s project proposals I don’t feel like I’m anywhere close to what everyone else has prepared. On my blog, I’ve been honest about my struggles with my health issues, and the last week has been the most difficult, as I had some serious tests done, and I’m waiting for the results to come back- it could be nothing, but it could be something. It also has made me question what I want to do with my life if it is “something.” I’ve wanted my masters for years. And some of you in this classroom are busting your ass for it. I want to be at that level. But I don’t really know what to do to get there. And I’m struggling to juggle all the stuff I do have on my plate. So this is me sharing. This is me saying yall kicked this assignment’s butt, and I am so proud of you, and telling Nick thanks for helping me when my first draft contribution to ours wasn’t up to par. If this was one of my students in my situation, I would tell them to ask for help from their colleagues and from me, so here I am; how do you do it?

I don’t want to be the whiny person. I don’t want to quit. But I am also overwhelmed. I don’t know how to finish this one strong. I don’t know how to do ALL the things. Venting here. 

 

Who have you become, America? Who will you become?

*trigger warning: assault*
When the letter accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct came out I thought that there’s no way we will move forward with this man as a potential for the Supreme Court…. and then we did and that’s where my disappointment has stemmed from for weeks. I have tried as a teacher, and when I was a public figure in the Miss America organization to keep my mouth closed, and I have finally read enough arguments on Facebook that I can no longer do so. This will be my last statement on the issue. Any negative comments will be deleted.

My social media from this point forward will not address political issues unless they are positive it will be used to talk about my volunteerism which is a big part of my life, to talk about family and friends, and clearly to talk about my excitement for my upcoming wedding next summer to my sweet, handsome Caleb.

I do reserve the right to unfriend any family or friends who choose to continue the discussion over Brett Kavanaugh’s accusations against his sexual misconduct.

Now let me pause there, I know this unfriending business is a sensitive subject for some people…and I’ve seen this increasingly particularly on Facebook lately. I actually see posts about it in more being a sensitive subject for generations older than me. I get being unfriended or uninvited or whatever can be upsetting, however, I do think that everybody has a right to unfriend somebody. Just as everyone has their own opinions. I have actually in the last few weeks unfriended some family members and friends, myself because of some of the stuff they have said has been very reminiscent of what I encountered in the first few months of coming forward about the assault I dealt with in high school and it has been a little triggering for me. it’s been very upsetting to me and so I didn’t want to continue to read those things. 

Now when I created my social media it was with the purpose of seeing friends and family‘s post about babies, dogs, you know, what they’re doing with their lives, not their political opinions so I will go ahead and say that I have gone full-blown political the last few weeks was never my intention; but it seems to me that that’s the only way to get into a few thick skulls (sorry if that’s offensive to you, probably lost people right there but that’s what it is). I do think however that no political candidate is ever going to read your Facebook post or your Instagram post. They do not care. If you want to change a congress member’s opinion write them a letter, give them a call, that is the way you make the change; this post is not for them, this is for you who are reading it on my Facebook list or whoever they’ve shared it to.

So let me jump into the meat of the argument. I think quite a few of you already know where I stand on this. It’s been very difficult for me to be non-partisan on the Brett Kavanaugh accusations of sexual misconduct. I’m a social studies teacher and I should be non-partisan but this one’s really tough for me because we already have a President in office who has been accused of sexual misconduct, that we still put in office and now he is trying to put someone on the Supreme Court to make decisions for us nationally who also is being accused of sexual misconduct, and it’s not only of one woman it’s now, I believe up to, what four women, so that’s not just one woman seeking to further herself. I just lost some of you, but I promise this is not a rant on Trump. This has a legitimate point.  

So if you read my Facebook post, you know I have already made the argument that women do not come for sexual accusations in this type of arena for fame. Take for example the Larry Nassar or the Bill Cosby accusations or even Kevin Spacey. Men and women who have come forward are not getting fame for this; I’m willing to bet that you can’t name the women and men who are coming forward with these accusations; I’m willing to bet without googling it, you cannot name five of Bill Cosby’s accusers and he’s been convicted recently.  The only reason that you may be able to name more than a few of Larry Nassar’s survivors of his assault and molestation women is because they already had fame these women picked themselves up and kept moving forward and were able to achieve amazing things but they didn’t get there because they came forward and said “Hey, Larry Nassar did this to me and I want him put away.” Their achievement had nothing to do with that; they had already achieved their moment in the spotlight it was not about getting fame for them and that’s not what Christine Blasey Ford is doing. She already has a career, she already has the money, she already has her degrees.

So my question to everyone who has argued well why didn’t she come forward sooner is: if it was you, if it was your son, daughter, or your cousin, or your aunt, uncle, mother, father, whoever it is that you value most in your life, would you force them to come forward, if they were uncomfortable doing so? Which clearly Dr. Ford was not comfortable at the time. She was embarrassed. She was scared, which most victims whether male or female are at the time. Even the statistics from the National Assault Hotline/RAINN say that most people who were calling in I have not told someone before. I’m one of those people. When I came forward two years after my assault it was the first time that I had chosen to talk about it since it happened. I had told one person and I didn’t use the word assault at the time. I didn’t say what he had done to me. I said he did something I didn’t want him to do and do not ever tell anybody. The whole reason I did not come forward at the time is the questions and victim blaming I knew I would get, and I then got when I finally did come forward. The questions most victims are asked, that I was asked, is exactly what we’re pulling today, it is exactly what you people are putting on social media right now about Dr. Ford and it’s disgusting. 

I don’t care what it a male or female had on, how drunk they were or were not, if they had ever had contact with the assailant, or if the assault was at random. For the record: tennis shoes, jeans, sweatshirt, I did know him, and he had no right to lay a finger on me. It is never a victim-survivor’s (whatever term you want to use) fault and how dare any of you blame this woman of it being her fault or her seeking fame, you all are enablers.

The next piece of the argument I want to address is that Mr. Kavanaugh is innocent until proven guilty. That’s fine. But someone who is innocent would have said from the get-go to do an investigation because you will find nothing. Which that has been Mr. Kavanagh’s last resort which tells me that something is not right. “If something does not feel right, something is not right.” if Mr. Kavanagh does truly believe that he is innocent he doesn’t act like it and the fact he has allowed the attacks on Dr. Ford continues to prove to me that he is not innocent, or he at least is not a reputable man who cares nothing about anyone but himself and his own pocket/power/reputation.

Now. Maybe I’m sensitive because I had this argument about a year ago with someone that survivors are not actually talked about it, that the result is nobody knows; but let me tell you people knew, even though I didn’t talk about it, he told people that I had done things with him, that I had not done by choice, and I just kept my mouth shut, I knew I would be victim blamed, and rumors were spread about me. I kind of now equivocate it in my mind to like on “13 reasons why” if you’ve watched that show. So for me, in my head, Mr. Kavanagh is pretty similar to that kind of situation so if he was innocent he would lay this to rest and do so in a respectful way of Dr. Ford insaid of letting her reputation as a woman be blown to shit.

Now I do understand that Mr. Kavanagh may believe in his head he is innocent and he wants the respect of his family and his children and wants this justice position. I’ve got that. But if he is this “respectable man” that you all believe that he is he would help this woman through this time, help her find who did actually assaulted her (use that law degree, boo boo), he would lay this to rest, he would go through the investigation he would prove to his family that he is, in fact, innocent instead of continuing the barrage of misconduct against Dr. Ford and her psyche.

I also cannot bring myself to believe that Dr. Ford is just out to get Kavanaugh when she sent the letter a year ago. She tried a year ago to prevent this entire incident when he was on the shortlist. Ours being the rape culture that we live in she was ignored, now she’s being questioned, now she’s being blamed, instead of being believed as a survivor who has a dealt with this in silence and alone for almost 4 decades that’s indicative to me of the direction that our country is headed. And it’s not the direction I want to go in.

As a teacher, as a female, as an active citizen, as someone who has believed in the American ideals and in the American dream for her 25 years I’m scared for the direction our country is headed. Because I know that we can do better.

I know that there were issues when we are founded. I know that there were things that our founding fathers did that we would prefer not to talk about. I know that there are things that have gone on in our 242 year history that we would prefer not to talk about as a country, that we have worked as a country to correct. I know that there are things as a country we are still working on; but as someone who believes in what this country can be, Brett Kavanaugh is not the answer.

Our founding fathers created us to be a republic, that included a representative democracy, (if you don’t know what it means, please tell stop by my Civics class and I’ll explain, seriously). That means this country chose Donald J Trump as our president whether I disagree with that choice or not. That means our military fights for the right for me to write this post, for Colin Kaepernick to kneel in front of the American flag during the national anthem, for Donald Trump to violate Twitter user policy literally every day. 

For me to continue to believe in this country we cannot put another man who committed a crime of sexual assault on our Supreme Court. We did it almost 30 years ago but I will not stand for it a second time. I had nothing to do with who was elected or appointed in the 1990s because I was not born. I have a say so now. I have a voice. I intend to use it. This will not stand for.

I am devastated by the rape culture that has been created in our country. I am devastated at my own treatment. I am devastated at the treatment of women I have gone to high school, church, college, with. I am devastated at the treatment of women I have worked with. I’m devastated at the treatment of some of my own family members and friends. I am completely and utterly devastated at the treatment of Dr. Ford by my fellow Americans and people on my Facebook and Instagram friend list.

If you wouldn’t want it done to you, if you had had a man or woman do that to you don’t do it to her, don’t do it to any other survivor. I’ve seen people say how Ford is somebody’s mom, friend, daughter, but she’s more than that, she is SOMEBODY. I just wish everybody would think about that.

As America wishes to be respected internationally, I hope everyone who is trashing Dr. Ford and praising Brett Kavanaugh and playing into rape culture continues to think about how they are being viewed internationally as well, because I can only imagine what people in other countries will think if we put yet white male sexual assault assailant in power in this country.

Trump had a shortlist for the Supreme Court nomination that Brett Kavanaugh was only one of. If you trust Trump, if you’re conservative, why do you not trust that some other person on that list is also reliable? Why is Brett Kavanaugh the only option to you? Is it just about being right? Or what is the purpose of having this man on the Supreme Court?

I am completely and utterly devastated, I’ve used that word already in this post but that is the only word I have for what I feel in the situation. The other day I caught myself sitting at the gas station unable to drive off because I was literally just crying at what this woman is going through, what she is being put through nationally and it’s phenomenal and not in a good way.

God promises in Psalm 10:14-18, that those who have been attacked will be restored. I fully believe Dr. Ford will have an extra jewel in her crown for standing up for survivors internationally. I am proud of her. It has given me a little bit of extra strength although it has also saddened me beyond compare.

So I’ll end with this: What is the point of having Kavanaugh, is it just “the win?” How are you treating other people? How would you feel if it was someone you loved? What do you want for America?

 

 

P.S. If you’re reading this, as a survivor, and you have been overwhelmed at the barrage of media and the treatment of Dr. Ford….please accept my virtual hug and my whisper that it is in no way, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, your fault. I wish I could tell sixteen-year-old Logan that, so I’m telling 25 year old, Logan, and I’m telling you, whoever you are. I hope you hear me loud and clear.

 

“For the Lord is righteous,
    he loves justice;
    the upright will see his face.” Psalm 11:7

Why “thinking like a teacher” isn’t a bad thing.

Many of you know I’m currently in graduate school. I was over the moon when I got the acceptance letter that the school where I transferred to then completed my undergraduate education to become a TEACHER. I was accepted into their Public History graduate program, after being encouraged for years by a staff member that whenever I was ready, I would definitely succeed.

I felt ready. I felt like I was at a steady place in my career. I felt like I was mature enough to begin this next step. I felt like I had a passion for this area. I had just been honored to earn two scholarships as Miss Capital City through the Miss America Organization at both the Miss Capital City Scholarship Pageant, as well as receiving the Kate Peacock Teaching Fellow Scholarship at the Miss North Carolina Pageant. I had money to start funding the education I wanted to continue to pursue….and that scholarship had the word teaching in it, mind you.

I was so excited to begin my pursuit of my Masters in January. But, to my great disappointment, it hasn’t been what I expected. There have been a lot of issues. One of the biggest being that many times it has seemed that the right-hand does not know what the left is doing at this university. As someone who likes organization, that bothers me. But, I digress from the subject of this post.

The other issue that has stuck out to me is that more than one professor has told me to stop thinking like a teacher and to think like a historian.

I think I can be both. I think I am both. I fully believe that I am an academic, an explorer, a writer, and an educator, simultaneously. And you will not convince me otherwise. *Insert me singing “Defying Gravity” here*

I have been frustrated many times in my education by the things that my professors have told me. But this one has disillusioned me. It has made me question continuing my education.

If you have ever met me, you know that I believe wholeheartedly in who my Creator sculpted me to be. I believe in constructive criticism, sure. But I also don’t believe in changing the core of myself just because someone does not think or feel that way themselves.

So. At the risk of my professor or classmate thinking I’m cocky, let me tell you why you should let me be a teacher and a historian. It can be summed up in one sentence, I’m learning from them too and I can share that knowledge with the historian community, and it will help us grow, but below is also a breakdown,  

  • I can reach a wide audience. I know how to reshape a question, if necessary, to speak to more people and actively engage them in a conversation (my pageant experience is super helpful in this aspect, as well)
  • I know how to scaffold material. It’s part of my training. Again, wider reach. People are increasingly disengaging with history, folks. Why would you push them away because you are doing something they consider too hard?
  • If you can’t teach it to a seven-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself. I am a FIRM believer in this. And I may not be teaching elementary kids, but I know how to break down ideas, and no offense to any of you historians, but some of you do not. Let me help you with that. 
  • I can tell you what is SUPER BORING for them to read, some of your syllabus material, again, no offense, but IT SUCKS. Like, dude, I’m a reader, and I don’t even want to read it. They are not going to read that at any given point. Or show up to your lecture on it. Sorry, not sorry. Let me help you find RELEVANT material on that same subject. Again, I can help.
  • Learn to be the bigger person. Sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes so do you, sometimes so do they. If you treat them badly, correct it, apologize, move forward. Don’t be snooty. It isn’t cute. They can also smell fake from a mile away. I promise.
  • They are the future of America. Help them make it a good future.
  • If you aren’t willing to open up to them, they will not open up to you.
  • I know your future audience, college professor, museum runners, any public historian, or public figure. They are sitting in my classroom or they are friends of the kids in my classroom. Let me tell you about them and their interests and how to engage them. I learn from them every day just like they learn from me.
  • On this same note, do NOT assume because you have a higher degree that you are smarter than them on everything. You aren’t. Sorry.
  • Be willing to mix things up. Lecturing for your entire class every class is boring. Do something different. They all learn differently.
  • I care. This is my human nature. I have a story. So do you. So does everybody. Fill a bucket. Let somebody talk. Tell them you care. Love well. This matters. It’s what I do.

I believe, as much as it saddens me, without changing to value opinions of others, history will die. This is a higher level of disengagement and disinterest. I see it in the classroom. I see it at the college level. I see it at the graduate level- I see it in myself right now, that I want to disengage because of the rudeness of some college and some staff members.

If there isn’t care to make it accessible to all audiences, then it dies. You can disagree, but this is my opinion. And I hope that historians will open their hearts and minds to reach out to audiences they may not have intended to originally and engage wider audiences, but it does not start out by shutting down those who are trying to bring a different (and helpful) perspective. 

 

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Picture after winning Kate Peacock Teaching Fellow Scholarship at Miss North Carolina Scholarship Pageant, June 2017. I was excited to have my teaching excellence recognized, but also to be able to fund the beginning of my graduate education.

#Scholarship, and nonprofit full time volunteerism

 

If you have never heard my story of how my heart for volunteerism developed, I would love to share it with you sometime, maybe even over a cup of coffee; it’s one of my favorite stories to tell, and we all know how I love to talk.

But the point of this story is that I’ve been given the opportunity to do something that has been on my list of aspirations for years.

I have wanted to be an official part of a nonprofit organization, like on the board, not just an occasional volunteer; and I am a strong believer that when God placed a desire in our hearts, He will open the doors to fulfill the desires we just need to be willing to step forward to do our part.

In May, I received an email asking if any Charlotte area Kappa Delta alumnae would like to be part of an event called “Bre Fest.” It was going to be a fundraiser for the Breanna Ringersen Memorial Scholarship which is a 501(c)(3) established scholarship through Kappa Delta, that will ultimately go to an UNCC student.*

God and I wrestled with this decision for a few days. I had only been reinstated to Kappa Delta as an alumna in August. I knew I was transferring schools to teach in the fall. I was beginning an internship for graduate school. I am still battling this (seemingly never-ending) autoimmune disease. (I didn’t know about the upcoming engagement, but God did). But God whispered, “Will you regret it if you say no?” And I knew my answered, so I simply said, “Hey, I’m interested in serving on the committee.”

Now, let me briefly rewind, while trying to keep it brief. I volunteered with 16 nonprofit organizations while I was Miss Capital City 2017, and I set all of those up on my own. So I’ve handled communication to volunteer and then done the volunteerism aspect the day of the event.

I have never been involved in the minutia of the planning of a nonprofit event.

But at the risk of tooting my own horn. Teaching and Miss America have prepared me. and I am LOVING EVERY SECOND.

We’ve had one in person meeting. The rest of communication has been over email and phone- but this is coming together and I am stoked. We went and saw the space on Sunday and the visualization I have of this event now is even more real and exciting.

I have been able to use my communication and networking skills like never before. And it has helped me grow for the future I hope to have professionally, as well. I have sent more emails than I can count.

I am still speechless at the positive responses. I am overwhelmed with the gratitude for every donation. I am also endlessly grateful for the sisters who reached out to include me in this and the fact they’ve let me just run with it.

This is where I want to put in a little plug to the sponsors we’ve confirmed: Nothing But Noodles, the Southern Christmas Show, Howl at the Moon, DogTopia, Lucky Dog Bark and Brew, Pure Pizza, Opera Carolina, Tin Roof, The Comedy Zone, Zootastic Park, the Carolina Renaissance Festival, 704 Shop, Blumenthal Arts, CRIV Boutique, Smoothie King, Tin Roof, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Montford Misfits, Pizza Peel/Improper Pig/Flying Biscuit, Choplin’s, Hype Fitness, and AR Workshop Belmont.

Our in-kind sponsors are: Sunshine Beverages and Domino’s.

Our advertising sponsors are: Beasley Media Group and Orange Barrel Media.

Tickets go on sale to Bre Fest on September 1st. It’s going to be amazing. You should be there.

If you have a business, you should consider being a silent auction donor, monetary donor to the scholarship, or donor for supplies for the day of the event. As a 501(c)(3) any donations are tax-deductible and all sponsors will be promoted leading up to the event and on the day of the event.

The scholarship also stays in the Piedmont because it will go to an UNCC student.

And the last little tidbit of a plug, no matter what you donate, if you can, I promise nobody has ever donated to a great cause and said “Wow, I really regret donating to that philanthropy.”

I am so excited to share this with you guys, and I would love to have you be a part of this special day to honor Bre.

If you have any questions, let me know. Message me, text me, call me, whatever floats your boat! Here’s the link to the website with a little more of Bre’s story: https://brekdscholarship.wixsite.com/1897/donate

*Bre was a Kappa Delta sister at UNCC, who we unexpectedly lost in the fall of 2017. The scholarship was founded in her memory as Kappa Delta honors sisterhood forever and we believe that Bre truly pursued that which is honorable, beautiful, and highest.

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An Open Letter to the School Where I Began My Career

On Friday, May 11, 2018, I accepted an offer from Stuart W. Cramer High School to continue my career as a social studies educator. This means June 2018 will end my time with the school that I grew to love over the last five years of my life. It is the most bittersweet decision of my life thus far.

I fell in love with you, Hunter Huss, from the first time I set foot in the school as a college student. I had been to the school as a high school cheerleader, but from the first time I entered the school as an adult, I knew this is where I wanted to begin my teaching career. I started my time here while completing observations in the social studies department, during my junior year of college. Let me be honest, when I was first assigned my clinical observations here, I was terrified. The reputation you carried to the high school I attended was not one to be cherished. From the moment I began my time here, you opened my eyes to the fact you were not and are not what the community, especially other high schoolers, believe that you are. I told my parents after my first day of completed observations that I could not wait to return here and that I wanted to begin my teaching career here once I graduated.

During the spring semester of my senior year, I repeatedly sent emails to the principal and assistant principals, basically begging just to have a tour. When I was granted a tour, I was also interviewed on the spot by the administration. I was not told if they would even have an opening for me, but I prayed fervently that they would. I interviewed with other schools. I turned down the opportunity to work in the school I did my student teaching in during my senior year. I took a spot on a summer long mission trip. On my first day of actual work with this mission group, I received a phone call not only from Hunter Huss offering me a position but also a very nice school right across the South Carolina border. I then received two more interview requests based on my initial county interview and resume. I prayed nonstop for about 24 hours and talked to some very trusted individuals in my life to ask their Godly advice. On a Friday in May of 2015, I accepted my position with Hunter Huss.

Within weeks I was busy buying supplies for my classroom and began cleaning room C112 out from its previous owner. I began the steps to become a new teacher in Gaston County Schools. I spent time praying over the students that would step through the doorway of my classroom. One bulletin board still has not changed since the design I gave it in early August of 2015, because I was just so happy with the way it turned out. I put the letters on my door to spell “Miss Freeman” and beamed with pride as C112 became my own. C112, you have been home for three years, and when I clean you out in a few weeks, I guarantee you will see tears shed. You have been my retreat when I needed a few moments to breathe in hectic days. You have been the place where relationships have grown with my students. You have hosted meetings. You have seen me push my students. You have seen me cry tears of frustration when things weren’t going as well as I planned or when life’s hardships hit me at the end of the day. You have seen me laugh with my kids. You have seen me get riled up about politics and conspiracies and when I was encouraging them. You have also seen me work a lot of overtime….sweet second home of mine, we have shared many hours together. Thanks, C112, for being the safe place for me to grow as an educator and to learn about myself and my “babies.”

I have been part of the Husky (although yall would spell it Huskie and that will forever kill me slightly) Family officially for almost three years. (May 29 will mark the official day). Some members of this staff will remain a part of my life. Some of you, as life goes, will fade into my memory. But every one of you has made a mark on my life. We encourage our students to “make a mark” and you, Husky Family, surely have done so to each person who enters this building. There’s a saying “people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime” and this season has been pretty awesome for the most part. You have pushed me as an educator. You have given me resources and allowed me to share my own. Some of you, in all honesty, have tested my patience; some of you have deeply hurt my feelings. And some of you, wow, you have become family, absolutely, and forever. But each of you, I respect as my colleagues and as the people who are helping in raising the children that I think of as my own. Thank you for how you have helped me grow in the last 3-5 years.

I tell you, my sweet babies, that I don’t have biological children and so when you join my class you forever become one of mine, and there has never been anything truer. I have had over 400 children in my lifetime, and I reflect each year on the unique things you have brought into my life. My new students at this new school will not take your place, they will simply become my “babies” as well, but as a good “mom” I promise to still love you equally, just like if I was still here bringing in a new class of juniors. But before I go, I have a few words left for you all. You have tested me and have pushed me and have made me grow. And I hope you walk away from my classroom believing the same of me. I admire each of you. I love each and every one of you. Just like a mom can be tried by her children and still love them endlessly, some of you have been corrected by me more times than I can count, but that does not mean I don’t love as much as my straight-A-never-get-chastised-students. I have prayed for each of you even before you came into my classroom. I have prayed for you through the semester I have taught you. I know some of you believe the opposite, but everything I have done in this classroom has been to push you to be a better you. I have nothing but your best interests at heart. I want the best for each of you. I want you to be who you were created to be. I want you to be happy. I want you to realize each day that you woke up with a purpose and that you have what you need within you to reach the goals you have for yourself. I have been so privileged to watch you all grow in the time that I have had with you, and I cannot wait to see what stands ahead of you. Out of the talks I’ve given in my years, I want you all to remember a few things: stop watering dead plants, you did not wake up today to be mediocre, and you are so incredibly loved. Even though I’m heading a few minutes down the road, I will always be here for you when you need me. I will always love you as my own and support you to be the best you that you can be. I’ve most likely lost your interest by now, so I’ll stop.

To the Gaston County Community, I wish that I could show you the things that I love about Hunter Huss. My students are brilliant. When they set their mind to something, they are determined to achieve it. They are caring, they have big hearts ready to be loved and ready to give love. They are not the stories you tell about them or the reputation you have grown to believe is true. They are not a bunch of hoodlums who are held in by a barbed wire fence..that fence was to keep yall out and it’s been gone since I was in high school, update your knowledge of the city. They are children who are receiving an education in the oldest high school in Gaston County- which I would consider a privilege because I love my historic sites. They are not obnoxious, loud, disrespectful kids, they are young adults who are learning and growing, who yes may occasionally talk too much, but who are growing into the citizens who will one day give back to the community that they love- if you will allow them to do so. They are talented, in so many more ways than you could begin to imagine, and I hope you will allow them to show you the things they are passionate about.

I have loved this job. I have also been frustrated beyond compare. I think that may be the way life goes. You love what you do but sometimes you get frustrated. Sometimes you consider grabbing your bag and not coming back but the next morning you come back anyway to do what you were led to do to begin with. There have been times I have gone home with tears in my eyes. There have been days I have had to take off. There have been days when I said I was done, just to return the next day ready to give my best effort all over again. I have adored being able to say I work in the school from which both of my parents graduated. I have loved working in a building that has such significance for the Gaston County area. I have loved being able to brag about who my kids actually are as individuals and the narrative they are writing for themselves. I have loved being a part of this family. Huskies, I hope when I move my materials and work to another classroom to love a new set of kids, that you still allow me to be a part of this family. I will cherish you, I will cherish this experience, forever. I would love to still show up here and bother you all on work days. I would love to still support you guys. I would love to see baby pics, and wedding pics, and graduation pics (although my students better have graduation pics before anything else), and spend time with you over a cup of coffee, catching up on life. I would love to annoy you will conspiracies, rants, and my ever-ready “I’m livin the dream every day, how are you?”

Thank you for everything. I love you all more than words could say. 

“Freeman”

My 5th Recovery Birthday

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Self-Harm, Suicide

When I began this journey, I wasn’t sure that I would make it to this day. Today is my 5th “Recovery Birthday.” I have been clean from my addiction for 1826 days…5 whole years.

In college, I had an addiction. And before anybody passes out or starts whispering, let’s clarify. I know my southern baptists and super conservatives are already sweating. I was addicted to self harm. And on April 28, 2013, it came to a head and I thought I wanted to end my life. I thought after everything I’d been through I didn’t want, or deserve, to live.

I let a seemingly small incident be the straw that broke my back. I had health issues that felt like they would never be solved. I had been victim blamed for an assault I finally felt comfortable talking about. I had gone through a breakup that was really hard for me to deal with (though I praise the Father now I got out of that relationship when I did). I had seen multiple people I knew, one that I cared very much about, complete suicide. I had started drinking to feel better. I had been cutting to make my pain something I could see and control as a physical experience. I was acting recklessly. My PCP interpreted the actions and emotions I was exhibiting as something it wasn’t and began medicating me for an issue I didn’t actually have. My body didn’t react well to this medication; I gained weight (like 20+ pounds in a few months), the chemicals in my brain were being altered, the actual issue wasn’t being treated, I felt alone. I hated myself. I hated most of the people in my life for not realizing what I was dealing with. I hated God, if there was a God, I was seriously questioning his existence at the time and frequently screamed curses at the ceiling.

So. On Sunday April 28, 2013, you wouldn’t find me at church. You could have found me in the floor of a bathroom with a blade cutting my wrists. Then “Wonderwall” came on. If you know why this song matters to me, you know why I laid the blade down and paused. You know why it was significant that within moments my sister found me and called 911.

In a chair in the ER, God whispered to my heart. God shook me back to life. God held me. He said “Sweet child, I have been waiting for this moment, for you to allow me back in. I wish it wouldn’t have taken this long, but I promise you I will redeem this pain, I will use this test as a testimony, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Breathe. You are mine. You are Covered With Grace.” And he breathed life back into my weary, broken, thirsty soul.

He has not let me down on that whisper to my weary soul. Within 24 hours I returned to campus. I threw out my blades with supervision of an at-the-time friend (if you ever see this, friend, thank you). That same friend and another watched over me that night while I caught up on sleep and tried to prepare myself for finals. I passed my finals. I passed my semester classes. I moved home for the summer. I opened my Bible. I was covered in grace. We went to Disney. I started being thankful for being alive. I started trying different churches. We found our church home as a family. They welcomed me. They loved me. They heard my story and spoke the Word of Truth over my heart that God felt my pain and loved me and would indeed redeem this story.

God opened doors for me to serve. God opened doors for me to share my testimony. God set my soul on fire. God gave me new goals, new dreams, new callings. And as I obeyed, he opened the doors. He answered my desire to travel: he sent me on mission including to Africa and a pitstop in Paris. He answered my desire to serve: I was able to serve in homeless shelters, raise money for suicide prevention, he opened various opportunities to serve with so many nonprofits.  He let me be hired by the job that I wanted. He gave me the gift of being loved by some really awesome people that he knew would build me up and support me as I continued this journey.

My weakness became a place for Him to show His strength. I don’t think anymore that God “lets” bad things happen to us. I definitely know there is a God, if there wasn’t I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. I think the bad things that happen are a result of a fallen world around us, or they can be something we perceive as bad at the time that God is actually using to redirect us to the path of goodness He intended for us from the get go.

I don’t think God let me be assaulted, I don’t think God let me become depressed, I don’t think God took people I really loved away from me to hurt me, I don’t think God let me have an addiction to harming myself, I don’t think God let me try to numb my pain with self harm or alcohol or anything else I tried to fill those gaping holes with.

I do think God used each and every one of those painful experiences for good and let it shape me into the woman I am today. I do think God removed some very toxic people from my life after April 2013 and replaced them with people who were good for me and loved me. I do think God sent us to an amazing church that changed my perception of the body of Christ. I do think that God used the pain I had experienced to develop the empathy I have for others and the way I treat others, speak to others, and serve others. I do think that God used the brokenness to rebuild something even better. I do think that God drew me nearer to Him after I questioned him and tried to put myself as far away from Him as possible. I do think that God turned my story into my testimony. It was never without purpose, and I believe He has fulfilled the promises he speaks to each of us in Scripture during the rebuilding of my life in the past 5 years.

I want to end today with a few things. First I want to encourage you that no matter what you are dealing with right now, it is not without purpose. Even if you do not see the purpose now, or if you do not see it in this lifetime, it will not go without being redeemed if you are faithful to the Almighty who promises redemption and blessing to a thousand generations who serve Him. I promise you He will be the same today, tomorrow, and forever. I promise you that HE promises He will uphold you with his righteous right hand.

I realize this paragraph may sound a little like prosperity gospel or preachy or fake. I want to put a disclaimer here that nowhere does God say our lives will be perfect. The last 5 years have been far from perfect. There have been times where I have gotten dangerously close to relapse. There have been times I have questioned what I was going through….some current circumstances have even made me ask God why I can’t be done with the struggle. I have expressed that sometimes I think I’ve gone through enough that I don’t need to continue to struggle with health problems, or mean girls and boys, or fights with people I love, or a low income that sometimes makes me wonder how I’m going to pay the bills. But I have to remind myself and pray very fervently that previous pain has had purpose and current struggles will as well.

I also want to thank those of you who have taken this journey with me. God has worked to put some amazing supporters around me to love me as I continued to find myself and draw nearer to Him. No amount of words would accurately express the gratitude I have to the village who has surrounded me, loved me, encouraged me, spoken truth and life to me, and just been there for me.

So today, we celebrate 5 years. Here’s to another 50+! 

 

*The featured photo was taken about a week before my attempt.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

I have been debating writing this words for weeks, months,….years.

April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Nationally the #MeToo and #TimeIsUp movements have become popular and extremely relevant, especially as many celebrities have been accused of being assailants. That includes one of my favorite actors.

A few months ago, a young woman in my life walked away from a conversation to which I was a witness,  when a young man said “Rape is not real, especially with men, like no man would say no to sex, and women probably don’t either.” … when she returned a short time later, I looked at her and said, “Me. Too” and she said “When?” I responded “16” and she said “I was 14.” and I knew it was time to write this, but I have still struggled to do it.

The “Universe/God/My own life interpretation” told me again that it was time when at the Sweeps Pageant in March I was asked why I thought women didn’t report sexual assault.

So, here we go.

I was 16 (2009). I knew him. It ruined me. I only told one person and swore them to never tell. It was 2012 before I spoke about it again.

I told my bible study group and one girl remarked “Wow, how badly did you sin for God to punish you like that?” Shortly after, I started counseling to deal with it. I learned a lot although my counselor wasn’t the best and projected a lot of her own circumstances and feelings on me. I completed my counseling round and planned to transfer schools; mainly because I changed my major but also a new beginning.

I tried to talk to people I trusted about the incident and was appalled at how many times I was asked what I was wearing, if I had led him to believe I wanted him to do that, if I had been with him before, and if I tried to make him stop. I was so severely disillusioned by the way people, especially “Christians,” treated me. It pushed me so far away from the church (If you know, or ever hear, my testimony, this is the first time I thought I wanted to be out of church and wasn’t sure about God.)

I watched a documentary called “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” and Eva Mozes Kor changed my world. I emailed her and told her about my experience and she responded within hours about how forgiveness also shapes our experiences. I still have that email and read it from time to time.

In late 2012 and early 2013, things got really bad. In 2013, I found God for real for the first time. In 2013, I got saved. I found a new church who accepted my past and my story and the testimony from the test.

In 2015, I spoke to a club at the school I teach at, called “Feeling Beautiful” about what it looked like to be an adult who had been a victim of assault. But it isn’t something I frequently speak about. It was hard. The students there watched me cry as I choked out the words of my story. But I felt like I did what I needed to do.

I still don’t frequently speak about it. If it is brought up, not in my classroom of course, I’m willing to talk about it. But it still isn’t easy. I don’t know if it ever will be.

It’s been over 8 years. I have survived over 8 years. I became determined a long time ago to be a survivor and not solely a victim.

I determined to be the flower. I determined to grow despite the ways I had been crushed. I determined to not let his sinful actions define who I am. 

There are times I still cry about it. Sometimes I still have panic attacks. Sometimes I still have survivor guilt that someone I knew was killed by her assailant, and I wasn’t. I will never know the right words to say about it, or how to make someone feel better if it happens to them.

I still get really bitter. I still get really angry. I still feel like I missed the chance for justice. but I also have a hope that the ultimate justice will be paid out by God. I do feel like God accepts the anger and bitterness and also tries to soothe the pain that I still have.

But some days, I don’t think about it at all. I don’t want him and his actions to be what defines me. I don’t want other people to look at me and that be all that they see. But it does largely shape my political opinions, it does largely shape the way I empathize with people, it does largely shape the way I interpret a lot of what is said and done around me and in the public sphere. 

I’m not sure how to wrap this up.

I guess maybe I encourage you to not take part in rape culture. And let me side note my definition of rape culture: blaming a victim, asking what they wore, asking what they did to deserve it, asking about their sexual history and/or preferences, not believing them that they were assaulted. It is also raising our boys to believe that it’s okay to do something without consent or to coerce a woman into consent.

I encourage you to be empathetic and recognize others and the scars they carry.

“Why do women not report sexual assault?” Women and Men are sexually assaulted. Both have problems with reporting because they are afraid and embarrassed. Colleges have an issue with under-reporting sexual assault statistics hoping future students will still want to come to that school. Victim blaming and rape culture is too common in our culture. With movements like #MeToo and #TimeIsUp perhaps more women and men will feel comfortable coming forward as they see it happens to others; but until we allow victims to feel comfortable and not accused when telling their stories then there will continue to be a lack of reporting and pressing charges…until we allow them to become survivors and not just victims this will be cyclical in our society. And a little Sandra Bullock for you here…every culprit of sexual harassment or sexual assault should be charged, tried, convicted, and punished.

All my love,

L