Posted in Life stuff

Never Underestimate Your Power

My favorite high school teacher passed away on Friday, July 13th. If you knew him, you’d likely think he chose this date for his own demise, even if only because we’d say it was so.

I have some of his writing I’d like to share at some point, but I can’t just yet. I cannot yet read it out loud without crying.

But I wrote this in his honor.

In memory of Hugh Scanlan:

In the blink of an eye, it passes. Life. Like the mist on the lake water, it glides over moving with grace and speed until light fills its spaces and darkness lifts. As we go about our day-to-day chores, as we laugh and cry, time passes without regard to our thoughts, our stresses, our worries, or the moments we’d like to revisit.

The sun set on us all at one time, and though I’d like to think my sun is at high noon, we never know just when gravity might cause it to fall straight from the sky crushing us with the weight of overwhelming loss.

My sun is setting. So is yours. I’ve buried the suns of loved ones for years without a question as to how I would carry on. Because we just do. We carry one day in and day out. We move forward, we move past, we move ahead sometimes tripping over our own lives, our weaknesses dropping us to the ground in moments we haven’t the strength to carry, and we get back up wondering how we survived, checking our sun in the sky for the slightest movement. But that’s the thing. Its movement is so slight we don’t notice it. Like watching a baby grow, we don’t see its occurrence, only acknowledge it has occurred.

I started my journey with Scanlan in my life when I was fourteen years old. In ninth grade, he challenged me and opened my eyes more than any other teacher had before. Sure, there were others before him who let the light in, introduced me to something inspiring. But Hugh Scanlan was it for me. He was…just a school teacher some would say…just a guy who knew movie trivia and who could rent the movie to you if you guessed the title from a quote…just someone pushing pencils and dropping tests to watch us squirm…he was an inspiration, mentor, father, husband, friend, coach, comedian, and so much more under the guise of a simple high school teacher.

After my ninth-grade year, I had Scanlan again for Oral Language Lab, then my junior year English studies and Senior year English was in his classroom too. I did the one-act play under him and went on to college to study theatre because, in all those years in his presence, I developed not only a love for the stage but also an appreciation for the work it takes to get a piece on the stage. When we studied Shakespeare, he allowed me to read Stephen King, because he and I had discussed William’s words so much after school and in his free periods, he trusted I knew the material. When everyone in the film section of our lab had to report on My Fair Lady, he let me work from Pygmalion because he knew I like the stage version better. But more than that, he knew I get more out of the play than the movie.

You see, as much as I’d love to think I was special and stood out to Mr. Scanlan, he did this for anyone who let him know they’d follow him to the moon if he only asked. He had this special power so many teachers have that often goes unnoticed until we wake up one day and realize the impact this power had on our lives. He could see deep into every student. He knew our personalities; he knew what motivated each one of us, and he knew how to keep us in a position where we were constantly growing – all without us knowing. My story is just one of many lives he touched.

I graduated in 1991. For the first few years, still living in the county, I’d pop in after school and sit and talk with him. In 2012, I came back to Virginia to say goodbye to my father. I knew I may never go back again, so I stopped at the high school to say goodbye to my favorite teacher too. I didn’t get to see him that moment I tried. It was late September, early in the day, and the office ladies didn’t give a hoot who I was and why it was so important for me to say goodbye to him before I left. But they caved and told me when he had a free period. I waited. I got in my car, drive to Gloucester thinking of all the evenings I’d drive down there to visit him at the video store and all the things he taught me standing there talking about movies. All the movies I’ve seen in my lifetime because he said to give it a watch. When it was time to head back to Saluda, my heart raced. I cried. I knew I had to share something big with the man I’d given credit to for so many years without him knowing. And I wasn’t sure if he’d even care or remember me. But he did. And we talked. He told me he was retiring after that year. We shared to sorrow from the past year and some laughs from years past. Finally, I told him I had to come to see him because I’d buried my father and wanted him to know all the things we never to someone until they are gone. He was my inspiration. He was my mentor. He is the reason my life has taken the path it had taken. When I felt (or feel) less than confident about something, I remembered him and his words. I remembered how he knew me. And how he always had the right thing to say to put me in a role where I’d thrive or get me back on track. I was already in my late thirties, and I was writing my first book. I looked into his striking blue eyes, and said, “Thank you. You are the reason I am a writer today. I did other things in fun industries outside of theatre before becoming a mom and staying home to focus on children. But when it was time to focus on me, when it was time to ask myself if I could do anything I wanted to do, if I had the freedom to be me, who would that be, I thought of you, and said I will do what Scanlan believed I could do.”

I released my first novel in 2015. I only had his school email address. And he’d retired. I knew 2012 would be the last time I spoke to him. But, it’s funny…life…I said all the things I wanted to say to him. I gave him the credit he deserved, the credit I’d give him for so many years when speaking of my life to anyone but him. I told him he is the reason I believe in myself. And today, almost thirty years since graduating all of his classes, he is still my reason.

His spirit lives in everything I write – even if he would have torn it apart and challenged me to rewrite it.

~Stella

Posted in Life stuff

Another Year

With the titles of all the books I’ve written…

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This cake!

Another year…

This was a big birthday for me, but I’ve learned every birthday is big as long as we are still here to celebrate it.

I wrote a blog that was almost depressing as I pondered my own death and whether or not some would notice my absence at this point in my life. It was sad. It was cathartic. It was a culmination of each big moment I live without those from my life – those I miss. And the end result was to keep living. Upon my demise, I would no longer know if tears were shed, if regrets were discussed, or if I’d been long forgotten before a second thought would be given — or not given.

So, instead of focusing in the negative, I decided to focus this blog on celebration. It was a big birthday. And those I missed were noted in my personal world.

But I was celebrated.

I’ve spent years with my birthday passing without pomp and circumstance. I have a daughter whose birthday quickly follows mine and am used to focusing on her and frankly, being forgotten in the mix. It’s the life of motherhood. I’ve had few complaints, but I have been hurt as July 6th passes with a cup of coffee from Starbucks and not much else in acknowledgement of the day. For years.

Lack of celebration has not been a large deal to me until celebration became the norm in my new life. I told someone yesterday I feel as if I have been celebrating for two years now. I am often floored by the love and support surrounding me each day.

Backtracking a bit, I had a good life. A great home. A family. Fabulous though sometimes challenging children. But I lacked in my world, and I accepted everything I had as somewhat of a compromise. Two years ago, I made a huge change with a move from the snow to the desert. It didn’t take long to realize the core troubles in my world wouldn’t change as a result of a dry heat or an impressive monsoon season. As a result, I made another huge change in my world. It’s been a scariest two years of my life. But also the most enjoyable and eye opening years thus far.

As this year’s birthday came around again, I was reminded of just how much has changed in my world during these past two years. While I was living in memories passed wondering if another year would go unnoticed, the people who love me most today – the people who have filled my world for the past two years – were busy planning another surprise party for me. They did this last year, so this year I didn’t think it was remotely possible they could pull it off again. But they did. I didn’t scream and run away this year as I did last year, but they got me. Not only did I walk into my home filled with people, but I cried.

Cried.

People.

Friends.

Love.

Acceptance.

Balloons.

Celebration.

But what got me was this cake.

This gorgeous amazing cake.

First, I have to give a shout out to Brittany who made this amazing cake. She can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/sweetbbs/

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Did I say amazing?

Second, these people…these sweet, kind, wonderful people who set up, shopped, gifted, decorated, cooked, and showed up to celebrate me…well, let’s just say I’ll never get used to this is my life. And I appreciate it more and more each time I am gifted with anything from you all.

Third, and this is not lost on me. I am an author. I’ve known many of these folks for two years. When they met me, I was an author. I had one book out which was a year old. I had a plan to get these other titles out, but as my life has taken these twists and turns, I couldn’t publish. I’m just now getting back to working on rebuilding – by relaunching my first novel which is almost three years old now. These other titles will be released in the next two years to follow, one by one. But these amazing people in my world who don’t hesitate to celebrate me, celebrate a cup of coffee, the chance at a glass of wine, or just the sun rising haven’t ever hesitated to support my journey as an author despite the fact that many of these books I talk about have yet to be published.

So, cheers to another year. One of moving forward instead of looking behind. One of love and support filled with positive energy and kindness.

And cake!

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