The Death of Her Senior Year

We suspected it was terminal. The announcement of the two week break from classes that morphed into three followed by a 10 day Spring break was our first indication that things didn’t look good. We knew not to expect a miracle, but, how could we not hope?

Spring Break completed, the Governor’s press conference pronounced the 2019-2020 school year as we had come to know it, DOA due to COVID19.

“For the remainder of this school year, our young people will continue to go to school remotely”.

He didn’t mean to break our hearts. He didn’t mean to steal her Capstone project, her Senior prom, her baccalaureate, her graduation. He didn’t intend that her final high school experience was only acknowledged because a friend paused as they emptied lockers to say, “Wait. Is this our last day of high school”?

We know the proclamation was well intended. We need to protect ourselves and others. We understand no one wants the Class of 2020 to lose out on their high school traditions, pages in their Senior yearbook, and the ability to bond together as a class as their teachers, principal and parents launch them into the world of adulthood.

The damage is great. The losses pile up and we may not have tallied them. There is speculation that her first semester of college may need to sacrifice Freshman orientation, packing up her bedroom to move into a dorm, a first day of classes with new friends, and learning to balance the subtle struggle of new found independence with homesickness.

I know my daughter will recover. We have talked about her loss on long walks around the neighborhood, while we make dinner, and in her bedroom as she struggled to choose a photo to submit for the high school Instagram post honoring the Senior class. She is strong. She is resilient. But, as her mother, I don’t want this pain to be part of her life.

I realize life is full of disappointments, grief and struggle. I realize she will have many more milestones to honor and celebrate. I pray I will be there to witness them too.

But for now, please don’t tell me it will be ok. Please, don’t remind me that tomorrow will bring hope, promise, and a vaccine for community health.

Please, just sit along beside us, and let us mourn. We need more than a moment to acknowledge this loss. We need time to absorb the harsh reality of a changed life. We need to grieve the death of her Senior year.



The Princess Has Left The Room

Holding the silky white pieces of fabric, shaped like medieval banners, tinged in pink with golden symbols and connected to each other with soft pink ribbon, was causing my heart to ache. This fabric of childhood dreams and fantasy, once the subject of delight and joy needed to be folded and put away. This banner accompanied by light purple, gauzy draperies wrapped around the posts of a four poster bed, once daintily draped the top of my daughter’s white canopy bed. The fabric, slightly faded and stained, was showing it’s age.

I embraced the solemness of the moment as I folded. I gave myself permission to reminisce and honor the princess who once slept and dreamed of her kingdom in a bed adorned by princess draperies, It was time to accept the princess was no longer in residence.

Watching little princesses grow into strong, confident women is not a new experience for me. This was the fourth princess in my life to disappear. I knew to not be shocked or even surprised, but darn it if this moment didn’t catch me by surprise and take my breath away for just a moment.

This casual moment of redecorating, changing the princess canopy out for shiny, colorful marbleized globe lights, was placed too close in a week’s timeline that began with dropping the next oldest sister at college in North Carolina. Time, slippery and unforgiving, was continually marching forth, changing princesses to teenagers to college undergrads. I was feeling the full force of it and it was causing my heart to hurt.

I calmed my heart and finished my work. I took a moment to survey the bedroom and understand I needed to make space for new memories. The princess may have left the room, but a beautiful, artistic, blossoming young woman was taking residence. She is making this former Princess bedroom her own. She is in the process of finding her voice and unique sense of style. If I’m lucky, if I pay attention closely, she will invite me to her world and show me all the goodness that can be found there.

The princess may have left, but the kingdom remains cloaked in globe lights, photos of friends, dirty clothes, books, an overstuffed school backpack, pointe shoes, strength, and beauty. She is destined for greatness.

I love you but your room is a mess…..

My youngest daughter Sierra has a beautiful gentle soul and loves to draw. She composes poetry, short stories and essays as ritualistically as breathing. She has the voice of a songbird, delicate, light and often imperceptible. She is blonde, beautiful, long-legged and swiftly surpassing me and her sisters in height. Sierra’s beautiful, uniquely wonderful qualities are beginning to mix with a disastrously messy room. She is standing on the brink of womanhood alternately embracing then running from the experience. She is thirteen going on fourteen.

My youngest son, Aidan helps me through the transition of his slightly older sister. His is 10 going on 11 and sees the world with clear, introspective eyes.His hormones have not erupted into a drill sergeant directing his thoughts and actions, at least, not yet.As the youngest of six, he has observed his teenage siblings with awe, wonder, and compassion. He understands them in a way many parents can not, and routinely offers me advice.

Aidan and I developed a little game to entertain ourselves during our journey between his sisters’ school drop off and the 15 traffic lights (I’ve counted them) to his school. A typical morning drive to school generally summons a reminder to play.

Slam! our car shudders in response to the departure of Sierra and her 17 year old sister. Hunched by the weight of their backpacks, they slog up the few steps to the school door. Disgust and exhaustion compete for top billing on their faces. I watch them briefly, sigh, and remember when they would skip instead of slump. The game commences.

“Have a nice day!” “Thanks Mom for the ride!” “Love you!” Aidan and I chant appropriate responses for the girls. We offer up the thank you for them, knowing it has been buried in the temporary darkness invading their hearts.

Aidan finishes the round of play. “I will never be that way Mom, I promise. I will NOT get the teenage disease.”

The Teenage Disease: Aidan’s artfully coined term that guides one needing to learn to live with young adults in transition.

The teenage disease grants perspective. I can detach from the emotional onslaught of anger, bitterness and joy that often shows up in waves within a short 30 minute car ride. These emotions are only symptoms. Remembering the afflicted reminds me to offer compassion instead of judgement. It summons portions of the endless amounts of patience required of a mother of teens.
The teenage disease.

It has many symptoms: depression, moodiness, exhaustion, hunger, disorganization, strength, intense focus, deep introspection, and creativity. The often troubling concern with the teenage disease is that these symptoms can all be experienced within a 24 hour period, and often with great intensity. As a care provider to sufferers of the teenage disease, I generally measure its level of influence by walking into a patient’s bedroom or glancing into their school backpack. Each venue offers a true reflection of the internal struggle. The morning car ride often also serves as a quick assessment.

What Aidan and I discuss as we drive past those 15 stop lights is that this disease will not win. It is not terminal. Sure, it takes hold, often raging body and mind for years, but it does subside and the patient will be restored. Mercifully, the victims of the teenage disease often experience short periods of remission, little futuristic glimpses of a restored whole person more incredible than anything we could ever hope for. It’s a long, arduous battle fighting the teenage disease, but with love, patience, prayer, and lots of pizza, we always win.

Christmas in July

It happened in one quick moment. I was making the egg salad. My two youngest kids and I were chatting about the need to keep tabs on the dog who recently had taken to leaving “presents” throughout the house.

“I don’t want her leaving “presents” in the living room”, I said. “It’s just not good”.

“Yeah”, my 10 year-old son agreed. Always ready for a dose of potty humor, he added, “No presents unless you’re Santa Claus”. We laughed.

I paused before adding my signature dill. A parenting moment had popped up and was staring me in the face. It was actually waving its arms to get my attention. I tried to dismiss it, but knew it wouldn’t go away easily.

I never officially had “the Santa Claus” talk with my youngest two kids. I listened to my internal argument, “not now, you don’t won’t to steal their childhood”. I looked at my beautiful, blonde, almost 13 year-old daughter, and “I swear did he grow again” son and felt my mother’s denial lose its grip.

It’s July. I always addressed this issue during summer months with my older kids. It always seemed less traumatic six months out, rather than in the midst of the holidays. But surely they already know, I argued with the nagging prod logic to broach the subject. Should I even bother? My internal argument of denial revived, until I silenced it with one quick question.

“What do you guys think about Santa Claus”?


I noticed my daughter steal a look at her brother.

“I mean, who do you think Santa really is?” I stirred in the dill imagining the despair of crushed fantasies.


It was dreadfully awkward. My stupid question had lit a bomb in the kitchen and we were quietly waiting for it to blow. How could I allow the destruction of childhood fantasy to be served with a side of pasta salad and corn dog? I was an awful mother!

My dear, sweet, youngest son, ever conscious of my emotional state, stepped up and filled the void. He would throw himself on the bomb.

“I think…..” he said pausing just long enough to turn, face me, and produce a mischievous smile. “….it’s Mommy Claus and Daddy Claus.”

I began to relax. His sister, however, did not respond. She waited.

“And, what do you think?” I asked re-lighting the fuse, while she silently munched and stared at her plate. She is an artistic dreamer, a believer in fairy tales and fairies, the world is magic in her eyes. I felt the cruelness of pushing the issue, but I had to didn’t I? I looked away, afraid to watch the destruction of her child-like spirit. Waiting for the bomb to explode.

A bit of silence. She stared at her plate, I returned to the egg salad. I sensed a keen awareness of a unified, quiet dance around the truth. Were we both afraid to close the door on yet another landmark of child-like innocence? I had to take the lead.

“Sierra, who do you think Santa Claus is?”

“Well…. I don’t think he could possibly be one person”, she offered. I relaxed. She smiled at me. She knew.

I was so relieved. My conversation bomb was filled with feathers. Their pysche was intact.

“When did you guys figure out who Santa really was”?

“A few years ago”, admitted my son.

” I think it was the year that Santa’s presents were wrapped with the same wrapping paper that you used for Dad’s presents”, my daughter said.

“Why didn’t you say something?” I asked.

“Because it’s fun to believe”, she said. My son agreed.

We discussed logistics of Christmas presents. We discussed cultural traditions and the symbolism of Christ’s birth connected to St. Nicholas. We recalled the fun of “playing the Santa Claus game” as pre-schoolers and Kindergarteners. We ate the rest of our lunch and planned out our day.

After lunch, we went outside to mow, rake, and collect grass trimmings for our massive yard. Yard work provides lots of time for thinking. As I worked in the hot sun, side by side with my youngest children, I had a small revelation.

My babies, the “little kids” weren’t really little any longer. Somehow, without me consciously realizing it, these two slipped from childhood into the lives of young adults. Thank goodness for Santa Claus. He showed up in our kitchen unexpectedly today, and dropped off one last gift for me. Well done.

More Amazing Student Bloggers

I’ve finished the evaluations of student blogs for the second five weeks of the semester. (Can you hear the angels singing?) The evaluation form I used held expectations for not only  blog content, but  use of Twitter, and Facebook pages created specifically for their professional blogs. It’s been a LOT of writing for the students, and therefore, a lot of reading for me.

This is my first experience teaching new media writing skills, and the use of social media tools as a platform for those skills. It has been an incredibly valuable educational experience for me, not only as an educator, but as a writer too. It’s also been an incredible amount of work. But just like I tell my student’s, “anything worth doing takes effort and time.”

As I read some my student’s work, I am impressed by their passion and talent. All of the students are “traditional college age”. This means they are the future. Some college Juniors and many Seniors on the edge of graduation, they are getting ready to launch into their careers and begin taking on the role(s) of leadership. What a privilege for me to be able to influence these future leaders and help them refine their talent. Add these student blogs to your reading list and you will understand exactly what I mean.

Jessica Drogemuller: Jess’s blog, “Fact or Pintion” expresses the heart of one of the latest social media tool superstars, Pinterest. Her casual, witty narrative style, personal photos, and use of Pinterest to promote her blog is making a mark on the blogosphere. She was nominated for an award by a fellow novice blogger; a first for our class. Congrats to Jesse.

Jerracah Heibel: Jerracah’s blog, “Paws for a Cause” reflects her passion for animals. It presents a wonderful introduction to the diverse issues related to animal cruelty, advocacy, and local (Cleveland, OH) concerns. Jerracah has partnered with a local shelter in hopes to help them with placement of dogs and cats needing forever homes.

Chris Perry: I’ve bragged about Chris and his blog, 216Artist before, but what can I say. Within two months, this kid has acquired 106 Twitter followers! He said in his reflective essay, “…I have seen great success in the first few weeks of my blogging experience, and look forward to the future of what my writing and social media can do for me as a young professional in the workforce.” You go Chris!

Olena Orlova: Olena’s blog, “Wine & Dine: Eating Your Way Across the Cultures” is an excellent mix of education, culture, and food. Don’t read it on an empty stomach. I learned so much about wine, crepes, and Ukrainian holidays while I perused (evaluated) her blog. It is truly inspiring and delicious. Our family dinners will never be the same.

Ryenn Lyons: Ryenn’s blog, “A Peaceful Panic” focuses on informing readers of news, concerns and  life experiences of those  suffering from anxiety. Although she is still working on connecting to Twitter and Facebook, start following her blog now. It’s artful design, well-researched content, and delicate treatment of a common health problem will make a large impact on readers.


Blog Check-In Report #2

Another five weeks have passed, and the anxiety level of my students mounts daily. I’m grading their Blogging Check-In Report #2- a chronicle of their second five weeks of blogging, tweeting, and posting on their professional Facebook pages.

Some students worked hard and are learning, growing, and developing their new media writing expertise. Others, stuck in college student apathy, have not. My reviews of their work are a tough, bitter pill for those still waiting to commit to the learning process. As with all learning experiences, this one comes with a struggle.

For those embracing the struggle, their work is beginning to blossom like a rewarding sign of beauty after a winter of sleep deprivation, research and revision. My students and I discovered the following truths from our class experience during the middle five weeks of the semester:

  • Blogging is hard work
  • Twitter is an amazing networking tool
  • Not as many readers (in their target audiences) interact on Facebook
  • Readers will follow and respond to quality content
  • Connecting to the outside world through social media takes time, but is incredibly rewarding
  • It takes practice to find your voice (niche) in the blogging community
  • Once you determine a way to manage this crazy world, it can be addictive, awesome, and empowering
  • Citizen journalism requires a great deal of critical thinking, reading, and consistent observation and awareness

Some blossoming blogging experts to honor this five weeks include:

Chuck Frate: His blog focuses on family recipes as identified by a local expert, his mother Pam. Chuck’s narrative thread of  family life, traditions, and other cultural aspects offers readers a unique voice that is just beginning to show up consistently in his posts. He is finding his niche in the plethora of food related blogs on the web. I’m looking forward to reading more.

Theodore Darden: This guy is serious! A soon to be graduate of Notre Dame College, Theodore has a passion for discussing issues related to the world’s supply of fresh water. Darden is developing a refreshing mix of information, passion and entertainment to keep readers scrolling and hoping for more.

Jacob Bunner: This blossoming sports journalist knows how to engage concerned parents. His blog examines youth sports issues including a variety of sports related injuries detailed by sport, the great concussion discussion, and breaking news related to youth sports. Although he needs to work on remembering to edit and pound out tighter leads, this blogger is definitely someone to follow if you love sports and kids.

I’m only half way through the grading and hopeful to find more incredibly talented citizen journalists. Stay tuned…..


All local artists! Check this out


The216Artist is now accepting submissions for it’s #216artists series. This series will profile a new creative mind from Cleveland. Arts, music, fashion, drama, all apply, just send submissions to


Or let us know in the comments below who you think should be our first #216artists.

Let the games begin!!


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Sierra, Author age 12

My daughter, Sierra is 12. She is studying poetry at school.

I’ve been having a very bad week. Sierra is a quiet, pensive soul.  She knows me. She understands me.

Last night, Sierra worked quietly at our kitchen table while her younger brother and I chatted about his school science project. While we surveyed Pinterest with the help of my smarter-than-me phone, Sierra was writing.

Did you know you could make an a layered cake of the earth’s surface, or a model of the moon’s phases with Oreo cookies? Life is good when you can eat your Science project. Aidan shares my passion for over the top, crazy projects, so we filled up “Aidan’s Science Museum” board with one edible science project idea after another. We laughed at the absurdities. We watched crazy Youtube videos and plotted how to manage getting (and serving) similar projects to school. Sierra was thinking, writing and coloring on her paper. A quiet presence typical of a middle child used to waiting for opportunity to join dialogue of large family conversations.

And then, she spoke. “Do you want to hear a poem I wrote”.

“A poem?”

Her question interrupted our viewing and commenting of a Youtube video produced by a homeschool family. They were recreating the layers of the earth with M & M’s, Rice Krispie treats and chocolate Magic Shell ice cream topping. Perhaps the edible earth layer instruction could wait. We paused the video.

“Sure”, I said. “Read us your poem”.

My gentle-spirited, daily blossoming, nearly teenaged daughter lit up the room with words.

Colored Pencils
by Sierra

I stare at the splash of colors in a box
I run my fingers slowly over the tips of the pencils
I have to do it!
I pick one up
And I start coloring outside the lines

And there it was. The power of words. While Aidan and I were looking for inspiration, Sierra was creating it. While Aidan and I were entertained and distracted by video and hyperlinks, it was Sierra’s words that brought clarity to the moment.

“Sierra”, I said. “That is really beautiful”.

I studied her young face amazed at the depth behind her eyes. Her wide smile reflected a countenance of victory and accomplishment.

“Thanks” she said.

It was that moment when the hardness of my week began to melt away. For regardless of what the world was trying to teach me about broken relationships, unemployment, death, and violence, love and inspiration were still present.  At that moment, that fraction of time, I felt the reassurance that it is okay to be different than the world expects. Despite the negativity, despite the opposition, there is a place for the rogue traveler, the one who craves a better world than the one being presented.

My young son, his goofy sense of humor, and passion for the crazy, and my artistic, deep-thinking daughter with her poetic inspirations were sitting at my kitchen table with me in the midst of a terrible week. They were a clear reminder of a better tomorrow. Life can be hard. Life can be cruel. But, during these moments of discouragement and despair, it only takes a moment to re-focus and learn it’s okay to color outside the lines.

Penguin Sweater

I got a penguin sweater for Christmas. My daughters and I were shopping at Kohl’s when I first saw it. With a fluffy white tummy and silver sparkly bow tie, I couldn’t think of any prouder honor than to sport this fat penguin on a cold, snowy day.

My teenage daughter, fashion consultant, cautioned against it.

“But, it’s SO CUTE!” I countered.

The Penguin Sweater
The Penguin Sweater

The older daughter, having lived through more of these episodes than her younger sibling, and having let go of the hope of transforming me into a fashion forward maven, said they would alert my husband.

I left the sweater hanging on the rack, secretly hoping we would meet again.

I’ve come to realize, that such a powerful fashion accessory as the coveted penguin sweater takes careful moderating. We’ve had, like most of the country, a particularly snowy, blustery winter. I could have easily worn my penguin sweater every day. Conscious of the cautioning of my daughters, I’ve had to choose selectively when to go all penguin. It’s been a struggle.

It’s now near the end of February and old man winter is not letting up. I’ve read the depressed Facebook posts of friends regarding winter, the braggarts’ posts of basking in the Florida sun, but I’m not saying a word. Sure winter has it’s downside, but when else can you wear your favorite penguin sweater?

So bring on the snow! Blow all the arctic air my way! Slushy streets, salt trucks, and icy patches? No problem. I’m rocking my penguin sweater!

Passion is evolving..

Students are blogging. Some are really good. Some are still, well, let’s just say, developing. I’ve noticed that those who tapped into their passion are leading the pack. The visual design and quality of content is evident. Gina-Bella demonstrates this with her blog, Conserving Marine Life. A native of Hawai’i, Gina-Bella’s passion is clearly evident in each of her posts.Writing Passion 

Our next big challenge in class will be to work on writing tight, concise copy filled with passion. My goal is to help these developing writers find their voice and make sure it is well developed and heard. Wish us luck!