Grateful for knowledge


Last night I turFullSizeRender 6ned in my final assignment for the semester, my first semester as a grad student in creative writing. There was quite a bit of celebrating as I hit the submit button, I admit, but also a bit of sadness.

This semester has been a mixture of emotions. I have been out of school for several years, since having earned my MBA. Working at an educational institution, I caught the thirst for knowledge again and decided to pursue another degree — creative writing — while working my full-time job in marketing. I took two classes this semester — one online and one in person. I remember my first class and a wave of gratitude came over me for the knowledge I had the privilege of acquiring. And, believe me, I know what a privilege it is to be able to learn.

Then, reality set in. Assignments started to pile up and I evenings and weekends were consumed with reading, writing and researching. I admit the gratitude waned a bit and I started to have a love-hate relationship with my classes (as most students do). I even dubbed my homework spot in my house “the cave.”

But, as the semester wrapped up, I started to feel sad. I’ll never get a “first semester back” with these classes and my fellow students again. Yes, there will be another semester, but none will ever be quite the same.

I’m so grateful.

To my cheerleaders who had to listen to me groan as I spent hours in my cave, thank you.

I’m so grateful for the gift of knowledge and so grateful for the semesters to come.


The passing of a pen pal

IMG_2736“Dear Brandy, I am sorry to tell you that your mail art friend Andrea, has passed away…”

Today, upon arriving home from work a letter was waiting for me. I’m sitting here at my computer tearfully typing out this post — a beautiful soul left this earth. Her wit, humor and creativity will never arrive in my mailbox again.

My first communication with Andrea was in 2009 when we were matched as pen pals on a letter-writing site. I remember how carefully I wrote my letter — all formal and stuff and then hers arrived a short while later, a colorfully-decorated envelope arrived from Andrea, who lived in Staten Island. Inside she had written on a series of six sticky notes and the letter started out like this “Dear Brandy, oh wow … a new pen pal! My God — Kansas! The only thing I know about Kansas I learned from the Wizard of Oz. I can’t even imagine Kansas!”

I knew right away I had crossed paths with someone truly special. We wrote back and forth from then on, exchanging life stories, tid bits about ourselves, all while supporting the United States Post Office through the art of handwritten letters. Even though we never met in person we were friends — and we learned so much about one another by putting pen to paper.

In one letter she inquired about living next to a corn field “I can’t imagine living next door to a corn field,” she exclaimed and she wanted more details about what it’s like to live next to corn. In another letter she sent me cut outs from a poetry book she bought for $1 at a church store — it was really bad poetry to which she captioned “holy shit!”

She had a dog named “loose fur,” because it was always shedding. I remember when Loose Fur died — how even she was able to apply some humor to Loose Fur’s passing stating that she was still finding his fur all over the place. It’s funny how you can share so much in letters.

A couple of years ago I received a postcard that she had Leukemia. Her wit even came through on that postcard when she ranted about the pharmaceutical companies and the cost of her medication. I had no idea at the time, that in less than two years she’d be gone.

Andrea wrote her own obit, according to her kind friend who wrote me. In that obit she wrote, “I wish I’d get a disease with an easier spelling.” Typical humor from her. She has a monument where she’ll be buried later, which reads “Wish you were here.” I can totally see her writing that.

My heart is heavy tonight as I type this. She will be missed so much by so many and I can’t believe I’ll never be able to write her again. I saved every single piece of mail I received from her and I’m truly glad I did.

Andrea Jay, 69. Teacher. Writer. Vegan. Mail artist. Friend. I’ll miss you.

P.S. I’m going to try that sesame seed tofu ball recipe you sent me in 2012 in your honor.