Sunday, November 30, 2008


This Thanksgiving was not the same as Thanksgivings of the past have been for me. Usually, Thanksgiving for me is all about getting together with my family to enjoy each other's company for a day. This year, I really considered what I am thankful for. The death of my friend, Brian, gave me a new perspective on life. I usually try to appreciate the little things and stay positive, but Brian's death really made me see how much I appreciate my life. 

Brian saw beauty in everyday life. He was inspiring, motivated, and caring. He wanted so much to change the world. He wanted to help those less fortunate than him. I learned a lot about who Brian was at his funeral and viewing. Before last Sunday, I only knew Brian as a fellow classmate, and I thought he was pretty awesome already. I listened to his stories, looked at his pictures, and read his blog about the last few years of his life in which he kept an update on his battle with cancer. Brian loved the outdoors, learning, and the people in his life. 

A few of my friends have been going through some tough times, and once they heard the news of Brian's death, they saw their problems as miniscule in the whole of life. Life in terms of their problems wasn't really so bad. The same is true for me. Sure I have my moments when I get frustrated and disappointed, but overall, I'm lucky. I have wonderful friends, teachers, and family members (and dogs too), I have been able to travel, and I am almost done with school...just a few more months! In the last week, I have taken a few extra moments to notice beautiful, fresh snowfalls. Last week, the snowfall sat in the trees in the most perfect way. It was truly a winter wonderland. Christmas music is now making its way onto the radio stations. I LOVE Christmas music and this time of year! I am so happy in this season of family, lights, carols, and treats. Every time I walk into my education classroom, I will notice Brian's empty chair. It's hard to see his chair and know that he's gone from this life. But it reminds me of what he wanted. He wanted to graduate and influence the next generations. He set the bar high, a bar which I will work my life trying to live up to. When I'm having a hard day, I'm going to try to think about what Brian would do. I know that he would make the best of the circumstances and find the good, even in a mountain of bad. I am so thankful that I was lucky enough to know Brian. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saying Goodbye

Yesterday I found out that one of my fellow classmates passed away. It hit me like a brick wall. I met Brian in September, so I have known him for less than three months. All of our classes were together this semester, since we're so close to finishing our degrees in history education. Brian was not an ordinary FSU student. He was passionant, caring, true to his faith...and he had brain cancer. I didn't know much about his condition, but over time, I learned more. He had non-Hotchkins Lymphoma which had recurred for the third time. His condition was "inoperable." Brian was in class on Tuesday. I saw a notice on Wednesday about a benefit hockey game in December to raise money for his treatment. When I last saw Brian, he wasn't the same. We were in a small group together and he was distant. He wasn't himself at all. Brian was passionant about being a teacher and encouraging to his fellow classmates. I casually talked with him as we walked out the building on Tuesday afternoon. We said goodbye as our paths separated and that was it. I could tell that he was feeling pretty bad. He didn't say much. And then on Friday morning I got a text informing me that he passed away. The rest of us knew it was probably coming eventually, but not now. Not for awhile.Throughout the semester, we all talked about how he was really inspiring taking classes when he would probably never live to teach. Kudos to Brian was basically what we thought.

With his life situation, Brian began to appreciate the things that we all tend to take for granted. He shared with my friend that he now spent a lot of time outdoors, appreciating nature in its perfection. Brian was very committed to his faith, more than most people. God's plan...I wonder what he thought about that.

Brian has been on my mind all day. Why? That question pops up all the time. I have always thought that things happen for a reason, even when you don't want to believe it. When bad things happen, communities unite, people stop worrying about the little things, and others learn life lessons. It often takes awhile to see the good or the lesson. I feel that there is a plan for us. What was Brian's? What purpose was there in his suffering? He was an amazing person and he hurt so much for so long. Was he meant to be an inspiration to us all? I can never truly know the answer to why such a wonderful person died so young with so much potential. What I can do is remember the person he was. I can appreciate beauty in small things and do what makes me happy. Tomorrow a high school gym will be packed with mourners to remember Brian. Maybe there, surrounded by people who know other sides of Brian, I will learn more about his kind personality and inspiring story.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pride in my Country

I have been meaning to blog for the last two weeks. Finally, here I am. Almost two weeks ago, I sat in my living room and watched the results of the 2008 Presidential Election. Little bursts of excitement occurred within me with every gain for Obama. I knew that the polls said that he would win, but I never like to get myself too excited until it's official. I really wanted him to win. I had never been that excited about voting before, even though I've been doing it for the last six years. 

And then it was official...Barack Obama became the 44th president of the USA. I was so happy, so thrilled, so proud to be an American. I know it is horrible to say, but I honestly had not been proud of my American citizenship in a long time. Being abroad and informing others that you are an American is not always received positively. 

All of a sudden, the election took on a whole new meaning for me. I voted for Obama for several reasons, but none of them had to do with the fact that he is black. The realization that America elected a black president, only 40 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Amendment, caught me off guard.  I honestly thought that there were too many Americans who would not vote for a black president, which thoroughly disgusted me. I have been to the South several times and I have seen racism that I did not believe still existed to a large degree. Heck, I've seen it in my own community in the Midwest. Americans went out it huge numbers, many for the first time, to vote for a man who made history. Pride. I had so much pride in my country. It made me cry. I didn't expect it. It made me happy...I'm still in a good mood because of it :) I have a newfound respect for America and what it stands for. That does not change the fact that I want to live in France, but it does change the fact that I am proud of my country. What would  Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, or Martin Luther King, Jr. say if they were here to witness the election of 2008? Equality. I know we still have a long way to go, but this is definitely a huge hurdle. Awesome.