Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Part 1 "If there is no struggle, there is no progress!"

Frederick Douglass

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning.” Frederick Douglass

The above lines are the beginning of a speech given by Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, in 1857, in New York. He was referring to the struggle for freedom, and the idea that if a man will not fight for his own freedom, he definitely is not going to fight for someone elses freedom, and there is really no reason for anyone to fight for his freedom.

Deep right? Now, I do not want to put my struggles in the same categories as Frederick Douglass'. That would be plain crazy. I have not had to fight for half of the things that Douglass had to fight for: to be considered a man, to own land, to freely travel etc. But, if a person is in the mist of any type of struggle, it may not be the type of struggle that Douglass had, but at that moment, it may feel like it.

So, here is my divergence from literature to talk about struggle and not just any struggle but my struggle. To struggle for something to me is not negative, it is actually positive. It does not mean that you have to fight somebody or struggle against forces for something to happen, but it does mean that you must put in some work and be patient in order to see progress, and a little work ain't never hurt nobody.

I have been working with this trainer, Berhane, whom I absolutely love. Working out with him is the best two hours that I spend each week. Every workout is a struggle, and just when I thought that I had mastered the burbies, he added more burbies and other exercise that are even more challenging than the burbies. If you have never done a burbie before, please try to do at least two and tell me what you think. lol

Each week I look forward to the sessions and spending time with Berhane, but while there, I talk a lot of trash: "You must be mad at me," "Why am I doing this exercise?" "You are ridiculous" etc. One day I was in the bathroom changing into my workout clothes, and I heard a grown man screaming "I AM NOT A MACHINE," so periodically I scream those exact same words.

Today, I rushed in to workout with Berhane, and I was so excited because I had downloaded My Fitness Pal to my phone, and I had started tracking every calorie, and to my surprise, I thought I was doing real good.

Berhane had this look on his face, and that look means that he is really thinking, and that's never good news for me. Like the time when I got on the scale and I was up a whole 6 pounds. He had that look, and he started saying that maybe he was working my legs to hard etc. He was trying to figure out what was he doing wrong to cause that drastic weight gain, and I had to confess that I  felt that if I was doing 8 million burbies a week and was running and biking on my own, I thought that on the weekends, I could go crazy with my drinks and food. And boy did I go crazy.  I got the long, difficult speech about this is about your health blah, blah, blah. In the beginning it was a real struggle not to have lots of drinks and food on the weekend, and guess what? This is a struggle where I have seen tremendous progress. WOOHOO

So, today, he had that same look when I showed him the calorie counter on my phone. He did not say anything, initially, but he had that look as he was trying to kill me. Eventually, he said, how many grams of sugar are you eating in a day. I thought "Oh damn, here he goes again." And I told him the number, but I let him know that the sugar was coming from fruit, and he stated "You should only have 15 grams of sugar a day." Damn, I was just thinking about how good and sweet summer fruits are: nectarines, plums, peaches etc. Oh my!! I was reminded that "you eat and exercise for your health, and tooooo much sugar is not good for the body, even if it comes from fruit." 

Damn, another struggle, now I got to cut back on my favorite summer fruits!!!!!! In my Florida Evan's voice: DAMN, DAMN, DAMN!

When Frederick Douglass stated that if a man will not fight for himself, he definitely will not fight for anyone else, and there is no reason for anyone else to fight for him, I have taken this saying and applied it to my health: I got to keep struggling for my health, so that I can help others struggle for their health, so that I can keep Berhane struggling with me.

Literally, when it comes to my health: "If there is no struggle, there is no progress." It is such a happy struggle, and I am not joking....

Berhane: The Man Who is Struggling With Me!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Book Club Babes

Book Club Member and me at a book signing. The book was about
Madame CJ Walker

Make no mistake about it, I am a sucker for groups. I love my running groups, hiking groups, biking groups, but my favorite group is my Book Club Group.

When I first moved to the DC area, I was in one of my favorite places at the time: Barnes and Nobel. I discovered that B&N had lots of book clubs: Mystery, Science Fiction, African American etc. When I read about the African American book club group that met the third Tuesday of each month, I decided that I would read the book and attend the meeting. Little did I know at the time, but this book club has become a huge part of life.

Eight, nine, or ten years ago, I arrived at the meeting, and I met such a lively group. I think that the group had been meeting for about a year or more before I came aboard. What surprised me the most was, there were African American men at the meeting. Now, I know that African American men read books, but I never expected to see them at a book club meeting. This is not one of the most masculine places for a man to be. So, with this diversity, I knew that this was the group for me.

Every third Tuesday at 8 o'clock, we met at B&N for years. We had different people to come each month, thanks to the advertisement in the B&N newsletter. When we read Black, White and Jewish by Rebecca Walker, the daughter of the great author Alice Walker, we had a Black, White and Jewish guy from New York to add to this great discussion on the experiences that Rebecca wrote about in her novel. We have also had different authors to meet and discuss their books with us.

Overtime, B&N stopped having their book clubs meet in the store; the book clubs were converted to virtual. Not sure how they do this, but they do it. Even though B&N disbanded their group, we continued to meet. For the last eight, nine or ten years we have met the third Tuesday of each month religiously, except when something major happens like the death of loved ones, travel plans, school etc. But for the most part, we meet regularly. The location has changed, but the group has not.

For the first five or six years, I did not know these ladies names or how to contact them outside of the group. We just faithfully showed up at B&N to discuss books, our lives, our careers etc. We really got to know each other real well, and  after the meetings, we would go our separate ways. We experienced a member being a foster mother, the lost of a husband and daddy, someone trying to quit smoking, and me changing jobs ALOT until I found the one that was perfect for me.

All of the women in this group are so awesome; they make me want to live my best life. One member has run about 35 marathons, maybe not quite that many, but quite a few. This same member is always ready for a trip. One member is my true hangout buddy. We meet at day parties, jazz set, and concerts at the blink of an eye. Our oldest in age, but not at heart, offers us culture. She does everything cultural in the city. She even had season tickets to the opera this past year. She is constantly telling us that we need season tickets to something. Another member is our City of Alexandria activity girl. She informs us of all of the activities in City of Alexandria. She is famous for bringing a newspaper clipping about an event that we really need to attend. So, you can see that this book club rocks.

We've never formally given ourselves a name, but we often refer to ourselves as "Book Club Babes." If you are ever in our neck of the woods, give us a heads up, and I'm sure that you will be warmly welcomed and pleasantly surprised.

Repeat Picture: Book Club member and me on a trip

Both Members of the Book Club: Mother and Daughter

Book Club Member and me hanging out


That's me on the far right. HAPPY that IT'S SUMMER!

Wednesday was the last day of school for students, Thursday was our graduation ceremony that is held ever year at the wonderful Constitutional Hall, and Friday was the last day for us teachers. WOOOOHOOO

Now, I know that there are people who wonder, "What do teachers do in the summer?" No, we don't think about the kids, no, we don't plan for the next year, and not all of us work other jobs. Many of us spend the summer just plain relishing in the idea that we do not have to be the leader for awhile.

Me, I am a sucker for learning so, I have spent many summers participating in National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars with teachers from all over the place. Well, not actually from all over the place, but all over the United States.

I spent a summer in Amherst, Massachusetts studying Crime and Punishment, I spent a summer in Eatonville, Florida studying Zora Neale Hurston,  and last summer I was in Chicago studying Blacks in Politics etc. So, you can see, there are countless numbers of educational opportunities for teachers in the summer that are in wonderful places. These opportunities can almost be looked at as a two for one: get your studying on and get your partying on.

However, there are other teachers who go backpacking in Ireland, touring Europe, exploring Australia, and even vacationing for the entire summer in Sunny Florida.

This summer I am not doing anything educational, and at first I was a little nervous about this, but I did a little pre-planning. I planted a garden to take up some time, have mapped out all of the things that I will do in the DC area, have several trips planned mostly for pleasure, except when I go to San Francisco to present at the Advanced Placement (AP) conference where I am sure I will make time for pleasure. But, as sure as my name is Jacqueline Stallworth, I will spend plenty of time running, hiking, biking, planning tennis and most importantly, spending time with people whom I care about.

Normally, when I tell people that I am a teacher, I get the "How do you do it? "Kids are so bad today."  Blah, blah, blah. But, I normally just smile and scream in my head "SUMMERS MAKE IT SOOOOO WORTH IT!"

Friday, June 17, 2011

Held Hostage

Held Hostage

I am the type of reader who can only read one book at a time. I thought that once I started reading digitally, I would be able to read several books simultaneously, because my books would all be stored in one place: the Nook. However, reading digitally did not change this quirk that I have; I still can only read one book at a time.

So, I have been reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and it is very a lengthy book, over a 1000 pages. With school ending, finishing up an internship for graduate school, working out, working in the garden etc., I have only had about thirty minutes a day to devote to this novel. With this said, it has taken me about six weeks or more to finish it.

In the meantime, other novels like The Third Jesus by Deepak Chopra, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen have been on my mind. I have looked at them on my nook, but could not bring myself to even peep inside these novels, because I was being held hostage by Crime and Punishment.

Don't get me wrong, Crime and Punishment is one of my all time favorite novels. The story line is magnificent, the characters are unforgettable, and it really made me think about good and evil, justice and injustice, and the roles of women and men in relationships.

I'm going to veer off topic, for a moment, to talk about the roles of women and men in Crime and Punishment. The main character, with all of his flaws, seemed to be the central figure to all of the women in his life: his mother, his sister, and the girl whom he pulled into his scandal. No matter how badly he treated them, they all still seemed to desire his attention, love and wanted to save him. Also, another character, in the novel, stated that " And if once a girl's heart is moved to pity, it's more dangerous than anything. She is bound to want to 'save him' to bring him to his senses, and lift him up and draw him to nobler aims, and restore him to new life and usefulness-well, we all know how far such dreams can go." Now, the character who stated this is definitely not a noble man, but  damn, the actions of the characters and many people whom I know, support this statement. I'm just thinking "Is there truth to be found in novels? 

Back to the hostage situation. I finished Crime and Punishment last night, and even though I savored every moment of this read, I felt a sense of relief to finally be finished and no longer held hostage. Six weeks or more is a long time to read one novel, even if is over 1000 pages. Is it a crime to read more than one book at a time, and if it is a crime, is there a punishment?

People, let me know if any of you have been held hostage by a novel :)

Books that I can't wait to get to!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"No man is an island"...........................................

"No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent."
                                                       John Donne 

Tonight, I made a really crazy decision to go outside and water my garden while my quinoa was cooking, but these are the types of decisions that I make sometimes. So, I ran down to the garden, and one of my neighbors was sitting under the gazebo drinking a cup of tea. I did not notice him; I was thinking about my garden and my quinoa. He softly said "Hello Jackie." I was so thrilled to see him, and he seemed equally as thrilled to see me. I invited him to come over to my garden where we talk about how good my garden was growing. I was excited that we actually discovered a whole green bean, which means that there are many more to come. Next thing I knew, here comes another neighbor who came to work in her garden. We all ended up admiring my garden. I'm not boasting, but it is quite amazing. The garden conversation led to other conversations. I watered my garden as we talked, and I rushed upstairs praying that my quinoa was not burnt.

As I was eating my quinoa, that did not burn, with mixed vegetables, I sat and thought about how content I felt to have just had this spontaneous conversation, that really was a little thing, that meant so much!

"No man is an island"...........................................

A garden that is similar to mine :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Amusement Park and Canoeing

I work with some of the best kids in the entire world. Let me repeat, I work with some of the best kids in the entire world. Okay, this may be a hyperbole, because I don't know all of the students in the whole world, but just know, that the students that I work with are pretty darn awesome.

On Saturday, I traveled with with some other teachers, counselors, and students to Kings Dominion: an amusement park. We had approximately 47 students. We met at 10, boarded the bus and rode to King's Dominion. I must admit that I was probably more excited than the students: I haven't been to an amusement park in years.

We got to to the park, we told the kids where and when to check in with us, and off we went. We rode rides, ate junk food and talked trash all day.

So, at check in time, there were three students who were about 30 minutes late. We knew that they were okay, because we called their cell phones, but we still needed to lay our eyes on them and get back to the rides. We were laughing and talking as the late students approached. I said to the other teachers "we have to act like we are mad," so we stopped laughing  and put on our stern teacher faces. The students approached, and we talked to them about being on time for check in etc. in our teacher, responsible voices. As they walked away, we all laughed about how nervous they were. They had no clue that we weren't mad; we just wanted to get back to the rides.

The rest of the day went without a hitch. Finally, we boarded the bus and went back to the school. I got home and sent a text to the other adults who went and said "Awesome trip; we have some great kids." And the funny thing about this text is that I really meant it.

Teachers and counselors waiting for check-in
Teachers have fun too!
The next day, I popped up early, packed my lunch, and headed to the school to meet another group of students to go canoeing. We met at 8, drove an hour to a lake and went on a six hour canoeing trip. We got into our canoes and off we went down the Rappahannock River. We stopped on the river to eat lunch, we stopped later to swim, and later we stopped to swing from a rope that was tied to a tree. Hurrying was not on our minds.

The scenery was absolutely amazing with bright sunshine, beautiful trees and a cool river.  While we were canoeing, we could hear the noise that nature makes.  You know that sound, not sure how to describe it, but it's that sound that nature makes when it wants to be noticed, and we did notice. Also, blended with that nature sound, was the sound of us laughing and talking with all of our cares left behind: no textbooks, no homework, no bells, no teachers. You read it right! For just a short moment, we were not teachers, but grown ups who wanted to spend quality time with children on a lake. We ended the trip at a barbecue place and afterwards we had soft served ice-cream, and we rode happily home.

The beautiful view
Our Canoes
The grown ups on the trip!

Now, for some people, spending their entire weekend with somebody elses children is a bit too much, and I ain't the one to just spend time with just any old kids on the weekend, but these kids really are worth every moment, and I mean it.

If you are a teacher or a  home school teacher and you love the students whom you work with, "Throw Your Hands Up!"

OK, I can only show pictures of the adults; I have to respect my students' privacy :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

That Southern Feeling

I was raised in a very small, rural town in Sweet Home Alabama. Our town didn't have the things that most places have like traffic lights, fast food restaurants or a decent grocery store. We had to travel at least twenty miles in order to experience the luxuries that were afforded other towns. Today, there is a traffic light and a few restaurants but no chain restaurant. Hooray!!!!!

We may not have had many luxuries, but we did have a sense of community. Our town had that true Southern Feeling. All of the children who lived in my neighborhood rode the school bus, yes, yellow school bus with no air conditioner in Alabama, to school. Riding the bus really provided bonding opportunities for us. Mr. Buster, our neighbor, would take us on hay rides on the back of his huge truck for Halloween. There were plenty of girl scout meetings and cookouts, choir rehearsals, band rehearsals etc.

What sticks out the most in my mind is the free lunch program that was held at the church during the summer. Everyday, during the week, the kids and their parents would go to the church for the free lunch that was provided by the government. Yes, we did get benefits from the government. I hope that this does not turn to many people off. But, we would get there early and maybe have bible study, play, fight and eat our free lunch. When I think of those bologna sandwiches with that thick cheese, I get a warm feeling.

Children being Children

So, I have lived in two cities: Detroit and the DC area. I have really been pondering what it is that I love about both of these cities. The answer hit me as I was running with a lady from my running group, and we were discussing people that we mutually knew from the different groups that we belonged to; these cities have that Southern Feeling.

Detroit is a big city that is full of people from the South. I taught high school in Detroit, so, I was welcomed into the community. I was invited to church, back yard barbecues, and neighborhood bars. While driving in my car, people would blow or wave, because they recognized me. Now, you know that this is awesome in a big city. When I would go into my favorite bar, it felt just like Cheers with that Southern Feeling of everybody knowing everybody. There is nothing like going some place and people knowing your name.

Now, the DC area is my home forever, I hope! It definitely has that Southern Feeling. The main thing that contributes to that Southern Feeling are the number of groups that are here that helps to make this big area, which includes DC, Maryland, and Virginia, a really small place. There are running groups, cycling groups, scrape booking groups, book club groups, hiking groups, cooking groups, church groups and the list goes on and on.

Place where I love to run!

I am a member of two running groups, a book club group, a cycling group, and an outdoor group that is part of the school where I teach. I also have friends who are members of other groups and so, from time to time, I partake in their groups' activities which expands that Southern Feeling even more.

I run into people from my different groups all over the city. Although I may not know many of their names, when I see them out, it's like running into old friends. I met two girls who are from a small town near the small town where I grew up, and we chat like we have been knowing each other forever. With the running group, I typically run with the same people every week, but every now and then someone new will pop up.  I ran with a lady last Saturday who knew quite a few of the students whom I currently teach. I thought, WOW, this really is a small town. While watching the news, I saw this political commentary who looked real familiar, and then I realized that he was a man from one of my running groups; he is a friend in a round about way. When I have these type of experiences, I get the same feeling that I use to get when I ate those bologna and cheese sandwiches at the church.

There was a research done, trust me on this, I'm not sure where I read it, but the research stated that if a person has at least one group that he/she belongs to, and she is expected to show up at least once a month, this increases that person's happiness level.

So, if you live in a big city or a small town, I am encouraging you to join a group or start a group in order to increase your happiness level and get that Southern Feeling.

There is someone out there who knows what I'm talking 'bout. HOLLER............


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Poet Nikki Giovanni Speaks at Busboys & Poets | NBC Washington

Nikki Giovanni outside of a bar in DC!

I was flipping through a 9th grade literature textbook desperately seeking a story that my students would enjoy, and at the same time, be able to review a few concepts for their upcoming final exam. As I was flipping through the textbook, I ran across this wonderful poem by Nikki Giovanni:

“The World Is Not a Pleasant Place to Be"
Nikki Giovanni

                                         the world is not a pleasant place 
                                         to be without
                             someone to hold and be held back

                             a river would stop
                             its flow if only
                                         a stream were there
                             to receive it

                             an ocean would never laugh
                             if clouds weren’t there
                             to kiss her tears
                                        the world is not
                            a pleasant place to be without

Nikki is in DC quite often, and I see her just about every time that she is in town. I must admit that I am a semi -Nikki stalker. I have seen her so many times, that when I show up to see her, she gives me shout-outs. You just don't know how happy it makes me to receive a shout-out from someone whose writings are in textbooks.

Click on the link below to see Nikki at a great restaurant in DC called Busboy and Poet. The restaurant is named for Langston Hughes who was a busboy/poet. I am in one of the pictures with a CD that she gave to me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Savor the Moment"

Turning 40 has been so incredible, and trying to put this experience into words has really been difficult. Being a literature teacher, I know that words are powerful and must be used carefully in order to create a picture in a person's mind or give the listener or reader that feeling that is trying to be conveyed.

This time of the year, most teachers' conversations are about "why is school not out yet, how tired we are, how the kids don't want to do anything" etc. So, my co-worker and I were having one of those conversations, and finally he said that he was going to "Savor the Moments" that we have left in school. The light bulb went off in my head, and my entire attitude changed: "Savor the Moment." These are the three words that are perfect for conveying what life has been like since I turned 40.

Me and the co-worker who provided those words of wisdom!

Here are my top three things that I have learned to savor, even more, once I turned 40:

1. Time that is spent with people whom I care about: I spent memorial day weekend with my niece, her husband and her son. While there, I savored every moment. I enjoyed waking up to the sounds of baby Noah and later eating my favorite breakfast, oatmeal with blueberries, in the backyard. I savored enjoying a strawberry festival in the blazing hot sun, when normally, I may have been complaining about the heat. I enjoyed having lunch  and spending quality time with just my niece, while baby Noah was on an excursion with his daddy.

Baby Noah

 Noah and Kim

Kim and Me when Noah was in the oven. 
2. The over abundance of free time that I have: If you are a really busy person, and it really irritates you when someone has a lot of free time, I'm advising you to skip this part right now. I must admit that I am a fairly organized person, and therefore, I have a whole bunch of free time. I use to spend a lot of time feeling guilty about being able to go to the gym everyday, read for pleasure almost everyday, meet friends out whenever the desire hit me or when people were available. But, once I turned 40, ALL, and I mean, ALL of the guilt went away. I savor every bike ride that I am able to take, every evening that I am able to go see a play, and/or even take a long, glorious nap. And to make matters even better, I am not working this summer, and I will have plenty of time to do whatever, and I mean whatever, I want to do: sleep, read, bike, travel, swim, play tennis, spend time with people whom I care about or do absolutely nothing, and I know that I will enjoy every one of these moments with no guilt. Hooray!

Alice Walker dancing at a dance party in her honor
Hanging out with friends in DC
Running a Race

Hiking in Sonoma

3. Reading Great Novels. I've always enjoyed a great novel, but now I am really appreciating the art of writing; someone actually taking time to put words in print so that readers can enjoy them. I envision authors going to some remote part of Martha's Vineyard and sacrificing precious time in order to bring great novels to their readers. With this in mind, I don't hurry to finish a great novel anymore; I enjoy the journey. I think about the words, hidden meanings, and the characters. I am currently reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Every word on every page is wonderful, and I am truly feeling the characters. This novel is huge, and normally the length alone would make me rush, rush, rush, but not anymore.  I am savoring this read like a chocolate lover savors that last piece of chocolate.

View Image
                JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series

I was a little apprehensive about turning 40, but I am so glad that I made it. So, if you are not 40 yet, just know that It Is Good. Don't rush to get here, but..........

If you are 40 and beyond, well, you already know how sweet it is :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

"Raise up a child"............

My nieces, Christina and Tia, enjoying a book!
 Living in a world with many sophisticated, high-tech gadgets, it's so refreshing to see two girls really enjoying a book.  Look at 'em.

This picture makes my heart glad, and I hope that it does the same for you.

Happy Saturday!!!!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Nook or a Book

My Book Shelf

I have lots of books in my condo, and I USE TO love to look at them and touch them. I have multiple copies of some of my all time favorite books like Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I even have quite a few autographed copies. I USE TO spend a lot of time making sure that they were alphabetized by the authors' last name, and I would dust them at least once a week. Overtime, things changed: Digital Readers Emerged On the Scene.

The Nook

When the digital reader first came out, I couldn't image reading from anything except a hard or paperback book. I am not sure what inspired me, but around the time of the big DC Snow Storm of 2009, I ordered the Nook by Barnes and Nobel.

My Nook came right before everything in DC came to a screeching halt because of the snowstorm, and I was sort of stuck in. I was sort of stuck in, because I live in a pedestrian friendly neighborhood, and my neighbors and I did a lot of walking to the neighborhood restaurant and bars that somehow managed to open during the blizzard.

Like I stated before, I got the Nook right before the storm, and I started reading Standing at the Scratch Line by Guy Johnson, the son of the renown author, Maya Angelou. By the way, Standing at the Scratch line is a really fascinating read, the main character is an African American bad ass in a sort of positive way. Reading this  novel on the Nook, I had a complete paradigm shift: I absolutely loved reading digitally. WOW! Some of the advantages of reading digitally are that the words can be changed to any size that you like and no more flipping pages.

Another great advantage to reading digitally is that you can download books no matter where you are, and the books will be on your digital reader within seconds. Case in point, on one of my DC excursions, I was at the National Portrait Gallery to hear a talk by Andrew Young, the former Mayor of Atlanta. He mentioned two books that really inspired him: The Third Jesus by Deepak Chopra and No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu.  While he was doing his talk, I was able to download both books, and they were instantly delivered to my nook. I now always have books that are waiting for me to read, and I very seldom every have to go to a book store, a place that I USE TO love.

Andrew Young and Me
The place that I hardly ever go anymore :(

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not a completely digital reader. As stated in another blog, I keep The Best of Simple, in book form, by my bed, and I read from it periodically so that I can remember "the good old days" of books. I also still have books on my shelves. They don't get as much love and care as they use too, but I still have them.

I can't say which digital reader is the best, because I have only tried the Nook, and it was LOVE AT FIRST READ :)  People, what are your thoughts on this huge shift in the literary world?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dr. Semple

Yesterday, while taking a break at work, I received a call from a dear friend, Dr. Semple. I knew that I needed to answer the phone, because a call from Dr. Semple always means that he has something interesting for us to do. So, I answered the call, and Dr. Semple stated that there was play that night at the Studio Theatre. I said, "What time should I meet you?"  He replied "7:45" and the date was set.  I met him, we saw the play, went for a quick bite and drink after the play, and we went our merry ways. Everyone needs a friendship that's this easy.

Dr. Semple
I met Dr. Semple anywhere from 5 to 10 ten years ago. It's always been difficult for me to keep up with how long I have known a person, been a member of my book club, been teaching at a school etc.  You get the point? So, I met Dr. Semple because one of my other friends, Carolyn, bumped a lady's car.  She left a note on the lady's car, and the lady called her. The lady was so thrilled that Carolyn left a note; she invited Carolyn to a party. Being the social people that we are, Carolyn and I went to the party. I know this is confusing, so stop and read this part one more time.

We were at this party, and we were having a really great time. We met this man whose last name was Semple. Now, to a literary person, this name instantly excited me. So, I said "is your name Semple as in Jesse B. Semple," and the rest of our relationship is history. From that day forward, we have been like Tea Cake and Janie from Their Eyes Were Watching God:  "Janie and Teacake gone hunting. Janie and Teacake gone fishing. Teacake and Janie gone to Orlando to the movies. Teacake and Janie gone to a dance."  And it all started because of his name, Semple.

The Best of Simple (American Century)
The Best of Simple

Jesse B. Semple, or Simple for short, is the main character in a series of short stories by Langston Hughes. Langston was very fascinated with simple, everyday people.  He felt that "it was impossible to live in Harlem and not know at least a hundred Simples."  I keep a copy of The Best of Simple next to my bed, and whenever I need a good old belly aching laugh, I read one of the stories. If you have not read one of the short stories, I really encourage you to do it, and do it soon. 

Quiet as its kept, and I feel corny for writing this, but I have met and formed a life long relationship with Dr. Semple all because of Jesse B. Semple. Boy am I grateful for literature!
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