According to Stephen Tobolowsky, legendary character actor and writer of one of my favorite podcasts, The Tobolowsky Files, any actor who makes it in Hollywood has had at least four angels who have helped them along the way. This idea got me thinking about my life and some of those people who have been my angels:
My fourth grade teacher, Loah Grabill. She was the consummate elementary school teacher – single, with no kids of her own and had been doing it for years. She didn’t take any guff, and at the same time, encouraged our imaginations and gave me freedom in a way no adult in my life had up until that time. She let us sit wherever we wanted in her classroom and arrange our desks however we wanted them. (For a large part of the year a group of us arranged our desks in two circles side-by-side – one for KAOS and one for CONTROL – as we brought a nearly year-long game of Get Smart into the classroom. Miss Grabill took it all in stride.) She encouraged imagination, innovation and out-of-the-box thinking before it was the thing to do. She also knew how to draw the line and yelling out of classroom windows (I did this once and had to bang her erasers for days) and misspelling words (she yanked a report I had written from being on display at parent’s night because I had repeatedly misspelled the word “flies”) was not tolerated.
Herb Marks – My Comp Lit professor during my freshman year of college, he loved my writing and gave me more encouragement as a writer than perhaps anyone else in my life. He always gave me A’s on my papers (more often than not A-pluses and once even an A plus plus), used my writing as an example of WHAT to do, and made it clear that he thought I had talent. Despite my boyfriend’s insistence that his intentions were less than honorable, he never once hit on me and even hired me to babysit his kids. Any confidence I have in my writing I put down to the seeds of encouragement Herb planted in me.
Mark Simmons – aka my husband. Mark has shown me, more than anyone else in my life, the power of unconditional love. No matter how grumpy or mean or crappy I have been to him, he has always loved me. He has also never stopped pushing me to be my best self (a trait which has often led to me being grumpy, mean or crappy). This has been a source of conflict between us (sometimes a person just needs to be their worst self, especially in the privacy of their own home), but in the end I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am the person I am today, the parent I am today and the woman I am today in large part because of my husband.
Cat Saunders – My therapist and writing mentor, Cat helped me find my voice when I had lost it along the way. She taught me that “no” is a complete sentence and gave me permission to put myself and my needs first, at least some of the time. She encouraged me to speak up for myself, to speak out about my needs, and to speak my truth, with love, in the moment, in whatever way made that possible for me. She offered me non-judgmental unconditional love and support at a time when I needed it most. I wish everyone could find their Dr. Cat.
As we move from the season of thanks-giving to the season of giving, I would like to thank all of these angels in my life for all they have given me. And I would love to hear from you about those who have helped you along the way. Who are YOUR angels?
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