Dear Runners, Trotters, Friends, especially the Honrath/Newman/Hendricks Families:
I’m writing to you all to ask that you join us this Thanksgiving for Charlie’s 6th Annual Turkey Trot. Ironically, I write especially to the Honrath-Newman-Hendricks families although I already know they will NOT be able to join us. You see they are any of us and all of us. They had joined us for the 2014 race from out of town. Perhaps, you are also from out of town or have not joined us for every race either. They knew only their own family and relatives at the race, perhaps like you. Certainly very few of us know a lot of the trotters. But, they joined us, had fun, enjoyed themselves and a lively family Thanksgiving reunion, and then returned to their ordinary lives in different towns and states. Perhaps, that sounds like your Thanksgiving plans as well. I don’t know if I met these families the year they ran. I imagine I didn’t.
I heard from Alyson Honrath recently and I was struck by her story. Her family has lost two dear and vital members of their large and vibrant family since they joined us on Thanksgiving 2014. Two mothers. Two wives. They are still recovering and reeling from this grief. Three children have lost their mother. A young husband is now a widower as is his father as well. These families gathered with us, ran with us, and pounded the pavement with us and OUR race was the central piece of the last weekend that they were all together. Imagine that. IMAGINE it.
I ask all of you to join us because we are a family. Tradition is comforting. Children should be celebrated. Pie should be walked off in advance. And because we will have tremendous personal battles one distant day, we recognize and run on the days that we can. Even after losing two precious sons, I’m well aware that things could be worse for my own family. I’m also well aware that one day they will be. So, we, you, all of us have every right and every obligation to just stop and give thanks and lighten up, drink a beer, walk briskly with our ever-aging children, or hold our spouse’s hand.
Please read the letter that Alyson Honrath sent me (at the end of this letter). It was REALLY intended for all of us. I scanned it once or twice when I first received it but, tonight I forced myself to read it slowly and even despite the chills and sadness, I’m really struck at the value of our town. We are a family. So, come join us. Write to me. Tell me your story. And stop and tell me your name and welcome me. I’m a stranger among us all, just like you.
So Alyson, Honraths, Newmans, and Hendricks families, we’ll miss you all. Truly. To the 10, 12, and 14 year old children who lost their mother, I want to tell you some things that I know are fact:
· Your mother, would have given her life to save any of yours, if she were given the chance. So, maybe her heart was read and that’s what happened. I would’ve died in a heartbeat so either of my sons could have lived. Easily. I would’ve rested in peace to pass before them so they could live.
· It’s hard to know, see, or hear God in a modern world. It’s easier to focus on mom. The reunion with her one day will be a much easier North Star for you to follow throughout life as you determine your conscience and make your decisions. Walk to her.
· Do something different and new in your lives because of mom. This is so that one day when someone asks, “When did you start playing the guitar or singing or painting?” You’ll be able to say when I lost my mother and life changed without my choice, I decided to make my own choice about what else was new or different in my life. ((I recommend that you take up surfing… It’s physical. It’s nature. It’s a thinking time. It’s a thrill. It’s a reason to come back and visit us more often until you buy the beach house or move here. )) Let me know and we’ll connect you with some top local surfers/instructors.
· Final fact, I have no idea how you feel or what it’s like or what you’re going through. You can tell me. You can shoot me an email and tell me. There’s a lot that’s been so terrible for me that I don’t share it with people because I’m afraid that just hearing about my worst experiences… just HEARING about what I’ve experienced might make them too sad. SOOOO… if you want to tell someone about this whole experience or ask someone questions who’s a little farther down the road that you are walking, you are welcome to write to me. I’m a mother if you need to talk to one. You are kids, and I’d love more in my life.
((SPOILER ALERT: You will have great lives and you’ll be very proud of each other, your father, and yourselves for your strong shoulders from what you will carry each day. You’ll love each other and your dad so much more than many families can because you are veterans of the same hell. Only you saw, understood, and walked through it with each other. It’s a beautiful thing.))
To the rest of the Trotter Clan- we look forward to catching up and seeing so many of you this year. We hope you join us. There is so much to be thankful for and so much to celebrate. And for all of those who have lost loved ones recently, I’m so very sorry. That is just so very sad. Take some time for sweatpants and ice cream. Some tears and bathrobe days. Then get back into life and the trot and come run with us. The beers on us for registered runners.
Cheers to you all. Let’s have some fun.
PLEASE READ ALYSON HONRATH’S LETTER BELOW…
Thank you for you wonderful letter ( email). I am an out of town one time "Trotter". My sister and family live in Va Beach and every other year we (all five sibling's families, mom and dad), meet at her home for Turkey Day, staying in our home states on 'off' years. 2014 was our Va. year. It was also the year that every single family member, 30 in total, made it in for the gathering. Your race was a central part of our celebration. My daughter was an Ensign ( now a LTJG ) on USS Porter '78, Spain, my sister's son is an ROTC officer at Embry Riddle, Fla, and my brother is Coast Guard Captain (26 yrs), and I was a Lt in the NJSP (28 yrs), I retired this past May to help my brother and my Dad out. We understand what it means to stand together in support of each other. We all participated in the candle Guinness Record challenge of "Most People Blowing Candles Out Simultaneously and a good number of us ran. What a great way for our entire family age 6-80 to participate in this day. Anyway, we had quite a clan in from NJ, California, Massachusetts,Maryland, Fla, North Carolina, and of course Va. Beach. We also had some good quality runners in the family. So, where did this mob of Newmans, Hendricks' and Honraths disappear to? Well, 2015 was our off year. Sadly we did not realize that your wonderful event would also be the last time we were all together. My sister- in -law died suddenly and without warning, at age 47, in August of 2015, leaving my brother and their 10, 12 and 14 year old children. My mom followed her in November on Thanksgiving Day, three days after a serious stroke, 79yrs. We are still regrouping and adjusting. I just wanted to let you know that your wonderful event and tribute to Charlie will always and forever be remembered by our family as the the Best Thanksgiving we have ever had. Our last complete family memories are of the great time we all had, running, walking, laughing, having an after race beer,cheering each other on, and meeting new friends at the race. What a great community you belong to!!! Everyone is not ready for another T day gathering yet, so even though this would be our year back in Va Beach, we are giving each family time to heal. I hope to be back in the next couple of years, and if possible to be at your race. I wanted to share my story with you to let you know that your family and my family will always be tied together, through Charlie's Turkey Trot, as one of the best family times we ever had while we were all together.
Wishing you, your family, and all the coastal communities a safe Labor Day weekend from this upcoming storm.
To Angelina Mills-Mendez
Angela, this is your 2nd Grade teacher Mrs. Normile. Today I heard that your mom passed away a few weeks ago. I am so shocked. I am so angry. I am so sad. Is this how you felt when you heard about Charlie? I remember that you were making your First Communion on the day Charlie was rushed to the hospital. Were you looking for me as you lined up in your white dress and veil? In all of my shock and fear and numbness in those first few scary hours with Charlie, I still thought of you and the boys and girls in our classroom and I called Mrs. Grasman to tell her to pass along to you all that I could not be with you.
And now, you’re in 8th Grade, and your mom’s gone. And now, for the 2nd time, I wish I could’ve been with you. In recognition that you are now a very grown up worldly 8th grader, I will use grown up words to tell you that this sucks so much. I was in shock when I heard the news. Nothing shocks me anymore. Not since Charlie. But, today, I felt the same. I couldn’t even call someone to hear more details about your loss or your mom’s passing because I didn’t want to hear bad news over the telephone again… Not since Charlie.
Ok, Angelina. This is important. Your mom’s story in many ways has ended. She has lived her last hour, written her last page BUT… you don’t even know all of the pages. You don’t know all of the story. Now, that it has ended, you will really want to hear it all or gather it all to read somewhere down the line. I grabbed every story, every photo, every angle of my son James’ stories from him friends, classmates, teachers so that we could have as much as possible to remember him and know him by.
Angelina, you are an only child and all of your mother’s family lived in Puerto Rico so, they will have so much to share with you about your mother. I have so much to share with you and mom’s family as well. We spent a year together during 2nd grade. Your mom was the most present, most involved, most concerned, most doting, most connected mother of any student in my entire career. We spoke nearly every day in 2nd grade as she and I partnered in our care for you. Me in the classroom, she in the home. We spoke nearly every day.
She was determined and unwavering in her devotion to you and what she thought was in your best interests. She mothered you intensely and closely. I would encourage her to do less, stand back, allow you more independence and the chance to do things on your own. She would leave me notes on my desk in response. “I hear you but, I’m not changing my ways. Do you want to go to Starbucks after school? Yvonne”
She was your mother. This was her life. You were her life and she was going to walk the distance with you. That much was clear.
That’s cool. Your mom handed you an entire lifetime of conversations, advice, lessons, praise, hugs, and hair brushings in your 14 years. Easily.
There’s a lot to tell you. Since you were only 7 years old in 2nd grade and mom’s family was out of the country, I have stories of her that you may want to have. I have moments and memories of the two of you together that you will want to remember. I really do. Do you remember when she’d take you to the church in the evenings to blowdry your hair because the fuses blew, or the GFI was tripped at home and she didn’t know how to fix it or find the fuse box? Dad was on one of his tours or cruises and mom would wrap you in the car after your bath and take you up the church restroom to blowdry your hair…. Until she told MRS. NORMILE who promptly brought your mom into the wonderful world of google. Answers, answers everywhere.
So, I missed your first communion and I didn’t return to school that year as I battled with and for little Charlie’s life and I didn’t return to school in the fall and I think you moved on to a new school that year… But, I saw you and mom once more. It was on Lola’s very first birthday on her own. Her 3rd birthday and I saw you and Mom in Chick fil A when I was getting party trays. I was pale and sad and hollow and then I saw your mother and she grabbed me and hugged me and held me as I cried. I needed a mother and so I got to share yours.
Angelina, it’s important to cry and express and get out the pain and anger before you heal and walk forward in life or it will damage you later, from the inside. I have a lot to tell you about this journey you are beginning and the mother you had.
Did you know your mother cooked my first taste of Puerto Rican food? Helped me cook my first Puerto Rican recipe and was the reason I chose Puerto Rico for our family’s first vacation to that island during your 2nd grade year.
Now, today, I rush and hurry and stay busy to avoid the noise, the memories, the grief, the loss, the boys, the sadness. But, when I am in Puerto Rico, I am slow. I can be alone. I don’t need noise or television or tasks. I avoid it all. I love the surf, sand, music, people, food. I have no sadness whatsoever on the island. None. I can plant my feet and think of both my boys straight through my heart and I feel joy. True joy does not yet exist for me anywhere else. True, pure youthful joy is still possible when I’m there.
Your mother is the reason I went to Puerto Rico for the very first time for Spring Break of your 2nd Grade year. She is the reason, I went to the island and was with all 5 of my babies for the very last time in paradise. Did you remember that your Papi and Abuela had come to visit with you and mom for a month that Spring during 2nd Grade? They would come to school often and although they spoke very little English, we would hug and spend time whenever I saw them. Gaela would stop by school sometimes and I would encourage her to practice her Spanish with them.
Well, when my family arrived in Puerto Rico, your Papi and Abuela were there on the airport sidewalk, pacing, looking, and waiting to surprise me! Your mother had sent them to welcome me and my family and I was so surprised and spoiled. They drove my daughter and the twins to our rental home in Old San Juan while the boys waited to get our rental car. Your papi y abuela bought Charlie and Lola their first frozen limber (frozen juice in a cup) from an old woman’s window next door. Lola and I buy one from her every time we go now. We just saw the woman again in June, 5 years later. When Papi finally left us, he handed me a bottle of rum and solemnly assured me it would come in handy since all of the island liquor stores were closed for the remainder of the day, Good Friday.
When I returned home, I told your mom how wonderful the vacation was despite the rough, rough waters of Rincon. She waved her hand and said, “No good, Its too far. Its too rough. Next time you go, you will go to the west coast. My brother has a place in Low-KEE-yo.” I loved how she said it and I asked her several times that week how to say the name and where it was and what it was like. I loved imagining another vacation I suppose.
Within three weeks of returning from our first trip from Puerto Rico, I lost Charlie, and my life as I knew it. I never saw you and your mother again for any real moments. Within 11 months of Charlie, I spent the best week of my mothering years with James and the rest of my family in your uncle’s town of Low-KEE-yo, before we lost James as well.. It is the town of Luquillo that is now my 2nd home, my heart, and my happiness. My friends. James’ last friends. They are beautiful people. All from your mother. How could you gift someone the peace I feel? How could I have put into words my thanks?
Angelina, I have a lot to teach you and I lot I think your mother would like me to remind you about her and what she wanted for you. If you are wondering how you will live now without her, well, I have some ideas about that also. ((You living your life will actually be how you remain WITH her, by the way, because you were her life. Angelina, you were her life. You were her reason. Her happiness. Her everything. By you living beautifully, she will live. I have every confidence and many great ideas for how you will live a wonderful life… and, don’t worry, you’ll see her again. In the eyes of your son or the hairflip of your daughter or their voices. She won’t miss a moment of your life…
Please text me. I’d like to take a walk and talk with you. This will NOT be the third time that I wish I could be with you. I can. I will. Let me simply sit with you.
I have a lot I can help you with. I would like to see you. Today has been very painful as I tried to imagine your pain. You are the first person I have considered to have been dealt a blow has heavy as mine. Mom was your only, and your every. You were hers.
Your loss is the first one in my opinion that seems as large as mine. A loss just as shocking, just as big, just as difficult.
You'll need a few days of sweatpants, tears, and ice cream before we put your shoulders back, put on some bright lipstick for your mother for a minute, and walk the walk. We gotta walk the walk, Ang. I’ll meet you anytime, anywhere, including anywhere on the island of Puerto Rico. Please read and translate this for Papi and Abuela. My heart bursts for them. It is so very painful to lose a child.
So, I heard from an old 20 year old friend today.
I taught Kelly McMullan as a young 7-8 year old in 2nd grade.
She and her family moved to Colorado a few years later and we haven't spoken since she was 9 or 10 years old... But, I was THRILLED to hear from her.
I shared with a friend my delight at hearing from one of my former students with a friend and she commented, "She must have been very special to you."
I had no words. She was my STUDENT.
It's hard to understand for anyone who isn't a teacher but, if you were to spend a day with your child as a parent, I am sure there are many moments where you separate or do your own things... Check emails, call a friend, read the newspaper... As a teacher, especially of 2nd graders,as I was for many years, you spend 8 hours a day speaking with these little friends. 8 hours a day in one room. Imagine if you had a whole class over for a birthday party for even two hours in one room. The schoolteacher spends8 hours talking to the child and listening in return. Telling stories, walking to the playground, sitting, reading, sharing ideas. 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for10 straight months.
Yes, she is special to me... She was my student.
So, for any of my former middle school or 2nd grade students, or 8th graders who had me 3 different years or 7th graders who spent two years with me... Yes, you are special to me. But, you already know that just as surely as I know how I will always hold a special place in your heart. There really isn't an explanation possible for those who weren't with us, is there?! But, wasn't it wonderful? Share your hellos, your memories, and your shoutouts to me or one another in the comments at the end or tell me what teachers meant the world to you.
So, to my Jacobs and Abbeys and Kelseys and Naheda and Morgans and Laurens and Noahs and Tinos and Matthews and Mollys and Sams and Ainsleys and Treys and Brendans and Rileys and Sheltons and Erins and Kellys and Natalies and Justins and Leahs and Amandas and Lukes and Maddies and Mathisens and Emmas and Promises and Toris and Graces and Martinas and Josephs and Rhys and Austins and Katies and Aidens all of my other lovin children... stay young, love quickly, and always be good to one another. Here is the note I got from Kelly... my response... and then her attachment.
Again, give me or each other a shoutout in the comments... and, seriously, tell me if you're one of the dozens I forgot. Cuz you know I didn't really forget you or any of our mad fun. I'm just typing quickly on a sticky keyboard.... What was the most fun thing YOU think we did that year? What do YOU remember?
March 29, 2016
Hi Mrs. Normile,
THIS IS KELLY'S ESSAY!!! Oh My gosh... I am only JUST beginning to read it and already, I am so tickled and delighted. I would totally give this thing an A+ and a Smiley Face sticker before putting it front and center in our hallway bulletin board. Words are totally my favorite gift of all. They are the medium I love to work with... I am a word shaker so to receive such beautifully chosen words so carefully placed and strung with care... my, my. What can I say? There are no words. (Awesome- I'm a big fan of irony.)
A famous Chinese proverb states :
In my life, one of the people who left an extremely positive mark on my life was Mrs. Normile. Mrs. Normile was my second grade elementary school teacher at a small Catholic school in Virginia Beach. To this day, she was one of the most influential teachers I have ever had. She had that unique capability to make each and every student in her classroom feel important, intelligent, and talented. What a rare gift and it is for this reason that I want to be a Mrs. Normile. I want to leave such a positive mark on a child’s life that I may have a student of mine, 20 years from now, writing about Ms. McMullan. I want to be the kind of teacher that makes such a lasting impression on an 8 year old, that they feel important, intelligent and talented and ready for the world.
For as long as I can remember, I was the little girl who loved going school. I loved going shopping for school supplies with my Mom and I loved playing teacher with my dolls. I even remember, lining up my dolls and stuffed animals, giving them each names to write on my “school roster” and then I would make up homework assignments and lesson plans for Winnie the Pooh or Barbie. I even practiced writing the ever-so important smiley face at the top of the assignment. Why did I do this ? I just always wanted to imitate everything my teachers did. Aside from my parents, my idols were my teachers. I think even then in my heart I knew that I wanted to follow in their footsteps. However, we all know that in elementary school, most kids see pop stars, athletes and astronauts as their idols and then when they grow up they pursue a completely different path.. For me, I think I always wanted to be a Mrs. Normile.
That said, it really wasn’t until high school that my passion for becoming a teacher became very real. I started understanding the importance that teachers have on my generation’s future, and began to appreciate the time and effort they selflessly put in to making that future possible for us. Teaching requires so much more than showing up in the morning and reading from a textbook. It requires a self-motivated professionalism, a perception of student needs, a sense of understanding individual talents and an innate ability to engage and inspire the student. It also requires perhaps the most important qualities; the ability to be compassionate, patient and understanding. It also requires the ability to inspire mutual respect. I could go on and on, but my high school experience was important to establishing, in my mind, that this was the career path I must take. Developing a real passion for teaching in these formative years allowed me to balance my experiences with not only some of the best teachers, but also by comparing these individual’s positive characteristics with those of the worst of their peers.
We have all had a bad teacher at some point in our lives. These people, given the privilege of teaching the young, don’t embrace the opportunity ….they abuse it. Generally speaking from my limited experience, they appear unmotivated, are easily agitated, and feel entitled. When I say entitled, I do not mean it in a sense of wealth or status, but more in a sense that they give the impression that they are “better” than their students and thus they feel omnipotent. They do not respect the ideas of their students, rather they discard them. So, one may ask, why would this encourage me still be a teacher? Well, they motivate me almost as much as the good ones inspire me. I want to help cancel them out, I want to make more Mrs. Normiles and help the system weed out those teachers who are simply just going through the motions. It is teachers like that that make you appreciate the teachers who dedicate all their time to help leave a positive mark on their students.
Although some teachers are content with sliding by and doing the bare minimum, I would do the exact opposite. I promise to challenge myself daily to create the ideal environment for my students, understanding their needs while inspiring them to great deeds. I want my students to feel safe and comfortable enough to share their ideas and opinions, without the fear of being belittled. As a teacher, my goal is to be friendly, warm, and approachable, but still maintain the respect of the teacher –student relationship. I also intend to hold my students to a higher standard by setting high expectations for them. I understand that it will be tough and there is no magic involved in how to convince a student to learn . However, if they see how much I love teaching, feel that they will want to learn from me so I can make that positive mark on their lives. I not only want to be a teacher but a mentor; someone that my students can talk to, someone that not only educates students but also helps build their character towards being model citizens.
I am so excited to dive into this experience with the help of the School of Education at the University of Colorado. I cannot wait to broaden my knowledge and take all the steps necessary to become a great teacher. As a teacher, I have the responsibility of teaching the future inventors, doctors, mothers, and fathers of this world. I want to be a little piece to the puzzle in helping to them create the best version of themselves possible. In my eyes , there is nothing in the world more noble than that.
Aristotle, perhaps one of the world’s greatest teachers, once said, “Those who know do, those that understand teach. “ Well, I might not be an Aristotle, but I know in my heart I could be a Mrs Normile.
- Kelly McMullan
Jaysus, Kelly. Shut. The. Front. Door. You want to be a Mrs. Normile. Imagine that. You ARE talking about teaching and not actual identity fraud. Right? Love you to the moon, Kelly. Let's do a project together when you get into the school of education. I'm so very, very honored. I feel so so so satisfied. Thank GOD, the years of crayons up noses and middle school nonsense and cooties and head lice and girl drama and parent conferences and long days have all been made worth it with your letter. Attagirl, Kelly. Go get your goals, girl
So I've been running lately. A lot. I don't get it.
So I've been running lately. A lot. I don't get it.