Hello everyone, welcome to Webster’s World on Blogger! I guess I should start out by introducing myself, my real name is Ashley and I am an inspiring writer. Ever since I was old enough to write, I did. I wrote short stories and haikus, I always entered our regions reflections contest and usually asked for extra writing assignments from the teachers. My interest in writing may have very well been do to the fact that I was very much a loner throughout most of my grade school years. Being tortured by the other students in my class was not an uncommon thing for me and writing, I suppose, made me feel safe. I could be whomever I wished to be on paper, no one could hurt me or tell me I was stupid or over weight. I was no longer out-of-place, simply because this seemed to be where I belonged.
It wasn’t until I was 9 years old that things started to look up for me. I was in the fifth grade and as I entered the awkward years of puberty I once again felt lost and out-of-place. Armed with a few more friends than the former years had allowed, I felt like maybe something in my life was about to change and I could not have been more right. As my passion for writing grew on, so did the interest of my friends. They all wanted to know what I was doing slaving over my desk at reading time or why I was finishing my work early just to do a little more. I had an idea back then, one that would turn out to be the building blocks of who I am today.
At this time in my life, my father was my one and only best friend. I can not count how many times I would come home to him crying after a day at school had turned into hell on earth for me. All through grade school I was very much overweight. I had, for the most part, long brown hair until my mother convinced me to cut it short which only made my face even more resemble a Macy’s day balloon. I suffered from eczema on my face and walked around like a living veggie-tale. I was awkward to say the least and I know that everyone noticed. From the time I stepped on the bus to the moment I stepped off of it at the end of the school day, it was nothing but a fight with my eyes to hold back my tears each day. Most of the teachers I had never saw it, let alone try to do anything about it. I was fair game. No matter how bad those days were at school, I could always count on my father to pick me right back up out of my stooper. My father was 6’2, bald except for the sides of his head and he toted a dark brown mustache and a cute little pot belly. He was a man of God and of discipline, having served in the Navy in his younger years and growing up with an alcoholic father. More than anything was he a comedian and on those really hard days, coming home feeling lower than low, he knew just how to make me smile.
It was, in the end my father who I have to thank for my spirit of popularity in that small town of Nixa, Missouri. I was 10 now and still at bit far off on getting my driver’s license or a job, so he bridged the gaps. Equipped with my new-found friends and my father, we set out to do something that would grow up to be bigger then all of us. We set out to make a newspaper.
By November of 2003, the first issue of the “Inman Ink” was written, typed and published to the lot of the Nicholas A. Inman Elementary school. I watched with pride as I let my eyes dance upon the hundreds of students reading my newspaper. Everywhere I looked, students walking in the hallways, sitting at their desks in their classrooms, even at recess, there it was, my paper. Soon, it caught on like wildfire. Many of my classmates were writing me “test” articles as some kind of audition to be a part of the Inman Ink. Before spring, I had two editors, five reporters, a sports reporter and an illustrator for the new comic addition to the paper. I assigned subjects and due dates and every other Saturday it was off to Kinkos to piece together and print the new issue of the Inman Ink. Together, all of us were taking the, at the time, “just for fun” project to another level. That Winter I had successfully scored an interview with John Brown, a newscaster for the local news station KSPR 33. After I had told him a little bit about our project, he invited my family and I to sit in on the set during an actual news cast. I also had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Aaron Bergey from the TV show The Bachelor while he was building his restaurant, Trollies located in downtown Springfield, Mo,. For the first time in my life I felt like I had a purpose. I felt like I fit in and that was something that I never would have dreamed could have happened to me. For all of the years my classmates spent tearing me down, they couldn’t stop trying to get on my good side when I started to move up in the world. In February of 2003, I received a phone call. I didn’t know it at the time but what this man was about to ask me would be one of the very big turning points in my life and certainly one that I will never forget.
There I was, right there on the front page of The Nixa News Enterprise. Literally, hot off the press I stood there reading, along with my picture the caption reads, “Inman student writes newspaper so that her classmates know what’s going on.” Joe Hadsell, a local reporter was the friendly voice on the other end of the phone that cold February night. He had asked me to do an interview with him regarding The Inman Ink. Not only that, but I was given an exclusive invitation to be there when it was printed, right there in the massive room with the printing press and I was promised the very first copy.
That week at school I watched everyone read, not my paper but the actual city newspaper with my face plastered on the front of it. Everyone was in awe that I had accomplished so much in the few short months that I did. Not only did I have a whole half a page article, but Joe Hadsell had written me another article. He entitled it, “A letter to Ashley: Never stop asking questions”. In his editorial he gave me some very good advice that follows me even today. He told me to never stop asking questions. Never to stop being curious and never to stop writing. I still remember that day like it was yesterday and I cant help but smile and at the same time, want to cry. That year was one of the best of my entire life to date and I cherish so dearly all of the days I spent slaving over this newspaper project with my father. He was my inspiration, the fuel that kept me going and above all, my best, and for a very long time, my only friend.
Sixth grade came to pass. That year my basketball team had decided to join two more leagues and that left little time for anything other than practice and games. By the end of my sixth grade year I had been named MVP three years in a row and had managed to average the most points a game for the last four. My team was undefeated until that season. We lost our last game in the last 2 seconds of the game, by a fowl shot. Now that the season was over for all of our leagues, I was excited for the summer. I had put a lot of hours into school and basketball and I was certainly ready to start writing again. I knew that I could never publish the Inman Ink again. I was moving on, going to Jr. High. I would no longer be a student at Nicholas A. Inman Elementary, but I had another project in mind before I left for the year. I figured I owed to my classmates who had helped me with the newspaper and to the classmates below me, to keep the paper alive. In May of that year, I found a sponsor for Inman elementary’s new after school club, The Writing Club.
That summer started out great. It was June of 2004, when my Aunt and soon to be Uncle had come into town for a week of sun-kissed fun spent on Lake Taneycomo in Branson, Mo. My sister and I spent the whole week with them, fishing, swimming, boating and sitting by a warm camp fire, smores and all. It wasn’t until the weekend that my parents were able to join in on the festivities, but I was over joyed to see them. I still recall sitting out on the porch of our cabin with a cup of hot coffee between my knees and the lake water sparkling turquoise shimmer on my sunburnt face. Sitting there with momma just taking it all in. I remember my father standing alone on the dock, just looking. I can still see the smile on his face when he caught me staring at him.
I never imagined that my life would turn out the way it has. I never imagined accomplishing all that I had those two years of my life. I often wonder now where that enthusiasm went, where my drive went but I guess I do know. That hot summer night in June was the last night I’d see my father alive. He passed away that night, around one in the morning. I awoke to my mothers cry for help and I called 911. I knew he was gone before I carried myself into their bedroom, I just knew. I walked in to see my mother performing CPR and her constant begging God to help her. I think the hardest part for me was seeing him like that. Seeing him laying there and there was nothing I could do to save him.
This blog is in honor of my father. He was my inspiration, my motivation, my rock. He taught my so many things and carried me through some of the hardest times in my life. Even in passing I can still feel him. His ambition and his kindness live in me. The lessons he’s taught me and the joy he instilled in my life will always serve me and will never be forgotten. He and I did great things together. He helped me achieve some of my very dreams. He took an idea and he perfected it and molded it into something larger than life. He inspired me everyday to be all that I could be and in those last two years I spent with him, I was all that I could be. I had everything I had ever wanted and I owe it all to him.
I used to live through my writing, used to use it as a security blanket when my life got to be more than I could bear. It was a sort of way for me to let go of the real world and everything about it that hurt me, and to lose myself in something that made me happy. Writing still has that power for me. After my father’s passing I gave up basketball, gave up choir, gave up everything that reminded me that he could no longer be the loudest voice in the crowd cheering me on and I pushed everything about him away, except for writing. He was the only person I had felt like I could talk to and I spent many nights curled up in my bed, bawling, talking to the air. It wasn’t until I was 13 that I started keeping a journal. Everyday I wrote my father letters. I told him about my day and about school. Asked him what he was doing and if I’d ever feel complete like I had when he was around and I always told him how much I missed him. When I entered high school the following year I had changed a lot. I was no longer someone my father would have been proud of and instead of acknowledging and dealing with it, I preferred to drink it away. Most of my time was spent stealing the 2001 Dodge Ram my mother had bought me for me when I was 14. The summer before my freshman year was filled with all nighters and one more than one occasion, ended with being escorted home by the police department. By the time I was 16 I had traded in my truck for a brand new rave red eclipse SE. I was never home, always at a party. My mother and I’s relationship was hurt greatly by this and I spent that summer living with friends. The start of my freshman year, I started skipping school with who I thought at the time, was the love of my life. I was a prisoner to him and it seemed there were no lengths I wouldn’t go to please him, including the risk of going to jail. I guess I just wanted my own life, a different life. I wanted so much to have my father back but I knew that would, could never happen. I burnt a lot of bridges and I learned a lot about myself. I had the most fun I had ever had in my entire life and I was also throwing it away. Needless to say, I didn’t write letters to my father anymore. I couldn’t stand the thought of what he’d think of me and even though I knew he couldn’t yell his disappointments at me, even as he was gone, I couldn’t being myself to tell him all that I had done. I now really had no one to talk to. That was the time that I started writing poems. I channeled all my feelings all my emotions into my writing and once again the real me, remained there. I was too scared to tell anyone else my true feelings wether it be my mother, the man who I was head over heels in love with, all of the innocent people I hurt, or most of all my father. On sheets of paper I could say whatever I wanted, tell as many secrets as I wanted and no one would get hurt or in trouble. Pieces of paper and ink pens took the place of my best friend, they were my escape, my therapy.
It wasn’t until I started sharing my story and my poems that I realized that maybe everything that has happened to me, everything that I have done, was done for a reason and to serve a purpose. I wanted to share my writing with the world to let others who were in my shoes, know that they’re not alone and in some small way, I hope that I can help them heal. My father wouldn’t be proud of some of the things I’ve done, but he’d be proud of me and my writing simply because that’s one of the only parts of him I have held onto. I pushed him away to stop the pain, but through my poems he lives as do all of the other people who I write about. Webster’s World is about me, my writing and the reader and I hope in some small way I can reach out to someone and make them feel like they know me, without ever knowing anything but these simple facts. My name is Ashley, and this is Webster’s World.