Submitted by Proud Daughter – Melissa Woodson
My mom has been a special education teacher for over 30 years. But “special” doesn’t even begin to describe her. When I think about the thousands of lives she’s touched, from her early intervention work with infants to teaching 6th graders how to become their own advocates, I am truly amazed. And what makes her even more special is the fact that so many of these students send her updates: senior pictures, graduation invitations, job announcements. To find evidence of the impact she’s had, look no further than her students themselves.
After 30 years of service, mom decided to take an early retirement and pursue her dream of becoming an author. Growing up, I had always known that my mom was a great author. Every year on our birthdays, she wrote us each a letter about the last year of our lives: our achievements and successes boasted about in the way only a mother can deliver. Proud. Heartfelt. Honest. Those letters are some of my most treasured possessions.
But with Mom’s creative mind and newfound free time–something she’d never had in the past–she was ready to take her writing to the next level. And so she sat down, put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and poured herself into her first novel, Identity Issues. And then she edited. And rewrote. And attended writer’s groups. And conferences. Edited some more. Rewrote again. Secured an editor and left her precious work in capable hands. All the while, my 50-something mother never blinked at the idea that here she was, in her retirement, a time when most people rest, reinventing herself in a completely new career. This wasn’t just something she was doing for fun; she wanted to get better–she wanted success.
With her first novel under her belt, she asked her editor for advice: What can I do to get better? The answer: write more. And so she did. Mom turned around and did it again, churning through a similarly joyful and treacherous process to write The Wrong Guy, a murder mystery based on the Michigan Murders, a series of murders of college coeds while she attended Eastern Michigan University. The novel was published in 2011 by Echelon Press. In her late 50s, Mom had achieved a lifelong dream: to become a published author.
Did I mention that while she was busy writing and loving every moment, she also missed teaching? So in the midst of writing, editing and publishing novels, Mom has been back in the classroom part time, unable to leave her teacher self fully behind.
As a young woman, I’ve often struggled with my own identity issues, wondering where I fit in the world, what I want out of life and how I can feel fulfilled. What I’ve learned from my mom is that life is always what you make of it. Your life can be full or it can be empty, but it’s up to you to fill it up. Fill it with the things that make your heart happy, and if you don’t know what those things are, never ever stop looking. Life is about discovery. No matter how old or young you are, continue discovering, and believe you’ll make it to the place you’re meant to go. The difference between wishing and realizing your wishes is that when it takes longer for your wish to come true, you care so much about that wish that you’ll do all you can to make it happen.
Mom’s first novel, Identity Issues, is set for publication in early October 2012 as part of a five book series. I couldn’t be prouder to be her daughter!
Melissa Woodson is the community manager for @WashULaw, a premier program for foreign attorneys to earn their LLMOnline, offered through Washington University in St. Louis. In her spare time, she enjoys running, cooking and making half-baked attempts at training her dog.