My Worst Birthday

by Adam C. Wymer
Albemarle County GED

y worst birthday was on September 11 of 2001, where the terrorists took control of three planes and drove them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I went through that day with fear and mixed emotions. My family and I were just getting ready to go to my sister's house and celebrate my birthday when my sister ran into my mom's room where I was, and said a plane had just hit one of the towers. At that moment my family and I were glued to the TV, and we watch as people from the two buildings jumped to avoid being burned to death. Time went past until it came to a complete stop when the south tower and later the north tower plummeted to the ground killing and injuring thousands of innocent people, sending a cloud of smoke through the streets of New York. Not much later another plane hit the Pentagon. After all of that I never celebrated my birthday in the same way again because that day always reminds me of the horrible events that took place on September 11, 2001.

One Year

by Kareema Akhtar
International Rescue Committee

y family have lived in Charlottesville almost one year. In March of 2002 I am not happy. This here in Charlottesville not good. I not understand. I miss my country and my friend. I miss my father. I everytime go to my father's grave at the cemetery in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Now I cannot go to him.

2003 is good. My mother feels better. My English is better. Some English I understand. My sisters and brothers are in school. My sister's English is very much better. Here is no Taliban, no fighting. Here women are outside. In Afghanistan women cannot go outside. Here is snow and rain. In Afghanistan for two years no snow, no rain. It was very hard. Here is much better.

My teacher is very good. It is good to learn English. Halloween and Christmas lights are beautiful! On my street the lights are beautiful. My teacher take me in car to see beautiful Christmas lights! So, so beautiful!

I have a job here. In Afghanistan, men only work. In Afghanistan we open our door and see only wall. The roads are all blocked by big wall. In Afghanistan is guards and guns by big wall. Here it is good. I look out window and door and no wall. I see busy street, no guns, no fighting. I like window-shopping. But many things are very much money. I want a better job. Now I have no insurance, I want insurance.

But I miss you my country. I miss my friends. I miss my father. I want someday to see Kandahar, Afghanistan, again.

One Year

by Raheema Akhtar
International Rescue Committee

am live in Charlottesville almost one year.. In March of 2002 I came to Charlottesville, I am not happy. I not understand. When I first came here, water tastes like bleach. I miss mycountry and my friend. I miss my good water in Afghanistan. I miss my father. In Kandahar, Afghanistan I everytime go to my father's grave at the cemetery. Now I cannot go to him.

Now is good. 2003 is good. My mother is feel better. My sister and brother are in school. My sister's English is very much better. I have a job -- housekeeping at Hampton Inns. I have insurance. Here is not the "Beep! Beep!" everywhere of the cars. Here only sometimes the "Beep! Beep!" In Afghanistan, everywhere, everyday, "Beep! Beep!" Here women are outside. In Afghanistan women cannot go outside. Here is much better. Here is no Taliban, no fighting.

My teacher is very good. It is good to learn English.My English is better. Some English I understand. I want to learn to drive car and get my license. I want a better job. I like to cook.

Stores and churches are beautiful here! But some vegetables and fruits are not the same, not fresh like Afghanistan.

But I miss you my country. I miss my father. I miss my friends. Charlottesville, America is good country.

Language Barrier

by Kazue Matsumoto
ESL (Multi-Cultural Brief)
ome people say that children are so flexible that they can adjust to a new environment easily and can master a foreign language quickly. They think that if they send their children to a school in a foreign country, the children will begin to speak in the foreign language automatically. It might be true, but for us things were not as simple as they say.

My son started to go to Day-Care Center in Charlottesville last September. It was the first time for him to stay in an English environment alone. At first he was very excited and happy, because he found many toys in his classroom for three years old children. He didn't listen to the teacher's directions; instead, he just wanted to play with his favorite toys alone. When somebody took away the toy he had been playing with, he just mumbled, "I can let him use it" in Japanese. Nobody understood it except me. He roamed around the room during the circle time when the children in the classroom were supposed to sit down and listen to what others said. He didn't concentrate on a picture book, while a teacher was reading it for him, though reading books in Japanese was one of his favorite activities. Gradually, he became physical. For example, he would dump the toys out of the box again and again like a baby. When a boy took the toy away, he pulled the boy's hair.When he wanted the teacher's attention, he bit her finger. He should have said something before he did such things, but he didn't have his words in English. He was getting frustrated.

Finally, the teachers suggested that he move to the other class for two years old children or one-year-old babies. I was depressed to hear that, and suspected that they might have thought he was a mentally retarded. So I decided to write a letter to the teachers since I was not good at speaking in English. I was afraid of misunderstanding each other. I wrote that he was able to communicate with people properly in Japanese, and asked them to take a long view of his behavior. In the letter, I also thanked the teachers for observing him carefully, though they could have just ignored him.

After this letter, they were very nice and kind enough to make efforts to make him adjust to the class for three years old children. For example, one of them tried to talk to him in both of Japanese and English. She also tried to have one-on-one time with him. Meanwhile, his behavior became much better than before. He began to try to communicate with the child prior to taking physical action, though he still pulls other children's hair sometimes. He also has built a large vocabulary in English. He is about to bloom.

How My Life Has Changed

by Chananya W. Mazeae
Charlottesville ESL
verybody's life will change at sometime. Some people are very lucky at changes. Some people have bad luck. Everybody's life is not perfect. My life has changed a lot. When I was a little girl, I never stayed with my parents, because my family was broke and it was hard to learn how to take care of myself. That's what happened in my country. There were very big changes in my life when I came to the United States. So I want to share how difficult it was when I came to America.

My nationality is Thai. I came by myself to Charlottesville, on Dec 1, 1999, and married on Dec7, 1999, with a professor at UVA. I knew him more than 16 years. He promised to take care of me, if I would go to the United States. When I first got here, I was shocked, because in his house he had an ex-wife and her friends staying with him too. They tried to control me and make me unhappy. It's very sad. He tried to deport me back to my country, because we were not happy. He didn't want me to stay in his house. And I didn't have any place to stay. I didn't have family or any friends in this country, but I prayed with my God to take care of me. I told myself, "Life is not easy." If I want to go on, it does not matter about the obstacles and hindrances. I need to be strong and fight with my problems. I decided to get away from them, and I didn't want them to control me anymore.

The first step I took, was to go to school to study the English language. AFter I stayed at his house about seven weeks, I left them to find a job. I moved to Maryland to look for a job. I just wanted to find place to stay, and money to buy food, or buy a ticket to go back home. Do you know how I came to move to Maryland? I met a woman from Thailand; she sat down beside me on the airplane. We had a long talk, before she left; she gave me her telephone number to call her when I had a problem. I did call her and tell her I had a problem. She took me to meet her friends, and found a job.

My first job was babysitting. I took care of three kids and an old person (she is the mother of the owner the restaurant) and I also had to clean the house too. I worked there all day, and in the evening I worked at the restaurant. No days off and not enough money. I told myself "I didn't want to stay like this." I wanted to go to school. I found another job. It was the same as the first job. She interviewed me and told me that I could go to school. After I had worked with her, she treated me badly. I felt like a slave. I found a third job. I took care of one kid and cleaned house. My boss has a big company. He promised me, I can go to school or go to church. I have Freedom. But I left again. Because my boss started talking to me that he wasn't happy with his wife, and I knew this would be a problem for me if I stayed there. I told myself, if I want to stay here it is supposed to be legal. I decided to go back to Charlottesville and fix my situation. I knew it would be hard times for me. But I made my goal and fought for myself, and took care my problems. I had a lot of proboems. I could not sleep, had bad dreams, cried a lot, worried, was homesick, felt lonely, sad and depress. I had a hard time to speak or communicate with people, because my English language was very poor and I had a difficult time to find a job. I needed to learn the American way of life, find food to eat, keep my body warm, because I came from a hot country. It's very important to me to be strong and healthy. I told myself everyday "My life will change and get better tomorrow." This was small part about my problem has change.

Today I have a good job. I work at Wachovia Bank. They have good benefits. I also have a degree in accounting from National Business College and Technology, and I am still taking ESL class. I learn how to build up my credit byt buying a brand new car with no miles on it. I got a computer from Dell, and financed it, to help my credit. Now, I have someone who cares about me, helps me, and to share my life with. When I have the opportunity, I will share my life and help people who come from another country. If they have problems, I will tell them to be strong and never give up. One day you and I will get a reward, a rich life.f

Moving On

by Tonya Marie Waller
Fluvanna County EvenStart
was eighteen years old, a senior, and a few months away from graduation. I always tried hard in school, but I always got bad grades. I had a very hard time focusing in school, so I decided to drop out. I made a bad choice and because of that, I'm having a hard time finding a job to support my kids.

So, I have entered this program to make a better life for me and my girls. My intentionsare to get my GED and learn some computer skills which will help me in my job search. My kids meant the world to me, and they are what makes me strive to do better in life. I feel that my going back to school would be a big step in the right direction for me and my girls.

Loneliness in a Crowd


by Casey Hawkes
Fluvanna County Adult Education
he hardest decision I ever had to make in my life was when I quit high school. As long as I could remember I had always wanted to be the first in my family to finish high school and get my diploma. I wanted my whole family to be proud of me for doing something that they did not do. I wanted to show them that getting a diploma was something that was important to me. I also wanted to show my family that I was going to make something out of my life and not end up like my whole family.

My seniro year of high school I went to school caring about something a little more important than graduation. I was thinking about a little child that was living inside of me. I had so much on my mind that I could hardly think of anything else. I had walked around school seeing girls my age carrying babies and I thought about all the nasty things people said about them; I did not want people talking about me like that.

When I told one of my so called best friends what had changed in my life, I saw the look that she gave me. I knew that everyone in my high school and in the county would find out that I was pregnant by the end of the day. Sure enough, by the end of the afternoon when it was time for me to get on the bus, everyone I had known was whispering about me behind my back and laughing about the new girl who had been stupid enough to get herself pregnant.

The whole ride home I could not look anyone in the eyes. I felt like I was an alien to everyone. I kept thinking about the way things had changed so drastically in just a couple of hours. I did not want to spend the rest of the school year with the looks, talking, alughing, and gossip.

When I got home I went straight to my bedroom to wait for my boyfriend to get home. I kept running over everything that I was going to say in my head, but when he got home the only thing that I could do was lay on his shoulder and cry like the little child that I was carrying inside of me. He held me while I cried telling me that what ever the problem was we could get through it if we trusted ourselves. When I calmed down enough to talk, I told him what had happened and what my concerns were about going back to school. He told me that what ever I decided he would stand behind me one hundred percent.

I stayed in my bedroom for a long time thinking and praying that I would make the right decision. I had other family members and friends that talked to me, but I knew that this was a decision that I would have to make all on my own.

The next morning when I went into the kitchen my family and my boyfriend (now my husband) were waiting for me to tell them what my decision was.

Since I am writing this paper, I think that everyone one can figure out what my decision was. I sometimes think that I made the right decision at the time, but now that I have two children and another one on the way and I am taking the GED classes, I find that maybe I should have thought a little bit harder about staying in school.

God's Gift to Me

by Delbert E. Morris
Fluvanna County EvenStart
hen I was twenty years old, my first daughter was born. I at the time was not working, but knew I needed to find a job quickly so I could take care of her. For the first few months it was hard getting up late at night, taking care of my daughter, and getting up to go to work was even harder. But over the next few months, things got better. Work was a little easier and taking care of my daughter became fun watching her grow and walk and also trying to talk for the first time.

Work made it hard to see my daughter sometimes because I would come home late and she would be asleep or I left early and she was still asleep when I went to work. The only time I had with her was on the weekends and in the winter when I was off from work. Then I could spend more time with her, listen to my daughter talk, watch her when she walks, and hear when she laughs. Months went on and my daughter grew up to be a very nice and well-mannered young lady. She is now in school doing well reading, writing, and playing with friends as well. She now has a little sister who loves her a lot. Raising my second child is easier because I have learned a little more about raising kids and it's not much different than raising my first daughter. The both of them like to play together, sing, and also talk with each other.

Work is about the same. In the summer I stand outside controlling traffic, making the other people I work with safer. I still come home late at night and some times my kids are asleep, but on weekends we get up early and eat breakfast together. I also talk to them and we play games all together. This has been a good change in my life. Growing up myself I never planned to have kids, but I am glad I did because now I can't see my life without them.

Never Too Old

by Gertrude Brown
Fluvanna Adult Education
would like to relearn what I have forgotten. It's been a long time since I have been to school. God has blessed me. I can read most of the newspaper, my mail, bills, and most of all the Bible. I thank God for that. I would like to get better. I am forgetting a lot of things. I am getting older, and I expect to forget some things. I am not trying to be a college student.

I worked for forty years in the school cafeteria. I stopped work to take care of my mother until the end. I am now taking care of foster children, and doing daycare. I also took care of my uncle and cousin.

Now I want to do something for myself. I raised two beautiful children. They have a good education. I told myself they must be better educated than me. I still have one in med school. She will soon be finished. It has been a long haul.

I go to the nursing home every Tuesday to volunteer. That gives me a lot of joy. I just love doing for people.

My daughter gave me a nice computer. Now I need to learn how to work with it. This is why I think this program can help me.

Rays of Sunshine

by Dawn Smith
Fluvanna Adult Education
hen I was 19 and still in high school, I got pregnant with my first child. Terrence is the best thing that happened to me which I realize now, but at the time I was in 12th grade and my grandmother was dying. At 19, I was busy doing my own thing. I was working and hanging out with my friends which doesn't sound like a bad thing, but it was. I was spending most of the time with guys and my best friend doing the wrong things. It got worse before it got better.

I dropped out of school and got an apartment which was a bad idea at my age and inexperience. I let my brother move in with me which was another wrong turn. Not that I don't love my brother, but he was a thief. He ran up my bills so high that I couldn't pay them. Since I was watching his kids and my one instead of working, I lost my job. I found out that my brother was stealing and selling the stuff out of my apartment. So, I finally listened to my mother and moved back with my mother. I got pregnant by a man I loved and thought loved me. That didn't work out, but my mom accepted me anyway. She helped me and my children.

I go to class now and I'm starting to get my life together. There are hard lessons to learn in life and everyone must learn them whether they are the hard way or the easy way. Through all of it, one thing I will always remember -- Moms are a blessing and never underestimate them.

My Goal

by Habib Abdullah
Blue Ridge ESL
mproving my English is important to me for many reasons. I want to join a one year program in international law and improving my English is very necessary for admission. I hope to graduate from law school and be able to help my family and my country of origin.

I speak and write fluent Pashto, Dari, Arabic and Persian and I hold a law degree from Cairo University. However, if my English language is fluent, I expect to find many opportunities for work with international organizations. Moreover, I am now a permanent resident of the United States, and since language is part of a culture, there is no doubt that learning English will help me understand American culture and customs and is necessary for communication and exchanging opinion with English speakers.

I am originally from Afghanistan, and I would like to return someday to promote the process of nation building. My home country has been facing many difficulties and challenges in the past 23 years. So the country needs educated people to rebuilt it. When I graduate from law school, I will be able to help Afghanistan law systems.

I think that the Afghan people need help in all fields especially the legal and legislative field. I hope to help improve the legal system and improve human rights in Afghanistan. The Afghan people had fought for a long time to liberate the homeland from the Soviet Union and received help from the international community. After liberation, a civil war continued for more than one decade and Afghanistan received no attention from the international community. Since September eleventh, the international community is paying attention to Afghanistan again, so I believe it is a good time for me to assist in rebuilding the country.

Regarding my financial situation, I am now unemployed and my English language is not enough for me to get a good job. I also need to spend most of my time studying the language, and my income will not be enough to pay the tuition fee.

A Mere Child

by Arlene McCall-Clinton
Fluvanna County
ife has brought me many changes -- changes that were extremely challenging. My son was born in this world, back when I was only a child, age 17. In my life I had to learn to endure and press toward the mark for success instead of a life of destruction, when I was sentenced to three years in prison.

Thinking that I was an adult, but merely a child, I felt I was ready to give birth to a baby -- only to realize that I would be facing an enormous challenge. Finally, the big event came and I became pregnant. Pregnancy! What a challenge! When you are a child and pregnant, you experience many obstacles. Some include uncomfortable exams, pain in different areas of the body, sickness, and feeling nauseous. Having to face such changes, I asked myself, "What have you done?" As time progressed, I gained weight and my belly became enlarged. Things seemed to be getting worse. I couldn't sleep on my belly anymore. The baby began to kick all the time. I began to cry all of the time. For two reasons: (1) the baby's father wasn't around to help comfort me, and (2) I wondered how I would care for a child when I was only a child myself.

Finally, my ninth month came and I gave birth to a healthy son. My son looked to me for love, nourishment, encouragement, and all other things a child needs to have a healthy and prosperous life. As time went on and my child got older, I realized that public assistance wasn't enough money to provide for a child. At this point in my life, I was headed for a life of destruction that always led to death or prison. I began to sell drugs to provide for my son. Money began to come quickly and things seemed lovely. We were able to go on trips and go shopping on a regular basis. Unlike before, when I was receiving public assistance, I was also able to afford transportation for my child and myself. I thought that this was the life, making money the fast way. Was I in for a rude awakening! I was arrested for distribution of cocaine and sentenced to three years in prison away from my son. As I sat within the four walls, I thought to myself, "What have I done?" Why did I choose to live a life of destruction, when I knew all along what would happen to me and my son? It was when I reached the prison cell that I realized I needed a career. I then decided to enroll in a G.E.D. class and a Building Maintenance class. I also participated in several programs and surrounded myself with positive people. I said, "Arlene, education is what you need to succeed!"

To conclude, life has brought me many challenges and at first, I chose to handle them in many negative ways, until I was sent to prison. It was then that I decided to succeed with education and set forth goals to accomplish to provide a prominent and victorious life for my son and me.

Prison has enabled me to deal with life challenges and triumph even in difficult times. Most of all, I established an excellent relationship with God and my son.

Why Not Me?

by Linda Miller
Fluvanna County
was raised in a large family -- four boys and five girls. The house we lived in was very small. It was a three bedroom home and because we had a large family, we had to sleep three to a bed. But as I grew up, it just wasn't enough room in the home.

There was not enough love either. My whole life I grew up wondering why I never felt love or why my mother never showed me love. I would always try to do things to please her, just so I could hear her say, "I'm proud of you" or "I love you." However, all I ever got was abuse and called names, but mostly beaten for nothing. Therefore as years passed, I started telling myself that I was nothing, because this is what I constantly hyeard. I heard it so much that I quite school in the ninth grade.

I started talking to guys; then I started having sex. There were not too many guys in my life through my teenage years. Then I met a guy that showed me love and was always there for me through anything. Therefore I told myself, "Hey, this is the guy for me." This person will free me from the hell that I am going through. And because of the way my mother always treated me I had to find a way to leave that place where I wasn't getting the love that I needed. Therefore, I decided to let him in on the abuse that was going on in my life. After that, I found out I was pregnant. Once I had my baby, we found a little one-bedroom apartment.

I thought I had found someone who really loved me. Therefore by the time I was 21, I had three girls and a bigger home. I thought love would last forever, but as time went by things started to change, especially the man that I thought would be with me forever. As months went by, he started staying out all night. He did not have money to pay bills. It seemed that everything was wasting away. After that, I found out that he had a baby by an 18-year-old girl. That tore my whole world apart. Here is this man I thought would love me forever, and I found out that he did not really love me either.

Now, here I am lost again, alone without love. The love that I had really turned out to be nothing. So out of my pain and hurt I turned to alcohol, drugs, and parties, hoping that maybe these things will take the pain away. And it did for a little while until the high was gone. After that, the pain and hurt was still there. Through my pain and hurting I realized that my children were hurting too, because they had lost the only mother that they once knew. But by my being high all the time, I never thought that I was hurting them. I always used to give them the best. I came to realize that giving them the best would be being the mother that they once knew.

What this story is all about is looking for love in all the wrong places; but at that time I didn't know where to look. No one had ever told me about Jesus, and how much he loves me, but today, I can gladly say that I have found the Lord. God has filled my life with so much love and joy. Now I did not have to go looking for love. He is always right here with me because He lives in me. I can truly say, because God lives, I can face tomorrow. I know that He will carry me through each day. I never knew love until I found Jesus. I know that He will never leave me nor forsake me.

I pray for all the people that have been hurt in life and think that no one loves them. I pray that they will find the Lord and allow God to work in their lives and give them the love that only comes from God. I want to thank God for loving me and keeping me through all the years of darkness. Glory be to God, the love of my life.

What a Challenge!

by Lena McClary
Fluvanna County
have faced many challenges and changes recently during my incarceration. I had an older person who had, and still has, an obsession for me and it has gotten very serious. I do not associate with this person now. Since all of this, I feel the person wants revenge by getting other people involved to get at me anyway they could.

First, I fell on some chemicals on the floor, so I did not work the next day. I lay in bed the next day, trying to get myself together. I put my pack of cigarettes in the corner of my bed so it would be easy for me to reach. During this time, I spotted an old earring that I had never seen before. As I went to reach for my cigarettes, I saw something shining. My heart started beating fast, I knew it was a blade. So I used the old earring that I saw to try to slide it out, but I couldn't, so I had to keep sliding it up and down to get it out. There it was -- a blade from a double-headed pencil sharpener. The way I handled this situation was I stayed calm and reported it. However, I knew in my mind it was a set-up.

Another challenge came to me about two weeks after the first incident. This other person had lied about me to get out of the building that we both lived in. I knew this person wanted out of the building; everyone knew what she wanted to do and that she would do anything to get out. I also do not associate with this person. But this person associated with the same person who had an obsession for me. I had no idea this person would try to use me. Then I put my thoughts together and I knew the obsessed person had a lot to do with this person lying about me. Even though I was angry and hurt, I continued to keep my head up, because in my heart I know I didn't do anything, and I felt that I didn't deserve this type of punishment. These individuals try everyday to get at me or to make me mad. Nevertheless, I know I must keep a clear mind regardless of what challenges I face.

The way I handle my challenges and changes today is to let God handle them and let go. He is in control. I must keep self-control and, most of all, keep a positive mind and do what is best for me. I must remember that the hole someone digs for you is one that they dig for themselves.

Should I?

by Lanesha Robinson
Fluvanna County
hould I hurt; should I feel pain?
Should I feel ashamed?
Have I disgraced my family's last name?
Should I cry; should I tell a lie?
I feel like it, as time goes by!

Should I want to go back in time
Just to change the crime,
So that the flashbacks can stop playing on my mind -- (sometimes?)
Knowing that I can't, should I faint?
I see it in my dreams and even when I blink!

I try to paint a pretty picture over the horrible scenes,
But it doesn't help the horrible dreams, it seems!
I used to have a window where I could see the stars.
Now I just look at bars! No windows -- just walls --
It's so hard not to let my head drop or my tears fall

Should I not feel this way --
That I didn't do any crimes?
That I should not be sitting here doing time
For someone else's stupid crimes?
Not my crime -- doing the time -- losing my mind!

Should my heart be full of fear, because I am here?
Why won't my mind just get clear?
Every memory brings a tear,
Should I wonder how long this is going to last?
And will I ever be able to let it go or stay in my past?

Reflections of a Shattered Mirror

by Denova Rowe
Fluvanna County
turned seven years old in the summer of 1983. What should have been a happy, playful time in my life turned into a very sad, confusing time. Events began to take place that changed my life forever.

We are taught as children to trust in our parents, trust in ourselves, and trust in God. It sounds like a very simple task and yet...

My stepfather was abusive. The word "abuse" alone causes alarm, even in adults. So try, if you will, to put yourself in the situation of a young girl being physically, mentally, and sexually abused. That became the norm of my life. Even through the suffering and confusion I encountered, I was still trying to raise and protect my two brothers. I was called names (some, I didn't know the meaning of) and a lot of times I went hungry. But I was determined that my two brothers would not experience the awful things that were happening to me.

Consider yourself a ten-year-old child and your mother sends you to the store for bread. It's dark outside, but she tells you to go out the back way. You know there is no lights out back, but she's your mother, and you trust her judgement, right? You do as you are told and one of her friends (a male who is a known drug dealer), who was inside the house when you left, approaches you and claims taht your mother has asked him to speak to you. He takes you to his vehicle where he then takes your body. Screaming, terrified, and in pain, you run back to your house. You are running towards comfort and security...you think. To your surprise, the guy is at your house when you arrive. He is at the front door, handing your mom a package. You learn that she had sold you, her daughter, for drugs.

Time goes by, and abuse continues at home. Your aunt takes you, an eleven-year-old, to a party. There's drinking and drugs at the party and you don't fit in, but no one is bothering you. She tells you she's going out for a minute, but her friend will make sure you're okay. You've been safe all evening and not given a choice, so you remain seated on the sofa. About ten minutes later you are grabbed by the throat and forced to the floor. You are raped and then repeatedly kicked by steel-toed boots in your privates. A gun is inserted first in your mouth and then in your privates with the threat that you will be killed if you ever tell.

The child in the horror story above is me. Of course, I never told the events that took place that night. Time told its own story. Nine months later I gave birth to a baby girl. She is the blessing of that night.

More recently, I've gone through another change. This one hasn't been as traumatic. For fifteen years I kept all of this inside, blaming myself for all that has happened. I was cheated out of my childhood, and now I have a daughter who looks very much like her father, a rapist. I've grown to love my daughter and to love myself. I have forgiven those who have violated me, even though I have not forgotten the violations. I have moved on, married, and have given birth to four more children. I can now look in the mirror and be proud of the reflection smiling back at me. That person is beautiful, and I love her.

Love

by Beverly Taylor
Fluvanna County
t hurts to love someone and not be loved in return...but what is more painful is to love someone and never find the courage to let that person know how you feel! Maybe God wants us to meet a few wrong people before meeting the right one, so that when we finally meet the right person we will know how to be grateful for that gift.

Love is when you take away the feeling, the passion, and the romance in a relationship and find out you still care for that person. A sad thing in life is when you meet someone, who means a lot to you, only to find out in the end that it was never meant to be, and you have to let go. If you still feel you can go on, never say you don't love a person any more if you can't let go.

The best kind of friend is the kind you can sit on the porch and swing with, never say a word, and then walk away feeling like it was the best conversation you've ever had. It is true that we do not know what we have until we lose it, but it is also true that we do not know what we have been missing until it arrives. Love comes to those who still hope, although they have been disappointed...to those who still believe, although they have been betrayed...to those who still need to love, although they have been hurt before...and to those who have the courage and faith to build trust again. Giving someone all you love, is never assurance that they will love you back! Do not expect love in return; just wait for it to grow in their hearts...but if it does not, be content that it grows in yours.

There are things you would love to hear that you would never hear from that person whom you would like to hear from...but don't be deaf as not to hear if from the one who says it from their hearts. Never say goodbye if you still want to try...never give up, it only takes a minute to crush someone...and a day to love someone...but it takes a life time to forget someone.

Do not go for looks, for looks can be deceiving...Do not go for wealth, because even that fades away. Go for someone who makes you smile, because it only takes a smile to make a dark day seem bright.

There are moments in life that you miss someone so much that you just want to pick him or her from your dreams and hug them for real! Hope you dream of that special someone. Dream what you want to dream...Go where you want to go...Be what you want to be...because you have only one life, and one chance to do all the things you want to do. Always put yourself in others' shoes. If you feel that it hurts, then it will probably hurt the other person. A careless word may kindle strife. A cruel word may wreck a life. A loving word may heal and bless.

Living Life on Life's Terms

by Mary Blackwell
Fluvanna County
was born on February 10, 1970, in Newport News, Virginia. My mother, Mary Blackwell, had only two children. My brother's name is Todd Blackwell. As a child coming up, I didn't need anything. The main thing I was missing out of my life was love -- my mother's love.

Everything went well in preschool. I didn't start acting out until my mom started dating her new boyfriend. My mom's boyfriend had found a house for us to stay in. I thought that it was the most wonderful thing in the world. We moved to Hampton, Virginia, to a neighborhood called Park Place.

I started attending Robert E. Lee Elementary School, and boy, did I stay in trouble! In kindergarten I got kicked out of school for fighting. All through elementary school I was getting put out for fighting. I got put off the school bus several times for fighting, also.

I was a scared little child, because I was getting molested and too scared to tell my mom. So there was no other way except for me to act out with fighting. Living in Park Place, I had no choice but to fight back, because if I didn't, I would get my butt whipped.

There were plenty of times that I came in the house crying because someone had whipped me. My mom would put me right back outside and tell me, "If you come in the house crying again behind someone who whipped your butt, I am going to beat you." Mom said, "If you can't beat them, pick up a stick and beat them."

When I started Lindsay Junior High School, I was a full-blown bully! I would skip school and the times that I skipped school, I would walk down the hallways beating people up. I was taking my anger out on the wrong people. At that time I didn't care, because I wanted others to feel the way I did -- miserable. I always said the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

At home, my mom would get sick and go to the hospital and leave us there with her boyfriend. Boy, did I hate that! I would cry because I didn't want to be left in his care. I was about nine years old when I started getting molested/raped, but in all reality, I believe it started before then. For some reason I can't remember and maybe it's for the best.

He would come into my room and start kissing me, and I mean he would actually put his tongue down my throat. Then he would enter me. He would always tell me to be quiet and not to say anything. All I could do was cry. I felt so dirty. I would scrub my body until I felt clean. I never felt clean, though.

I always felt my mother knew what was going on, but she was just too scared to say anything. We were both scared of him. I felt so alone and as though I couldn't talk to anyone. I finally told my mom what was going on and asked her not to tell him, because he said he would beat the "hell" out of me if I told. She told anyway and, yes, he did beat me severely.

I called my grandmother's house to tell them what had happened. My aunt called Social Services and the Police. I was removed immediately. My mother's boyfriend couldn't come anywhere near me. I didn't press charges, because I didn't want to hurt my mother. I loved her that much that I kept all the hurt and pain inside of me. All I ever wanted was to hear my mom tell me that she was sorry for what happened.

Still to this day, we can't talk about it, because it always turns into an argument, but I still love my mother unconditionally. She's the only mother that I have. I know deep down inside that we will one day be able to tal to each other before it's too late.

Life Changes (A Triumph)

by Royce Parker
Fluvanna County
s I reflect upon the era in which I became cognizant of my diagnosis, there were certain feelings that today I find possible to identify.

The probate medical records of the medical department at the facility where I was housed informed me that I was HIV positive. This meant that my immune system was susceptible to infections and perhaps other diseases.

I initially experienced a form of denial so paramount that I ignored all precautions. Back then, there was more ignorance and stigma regarding the disease. In some cases that still holds true today.

I, myself, had many misconceptions about HIV. Via the media, rumors and other forms of misinformation, I, like others, had generalized, and had been conditioned to believe that HIV was a gay man's disease. I was convinced that I was being punished for a promiscuous lifestyle. I believed every negative form of information that I'd ever heard.

From that I became reckless and lived with an "I don't know, nor do I wish to know" attitude. I would not, could not, come to the realization of having contracted a life-threatening disease for which there is no cure.

The feelings of guilt, shame, and an unhealthy fear kept me ignorant. I lived in a fog of delusion for three years. I refused to share my pain with friends or family.

I was complacent with my denial. It protected me from a harsh reality. Little did I know that my loved ones would accept my plight and be supportive. I was doing more damage to myself than was the virus.

I encountered a woman who at the time was suffering with full-blown AIDS. This woman was the first individual in whom I confided. She looked and calomly said, "So." I was livid. I thought, "Where is her compassion? "Where is the shock?" I felt that my confession deserved some reaction.

She went on to express to me her condition. She told of how a simple task such as showering tired her to a point she had to nap. She allowed me to view the many lesions that covered her torso. This woman shared with me the worst of what my condition could develop into if I remained in my oblivious state of mind. She became a positive influence and an example of strength and endurance. She became my hero.

I began to experience at metandia. All negative thoughts and feelings were replaced with a sense of gratefulness and self-storage. I began to think differently about myself.

That all happened twelve years ago. Since then, I've educated myself (and others) about HIV and AIDS. I no longer have the haughty demeanor I once possessed; nor do I dwell in a stupor of self pity. I no longer relate hurt, guilt, and shame with having the virus. Because of this woman, I experienced a renewal of my heart and mind. Today, I can say that I am truly blessed.

In the Twinkle of an Eye

by Mercole Walker
Fluvanna County
ife can change in the twinkle of an eye. My life has changed from the bad to the good. In my life I have experienced some terrible heartache that only the help from the Lord could pull me through. My faith and trust in Him brought me out of the most bottomless pits to the highest mountains on the earth.

When I was young, I was given all the love a young girl could be given. When I got older, the love left and I started going down the wrong road. The road I went down caused me to become so angry inside, that the only way I knew how to cover up that hurt was through fighting.

At the age of eighteen, my fighting turned into violence. I got my first charge at the age of eighteen for malicious wounding. By the time I had gotten this charge, life was starting to blossom. The beginning of a new life was starting. I was finally starting to realize that I had to let go of all the anger, guilt, shame, and feelings of being let down.

Two weeks after my nineteenth birthday, I was sentenced to three years and two months in the state penitentiary. That's when I knew that Mercole had to change her way of living. No, it didn't take this situation to change; it took the way I was living to change me.

When I was starting my time, I had a lot of issues that I had to deal with. I took it one day at a time to clean up my act. Slowly, but surely, I started changing. I started to accept things I couldn't change and appreciate things that did change. Changing all my negatives into positives made me have a very appreciative attitude.

Since I've been incarcerated, I have done some things to improve myself. I have taken Anger Management, tried to pursue my GED, and taken Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), and have sung in the choir. Those are just a few of the improvements in my life. I am proud of my accomplishments, but there's always some goals I would like to achieve.

I've also changed my communication with people, because people can sometimes bring on negativity. I learned to be around people who wanted something out of life that could help them live a prosperous life.

With life in the palm of your hand, I can tell you that down the road just a little further are all your hopes and dreams. Stay on the narrow road to your destiny! Tomorrow's dreams are today's changes.

I Am Somebody

by Darlene White
Fluvanna County
efore I came to prison, I knew God, but I did not walk in His way. Instead, I was walking my own way. I was doing drugs and running from my family and friends. I was not being there for my kids as I should have been. I have grown to a point and here is where my new life begins. Now I am walking and talking with God and doing His will and not mine. I thank God for being here with me and showing me that He loves me and showing me how to be a better person, so when I get out, I can be there for my kids and my father. I thank God for that and for showing me that I am somebody. I gave my body and soul to God; the Lord is my house now. I am a strong woman and I have to take a stand and learn to say that; I cannot do this alone. Thanks to God's glory, I am still here to tell my story.

I still have a long way to go, but I know He is working in my life and through others. In the past, my attitude and outlook were so negative and I experienced bad situations, first one and then another back then, and all I could do was fall on my knees and pray to God. When I had called on Him, He was already there beside me in these bad, stressful situations. I am becomingly increasingly positive as my new life goes on. In addition, since I have been in prison, I have been blessed by learning to have a daily talk with my personal Savior, who is Jesus Christ. He has given me strength and courage.

I am becoming wiser through all my trials and tribulations. Now that I have found Him again in my life, I believe that I am being carried by Him. I do not think I could have made it this far without Him. I know miracles happen for a reason in my life, but each day I never noticed them. It's a miracle that my life is still going on for me. My eyes are wide open to see all the things I had been missing.

Even when I was growing up, I stayed in a lot of fights and trouble with the police, but now all that is behind me, and it is history. Now I thank God each and every day for waking me up every morning. God has been my hero and always has been since the beginning. Truly, He lets me wake up to see another day. I can trust Him to talk to me when I am down and out, and He has given me so many chances in life. I believe everything is for a reason, and that is why I am here in prison today. God put me here to find Him again and to open my eyes to the right road. Now that I have found the right track, I hold on to the promised hand of God.

Now that I have served almost 12 years of my life in prison, I thank God for the opportunities everyday. Now that God has given me new strength to live a better year in 2003, I am planning to live it from day to day. Now I am sitting free from my bondage here at FCCW. God has shown me that I am "somebody" in His life and mine, too.

I Am Challenged...Everyday

by Patricia Delaney
Fluvanna County
hat if something seemed different about you and you could not quite pin point what it was?

What if you saw things the opposite way or the flip side of what everybody saw?

What if you read a book, magazine and/or letters from back to front instead of front to back?

What if your school work, letter writing, etc. just didn't sem to go the right way and no one could understand what you were writing or saying?

I used these questions too repeatedly for myself. I would wonder if I was crazy like they said I was. I would wonder if I would be able to learn anything. It seemed as though I was going through more in school than what I was going through at home.

I found out later in life that I have a communication disorder called Dyslexia. It has been a very long, rough road for me to figure out this disorder. I was called all kinds of names and have been insulted, because at that time, I could not quite get it together the way other people wanted me to. So, I dropped out of school and started playing school at home with my family. I would try to see what they saw and learn what they knew. I cannot include my cursive writing in this paper, but I will show it in typed form. I used to take a sheet of paper, put it over top of something that had been written, and I traced it. That is how I learned to write like this. In the beginning, it would cause me to have bad headaches when I wrote like this (left to right instead of right to left.) Here is an example of how I would prefer to write.

.niarb ym ot gnitalumits si siht ekil gnitirW

What I just wrote is: Writing like this is stimulating to my brain. Because I have this disorder, I have to go a little slower than others do. That does not make me a slow learning, though. I have to allow time to analyze what I see and then flip it the way it is supposed to be.

I am currently incarcerated and it is part of my treatment program that I attend school to get my GED.

Oh Boy! Here I go again. I said to myself, "I am already scared because of what I had to go through in public schools, and now they want me to attempt it again."

Okay! I will go back to school. It did not last more than a couple of days. I left and I didn't tell my instructor why because I didn't want him to look at me funny or think what those other teachers thought of me. However, I had to go back to school, because I would not be able to get a good progress report if I did not go. Therefore, I took a chance. I told my instructor what was wrong with me, and he told me to give him a week. After a week in class, I didn't feel,e he said he would excuse me from class. I then had to also let my tutor know what my condition was. It went well, but it was kind of scary in the beginning. I started thinking and feeling that it really didn't make any difference to him that I see things backwards.

When it came to taking the TABE Test, I went from a 6.4 to an 8.8 to a 9.4 reading level, and now my spelling is a 12.0 grade level. Because of my instructor and my tutor I do not feel awkward about my disorder, and I am not afraid to learn. This has been a challenging experience for me. Nobody is able to "down talk" me now and make me feel like I am nothing. As far as my education, I am going to get everything I can. I am more determined than ever to get what I should have had many years ago. This now another challenge to me.

Crack Cocaine

by Angela Davis
Fluvanna County
rack Cocaine had me so bad I thought
I was going insane.
The high did not last.
I needed another blast.

Therefore, I stole from my mother
Just to get another.

Crack Cocaine had me where I did not
Even have a home,
So I roamed and roamed.
Crack Cocaine took my hopes and dreams;
I had nothing to live for; that is the way it seemed.

Crack Cocaine made me sell my body.
I never thought I would go that far -- not hardly.

I did just about anything to get a hit.
Only God knows why I was doing those things to turn tricks.
I stole from others and myself as well,
And I even told lies that I normally wouldn't tell.

October 31, on Halloween, I looked out of my window.
Cops were everywhere and I screamed.
They handcuffed me that day
And took me away.

WOW! If I only knew then what I know now.

Heavenly Father, help me, I complained.
My girls held their heads down in shame.
They had tears in their eyes; I wanted to die
When I looked back and they waved good-bye.

That no good bitch that they call crack --
She always had me coming back.

Crack Cocaine got me two years in prison,
And she took my family, not to mention.
However, little does she know she gave me time
To think and get strong.
N, I am not singing the same old song.

My parents are now taking care of my girls
So they do not go lacking.
Damn! All because I tried crack.

Crack Cocaine, you're not all that, <>br> Because this time I am not coming back.

Being In Prison

by Edith Adessa Woods
Fluvanna County
hen I think about being in prison, it does not only mean being locked up behind bars. You can be in prison in many different ways. It could be emotionally, physically, mentally, sexually, and even fearfully.

I have been in a prison most of my life. Physically, I was not allowed to be a child. I was made to perform womanly duties, such as taking care of my younger brothers and sister, cooking, cleaning and being made to give up my virginity before the thought of sex or love ever crossed my mind. My attitude, thoughts and dreams began to change. I felt like a piece of trash. I even dreaded getting dressed or bathing. I hated everything and almost everybody. My heart became hardened. I refused to feel anything or even look in a mirror.

Being an abused child caused me to give up on life. It wasn't until 1996, when I joined a support group while serving a twelve-month sentence, that I began to want to better myself and somehow be set free from my childhood prison. I began to relax. I started to let go of all the abuse I had faced little by little. For the first time, I started looking in the mirror without regret, tears, or fear. I realized I had to try to let go of the emotional, physical, sexual and mental abuse along with some of my fear.

It is seven years later now, and I am still in prison -- an emotional prison. I have two girls that God blessed me with in 1988 and 1989. My girls and I have always had a close relationship. I love them with all of my heart, as I know they love me. I am serving a five-year sentence now. I have already served three years. It has been three years of pure hell. I have not seen my girls since I have been incarcerated. I have spoken with them once. I used to write them every week faithfully. For the past eight or nine months, I have continued to write them, make things for them, and send them cards.

I still have not heard from my girls. My insides feel empty. I survive each day with the echo of them that's planted in my mind , saying, "I love you, mommy." I feel as though I am walking around with haof of a heart, because they have the other half. I do not know how they are doing or if they are receiving any of my mail. I remember receiving a letter from Antiequa. As I began to read about how her grandmother was beating her with a clothes hanger, after first calling her names and making fun of how she dresses, I immediately went back to my emotional lock down. I blocked everything and everybody out. I was a complete statue in school. My focus was in the twilight zone. I wanted to reach out to my baby to hold her and let her know that she would be okay. I never want them to experience prison of any kind.

That is when reality hit me. I am in prison. I cannot see her; I cannot embrace her. I am no good to her now at all. I prayed and asked God to give me the words of comfort that she needed to make it through her sentence. I felt as though I had made the right choice by leaving them with their grandmother. Now I am thinking that I am not so sure. It seems as if we are both in our own prison.

Being distant from them has caused me to fall back in my schoolwork. I used to stay stressed out, and my blood sugar started to rise. I have even had to make several mental health appointments to get a grip on myself. There are times when I feel like giving up. I want to fight and scream. I just want to be free!

It is 2003, and I have had to force myself to stop worrying about my girls and what they may be going through. It is very hard for me to do because they are the people who make my life complete. I cannot wait to be released, so I can set my baby free.

Decisions

by Gina Lyles
Fluvanna County
ecisions are what everyone's life is based around. It is a Well-Known fact that it is your decision to fail or prosper. It is also your decision to be alone or apart of. See regardless of what you want out of life, every decision you make will determine the outcome of your present and future. The past to me is nothing but a reflection resulting in which door you chose, meaning the right door and wrong door of decisions. I think we all have opened our share of wrong doors and still do. But what I think is really dumb, is that people tend to reopen the wrong door repeatedly already knowing the outcome. You have to make decisions to learn, therefore the knowledge you gain should be the most important aspect of life. You notice the keyword should, should is naturally logic to some but it will still be a decision to others even when they already know the answer. But my question is what makes sense to you?

Scenario: Let's say I win the lottery for 2 million dollars and decide after the government garnishes everything I owed them over the last five years, I want to treat myself to all the luxiries life has to offer me. Now 5 years after winning and spending just about all of my money, I realized that I forgot about saving and investing a little something. I figured I was kind of wealthy, so I felt there was no reason to work or even further my education for that matter. Now where does that leave me?

The present and the future is ours for the taking you can say. It doesn't really matter the situation, because failure is really a choice. So life is not like a box of chocolates as Forrest Gump said, because it's really up to you to inspect each one, so you'll know what to expect. To me life is really like a word problem, the only difference is that you don't always get the right answer. But with you making good decisions, eventually your turn at prosperity will come.

So my advice to you is be your own detective, always investigate the outcome and consequence of every situation no matter tyhe size. Because every decision you make down to the smallest thing, like what kind of toilet paper you use can be a very crucial one. An old friend of mine always used to say: "Never dive in head first, without finding out the depth of the water, even if you can swim." My friend helped me realize that althought he road will be rough sometim4es, we have the tools to smooth out the pavement. I can go on and on about making decisions but the truth is that you have the power. So the next time someone asks you for advice, give them what you can, but don't forget to say: "It's your decision -- don't take my word for it."

Accepting Without Understanding

by Pam Sayre
Fluvanna County
ccepting without understanding is more like saying that we as people are powerless of people, places and things.

I have a real hard time accepting anything that I don't understand. Knowing that I don't understand something it makes me wonder what's going on to happen or what's being done with the situation in hand.

Please, don't get me wrong. I try very hard to make myself understand what I'm able to do in what ever is needed. When I'm not able to understand something that's when I turn to God for help. There is a lot of times that it's not meant for me to understand and when it is God shows me how to do just that by accepting it.

Some opf things that I have to accept without understanding would be how the Department of Corrections Office does with the rules. How they made everyone cut their hair, pay for the medical appointments even though you or I do not have any help from the outside, how they only pay twenty-three cents an hour. Let me go on with the Parole Board and how they run the rules. The Department of Corrections allows people to sit in prison forever and a day even though most of the inmates do what they are told to do, and the ones that show off and keeps getting into all kinds of trouble are the ones the Parole Board lets out.

Now lets go with the prison itself and how they run things. I really have to accept without understanding most of what the prison does with different things. There's not much that I can do about that cause it leaves me powerless in what they do or say to any of the inmates. Well let's see what they do. Whenever someone does something wrong the whole prison has to pay for it. Alright not all the time, but most of the time. Only God knows that iis so hard for someone to accept it when you do not have anything to do with it or know about it. The officersthink that they can talk to inmates any kind of way and has to be alright unless you show off and then you will get into all kinds of trouble for saying what's on your mind. There is so much stuff that I myself can say about the prison and officers that I have to accept if I ever want to do right so I'm one of the ones that will be able to go home and never come back to a place that is like that. I can go on and on with a lot of things that I have to accept without understanding and when I have to do that I turn to the good Lord above for all His help.

About the good Lord up above and how he helps me to accept the things that I do not understand. He gives me all the strength to do what is needed to be done and if its not to be for me to understand it then he gives other things to understand. Like I'm not alone in here or even when I go home that he will always be there for me and to help me to understand. There is a lot that the good Lord up above does for me, and with him on my side I'll be able to accept anything without understanding it.

I want to thank you for taking the time to read my essay!

Patience

by Yvette Williams
Fluvanna County
y essay is on patience, something that I pray on several times with in a day. I understand with patience comes endurance, something also that is needed not only to make it in Fluvanna, but on the outside. During my incarceration time, it seems as if my patience level has gotten even harder to deal with because it seems as if I am made to hurry only to be made to wait. While at home, I didn't have to wait all the times, in some cases I did, while other I didn't, so coming here and waiting for everything is truly a reaction to me. Having to wait for things is something we all have to do because things aren't given to us right when we want it. A part of my process of learning how to have better patience is understand, hold on to my faith, and knowing that as long as I believe that what it is I am so impatient for will come in due time. Not when I want it, but when I need it the most. I also use the phrase "Good things come to those whowait," as another tool to enhance my abilities in my patience skills. Having two daughters has given me the "Basic" use of patience, but with both maturing into the adolescent stage I know my patience leve has to be on its highest level.

Some say because I've always been so spoiled being made to wait seems like it doesn't apply to me and honestly I feel sometimes I shouldn't have to. I'm now learning that in life it will be a great deal of times that I will have to wait for something. Another thing that is also helping me deal with my patience is my incarceration time. I have accepted that I will have to complete my sentence, being patient and holding on to my faith, caliming the victory eases me. While sitting here writing this essay lets me know that I am growing with my struggle in dealing with patience. So I will continue to pray on this matter and practice this overtime. I am in a situation dealing with having to wait for things I know can be waited on and are really only a want, not a need. Separating the two and focusing will help a great deal. I've accepted that this is a healing process and that it will not happen over night. I also understand that this is something that I apply daily and not allow my selfish side to take control and start demanding what it is I'm not wanting to patient for. In some instances by me not waiting and rushing the matter, the results didn't turn out as I would have liked or as they could have if I had only been patient and allowed things to take its course. With my growth in having patience, I'll also grow in other areas as well. I'll grow in patience, not being selfish, understanding, expectance, using my time creatively, along with other things that can help me within my recovery. Knowing that learning and growing in one things, enhances other skills and really gives you the feeling of success and teaching a goal which makes all the ups and downs worth going through and not in vain.

Excuses

by Tain Brown
Fluvanna County
n our every day lives, we find one reason or another as to why we don't do the necessary things that we should be doing. Some people call it procrastination (which it is) but then and again, you'll have to make an excuse to procrastinate. For example, one would say I couldn't comb my ahir because I have a headache or I can't wash the car today because I heard it's going to rain tomorrow. There are all excuses I cannot understand for the life of me why people would make excuses, unnecessary excuses.

Sometimes there is a cause for making excuses, maybe there was a doctor's apointment that you had to go to, that's a good excuse, or maybe there had been some type of death or sickness in your family. Those issues that I've just mentioned are good excuses. It is not good to make an excuse, and it may not be accepted because you've worn your welcome out by making too many excuses. It is good practice to always try to follow through with whatever you have to do, even if you don't feel like doing it.

Sometimes when you have something to do and don't feel like doing it, once you get started it may make you feel better in the long run, and it'll be completed and you don't have to worry about going back to it later on. That's a good thing! You may also think that your procrastinating is all right, but it's not, because it only boils down to the fact that you're just trying to make excuses for something you know other purpose then for me to tell a lie later on. Cause I've experienced that when a person runs out of excuses they're stuck to other things, such as lying, so it's best that you try to refrain from making excuses.

Speaking Out

by Catherine Rothwell
Fluvanna County
peaking out can be a good thing and it can also be very damaging. We should choose our words very carefully when speaking out about certain topics: family matters, people of any color. I have learned that some people speak out to cause harm to the hearer.

Everyday in my wing women use the term "you're the devil" too loosely when speaking out against some one they're having an argument with. That is not a good way of speaking out toward any one. Speaking out for a good cause would be a positive form of expressing your concerns, hopes, dreams ideas, emotions. I feel that one must choose if what they are going to say will be helpful to the hearer or harmful. People today say all kinds of nasty things about people through books, newspapers, lawsuits, answering machines, letters, arranged meetings. People speak out when nobody is even talking to them. That can cause more harm than good. I have seen people killed for speaking about something that had nothing to do with them.

Wars are started; homes are broken; lives are taken; children are marked for life. Words are very powerful today. We should examine our motives for our words of speaking out, choose words that heal and comfort. When we speak we also need to take time to listen at times. People don't care what you are speaking out about.

When the preacher preaches his own people don't care what he is preaching on. They just wish to go, and ask why did he have to talk so long and what was he talking about in the first place. Some groups speak out about subjects that affect life communities. It can be positive and also negative due to the fact some can result in people going to jail, or even killed. Christian is even killed when speaking out about the love of Christ. Words can be very powerful; they can cause death or life.

Husbands and wives sometimes hurt one another with the words they use when speaking out. We should choose our words very carefully when we are upset or angry. Taking a walk to cool off canb be very helpful to those you are upset with. Anger can cause you to say mean hateful words that you really don't mean. You cannot take words back once they are said. They can really cause harm to the hearer.

A Touch of Reality

by Tecia Howard
Fluvanna County
guess right now for all the things going on in my life is exactly what I got, "A Touch of Reality." To begin let's get real with self. I have a very low self-esteem. That is something I am working very hard in raising is myself-esteem. I used to think very negative about myself. To a certain extent, I still do on some things. I used to feel as if I didn't fit in, even being incaracerated. This great fear comes over me when it comes to new people. I start thinking...am I thugged out enough? Am I mature enough? Etc....since being in my self-esteem class the reality is I don't have to try to be anything but who I am! The reality of time being incaracerated, I am not for sure that it has really hit me yet. I do have some time to be here. Being incaracerated alone of course has its bad times when you miss home and family. I know I miss it everyday which I am sure others do, too. I have a supportive family. I also have a chance, a chance of going back to court, which I am very grateful for. The reality on this is to be grateful, becasue I have met others in here that don't have a chance nor a supportive family. I have sat and observed a lot of people in Fluvanna. There are famels who are from ages 16 to 50 and older. There are people doing long terms and short terms. I have observed so much jealousy andenvy, it's ridiculous. On this I think everyone needs a touch of reality and realize that no one is better than the next and WE ARE ALL DOING TIME!!!. I know the defintion of reality, and it is the quality or condition of being actual or true: a person or thing that is really the state of things as they appear. As I think about reality to me, it is like the serenity prayer. I ask God everyday to please give me strength tomake it through another day. To me that's like accepting things you can not change and the things you can. Reality is take that first step, which is having the courage, and as life goes on you gain the wisdom to know the difference. I think about what I would do if I was a genii. What would I change if anyting. Yes I would go back and change a lot, and redo a lot of things differently. The reality is I can't go back. What I can do is focus on the future and better myself. I have come to realize I had to face reality in dealing with a lot of losing loved ones and not being there (life, either you're inside or out), and incaracerations. So as I sit here and look back, having to face the reality that I have the support I have from my family and my angels Queen, Aunt J, Stink, and Moni, I love you all.

Not Knowing When to Quit

by Tanya Denby
Fluvanna County
can recall on a time in my life, when I was at the end of my rope. Everyone had their own little opinion about what I was doing, but that did not stop me one bit. I was determined to stay in nursing school and to get my nursing aide degree. It was going to be hard for me, a single mother of four, taking care of a household, paying the bills, and seeing to it that their needs were taken care of.

Maintaining a job that only paid minimum wage was nothing to raise my children on. Everyone told me to give it up. "It's hard on you," they said, but I was determined to have a better life for my children than I had when I was growing up. I had to admit that it was very hard on me at first, sometimes I just wanted to say "the hell with it," but when I look into my children's eyes, I knew that they deserve to have the things that every normal family had, but most of all I would give them a special gift that money could not buy, and that special gift was love. But I also showed them even at their young ages that anything was possible when you have a goal in your sight. Never give up, always remember that you and only you can make a difference in your life. Never give up and never quite, because we only have one life and we should live it to the fullest and never let anyone or anything come between you and your dreams.

Unfortunately, I never walked in cap and gown at the ceremony that was held at the school, because I came to Virginia and I got into some trouble. I'm now serving time in a women's prison, but that doesn't change my goals to become a nurse. Upon my release I plan to return to nursing school and graduate, become a nurse, and do what I always loved to do, help people..

Until then I'm aiming for another goal, and that goal is to receive my G.E.D., and I'm not going to stop until I walk across that stage and receive my diploma. Therefore, my advice to anyone who feels as though they should give up or quit doing something that they really wanted to do...Never Quit! Never give up. Keep your goals in the grips of your hands and always hold on tight to them because your dreams are waiting on you to come true.

My Goal In Life

by Tonmya Moss
Fluvanna County

Goal: The purpose toward which one is working; an objective.

y personal opinion for having a goal is for people who want them. Nevertheless, they are needed if there are certain things in life that one would like to accomplish for them. For instance, me acquiring my GED is very important to me. It will help me to provide for not only myself, but for my child also, in a lot of different ways.

Once you have your mind set on what it is you want out of life, you have to figure out what you can do to help you achieve and reach your goal. Which at times can be very confusing if you don't have proper help.

Now people may have various reasons for the goals they want to achieve. Some want to lose weight, some want a GED, buy cars, houses, open their own business, even prepare them for having children. If you are planning to have children, you have their welfare to think about. How you're going to keep them fed, keep them in good health the best you can. You also have to consider them being clothed as they grow. Children tend to grow faster than we would like for them to grow.

With having children you have to arrange for them to go to day care when they become of age. As they become teenagers, you have college to consider for them so you have to set a goal to figure out how you are going to pay for the child to go to college.

However, you have short-term goals to consider which doesn't take long for you to complete. You might want to take a typing class so you may sharpen up on your typing skills for a job that requires your typing skills to be more than average. If you want to work in a business or even have your own business, you have to receive a degree in Business Management.

If you need a building to rent for business, you have to make arrangements for rental or to buy, then there are arrangements for that. Having to set your own goals, regardless of how short or long they are, it still must be taken care of. You may tend to become a little frustrated while achieving your goals.

Some days you may not even feel like doing anything other than breathing. But always remember if you get side tracked to never give up on yourself or your dreams. Always remember you don't have to look at it, or even handle it, as your goal -- more of an obligation to yourself. Respect your goals and love them as you would your lover. Cherish it like you would your child, cat, or dog. You have to take good care of yourself in life, and what better way to grow and prosper than to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself, in order to have the life that you truly desire.

Goals in my life are just as I have opinioned them.

Who I Am

by Sara Ann Jackson
Fluvanna County
t was one afternoon in Gochland on I-2 hall that I was in my room feeling sorry for myself. I was crying because I didn't know who I was anymore. That's when I sat in the corner of my bed and I asked myself, "Who am I?"

I couldn't answer that question. I sat there for hours and hd come to to realize who I was. I'm a child of God, a daughter, mother of two beautiful children, a son that's 21 years old, daughter that's 17, wife of a handsome man that I'm very proud to know. I know I'm a giving person and very trust worthy. To put a damper on all those good qualities that I had realized about myself is that I don't love myself at all. I thought I was the ugliest woman in the world! I realized why I felt the way I did about myself. The reason why I didn't love myself and that I thought I was the ugliest woman alive was because I was sexually molested by my grandfather and raped at 13 yuears old, along with being mentally abused. Even though I went through all that at very young age, I slept around with men to see if I could feel and find love and to see if I could love myself. All I found is that I was very miserable, very lonely, and very empty inside.

The results of sleeping around were that I became pregnant with my twenty-one year old son. His father didn't want him or me. That made me feel even worse because I ruined my son's life as well as my own.

I ruined my life because of getting pregnant. I quit school, which in turn caused me not to be able to care for my son. I let my mother take care of him until I got myself together. I met a woman named Annett, and she let me move in with her. I started working cleaning newly built houses.

I made some bad choices in my life that as a result brought me to prison. Because I had been a follower, this wasn't a pleasant thing for me. I allowed people to walk over the top of me. I didn't really realize it was happening until my best friend Carolyn Dean brought it to my attention. She said I had to change and get some backbone and speka up for myself; be a leader and not a follower. One month later I started being that new person. I began to love myself because of three beautiful people in my life, two of my best friends and my Lord and Savior. It took thirty-eight years for me to really realize who I really was.

Every morning I get up at 4:00 am to go to breakfast and I come back, get on my bed and do my meditation, and watch Joyce Meyer for one (1) hour. I then get up and get ready for work or school, it depends on what day it is.

Today, I'm the woman I've always wanted to be...

I'm Sara Ann Jackson,
The woman I love so much.

Dealing With a Tragedy

by Courtney Brown
Fluvanna County
've had many trials and tribulations in my lifetime, but the most tragic is when I was sentenced to six years in the penitentiary. This incident has not only caused myself great grief, but has also changed the lives of a host of friends and loved ones.

I grew up in a family that has always showered me with a lot of positive influence, support, and most of all lots of love. I would have never imagined that I would be away from my family and my children for six years. I can honestly say the hardest part of this tragic situation was giving birth to a child while you are incarcerated, then having to deliver your child while you are handcuffed to a hospital bed. Giving birth to my baby boy under these circumstances has really made a strong impact in my life. There are many milestones that I have missed in the past months. My daughter's first day of cheerleading practice, my second boy's first day at pre-school, and my baby boy's first steps.

Even though I conbsider coming to the penitentiary the gravest tragedy of all, there have been many positive experiences that I can apply to my life beyond these cement walls. For one, I've learned to humble myself a great deal. I've also learned that you have to sometimes be broken in order to be put back together, a more positive determined person. This environment that I lived in the last nineteen months has made me appreciate every day that much more. It has made me value myself, my time and my loved ones that much more.

The lessons I have learned from this tragic ordeal are now considered life long lessons that will help me prosper. I have grown up quite a bit while I have been incaracerated. You learn a lot about other people, about life in general. I've learned how to deal with each day of my life accordingly. Last but not least, I have learned that no one is perfect and we are entitled to make mistakes. We can also learn from our mistakes so we will not repeat them.

Education

by Nedra Springs
Fluvanna County
n my opinion, education is very important. Education plays a major factor in the success that you will have in life. It also plays a major part in deciding career opportunities, for example, if you do not have a high school diploma, your career choices in life are going to be very limited.

Speaking for myself, I don't have a high school diploma, however I am currently pursuing that. I started off in the LIP class, then progressed to Pre-GED. My ultimate goal is to go on to the GED class and earn my GED certificate/diploma. After I achieve that I can progress on to a vocational course or even College courses.

My reason for having these goals is because it is important to me, my education and my future are important to me. I know that it doesn't matter how old you are, you are never too old to learn or to pursue your education. I want something out of life and I am determined to achieve that.

Reading is a major part of education. A lot of people in today's society cannot read beyond elementary school level, if that. It's sad but true. Reading, or should I say being able to read is very important. It's almost necessary to get you through life. Speaking for myself, I am not a perfect reader, but at least I am trying and I am learning more and more each day.

I can't really stress enough how important it is to get an education. Throughout my life I have seen numerous people quite school and just give up obtaining their education. As a result of that it leads these people to steal, rob, and obtain money illegally. That was the only way they knew. They couldn't find employment anywhere due to their lack of education and lack of knowledge of how to go about gaining employment.

I have also seen people go back to school and turn their life around. That was their inspiration for me. I know that I am somebody and that I can make something of my life and myself. True, I did quit school, but at least I woke up and realized that without an education, I'm not going to have anything. That's why I have decided that it's time for change. I started out by getting through the LIP program and now I am working my way through pre-GED class. Then I will attend GED and achieve my diploma. After that I can look forward to vocational and college courses, which will play a major part in my career that I will have. Sure, it's a long process, but you have to crawl before you can walk, and all it's going to cost me is my time, some hard work, and determination. And that's the best part, education is FREE! They have all kinds of grants and free GED classes that they offer. You don't have to pay for anything. All they want you to have is a desire to learn. You can believe me when I tell you this. I'm sure that there is nothing more satisfying than to walk across that stage in your cap and gown to accept your diploma. Then you can say, "I did it!"

In closing I would just like to ask you to stop and think. Think about where you're at now at this point in life. Are you where you want to be? Or do you know that you have potential to be where you want to be. If you would just make the effort. If you're one of these people who are constantly saying "I should go back to school," what's stopping you? You could be missing out on a lifetime of advantages and opportunities. I know that you've heard the saying a hundred times, but if you actually listen to what it's saying, it is so true: "a mind is a terrible thing to waste" and "failure is the opportunity to try again." Think about it, what do you have to lose? Nothing, but you have so much to gain!

When To Stop

by Dayshanna Henry
Fluvanna County
hen to stop is a decision that should be made when you feel like you have hit rock bottom. If you feel like your heart is heavy, or you are tired of being sick and tired. When you just can't take any more. I'm not writing this essay pointing fingers at anyone, but if you can relate to what I'm about to write, or if you learn anything you're reading: Then the first thing that has changed is your attention on this topic.

My first step on "When to Stop" is based on my attitude, and temper. I had an "I don't care" attitude. About: LIFE, SELF, DAY-TO-DAY living, and MY PAST. Which played the biggest part of my temper and attitude. The life that I've lived so far has not been the greatest; but I've come this far. And I am living. I've always thought the rest of my life would not become of anything. I've never had dreams for the rest of my life being. Today, I'm always dreaming of a beautiful life for my son.Day'Quan and myself. Coming to prison has mde my dreams come in effect for me. It's also made me stronger in believing in Jesus, myself, faith, and hope. It has also given me acceptance for myself and my past. Acceptance for loving myself, changing old self to new self. My day-to-day living was like living in hell. My anger had the best of me. It was unamanageable.

I really can't say that my life is manageable now. But I can say that my life is stable -- that my anger is under control. I've forgiven myself of my past as well as forgiven others. I'm happy, at peace, and I've allowed myself to change. If you want to stop being the old you, then my advice to you would be forgive yourself and others from your heart. Accept your change and take one day at a time. Be patient with yourself and others. Always stop and think. Remember to be YOU. Don't ever stop loving yourself. There's no one else best qualified to be you! There are things that I still have to work on. And it'll take time as well as making the right decision everyday. When to stop is a thinking process on your thoughts. It was a very fearful move for myself, but if you really want to stop, don't give up on wanting it if you do something that you're working on, trying to stop. It's not going to come, or happen, overnight. Don't beat yourself up over simple mistakes. Just focus on you and don't think that you haven't made a change because you made a mistake. We can make mistakes, and making mistakes only makes you and I stronger.

Dealing with Stress

by Katina Conley
Fluvanna County
use simple basic techniques to deal with stress. I start breathing exercises to release tension from my muscles. I inhale through my nose and exhale out of my mouth. I will do this until I start to feel the tension slip away. It takes a lot of silence and concentration.

When I feel overwhelmed with my responsibilities I stop everything I'm doing and thinking and take a time out. I sit in a quiet place and clear my mind. I erase the prior events, conversations, and demands. I make a list of "things to do" and prioritize them. By doing this I still feel in control of an unctrollable situation. I list what is the most important task at hand and work on accomplishing it. When that is completed, I work on the second one, and so on. By doing this, everything is done and I'm not so stressed out.

People stress me out when they have minor problems that can be solved by simply sitting down, going over the situation, and finding a solution. People make things difficult for themselves. They don't stop and think things through. They make hasty decisions and stressful consequences follow. All of this could have been avoided by just stopping and thinking before reacting. People and situations can be very stressful.

The way taht I deal with unctrollable situations that I can't find a solution to, I turn it over to my higher power that I choose to call "GOD." I put faith and trust in him to find the right answer. This relieves a lot of unavoidable stress. I give him a lot of my problems, like problems on the outside that I have no control over and just believe and have faith.

The most stressful time in my life was coming to a maximum security prison for women and entering a therapeutic community for my addiction. My addiction is something that I'm very ashamed of and I don't want to discuss with anyone, but I'm forced to open up and share my most intimate thoughts and feelings with complete strangers. This is very hard for me and it's stressful. I know that I have to open up and let people help me if I want to succeed in this program and at my recovery. When painful events surface, I really have to stop and process my feelings in order to get through them. Sometimes I get angry, and I cry. For me crying reduces a lot of stress and it releases many built up emotions and is very cleansing for the soul. Dealing with the things that I've done during the cycle of my addiction brings many different emotions and feelings. I've learned to sit through them and process them in a healthy way.

If all else fails, I just go in my room and put my face in my pillow and just scream.

Silence

by Laura Hall
Fluvanna County
believe that if one allows themselves to be surrounded in complete silence every once in a while that it can work as the ultimate force that is as one of the many positive things they may have ever endured. I feel that there is a certain magic in silence.

For example the calm quiet that can be created between two people when they are in each other's presence and yet do not speak. This allows for many windows to be opened in your mind and can allow your thoughts to create a pleasant vibe to the other person. It then becomes a radiation process. Your body becomes like a vessel that allows your thoughts and emotions to flow and give you a sense of peace from within.

To me silence is to be considered as a gift that no one can give you but yourself and if you use the time that you may spend in silence, then you are allowing yourself to make your mind strong. So to me silence is a gift. It is a force and can be powerful. There are no limitations as to where it can take you.

Sometimes when I find that I have spent a lot of time without watching my television or listening to my walkman my thoughts just start coming at me all at once. To me it has often been a very painful experience for me. One major example that I have experienced in that aspect is when I have went to segregation and was in isolation. That is when I most definitely did not like spending time alone in complete silence. Also I think that it is very sensible to say that too much of anything is not always good. There should always be a balance.

No one should completely isolate themselves from the world or iteractions with others, because to me it can create one to feel a lot of negative emotions. Such as loneliness, worthlessness, being suicidal, boredom, worry, stress, fear, and so on. These are the things that can come from spending too much time alone in silence. Also words left unsaid between those two people involved in a relationship can be considered to me to be creating difficulties between those two people, and can very much leave the relationship between those two people in danger of the relationship being destroyed.

Now as to a work on a relationship between you and your boss, I think this could cause serious problems with you and your boss at your work place. People are not mind readers. So it is not safe to assume anything involving others because in this aspect that I am now talking about, communication is the key and you could go very far in life if you know how to use your communication skills in the right way. So there is no room for silence in that aspect.

Silence can bring peace and sometimes may cause confusion. Silence is just what it is: universal.

Why Do I Sabotage Myself

by Pam Sayre
Fluvanna County
'm not really sure why I sabotage myself. I do it in so many ways.

Sabotage means to me it is when someone does something to themselves to stop from accomplishing the task that's put in front of them or myself.

For myself, the reason that I sabotage myself all the time is that sometimes I do not believe that I'm good enough or smart enough to go forward.

I have been in class now for nine years and a few months. I started out having only a five point four and it took me this long to get nine point three. I have taken my Pre-GED three times, and my GED twice, and I missed it by thirteen points. Since then, I have taken my TABE test two more times, and the last time I panicked on the fifty-minute time limit.

The reason is that I did not look at the start and ending time that my teacher put on the board. When the teacher came by to show me that I only had twenty-five minutes left, I realized that I was not even halfway done with the math so started marking anything to make sure that I didn't leave any questions unanswered. If only I would have looked at the time, I would have done a lot better.

Now on my test before, it was my spelling test, and that stopped me from taking the Pre-GED, this time it was my math.

It seems to me that I always do something to stop myself from passing any of the tests that I have to take no matter how easy or hard it is there should be no reason why I could not pass any of the tests that I take.

The more I talk to my friend about what I do to myself from making it, the more I find different things that I come up with and how I sabotage myself.

All right I'm going to be straight up about it. I think that one might be that I don't want to lose the six hours that I get from school; another one would be that I am scared to walk across the stage and not have anyone to support me. These are just a few things that I believe makes me sabotage myself.

When I am able to face my fears and know that I am good or smart enough then I will be able to stop sabotaging myself. I am going to stop sabotaging myself and walk across that stage. In the Webster's Dictionary sabotage mens: sabot, wooden shoe; from damage done to machinery by sabots (deliberate destruction of machines, etc. by employees in labor disputes or of railroads, bridges, etc.)

Fear

by Clementine White
Fluvanna County
ear is something that scares me or something that I'm afraid of. When I'm afraid my stomach gets butterflies and feels like it's all balled up in knots. I can't breathe, can't think straight, and I start to feel nauseated. As if I'm going to pass out. Being afraid is one of the worst feelings in the world to me.

Death sares me. I know that we all have to die some day, but the not knowing when and how frightens me. It could happen at any given time or any given moment. Just the unexpectancy of where and the thought of leaving loved ones scares me.

My biggest fear was when I found out my daughter and sister had been in a car accident. I was afraid that both of them were seriously hurt or dead.

It happened one Easter morning four years ago. Early that morning I received a phone call from my sister Dale. I had been told that my daughter, Tesha, was in labor. Tesha was nine months pregnant and past her due date, so I had been anticipating a phone call from her telling me it's time, just didn't know when. I got the call about five fifteen Easter morning, telling me to meet them at the hospital. I was told M.U.S.C., which was closer to where I was living. So I asked why they hadn't taken her to Trident Hospital, since it's the closest hospital to her? She then said, "She didn't trust the doctors at Trident. So meet her at M.U.S.C."

I woke my other daughter up to tell her about her sister and she wanted to go with me. So we both got ready and went to the hospital. When we arrived at the hospital, we went directly to the maternity ward to the delivery room When we reached the maternity ward, we asked for Tesha. Immediately the nurses started to whisper. They were saying, "Oh my God, they don't know." So we asked again. One of them came closer to the desk and said, "You have to speak to the doctor." Immediately fear gripped me. I thought she lost the baby.

When the doctor came to see me she told me there was a very bad accident. I asked her, "Where is my daughter and sister?" The doctor then told me to come with her. She took us to the Trauma Unit where only I was allowed to go in.

I was so afraid to look behind the curtain. It took me a moment to compose mysel, but I finally did. There was my sister lying there badly bruised and bloody. From head to toe. There must have been ten doctors and nurses working to save her life. I told her everything would be all right.

I then asked, "Where is my daughter?" The doctor called me out in the hallway. There she told me that Tesha wasn't at M.U.S.C. She was at Trident and that I would have to wait until I got there to find out how she was.

When I arrived at Trident, I went to the information desk and asked for Tesha. The receptionist told me I would have to talk to the doctor. Then she sent us to a very small waiting room with facial tissue in every corner throughout the room.

At this time I'm thinking my child is dead. A few minutes later came three people. They introduced themselves. One a doctor, priest, and a coroner. The doctor asked me to please have a seat. But I didn't want to sit down. So she continued. She just came out and said, "I'm sorry your daughter is dead."

I dropped to my knees. I couldn't breathe, couldn't cry, I just screamed, no, no, no it can't be true. "Let me see my child," I said. "What about the baby?" I asked her.

While she was taking me to see Tesha she was telling me Tesha had a boy. "E.M.T.'s had to deliver the baby on the scene of the accident." She said.the baby went twenty-three minutes without oxygen to the brain. So he was brain dead. The doctor suggested that I take him off of life support. Five days later I buried both of them.

There are times today when I get afraid. When I think about how people drive under the influence, I pray that another person never has to go through.

When You're Torn

by Anita Gilbert
Fluvanna County
hen I'm torn, I begin to get quick tempered, love tempered. Confuse to think if I'm being me or someone else. Being in love is the matter. It's the description of affection and devotion. I am a good kind loving person with a tender heart, which get hurt all because of what I feel. I go through intense bodily anguish just to figure out how I want to be treated and how to act on what I want. Then I begin to get subsided because I feel love has taking over and I am no longer in control. Just when I began to think I have the situation at hand my inner thoughts start to wondering and the thing you know I'm stuck in the middle not knowing what to do. I try focusing on myself and my prerogative just to know I still have me. Being torn can make you feel so distress and worried. My heart tells me what I need to do that is right, when my mind tells me things that I already know and what puts me in situation I am already in. You can't sit back and let depressing sink in, it will tear you to pieces. I get torn all the time. Why? Because I take in so much, thinking that things may change. Thinking by me giving, caring, and showing prospect, maybe my outlook on me can make a difference to someone else. In order for me to get over being torn is to love myself first. I have to focus on being well being and my destination, so that my heart won't be deceived. Being torn also can make you feel ruin, your heart begin to feel destroyed all because of the love you have inside. You start to give in to everything because you feel that you have been deprive. You get so emotional you begin to go through psychological changes. Such feelings collectively you be experiencing. It's like the whole world has falling down on you. You can also be torn by crisis, dark and light. When wanting to do things that make you happy, you feel pleased, but at the same time it maybe the same things that makes you sad. See in this world of life we have a choice, the good or the bad. The good side is the light, seeing and doing things that is right can help you on the way, knowing that you can overcome the bad. Doing things that is wrong can make you disappointed knowing that it's hard to seek what is right. I'm torn between crisis. My heart say open up to God, but my mind keeps telling me to do what I want to do. Sometimes I don't know which way to turn, my desires keep sinking in to do what I feel. My heart feels torn because I want to do what is right. I cries about my situation all the time but crying won't solve the problem, it will only make things worse. Myabe if I talk things out things may make a difference.

My GED Struggle

by Shirley Poag
Louisa County GED
am thirty-eight years old and I didn't graduate from high school. Over the years I have tried to get myu diploma but never succeeded. It was so hard for me because I had gotten married and had two children. My husband, at the time, was a truck driver and was never there. I didn't have anybody to watch my children for me at night so I could go to school.

I never really had enough confidence in myself because I only completed ninth grade. I am really putting every effort into getting my diploma now because my son, who is nineteen, who is the only one on my mother's side of the family to graduate. I couldn't understand the feeling he had because he had graduated and was so happy! I want to feel what he felt. I want my children to look at me and say that they are proud of me.

My daughter is still in school; she is in the sixth grade. I hope she wants to stay in school and get her diploma.

I want to achieve so much because I want to further my education by taking some classes to get my license to become a phlebotomist. I enjoy working in the medical field.

I used to work in a nursing home for three years and I wanted more ... but you can't advance without your diploma. It will give me a feeling I have never had and finally have something I have always wanted!

Their Love of Showing

by Dorothy Pritt
Louisa County GED
own two wonderful Jack Russell Terriers. They all have their own special names: Jed, Gingerbread, Dixie Lou, Badger, Smudgey, Kahula, Gizzmo, Gretchen, Flintstone and, my new addition, Americus.

I show and breed my Jack Russells. They love to run in the races. "Win or lose," they love to do it and they also get lots of love after each race.

I also show in the conformation ring with Flintstone, Badger and Dixie Lou. They just love to walk around and look so handsome and pretty with all the other terriers.

They all have won all kinds of beautiful ribbons. After a long day of showing, we all go home and all ten of my babies love to curl up on the sofa, get some affection, and go to sleep.

Learning

by David Woodson
Louisa County GED
t would be so nice if I had an education. My job would be higher up than where I am today. So, I joined the G.E.D. class and hope that it will help me to do my job better.

A Mack Attack

by Gary Cooke
Louisa County GED
n Sunday I went to the gym to play some basketball. They beat up on me pretty bad. When I got home, I was sore because they had knocked me down and had fallen on top of me. Then the ball jammed my finger, but I kept playing.

I went to work, worked all night, and the next morning I felt like a Mack Truck had run over me!

Life Challenges

by Wendy Barnett
Louisa County GED
have had many life challenges throughout my 27 years, although recently I had a life-altering experience. I was robbed and beaten in my own home. I never thought that could ever happen to me, but I found out that it does not matter who you are or what you do, if you get picked, then it is you.

I didn't know my attackers. The only thing that scared me throughout the ordeal was that I thought I would die. All I could think of at the time was my children and how would my youngest child live without me.

At that point, my challenge began. Now I find myself trying to fight to have charges brought against the guys who beat me up. The only thing that the police department has done is file an assault and battery charge against them. Now, how would you like it if you felt unsafe in your own home by yourself and the people who attacked you got away with it.

This is how I have handled my problem. First, I have been trying to catch my attackers, butevery time I catch them away from their house, they run straight to the police station. In addition, I have warned them that the police will not always be there when they needd them. One day Iwill catch them, and that'smy word. I feel that if the police can't back me on this and give them what they should get, then I would be more than happy to do so.

I do not wish for anyone to think that I am promoting violence, but I do want everyone to know that our legal system does not work for everyone. Sometimes to make yourself feel better, you have to do what you have to do.

Life Changes

by Rebecca Jordan
Charlottesville GED
have gone through many changes and faced many challenges in my lifetime. Some of them are happy changes/challenges and some of them are sad and hurtful. With all the changes and challenges that I have faced, I've really learned a lot.

My first really sad and hurtful challenges was not living with or being around my family from the time I was eight months old until I was five years old. I've heard many different stories about what had happened and where I was. I really don't know how or why it happened, but I was glad when it was over and I was back with my family. All those years I'll never get back, I have so many years ahead of me.

Another sad and hurtful cahllenges for me was getting over my father's death. I never knew my father when I was growing up. I finally met him when I was thirteen. He lived across the street from my cousin and her family. When we really started getting to know each other, I had to move. I moved to West Virginia, and my father lived in Virginia. He passed away while I was living in West Virginia. My cousin knew it and didn't tell me. That really hurt a lot. He was buried in the family cemeter in West Virginia, just ten miles from where I lived. I didn't learn of his death until two months later. I had to hear it from my mom's brother. Within that two months, my dad's brother passed away, too. I was really mad at my cousin for not telling me. I would have liked to have been there to support my family through that sad time. If I had been thre, then maybe it wouldn't hurt so much.

Not all of the changes or challenges in my life have been sad, some of them are happy ones. One happy change in my life was giving birth to my daughter and my son. That was also a challenge for me because raising two kids is really hard, especially when you're doing it by yourself. It is a little easier to do if both parents are involved. I fone parent is absent, then you have to be both mother and father. Another happy challenge in my life was overcoming all the obstacles of mylife and finally settling down with the man I love. We dated for 4 1/2 years and then got married. We've been married for two years now, and I'm really happy. We've been together for a total of six and a half years.

My biggest triump and challenge was completing high school after giving birth to my daughter. Hardly anyone had faiththat I would finish, but I proved them all wrong. I was home with my daughter for the first month and a half; then I went back to school. I graduated with the rest of my class. That was one of the happiest days of my life.

I am trying to overcome another triumph and challenge right now. That is completing the program I am in and getting a great job. I am struggling to do this right now because there are a lot of things going on in my life that are making it difficult to do the things I want to do. So completing this program and gaining the extra skills will be a great triumph for me.

In conclusion, I've had many changes and challenges in my life, some of which still hurt and others that I will cherish forever. I'll never forget the people who made my life happy. I hope that one day I can help others be as happy as I am. I believe that one day those that helped me will get something great in return.

Life After Disclosure

by Deia Fearon
Charlottesville GED
n the blink of an eye, your whole life can change. The world you know can crumble, leaving you with hard choices. Strength, courage, and hope emerge to help you rebuilt your life in the face of sorrow. During a time of change, when hardships abound, the ways of the world seem unclear. We carry on in times of trouble, sadness, and despair, clinging to families we have, to the people we love, hoping for the great miracles of life to come forward to save us.

On a warm spring afternoon my life, my world as I knew it, was forever changed. I had suspected something was wrong at home for a long time, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. In the week before, my oldest child had asked me a sexually explicit question that was shocking and alarming. It left me dumbfounded and brought me to the realization that something else was going on. In the time that followed, I had to decide whether to let my children know about my own molestation so that if anything had been or was happening to them, I could stop it, protect them. In the week before when my oldest child asked me what she did, I asked her then if something or someone was hurting her. She was too quick to answer, setting off alarms in my head. I decided that telling my children of my molestation wouldn't harm them but make them aware.

The afternoon was beautiful, a sunny warm spring day. I wait for them outside on the front porch swing, enjoying the breeze, looking at flowers starting to bloom. The bus pulls up, the kids get off, happy to see me waiting there for them. It's a normal afternoon of snack and homework then playtime. After they finish their homework, I tell them that mommy wants to have a talk. I take a deep breath, feeling the tears brewing. I tell them that when I was a little girl someone touched me in a bad way in a place that only the doctor should, and that because of it, mommy was sick in the head and always would be.

At that point my oldest starts to cry, telling me that she doesn't "want to be sick like you, mommy." It is in this moment that my life is completely and utterly changed. I'm then caught in a profound instant, holding my child and telling her that mommy's going to stop what's been happening. I set out to do everything in my ower to protect my children, telling them constantly for the next two months that I loved them, holding them, us together as a family. To this day, I'm still in awe of the courage my daughter had to tell me. It is her courage that empowers me, carries me, and graces me when I want to give up. Her words of "wishing we could all be reborn" resound, and I know that the first year after, we were.

I walk forward, holding on to what is long since backward, carrying with me the sorrows of yesterday passed and the dreams of tomorrow, believing each day is the new day, when everything can change in the blink of an eye. I take to heart the courage of my child, living by her grace, if only to redeem love's great promises of mothers and daughters. She is the ounce of my being, themeaning in my soul. She is my love, my child, and the reason for so manythings. I cling to her as she clings to me. Love's labor is my child, and I, reborn into a new day, a new life.

When sorrow is no longer living with me, when the storm inside passes, when the dawn breaks, when the tears dry, when I see past the blinding rage inside, when the healing is healed, I'll smile and remember when the world wasn't kind to me, when the nights seemed longer than the days. When the story of me isn't so painful to tell, when the tears no longer burn, someday when I'm whole again, these words will be nothing but distant memroies of times passed, dreams shattered.

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Changes in My Life

by Justinea Walker
Charlottesville GED
ne big change as well as challenge in my life was losing my best friend. Her name was Raquel, and she was the best person I had ever met. She showed me so many things about life that I never could have imagined. Losing her was the last thing on my mind. She was so sweet and kind.

Raquel had a lot of friends, but according to her, ech one had something wrong with them except for me. We hung out 24-7; you never saw me unless she was around. She introduced me to some friends she knew named Matt, Patrick, and R. J. They were cool but not down to earth as much as Raquel and I were.

Seven months passed. I was getting ready to leave for Pennsylvania. My friendship with Raquel began to get a little shaky because (1) she didn't want me to go, (2) she was having problems at home, and (3) her mom was sick. I really didn't want to go either, but I did anway.

Two days later I got a page on my voicemail saying Raquel was in trouble. I came home three days later and found out that Raquel's mom didn't want us to hang out together anymore. Her mom thought that I had something to do with the troulbe Raquel had gotten herself into. I was allowed one more night to hang out with Raquel, and after that she and I were no more.

For a while, we talked about once a month. We were separated from mind but never from heart. I met new friends later in life. They were just as cool as Raquel but not quite the same. She will never be forgotten.

You Broke My Stone

by Mary Bowles
Charlottesville GED
y stone was unmoving, cold and gray. There was no life, want, or need in my stone. My days were cold and gray. My stone shut out the sun. I ran, walked, and slept in my cold, gray world.

One day while walking around in my cold, gray world, I met someone who wasn't supposed to be there. I asked him, "Why are you here? What do you want?" He said, "I want you, and I have come to take you with me." I told him I couldn't go, that he must leave, but he wouldn't leave. He was there in my cold, gray world. I tried to leave, but he followed me. He was kind and had a light in his eyes. I tried to run, but he held me fast.

Then something unexpected hapened. My stone cracked. I shed an tear and held on tight. Over time, we talked, and he wouldn't leave my world. I began to feel his heat from his eyes. Then he smiled and my stone broke. I shed a thousand tears. He told me of love, and I wanted it. He told me of happiness, and I needed it. He took my hand, and the sun broke through in my cold, gray world.

Life is Like the Weather

by Phyllis Gibson
Charlottesville GED
e are like the weather. We face changes every day, minute to minute, from the day we are born until the day we die. Some are good changes, some are bad. This is life.

We all hope and pray for a great life. We get married and have children, with the hope that they will have a good and happy life, too.

I was a production worker for years. Little did I know how much my life would change. Three years ago, the plant where I had worked for 34 and a half years closed down. They moved the work out of state.

I became a deli worker waiting on customers. I make sandwiches and salads, wash pots and pans, and oh! don't forget the floors. I have had to learn to write on cakes, but I'm not very good at that. My job is a lot of work. I don't do just one thing.

Now I am going to school studying for my GED. My life keeps changing, but my days are happy as I learn.

Before and After Marriage

by Miyoung Lee
Charlottesville ESL
bout a year ago, I got married with my husgband. After marriage, my life changed very much.

Before marriage, I lived in Korea with my father, mother, brother, and sister. And I was a teacher. I taught math to middle school for four years. I liked my job and my students, and it was very interesting. In Korea, I could do everything. My life was very comfortable and easy.

After marriage, I came to the U.S. with my husband. He was studying in the U.S. and I wanted to live together with him. When I first came to the U.S., I was afraid of everything. I could not do anything without my husband, because I could not speak English well. So I stayed at home for about two months. When the phone rang, I worried about my speaking. So I only said, "I'm not good at English." When my husband was home, I never answered the phone. I did not like to watch television because I did not understand it well. I needed friends, but my neighbors were foreigners. I felt lonely. My life was uninteresting, and I wanted to return to Korea. I missed my family and my friends, and I often sobbed. So my husband was very worried about me, and he felt badly for me. I thought staying at home was not useful for me and I decided to go outside and try something different. At first, it was difficult for me. For example, when I first went to a market, I was very embarrassed. It was difficult to find some items. When I paid, the clerk said, "Do you have a penny?" I did not know that a penny is a cent. So I was at a loss for what to do. Fortunately, a kind woman helped me. She paid a penny for me. After that experience, I started to adapt myself to new circumstances. I began to go shopping without my husband. At the store, when a clerk came to me I would say, "I'm just looking around." I also made friends with a few people. Unfortunately, as soon as I maade new friends I had to move to a new city (Charlottesville). At first I thought that the two cities were similar. Living in the new city turned out to be very difficult for me. I had to adapt myself to new circumstances again. So I began to look for other Koreans, but it was difficult making new friends. Next I looked for English classes. After a few days, I found an English class with the help of my husband, and I began to study English. It was helpful for me. I made friends with my classmates and they helped me.

To tell the truth, I am afraid of living in the U.S. now, because my English is still poor, and legally I can not have a job. Nevertheless, I love my life and I am very happy. I will try to think positively about my life and try new things. I believe my life will be better and better.

Now I am pregnant. Maybe I will have a baby in May. After that, my life will change again. I do not worry about it. I am pleased to see that my life changes, and I anticipate a successful life in the U.S.

A New Life in America

by Lorena Mena
Charlottesville ESL
ow did I end up living in America? This is a long story about me and my husbnd moving to the United States and some of the changes that I had to face. First of all, I never thought that I was going to live in America, but two years ago my husband received the great opportunity of being accepted in one of the graduate programs in Charlottesville. To prepare our journey to our new life, we had to sell most of our belongings and to box what was left. At first I did not know what to expect because I had never been in the USA before and I had mixed feelings (joy for the future and sadness for what I was leaving.)

Ups! No hablba Ingles (I did not speak English at all) that was the first problem that I had to deal with. I could not go anywhere without my husband, thus I only went out during the weekends. It was very hard for me to make new friends due to the same reason and being far away from my family often made me feel homesick. Then I found great help from the English programs that the city of Charlottesville offers, therefore I am in the process of overcoming the problem of the language. Once I felt more comfortable with my English it was time to go out by myself. But I needed a driver's license first, so I went to the DMV and I found that the process to get it was somewhat difficult due to the level of documentation asked. Finally, I got everything I needed to have the right of taking the tests and I passed them (time to celebrate.)

I come from a very dry and warm region (100° F - 110° F); that's right, it is the desert and now I have to deal with snow and temperature below 32° F. I normally get very cold at 50° F, therefore this weather is not for me.

On the other hand, I feel very lucky to be living the American dream, and I am afraid I am getting used to dollars.

Have You Failed to Fulfill a Duty?

by Seka Baljak
UVA Hospital ESL
ave you failed to fulfill a duty? I have. And I avoided punishment, though I thought I'd be fired...

It was fall, one peaceful morning. I woke up and lazily rubbed my eyes, looking through the window of my small room at the sun that was smiling on me, slowly traveling across the sky, at the same way it does every day without any rest or delay. I had a day off and for a moment I felt guilty for wasting time and doing nothing. Instead of relieved I felt useless...I started making plans for the day: "Today I will phone up my family -- my beloved daughter that I miss so much and old parents back in Serbia, then my son somewhere on the highway in his truck, and my little granddaughter Anamaria, whose tiny voice fills me with joy and happiness." I looked at the phone lying right next beside me and remembered of all the calls from work which often would interrupt my free days, but that morning even the phone was quiet. At the very same time I thought that, it rang. I picked up the phone and heard the familiar voice of my supervisor Gladys: "Seka, we need you, could you..." I already knew what she was about to say.

Soon I was on my working place, among the well-known walls of the city hospital, the place I've been working in since my arrival in the United States. In these halls I feel like in my own house and, even more, I feel needed. Not only a job, but for me it's an enormous pleasure to help a person in need and there is no bigger reward than that grateful look in people's eyes and those warm words "thank you!" But that day I haven't done my job properly...

When my pager beeped I thought it was just another task from the dispatch office, but it wasn't so simple. I heard my boss saying: "Seka, morgue call for pick up from Pediatric intensive care unit..." My breath froze and pain hit my chest so that I barely said: "Sorry, I can't do it..." "But please Seka," he persisted, "you are the only transporter available at the moment."..."OK, I'm going"....

I answered and went right to the spot. I stood in front of that door and something wouldn't let me come in like an invisible wall of pain and grief. Just two days ago, I witnessed a small birthday party in that hospital room for a boy who was turning twelve, made by his parents by the sick-bed. And now that boy is gone.

And I couldn't just go in there and take that small body, take the only happiness from his parents, take all the years, all the games, all the schoolbooks...All...All...I couldn't take away the child from mother's eyes. Tears came from my eyes and I started crying out loud. For a moment I hated that phone call, that voice, myself, everyone..."What will the parents do, why so young?" I kept thinking.

Colleagues understood. They called my boss and I was ready to resign, leave whatever... because I haven't fulfill my duty. I saw another colleague entering the room and at the same time heard comforting words from a nurse and then the boss: "Seka, calm down, please, in the future you'll be released from duties like these...take a break now, go home if you want, we all feel pain in moments like this but life's like that..." Those words really calmed me down and brought me back to reality.

When I came home and after I recovered from the shock, I started thinking of what I've done. What will my bosses and supervisors say when they hear how Seka refused to do her job. Their faces came right through my mind: Mayra, Donna, Scott, Emmanuel, Gladys, Shirley...Will I get punished, lose my job...? Then I recalled their comforting and sympathetic words, and I became aware that things like that happen and they know that. I felt relieved. Then I realized how lucky I am to have such a nice and understanding supervisors, colleagues, and bosses. They all were guiding me from the very first day here and helped me when I was in need. That's why I'll always be there when they need me and do my best at work. You see, even when I failed, they understood and found an excuse for my acts. I didn't refuse my task, I simply couldn't make it...something stopped me. I couldn't take the child away from the parents and I don't regret it. But I will complete any other task I get on my job. So I use this chance to thank once again my bosses for understanding and safety that I feel with them and I beg you all to pardon my weakness, hoping that similar situations won't be happening again.

Life Story

by Danica Dobric
University Hospital ESL
y name is Danica Dobric. I was born and lived in Topusko, Croatia, for most of my life with my family, and then the terrible tragedy struck my country. The war came that made my family and me leave for good. I had a normal life. Like most other families, we had peace, work, and happiness; we enjoyed where we were and ew worked towards building better lives for ourselves and our children. I was a nurse in the rehabilitation center in Topusko, and it was a good life. Who would have thought then that the war would come which would destroy all we had lived for and built most of our lives.

I have a small family, just my husband, my daughter, and me. We had a nice new house in Topusko that we enjoyed for only a year; it was destroyed in 1991. One morning in that year of 1991 we woke up and found ourselves living in a new country. The night before, we fell asleep in the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, and the next morning we woke up in the Republic of Croatia. Everything changed from good to a nightmare. From the time our house was destroyed in 1991, we had a lot of problems. Still, we had a lot of help from our family, which helped us to pull our lives back together. "Operation Storm" in August of 1995, which was undertaken by the Croatian Army, made us real refugees.

In 1995, we left for the FRJ. We came to Kosovo, in the refugee camp in the suburbs of Pristina. We thought it was going to be better and that we had left the nightmare behind us, but then we saw that the nightmare was just beginning. As soon as we came and saw how bad the life in these refugee camps was, we started applying for immigration through the International Organization for Migration (IOM). We were lucky to come to the United States because this is a land of opportunities.

I am satisfied with what I have accomplished so far, both for my family and for myself. The treatment that I have received here has been and is more than I could have hoped for, nice people and a friendly environment.

Life Changes

by Rosa Barber
Charlottesville GED
oday's youth and seniors have more opportunities than they did ten years ago. I say this because I'm living proof of this statement. I am a ninth grade high school dropout. But being my senior years, I still have a thirst for learning on any level.

When I moved into public housing, I had no idea how my life would change. I started going to housing authority board meetings and didn't understand anything being said. Then I saw the fliers for the Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR) Internship, went for an interview, and forgot about the whole thing. Then I got the phone call that said I'd gotten the job. It was a stepping stone to becoming a more caring and understanding person.

I have exceeded my wildest expectations. I have attended legal aid conferences and workshops that have given me an insight into the housing authority. I learned to speak in front of an audience without fear or reservation. Another rewarding part is the friendship that has grown out of this experience. A bond forms between the board members that's unbreakable. They become famiy, in the sense that everyone is working for the same goal. I feel most of the time like the mother hen, protecting her young.

PHAR offers a variety of training programs that can help you to be more self-sufficient for yourself and family. I went from intern to board member to secretary all in one great leap. I graduated from Workplace Essential Skills. Also, I am a member of the Connecting People to Jobs (CPTJ). Now I have a new family at Piedmont Works.

The different age groups that I've worked with make me feel young inside. Being on the PHAR Board makes it clear why someone gets involved. There are times we disagree, but most of the time it can be handled on a professional level. Last, and certainly not least, is the blast you get when you help a resident with a housing problem and win.

A Different Destiny

by Lobsang Dhondup
Albemarle CountyGED
nce upon a time I lived in Tibet. My name is Lobsang. Because my family always wanted me to become am onk, I never worked in the house or on the farm. I never wore pants. I always wore a robe and had a shaved head. My father taught me about Tibetan culture and Buddhist philosophy. The Chinese government said all Tibetan children must go to Chinese school, but my father didn't let me because in Chinese school the time just passed, and Tibetan students were not taught any skills. Then when I was ten, I joined a monastery called Ze Potung Marp Tsenyi Lhoptha Chimo. I studied Buddhism there for eight years. Then when I was 18 years old, my classmates were talking about India. In Tibet, it is so difficult to study Buddhism because many times the Chinese government forces monks to leave the monastery and work as laypeople. Because of this, many monks want to escape to India. The Dalai Lama, the leader of Tibetan Buddhists, lives there and there is more freedom studying there than in China. Another student, Tsering, and I were joking about escaping to India. But really, at first, I did not want to go. AFter talking about India, I told Tsering we should escape, but I was not really serious. I thought it was too difficult and I was worried about leaving my father. Tsering said if we both find 1500 yen then we must go to India. I didn't have any money, but I knew I could ask my friend, Younten. Younten lent me 1360 yen and Tsering got 2000 yen. Because we had enough money, I knew we had to go, no more joking. My life must take this path. We bought bus tickets, but then we remembered that we didn't have any pants, jackets, shoes, or anything. We only had monk robes. That meant we had to shop quickly because our bus was going to leave at 3 a.m. We took the bus into Chengdu province, which is the opposite direction from Tibet's capital city, Lhasa. We knew our families would look for us in Lhasa. From our monastery to Chengdu and back to Lhasa took 8 continuous days and nights on the bus. We found a group of people who were going to escape. Each of us gave the guide 800 yen to join the group. First our group drove two nights in a truck. Then our group walked four nights until we got to the Himalaya Mountains. We crossed the mountains during the days. The mountains are very high and very cold, and it was difficult to breathe. Some people became very sick. Tsering couldn't walk so I had to pull him. I emptied my bag and he sat on the bag. It was easy to pull him because the mountains are so icy. After 13 days in the mountains, we got to Nepal. Our group was very lucky. All 52 people in the group made it to Nepal. No one had frostbite after we got to Nepal. There is a reception center in Kathmandu for Tibetan refugees. At the center, I decided that I wanted to go to school instead of to a monastery. Our group was sent to Dharamsala, India, where we met with the Dalai Lama. Many people were crying. I felt excited. I was tingly inside and got goosebumps everywhere. Next I met with seven of my cousins, who are nuns, and live nearby in the Dolmaling Nunnery. My cousins told me that I must go to a monastery. I must not lose this chance to study Buddhism. So I changed my mind and joined Gaden monastery in South India. South India was very hot. The food was very different from food in Tibet. The water was not clean, and soon I became very sick. Everybody thought that I would die. Then my uncle and my teacher gave me money to go to the hospital in Dharamsala. I spent a month in the hospital, and when I got out, I stayed with my cousin and rested. After I got stronger, I didn't have any money to leave Dharamsala so I had to get a job. I joined Norbulingka Institute, which gives jobs to Tibetan craftspeople. First I was a wood painter. I did a very nice job so they gave me a test to see if I could join the thangka painting section. Thanka is a special form of Buddhist painting. I passed the test and became a thangka painter. A year passed and then a little more than a year ago, an American girl came to teach the students at the Academy of Tibetan Culture, which is part of Norbulingka. The thangka-painting students did not study English, but I asked this girl to teach me in the evenings. We became friends, and soon fell in love. We lived together for almost a year before deciding that I must try to go to America. Finally, a few months ago, I got a visa and joined my girlfriend in America. Now we are married. I never thought this would happen. It is like a dream. Now I am still a young man but my life has changed in so many ways. I don't know what the future will bring. I hope it will not change so much and that I will learn the language and culture of this country...I am surprised by this life.

A Teenager's Courage

by Wisteria Hicks
Charlottesville GED (PHAR)
nce there was a young girl in her teens. She and the family moved from the country to the city. This was a big change for her because country schools and city schools were totally different, so this had a big effect on her. She didn't like the school, so she and her mother went to the school and got her signed out.

After that she didn't do much but hang around until she met a wonderful guy. He was much older than she but age didn't matter to her, just as long as he treated her right and that he did. Everyone knew about the two of them except her mom. The young girl and her brother would leave the house together so she could meet up with the guy. They would go back home together like they had been together all the time, so the mother wouldn't suspect a thing. She and her brother always had each other's back no matter what.

Time went on and the mother and the girl decided she should try job corps. When the day came for her to leave, she was upset because she was going to miss her guy friend. But she knew he would be there when she got back. After the long bus ride to Marion, Va., she got there to find out it was nothing but girls. You'd best believe that didn't sit well with her at all. So after a couple of weeks she called to tell her mom to get her a bus ticket back home.

Now back home, she continued to sneak around with the guy, mother still not knowing. Little did she know mom was going to find out sooner than later. The mother saw a change in the girl's behavior and decided to take her to the doctor and get her checked out. Guess what? She was pregnant!

Now she had no choice but to tell her mom who the baby's father was. As badly as she didn't want to, she finally did. Oh Lord, what a mess! Her mother was so hurt, telling her he wasn't good enough for her and a lot of other things. No matter what she said the girl was in love and she knew he was the one for her. With time she knew her mom would see it too. Finally, one day the guy had a talk with the mother. He explained how much he loved the girl and how he would take full responsibility for taking care of the baby that was on the way. The talk didn't make her change her mind completely but it made things a little easier.

January 10, 1988 was the day the precious baby boy was born: 7 lbs 12 1/2 oz, Keenan Jamal Joyner. Oh what a difference he made in their lives! The girl was now a mother and she loved it, doing everything she was supposed to. She went out and got a job so she could provide for her little one. Finally she and that wonderful guy got a place of their own.

Things were going smoothly until the sad, sad day when they found out he was sick with leukemia. They held each other and cried like babies. From that day on it was tough, but she hung in there until the end.

To make a long story short, they got engaged, moved to Maryland, so he could be close to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He got treatments there but they didn't help. They never got married and he never made it home. He died May 15, 2000 right there in the hospital bed with her holding his hand till the very end. She sat there with her head down crying, wondering why God had taken him from them.

Years later his son is 5 years old and I'm 22. I know all things happen for a reason. I know he's in a much better place than we are, not suffering and pain free. Knowing that makes it easier to deal with. It's still hard not having him around because he was a big help, but he'll always be with us in our hearts and thoughts.

Now I'm a single mother raising my son the best I know how. I think I'm doing a great job putting food on the table, clothes on his back and a roof over his head. The most important thing is giving him all the love a mother can give, that's all I can do.

Life Changes

by Kossivi Charles DJamessi
Charlottesville GED
ife changes go up and down, like ascending a mountain's peak and descending to a valley. Life always changes, and it changes anytime, anywhere, and to anybody around the world.

Life always changes within families. At first, when a man and woman come together, life is easy. They have nothing much to be worried about, and everything is quickly done at their appointed time. Truly, I can say, they are on the mountain's peak.

However, as soon as a child is born, to the man and woman, changes in their life begin. Changes happen quickly, like ice melting to water. Things look different and difficult because the mom and dad need to work in order to provide the child as well as themselves. Where do you think they are now? Well, they have come down from the mountain and into the valley.

The child feels like a king or queen or even the president, especially firstborns like me. But bit by bit, this proudly life has changed. My siblings now are enjoying it. I, who never dreamed of working before, now have many responsibilities, such as domestic jobs as well as employment.

Life changes do not care if you are rich. Your rich life can change to a life of poverty. How?

Consider this:

There was a rich man from a rich family in a town. His dreams were always to own many properties such as houses and vehicles, and to be the biggest among all the people. Did his dream come true? Yes!

Indeed he has had much money, houses and much more as he has dreamed, but unfortunately, his wonderful rich life has changed to a life of poverty. Why?

He became poor because he felt sick and all of his money was used for healing, and his properties were also sold. Was this not a big change? Sure it was, and I can prove it that from the mountain's peak, he descended into the valley.

In consideration of all these, I have no doubt to say, "Life changes."

You Can't Learn This in School

by Mauricio Becerra
Albemarle County ESL
y challenge in my life started when my first son was born, because one is not born with knowledge about how to take care of a family. It is not liek any career, like being an engineer, architect, lawyer, or anything of that sort; you go to a school to learn about that. You have to learn how to be a father, because you have to teach your son about the good things in life, good relationship with the people, and you have to be with him for support in any kind of activity that he wants to do.

Maybe he wants to do a sport and goes to the Karate school. Or maybe he wants to learn to play the guitar, etc. Nobody teaches you to be a father or mother. The knowledge comes with the experience, every day. You have to know what to do when he is sick or happy, and have a good answer when he asks you something. For example, they watch something bad in the T.V. news; I remember he asked about the events on Sept. 11 and I answered that this happened because there are crazy people, who make violence without explanation, and this is bad for the world. And we hope it will not happen again, because we have to enjoy life.

Children don't know if you have money or time or a job; they have to eat, go to school, wear clothes, etc. You have to provide everything, like a father, whether you like it or not, and whether or not you are prepared.

Life Change

by Bedri Raci
Albemarle County ESL
hen I was child I grew up in a time of war in Kosovo. Life was always very hard. At the time my family owned a company, and I had everything I needed. I started to go to college, but the Serbians closed all colleges one year later because they did not want us to learn anything.

A year after they closed the schools and other public places, war broke out. We had to leave everything, our home, our company, and country, and we went to Macedonia. There we lived in a tent for two months. After that my sister and I came here to the USA. I knew that my fiance was here, but she didn't know that I had come. I looked everywhere for her. While I was searching, I found a friend from Kosovo, and he told me where she was. I sent my sister to her, and as a joke, she told her that I was in Italy. She went outside with my sister and saw me standing there. She was so surprised that she almost passed out. We got married and had a son, who is two years old. We hope one day there will be peace in Kosovo and we can go back to our country.

From Rage to Peace

by Timothy Parker
Charlottesville
s I sit here reflecting on my life, I realize just how far I've come and how much I have changed. As a child, I was taught to fight viciously. I saw my father take part in countless fights. One day, I stood on the front porch and watched as my father beat the next door neighbor mercilessly until his body just lay there, apparently lifeless. I still remember my father's face as he walked away from the neighbor and up the porch stairs. He was biting down on his bottom lip, he had a thick vein protruding from the center of his forehead, and his eyes were bloodshot.

The this lesson of violence was reinforced when, on another day, the bully on the block beat me up and chased me home from the park. About a block away from my house, I saw my father ride by on his motorcycle. When I got home, he was standing on the porch waiting for me with a belt in his hands. Before I could tell him what happened, he spanked me, saying, "I didn't raise no punks." Afterwards, he made me go back and fight the bully again. Even though the bully was much larger than I was, I won the fight, and my father, who had just beaten me himself minutes before, was beaming with pride. In fact, he was so proud of me that he took me to White Castle to celebrate my victory.

These lessons created a demon that raged inside of me well into my adult life. Once I knew I could win, I beat the bully on the block every day. I didn't stop there; all the kids on the block suffered from my fists. I had leaarned that violence had its rewards -- fear and respect from my peers, and, more importantly, love and approval from my father. I didn't realize then that this approach to conflict would cause me so much pain later in life; I have been shot, stabbed, and hit in the mouth with bottles, among other things.

Most of all, I regret teaching my children the same way that I was taught by my father. As I write, I am incarcerated for the second time as a result of my violence. This, however, has given me the opportunity to re-evaluate the way I live my life and respond to people, so that perhaps I can teach my children a better way. With the help of others, I am in the process of learning anew way of life, one that's free from so much built-up, uncontrollable anger. Today, I use words instead of shouts or fists when I get upset or experience uncomfortable feelings. I stop and think before reacting and try to identify my true feelings and deal with the source of my problems. When my children visit me here in jail or when I talk to them on the phone, I try to model this new way of interacting with them. We talk about feelings, and I speak calmly even when I am upset. I want them to know, as I do now, that there's nothing that can't be resolved without physical violence. The lesson I want to teach them is that peace begins within.

A Gift Called Life

by Robert Bowles
Charlottesville
had nowhere to turn. I felt that no one could help me, as my situation was so much "different" from everyone else's. I thought I was doomed to continue in an insane drive towards self-destruction that had already robbed me of my determination to fight...

Growing up, I had always felt superior to those who experimented with alcohol and drugs. I found my identity by excelling with sports, keeping up with the highest fashion, and impressing the girls. I believed I was too good and too smart to use drugs, and that drug addicts were feeble-minded weaklings who had no purpose or direction in life. I, on the other hand, had great potential, and could never fall into such a trap.

My desire to impress others and be the "best" soon led me to attraction to the lavish lifestyle of the streets -- the new cars, expensive clothes and shoes, jewelry, and the beautiful women. Looking to earn an even bigger reputation than I had won through legitimate routes in schoolo, I began selling drugs to keep up with the street version of "The Joneses." Still, I felt superior to the pathetic souls who would beg, steal, or borrow to buy my product, enslaved by their addictions.

In 1987, after I'd been a successful "salesman" for quite a while, I fell deeply in love. This was the feeling I'd been looking for my entire life. This romance grew and grew, until it was all I thought about. The only problem was that I had to keep this relationship a secret for fear of what others would think. After a time, though, my passion became so strong that I no longer cared who knew about my new love, cocaine.

I soon found myself in and out of jails and prisons. I spent eight years in prison and never considered that I needed help. When I returned home, I found that my "love" was still waiting for me. I did things that I had told myself I would never do and lost all respect for myself in the process. Finally, I was desperate, and I prayed to a God that I hoped would hear me and release from the hell of addiction.

The answer to this prayer, though I didn't know it at the time, was another period of incarceration. This time, I found a rehabilitation program called the Therapeutic Community at the jail and started to look deeply at my life, my feelings, and my behavior. I searched my soul deeply, and began to try to replace arrogance with humility and denial and deception with honesty. Through other men in the program who thought, felt, and acted just like I did, God began to reveal myself to me. Even though I spent my day in a locked cell block, I feel freer than I ever have. I have found peace within myself. Ironically, the sentence the judge handed down to me has been transformed by God into a gift called life.

Return to Family and Church

by Russell Anderson
Charlottesville Adult Education
y life changed when I got sick and started going back to church. Before I started going back to church I was working seven days a week, morning and evening. My full time job was my morning job working for the City of Charlottesville for twenty-nine years. My part time job was my evening job working for Fluvanna Parks and Recreation.

I became ill and was sick for about six days. So one night I prayed to God to give me strength to overcome my illness. God answered my prayer. So I stopped working on Sunday and Saturday. I went to church on Sundays and had time to be with my family.

My wife and I started to work with Andrew Shannon and a group of kids who did step dancing from state to state, in different counties and churches. They did Gospel and Drill step dancing. The group is called the Fluvanna Teen Scene Dance Troupe. The dancers are from six to eighteen years old. This year will be their sixth year doing step shows. Andrew Shannon is the director and I am the coordinator. My wife and the other parents are the Parent Advisory Committee. We all get together andset up the step shows and travelling.

We have taken the kids to Saint Louis, Apollo Theater in New York, North and South Carolina, Virginia Beach, Newport News, and many nearby high schools, churches and colleges. I really enjoy being around the kids and with my family. And I still have time to be active in church as an usher, and involved in programs and services. I would like to become a deacon in my church.

By the way, Andrew Shannon travels every weekend from Newport News to Fluvanna County to work with the kids for their step shows and upcoming activities. We are going strong!

Letting Go

by Frank Alexander
Charlottesville Adult Education
y wife and I went through a change in our life together. Now I am a better husband to my wife and a father to my kids. I allowed myself to take a class at our churchon Letting Go of the Past. I learned a lot about myself. I learned you can hold on to something and not really know it. I thank God for Bishop Nowell who touched my heart by teaching such a powerful class. Because now I am a better person.

I learned you can be depressed by holding onto your past. Now with the help of God, I have let it go. Things in my past were hindering me from getting closer to God and other people. I was spiritually and mentally dead. I didn't know why I was feeling that way about people and the way they act. I didn't know people act the way they do because they, too, are going through some kind of depression.

But the first step to getting over depression is admitting it. A lot of people still hold on to their past and try to catch what they didn't have as a child. I see people differently now. I see people as human beings. Now, by doing this, God has blessed me in many ways so I can do His will spiritually and mentally. By taking the class I helped people get over their depression. We helped each other. If you don't get help in some way, it can destroy you. You can figure out that I am a Christian. Yes, Christians can get depressed, too.

Life

by Danny Carter
Charlottesville Adult Education

ife life it is not fair
But I myself still must care

Things aren't always black or white
But I must try to do what's right

People may be hard to trust
But I've found out trust is a must

Life can be good life can be bad
Life can be happy life can be sad

Listen and you'll hear the call
Of something that can save us all

It's the Truth of what's right
And we must do it day and night

KNOWLEDGE SAVES

Hard Times in Life

by Franklin Vest
Charlottesville GED
rowing up as a child has not been much fun for me. Since I was six years old, I was doing things that I should not have. I remember that I used to beat people up and stuff, bite and hit teachers all the time. I used to fight my parents when they beat me for doing something wrong; it had no effect on me.

Every time I used to go to school, they kicked me out, so they got tired of me. A little later they sent me to another school. Then they sent me to Venable School. I went there and did the same thing. I did not care. Then finally I made it to high school. I did okay until I reached it to the 11th grade, and then I got in trouble.

This is how it started: I skipped school one day and went to Buford Middle School. I was chilling over there with my friend, James. The cops told us to leave; we said no, and then they grabbed us. That made us mad! We started to fight them, and then more cops came. Next thing I know my friend James and I were downtown in front of the judge, handcuffed. She said, "Lock them up in Culpepper," so the cops took James and me to Culpepper. It was a long ride. It took forever to get there, so we started talking about the cops. They got mad and told us to shut up but we didn't listen, so they turned the radio up. Then what we were saying had no effect on them. We finally made it to the lockdown facility.

When we first got there, they searched us and made us take off our shoes. Then they made us take showers, one by one, and they looked at us the whole entire time. They gave us clothes to wear and sent us to our room. I kept getting into fights, so they moved me into a real small room by myself. They gave me food to eat, but I threw it into their faces because I was so angry.

A couple of months went by. My friend got out for being good, so I figured that's what I needed to do. I decided to fly straight for a while, just long enough to get out. I did this for two months, and they finally released me. The judge put me on probation and made me go to school. She told me if I did anything wrong, I would get locked back up.

The next day, my mother took me to school. I did everything that they told me to do for a couple of weeks, then I messed up and started cutting class. I got caught and had to go back to court. The judge gave me a break, but the high school told me that they didn't want me anymore, so they made me go to the Alternative School. I got there, started hanging around with the wrong people, and got into trouble all over again. I kept walking out of class. My probation officer heard about it, so I ended up in court again. This time the judge locked me up for four months up state. The whole time that I was in there, all I did was fight. I stayed locked up because I kept fighting everyday. After eight months I got out. As part of my probation, the judge told me to go to G.E.D. classes. That's what I'm doing to stay out of the system. The point of this story is all kids today should try their hardest to get their education. Nobody will give that education to you; you have to get out and get it. And stay out of the system. It's easy to get in but it's very hard to get out.

Waiting for a Spirit

by Gyaltsen Sangpo
Charlottesville ESL
remember my friend telling me about life during his visit. He said, "We human beings can not give any critical and true meaning to life or write any explanations of life, because life itself is just like the form of a ball. While you are rolling and rolling the ball around, you can not find the top or the bottom."

So, those words almost take away from my memory, but not the heart itself. Here people have to ask, to write, about life changes and what made life change, and wonder how life changes and why, of course, there is always something or someone that wants to make us change. According to my own personal experience and my opinion, everyone wants to change something in their life. It is something which is so deeply wished, it becomes a better one. Of course, myself is one of them. Perhaps many of them are dreaming and it happens just like a miracle that we highlight. Here we go. It is that our minds see to be trained how to sacrifice and can be sacrificed to the path we are looking for. Maybe our minds are not willing to train themselves how to absorb and satisfy what we have been given from the beginning, by nature.

Is this another human being? But it caused me problems and I was suffering. Anyway, today this topic brought my original, old memories back to the field again. Because I thought I had lost my strength for living this life and I can not find any true meaning of life at this life's surface, and there hardly is any feeling to it.

I often lay down on my bed and wished and prayed, "Please do not wake me up again." The next morning I would open my eyes to see the world and feel no pleasure in my soul. Even I have lost my patience for waiting until I fall asleep. I prayed maybe I really lost the path I was looking for and cannot find the invisible moss which exists in the heart of my life.

I believed my friend. He said, "We all believe we must have one path according to our sense of feeling and perspective of our imaginations. But that is not the case of the changes in our lives. Try to relax and make everything more simple. It is not like without the answer, it all comes to nothing." He said, "No matter how you prayed and were feeling lost so much, it is all a cry from the heart. So as we know there is no water dropping down by nature into your mouth while you are thirst, and I think you should not pursue yourself to the end, never give up. Do not dilute this precious life and the spirit you have now. Try to enjoy what is existing in your life. There is always darkness called night until you reach the next morning."

He said, "I am confident one day a good spirit may come to knock on your sweet heart and it will guide you to the path."

His words have changed my life. But I am not wondering how my life has changed. Really, I am wondering how I had forgotten to realize I am one of the visitors on this planet, and how I had forgotten to share my happiness with others.