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I don’t know where else to write this, so it’s going here. Exactly one year ago today, at this very moment, I was riding home with my parents from Montgomery after winning the state championship in 4A softball. It’s kind of ironic, actually, that today, I’m sitting in Gulf Shores, playing for a national championship in NAIA collegiate softball, but that’s the season for you. We’re wrapping up spring sports, getting ready for summer, etc… but at the same time it’s bittersweet because of another life changing event that occurred on this day last year: the suicide of my best friend’s boyfriend. They’d been together from exactly one week after my boyfriend asked me out, so at this time last year they’d been together two and a half years. He was the kinda guy that would do anything, and I mean anything. My boyfriend had a class with him and said he spent the entire block throwing pencils and sticking them into the ceiling tiles. God love him, he had the attention span of a goldfish sometimes and school wasn’t exactly his thing, but if you wanted to have a good time he’d show you one. Once, someone dared him to go and dive into the long mud puddle beside our sidewalk at school after it’d poured all night… and he did. That was just the way he was, and my best friend wouldn’t have traded him for the world, even though he drive her half crazy sometimes.

For those of you reading this that think you know exactly what happened that night, chances are, you don’t. Unless you were actually there, you probably heard wrong…. and there’s maybe 20 people that can claim they were present and only 4 of them that I’d trust their recollection of it. I’m not going to go into the gory details of it, but I can still remember the sound of that gunshot just like it was yesterday. I was walking inside one of my teammate’s house, carrying the pizza we’d gotten for dinner, when it went off just down the hill from where we were and everyone froze. I had no idea at the time that it was Allen. I had just gotten there and so I thought maybe it was their neighbor- out in the country, firearms can go off at anytime of day or night and it’s completely normal. When i saw everyone else, though, they were pale, kinda shocked. My best friend’s first thought was that he had shot himself, but of course everyone told her no, that wasn’t him, and if it was he was just doing it for attention cause that’s the kind of person he was. However, two of my closest friends and one of their boyfriends hopped in a car and drove down the hill, just to make sure. When they got back, they grabbed another of our teammates’ dad who had some medical training and he went back with them, and from that point on Whitney knew he was hurt, but she didn’t know how bad until her dad finally got there.

He’d gotten out of his truck and she ran to go get back in the truck with him so they could go see Allen and he just grabbed her and blocked her way, and I think that’s when she knew for sure. She started screaming and crying, her stomach started heaving, and I just can’t even begin to describe what that’s like to watch. This girl had been my best friend since 7th grade, had always been my warm-up buddy and hitting partner on almost every team I’d ever played on. She was the closest thing I had to a sister, and to see her like that was heartbreaking… and I’m not even sure that’s a strong enough word for what it was like. Another of her close friends, a teammate, hugged me and we cried together while she fell to pieces in the front yard with her dad. From there, Whitney and I walked into a bedroom of the house we were at and I can’t tell you how long we were in there, but it was, hands down, the worst night of my life. My mother says it was because we were on such a high after winning State, and then we just plummeted to rock bottom like that, but whatever the case, that’s something no one should have to go through.

Now, a year later, life for all of us directly involved that night has changed dramatically. Whitney, a couple of weeks after we buried Allen, found out she was pregnant (this was one of the rumors circulating after his death, that he killed himself rather than support her and a child.). At first, it was like the universe was playing some kind of joke on us. After all, this was a storyline straight out of a Lifetime movie, not something that happened to us or anyone we knew. Nine months later, though, baby Briar was born, and he is the spitting image of his father (HA to all of you who were so sure it wasn’t Allen’s kid.). To be honest, I had mixed feelings about her having a child to begin with, but now… it was the best thing that could’ve happened. Briar keeps her busy. He keeps her moving. There’s no time for her to feel sorry for herself because she’s responsible for him and that’s exactly what she needed. She’s such a good mama, too, and over the past year she’s been so strong. Everyone keeps saying that but she has got to be one of the strongest girls I know, and she wasn’t always that way. She’s grown up… some would say it happened way too fast but there’s a reason for everything, and she’s risen to the occasion gloriously.

Allen, even though he isn’t here in the flesh, is still part of our everyday lives. When I hear the word “suicide,” or see a red Pathfinder, he’s the first thing that comes to mind.

As a matter of fact, in the dream I had of him last night, that’s how I knew who it was- because of that beat up crimson colored Pathfinder he loved so much. It’s only the second time I’ve dreamed about him since that night, but each time the dreams are ridiculously vivid. In the one last night, he was sitting on the side of the road and his truck and the surroundings looked normal, but he was fading. He looked normal when we first made eye contact but when I tore open the driver’s side door and started begging for him to stay, he faded more… It wasn’t like a normal dream, it was one of those where I remembered the dream I had last time inside this dream, so I think that’s why I was begging. I thought it was real life, and he was there but he was leaving and I just couldn’t let him go, not again, and not without him seeing Whitney or her being able to see him. When he finally disappeared, I was left laying over the front seat of that vehicle sobbing, and my dad, who’d been in my car with me, dragged me out. The rest of the dream was stupid- it was about me going to see a therapist because I needed counseling because obviously normal people don’t throw themselves into an empty car begging someone who isn’t there to stay.

I guess… the whole purpose of this post was more for my sake than anything else. It’s turned into a huge dump of everything even related to this part of my life, and maybe that in itself is it’s own form of therapy. What I’m trying to say is that we miss you, Allen. Yeah, I’m still ticked at you for doing that on Alicia’s birthday, on the night of our championship, and for doing that to my best friend. A part of me will always be ticked at you. But I would give anything to have you back. I’m sorry it had to happen like that, and I know you would take it back if you could but you never were one to do things halfway, huh?

Keep watching out for my girl and that gorgeous nephew of mine.

***To all of you reading this, suicide isn’t something you mess around with. Going through what we did has given me a whole new take on it and nothing makes me angrier than to hear people just joke about it. It’s a real thing; don’t let it happen to someone close to you… and if you’re considering it yourself, just think of all the people you would hurt, and all the heartbreak you would leave behind. It’s not something to play with, trust me.

Ever been to a civil war reenactment? If you haven’t, don’t feel left out. Apparently, they aren’t exactly common… However, in my hometown, it’s a ritual, and the one year that we didn’t have it showed how integral that memorial was to our summer, both culturally and economically speaking. If you’ve ever seen the movie Sweet Home Alabama with Reese Witherspoon, then yes, those sorts of things actually do happen, and some people actually dress up and pretend to fight the civil war for fun. They ride their horses into town, they set up camp, and they live just like the actual soldier would, all so they can get into character for the battle at the end of the week. No, of course they don’t actually shoot real bullets at each other, but that’s the only thing missing, honestly. There’s gunpowder and flint, men and horses, and the cannons are so loud you can hear them at my house on the other side of town, out in the country. Sometimes, the South even wins!

From my point of view, this is amazing. After all, it’s my heritage, part of my history and to you don’t know what you’re missing until you see a good reenactment in person. However, there are those who would question such an idea. Why memorialize violence, they’d ask. Why celebrate when it was 1) your side that lost and 2) such a huge loss of life? What is there to “celebrate” about that?

My argument is this: it’s not so much a celebration of violence as it is honoring those who were lost, just as in the OKC memorial or in the civil rights museum in Montgomery.  A reenactment is our way of showing our respect for those who fought the good fight, Yankee or Confederate, and gave their lives for a cause they thought was worth it.  In the Southerner’s case, it was to preserve their way of life. In the Northerner’s case…. Well, I’m not sure what they like to say because I was lucky enough to be born and raised south of the Mason-Dixon, but whatever their cause was I’m sure it meant something to them. Point is, we’re not memorializing the killing. We’re memorializing the strength and character of the men (and women!) who came before us, as well as honoring their deaths by remembering them, because if we don’t remember them, no one will.

 

 

To all the students that I’ve gotten to know over the semester, thank you for everything. What a ride it’s been! Together we’ve explored the world, delved into the incredible world of maps (both the literal and the metaphorical), and we’ve all grown as writers. How could we not, with teachers as good as ours? We discovered our histories while defining ourselves online, and I can’t thank you enough for being such a great sister class. Instead of just writing to our own class, we had to think of an audience outside ourselves, and having all of you there just waiting held us accountable. I don’t know about the rest of you, but that’s a big problem of mine. I tend to procrastinate, so knowing you were waiting to read or comment on something I’d written made me have to write, and though you may not think it’s a big deal I appreciate that.

Plus, you all gave us great feedback, and in some situations you made us think outside of the box in terms of how our words would come across or what kind of image we meant to present. How many other English Comp classes get to brainstorm like we did, or have class discussions ruled by our train of thought vs. a lesson plan? You, along with Dr. Woodworth and Dr. Hessler, really made this an experience to remember for me, and I’ll be forever grateful.

Thanks,

Cassie

 

****The picture above was chosen because I thought it represented this semester for me. It’s a map of the internet, and one could make the argument that most of our class centered around that! Reminds you how huge the world is when you see all 9876546789 blogs on WordPress.

Jocks, as a rule, are usually viewed as athletic, competitive personalities, and for the most part, the stereotype is correct. After all, you have to have one or both of those characteristics to make it as any sort of challenger in a sporting event. However, there are also the other titles, the most well known of these being a “dumb jock.” Oftentimes, they are represented as being below average students who struggle through their classes just so they can play a sport at the school. Then, you have another less than favorable stereotype, the jerk. How many times have you seen the movie where it’s the popular high school athlete that plays the villain? It’s usually a guy, he’s usually some football star that dates the head cheerleader (who’s also a jerk), and he makes the “nerdy” or “geeky” kids’ lives hell. Heard this story before? It’s almost cliché’, it’s been used so many times.

 

Then, you’ve got the infamous stereotypes for women’s sports. I’m a softball player here at the university and one day our practice was interrupted by a passer-by yelling from his car, “DYKES ON SPIKES!” It’s often assumed if you’re muscular and a woman that you take steroids, or if you play a sport you aren’t feminine.

 

As far as appearance goes, you can often tell an athlete by the clothes they wear… sometimes even by the way they walk. There’s a certain confidence that comes after knowing one’s limits in a type of arena that can be seen in a person’s stride. If you can’t tell that, however, chances are they’ll be wearing some sort of t-shirt representing their sport or team.

 

Granted, there are plenty of people who’ve been true to all of these aforementioned stereotypes, but for the most part, these titles do not represent the sporting world as a whole. This isn’t to say they don’t exist. If they never appeared, the stereotypes wouldn’t exist in the first place. However, next time you label someone as a dumb jock before you even speak to him or her, give them a chance. You never know, they might just be an Honors Student.

This semester has been an incredible experience, from the small class size to the corresspondence with our sister class in OKC, and I’m so thankful I got to be a part of it. You have no idea how much a class like this has helped me, Professor Nobles. When I first came into AUM as a freshman in the fall semester, I was a little overwhelmed and I wasn’t completely sure if I’d chosen the right major. After all, doesn’t everyone have that doubt at some point in their college career, that sense of “OHMYGAWD, am I throwing my life away?” Being afforded the opportunity to take this class really reminded me why I love English and I love writing, and it reaffirmed my belief that I want to be an English teacher and write for a living.

We went places I’d never seen writing taken before, and with this class we learned to examine things from every angle and from every physical sense in order to adequately tell our readers about the subject. Then, when we partnered up with the OKC students in the spring, I got to experience yet another facet of writing and learn more about my own “voice,” as well as my companions’ writing styles. Who would’ve thought distinct personalities can be seen and heard through words on a page? While I didn’t get to go to Oklahoma City because of previous athletic obligations, having the chance to write with another group of students as passionate as I am about English was an amazing experience, and words just aren’t adequate to describe just how thankful I am to you for letting us have this class.

Sincerely,

Cassie Daniels

Dear OCU Students,

I’m really, really sorry I didn’t get to meet you last week. When Dr. Woodworth showed me some of the pictures yall took, it just broke my heart! I mean, I feel like I almost know you all from your blogs, and to not get to put a face with the blogs I’ve been seeing is just hard, especially because I’m a very visual person and, let’s be honest, I’m naturally outgoing. Therefore! I’m going to give you a list of things you would’ve found out about me had we met.

  • I’m super competitive. Even if it’s “just a game,” I’m playing to win.
  • I use my hands a LOT when I talk, and my fingers do really weird things. Like, they curl up on their own and half the time I have what my roommates call, “Spiderman hands,” when I’m trying to illustrate something.
  • I’m not really shy… and I can laugh at myself. No shame there, lol.
  • I tend to go off on rabbit trails when we’re having a discussion. My mind takes me really weird places.
  • I’m a weird cross of redneck / nerd / jock.
  • I have seven horses and four dogs and they’re all my babies. The horses are Thunder, Fancy, Paleface, Cherokee, Toby, Rhett, and Sedona… but only Sedona and Rhett are really mine specifically. The dogs are Hope, Ace, Sally, and Jett.
  • I’m a pitcher on our softball team, and my right arm is as big as my boyfriend’s… Maybe a little more ripped. My left arm, on the other hand, is wimpy in comparison.
  • I have monster quads and huge, ripped calves, too. It’s almost embarrassing when I wear heels and you can see the indentions in my legs.
  • I’ve had two knee surgeries, and my ankles pop all the time when I walk. Chances are I’ll have arthritis when I’m twenty-five, just another perk of being a student athlete.
  • I’m really laid back… not much bothers me that I can’t just shake off, and I usually wear some kind of softball t-shirt with comfy nike shorts. I think my professors think I’m a new student when I actually get ready before class  and wear make-up, lol. It’s just too much work when I’ll just have to change for practice!
  • My favorite color is crimson, but my favorite color to wear is blue.
  • My go-to fast food place is Zaxby’s. If you haven’t heard of it, comment on this post and I’ll link you.

If you have ANY other questions, please, comment! Like I said, I’m really sad we didn’t get to meet, but we had a week full of conference games and there’s no way Coach would’ve let me skip. On this page, you can see the results from our week. We’re actually on a nine game win streak right now.

Thanks for being such a wonderful sister class!

All my love,

Cassie Daniels

My Line

For our next big assignment, we were asked to choose a line from our Where I’m From poem and add it to a big poem that we’ll be doing as a group. For mine, I chose this particular line because it’s truly where I’m from, along with a childhood memory of mine and a food stereotype that my California roommate thinks is the reason we’re one of the most obese states in America… but really, I’m not sorry at all that we fry everything.

The picture is from the Selma Curb Market, one I took on my phone because I thought it was hilarious, and I feel like you can get a glimpse of my childhood just from the saying in the picture. You’ve got Christianity, a huge part of any self-respecting Southern Baptist’s life, along with worms…. I loved it.

—–

I’m from Sunny South and the Alabama River,

from fried okra and broccoli straight out of the garden.

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