My kindergarten teacher sent letters to to the parents of all her students, listing special traits she saw in each child. To my parents she wrote, “Michele loves to re-tell stories and rhymes.” When I was in junior high, our class yearbook predicted I’d someday be “imparting a knowledge of English.” So my lifelong love for words was apparent early.
When I was in about seventh grade, I awoke one morning and watched the sunrise. Then I wrote a poem about the dawn and a fawn. Corny it was, but it got me hooked. In high school I composed poems, typed them on half-sheets of erasable-bond paper (on a big, old Smith-Corona typewriter that was too heavy to lug around). I filled a handkerchief box with these verses.
I wrote for the school newspaper, and when it came time for college, I wanted to major in writing. Due to a lifelong hearing loss, I was eligible for financial aid from the state Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation. In fact, BVR paid for everything – tuition, books, room and board. They even provided me with a hearing aid – and I heard birds singing for the first time in my life. And, thanks to BVR, I didn’t graduate with a ton of debt.
However, the colleges on the BVR list of approved institutions of higher education didn’t offer writing as an option for a major or a minor. So I majored in English, Secondary Education and took every writing course Clarion State College (now Clarion University of Pennsylvania) had to offer.
But something unexpected happened on the way to getting my degree: I fell in love with teaching. The first day I stood in front of a class as a student teacher, a light went on inside me that has never gone out.
My landed my first teaching job at the Punxsutawney Junior High School in 1972. I was 20 years old. (I got my degree in three years.) During my first year of teaching, I met a tall ex-Marine with a beard and twinkling blue eyes on my first night out with the girls. I hadn’t planned on falling in love. But I did, and Dean and I married 11 months after we met.
I spent the next 40 years teaching and raising a family. I gave up full-time teaching to be a stay-at-home mom when our first child was born in 1976. When my children were old enough, I substitute taught until I got a full-time position at Punxsutawney Christian School, where I spent the last of my teaching days. It was my dream job, but after three surgeries in 11 months my 60-year-old body said, “Whoa! It’s time to slow down.”
Writing took a back burner during those years I subbed, ran a household, gardened, canned, and helped my husband build our house. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that I got back into writing. I was subbing full-time for the junior high reading teacher, who was on a sabbatical leave for a semester, when the school librarian knocked at my classroom door.
“Can you use some newspapers?” she asked.
Turned out the local newspaper was sending enough copies for a class to use. Being an avid newspaper reader, I said, “Sure!” A unit on the newspaper – all the information that can be gleaned from it – would be perfect. But after going through four filing cabinets (four drawers each) crammed with lesson plans, all I could find was one measly worksheet that explained the inverted pyramid style of newspaper articles.
A newspaper contains much, much more information. So I developed “Teaching the Newspaper,” a hands-on, 10-day unit plan that included every part of the newspaper for students to explore.
While I was writing the newspaper unit, the muse was reborn. Ideas for stories kept popping up in my brain. I scribbled the ideas on scraps of paper, which I stuffed into a file folder.
Long story short, within the next couple of years, my personal experience story, “Wisdom from an Old Refrigerator,” was published in Guideposts, the Upper Room published several of my meditations, and my article about substitute teaching was published in Focus on the Family’s Teachers in Focus.
In the fall of 1996, I became a feature writer for the local newspaper, and the following spring my meditation column, then called Minute Meditations, was launched. In 2000, I published my first compilation of those columns, Minute Meditations: Meeting God in Everyday Experiences, then two years later I Lift Up My Eye: Minute Meditations Vol. 2, both with Ampelos Press.
God, Me & a Cup of Tea, as my weekly column is now called, placed second in the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association’s Keystone Press Awards in 2009 and appears weekly in the Indiana Gazette (Indiana, Pa.).
In 2001, I launched God, Me, and a Cup of Tea radio program, which aired on stations in Punxsutawney, Pa., DuBois, Pa., Indiana, Pa., Augusta, Ga., and Huntsville, Ala., for 10 years. I no longer produce the radio program, as I simply had too much on my plate. (Remember the year I had three surgeries in 11 months?)
Over the years, my work has appeared in numerous national publications, including Guideposts, Home Life, and Teachers in Focus, as well as several anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul, One Year Life Verse Devotional, Vitamin C for the Spirit of Women, God’s Abundance, For Better, For Worse, Daily Devotions for Writers, Why Sweat the God Stuff? and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Answered Prayer. I also write devotionals on assignment for Pathways to God, the devotional quarterly for the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana).
In 2007 I branched into fiction, and my debut novel, The Heart Remembers, was published in March 2014. Before I Die followed in August 2014. In January 2016 I published Getaway Mountain, Book 1 of the PennWoods Mystery series. Down the pike: Ghost Mountain, PennWoods Mystery Book 2; Office of Divine Intervention, “Almost” Angel Corps Book 1; and a series tentatively titled Fifth Wheel Adventures, which I and another writer are planning to write together.
I love to speak – it’s another way of encouraging people – and have spoken at dinners, women’s retreats and seminars, and community events. Although I’m retired from teaching school, I still enjoy teaching writing workshops whenever I have the chance.
I was honored to be selected for Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers (2004-2006), and I mentored developing writers for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and The Writing Academy for 10 years.
Oh, yes – I can’t forget my little flock. I’m the lay speaker/pastor for St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Punxsutawney, PA.
But enough about my professional life.
Let me give you a glimpse into my personal life.
My husband and I have been married since December 1973 and have three grown children and five grandchildren who are growing up much too fast.
We live in the western Pennsylvania countryside in the house we took 30 years to build.
I enjoy hiking, camping, swimming, crocheting, baseball (I’m an avid and sometimes rabid Pittsburgh Pirates fan), reading, and writing (especially fiction). And I make the best homemade pizza around.
And that, in a nutshell, is the story of my life. Thank you for reading it (to the end).
God bless you!