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LCFC Journal #20: The Daily Game 7

16 Apr

20171024_075119_1508845919347In the month of August in 2018, I moved to Hartford from New Haven to embark on life on my own.  During that time, I was elated to have moved out from a stressful situation that left me with no other option. However, I soon learned that life would build upon my stressors. Within a span of three months, I had almost maxed out the $7,000 limit on my credit card and found myself in large debt.

There were several things that contributed to this matter. Multiple parking violations as well as towings of my car in New Haven set me up for a huge financial hardship. Not to mention, a security deposit of $1,500 and the first month’s $900 rent in advance at my new apartment complex. For the most part, I stayed positive throughout the experience of moving into my own place. But, personally, I’ll never forget the day that placed me under and set me up for a tumultuous financial burden that still haunts me to this day.

On August 24th I left my New Haven apartment in my rear view with all my belongings stuffed in my 2005 Hyundai Elantra and drove northbound on the I-95. Quickly, I merged into the lane that would transport me to Hartford, the city where I taught for a living and secretly loved. As I drove, I couldn’t have gotten there fast enough. It was a fresh start for me. I was set to begin teaching at a new school the following week. I was going to live in the same city as my new girlfriend. And I was going to make the best of the opportunity and hoped that it would pay dividends in return.

As I drove past the North Haven exit on the I-90, I heard a loud sound as if a gunshot had just erupted from underneath my car’s hood. Before I knew what happened, I wrestled with the steering wheel as the car jerked from side to side. As debris began to fly off the car, my instincts took over as I quickly reduced speed and got into the right lane before coming to a complete halt on the side of the road. When I turned off the ignition and made my way out of the vehicle to go assess the damage, my worst fear had materialized. “A tire blowout,” I said to myself. I instantly knew it was going to cost me.

At that moment, I called my girlfriend and calmly explained what had happened. I told her that I was being towed to the nearest auto-repair shop in Hamden and to meet me there as I got my car repaired. She agreed and when the towing truck driver gave me a ride to the shop, I couldn’t help but be thankful to be alive as the situation could have been so much worse. However, I also couldn’t help but think that more money was coming out of my pocket. Overall, the cost to repair the damage to my vehicle had been $1,200 dollars. In a flash I saw my credit card debt balloon to $5,600. At that point in time I was $1,400 away from the threshold of my limit.

The following week, I had to pay $900 for my first month’s rent which was pro-rated. At the time, I didn’t have the finances to afford it on my debit card and so once again the money itself came out of my other plastic card. By then, I had $500 in credit left. Once I moved into my new apartment and had settled in, I realized that my credit card was maxed out at $7,000. “How did this happen?” I thought. How could I have been so irresponsible and frugal with my spending? Also, I couldn’t help but think that my education couldn’t help me with my dilemma at hand. “Is this why I went and got a Master’s degree? So that I could struggle with the likeliness of no end in sight?” It was a tough pill to swallow and for the first time ever in my life I had to come to terms with my circumstance. I was a broke middle school ELA teacher with a Master’s degree living paycheck-to-paycheck in Hartford. Definitely not the trajectory of life I had initially planned for.

After accruing interest rates on my student loans as well as picking up all kinds of bills (electricity, gas and internet) that I had not paid for in full prior to living on my own (due to the leisure of having a roommate) I quietly died inside. I didn’t know what I was going to do as I thought getting another job to help pay off the debt might have been necessary.

Eventually, I stopped beating myself up for my financial struggles. I told myself that I needed to realize that I lived in America and the institution of the society at its core was built to keep masses of people in debt. Once I made peace with the matter, months went by and days got easier to manage the stress load.

Every morning as I would drive to work I began praying for God to watch over me. If I needed to fill up my gas for travel, I’d do so the moment I got payed. If I needed to shop for groceries, I’d buy them immediately as it was impossible to do so between checks. The rent itself was always payed a few days late. But most importantly, each time I’d walk to my car I would pray, “God, every day is a game 7 please make sure that nothing happens to me and that I can make it back home in one peace not having to worry about an accident or getting hurt on the job or in the streets.” So far, I feel as if he’s answered my prayers and, in the meantime, the best way to repay him is to show that I’m responsible enough to face my issue of debt head on. In the end, when it’s all said and done, it’s going to be me that will crush the debt I’ve amassed. No one else.

I wrote this post to help those in need of being real with themselves. So many times, we find ourselves being superficial on social media and in public. For some reason we’re not saying what’s really hurting us. Now, I don’t think everyone’s dilemmas will disappear through honesty but by acknowledging them, we will open ourselves up to shaping our futures into whatever it is that our hearts desire. If you are in debt at this current point in time it’s okay. Just be sure to make a financial plan and do whatever it takes to extinguish it at your own pace. Whether with or without a Master’s degree.

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of mercy for murder(s) in brooklyn, a detective fiction novel. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He currently teaches 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

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LCFC Journal #19: A Rose in Ghana – The Summary

21 Jan

IMG_5585Last summer, I had the pleasure of spending 3 weeks in Takoradi, Ghana as a teaching fellow for a program called Limited Resources Teacher Training or LRTT for short. During this program, myself and 19 other teachers from various parts of the U.S. led professional development conferences for in-country teachers. The objective was to provide an equitable exchange of ideas through effective teaching practices and strategies that would allow teachers to provide their students with various opportunities to exhibit growth and progress. The other part of this exchange was for fellows to also grow and develop skills in leadership while bringing confidence and a reinvigorated sense of passion back into the classroom for the following school year. Well, let’s just say I got a little bit of everything in between and more out of the experience.

 

I’ll never forget my first night in Ghana as I flew into the city of Accra and met my team leaders that would guide me and the other fellows throughout our three-week journey. The name of the hotel we stayed at was the Pink Hostel. And after being given my room key and winding down for bed, I heard a rooster crow for the first time in my life at 3AM. Wow, you’ve come a long way from New York City was all I could tell myself. After waking up the following morning and meeting the rest of my cohort, we spent an additional night in Accra before clamoring our luggage and selves into a bus and driving four hours south to Takoradi, the city and district where we would be working in various schools.

 

From that point onward, I fell in love. I immediately felt right at home and took in the sights. Dirt roads, cattle, chickens, roosters, goats, wild dogs, and children waving at us and expressing elation in seeing foreigners in their town. I’ll never forget telling myself to soak in all of the experience and live within the moment. Once we arrived at our next accommodation spot in Takoradi, I remember whipping out a camera that a close friend let me borrow and started snapping away at everything I saw. Never in my life had I experienced true authentic culture of that magnitude and it truly did something to my heart, mind, body, and soul.

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After getting settled, I promised that I would go out and find some roads or trails for me to run on (a summer routine I developed over the past few years in which I run three miles per week). Once I familiarized myself with the trails surrounding the guest house, (which were often dirt paths and hills) I savored every moment taking in the sights and appreciating nature at its finest. On my nightly runs there was a song by Kanye West and Kid Cudi called “Kids See Ghosts” that I played religiously. And sometimes by coincidence and sometimes by choice the track would blare through my headphones on one of my trails as I took in the scenery of the village from a high altitude. Personally, I felt as if the song was the soundtrack to life in Ghana and the continent of Africa as a whole. Especially, during a refrain in which the featured guest artist, Mos Def says, “Civilization, without society/Power and wealth with nobility/Stability, without stasis/Places and spaces”. The first few times I ran and heard the song, it felt good just listening to the tribal rhythm of the song. But it wasn’t until my third or fourth listening to it on one of my daily runs in which I realized that the song was a vivid reflection of everything that I had been internalizing on that hill and throughout the trip in general. I think the idea of civilization existing without society is a beautiful thing. Or in my perspective, a community that exists in which there isn’t pressure to be politically correct or forced to adhere to the expectations of a society. Seeing Ghanaians in their natural environment allowed me to see people that co-existed peacefully no matter the religion they followed (Christianity or Islam) or sizes of their body. I saw civilians that were just that. Civil in how they sold, marketed and distributed their own goods. Picked their own crops. Built their own houses. Cut their own weeds. All without direct control, pestering or surveillance of the government. It was certainly refreshing to see and made me realize how simple living can be. If only this could ring true in certain parts of the western hemisphere.

Lastly, having the opportunity to visit a few schools to work, collaborate, observe, question and engage teachers was an experience I’ll never forget. From the structure of a daily school day, to the recesses in which students were free to run without a care in the world truly made me evaluate the education system in America and what we could do to be as structured, focused, on-task and engaged with school. I’m not saying that Ghana has a perfect education system, far from it. What I’m saying is that it’s a shame that a country considered to be third-world holds such an immense value and appreciation for education. From the headmasters/mistresses, teachers, all the way down to the students themselves. It leads me to wonder the many flaws in U.S. Education as well as how we as a people interact with students as parents and faculty. Do I have an answer to this dilemma? Of course not, as it is without a doubt a systemic issue that we as a country have to bring to light and discuss openly. Nonetheless, if Ghana with its limited resources can get this done then I’m sure that in America we can begin taking the right steps to get this done as well.

 

Appreciation. That is the word I feel most connected to when I think about my time spent in Ghana working with teachers, students, and observing civilization there in general. I’ll never forget that I saw two boys on my last conference day holding hands walking on school grounds as the day ended. I’ll never forget that I saw a classroom of students be in awe as they gathered in a computer lab that had only two computers and revel in its appearance and functions. Lastly, I’ll never forget how kind the people of Ghana treated me. From the teachers, the cities I visited (Takoradi, Accra, Cape Coast) and the fact that I got a chance to return to the site in which my ancestors were captured more than four centuries ago. I remember running into a group of young men down in the Cape Coast and one of them at a party on a Friday evening told me, “Welcome back brother Kevin. America is where you live and were forced as your people were displaced but this is your home. Welcome home.” And with that being said, I couldn’t have agreed with a much better statement and personal lesson. I was home. A moment in time that I’ll never forget.

 

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KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of mercy for murder(s) in brooklyn, a detective fiction novel. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He currently teaches 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

 

 

LCFC Journal #18: “10 Years Later & The Holidays Matter Again”

23 Dec

KevMom2014aIn the ten years that have passed since my sister, Alexandra Anglade’s death I’ve watched my mother, Jocelyne Marie Joseph undergo a series of metamorphosis in which she went from being depressed and livid with the world to now being at piece through all of the things she’s been through.

Ten years later and I no longer live at home with her but I do know that where she was mentally and emotionally during the holidays in 2007 is not the same woman she is now. During that time frame I remember seeing my mother look worn and defeated. Without question it was definitely the lowest that she had ever been in her life. Both as a mother and a woman, I’m sure. At that time, I felt hopeless watching her suffer and endear the pain she was forced to live with. Being that I was only sixteen at the time, I knew she was going through it but still watched with curiosity.

Looking back, I think I was subconsciously taking notes as I watched my own parent deal with such adversity and pain that she had never experienced before. The circumstance was surreal, without question, but there is something interesting to gain and learn from watching a parent roll with the punches and adapt to an unwelcomed predicament.

Included below, is the final excerpt from last year’s Life Comes From Concrete 1.5 which details my personal account of watching my mom battle and wrestle with the fact of having to push forward in life without her first born…

 

This final piece, although brief, entails what exactly my mother has been dealing with since 2007. Throughout this entire section you’ve come across the burdens and heartaches that I’ve been challenged with in generally a short amount of time, but the person I applaud in terms of getting through these countless ordeals constantly is my mother. Without her, I really don’t know where my sister, Samantha and I would be.

My mother, Jocelyne Marie Joseph, has always been a kind and thoughtful person. In fact, everyone who I have come across in my short existence thus far, appreciates and loves her as an individual. Sometimes people wonder what she’s thinking internally because she rarely spoke her mind unless there was something of grand importance to say.

I remember not long after the passing of my sister Alexandra, my mom had become severely depressed. I honest to God didn’t think much about how the situation affected her but it wasn’t until I spoke to my grandmother about it, that I finally began to understand the issues my mother was dealing with. I remember sitting down with my grandmother one time in the kitchen and she said,

“Kevin, let me tell you something. A mother should never have to bury her own child. Just imagine, you take care of the child, you feed her, clothe her, take her to school, and discipline her. Do you know how hard it is to lose that? Especially the very first one?”

After hearing what my grandmother had to say on the matter, I couldn’t help but understand what she was getting at. After all, she had lost one of her very own daughter’s named Jeanette just when I was born.

Listening to my grandmother speak upon the dilemma, although I couldn’t personally relate, I nonetheless did my best to empathize and feel what my mother felt from a parental perspective. A parent is supposed to have a child bury them, not the other way around. And from that point forward, I watched my mother become a bitter individual right before my very own eyes. Often more times than not, I thought she would never be cheerful again.

I remember the year following my sister’s death, my mother was still a little depressed but I thought that she was finally overcoming the loss. I can recall my younger sister and I saying,

“Hey mom, Thanksgiving is coming, what are we doing this year?”

The answer we received was definitely one that we hadn’t been expecting, as our mom looked at us with a blank stare on her face and replied,

“From now on, I don’t care about Thanksgiving. I don’t care about Christmas. I don’t care about anything!”

Even my Dad who was lingering around when we had asked her the question remained silent. At the time, we all tried to stay positive, but just when we thought we had conquered one hurdle, was when we were once again, always facing another.

My father’s demise was the one that really set my mother over the top. In an instant, she went from being the second source of income (behind my father) to the sole bread winner.

At times, my mother wasn’t sure how she would deal with all of the bills as well as the mortgage that was due every month. And it was at that point in time, my mom had desperately wanted me to get a job but I constantly duck and dodged her. Although I was sure that she was struggling, I knew that getting a job would mess up my studies at school. I knew that I wouldn’t have thrived if I would have attempted to balance the two. It wasn’t until later that my mom came to realize I was so busy trying to figure out my own way, that I knew once I began to prosper and excel within whatever it was that I had a passion for, I would become a stable force that would aid in supporting the family.

 

Ten years later and I must say, it is certainly a pleasure to look back at what my family has been through, especially my mother and still be able to exhale. The fact that we’re still standing and living our truth is a blessing. If someone would have told me then that there would be better days ahead, I wouldn’t have believed them because there’s something about dealing with turmoil within the moment that makes you feel as if the experience is infinite.

But on December 23rd, 2017, there are two things I put into perspective:

1.) The first thing being that my mother once again celebrates the holidays and has found a way to regain her happiness and tranquility.

2.) The other thing is that this day marks her 60th birthday and I’m happy that it is one where she can rejoice and look forward to what’s ahead with the two kids she still has, because at the end of the day, that is all that really matters. Not the presents, not the bright lights nor decorative ornaments, but the six decades of life God has granted her while living present within the moment. That is all.

Man, I am eternally grateful that she never gave up and kept fighting. Because of her bravery and courageous strength, we’re still here.

I love you mama. Keep the family close.

 

 

Note: A majority of this post was previously published in the poetry collection, Life Comes From Concrete 1.5 via Flowered Concrete

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of frankly twisted: the lost files, a collection of detective fiction. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He currently teaches 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

 

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

LCFC Journal #17: “Vehicle To Truth Pt. II”

17 Nov

20171101_080151This year marks the 10th anniversary of my late sister, Alexandra Anglade’s passing. And although so much time has elapsed since then, I still find it hard to believe that she’s no longer living on this earth. What is more is that I find it hard to believe that ten years have flown by in a blink of an eye. At the time of her sudden demise, I was a sixteen-year-old kid living within the means of my existence. By that, I mean doing teenage stuff such as playing basketball, talking/singing to girls (by trying to emulate Chris Brown & Mario) figuring out high school and trying to regulate a bad acne problem I had at the time. Again, being a kid with no care in the world.

And so, when Alexandra passed, it struck a chord with me and hit my family hard. None of us had been expecting it as she was only twenty-six at the time (the same age I am now, how ironic) and filled with life. I think knowing that fact in itself has made this ten year anniversary a special one for me. I’ve been able to use the time in between to step back, think, reflect, and grow. If anyone would have told me that I’d survive that experience and live to tell the tale I would have never believed them but somehow someway I managed to persevere. Below, you will read an excerpt from my poetry collection/memoir, Life Comes From Concrete 1.5 that chronicles the day that changed my life forever and forced me to grow up and look at life differently. This is undoubtedly the window into my spirit.

“Pecan Honey”

 

   To start off my family dedications, it wouldn’t be right if I opened this section without focusing on the person who partially helped place me here. The next poem you will read is titled “Aquemini” and it is symbolic of both myself and my late sister, Alexandra’s zodiac signs.

When writing this poem, I remember writing it because I truly missed my sister’s presence. In fact, to this day, my younger sister and I still talk about her as if she still exists. Alexandra was pretty much like a friend to me as well. I can even go as far to say that she also played a motherly role within my life in a lot of ways.

She taught me a lot about respecting women and how guys should go about talking to girls. As I write this I can recall one time that she was taking me and my little sister Samantha to the movies when I opened the building’s door and mindlessly let it slam right in her face. Man, when I tell you she let me have it, boy she let me have it that day!

“Boy what the hell is wrong with you? When you see a girl coming towards a door, you hold it for her, end of story,” she said angrily.

Look, when I tell you I felt like crap, I felt like crap. At the time, I was either ten or eleven-years-old and really didn’t understand what she was saying but now as I look back upon that moment, I do. What she did helped transform me into becoming the young man that I am today.

Due to the fact that my parents, being Haitian were never really into the American customs of fashion and appearance, Alexandra would often go out of her way to buy Samantha and I the latest gear in clothing apparel and sneakers. Although I was only a kid at the time, I definitely appreciated all of the things she would do for us. Now that I am a young man, I feel like if there is anyone who owes her so much it’s definitely me. I mean, if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be writing this book of poetry as we speak. I’m sure of it.

I am saying this because when Alexandra was about eight or nine, she told my mom that she wanted a sibling. And so, one day she made my mom accompany her to the grocery store to purchase candy.

When she left the store, she saw my mom talking to the man who later came to be my father. You see, my parents had been together in the seventies before my sister was born but they broke up once my mom decided to leave Haiti in order to travel the world. Therefore, I find it funny that they reconvened outside of a little grocery store in Brooklyn. To me, it only proves that I have a purpose and that I’m supposed to be here.

Now all of this changed in the year 2007. It was the year I turned sixteen. At the time I was a junior in high school, had very good grades, and most of all, I was just being a young, care-free, fun loving teenager. That summer, my parents, little sister and I went on a relaxing vacation to Montreal, Canada but by the time we got back, things quickly began to unravel.

By the end of August, Alexandra would stop by the house often and complain to my mom of some red blots that covered her arms. She complained of itching and how much it was bothering her. After my mom had done her best to help and noticed that it had gotten worse, she then urged her to go to the hospital.

Furthermore, one thing led to another and before we knew it, my sister was in and out of the hospital like clockwork until she finally went into a coma. I remember my Dad going to see her in ICU as often as he could because my mother just couldn’t bare it. On one specific visit, the doctors informed him that Alexandra was suffering from a bad case of meningitis. I remember him taking a picture of her on his cell phone and the person I witnessed lying upon the hospital bed was totally unrecognizable and a completely different person. My sister was a heavy set young woman but had ballooned twice her size in a matter of a month. As much as I wanted to visit her, my father refused to let us go because he said that no one under the age of eighteen was allowed in the room.

A few weeks after, I got a taste of life’s harsh realities for the first time on Saturday, November 17th, 2007. I remember leaving church that afternoon as Samantha and I had just finished choir rehearsal and were headed home. The church, which is relatively two blocks away from my house wasn’t far off as we walked. Upon arrival, my Dad told Samantha and I that he wanted to talk to us. As he sat us in the living room, I wasn’t prepared for what he was about to say next.

“Kids, I’m sorry to tell you this, but Alexandra passed away at ten o’clock this morning,” he said calmly.

To this day, I remember how everything just felt extremely surreal as he said it. Immediately my world began to plunge into an abyss. Samantha, wasted no time as she immediately began to bawl like a baby on the couch. After a few seconds of digesting the shock myself, I remember that I had joined her.

“Mwe konen ti moun, mwe konen,” said my Dad in Haitian Kreyol. His voice cracked as he held us both.

After a moment of consoling us, he went into the kitchen to check on my mother. It was then I remember telling Samantha while in the midst of my tears:

“You know, you hear about or see these things on the news all the time but you never think that it could happen to you,” I sobbed in between tears.

My sister thoroughly agreed and nodded her head as she continued to cry.

A few days later after everything had come to pass, my sister was buried at All Saints Church in Great Neck, Long Island. I remember watching her casket being lowered into the pit thinking, “Wow, she’s really gone, she’s never coming back and I’m never going to see her again.”

I remember as people began to leave the gravesite, I walked back to the family car thinking to myself, “It’s up to you now Kev. No more being a little kid. You’re going to become something great in this life. You’re going to make sure that your family is well taken care of, and that they can all live peacefully and happily. Nothing is going to stop you. You’ve got to do it and will do it. No more games. It’s all up to you because you have to become somebody. You have no choice.”

I truly believe that since that day, I matured far beyond than what I ever could have envisioned for myself. I deeply wanted to become something in life. And not because my parents were pushing and influencing me, but more so because I needed to… I wanted to…

I realized then that life wasn’t a game and I was going to take matters into my own hands and succeed at all costs. I mean, besides being my half-sister, Alexandra (or Sandra as we called her around the house) was my friend, supporter and a powerful motherly figure. If she never lived, neither would I have. Without question, I know I owe her everything that comes my way.

    A poet/social worker friend of mine named Felicia Henry has a wonderful blog that I advise you all to check out and for one blog post in particular, she wrote about how her car which was originally her father’s became her vehicle of truth. The post resonated with me deeply because like her father (who passed a few years back) Alexandra’s car, a 2005 Hyundai Elantra has become my vehicle of truth as I have started driving it this year.

Within the car she has an Aaliyah postcard (late R&B songstress) that hangs from the visor mirror and every time I see it, it reminds me of Alex. Every time I drive I feel as if her spirit is always with me and I couldn’t imagine a day in which I would not be able to see it dangling from its cord. For me, it represents everything that Alex was. Cool, funny, fierce, charismatic, caring and beautiful. And I write all of this to say that ten years later I wouldn’t have it any other way. Through both her vehicle and my heart, her spirit and truth lives on forever.

Note: A majority of this post was previously published as an excerpt from Life Comes From Concrete 1.5 via Flowered Concrete

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of frankly twisted: the lost files, a collection of detective fiction. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He currently teaches 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

 

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek