Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

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My Thirteenth Winter: A Memoir by local author Samantha Abeel

Nancy Sundstrom - March 4th, 2004
Ten years ago, when Traverse City native Samantha Abeel was just 13-years-old, she collaborated with local artist Charles Murphy to create “Reach for the Moon,“ a stunning collection of evocative poetry accompanied by Murphy‘s beautiful and unique watercolors.
It was a tremendous accomplishment, one that would have thrilled a skilled poet who was two or three times her age, and the book garnered worldwide critical acclaim and a number of prestigious awards. The real triumph of the work, though, was as that it came not just from a young author, but from someone who had been labeled “learning disabled.“ Abeel was a bright young woman and a gifted writer, but daily life for her was an unending series of painful struggles to deal with the things most of us take for granted, like telling time, counting money, and working with the simplest math concepts.
Abeel now has a new, hot-off-the-presses book from Scholastic entitled “My Thirteenth Winter: A Memoir,“ that is an eloquent and moving examination of the years leading up to and after the discovery that she had a condition known as dyscalculia. A math-related learning disability, it is a lifelong condition that affects two to six percent of U.S. elementary-school students. Until she, her family and her teachers knew what they were dealing with, the problem affected nearly every aspect of her life. There wasn‘t a day of her life that wasn‘t plagued with fear, tension, anxiety, frustration and even panic. During her 13th winter, she saw the prospects for her own life as bleak at best.

There were, however, some things in Abeel‘s life that would prove to be stronger than her affliction. The first was her ability to work with words and use them to transform the tumult of her life into eloquent expressions of poetry. Equally important were a teacher who noticed Abeel‘s prowess with language and began to nurture her gifts, and a family whose love and devotion for her that while challenged, never wavered. And then there was Abeel herself, who nearly collapsed under the weight of the trauma caused by her disability, but who fought back with determination and valor for each step she took toward regaining control of her life.
All of these factors were critical in Abeel facing her obstacle, though much of the picture of hope painted in “My Thirteenth Winter“ is done with the colors provided by her writer‘s palate. As Abeel‘s talent for writing was discovered and a special kind of venue created for it through “Reach for the Moon,“ a new ray of hope began to break through the dark shadows cast by dyscalculia. It became apparent that learning disabilities and creative talent could exist in the same individual, and with that knowledge, Abeel embarked on a journey of self-discovery, esteem, confidence and accomplishment, the likes of which she had never known .
Abeel says that she began entertaining the idea of writing her memoir about three or four years after the publication of “Reach for the Moon.“ By that point, she was a seasoned pro on the speaking circuit talking about both her book and her learning disease, and wherever she went, she found that her first-person perspective made a connection with audiences.
“I answered so many questions and talked to so many people, and what I discovered was that while a lot had been written by experts on learning disorders, very little, if any of it, had been done by someone with one, especially someone my age,“ said Abeel, who is now in grad school at the University of Michigan pursuing a Masters in Social Work degree. “It took a while for me to get to the point where I knew I was going to do this for certain, and then there was the whole process of writing the book after that. It‚s been an amazing journey, and one I feel like I‘ve been on twice now.“
After graduating from what was then Traverse City Senior High School in 1996, Abeel attended the prestigious Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts, partially because it had “good support systems in place for students with learning disabilities.“ She earned her degree in 2000 and returned home to Northern Michigan, where she took a job at Interlochen Arts Academy as a resident hall counselor. For the next two years, she worked with students there and wrote her memoir.
“Part of the writing was so hard because I was simply burned out on school, on having it and learning and learning disabilities and everything else connected with it dominate my life,“ said Abeel. “But I had gotten connected with Scholastic and the feedback on my first few chapters was really encouraging. Everyone seemed to feel it had real value, and eventually, writing my book became my sole focus. Almost a year ago, I finished it.“

Abeel says that writing was a cathartic process in many regards, and she worked closely with a counselor while working on the book.
“I relived a lot of traumatic events while talking them out, which is how I make sense of them for writing,“ she shared. “It was difficult, but therapeutic, and I knew I was finally getting my information out there. It was my chance to make sense of events, and that was empowering. Through documenting everything I went through, I think everyone around me finally was able to fit all the pieces together. I was able to resolve things and write about them, and that was a powerful experience.“
My Thirteenth Winter“ is a candid and extremely moving tale, and her stories are recounted in a way that shows her command of the written word. Her sharp observations shirk the need for pity and reflect an introspective sense of maturity that belies her (still) young years. It is evident that Abeel has lived through and dealt with issues that most of her peers have never had to face, but she has used them to weave a rich tapestry of hope with this book.
So far, she says, the reaction has been very positive, and has been hailed as a must-read for anyone concerned with or facing a learning disability of any sort. It‘s also one of the very few books of its kind out in the market, and even though it is showing up now in Youth sections of bookstores, Abeel feels that word is spreading quickly.
“Some of the most touching comments I‘ve gotten have been from people who are in their 50s, 60s and older, and have been through the same experiences, but no one ever gave them a label for it,“ explained Abeel. “They say that all this time, they thought they were just stupid and that is so tragic. There‚s very little out there in the major market on the subject that describes what this is like to go through personally, and by someone of my age. There seems to be a certain impact in all of that combined. Learning disabilities aren‚t something you deal with from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and then leave behind when you come home. They‚re with you every minute of the day.“
Abeel says that her plans for the future are still being defined, and while she loves to write, she doesn‘t see it as a calling in the way she sees social work. She knows she wants to work with people, and it very well might be those with learning disabilities that she‘ll end up serving professionally.
“I‘ve learned that I write best when I have something to say, but right now, I‘m very immersed in social work and there are some possibilities there I haven‘t even tapped into,“ she concluded. “There may be another book as time goes on, but if there is it will be about my own experiences. In the meantime, there‘s a lot to keep me going, and a message and information I‘m intent on getting out there.“

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