Diane Vogel Ferri is a teacher, poet and writer. Her essays have been published in Scene Magazine, Cleveland Christmas Memories, Raven’s Perch, and by Cleveland State University among others. Her poems can be found in numerous journals. Her chapbook, Liquid Rubies, was published by Pudding House. The Volume of Our Incongruity was published by Finishing Line Press. Diane’s essay, “I Will Sing for You” was featured at the Cleveland Humanities Fest in 2018. Her novel, The Desire Path can be found on Amazon. She is a graduate of Kent State University and holds an M.Ed from Cleveland State University.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Life Has Changed

Yesterday I sang a solo in church. It is one I have sung many times - Come Unto Him from Messiah.  But this time was like no other.

I started singing church solos at age 14. I cannot even count how many - and my dad was my biggest fan. Always sitting a few rows back to my left.  He always wanted to sit where he could see my mom and I next to each other in the choir loft. Mom and I sat in the choir loft of two churches for almost 40 years together.  (The various directors somehow knew better than to try to separate us.)

When I am asked to sing, I do, because it is my offering. It is something I can do that sometimes touches people's hearts.  There have been many times I wanted to quit because I didn't feel my voice was dependable or good enough. But even the times that I felt awful about my performance, someone would be moved by it.  I'm not a professional, just an untrained soprano. It's a very humble offering, believe me.

I learned many years ago to never look at my dad while singing because there were often tears streaming down his face. Yesterday my dad was not sitting there and my mom was not either because of poor health.  It didn't really hit me until I sat down after the song, and then I was overwhelmed with grief and loss and the confusion of change.

My dad was supportive and proud of everything I ever did. I know I am just now experiencing what so many of you already have in this life.  I was more than blessed to have him here for his 91 years. Parents (and maybe siblings) are the only people you have known every day of your life so, even though I have lost friends and other relatives, this is much different.

I know my Dad is ok.  I believe in heaven and this is what I believe:
Heaven is the place, the everlasting life, where we receive everything we yearned for here on earth. As human beings we spend our lives searching for unconditional love, for perfect peace, for unknowable joy and for release from the cares of this troubled world.  This is the definition of heaven to me.  All will be known. All will be understood. All will be the peace that passes understanding. It will be nothing like being here - where we are left to grieve and wonder and wait.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas

First, there is no war on Christmas.  We should all be thankful that we live in a country where we have the freedom to worship as we please. That means everyone - Jews, Gentiles, Muslims, pagans - all have the same freedoms here.  Insisting that someone honor your religion while you ignore theirs is, to me, the height of disrespect and judgement.

If you think there is a war on Christmas go into any store right now and what do you see and hear? Only Christmas music and Christmas decorations. Do those who do not celebrate it have a choice?

If you are indeed a Christian then you are familiar with these words of Jesus:
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (NIV)

This is not a Christian nation. It is a nation of freedoms. There is freedom of religion as well as freedom from  it. Will someone not saying Merry Christmas to you actually hamper your beliefs or celebration of Christmas? Jesus does not care if you say Merry Christmas - he does care that you love others as yourself - something he repeated 23 times in scripture. Love includes honor and respect.

 Here are some verses from Romans 14 which I think very clearly state that we are not to disrespect others:
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgement on disputable matters. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.  

One man considers one day more sacred than another, another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Tamir Rice

It's been two weeks and I cannot get used to seeing a boy I knew in the newspaper and on the national news day after day. This news story is personal to me.

I taught kids with special needs for over 30 years, so that's a lot of students. Tamir Rice was one of those students you don't forget.  We had our good days and our bad days together in math class first thing in the morning.  If Tamir's day had started out well he was bright, charming and hardworking. He was good at math and he knew it, but he required a lot of attention. He wanted to answer every question. He was behind in academics from constantly being moved from school to school. In fact, he was only with us for one year, and that causes great instability in a child's life.

If the day had not started well Tamir was likely to cry and leave the room.  But the thing to remember about children's behavior is that it is never their fault.  The child who disrupts or is angry or depressed is   lacking a basic need in life that only the home can provide.  Teachers nurture and care and attend to students' needs as much as they can during the hours they are with them each day.  But home is where basic needs of security, stability, love and attention are met.  Tamir liked attention, so he, like many other children, got it any way he could. He probably thought he was being funny the day those policemen drove up within a few feet of him.

The thing about Tamir was that even if he gave you a hard time you still liked him. Right now I don't remember the tough days as much as I remember that smile you see every day from some news source. Can't you see the mischievous charm in those eyes?  You could plainly see the capacity to achieve and even be a leader if life went his way - which it didn't.  What a waste.

Working in a racially diverse school district for 22 years taught me a lot.  If you think there is no white privilege then you haven't been around those who struggle every day to keep their children safe, fed, and sheltered.  You haven't met a mom who is afraid every day because she has to send her black  teenage son out into the world praying he comes home every night. You are not afraid to just walk through your own neighborhood. You're not Trayvon Martin's or Tamir Rice's parents or Eric Garner's children.

I don't have all the answers and I understand that policemen have to defend their own lives. But what about tasers and pepper spray? Could we invest in those?  Body cameras are fine but there are videos of Tamir's death and of Eric Garner's death in New York City and no one sees how those black men could have been apprehended without dying?

Eric Garner was unarmed and committing a very minor offense, but now policemen have left more children without a father. They could have even just let him get away - he was selling cigarettes, for God's sake.

Did the Cleveland police have to shoot Tamir from a few feet within two seconds of arriving or could there have been another way?  Could they have spent a little more time trying to reason with the unarmed Mr. Garner or did they have to strangle him to death?

                                                               Rest in peace Tamir.

Monday, December 1, 2014

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river
attendeth my way
When sorrows
like sea billows roll.
Whatever my lot
Thou has taught me to say
It is well
It is well with my soul.