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.

Friday, October 6, 2017


Losing a dog is a lot like losing a person. There is a period of disbelief. Where is she? When is she coming back?  I thought I just saw her, heard her. But when you lose a parent or a friend chances are they weren't next to you every minute of the day and night—but a dog is.  You love and care for a dog. Suddenly you are no longer a caregiver and there is empty time in your day. All of your daily routines are upended and unfamiliar. There is no one greeting you at the door when you arrive at home. You are without the unconditional love that only a pet can give, (even if it's just because you are the one to feed her.)

I chose Stella from a shelter 13 years ago and I felt her love, devotion and gratitude every day of those 13 years.  She was my walking companion. She always pulled on the leash. I knew that should have been corrected but it made me walk faster and we both stayed trim.  I estimate we took over 1300 walks together until last spring when she could no longer make it around the neighborhood.
She was a beautiful, gentle dog and I miss her terribly.

A dog often forces you take them to their final destination. You make an appointment to end their suffering and although you know it is the right thing to do it is not normal to take something you love to die. It seems wrong and guilt and doubt accompany your decision.  But I believe that a dog knows when their time has come and September 27, 2017  Stella let me know she was ready. I will miss her always.

It seems silly to think there is a heaven for dogs but I hope there is some reward for all the joy and love they give us while they are here. And just like people you hope there is relief from pain and suffering for eternity.

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Healing at Euclid Beach

Euclid Beach Park was an amusement park in Cleveland from 1895-1969

  The Collinwood area was unfamiliar to me when my daughter and I headed there to attend a concert at the Beachland Ballroom. I drove right past Waterloo Road and had to pull in somewhere to turn around. I looked up to see a very familiar sight and said, “Oh! We’re at Euclid Beach!”

   Seeing the Euclid Beach Gateway Arch prompted me to ask my dad to tell me more about his summers living in what was called Tent City at the park. I had heard so many stories about Euclid Beach throughout my life, but I never completely understood why my father, his sister and my grandparents had lived there from April to October for seven consecutive years in the 1930’s.

   “Did you really ride your bike down the Flying Turns after the park closed?” I thought maybe I had misheard this familiar story from my own childhood because it now seemed implausible.

   “No, I had a sled with wheels for that,” Dad answered, “I rode my bike down the Racing Coaster, but only once.”

   “How do you ride a bicycle down a roller coaster?”

   “On the wooden slats between the rails,” he replied as if that would be obvious to anyone.

   In 1933 when my dad was 10 years old, he contracted osteomyelitis, a inflammation of the leg bone caused by an infection. He almost died from the fever and was packed in ice while in a coma to bring the fever down.  Part of the bone was removed and he was bedridden for over a year of his boyhood.

   At that time my grandfather worked for City Ice and Fuel, located at Superior and Euclid, delivering huge blocks of ice. (Dad said that in the summer children would run after the truck picking up the chips of ice that fell off for a cold treat.)  After Dad’s hospitalization my grandmother went to work there also to help out financially, taking coal orders.

   My father’s lower lip trembled as he told me of a nurse who came to his home to take care of him while his parents worked. She was also a certified teacher, and although she was to be married soon, she delayed her wedding for five months so Dad could finish the school year at home. Years later he would graduate from Cleveland Heights High School only a half year behind his classmates because of her generosity.

   “I think I fell in love with her,” he said with tears filling his eyes.

   As Dad recovered the doctors told my grandparents that he needed as much exercise as possible. There were not many opportunities for sports on the busy side streets of Cleveland Heights in the 1930’s.  So they rented their house out to a professional golfer for the season and took up residence in a large tent on the grounds of Euclid Beach Park. The tents had electricity but no running water. There were communal water pumps, bathrooms and showers. My dad played baseball and tennis and roller-skated every day. He played kick-the-can and badminton with the other children. He swam at the pool and the beach on the shore of Lake Erie.

   When I was growing up, no matter what sport or game of skill was being played, everyone wanted to be on my dad’s team. He was good at everything, and considering these childhood years, I understand why. When he was eleven years old the man in charge of the Euclid Beach skee-ball gave Dad the job of retrieving the balls thrown out of the alleys. If he would crawl in the dirt and dust to get them he was allowed to throw for free.  When he was 15 he got the job of running the skee-ball alleys. He always claimed to be the reigning Northeast Ohio Skee-Ball champion because he won the title the last year the contest was held. It’s a long-running family joke.

   “Because of the osteomyelitis,” he said,  “I was behind in school and then I was deferred stateside in the Navy during World War II. If you had the disease they wouldn’t let you lead a battalion because they thought your leg would break. Now it would be different. They would know better now...”  My father never got over not being able to serve his country overseas during the war but we are all proud of the four years he served in the Navy.

   Of course, like so many Clevelanders, I have my own memories of Euclid Beach Park;
The custard and popcorn balls, being terrified of Laughing Sal, the old-fashioned calliope music filling the park. There were old-timers still working there that remembered my father.  My neighborhood has rented a Euclid Beach Rocket Car on the Fourth of July. As we fly down the side streets, I wonder if I’d ridden in the same car so many years ago as a child.

   My grandparents took my brother and I to our last visit to the park in 1969. By then it was run down and deserted. I remember feeling sad knowing what a special place it was to Dad.  Now I can take my grandchildren on the restored Euclid Beach Grand Carousel at the Western Reserve Historical Society—something my father didn’t live quite long enough to ride on again—passing away only weeks before it opened in November 2014 at age 91.

   I never imagined I would feel so connected to a place that no longer exists. Sadly, it lives in the memories of fewer and fewer Clevelanders as the years go by. It was a  place that brought joy to countless families. A place that helped heal my father. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why Didn't They Graduate From High School?

When I retired from teaching I wanted to do something worthwhile, to reciprocate for my good fortune and to use my teaching skills. I spent my career teaching children with learning disabilities and wanted to work with adults—people who had a deep desire to learn and came to school of their own volition every day. This brought me to Seeds of Literacy. 

In the past several years I have worked with many students and they are always appreciative and friendly. I admire their determination to make a better life for themselves and their children.  Many of them are middle-aged and some even older. One woman I tutor is older than I am. When I asked her why she was doing this she said she just wanted to get a job—at an age when some of us are retiring.

My teaching career was spent in an inner ring suburb of Cleveland, so I am familiar with the struggles and challenges of poverty and lack of education. I dealt with so many families just struggling to get by and school was often low on the list of priorities when compared to paying the rent or feeding their children. Students moved in and out of the district regularly. The lack of stability has a terrible effect emotionally and educationally. The social challenges of making new friends as well as entering into a different curriculum can lead to discouragement and behavior issues. By high school some students were angry and discouraged because school was a place of failure and they could never hope to meet the expectations.

I knew single mothers working a third shift and leaving the children with a teenaged cousin after school. Students often showed up at school hungry or distracted by a painful situation at home. I taught twin boys who would enter my room visibly upset and focused on each other because of an unhappy interaction at home. One of them was in need of medical intervention for severe asthma but never received it, and his day would be wasted in the clinic.

At Seeds, I overhear conversations while tutoring, and they remind me of the lives of the children I taught. Sometimes it is between the students sitting together at a table. They share their reasons for not completing high school, and it’s eye-opening. In many instances, the decision to leave school was completely out of their control. One day, two young women at the same table told me they were both forced to drop out of high school to watch younger siblings. They didn’t want to leave school then, and now it is so much harder.  

One of those women now needs her eldest daughter to watch her younger children when she works. The young teenager may struggle to find time to do her own homework. This mother may have no other option but to work to support her children. Imagine how overwhelming life might be to work, care for a family and study for a GED at the same time.  As a society we expect people to be responsible and move forward, but how many of us realize the obstacles and sacrifices that takes every day?

Another student worked all morning with me on writing a personal story. I learned she had a baby boy when she was seventeen and her family kicked her out. She lived on the streets for eight years “hustling” to take care of her son. She would drop him off at a friend’s house, make some money and buy her friend’s family some food to repay their help. One day her sister went to the babysitters, took her son and put him up for adoption. She said, “My reason for living was gone. I didn’t see him again for sixteen years until he found me.” She continued to survive alone for many years and was incarcerated several times. She told me she wanted to make her son and her two grandchildren proud of her by finishing school. But I have not seen her for months and we don’t know why she left.  The circumstances that kept her from graduating from high school are probably still there, and making a commitment to education is still difficult for her. 

Recently a student shared that he is sixty-six years old and his children do not know that he never finished high school. In his last semester of high school his mother became sick and made him quit to be “the man of the family.”  That set a difficult course for his life. Now retired, he wants to complete his education. 

Not everyone has grown up with the  same advantages and family support.  When I grew up in suburban America, I understood that I would graduate from high school and go to college. There are few, if any, obstacles in our way. My parents helped me with homework and raised me in a safe, healthy environment. I never came home to an empty house or heard gunshots outside my window. I never lacked for basic health care or went to bed hungry. I was never neglected or discouraged from reaching my goals. 

I’ve realized where and to whom each one of us is born is pure chance.

What if you were raised with very little guidance or love? I’ve heard teenage mothers say that a baby gives them the unconditional love they’ve never had before. I was born in the middle class and spent my childhood feeling a sense of belonging and love. I did no have to go out and look for it in ways that could be harmful to me. 

The students I work with left high school for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, poverty and the limited options that come with it don’t go away just because someone grew up. 

I have seen people come to Seeds of Literacy for months and suddenly disappear. They were attempting to do what our society asks of them even though our society might not fully understand where these adults are coming from and what they’re living with.  Giving these adults and their children a chance at a better future benefits all of us. None of us did it alone and neither should they.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Half of Us

Half of Us

Half of us remember the water and air pollution of the 1970’s when streams and lakes were too filthy to swim in, air dangerous to breathe, animals and birds endangered and nearing extinction. The EPA worked for decades to create a healthy, safe environment for Americans.  Half of us now think that a manufacturer has the right to pollute public waterways and air in favor of making more money. Half of us do not care about the health of the next generation—corporations are more valued.

Half of us value public schools that have provided free education to all American children in their neighborhoods.  Half of us want school choice that would drain the resources from public schools and still only provide choice to the lucky ones who have parental advocates and a quality charter school within their neighborhood. This would possibly provide a better education for some, not for all.  Half of us believe we simply need to support and help public schools reach their potential not continue to take from them—then every child will benefit. This also starts with reform for fair and constitutional funding of all public schools.

Half of us say that government should stay out of our lives, but think it’s okay to tell a woman what to do with her body and make decisions that will impact the rest of her life. The other half of us are most likely not in favor of abortion, but understand that we are not in that woman’s shoes and cannot possibly know her circumstances. 

Half of us call ourselves pro-life but are not concerned about the lives of poor unwanted children after birth or that 30 million American children are hungry everyday. Half of us want to take away preventative care, prenatal care, contraception (which prevents unwanted pregnancy) and check-ups for those who have no where else to go, but call themselves pro-life. Babies, children, adults and the elderly—all are alive.

Almost all of us can trace our family history to immigration, yet half of us have decided that all immigrants should be demonized for the actions of a very few. Half of us boldly proclaim our patriotism but deny that freedom of religion applies to every religion, not just our own. 

From 2005 to 2015 there were 24 American deaths from terrorism. In that same decade 280,000 Americans died by gun violence at the hands of other Americans. Even though there are no recorded instances of someone saving others with a gun and there are thousands of instances of innocent bystanders being killed by guns, half of us think gun rights are more important than the right to safety and life.

Half of us are vocal and vigilant about defending the American flag, the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. Those traditions and ceremonies do not make America great unless they apply to all Americans no matter their race, religion or gender. Discrimination of our fellow Americans is still overwhelmingly present in our society. 

Half of us revere the Constitution yet disparage those exercising their First Amendment rights when we do not agree with their stance.  Peaceful protest has brought about change in this country from Civil Rights to the end of the Viet Nam War to Women’s rights to vote. Freedom of speech and assembly applies to everyone—all the time.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Why People Choose to Believe Lies

It seems we are surrounded with lies and "alternate facts" and the worst hypocrisy we have seen in our lifetimes.  I am not an alarmist and I do not believe in living in fear, but I do believe we must DO SOMETHING to oppose the lies and unsubstantiated claims that are being made by Trump and his spokespeople, otherwise they will think we are all falling for it.

The reason many people believe what they hear or read without question is because they consider the sources to be authority figures.  People who voted for Trump will believe him now because if they can't believe him then they will have to admit that they made a mistake by voting for him. That extends to anyone who speaks for him.  Kellyanne Conway coined the term "alternative facts" and it has been made fun of in the press, but some will find it acceptable because she helped get Trump elected. People often don't want to think for themselves if it's easier for someone to do it for them.

I lived through a situation like this. It is a microcosm of our country now but it revealed a lot about human nature to me:

I treasured the church I grew up in. It was a second home to me. The church stood in a prime location on the main corner of my community for 150 years, but the building was about 50 years old. The denomination was declining, but our church attendance was good.  The minister decided that we should build a bigger church (which would clearly be a feather in his cap.) At first I thought it was a joke, but he put all of his efforts into convincing people we needed it. He even (unethically) gave sermons on it. The congregation was divided and a months-long battle ensued.  I unwittingly became the leader of the opposition. We were in the papers and on TV. 

When I asked people how they felt they would reluctantly tell me they really didn't want the church to move but "Rev. Cummings says we need it." I was amazed how many times I heard this. I would remind those people that the church wasn't his—it was our church. He worked for us.  

One of his biggest points was that we didn't have enough parking. Yet, when you looked in the parking lot there were always spots. We had an agreement that we could park in the grocery store lot next door if needed. In addition, there was an empty house sitting in the middle of the parking lot that had formerly been a home for the ministers but now unused.   We could just tear down that building and gain dozens of spots. People chose to completely ignore what was literally right in front of their faces.

I spoke with dozens of people who blindly followed his logic on every point and never questioned whether it made sense.  That is what is happening now. The POTUS is an authority figure and we were taught as children to obey authority. Years ago I stopped looking at physicians as authorities when I discovered they often did not have answers or were incorrect in their diagnoses. I do not disparage them, but I do not see them as all-knowing either. In the same way many people will readily take a doctor's advice without question. 

I said we must DO SOMETHING and that does not mean argue with our Facebook friends. That means write an email or make a call anytime you read or hear a false statement, especially from one of your Senators or Representatives. Remind them that they represent you and you will not accept lies and half-truths.  Make sure they know you are watching and catch them in any hypocrisy. Their jobs are in our hands.  If we allow "alternate facts" to become the norm it will be our fault for remaining silent. It's all we can do now.

PS - The church. moved five miles away into another county, split the congregation, broke up lifelong friendships as well as my heart.  They insisted they needed 30 acres for a compound of sorts which still is empty except for a medium sized church—but they have lots of parking. The pastor retired, left the congregation with a mortgage and went on to counsel other people how to break up their congregations.

Friday, February 3, 2017

We Walk Through Italy

We Walk Through Italy
by Diane Vogel Ferri

On Roman blocks and bricks older than conception
we walk roads of infinity stone, of an empire adept 
at every human need and invention, we walk through
the glory of light-filled domes, basilicas where

pure unencumbered art gushes in 
a cataclysm of the muses in full bloom,
on walls, ceilings, floors, mosaic, marble,
Mary and her baby crucified.

We traverse walking bridges in the city of water streets;
barnacles and mold climb the drowned foundations
in some kind of warped beauty, in our gondola we watch
floating buses and taxis move people through the narrow canals.

St. Peter’s is the spiritual sky, the solemn truth where
our murmurings become muted in Mary’s sorrow.
Pompous sculptures surround us and swell our dreams in 
a reunion of the old world and the new.

We see the white ecstasy of David in the present distance,
it pins our eyes wide open and static in our circular view.
The sacred Sistine Chapel slows our breathing
in the required silence, arms are at a sudden rest.

We ride along the winding coast of a turquoise Naples Bay,
buildings precariously stacked like toy blocks,
rock mountains and little green hills, a volcano at rest,
millennial fortress towers stand on guard.

When the crowds of picture takers and posers suffocate us
we look up, look up to ancient structures still proud,
into a singular previously unknown world 

and we are reborn, we are redeemed.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Why the Marches Were Necessary in 2017

For those who have disparaged the marches/protests that occurred all over this country the day after the inauguration:

The First Amendment not only allows peaceable assembly (and it was peaceful in all 600 marches) but “to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” This means we have the right to complain or seek assistance from our government without fear of punishment or reprisal.

Other have reduced the events to an abortion rights march. Not even close. The Cleveland march had 6 speakers. Only one spoke about reproductive rights. The others expressed concerns about Trump’s campaign promises to take away affordable health care, LGBT rights, environmental progress and to build a wall, as well as his many bigoted, misogynistic and racist remarks throughout the campaign—and making fun of the disabled.

There is great support for Planned Parenthood because they provide preventative and basic women’s healthcare as well as contraception, which, by the way, prevents unwanted pregnancy and abortions.

Although there were many men at these marches it was a women’s march because our new president has repeatedly shown his disrespect for women. He has been accused countless times of sexual misconduct. He has been recorded admitting to being a sexual predator, he rates women’s looks, calls women names like pigs, slobs, and nasty. He finds women’s menstrual cycles and breastfeeding disgusting—and we’re supposed to be quiet?

We are concerned about the Cabinet being filled with unknowledgeable billionaires, most of whom don’t believe in the their post:  A science-denier to run the EPA, an opponent of public education to head the Education Department…

On election night Trump promised to be a president for all Americans. But on inauguration day LGBT was deleted from the government website. That’s over 8 million people and their families that he is ignoring already.  He had a great opportunity to reach out to the concerned and fearful citizens about the marches, but instead in his tweet he asked why we hadn’t voted. 

We did vote Mr. President. We are the three million MORE that voted for Hillary Clinton. We are the majority. Get used to it.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Day After the Inauguration

Cleveland is not a large city but this is a photo of our Public Square today. I was proud to be an American as I stood with thousands of men and women in concern for human rights in this country under the new administration.  It was a peaceful, respectful and calm day. (It was 60 degrees and sunny on a January day!) It is a grassroots movement happening not just all over America today, but all over the world, in solidarity with us. It is exhilarating, it is hopeful, it is democracy in action.

Yesterday was not an encouraging day for the majority of Americans. Many of us despair at the thought of going backward into the inequalities of the past. We are afraid for our daughters and millions of women not having access to health care and contraceptives. We are afraid for our grandchildren and the unsafe and unstable planet they may live on. We are afraid for our LGBT friends and family that may have their basic rights reversed. We are afraid of our immigrant neighbors enduring even more discrimination and bias than they already have.  We cannot tolerate a leader who makes fun of disabled people and blatantly disrespects women. 

As a retired teacher I, and all my teaching colleagues, are horrified at the nominee for Secretary of Education. She does not know the most basic education laws or issues. She is against the public schools and supports charter schools that have been nothing but failure and are not for ALL children, just the lucky few. 

When I looked at the many and diverse homemade signs today I saw what people are FOR not AGAINST. We are FOR our fellow Americans and their rights. We are FOR healthcare and  excellent  education and saving our planet.  The opposers are AGAINST everything. They are about taking things away starting with affordable health care for millions of Americans. 

The new president already broke his promise to be the president of all Americans (stated on election night) when his administration removed LGBT rights and climate control from the government website. 

There was an estimate of 15,000 in Cleveland today, 500,000 in Washington, 175,000 in Chicago. There are hundreds of marches all over this country.  The president's Twitter account is strangely silent today. 

TODAY I am proud to be an American. What a difference a day can make. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Award Season

Art and creativity, in any form, is a good thing. I need to be creative in some way almost every day. There are many actors and actresses that have been born with a talent as well as a face or body that appeals to us on a movie or television screen. We enjoy what they do and many do it very well. But I have a problem with why they need to be constantly rewarded and adored for it.

There seems to be a televised event scheduled about every week for the next month or two.  I used to love watching these spectacles. When I was a girl I practiced my acceptance speech for my Academy Award because I was going to be the next Julie Andrews.  My dad and I would bet on who we thought would win.

Then slowly over the years I saw the self-congratulatory celebrity worshipping for what it was and I stopped caring who won or didn't win. Then I began watching to see the fantastic and over-the-top dresses on the red carpets. I dreamed of wearing something like that just once in my life (which will never happen).  My daughter had worked for a well-known fashion designer in New York City and it sparked my interest in fashion even though I have no visible fashion sense of my own. (Now I can see them in the news the next day.)

As the decades went by and award shows multiplied America became consumed by a celebrity culture and it became more and more distasteful to me.  Here are people who are exceedingly overpaid, privileged, worshipped and catered to because they are in the movies or television. They simply spend their lives pretending to be other people and on top of their success and fame they need to be constantly awarded for it! Actors appear to live in their own special world of self-importance and mutual admiration. They cannot get enough attention and praise. America contributes to this inequity by buying entertainment magazines, watching entertainment gossip shows and spending enormous amounts of money on movies and entertainment. 

I never got an award for teaching for over 30 years. Have you been extravagantly awarded for your job, your efforts, even for volunteering your services to help others? Where are the awards for the social workers, foster parents, hospice nurses, teachers—the people who work for much less and impact society in a positive way every day? The people who actually work hard under often inadequate conditions with no bonuses, privileges or accolades.  

I don't think movies or television shows are useless. They can be moving and thoughtful or just an escape from real life. They show the creativity of human beings and are often stunning in their imagination and their visual beauty, but that does merit award after award each year. The public  already pays a ridiculous amount of money to go see them in the theaters and now we pay for television too. 

Music is very important in my life, but music awards now consist of the most outrageous videos, dancing, costumes and performances. It is not about the music any longer. There are still unbelievably talented and innovative musicians in the world but they are not the ones you will see on award shows. It's just a popularity contest: who got the most attention, who is the most attractive, or sold the most records. It has nothing to do with quality and talent as far as I can tell. 

People should continue to use their creative skills to produce all types of art. But the incessant need for "awards" is of no value except to the overblown egos of those who already have been rewarded excessively in every other way.