Years before I ever knew I would have to retire from teaching in June of 2011 to take care of my darling husband, Scott, who was dying from stage four colon cancer, I had a luncheon meeting with my good friend Dr. Paula Calabrese, who said to me the words I used to title this piece, "You should never retire FROM something; you should always retire TO something." Paula is so bright and so capable, so I always listen when she speaks. She has so much to teach, and I am a very willing pupil, so I thought about my next focus. When I retired from teaching, it was to take care of Scott and his parents. For a year, I was never without a focus. Then Scott died May 8, 2012; Dad Rittman died July 18, 2012; and Mom Rittman died September 26, 2012. However, I still was not without a focus! I had all of the house fixing and clean up to do before it was put on the market; there was much time spent looking at condos; and for the first time in a long time, I was the only one I had to take care of- definitely not the norm for me!
I always wanted to be a writer. In fact, here is a secret I will share with you: I think every English teacher wants to be a writer! All those credits in prose and poetry- appreciating the singular beauty of similes and metaphors, modifiers and qualifiers, precise word choices and action verbs- is just too much to bear, and we see ourselves enveloped in these beautiful words and images, and we want to be a part of it, just as it is a part of us. But there is no way an English teacher working full time can ever have the luxury of time needed to compose and reflect and edit.
When Scott was dying from colon cancer for those 30 months, I wrote a weekly blog on a free site called The Caring Bridge. This free site is for those who are seriously ill, and the caregiver or a family member or close friend can post updates on the patient's progress. I remember discussing this site with Scott. He was not sure that he wanted any part of it, but he agreed it would be easier for me to write a weekly update than to answer 50 plus emails and phone calls per week.
And so my journey as a writer began, and at the time, I did not even know it. I did know that I liked the feeling and the process of writing for an audience.
The first entries of The Caring Bridge were tentative. I did not want to disclose too much information, as Scott was so private, but I did want to thank all who cared enough to log in and check on him. Gradually, Scott and I worked out a pattern of behaviors which was almost like a dance: we focused on discussing what was important to share, giving a glimpse into our daily life together (which we still tried to enjoy as much as possible despite his diagnosis), and saying thank you to all who visited our site.
The writing was cathartic for me. I tried to write when Scott was not in the same room, as I always cried while typing, as I attempted to compose and present everything in a positive manner. I read each entry to Scott before posting it to the Internet, because it was his site as much as mine. We both enjoyed the positive and uplifting comments posted by friends, and our site became an extension of our real life friends, in an Internet friendship venue. In 30 months, we had over 15,000 visits, a true testament to the loyalty and faithfulness of our friends.
Besides missing Scott terribly, I really missed writing on The Caring Bridge after Scott died.
I revisited a book I started years before, liked what I read, and decided to finish writing the book.
And that is how STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER came to be.
And the timing was so right. This past week, I also retired from 33 years of coaching golf at North Allegheny. I retired FROM coaching TO full time writing, just like Paula advised me to do all those years ago. And now it feels right. I enjoy writing this blog every week. I am starting a new book. And right now, I am on the wings of a flurry of publicity for my new book, which is available on amazon, Kindle, IBooks, Nook, and at www.dederittman.com
I was even lucky enough to get some good press and free publicity from Kevin Gorman at the Tribune Review. If you did not see his article and blog about my career as a coach, teacher, and writer, here is the link. (It is quite flattering). http://blog.triblive.com/ipreps/2014/10/07/life-lessons-from-the-bunny-teacher/
I share all of this with you because I have found that it is important to have something to look forward to each day and to continue to contribute, even after retirement. Each person is blessed with many talents, and I am happy to share my talents and ideas with others. I suppose that the cliché is true: Once a teacher, always a teacher.
Thank you, Paula, my good friend, for your words of wisdom. Thank you, my friends and readers, for allowing me to share my feelings and ideas with you.
I am looking to advertise my book. I bought a book called 1001 WAYS TO MARKET YOUR BOOK, and I have already begun to implement some of those strategies. One line in the book struck me: MORE BOOKS ARE SOLD BY WORD OF MOUTH THAN BY ANY OTHER VENUE. So, I am asking for your help. If you can help me to spread the word and need more information, please visit www.dederittman.com . You can read an entire chapter on my website. I will share this with you- a bus driver who took the NA team to a golf match read the book while we were playing in the tournament. She told me that it was not just for teachers, but that my book was a blueprint for how to be successful. I promise you that it is a fast and a fun read. Any ideas or suggestions would be welcomed. I need to get into colleges and universities, and would appreciate any help from all of you. Thanks in advance for caring!
Rittman Publishing, LLC
A note about The Caring Bridge- it is a free site. Go to www.caringbridge.org to set up your own site. This takes a lot of the stress off the caregiver, as updates can be written on a schedule or as needed. If you would like to visit Scott's site. log in to www.caringbridge.org In the site you want to visit, type scottrittman as one word. You will be prompted to enter and email and to create a password to use (they never send you any email). I posted many pictures and updates, plus you can look at the Guestbook and see the many messages that were left. My final entry in the site is the eulogy I wrote and gave at Scott's funeral. I read it to him before he died, along with his obituary, which I wrote on my IPad as he lay dying. The Caring Bridge was a wonderful vehicle for us to use to keep everyone in the loop. If one person benefits from knowing about this site from my blog, my writing/editing time was worth more than gold.