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First of all, I'd like to thank remembrance and nomandates for inviting me to be a guest host for y'all this evening and the next two Saturdays. I have loved this diary series from its inception, and I am beyond honored to lead the "kibitzing" tonight.

I saw a video that really got to me a few days ago, and when I received the invitation to write for this series, it struck me as a perfect topic. So, in New Day style, I'll pose a question:

If you could thank one person, dead or alive, for how they've shaped your life, who would it be?
I'll answer the question for myself, but first, the video that inspired it. You're going to want to watch it all--it's really, really great. Watch the video, then follow me below the squiggly...

If you couldn't watch the video, the gist of it is this: Thanking those who have done something extraordinary (or just extraordinarily ordinary) for you increases your happiness level. The "scientist" in the video gave a happiness test to a group of people, then asked them to write about somebody who has made a difference in their lives. Then, he asked everybody in the group to call that person and read the letter to them. Finally, he gave another happiness test to them and saw marked improvement. The moral of the story is that our overall happiness is, in many ways, dependent upon how much gratitude we show. That's an argument I can buy into.

It got me thinking about the people in my life that I'd really like to thank. I could go with the obvious choice of my parents, who, of course, raised me. I could go with my undergraduate adviser, who is basically the reason I'm in grad school today (and, in fact, I did thank him in the form of a tenure support letter). I could go with my 10th-grade Honors English teacher, who put me through writing boot camp and, through what I thought was plain misery, really taught me how to write. All of these individuals deserve all the thanks in the world.

But when I think about who I am today--a history Ph.D. student, a Daily Kos writer, a lover of reading--I can trace it all back to one person. That individual is my 6th-grade reading teacher, Mrs. Nasman.

Overall, I do not remember the sixth grade favorably. I was just beginning middle school, also known as hell on earth. I was chubby, awkward, and sexually confused. I was bullied relentlessly. I did not have a high opinion of myself, and--quite frankly--I did not have any real hopes or dreams. College was not even on my radar, and because I came from a family in which nobody had gone to college, I did not feel the pressure to even consider it. I did not see myself as smart or good at anything.

And then I took Mrs. Nasman's reading class. How to describe Mrs. Nasman? I remember her as somebody who was probably a former hippie. When we read Holes or The Bridge to Terabithia, she made us listen to Peter, Paul, and Mary, which is probably why I think of her that way. I also remember her as a liberal. But beyond all of that, I remember her as the teacher who changed my life and quite literally gave me a self-esteem, as well as hopes and dreams. Yes, she was that important.

Although it was a reading class, we did a great deal of writing. I remember that we had to keep journals, which Mrs. Nasman would read and give back to us with comments. Beginning with my first journal entry, she wrote in her comments about how much she enjoyed my writing and about how gifted I was at it. I really didn't know what to think at first--nobody had ever told me that. But writing assignment after writing assignment, she would insist that I had a talent beyond my age.

But what really convinced me that maybe she was right was our school-wide awards assembly that year. Mrs. Nasman walked to the microphone, and I still remember her (almost) exact words: "This award goes to somebody whose writing never fails to take me to new places." She then went on to heap more praise on this individual, and I remember thinking, "Wow! Who is she talking about?" Then she called my name. At that point in time, it was the highlight of my life.

I decided at that moment that I wanted to be a writer. I wasn't sure what kind of writer, but I knew I wanted to put pen to paper in some capacity. In other words, I finally had aspirations. I finally felt smart. Not only did Mrs. Nasman make me love writing, but she also gave me the motivation to actually try in my other classes, which I had never done that well in. I soon discovered that I could make the honor roll if I wanted to. And I did, from that point until I graduated high school.

I don't know where I'd be today if Mrs. Nasman didn't tell me I was worth something. But it probably wouldn't be here. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that I have her to thank for almost everything important in my life today, from my college degree to my current grad school career to my writing here on Daily Kos. It's not often that we come across an individual who has transformed our lives in the way that Mrs. Nasman has transformed mine. As a current Teaching Assistant and as somebody who will one day be teaching, I can only hope that I will have a fraction of that kind of influence in a student's life. If I can, it will all be worth it.

I guess I can consider this my first draft of what I plan to someday send to Mrs. Nasman, if I can figure out how to get in contact with her. I think she deserves to know how much she means to me.

So, your turn: Who would you like to thank?

Kitchen Table Kibitzing is a community series for those who wish to share part of their evening around a virtual kitchen table with kossacks who are caring and supportive of one another. So bring your stories, jokes, photos, funny pics, music, interesting videos, and so forth. Or just say "Hi" if you've had a long day and are too exhausted to participate more actively. We would also appreciate links—including quotations—to diaries, news stories, and books that you think this community would appreciate.

Please note that pie fights will be unwelcome in this community, just as in most other series at DKos. There's lots of space at the rest of the site for fighting with other Democrats, progressives, and liberals, and we don't want those battles dragged into this community.

Finally, readers may notice that most who are posting diaries and comments in this series already know one another to some degree, but that definitely does not mean that newcomers will be excluded or unwelcome. We're happy to welcome guests to our kitchen table, and hope to make some new friends as well.

KTK posts nightly at 5:00 Pacific, 6:00 Mountain, 7:00 Central, 8:00 Eastern.

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