The Year of Living Dangerously

May 5, 2011

Gracious Living Day by DayJoe, my brother-in-law, has worked in the book industry for over a quarter of a century. He greatly enjoyed his early years in publishing when knowledge and appreciation of books was at the center of the book business.

Things have steadily deteriorated over the years.

Last year he lost his job.

Although nervous about supporting his family, he was not sorry that it happened. He was done with the corporate lifestyle. He knew what he wanted to do next.

Somehow, the stars aligned and everything that had to work out, worked out.

Joe and Branka at the graduation ceremony

Joe and Branka at the graduation ceremony

Joe applied to a graduate program at the large university in our town that offers a one year master’s degree and teaching certificate. He was accepted. Then he won a scholarship.

Joe and my sister Branka rented out their own house and moved in with my family. We have been living together since last summer.

Last Saturday, Joe graduated from the program. He will have to do his student teaching until June, but he is done with the class work.

It was a difficult and exhausting year.

Joe worked harder than he (or any of us) imagined him capable of. He wrote papers, learned new technologies, devised projects, read books, went to classes, learned to work with teenagers in a classroom, learned to make lesson plans and more.

He seemed so resolute and determined that he completely ignored the fact that he wasn’t as young as the other students in his program.

And even when he was weary, frustrated and overwhelmed, I have never seen him so full of hope and enthusiasm.  Joe is a born teacher.

At the graduation ceremony last Saturday, after all the hard work that I have seen him plow through, I couldn’t help but admire this gentle man for the elegant and delicate manner in the way he approached this arduous journey.

As Joe went up to shake hands with the dean and accept his diploma, I heard my sister Branka shouting his name at the top of her lungs.

What did Branka do this past year?

She spent many hours working at her job as a medical interpreter at the hospital.

But then, she took care of most of the logistics in our household. She was the one who mostly cooked and baked and shopped. She drove Joe to campus and picked him up so he wouldn’t have to worry about parking. She made Joe lunches and taught him how to prepare lesson plans. She helped Joe correct his student’s papers.

When Joe was tired, she massaged his back. She helped him every step of the way.

I am sure Joe would have graduated even without my sister’s help.

But it would have been a lot harder.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Ana June 22, 2011 at 11:13 am

Never wished Joe a proper congrats – please tell him I said so and that I have no doubt he’ll be an absolutely wonderful teacher! You’re absolutely right; he’s a natural. =)


Liliana June 23, 2011 at 6:35 am

He’ll be so happy to see your comment.

Take care, sweetheart!


Rosanna May 6, 2011 at 2:48 am

*C*O*N*G*R*A*T*U*L*A*T*I*O*N*S*, Joe!!:
Photo: Ulrich Vollenweider
Quote: W. Eugene Smith
Design: Patricia Carlson & Margaret Wakeley
© 2006


Liliana May 6, 2011 at 9:40 am

you will make Joe smile. And me, too!

Thanks so much.


Dave Harrison May 5, 2011 at 9:05 am

I can tell they are members of your family cause of the closeness and helpfulness no matter what the obsticales. We are all proud for him & better for knowing you & your family.


Liliana May 5, 2011 at 9:27 am

Hugs to you, Dave!


Jelena May 5, 2011 at 7:49 am

Congratulations and all the best to Joe going forward! What a tribute to the whole family. It’s wonderful when “living dangerously” has such a happy ending.


Liliana May 5, 2011 at 8:48 am

Sometimes it takes that giant leap of faith to get to the other side. It’s scary and exhilarating at the same time.


Jeff May 5, 2011 at 7:32 am

What a fantastic story, Liliana. Joe deserves all the applause and good wishes we can muster.

I’ve been in the printing industry for over 35 years now – the first 6 in book publishing. I’ve seen so much change in both technology and expertise and completely understand what Joe was up against…especially in this corporate world.

Pass on my congratulations – from what he’s learned, I’m sure he’ll be a fantastic teacher! And quite an inspiration to the rest of us!

– Jeff


Liliana May 5, 2011 at 8:44 am

We live in a fast changing world, and it’s important to be flexible. It’s not easy, but is the only way to survive.

There is so much negativity in the news about teachers these days. Joe will bring a wealth of experience, patience and good will to this glorious profession. Now all he has to do is find a job.

Thanks for your good wishes, Jeff!


Ann May 5, 2011 at 7:29 am

Congratulations to Joe and all of the Holtzmans who pulled together so generously to make his success possible! You are an inspiring family!


Liliana May 5, 2011 at 8:39 am

We couldn’t do it without the help of our friends!


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