BALTIMORE — From a distance, Ellen Fitzkee stands out. Then, a glance at her resume confirms that she is not the typical Baltimore high school guidance counselor.
Fitzkee, a native of Philadelphia, coached Towson’s women’s basketball team for 13 years, winning 145 games and two coach of the year awards.
When her younger sister died suddenly, Fitzkee began struggling with her own mortality and she sought to make sense of it all.
“You live and you die,” she said. “You try to make some fun along the way.” Fitzkee began to dig deep for answers.
In October, she put the finishing touches on and released a new book, “Conversations With My Soul: Stories and reflections on life, death, and love after loss,” a compilation of journal entries about pain, suffering and the every day struggles of life.
“It took me about a year to write and it took divine intervention to figure out what entries I should share,” Fitzkee said.
In “Conversations With My Soul,” she reflects on her own discovery of peace and happiness in the midst of loss and hopelessness. When her sister died unexpectedly, Fitzkee said her life came to a screeching halt.
“Even with my educational background and life experiences to call on to help me through this tragedy, I couldn’t move forward and was stuck,” Fitzkee said. “At some point, I realized it is not just about me and my world. Each of us can find our own soul purpose by taking an inner journey.”
The 118-page book has proved cathartic, Fitzkee said, adding that some of her colleagues have either read or have started to read it and have offered their encouragement.
“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive,” she said. “People said they’ve found it motivational and inspirational and it gives me great hope because with work like this you want to be able to touch some souls.”
Fitzkee has been a school counselor for 13 years and she’s coached basketball since 1981. She said the only time she’s taken off was after her sister died and that was just to gather herself.
“I’m back involved and coaching is important because it doesn’t matter at what level you’re coaching at, collegiate or high school, there is still the chance that you’re positively affecting the lives of young people,” Fitzkee said.
With a master’s degree in counselor education from McDaniel College, Fitzkee also consults part-time as a licensed mental health therapist.
She holds an additional master’s degree in liberal studies from Towson University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Lafayette College.
She said she aspires to help others and incorporate her knowledge through books, life coaching and public speaking.
“When you’re passionate about life, you do things that make you happy,” Fitzkee said. “I had considered not coaching anymore but the joy that it brings me helps me to be in my community and the rewards are wonderful.”
Fitzkee also says her new book helps readers with a painful yet valuable truth.
“Each one of us at different points in our lives needs to be aware that we will face grief and loss,” she said. “We’re all connected and it’s important that we understand that.”
“Conversations With My Soul” is available at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.