In response to "Sunshine After the Storm" -
Your imagery is tremendous in this piece: "The cool depths of the pool had turned into hellfire, quickly burning my heart of confidence, clouding my mind of focus, and emitting self-doubt, fear and hatred." You write passionately and fervently about an intense moment in your life, and as a reader I felt as though I were flopping into the water and bouncing on the diving board. While stilted at times (I think because you are trying so hard with that wonderful imagery!), your voice rings true with authenticity, especially when you explain the more technical aspects of the kind of dive you were attempting to complete successfully. Anyone who has tried to master a difficult discipline and failed many times can relate to your story. I love your determination and spunk in the face of adversity!
That said, I don't know that it's necessary to tell the reader what he or she should already recognizes from your strong writing. The last two paragraphs "While Hell at the time..." and "Today..." seem superfluous to me. You ended on such a strong note when you wrote "I have never felt as strong a sense of accomplishment as I did in that moment," so why take two more paragraphs to explain it? I would rather read another highly descriptive moment of adversity when you reached back to that memory to get you through - you have a flair for painting a picture with words. Build on it!
In response to "Passenger Seat" -
You had me at this line: "Joshua and I had planned this trip for months but life had gotten in the way and after a while it just seemed easier to pretend that we had both forgotten about it. But it refused to go away so when the anniversary arrived we packed up the car, packed it with extra blankets, flashlights, and snacks, with our fears, sadness, and it." So relatable and so beautifully written - anyone in a relationship knows exactly how easy it is to pack emotions into the luggage and supplies we bring with us - I don't know that I've ever read a line that describes "emotional baggage" so perfectly.
I also love the title and the surprising way it came up again at the end of the piece. Don't we all count down the days until we are old enough to sit in the passenger seat, rather than in the back seat? I loved all the memories you had from that particular vantage point - they are timeless and completely relatable. Then you turned the tables on your reader and made the memory so heartbreaking! While I could feel the sadness weighing down the memoir, I never stopped to think of how many times my own mother turned from the passenger seat to comfort us, to holler at us, to check on us - as both a mother and a daughter I wanted to cry with you. You chose the perfect anchor for your story. The dialogue rings true and I found myself wanting to know what happened next. My sincere condolences on the loss of your mom.
PS - The pictures wouldn't load for me at home. I liked your piece so much, I'm going to try again at work.