Category Archives: Maggie Jane’s Ramblings

Noticing the Change and Liking What You See!

In second grade Eldest made this ball field for his 100 days in school project. He lived and breathed baseball. He learned to read because he needed the stats on his favorite teams and players. He watched the ESPN highlights before school to keep up with all the news surrounding baseball. Of course, he played the game, it was the one thing he found that grounded him.

He played baseball up until college. He made some decisions based on his future rather than immediate gratification, and things didn’t quite play out how he thought they might. Regardless, he missed the team atmosphere and joined his college rugby team. The team won the small college national rugby championship that year. The team became a brotherhood he had never expected, and it is a journey he still continues traveling as he ties up his senior year of college.

Two weeks ago he texted me and asked me if I could proof a paper he wrote  for one of his classes. I figured it was another engineering paper with tons of information I’d know nothing about, but English is still English and I can proof those things which apply to written language.

However, this turned out to be a paper for his third required university course work classes. All students must take three semesters of a continuing education course which involves morals, ethics, personal growth, and an examination of you as an individual as well as on a global scale. The first two are required in your first year (even for transfer students) and the last in your second to last semester before gradation. This paper was something beyond what I expected and those words from my parents and grandparents rang so loud while it read it, “He’ll grow up and surprise you one day, just be patient.” The prompt itself surprised me a bit:

I teach public school and the pressure is on us to make kids keenly aware that argument writing is the main focus in college. But between my two sons I have found that they write far more narrative and informational writing. This still rings true into Eldest’s senior year.

When I read his paper I was taken aback to say the least. He wrote about how his life had changed through many avenues one being the obsession he had with baseball and the change he found overtime through rugby. Another was his major influences; one influence being my mother and another his own father which were ideas based around always giving it your all on the field no matter where the chips may lie.

“[my grandmother an Olympic 2 time gold medal winner, and my father an NCAA decorated athlete] Together they raised me to be graceful in victory and humble in defeat, but always a dedicated hard worker providing the best performance throughout the game.”

But his academic and career pathways were founded on both his father and me placing an emphasis upon his academic skills rather than his extra curricular activities, as well as placing rules and regulations upon him and his siblings that required him to be an active member in our family. He placed family meals and our free-flowing conversations about our days, our thoughts, and our own disagreements as one of the top reasons he has found success outside our home.

“In retrospect, my parents were right and I am thankful for their guidance.”

Then he ended with the part that pushed me into tears:

“I am traditionally a word minimalist, but I do make it a point to have the words I do say be meaningful and important. This reserved part of my personality may be here to stay, but through the foundation built by my family, close friends, professors, and coworkers I strive daily to become a better man and have set goals to make a positive impact with my future endeavors.”

It was all so true, and I know him so well, that he did write from the heart for the assignment and it is the first one I did not feel like I needed to stamp the BS sign and send it back to him!

All of these things were insightful to read because as a parent you never know if what you are doing is right. There are no manuals, no self-help books, no cookie cutter models or recipes to follow. It is the great experiment which every parent sets sail on and hopes beyond all reason they do the job successfully, because you only get one chance and if you mess it up it is something you cannot get back.

Flash forward to yesterday and he called me early in the morning on his way to rugby practice. I teased him and asked what I got on my senior paper. He laughed but started into the things he feels would make kids far more prepared and successful in college and where public education fails students.

  1. Student should write more narratives and have freedom of choice based on a topic rather than a pre-scripted format. His college professors axed the pre-scripted five paragraph essay day one and refused to read anything that was submitted that way.
  2. Students should be asked to create lab reports based on an outcome and they need to be able to construct the experiment themselves. Students must know how to fail and be able to write why things failed and what should change in the future to meet the objective. He understands that lab equipment is expensive, so the cookie cutter experiments in all subjects are affordable and achieve the correct outcome. He noted three things he did in his public school career that had the most impact:
    1. He was asked to build a bridge that could handle a specified payload with only toothpicks and glue.
    2. He was asked to find physics problem and provide a solution to help promote something in the future. He wrote a paper with physics calculations based on the new bats [at the time the baseball bats for high school had just changed over to a new material and the adjustments for both pitches and hitters created a strange playing field]
    3. In his IB course work he was afforded the time and research to write on anything that was plaguing the political arena either nationally or internationally. He chose to research, report, and create solutions for campaign finance reform.
  3. Finally, he noted that families in general are failing students. He knows there are extenuating circumstances that surround families and how they raise their children, but if the student has no support at home why do they care to do well in school if that is not made a priority. As a culture we need to change that family component if we want to change the course for future generations.

At the end of his diatribe I sat silent on the end of the phone. Most of this is stuff we’ve never discussed, because I am often too busy handling the immediate issues of our family and what each offspring might need or the husband. I don’t very often share my own philosophical pragmatic views of education overall with them. I was waiting until they were older if the topic came up. But he hit three areas right on the head and most of which I actually work very hard to teach in my 180 days with students each year.

Inevitably, the point I see happening here is that Eldest is turning out to be a man [that term itself is shocking for a momma] who actually has some depth of character. He thinks about things in a far less self centered way over the last four years. It also reinforces, for both Mr. and me, that we didn’t mess up so bad along the way while raising him. I am certain he will need therapy in some way for things we completely FUBAR’d, but for now, I feel a little more secure in his ability to spread his wings and make some solid decisions for his future. it should also make me worry a little less about where he might head after he graduates in May. [or not!]

Secret Project Reveal!

 

I’ve been asked, along with 13 other fabulous authors, to write a short fiction piece that will be part of an anthology releasing in time for Halloween!

These will be a tasty morsel of tales born out of the treasures bred through the constraints of the 7 deadly sins and 7 divine virtues. Each sin and virtue is created and told through a variety of genres: romance, paranormal, horror and more.

The Nerdy Novelist’s luck of the draw was temperance…this little tale is not your regular spiel penned by the moderate Maggie Jane. Oh, my fingers have been busy and this work of art has been smoldering around my cauldron for many nights. It is a test of my craft, but I’m betting it will entice many of you to venture into the dark side of this virtue.

A Sorcerer’s Road to Temperance (WIP)

Her self-restraint is tested when a handsome newcomer opens a night club on the outskirts of her small-minded town. His establishments spellbind the patrons and create a magical intoxicating experience. She’s always maintained self-control but as he turns up the heat her inner strength is in peril. She has a choice, either tame the heathens or succumb to their wicked ways.

Excerpt:
“She took one long perusal of his athletic body and knew this was going to be a dangerous game. One she’d been looking forward to embarking upon.”

Titles: The Hardest Part of Writing a Work

 

A title to me should be a message about a work. It resonates a theme or idea from within the words of the pages of the story being depicted. Titles like Catch 22, The Jungle, The Grapes of Wrath, Lord of the Flies, To Kill A Mockingbird, A Time to Kill, Unwind, The Scarlet Letter, A Christmas Carol, Animate Me, Always You, Brightside, The Matriarch, Unlit Star, and so many more have deeper meanings than just words on the front cover. When I came up with the titles of Resurrection and Up to Bat I thought long and hard about what they conveyed and how a reader with a deeper sense of literature deconstruction would figure out the thematic relevance to each title.

Resurrection is a change or rebirth, and most people connect the word with the rebirth of Christ from the Christian biblical ideology. They feel it is a purity of soul type of denotative meaning. In contrast, the connotative structure denotes it is a restructuring of something or someone. A time of truth-telling and coming to grips with what one is faced with, and how to turn sour grapes around into something far more meaningful. When the cover and title were designed, it was intentional to give it a black and white image and a simplistic peaceful tone because the darker chaos of the first few chapters and the twist at the end needed downplaying as the love story is the absolution for the resurrection of the characters.

Jenna built her life around one controlling man and lost herself over the years. She trusted him implicitly and overlooked many things which may have changed her course long before his illness took him. Once she faces the reality of the prison he held her in, she does reinvent herself based out of the truths which are opened along her journey to resurrecting herself.
Chase is saddened by his sudden loss and his resurrection comes with finding out that his happiness makes a world of difference in his attitude with his kids, family, and his new love. He is resurrected through realizing going through the motions of life does not make a person whole, therefore this change is a positive place for him to expand on a new journey with a clear vision in his head of what this salvation looks like for him, his children, his new love, and his family and friends. Therefore, the road to resurrecting oneself may end on the same path, but each person takes a different avenue to arrive at this higher ground.

Many readers see a cover and read the title and assume sports, millionaire, dystopia, sci-fi, power struggle or some other blatant genre or trope ideal.Up to Bat is a little trickier to uncovering the message behind the words and visual. However, Up to Bat stands for many things and one of the face values is that it does address sports and the team style approach, but if Sam and Blake are examined closer, on the cover, he has his hand pushing a stray hair off of her face. They are looking at each other, but it is not in lust, but rather in inquiry. The idiom of being up to bat means to take a chance, it is your turn, make a move.

In Up to Bat, Sam is faced with a myriad of issues which all filter back to her need to move up to the plate and take that chance. She is fighting inner demons which she has shoved under the carpet for a long time; she buried herself in her college studies and her internship to avoid true relationships, and she is her own worst enemy for not risking a chance and making some less structured moves in her own life.

Blake, on the other hand, is always up to bat; he’s ready to take risks and in an underlying way his charity is named Up to Bat to prove that risks are worth trying your luck and standing strong in the end. He risks his life in his undercover job, but he also is making a move on something he knows he wants, Samantha. Each character is having to gamble and make those up to bat decisions and learn from the balls thrown their way. This, in turn, changes the literal denotative idea of Up to Bat being a sole sports romance, to a connotative reality about life and making sure not to waste moments living in the past and playing it safe. Both Sam and Blake have things to work on before they can actually swing the bat, but being up to bat is where people must start to take any of life’s journeys.

Some critics will take a superficial look at the covers and the titles and make biased opinions based on surface level understandings of a title and the respective covers. In the 21st century a world of insta-gratification leaves most to resort to the obvious. This is what some segments of society would rather see; things laid out blatantly rather than having to work for the underlying meanings, themes, and ideologies set forth by an author. Often this digging deeper into the context and content of a work is passed off and missed by the surface level readers and it takes a moment to slow down and dive deeper into a text.

However, I believe there are readers who are tired of the surface level read and the over implied meanings surrounding fiction novels. I believe many readers give up reading because of this infusion of insta-gratification prose. The readers who commit to a deeper level and understand the buried inferred context of the literature seek more difficult reads or look back at a cover or title and think, “Oh, I get it, that was clever.” They may even think, “Hmm I like what the author did, but I might have tried XYZ and tweaked this a little.” The point is it made the reader think, and they were entertained enough to interact with the text.

This is the case for which I selected my titles and covers. It is my hope that more authors and readers decide to take this journey into deeper level thinking rather than expecting the predictable and simplistic approach to literature. Please, don’t get me wrong, I read all over the place and sometimes those quick pick reads are nice and leave a reader with a feel-good sense and there is value in that harmonious balance of easy and difficult as well.

My First Love!

My First Love

I was 3 and I fell in love with John Denver. We lived in South Lake Tahoe at the time, and he came to play a concert in the dinner theater at Harrah’s Tahoe on the North Shore at Stateline, Nevada.

I had been singing his songs from the time I could remember and heard on the radio he would be coming to town. I vividly remember driving in our green Ford Pinto station wagon and talking my mom’s ear off about how much I needed to see him in person.

You had to be 6 in order to attend the dinner and concert series at the Harrah’s venue. I had recently turned 4. Over a dinner with my parent’s friends, who somehow had connections with the folks who ran the concert series, my parent’s friends bought a table for 8 and invited my mother and me to attend.

We rehearsed a practiced response to anyone who might ask me my age at the venue. My mom kept telling me the little white lie was going to be okay and responding six would be just fine! All this because I was going to marry this man someday and I needed to enter gracefully into the dinner theater for this to come to fruition.  My mom worked hours testing me, and I knew I could nail this!

The night of the concert finally arrived and my excitement was unreal. When our part of the line arrived at the door a nice man in a tux smiled at me and bent down to my level. He introduced himself and placed my hand like a princess in his. He asked my name and complimented my dress.

Then he asked the big question, “How old are you, young lady?”

I proudly gazed up at him, smiled big and said, “Six!” While holding up 4 fingers with my free hand. He winked at me and proceeded to lead us to our table.

I ate the six-course meal like a lady, I was a picky eater too, and when Denver came to the stage I sang every song—word for word. He even acknowledged me as his youngest and most enthusiastic fan!

I remember that entire event clearly in my mind. I was so sad when he passed away in a plane crash. He was piloting the plane.

Amazing how we remember those singular events and they still bring a smile to our faces!

Here is my interview with Maggie Jane Schuler

A huge thank you to Fiona for the interview!

authorsinterviews

Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.

 

Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?

 Hello. Thank you Fiona. I’m Maggie Jane Schuler and I’m 46.

Fiona: Where are you from?

California. I was born in northern and migrated south.

Fiona: A little about your self (ie,  your education, family life, etc.).

I am a teacher by day and author by night. I hold a BA in multiple subjects and English literature and a MAED in Educational Technology. I am fellow of the National Writing project. I have 1 hubby, 3 children, and 2 dogs. I love baseball.

Fiona: Tell us your latest news.

I released my first work, Resurrection, in March 2017. I have another release, Up to Bat, coming in July, and hopefully a third release in the late fall.

View original post 1,636 more words

2016 – What I’ve Learned Over the Last Year

 

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2016 has been a year of many firsts. Hard for me to believe that last Christmas eve I sat around the family table, cocktail in hand, discussing my half written manuscript and the fact I needed a pen name. We played around with multiple names until my mom and dad finally suggested Maggie Jane Schuler. Everyone unanimously agreed and off into the wild blue yonder I began this journey between reading, writing, reviewing, and developing a plan to publish a book.

I worked my butt off between January and July writing a very rough manuscript. This journey brought me a whole new perspective and learning curve I never even believed I’d venture through. The authors I instant messaged were all so kind and helpful. They answered my silly novice questions and always added little extra tidbits of advice for good measure. The best part about each of the folks queried is they soon became friends who also valued some of my humble opinions on their own WIP’s, covers, and blurbs.

The indie community is a welcoming band of heroes who impress me daily with their creativity and generosity. This first and foremost is a gratuitous community who bands together to help raise awareness for multiple causes from literacy and suicide prevention to autoimmune disorders and cancer research. They help promote one another’s works and protect each other from those who sit outside in judgement of this 21st century publishing business. This is a new business model; one which not only binds the material works but supports the emotional side of its dedicated authors, bloggers, and readers as well.

Beta readers. What can I say, other than you’ve motivated me to continue walking along this path. 2017 will be my year to offer you all a small piece of the ideas which roll about in my head in a completed prose form. It is a difficult journey to work hard on a piece and become narrowly focused and often sabotaging oneself along the way. Creating the raw work and allowing beta readers to tear it apart only to build it back up is not for the faint of heart. It takes time and dedication to continually revisit all the errors within a work. Then rework those errors by either throwing out sections, rewording, developing new transitions, or scrapping the initial scene and using it as a skeleton to create a stronger piece. When those you trust find the little plot hiccups or notice you’ve digressed from a character’s internal motivation the hard work really begins. The beta readers are in the trenches and kind enough to continue the journey with you each step of the way. They are tireless in nature and truthful in helping the process move forward.

Editors have another thankless task. They remind me of the fine copper pipes hidden behind the walls of a structure. You never appreciate them quite like you should until they are not working correctly or in writing when the final product goes to the audience with multiple errors. That’s when you notice when and where an author decided to invest in an editor or editors. Avoiding the plunge into grammar and structure anarchy is a key component to creating readership and fans. Many times, reviews will focus on the idea of, “That was a nice plot and I was excited to read but the typos, and other errors were too distracting so I couldn’t fully appreciate the piece.” Again, from betas to editors a heart is stripped of all modesty because these folks truly see the raw to finished product. For those new to writing prose in the fiction arena this is a difficult jump and often the first barrier because rejection is high. I know for myself, the struggle between academic writing and fictional prose style is drastically different and they often contradict each other. This has been a new first in learning to reintroduce contractions, slang, dialect structures, and other various crafty items into my own works. 

My own family took my dedication to this second career in stride. Somedays have been difficult but they ignore my self-doubt and relentlessly cheer me on daily. I have had times on this road when I felt maybe this arena I’d stepped into without enough armor, without enough education, was or is heftier than I’m ready to tackle. Multiple times down this road less traveled I wanted to bury my head and burn the words I’d written. My family, each and every one of them, provided me a safe place to grow and express my frustrations as well as celebrate my mini successes. While I’m still in process on several pieces I continue to forge ahead with the constant encouragement of my family and their never-ending support of my dream to be an author.

The big firsts of 2106 are about to transition into new ideas and adventures for 2017. As Christmas quickly approaches with New Years on its heels, I want to stop and thank all those who have helped me get this far. The goal I’ve realistically set for myself at this point is to publish early in the first quarter of next year and am hopeful I can get three total works out into the market for 2017. I am certain this new path of daily writing also helps me in my day job. I read handfuls of essays from young aspiring students who have big dreams of their own. If I am capable of providing them a hint of joy in reading and writing, because I am also a full-time practitioner in these same activities, then my job is a success. I hope you all follow your own dreams, and enjoy the holiday season.

With a humble thank you and blessings to all,

Maggie Jane

 

NaNoWriMo – What in the-ever-loving-heavens did I sign up for?

waitperfection

 

I’ve been known to bite off more than I can chew many times in my life. Don’t believe me? Well here are a few checked marked items for you:

  • I married young <long before we had a nest egg, still waiting on the nest egg!>
  • I started having children before we knew how we would support them <again, still  working on this!>
  • I began my master’s program while in the midst of returning to teaching, after a 15  year hiatus <because I still needed to help my kids apply to colleges, be a manager for parts of their lives, and keep my marriage together>
  • I set off on this author journey.

This little sojourn over the last eighteen months has truly been an eye opener. What started out as an epic idea one morning in the shower, snowballed into something I’m proud to be a part of, but wow the learning curve truly whips my arse daily.

Again the things I’ve learned over the last 18 months:

  • Introduced to the genre for the first time by my MIL in June 2015. I’d never read romance before <The romance genre is broad, from mild sexy times to OMG jaw dropping>
  • Read over 400+ romance novels in order to understand the style, market, and reach
  • Began reviewing what I was reading because the nerd in me was tired of reading poor reviews of people who didn’t study the structure of the author and the far-reaching crafty moves made by these talented writers. <Yes, it’s true English literature people look at how an author uses things such as themes, motifs, juxtaposition, figurative language, even ethos, logos, and pathos at times to reach their audiences>
  • Met with a few local published author friends <all Little League friends who write YA novels>
    • Given advice on both traditional publishing versus indie <Pretty sure they shutter that I went indie rather than traditional at this point; I had to wear my own shoes>
  • Reached out to authors in the indie industry <nicest folks I’ve met and continue meeting>
  • Discovered awesome friendships and mentors <truly couldn’t be moving forward without their advice and support>
  • Settled into a writing rhythm <took negotiation with the family in order to finally take time to do what I needed to do>
  • Learned the transition from academic stuffy writing is a complete 180˚ from novel narrative writing long winded formality. Thanks to terrific editors!>
  • Discovered who I am in my 40’s < still in development as the nest is not empty yet>

With all of this said, I was introduced to the idea of NaNoWriMo back in July during a summer day job training. One of my colleagues caught wind I was in the mist of writing my first novel. She begged me to join NaNoWriMo just as a different avenue for keeping my writing on a roll. She set her goal to write a poem a day. I laughed at her, told her I wasn’t crazy, and thought nothing more about it until September rolled around. Several authors started throwing around NaNoWriMo challenges, and of course my competitive nature got the best of me.

Now, two days before November 1st, I sit plotting the new short novel I’ll be tackling over the month of November, while continuing the sequel to book one, and of course doing my day job. I continue asking myself, “What in the-ever-loving-heavens did I sign up for?” However, I am really excited to have come this far in 18 months. If you are interested in joining NaNoWriMo click on the link, sign up, give it a try. You never know maybe a writer lives inside you, ready to bust out, get started, and blossom into a beautiful new bud!

National Novel Writing Month NaNoWriMo

The rationale behind using old dead white men!

http://dai.ly/x3988gp

This little short film 2081 is based on Kurt Vonnegut’s work Harris Bergeron. Using this Sci-Fi dystopian gemstone makes students think about how they view the terms equality, freedom, rights, needs, desire, motivation, goal setting. Sometimes we talk about it in terms of “Should everyone earn the same grade?” or “Is the doom of failure a reason not to risk?” maybe even “What role does media play in our perceptions?”

We of course look at the literary aspects of suspense, horror, and how does Vonnegut’s craft create the tone and what provokes the mood in the reader. How does the director of the film help perpetuate Vonnegut’s message or theme of the work. How does he implore motifs and symbols. Additionally, I’ve asked students to draw conclusions about current events and, “Does 2081 have any themes which apply to modern-day issues?” This is always a fun little can of worms to open. This year it has proven to be quite the topic of choice.

While I know many grown and moan about how outdated education is, and why do we choose to read all the novels associated dead white men since they are ultimately boring? Here is what I do know from both teaching and writing:

  1. Any work can be boring.  Sometimes it is important to struggle through something and critique it for the items it lacks, since constructive criticism is an important piece to gaining future successes.
  2. It is all about the delivery of the piece you are presenting and how you package the material.
  3. Making connections with things that are familiar helps perpetuate a better understanding of why a particular work is used.
  4. Explaining how the author crafted the work in order to convey and provoke certain attitudes or promote specific themes helps drive students to seek the depth rather than the surface of a work.
  5. Examining the historical backgrounds of both the author and the time periods opens up a whole new perspective about most works.

I also believe, down to my core, we need to read novels of different genres, time periods, authors, and styles in order to provide a base for making our own writing better. We don’t improve without reading and absorbing stylistic moves from other people. We learned to speak because people repeated sounds, words, and oral structures to us until we began to mimic back, and then we created our one verbal responses over time. We did not learn to read without people showing us how each letter grouping formed a word, which related to the oral structures we’d been groomed to understand since birth. We learned to read fluently because our practice and vocabulary grew with our experiences and exposure. Then writing happened. This is the last in line for the literacies. It takes practice in mimicking works we’ve been exposed to over time. If we only expose ourselves to works such as Dr. Seuss works or Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series then our ability is limited and our growth stifled. There is nothing wrong with these examples, but if we want to expand our minds, and open up our world, we must challenge ourselves with a variety of works. By nature we will gravitative to familiar and comfortable, but it is my job to expose students to the things which are out of their wheelhouse.

Now when you ask, “Why do you read about all the dead white men?”, you might just understand that I’m here to exercise the brain, expose it to things uncomfortable and foreign, develop questions which make connections, and challenge the mind to think past the surface, in order for you to become a better reader and writer in the future. What I am not doing is trying to make you miserable and reduce you to complaining about how education really is disconnected with today’s world. Maybe some educators are unplugged, but please don’t group me in those same molds! I understand the need to introduce the modern with the classic as well as the technology with the pen and paper. However, let us recognize the value in variety and celebrate the crafts of those who have written over the course of time including both the old and the new.

A Father’s Love – September Suicide Prevention Month

fotatts

Dedicated to the memories of

Forrest Werner IV (June 1992 – March 2015)

and

Hayden Werner (May 1996 – May 2016)

Suicide, the single word which most people hurry to brush underneath the carpet. People shy away from the uncomfortable issue surrounding a life lost at one’s own hands. People generalize about the loved one’s left behind, or the selfishness of the victim. Unfortunately, people forget that a life is always a life, a loved one is always loved, and sometimes unexplainable tragedies occur for which no answers can be found.

My first experience with suicide happened in 1985. A family friend, and employee of my father’s, decided his life no longer held the same value as it once had. He ventured off to a nearby mountain cabin, loaded his rifle, and pulled the trigger. His unsuspecting family filed a missing person report and within days received word. Our neighborhood was close, and his family was a part of all of our social functions. It rocked our community to its core. The worst part about the entire situation is nobody knew this man was in a free fall. Nobody knew he held inside so many dark demons. Nobody knew he intended to take his own life. He never let a soul know he needed help. His family in turn spent a few years picking themselves up and trying to move forward without the husband, father, or friend who ended everything without a sign.

Nine years ago my eldest boy entered the intermediate school arena. I was the ever volunteering parent. I quickly was thrown into the role of PTO President, because let’s face it, who really wants the job? However, it was one of the best decisions I made. It brought about friendships with the staff, and allowed me to spread my wings back into teaching. On this staff were a pair of brothers with a dry sense humor, and a deep commitment to student achievement. My children were fortunate enough to fly under their wings and understand that academics and real life were all a part of their education. Each of these men was not only kind enough to forge relationships with my children but helped me dip my feet back into the teaching arena. They too had worked private sector before becoming teachers and truly embraced many of the same philosophical views of engaging young minds as I believed. Working side by side with these men continues to be a pleasure, and the friendship we forged could not be any stronger. I side track a bit, in order to better provide a context to the impact of two particular life changing situations, which have opened up a cavernous hole and broken our hearts.

March 10, 2015 began like any other school day. Arriving and setting up my room, making the rounds to visit with my fellow brotherly duo, and continuing on ready for whatever the day might bring. Several periods down and an SOS message came to my texts from a fellow colleague who also plays in the shenanigans game the brothers’ and I engage in. Her words still chill me to the core.

  SOS – Fo had to leave, home emergency. Fr on his tail. We need to cover classes but something is very wrong

Without any further information we began the take over their students. Every member of our staff covered their classes. Before long an answer arrived. A very grave and unraveling answer. Our matriarch of the staff sent a few of us close to the situation the grim and saddening news:

Pray – Fo needs us, little Forrest found at home in the garage. Fo needs us to be strong. I’ll keep you all posted.

Before the day ended our fearless leader, also a close friend to the situation, lead us into a staff meeting, with the chilling news, one of ours had fallen. We all sat stunned, the surreal minutes passing by, the still in the room leaving us all stiff and immobile. As a staff we shed tears, and found a strength in our matriarch, who became the voice between us and our brotherly duo as we awaited instructions on what the family needed.

Obviously, the moment a crisis hits, everyone is around to help. But in the weeks and months to follow often people fall to the way side and those still hurting are left alone. Fo is the father of four beautiful children who grew up in a home filled with love and care. His children are his world. But his oldest son’s demons were a force he could not help his son overcome. Fo provided the loving, nurturing home, provided the psychological help for his son, provided everything he could, and still young Forrest, unable to shake the darkness which loomed over him made a decision which forever changed his path.

As the Werner family mourned and gathered themselves from the unexplainable sadness of the loss, they rallied together, and three remaining siblings made a pact to keep up constant communication with one another. They never wanted another heart wrenching tragedy to strike them. Fo and I spoke often as the months passed by and the difficulties and pain of birthday’s and holidays were another constant reminder that his family was down a man. Our little shenanigans group was only one of multiple outlets Fo had to help him manage the difficulties and pain of losing one’s child.

In September the brothers lost their father who had been in failing health and at 86 had lived a blessed life. For many reasons they waited until May to accompany his ashes back to Indiana for a celebration of life. The boys made plans to travel the mid-west and enjoy a few extra days with some friends. Of course they were kind enough to send funny pictures and little tales of their trip to our shenanigans group, now dubbed “Politically Incorrect Group” or PIGs for our own humor! I knew they were due back in a few days and had sent off my last vulgar message of the night while they were visiting Tennessee. Somewhere around 5am my phone buzzed on my side table. Figuring it was my eldest boy at college needing a paper read before class I picked up the phone ready to lam-blast him about his college planning skills and my work life. The message I received still sends shivers down my spine.

Fr: Fo and I on the ground in LA. Headed to Santa Barb Hospital, Hayden attempted to take his life. In ICU. Keep you posted.

Poking the Mr. with tears in my eyes, hands shaking, and voice nonexistent, we sat clearly shaken for what our friend was about to encounter. Over the course of several days’ test were run, and prayers rolled in, but unfortunately the toll on Hayden’s brain was too much and decisions were made to remove life support. Once again my dear friend and his family were braced to say good-bye and plan another service for a young life gone too soon.

Fo and his family had no warning that Hayden was falling into his own dark place. His cousin had received a voice message a week or so before Hayden headed off to join his brother. The message was upbeat. He discussed the really good things going on his life, and ended the call with, “I’m just living it! Call me.” There were no signs he was struggling. There were no signs he was unhappy. There were no signs the young college sophomore was battling the deepest of inner demons.

Two boys, fourteen months apart, and a family left behind. Fo is a strong man, but this has rocked his world to the core. His family dynamics have changed dramatically over the course of three years. He and his wife grew apart before either boy made their decisions, and he is coping with a set of losses no parent should experience. Our little group keeps in touch daily and we are all in it together. We are open and honest which is a beautiful relationship but the struggle is real and the devastation still present.

Suicide is growing in epic proportions within our modern-day society. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide wears many faces, but there are some chilling statistics:

  • Suicide is a major public health issue, taking life without regard to age, income, education, social standing, race, or gender.
  • Overall, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for all Americans, the 2nd leading cause of death for adults ages 25-34, and the 3rd leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24.
  • The legacy of suicide continues long after the death, impacting bereaved loved ones and communities.

September is National Suicide Prevention month and awareness is the key to prevention. Fo and I discussed writing this piece and it has been really difficult. Fo was not a tattoo bearing man before eighteen months ago. He now wears the legacy of his family on his chest and openly discusses the need for more research and services dedicated to helping prevent such unexplainable tragedies. Donations to the national suicide networks are always appreciated and well received. Donations in the name of young Forrest and Hayden Werner have been set up through a local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Orange County. The family also set up donations in Hayden’s name with the With Hope Foundation.

As good friends, our PIG group continues providing fun and off-color humor for both brothers. Additionally, Fo and I have begun a little reading therapy. I’ve helped set up his iPad with the Kindle app, and he has read my blog and reviews, selecting pieces which interest him. The smiles on his face as he came to discuss Sloane Howell’s The Matriarch were a welcome surprise. Discussions about the twisted society in Celia Aaron’s Acquisition Series, and he is now enthralled with Leigh Shen’s Blood to Dust. I can’t wait to see what he chooses after this! We are truly enjoying this new outlet for his mind, and he is “Living it” as advised by the last words spoken in a voicemail by his youngest son.

Suicide is a serious matter and it can strike without warning anywhere, anytime, and anyone.

 

In My Life Time

twintowers1989

Twin Towers, outside/inside the viewing platform, Yankee Stadium circa 1989

In my life time, I’ve witnessed some major shifts which changed the cultural attitudes and social structures of the world we live in today. In my life time, I’ve played my part remaining positive and influential to my best ability, as events unfolded and remodeled the world. In my life time, no singular event changed the world as drastically as those which occurred fifteen years as ago today. In my life time, no event stopped a nation and crippled the world as heavily as those events which took place on the morning of September 11, 2001. In my life time, a blip appears each year as it is one of the few major events which is marked by everyone, ten years and older at the time, knowing exactly where they were when they heard the news.

Prior to 9/11 several events in my personal timeline occurred, which caused me to take a few steps back and reflect on the change connected with those events. My first true memory of a lifetime changing event came when I was seven and the transformation of CG into films, as Star Wars hit the market. For a seven-year-old this was big; world scale it changed the way cinematography processed scenery and developed transparent worlds and characters. The next big lifetime change was the 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, leading to the boycott of the Olympic games, as well the Iran hostage situation. The news became a daily reminder of how diplomacy had broken down. Nothing major affected my own selfish teenage world until the Space Shuttle catastrophe in 1986. I was sitting in my history class when the announcement was made. It still sends shivers up my spine, as once again the news media focused on the situation. In 1989, while my roommates were in Salzburg, Germany, they took part in the Berlin Wall take down. Again, the news media changed the face of this event. The tensions building in the Persian Gulf changed my late teen, early twenties generation, into believing we, as Americans, held the power to make change over controlling tyrants in other countries. Despite the fact these countries had fought, and continue to fight, over land and religious rights. Each of the events from the end of the Cold War to the US involvement in the Persian Gulf were calculated in the ever-growing news media market and changed the world. In 1992, my own world witnessed its first impacting change as the Los Angeles riots broke loose. I was teaching school; my first real job, when the riots began. I was 30 miles outside of Los Angeles teaching in a predominantly African-American school. My students arrived the day after the rioting commenced and stood up to let me know I had no grounds to be their teacher, because I was blonde and white. I will never forget the fear and quiver of the young lady who stood and spoke for the 42 students in my room. The impact I made, showing my students how to research issues to find truths, will forever be burned in my mind. It was the first time I believed, down to my core, knowledge is power. Several events reared their ugly head from time to time over the course of the next ten years, the biggest was the birth of the internet and the global impact. It transformed the entire planet into a network of easily accessible information, and gave birth to a world dependent on the power of computers and intelligent communications.

Prior life changing events had turned the heads of many, but life went on as usual. No real long-lasting impacts which modified world behaviors or drastically turned the heads of the world soliciting long-term change. Not until the morning of 9/11.

I was four weeks away from delivering the youngest member of our clan. Our eldest, three days into starting kindergarten, middle a few days into preschool. Tossing and turning all night, I’d left the Mr. to slide into our guest bedroom hoping at least one of us could sleep well. I’d fallen asleep around 5am, only to be jolted out of bed around 5:50am.

“Honey get up, a plane crashed into one of the World Trade Towers.” Mr.’s voice was eerie. I knew by his tone I needed to see what was happening. Sitting on our bed was Eldest bright-eyed telling me the building was on fire and pointing at the screen. Our confusion when the second plane crashed, live feed, right in front of our eyes, sent shock waves through my body. At first I wanted to believe it was a replay of the first hit, but that was not the case. Startled out of our astonished state by the phone, I moved slowly to answer.

“Turn on the news.” My mother’s voice commanded.

“We are watching; I can’t believe this.” I shook as I spoke, as my four-year-old just kept his eyes glued to the horror unraveling on the TV.

“I’m going to make some calls but you’d better check to see if the schools are open. Oh my god did you see that, it’s the Pentagon.” My mom shouted into the phone, I could hear my dad mumbling in the back ground.

“I’ll call you back.” Tears started falling as the impact of what I was witnessing crashed over me. For the first time in my life the true impact of terror ripped through my core. We had friends who lived in New York and Washington, relative’s in multiple eastern and mid-western states. My mother-in-law was out-of-town in Colorado Springs at a medical conference. Then it hit me, we had good friends who worked in the towers. They should be at work; holly hell they could be trapped.

The first hour of information numbed me. Mr. stepped carefully around me as he was truly afraid I’d go into early labor. I tried my best to pull myself together but then the phone calls began. Friends and family worked on checking in on one another. My mother-in-law ended up stuck in Colorado for a week with flights grounded and transportation routes shut down. My parents were due to fly out for a European vacation in the 13th; the trip was cancelled immediately.

For the first time in world history, the entire world shut down for days on end. For the first time in history, a crisis unfolded which impacted the world and changed the face of our enemies. For the first time in history, true terrorism reared its ugly face on a global forum, which remains scared and broken. For the first time in history, our enemies were not those of identified governing bodies, but they were linked to those who lived among regular populations and gathered intel by using the globally accessible internet; they share information for evil rather than good. For the first time in history, our enemies could not be singularly identified, because terrorism, in its purest form, is intended to shock the masses and stun the bystanders. One singular day, four separate attempts, and the world was shaken to its core. A world which changed the way it operates because terror ruled its wicked ways. A world which still suffers the consequences of those who choose to behave in a radical selfish manner with no clear purpose towards making the world a better place.

We did witness over the course of minutes, hours, days, and months after the attacks a sense of humanity breathing back a life of sympathy and empathy for others. People rushed forth to help the wounded and to comfort those who were left behind. Professional sports resumed and provided a common ground with which people could begin to heal. A resurgence of national pride and international relations began evolving. While we changed certain practices for transportation and safety, we began rebuilding not only a nation but a world.

We all have our 9/11 moment. We all have our 9/11 recovery. We all share in the shock, tears, and restructuring of some foundational beliefs. No single event in my life time rocked the world quiet as deeply as 9/11. Fifteen years later, I’m still in disbelief that mankind can be so ruthless to one another. Fifteen years later, I’m hoping we can come together to learn and grow beyond the surface and search for peace. Fifteen years later, I am not willing to forget the lives lost, the struggles, the hard-working individuals who work each and every day to preserve our freedoms. Fifteen years later, I am still proud to call myself an American and contribute, to my best ability, to a nation through honoring those who serve, those who give, and those who seek to find solutions towards ending a cycle of terrorism and fear.

For today I send my prayers to those who still suffer the worst impacts of the lost loved ones. I send prayers to those who still voluntarily fight for our freedoms, and I send prayers for those who are yet to find themselves as a part of the greater good. In my lifetime, I pray we find peace; since my vision for my children revolves around them making their dreams come true, global prosperity and happiness is a must not a hope in this formula.