My Writing Process – Diversity and Bullying Issues
I was invited by Trish Jackson to take part in this Writing Process blog tour. Trish is a romance suspense writer who usually focuses on small towns and country folk, and her pets. Her stories are often set in Africa. Her book, Capricorn Cravings was released in February 2014. Here’s a link to her books on amazon.com
What am I working on?
Multicultural is my genre and my platform topics center on Diversity and Bullying issues. My children’s chapter book, Clique, Clique, STOP geared for ages 9-12 was released February 2014 by Tate Publishing and Enterprises, LLC. This isn’t my first children’s chapter book as Tate Publishing also helped me publish “No Tildes on Tuesday” in December 2010.
My latest book, “Teacher, Teacher, Can’t You See?” is currently going through production, and should be released very soon. This is the first of my books on bullying (with more to come) and has been told in rhyme by a male protagonist who just wants the teacher to stop, look and listen to his plea for help from the class bully, Johnny. Johnny was once his friend, but now he’s changed and acts really mad. What will the teacher do?
Currently, I’m working on two more manuscripts. One will focus on multicultural awareness and the true origin of piñatas told by a little girl who has always had a piñata hanging from the old oak tree in her backyard at each of her birthday parties for as long as she can remember, and the other manuscript’s storyline will focus on a child with (what some few may term as) a disability, but I’d rather term it as a medical condition caused by abnormal growth. Oops! Spoiler alert! I’ll pause here.
How does my work differ from others of the same genre?
I am not sure if my work differs from others of the same genre, but the book that I’m currently working on will feature a female protagonist with a medical condition that I’ve not found in books for young children. It will depict and highlight difference and diversity in a very strong and positive way featuring the positives things she benefits from even with her medical condition. This way, I’m able to distract from a negative picturesque viewpoint of her young progressive and positive life. My goal is to highlight “feel goods” within the text of this book.
Why do I write what I do?
I love children and l hate to see them trampled on. We have far too many children who possess low self-esteem and poor self-images of themselves. It tears at my heart strings because I believe in bestowing deep-seated empowerment within children. Regardless of their circumstances, we can find valued uniqueness in each child.
How does your writing process work?
Usually, my thoughts come to be late at night when my mind is clear and refreshed, but just before slumbering. I love the peace and serenity of early mornings, so once I’m awake I fee; energized to map out what I had in mind the night before, and rethink my storyline and plotting. I begin however, with pencil, paper and a warm cup of tea or my favorite brand of healthy coffee beside me sipping as I go along.
Once I sketch out what I have in mind, I ask myself if it might be of interest to a child. If so, who might my audience entail? Once I’ve mapped out the favored details, I am ready to input my draft work onto the computer.
For me, writing is relaxing. I get very excited thinking about how my work may impact children.
Below is a fantastic author who agreed to follow me on this tour:
Others who have participated:
Project RACE (Reclassify All Children Equally), is a multiracial advocacy group which supports multiracial families through multiracial education and community awareness. We do not believe in advocating for racial classifications, but are committed to the appropriate inclusion of multiracial people on any forms that require identification.
As one of our groups Advisory Board members, I support this organization. We support policies that make positive impact on people of multiracial heritage at local, state, and national levels.
Because I live in the state of Texas, I have recent statistics about our multiracial population. Texas has a multiracial population of 679,001 people representing 2.7 percent of the state population (2010 Decennial Census); the latest statistics reveal that the percentage change from 2000 to 2010 grew by 31.9 percent. This population is increasingly growing in our state.
As I’m sure you are aware, there are over 9 million individuals who self-identity as more than one race in the United States. This alone indicates how Texas can help promote the facilitation of honoring the multiracial population.
Along with other Project Race members across our lands, we are writing our states’ Governors asking for proclamations. Proclamations will allow multiracial children, teens, adults and our families to become visible in our history and their contributions will be noticed and appreciated.
Since there are several celebrations for, or including the multiracial population in our country and in Texas during the week of June 12 t0 19, 2014, including (Loving v Virginia (1967), The Mixed Roots Fest in Los Angeles, and Juneteenth Day (commemorates the abolition of slavery in the United States), collectively our organization is also asking Governors to proclaim June 12 to June 19 as “Multiracial Heritage Week.”
We’d appreciate any support you can offer helping us push these proclamations. So far, we’ve written proclamations for the following states: Texas Georgia, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Florida, Michigan, and Illinois. Please note that you do not have to be biracial, and/or multiracial to take part in this effort, but it is required that you reside within the state if you’re writing the Governor for this intent.
As a proud Texas Constituent, I’ve personally written our Texas Governor’s office asking for this proclamation. It is my hope to share good news with you very soon.
Dear Friends, Followers and Colleagues:
We need to talk about this video!
Using friendly, but open dialogue can we have responsive, sociable discourse about this video?
I can tell you that this video sends a powerful, strong message to me. What are your thoughts?
In most African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods there are lots of Asian business owners at corner stores. Many “people of color” patronize these establishments. I’ve not been targeted specifically, but I’ve seen first-hand how business owners watch their customers closely. Many do not trust their customers because they have categorized them as thieves. Are they justified? What has brought them to this conclusion?
On the other hand, these same business owners turn their heads and proceed with business as usual depending on the racial make-up of their customers. In my graduate level classes what I’ve described here is “white privilege.” Is it true that your privileges are ranked by the color of your skin? If so, why?
Now, here are more questions: What has transpired making this business owner nervous? What has he/she experienced in the past? Are these feelings/actions poignantly “judging a book by its cover?” Is this a form of stereotyping? What has made them afraid of this young boy? What can be done to alleviate these types of stereotypes? Where have we gone wrong? What can we do to correct this?
From experience, I have my own comments, but I’ll share them later as the conversations get started.
Don’t hold back — In order to get positive change we (all racial groups) must be able to talk about this, but we must be honest.
Chicken Soup by Kenneth Weene
(First posted on The Write Room Blog) – http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=1149
“What a pain in the ass.” Trudy put her iPhone back into her pocketbook.
It wasn’t much of an expletive or very loud, but coming from the lips of my wife it was enough to make me look up from my snack, a piece of Trudy’s latest chocolate-pecan pie, and ask, “What is, Dear?”
“Not what, who. It’s Iris…Again…now she wants me to make her some chicken soup.”
“She asked you to make her chicken soup? I know she hasn’t been feeling—“
“No, she asked me how to make chicken soup; but if I know Iris, she’s hoping I’ll make it for her.”
“Does that woman think you’re her mother?” I asked as I slipped my plate into the sink and splashed it with water.
“That girl certainly needs a mother, but I’m not applying for the job.”
“So what are you going to do?” I asked.
I was heading into my study with my teacup still in hand. I do love to sip my tea, and the latest batch of Earl Grey was particularly good. I had sent to San Francisco for a half pound only that month and had already made a significant dent in the tin.
“What am I going to do? Nothing…nothing for now. I’ll get back to her this afternoon. Maybe if I let her simmer, she’ll get the idea and do it for herself.”
Later that day, when I was poking about in the refrigerator looking for some delicious meatloaf leftover from two days before, I noticed Trudy texting. “Who is it?” I asked.
“I can’t hear you when your head is in the refrigerator,” Trudy responded.
Well, the door being open and a couple of containers already on the counter, I didn’t say anything more until I had the meatloaf in hand.
“Who?” I asked when, having piled the other containers back into the cold, I stood at the counter taking two pieces of bread from the new loaf. “Who, correction, whom were you texting?” Before she could answer, I remarked, “Damn, I forgot the mayonnaise.”
I was about to plunge back into the refrigerator looking for it, but Trudy reminded me, “Bottom shelf in the door, right side.”
How she does that I don’t know, but Trudy always knows where things are.
“Iris,” she said. “I told her to buy a chicken…and some vegetables.”
“Vegetables? That sounds a bit too general for Iris.”
I’d barely gotten the words out then there was the sound of clinking glasses. Why Trudy chose that tone for her texts I have no idea, but each time she gets one I look around for the champagne and the strawberries. Two things I love to eat with champagne: strawberries and caviar. Sadly, it’s getting terribly hard to find good caviar.
Trudy, meanwhile, had read the new text and was laughing.
“What?” I asked, always ready for a joke.
“She wants to know what kind of chicken.”
“Tell her a live one,” I offered and received a sneer in response.
“Don’t be silly; she really doesn’t know anything.”
Trudy pecked away at the tiny letters on the iPhone screen. We’re too old for thumbing, still thinking typewriter. Well, at least the keyboard’s the same.
“So?” I didn’t really want to know anything, but I hate it when Trudy dismisses me.
“I told her to buy thighs, with the skin and bones.”
“Oh.” I slathered mayo onto the bread and dropped the knife among the dirty dishes in the sink.
There was another clink, which reminded me. I opened a cabinet and pulled out a bottle of Coke.
“You haven’t fini—” Too late, Trudy didn’t get to tell me there was a half full bottle. Oh well, I’d get back to it. I poured a class and pushed that bottle into the fridge. Crescents of ice fell into my glass splashing the soda. I licked it off the web between my thumb and forefinger.
“You were right,” my wife commented.
“That’s always good.”
“She didn’t know which vegetables.”
I laughed, smug in my superiority.
It wasn’t until the next morning that Iris texted again. “I’m going to the grocery store.”
“I guess she finally gave up,” Trudy observed.
“She’s figured out that I’m not on the way with a pot of soup.”
“Yep. I’m sure she was hoping.”
Trudy quickly sent off a text.
“What was that?”
“I told her to get a box of chicken stock. I figure if she’s going to try to make it, it should be edible. You don’t want Gary to suffer.”
“Oh, he’ll slip it to the dogs,” I answered.
“That would be worse.”
The thought of dogs gagging distracted me enough that my English muffin got too brown. I hate when that happens, having to throw it out and start over. “Could you make this for me?” I asked. “I’m just not with it today.”
Trudy had already plunged her hands into the sink and was washing assorted dishes and cups. She dried them carefully on a dishtowel and took the package of muffins. “What do you want on it?”
“And maybe some jam.”
“What kind of jam.”
“I don’t know; you pick.”
“Fine, I’ll have if for you in a minute or two.”
I left the kitchen, turned back, and said, “Strawberry. Yeah, strawberry.”
“You know what?”
“Another cup of tea.”
“Fine. Where’s your cup?”
“Yeah, didn’t you already have some tea this morning.”
“Right. I put that cup in the sink.”
This time her “Fine,” didn’t sound so fine. Still, I did have to say it, didn’t I? “Could you make some of that new fig tea, you know what I mean?”
I didn’t feel so bad about dirtying another cup. After all, who would mix Irish breakfast tea and figgy tea? Figgy pudding maybe. Yeah, that would be good.
Another text from Iris: “What do I do now?”
Clearly, Trudy was going to have to walk Iris through the cooking process.
“She’s so needy; I feel sorry for her,” my wife answered when I asked why she was bothering. Meanwhile Trudy was texting away,
“I’m not sure she understands simmer.”
Text, text, text.
“Can’t she Google it?”
“Google isn’t as patient as me.”
“Now what?” I asked, my words somewhat distorted by the lamb chop I was devouring. I will admit that I’m a bit strange in some of my eating habits. One is liking cold lamb, well not really cold but room temperature, just a chop or two from the leftovers zapped for a few seconds to take the chill off. Great snack. Although late at night I add a Zantac.
It being mid-afternoon, I had ignored the possible indigestion and walked about the living room a chop in each hand.
Trudy didn’t answer me. She was working too furiously at the next message. Finally, she hit send.
“She started talking seasoning.”
“Oh, God,” I moaned at the thought. We’d eaten Iris’s cooking—once and that had been enough. “Let me guess, paprika.”
“That was just the beginning. Would you believe cinnamon?”
“From Iris? Yeah.”
I took another generous bite of chop.
“What did you tell her?” I asked. There was still some meat in my mouth. A small piece flew onto the floor. Since I didn’t have a free hand, I made a mental note to pick it up later.
“I told her to use some salt, a little pepper, and maybe some parsley at the end. You know, to keep it simple.”
“No, I didn’t call her stupid.”
The next ping came some time later. That was a nuisance. Trudy was buttering sheets of phyllo dough for a tray of baklava. The nuts—walnuts and pistachios are my favorites—were chopped and waiting in a bowl, from which I occasionally dipped, but only a pinch at a time.
Trudy washed her hands, and read Iris’s text. I, in a bit of pique, took a handful of nuts to tide me over.
“I had to explain how to separate the liquid from the solid stuff. She has to pull the meat off the bones before she puts it back together.”
A quick glance in my direction, another into the now partly emptied bowl, and Trudy went to the cupboard. “I guess I’ll have to chop some more nuts.” She pulled out a bag of almonds. “These will have to do,” she muttered. She dumped the almonds into a plastic bag, made sure it was closed, took a hammer from a drawer and pounded them into submissive smithereens.
I don’t really like almonds, but I could hardly expect my wife to run to the store for more walnuts and pistachios, not if I wanted baklava for dessert.
Before my dessert was ready to pop into the oven, there was another clink. Iris again. What to do next?
I assuaged myself with a few Chinese spareribs. I keep Chinese food on hand for moments of desperation. If I eat it cold, it doesn’t get in the way of my appetite, doesn’t interfere with a good dinner.
“Skim the fat from the liquid with a spoon,” Trudy texted and went back to buttering phyllo dough. Almost immediately Trudy’s phone rang. It was Iris, doing the unthinkable, actually calling.
“What liquid,” I heard her scream over the phone.
Iris had tried to follow my wife’s instructions. How was she to know that when she strained off the liquid from the pot there was supposed to be a bowl or another pot under the colander? I mean, Trudy hadn’t told her to save the soup part of the soup. How was a neophyte to know?
I watched Trudy grimace as she fought off the giggles that were already convulsing me.
Grabbing the phone from my wife’s hand, I mouthed, “I’ll take care of this.”
More loudly, “Iris, honey, put Gary on.” I was taking charge.
“Hey,” came Gary’s voice through the ether.
“Hey, Gar! It’s time for us men to step up. What do say we take the little ladies out for dinner?”
“What did you have in mind?” he asked.
“A steak’s always good with me; how about you?”
I hung up with the satisfaction of having done the manly thing. That deserved a reward, and I knew there was a piece of Stilton with my name on it.
I grabbed a dishtowel to wipe the red Chinese stuff off my hands and face and handed it to Trudy. “Got some on your phone,” I commented as I headed for that cheese.
“Oh, Hon,” I said, “Could you grab me some crackers? The whole wheat ones. They’re healthier.”
About the Author
Ken Weene sees life as very much a laughing matter. You can find more of his writing at http://www.kennethweene.com
And you probably are too. Although you may not want to talk about how you became multicultural, multilingual, or multiracial; the fact is, given the mixed history of America, you probably are.
So whether you self-identify as biracial, multiracial, multicultural, mixed race, splendid or blended, you may have, at one time or another, felt that being mixed was a gift and a curse.
Let’s start with the curse.
The curse is being asked, every day in some way, to pick a side: To choose blackness over whiteness when filling out a form; to join a conversation concerning “those people” and not offer your perspective for fear of exclusion from this group because what would you do if they knew that you were one of “them?”
The curse is being asked, “What are you?” by strangers as they reach out to touch your hair with one hand while grasping their pocket book tighter with the other.
“Clichés” you say? Not in my world. Every single day of my life, someone somewhere is asking me to choose. It may not be a verbalized command but the demand, nevertheless, exists.
“You’re too sensitive!” Really?
Let’s start from the beginning.
I was raised in all white Hungarian household without access to or knowledge of my parent of color until I was 26 years old. My family was white. My school mates were white. For all intents and purposes, I led a very white life. Yet, everyone in my neighborhood was demanding that I claim the color in my skin. So I learned and spoke Spanish to please my Puerto Rican friends. I listened and danced to Black music because that’s what my Black girlfriends were doing. I even tried speaking slang when white adults made fun of the “proper” way that I spoke.
None of it worked. It was never good enough.
I was never good enough. Rather, I was never white enough for white people and never black enough for Black people. My identity was shaped by a mentality of lack for most of my life. Forget the fact that I didn’t have a father figure. I didn’t have anyone who looked like me or understood my precarious situation either. To date, I don’t know what’s worse.
Thus the curse!
And now the gift…
Once I was told of my biracial heritage, I have spent every day since on an adventure, learning what it means, for me, to be mixed race. Blackness, just like whiteness, isn’t something that you just inherit. A magic fairy doesn’t just wave her magic wand and poof……you wake up knowing how to be Black or how to be white.
No, every day, mixed people have to find a way to live life on their terms. We have to learn to shake off the constant demands from strangers and family members who assume that our outer shell matches the soft, gooey, core mixed with a sprinkle of this and a dash of that.
For me, the gift is being able to relate and connect with people who understand what it means to be marginalized, categorized and told how to feel and act based on the collection of random numbers.
We are born multiculturalists, fluent in whiteness and ______________________ (insert your “otherness” here) and this is a skill that transcends boardrooms, classrooms, and pulpits.
So whether you are: Mixed OR a parent raising multiracial children OR an educator impacting a multicultural classroom, I challenge you to try on a new perspective. I challenge you to tell your story as if you were blessed with a gift instead of a curse.
Start a conversation and find a way to encourage a dialogue that celebrates the similarities instead of the differences.
This has been my journey, from childhood to adulthood. With the knowledge of my cultural heritage, I have made a choice to try on new identities and learn for myself what it means to be white and Black. No longer will I allow others to define me.
The Gift and The Curse
I’m Mixed Silly, not Psychic!
About the Author:
Founder/CEO of Life Coaching with Tiffany Rae Life Coach,
Mentor & Host of Mixed Race Radio
“Color Blind-A Mixed Girl’s Perspective on Biracial Life”
A Guide for Parents, Caregivers and Family Members Raising Biracial Children-Color Blind is Tiffany Rae Reid’s Story of Growing Up Biracial. Within its pages, Tiffany Rae exposes the situations and relationships that helped and hurt her as she struggled to develop a racial identity that was more a part of her than a part of the world around her. Color Blind Provides Insight, Suggestions and Options for Biracial Individuals and for the Parents, Caregivers, Family Members and Educators Raising or Impacting the Lives of Biracial Children.
Many people with mental illness feel lonely and isolated. Their journey through life can be filled with adversity and mental turmoil. For others, their symptoms are more easily dealt with through medications and/or therapy, and they have a very good quality of life. It all depends upon the individual. One thing they have in common though, is the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Stigma against people with mental illness hurts them. It can make them worse. It can even make people take their own lives. It is essentially a form of bullying based upon a person’s ignorance or lack of understanding and empathy.
Mentally ill people should not feel ashamed of themselves or their illness any more than anyone else with a physical illness. DON’T do it! Don’t stigmatise. And if you hear of someone stigmatising, try to educate them – please.
The kindest thing you can do for anyone with mental illness is try to understand the person’s illness. Try to create empathy for that person. It’s not about sympathy; it’s about empathy – really trying to understand things from the other’s point of view. I have written articles on my website about how you can help stop stigma if you’d like to take a look sometime.
There is one big thing you can do if you have a mental illness… Share your story to help others’ understanding of mental illness.
Social networking and personal blogs are a valid addition to the world of mental illness and mental health. Not only do professionals share their knowledge, but sufferers and families of sufferers are sharing more and more the stories of their journeys through mental illness. This not only brings the subject out in the open more, it helps people understand this often misunderstood area of illnesses.
Although there are symptom lists for each condition, people are different, and when it comes to the brain, it depends on a person’s base personality make-up, to start with, as to how a mental illness will affect them. Of course, this is not always the case, but quite prevalent with personality disorders, as I know myself, having been previously diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
So, if mental illness can be portrayed via many varied symptoms by each individual it can make research and understanding by those not affected and viewing the illness from the outside very difficult. This is also true of the sufferer who can be unaware of their symptoms.
However, symptoms are not the subject of this post – stories and stigma are.
The subject of stigma is one which, thankfully, many people are now fighting. Mental health charities, advocates and many individuals are campaigning to stop others’ negative attitudes to mental illness. They do this knowingly. However, sometimes unknowingly, some individuals help reduce stigma by way of writing on their personal blogs, or social networks, and I applaud them. Just by sharing our stories of mental illness, we help tackle the stigma that surrounds the subject.
I am very passionate about the campaign to fight stigma, so I wrote my first memoir ‘My Alien Self: My Journey Back to Me’ showing how my mental illness progressed from childhood, what it felt like to be ill, and my journey to getting better, but I also focussed on explaining stigma on the pages as well. I also share articles and personal experiences on my website/blog, on social networks Face book and Twitter and by sending stories to magazines, mental health charities and organizations. I then wrote my second memoir called ’39 (memoirs of Amanda Green)’ as a follow-up of my progress and life’s mini adventures.
Some of these mental health sites have huge audiences and are very powerful in their messages about mental health.
So far, I have had parts of my story published on:
- SANE.org – general mental illness/health – http://www.sane.org.uk/how_you_can_help/blogging/show_blog/290 and http://www.sane.org.uk/how_you_can_help/through_your_eyes/story/329
- Journeysonline – depression – http://www.journeysonline.org.uk/picks/amandas-story
- My editor’s writing site – http://wordznerd.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/guest-blog-author-amanda-green-on-her-memoir-my-alien-self-my-journey-back-to-me/
- Alison Smith-Squire journalist author interview about self-publishing and writing my book http://sellyourstoryuk.com/2012/07/25/author-spot-amanda-green/
- Blackdogtribe.com Dad as carer to my mum with schizophrenia http://www.blackdogtribe.com/people-like-you/amanda-guest-blog-story-my-mum-and-dad%E2%80%A6-may-cause-triggering-some-%E2%80%93-please-read-care
- Writing magazine feature on writing my book and self-publishing –
So, I encourage all of my lovely website visitors who read this, to share – knowledge is power and sharing really does help reduce stigma – do something today!
In February 2012 I joined Twitter and shortly after, facebook. I was finishing the editing of my memoir at the time, and I wanted three things from Twitter.
Firstly, I wanted to be able to show my book to people who I thought would benefit from it (because I self-published I don’t have traditional/mainstream, or agents helping with publicity).
Secondly, I was in awe of the idea that I could connect with people or organizations who could enhance my knowledge in the fields of mental illness, stigma or orang-utan campaigns. How wonderful to be able to select news of my own choice – to follow or not to follow – just as I wanted.
Thirdly, I could campaign freely, to an interested audience (my followers) about mental illness stigma or Orang-utan/unsustainable palm oil production issues – two subjects close to my heart.
And, as a bonus, I had an inkling inside that I might be able to show some support to others in need, and share my experiences, and wisdom while offering positive inspirational messages to those experiencing mental illness.
I have suffered during my life, with Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, OCD and anxiety issues. I have written my life story in the hope that my recovery at the end would help other sufferers see there is hope, there are ways to feel better, and that suicide or self-harm is not the answer in the sometimes out of control, confusing or black moments in life.
I got through my journey on my own, without social networks or forums. Mainly, I didn’t want to talk to anyone else about my problems, I wanted to work on them myself, but also because I didn’t want my undesirable personality traits being played out to people I have never met. I couldn’t trust myself is basically what I am saying. I was confused, angry, upset, depressed – far too unstable for guaranteeing ‘social’ relationships.
I fight for the eradication of stigma, so I will not sit quiet and watch. I am the type of passionate person who will do, or say something on behalf of mentally ill people who cannot speak for themselves – I am an advocate. I can do that now since sharing my own stories, because I decided enough is enough and went to my local newspapers and women’s magazines to get my story out there.
To protect my mum and family, since I wanted to write my book with ‘everything’ in it, including details about my family and their behaviours, I now use a pseudonym, and that is due also to stigma – something my mum has experienced a lot of, and I did not want her to experience anymore as a result of writing my life story.
Both books are for ADULTS ONLY
Blog - www.amandagreenauthor.co.uk
Buy ’My Alien Self’ on Amazon www.viewBook.at/MyAlienSelf
Buy ’39′ on Amazon www.viewBook.at/39
Twitter - @AmandaGreenUK
Facebook – AmandaGreenAuthor
Josephine Buttaci was my mother. On September 18, 2010, at 96 years old, she passed away, much to the sorrow of all who knew and loved her. As a Christian who believes in the promises of Christ, I have faith that one day I will see her again in an eternal Heaven where tears of pain and separation do not exist.
MAMA COULD MOVE MOUNTAINS
Father Norman Werling asked us to bring to class two handwriting samples from two people we knew well enough to agree or disagree with his graphological analyses. A world-renowned expert in both penmanship and questioned document examination, Father Werling taught Psychology of Handwriting courses at Felician College in Lodi, New Jersey. He believed that one’s handwriting revealed quite a bit about a person’s temperament.
One of the handwriting samples I brought to class the following evening was my mother’s. Born in New York City in 1913, she was only three months old when her mother developed serious health issues in America that led her doctor to suggest she return with her children to Sicily. My grandfather, who worked as a butler in one of the Madison Avenue mansions back then, remained in America before reuniting with his family seven years later.
An American citizen, Mama attended schools in her Sicilian mountain village of Acquaviva Platani. She had learned to write according to the penmanship rules there, so when Father Werling asked where the person of this writing sample (my mother) first attended school, I told him Sicily. At eighteen she had married my father, a naturalized American citizen from the same Sicilian town, and together they left Sicily to leave once again in New York.
“This person has a very strong temperament,” began Father Werling. My eyebrows lifted. My mother? A strong temperament? He may have been famous for analyzing handwritings, but I was convinced he completely missed with this one. The only thing I considered by way of strength that my mother possessed was a strong introversion! She did not feel comfortable with people she did not know and never tried to place herself at the center of anyone’s rapt attention. Mama was quiet-spoken, not very healthy, and certainly overshadowed by my father who seemed to be all the things she was not.
“Looking at these lower loops, particularly the way the writer has them return forcefully to the middle zone,” Father Werling was saying. “this person knows what is important and will do all things possible to keep on track.”
As he pointed to each letter’s formation, the size of the four borders, the slant of Mama’s writing, the pressure of her pen strokes, Father Werling would provide some new revelation about her that seemed to me so far-fetched as to have me ask in the middle of his analysis, “Are you sure, Father, you’re seeing all this in my mother’s handwriting?”
He smiled. “Sometimes we know little about the people who love us, the people we love. We paint our own pictures of them in our minds and tell ourselves, ‘This is my mother! Or this is my father!’ and often enough we are so wrong it’s almost incredible. One’s handwriting never lies,” he said. “It’s a valuable tool to help unveil the real person, not a figment of the imagination.”
I was still unconvinced. I was not a child with crayons and a coloring book who draws stick figures, convinced they look just like his mother or his father or his dog and cat. I knew my mother for so many years––nearly forty––so how could I possibly be so far off- center to render an expert’s analysis dead wrong?
“It just doesn’t seem to be my mother.”
“In what way?”
“She’s not really strong. She’s quiet. And her health, for one thing. She’s been in so many hospitals during her lifetime. Ten years ago she had brain tumors! How can she be this strong character you see in her handwriting?”
Father Werling had the class to teach. I was only one of twelve students in that classroom with two samples for him to analyze. He had so far another five to complete in his lesson meant to teach us the reliability of handwriting analysis. I for one seriously considered dropping these courses. How could I dream of eventually becoming a handwriting expert when I no longer believed in its worth?
“See me after class,” Father said, then returned to the writing samples of the next student. When the hour ended, he motioned me to take the seat beside the one in which he sat. He asked for my mother’s handwriting sample and for another few minutes ran his hand over her words like a blind man reading Braille, all the while smiling.
“Second thoughts?” I asked, figuring he would have some or at least laugh, but the good Father Werling simply shook his head.
“Your mother is a very strong individual. Maybe you need to re-examine what you think strength means. It doesn’t have to be physical. Some of the best-known physical weaklings have demonstrated superior strength of character or faith or determination. They couldn’t lift a heavy paperweight but they could move mountains!”
“But my mother––”
“Is one of those perhaps physical weaklings who has enough emotional strength to pass a bit of it on to her son.”
I felt a grimace take over my mouth. “Father, you saw all this in her writing?”
He nodded. “This is a woman who will never give up what she believes is important. Does she have strong faith in God?”
Now it was I who was nodding. “Bad things happen, like my young brother’s death, and she accepts God’s Will without questioning why. Nothing seems to shake her faith.”
“A weakling?” Father asked. “This woman is a giant when it comes to where strength needs to show itself in this life, if we hope to reach the next one, looking good in God’s eyes, spend eternity in His presence. Take a lesson from your mother. Let her teach you what strength is really about.”
I felt ashamed. Did I so easily forget nearly losing my mother years ago? I recounted the story to Father Werling. How she had prayed, God willing, she would be healed of her brain tumors. The morning of the scheduled surgery she lay in her hospital bed, my worried father beside her. He held her hand. Then two doctors approached and one said, “The last three x-rays showed the tumors are shrinking. Getting smaller and smaller. We won’t operate just yet and maybe not at all.”
Then the other doctor said, “We don’t understand how this is happening, but those tumors are definitely shrinking.”
“I know why,” my mother said. “God wants to make a miracle so the two of you will go back to church!” The two doctors, who were Jewish, smiled. One of them promised her he would. The other stood there speechless: how did this woman know he was a fallen-away believer?
“Within the next two days,” I told Father, “the tumors completely disappeared and Mama went home.”
He stood up and touched my shoulder the way my father used to do when it was parable time and he had lessons for me to learn.
“Father, I am sorry I––”
“Some people wear their strength on the outside like fancy clothes and we know all about them because they glitter when they walk. They blind us with their power so we step aside so we are not in their way and we know beyond any doubt we’ve been on the same street with that person. We are sure we’ve seen strength and know all about what strength means.
“And then there are those like my mother.”
Father Werling smiled and said, “Yes, like your mother who wears her strength inside of her where no one but God sees the extent of it. And He blesses her for it.”
I held up the sample of Mama’s handwriting. “You saw it too, Father.”
“From now on you’ll see it as well,” he said, and I was certain he was not referring to my future success as a graphologist, my expertise in revealing the personalities of clients who want to learn who they truly are. “Open your eyes, Sal. Take another hard look at that mother of yours. Learn from her strength.”
I walked out of that classroom like a man who had accidentally tripped over a treasure and could not wait to take it home and share it with the world.
Salvatore Buttaci is a retired teacher and professor whose work has appeared in The Writer, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere here and abroad. He was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award.
His collection of 164 short-fiction stories, Flashing My Shorts, published by All Things That Matter Press, is available now as an audio book at
His follow-up flash collection, 200 Shorts, is available at http://www.amazon.com/200-Shorts-ebook/dp/B004YWKI8O/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369920397&sr=1-2&keywords=200+Shorts
Sal lives with his wife Sharon in West Virginia.