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.
By Anne Sweazy-Kulju
Mark Cuban has the Midas touch. Almost every single business venture the man has anything to do with, turns to gold. Ah, but I did say “almost.” There was that one investment; it was a product introduced by a married couple on Cuban’s reality television show. It had won. This was a great product, according to Cuban. It had the financial backing of Cuban, himself, for golly sakes. So, probably no one was more surprised than Cuban was, when the company went belly-up.
Cuban wanted an autopsy of the failure. They learned the couple whose invention Cuban backed had ceased working almost immediately upon award of their manufacture contract. Marketing efforts like email campaigns died away; too expensive. They stopped buying vendor booths at trade shows; too much work. They almost never visited their own website to update or add news, there were no more YouTube videos, and their Facebook Fan Page went a’ glimmering. In a word, their participation in the success of their own product became… bupkiss. The rest, as they say, is history (you knew I had to get “history” in there somewhere; I write historical fiction for my living.)
My takeaway is this: I could have all the riches of Mark Cuban behind me, but if I am not willing to do the work, if I can’t be diligent and tenacious about my work ethic, and if I won’t keep my nose to the grindstone, I will fail. I believe this is a truism, no matter if I am talking of writing a novel, or of realizing some other lofty goal. It is why I have told my daughter, and told her often, that “everything worthwhile in life, is earned.” If I am not actively participating in the pursuit and success of my own dreams, all the money in the world—or in Mark Cuban’s bank account, won’t help me.
What is your takeaway?
If you agree with Anne, and Anatole France, that history books which have no lies are very dull, visit her website, read her free excerpts and original stories, and prepare to be sharply entertained: http://www.historical-horse-feathers.com
“Where is Ji-Na? The baby is hungry.”
Cradling the newborn, TaeHyuk’s mother rocked back and forth. “She will be here. Yes, hold on little one. She is coming for you.”
The midwife leaned over and kissed the baby’s forehead. “My job here is done. My prayers are with all of you.” Turning to TaeHyuk, she lowered her head and sighed. “TaeHyuk, you are the father. You know that a day-old starling cannot fly. Embrace her. Teach her.”
TaeHyuk’s wails ripped through the darkness outside, and branches of the sacred Dang-namu trees trembled. The dense forest insulated the village from the war and the Japanese reign of terror. Still, the farmers needed sons, not daughters. And widowers needed many sons to fill the void.
“Soo-Kyung, Soo-Kyung,” his shrieks clashing with the baby’s cries in a dissonant duet.
TaeHyuk fell into his father’s arms and wept, tears streaming down his cheeks and onto the old man’s chest. “It is a great loss, my son. Soo-Kyung would have been a most honorable mother.”
The midwife stroked the sheet covering Soo-Kyung. The hemorrhaging had been too much. The only hope was to save the infant. She looked at the grief-stricken family and then paced the small room.
TaeHyuk’s sobs were muffled in his father’s chest. His head, buried, did not move. The midwife caught the old man’s eyes. They were moist, glistening in the flickering light. He nodded and pointed to a meager bowl of rice on the table.
She took a few grains as payment, bowed, and left.
After several minutes, Ji-Na, the nursemaid, opened the door. She lifted the infant and guided the tiny mouth to her left nipple. The baby suckled and no longer cried. For a few moments, the household was quiet.
Around them, rustling leaves were accompanied by a high-pitched hooting.
The brief tranquility was broken by a rapping on the door. TaeHyuk’s mother ushered two undertakers inside and shuffled across the room to where Soo-Kyung lay on the dirt floor.
“No, no! Wait.” TaeHyuk, his cheeks still wet, rushed to Soo-Kyung. He raised the sheet and stared down at his wife. TaeHyuk’s eyes poured over her ashen face. His mouth quivered. His throat tightened. He coughed and felt faint.
After a glance at the undertaker, his father reached out, guiding his son’s hand to return the sheet to its full length.
TaeHyuk backed away from his wife and the men carefully carried Soo-Kyung’s body to prepare it for burial. Ji-Na handed the sleeping infant to the old woman. TaeHyuk stepped outside, followed by his father.
The winter air was raw. A gust blew across their faces.
“What will you call her, my son?”
When TaeHyuk didn’t answer, he continued. “It is something you must do.”
“No, you name her. I can only dream of a son who will never harvest the crops with me.”
A cloud floated down from the mountain, surrounding them in fog.
The elder raised his head. “Look around us. Even the sky falls. What is was meant to be. She is your blood. You cannot stop the wind. Her breath is yours.”
He walked back towards the hut. The cloud thickened, unrelenting. TaeHyuk turned. With bent head, he pushed farther away through the mist. He breathed deeply. Wisps of moist air circled him. His steps crunched on the wooded paths and squished on moist snow. Nothing seemed to stir. He heard only stillness.
He had no sense of time and yet two hours passed as tears froze on his cheeks and pine branches scraped his skin. Loneliness gripped him. His tortured pace set a solitary rhythm and he searched the fog for movement. He saw no life in the dark forest.
But it was in the shimmering fog that shadows crept and slithered around him. TaeHyuk trudged onward unaware of the forms that followed him. The snow speaks to me in silence.
A fallen tree limb caught his foot and he crumpled, eating snow. Tired, he lay there listening to a soft rumbling. Its soothing vibrations pulsed through him. The noise came in waves but they were not random. Slowly, TaeHyuk raised himself, staring into the dancing mist. He thought he saw a figure. It moved slowly and with grace. He shivered and took a step backwards. The creature’s music morphed into a deep-throated roar that pitched higher into piercing moans. The distinct cry and the massive shape could only be horangi, the sacred Siberian tiger.
Soo-Kyung died giving life and am I to be a wild animal’s meal? The regal cat faced TaeHyuk, its yellow eyes so coruscating they radiated like lasers. Unable to move, TaeHyuk thought of his baby. Who will care for her? The tiger lifted its head in a groan that shook TaeHyuk like an earthquake. No mother. No father.
Breathing smoke, the predator rose up and sauntered to TaeHyuk. It stopped at arm’s length and held him with its eyes. His life floated away. He no longer felt grief. He no longer felt anything. No mother. No father
“The wind carries the unsung melodies of the dead bird.”
A burst of air pushed the animal odor over his face. He gagged. The tiger slowly maundered past him and entered a white cloud.
Stunned, TaeHyuk clenched his hands together. He swiveled, seeking a way back to the village. In the dark, he strode by instinct. No light guided him. Accompanied by his own steps, TaeHyuk stared into the fog for wildlife. None showed itself.
The tiger is master in the forest. Spirits have spared me.
He entered the village before dawn. Outside his small hut, an owl scowled down upon him, staring motionlessly.
With a slight twist of its head, it flapped its wings and disappeared into the night.
As he reached for the door, a feather floated onto his arm.
“Where have you been?”
“In the forest with the spirits, the horangi.”
His mother caught her breath as she offered him a cup of tea.
“If horangi let you live,” his father stood next to him, “then it must have eaten and was only asserting its territory. You were no threat. The spirits truly blessed you.”
Shedding his coat, TaeHyuk sat at the table and gripped the hot mug with his frigid hands. Shivers dissipated as steam stroked away his chills.
“What is that?”
TaeHyuk bent over his knee and picked up a brown and white feather. “An owl greeted me.”
His daughter’s whimpering called to him. “Give her to me.”
For the first time, TaeHyuk sat with the infant. She rested against his chest. Barely audible sounds chirped forth, a hatchling. He closed his eyes. Night’s darkness. The gigantic horangi again. Rank smell. Face to face.
The baby stretched and TaeHyuk gazed upon her. She opened tiny eyes.
The fire crackled. Its sparks flashed orange and yellow.
She murmured, cuddled. Their eyes lingered.
Just this tiny feather – my Little Feather.
About the Author
After 42 years in public education, Andy retired in 2009. He views retirement as an opportunity to reWire, so he studied writing for two and a half years at the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center in Sleepy Hollow, NY. Now, imagine four schoolteachers, not James Bond, in his romantic thriller!
Foreword Clarion Reviews reviewed his debut novel:
Website – http://www.drandyrose.com/
Blog – http://teachersaflame.com/
Amazon Author Page – Lily’s Payback: Dr. Andy Rose: 9781477597705: Amazon.com: Books
Six members of the board of FAS*FRI
I’ve been shouting into the wind about the problems associated with drinking while pregnant for over twenty years. At one point we thought we’d made progress, but we seem to be bombarded weekly by quasi scientists who’ve looked at or done studies showing no problems associated with light to moderate drinking during pregnancy.
I saw one study that measured balance as an indicator of brain damage from prenatal exposure. That was interesting. I’d never seen balance listed as a core disability characteristic. It isn’t.
The latest bogus study on the impact of social drinking on the developing fetus used IQ as their measurement. While heavy drinking and binge drinking may impair IQ, it is not a core disability characteristic. While working in the field of FAS, I met several people with IQ’s in the 120’s and a full FAS diagnosis. One of the main activities of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Family Resource Institute was to teach caregivers, criminal justice personnel and educators to recognize what FAS looks like in individuals with a normal IQ.
Dr. Ann Streisguth
Dr. Ann Streisguth liked to use reading, math and spelling scores to define damage from prenatal exposure to alcohol. Yes, those scores are part of the core disability characteristics. We occasionally found a child with a full diagnosis who was better at math than reading but she was probably destined to be a math genius. Aside from a very few extraordinary cases, people with FAS follow a predictable relationship between their math, reading and spelling scores. This was the measure Dr. Streisguth used when she did her study on social drinking, that is having 3-5 drinks per week. She found that the children of social drinkers did show the characteristic impairment in their math, reading and spelling scores.
I’ve listed the core disability characteristics of FAS on my advocacy page. Here is the short version. For a longer explanation, click on the FAS and Advocacy link. http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/fetal-alcohol-syndrome-advocacy.html
1) Failure to learn from cause and effect.
2) Inability to consistently use rules of right and wrong
3) Impaired judgment and reasoning
4) Emotional volatility and burnout
5) Vulnerable to co-occurring conditions such as depression, OCD, bipolar etc.
6) Individuals with FAS don’t get the nuances of society.
Drs. Sterling Clarren and Ann Streissguth had an extensive list of systems that were vulnerable to prenatal exposure to alcohol. These systems were generally time and dosage sensitive. To pull one item off of such a list and use it as your measure for determining whether someone has brain damage due to prenatal exposure to alcohol is just not valid research.
In order to determine if social drinking can be harmful to the developing fetus a researcher needs to measure a core disability characteristic or replicate Ann Streisguths’s study using reading, math and spelling scores as an indicator. The better studies are going to look at more than one characteristic. It is easy to test for the number of trials it takes for someone to learn a cause and effect task. I can see tests set up to easily measure whether a child consistently obeys rules of right and wrong or whether they are completely influenced by the examples of others. Actually, this would be a fun test, but alas, those who have an agenda to justify their own alcohol use or to sell alcohol don’t test for the core disability characteristics of FAS.
Bottom line: If you want your child to be healthy and reach their full potential, no amount of alcohol is safe.
Delinda McCann is a social psychologist who has worked in the field of developmental disabilities for over twenty years. She has served on committees for the state of Washington and been an educational advisor to other governments. Her work has earned her the praise of doctors, government officials and families all over the world. She has published numerous articles on disability issues, education, and adoption. Her unique perspective and sense of humor have delighted her readers even when she has been writing about the reality of caring for a loved one who has a severe disability. When the world turns crazy, as it frequently does for the disability community, her friends say there is nobody they would rather laugh and cry with.
Delinda lives a on a small farm near Seattle, WA where she raised her daughters and now runs a small organic flower business with the help of her husband and two giant poodles. She enjoys singing with her church choir and playing the piano-poorly. A brush with cancer made her realize that she needed to slow down, so she turned to writing fiction inspired by her behind-the-scenes experiences of advocating for and loving the people who are just a little bit different.
WELCOME TO MAMIE’S WORLD
Today, I want to talk to you about hope, a very precious emotion. ‘Hope’ in and of itself is a highly significant four letter word that reflects differing needs depending upon the depth of suffering in the individual. Some are experiencing a tragic past or present and hope is what keeps them going and becomes their entire world within their hearts and minds. Others are simply reaching out to grab that special ‘slice of life’ to achieve fulfillment of their desires if only for that brief encounter of happiness.
Having been an abused child myself, I know that hope can be elusive, coming only in small windows but this was paramount in helping me to get through each day…hope that someone would love me, hold me when afraid and reassure me when the dark side of life glared into my eyes and took my breath away. A child’s world becomes hopeless during times of abuse but he or she will always long for that loving connection. Often, we learn to hope vicariously through the eyes of other children and schoolmates who speak of their adventures and loving family experiences. This is how we know what is possible and what we have every right to expect allowing ourselves to expand our dreams and hope.
The sad truth is that I didn’t even give myself permission to cry when my abusive parent deprived me even of the smallest of pleasures. I’m reminded of the times when my brother was given a piece of candy while I was left out as being a ‘bad girl’ and denied the same treat. There were times that I was allowed to attend birthday parties and witness the birthday child opening wonderful gifts while never being allowed to experience such pleasure in my own right? But why couldn’t I cry? Perhaps it was because I was numb inside due to fear of retribution and further pain or maybe it was the fear that if I caved in, I would break into a million pieces. After all, tears cannot flow when Christmas finally brings that teddy bear you had longed for what seemed to be forever only to lose it Christmas night for being a ‘bad child’ and never being allowed to hug or touch it again.
Allowing myself to cry convinced me that I had lost and my mother had won by breaking me down so I fought back the tears. But how does a small child not weep for that hope thats missing? Without hope, your abuser will always win.
Have you ever wanted to experience the same family life that your friends enjoy? What about envisioning yourself being that special princess adored by your parents? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then you are hoping and dreaming that someday, you will be whole and at peace. If you don’t find that, you should never give up and keep on trying. It is there and you must believe that you will find it and cherish it for yourself. An abused person must never allow their spirit to be broken.
My teen years were not much better but at least I was able to dream and plan more realistically. I landed my first job after high school and married the first man who promised me the love I craved so desperately. All I got was more abuse, just different from what I had escaped from. One day, I heard a knock at my door. There stood a man so tall and handsome and I wondered why he was there. He was the Sheriff and was there to tell me that my husband had run out leaving massive debts behind. He served me with papers to garnishee my wages to repay his debts. The first words out of my mouth were, “You can’t get blood out of a turnip!” His reply was quick and just as amusing, “Honey, you ain’t no turnip!” I was crushed but just as my world was crashing in from all sides, I was reminded of that daunting four letter word and my sky lit up again. Hope rescued me once again because I was just too stubborn to let go.
After many challenges, too numerous to mention, my world eventually came together and my dreams began to come true. I adopted the most beautiful little girl in the world, and for the first time, I was able to receive love as freely as I was able to give it. My sweet daughter brought the love and balance to my life that I had never known. I met and married the man of my dreams and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that had I given up, I would never have enjoyed these blessings. My usually mild mannered husband would go to the moon and back to defend my honor and we just celebrated twenty-five years of wedded bliss. It was this precious hope that inspired all of my dreams and kept my spirit alive. That is how I got to the other side…the good side of life that had eluded me for the first fifty four years of my life.
So, the next time you look in the mirror, please stop and count your blessings for it is hope that is reflecting back at you.
Thank you for the compassion to understand the need for hope in everyone’s life, but especially for one that lives with abuse. Part of your book proceeds go to support Dreamcatchers for Abused Children and Kitsap Humane Society for abused and rescued animals.
Reflections of Mamie
A Story of Survival
http://www.Reflections-of-Mamie.com AMAZON: http://goo.gl/kmSlk5
Makeshift memorials are reminders that we must put an end to drunken driving once and for all. How tired are we, and weary of riding, driving or walking past flowers and wreaths, hung on poles and laid by roadsides. They might be considered pretty, if not serving as reminders of young lives lost to DUI (driving under the influence) accidents and vehicular homicides? These memorials stand as a warning to further deter these senseless deaths and injuries.
But the shrines don’t seem to help. Drunken driving and drug related deaths continue to rise statistically in direct proportion to the grief of those who have lost loved ones. I, for one, am tired of this.
I had often thanked God that the Vietnam War spared my husband, my sons and brothers. Yet fifteen years later, a Vietnam veteran, messed up by drugs and alcohol, took my daughter’s life in an area I had hoped was a safe haven to raise children. Sadly, there are no safe places. My nightmare began on a lovely country road in rural Pennsylvania and years later the scars are not, nor ever will be fully healed.
Noelle was one of the true innocent victims of drunken driving events. She did nothing wrong, loved life and lived it to the fullest. In a split second, her neck was snapped and spinal cord severed by the drunk driver, who swerved into her with his rear-view mirror, and flipped her twenty feet over the back of his truck. When I ran to her she was face down, bluish and not breathing. The paramedics managed to revive her—and that began a ten day vigil—a horror for Noelle, who had a perfect mind, eyes that could barely see and perfect hearing. But nothing else. She held on to whatever life she had, out of love for us, until I gave her permission to go Home, if she chose. Within two days, she was gone. It was the hardest thing I ever did, but I felt that Noelle wanted me to let her go.
My family, including six children, now five, fell apart and suffered alone, each in our own way. I wrote as a catharsis to my intense grief. These stories culminated in the completion of a memoir of her life. Writing it brought my daughter back to life, full of laughter and comical antics, but when I finished it, I lost her all over again — because there seems to be no closure with the death of the child.
However, something wonderful happened after the release of my book . . . “And the Whippoorwill Sang.” At long last and well overdue, Staten Island, New York where I now live, organized a MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) group. I knew then what needed to be done for my family and myself. We joined immediately.
The goal of MADD is to make the general public aware of how to address the problem of keeping our families safe. MADD educators stress that our youth have choices to make in their young lives — choices only they can make. They seek to remind teenagers that they will be held accountable for their own actions, as well as being affected by those of their friends.
Candy Lightner started MADD in her den on May 7, 1980, four days after the tragedy and a day after her teenage daughter, Cari’s funeral. Due to her heroic efforts, MADD is nationwide and responsible for lowering drinking ages and allowable alcohol blood levels in many states. SADD, is another organization run by “students against drunk driving” in high schools across the country. But much more needs to be done as DUI deaths are not dropping at a fast enough rate.
The MADD organization is also available to console those who’ve suffered losses, leading them through fellowship, to the other side of grief. I wish this had been available to my own family years ago. As I give thanks for the support MADD has to offer, I remember the works of the writer, John Donne, who certainly spoke the truth when he wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself; each man is a piece of the continent . . . Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind . . . .”
Each year the lives of children, teenagers and young adults are lost through alcohol and drug-related deaths–most often by drunk drivers. Each one of them was special to those who loved them and to society at large. Each one has a story to tell and deserves to be remembered. This book was written for each of them.
. . .And the Whippoorwill Sang–a true family story of love, loss and survival.
A BOOK TO JUDGE BY ITS COVER“Sometimes the strongest manacles in this life are the bonds forged from painful memories of a past so horrific, that they shackle and incarcerate the very essence of one’s soul…inevitably, the constraint is a life sentence.” ~Taylor~ Taylor Evan Fulks is a practicing Registered Nurse First Assistant, specializing in open heart surgery to pay the bills. She’s also a wife, a mother of two very challenging (in a good way) teenage daughters, and an ardent “nocturnal gardener” due to her ongoing battle with skin cancer. She resides in a quaint and picturesque town in Southern Ohio along the banks of the Ohio River. MY PRISON WITHOUT BARS: THE JOURNEY OF A DAMAGED WOMAN TO SOMEPLACE NORMAL is her debut novel. Your book, My Prison Without Bars, reveals your experience with child abuse. What gave you the courage to write your story? My book is very dark, disturbing, and quite graphic. It didn’t start out that way I can assure you. I sat down to write Mystery/Romance. I’m a voracious reader (over 700 books since 2007) and I thought, “How hard can it be?” I found myself unable to write what I wanted. I think all of us sit down and write what we know, at least the first time we put pen to paper. I kept hearing a little voice in the back of my head (I’m tight, I assure you! I don’t have voices in my head) but I had this niggling… “Tell your story.” So I did. It started out pretty much just like the other stories out there about child sexual abuse; innocuous, letting the reader make their inferences and images, not too much detail, but just enough that you could get the gist of what had happened. Then Penn State, Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky and the whole Child Sexual Abuse scandal hit the national news. I was one third of the way into my story when all hell broke loose. I was enthralled, thrilled beyond words, not only with the stance taken by the University and the NCAA against Penn State’s Athletic Department and Joe Paterno, but also the ruling by the Justice System against the now convicted, Jerry Sandusky. I watched everything I could concerning the case, hoping that this high profile situation would bring to light the millions afflicted by this pandemic. I watched interviews being grossly edited, riots and vigils being staged by students and faculty. Then my life changed forever. I watched in horror as a large group of students, faculty and some University administrators were being interviewed on the campus after the statue of Joe Paterno was unceremoniously taken down. They were outraged. I watched a gentleman look into the camera and cry foul, saying, “The punishment is too harsh for the crime!” I was beyond RAGE… something inside of me snapped! I actually felt possessed. I went to the beginning of my novel, read through the first eight chapters that described the abuse (leaving much to the reader’s imagination) then I tore it to shreds! I started OVER… The words poured out of me like a faucet with a busted valve. I wrote with rage and fury, letting the words and experiences flow from the depths of me. I wrote until my hand cramped and my fingers were numb…then I cried. I cried for myself and then for all the innocent children that are lost and have no voice, and possibly no chance of rescue. I cried in solitude for that little girl inside of me… Did you find writing your personal account to be a healing experience, traumatic, or somewhere in between? That’s a hard question to answer. I think it was a dose of all three. I wrote my story in first person, as a novel or fictional memoir from the mind, body, and heart of a child. I didn’t want to shock or be grotesque…I wanted people to truly know the permanent damage that is inflicted, to know the depths of fear and self-loathing, and to really feel through the experiences of an abused child. It wasn’t until I sat down to edit, that I truly realized the magnitude of what I had written. Don’t get me wrong, I never forgot, blacked out or had repressed memories…no, I remember everything that happened to me, down to the smells and noises around me. But it wasn’t until I read what I had committed to paper, saw from the perspective of the child I had been, that I really got the significance of what I was about to do. So, for good or bad, I laid myself naked and exposed to the world (or at least to the few friends that would actually read my book). I bared myself before everyone to be judged, criticized and condemned. I left nothing to the imagination…I take the reader far beyond what is comfortable and far beyond what most would consider appropriate. And in the telling…I have been set free. I spent thirteen months reliving my childhood nightmare with the goal of exorcising my demons, gaining some sense of self-esteem, healing myself, and finally telling my dirty little secret with full disclosure, while giving the reader full access to my heart. Oddly, I didn’t find the outcomes I expected…absolution, understanding, and self-forgiveness. But I did find something I didn’t expect…Acceptance. The acceptance has been from within me. My life is what it is. My experiences happened in the past. I don’t live there anymore. I can choose to be angry and ashamed for the rest of my life, or I can accept my life for what it’s been, what it is now, and move toward the light…and who knows, maybe help someone else along the way. Hence, my mission statement: The rest of my life will be the best of my life. It’s not about my destination…it’s about the journey that gets me there. My Prison Without Bars is getting exceptional reviews and has won at least two prestigious awards. Child Sexual Abuse is a prevalent horror in our society, so why do you think traditional publishing is opposed to signing on books that discuss this topic? My novel to date has done very well. On Amazon it has over 130~ 5 star reviews and is ranked in the Top 25 in two categories for twenty-four weeks. On Goodreads, my book maintains a 4.5 rating and has over 90 ratings/reviews. As of June 1st 2013, my little “taboo novel” won 1st Place in the prestigious IRDA, INDIE READER DISCOVERY AWARDS presented at the BEA, BOOK EXPO OF AMERICA (the largest trade show for publishers and authors in the world) in NYC. I went to New York to accept this award. I was recently notified that my book is a finalist in my category Reality/Fiction in the 2013 READERS FAVORITE INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS. The winners will be announced September 1, 2013 and the award ceremony will be held in Miami, Florida in mid-November. I plan to attend that ceremony as well. “I’m proud to say the little girl inside my book (inside of me) is fine…I protect her now. This little girl has found her voice…” Why the shun from traditional publishing? In a word…TABOO! It is abhorrent behavior in any civilized society. It is even referenced in the Bible as an abomination and a sin. Abusers and Society shape and hone victims into becoming the gate-keepers of secrets and shame, to be forever locked in a prison not of our own making. We like our world neat and tidy. Child Sexual Abuse isn’t neat and tidy. It’s a dark reminder that we as a society aren’t as ‘civilized’ as we think we are. Standard publishers want edgy, over-the-top and pushing the envelope, as long as it’s pure fiction; something they can wrap their mind around. However, the mind is a compensatory computer, allowing a plethora of knowledge and feeling to flow through its pathways…yet, always filtering or camouflaging certain things, buffering and blocking others, or shutting off completely when unable to compute. In other words, it makes sure the soul can handle the download. And therein lays the problem with Child Sexual Abuse. We hear those three words and our minds will only allow us to imagine so much before we filter, buffer, block, or completely shut off the things too unpleasant to handle. When no one would give me a chance, my mission became clear…I had to take the reader to that dark, dismal, shameful place no one ever talks about and with my written words…make them feel. It has become a journey I’ve had to make alone… “I know a place so dark that the only light in my life is the fact that I survived last night. I know a place so shameful, that the only hope in my life is surviving tonight, and the next night, and the next…” Have you always wanted to be a writer or did your personal experience steer you in this direction? I’m a storyteller in every sense of the word. I love to hold an audience of friends captive with my words…my spoken words. I’ve never had aspirations of being a writer. I put pen to paper (yes, I wrote my novel on eleven spiral notebooks…I’m old school) to stave off the empty nest syndrome looming over my horizon (my youngest daughter will graduate from high school in May 2014). But I’ve fallen in love with writing and I’m actively writing my second novel, also based on a true story but totally different. This one is a Mystery/Romance…a labor of true love. What is one of the most rewarding factors of having a book in print? That’s easy! The emails and private messages I’ve received from readers, people I don’t even know that tell me how much my book has helped them, or how they know someone who’s a victim and will share my book with that person. Some have told me stories that make mine seem benign in comparison…some, have never told a soul about their nightmares. That blatant trust touches my soul and makes it all the negative directed toward me…not sting quite so much. **I want to thank you Cherrye for the invitation to guest post on your blog. Because of the content and nature of my book, I don’t get many invitations. Your gracious invitation and subsequent posting touches my soul. It takes far more courage to speak out and make people aware…to go against the current, than it does to go with the tide to a place everyone has been. You honor me, my story and my life. I am truly humbled. I hope what I’ve had to say, merits the honor… Taylor~ No one’s hell is worse than someone else’s…But while you’re there, you endure it alone.
|MY PRISON WITHOUT BARS viewBook.at/MyPrisonWithoutBarsTheJourneyofaDamagedWomantTAYLOR EVAN FULKS www.taylorfulks.com Facebook www.facebook.com/taylorevanfulks Twitter www.twitter.com/TaylorTfulks20 Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16109612-my-prison-without-bars|
Buenos Aires, August 2013