Friday, February 20, 2015

Breaking The Horse

When I began teaching and coaching, my first three years were at the second smallest school in the state of Wyoming.  It was a social studies position in a grade seven through twelve school.  Seventy-two kids in the high school, and 117 kids total.  It was located in Veteran and practically in the middle of nowhere.  I lived in Yoder, which was a short distance away.  And I loved it.  I look back at it and wonder just how I managed to do it being young and dumb and na├»ve as I was, but I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to learn and grow so much.

Keith was one of my students, an eighth grader when I first began.  Quiet, hard-working, a ranch kid.  He could ride and rope and I still have this picture of him up in the saddle with his cowboy hat on, leaning on the saddle horn, a smile on his face as he looks off in the distance.

His horse had a foal and he had to train it, which also meant Breaking it. 

Breaking The Horse sounds rather harsh, doesn’t it?  I mean, when you break a dish, a window, or a mirror, it shatters and pieces fly everywhere, not to mention seven years bad luck for shattering a mirror, allegedly.  It’s work to clean up the mess and too difficult to repair, so we end up throwing it away never to use it again.

In essence, that’s what takes place to the horse’s spirit . . . sort of. 

Keith was very gentle about it, though.  He would talk to the horse (the original horse whisperer, I think), pet it, lead it, and would lean on it.  Get the foal used to him, to a human, to his scent and to his touch.  I remember the foal fighting him a little when he tried to place a bit and bridle in its mouth, but eventually the foal would allow him to do so.  And in time, just like the foal’s momma, or mare, the foal was as friendly as could be.  It would come when Keith called to it.  As long as he was nearby, the foal would allow me to pet it, and if Keith road the foal’s momma, the foal would tag along, actually allowing Keith the lead it by the bit and bridle.  In Keith’s case, the foal started out skittish, but ended up friendly and fairly docile.

Breaking The Horse.

At times, it seems we Break each other.

I’ve been broken a time or two in my life.  Probably more than a time or two.  I’ve been in various jobs and positions where because of fear, I was afraid to act, afraid to make a decision.  I didn’t know what to say, what to do, or how to think or act.  My boss liked it that way.  Various people who thought they were my boss liked it that way.

I didn’t. 

I was unhappy.  I was sad, perhaps depressed.  I hated going to work.  My wife, Kim, said I aged before her eyes.

And I’ve watched adults Break kids.

Think about it . . .

I’m an adult and I suffered.  I had various abilities and ways I could cope, but I still suffered.

Imagine a child at any age when an adult Breaks him or her.  Their spirit.  Their hope.  Their inquisitiveness.  Their creativity.  Their sense of identity and their sense of purpose.  All Broken.

Sometimes the adult will “justify” it, saying to anyone who will listen that it is for their own good.  Their own good.

Exactly who’s good?  The child who walks through life Broken, without hope and fearful of what is in store for the future?  The child who is so afraid he or she cannot decide, afraid to live for fear of what might happen next? 

Or . . .

Is it for the good of the adult because he or she likes order, likes the control, likes to be in charge?  Maybe likes to win?  Perhaps, in a darker view, likes the victim to be “in that place” whatever place that is.

I’m thinking that guidance and training and discovery is better than Breaking.  Done with love, with care and compassion, a child will flourish and grow and become.  Like Keith and his foal, some gentle talking . . . whispering, some petting, some leading and gentle leaning showed the foal what Keith’s intentions were.  So too, an adult can, with love and kindness, with compassion and care, show a child what the adult’s intentions are.  And in the long run, we don’t Break the child’s spirit, the child’s passion, the child’s purpose, the child’s identity.  We guide and love, not Break.  Because once the child is Broken, the pieces are too shattered and scattered to pick up and repair. And a child should never, ever, be thrown away.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
The second book of The Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives, was sent off to the publisher.  It should be out the end of February, 2015 or the beginning of March, 2015.


Friday, February 13, 2015

From A Seed

When I was in about the sixth or seventh grade, my brother and I walked to school.  It wasn’t far and the walk was no big deal even in the snow.  Walnut Street hill was a bit of a climb and I suppose back then, it seemed formidable and a burden, but as I drove down that street this past year, the hill didn’t seem that big at all.  Along that walk we had to pass by a cemetery, but in the daylight, it wasn’t as sinister or scary as it was at night.  As I said, the walk to school was no big deal.

Along the way, my brother and I would pelt each other with acorns scattered on the ground from oak trees.  Further along the walk, we’d find chestnuts.  Now those babies could leave a welt!  When it was winter, the snow gave us a good excuse for an impromptu snowball fight. But nonetheless, boys will be boys, I suppose.   

I have always found it fascinating that a tiny seed, when planted and mixed with a little rain and a little sunshine could grow into something so stately, so tall as a tree.  A growing tree doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time, years.  And eventually, when it grows . . . as it grows, it sheds more seeds so that those, too, have the potential to grow into something equally magnificent.

From A Seed.

Sometimes these seeds are planted with purpose.  Farmers purposefully plant seeds.  Selecting the best field and then spacing them out so that each plant will have room to grow.  They fertilize and cultivate until the crop takes shape and then they harvest.  Takes time, patience, effort, and sometimes, can be frustrating, because they know better than others that not all seeds make it.  But most do.  They do.

From A Seed.

Each of us, each day, at many times during the day, plant seeds.  With each other.  With our kids.  Even with ourselves.  These seeds can be positive and nurturing.  They can be comforting and supportive.  They can build up.  Yet, sometimes, these seeds can be negative and can destroy.  They can tear down. 

And it is these seeds I worry about.  These seeds that can be infectious, diseased laden, and have lasting, sometimes permanent, damage when planted.  The scary part is we won’t know, just like that tree that grows From A Seed, what that diseased seed will grow into until many years later from the time it was first planted.  A scary prospect.

Farmers never knowingly plant destructive seeds.  Never!  They want crops to grow, to thrive, and to eventually, benefit many.

As I look back, I think that there were many in my own life who planted seeds within me: Sr. Josephe’ Marie way back in sixth grade planted the seed for writing.  Mrs. Wagner and Sr. Angelus nurtured the seed for music that was planted by my mom and dad and my brothers and sisters.  Fr. Jim and Fr. Mike nurtured the seed of faith for which I’m so thankful and have leaned on, especially in the last year, even though that seed was actually planted by my mom and dad from little on.

And then there were others who shall remain nameless who tried to plant within me the seeds of negativity, of doubt, of smallness, even of hatred that hopefully, have or had no lasting foothold in my being.  Yet, they too, shaped me into who I am.  At times, I still doubt myself, my actions, my words, my abilities.  I guess these seeds are still with me and somehow took root.

From A Seed.

So I wonder this day, what type of farmer you are . . .

The kind of farmer who plants seeds of hope and love, of compassion and support, of strength and compassion?  Or, the kind of farmer who plants seeds of doubt and negativity . . . the kind of farmer who likes to plant seeds to destroy and tear down, the type of farmer who finds nothing positive to say or do, but instead will . . .

Which kind of farmer are you?  Because From A Seed you sow today, you have the power to change a life . . . many lives . . . even your own life . . . for the better or for the worse.  Whether you realize it or don’t.  So what kind of farmer are you?  Something to think about . . .

For My Readers:
Thank you for taking the time to read my weekly blog.  Hopefully you find it satisfying and gives you food for thought, and along the way, entertains you.

Thank you, too, for picking up a copy of the prequel to my Lives Trilogy, Taking Lives, which can be found at:  Remember that as a prequel, Taking Lives is just a taste of what will come, an introduction, to the Lives Trilogy.  It has an ambiguous ending, purposely so.

Stolen Lives, is the first book of the Lives Trilogy and can be found at: The second book of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives, will be out either later this month or at the beginning of March.  I’ll keep you posted as to its arrival date.

Please know that these books are works of fiction (thriller/mystery), but based upon research and my conversations with kids and parents.  I hope you give them a read.  As always, thanks!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Inside Out

When we visit Hannah at the university she attends and lives during the school year, we travel a serpentine road up through the mountains and I can say it is the prettiest part of the trip.  I like the way the sun leaks through the tops of trees.  I like the smell of the crisp air.  I like the s turns, feeling a little like Matt Kenseth on the NASCAR circuit.

Along the way as we begin the assent up the mountain, there is a rundown, ratty, wooden house that at first, we thought was an abandoned shack.  I mean, it looked absolutely and totally inhospitable and uninhabitable.  In fact, to this day, I still don’t know where the road is to get to that house.  We look for that house each and every time we make the trip. 

One trip we were shocked, stunned really, to see clothes hanging from a clothesline strung along the front porch and to see smoke coming out of the chimney.  It seems that what looked like an abandoned shack wasn’t abandoned at all.  And, there was a newer pickup truck parked among the weeds on the side of the house.  The rundown, beat up house was incongruent to the new pickup truck.  The clothes hanging on the clothesline looked misplaced. There is a part of me that wants to explore the route to get to that house, knock on the door, and meet the people who live there.  I kind of want to see the inside.

Now, I don’t mean to sound uncharitable and judgmental.  That isn’t my intent.  It’s like the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover!”  It’s just that the outward appearance is so shocking to think that someone lives there.

At times, I’ve found the reverse to be true.

When my family and I moved to Virginia, we had to go house hunting.  There were some houses that from the outside, we didn’t even bother to see the inside.  There were other houses that looked great, had wonderful curb appeal as they say, but when we saw the inside, we were disappointed.  The outside didn’t match the inside.

Two houses with sort of similar results.  One looking absolutely inhabitable, yet someone lives there, while another looking inviting, yet on the inside, not habitable- at least we couldn’t live there because I’m not handy enough to fix it up and we didn’t have the money to have someone come in to fix it for us.

I’d like you to consider the concept of Inside Out as it applies to people.

I believe, strongly, that what resides in the heart shows itself very clearly in the words and actions of the person.

A person can espouse ugly, sarcastic, and hateful remarks.  A person can denigrate, belittle, and demean.  A person can show indifference, a lack of concern, and ignore the efforts, the pain, the suffering, or even the joy in others.

Or . . .
A person can share beauty and build up instead of tear down.  A person can bring joy, and raise someone up, lift a spirit, and recognize the effort, the pain, the suffering another is mired in.

I contend that in both cases, what resides in the heart shows itself very clearly in a person’s words, expressions, and actions.  For how can it be otherwise?  Human nature is quick to discover the charlatan who speaks one way, but acts another.  We are quick to recognize that perhaps the purpose behind one’s actions might be less than stellar or honest.

So, what is in your heart this day?  Tomorrow?  In your lifetime?  And as you look in the mirror, are you as honest with yourself as you are with others . . . or not?  Do you seek to build up or tear down?  Do you bring one joy or sadness?  Do you reach out a hand to help or do you ignore or discourage?  Because what is in your heart will . . . and does . . . reveal who you are by your words and your actions.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
My third book, the second book of the trilogy, Shattered Lives, will be heading to the editor on February 16.  People have been asking and I can tell you that it will be available on Amazon either at the end of this month or the beginning of March.  It carries forward the journey that began with the prequel, Taking Lives, and with the first book of the trilogy, Stolen Lives.

The book blurb for Shattered Lives is:
The FBI thought the boys were safe.  So did their parents.  So did the hospital staff.  That is, until people began dying. 

More than a hundred arrest warrants were served and members of the human trafficking ring were arrested, but six dangerous men escaped and go into hiding.  Led by Detective Anthony Dominico, Brett McGovern’s uncle and the man responsible for Brett’s abduction, they vow revenge on those who forced them to run, including his fourteen year old nephew and his family, George Tokay, a fourteen year old Navajo youth, fourteen year old twins Randy and Billy, and their father Jeremy Evans.  These boys, along with four others freed from captivity in Chicago, are in danger and live in fear that at any moment, they could be murdered along with their families.