Tag Archives: children

When Writing About Suicide or Mental Illness or Addiction


I stumbled on an excellent article from aportiaadamsadventure.wordpress.com in which the author discusses college training for journalists on handling a suicide story. The author is applying that learning to her fiction.

Below are a few excerpts from the article. You may read the complete entry here: http://aportiaadamsadventure.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/writing-about-suicide/#comment-520

An article from the Poynter Institute written a decade ago remains one of the best on the subject if you are interested in reading more, but this is the quote that I always keep in mind when this subject comes up (which thankfully, is not that often, but still happens more than it should):

Mental illness is almost always present in a case of suicide. To report on suicide without discussing the role of mental illness is like reporting on a tornado without mentioning the underlying weather conditions. Tornados don’t whip up out of nowhere, and neither does suicide.

***

Just because context helps when writing, Statistics Canada and Health Canada obviously follow this subject very closely, and their latest numbers are:

Suicide is a major cause of premature and preventable death. It is estimated, that in 2009 alone, there were about 100,000 years of potential life lost to Canadians under the age of 75 as a result of suicides.

Research shows that mental illness is the most important risk factor for suicide; and that more than 90% of people who commit suicide have a mental or addictive disorder.1,2 Depression is the most common illness among those who die from suicide, with approximately 60% suffering from this condition.

***

The article writer is working on a fictional story set in the 1930’s. She asks readers for input about mental health support and treatment from the time. I reply to her request as follows:

Excellent article! You ask for insight from the 30’s. I’ll share a personal anecdote. I learned in my fifties about my maternal grandfather’s commitment to an insane asylum. I learned it by finding personal papers of my mother’s that referenced the event. My mother had them stashed away. Never in my entire lifetime had my mother told that story to me. Instead she had painted a picture for me of a talented man who was ahead of his time. From the same stash of papers, I learned my grandfather physically abused my grandmother. The societal code of the time was silence about anything untoward, especially if the family had any social prominence. So much so that long after my grandfather was dead, long after I was a married adult and a mother, my mother never mentioned the dark side or mental illness of my grandfather. I learned about it after my mother left her home, and I was cleaning out the place.

After sending that message, I recalled more about the story of my grandfather. It was set in the Great Depression. He was in the throes of losing the family dairy and farm. His wife died, leaving him to care for seven children from age 14 to a newborn infant, all while running a home milk delivery business (done from a horse drawn cart) and running a crop and dairy farm. It was in a time when a family grew their own food and preserved it, so a huge garden had to be tended and defended from pests, then harvested and put up. Kids had to get to school, be dressed and fed. The wee ones required care 24/7.

As my grandmother lay dying of cancer, my grandfather or my mother, the oldest child, injected grandmother with morphine to control her pain. I am uncertain about why he did it exactly, but my grandfather began using his wife’s morphine himself and became addicted. In the 1930’s, my grandfather’s addiction was treated as mental illness in the insane asylum. (I’m sure there’s more to the narrative that I will never know.)

All of this tragic story was hidden from me by my mother. She did tell me that after my grandmother’s death, grandfather fell apart and abandoned the farm and the children. She said my grandmother had been the glue that held the family together. After her death, the children tried to operate the farm, but, as children, they failed. Ultimately, in the midst of depression, the children were split up and sent to various homes, where they were grudgingly taken in and resented as another mouth to feed in what were difficult times.

The point is there is always a backstory to suicide. Often it is mental illness or addiction. And there is often a backstory to addiction and mental illness, too. When writing about the subject of suicide, mental illness or addiction, be sure to make the reader aware of the backstory, since it provides context for the current event you are writing about.

Here’s the Link to Preview the Anthology


http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Desert-Cafe-An-Anthology-ebook/dp/B00ARYTOYC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1356216202&sr=1-1&keywords=writers+of+the+desert+rose+cafe#_

Clicking on the link takes you to the cover and a brief look inside the first few pages of the new Anthology. Coincidentally, my work appears first in the book, so it is my work that is open to be read as part of  a free preview. Talk about pressure. If my work doesn’t nab a reader, then the rest of the authors may never get read. My work has to convince the site visitor to buy the book.

We priced the book at an affordable $2.99 because we want many people to take the chance to buy the book, then read it.

Remember, if you purchase a copy of the book and have constructive feedback for any of the authors, please share it here. The book is the first product of our writers group, reflecting our growing as writers. You, as reader, matter to us and we want to hear what you think, good or bad. Just make the critique constructive so an author can improve based on what you say.

 

 

Kid’s Stuff 2–Homemade Suet Cakes for Birds


As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I plan a Kid’s Stuff book sometime in the future. Here’s another project from the book suitable for the school-aged child. It’s a perfect activity for the Christmas break from school. It keeps idle hands busy, AND it teaches children about the winter life of birds.

In winter, natural foodstuffs for birds can be sparse. When the thermometer dips, birds need a source of fat, carbohydrates and protein to provide calories for warmth, flight fuel, and general health. Suet cakes offer a source for all three at one convenient location.

Children benefit from this project by:

  • engaging in a useful activity
  • learning about other creatures who share space with them on the earth
  • helping birds survive in winter
  • learning about bird nutrition
  • identifying the birds that show up to eat the suet
  • Understanding the thermodynamics of changing a solid to liquid (melting suet) and returning the same to a solid (freezing the suet cake)
  • following the directions in the recipe
  • working cooperatively with you to complete a project

The first item you need is a feeder. The hanging wire cage type of feeder, with an opening door on one side for reloading, is readily available where bird seed is sold. Or you can recycle (another child benefit) an aluminum pie pan to use as a flat surface feeder.

The second item you need is wax paper to wrap the finished product for freezing. You may substitute freezer wrap or other food wrapping material if wax paper is unavailable. Scotch tape is useful for sealing the package ends.

Ingredients list

  • jar of peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
  • 1-2 lbs beef fat (see the butcher at your grocery store). Any bits of beef still attached to the fat offer a source of protein, but you want the fat as clean of large pieces of meat as possible
  • 1 C flour (if you have old flour that has gotten buggy, that is perfect for this project)
  • 1 C corn meal (ditto on the “buggy” advice above)
  • Sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed
  • Raisins and/or finely chopped apple or cranberries

Assemble a square cake pan or small rectangular casserole dish, a large mixing bowl, a measuring cup and a large spoon for mixing the dough. Spray or wipe the pan surface lightly with oil to make it easy to remove the finished suet cake.

Instructions

Melt the beef fat, using a large pan over medium to low heat. You do not want the oil from the fat to sizzle. (Warning:  closely supervise your child to prevent the child from getting burned.)

When the beef fat is melted, add the contents of the jar of peanut butter to the fat and stir until mixed well. Turn off the heat under the pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal and chopped fruit. Carefully pour the hot, melted fat into the dry mix and stir, adding the seeds to help thicken the dough. You want a finished consistency of thick cookie dough. Set aside and cool until fingers can safely touch the soft dough.

Press the suet cake dough into the cake pan. Let it cool thoroughly. Slice it into rectangular blocks, sized to fit the suet cage feeder. Wrap the block in wax paper, tape it closed, and freeze until you are ready to put a block into the feeder.

Kid’s Stuff–Something To Do When There’s No School


When I put together my Kid’s Stuff book someday, this will be one of the activities. It’s the directions for making a homemade ginger ale, called ginger bug, the all natural way. Tell your kids this is how the early settlers would do it. It makes it more interesting to them.

The recipe comes from http://www.foodunderfoot.com, a web site about edible plants that grow wild in your neighborhood. (And it is a great source of activity ideas to teach your kids cool stuff about the world around them. Boy and Girl Scout kinds of things.)

School will be out for the holidays. Maybe you can make this fizzy beverage together to keep the kids out of mischief, for a few minutes each day anyway. Be sure to serve it icy cold.

To make the ginger bug:
■3 cups water
■2 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger (unpeeled, washed)
■2 Tbsp sugar (organic is best)

To a glass jar add the above ingredients and stir well. Cover with a cloth and leave on the counter for 2 days.

After two days, add 2 tsp chopped unpeeled ginger and 2 tsp sugar each day for a week. Stir a couple times a day. Keep covered with a cloth on the counter (not refrigerated.) It should get fizzy and taste like ginger ale. It is now ready to use.

This Crazy World


As I was logging on-line this morning, a tease for a Yahoo Trending Now news item caught my eye. Once again I was shocked to see how topsy-turvy “official” thinking has become. This excerpt illustrates that reality is crazier than any fiction I could create. See if you agree:

A woman trying to feed the kids in her neighborhood during the summer may be fined for her good deed. Angela Prattis of Chester Township, outside Philadelphia, has spent the past few months handing out free lunches to the children in her community while they’re home from school for the summer break. The food, supplied by the archdiocese of Philadelphia, helps low-income residents of the township, which has a per capita income of $19,000 a year.

The city council was alerted to Prattis’s free lunches and ruled that if she continues to give away food next summer, she will need a variance or be fined $600 a day. The council says she needs a variance because she’s giving away meals in a residential area, which is a zoning violation. However, if Prattis gets a variance to distribute the food, the administrative fees would cost up to $1,000. The Chester Township City Council has agreed to allow Prattis to continue distributing food for the duration of the summer, but next summer is a whole new battle. Currently, Prattis files paperwork weekly and is visited by a state worker biweekly to ensure she is doing what she says she’s doing.

Prattis, who does not make any money on the meal distribution, says she wanted to help make sure the neighborhood kids received at least one healthy meal a day during the summer. “You have houses here. The roofs are falling in, and they could be focused on a lot more serious issues than me feeding children,” Prattis said of the city council’s ruling.

Response to C. J. Gorden’s KAPOW


Self-described struggling writer C. J. Gorden uses a “Kick Ass Prompt of the Week,” a.k.a. KAPOW, to help writers produce. On July 30, the KAPOW  was to write a first person piece in the voice of a child. My response is below.

Brat

by Fay Moore © 2012

See that girl standing under the tree? That’s my spoiled brat sister. Our housekeeper always says my sister’s the baby.

“You can’t expect her to do this or do that. She’s the baby.”

I get so sick of hearing it. If my sister takes my softball and leaves it in the rain, I’m not supposed to get mad at her because she’s the baby. If she comes in my room without permission, I’m supposed to be happy about it because she’s the baby. If she follows me and my friends to the ball field, I’m supposed to watch over her because she’s the baby.

Baby, schmaby. She’s a brat. Why can’t she play with that curly-haired girl next door? Why is she always following me around? She always wants to go where I go. Me and my friends don’t want her following us.

If she’s along, we can’t sneak up on my teacher Miss Marple’s house and peek at Miss Marple in her bathing suit. The wood fence around her swimming pool has four knot holes close together that are just the right height for us boys to press our eyeballs to and watch Miss Marple rub suntan oil on her legs and stuff. Miss Marple can’t see me, but I can sure see her. If that brat sister of mine is along, I can’t sneak a peek because she would tell on me, sure enough. Mom would ground me for a week.

And I can’t throw eggs at cars either. Or rub limburger cheese on door knobs. Man, that’s fun.

We boys rub limburger on old Mrs. Lender’s door knob. We know she gets home from work around four o’clock, so we hide in the tree fort across the street and wait. You should’ve seen her face the first time we did it. When her hand hit that slimy stuff, she jerked back like she was snake bit. Then she put her fingers to her nose and smelled them. Whew. Her expression was priceless. No way we could get away with cheesing anybody with my sister around.

Dad would take me by the shirt and walk me over to Mrs. Lender and make me apologize. Then he’d make me clean her door knob and wash down the door. Next I’d get stuck cutting her grass for a month, for free.

And it would all be because of my stupid sister. Yeah, she’s a brat.

C.J. Gorden’s blog can be found here: http://cjgorden.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/mondays-kick-ass-prompt-of-the-week-kapow-7/#comment-101

An Enchanted Forest Ride


For those who are curious about what one does with a classical song prompt, you aren’t alone. I was curious, too. I was surprised where my imagination took me. I think I was as much influenced by the name of the Geminiani piece–La Foresta Incantata–as the music itself.

The genre of the story is a departure from anything I have written before. Is it a dream? You decide.  So here goes:

An Enchanted Forest Ride

by Fay Moore © 2012

“I’ll be back for dinner,” the master called out to his manservant, as he rode his horse across the courtyard cobblestones, heading for open field. The master saw the servant’s reflection in the rippled glass of the manor house window, in his hand the ledger that he had been reviewing with the master for several hours. The reflection looked like a man dressed in a floating sheet.

From atop his horse, the master admired the finely chiseled ears on the head of his prize stallion; ears forward, the horse attended to the direction the lord of the manor was steering him. The woods loomed ahead. As the master recalled his steward’s ghostly specter in the window reflection, his neck hairs tingled.

The owner of the equine settled deep into the curve of the leather seat, relaxing his back, pelvis and legs to float upon the saddle in tune with the motion and gait of his mount.  The tension that built up through the hours spent in accounting flowed down through his loosened frame and out the bottom of his stirrup-cradled soles, where breezes carried the bad energy off into space.

The day was magical. A cold front pushed all heat and humidity from the air. Neither man nor horse perspired as the sun beat upon their backs. Zephyrs blew both creatures’ hair, lifting and dropping tresses in waves, the same way ribbons flutter from the end of a lance.

Sensing the tempo playing in the air, man and horse began to move in union with it in a slow, deliberate canter. The rhythmical rocking of the rider crescendoed with the hoof beats of the stallion. By the time the pair entered the cutaway into the forest, they were galloping.

Once inside the shade of the forest canopy, the duo felt the air temperature drop. The freshness of the air and of the horse’s spirit urged the animal faster into a dead run. Birds flushed in droves from the bushes, but the pair ignored the feathered bursts. Dirt clods flew into the air, flung aloft by pounding hooves. The man loosened the reins to give the horse its head. Ahead in the path, a small tree was down. Horse and rider sailed effortlessly over the log in one motion, a union of body and spirit. Off to the left, a herd of deer, thrashing through the understory, scattered like a burst of fireworks. The horse dashed on.

 Ahead the lord spied a shaded opening in the trees. He felt drawn toward the space. He slowed the horse to a walk, patting the animal’s powerful neck. The exhilaration of the run caused both man and horse to breathe deeply.

In the opening, the master dismounted. The air glittered, amazing the man. He rubbed his eyes. The horse yawned. Their breath took shape and sparkled in clouds before them. Overtaken with a sudden urge to sleep, the horse folded its legs beneath itself and dropped to the soft, cool earth. It stretched out its neck and rested its jaw bone on a mound of grass. The man followed suit, sitting on the ground and leaning back against the prostrate animal. As if cast under a spell, both were soon snoozing.

Out of fallen hollowed logs and half-standing snags at the edge of the opening, or descending by spider-silk from leafy bowers in the treetops, a troupe of ragtag phantoms and sprites appeared. A shade stood by the head of the horse and a shadow by the head of the man, each casting dream dust when the sleepers’ eyelids fluttered. The others poured over the prone bodies, emptying the man’s pockets of two gold coins and gleaning half-chewed corn from between the horse’s teeth. Six tiny hands grabbed a loose thread in the man’s woven vest and pulled, unwinding the wool. A team of specters wound the thread into skeins and whisked the rolls away. When their work was done, an apparition looking like a fairy waved a wand above the sleeping pair. The magical troupe disappeared in a flash.

The sun was falling fast toward the horizon, and shadows were growing long. The gentleman was confounded that he had slept. What earlier seemed an enchanted space, now grew chilled. He leaped to his feet as the horse surged up from the ground. Wasting no time, he hoisted his toe into the stirrup and pulled himself up into the saddle.  Reins in hand, he spun the horse on its heels and spurred the steed. Shaking off its supernatural drowsiness, the animal plunged through the woodlands, racing for its barn.

Feeling cold, the horseman glanced down and spied his  vest was missing. Only a wisp or two of the distinctive yarns remained, caught in his belt buckle. As the dusk deepened, there was no time to sound the depths of his confusion. He bent at the waist, tucked himself as close to the body and neck of the horse as he could, and rode for the manor as if ghosts were chasing him.